DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course. The chapter title comes from The Doors’ song, “Touch Me.”
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Spike has learned about Lindsey’s involvement with Wolfram and Hart, and Ethan has arrived in town…
The story begins here.
She woke to the smell of coffee and cigarettes, warming her so thoroughly in familiarity that a satisfied smile curved her mouth as she burrowed deeper into the pillow. Her muscles were languid both from the sound sleep she’d attained and the peace that now pervaded her body, and it wasn’t until she’d opened her eyes that Buffy remembered where it was she’d spent the night.
She stiffened. She was at Spike’s.
The memories of everything came crashing back.
Slowly, Buffy lifted her head to peer over the blanket. Her eyes widened when she saw Kevin sitting in front of the television, the sound muted as he played some video game. The scent of coffee was coming from the kitchenette, a fresh pot bubbling away on the counter, but Spike was nowhere to be seen. She brought the sheets up to her nose. There it was. The bed was drowning in the smell of his smoking habit.
“I’d say good morning, but it’s a little late for that,” Kevin said without turning away from his game. “So we’ll call it good afternoon, OK?”
Buffy pushed back the blanket, then became aware of her bare legs. In front of anybody else, she wouldn’t have cared about walking around in just Spike’s t-shirt, but Kevin wasn’t anybody else. For whatever reason, she felt the need to cover up around him and grabbed her bag to go digging for some sweats before she ventured out into the living room area.
“Where’s Spike?” she asked.
She didn’t know if his hesitation was because of his attention to his game or something else. “He went out. He asked me to stick around to help you with anything you might want when you woke up.” He waved in the direction of the kitchen. “I made coffee.”
The notion of the guy in the wheelchair being the one to help her struck Buffy as ironic. “Thanks.”
Once she was dressed, she went and poured herself a cup, not even bothering to check in the refrigerator for milk. She didn’t want to know if Spike had thought ahead. The coffee scalded her tongue, but the pain was welcome. It kept her focused. There was a lot she had to do today.
Leaning against the counter, Buffy sipped at her drink, wary eyes watching Kevin play his game. He almost seemed oblivious to her presence, absorbed in the violence on the TV, but every time there was a minute lull in the action, she caught the sideways flicker of his gaze, as if he was reassuring himself that she was still there.
“Did Spike say when he’d be back?” she asked. The silence in the room was getting to her.
She wondered where the gregarious guy from the poker guy had disappeared to. Though he was in the middle of a video game, Kevin didn’t strike her as the type to just sit on his hands and stay quiet. He was a talker.
Who wasn’t talking.
Or looking at her.
Any sense of calm she’d felt disappeared.
Carefully, Buffy set down her cup. “How did Spike get a hold of you to come around?” she asked, stepping closer to the couch. “I don’t see a phone around here.”
“I just stopped by. I do that a lot. Spike hates it.”
“But I thought you were going to take care of my ring for me.”
At mention of her ring, Kevin’s hands twitched and the aim he’d been taking onscreen went askew, resulting in the end of his turn. Buffy darted forward before he could hit start again and turned off the television.
“What’s going on?” she demanded. “And don’t lie to me. I’ve always considered pants on fire more a good rule of thumb than a cutesy nursery rhyme.”
His cheeks went even more ruddy under her close scrutiny. “I stopped by because I found your ring,” he said. “Spike left to go take care of it.”
“I thought you were going to do that.”
“Yeah, well…Spike didn’t like where I found it. Not that I can blame him after everything that happened to you, but I still think he’s crazy for going after it.” He chuckled. “I don’t know why I’m so surprised. If there’s one thing I can predict about Spike, it’s that he’ll always choose the unpredictable. I mean, look at the two of you.”
Anger at Spike’s interference made her stomp away from the television, marching straight for her bag. “I should’ve known he’d go after Lindsey the first chance he got,” she muttered, more to herself than to Kevin. “Stupid, arrogant vamp---.”
“It’s not just Lindsey. Spike went after his bosses.”
His interruption stopped her in mid-dig for her clothes. “That doesn’t make any sense,” Buffy said. “The club where he sings isn’t evil. Skanky, maybe, and definitely light on the public hygiene, but not evil.”
