All About Spike

Chapter: 1  2  3  4  5  6

Future Imperfect
By cousinjean

Summary/Notes/Disclaimer: See Part One.

Shoutouts: My beta list has grown! In addition to adjrun and Ehann, much thanks also to georgevna and the folks on the Redemptionista Writers list for your many useful suggestions. But especially to g for never holding back with the valid criticism. It's all for the good.

Rating: R




Part Four: The Late, Great Buffy Summers

The Watchers each took turns frowning and checking the time. Except for the occasional irritated sigh, the only sound was that of Nick Harris drumming his fingers on the table. It ceased when Anne reached across and made him stop.

"How much longer are we going to wait?" Nick asked.

His mother removed her glasses and massaged the bridge of her nose. "We'll give them five more minutes," she said. "If they don't show, we'll begin without them."

"This is ridiculous," said a Watcher by the name of Phillips. "We all know very well why they're late. This is their third time to be severely tardy in as many weeks. This behavior is as inappropriate as their relationship. How much longer are we going to allow this to go unchecked?"

"Surely you're not suggesting they shouldn't be allowed to see each other," Anne said.

"We have rules that strictly prohibit romantic involvement between Slayers and their Watchers," Phillips said.

"Yeah," Nick said, "but that's because most Slayers don't live long enough to become legal. Buffy's a grown woman. She doesn't need our rules to protect her."

"And besides," Anne said, "this is Spike and Buffy we're talking about. I mean, come on. We all grew up hearing the stories. They've been on hold for more than three hundred years. You don't expect them not to pick up where they left off just because of some archaic rules that shouldn't even apply to them."

"This institution has lasted for millennia because of adherence to those archaic rules, Miss Richards," Phillips said. "You would do well to remember that."

The chairwoman sighed. "I'm afraid I must agree," she said. She held up a hand to fend off protests from the younger Watchers. "Not about the nature of their relationship," she said. "We all knew this was a possibility when we agreed to assign Miss Summers to William. That was the time to voice any objections about the assignment." She gave Phillips a pointed look, and sighed. "Besides, God knows they've certainly earned whatever happiness they are able to give each other. I have no intention of standing between them. But they've each allowed their relationship to affect performance of their duties, which in turn affects each of us. This must stop." She nodded to emphasize her resolve. "I will speak with them after the meeting. In the mean time, we've waited long enough. Let's begin."

***

"I think I like my training sessions with you best," Buffy said.

She felt Spike smile against her breast. "What do you mean, 'think?' Have I got competition? Major Ellison, maybe? I know how you are about those military types."

"Please," Buffy said. "I'm over that. Besides, he's way old."

Spike raised his head and quirked an eyebrow at her.

"You know what I mean," Buffy said. "Anyway, the Major's idea of a reward for a job well done is to bark, 'Good work, Slayer!' I don't even think he's bothered to learn my name. I like your reward system much better."

Spike nuzzled her neck as he spoke, trailing delicate kisses from her shoulder up to her ear between words. "And here... I thought... these rewards... were for me." He lifted his head to look at her.

"That's the beauty of it," she said, reaching up to smooth back his unruly hair. "It's a mutually beneficial system."

"Well, you know me," Spike said. "Ever the giver."

Buffy rolled her eyes and shook her head.

He suddenly looked serious. "Hold still."

"Why? What is it?"

"Nothing," he said, "it's just hard to kiss a moving target."

Buffy smiled, and then parted her lips to receive his kiss. She savored the taste of him, running her hands over his smooth back and wrapping herself around him. She couldn't get enough of him. She'd never get enough of him. For not the first time since they'd become intimate, she cursed herself for keeping him at arm's length for so long. Even after they'd crossed the line from enemies to allies, then from allies to friends, she'd refused to allow them to cross the final line that would make them lovers. Stupid, scared little girl, she admonished her former self.

But once she finally gave in, she was left in awe of how completely and absolutely she had fallen in love with him. For all of his maturity and wisdom, this was still the same cocksure vampire she used to want to strangle with her bare hands. Now he was as necessary to her as oxygen. She could eat, drink and breathe nothing but Spike for the rest of her life and it would be all she ever needed or wanted. And what's more, she knew it was the same for him. She often wondered if this was their destiny. Had they been inevitably headed here ever since that first encounter behind the Bronze? Or had they stumbled here purely by chance? She didn't care. She was just grateful that they'd made it to this point, and regretted only that it had taken them so long.

