Sequel to Two Days; part of The Voicesverse
For Tabula Rasa, Spike's Salvation, The Gutter, and Stuart Immonen, who gave me DeLuca.
Rating: PG-13 Action/Adventure/Mystery
Summary: Spike prepares the Vale Project vampires for their return to Sunnydale and the old Initiative facility. Buffy has come to Vale to 'work' with him (and have a short vacation). They are headed to a demon bar outside town. Oh, Lord...
Read "Reminders" and "Shepherd" All available at Chris' site "Amare, Dare, Pardonare"
Spoilers: Season 7 AU, maybe even 8, by now, which takes place after my fic, "Shepherd," which was a sequel to "Reminders," which was... oh, you get the picture!
Disclaimers: All Joss, all ME, all the time...
Feedback: You beta, you beta, you bet! email@example.com
Author's Notes: Although I had already mentioned one of the vamps who had an inclination for drawing and painting in "Shepherd," the character did not come to life for me until I saw a drawing that one of Colleen's friends, an illustrator named Stuart Immonen, gave her. His Spike is in the Photos file at Spike's Salvation at http://photos.groups.yahoo.com/group/SpikesSalvation/lst
Because of that drawing, DeLuca became real.
Special thanks to Chris, who is betaing me and just about every one else, as well as working to make the new Troika archive work; Kelly, whose yard-mowing brainstorm named this fic; Chenanceou, who has developed a bad case of Daniel love; and Colleen, whose betas are always a delight, and so on the mark.
Hefting the cue, she shot him a look, but he'd already turned back to the rack and was choosing a stick of his own. She narrowed her eyes. "How the hell do you do that?"
"What?" he said innocently, turning back to her. "Oh." He turned back to his perusal of the pool cues. "S'good, then?" he asked absently, as if not really needing an answer.
She let out a 'hmmph'. "Yes. Of *course*. You always know..."
"What you need?" he finished for her, lips twisted ruefully. "Well, yeah. Should by now, I reckon."
A smile played at the corners of the slayer's mouth, as she looked around the bar at the motley collection of demons, in various stages of inebriation. "Pretty sad when I feel more at home in a place like this than I do at the Bronze."
"Gettin' a little old for the Bronze, Buffy," he pointed out sagely. "That's more the Bit's thing now," he pointed out. "Ones your age still goin' have pap for brains. Not that I don't enjoy it now and again, but..." He had a sudden thought and looked at her warningly. "And this *isn't* home. This bunch doesn't know you from any foolish bint in off the street," he admonished, as he began racking the balls.
"Yeah, yeah," she said, still looking around. She wasn't uncomfortable. Not really, but all of a sudden it seemed important to get into the bar 'swing.' Finally, her eyes landed on him again. "I want a drink. Don't you want a drink?"
Spike cut his eyes at her. "A drink? For you?" He barked a short laugh. "Been through this once, Slayer. Don't want to be cleaning up my shoes here."
She made a face. This was her vacation, dammit. "I think I can handle a drink," she said curtly.
Laughing derisively, the vampire looked her up and down. "*A* drink isn't the problem, love. And that noise you make is irritating as hell."
"If I wanted to vacation with my dad, I'd be in L.A.," she said nastily.
He considered what she was saying. And he owed her a vacation. "What about wine?" he said helpfully.
She grimaced. Couldn't let go on wine much. Unless you had a whole bunch. "Well..."
"And wine it is," he said decisively.
The slayer stuck out her lower lip.
Spike handed her a ball. "You rack 'em. I'll be right back. No poutin', stay put, and don't start anything. Like to finish this night out with no bloodshed."
She rolled her eyes. "Fine, *Giles*," she said sarcastically. This was getting ridiculous!
Spike gave her a dark look and headed toward the bar.
"Spoilsport," she muttered, just loud enough for vampire hearing to pick up. He heard the clunk of the pool balls as she continued racking them.
The wine she'd had with dinner had definitely taken the edge of her sarcastic quips. That could be good or bad. Spike walked up to the bar and ordered a glass of wine and a bourbon. There was talking to be done tonight, but not yet. For once, Buffy was going to get her vacation - or a bit of one, anyway.
He headed back with the glasses, after generously tipping the barman. She was leaning on the stick, waiting impatiently. Her eyes lightened when she saw him, then darkened. "Where's the rest?" She asked, looking behind him.
