At the end of the previous episode William was in deadly peril, facing a pair of rogue Slayers, and then Spike re-appeared…
Her first punch knocked him down. Her follow-up kick was carelessly aimed and he managed to roll away and avoid it. The swinging foot scraped his side instead of shattering his ribs. He swung his arm, caught her behind the knee, and brought her down to land on her bum. There was no point in his trying to take advantage of her position. If it came down to grappling on the ground Caprice would break every bone in his body. Instead he rolled away further and scrambled to his feet. He cast a quick glance towards Isabella; she was still holding Andrew with one hand, and was punching him with the other almost absent-mindedly, whilst keeping an eye on the situation between Spike and Caprice.
Caprice sprang up and advanced again. Angry but unhurt. Spike assessed the situation. She was stronger than him by an enormous margin. Faster. Too tough to be hurt by most punches or kicks. It would be like fighting Glory, or Caleb, rather than resembling his previous battles with Slayers when he had had vampire strength that almost matched theirs.
On the other hand he had a feeling that she really wasn’t particularly skilful. That first punch should have been a fight-stopper, even though he’d ridden the blow as well as he could, but the delivery had been sloppy. Unfocused. This Slayer didn’t spend hours each day training. She was strong, and fast, and that was enough for her. God help her if she ever went up against Buffy, or Faith, or – although he hated to admit it – Kennedy. The baby Slayers that he had helped train, Vi and Rona and Caridad, would eat her for breakfast too. Maybe he had just a sliver of a chance.
Even as the thought crossed his mind she hit him again. A punch followed by a spin-kick that might have broken his neck if the punch hadn’t already knocked him from his feet. The foot just brushed his hair. Spike performed a rolling break-fall and came straight up again. He wiped a smear of blood from his lip and shook his head to clear it.
Think. How did you beat two Slayers, Spike? By using the external factors better than they did. They were distracted, you weren’t, and you won. Spike glanced around the area, sizing up the surroundings.
A street light, a dog turd, a cracked paving slab, a discarded empty plastic water bottle, and close at hand was a small tree with a wire protector around the trunk. Two hundred yards along the road he could see a man walking a dog. An England shirt covered the man’s barrel of a chest and his hair was cropped short. At this distance it was impossible to make out tattoos but Spike would have put money on them being there. The dog strained aggressively on its leash. There was potential salvation there, in the form of a witness, but also peril. Any normal bloke would assume that Spike was the villain and the two pretty girls were the ones needing to be rescued. The last thing Spike needed was to be thumped by a well-intentioned bystander, and probably bitten by the dog, when he was outmatched anyway.
Caprice came in again. Spike dodged aside and put the tree in between himself and the Slayer. She kicked out at him past the tree trunk. Spike brought his hands down to catch her foot and simultaneously jumped away. He succeeded in grabbing hold of her ankle and threw himself backwards. Caught with only one foot on the ground Caprice was unable to prevent herself being pulled forward to crash into the tree. She interposed a hand between her face and the tree trunk, and avoided injury, but she was momentarily unsighted and was too slow to react as Spike changed the direction of his pull. He twisted sideways and brought her leg across to collide with the tree. He was rewarded with a gasp of pain from the Slayer before she braced herself against the trunk and pulled her leg from his grasp.
Spike shot a quick glance at Isabella. She had stopped punching Andrew and was merely holding him now. Her attention was concentrated on the fight. There didn’t seem to be any immediate prospect of her joining in, which was a relief, but it meant that in the unlikely event of him actually managing to disable Caprice he’d have to do it all over again against the second Slayer.
Spike turned and ran in the direction of the street light. Caprice took a few seconds to react, being occupied in rubbing the knee that had collided with the tree trunk, but then she gave a hiss of fury and pursued. No doubt she expected Spike to try a similar manoeuvre with the lamp-post but he turned to face her a few feet short of the obstacle. Caprice charged in with her hands outstretched to grab for Spike’s neck.
She moved fast, very fast, but she was reckless. Spike dropped backwards as she came in, caught her hands, and brought his feet up under her mid-section in a sacrifice throw. Caprice was propelled up and over Spike. She began to rotate in mid-air, intending to land on her feet, but she had forgotten the proximity of the street light. Her back crashed into the solid metal post and she dropped head-first to the ground.
