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Previous Chapter: Chapter Six
Next Chapter: Chapter Eight

It was dark in the east wing. Dark and quiet, except for the sound of her own breathing and her footsteps, just a little uneven from the unfamiliar weight of the gun holstered at her hip. Ahead of her, Spike was a silent smudge of blackness in the dark, topped with the barely visible white of his hair, like some kind of radioactive ghost leading the way.

She vaguely wondered how he managed that, being so silent when half the time, he sounded like an entire herd of elephants. The thought didn’t last long, almost immediately replaced with worry. She could barely see, but going back for the flashlight in the duffel bag wasn’t really an option. Squeezing under the security door between the east wing and lobby would have taken time they didn’t have. Not if they were going to rescue the man they’d seen on the monitor.

She took a slow, deep breath and tried to focus on not tripping over anything in the near-total darkness. One foot in front of the other. Just one step at a time, making progress. One… She squinted, trying to get a better look at the floor. It looked weird, like the darkness was somehow darker.

“Some steps going down in a bit,” Spike murmured.

“Yeah, yeah, I see them. Slayer here, you know? I’m not exactly a normal human.”

That got her an amused snort. “Didn’t see them at all, did you?”

“The top one,” she muttered grumpily as she carefully slid her foot forward to find the edge of the step. “Kind of.”

There was something weirdly soothing about it all. A stolen moment of semi-normalcy while they were making their way through a building infested with contagious T-virus zombies and at least one G-mutant somewhere. In other words, not really all that far off from our usual “norma–”

A sudden splash as she came down from the last step startled a squeak out of her and broke her train of thought. “Damn it, Spike!” she hissed as he snickered.

“Sorry, love, thought you’d be able to see it,” he said with a tone that was too full of sincerity to be believed.

Buffy grumbled and shuffled forward a bit. “It” seemed to be a mini-flood that went nearly up to the top of her boots. Great. Just what they needed. There was no telling what was floating around in the water, waiting to trip her up. Then Spike’s hand brushed lightly against hers, his right closing around her left. It felt oddly… warm. Almost as warm as her own. Before she could say anything about it, he started forward, gently tugging her along through the shallow water.

“Smells like a bloody backed up toilet or something,” he muttered.

“Like, literally, or are you just being British?”

“A little bit of both, actually. Though the blood smell–” He froze, and she could almost make out the movement of his head as he tilted it. “I hear something. Think our copper is just up ahead.”

 

 

It was a treasure. The feel of Buffy’s hand in his. Proof that she trusted him, even with the little trick he’d played on her by not warning about the water. He grinned briefly at the thought. Her squeak of surprise had been bloody adorable.

Focus, he told himself, giving her hand a light squeeze. It felt a little cooler than her skin normally was. Maybe still shocky after jumping from the bike. Or from all the death and mayhem. Other than the G-mutant running about – which he was trying not to think on overmuch – and the risk of a T-virus zombie gnawing on Buffy, this was a grand game to him. A horde of the recently human that he had carte blanche to slaughter as he pleased? Fun times as far as he was concerned. A bloody horror show for the slayer.

Do her a world of good if they could save the cop they’d seen on the security footage. He could hear the man just up ahead, and there was starting to be a bit of an upward slope to the hallway, lowering the water level. Safe enough to up their speed a bit.

Half a moment more, and they were on dry ground, standing in front of a door with light spilling out around the edges, showing that at least some parts of this area had power. He considered drawing the sword sheathed across his back, but decided against it. No telling what was on the other side of that door, and he was a brawler at heart. Less chance of friendly fire and setting off the chip if he went with his most familiar weapon. Fists it was, then. The sword could wait.

He gave Buffy’s hand another squeeze before reluctantly letting go. Then he kicked the door open.

Simple office with a cluttered desk. A roll up security door in the opposite corner, shaking as someone beat at it while screaming for help.

“I’ve got the door!” he called out, rushing forward. Better to leave any necessarily manhandling of their boy to the slayer. The bloody chip tended not to understand that sort of thing.

He’d only raised it a couple of feet before the banging stopped and the cop was wiggling under. Smart lad. Spike could hear – and smell – the decaying horde right there behind him. They’d cut it close.

“I’ve got you!” Buffy called out, grabbing for the man’s wrists. “Just rela–”

The horde was there. The man screamed, and Spike smelt the sudden rush of fresh, untainted blood. Hunger slammed into him like a freight train gone off the rails. He shouldn’t have been…. Why…?

Only half a cop. That familiar look of despair and resignation on Buffy’s face as she realized their failure…. There and gone, buried under the wave of hunger as he dropped to his knees beside the growing pool of blood.