Puzzled, he stopped. "The rest of what?"
"The bottle," she said, taking the wine from him and putting it to her lips. She looked at him over the rim of the glass with sparkling eyes.
"Oh, bloody hell," he said, quaffing the bourbon in one slug. He slammed the glass down on a nearby table. "Is this what we're doin' tonight, then?"
He threw his hands in the air, and headed back to the bar without another word. The healthy tip he'd left insured that he was noticed faster than several others and soon he was on his way back to the quiet corner with a chilled bottle of wine and another bourbon. He'd decided that two or three was his limit tonight, since the slayer seemed determined to tie one on.
As he got within view of the pool table, he stopped stock-still and took in the tableau before him. Buffy's glass was empty and was sitting precariously on the pool table. The balls had been broken and she was taking her shot, as she carried on a non-stop diatribe with her new pool partner: a very large Fyarl demon.
"Yuck," she said, as the ball jumped the table. She giggled. "Sometimes I don't know my own strength. Anyway, you got family in Sunnydale? Cause I might have met up with a cousin of yours a few weeks ago."
The Fyarl moved over to consider his shot. Spike quietly deposited the bottle and glasses on a nearby table and put a hand on the back of his neck to relieve the tension. Didn't work.
The vampire let out an exasperated breath and walked up to the Fyarl. He tilted his head in the slayer's direction and said one word in the demon's own language. "Schl'k."
The horned head came up with a snap, as he dropped the pool cue. He growled, as he followed Spike's amused eyes to the little blonde who had discovered the wine bottle. After a bristling moment, he gave Spike the once over, growled again and walked away.
Spike took the wine bottle out of the slayer's hand. "You certainly have relaxed your guard, Slayer. Playin' pool and chattin' it up with a Fyarl demon. Showin' off your best moves to a bunch o' vampires."
"Hey, I had a Giles moment, okay? You sounded like him, and then there was the Fyarl, and well, I got Giles-sick."
"Well, let's get the watcher a plane ticket home, 'stead of takin' up with strange demons."
Her eyes flashed, as her hands went to her hips. "Oh, and on the best moves thing? Those were *so* not my best moves. I have way better 'best' moves. Those were like tame 'best' moves." She looked at him suspiciously. "Which reminds me," she said, taking the open bottle out of his hand and raising it to her lips for a slug, as Spike winced. "You went down pretty easy, now that I think about it."
"Wondered if you'd notice, pet. Surprised it's taken you this long," he said with a smirk.
"You threw the fight?" she said incredulously, sputtering. "That is so totally wrong! I oughta stake you for that." She took another gulp out of the bottle and set it down, turning in a circle as she looked for an exit. "Let's go. I'll show you moves!"
"Buffy, it was an exhibition. That's all. Just a little sparring..." he said hastily.
She jerked her head toward the newly discovered exit. "Now."
He spread his hands in surrender. "Don't get your knickers in a twist. I'll explain." He reached for her elbow and set her down in the nearest chair, as she grabbed for the bottle. "And obviously, drinking, even wine, is not a slayer thing." He smoothly snagged it and poured her a small glass, as he sat down across from her. "All right, pet, here it is. And no punchin' til I'm done..."
"Right," she said folding her arms tightly and leaning back in her chair.
"I'm takin' twenty-six vampires back to the Hellmouth..."
She snorted. "You call those 'vampires?' I know vampires, Spike, and those are so not the real thing."
"Oh, they're vampires, all right," he said, nodding. "Vampires that haven't fed, haven't fought, haven't killed. Now, they're headed to Sunnydale, to fight demons. Training 'em, yeah. But it's not the same as a fight. Hell, love, you know what it feels like to fight for your life. It'll be the same for them. And it'll give 'em a reason to be, right?"
She relaxed and leaned forward, elbow on the table.
"Took First Team out on a patrol here in Vale. Not a lot of vamps where I took 'em. But they did all right, considerin'. Reflexes a bit slow; comes with practice, that." He reached over across the table and grabbed one of her hands, fixing her with earnest eyes.
"But what I cannot have, even a moment, is them thinkin' a slayer can be taken. Specifically, you. Gonna have to keep a close watch on 'em a while. Daniel understands. He's killed, even if he hasn't fed. Killed friends, comrades in arms. He gets it. You have to be unbeatable, larger than life to 'em." He smiled as he squeezed her hand. "Just like you are to me."
