Sequel to Voices in the Dark; part of The Voicesverse
Summary: Oh, my! I have no 'summary'. Or even a sexy dance...
Spoilers: Season 7 AU, takes place after my fic, Voices in the Dark
Distribution: Just talk to me, I'm easy.
Disclaimers: All Joss, all ME, all the time...
Feedback: You betta, you betta, you bet! Would love to hear from you! email@example.com
As always, this is to The Usual Suspects, friends as well as fellow writers. We'll always have Baltimore!
Chris, thanks for neglecting your children (kidding, just your husband) to read over the drafts and beta up at the end. Kelly, for constantly being available when I need a fresh eye. This Riley was for you! Chen, for being a stubborn putz. Hope you hurry up and feel better soon! Then, read! Okay?
Colleen, last of all, my mentor and friend. Can you believe this? Remember the first thing I ever asked you to look at. My God, it was terrible! Hopefully, I've gotten to be a little bit better. If not, please don't tell me.
And to all of you, who have stuck with me through the last 18 chapters, take heart! It will be over before you know it!
"Oooph!" Anya struggled to hold onto him, but he was folding like cardboard. In turn, he grasped at her for purchase, but only managed to catch the shoulder pad of her suit. She heaved herself under him, trying to keep both of them on their feet. Or at least, on hers. She wished she wasn't wearing high heels.
Spike decided that standing up might not have been such a good idea. He felt like every muscle in his body had contracted. Suspecting he was at least four inches shorter, he looked at Anya to check.
Sure enough. And he wasn't going to be standing at full height anytime soon. His muscles screamed louder.
Much stronger, but smaller, hands caught him on his way to the floor. Not Anya. But these hands he knew well. Opening his eyes, he looked at his savior. He had never been so glad to see Buffy in his unlife.
"Spike?" Her voice was breathless with concern.
He smiled. It was lopsided, but it was a smile. Buffy relaxed just a little, not completely reassured, and spared a look at the soldiers who were grouped together, waiting for a word, any word at all, as to what they should do next. For now, they were holding solid. That was, of course, until someone realized there were no further orders forthcoming from the observation deck.
As she'd suspected, one enterprising soul was trying to reach Riley on his headset. She sized up the numbers and her heart sank. The trank guns would and could most definitely take her down.
"'Lo, pet. Mad at me?" The voice was plaintive and weak, but there was a faint light in it. Buffy almost sighed in relief.
"Plan on staking you if they don't do it first," she said in grim amusement. As Spike rocked back against the table, she scrambled to find a better handhold. Around his neck came to mind. She shoved a shoulder under his, as Anya gladly moved out of her way.
"Feel like I'm dead," he grumbled.
"You are," she commented, more concerned about how they were getting out of there than his moaning and groaning. "Still."
"Thank God," he wheezed.
Right... Still the same old Spike.
He stiffened. "Buffy, the ch..."
"Shhh." She looked around again, waiting for someone to make a move. "I know. And we may have to fight our way out of here, so..."
He sighed, head bent. Still trying to straighten up, he leaned heavily on the slayer. "Love," he pleaded in explanation. "I couldn't fight off a bloody cold right now. And I'm a vampire. Don't get 'em anyway. But if I could..." He coughed. And his head hurt. Might have to do with having something ripped out of his brain.
Letting out a slow breath, Buffy counted to ten, twenty. She realized she could count all day and it wouldn't make a difference. Spike was hurt. They were outnumbered. And for some reason that idiot with the headset hadn't realized that his superior officer was Not. Going. To Answer.
At least Spike's sense of humor didn't seem to be damaged. Well. Not anymore than usual.
An alarm went off. Everyone in the room went rigid, as the elevator voice chimed in. "Attention. Security has been breached. Repeat. Security has been breached at entrances A-C, detention cells A1-T9..."
The voice droned on listing laboratories and offices. Buffy had no idea that the Initiative had that many locked rooms. Well, *unlocked* rooms, anyway.
Buffy felt Anya at her other shoulder. "Uh, Buffy? Trouble?" The vengeance demon pulled her hand up to her chest and pointed covertly to the left. "Those vampires have...escaped."