Abruptly, Spike broke off the kiss. "What day is it?" he asked her.

"Um... Thursday?"

"Ah, bugger," he said, climbing off of her. He retrieved his pants from the nearby vaulting horse and dug his watch out of the pocket. "Shit!"

"What is it?" Buffy asked.

"We're late," he said. He picked up her pants from the training mat and tossed them to her. "Get dressed."

"Not again," she said.

"Meeting was supposed to start half an hour ago," he said, hopping into his pants. He looked around the room. "Do you see my shirt?"

Buffy stood and looked around as she fastened her own pants. "Over there, on the treadmill," she told him. "And will you grab my top from the trampoline?"

He tossed her tank top to her and then went to retrieve his own shirt. "You ready?" he asked as he tugged it on.

"I think so," she said. "Here, don't forget your coat." She picked it up and took it over to him. "How do I look?"

He smirked as he reached out to smooth her hair. "Right knackered," he said. "Me?"

She grinned. "The same." She forced herself to look serious. "We're in so much trouble."

"Yeah, well." He shrugged, and planted a quick kiss on her mouth. "Can't say it wasn't worth it."

"Nope, can't say that." She was back to grinning as they headed for the door. "Can't say that at all."

***

"Sorry we're late," Spike said as he followed Buffy into the briefing room. "We, uh ..." Damn. He'd never been any good with excuses.

"Something came up," Buffy said. "Something very urgent."

"Yes, I'm well aware of precisely what it was that came up, Miss Summers," the chairwoman said, with a disapproving look at Spike. "From now on you would both do well to make sure it only comes up on your own time."

"Yes ma'am," Spike said. "Won't happen again." He did his best to look shamefaced.

"See to it that it does not."

"Well, we're not the only ones who're late," Buffy said, and for the first time Spike noticed that they were the only people in the room. "It looks like we beat everyone else."

The chairwoman removed her glasses and sighed. "That is because the meeting adjourned ten minutes ago. Everyone has left. Apparently your struggle to explain your tardiness and your disheveled appearance has lost its amusement factor, and nobody felt like sticking around to watch."

Buffy cringed as the chairwoman spoke. "I'm sorry," she said. "Really. We just got a little too into ... training? And lost track of time. I swear it won't happen again."

"Buffy, please wait in the hall," the chairwoman said.

"Actually, wouldn't it be more efficient to just yell at us both at the same time?"

The chairwoman began to clean her glasses. "Miss Summers, I would speak to your Watcher." Her voice was steel. So was her gaze as she looked up at Buffy. "Alone."

She looked at Spike, and he gave her a little nod.

Buffy nodded. "Sure. I don't mind. Talk all you want." She looked back at Spike. "Guess I'll be in the hall."

After she left, the chairwoman turned to Spike. "Really, William, couldn't you at least pretend to care that your relationship violates several of the Council's rules?"

"What? Why? Because I'm a vampire?"

"No, because you're her Watcher."

"Oh." He tried not to smirk as he sat on the table. He looked up at her, his face all innocence. "There are rules against that?"

The chairwoman simply raised her eyebrows at him.

He rolled his eyes. "Oh, come on. Don't you think it's a bit late to start playing by the rules? You had to see this coming when you put us together."

"We did. I dare say some of us even hoped for it, for your sake. But that doesn't mean you're not expected to conduct yourself with a certain amount of professionalism. For God's sake, William, you trained most of us, including me. I shouldn't have to be telling you this." She sighed. "And it's for that reason that there is no one on the Council for whom we are more willing to bend the rules."

"That's good," Spike said, "'cause Buffy didn't get to be all legendary by playing by the Council's rules. Hell, I wouldn't even be standing here if she was the by-the-book type. All bets are off with this Slayer. That's what makes her so bloody good at what she does."

The chairwoman nodded, then sat down with a sigh. "I fear for you, William."

"Now why's that, pet?"

The chairwoman simply smiled at his informality. "I fear for what will become of you if… if the worst happens, and she doesn't make it. How will you cope with losing her again?"

