Life In Shadow
Chapter Three: Grave Dancers Union.
Tara examined the back of Spike’s head, parting his hair with gentle fingers to explore the small shaved patch. “It looks as if they bored out a hole the size of a quarter, took out the plug of bone, inserted something and then replaced the bone. It’s pretty much healed now.”
Spike shuddered. “And I’m fucked. A few days ago I was king of the sodding world, master of all I surveyed, and now I don’t know where my next meal is coming from.”
“When did you last eat?” Tara asked.
“Dunno, but I’ve been out of there a bit more than forty-eight hours and I was hungry when I escaped. Don’t remember eating anything while they had me in that place but I was doped to the eyeballs so I can’t be sure. Last time I fed that I know of was ‘bout a week ago.”
“You must be starving.” Tara sucked in her bottom lip and looked at the dorm room’s little cooking area. “I don’t think I’ve got anything with blood in it. Except me. How much do you need?”
Spike’s eyebrows soared. “You’re not suggesting what I think you’re suggesting? Bloody hell. I haven’t got you in thrall without knowing, have I?”
“You can’t have m-much,” Tara told him. “I’ll make a little cut in my arm.”
“Hang on, pet,” Spike protested. “No need for that. There’s a butcher on Blaine Street stays open late, sells blood, only snag is those mad scientist gits took all my dosh and I can’t nick the stuff while I can’t fight. Just buy some for me, that’ll do. Hate the bloody stuff – no pun intended, pet – but it’ll keep me going. Oh, and they took all my fags, too, if you could get me some you’d be a treasure.”
“You don’t come w-with subtitles, do you?” Tara grinned at him. “I think I followed most of that, yeah, but I don’t understand. I thought Slayer blood was supposed to be w-w-what vampires like best.”
“You don’t do things by half measures, do you pet? When you said you’d help me you really meant it. Nothing I’d like better than a drink of you, love, but not in dribs and drabs. Hungry as I am, a little bit of you would just make it sodding worse. In fact just bloody thinking about it is making it worse. Either pop out and get me some or lend us a few dollars and I’ll get it myself. Could get human blood at Willy’s – nah, if any of the bunch who used to run with Mr Trick spotted me I’d be in deep shit with not being able to fight, and I can’t find any of my own minions. And before you offer, not having you going in there on your own, pet, unless Summers has taken you along and shown you round.”
“I can look after myself,” Tara pouted. “But I’d rather not fight if I don’t have to. Okay, we’ll get you some blood from the butcher.” She stared Spike straight in the eye and a harder note entered her voice. “But first the deal.”
“I’ll help you, yes, but I’ve got some conditions. You spared my life, and I admit I – I like you, b-but I’ve got responsibilities. If you don’t agree to the d-deal I’ll get you some blood and pay for a bus ticket to LA and that’s all, and I’ll k-kill you if you don’t go. I w-won’t like doing it but I’ll stake you.”
“Angel’s in LA, and I pissed him off good and proper when I was last there. What chance would I have with no money, no papers, no way to defend myself?”
“Your problem. Or you could agree to the deal.” She met his gaze without flinching.
“Bloody hell, pet, when I said you had guts and principles I was spot on, wasn’t I?” He smiled at her, his eyes twinkling. “Okay, Tara, I agree.”
“You haven’t even heard what the deal is,” she pointed out.
“I trust you. Know you wouldn’t ask too much, love. What do you want me to do?”
* * * * * *
Giles stopped dead in the middle of the sidewalk, took off his glasses, and began to polish the lenses furiously. “You have Spike staying in your dorm room. William the Bloody. Are you mad, girl?”
“He can’t hurt me. He w-w-wouldn’t even if he could.”
“That’s not the point. He is a vicious killer. You’ve put every single one of us at risk. You lied to us.”
“I didn’t lie!” Tara glared at him. “I don’t tell lies. I just didn’t mention about meeting him the first time, because I promised.”
“And was keeping your promise to an inhuman soulless monster so important that you would jeopardise all our lives?”