"So you let me beat you for my own good?" she said, still a little annoyed.
"Well, I've beat the bloody hell out of all of 'em, one time or another, in training sessions. You beat me?" He shrugged, self-deprecatingly. "Puts 'em way down in the peckin' order, don't it?"
"Do you know how nervous it makes me when your twisted brain makes sense," she complained.
He smirked. "Yeah, I do. About as nervous as it makes me when yours does."
"Hey, you wanna dance?" she asked impishly.
Spike looked at her with narrowed eyes. "Dance, fight, or..."
Squeezing his hand once, Buffy got up out of the chair. "Let's get out of here. There's only one demon I want to interact with tonight."
Spike grabbed his bourbon and finished it as he stood. Buffy reached for the wine.
He stopped her hand. "Nah. Let it go, slayer. Need a navigator on the trip back."
"Well, yeah. Your hotel, right?"
She grinned impishly. "Yeah. Sheets I didn't have to wash. Mmm, heaven."
"Somethin' in that. Sheets you won't have to wash after, either."
She giggled and walked into a seven-foot demon and his friend. "Whoops! 'Scuse me. Comin' through," she said, pausing, as she waited for them to move. They didn't.
"Uh, Buffy? Think they're here to see us."
The slayer squinted her eyes and looked up - and up. "Why? Remember, nobody knows me here."
Spike looked embarrassed. "Well, I might have put the other one off with that bit of information. 'Schl'k' is Slayer in Fyarl."
The larger demon growled and reached for her. She ducked and came around his back, planting a booted foot at kidney level, kicking him a good five feet. Looking for Spike, she noticed that he had the other demon up against a support column.
"Just out for a drink with my lady, mate. Not lookin' for a good time - not with you, anyway."
The demon spat at him. "Soul!"
"Well, yeah," Spike said, a little surprised. "Vampire with a soul and a vampire slayer. Nothin' you want here," he said dangerously.
The bigger demon lumbered to his feet and closed on Buffy. Spike reached behind his back, with one hand, and brought out a wicked knife about ten inches long. "Here, luv," he said, tossing it to her.
"Thanks," she said, catching it out of the air, drawing it out of the sheath, and leveling it at the demon. "We can do this the hard way - or the hard way. Up to you. But hey! All up for a good fight."
Spike rolled his eyes. "Sure, Slayer. I really want demon goo on these pants." He pushed his opponent against the column, exerting bone-crushing pressure, and slowly stepped back. "Shove off," he advised him.
The two demons traded looks. The one challenging the slayer stepped back.
"Fine." But she left the knife unsheathed. "Coming, honey?" she said wickedly.
Spike straightened his sweater and smoothed his pants. "Dammit, you are bloody trouble when you're in the mood for a spot," he fumed. "Try lettin' me know next time and I'll dress for it."
"Yada, yada, yada," she teased. "Ready, Randy?"
"Oh, yeah, 'Joan'. Make fun." He stepped around, keeping an eye on the demons and grabbed at her elbow, steering her toward the nearest exit.
"You're stuffy," she complained.
"And you're half-drunk, pet. Let's get you back."
She pushed out her lower lip. "Not ready to go to bed now."
"I'll make it worth your while."
"Well, how was I to know there were more waiting outside?" he asked for the twentieth time, as he pushed open the door to her hotel room.
"You and your big mouth," she growled, following his inside. "'Schl'k.'"
"Seemed like a good idea at the time. Fyarl's back right off if there's no one directin' em," he said in his own defense.
"I think my skirt's ruined," she said looking down. "Between the high kick and the demon goo, that is."
"Well, these pants damn sure are," he said disgustedly. He shot her a calculating look. "And it was a very nice high kick. That is, until you landed on your ass." He looked back down at his pants. "Think I'll send you shoppin'. S'your fault. And I'm bloody well not goin'.
"Hold it. You're gonna send me to the mall?" she said hotly.
"Fine. Don't go, then. Christ, Buffy... "
"I'm thirsty," she said digging in her handbag.
"You're pissed," he said accusingly. She looked up in surprise. "Drunk," he explained, as he watched her pull something out of her purse. "What the hell?"
"What?" she said in surprise. "You paid for it! I wasn't gonna leave it."
"Summers, give me the bloody bottle!" There was wine running down the side of the bottle, but half of it was left. The purse was going to reek tomorrow.
