The Ring Talks
Part 1: Taking Initiative
Chapter 7: Imperfect Teams
I walk into Giles’ apartment just in time to hear Xander say, “Sure. Just explain to the nice scientist guys that you really miss killing and torturing innocent people.”
Spike gets this hopeful look on his face that makes me want to laugh. “Do you think that would work?”
“Spike,” Giles says tiredly. “Lord knows why I’m telling you this… It’s for your own good. As long as the Initiative is in operation, it’s not safe for you here.”
They all turn to look at me when I correct him from the doorway. “No. It’s not safe for any of us.”
Spike gives me a once over, looking at all my little cuts and scrapes, and definitely noticing my left hand. “Yeah,” he says to Giles. “Maybe I oughta find someplace to hunker down for a bit.” He starts toward the door, pausing to give me a sniff and a sneer as he passes me. “You oughta go home. You look like hell… and you smell divine.”
“You’re a pig, Spike.” I wave him out. “Go away, already.”
He closes the door behind him, and I slip my hand into my pocket as I walk around the desk, pulling it back out sans skull ring. I join my friends in the living room area, flopping down onto the couch. “You guys would not believe the day I’ve had.”
I climb up to my bedroom window. It’s already open, and my bedside lamp is softly lighting the room. Spike is lounging on the bed, waiting for me.
“Was starting to think you didn’t understand the message.”
I kick off my shoes and sit down on the foot of the bed. “I did, I just had to catch the guys up on everything and get a game plan together before I ran off. Also, there were some groveling apologies. Willow tried to warn me against jumping in with both feet. Giles, too.”
“If you were at the watcher’s all this time, the old man’s slacking. Did he even offer to patch you up?”
I pull his ring back out of my pocket and put it on as he sits up to look me over. “I’m not worried about it. It’s minor stuff. I’ll heal.”
He raises an eyebrow and stands up.
“What? Do I stink?”
“Where’s the first aid box, Slayer?”
“There’s one in the hall bathroom, but–” He opens the bedroom door, and I immediately stop talking.
He comes back a few seconds later, carrying the first aid kit and quietly closing the door behind him. “You were saying?”
“I was saying that you’re going to wake up Mom! If I don’t want to explain late night poker in the dining room, I definitely don’t want to explain us both sneaking into my bedroom!”
He opens the kit and tears open a packet of alcohol wipes. “No, you don’t stink. That’s kind of the problem.”
I wince in realization. “Oh. Sorry.” I grab a wipe from the packet and start cleaning the cuts on my hands and arms while Spike focuses on the scratches on my cheek and forehead.
“Rough day at Commando Central, Slayer?”
“Walsh tried to kill me.”
“Told you so.”
“Shut up, Spike.”
“Only if you’ll fill the silence.”
We finish cleaning my wounds, and spend a few minutes bickering over whether to bandage any of them. After I finally win, and the bandages get put back into the kit unopened, we settle back against the headboard, and I tell him what happened.
“You think Riley knows about that li’l set up, pet?”
“Honestly, I don’t even know. …What if he did?”
He smirks. “You having a taste for homicidal men isn’t news, Slayer.”
I give him a shove, a half-hearted effort to push him off the bed. He easily recovers in time to catch himself, and shoves me right back. I nearly fall off the bed, and start laughing. But when I pull myself back up, Spike is giving me a funny look.
“I pushed you, and it didn’t hurt.”
I frown, my laughter suddenly gone. “Do it again.”
He pushes me off the bed completely. I land on my feet, and turn to face him. He isn’t in pain.
I come around to his side of the bed and grab his hand, pulling him to his feet. “Punch me.”
He punches me in the shoulder.
I have to clamp my hand over his mouth to muffle his reflexive scream. I put my other arm around his shoulders and bring him to sit on the edge of the bed. “Shh, shh. Sorry. I just had to check.”
Spike drops his hand away from his head as the pain subsides. I move my hand from his mouth to his chest, still holding him, watching the pained look start to leave his face.
“Are you ok now?”
He nods as he turns his head toward me. Only then do I notice how close we are, nearly nose to nose. I can’t make myself move. I’m looking into Spike’s eyes, holding him close to me on my own bed in my mother’s house. I should be jumping up and cussing. Instead, the only thought that’s going through my head is that we’re in smoochies range.
I finally force myself to break away from him. I fall back on the bed to face the nice, neutral, not attractive and kissable ceiling. “Ugh! What is wrong with me?”
Spike falls back on the bed, too, turning on his side to give me a smirk. “You want the whole list or the Cliff’s Notes?”
I throw him a glare. “I guess that means you’re recovering.”
“Tends to linger for a bit, but the worst is past, yeah.” He’s silent for a moment, thinking. “Slayer, this thing they put in my head… What’d you say it was called?”
“Walsh called it a Behavior Modification chip.”
“Love, I think this chip reads intent.”
I stew that thought over for a moment. Playful pushing on the bed, no intent to hurt. A punch to the shoulder, intent to hurt. “That seems to fit,” I murmur. “But that sounds like magic, not science.”
“Possible. More likely a mix. Not exactly a neurosurgeon myself, so I couldn’t tell you if they could do that without magic, but either way…”
“Walsh is dangerous, and probably into some bad stuff. Yeah, I got that memo when she did some serious underestimating of the slayer this afternoon.” I sit up. “Whether Riley was involved or not, they’re going to come after me. She has those guys wrapped around her little finger. They might come after all of us.”
“Welcome to my world.” He sits up beside me. “What are you gonna do about it?”
I bite my lip. “Until I know exactly what we’re up against, I have to keep everyone safe. We’re going to have to hide. I’ve already rallied the troops. We’re meeting back at Xander’s.” I pull his ring off my finger and offer it to him. “You should take this back.”
If I didn’t know better, I’d say he looked hurt. “Why?”
“Because if I’m going to be having sleepover parties with the gang, and/or storming the Initiative, the odds of me being caught with it or losing it are pretty high.” I take his hand and hold it open while I drop the ring into it. “I have a bad feeling about all of this, Spike. Walsh, Riley, 314. We could be in for a rough few days, at least.”
He closes his hand around the ring. “And after?”
I make sure he can see my skepticism. “Do you really want to keep talking to me, or am I just your inside scoop for Initiative info?”
Is it my imagination, or does the big, bad vampire look like he’s afraid to speak?
“Both,” he eventually answers. “You? You want to keep talking?”
“I’ll take the ring back when things settle down, ok?”
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February 16, 2022 04:31