Not as well as last time, he thought. He shut his eyes and shook his head. "I'm not going to lose her again. Least, not any time soon."

"You can't know that. She is the Slayer, after all."

"No, Jessica is the Slayer." He stood up and paced the room. What he wouldn't give for a cigarette. "Buffy is someone you borrowed to do a job. She lives through this, and she's done. If she wants out, she's out. She's fulfilled her obligations, and she has more than done her bloody duty!"

"What if she doesn't want out?"

"Then I'll be there to watch her back until she does."

"William, you have an obligation to the Council--"

"No," he said, "my obligation is to Buffy."

The chairwoman looked at him. "I know you believe that you owe her for--"

"That has nothing to do with it," Spike said.

"Doesn't it?"

He sighed, and ran a hand through his hair. "Buffy is my Slayer. My obligation, my duty as her Watcher is to do everything in my power to keep her alive while she does her job. Sod the rest of the Council." He put his hands in his pockets and looked at the floor. "Giles would expect nothing less from me."

The chairwoman nodded. "Glad to hear it."

Spike gave her an incredulous look as she rose from her chair.

"So then, I can expect you to do your duty for Buffy by getting her to the briefing sessions on time? Otherwise she could miss information that could make a difference between life and death."

Spike sighed. Why did he feel like he'd just been played? "Yeah, all right."

"Good. Then you should both also study this." She handed him a couple of vid goggles. Off his questioning look, she explained, "It's the plan of attack for when we move next week. It's what we covered in today's meeting."

"Yeah, um... I can see how that's important to know."

"Good," she said. "I'm also afraid that I am forced to place a formal reprimand on your file for your recent bouts of tardiness."

"Ooh," Spike said, with a roll of his eyes. "Not my file. Anything but that."

"Yes, well. For some of us, that actually matters."

"For some of you it should. Anything else?"

"No, we're done here."

She started to leave, and he started to follow, but she stopped and turned around. "Oh, and William?"

"Yeah?"

"Please, would you and Buffy at least attempt to be discreet?"

"We'll do our best," he said with a wink.

As she left the room, he hung back to make sure he didn't look as shaken up as he felt. Playing it cool with the chairwoman was one thing; but Buffy would sense his worry as soon as he stepped out the door.

How would he cope with losing her again? It would happen eventually. Even if she wasn't a Slayer, she still came with an expiration date, just like every other human he'd ever allowed himself to care about. He figured this was why immortality usually came with a general lack of giving a bloody damn.

He wasn't stupid; and he wasn't in denial. He knew this wasn't happily ever after. He didn't even believe there was such a thing; but they were happy for the moment, and that was what mattered.

The chairwoman looked back at him questioningly as she held the door open for him. He gave her a half smile, and followed her out of the room. As he did, he swore that he would do whatever it took to make his and Buffy's moment last as long as it could.

***

Buffy took off the funky computer glasses Spike had given her and tossed them on the coffee table. She leaned back on the sofa and massaged her forehead. He had insisted on canceling their plans for that evening so they could both catch up on the current plan of attack. Separately though, lest there be any distractions. She’d promised to read the whole thing, but after page upon page of exposition, battle plans and attack routes, she had to stop. Those glasses gave her a headache. Why couldn’t they just print out the mission specs and let her read a hard copy? Oh yeah, she remembered, no trees equals no paper.

She sighed. She hated living on the moon, and she wasn’t too keen on living in the future. She loved Spike, so she had that much going for her, at least. She couldn’t honestly say that these last few weeks with him were the happiest of her life, but at least he’d made them bearable. And at least she was alive. She'd begun to feel grateful to the Council for saving her life, even though it meant she had to face the pain of giving up her old one. She hated the thought of never having a chance to be with Spike. Bad enough knowing that he’d mourned her all those years; and that he'd believed she could never love him.

Ow. Too much thinking. Her head hurt. She lay down on the couch and said, "Lights off." The room went dark. Okay, so the future has its perks. She laid her forearm across her eyes, and tried to will her headache away.

"Buffy," said the voice of her Watcher, "this is no time for you to lie down."

"Just a few minutes, Giles," she said. "I’m just resting my eyes."

