By Barb Cummings
Sequel to A Raising in the Sun
little bints, Spike thought as he followed
Xander away from the car. If he hadn’t had to ferry Dawn’s annoying
friends home, they wouldn’t have passed the park. If they hadn’t passed
the park, they wouldn’t have run into this larger but equally dozy bint, and
he wouldn’t be tramping after Harris on a mission of mercy. Whatever
was menacing her chum had bloody well better be something he could sink his
teeth into, metaphorically speaking. If it turned out to be human and
he had to sit back and watch Harris play Sir Galahad he was going to lose
back; Dawn's pale, resolute face watched him over the top of the front door
window. Lisa, in the back seat, was also watching, but her expression
was far from resolute, and she quickly rolled the window up when she saw him
turn. He snorted. Scared. Of him. Not of Dawn’s calibre,
that one. The Bit had never been afraid of him, not from the first
brief glimpse they’d gotten of one another the night he’d come to offer Buffy
an alliance against Angelus. Still, it had been a long time since anyone
human had been terrified of him, and it felt... good. Gratifying.
Not that he was going to do anything about it... not that he could
do anything about it... but... there were times when the smell of fear
was wonderfully nostalgic. Megan, on the other hand... just too dim
to be frightened. Spike drifted off into a pleasant daydream about
draining Megan to the point where she was too weak to give voice to that
immensely grating giggle.
Park bordered on state land, and in places where the fences hadn’t been
kept up, it was possible to wander into moderately wild terrain--though not,
as made plain by the litter of cigarette butts and the occasional crushed
beer can, to escape evidence of human occupation. They’d been walking
for a good five minutes and were well into the trees, a grove of huge old
magnolias with limbs bent nearly to the ground in places. Moonlight
poured through the dark leaves and ran along the branches like molten silver,
dripping down to gather in cold pools at their feet. The woman led them
out of the grove and through a ragged wall of oleander and pyracantha heavy
with clusters of half-ripe berries. The hem of Spike’s duster caught
on a branch, bringing him back to the here and now. He yanked it free
with a muttered curse.
might be a complete git most of the time, but Harris had the right idea about
avoiding the great outdoors. Vampires were creatures of civilization
by necessity, but Spike objected to the great outdoors on principle.
He’d been born in an era where the only sensible thing to do to a wilderness
was tame it. In life he’d had harbored a romantic’s fascination with
the untamed variety, but that hadn’t survived his first few post-mortem
encounters with the real thing.
how far away is your friend?” Xander asked, batting aside a branch with the
butt of his axe. The woman quivered at the sound of his voice and stopped,
there,” she whispered, pointing to a gap in the bushes.
the thorny sprays of pyracantha a clearing with a picnic table was visible.
Several dark figures clustered around it, and the sound of chanting rose
on the night air. Spike wove his way through the pyracantha, cursing
the thorns under his breath, and peered around Xander’s shoulder. He
heard the woman moving behind them, and didn’t think anything of it.
At least, not until he heard the faint whistle of something heavy slicing
through the air. He turned in time to see a length of cloth-wrapped
lead pipe smack into Xander’s dark head just behind the ear in as expert a
coshing as he’d ever been privileged to witness. Xander’s knees buckled
and he fell heavily to the ground, dropping the axe. "Bloody--you daft
The woman swung at him and Spike dodged--or tried to; his duster had snagged
very thoroughly on the pyracantha when he’d turned. There were downsides
to all that dramatic flaring. The pipe grazed the top of his head,
sending a shower of vermillion sparks across his field of vision. He
staggered, grabbing the branches around him for support and coming up with
a handful of thorns. Ignoring the pain in his lacerated palms he hauled
himself up, snarling. The woman swung again, all technique gone, just
pure desperate panic left. Spike struggled to free himself of his coat.
The pipe clipped him in the head again, barely missing the thin bone over
the temples. He ripped his left arm from the entangled duster with a
yell of agony and launched a furious swing at his attacker.
felt his fist smash into her cheek and the satisfying crunch of bone breaking.
Even as she crumpled, electrical retribution from the chip arced through his
skull, turning everything to light, to pain, and Spike collapsed into the
thorny embrace of the pyracantha, more than usually dead to the world.
There was a unique flavor of panic associated with being a vampire and waking
up to find yourself restrained outdoors on the wrong side of midnight.
