It's rough, and transitional, and man it is going to take me awhile to find the flow again. I hope the fact that next chapter is about more intimate scenes and not plot will help with that. I'm sure nobody even remembers what was going on, but I'm going to finish this story one way or another. So I'm posting this anyway because it's the only way I'll continue.
TITLE: A Soul to Seduce
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: Gemma went to go see Lindsey, only to be caught by Spike, Buffy had a visit with Dana that left her unsettled, and Angel asked Wes for his help in finding the link between Dana and Cordelia in order to save both women…
There is a primer for this, that pretty much summarizes everything up through chapter 15.
The story begins here.
The door vibrated against the back of her head as the cops knocked yet again. “Mr. Pryce? We’d really rather not have a scene about this, but if you don’t open up, we’ll have no choice but to take extreme measures.”
In cop talk, that meant guns.
Faith bolted for the bedroom as silently as she could. Her pack rested on the floor by the bed, and she grabbed her jeans in order to slither them on. She didn’t have time to bother with one of her own shirts. She didn’t even have time to worry about socks as she pulled on her boots. The last thing she was going to do was stick around for the uniforms to drag her in. Wes had done too much for her to get him in trouble now.
The routine was familiar, though it had been years since she’d had to worry about running. Not since she’d hitched a ride from Boston to California. She and Buffy had had their share of scrapes in Sunnydale, but even there, Faith had roots. She had actually believed she might still have them of a sort, but she’d grown complacent. She’d dismissed the possibility of still being wanted because so much time had passed. She was nothing, after all. A deadbeat Slayer with too much blood on her hands. She shouldn’t have been important to anybody.
Except she was. The police wanted her.
And for a few precious hours, so had Wes.
Faith paused as she looked around the room. The bed was still unmade from the afternoon they’d spent together, rumpled and comfortable and beckoning her to return. If she went over and buried her face in the pillow, it would still smell like Wes.
He wasn’t going to be happy about her skipping out. Neither was she, for that matter. He deserved a note at least to explain what was going on.
The knocks stopped.
If she’d been anyone but Faith Lehane, she might have taken that as a sign the cops were giving up.
She wasn’t nearly that naïve.
There wasn’t time to write a note. The cops meant business and they were going to be back any minute with a manager to let them in. She had just enough time to get rid of any signs that she had been there, which meant stuffing her meager belongings back into her pack.
Faith had already shoved the bedroom window open when she remembered the scrap of paper with Wesley’s numbers on it. Running back to the living room, she saw it sitting next to the phone and snatched it up. Once she was somewhere safe, she’d call. That was the best she could do.
She hoped it was enough. It had to be.
Slithering onto the sill, she contemplated the jump down into the dark alley. Her stomach probably wasn’t going to be happy about the jarring landing, but with the guns at her back, she didn’t have much choice in the matter. No front door meant one way out.
Faith gripped her pack, held her breath, and jumped.
For one brief, dark moment, Buffy wished she had never come to LA. She didn’t need this kind of headache. She had gotten past it all, or at least, she’d thought she had.
But just as quickly as regret washed through her, she knew she’d done the only thing she could. Dana needed her. Buffy had needed answers.
And as she met Spike’s eyes, soft and questioning, she realized she’d needed Spike, too.
The tableau was much like Spike had described. Gemma and Lindsey locked inside the cell, Gemma shooting daggers in her direction as soon as Buffy came down the stairs, Lindsey looking a little less ragged around the edges. Spike straddled a chair out of reach of the bars, but while he straightened when she approached, he didn’t stand.
“The doc’s got the key to the cage,” he said, nodding at the cell. “Figured I’d stand guard in case she decided to do something truly daft.”
“Or sit guard even,” Buffy teased. Folding her arms over her chest, she turned back to face Gemma, her flash of amusement fading. “So Spike’s telling some interesting stories. How many of them are true?”
Gemma rose from where she sat next to Lindsey and slowly approached the bars. “If you thought for a second they might not be true, you wouldn’t be waiting to let me out. Let’s stop the sidestep and get right to the chase, okay? You and I? Are not on the same side here.”
“Yeah, and those bars between us kind of prove that.” She refused to back down. As much as Spike’s story had rattled her, she needed to hear it from Gemma’s mouth. “You know, I’ve been around for awhile. Died a few times. Dealt with people who are smarter than you. Older. Definitely more dangerous. So when I say I’m not impressed with all the tough girl posturing? I’m really not.”
“Is that supposed to scare me?”
Buffy shrugged. “Not really. But you said you wanted to cut to the chase. This is me cutting.”
“Sounds like your friend Angel’s favored interrogation methods to me.” Gemma jerked her head toward Lindsey. “Does it really not bother you what he did? Can you look me in the eye and say that you actually condone Angel’s behavior here?”
Buffy didn’t blink. “No, I can’t. Because I don’t. He went too far.”