Spike's head came up, neck cracking. He winced. More than twenty vampires had appeared in the room. He drew himself up and leaned against the slayer a little less. Couldn't very well fight if he was hangin' on to her, now could she? He felt her head turn and glanced at her. He wished his head would stop hurting.
Buffy spared a smile for him. She'd felt him gather up what little he had left, seen the pain in his eyes. In spite of everything that had happened between them, ultimately, she could always count on him to come through - no matter what.
She wondered where 'what' was. Where had Riley gone?
Realizing that things had changed subtly, the slayer reviewed the odds. Only a quarter of the trank guns were trained on the trio now. The others were uncertainly leveled at the vamps. Okay, this could be good...
A hesitant figure eased out onto the brilliantly white floor.
"Uh, guys?" Clem looked over at Spike and Buffy and waved a small finger wave. "Hi, Spike. Slayer. Anyanka, when did you...?" He stopped and looked back at the guards. "Oh. Sorry," he said apologetically. The guards stared. So did the vampires. Clem looked even more uncomfortable. "My door went like...poof! I didn't do it, okay? I'm just sayin'." He shrugged. "So if you'll just like fix it, or if that's too much trouble, I'll just..."
Clem's voice trailed off. He gulped once and headed back to his cell.
A full-bodied laugh erupted from the slayer. It was immediately joined by a weak chuckle, as Spike slumped against her. All over the room, the corners of mouths twisted, as guns dropped slightly.
"Buffy! Spike!" A coltish girl loped into view, long legs clad tightly in flared jeans, and dragging an over-large sword. A brunette man who was red in the face and huffing with exertion trailed her. Buffy heard Anya make a 'humphing' noise.
And Daniel came around the corner, cross bow in hand, the only one in the triangle who looked like he might be a threat. He moved to Dawn's left shoulder, head held high with a determined glint in his eyes. Suddenly, Buffy could see the soldier in him.
All the trank guns were back at attention. And now part of the guns were directed at the newcomers. At Dawn! Buffy panicked. "No!" Her voice rang out in anger and fear.
All eyes went to her. Her eyes stayed on Dawn. She took a deep breath, trying to be calm. "What the hell are you doing?"
Dawn hefted the sword threateningly as she faced the guards. "Duh. Saving you," she called out over her shoulder.
Her older sister rolled her eyes. "You are *so* grounded!"
Dawn's eyes wavered uncertainly to Buffy. "What?"
One of the soldiers cleared his throat, finally deciding to take charge. Buffy spoke out of the corner of her mouth to Spike. "Okay, here it comes. Don't you dare pass out on me," she hissed. "We're surrounded and Dawn's blown any chance we have at any kind of explanation."
"Oh, bullocks. So. Good odds, then?" he asked, squinting through his blinding headache. Already knowing the answer, he prepared to buck up. And almost groaned again.
"Seen worse. Have to avoid the tasers though. If the tranquilizer darts don't get us first."
"Bloody hell," he muttered.
"Uh, miss?" Headset Soldier nodded at Buffy respectfully. "That's our prisoner. We need you to step away."
Dawn tossed her hair. "Looks like you've got more prisoners than you know what to do with," she said challengingly, with a lift of her chin.
Spike cut his eyes to Buffy. "Will you get the Bit to shut up?" His voice was a growl "She's gonna get me dusted."
"But if she starts screaming, maybe she'll burst their eardrums," Buffy mused.
"Oh, right, better odds then. Good," he said in weak satisfaction.
Her love stopped and looked at the wild scene that was spread before him. Soldiers stood with weapons, while those like him stood with uncertainty, as if unsure of whether to align with the uniformed men or fight them.
In the midst of it all, were the six. A demon like him being held on his feet by a small woman whose face was set in determination. There was love there; he could see it. He wondered that those looking on were not burned by it.
Another even blonder woman, wearing a business suit and heeled shoes, was clutching at something around her neck, power radiating off of her, but banked and steeped. Her eyes were wide with fear.