Kevin took a deep breath. She could actually see him prepare to tell her something. “The club’s a front,” he said. “When I went to see how I could get rid of the ring, I found out Lindsey is one of Wolfram and Hart’s golden boys. They’re the ones who have your ring now, Buffy. That’s who Spike went out to hurt.”
She’d stopped breathing as soon as he mentioned Wolfram and Hart. Those days were supposed to be long behind her, dead and buried in Los Angeles. She and Giles hadn’t gone to such lengths to fake her death just to have the lawyers start nosing around in the first place she had called home since leaving. She was supposed to have her happy ending.
Instead, she got another relationship that was based on a lie. A man in her life who’d told her everything she’d wanted to hear, who had pretended to be something he wasn’t in order to manipulate her. No wonder Lindsey had taken her ring. It had probably been his goal the entire time she’d known him.
“Are you all right?” Kevin was asking. She heard the wheels of his chair squeak as he turned to look at her more directly. “Do you want something to drink? Spike’s got…”
She didn’t hear the rest of it. Spike’s name reminded Buffy of the rest of what Kevin had said, and fresh anger invigorated her veins.
“Stupid, arrogant, son of a bitch…” she muttered, attacking her clothes again.
“What’re you doing?” Kevin asked in alarm.
“What does it look like I’m doing?”
“I’d say, your best Spike impression except I think you’d probably deck me for that.”
“Yeah, well, you’d be right.” Finding her jeans, she straightened and began to head for the bathroom, only to have Kevin suddenly wheel himself into her path. “You don’t want to do this,” she warned.
He nodded. “You’re right. I don’t. Doesn’t mean I won’t, which, trust me, I know is a huge personality flaw.” He rolled sideways when she tried to go around him. “One of you going into the lion’s den is bad enough,” Kevin said. “Two of you is suicidal.”
She didn’t want to have to hit him. Something about pushing a guy in a wheelchair out of her way made Buffy uneasy. So she used the only weapon she had. The truth.
“Spike’s going to get himself killed if I don’t get in there and drag his skinny ass out,” she said. “If you know anything about Wolfram and Hart, you know that I’m right. I have to do this.”
Simple question. Simpler answer.
“Because it’s what we do,” Buffy said without pause. “Spike's always watched my back, even when I didn’t want him to. The least I can do is watch his.”
Kevin’s regard was unwavering. Then he sighed.
“Maybe three will be better luck,” he said, moving out of her way and back to the television. “God, I fucking hope so.”
Buffy gaped at his retreating back. “You’re not coming.”
“Do you know where he went?”
He picked up the controller. “Then hurry up and get changed. If I’m going to die, I want it to be quick.”
He didn’t even look at her as he resumed his game again.
The meeting with Manners had gone well, Gazzer thought. The town still wasn’t ready, but the lawyer’s promise that it would be in time for her arrival was assuring. They had been right to trust Wolfram and Hart’s reputation. The humans knew how to get things done.
A hand clutched at his elbow, jerking him to a halt.
“Gazzer!” Drew hissed in his ear. “Look!”
They were stopped outside the hotel’s bar, and Gazzer followed the line of his first’s attention to a table in its far corner. His eyes widened. The bleached hair could have belonged to anyone, but added to the infamous leather coat, it made the possibility all too awe-inspiring.
“Didn’t he kill that third Slayer in California?” Drew whispered. “That’s not too far away from here.”
“Yeah.” Gazzer stepped forward, perking his ears up to listen to the red-haired waitress approaching the table. When he heard the familiar British tones from the blond’s reply, he grinned.
“We have to go say something,” he said, pushing past an exiting woman. “No way can we get this close and not.”
The others followed him as he wove a path through the bar. He hadn’t been this excited about anything since the massacre at New Year’s; to get the chance to meet a legend was more than he’d hoped to accomplish with this trip.
Cool blue eyes lifted to look at them as they advanced. Gazzer’s cock jumped. He had never swung that way, but the power rolling off the vampire was intoxicating. This was an exception he’d make without even blinking.
Drew was practically bouncing behind him. Gazzer had to elbow him in the ribs to get him to stop.
“I hate to interrupt your drink,” he said. It dawned on him he’d taken on the more educated tones from his youth in an attempt to impress. Any other time, he would’ve felt ridiculous.
“Then don’t,” the vampire said. “Bugger off.”
“Are you William the Bloody?” Drew blurted out.