Spike lunged to his feet, was brought up short by a double jolt of pain
in his hands and shoulders, and fell back into the lamp post he was tied
to with a grunt. The back of his head slammed into the metal post and
the impact woke the sharp hot pain of the knots left by the pipe. It
wrestled for dominance with the dull, general ache of residual chip-shock,
and won out for the moment, but neither one was down for the count.
made himself stop panting and sat there taking inventory, not daring to
shake his head lest something come loose. The yellow glow overhead
was the lamp, not the sun, and the brightness of the little clearing was
due to the full moon which was still shining over the tops of the trees to
the west. It was late November, nights were long, and it was still
hours to sunrise. He wasn’t on fire. No broken bones. He could
smell blood, mostly his own, but it wasn’t much and mostly dried. The
worst of the pyracantha scratches still stung, but most of them seemed to
have healed already. Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for his
heard a muffled groan behind him. “Harris.”
didn’t sound good. God knew he didn’t have much of a brain to bash in,
but there were limits to everything, even Harris’s apparently infinite capacity
for absorbing blows to the head. “Do me a favor.”
strangled snort, and the sound of futile thrashing. An elbow jabbed
him in the back. “Kind of tied up at the moment, Spike.”
time some daft bint swans in out of nowhere wanting a John bloody Wayne impersonation,
go with the impulse that says ‘Sod off’.”
like you were Mr. Suspicion.” Another bout of thrashing, accomplishing
nothing. “Damn,” Xander breathed, slumping back against the pole.
wiggled his fingers experimentally. His arms had been pulled behind
his back around the lamp post, and his thumbs were lashed together--wire,
not rope. From what he could feel, Xander’d been given similar treatment.
He could pick at the loops of wire with his index and middle fingers, but
he couldn’t get a grip at all, and the tightness with which the loops had
been twisted meant there was a very real possibility that too-severe struggles
could result in the loss of a digit. If he’d had any circulation his
thumbs would have gone numb by now. Spike pondered the question of whether
lost body parts would conveniently regenerate, or if he’d have to hunt a
severed thumb down and stick it back on somehow before vampiric healing kicked
in. He’d had minions injured that severely once or twice, back in the
days when he’d had minions, but unfortunately for the cause of medical inquiry,
at the time he’d had no interest in letting them laze around while they healed--not
when it was so much faster to rip their heads off and make new ones.
of impatience, William old boy.
strange woman in a faded sun dress trotted past, carrying a pile of white
stones in her skirt--palm-sized fragments of crushed quartz from someone’s
landscaping, it looked like. Spike growled at her and wished that
tearing off a few heads was still one of his options. The woman detoured
well around their lamp post and joined the rest of their captors. She
let go her skirt-tails and poured the rocks out on the ground, where half-a-dozen
hands snatched them up and began adding them to the... assemblage.
was centered around the picnic table. Not one of the new, UV resistant
plastic ones in red and blue and yellow to be found in the main picnic area
towards the front gates of the park; this was an old one, poured concrete
layered with decades’ accumulation of Parks and Recreation Department paint.
The last layer applied had been forest green, but it looked black in the
lamplight, with leprous patches of fire-engine red showing through where
it had peeled back from the layer underneath. All around the table
the landscaping quartz had been laid out in lines and curlicues, intersecting
at crazy angles. Random objects were scattered throughout the white
quartz maze--Pepsi cans, a mangled Barbie doll, a bundle of used ballpoint
pens tied together with dirty pink ribbon. A scatter of devotional
candles in cheap glass holders clustered on the benches to either side of
the weird suburban altar. A thin middle-aged man in a grimy yellow
nylon weatherbreaker was carefully drawing a series of symbols on the table
people working on the construction of the thing were as random as the objects
that made it up. Men and women both, ranging from college-age to their
mid-fifties, with pinched tired faces and hopeless eyes, working with an
eerie, implacable concentration. The presence of their captives seemed
to make them nervous; their eyes slid over and around the lamp post and
when they had to pass by they did so at the greatest distance possible.
They worked without speaking, each seeming to know his or her part by instinct.
Only the woman who’d led them here sat apart, huddled beside one of the
benches, whimpering softly and now and then poking tentative fingers at her
bruised and swollen cheek.
something disturbingly familiar about all this.”
grunted. “Don’t fancy hanging about to let it get more so. Your
hands are above mine--I can’t stand up till you do.”
bracing themselves against the pole and each other’s shoulders, they managed
to push themselves upright. “Right,” Xander gasped. “We’re vertical.
