“Is this really necessary, Rupert?” Ethan gestured to the shackles around his wrists and ankles. Under normal circumstances, he’d be all for a bit of bondage. But chained to a bathtub so small he couldn’t even fully stretch his legs? Wasn’t his idea of fun. “You know, the bed would be much more enjoyable. I’d keep quiet there, too. Oh! You could gag me! Remember when we-“
His mouth kept moving, but no sound came out. So, the old boy did still have a bit of skill after all. A spell for silence. Rather more effective than whatever that material was that he’d used before. Ethan couldn’t do as much as hum, and as such… Couldn’t magic the shackles off again. Very clever.
“Ethan, if you were ever a friend to me, I need you to understand something. My slayer’s life is in great danger. She’s being held in a heavily guarded military facility, alongside scores of demons and… From what we know, she’s in very close proximity to William the Bloody. Nod if you understand the seriousness of this situation.”
Ethan sighed and gave him a single nod. Not that he especially cared about it, but that hadn’t been the question.
“She’s been in captivity for… Weeks now. I have no way of knowing what state she’s in, if she’s even alive…”
His voice broke, and that was something Ethan cared about, even if he’d never say it. Even after all the years of scorn and distance, he could never fully pull himself away from his old mate.
“Then you come along. As if I hadn’t enough to deal with as it were.” He pinched the bridge of his nose and sniffled a bit, likely on the verge of tears. “I don’t have time or patience for your shenanigans, Ethan. Every time you show up… You endanger lives. You sow the seeds of chaos. I can’t abide it. Not this time.”
If he could have, he would have laughed. It was always so refreshing to see the real Rupert slip out. A glimpse at his true nature. When he was serious like this, it was always dangerous territory, and Ethan hadn’t forgotten just how lethal the man was.
Seeing as he wasn’t quite ready for death yet… he put his hands up in surrender, as much as he could raise them, and pointed to his mouth. Life, his in particular, was a precious thing. And if he had to skirt on the side of good for a while to keep it, he’d do it.
Besides, he’d come to Sunnydale to be helpful in the first place. The only reason he was chained up was that Rupert was not in the mood to listen. Not that he ever was, but he was being especially pig headed about it this time.
“I take that to mean you have something profound you’d like to say that would change my mind about this?” Ethan nodded his head in response. “Very well. Do not make me regret this. Exsolvo.”
“Mmm, much better, thank you.” He licked his lips, trying to determine the best way to deliver his pitch. “I can be useful, Rupert. You said it yourself. This is a military operation you’re dealing with. You can’t exactly go in there, guns blazing. They’ve got far more guns than you. Probably better shots, too. You’ve got, what? Four recently graduated children?” He let out a scoff before continuing. “How did you put it? I endanger lives and sow the seeds of chaos? Sounds like something that would be useful to you right about now.”
“Are you suggesting that I set you loose on trained operatives and hope that you keep your word? I won’t have you blindly casting spells that could further endanger Buffy’s life.”
“You know, contrary to what you might think, I do know some rather powerful protection spells. Things your little redhead couldn’t possibly have the skill to pull off. You think I’ve lived this long, not knowing how to keep myself free of danger? I could protect her, and melt that entire place into a puddle of molten steel and she’d walk out unscathed by it. If she’s still able to walk, that is.”
“I can’t trust you, Ethan. We established that years ago. I’m not going to start now.”
That was a fair point. And he had a feeling that trust was one of those important factors to his being released, rather than deceased.
“Let me do the protection spell. All I need is a strand of her hair, and no real harm will come to her.” At the very skeptical look, he continued. “I can take care of this mess for you, Rupert. These people don’t just take demons and monsters. They take men like us, too. It’s in my own best interest to see that they’re destroyed. Does that make you feel better about it?”
“And why on earth would you want to help me?”
What a very stupid question.
“You know why, and don’t try to pretend you don’t.” Implement Puppy Dog Eyes. “Rupert, please. You can try to forget the history between us all you want, but don’t pretend to be stupid. It doesn’t become you.”
Rupert pursed his lips in the way that meant he was considering things. Not happily, but still. Consideration was something, wasn’t it? Ethan half expected him to put the gag order back on, turn out the light, and lock the door behind him when he left. It wouldn’t be out of character.
“How do you intend to be of use? You protect Buffy, then what? Cause an electrical storm that takes their entire operation offline?”
It would seem that Ethan was going to need a bit more firepower than he initially thought. Well, power would be the operative word there. But he knew exactly where to get it, to do the kinds of things he had in mind. And that would require some finessing. A little sacrifice, a summoning. The electrical storm would be precise, concentrated, guaranteed to hit the right target. As for the rest, well… They’d burn that bridge when they got to it, yeah?