Gazzer elbowed him again, but noticed how the vamp’s eyes narrowed. Oh yeah. This was him. Spike. The Slayer of Slayers. Holy fuck.
“Who’s askin’?” He slouched back in his seat, legs sprawled in front of him, thumb hooked through one of the belt loops on his jeans. There was no way Gazzer wasn’t looking at the bulge in his crotch, and then realized that was exactly what Spike had intended.
“Name’s Gary,” he said, sliding into the chair opposite. He jerked his head toward the trio pressing forward. “My gang here calls me Gazzer.”
“You’ve killed three Slayers,” Drew bubbled. “You’re a fucking hero.”
Spike grinned, some of the animosity in his glare disappearing. “Heard of me, have you?”
“Heard of you? Are you kidding? Who hasn’t---?”
“Shut the fuck up, Drew.” Gazzer rolled his eyes, hoping Spike would see it as the comrade-in-arms I’ve got idiots working for me gesture he meant it to be. “Are you in town for the new Slayer?” he asked, and then answered his own question. “Of course, you are. No way could you be in the same place as a Slayer and not add her to your count. Fuck, now that’s a fight I’d pay to see.”
His eyes narrowed at the mention of the Slayer. “How is it you know about the Slayer?” Spike said carefully.
Fuck, he’d stepped on the vamp’s territory. Gazzer hastily backtracked.
“We didn’t know Wolfram and Hart brought you in for the job,” he babbled. “All they said in our meeting was that it was being taken care of. We’re all on the same side here, honest.” He grabbed his shirt sleeve and pushed it up to expose his forearm. “See?”
He winced when Spike wrapped lethal fingers around his wrist in order to tug the arm closer. Something twitched in Spike’s jaw as he stared at the inverted V, and for a split second, Gazzer was convinced he was about to lose his whole arm.
“Interesting tat,” Spike commented. “Diamonds, right?”
“And the suits didn’t mention me?” He still hadn’t let go of the wrist. Gazzer felt his bones starting to crunch together from the pressure.
“Not a word.”
Abruptly, Spike released his arm, reaching into his coat pocket and pulling out a crumpled ten. Tossing it onto the table, he rose to his feet. “How would you blokes like to do me a little favor?” he said, head tilted as he regarded them. “It’ll help me with the Slayer.”
Though Gazzer felt a bit like a mouse at the mouth of a snake, his skin jumped at the opportunity. “Fuck, yeah. Anything. Just name it.”
Spike smiled. “Let’s go somewhere a bit more private and talk then.”
Ethan’s gaze was cold as it swept over the nearly empty bar. The only occupants were an elderly couple nursing drinks with umbrellas and a pair of giggly co-eds looking over a map. Nobody even remotely resembled Spike’s description, and when he caught the redheaded waitress’ eye, he lifted a brow in silent question. She came scurrying to his side before he needed to make any additional move.
“He was here, honest,” she said. Her nipples were hard beneath her tiny top, brushing deliberately against his arm. “He left again with a group of kids.” She pointed in the direction of the back exit that led deeper into the casino. “They went that way.”
“A group of kids? Are you certain?” Perhaps Spike was just hungry. It was possible he’d return quickly if that was the case. Still, it was disappointing not finding him so readily.
“Yeah, they were Brits, like you,” she explained, and then frowned. It looked like it hurt her. “Except, I could’ve sworn I saw them go off with those lawyers earlier. I thought it was weird that such high-class lawyers would have a meeting with guys who looked like that.” At his questioning glance, she elaborated. “Dangerous. Like a gang. Not guys you want to run into in a dark alley, if you catch my meaning.”
It wasn’t the fact that she thought they were shifty that made Ethan pause. It was the reference to lawyers. “That would be Wolfram and Hart, correct?” he said, taking a stab in the dark.
The waitress lit up. “That’s it! So they are with you then?”
“Something like that,” Ethan muttered.
Taking a seat in a dark corner that gave him views of both exits, he ordered a whiskey while he contemplated this new bit of information. Spike working for Wolfram and Hart? Or brokering a deal with the attorneys regarding the ring he’d most likely stolen from Buffy?
Either way, Ethan’s resolve hardened. Interrogation suddenly seemed too kind for the vampire. All he wanted now was revenge.
To be continued in Chapter 10: No One Remembers Your Name…