"Buffy, you must get up!"

She sat up. Her headache was gone. She blinked, and realized the front door to her apartment was open. She got up and walked out of her apartment, and into her high school. It looked deserted.

"You’re late, Summers," a voice behind her barked.

She turned around. "Principal Snyder," she said, "I was … Spike and I were … something came up."

He shook his head. "Not that kind of late." He turned to look in the science room.

Buffy walked to where he stood and looked into the room. In the center stood a simple headstone. It bore her name. Underneath was an inscription: "She saved the world a lot."

She shook her head. "No, they took care of that."

"For now," he said, and looked at her. "It’ll all be put right."

"Buffy!"

She turned to see Xander coming down the hall. When she looked back, Principal Snyder was gone. So was the headstone.

"Buffy, where the heck have you been?"

"The moon."

"Jeez, Buff. This is no time for cow rides. Come on, people are waiting."

"But what about the vampires?"

"What about them?"

"Are they gone?"

"What are you talking about? The vampires are everywhere. Like Britney Spears. No place is safe. Not even the moon. Now come on. You’re late."

"People keep telling me that."

They walked through the school, towards the library. As they passed by each door, Buffy peered inside. Instead of classrooms, each door opened in on a different scenario, some of them familiar: Spike striking a deal with her to defeat Angelus; Faith agreeing to work for the Mayor; Spike again, selling them all out to Adam; Xander delivering her to Dracula; Ben, trading Dawn’s life to save his own.

Xander held the library door open for Buffy. She passed through it and into the magic shop. Xander was already seated at the table in the back, along with the rest of the Scoobies.

"You see," Giles was explaining, "there are all kinds of reasons for betrayal. Power, survival, revenge … and it’s always possible that the traitor is not fully in control of his or her actions."

"Who’s a traitor?" Buffy asked.

Giles sighed. "Buffy, I already covered that. You’d know if you’d been on time. Now it is up to others to fix what should have been."

"What should have been?"

"Yes, we covered that too. Back to what I was saying about betrayal."

"Fine," Buffy said. "What about it?"

"It’s not safe where you are," Giles said. His face changed into that of a vampire, and he lunged at her.

She sat up, and sighed. She was in bed, in her lunar apartment.

"What’s the matter, pet?" Spike asked. She felt his strong hands wrap around her arms, and pull her back against his bare chest. "Bad dream?"

She nodded as she leaned gratefully against him. "Giles was explaining why people become traitors, and then he vamped out and tried to bite me."

He kissed her neck. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back on his shoulder to give him better access. "Gotta watch us traitors," he said between kisses. "Never know where we’ll turn up." He sunk his fangs into her neck and began to drink. Buffy gasped, and then she sat up.

"Lights on!"

She shut her eyes and groaned as the room flooded with light. "Lights down," she said, and the room dimmed. She rubbed her forehead. Her head was pounding. She got up from the sofa and went into the kitchen, where she took some painkillers and then sat down next to the comm system. "Call Spike," she said.

"Finish your reading already, pet?" he asked after a moment.

"I dozed off," she said.

"Well that’s productive."

"I need you to get everybody together in the briefing room."

"Love, I don’t think calling a meeting at this hour’s going to win you any brownie points. Or make up for missing today’s session."

"I had a dream, Spike. I … I think we’ve been infiltrated."

Silence.

"Spike?"

"How soon?"

"Thirty minutes? And only the people you trust."

"Right. See you in thirty."

Buffy leaned forward and propped her elbows on the counter. She massaged her temples as she replayed the dream in her mind, trying to concentrate on the details. She hoped she was getting the right message from it. It seemed to be trying to tell her something else, too, but that was a message she didn’t want to hear. Besides, she told herself, the dreams weren’t prophecies so much as warnings. If she knew what they warned of, she could prevent it from happening, right?

With a sigh, she got up and headed into the bathroom. As she freshened up, she debated how much of the dream she should share with Spike.

***

"You’re certain it was a Slayer dream?" the chairwoman asked.

Buffy nodded. "They’re never that real unless they’re trying to tell me something. Plus I did that thing where I wake up in bed but I’m really still dreaming." She shuddered. "I hate that part. I only do it with the Slayer dreams."

