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The Ring Talks

Part 1: Taking Initiative

Chapter 12: Opportunity Rising

Spike walks into Giles’ living room while we’re in the middle of planning to spring Oz from the Initiative. He interrupts the conversation, drawing commentary from Giles and Xander, but my focus is on the ring on his pinky. He catches my eye, noticing me notice it. There’s something urgent in his expression. Something that can’t wait.

I narrow my gaze on him, trying to look suspicious. “Do you have any useful information, or are you just going to string us along until you get some cash for blood and cigarettes?”

He turns to leave with a wave of his hand. “Forget it. Go on, get yourselves killed.”

He walks out, and I look at Willow’s worried face. “I guess I’d better go talk to him, just to make sure he doesn’t have anything useful. Leave no stone unturned, right?”

Xander stands up. “I’ll do it.”

I hurry toward the door. “No, no. I’ve got this.” I step out into the courtyard and follow my senses around to the side of the building.

Spike and I whisper in the dark for a few minutes, as he catches me up on his meetings with Adam. “I’ll get you in, so you can rescue Red’s mongrel. But Slayer, if Mr. Bits is on the up and up, this could be my chance.”

“You realize he’s probably not.”

“So maybe I can get around him, just use him to get a name. Find an Initiative neurosurgeon, get it done, and ditch Mary Shelley’s nightmare. I figure I’ve warned him about you, so I’ve done my part toward helping him.”

I have to put my hand over my mouth to muffle my laugh. When I pull it away, I say, “Do you even hear yourself? I get that removing the chip is priority number one, and you’re super focused on it, but warning the bad guy that the slayer is going to try to kill him isn’t exactly ‘being evil.’” I shake my head. “I’m disappointed in you.”

He lifts one eyebrow. “No, you’re not. You’re bloody thrilled. It’s all over your face. You think I’ve gone soft.”

“You know what I think, Spike? I think you didn’t have to come here tonight. You could’ve waited to tell me about Adam recruiting you. You could’ve gotten more info about him before you put my ring on. I think you’re here because you found out about Oz, and you want to help.”

“And I’ll take any chance I can get at getting in there and putting a doctor to good use.”

I look him in the eye. “What happens after that?”

He runs a hand through his hair, suddenly looking nervous. “Hell if I know.”

I pull my keychain out of my pocket and slide the ring straight off the carabiner and onto my finger. I hold up my hand. “Now I’m the one asking for a talk. You can’t put off figuring out the next step any longer, and we both know it. What’s the game plan, Spike? What happens when the chip comes out?”

“I thought you only called for a talk when you wanted to chat about Finn.”

“Riley and I are officially over. That’s what I was trying to tell you at the Bronze, before you bailed on me.” I look away, gathering my nerve. “I– I took your advice. He’s been downgraded to Scooby. I think he’s still holding out hope, but… he’s not ever going to be the guy who takes me dancing in the living room.” I return my gaze to his. “There. That’s out of the way. I’ve got nothing left to talk about right this minute but you.”

He’s giving me a funny look, like he wants to say something, but he’s strangely quiet. Spike’s not exactly known for quiet, so I’m a little worried. And that feeling I’ve been getting, of him holding back, not telling me what’s on his mind… It’s starting to burn.

Which is probably why I sound so irritated. “Come on, talk. What happens when the chip comes out?”

Another silence. Finally he says, “How ’bout a new truce, instead of rehashing an old one?”

“I’m listening.”

“You help me get to a surgeon, I make sure you don’t regret it.”

“And what does that mean?”

“It’s gotta go, Buffy.”

I blink. I can’t remember him ever sounding so serious, not even when he was trying to kill me. Who is this vamp and what has he done with my Spike? And when did I start thinking of him as ‘my’ Spike?

“That doesn’t mean I need to go back to hunting for my supper. …Or that these talks have to stop.”

I’m fighting the urge to let my jaw drop. “You– You’re really considering the third option?”

He nods, and the look on his face is sincere enough to erase any thoughts at the back of my mind that this might be a trick. “A bit past considering.”

“You really mean it,” I whisper, still blinking at him in surprise. “Why?”

And I’m suddenly pressed up against the wall, being kissed like the world is going to end in the next five minutes. By the time he lets me have some air, I’m pretty sure those five minutes have passed. I grab onto his shoulders, slightly dizzy.

“Spike?” I gasp. “I know it’s been a while, but you remember that I need to breathe on occasion, right?”

“I remember.”

“You were waiting on me to tell you I was single?”

“And a real chance at a surgeon.”

“But not for the hunt.”

“Figure I can talk you into a good brawl now and again. Get rid of this chip, could have all kinds of fun.”

I force myself to break eye contact, trying to pretend I don’t notice the obvious innuendo. “You’re not going to con me, are you? You know, get me to help you get the chip out, have the surgeon for an appetizer, and go on a spree through town?”

“You know me better than that.” He gives me a smirk. “Made a deal once before. I held up my end.”

“Except for the part about never coming back.”

“Didn’t actually make a promise on that point. Technically.”

“You really want to argue over a technicality?”

