DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course. The chapter title comes from The Doors’ song, “Take It As It Comes.”
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Ethan removed the ring in time for Spike to walk in on the pair of them…
FYI: There is only 1 more chapter left after this one. Instead of waiting to post it on Thursday though, I'm going to post it on Tuesday.
The story begins here.
The boytoy had tried more than one trick to get Spike to say something about Rayne, but snapping the neck of the first guard they came to and then shoving Lindsey to the wall by the throat had put an end to that. He got the suite information from him on the first press and flew down the hall, racing for the stairs in order to get to the proper floor. He didn’t know why he didn’t encounter more guards when he reached Wolfram and Hart’s primary suite, but Spike didn’t care. The smell of too much Buffy—blood, fear, tears—marked the door beyond a hesitation of a doubt, and he stormed in without pause.
It was too swift an entrance to notice Rayne’s scent until Spike had opened the door, but seeing the Watcher bowed over Buffy’s naked form made Spike freeze. His blood ran even colder when she reached up to touch the bastard’s face, but it was the unabashed gratitude in her voice that spurred him to make his presence known.
He sneered when Ethan deigned to glance back at the door. When he saw what was in the man’s hand, though, Spike moved without thinking, tearing across those few feet to slam his fist into Ethan’s face. The crunch of shattering bone wasn’t nearly satisfying enough, and he followed the blow with a wrench of the Watcher’s wrist, breaking it as he forced the ring from his fingers.
It wasn’t that it was Buffy’s voice calling to him. It was the fact that she hadn’t grabbed him to force him to stop.
While Ethan slumped against the wall, clutching his useless hand to his stomach, Spike shifted his attention to the bed, noting the bandage on her shoulder before anything else. At least the bullet wound had been taken care of, even if it was only in time for Rayne to try to sneak back into her life.
That was when he realized she wasn’t moving as she usually did. There was a sluggishness to her motions, like she was wading through tar, that had him on his knees at her side, scooping her against his chest, pushing back her hair to search her face for the cause.
“What did he do?” he asked. “Tell me what the wanker did so that I can fix it.”
Buffy shook her head. “It wasn’t Ethan,” she said. The power that had been in her voice before was gone, and she leaned into him with a relief Spike could almost taste. Her lashes fluttered shut, and she seemed to take a long moment just breathing him in, her fingers finally finishing their circuit to come to rest on his shoulder. “It was them. I don’t know…what they did.”
She didn’t need to elaborate. Spike knew who she was referring to.
“She’s been drugged.” In spite of his obvious pain, Ethan’s tone was calm and even. “I would assume Wolfram and Hart gave her a more concentrated dose in order to achieve this effect.”
“Slayers don’t react like this to drugs,” Spike spat.
“Believe it or not, even Slayers have their Achilles heel. The Watchers Council uses it strictly for cruciamentum purposes, but it is out there for those in the know.” When Ethan’s gaze strayed to Buffy’s face, something inscrutable flickered in his eyes. “As you can see, it makes them more…pliable.”
For the first time since storming in, doubt began to creep into Spike’s thoughts. Was she only clinging to him because her mind was clouded? As much as he wanted her, the possibility of having her under the same terms as Rayne left Spike feeling sick. He would rather remember what they had and be alone than have something that wasn’t real.
She must have felt his new distance. Keeping her hands on his shoulders, Buffy pushed herself up until their eyes were level. “Whatever it is,” she said, “it’s not in my head. Not any more.” She glanced at the ring still clutched in his hand. “It stopped when Ethan took the ring off.”
Spike snorted in disbelief. He couldn’t help it. The notion of Ethan voluntarily removing his source of control over Buffy was ludicrous.
“Can we not do this right now?” she asked. “I just want to get out of here.”
His jaw set in a hard line. “I’m not takin’ him,” he said, jerking his head toward Rayne.
“I asked you--.”