Against a normal human that would have been the end of the fight, except perhaps for some optional applications of a boot to the helpless opponent’s ribs, but a Slayer was not a normal human being. Caprice lay on the ground for only a moment before she began to scramble to her feet. It was just long enough for Spike to spring up and reach her while she was still partially dazed.
For just a moment Caprice was wide open and vulnerable. Spike grabbed her head and pulled it down whilst simultaneously bringing up his knee with all the power that he could summon up. He connected right on the point of Caprice’s jaw. She rocked under the impact. Spike released her head and brought the side of his hand down on the back of her neck. She slumped to the ground and lay still.
He had done it. No vampire strength, just the experience of a hundred and twenty-four years of street-fighting, and he had still defeated a Slayer. A grin came to his face but vanished almost at once as Isabella dropped Andrew and brought her hands up to a fighting position.
He heard a distant yell of “Oi! What’s goin’ on?” from the man with the dog, who had obviously spotted the fracas, but there was no point in worrying about that now. The bloke didn’t have the rangy build of someone who could cover the two hundred yards in twenty seconds, in fact very much the opposite, and the fight would be resolved one way or the other long before he could join in. He might release the dog, which although it was also stocky of build could certainly reach the scene much faster than its owner, but it was just as likely to bite Isabella. Or it might run into the road and chase cars. Spike put the bystander and the dog out of his mind and focused his attention on the advancing Slayer.
Isabella seemed to have taken heed of her colleague’s fate and was giving Spike no chance to turn her own momentum against her. She advanced cautiously, only marginally quicker than Spike could retreat backwards, and flicked out a probing foot towards his stomach. He diverted the kick with his forearm but Isabella retracted her leg immediately before he could attempt any kind of grab.
She was wary of him. That was flattering, in a way, but it meant that she was unlikely to make any rash moves. Maybe there was a way to make use of her caution? Spike was still considering his options when Isabella struck again.
A disabling move, this time, a downward chop with her left hand aimed at his collar-bone. No doubt she would follow up with a punch or kick. Spike risked a right-handed block, hoping that she had sacrificed power for stability and that it wouldn’t simply break his intercepting arm, and stopped her strike short. Immediately he brought his left arm across under her armpit and caught hold of his right wrist.
Now he had her in a classic ju-jitsu hold, a favourite move of dockside brawlers in Rio De Janeiro as much as of martial arts practitioners, with both his arms against one of hers and with the leverage very much on his side. Maybe enough to compensate for the Slayer’s strength advantage. He heaved and twisted, forcing her to lean backward, and pushing forwards as quickly as possible to give her no chance to use her free right hand or a foot. If she had been a normal human opponent, or if he had had his own former vampire strength, breaking the trapped arm or dislocating a joint would be easy. This time, no matter how hard Spike wrenched on the arm, all he managed to achieve was to cause Isabella to hiss out a stream of curses that were totally indecipherable with Spike’s basic tourist Italian. A moment passed in virtual stalemate and then Isabella began, gradually but inexorably, to force her way out of the hold.
Isabella’s top lip curled up in a triumphant sneer. She tensed to deliver a blow, probably a kick, and there was little that Spike could do to stop her other than to keep heaving on the trapped arm. He had a tiger by the tail and couldn’t let go without leaving himself wide open. Then Isabella suddenly stumbled, lost her balance, and Spike was able to twist the arm back into a disabling position. Isabella’s mouth gaped open in surprise and pain and she looked down at her feet.
Andrew had seized her by the ankles.
Isabella struggled to free herself. She forced a foot free of Andrew’s grasp and kicked out at him. He cried out in pain but did not release his grip. For a moment Isabella was totally off balance and Spike took full advantage. He wrenched hard, threw his weight against Isabella’s arm joint, and even with her Slayer strength she could not resist without dislocating her elbow or shoulder. She fell backwards and Spike followed up quickly. He knelt on her head and kept up the pressure on her arm. Now Isabella was completely helpless and Spike permitted himself another brief grin.
“Oi, leave off!” The burly dog-walker’s voice rang out again, closer now, accompanied by a gruff bark from the dog.