Tara looked down at her shoes. “Yes,” she told him. “Don’t matter who they’re to, you either keep your promises or you don’t. He spared my life, and I owed him.”
Giles sighed heavily, replaced his glasses, and started walking again. “So these mysterious soldier types we’ve seen around captured Spike, took him to a secret underground facility, where scientists experimented on him and fitted him with some device that paralyses him with intense pain if he attacks anyone, and then he escaped.”
“That’s what he says, and I b-believe him.”
“He managed to escape entirely without conflict? That doesn’t seem in character for Spike.”
“He told me it didn’t really hurt when he hit people to get away, just gave him a funny tingling feeling. It wasn’t until later that it really hurt him, w-when he tried to, umm, feed.”
Giles raised his eyes to the heavens. “His very nature is to be a ruthless predator upon humans. Why should we spare him?”
“I promised if he told us everything he knew about those soldier guys and stuff that I’d help him. We’ve got a deal.”
“He is trapped in your dorm for the day, you realise. I could send Buffy over there with instructions to destroy him, and she’d do it without a second thought.”
“I’d fight her,” Tara warned him. “I’d stop her and then I’d take him and we’d leave Sunnydale.”
“You can’t beat Buffy, you know,” Giles cautioned her. “You have come on a lot, certainly, but you wouldn’t stand a chance. She’d go straight through you and stake him.”
“Then the last thing he’d see w-would be me protecting him,” Tara declared. “Please, Mr Giles, don’t do it. I made a promise.”
“You’re not feeling some sort of, umm, romantic interest in this vampire, are you?” Giles asked shrewdly.
Tara flushed. She was tempted to deny it, but her own words ‘I don’t tell lies’ echoed in her head. “A little,” she admitted. “I know it’s stupid, and it’s not w-why I’m helping him. I’m helping him because it’s right.”
“Dear Lord. Twice. Why does this keep happening to me?” Giles stopped again, removed his glasses, and pinched the bridge of his nose. “All right, my dear, I won’t take any precipitate action. Was he in your room all last night?”
“We went out to the b-butcher together, and then we went back to the room and, yes, he stayed all night. He was a p-perfect gentleman.” Tara blushed again. “He helped me with my assignment and we watched movies until late, and then he slept in Ginny’s bed, ‘cause she’s home in Fresno.”
“Till late, you say? So you could vouch for his actions at around nine p.m. last night?”
“Sure. He was helping me write my critique of ‘The Road Not Taken’.” Tara frowned at him. “Why is that important?”
“He was helping you with an analysis of poetry?” Giles digressed, intrigued. “William the Bloody, the punk vampire?”
“Yes.” Tara saw his disbelieving look. “He helped me a lot. And w-when I first met him he was quoting Robert Burns to me. He knows a lot of poetry.”
“I can imagine him knowing John Cooper Clarke, I suppose, but apart from that … Fascinating. This sheds an entirely new light upon him.” Giles shook himself. “But I digress. Very well, he seems to have an alibi for the murder of Professor Gerhardt. I’ll allow you to keep to your deal. I’ll instruct Buffy to do the same. I do want to see him myself, and it might, in fact, be a good idea for him to vacate your room and perhaps re-locate to my apartment in the near future.” He saw Tara’s questioning look and went on to explain his reasoning. “He was captured on College grounds, I believe you said? And the shaft through which he escaped emerged on College grounds?”
Tara’s eyes widened. “You’re right! We have to get him out of there.”
“Soon.” Giles rummaged in his pocket for his keys and led Tara towards his apartment. “Not just yet, unfortunately, as I have another guest at the moment, and I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t mention him to Buffy.” He opened his door and gestured her inside. “It’s a remarkable coincidence, but you’re not the only one hiding a vampire in your rooms. Angel, this is Tara. Tara, meet Angel.”
* * * * * *
Buffy stared incredulously at Giles and Tara. “You’re joking. Tell me you’re joking. I’ve got Spike to deal with on top of an Indian spirit hanging people and cutting off ears?”
“Native American,” Willow corrected her.
“Okay, okay, a Native American spirit who stabs people, and turns into birds, and stuff. Plus Spike. Can’t I just stake him and simplify things?”