A tall young girl, barely out of puberty, held a sword clumsily, but with such a set to her face that he was certain she would use it against all comers. Her hair was like an aura round her.
Then, there was a dark man with soft dark eyes, young but old with experience and life, thrusting his hand through his hair as he sweated in fear. Fear for himself, for all of them, confronting weapons and overwhelming numbers.
The other demon, another vampire, stood at attention at the girl's shoulder, supporting them. He seemed sure and strong, unbroken and joined with them, yet pulled to the others. He was of both worlds, the vampires and the soldiers.
He stepped forward, wanting to know more, wanting to understand, wanting to... He looked at the lady beside him. She was staring in contempt at the couple. He reached out to touch her face and she came back to herself, seeing his longing.
And she did not misunderstand. "No, my darling, they are not for you. None of those weak ones are for you." There was a hint of stone in her voice. He looked back at the six. They did not seem weak to him. Her voice softened. "The monster is dead. The world is fresh for us, and dappled with shadows of things long since dust. We fly away on the wind, no scent of our passing left behind."
He looked at her beautiful face, sweet with patience and love, and believed her.
"Come, Gabriel. We look for life in death. And for death in life. They," she said nodding at the small group, "shall live unhappily ever after; we shall drown in happiness the like of which they will never know. Red, and sticky, and sweet to taste. We do not fight our natures, those of us who survive. You will learn."
His princess touched his hand and he fell in with her, slipping away through the open doors swiftly, leaving no trace behind of their going.
Xander couldn't take it anymore. He'd rather be tranked than deal with standing around doing nothing. He stepped forward.
"Okay, now this is the point where we're supposed to surrender ourselves into your custody. This is a military operation and you've got jurisdiction here. I mean, these are your digs, right?" he asked rhetorically. He nodded. "Well, I've had some... military experience." He held up his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart. "Only about that much, but hey! I get it."
He shot a glance at Buffy, but she seemed content to let him talk as she continued to size up their chances, taking the time he was giving her to review and reject options.
He saw that she was prepared to fight, but he knew she wasn't prepared to kill. None of them were. But the soldier guys didn't know that.
"The thing is," he continued, "is that we've mounted a rescue operation of our own. And what you're doing here, making those guys and all, isn't exactly kosher." He looked over at the vamps and back to the headset soldier. "In fact, I don't think there's a single senator that knows where the money is going that funds this place." He shrugged in a big way. "Just don't think it'd fly, okay?" Xander noticed that one of the officers was looking a bit unnerved. Career guy, obviously.
"So I guess what I'm saying is, your boss has run off and you're standing here holding the bag. Which includes a vampire slayer, who is the Chosen One, by the way; a vampire with a soul who has been fighting the good fight for years now, even if I do happen to hate his guts; a vengeance demon, who is definitely not somebody you want to piss off, believe me, unless you like pus and plague; one of your own guys; a sixteen year old girl and..."
Xander looked down at his fingers, watching as he ticked them off one by one, and started on his other hand. "And me," he finished, surprised that he hadn't forgotten anyone. "A construction guy who just happens to like hanging out with the crazies." He looked at Buffy. "Did I leave anybody out?"
Spike cleared his throat. "Clem."
"Wow. So Clem *is* here!" Xander sighed in relief.
A new voice filled the large room, power radiating from it. "Which one of you is Miss Summers?"
Dawn and Buffy both answered. "I am," they said in unison, turning.
A tall, thin man stood in the midst of several uniformed men, accompanied by a shorter man dressed in a civilian suit. The man in the suit stepped forward, nodding toward Buffy.
"That is Miss 'Buffy' Summers, General."
The slayer stared at the smaller man, whose accent and suit reeked of England.
"Miss Summers," the man said, walking toward her, "I am Ian Browne, Council of Watchers liaison to the United States government. And that," he said, nodding back toward the contingent of military men, "is General Paxton." His eyes twinkled as he held out his hand. "Rupert Giles sends his deepest regards."
She took his hand, dazed. So, they weren't going to have to fight?
