Angel and Buffy talk, while Wes and Faith...talk.
TITLE: A Soul to Seduce
RATING: NC17 eventually
SETTING: This is set immediately after the AtS S5 episode, “Damage,” but will veer from canon at that point. You’ll very quickly see how. :)
PAIRINGS: Spike/Buffy, Wes/Faith, Lindsey/OC
DISCLAIMER: Not mine, which is a shame because usually we're nicer to them than Joss was.
SUMMARY: When Buffy finds out Spike's alive, she shows up in Los Angeles to demand answers, only to find herself immediately immersed in a web of deceit and betrayal. Who to trust becomes the million dollar question, and her life turns into a race to solve it. Before it's too late for everyone.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Angel filled Wes and Faith in on what the Senior Partners is asking of him, and Wes gave him an ultimatum to tell Buffy which Angel begrudgingly accepted; Buffy agreed to allow Spike to come with her to talk to Angel…
There is a primer for this now, in case you need help keeping track.
The story begins here.
Spike had half-expected Buffy to put up more of a fight about his tagging along. Hell, confessions to her in his book rarely worked in his favor. So when she acquiesced with hardly more than a routine behave yourself, it was no wonder there was more than a hint of a swagger in his step as they strode into the small bar Angel had suggested.
As soon as Angel looked up from the drink he was nursing, his shoulders slumped. “Considering how this day is going, I should’ve known you’d drag Spike along,” he muttered.
Spike stood behind Buffy as she slid onto the stool next to Angel. “There was no dragging involved,” she said before he could speak. “Spike’s as much a part of all this as I am. He deserves to know what you found out.”
“Believe it or not, this isn’t actually about Spike,” Angel said. He shook his head and pushed away his glass. “Maybe this was a bad idea.”
Leaning against the counter, Spike gestured for the bartender to come over. “If you don’t want to be talking to us,” he said, “I’ve got more than a few choice words to say to you instead.”
“He’s going to talk to us,” Buffy said. She shook her head at the bartender’s request for an order and then turned to scan the bar, looking for an empty table. “Let’s go sit in a booth. We’ll have more privacy there.”
Nobody spoke again as they waited for Spike’s whiskey to arrive, and he followed Buffy to the corner she’d selected. Angel looked less and less pleased about being there, but he trailed after like a good puppy and slid into the seat opposite them.
“Have you spoken to Wes since I called you?” he asked.
Buffy frowned. “No. Why?”
“No reason. Though I suppose you would have come in here swinging if he’d already said something to you.”
“Well, now there’s a bloody gorgeous picture.”
Spike grinned when she elbowed him. As angry as he was with Angel for what he’d done to Lindsey, Spike was flying too high on smoothing things over a bit with Buffy to let it stew.
Leaning forward, Buffy said, “What’s this about, Angel?”
Draining the rest of his drink, Angel pushed the glass away before leaning heavily back in the seat. For the first time, Spike noticed the bruises on his face, the fresh cuts adorning his jaw. They were too new to have been done when he’d been beating Lindsey, which meant someone else had got to him since then.
“Dana.” Angel paused as if that single name was enough to carry the whole conversation. “And Cordy.”
“Did the Slayer do that to you?” Spike asked. Buffy had mentioned Angel’s unplanned visit to Watts and the subsequent fight. Maybe it took Slayer strength to make old injuries look new.
“Yeah, but not the one you’re thinking of,” Angel said. “I got these from Faith. For…” He made some vague circle with his hand. “…something else.”
“Faith?” Buffy wasn’t the only one confused, but Spike wasn’t as eager for the twenty questions as she was. “Why? What the hell is going on?”
Angel rubbed at the abrasions on his knuckles as he spoke. “There’s really no other way to say this, so I’ll just get it out there. But don’t get mad. Nothing’s happened yet. I tried to impress that on Wes and Faith, but I don’t think—”
“Getting it out there sounds a lot like stalling,” Buffy interrupted. “What hasn’t happened yet?”
For some reason, he looked at Spike. “The Senior Partners are interested in Dana. They’ve offered me a trade. I get Dana for them, and they’ll wake up Cordy.”
Though Buffy’s sharp intake of breath and subsequent tirade was to be expected, Spike was surprisingly not taken aback by Angel’s announcement. It explained why the old man had had his knickers in such a twist about the whole Dana debacle and shed more light on why he’d wanted Spike as far away from the hunt as he could get. He’d seen how many nights Angel had spent at the sleeping Cordelia’s side, nights after everybody else had left and he believed himself to be alone. Being a ghost had had some benefits, not the least of which was spying on Angel whenever the fancy took him. Spike knew firsthand what Cordelia meant to Angel. It was yet another reason why his continued comments about Buffy had rankled so much.
“I haven’t done anything yet,” Angel interrupted, his tone suddenly fierce with Buffy. It shut her up, at least momentarily, and he took advantage of the break to press his case. “But look at it, Buffy. Whether you like it or not, Dana is broken. She is never going to recover from the trauma of what happened to her, and worse, she’s dangerous. Lethal. What happens the next time she gets loose? How many people is she going to kill then? And Cordelia deserves better than the hand she’s been dealt.”