"Come and get it," she said with a reckless grin, pulling the cork and taking a long drink.
Letting out a breath, the vampire half-heartedly reached for the bottle. "Oh, hell," he said, stepping back. "Just kill the thing and let's move along to the throwing up."
"Not sick," she said, wiping her mouth.
He sighed. "Not yet," he corrected her. He shook his head and headed for the door. "I'll have a car pick you up in the morning."
She stared at his back, took a quick drink, and put the bottle on the table with a clunk. "All done."
"Good. See you in the..."
"Hold it. Where are you going?"
"Home," he said firmly, with his hand on the door. "You're drunk and you need to go to bed."
"I'll go to bed. *If* you stay," she threatened. "If you don't, I'm gonna..." Her voice trailed off, as she tried to wrap her mind around an appropriate punishment.
"You're going to what?" he prodded.
"Go to another bar," she said with a lift of her chin.
"Really? And do what?" he said softly, moving closer.
"Get more drunk and pick up men," she said threateningly.
"Men? Or vampires?" He sauntered toward her, and impaled her on deep blue eyes.
She tossed her head. "Maybe both."
"Well," he said silkily. "Can't have that now, can we?" He ran a hand down her arm, from shoulder to elbow. "Girl like you'd kill any normal man," he said in a low voice. "Got to protect the weak."
She tried to shrug nonchalantly, but it came off as more of a shiver.
He gave her an evil smirk. "Come on now. Let's get those clothes off you and get ready for the pukin' up."
She tossed her head. "No puking. I'm not..." she gulped, and her face went white.
"Too late," he said in satisfaction. "C'mon, luv. Now." He pushed her in front of him, steering her toward the small bathroom.
As he did every time he walked in, Spike's eyes absently scanned the main room. Today was no different, even if the slayer was walking hesitantly a half step behind. He couldn't figure out if it was caution or a hangover.
'Something missing,' his conscious mind nagged. He dismissed the niggling thought and headed toward his office. After all, it was a workday and Spike had decided to show her the adjustment ratings on the teams as a natural extension of their conversation the night before.
'Ah, that,' he thought, mentally slapping his forehead as he came face to face with the door to his office and DeLuca's daily installment.
The slayer's hand whipped out and caught at the piece of paper, glanced at the drawing, and looked up at Spike, mouth open to make some kind of remark.
Instead she closed it and looked back down. The pen and ink showed two figures, engaged in a fight. The male, obviously Spike, was taking a kick to the stomach. A woman with her hair twisted off her face, was doing the kicking. Buffy looked up in delighted surprise.
"This is *us!*"
"Yeah," he grumped, taking one look and putting a hand on the doorknob. "Portrait of a happy couple. Be sure and put it in the weddin' album."
Ignoring his comment, she followed him inside, exclaiming, "This is wicked cool!" She shook her head. "Like a comic book and I'm some sort of Ninja! Buffy! Or Le Femme Ni-whata. Or..."
"A super hero?" he said, raising a brow. Since her 'Randy' comment the night before, that day had been on his mind. A vampire with a soul, on a mission of redemption. And Joan the Super Hero. What a naïve pair they'd been!
She laughed. "Yes!"
"Glad you're intrigued," he said flatly. Spike walked around the desk and sat down, bringing up the program that would show her the adjustment ratings. The newest set of evals would have gone into the computer last night. Those would be the ones that reflected the psych ratings on First Team - the first ones since their patrol.
"Hey!" she groused, seeing that he was already starting to work. "Can we wake up, please? Is there coffee, or just blood around here? My head hurts."
"Slayer, a chip in your head 'hurts.' A hangover is just a hangover," he said curtly. Nothing new yet. So obviously, the psychs had been out partyin', too.
She sat down on the edge of the desk, still admiring the drawing. "Boy, you're a Bad Mood Bear this morning!" she remarked idly. Laying the artwork down, she looked at him. "I think I'd make a great super hero," she teased. "And look!" She pointed at the drawing. "He fixed it where those pants don't make me look fat!"
The vampire pushed out an impatient, ragged breath, as he continued to work the mouse, moving on to other reports. "Right, Slayer. Super hero. Not fat. Got it."
Daniel walked into the office. "You made it," he said unnecessarily. Spike rolled his eyes. He walked up to the vampire's desk, eyes drawn to the illustration. A slow smile spread over his face. "Neat. Shepherd's out, Slayer's in," he chuckled.