“No.” God, this fucking hurt. He’d planned on turning the Watcher over once he got Buffy free and clear of this place, but his unexpected presence bollocksed things up as usual. But Spike couldn’t play whatever white knight role she expected and forget that all of this was Ethan’s fault. “This time, I mean it, Buffy. You wanna know what your real weakness is? It’s him. It’s wanting to hold on to that little girl inside you that he cultivated. But you’re not some helpless bird he can feel all sanctimonious about saving, and you’re not a weapon for him to use as he pleases. You might be able to focus on whatever good memories of him you need to in order not to fall apart, and that’s all well and good. I can’t. All I see is how he’s hurt you. And if you think I can pretend that’s OK, then you don’t know me at all.”
Her hesitation was telling. “Please don’t make me choose,” Buffy said.
The plea in her voice weakened his resolve, and Spike had to curl his fingers into fists in order not to reach out to her. “If that’s what you really want,” he said quietly, “then what was ever the point of takin’ the ring off in the first place? Life’s about choices, luv. Not all of them are pretty.”
Again, her gaze went to his hand before moving past his shoulder to Ethan. “You’re asking me to leave him here to die,” she murmured. “Didn’t you hear anything I said before we got jumped at your car?”
She was tired of death. Spike’s eyes burned. He was going to lose her. Again.
Slowly, he straightened, careful that Buffy didn’t need his support any longer in order to remain sitting up. Opening his hand, he dropped the ring onto the blanket in front of her. He felt the quickening tempo of both hers and Ethan’s heartbeats.
“Then I’ll get you two out of here,” he said, turning her back on him to go get her clothes. “But then I’m done, luv. Loving you is one thing. Not mattering is another.”
“Who said you never mattered?” Buffy asked. Though he knew it was weak of him, Spike risked a glance back at her. She had swung her legs over the side of the bed, leaning heavily on her good arm. The ring sat untouched on the blanket. “They told me they killed you, Spike. The only reason I asked Ethan for any help at all was because I thought you were dead.”
“And yet, you still want to save his sorry skin. Knowing how I feel about it.”
“Wanting to save him and wanting to be with him are two entirely separate things. He’s not the one I love.”
He stared at her, gobsmacked. Had she really just admitted her feelings to him?
Forgotten in the background, Ethan groaned. “I think I’m going to be ill,” he said with a grimace. “All this hopelessly devoted to you twaddle is enough to turn a breathing man’s stomach.” He held up his good hand, showing the ring on his finger. “Must I remind you what started all this? Get me to my room, and Wolfram and Hart can’t touch me. Then you two can ride off into the moonlight together and I can get hopelessly drunk trying to forget this entire farce.”
Buffy looked at him with narrowed eyes, mistrust evident in her features. She clearly wanted to argue with him, but ended up holding her tongue.
“Tick tock, children,” Ethan prompted. “I was brilliant enough to get Manners out of here so that I could get in undetected, but unfortunately, it wasn’t a permanent measure. So unless you would like all of this to be for nought, I suggest we get moving.”
That was the only cue Buffy needed. “Let’s go,” she said, meeting Spike’s eyes.
He nodded. Speech was still impossible. All he could think about was that they just might have a chance after all.
Personally, Lindsey hated vampires. They always seemed to make his life miserable, which was half the reason he had always taken such pleasure in taking Angel and his cop girlfriend down a notch or two. Falling for a Slayer had seemed karmic, in a way, but hearing that the woman he had fallen in love with had a future twisted with one of the creatures she was supposed to kill had gutted him.
He didn’t want to make the deal with Spike. Everything legal in him rebelled against the idea. But logic won out over emotion and he watched the vampire fly from the room as soon as he knew where Buffy was being held. It took longer for Lindsey to catch up, but when he walked through the Wolfram and Hart suite and heard the low voices from the other room, he realized there was someone else he hated even more than Spike.
