29

"Bloody hell. That was as nearly as much trouble as she was worth," Spike spoke as they reached outside. That sodding spell had worn off, and he could move, although he couldn't say the same for Jade. Though she kept pace with him as they left the demon woman's foliage covered tunnels, she still leaned on him heavily. Heavily might have been a stretch from the female who was barely over a hundred pounds, but it was clear she wasn't at her best. She seemed bothered by something, and Spike hadn't heard a damn thing after the demon bitch had immobilized him. She had done something, not the first time to cloud his hearing, keeping sounds from him. But whatever she had said, Jade had offered no explanation. Later. The vampire could wait. They only had a couple of hours of night left, so they had to decide what they wanted to do. Find the Doc, kill him. And whether or not Jade would come along. At this stage, she was more of a burden than anything else. But it made Spike more grateful that the demon hadn't picked him. He wanted to keep his strength, thank you very much. Didn't need to be protected by any Slayer.

"I left my bike not too far from here," Jade spoke up, the first thing she had said since Clarity had released them. "From when I was tracking Bailey. It seats two."

"Right. But first thing first." He unslung Jade from where she had her arm over his shoulder, leaning her against the outside wall. One of his hands still clutched her arm, to keep her upright as much to keep her there. She hadn't any choice to look at him now, which she did, her light blue gaze staring perplexedly back at him. "Seemed pretty spooked about purple-skin saying someone was looking for you. Who is it?" He had his no-nonsense tone, serious as he looked at her. He didn't want any dicking around. Give it to him straight up so there weren't too many surprises later. He'd had about enough of those for a while. Smooth sailing seemed impossible, but at least see where he was going.

Jade hesitated, taking a breath to steady herself. Then when she looked at Spike, her expression was composed. "My watcher. She's the one looking for me."

"Ran off on her, did you?" Spike scoffed, thinking of the Slayer that they had caught the other day. Bailey, was it? Whoever she was, the perky little thing that had put it in her head to split. Spike supposed that Jade had just been on her own because those were her cards, but no, she had just ran away. Made her seem younger. And he knew she was young enough, early twenties, but she managed to carry herself as older. Most of the time. "Had enough of book-reading?"

Jade closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them, they glistened, but she seemed more bitter than remorseful. "She arranged my Cruciamentum. Do you know what that is?"

"Some Slayer rite of passage gimmick, innit?" Spike asked, impatient.

"Yeah. The Slayer's powers are stripped away for a couple days, and she's put into a tomb or secure place with a vampire, having to kill them. I became a Slayer just before my eighteenth birthday, when all the potentials were activated. My Watcher, she had trained me since I was much younger, as a potential. But she found the opportunity to test me with the Cruciamentum. With a few differences." Jade's eyes narrowed. "She didn't do anything to my strength. Kept me normal-strong. And the vampire she threw me in with… It was Bennett. I didn't know, not until later. I thought it was an accident, but no. She arranged for him to be turned. So that I would have to kill him. That was my test." Jade whet her lips with her tongue.

"I failed," She continued. Spike knew that part. She said that she had let him go. Let him kill five people. "I was strong enough, I broke us free. He convinced me… that he was still the same. I had to hunt him down later, but that night I let him go. I found my Watcher, demanded an explanation. She denied it at first, but I eventually found out the truth. Found out that she had sent Bennett on an errand. He was always involved in my Slayer stuff, ready to do anything to help. I tracked down the Vampires who had turned him, and they told me they had been forced to, by magic. By my Watcher. She had told me a couple days before that I needed to cut Bennett from my life, that a Slayer worked alone and he was a distraction. I refused. And that was how she punished me."