“And yet, I’ll bet you’re not going to do anything about it. You’re going to let him continue to terrorize innocent humans. Why?” She seemed genuinely perplexed. “How can anybody call herself a Slayer and allow vampires to wreak the havoc that they do? Especially that one? And don’t give me the he’s got a soul crap. He’s the head of the single most powerful, most evil, most diabolical law firm in the world.”
That was one point Buffy found difficult to contest. How many times had she said exactly the same thing after she’d found out? But still she managed, “He has his reasons.”
“He’s not even a lawyer! What other reason is there except, oh let’s see, doing evil?”
Beside her, Spike cleared his throat. “Not that I’m on his side or anything, but to hear Angel tell it, he’s got this barmy notion of bringing it down from inside the belly of the beast.” When both women stared at him, he simply held his hands up in a gesture of surrender. “Just tellin’ you what he said.”
Gemma shook her head. “He’s one vampire. Against the Senior Partners, and thousands upon thousands of evil minions willing to do their bidding. There is no way he’s that egotistical.”
Spike snorted. “Clearly, you don’t know Angel.”
“None of this has anything to do with what you’re doing here,” Buffy interrupted. “This is about everything you haven’t told me. Things that are important for me to know.”
“Like the fact you’re a Slayer? Or the fact that you were going to break Lindsey out of here when Spike caught you? Or the fact that both of you seem to have some hard-on for Angel that doesn’t make any sense at all? Take your pick. They’re all really great places to start.”
The warmth she had always felt in Gemma’s gaze was gone, absent ever since she had first set eyes on what Angel had done to Lindsey. Buffy still regretted it. She’d honestly thought she’d met somebody who understood, and the loss bit deeper than she could have imagined.
“So the fact that keeping me locked in here is only hurting Dana isn’t important to you?” Gemma said quietly. “What happens if there’s an emergency at Watts? Are you prepared to deal with the consequences if she gets out again? If she hurts someone? What if she does more than cut the hands off her next victim? You say Dana is your top priority, Buffy, but you haven’t done a single thing to prove that to me. When do you plan on starting?”
The calm diatribe undercut every ounce of Buffy’s resolve. Because she hadn’t considered the consequences. She’d been struck by the sense of betrayal in finding out Gemma had held back on her. She’d forgotten why Gemma was there in the first place, that a broken girl strapped down to a bed in Watts needed the expertise the Council felt Gemma could provide.
“Why did you come back here, then?” she asked.
“Told you that, luv.” Spike stood and came around, forcing Buffy to look at him when she wouldn’t look away from Gemma. “She was here for a trade. Getting Lindsey out in exchange for his expertise on Angel.”
“Because Angel came to see Dana,” Gemma interjected. “Buffy wasn’t willing to help me figure out why, so I came to somebody who I thought might know something.”
“The way I hear it, they’re not exactly best buds,” Buffy said.
Spike gripped her arm. “And they’re not. She’s trying to snow you, Buffy. I told you what I heard. This is about controlling Angel somehow. Her exact words.”
That was what had driven her back to the hotel, as much as finding out that Gemma was a Slayer. She wasn’t sure why that surprised her. It shouldn’t have. Dana had been repeating her words, though Gemma had denied that there was anything important in them. What was it Dana had said?
“If you think I’m going to let this change a thing, you don’t know me at all.”
What didn’t Gemma want changed? It could have been anything, and Dana wasn’t exactly discriminating in the Slayer memories she kept spouting. But then Buffy remembered how quickly Gemma had hustled her out of there afterward, and the fact that she hadn’t come clean about being a Slayer in the first place, and Buffy’s sense of unease only got bigger.
Gemma wasn’t backing off. “Well?” she asked. “Who are you going to believe? Me?” Her gaze jumped to Spike. All that was missing from her disdain was the sneering curl of her lip. “Or a vampire?”
Buffy swallowed. There was only one thing she really could do.
“Give me the key.”
Gemma stared at her outstretched hand with shock. It was the first time Buffy had ever seen her lose her composure, and the fact that it didn’t disappear immediately meant she really had surprised the other woman. Gemma’s jaw clamped shut, and she reached into her pocket to pull out the cell key, her eyes getting colder and colder with each passing second.
Buffy ignored the jab of the point into her palm as she took it away from Gemma, but when she went around to the door and slid it into the lock, Spike was right there, yanking her away.
“What’re you doin’?” he said.
The betrayal in his eyes flashed as bright as his confusion. Buffy let him pull her away from the cell, up the stairs where their words wouldn’t be as easily overheard.
“Tell me you don’t believe her.”
“I don’t.” Buffy didn’t raise her voice. Neither did she move away from Spike. Instead, she pressed her free hand over his chest, trying to calm him down. “And I know you’re telling me the truth. But Gemma has a point. Dana needs her. I can’t jeopardize Dana’s care because, surprise surprise, somebody doesn’t like Angel.”
“So you’re just goin’ to let her walk?”