The general looked around. "Well, this is a helluva mess. Helluva mess! Where is Lt. Colonel Finn?" He waited a moment, but no one stepped forward. "Figures," he muttered to his aide. "Good guys? Bad guys?" The soldiers and vampires eyed each other, then looked suspiciously at the six civilians that had brought the general into this. The general let out a dramatic breath. "Debriefing in ten," he said loudly. "Stand down." The sound of trank guns being holstered and a low murmur filled the space.
Buffy barely caught Spike as he fell.
"Hey, buddy. You all right?"
Spike looked up at Clem's concerned face. "Head hurts like a bugger." He groaned. "What happened?"
"Uh, you fainted?"
"Did not!" Spike said indignantly, as he struggled to get up. "Must have been one of those darts!"
Clem shook his head. "Nope," he said decisively. "You fainted. And believe me it was hard to figure that out. The only way we knew you weren't dead was that you weren't a pile of dust on the floor."
"Did Buffy see me faint?" He swayed in his sitting position. He suspected he was lying on the same table he'd been tied to. He got no respect at all.
"Uh, she caught you before you hit the deck, so I guess that's a big 'yeah.'"
The vampires eyes widened in remembrance. "And Harris, Harris saw it?" Spike couldn't believe it. He'd fainted? Fainting after you got a soul, well, that was one thing, but this? Nancy tribe, all right. He sighed in resignation. "Where's Buffy?"
"In something called a debriefing. Since she's the one who got Finn's confession. Well, kinda. I'd call his confession gloating, myself. Hey, did you know that first shipment of eggs wasn't bezuines...?"
"Oh, bloody hell. You're joking right? Lied to Buffy again. Just stake me!"
"Hey, it's not like you were down there when they hatched. And Finn did it. Set you up. He said so."
"Some evil thing I am. Should have done more research. Could have asked the Watcher, if he'd been here. Which he wasn't. Never around when you bloody need him anyway. Well, not that I would have asked him..." he rambled, holding his still-aching head.
Clem patted him awkwardly on the back. "It's okay. And I heard Xander talking about what a great guy you are!"
Preparing to faint again, Spike looked out from under his lashes at Clem suspiciously.
"Well, maybe not great, but helpful." Clem continued dissembling. "Well, most of the time anyway. He said..."
Spike groaned. "Where's Finn?" he asked, changing the subject. His eyes widened as he remembered. "And Drusilla... Have they got Dru?"
"Dru's gone. And Riley, he's real gone. As in dead. Bled out. They're pretty sure she did it."
"So am I." Spike lay back on the table, headache returning with a vengeance as the tension seeped back into his body. "Very, very sure."
Spike felt a tap on the shoulder.
"It's your turn. Are you up to it?"
Buffy looked worried. He wondered why. He wondered about a lot of things, especially what 'your turn' meant.
"The general wants to talk to you. And Browne. Oh, and just so you know, Riley's dead. Found him in Drusilla's quarters."
"Yeah," Spike said under his breath. She helped him sit up. Deciding he felt much better, he tried to stand. Head wasn't as buggered up either. "Yeah, Clem said he was dead."
"And Dru is long gone. Took one of her fledges with her. One of the soldiers was surprised at how much he looked like you."
"Oh, hell. Drop another one on me. I've got a Dru-manufactured clone runnin' round loose? Just stake me and be done. Can't take the guilt," he grumbled.
"Come on." She smiled encouragingly "No rest for the weary. Riley created quite a mess here and they want our help diggin' em out."
"They put a chip in my head, ruin my life, and they want my help? Of all the sodding nerve..."
"Hey. Un-life, remember," she said smiling. "Oh. And Love, Give, Forgive. Heard that someplace once. Put your arm over my shoulder. Can't keep the general waiting."
She looked at him askance. Spike hadn't said anything when he'd left his private meeting with the general. But his face was thoughtful and his forehead furrowed. Buffy had decided he needed some thinking time, but she was bursting with questions.
The vampire had been closeted with the general for over two hours. By the time they'd finished, he was barely on his feet. During the ride back to the house, he'd fallen asleep in the back seat of the big Chevrolet Suburban. His head had tilted over and wound up on her shoulder. Dawn was grinning at the picture they made. Buffy had scowled at her, because she was afraid her little sister would see too much.