“Now that does sound like fun. And entirely possible to do. I could also, I don’t know, turn every weapon in their arsenal into toys. With the little flags that say ‘bang!’ when they try to fire them. Wouldn’t that be a sight. I could unleash an army of snapping turtles. Not exactly lethal, but I get the feeling you don’t want me to actually kill them. Just disrupt their functionality. Correct?”
He flashed a grin, and felt a little surge of pride when the corners of his friends mouth ticked up slightly, signalling his approval. Something it had been a very long time since he’d had from his old mate. He couldn’t help but push it just a tad though, because what he truly desired was to rekindle an old flame, even if it were fleeting. Years of skeezy hotel rooms and even skeezier women had begun to grow boring. Nothing would be more exciting than his Ripper, if he could manage to coax him out of that shell he’d built up over the years.
“You know, Rupert…” He lowered his tone, softened it, and looked up through his eyelashes at the man who now despised him. “I could be useful in other ways, too. If you’d let me. Take a bit of that stress off your mind.”
“So you keep suggesting. I told you before, Ethan… Must I keep repeating myself? That’s not what… who… I am any more.”
“Oh, but it is. I see him in there, dying to come out to play. You can’t lie to me. And at least, with me… you could be the real you. For a time. If you’d just let yourself have a little fun.”
“Alright, come on you two. Time to get moving. I really don’t want to have to dart you and drag you this morning, so let’s go peacefully.”
Riley had shown up before they’d even finished eating, before Spike had bothered to put his shirt back on. Not that she was exactly complaining about the view, despite how she’d acted when they woke up. It had been an instinct. Protect her reputation, whatever that was worth.
It wasn’t until later, when they were walking down the hall with guns pressed into their backs that she realized- her reputation meant absolutely nothing here. Not to them.
The other demons had watched warily as she passed. Backed away from their doors. Hid in the corners of their cells. It was like they knew, somehow. She was back to full strength, no dopey after effects. The respite Spike had given her the night before was exactly what she’d needed to pull herself together.
She was The Slayer, damnit. And it was time for Walsh to learn what that meant. So she’d put her shoulders back, held her head high, and walked like she had a purpose. A mission.
Right up until they’d arrived at the Pit, and a dart was shot into her back. She fell to the ground with a thud, but Spike didn’t. He tried to fight them, even as the chip fired and the drugs were obviously working. He’d lunge for a throat, then reel back screaming in pain. At least they weren’t beating him this time. Must have been under orders not to. They just held him down until his eyes drifted shut, game face still on.
When she woke up and looked around the huge empty room, Spike was nowhere to be seen. He was just gone. They’d taken him. She was on her own, and it was terrifying. She hadn’t realized how much his presence had been affecting her until she’d lost it. Her earlier confidence was wavering. She might be able to fight on her own, but to actually survive that place without him?
No. Even if she got out on her own, however long it took, she knew she wouldn’t be coming out the same without him holding her together.
After last night…
“Oh good, you’re awake. Finally. Let’s get started. Our goal today is to test your strength and abilities in a somewhat real world scenario. Dr. Engleman has informed me that you’ve had an ample amount of time to heal from your injuries. Aside from a few scrapes here and there, you appear to be completely recovered in just a few short days. Remarkable. Truly. It’s not often I say that of my subjects.”
Subjects, right. Because she wasn’t a human here, she was just another monster to be studied. Well, fine. They thought she was a monster? A freak? That’s what she’d give them. She knew her power, and they didn’t have a clue. A myth in some book they’d happened across. She crossed her arms and shot a deadly glare at Walsh.
“Let’s get this over with so I can go back to my cell. I’m really not in the mood to listen to you talk today. And since I’m not, you know, attending a class or anything, I really don’t care what you have to say. “
The hag pursed her lips and glared back. ” I see. Very well, then. You should know that… Although this is a scientific test, and I am intrigued at your preliminary results… Your life is very much in danger here. You will not be saved.”
A buzzer sounded over the intercom, and a panel in the wall slid open. She was expecting to see demons charging at her, or vampires. Maybe a werewolf. But not Spike chained to the wall. She tried to hide her relief that he was there, and in one piece.
He looked rough though. He was still in game face, but… he had a fresh cut on his cheek and a bruise to go with it. When had that happened? Sometime after she’d passed out? She hadn’t seen him be hit with anything. His red shirt was hanging open, too. Revealing… Well, pretty much everything, with his pants hanging as low as they were. She couldn’t help the path her eyes took. Downward, over his bare chest and down to his jutting hip bones, and the hint of curls. He was starving, she realized. She hadn’t noticed how thin he’d gotten but put on display like he was… It was horribly obvious.
“Your vampire was not nearly as complacent as you were. He had to be subdued a second time.”