“No!” Tara protested. “He can’t fight back. It wouldn’t be right.”
“He has provided Tara with useful information,” Giles backed her. “She has promised him protection in exchange, and it would be unethical to force her to go back on that promise.”
“I wonder how that thing works,” Willow mused. “Some sort of neural feedback, I guess. How big did you say the mark on his head was?”
“Well, I vote for staking Spike,” Xander put in, “but not gonna press the point at the moment, ‘cause other things are a bit more urgent. Can we get on with curing my syphilis?”
“I want to get Spike here as soon as possible, as I have reason to believe he is at risk of recapture while at Tara’s,” Giles said. “Would it be all right with you if I have Tara bring him here as soon as darkness falls?”
“So an extra guest at Thanksgiving dinner, an undead one? Jeez.” Buffy rolled her eyes. “Like I don’t have enough to deal with. Well, I guess he won’t be wanting any turkey, so okay. But if he puts just one fang out of line I’ll stake him like a shot.”
“That’s fair. Thanks, B-Buffy.”
“That’s okay. So, how long did you say I should let the potatoes boil?”
* * * * * *
“Do you have to?” Tara complained, as Spike lit up a cigarette. “You smoked in my room and made it all smelly.”
“Only had four. Cut down as much as I bleeding well could.” Spike held up the lighter and sneered. “Pathetic piece of disposable shit. Bastards nicked my Zippo.”
“I heard you the first three times,” Tara told him. “If you don’t like it don’t use it. You could, you know, rub two sticks together or something.”
“Sorry,” Spike mumbled. “Don’t mean to be ungrateful.” He pocketed the lighter and cigarette packet and followed Tara across the campus grounds. “Thanksgiving dinner with the Watcher. Who’d have sodding thought it? Quite sure they’re not just going to stake me as soon as I walk in, pet?”
“Giles promised. Do you eat turkey? I noticed you ate all my peanut butter. But no bread. You eat it with a spoon?”
“Yeah, and I eat turkey, as long as it’s got lots of gravy. Not cranberry sauce, and I’m not into potatoes. Not boiled, anyway, prefer chips.” He drew on his cigarette and then cocked his head on one side. He stopped in his tracks. “What’s that?” Tara halted and looked around.
Three men emerged from behind bushes and aimed weapons towards her. “Step away from the Hostile, ma’am,” one said. The other two fanned out to the sides and advanced. All wore dark military style clothing and masks concealing their faces. The speaker held some sort of device from which a dim green glow emanated, lighting up the front of his fatigues.
Tara placed herself between Spike and the intruders. “Leave him alone,” she ordered.
“Get out of here, pet,” Spike murmured behind her. “Run for it. If I get clear I’ll meet you at the Watcher’s.” He flicked away the cigarette, its glowing end making a red streak through the darkness.
Tara ignored his advice. She stood in front of him, her hands raised protectively. The men drew close. Spike looked for a way out, but one had circled round to cut off his escape route.
“Move aside, lady,” the first speaker told her. “That man is a wanted fugitive.”
“Take her too,” another ordered. “Could have been turned.” He slipped the glowing device into a pocket and pulled out a strip of plastic ties.
Spike clenched his fists and growled in impotent fury.
One of the men caught hold of Tara’s shoulder. Immediately she reached up and put her hand over his, pressing it tightly to the shoulder, ducked, and turned under his arm. He yelped as the full force of her body was thrown against his arm, twisting it inexorably, and his wrist fractured. She released him and moved on to the next soldier, rising up as she turned and lashing out a leg in a high kick to the head that sent him flying backwards. One more to go. He was aiming a tazer; she threw herself forward in a rolling dive, passing under the dart as he fired, and came up in front of his legs. She punched him in the groin and doubled him up in agony.
The one with the broken wrist raised a tazer with his other hand and pointed it at her. She saw it as she turned but was in no position to dodge. She started to throw herself aside, fearing that she would be too late, but as he fired Spike threw himself into the path of the dart and took the projectile in his stomach. He went rigid with shock, his lips drawing back in a pain-filled snarl. Tara sprang to her feet and charged as the soldier reloaded. She was on him before he could react and she punched him in the stomach, caught his head as he bent double, and pulled him down into a knee strike to the face. He went limp and fell to the ground as she released him.
