Clearance
treacle antlers



This one had really big hair.

Why did the old ones always go for the big hair thing? Like they were trying to distract from the face or something. He grunted, sucked another mouthful from his beer and sunk a little lower into Harris's rotting garden chair. Yeah that was probably it. Even a dead Pomeranian on her head was gonna improve that mug. So where were all the luscious ripe ones? The golden-tanned honies, with the caramel legs and skirts so short sometimes you could almost see their...

"Xander? You down here?"

A violent jerk almost threw him clear of his seat, grabbing for the controls to change stations, punching buttons randomly. Ended up with the Discovery Channel. Lions. Yeah, that was manly enough.

"Spike."

Her voice was just a shade away from complete disdain, setting his teeth on edge with just that one word. His name. Like he was nothing, the dog-dirt on her shoe. Bitch. He let his face resolve itself into it's patented fuck-you expression and pointedly avoided her gaze.

"Yeah, only me. Sorry to disappoint you Slayer."

He felt around for his cigarettes. Didn't actually feel like a fag but...hey...what the hell, she was here now breathing his air with her shiny, untarnished lungs and suddenly he felt the overwhelming need to light up.

"Your side-kicks off getting shagged by his demon bird. Nice someone's got a life."

He could see that stupid little pixie-face of hers scrunching itself up into what probably constituted a threatening expression, took another pull on his beer, felt a smile begin somewhere at the corners of his mouth. Fuck 'The Young and The Restless'. He'd forgotten Slayer-baiting was his new favourite form of entertainment. Twisting his body round in his seat, he draped one leg up and over the arm suggestively. Gave her the full-face Spike. Her hackles were up already, the arms crossed in the pose she always seemed to adopt when dealing with him, the one he liked to call 'The Slayer Lock-down'.

"So what about you love? Action-man's night manoeuvres leave you wanting tonight?"

That one never missed. Right on the button, like zapping her with one of the electric cattle prod things. He let a grin spread slowly, seeing the fire he just loved to stoke crackle to life behind those hazel-green eyes. Houston...we have ignition.
"And what about you?"

Her gaze drifted over and around him with a studied indifference, took in the bowl of nachos, the empty bottles, lingering for a few seconds on the rental videos.

"Planning another night of brutal torture, and the murder of innocents? Drinking of delicious human...oh. Sorry...I forgot."

Like he'd said. Bitch. But he could do nonchalance every bit as well as the bleeding Chosen One. Dropped a couple of chips into his mouth and stared her out. Took all of fifty seconds too. And she looked away first.

A small victory but short-lived. She wasn't leaving, still standing there with that look on her face like he was seven types of shit in a sack. He flipped channels again, checked back on 'Santa Barbera', still having the earthquake, found 'Sunset Beach'. Yeah. She had to hate that. Experimented with the chips, grinding them lightly between his molars, trying to elicit the loudest and most irritating sound he could. Had almost perfected it when she snapped, snatching the bag away from him with a growl of exasperation.

"Will you quit it!! Jesus...you are so... that a side-effect of the chip?"

He narrowed his eyes, shot her a good one, pure guile.

"Why don't you ask soldier-boy? Oh...sorry...I forgot."

Almost regretted that. Almost, but not quite. If he'd been a gentleman, or a man at all maybe. As it was, vampire and all, he watched her lip for that telltale tremor and when it came, felt a lovely little stab of....was that jubilation? A warm glow. Drained the last drops of his beer and binned the empty with a triumphant clang.

"So any news yet? Or he still M.I.A?"

She brushed a hand over her eyes, pushed her hair back. She wasn't crying. The Slayer didn't cry, though her eyes did look a little red. Probably just the bleach fumes.

"I got a lead. Something. Maybe."

"Yeah?"

Why was he even feigning interest? The sooner she got good and pissed off at him the better. 'Passions' was on in half an hour and he was buggered if he was going to share the last bag of Red-Hot Doritos. He slid out of his seat and stalked over to Harris's pathetic little kitchenette, searched the cupboard. But she wasn't leaving, still wasn't leaving. And that stance? The awkward half turn of her body and the way she kept tapping the toe of one boot against the sofa? All the signals pointed to one thing.