Now we put stage two of my brilliant escape plan into action.”
that would be?”
They tied us up with wire, someone’s got to have pliers. We lure them
over here, and--”
them to death? That is brilliant, except for the part where I collapse
in a government-sponsored seizure and you saw my hand off trying to close
if you don’t like that one, we can go to plan B.” Xander threw back
his head and bellowed “HEEEEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLP!” Spike looked at him
sourly over his shoulder. “You got a better idea, fang-face, I’m listening.”
man in the yellow windbreaker threw down his chalk and scuttled over to them,
waving his hands and making shushing gestures. He bobbed up and down,
his balding head gleaming in the lamplight, shaking a finger at them furiously
and then going into something that looked like a goldfish impression, but
before Spike could decide if kicking the legs out from under him was worth
the shock, he caught the sound of approaching footsteps. Too heavy
to be Buffy or Will. Not that Will might not enjoy watching him turned
into cutlets, the mood she was in lately.
moment later the man in the windbreaker heard the noise too and broke into
a flurry of gestures and twitches, contorting his body extravagantly as the
runner burst into the clearing. The newcomer staggered to a halt, looking
like he’d just outrun the devil himself, and bent over with hands on knees
to try to catch his breath. Non-descript, middle-aged, greying dark
hair lank with neglect... “Bugger me sideways with a shrimp fork,” Spike muttered.
“That’s the bloke who disappeared from the loo.”
craned his neck to get a better look. “Who?”
other night. Couple of wankers chased their dinner into the pool house
whilst I was in there mindin’ my own business, and I had to teach ‘em some
manners. When I was done the dinner’d scarpered, and I’d swear on my
mum’s grave he didn’t go past me. All that arsing about with Willy
knocked it out of my head.”
others had left their tasks and joined the man in the windbreaker in clustering
around the newcomer, touching his face, patting his shoulders as if to reassure
themselves he was real. “Tanner, Tanner.” One of them tugged on the
man’s coat sleeves, pointing to the woman who’d lured them here.
man--Tanner?--glanced over at the altar. “Fuck,” he muttered.
“Lizzie!” He was at the woman’s side in a handful of long strides,
and knelt beside her, cradling her face in his hands with impersonal tenderness.
He looked up, back over at the others. “Jim, Ramon--what happened
Man pointed mutely at Spike. Another man, younger, larger, Hispanic,
wearing a Dodgers T-shirt, mumbled, “Lizzie Borden took an axe, but the
dead travel fast.”
lip curled. “Not fast enough, apparently.”
rose and walked over to look the two of them up and down, an inscrutable
expression on his lined face. “I can’t get away from you people tonight.”
mate, sorry about your girlfriend’s good looks, but she did a number on
us first. I did you a good turn the other night; return the favor and
we’ll call it even.”
folded his arms and stood there staring at them, head to one side.
The lamplight pooling in his dark eyes illumined no triumph. He sighed.
“I wish I could. I didn’t ask for any of this, you know?” He
waved a hand around the clearing, taking in the altar, the little huddle
of people behind him, the prisoners in front of him. “But here I am
anyway, and... I have to take care of them. I’m doing it the only way
I know how.” He turned to the man in the Dodgers shirt. “Ramon,
untie the little guy. We’ll do him first.”
jogged off to the edge of the clearing and began rummaging through a bag
of supplies. He came up with Xander’s prophesied pair of pliers and
started back, making snik-snik noises playing with them. Spike pressed warily
back against the lamp post. Tanner didn’t seem to have any weapons on
him, unless he meant to go get the lead pipe and start a game of vampire pinata,
but Spike knew first-hand about the creative things one could get up to with
the contents of the common toolbox, and pliers were among the most useful
of the lot. In for another bout of poetic justice, are we?
probably won’t do much good to explain all this to you,” Tanner said, taking
off his coat and folding it carefully in quarters. He laid it on the
grass beside the picnic table and began rolling up his sleeves. “But
I do it anyway. Seems the right thing. I can’t tell you if you’ll
remember any of it later. Some do.” He bent down and extracted
a couple of pens from the pink-ribboned bundle, pulled a rubber band out of
his trousers pocket and began lashing them together. “You’ve probably
noticed that most of us have a few problems... relating to reality.”