“So does Dana.”
Her fading surprise had taken the edge off her anger, though now she was so tense and rigid in the booth that Spike had the overwhelming urge to either take her in his arms and hug it out of her or pull her out to the alley for a good fight to get it out of her system. Images of dragging Angel along and the pair of them going at him made Spike smile, distracting him almost enough to miss what came next.
“What is it you think the Senior Partners are going to do with her, Angel? I haven’t climbed any corporate ladders lately, but Giles gave me some background on Wolfram & Hart when you took over there. They’re not exactly known for feeding the homeless.”
“More like eating the homeless,” Spike snorted.
“No,” Angel said, almost in resignation. “There’s no profit margin there.” Before Buffy could start up again, he reached across the table to try and take her hand, only to have her snatch it back out of his reach. The rebuke made his nostrils flare in anger. “Look, don’t you think I’ve thought about that? You haven’t been around, Buffy. You haven’t seen firsthand what these guys are capable of.”
“That’s what I don’t understand,” she said. “You have. And you still haven’t told them where they can shove it.”
“Because it’s Cordy. Do you know what she went through last year? Do you have any idea?”
She was shaking his head before he even finished. “No, you can’t use that argument, Angel. We’ve all made sacrifices doing what we do. I’ve died, Spike’s died, I’ve lost more friends than I count. We knew what the score was when we started the game, and we knew that as much as it sucks, sometimes evil wins. You do not get to single out Cordelia by trading off another innocent.”
Angel shook his head. “Dana’s not an innocent.”
“I don’t care if Dana’s the First incarnate. I’m still not letting you do this.”
“Why won’t you let me give her this second chance, Buffy?” His eyes locked with hers. “You got one.”
It was a low blow, but then again, Angel was a master at them. Spike had learned at the hands of the best.
A definitive trembling had taken over her hands, and Buffy stuffed them into her lap, out of Angel’s view. Beneath the table, Spike reached across and covered them with his, his thumb stroking along the side of her fingers in an attempt to offer some support.
She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. Silent gratitude shone there, words unspoken when so many of the words they’d shared had been damaging. It lasted only a moment, though, before she was squeezing the hand that held hers and turning back to Angel.
“I am not going to tell you what decision to make,” she said. “If there’s one thing our history has taught me, it’s that you’ll do what you think is best, no matter how I feel about it. But I’m going to tell you this, Angel. If you hurt Dana in any way, all bets are off. I don’t care how many evil lawyers you have watching your back. I’ll take them all on to keep Dana from getting hurt again.”
Taking Spike’s hand, she slid out of the booth, dragging him with her. Angel didn’t move, didn’t say another word as she led Spike to the bar’s entrance, and it wasn’t until they were standing in the protection of the eaves, the rain whipping against their ankles from the driving winds, that she turned to him.
“I need to go to Watts,” she said. “I need to make sure everybody’s on the alert, that they know there’s a real threat to Angel trying to get to Dana.”
Spike nodded. “Makes sense.”
“Are you coming with me?”
It wasn’t, You’re not coming, or I want you to stay where it’s safe, or even, I can do this on my own. It was a bona fide query that said far more than he thought Buffy realized. It said, I trust you to make the right choice. It said, I heard what you said, and this is me trying to honor that.
Spike had never loved Buffy more than he did in that exact moment.
“Yeah.” Their fingers tightened where they were still entwined, and he eased the spell around them with a teasing grin. “And I’m driving.”
Faith had appallingly bad taste in television programming. As soon as she took control of the remote, she curled up in the corner of the couch, tucked her legs beneath her, and completely bypassed every single Discovery channel. She’d even scoffed at his suggestion that they see what was on BBC America. Instead, she’d settled on flipping between a Mexican soap opera and some reality program with celebrities locked in a house.
“Do you even speak Spanish?” he asked.
She grinned. It was actually a wonder to see her smiling again. “Don’t need to. It’s more fun making up the dialogue myself.”
Wesley let her sit and enjoy it, while he went into the kitchen to order the Chinese in quiet. The sound of her laughter drifting in from the other room relaxed enough of the knots Angel had created with his duplicity for Wes to make him rush through the call so that he could return to her side. Even if she did have truly awful taste in TV shows.
The phone rang just as he was getting settled back on the couch, and he rose to answer it, aware of the sudden tensing in Faith’s attention. He quelled the questioning rush, refusing to hazard a guess as to whether or not it was Angel on the other end of the line, and simply greeted the caller with, “Hello?”
“Hey, Wes. It’s Buffy.”
His eyes shut, his head bowing as he braced himself for either direction this conversation could take. “I was hoping you’d call,” he said.
Her soft exhalation came over the connection. “Yeah, Angel mentioned that he’d told you already. He also said Faith tried to pound some sense into him. Is she there?”
“Yes. Do you wish to speak with her?”
Faith muted the television and turned at his question, eyes dark as she waited for what might come.
“No, that’s okay. I just wanted to make sure she was somewhere safe. I think…I think it’s probably a really good idea if we start checking in with each other regularly. Until we figure out what’s going on.”