"But your dream suggests we’ve been infiltrated by vampire spies," Nick said. "That’s not possible. This whole complex is completely vampire-proof. Spike’s the only one who has security clearance."

"Exactly," Buffy said. "Spike’s the only one of us who needs security clearance. Anybody else can come and go as they please."

"So?"

"So what if our spy is human?"

"That’s preposterous," the chairwoman said. "What possible reason would a human being have to betray their entire species?"

"Plenty," Spike said. "Pardon me for saying so, but you’ve all lived very sheltered lives when it comes to seeing first hand how low humans can go. There are all kinds of reasons someone would sell us all out. Power, survival, revenge …"

Buffy stared at him, and tried not to have a wiggins. "That’s exactly what Giles said." Off his confused look, she added, "In the dream, I mean." She looked around at the others. "Also, they might not even be in control of their actions. They could be under mind control. Dracula could do that, and he‘s probably not the only one. We should tighten security. Give everyone the same restrictions Spike has."

"Yes, I suppose you’re right," the chairwoman said. "We’ll get right on it."

"It all sounds like a waste of time to me."

Buffy turned to look at Major Ellison. She didn't like him. He reminded her of a gym coach she had in junior high. A really mean gym coach. "Why is that?" she asked him.

"I think it’s pretty clear who our traitor is, is why." He looked around at the room. "I know nobody wants to even consider this, but come on." He turned his gaze on Spike. "He showed up in your vision three times. You said he even bit you."

Spike held his gaze, his expression unreadable.

Anne shook her head. "How dare you suggest--"

"It doesn't work like that," Buffy said, exerting a great effort to keep her voice calm. "The dreams are never that obvious."

"But you just said that he repeated exact words that your old Watcher said in your dream. Right before your old Watcher turned into a vampire. You telling me that's not obvious?"

"What about motive?" Nick asked. "Why the hell would Spike turn on us after all these years?"

The Major shrugged. "Maybe the vampire’s just taking care of his own. Or maybe he's just giving in to his true nature." He broke off his gaze and turned away from Spike. "You ask me, it was just a matter of time."

"You son of a--" Buffy rushed at him, but Spike jumped up to restrain her.

"Easy, pet. The Major's just doing his job."

She pulled away from him. "Insulting you is his job?"

"No, pointing out the unpleasant possibilities is his job." He looked around at the room. "The Major does have a point. There was a time I'd sell my own mum out if I thought it would save my own ass or get me something I wanted." His face went dark, and he laughed uncomfortably. "Come to think of it, I did just that. Anyway, I understand his suspicion, and I'll understand if anyone shares it."

He looked around the room, but nobody said anything. They were all too busy glaring at the Major.

He looked at Buffy. "What about you, pet? Honestly? For you it's only been a year since I sold you out to that Frankenwhatsis."

"Adam," she corrected, and looked him in the eye. "And for me it's only been a month since you stood your ground against Glory. I don't believe that Spike would betray us, and in no way do I believe that the Spike who's been watching over my family for the last three hundred years would." She turned to the Major. "Spike is not our traitor. Until we know who is, we'll increase security. Is that clear?"

"Crystal," the Major said.

"Mrs. Harris?" a voice called over the comm.

"Present," the chairwoman answered.

"We’re receiving a distress signal from an incoming transport en route from Mars. ETA is five minutes. Ma’am, it’s the Slayer. She appears to be alone and piloting the ship herself."

Buffy looked confused, but Spike pulled her with him and started for the door.

"Jessica," he said. Everyone got to their feet and hurried out the door.

"Where are we going?" she asked.

"The transport bay. Something’s wrong. She wasn’t expected back until the end of the week. And why the hell isn’t her Watcher with her?"

"Maybe she just wanted to come back early and he wasn’t ready yet," Buffy offered.

Spike shook his head. "This one’s not independent like you, pet. At first she wouldn’t even go to the bathroom without her Watcher’s say so."

They reached the transport bay and waited. Soon, the doors opened, and Spike stepped through them and into the shuttle. "Jessie?"

A dark haired girl who looked to be about Dawn’s age stumbled into view. Spike caught her, and swung her up into his arms.