"Oh no...."

"Oh no what?"

"I'm not one of your bleeding Scoobies. I've got better things to do with my time than play wet-nurse to you."

"Wet what?"

He sighed, ground his teeth almost audibly. Why couldn't the bloody Justice League get it through their thick goody-goody skulls? Slammed the cupboard door shut with maximum force, and rounded on her with eyes as hard as he knew how to make them.

"We are not friends. I am not your bloody mate. I do not help you. I hate you."

And she was snarling now, sick with herself and she hadn't even asked yet. Hadn't even got the words out. Mad that he'd guessed it before she could even find a way of phrasing the request.

"Yeah? Well...the feelings mutual, I can assure you!!"

"Bitch!"

"Bastard!"

Watched her whirl round in a swirl of gold, take the stairs in two bounds, heading for the door.

Silly cow.

He cranked the volume and settled back into his chair, tore at the foil bag imagining it was her flesh. Like he fucking cared. Let her stamp and whine all she liked, no way on earth he was going to make her life easier. He snorted with scorn. Thought he was her bleeding lap dog now did she? She could just yank the chain and he'd come to heel like a good doggy, or no dinner for you. His stomach growled as if in response and he patted it thoughtfully. Never felt anything but hungry these days, and everywhere he looked, lithe healthy bodies, stripped down to nothing in the summer heat. Walking around pumping lovely, hot, scarlet goodness that he had no way of getting at. No way to buy the good stuff either, not without a ton of ready cash and he couldn't see himself coming by money anytime soo......


- - - - - - - - - -


She had the stake in her hand in a second, managed to stop it in mid air, maybe a millimetre from piercing his chest. Had to give it to her, reflexes like a cobra.

"O.K, I'm in. But it'll cost you. Fifty."

Saw her roll her eyes in the darkness but she was taking it. Hissed the reply from between gritted teeth,

"I've only got twenty."

He scowled, counting the thin wad with one hand, keeping his eyes on her,

"Don't worry sweetheart. You can owe me the rest."

A group of young guys passed, sniggering at the exchange and he saw her skin twitch, a sudden look of disgust as she realised where she was, in public, and with whom. Would have been funny except that it wasn't. He didn't know why. Felt like he was crossing a line here, taking money from the Slayer when what he should be taking was her life. Breaking her throat open like a fortune cookie, dragging it from her kicking and screaming and leaving her all wet and bloody on the sidewalk for the crows to peck at. Realised he was grinning and that she was looking at him like he was crazy.

"Right! So what's the plan? Spot of vamp-on-vamp action? Got a demon you need the squeeze putting on?"

Kept her eyes on him for a second longer then shook her head slow, like she was stupid, regretting this already. Sighed,

"Just go get the car."

- - - - - - - - - -


She was pretty quiet now. Maybe psyching herself up for the battle or something. Or maybe it was just she couldn't bring herself to make small talk with him. He snorted, punched the lighter in, slipping a Marlboro between his lips. Yeah, that was more like it. Not too high-and-mighty to ask for help, but no hob-nobbing with the hired hand.

"So this place? Much further is it? Only, there's not much gas in the..."

She cut him off, her voice clipped and weary,

"Another mile."

Right. Thought he knew where they were going now. The army base on the other side of the valley. Passed it a couple of times late at night, on his way back to SunnyD, always crawling with khakis, guns and ammo up the ying- yang.

"You think that's where they're keepin' him?"

She hunched down in her seat, didn't answer and for the first time he noticed she looked a little uncertain, like she wasn't sure what they was going to find. And sad. Real sad. He let his eyes rest on her for a moment, before turning back to the road with a frown. Didn't know why but almost felt sorry for her there, just managed to stop his right hand from brushing that hair away, tucking it back behind that pretty little shell of an ear.

He yanked the lighter out and lit up like he trying to burn something out of himself. Fucking humans. Spend enough time round them and you'll start to catch stuff. Emotions. Pity, compassion, empathy...shit like that. Rolled down the window, rinsed his mouth with his tongue and spat into the darkness. She looked at him like he'd just hit a dog.