She looked around to check the situation. The one she’d kicked seemed to be unconscious, but the one who’d taken a punch to the groin was on his knees and groping for a weapon. She ran to him, drove the heel of her palm into the side of his jaw, and knocked him out. She then turned her attention to Spike. Knocking out the tazer’s wielder seemed to have shut off the current, and he was freeing himself from the little dart, his face contorted with pain.
“You all right?” she asked him.
“I’ll live. Well, unlive. Sorry I had to leave you to do that yourself, pet.” He grimaced. “Was going to go for one, and the sodding pain in my head started up.”
“You took that electric shock thing to save me. Thank you, Spike.”
“Partners, ain’t we? Had to bloody do something. Let’s get out of here before they come round.” They departed hastily. Once off campus and onto the streets they slowed down. “You’ve come on a lot since we first met, pet. That wasn’t half bad at all. Been learning stuff you didn’t get from me, too. I never showed you that upwards punch to the goolies.”
Tara blushed slightly. “I got that one from a movie. M-Mortal Kombat.”
* * * * * *
“You were beaten by a girl? Was she human?” Professor Walsh stared coldly at the three battered and bruised Initiative agents.
“She registered as body temperature 98.5,” one said. A medic was examining him, and he shook his head crossly as the patient moved. “Definitely human.”
“I’ve seen that girl around,” another agent commented, shifting awkwardly as he tried to find a position in which his groin was least painful. “Practicing martial arts on campus in the evenings, running through katas.”
“Oh? Is she a member of any of the College martial arts clubs?” Walsh asked.
The agent shook his head. “Don’t think so. From what I’ve seen I’d reckon she’s beyond them. Black belt, definitely. One of the combination styles, Kempo maybe, or a mix of Wing Chun and Pakua. Hits like a frigging mule kick, ah, excuse my French, ma’am.”
“Forgiven, seeing as how you’re obviously in pain. The Hostile played no part?”
“Other than getting in the way of a tazer shot, no. The implant seems to be working. Doubt if the girl’s in any danger from him. Especially that girl.”
“But they escaped. Hmm.” She looked to the medic and raised an eyebrow questioningly.
“Colles fracture, almost certainly,” he reported. “I want to get an ice pack on it, then get an X-ray done, and look at putting it in a cast. Could easy be six months before he’s fit for duty. I’ll examine Mason next, but I think he’d probably rather we did that in private.”
Walsh’s lips tightened. “Very well. I’ll leave you to it.” She turned back to the defeated team of agents. “I want an eye kept on that girl in future. Make it so.”
* * * * * *
There was a battle raging outside Giles’ apartment when Tara and Spike arrived. Native American warriors, in breechclouts and with painted faces, were fighting Willow, Xander, Anya, and Angel. Tara plunged straight into the combat. Spike hung back, his expression miserable.
Willow was hitting a fallen warrior with a shovel, bashing him again and again. Tara wondered why she wasn’t leaving him and moving on to another opponent, but didn’t waste time asking questions. She leaped for a warrior who was firing a bow into the apartment, hit him three times, and let him fall. She seized another opponent and threw him against a tree. Behind her the warrior she had already felled rose to his feet and drew a dagger. Spike saw her peril and jumped to her assistance, gritting his teeth in anticipation of the pain he would feel, and rabbit-punched the Indian.
There was no pain. “Yeah! I can hit the buggers!” he exclaimed happily. The warrior fell to the ground but immediately began to rise once more. “What the hell?” Spike cursed, kicking his opponent in the ribs.
“They – don’t – die!” Willow panted, continuing to beat her fallen foe with the shovel.
Angel broke an Indian’s neck and turned to Spike. He punched the unsuspecting vampire in the face.
