Hello and welcome to my posting day! I’d like to thank the mods for keeping this fine community going, and my fellow fans for keeping your Spuffy faith strong this many years! How ’bout this season of the comics, huh? ;)
I have a new story for you. The first chapter’s all I have beta’d so far, but I hope to take full advantage of the Free-For-All days later. I would love to hear what you think so far (please please please)!
Title: The Curious Case of the Campus Intruders (Chapter 1)
Setting: Season 4, around the time of Pangs and Something Blue. Spike’s chipped and seeking asylum with the Slayer, but our pairing has yet to experience Willow’s spell.
Rating: PG-13 for this chapter
Beta: The illustrious All4Spike. All remaining/fresh errors mine.
Comments: Would you please be so kind? :)
Buffy unleashed another kick at the door, this time aiming her heel right above the antique brass knob. If the door itself didn’t give, the lock should. But just like her previous attempts, the door didn’t so much as shudder. No convenient clean break from the hinges, no satisfying dent in the size and shape of her cute yet sturdy pleather boot, not even a consolatory scuff mark.
“I don’t get it. This is wood, isn’t it?” She drummed her fingers lightly on the painted surface. It thudded convincingly. “I was expecting the same stake-explosion as the front door.”
Spike glanced at the pile of splintered wood blocking the entrance, and shrank away in distaste, almost bumping into her.
“If you’re aiming to dust me, Summers, there’s no need for an elaborate cover story. Drag me half way across town on some poorly-disguised witch-hunt. Here, I’ll make it easy for you. Don’t miss, alright?”
Before she could figure out what he was playing at, he’d already unbuttoned his maroon shirt and pulled it back, revealing a chiseled chest so smooth and pale in the vibrating fluorescent light that it almost glowed.
She blinked, taken aback by this turn of events. “Witch-hunt? No, uh, definitely no witch here.”
The hallway seemed narrower all of a sudden. Somewhere in the back of her head she registered the lack of windows. Then her brain caught up to the rest of Spike’s words.
“Hey wait a minute!” In anger she found the best cover for her quickened heartbeat. With one swift move she pinned him to the door (doing her best not to get distracted by the way his bare chest heaved under her palm). Spike winced from impact.
“I did not just waste my smoothie money on pig’s blood to help get your strength back, only to have to clean up after you with a vacuum. Does that even make sense?”
Spike peered at her from under his lashes, all pretense of bravado dropped. Quietly, as if his hope would shatter on a louder voice, he asked, “You’re- you’re not going to dust me?”
It was absurd (and dangerous, as Giles said) to permit pity to take hold, to “cloud her judgement” regarding a former foe, a monstrous thing that’d wanted her dead. Yet Buffy couldn’t help feeling a sort of proprietary right to demons in her town in general and Spike in particular. Dangerous demons should be slayed, and vampires staked, yes, but not experimented on by some overzealous commandos, whatever the nature of those experiments turned out to be. Spike hadn’t exactly been forthcoming with the details, though the result on himself he could hardly hide. This vamp had definitely been defanged, and left to starve to death, or…worse.
She couldn’t very well explain it, but to her that didn’t just cross an ethical line, it obliterated it. She’d always thought of herself as a proponent of animal rights. Even the undead didn’t deserve to be tortured like that.
Giles had a point, though.
Revealing as little as possible, she replied, “Would you like me to reconsider?”
Spike shot her a furtive look and, like a puppy chastised, shook his head. Buffy let him go.
The flash of unadulterated fear in Spike’s eyes irritated her to no end. Just to preempt anymore of his whiny securities, she said, “I don’t know how to get it through your thick skull. The attack in the library this morning? Bad. Supposedly the Vespa demons came out of nowhere, threw themselves on a student in a very public incident. He almost died. Worse, the attackers escaped. Giles had to resort to that old ‘gang on PCP’ excuse to get the dean to seal all sewer access in the underground archives. You said you could help, earn your blood. Well, prove it! You’re going to wrap up your pity party of one and help me find these Vespas. Got it?”
“They’re called Zvekas, Slayer. But yeah, got it.” He straightened to his full height and puffed out his chest, “I won’t let you down.”
