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Previous Chapter: Chapter 13: Ex Factors

The Ring Talks

Part 1: Taking Initiative

Chapter 14: Prime Allies

Tara joins me in Giles’ kitchen, where I’m pouring myself another cup of coffee.

“Another round?” I ask.

“I think I should make us breakfast. Coffee can only take us so far.” She looks through the pass-through, to where Willow is hunched over her laptop at Giles’ desk. “I asked her to take a nap, but she says she’s close to cracking the encryption.”

I take a sip of my coffee. “After the video tapes, a part of me is afraid to know what’s on the discs.”

“You saw the tapes?”

“That’s why I took the TV upstairs last night.” I shudder at the memory of what I watched. “My faith in humanity might take a while to recover.”

“Mine, too.” She studies me for a second, then goes to the refrigerator to get a carton of eggs. “No one deserves that sort of abuse, not even a demon.”

“I’m just glad he’s tough enough to handle it. Most people would have been scarred for life after seeing that, but Spike’s not most people. He’s a survivor. He’ll be ok.”

Her voice drops to a whisper as she kneels down to get a skillet out of a lower cabinet. “You– You care about him, don’t you?”

I glance through the pass-through window again, assuring myself Xander and Anya are still asleep on the couch, Giles hasn’t come downstairs from his own nap, and Willow is still wrapped up in her work. I lower my volume to match Tara’s. “I don’t think you and I know each other well enough for this conversation.” I hold up my hand to stop her from replying. “And that’s my fault. I’ve been off on my planet a lot since you met Will.”

“That’s– That’s ok, Buffy. You’ve had a lot to deal with.”

“I’m not making excuses. I’m just going to start big, I guess.” I take a deep breath. “Yeah, I do.”

Tara stands up and studies me again. “So what are you going to do about it?”

“Undo the only part of what they did that I can. Will you help?”

“Wha– What did you have in mind?”

“The file says his name is Dr. Herbert Rodgers. Did you get a good look at his face when you watched the surgery tape?”

“Um, yeah. I– I think so. I spent a lot of time covering my eyes and ears during those videos, if you want the truth. They were… difficult to watch. But I think I’d know him if I saw him again. Why?”

“I’ve got it!” Willow shouts. “Well, I almost got it, but it got itself first.”

Xander and Anya stir awake on the couch and sit up as Tara and I come into the room.

“Which files did you decrypt?” I ask. “The ones I stole or the ones Spike got from Adam?”

“I didn’t decrypt any of them. I was trying a hexagonic key pattern on one of the discs from Adam, but it decrypted itself before I even finished typing. It’s annoying, like someone blurting out the answer to a riddle right before you– I mean, yippee! We have information!”

Tara leans over her shoulder to read what’s on the screen. “I’m not sure ‘yippee’ is the right response, either. Look at this part about the ‘final phase.’”

I lean over Willow’s other shoulder to read with them. “Well played, Adam,” I whisper when I’ve gotten the gist of the plan. I straighten up and glance over at Xander and Anya, who are watching us curiously over the back of the couch. “I think these discs were his way of inviting me to a massacre.”

Xander raises a hand. “I vote you be gauche and don’t RSVP.”

“Oh, I’m going, alright. I’m going to crash Adam’s party. Let’s get some food and wake up Giles. We need to get a plan together.” I bite my lip. “And I need to talk to you guys about something.”

*~*~*

We’re halfway down the elevator shaft when Willow stops, level with me, her sneakers squeaking against the wall. “Buffy, I’m not feeling too sure about this.”

“The four of us together? We can do anything.”

“It’s not the enjoining spell. I mean, yeah, scary and risky. But Anya and Tara’s assignment… Are you sure we should help get Spike’s chip out?”

“He’s not going to go on a killing spree, Will. We made a deal.”

“And you trust that? I mean, you explained how the Acathla thing happened -two years late, by the way- so I get that he kept up his end before, but this isn’t about a girlfriend, Buff. This is about his nature. Snacking on humans is kind of what vampires do. And killing slayers is kind of what Spike does.”

“He’s not going to kill me, or anyone else. Evil vampire or no, Spike keeps his word. And if he doesn’t, we’ll have that final showdown we’ve been threatening for so long.” I grin. “It would be a hell of a fight.”