He frowned. “Didn’t…Angel speak with you?” he asked carefully.
“About Dana?” She sighed again. “Oh, yeah. I know all about the deal of the century. Spike and I are on our way to Watts right now to double Dana’s guards. Because I don’t think Angel is going to back down on this.”
That had been his fear as well, but it was reassuring to know Buffy was being proactive. And Angel had done as he’d promised. Perhaps all was not lost after all.
“We left Lindsey asleep back at the hotel,” she was saying. “We shouldn’t be too long here, but can you go check on him in a few hours anyway?”
“Thanks.” The muffled sound of Spike’s voice rose in the background, and Buffy turned away from the phone for a moment to speak to him. “Spike wants me to ask that you take over your first aid kit, just in case,” she said when she came back. “We had Lindsey checked out this morning, so he should be okay, but, you know, just to be safe.”
He agreed, but when he hung up the phone, Faith was up on her knees on the end of the couch, looking at him expectantly.
“Well?” she asked. “Did Angel tell her?”
“Yes. And she reacted exactly as we did.”
“Did she finish kicking his ass for me?”
His mouth twitched, and Wes came around the couch to take a seat next to Faith. “She didn’t specify, but from what she said, I wouldn’t be surprised if she did.” Sitting brought him face to face with her abdomen for the split second before she sat back on her heels, but then it was her large, dark eyes, fixed on his, that captured his interest. “Why did you do it?” he asked. At the slight draw of her brows, he elaborated. “Go after Angel. After keeping me from doing it earlier.”
It took a moment for Faith to shrug. “Don’t know. Just felt like it, I guess. All I could think about was putting the hurt on him, the way he did to us.”
Wes didn’t miss her word choice. Us. He shifted so that he was facing her more directly.
“You do realize that that’s probably an effect of the poison in your system, right? I should be researching the antidote for you right now, instead of watching you watch television.”
The cant of her full mouth was matched by a fresh gleam in her eye. “What happened to us needing some R&R? That’s what gluing ourselves to the idiot box was supposed to be about.”
“That was your suggestion, if you care to remember, not mine.”
Faith inched forward until her knees touched the side of his thigh. “You got a better one?”
It was blatant manipulation, he knew that. And it lacked the subtlety or charm he would have hoped for in his younger days from women far less worldly than Faith. But they had both come through so much since those times, together, apart. He had had other partners, had had hopes of other partners, and he was not the same man who would have told this Slayer that there was a job to be done, evil to be vanquished.
He was the man who had kissed her. Twice. Who had practically demanded that she come home with him. Because he wanted her, and damn if it wasn’t satisfying to know that she wanted him, too.
Slowly, he reached out and grasped the hem of her shirt. It was one of his; they had both deemed it better if she wore something loose to cover her bandages and her clothing was entirely inappropriate for that. Faith didn’t stop him as he pushed it up to expose the fresh swathe of white over her tanned stomach, nor did she say anything when he lifted it over her head. His fingertips burned where they trailed over her bare shoulder, and when he found the thin line of her bra strap, Wes turned the path of his hand back downward.
“What happened to wanting to research?” Her voice was husky, her eyes nearly black. A silent dare waited in their depths, as if she expected him to retreat at any moment.
“Some would say this is its own form of research,” Wes replied softly. “We’re…testing the limits of your impulse control.”
Her smile was wicked, succulent in its taunt. “You know, if you’d had these kind of tests back in Sunnydale, I would’ve aced being a Slayer.”
He traced the upper satin edge of her bra. “I think, after everything, you’ve turned into a fine Slayer, Faith.” He looked up at her through his lashes, though his hand continued to feather along her skin. “How far you’ve come in the last year has been remarkable.”
The boldness that had characterized her approach melted away, stripping her down to the needy woman beneath the hard shell. Faith blinked once, and then twice. The fragile skin in the hollow of her throat was vibrating from the force of her pulse, but otherwise, she didn’t move. Not until she lifted her arms and curled them around his shoulders.
The kiss was delicate, the faintest of brushes across his waiting mouth. He tasted her breath, hot and spicy, but when he parted his lips to deepen the caress, Faith retreated, skimming sideways so that the tip of her tongue tickled the corner of his mouth.
“How does this work for impulse control?” she murmured.
Wes smoothed his palms around her back, the power of her muscles rippling through his skin. “Quite well, actually,” he said, matching her tone. His cock jumped when she straddled his lap, but she seemed content to simply sit there, savoring the rough texture of his jaw. “This doesn’t preclude my finding an antidote, though.”
“Considering I don’t know what that word means, I’m going to pretend that means you’re going to do it later.”
Her breath fanned over his neck, but when he felt her begin to drag her tongue along his scar, Wes stiffened. It was an instinctive reaction, and he regretted it as soon as it happened.
Faith didn’t pull back. “We’ve both got scars, Wes,” she said against his skin. “I’m good with mine if you’re good with yours.”
His eyes squeezed shut, and he tangled his fingers in her hair in order to pull her back up to his mouth. There was no more need for further talk. He could answer her in other ways, just as she answered him.
To be continued in Chapter 20: Hold Me Naked…