He shrugs. “You’ll get over it.”

“Ha! What makes you so sure?”

And he’s kissing me again. His whole body is pressed against mine, pinning me to the wall. It’s been almost six months since the Will Be Done spell, since that one day of kissing and cuddling, but our bodies remember each other, lips to hips.

He grinds against me, just a little, and I moan into his mouth in response. Sometime in the next few seconds I’m either going to suffocate or melt into a puddle at Spike’s feet. This is a sneaky, sneaky way to kill a slayer. I knew he was evil.

He breaks away just before I completely run out of air. “Do we have a deal?”

“I thought you played fair.” I stick out my lower lip, pretending to pout, but breaking into a smile when my expression makes him laugh.

“Gave that up when I realized you didn’t want me to.” He holds up his hand, displaying my ring. “If you wanted things to go back to how they were, love, you’d have never given me this.”

I shrug. “It’s just a class ring, Spike. Not a family heirloom.”

“You think I don’t know the hell you went through to earn this? I was there for some of it, remember?”

“Of course you know. You were some of the hell I went through, doofus.”

“Beside the point.”

We break into quiet chuckles, still standing close enough to feel the vibrations of each other’s laughs. It feels as easy and casual as any other talk we’ve had, like things aren’t changing between us right this minute. I can almost forget that they are.

“So how much more snogging is it gonna take, Slayer?”

“I’ll help you try to get to a surgeon. But top priority for me is Oz.”

“Doctor doesn’t have to be tonight.”

“You’ll stay close to Adam, and keep us informed?”

“If I play double agent, you’ll back me up? Won’t leave me looking like a traitor?”

I shake my head. “You won’t back out of the deal, and leave me looking like one after the fact?”

“Not if you make me one promise.”

“What’s that?”

“One of these days, you’ll dance with me in the living room.”

“Truthfully, Spike? I never know if you’re talking about dancing or dancing.

“Well, maybe not in the living room.”

I grab his shoulders again and turn us around. I push him up against the wall and kiss him until I start to want to breathe. I pull away just long enough to take a breath, and go back for more, my hands pressed against his chest, his wrapped tightly around my upper arms. When I break away for a second time, I take a step back. “See? A breathing break is totally ok.”

“I’m counting that as sealing the deal, Slayer.”

I nod. “No chip, no happy meals on legs.”

“And a dance,” he reminds me.

“And a dance.” I run my hands through my hair and straighten my slightly mussed clothes. “Tell me I don’t look like I’ve been making out with some horny vampire out here. I’m supposed to be beating information out of you.”

He shrugs. “Look pretty thoroughly snogged to me.”

“Great.” I roll my eyes. “Keep your distance in there, will you? Giles and Xan are armed.”

Spike follows me back to Giles’ apartment. “Rings.”

We slip them back into our pockets just before I open the door.

“Good news, guys,” I announce with a smile. “We have ourselves a spy.”


If the crossbow were any closer to the Colonel’s face, it would bump into his nose. “Take us to him.”

“Finn stays in the brig. Helping an HST escape is a court-martial offense. You’re only going to make matters worse.”

“Riley tried to help Oz escape?” I trade glances with Xander. He looks as surprised as I do.

“That’s who you came for. The wolf.”

Xander shrugs. “I guess we’re two for one.”

“Three, actually. We need some information.” I pull back my weapon far enough to give the Colonel room to get out of bed. “Get dressed. We’re going to take a peek at your files, and then we’re going to visit a couple of cells.”


“This place still smells like extra-crispy Mayor,” I say as I come back from my tour of the ruins of Sunnydale High. “Nothing living around, though. You should be good for the night. But I can stay, if you think you might need back up.”

“Thanks, but I can handle myself,” Riley says as he unrolls a blanket in his makeshift campsite.

“That’s what I thought, too, the first time I walked in here.” I look around at the charred, broken walls, at the scattering of debris, singed books and bent locker doors. I remember what it all used to look like, how big and brave I felt here, how simple I used to think things were. “I had no idea,” I whisper.

“Of what?”

“What I was getting into. My first week in town, Angel tried to warn me, in his typically cryptic way. He told me what this place was, particularly the part under the library. ‘You’re standing at the mouth of Hell, and it’s about to open.’ He was right, unfortunately. A few months later, I died, and that’s when the craziness started.” I laugh, spreading my arms out to indicate the whole messy, broken place, and everything else that was broken here. “Good old Sunnyhell High!”

Riley doesn’t laugh with me. “How is your death funny?”

I drop my arms. “Never mind.”

He sits down on his blankets. “You never told me much about Angel. I’ve heard the name a few times, but no one has ever said any more than that he’s your ex. So you met him when you first came to Sunnydale?”

I bite my lip, unsure how much to tell him. I guess it can’t really hurt now, since we’ve broken up. And if I want him to stay on as a Scooby, to keep helping us, I have to prove I still trust him, right? Maybe I should tell him, at least the basics. If I’m lucky, maybe it will kill that hopeful look he gets in his eyes whenever we’re alone together.

I sit down beside him. “It’s not a pretty story, Ry.”

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