“What the sodding hell are you playing at?” Spike demanded, punching Angel in return. “Didn’t Tara tell you I’m one of the good guys now?” The native warrior at his feet began to rise once more, and Spike went back to kicking him. Angel was about to punch him again but was struck on the head by a Chumash war club and had to turn to defend himself. His eyes widened as he realised that the club was wielded by the warrior whose neck he had snapped seconds earlier.
Xander was throwing things into the apartment and yelling abuse that seemed, incomprehensibly, to be directed at a bear. Suddenly all the Native American warriors vanished and the Scoobies found themselves aiming blows at empty air. Angel turned his attention back to Spike, who raised his fists to defend himself.
“Spike can fight!” Xander exclaimed, looking accusingly at Tara, and pounced, wrapping his arms around the blond vampire.
“Get off me, you great pillock!” Spike snapped, and shoved Xander away hard. As he did so the device in his brain activated and he cried out in pain, clutching his head and doubling up.
“He can fight supernatural opponents,” Willow deduced. “Leave him alone for now, you two.”
Xander had fallen over when Spike pushed him. He picked himself up and brushed himself down. “Okay. But if he makes one false move …”
“He won’t. He put himself in front of a tazer to save me.” Tara placed herself in front of Spike and glared at Angel.
“He’s not as bad as some,” Angel conceded. “But if you hurt Buffy in any way, Spike, I’ll pay you back for those hot pokers ten times over.”
“Sorry about that,” Spike mumbled. “Wasn’t anything personal. Just wanted my ring back. Shouldn’t have hired that bleeding psycho.”
“No,” Angel began, and then heard Buffy approaching and sped off into the shadows.
* * * * * *
“So Spike can fight supernatural creatures but not humans,” Giles mused. “Remarkable. Would you be willing to cooperate with us in an active role, Spike?” The Watcher studied the vampire, his instinctive hostility for the moment held at bay by his curiosity.
Spike frowned and chewed on his bottom lip for a moment. “Not totally thrilled about being a traitor to my own kind, Watcher, but it’s a relief being able to fight something. I made a deal with Tara that I’d help every way I could, so well, yeah, I’ll kick demon arse for you lot. Long as you keep me in blood and smokes, and come up with the dosh so that I can get my car back.”
“That disreputable black monstrosity? It was impounded while you were a captive?”
“Damn right. It’s got all my spare clothes in it, my records, bloody everything.”
“I’ll consider it. Depending upon your behaviour.”
“Fair enough, mate. Smashing turkey this, Slayer.”
“I still think we should have tied you up and fed you gravy through a straw,” Buffy sniffed, “but, thanks, I suppose. Who wants pie?”
Willow was fascinated by the concept of the implant, and questioned Spike throughout the meal. She considered the way that the device had not incapacitated him during his escape, and came up with the theory that it had been mapping his neural network at the time and that it had not become fully operational until the mapping was complete.
“I’m not that fussed about how the blasted thing works,” Spike moaned. “I just want rid of it.”
“Well, I’m all in favour of you having it in,” Xander observed. “Without it you’re a brutal killer, and with it, well, I suppose you’re just barely tolerable. Go soldier boys and mad scientists, I say. Leave them to it, let them fit these things to all the demons.”
“What about former demons?” Anya said worriedly. “How do you know how they’d regard them? I don’t want anything put in my brain, thank you very much.”
Tara hadn’t been told about Anya’s background and stared at her in amazement.
“Easy for you to say,” Spike grumbled to Xander. “You’re not the lab rat in this bleeding experiment. I haven’t noticed any of us being released back into the wild. Think they’re doing it out of the goodness of their hearts? I don’t think so. Met a bunch of German wankers back in forty-three, they were all for controlling demons, and it wasn’t altruism, they wanted us to eat the bleeding Allies. Wouldn’t mind betting this outfit have something of the same sort in mind. Ask Angel about it, he was there. Saved me, in fact, much as I hate to admit it.”
“Did he?” Xander asked, interested. “If he’s still around I will.”
“Still around?” Buffy asked. “What do you mean, still around? He was here and he didn’t call on me?”