A rueful smile crossed his face. “I can fix that. For awhile.
Just for me, in which case you’d recover. Or for everyone. In
which case...” He looked genuinely regretful. “You won’t.”
went stiff with shock. “You’re Glory’s band of crazies!”
trotted up with the pliers, which looked positively friendly and welcoming
compared to what Tanner was putting together. Tanner motioned him to
wait, and stepped forward, holding up his makeshift cross. “Some of us were.
Now... we’re family.” Spike pulled away, sliding down the lamp post
in an effort to avoid contact, but his bound hands prevented escape.
His head jerked back as acid fire branded his brow and cheek. “Untie
him, fast,” Tanner snapped, and Ramon clamped the nose of the pliers on the
wire around Spike’s hands and began undoing the twist. Spike bit his
tongue to keep from screaming at the incipient agony half an inch from his
eyes. Ramon hauled him to his feet and dragged him away from the lamp
post, and Tanner backed along with them, keeping the cross near enough his
skin to raise a welt. “I will take care of you when this is over,” Tanner
said. “I want you to understand that. You’re giving us a great
gift, and that makes you our--my--responsibility.”
makes me feel just ducky. Unfortunately, I’ve got special needs you
may not be aware of.” Spike hooked a foot around Ramon’s ankle and threw
his weight sideways, quelling a whoop of triumph when the chip didn’t give
him more than a minor buzz. Ramon dropped the pliers and staggered under
the impact, but unfortunately he had a good fifty pounds on Spike and kept
his feet. Spike kicked the pliers wildly in the general direction of
the lamp post before Windbreaker Guy and Tanner pounced him. The three of
them wrestled him onto the picnic table while Spike twisted in their grasp
like a cornered wildcat, unable to land any effective blows without shocking
three men slammed him into the concrete of the table with desperate strength
and Spike heaved upwards against their hands, the muscles in his neck and
shoulders corded with the strain. “Hold him down!” Tanner gasped, and
another three or four pairs of hands grabbed his legs and arms. The
vampire snarled up at the circle of frightened, confused faces hovering over
him, morphing into game face and snapping at the nearest set of fingers.
The elderly man and the thin, wispy woman in the sun dress cried out and
cringed away, but they were back a moment later at Tanner’s urgings.
There were things on the streets of Sunnydale a hell of a lot scarier than
a neutered vampire, and this lot had probably seen most of them. Spike
jerked violently back and forth as Tanner began a staccato chant and his
hands descended towards the crown of the vampire’s head, fingers spread.
we maybe get you a gift certificate to Chuck E. Cheese instead?” Xander
shouted over at them. “Honestly, sucking my brain won’t do you any
good. Ask anyone. Bottom of my class and proud of it, and Spike,
vampire. Lesson number one, vampire equals impure. You can’t
gave up his struggle and fell back onto the concrete slab, relaxing so completely
that several of the people holding him toppled forward onto the table.
Saffron melted into blue as his eyes met Tanner’s brown ones.
a moment Tanner looked uncertain. Then he drove his fingers into Spike’s
“Are you sure you’re doing it right?” Lisa asked for the third time.
I’m sure!” Dawn turned the key in the ignition again and silently cursed the
DeSoto’s freaky push-button transmission--why couldn’t Spike have a normal
car? The asthmatic rasp of the engine cranking, sputtering, and failing
to turn over resumed. She turned the ignition off and sat back, pressing
her fists to her temples and trying to think.
Despite the trashy appearance of the interior,
Spike doted on the black monster, and kept the engine in good running order--partly
normal guy-type car obsessiveness, and partly vampire necessity; Spike took
his unlife into his hands every time he took a cross-country trip in daylight,
and absolutely couldn’t afford unexpected breakdowns. So it was unlikely
that the starter or the battery was going out. The gas gauge was low,
but not yet on empty--maybe the gauge was off, though, old cars could be finicky
that way, and in taking them back to Lisa’s place, Spike had done more driving
tonight than he’d originally intended. Or maybe she’d flooded the engine,
in which case all she could do was sit here and wait for it to unflood.
know, we could play a game!” Megan said. “Do you guys know Twenty Questions?”
a breadbox,” Lisa muttered. At Megan’s hurt look, she added, “Duh.