"And you didn't kill her for that?" Spike's voice was rough, no mercy. No mercy for the bitch who tried to maneuver her eighteen-year-old charge into killing her boyfriend. That stuffy bastard Watchers' council. They were sick and twisted. Thought themselves so powerful because they were in charge of the Slayers. Made them think that old men with dusty tomes had all the power. Putting young girls through this bollocks when they had enough to deal with before that. Made Spike right glad that the Watcher's council had been destroyed a few years back. Sure, they had formed a new one, but this time out of the ones that Buffy trusted. No more old codgers who thought they everything. But the influence spread enough. He glanced at Jade. Another Slayer who had suffered. She had been seventeen at the time of calling, had she? Spike thought to if Jade had been one of the potentials taken to Buffy's house while they were fighting the first evil. It was very likely that he wouldn't even had noticed her. All his attention had been on Buffy. Still was. But no. Instead of fighting and possibly killing the Turok-Han, she had a battle of her own. And Spike felt sorry for her.

"No. I pretended that I didn't know the next time I saw her. She was so superior, so haughty. Reprimanding me for my failure and told me that I'd have to hunt down Bennett right away. That it was better this way. I. I kicked her. While her back was turned. Broke her back. On purpose. Didn't want her to hurt anyone again." There was shame on Jade's face, but to Spike, Jade had let her Watcher out easy. Should have just killed her. At least, that was the death Spike would have preferred. Being left unable to move would be a terrible fate for him, all useless. A fight with Buffy and Angel, after getting Drusilla her strength back had left Spike in a bloody wheelchair for months. It was a terrible fate. But he didn't reprimand Jade for it. Killing humans was different for Slayers, at least most of them. Buffy had been damn near inconsolable when she had thought she killed a woman, even though it would have been an accident. This was mercy, or the closest it could be while tied to vengeance. Not a good deed by any means, but it could have been worse. Spike would have done worse. "Then I hunted down Bennett and killed him." Jade finished her story, looking slightly dazed.

Spike released her from where he had half-pinned her to the wall. She stayed up on her own, leaning on it. "That's who's looking for you, Slayer? Your ass of a Watcher? But if you paralyzed the bitch, how would she be coming after you?"

"Magic, as I said. She must have found some way. And not in a healthy, wholesome nature magic arts kind of way."

He could see, even as she tried to keep her composure about her, that she was scared. Something about her watcher terrified her, and that just made Spike want the Watcher to show herself even more. He'd teach her a thing or too. And for the old Spike, that would have been a twist of a spine. He hadn't been into the sadistic, long torture like Angelus had been. Just the snap of a neck, bit of fangs and the deed was done. But that was the Soulless pre-chip Spike. Things were different now. He hadn't killed any humans since he got his soul back, at least not on purpose. And he couldn't change that now, couldn't promise he'd snap the Watcher's neck if she showed up all unwanted. Because he couldn't do that anymore. It was one of the few times he thought soulless Spike would be more helpful in these regards. No holding back. Get it done. But instead, they just had to be vigilant. Keep an eye out. He wasn't all too fond of fighting someone with magic compared to someone who could be taken down with a few punches, but there was little he could do about it. Besides, the purple Demon said that she had done the location spell days ago, where, to Earth's point of view, he and Jade were still stuck in a dimension. And if the Watcher wanted to find them there, well he had no problem with that.

"No need to fret," He spoke finally, giving her a toothy smile. She relaxed visibly, nodding. "Now. You feel well enough to face the Doc?" He asked it with a bit of skepticism. She looked like she had trouble standing on her own, but she nodded.

"I'm good," She said, though it probably wasn't true. Slayers and their arrogant pride. But hell, Spike was guilty of the same thing more than once. Most of the time. Besides, he could handle Doc by himself. As long as the bastard didn't have any more dimension tricks up his sleeve. He had wondered why Doc would stick around, in the chance that Jade and Spike would escape from the dimension prison. The only conclusion he came to was the reason why most demons and vampires came to Haven. Because something in the world was scarier than what was in the town. Which was good, for them. Meant Doc hadn't gotten very far. Meant revenge. Meant a very satisfying and good day.

They walked in the direction of Jade's bike, and she had fell silent again. She had attempted to talk on her own, prove that she could, but she was noticeably slow, and with a roll of his eyes, Spike entwined his arm with hers, giving her something else to lean on. "So…" He started after a couple moments of silence. "Making out with a demon, eh?" He teased her. He had seen the whole thing, although Clarity was admittedly attractive for a demon, nicely shaped knockers. But did she have two tongues? Taste like grasshoppers? Seeing Jade, the smaller, paler woman kiss the demon had been quite a sight. It had almost been hot. And very, very odd.