Bugger. Again Spike’s grin vanished as quickly as it had appeared. He glanced around and saw that Caprice was conscious once more and beginning to rise to her feet. His attention wavered for a brief moment and Isabella chose that instant to renew her struggles. The Slayer heaved with all her might and broke Spike’s grip. She wriggled out from under his knee, pushed him back, and sprang up.
Spike groaned, rose, and prepared himself for another round of combat. It didn’t happen. Isabella backed away quickly, supporting her left hand with her right, and her face was contorted in pain. Caprice was staring in horror at one of her own hands. In scrambling to her feet she had made contact with the dog turd. She burst into tears, wiped the hand against the trunk of the tree, and then turned and fled for the car.
Isabella spat out one last imprecation at Spike and then followed Caprice’s example. She leaped into the driver’s seat and started the engine. It roared to life and the car shot out into the traffic, almost colliding with a white Ford van and causing an angry blast from a horn to blare out, and then accelerated away. Spike caught a glimpse of Caprice extending a hand out of the car, her middle finger raised in an obscene gesture, and then the vehicle was lost to his sight in the traffic.
Heavy footsteps sounded on the pavement as the England supporter thundered towards him. Spike acted quickly to pre-empt any possible attack.
“Thanks, mate,” he gasped out in the warmest tones that he could summon up. “You chased them off.” He bent down and helped Andrew to rise.
“Eh? What?” The new arrival came to a halt and his eyebrows descended low. One of them was bisected by a scar, more ragged than Spike’s equivalent scar, and another scar showed on one cheek. Spike noticed that his deduction about tattoos had been correct. The dog tugged on its lead but not towards Spike or Andrew; its intended objective was the tree.
“You okay?” Spike asked Andrew. “She gave your ribs a bit of a going-over. Any pain when you breathe?”
“What, those birds went for you?” the dog-walker asked. Incredulity was evident in his tone but there seemed to be no immediate danger of him attacking.
“Bloody kung-fu experts or something,” Spike said. “All I did was whistle at them as they went past and they stopped their car, jumped out, and started duffing us up. Sodding Eyeties or whatever.”
The bystander stared at Spike and Andrew. Bruises were evident on the two men’s faces and both had bloody noses. His forehead creased up as he thought. “Thought you were mugging them,” he explained. His head turned towards the road and the creases grew deeper. “Only, yeah, they had a car and you don’t. Sorry, mate, had the wrong end of the stick there.”
“Don’t blame you,” Spike said. “No harm done. Well, ‘cept to Andrew. You’re a mess, mate. Think maybe we’d better get you to hospital.”
“There isn’t any hospital in Bracknell,” the dog-walker pointed out. “There’s a casualty unit at The Point, is all.”
Spike’s eyebrows climbed. “That’s the bowling and cinema complex, right? What, is bowling a combat sport in Bracknell?”
“Been a few fights,” the local admitted. “Even a stabbing or two.”
“I’m okay,” Andrew gasped out. “She just knocked the breath out of me. I can make it back to Giles’ place.”
“Well, okay,” said Spike, “but we’d better get you checked out by a doctor.”
“Want me to call the cops?” the bystander offered.
“Don’t know if there’s any point,” Spike replied. “I forgot all about getting their number. They’re well away by now.”
“Yeah,” the man agreed. “Well, if you’re okay, I’ll be off.”
“Thanks again,” Spike said. “Buy you a drink if I bump into you in a pub, mate.”
Andrew produced a handkerchief and began to wipe his face as Bracknell’s answer to the Good Samaritan departed along the path. “She broke my phone,” he complained. He stared down at the ground. “There’s nothing left of it at all.”
“Slayer strength,” Spike remarked. “Not something Nokia takes into consideration.”
Andrew raised his head and stared Spike in the face. “You’re back,” he said. “Spike. You’re back, only still not a vampire. But how? We tried everything. And what happened to William?”
Spike heaved a sigh. “Oh, William’s still in there,” he admitted. “Dunno if this is the place for an explanation, though. Let’s get back to Giles’ place, get you patched up, and then I’ll tell you both the story. Or at least as much of it as I know myself.”