"Spike doesn't think it's so neat," she said impishly.
"Jealous, probably. Looks like he's been replaced in DeLuca's affection."
Spike snorted. "Yeah, right. Jealous. Replaced. Got it," he said, as he brought up the most recent statistics. Four days older than he needed them to be. Wankers!
"So, Spikey," Buffy wheedled, "can I have this?"
Daniel grinned and answered for him. "Why not? Got a drawer full already."
Sliding off the desk, Buffy looked up at Daniel. "Really? More of Spike? Where?"
Finally looking away from the monitor, Spike shot daggers at her with his eyes. "Slayer. We got work." He could at least go over the earlier charts, acquaint her with what they were dealing with.
The fledgling rummaged in the file cabinet. "No," he said without turning. "You've got a class. First and Second Team, every morning until further notice."
Spike winced. "Bloody hell."
"Don't like it, you can take it up with Shepherd," Daniel commented, nursing a sly grin. "His directive."
"Need coffee," Buffy groaned. "And I thought he *was* Shepherd. Need something for my head, too. An anvil would work. Drop it, and presto, headache gone. Head, too, but hey!" She shrugged.
The younger vampire grinned at the slayer.
Spike got up and headed toward the door. No reason to cancel. Without the newer stats, he was still whistling in the dark. "Daniel, I need the newest stats. Not last week's." He looked at the slayer. "Two hours, pet. Then we're down to it." He walked out, closing the door with a snap.
She looked after him, amused. "Is he always like this? Cause... well, rude much?"
"Lately?" Daniel considered her question. "Been pretty stressed since he came back from Sunnydale," he said carefully. "Wants this to go off without a hitch." Daniel smiled. Enough said. "Let's get you some coffee and some aspirin. Then, we'll come back and find some cool Shepherd drawings. Souvenirs. Maybe a couple for your sister, too?"
Buffy grinned. "Works for me. Especially the coffee part."
He strode swiftly toward the gym, mumbling under his breath. Nothing for it. He'd have to explain it to her. Show her. Get her up to speed.
He'd tried to last night, but Buffy had had other things on her mind. Couldn't fault her for that. It had been a long time since she had been free enough to party at the Bronze after patrol. Of course, the evening hadn't turned out the way either of them had planned. She'd crawled off the bed at least five more times, Spike following to hold her hair back. Then, there had been the trips down the hall to get ice for the back of her neck.
No wonder he was a bit brassed off.
Spike had taken First Team out, with Daniel as back-up, two days before Buffy's little jaunt to Vale. Despite his words to Buffy, the impatient part of Spike thought it was a wonder they'd all made it back. None of the vampires had fought at the strength and speed they were capable of - some just made a better show of it than others. It had been frustrating.
Daniel said it was understandable.
The patrol had been carefully controlled; an older cemetery with fewer opportunities for new vampires. He suspected that they'd see mostly fledglings; locals that had died in what had looked like skiing accidents - skiing accidents that had involved a lot of neck trauma.
Matthews and Jeffries had kept their heads. In fact, the level of teamwork had surprised the vampire. Between the two of them, they'd managed to stake a particularly large fledgling.
And DeLuca had done all right, even if his partner had frozen up. The partner had landed himself on Third Team in the space of two minutes.
Patience was not Spike's strong suit. Didn't seem to be 'Shepherd's'. Once they were on patrol, the mollycoddling went out the window. This was business - what they were in Vale to do.
With five weeks left until the move to Sunnydale, he had to whip the lot of them into shape. And he fully expected to have First and Second Teams up and running patrols on the Hellmouth within a week of relocation. It was the goal he had set, and by God, they'd meet it.
More and more, the vampire found that his training and management methods were a little closer to 'Spike with minions,' than 'Shepherd with the flock.' And instead of rebelling, the Vale Project vampires seemed to welcome the drill sergeant discipline.
Fledgling 'Spike,' on the other hand, would have torn the sergeant's head off.
He shook his head as he entered the gym. The twelve vampires stood respectfully waiting for him to arrive. Discipline was one thing. But this?
Dawn crawled out of bed and headed toward the bathroom. So glad she'd been able to stay home, instead of sleeping at Janice's. As much as she liked Janice's mother, her dad made her nervous. Janice said it was because she wasn't used to having dad-types in the house. Which was so... well, not true! Cause Xander and Jonathan were downstairs and she didn't feel weird at all.