"Bad taste in my mouth." he explained.

- - - - - - - - - -

This was the place. But how the fuck she thought they were getting in there he couldn't imagine. Four guards on the gate, all human, and she sure as shit knew he was useless in that capacity. Drove past real slow, trying to look like hick rubberneckers, parked the DeSoto in some brush about half a k down the road. Watched her pulling a black polo on over her lycra-t, head to toe stealth wear.

"So what? We're just gonna to sneak in there? Hope they left a window open?"

She held up a slim credit-sized card,

"We have clearance."

Handed it to him while she hunted in the bag for her hat, pulled it on, shoving stray blonde ends out of sight.

"Security pass? You lift this?"

"It's Riley's. No good without the pass code though."

He raised his eyebrows, handed it back,

"And you got that?"

"It's a six digit number. Giles and I sat out here all Tuesday night with his binoculars, until I saw someone punch it in....over there."

She pointed, through the perimeter fence, a long grey building, no windows. Had Official Clearance and Top Secret stamped all over it. He sucked in a breath, let it out again with a frown.

"OK. But I'm still not getting where I fit into all of this."

She sighed heavily, let herself out of the car,

"If he's in there he's probably unconscious, and if I'm carrying him it doesn't really leave any limbs free for...."

Met his eyes with a steady gaze, no venom, just giving him the facts.

"You're the only other one strong enough. OK?"

He blinked. Once, twice. And she wasn't even taking the piss. Well that was a first. Respect, albeit the grudging kind. He watched as she walked off ahead, waited a moment before following her. Risked a smile. Felt kinda good too.

- - - - - - - - - -

They slid into the shadows, something he'd always been good at. Her too, had to admit. For a Slayer he sometimes thought she had real potential. Had a handle on stuff that none of the others he'd come across had even touched. She was true blue, he was sure of that, not like that Faith one, but there was something else in her. A bit of darkness that had leaked in. Nou much, but it meant he couldn't take her, couldn't out-think her, she was always just one jump ahead, guessing his next move. One of the main reasons he'd always loved to fight her. The perfect match of his skill, strength and speed, always dancing glittering, golden and just out of his reach. He growled. Christ, he missed that.

"Spike! Will you keep it down?"

She was sliding the card through the lock now, punching the buttons with soft precise movements, keeping on eye on the guard over to her right. A moment and he held his breath, wasn't sure why, then a green light and the lock snapped open. Heard her exhale too, pausing to meet his eyes before slipping inside.

Diffused lighting. That was different. Most of these army places had fluorescents that felt like they were baking your brain. She was walking ahead of him, keeping her back close to the wall. Watched her for a minute until she looked round, saw him standing in the centre of the corridor, eyebrows questioning, hands in his pockets.

"What the hell are you doing?"

"I could ask you the same thing. Vampire remember. There's no one nearby, I'd hear them."

She rolled her eyes, motioning for him to follow. Disappeared around a corner and he swore softly, scuffed his heels on the linoleum as he broke into a trot to catch her up. That's it Spikey. Good dog.

- - - - - - - - - -

A white door. She was pressing it open, sliding her face round to peek inside. He moved in behind her silently, looked over her shoulder. Just some bandaged action-man with a finger missing. Noticed the bag hanging from the hook beside his bed, and felt the saliva rush his mouth, his stomach giving an answering groan. The look she gave him was incredulous,

"God! Don't you think of anything else?"

Slid back past him, a rub of sinewy muscle against his thigh and he was surprised to feel another kind of twitch, something other than hunger. He grunted to himself, well, he was only human...well he wasn't, but she was, and female. And, like fresh blood, he hadn't had much of that in a month of Sundays either. Adjusted himself in his jeans.

"Spike! Are you coming?"

He almost smirked but managed to twist it into a scowl. No way she was going to have the satisfaction of knowing that one. Followed her up the next length of corridor. She was peering into another room now, some other poor sod leaking goodies no doubt, and then he heard it. Not far away either, doors opening and closing, voices getting louder.