 

 

Then:

 

The woman was between her and any other way out, leaving the window as the only option. She went for it, hauling the injured man with her and trying not to think too much about how badly he could be hurt if she didn’t land right.

She’d thought Spike riling up the crazy bitch and getting his ass thrown out the window was a bad thing, but it looked like it was all to the good. She dove out, curling herself around the monk and aiming for the angrily cursing vampire instead of the glass he’d shattered on his own way through.

“Bloody bitch! Bloody buggeri–”

She saw a flash of his face as he noticed her, his eyes widening in surprise. Then there was a grunt as she and the monk slammed into him. They all hit the ground, Spike taking the brunt of the impact as he rolled them a few feet across the parking lot.

Then Buffy was up, on her feet and pulling the monk along with her as carefully as she could. She had to get him out of there. Get him somewhere safe. The hospital. If she could get him to a doctor….

“Stop. Please,” the man gasped out as they got to the chain link fence around the parking lot.

“No. We’ve got to keep going.” It should be easy enough to tear through the fence, especially if Spike helped. Where the hell was he? He hadn’t been hurt that bad by the woman in red, not if he’d been on his feet and swearing after being tossed out a window. “Spike, get over here. I need you to–”

The monk pulled away from her and collapsed against the fence. “My journey’s done, I think.”

“Don’t get all metaphory on me,” she snapped. She wasn’t going to let him just lay down and die. “We’re going.”

“You have to… the key. You must protect the key.”

She didn’t know anything about a key, though it was possible he was talking about the Dagon Sphere she’d found in the area. She didn’t care at the moment. He could tell her all about it at the hospital. “Fine. We can protect the key together, okay?” She reached out for him, trying to get him to his feet. “Just far, far from here.”

“Buffy.” Spike’s voice was soft as he said her name. His hand gentle as it closed around her shoulder, pulling her back. “Let him talk.”

“We have to get him to–”

A simple little shake of the head. His expression was… strange. No sorrow or grief over the thought of the monk dying. He just flat out did. Not. Care. But he cared about her feelings. She could see that. The man dying meant nothing to him.

She didn’t know what to think about that. How to feel. She wanted to hate him for being what he was, but she… couldn’t. He was a monster, trying his best to be a man. Not like….

“Dead man walking before we even got here, love.” The quiet words pulled her out of her own thoughts. “Don’t deny a man his last words.”

“Tell me everything,” she whispered, kneeling beside the monk. She didn’t want to admit it, but she knew Spike was right. The only thing she could do for the man was let him talk.

And he did. He told her about the key. He shattered her world, then started to put it back together in a new configuration. And then he died. One more in the far-too-long line of those she’d failed.

 

 

Now:

 

“I’ve got you!” Buffy called out, lunging forward and reaching down to wrap her hands around the cop’s wrists. He had a small book clutched in one hand, apparently important enough that he’d held onto it. She tugged lightly as he turned under the door, on his back instead of his belly. “Just rela–”

The cop screamed, and it was suddenly even easier to drag him across the floor. Blood. Bits of a human body that she shouldn’t have been seeing. Only half of the man she’d come to save.

“Marv…” he whispered, holding out the book. Then he went limp, the pain and everything else just suddenly gone from his eyes.

Oh, god, I killed him, she thought numbly. She’d torn him in half. She’d…. No. No, that didn’t make sense. Sometimes she forgot when it came to hugs and happy moments, but when the shit was hitting the fan, she was always aware of her own strength. There was no way she could have torn him in half like that with what she’d been using. The zombies….

She hadn’t killed him, but she hadn’t saved him either. She’d failed. She’d failed, and someone had died. It was the story of her life.

There was a soft, hungry little gasp and the sound of something hitting the ground. Spike had fallen to his knees beside the body, staring at the trail of blood.

“Spike?”

His eyes looked… wrong. Mostly black, the pupils overwhelming the blue of his irises even though it was bright in the room. He looked half-starved despite all the blood he’d guzzled down before they’d left the RV. Half-starved and….

He’d pushed back the sleeves of his coat, scratching incessantly at his arms. She could clearly see his injured wrist. Some of the tooth marks were… oozing, and there was a greenish black discoloration that changed to angry redness the farther it got from the wounds.

Hungry and itchy, and that bite. Oh, god. She remembered Dawn’s words. “Symptoms are being itchy and getting really confused and stuff. And, um, majorly hungry.”

Spike was infected.

 


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Table of Contents
Previous Chapter: Chapter Six
Next Chapter: Chapter Eight

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