With you it’s =always= a breadbox.”
you guys just shut up?” Dawn gripped the steering wheel and tried to
stifle the wholly inappropriate yawn that engulfed her. Since school
had started Buffy had made her abandon the largely nocturnal schedule she’d
kept over the summer, and she wasn’t used to staying up half the night anymore.
She rolled down her window again and peered worriedly out into the dark.
was what?” Lisa looked around, hugging herself. Dawn was already
getting out of the car.
supposed to go get your sister!” Lisa hollered after her.
DeSoto’s trunk was large enough to hide a couple of bodies, and had served
just that purpose on numerous occasions. Dawn shoved the cooler and
the grocery bags aside and began dragging out weapons, searching for something
light enough for her to carry. Buffy and Spike made swinging five-to-ten-pound
hunks of steel around look like nothing at all, but Dawn knew from certain
past experiments of her own that it was a lot harder than it looked.
She settled on a thing with a wickedly curved blade which was either
a puny sword or an overgrown knife, and slammed the trunk shut. “There’s
no time to get my sister!” she shot back at Lisa, grabbing her sweater from
the front seat. “Are you coming or not?”
the darkness of the back seat Lisa looked awful, her complexion like milk
about to go bad. It was weird; Dawn was used to thinking of herself
as the scaredy one, the tagalong. Was this how it had started for Buffy,
six years ago? Just realizing that something had to be done, and you
were the only one who could do it? Lisa was looking at her with something
too!” Megan said. “You’re not, like, leaving me here alone to get chewed
on by vampires. At least, not of the non-sexy variety.”
beyond gross and into grotty.” Dawn shaded her eyes against the moonlight
and tried to remember exactly which pair of trees Spike and Xander had disappeared
giggled. “Oh, come on, don’t tell me you never thought about it.”
did a very creditable imitation of Spike’s trademark disbelieving snort.
“You live through three months of Angelus on the rampage and see if you find
anything sexy about it.” She slung the sword-knife over one shoulder,
picked the likeliest pair of trees and set off at a brisk walk. “Let’s
was easy enough to say that, easy enough to set off with a determined look,
but once into the trees it was impossible to tell which way her quarry had
gone. “What if they come back to the car and we’re gone?” Lisa asked,
fifteen minutes later--fifteen minutes of wandering around the picnic area,
peering through hedges, and jumping at shadows. “One of us should have
it was a reasonable objection made it all the more annoying. Dawn scowled
and kept walking. “Go on back, then. I’ll give you the keys.”
Lisa didn’t answer, but her eyes darted from shadow to shadow and she edged
a little closer to Megan. Dawn pulled her sweater tighter. It
was the coldest part of the night--it must be in the fifties, and Dawn, Southern
California born and bred, was convinced she was freezing. At least
walking kept her warmer than sitting.
don’t we just yell for them?” Megan asked as they passed another deserted
picnic table--the ominous lump beneath it had turned out to be a homeless
guy who was probably just asleep. Dawn headed back towards
the trees .
then whoever’s got them will know we’re coming! Haven’t you ever rescued
anyone before?” Megan and Lisa shook their heads, duly impressed with
her expertise--no reason to clue them in that most of her experience consisted
of being the rescuee rather than the rescuer. Of course they were going
to be majorly unimpressed soon if she kept trekking aimlessly around the
park. She bit her lower lip. “Both of you be real quiet for a
minute. See if we can hear anything weird.”
do it, okay?” Dawn closed her eyes and concentrated. It was freaky
how much you could hear when you paid attention. The hiss of your own
breath, the rustle of your own clothes. The soft rush of wind through
the upper branches of the trees and the distant roar of traffic on the highway.
Sirens. A helicopter. A mockingbird running through its repetoire.
Dogs barking. And... voices, very distant, very faint. If Spike
were here, he probably could have told her what they were saying, but if
Spike were here she wouldn’t be hunting him. It was very difficult
to tell what direction they were coming from, but... “This way.”
Xander lay flat on his back, arms pulled taut over his head, one leg stretched
out as far as it would go. His shirt had pulled out of the waistband
of his levis and hiked up around his middle. Half a dozen rocks in
various sizes and degrees of sharpness were digging into his shoulderblades,
and his breath was coming in harsh grunts of effort. The toe of his
sneaker was only an inch or two away from the edge of the concrete path where
the pliers lay.
they were, half-open, taunting him with their nearness. Why the bleeping
freck couldn’t Spike have kicked a little bit harder? Xander dug his
other heel into the hard-packed earth and pulled himself further away from
the post, gritting his teeth against the pain in his hands. He couldn’t
feel his thumbs at all anymore, so how exactly he was going to use the pliers
if he got hold of them was a bit of a problem, but... one thing at a time.