"Bring her to the infirmary," the chairwoman said as he carried her out of the transport.

As they re-entered the complex they were met by armed guards wielding vampire detectors. "The vamp alarms went off," they informed the chairwoman.

"It was just me," Spike said.

"Sorry, sir," the guard said as he aimed the device at each of the humans in the group, "this is standard procedure." His device made a high pitched beeping noise as he aimed it at Spike, holding a barely conscious Jessica. "Sir, I need you to put the girl down. Your reading is interfering with hers."

"Oh, be real," Spike said. "She’s in no condition to try and stand. And she’s the bleeding Slayer, for fuck sake."

"Let them pass," the Major ordered.

The guards stood down. Spike carried her past them, followed by the rest of the group, with Buffy at the back. A few yards beyond the guards, Jessica came to.

"Put me down."

"No, pet," Spike said, "let’s get you to the infirmary."

"I’m fine," she said. "I just want to go to my room." She began to struggle.

"Jess, you’re cold. Something’s wrong. We have to get you checked out."

Buffy narrowed her eyes. Something was definitely wrong. "Spike, put her down."

He stopped, and turned to face her. "But love, she’s not well."

"No," Buffy said gently. "She’s dead."

Spike furrowed his brow in puzzlement, but as he looked at Jessica, realization dawned across his face. He put her down.

"What… what’s wrong?" Jessica asked.

Buffy looked back at the guards, who were watching intently. "Check her," she told them.

As one of them approached with the vamp detector, Jessica started to back away. "Don’t point that thing at me!"

The others stood and watched in silence, until Nick spoke up. "Buffy, come on. You don’t really think…"

Buffy gave him a look that told him exactly what she thought. A high pitched beeping noise confirmed her suspicions.

Jessica shook her head as she backed away. "No," she said. "That thing’s defective."

"You think?" Buffy took her cross pendant from around her neck. "Think fast," she said as she tossed it. Jessica jumped back to avoid it. Everybody stared in shock at the cross on the floor. "Is that defective too?"

"Who are you?" Jessica asked.

"I’m the Slayer," Buffy said.

"But I’m the Slayer," Jessica said.

Buffy shrugged. "You were. You’re not now."

"What are you waiting for?" the Major asked, grabbing a weapon from one of the guards. "Kill the little bitch."

As he aimed the gun, Spike pushed it down. "No, you wanker. We’ll take her alive."

The Major trained his gun on Spike instead. "What’d I tell you? The vampire’s protecting his own kind."

Spike rolled his eyes. "Fine. You want to kill her? Kill her. Then have fun interrogating the big pile of dust."

"Spike’s right," Buffy said. "We need her alive. So. Are you going to come quietly, or--"

Before she could finish, Jessica vamped out and kicked Buffy in the chest, knocking her back a few steps. She took off running down the corridor.

"Bloody hell," Spike muttered, and chased after her.

Buffy recovered and turned to the others. "This place is supposed to be vampire proof, right? Get inside somewhere safe. We’ll contact you when we’ve got her."

She followed after Spike. When she caught up with him around a corner, he was on his ass, nursing a bloody nose.

"Bloody hell," he muttered again.

"Where’d she go?" she asked as she helped him up.

"Don’t know," he said. "Where could she have gone? She can’t get inside anywhere."

Buffy looked around. "Maybe we should…" She’d been about to say "split up," when she noticed a loose panel on the wall. She went over and pulled it away, revealing a crawlspace. "What’s this?"

Spike peered in, and shrugged. "Jeffries tube?"

They both looked up as they heard movement above them.

"Someone’s in the ceiling," Buffy sing-songed. Spike looked at her and raised an eyebrow. She gave him an innocent look. "What?"

He just shook his head. "If this goes to the life support vents she could go just about anywhere except for the living quarters."

"Okay," she said. "I’m going in. Help me up."

"What? Pet, you could get lost in there. Or worse. You don‘t even have a weapon."

"What good is a weapon if I can’t kill her? You’ve seen her fight, right? Can I take her?"

Spike smiled. "Love, I’m not sure there’s anybody you can’t take. Want me to wait here? I can’t follow you in, I won’t fit."

"Try to get everybody to their quarters," she said. "And find the others. I told them to get inside somewhere."