“I’m going to let her go back to Watts and do her job, yeah.” Spike looked less than pleased with her answer, but Buffy barreled on. “What I’m not going to do is let Lindsey go. This doesn’t change the fact that he still has ulterior motives somehow, and just because Gemma deems him suddenly worthy of her trust doesn’t mean I do.”
“So get another doctor for the girl.”
“Don’t worry. I plan on it.” Casting a glance over her shoulder to make sure they weren’t seen, Buffy took a deep breath and pressed closer to Spike, grateful when he didn’t back off. “Please don’t make this harder for me than it has to be. I need you on my side in this. I need people I can trust backing me up.”
His unwavering gaze said little. He might have been ready to tell her where she could shove it, and he might have been ready to get down on one knee. The fact that she couldn’t tell the difference in that moment was more frightening than all the rest of it put together, and Buffy had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from asking him again. She wouldn’t beg. She’d made her plea. She just had to hope that Spike was willing to meet her halfway.
“What about Lindsey?” he finally said. “She tried to get him out once. No sayin’ she might not try it again.”
Buffy tried not to smile in relief. “I’m going to send over one of my Slayer squads to camp out in the lobby. Nobody comes down without an express authorization from me.”
“I could do it.”
She’d already thought of that. “I want you at Watts with me. Something tells me your special skill set will be put to better use there.”
Her levity made his mouth twitch. It felt good to see him almost smile. “Well, can’t really argue about my special skill set,” he drawled.
“And I’m thinking Faith and Wes had the right idea about tonight.”
“Oh? And what idea’s that?”
“Well, we were going to have that date thing after this, but now, I’m not so sure it’s a good idea to be that far away from Watts. But we can still take the night off. Get food in. Relax. You always used to be pretty good at finding ways to relax me, if I remember right.”
“Was also a dab hand at finding ways to wind you up, too.”
“And sometimes, those were exactly the same thing.”
His laughter trailed after her as she returned to the cell. It was easier to bear the brunt of Gemma’s glare when Buffy unlocked the door and let her out. Whatever else happened, things were improving with Spike.
Next to seeing Dana well, it was the one thing Buffy wanted most.
Light slashed across the sidewalk from the police car door opening and then slamming again, briefly illuminating the plainclothes detective talking to Angel. Wesley watched them through the windshield, unblinking, wishing he could read lips. As soon as he’d pulled into his street and seen the police cars lining the walk outside his building, he had known there were problems. It had taken Angel’s rational suggestion to keep Wes from bounding inside to see what they had done with Faith.
“It might not even be about her,” Angel said.
Wesley caught Eve’s hidden smirk in the rearview mirror before she turned her head into the shadows again. “It’s about her. I’m sure of it.”
“Then if they’re here, they’re going to be looking for you, too. At least let me find out what’s going on.”
So Wesley had acquiesced, even though his instincts scolded him for being a coward, and he watched Angel approach, pretending to get caught by the two uniforms before entering the building. Once, he’d caught Eve edging closer to the car door, but all it took was a simple, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” and she stopped moving.
Wesley almost wished she would make a break for it. Part of him felt like shooting something again. Of course, doing so in front of the police was foolish, but he was beginning to understand why Faith found release in such violent tendencies.
It seemed to take forever for Angel to walk away from the building. He headed in the opposite direction, prompting Wesley to start the car and pull away from the curb. Wes passed the police without glancing in their direction, and rounded the corner in order to catch up with Angel.
“Well?” he asked when Angel slid into the front seat.
“They’re looking for a fugitive and the man suspected of hiding her.” The look in Angel’s eye was sheer apology, but only for the moment before he shifted to scowl at Eve. “Someone tipped them off Faith was staying here.”
“Don’t look at me, slugger. I didn’t know anything about this.”
Wes didn’t believe a word that came out of Eve’s mouth, but he was still too wrapped up in the myriad of possibilities discovering this meant. “If they’re looking, that means they haven’t found her yet.”
“Because she ran.” When Wes frowned at the suggestion, Angel added, “Faith’s not exactly known for sticking. She could’ve gotten a whiff of the cops and taken off again.”
“No.” Even as he said it, Wes knew it was true. “She wouldn’t run. Not this time.”
“I can.” He unbuckled his belt and opened his door. “Wait here.”
Ignoring Angel’s call, Wes strode down the block, stopping at the entrance to the parking structure for the apartment building. He wasn’t entirely sure why he needed to know, but the itch remained, to check, to ensure Angel was wrong, to confirm that what he wanted to be true wasn’t simply a pipe dream brought on by a few hours of camaraderie.
The space where he kept his motorcycle loomed empty, but as Wes approached, an engine revved in the darkness, off to the side and down the ramp. He stopped and turned, the back of his neck prickling as it neared, and the single headlight made him squint and hold up his hand in order to block its ray.
The bike pulled up in front of him, tilting in his direction as its rider put its boot to the ground.
Faith smiled at him, warm and wide. “So who feels like blowing this town?”
To be continued in Chapter 24: Shiver for Me, Girl…