And besides, the slayer hadn't decided how much of Dawn's young life she was going to deprive her of yet. That little scene at the Initiative was not forgotten. She'd dragged Xander and Daniel into a situation that could have gotten all three of them killed or dusted. Dawn had some atoning to do. Big time.
And of course, there was the whole unlocky door, Key-ish thing. Which meant Dawn was still a key. Which could be a problem if any hell gods got wind of it.
Buffy shook her head. More questions than answers. The Hellmouth. You just gotta love it.
Bodies were scattered across the living room of Buffy's house. All of them were breathing.
Jonathan had obviously gotten dibs on the sofa. He had his legs up and pulled toward his chest, a whining snore issuing from his lips.
The slayer looked up at Spike, who was still the worse for wear. Dawn couldn't seem to stop smiling.
Scooby Xander had returned earlier and was leaned back in a chair, with the remote in his hand. The sound was muted, but the channels flashed across the screen.
He was surfing in his sleep. Dawn made a sharp noise and snatched the remote from his overlarge and obviously heavy thumb. She hit the power button and the light from the television faded. The girl yawned dramatically. "Well, I'm for bed. In fact, I'm all for bed. Don't wake me, I'll wake you, 'kay?" Her mischievous look took in both slayer and vampire in a sweep.
She stopped halfway up the stairs. "Or maybe I won't bother you at all." She winked and fled, before Buffy could call her down.
Clearing his throat, Spike looked down at his feet, still dull with exhaustion. "Not much of a plan, pet. Should have dropped me at the cemetery."
"You can sleep in mom's old room," she said quickly. Too quickly. This eventuality had already been considered and dealt with.
Spike opened his mouth to argue with her, but it was too much trouble. "Fine then."
"Spike? There's blood in the fridge. Aren't you...like hungry? Or..."
Stopping at the foot of the stairs, he turned. "Yeah," he said wonderingly. "Yeah, Slayer, I am. Starving, in fact."
She smiled. "Well, come on. Let's see what we can do to keep you from wasting away."
Following her to the kitchen, Spike mused on the events of the night. He really needed to be alone and think. But the blood was necessary. He ran his hands through his hair. Stopped as he thought about the chip. Thought about it being gone. There was still an ache where it had been.
Funny. He didn't think you could feel pain there.
Buffy had hurriedly poured the blood and shoved it in the microwave. When he came back to himself, he noticed that she was leaning against the counter, just looking at him.
"What?" he said, half-frustrated. All she did was watch him these days.
"So, what's the verdict?"
"Verdict?" God, he felt stupid. What was she talking about? Had he zoned out of an entire conversation?
"Chip's out, Big Bad. Had any huge changes in your feelings?"
God, she looked like a cat that had swallowed a bird. The smirk on her face was enough to make him lie. Bitch.
"No." He lied badly anyway. "Did you see Finn?"
The smile that had begun to light up her face faded. She frowned and involuntarily her hand went to her stomach. "Yes. Yes, I did."
"And?" He knew she must be thinking he was deliberately being cruel, but he had to know. Had to.
Buffy turned and got the mug out of the microwave and slid it silently onto the table. She sat down across from Spike and took a deep breath.
"And he's dead. Very dead. They found him in a puddle, no, a *lake* of blood. Drusilla did it. He was slashed at the neck, just like Kendra. And other places. All over really. She didn't even feed from him."
Spike closed his eyes.
"He just bled to death. It was fast, I guess. But I don't think it would have been fast for him. Snapping his neck would have been far more humane. Cleaner, too. That's for sure."
"And Dru? Any trace of her yet?"
"Right then." Looking at the blood in the mug, Spike felt his stomach heave. "Maybe I'm not so hungry after all." He got up. "I'm goin' to your mom's room. Pass out there." Or think. Think for the rest of his bloody existence.
She gazed at his bent head as he left the room.
She dumped the mug down the sink and turned on the water. It swirled pink.
Continued in Part 20