"Probably holed up in the training room," he said. "That’s the closest facility they could get to without passing us. What do you want to bet that’s where she’s headed?"

"Then get there, and get them out of there. I’ll try to flush her out. Be ready for us."

"Right," he said. "Just be careful. Here you go." He lifted her up by the waist, then placed both hands on her rear to push her up into the tube.

"Just had to cop a feel, didn't ya?" she asked.

"Well, you know," Spike said. "If you lose your way in there it could be my last chance."

Buffy shook her head and grinned as she crawled down the tube.

"I love you," he called after her. He sounded serious. "Don't get lost!"

"Love you too," she called back. "And I won't!" She crawled until she found an access hatch that looked like it led up into the ceiling. She crawled through it and into an air duct, where she started in the direction she’d heard Jessica going earlier. It was a tight fit, and for a moment she regretted her decision to enter the duct. She wouldn’t have room to maneuver if she was attacked; but Jessica had looked to be slightly bigger than Buffy, so the vents wouldn’t do her any favors, either.

Buffy crawled until she came to a three-way junction. This was bad. If she went the wrong way, she really could get lost. Even worse, it could give the vampire a way to get behind her, making her the prey. With a sigh, Buffy closed her eyes and tried to focus her Slayer sense, reaching out to feel the vibration that told her when something wasn‘t human. She‘d never been very good at that part, and had never bothered to work on it. The vampires in Sunnydale had always been easy enough to spot without her needing to use any kind of Spidey Sense. Finally, she felt something, a sensation tugging her to the left. It would either be Jessica or Spike. Either would do. She started in that direction.

"Jessica," she called out as the sensation got stronger, "there’s no place for you to hide here. You know that. We don’t want to hurt you, we just want to talk."

"Liar!" she heard the girl hiss. It reverberated through the air duct and seemed to come from everywhere. "You’re the Slayer. You don’t talk to us. You kill us. I know, I was one, remember?"

"What about Spike? I never killed him."

"Nobody kills Spike. He’s everybody’s hero. He fell in love with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and started killing his own kind. He even turned good."

Jeez, Buffy thought. If any more sarcasm dripped from this little girl's voice it might flood the vent and drown her.

"Yeah, but I mean before," she said. "Before he fell in love with me he gave me plenty of reasons to stake him. But I didn’t. And I’m not going to stake you. We won‘t hurt you at all if you cooperate."

Silence.

"Jessica?"

"You… you’re Buffy?"

"Yeah," Buffy said. "You didn’t know?"

"Oh God."

Buffy saw the girl dart across the end of the duct, and followed after her. Another junction lay at the point where she’d seen Jessica, and Buffy turned in the direction she’d gone. She could see the girl up ahead, and then suddenly she dropped out of sight. Damn, Buffy thought. She crawled to where Jessica had disappeared, and found another hatch. She lowered herself through it, and found herself in another "Jeffries tube." At the end was a partially open panel.

Buffy crawled to it and peered out into the training room. Jessica and Spike were fighting, and so far they each seemed to be holding their own. Buffy jumped down from the tube and ran to the weapons table. She grabbed a blaster gun and turned on the sun setting. She took aim, but she couldn’t get a clear shot.

"Spike, duck!" she called, but before she could Jessica got behind him and got him in a choke hold. "Damn it!"

"Do it," he said.

"But--"

"Just bloody do it, Slayer!"

Buffy switched on the sunlight, and Spike and Jessica both screamed. She let go of him, and he dove out of the light. When she started to sizzle, Buffy switched off the light.

"You said you wouldn’t hurt me!" Jessica screamed.

"I said not if you cooperate," Buffy said. "Beating up my boyfriend? That’s not cooperation." She trained the gun on her. "Now are you going to behave, or do I need to do it again?"

The girl dropped to her knees and started to cry. Buffy couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. "It wasn’t supposed to go like this," she said.

Spike stood up. Buffy looked him over as he walked over to Jessica, and sighed with relief. His burns didn’t look too bad.

"Come on, Jessie," he said, taking her by the arm and pulling her to her feet. "Let’s go talk. You can tell us all about how it was supposed to be."

*



Continued in Part Five: The Last Night of the World

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