"Slayer! Buffy!!"

He darted through the open door managed to grab her hand before she could move back the curtain around the guy. She jumped back startled, tried to pull away from him,

"What? Spike...get off me!!"

"Someone coming."

And she was with him in a second, both making for the door and out into the corridor, two pairs of eyes moving as one, searching for a hiding place.

"Medical supplies! Down there!!"

They sprinted fast, her breath suddenly rapid in his ears as they slid to a halt outside the door, another lock and she was grabbing for the card, sliding it into the gap, punching buttons. He could hear their feet now, just rounding the corner, any second now and suddenly she was dragging his arm, pulling him into the darkness, the steel door snapping shut behind them.

- - - - - - - - - -


Cool in here. Cool enough to raise goose bumps on her arms anyway. He could feel them, pressed against her, against the wall, feel her breath reflecting off his throat. Feel her heart thrashing like a robin's, her breasts crushed against his chest. Damn. Happening again. Really hoped she couldn't feel that, pushed her back just enough to give his dick some privacy.

"Have they gone?"

Her voice was taut, scratchy and right in his ear. He listened, a shrug.

"Yeah. Down the other end now."

He gave her another little shove and she backed right up now, as if suddenly realising who he was, wiped her hands off quickly on her thighs. Sweaty.

"O.K. Where's the lock? Can you see it?"

He reached out, took the card from her hand and ran it through, punched the code. A sort of low buzz sound, bit like a cicada. That wasn't right.

"You punched it wrong, give it to me."

She grabbed it off him. Hadn't Joyce ever taught her not to snatch? Feeling around for the buttons with her fingertips. Silly bint. He reached up above her head, snapped on the light. She jumped and looked around, a little embarrassed at finding the tiny space they were crammed into a moment ago was actually a fairly big room, stacked full of largish boxes and crates. Tried the card again, punched the code slow and careful.

The buzz again.

He frowned, watching her go through it a third time, hitting each key like she had a personal grudge. About to go for number four when he took it off her.

"This code. They ever change it?"

She glared at him, snatched it back, slid it through again,

"Every week. But this is this weeks. It shouldn't change till Monday."

Punched again, and almost put her fist through it when it sounded a fourth time.

"Monday? And today is....?"

"Sunday, Spike. Today is Sunday! I know your life has no purpose but..."

"Sunday at..."

checked her watch, like he'd ever wear one.

"...midnight."

She stopped and he thought he actually heard her swallow - gulp - like one of those cartoon characters, like Wiley frigging Coyote. Felt like dropping an anvil on her himself at this moment, a weight with one-thousand bloody tons printed on the side, see all her Slayer guts dribble out from underneath.

"Which would make...."

"Today Monday."

He finished it for her, already having a look round, scouting for a window, an air-vent, anything, but they were shit out of luck. No way out and a solid steel door to protect the little G.I Joes from all the lovely drugs in here. Leant hard against it just to be sure. Her face retained a last ray of hope, and he felt like a heel when he had to dash it, shook his head.

"Three inches at least. Don't think even you could bust that one."

Silence. He looked at her, questioning.

"So?"

"So what?"

"So...you're the bleeding mastermind? What do we do now?"

He smelt blood and lanolin, could hear the soft rushing of the air- conditioner, somewhere the faintest gurgle of liquid in cooling elements, heard the uncertainty in her voice as she said,

"We wait."

"Wait for what?"

"Someone to...come get supplies."

He resisted the urge to laugh at her, suddenly didn't seem that funny anyway. Trapped in a supply cupboard with his mortal enemy. No booze, no food, nothing to drink, all the prescription drugs known to mortal man and a raging hard-on that was stubbornly refusing to go down. Great. She cleared her throat, stared back at the door, eyes suddenly wide.

"I mean....they must use this cupboard all the time...right?"

He scoped the shelves, couldn't help but notice the amount of dust on the crate nearest him. Probably shouldn't draw that to her attention though.

"I'm sure...someone'll be along...in just a minute."