Of course, you couldn't really call Xander a 'dad-type,' even though he sounded like one sometimes.
The phone rang. She grimaced at her reflection in the mirror. Really needed to remember to take off her makeup at night, so that she didn't find mascara on her cheeks in the morning.
After the second ring, Dawn let out a frustrated breath and ran down to the hallway to grab the phone.
"This better be you," the teenager said briskly. "Xander's wiggin out big time."
There was silence. "What are you doing there?" Buffy asked suspiciously.
"Getting ready for school. Xander and Jonathan stayed here with me last night, so I didn't have to listen to Janice's dad and his snoring from the hell dimension."
"Oh." Buffy sounded confused. "So they stayed there?"
"Yep. And I did my homework and went to bed at a 'decent' hour. They watched the Star Wars Trilogy again. Geeks ahoy!" she said pertly. Then, she remembered what Jonathan had said, and winced. Needed to do some work on the newer, kinder Dawn pretty quick. "How's Vale?"
"Oh, it's like the Initiative with Spike in charge. Scary stuff." Buffy laughed. "And he's in one total bad mood today. So he's either mad at them or mad at me. I vote for me."
"You're still coming home tomorrow?"
"That's what the ticket says," she said lightly. "You gonna be there to pick me up? With the Xanman?"
"I'll think about it," she said snarkily. Dawn thought about how to phrase the next bit. "And everyone's okay?" Okay, leading questions were good.
"Sure. Fangy, but fine. Oh, and Dawn, I'm bringing you the coolest surprise! Daniel and I are looking for just the right ones."
Whew! An opening! "Daniel's there?"
"Daniel's always here. Want to talk to him? It's on the Government dime."
"Sure," she said lightly. "All for screwing the government." She waited, tapping her fingers on the table.
Oh, God. Oh, God. He sounded just the same.
"Hi, Daniel," she said nonchalantly. "Taking care of my sister for me?"
There was a moment of silence. "Spike is taking care of her. I'm just babysitting for an hour or two."
Dawn stood there, trying to figure out what to say next. They didn't have this problem in their emails. Why was it so strange? Oh, yeah. Buffy was standing right there.
"You still on schedule for the move?" she blurted out. Oh, so uncool. And what was she doing, anyway?
"I think so," he said slowly. "Seem to be."
"Good," she said. A touch of satisfaction crept into her voice. Oh, God, more uncool! She needed some kind of thing that warned her - that beeped and said 'uncool alert.'
Daniel cleared his throat. "Here's Buffy. Have a good day at school."
Oh, he was doing that 'you're in high school thing.' Ugh. Guys were so... lame. And cold. And... hello? Vampire?
"I'm back," Buffy said unnecessarily. "So you're headed off to school? Cause I'm looking at the clock and you're pushing it."
"Waking the big guy now. I'll make it. Have fun, okay?"
"Fun? Spike's on a tear, and I'm stuck in Vale. If I get snowed in, I'm staking myself."
Dawn laughed. "I love you, Buff. I'll tell Xander et al you said 'hi.'"
"Et al? Latin, right? I know Latin. Well, I know Latin when I hear it - language of the Hellmouth. Love you, Dawnie. Do good. And hurry up and get to school!"
Dawn made a face at the phone and hung it up. She walked in and looked at the Star Wars refugees, who were crashed out all over the living room.
"Rise and shine, guys. 'Key' needs a ride to school. Be down in a few," she said, stomping up the stairs at a run.
One of Xander's eyes opened blearily. "Huh?" It closed again, as a hearty snore escaped.
He thought she might be leaving today. She'd been closed up in Shepherd's office for two days. Lots of people had been in and out. Several he'd never seen before. And there was that general, who had actually come there to see her, DeLuca suspected. They were making plans for the move. Cause they were going back to 'her' town. To the Hellmouth.
He wanted to help her. She was so small, even if she was so strong. And fast. She'd dropped Shepherd like a sack. And hadn't even broken a sweat. The slayer was like them - without the fangs and the whole dead/undead thing.
Smiling, he looked down at the pen and ink he'd just finished. Even though he'd been through in the gym that first day, he'd heard the commotion, and had peeked around the door, just in time to see her fight. He'd been working on this one all night - wanted the colors to be just right. After all, it was the most ambitious thing he'd tried in this style, all heavy black lines and cross-hatch shading, highlighted by the primary colors in cobalts, mid-range blues, and grays. Even the flesh tones were muted. The slayer was the star of his story; the Vale Project was only the supporting cast. Even Shepherd paled in comparison.