There’s a moment of silence. “Ok, if you’re sure this won’t blow up in our faces.”

“It won’t, so long as no one cracks Angel jokes about the butcher’s blood. We may have to keep an eye on Xander, for that.” I frown at her. “I honestly expected more resistance.”

She chews on the inside of her cheek. “We all saw the tapes from his file, Buffy. Anya kept whispering to Xander, ‘Don’t let them take me.’ Spike beat up a wall. Giles got out the Scotch. And Tara… She clung to my shoulder, and kept covering her eyes. She was more horrified than any of us, but all she would say about it was ‘It just isn’t right.’ That kind of stuck with me.”

“She’s not wrong. Walsh and her people are standing in the way of his nature. The only person who should be able to make that choice is Spike himself.”

“It’s weird, though. You talk like you’ve gotten into his head, like you get him. It’s not as if you and Spike talk much, unless you count sniping at each other.”

I turn my attention back to the rope I’m hanging from and start to inch down the wall. “Not so weird. We’re less different than we’d like to think.”

She moves down the wall with me. “How do you mean?”

“Remember the Cruciamentum? I had my choice between being a slayer and living like a normal person taken away. And it sucked.”

She doesn’t reply until we land at the bottom. “So I guess the hard part -aside from keeping Xan’s foot out of his mouth- is going to be finding Spike to tell him what exit to send Dr. Rodgers to.”

“He’s already inside with Adam, and probably already on the lookout for Herbert the Butcher. If we don’t find Spike, I bet he’ll find us.”

*~*~*

“You could never hope to grasp the source of our power,” we say to Adam as we step closer. “But yours is right here.”

Adam’s body falls to the floor. We raise the uranium core in the air, crushing it until it disappears in a flash of light.

The door flies open, and Riley rushes in. “Buffy!”

We turn to face him. He looks scared at the sight of us.

The spell ends and I feel my knees give out on me. Riley catches me, holding me until I get my bearings. I can hear chaos in the rooms beyond us. I take off running as soon as I’m able, with Riley right behind me. We burst into the room where Giles, Willow, and Xander are still recovering from the spell.

“Way to go, guys. That was amazing.”

Xander climbs to his feet, pulling Willow up with him. “You were great.”

We were great.”

Riley offers his hand to Giles, helping him off the floor. “I still have men out there.”

A big, furry demon breaks down the opposite door, roaring as it enters.

Spike comes in behind it and is on its back in a second, breaking its neck. As the demon falls to the floor, he looks at me. “Everyone alright?”

I grin. “Everyone but Adam. Have you seen Rodgers?”

“Tied up and tucked away in a closet. Need to get him out before something else finds him, but we got ourselves a wild little war out there.”

“We can take care of that,” Willow says. “Where’s the closet?”

He frowns at her for a second, surprised at the implied offer of help. “Um, one level up. Office 202.”

I nod to Giles and Xander. “You two will take the cave and ventilation exits, get them wide open, and get out. Will, you’ll cut Rodgers loose and send him out through Lowell House. Once you make sure the stairs and elevator shaft are open, head up, too. I need you guys out of here.”

Spike’s giving me a funny look, probably wondering why I seem to be letting his hostage go. I give the bare fingers of my left hand a quick, subtle wiggle, and hope he understands I’m not backing out of our deal.

“Ry, organize the soldiers. Get them to grab any survivors they can and get out. The mission isn’t to win. The mission is to live. Spike, you and I are taking point. We’ll be clearing paths, to get the Scoobies to their destinations. Drop one off and make a hole to the next.”

“Sounds good.” I guess he got the message, because he’s giving me a grin and rolling his shoulders. “Ready for some fun, Slayer?”

I can’t help but smile back, and I don’t care who sees it. “Always.”

We charge out into the melee together, with our friends close behind. Spike keeps to my left, leaving our dominant hands outside, and we barrel through the chaos, moving around each other and covering each other like we’ve been fighting side by side for years. It’s a hell of a rush.

I feel powerful, confident, and completely in my element. I don’t know how much of it is leftover from the enjoining spell, how much of it is from having someone at my side I don’t have to worry about holding his own, or how much is from the adrenaline of a good fight. But right now, I don’t care about the reasons. I’m flying so high, I could take on the world.


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