“Uh-huh.” She kept her eyes strictly above-chest. “Now put your shirt back on and” — stop distracting me — “and help me break down this door!”
Putting some distance between herself and that gleaming chest that gleamed, she decided to survey the rest of the apartment again for clues.
It looked so normal, she had to keep reminding herself it belonged to a couple of vicious demons — Zvekas, was that what Spike called them? — it threw her for a loop. After busting their way into the apartment, they’d seen the living room first, adrenaline quickly leveling out to confusion, then fading to disappointment. Buffy wasn’t sure what she’d expected, but it wasn’t textbook middle-class suburbia, if slightly depressing for its basement setting. Like so many other living rooms, this one was arranged with a comfy couch positioned to worship a small TV, made less lonely by an ottoman and an overflow of green throw pillows piled high in the corner. A few potted leafy plants here and there, each of each the very poster child for plant health, gave the room a sense of vibrancy despite its lack of natural light.
“I don’t know how you thrive without ever seeing the sun,” she muttered to one beckoning plant, that was just beginning to bloom a star-shaped purple flower she had never seen before. “Meanwhile, I can’t even keep a cactus alive in the dorms.”
At least the kitchen was full of incriminating evidence: Sharp knives arranged by size glistened from a magnetic strip fixed to the wall, an impressive foot-long paring knife in the lead. That was one interpretation, anyway. But it didn’t fit, somehow. On the chopping block, in front of a spice carousel, she discovered sprigs of bright, glossy leaves arranged in a small glass vase, their bright, glossy leaves — oregano? basil? — giving off a pungent, lemony scent. That, and the array of polished pots and pans and the neatly stacked tower of dishes in the cabinet painted a different picture. One of a well-stocked kitchen, the cherished workspace of a seasoned chef.
Doubling back to the unbreakable door, she caught sight of Spike slamming his dislocated left shoulder against the wall to pop it back into place. Shyeah. Her full-strength kicks had done nothing to that block of wood, his shoulder was obviously no match. Any idiot would know that.
“I’m okay!” He called after her, to which she mumbled, “Really wasn’t worried.”
Across the hall from the mystery room was the bedroom, dominated by a black duvet stretched over an overstuffed queen-sized bed. The sheets and pillows were forest green, as were the curtains that turned out to disguise a section of the wall — a clever way to pretend a view lay just beyond.
Even the dresser’s content looked normal. The Zvekas were roughly human-shaped, so it sort of made sense: a matter of convenience. The occupants here showed an affinity for dark green, their color of choice for everything from furniture to towels to tissue paper holders.
A mural of a lush forest took up the entire wall facing the bed, with towering pines that conceded to the top of the wall with a sharp bend to reach into the ceiling with a generous canopy. It was by no means a masterful depiction, but clearly a labor of love, the branches abundant but sticking out at unnatural angles in a few places. Stepping closer, she spotted a few chips and dings here and there, which had all been carefully repaired, in a slightly lighter shade, so that they were barely noticeable.
The skirting board was painted into a thick carpet of fallen pine needles, layers of crisscrossing thin strokes ranging in color from yellow to brown with spots of youthful green. It must’ve taken the artist hours to paint the pine needles alone, and Buffy saw no way of doing so comfortably. The attention to detail made her smile. She inhaled deeply, and could swear she detected a hint of fresh pine.
In the tidy bathroom, with a — what else? — green shower curtain gathered to one side, a small counter space littered with personal effects, Buffy stared at the toothbrushes propped up on a silvertone stand, next to the same brand of toothpaste Mom always bought. Reconciling dental hygiene with demons that slaughtered humans with a few easy swipes of their claws proved too much for her brain.
Did these toothbrushes, the nicely made bed, the homey touches here and there, really belong to a pair of homicidal demons? Was this what the homes of expert assassins looked like, no different from those belonging to the rest of us? Or maybe, could it be, that they were just ordinary folks leading an ordinary existence, and not psychotic, cold-hearted killers who had somehow mastered professional detachment? If that was the case, though, what would’ve driven them to such drastic measures as storming a college campus in broad daylight, risking everything they had — their comfortable if modest piece of domestic bliss, the exposure of their kind, their actual lives — just to wipe out an innocent college student?