He'd captured the look of her as she stepped forward for the kill, muscles rippling in her short t-shirt and tight jeans. He'd added boots with a higher heel than she'd actually been wearing. And a stake in her hand, of course. But pretty much, he had drawn what he saw.
The slayer would have taken his breath if he'd had any. She was everything you needed in a super hero. Well, a female super hero, anyway.
Once again, DeLuca looked at his artwork, frowning slightly. He hated the idea of using scotch tape, seemed a shame to blaspheme good work like that, but he wanted her to see it. And he'd be doing others.
He slipped toward the office. A little tape, and the door had a whole new look.
Spike left the gym felling better than he had when he went in. He'd worked First Team for an hour and a half - Second for two more. Both of them were making slow, but steady improvement, especially First, who had done the patrol.
There had been a real breakthrough with Jeffries. He'd punched Spike into the wall.
Certainly, no ribs were broken, and Buffy could have mopped up the floor with the fledgling with one perfect arm tied behind her back, but there had been power behind the blow. Spike grinned in remembrance. The other team members had been astonished. And suddenly, all of them had kicked in, throwing more telling blows, unleashing a little more of their vampiric strength they didn't seem to know they had.
More satisfied than he'd been in a while, Spike hummed an old Ramones song as he headed to his office, swinging his arms and bouncing a bit as he walked.
No dinner out tonight. No, they'd do room service at her hotel. Work today, play tonight, like any normal...
His eyes widened in shock. Disbelievingly, he blinked. Twice.
On the door of his office was Buffy. And 'buff' was pretty close to the mark. The color drawing had the slayer - his Slayer - turned out in a skimpy v-neck top and tight jeans. One leg was bent, muscles in her thighs, hips and stomach jumping off the page, as she lunged forward, large wooden stake in hand.
Her hair was down, golden and swirling with movement - a comic book goddess, and unmistakably Buffy Summers. Spike's nostrils flared at the care that had gone into her sleek, petite, dancer-like form.
His bellow rang the hall.
"Daniel!" His fists were clenched, eyes dark with anger.
The door to his office swung open with a jar as it flew against the office wall and bounded back, almost hitting Buffy.
"Spike, what is wrong with you?" she said hotly. "Daniel is right here. He could have heard you whisper. Vampire, remember," she exclaimed disgustedly. Spike was pushing his breath out in furious huffs. Now what? Belatedly, she realized he wasn't looking at her, but at the door behind her elbow. She slid her eyes carefully to the right.
"Oh!" she squeaked. "It's me!"
She snatched the illustration off the painted surface a second before he could react. "Look, Daniel," she said, ignoring the angry vampire. "It's like a comic book cover. Xander's gonna lose it when he sees this. Sgt. Rock ain't got nothin' on me!"
Spike grabbed at it, but she spun away gracefully. "Now *those* are abs!"
"Buffy..." he warned.
She rolled her eyes.
Frustrated, Spike turned to his assistant. Daniel stood ramrod straight by his desk, eyes darting from the crowing slayer to the murderous vampire.
Surprisingly, when he finally spoke again, his voice was devoid of emotion. The fledgling's skin crawled as Spike looked at him.
"I want that little bloodsucker in my office now. And the two of you out. When I'm done tying his balls around his neck, we're sitting down to work. Playtime over."
Buffy opened her mouth to pop off a retort, but froze when he impaled her on an icy stare. His eyes traveled purposefully back to Daniel. "Did I make myself clear?"
Daniel resisted the urge to gulp. "Crystal," he said concisely, as he went out.
"Not a word, Slayer. S'none of your affair. I'm the head monkey in this zoo and the inmates are damn sure gonna behave, or I'll stake every bloody one of them myself. Do you get it? You deserve respect. Not this," he said curtly, pointing at the picture in her hand.
"Don't..." she protested.
"I'll do as I see fit," he said curtly. He softened a little. "Just talk to the lad, for now, but it isn't going to be pretty. Suggest you find Daniel now. Hurry him up gettin' DeLuca in here." He walked around his desk, and glanced at her. "We have work to do."
She stared at him, looked at the artwork and back into his cold eyes. Nodding once, she went the way of Daniel.
Continued in Chapter Three