Just one... more... inch...
froze, then slowly turned his head. Ten feet away a ragged wall of oleander
rose into the moonlit sky. At the base of the hedge the foliage rustled,
a pair of hands parted the branches, and Dawn’s face, flanked by Lisa’s and
Megan’s, appeared in the gap, framed in dark narrow leaves. “Blossom!
Bubbles! Buttercup! I’m saved! I thought we told you to
stay in the car?”
cheeks flushed. “If you’re gonna be like that I will go back to the
dug in his heels again and shoved himself back towards the post. A
quick look over at the picnic table altar told him that the crazies were
well occupied trying to keep Spike on the table. “Just get those pliers
and get me off this crazy thing.”
The vampire’s body went rigid as Tanner's fingers brushed his temples and
sank ever so slightly into the skull. Instead of sinking all the way
in, his probing fingers glanced away, repelled by a surface that was slick,
cold... dead. Recoiling, Tanner pulled away, almost ready to abandon
the attempt then and there. But no--Ronnie and the Rabbit Guy and Denise
and the others, they were depending on this, even though they didn't realize
it. He steeled himself, studying his prey as he hadn't done since the
first desperate days after She had disappeared and he'd put the spell
together out of baling wire and hope.
brain, the body in front of him weren't alive--but they weren't really dead,
either. The electrochemical reactions of a living body were replaced
or augmented by demonic life-force, stoking the cellular furnaces with a cold,
eldritch fire. Breathing was a wholly voluntary affair, the heart did
not beat, and only the friction of its own movements kept this creature a
few degrees above ambient temperature. But this body still knew pain
and hunger and pleasure, this brain still had thoughts and feelings, no matter
that they were stored in patterns of magic instead of electrical waves, and
if only he could change the angle of approach, slide in from a different direction...
Tanner's fingers sank into the skull further, slowly, reluctantly, and only
with great effort.
vampire tasted of love and rage and poetry, blood and steel and death and
moonlight, man's mind and demon's soul inextricably entwined, a creature
of air and darkness, and there was nothing there that Tanner could grasp
that would not burn his hands to the bone in the grasping.
The pale, ostensibly human face looked up at him, and smiled. “So the
hellbitch that made you was right about something. Not to your taste,
broke away, his skin crawling. He flexed his fingers, sickened, and
not entirely by the vampire. How different were they, really, save in
what they stripped from their victims? “This won’t work. Get the other
He probably should have kept himself from tensing as Ramon and Jim looked
from Tanner towards the lamp post, should have remained impassive as they
saw that the lamp post now stood bare and alone in the center of its own
spotlight--should have refrained from doing anything that might draw any
attention to Xander, who’d come up behind Tanner and was raising the the
lead pipe over his head.
that; he’d never been any good at impassive. A feral grin burst across
Spike’s face as the pipe came down. Tanner’s eyes rolled back--not
as damaging a blow as it could have been, since Xander’s wounded hands could
barely keep their grip on the pipe, but as Spike could attest, even inexpertly
wielded it was one hell of a distraction. The hands restraining him
momentarily loosened their grips in surprise, and he surged up off the table
in a black-and-ivory blur and broke for freedom. He hit the ground rolling,
bounced to his feet and spun round to see Xander chuck the pipe at Ramon.
His head was still aching, but the rush of fight or flight shoved the pain
to the back of his consciousness. His eyes met Xander’s, and the grin
widened. “Better part of valor, or do you want to work off some more
looked at Ramon, whom the pipe had missed by a mile. “If that means
run like hell, let’s do--hey! Running away is in the other direction!”
my coat’s in this one. I’m not leaving it for the Salvation Army brigade.
Run, you nit--they can’t do a damned thing to me; it’s your brain they want
to make chowder of!”
dodged Jim and the elderly man whose name had never come up and sped off
across the clearing towards the pyracantha bushes. Sure enough, his
duster was still tangled in the branches like a shabby black leather bat,
and Xander’s axe was still lying on the ground where he’s dropped it.