“So, what’s the game? Save the distressing damsel?” She started pacing slowly around the room, working her way toward Spike as nonchalantly as she could. She wanted to be able to get to him as quickly as possible, once Walsh released whatever monster she had in store for them. “Let’s do this.”
He chuckled and waggled his hips at her. “Oh, you’re just jealous that I pull it off better than you, sweetheart.” If he was feeling good enough to snark, he was feeling good enough to fight. Right?
Walsh cleared her throat from the balcony, trying to get their attention, but Buffy didn’t care. She was focused. Ready. Poised for a fight. She had no weapons, but Spike did. She’d have to get him loose somehow, and hope he wasn’t posturing and could actually do some damage. As far as she could tell, that was probably the only way either of them was getting out of there alive, and she’d be damned if they were dying in a laboratory.
“If you two are done, we can begin. Riley, brief them on their opponent.”
She hadn’t even noticed the asshole, hiding up there out of her sight. Every time she saw him, he disgusted her just a little more. The way he looked at her, and judged her, like he was in any position. She was really going to enjoy round housing his ass through a door.
“Unidentified HST species. Took eight of our best men to bag these two. Good luck. You’re gonna need it.”
Another buzzer sounded, and a panel slid open across the room from Spike. Two squid faced, hulking figures stepped forward, their eyes locked on Buffy. Ew, tentacle hands. She’d never seen demons like that before. And how the hell was she supposed to kill them without a sword or a knife or, you know, anything but her bare hands? Did they have vertebra in their necks that she could break?
Her eyes honed in on a glint of metal on one of the demons. Necklace. Key. Hopefully one that opened the locks around Spike’s wrists. She just had to get it, and get to him, and get him free… without taking a hit. Easy peasy, right? She bounced on the balls of her feet a couple times, psyching herself up for the fight. One way or another, those two ugly green bastards were going down.
You can do this. Go!
She took off at a dead run for the key holder, determined to end things quickly. Still, she couldn’t deny the thrill she felt at the prospect of a real fight. That kind of rush was so freeing. Fulfilling. It felt like flying, after so much time spent being caged.
She dropped to the ground just before she got to the demons, dodging a hit and power sliding between the two of them. She landed a brutal kick to the back of the key holder’s knee, knocking him to the ground. She pounced, grabbing for the chain around his neck. She had it. Or so she thought, when a tentacled hand grabbed her by the hair and flung her sideways.
Okay, ow. Now I’m mad. Nobody messed with the hair. Especially when it had just gotten all tangle free.
She scrambled to her feet, barely getting them under her when a kick to her chest set her flat on her back. They were a lot faster than they looked, and hit harder too. She threw a leg up just in time, staggering the demon backwards, giving her time to flip upright. She threw a flurry of punches, keeping him on the retreat.
Key holder grabbed from behind, pinning her arms to her sides and lifting her off her feet. Shit. She flailed, whipping her feet with as much power behind them as she could muster – which was a lot. A few connected, just enough to keep the other demon from getting in any good hits. She slammed her head back, and the grip on her loosened enough for her to snatch the necklace. Another headbutt, and she ripped it off before cartwheeling as far away as she could. She had to get Spike free. There was no way she could take both of them on her own.
She sprinted toward Spike, desperate to make it to him before they caught up to her. She was so close, but she knew at least one of them was right on her heels. Why the hell were they so fast?
“Get down!” Spike yelled, bringing both of his feet up. She flattened down just in time, and his legs soared over here, sending one of the demons flying. “Get me loose so I can bloody help you already!”
She sprang to her feet, fumbling with the key as she reached for one of his hands.
Key, lock. Get in the lock! Get in the freaking lock!! Turn! Jesus, turn already! Yes!
She’d just shoved the key in the second lock when she was dragged away from him. For the second time in less than a minute, tentacle hands grabbed her by the hair, and she’d had just about enough of that. He had to go. Geez, was he a biter, too?
“Worry about yourself, Slayer! I can get this one!”
She didn’t need to be told twice. She twisted herself away, kicking Mr. Hair Puller away and delivering a barrage of very ineffective punches. She needed to find a weakness, somewhere.
“Sorry, pal, but getting all touchy with the hair is only allowed after the second date.”
One hit from him, and she found herself airborne. Spine, concrete wall. She coughed when she landed, unable to get a good breath in. That was definitely leaving a bruise. She looked up at the sound of approaching footsteps, and found both demons advancing on her slowly.
God, this is going to hurt, isn’t it?
Spike let out a roar, coming out of nowhere and slamming his shoulder into the demon closest to her. Once again, he’d put himself in between her and harm’s way. But this time, she was getting to her feet. This time, she hadn’t been drugged into uselessness.
Adrenaline coursed through her veins, and she relished it. No more distractions. She stepped up to Spike’s right side and gave him a nod. They were in this fight together now. Team Squidface didn’t stand a chance.
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