“Oops!” Xander exclaimed. Angel had asked the Scoobies to keep his visit secret, and Xander had let the cat out of the bag.
Spike listened to the ensuing argument with mild amusement but little real interest. He restrained his natural impulse to join in and pour oil on the flames. ‘Play nice, Spike,’ he reminded himself. Inside he was nervous. Scared shitless, in fact, if he was honest with himself. His continued existence hung on keeping on the good side of his mortal enemies. He had to butter them up, hide his fear, pretend that he gave a toss for them as anything other than self-service drink dispensers. Well, he liked Tara, had to admit, honest and brave and with a bit of fire under that shy exterior. The red-haired witch was okay too, he supposed, had impressed him a lot when he’d kidnapped her, bit of fire in her too. Got to respect the Watcher, tough old bugger and pretty fair minded. Summers was annoying as all hell, but she’d played fair with him before, and her mum was a real lady. The lad was a waste of space, he’d eat the bugger like a shot, and he didn’t know anything about that bird of his; except she’d spoken up for demons, even implied she’d been one herself, that was interesting. He supposed that acting nice, being polite, wasn’t going to be any real hardship.
It didn’t seem to have occurred to them that if he could kick shit out of demons he could go out and gather himself a new set of minions, have himself meals delivered already bleeding and ready to eat, and if they did catch on he was in deep shit. Question was, should he do it? He’d run out of existing minions, it seemed; siccing them on Tara one at a time had used up most of them, and the others had probably bumped into Summers or the soldier gits and were dust or locked up in glass-fronted cells wired up the way he was. He’d have to start from scratch. Have to be careful, if the Scoobies found out they’d kill him, and Tara wouldn’t stick up for him any more, wouldn’t stop them.
He frowned. An image of Tara’s face, wide-eyed and reproachful, filled his mind. If he broke his promise to her then she wouldn’t just hate him, she’d despise him. He wouldn’t be a swaggering romantic hero any more, just a liar and a cheat. Bollocks. He couldn’t bloody do it. He was the Big Bad, and proud of it, not someone who snuck around behind people’s backs and broke promises to someone who’d put her life on the line for him and always kept her own word. Better to drink sodding awful pig blood and fight demons alongside humans than let her down and feel like, well, a cad. Better to have to compliment Summers on her cooking. To be honest, it wasn’t half bad. Must have been her mum’s recipe. “Pie’s a treat, Slayer,” he smiled. “Any chance of a bit more?”
Tara spent a lot of the meal watching Spike and thinking deeply. Did the implanted device make it possible that she might be able to have an actual relationship with him? Was Spike even interested in her in that way? Now that she saw him interacting with the other Scoobies in a situation where their normal mortal enemy status was at least temporarily in abeyance, she wasn’t sure that he was any more interested in her than he was in, for instance, Willow. There did seem to be at least a tiny bit of flirting going on between them in between scientific questions and old disagreements about broken bottles and kidnappings.
Tara’s insecurities resurfaced, she found her stammer had returned, and she took less and less part in the conversation as the meal moved on to pie and then coffee. She brooded about the military types and the brief and violent encounter. Would there be any repercussions for her? What were they up to? She found herself agreeing with Spike’s suspicions. They’d wanted him back. Perhaps they just hadn’t recognised him as the escapee, but she strongly suspected that they’d known exactly who he was. Did they want to recapture him so that they could program him to attack targets of their choice?
She was roused from her thoughts by Spike mentioning her name.
“Tara doesn’t go home alone, right?” he was saying. “Those buggers would have taken her too. Can’t look out for her myself, so you lot will have to.”
“I assure you I had thought of that. I will take her back to her dorm in my car, Spike.” Giles addressed Spike with grudging respect. “I’m glad to see you displaying some consideration for others, although I suppose it is too much to expect that it will be extended to humanity in general.”
“Yeah, not going to claim that I’ve any great interest in what happens to random Happy Meals,” Spike confessed. “Different with Tara, though. Me and her, we’re partners. Ain’t that right, pet?”
She beamed at him. “Sure thing. Partners. All for one and one for all.”
* * * * * *
The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER ©2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox.