The Heart's Filthy Lesson
By MustangSally and RivkaT
Part of The Bowiehabarata
"Don't talk to me," Buffy said and glared out the passenger side window.
"I wasn't," he said and pushed the Explorer over the speed limit, "I wouldn't waste my time."
"And you can also stop looking at me like I'm an Egg McGuffin."
The illogic of it stunned him to silence and he goosed the engine up a few more miles an hour.
"Aren't you going a little fast?"
"Aren't you being a little bit of a bitch?"
"I'm being a bitch? You snack out on my best friend and I'm supposed to be Miss Happiness?" she crossed her arms over her chest. "And why should I care about some demon that wants to kill vampires. Makes my life easier."
"Start the wholesale slaughter of vampires and it's just gonna' lead to something even worse."
"And the wholesale slaughter of vampires is bad in what way?" she snapped and did a little nostril-flare to show that she was angry.
"Your an' my perspectives aside, it just leads to somethin' else, an' somethin' else. Next thing you know, they start sacrificing other dispossessed minority groups." He paused and collected his thoughts. "All the vampires, all the demons, all the witches, all the Trekkies, and all the boy bands. Mind you, the latter one might not be a bad thing."
"Vampires are evil, they kill people."
"Yeah? Got over that one pretty quick with Angel, eh? Forgettin' that he wasn't exactly a choirboy back in the day. Vampires are predators, and humans are prey, it's just a food chain, evil don't enter into it. How you think that cows and chickens feel about you? Eat hamburgers, Buffalo wings, wear leather pants?"
Tight leather pants, he reminded himself.
Very tight leather pants where he could just about make out the non-existent line of the dental floss that passed for underwear these days. Nice tight leather pants.
A piece of paper blew across the road. In his reverie, Spike thought it was a cow and swerved. Buffy yelped and grabbed onto the dashboard. She continued to huff and steam for the remainder of the hour-long drive. Spike chain-smoked and threw the butts into the desert outside, ignoring her glares and pointed throat-clearings. It had been his experience that Slayers didn't live long enough to get cancer. The lights were bright and far apart out in the desert, and it was with many stops and turning arounds that they finally found the colony of abandoned freight cars near the skeleton of a once-thriving rail line.
They exited the SUV. "Listen, we might try a bit o' negotiation before you start your usual beatin'-things-til-they-squeal routine," he said.
Cocking her head to the side, Buffy considered him, like a golden eagle trying to decide if the thing on the ground was really food or just bait. "You're different."
"Aren't we perceptive," he dripped ichor better than a chaos demon. "I'm surprised that you manage a thought in that pretty vacant little head of yours."
Spike the macho and William the Bloody Pratt were doing elemental battle in part of his psyche and it was obvious enough for even Buffy to see. Next thing he was going to be reciting more poetry and listening to Celine Dion.
"Not as Spike-y."
Pulling himself up to his full height, he sneered down at her, "If you think I've gone soft, girl, you better try to think again. I'm more me than I've been in a long time."
"Meaning this is going to get royally screwed up?"
Spike opened his mouth and then shut it. Arguing with Buffy was like trying to talk to a conservative talk show host. He never understood her logic and all it accomplished was annoying both of them. Instead, he made an "after you" gesture at the light coming from behind one of the boxcars.
The weres were human tonight -- good news, that, because their supernatural strength was slightly less. They were sitting around a fire, the source of the light that had led Buffy and Spike to them. Something big was turning on a spit. Spike tried not to look too close. He couldn't risk a return of the nausea just now. One of them was plinking out a song on an untuned guitar; the others were engaged in desultory Spanish conversation.
"Que honda!" Spike called out. "Puedo hablo con el mas chingon?"
He flashed them a gangsign he'd picked up from the Latino vampires he'd met in LA. Buffy glanced over at him as though he'd sprouted wings.
A girl who looked to be in her twenties, with hair curling to her waist, Frida Kahlo eyebrows, and the kind of dark smoldering eyes that gringos adored, detached from the group around the fire. She was wearing khakis and an embroidered blouse that showcased truly impressive cleavage. For about two seconds Spike forgot Buffy Summers ever walked the planet. She gave Buffy the kind of contemptuous scrutiny that blondes get from the greater nonblonde world.
"La mas chingona, I'm in charge here, and humans aren't welcome." She had a heavy Mexican accent.
Spike gave her a flash of vamp-face. "Not exactly human, are we?"
Buffy got straight to business. "We're looking for a mantle that has magic powers. The mantle of, of, of -"
"Totenkopfverbande," Spike assisted, so they both glared at him.
"No me anden vacilando, and I don't know what you're talking about."
"It's important," Buffy insisted. "There are some Nazis in town and they're planning on using the Mantle to raise a really nasty Nazi demon. I'm the Slayer; I can protect the Mantle better than you can."
The girl snorted and crossed her arms over her chest, to Spike's dismay. "No chinges con migo .You may scare vampiros with that, but usted no es nada aquí."
Buffy repeated the gesture. "I guess we'll have to see about that."
"Matémosles," one of the other weres suggested, "Even the vampiro can die."
Well then, negotiations were over. Nothing to be done but go along with Buffy. "You know, I'm kind of in the mood for some Mexican tonight."
The weregirl bared her teeth. Even in human form, they were scary-sharp.
"No estamos asustados de usted."
"You should be afraid," Spike warned. "Thought you were coyotes, not Chihuahuas."
Behind her, the other weres began to growl and rise from around the fire. The guitar stopped, and Spike adjusted his stance.
There was a howl from the other side of the fire. The weres' heads snapped back and forth, looking for something that couldn't be seen through the flames, and hurried towards their leader. One said something in rapid Spanish to her. Another, probably the pack shaman, had what could only be the Mantle wrapped around his shoulders; it looked heavy and metallic.
"You brought them here! Éste es su incidente," the girl accused.
From around the edges of the fire, vampires began to emerge. Spike counted eight when they stopped moving and paused for effect.
"All we want is the Mantle!" one of the vampires called out.
"Isn't that original. We got here first, now piss off," Spike warned the tatty vamps standing too near the fire.
The wereleader looked at Spike and Buffy, then back at the newly arrived posse. Eight vampires versus nine werecoyotes, one of whom looked pregnant: the odds were tight, and in other circumstances Spike would have wanted to watch. And then feed on the leftovers.
The girl hissed something at the pack member wearing the Mantle. He reached up and unwrapped it, folding it neatly. Then he tossed it into the air above their heads as all the werecoyotes began to run away.
Spike appreciated the strategy as he ran for the Mantle; appreciated it less as he missed it with his outstretched arms and the thing knocked into his head like the world's heaviest rain of toads.
Half-blind from the Mantle and a cut leaking black blood into his eye, he fell on his ass when the first vamp slammed into him. He felt burning pain across his midsection - a silver knife; the vamps had come prepared for weres, not vampires. Cursing, Spike rolled on top, grabbed a stake from his jacket, and staked the vamp without even seeing it. He paused a second to adjust the Mantle around his shoulders for safekeeping. It was shaped like a metal lionskin, and he felt certain it was a good look, but then the next one was on him and he had to box and kick without regard to fashion.
Behind him, Buffy was dispatching vampires with her usual dispatch. He dodged as one rushed him, then lunged to drive the stake into its chest as it turned for another go. Something solid hit him in the back, staggering him, and he spun to find a vampire holding a piece of firewood that had snapped like an overstressed crayon. The vamp looked as confused as Spike felt, but he didn't question fortune and kicked her into the fire, where she burned like a Roman candle.
Two more vampires converged on Spike, one on each side so that he could only see both in his peripheral vision. The stomach wound was slowing him, and he couldn't keep track of both.
Spike felt Buffy heading for them, and ducked. Sure enough, she vaulted over him, feet thudding into a vamp's chest. The move caused him to lose his balance, though, and he sprawled in the dirt as Buffy pounded a stake into her victim. Bouncing to his feet, Spike tried to locate the final vampire, but all he could hear was the roar of a dirt bike heading into the desert. No telling whether Georg's crew had reinforcements; best to get the Mantle to a place of safety.
Continued in Part 10