It was his fault that they were all in this mess in the first place. If the man hadn’t arranged to steal Jutta’s Ring, Jocelyn would have it already and be firmly in power as the Senior Partners wanted. Lindsey would never have met the spitfire Slayer, and his career would never have been hinging on the word of a lying, evil bloodsucker.
That’s why he hid in the closet when he heard Buffy and Spike getting ready to leave.
That’s why he waited to follow until he knew he could do so at a safe distance.
The unlikely trio took the stairs, Buffy in Spike’s arms, Ethan hugging the railing a few steps behind. Lindsey counted the echoes of Spike’s boots, and when a door boomed to indicate at least one of them had left the stairwell, Lindsey leaned over the rail to peer downward.
All he saw was a flash of black and platinum. Ethan was no longer with them.
Taking the stairs two by two, Lindsey raced down to catch the Watcher before he disappeared into an unknown room. His feet hit the carpeted floor in silence, and his head whipped around to see which direction the man had gone. There, twenty feet to his left, Ethan walked slowly along, fumbling in his pocket with a lone hand.
Lindsey bolted to catch up.
When Ethan hit the wall, it was with an audible thump, the card key he’d been pulling out of his pants pocket slipping to the floor. A cry of pain escaped the man’s mouth, but Lindsey didn’t ease up on the hold he had on him, choosing instead to twist more tightly.
“Which room?” he asked.
Ethan stiffened, trying to look back to see who his assailant was. The half of his face Lindsey could see was blooming in a purplish bruise, and his lip was bloody and swollen. “Seven twenty,” he managed to say.
Stooping to pick up the key, Lindsey maintained his grip while he pushed Ethan in the door’s direction. Within moments, they were inside, and the Watcher was sinking into the nearest chair.
“I’d ask who you are,” he said, “but I’m fairly certain with the way my luck has been today, you’re another Wolfram and Hart lackey.”
He held his arm awkwardly across his stomach, and Lindsey realized from its odd angle that something in it was broken. With Buffy not even capable of walking on her own, that meant Spike had been the one to deal the punishment. For some reason, that made Lindsey smile.
“Lackeys don’t get corner offices,” he said with every ounce of nonchalance he could muster. Deliberately, he thrust out his hand in greeting. “Lindsey McDonald.”
Not even a flicker of a glance. If anything, Rayne looked bored.
“Bully for me,” he commented dryly. “I’ve been delegated to another apple of the Senior Partners’ eye. Can you make this quick, please? I rather like this shirt, and it’s already seen far too much bloodshed today.”
“You have something that belongs to us. I’m here to broker its return.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Lindsey reacted without thinking, his fist slamming into Rayne’s smug face. That’s for Buffy, he thought in satisfaction.
Ethan’s grunt of pain was followed a scowl in Lindsey’s direction. “Oh, yes, the ring. I’d forgotten. Thank you so much for jogging my memory.”
“Where is it?”
“Where do you think?” He flinched when Lindsey’s hand balled into a fist again, holding out his good hand to expose the two rings on his fingers. One of them matched the one Buffy had worn around her neck, while the other was straight out of his Wolfram & Hart file. “You’re not nearly as charming as Ms. Morgan was,” he said. “Prettier, yes, but she, at least, had a certain style.”
Biting his tongue, Lindsey grasped Ethan’s hand and slid off the larger of the two rings. It was heavier than he had imagined, innocuous almost. Carefully, he turned it over in his palm.
“How does it work?” he asked.
Ethan rolled his eyes. “It’s a ring.” He watched as Lindsey slipped it on, too big for all of his fingers save his thumb. “If our business is concluded--.”
“It’s not. I’m afraid my client is demanding more than the return of her property. There’s also the matter of a pound of flesh.”
Before Ethan could ask what exactly the young attorney meant by that, Lindsey’s fist shot out and slammed into his jaw again. The world went black.
To be concluded in Chapter 18: Another Flashing Chance…