Spike snatched up the axe and gave his coat a yank, wincing as he felt the
thirty-year-old leather tear. Well, he could get it repaired; it had
seen worse over the decades. Coat in one hand and axe in the other,
he turned on his heel and raced after Xander, drawing breath for a victory
yell--and catching the scent of Dawn and her friends as he did so.
you’re bloody well going to be deader than I am when I catch you!” he roared.
Tanner and the woman whose jaw he’d broken were still slumped beside the
picnic table, but the rest of the crazies had taken off after Xander, and,
whether they realized it yet, Dawn as well. Which meant that he was
due for a few more run-ins with his electrical nemesis before the night was
over. Spike plunged through the barrier of oleanders and began to run
in earnest, feet barely skimming the ground. Patrolling with the others
he rarely got the chance to go all out, and it was exhilarating to exert
himself to the fullest again. Over the pounding of his own footsteps
he heard the noise of people crashing through the brush ahead, drawing closer
with every stride, and caught the heady scent of human sweat, redolent of
fear and exhaustion.
piercing shriek split the night ahead of him. Spike’s eyes flared yellow
and an anticipatory growl ripped itself from his throat. The moon
was sinking behind the trees now, but his eyes could pierce the blackness
of a coal mine as readily as the brightest of noons, and there was nothing
between him and the hulking figure ahead but time and distance, and he was
rapidly closing both. He inhaled sharply--
checked himself in mid-leap, twisting aside and landing crouched catlike
in front of Ramon, who had Lisa tucked securely under one meaty arm.
She saw him loom up out of the night and whimpered, clawing uselessly at
the hand over her mouth, her eyes liquid with terror.
could hear the retreating footsteps of the others ahead of them; by the looks
of it, Lisa hadn’t had a chance to cry out. For a second he seriously
considered leaving her behind; he’d have gladly shocked his brain to jelly
for Dawn’s sake, but Lisa was no one in particular to him, and he’d had enough,
the last few days, of helping the helpless and having said helpless promptly
turn around and apply boot leather to his arse. Buffy might get off
on the whole sacred duty thing, but he didn’t, and if he took off now none
of them would ever know...
Dawn asked what had become of Lisa, and he couldn’t lie to her or her bleeding
sister for sod all. Bloody hell.
whole internal debate had taken place in the space of one of his nonexistent
heartbeats. Spike dropped his coat and the axe and sprang hard and
fast from his crouch, tackling Ramon low around the knees, using Lisa’s weight
along with his own--none of the crazies seemed to have any real skill at brawling;
it was only their numbers and the fact that he couldn’t hit back which made
them dangerous. He grunted as another shock hit him--after all this
time you’d think he’d get used to them, but no such luck; maybe a human’s
pain centers would have burned out by now, but hip hooray for vampire healing
abilities; his was in perfect working order. Ramon went down
this time, skidding through the dead leaves and letting go of Lisa as he
fell. Spike rolled off the larger man, swearing steadily, and staggered
to his feet. Christ, but his head hurt.
still huddled on the damp ground where she’d fallen, stared up at him, trembling.
Fuck, he was still all fangy; the chit was going to wet herself. Spike
shifted back, reached down and grabbed her wrist and pulled her to her feet.
Lisa looked from him down to the fallen Ramon, who was wheezing and trying
to get the air back into his lungs, and back to Spike.
grabbed him round with waist with an incoherent sob, and hugged him, hard,
before Spike had time to feel anything except shock.
hands hovered over her shoulders, uncertain. He didn’t touch.
Not humans. Not anyone. Not anymore, not outside a fight.
Not that he didn’t want to. He’d always been a tactile person.
But why torture himself by sidling up to all that lovely, warm, forbidden
flesh? Dawn, yes. He’d gotten accustomed to Dawn’s presence
and her complete comfort in his, and the awkward, brotherly hugs and pats
on the shoulder between them had been a large part of keeping him sane over
the long summer--and maybe her too. But this--Lisa was anything but
comfortable; the scent of her terror combined with the pounding of her pulse
made his fangs ache to extend.
you,” she whispered, and released him.
stared down at her for a long moment, drawing the back of his hand across
his mouth, as if to wipe away some invisible stain. He stalked over
and snatched up his much-abused duster once more, picked up the axe, and thrust
it at her handle first. “Here, make yourself useful and carry this.
Let’s go.” Without sparing Lisa a further glance, he took off towards
his car, not bothering to see if she followed.
Continued in Part 9