“Hey, Slayer! C’mere a sec!”
Something about Spike’s voice made her hurry, and she turned her back on those identity crisis-triggering toothbrushes. Rushing back into the hallway, she wasn’t prepared to see him with his ear pressed to the still-sealed door, his eyes serenely closed.
Really not in the mood for anymore of his weirdness, she thumped the door with her boot, making him jump back, all startled eyes and indignant, raised brows.
She ignored his silent accusation, getting straight to the point. “I gather you’ve given up, O Door Whisperer?”
He scoffed. “Who’s the one of little faith now? Here.”
Buffy looked at his outstretched, expectant hand, pale palm facing up. What? He wanted her stake now? “If you think I’m going to trust you with any weapon —”
There was that scoff again. Instead of using his words like a big vampire, he reached for her right hand. His eyes never leaving hers, she became aware of slender fingers gliding across her wrist, wrapping loosely around it: it was cool, but not cold, but it triggered a full-body shiver in her nonetheless. Absent of an immediate sense of threat, she didn’t want to overreact. No words came to mind either. So she did the only thing that seemed to make sense, letting herself be led by Spike’s hand, step, step, until, with a turn of his wrist, she found her palm pressed flat against the door, right to the edge where it met the doorframe.
“Here,” he said that word again, rather breathlessly this time, and her brain did about three somersaults in the span of a second. Here — where? What was going on? What was he —
The last question found voice. “What are you…?”
“Feel it.” He covered her right hand with his, palm to the back of her hand, thumbs aligned, their fingers lightly interlaced.
Between the door and his hand, her body heat reflected back to her. It felt…warm, safe, nice.
Wait, nice? Nice?
What kind of crazy vampire nonsense was this? She jerked her hand back. “I don’t feel —”
“No bloody joke!” Spike cut her off. “After that pep talk you just gave me, are you trying to be dense? Honestly, Summers, sometimes you’re so oblivious of the supernatural you’re a disgrace to the whole Slayer line.” He seized her hand again, roughly this time, and yanked it back to the door, with enough force that it smarted. Eyes closed, he intoned, so close to her ear that his words tickled, putting all her senses on high alert, “Control your breathing. Quiet your mind. Don’t think. Feel.”
Did he expect to get away with this! His ass was going to really feel her boot before the day was over. Fine. She would show him who was more plugged into the supernatural, who was The Boss. (Her, that was who.) She could always threaten him with physical violence later.
“Shhh…” Spike whispered, even though she hadn’t said anything.
Slayer senses engaged, she exhaled slowly, screwed her eyes shut and, well, felt.
The glaring presence of a vampire just behind her she detected right away, this ball of pulsing, dark red energy, all jagged lines and as bright as a stop light. She tried to ignore it, but it proved as insistent as static in the background of her favorite radio station, no matter how she tuned the frequency.
The quiet humming of the web that extended forward from her hand into the rough shape of a small three-dimensional space took a little longer to emerge, its pale blue energy signature as elusive as a cloud. When she tried to push forward, however, the protective weave of its surface rippled into concentric circles that folded her strength back to her, layer upon layer, each time magnified, until the metaphysical took solid shape, and she was suddenly knocked back, into the very real arms of Spike.
She gasped, her eyes bursting open. “Magic!”
“Very good!” Was that a tinge of surprise in Spike’s voice? She felt a surge of pride, silly as it sounded to want to impress someone like him. Way back, in the first year she was Called, Giles had taught her to hone her Slayer senses. Still resisting her destiny then, she hadn’t wanted to give him the satisfaction that she’d believed. Calling it hocus pocus to his face, she’d nevertheless learned to, well, hone.
Slowly, as if reluctantly, Spike let go of her, and moved to trace the outline of the doorframe.
“Impressive protective charm, don’t you think? Whatever your beasties are hiding, they took precautions, even turning to magic to shield it from peeping eyes.”
“Huh.” She flexed her hand, mulling it over. It still tingled. Some strong residual magic. “Guess this is a witch-hunt after all.”
Eyes narrowed, Spike snapped his fingers and said, “And I think I know just the one.”
(To be continued…)
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/606784.html