Jade flushed a deep red. "Well, one of us had to do it."

"I would have, you know. Bit glad I didn't have to. Nice carrying of the torch and all."

Jade shook her head, but he could see that smile break out on her face, more amused by his mocking than she was offended by it.

"Not the worse, you know. My Sire, Drusilla. Caught her making out with a chaos Demon." That had hit him hard back then. And Drusilla, in her dazedly cryptic way had accused Spike of being the 'cheating' one, that he was all wrapped up in Buffy, or some nonsense like that. Of course, Dru had been right all along, which Spike eventually discovered, to his own dismay, but it still hurt him at the time. He'd travelled all the way back to Sunnydale, thinking he could cook up a love potion to get Dru back to him. But she was such a daft, free spirit. Never would have worked. "Think antlers and goo. Sodding gross."

Jade wrinkled her nose in agreeing disgust. "I think I got the better deal," she admitted, her voice a bit quieter. But she smiled at Spike, genuine and grateful. It stirred a little feeling in his stomach, making himself feel good about himself, getting Jade's mind off of the Watcher. No need to be all serious and down all the time anyway. Life was too short for that. Well, not in Spike's case.

They found Jade's bike where she had parked it. It was smaller than the one Spike was used to, but admittedly, it was a nice one. All black, his style. And two seats, one for him and one for Jade. She tossed him the keys, and as he started the engine, she slid in behind him, wrapping her arm around his abdomen after a brief hesitation. They headed in the direction that Clarity had pointed, which there wasn't too many buildings between here and the water. They drove through the streets, looking for anything obvious, and eventually parked the bike in the middle of the area and walked instead, talking face to face to anyone that might have recognized Doc. Spike ran into a few of his old Poker buddies, but they hadn't seen anything.

"I've wondered about that," Jade spoke up after they'd hit another dead end.

"What's that, Slayer?" Spike said, narrowing his eyes as he set to recognize someone else who might have information.

"You played Kitten Poker with these people, right?"

"Yep. That's right. Most of the time. I was more interested in the money pools. Had to pay my rent somehow."

"Well," Jade frowned. "Lyth said most of those who play Kitten poker is because they want to eat them. A delicacy. Not exactly the greatest habit for a souled Vampire. You don't eat the kittens, do you?"

He stopped where he stood. "No," He said gruffly, making a face. "I don't eat the sodding kittens."

"But then why—"

"I saved them! Okay? I saved the bloody things so they wouldn't get eaten and then I let them go."

Jade stared at him with a bit of shock, and then burst into laughter. He glared indignantly at her.

"That's right. Spike the vampire cheats at poker so he can save little kitties. Bloody hilarious. God! I used to be the big bad, you know. But then I saw them playing one night, and all I could think was about saving their stupid, furry little lives." Jade was still laughing. He let go of her, and she nearly fell, but she steadied herself at the last second, putting her hand over her face in an attempt to quell her laughter, still with a silly smile on her face.

"I'm sorry," She said as she tried not to chuckle. He was affronted, glaring at her with all his might, and that was just making it worse. He wasn't even remotely scary any more, was he. He felt stupid just for admitting it. Why couldn't he just say that he ate the kittens himself. Or sold them back to the other players. Anything better than the truth.

"You're bloody not," Spike sniffed. He waggled a finger at her. "You tell one person about this and I swear—"

"Not a word," Jade promised, that damn smirk still on her face. He could just wipe that off her face, but he couldn't even hit her good-naturedly; she'd just fall over. And this wasn't the Buffy-Spike relationship where one of them hit the other for kicks. Although admittedly, he had been the one hit in that situation, the good ol game of Kick the Spike. But this was different. He wasn't going to hit her, in fact it was nice to see her giggle like a school girl. It was the first time he had seen it. She was so damn serious all the time.

And that persona returned minutes later after finally, a demon said he had seen a small old man in one of the nearby buildings. No more smiles, talks of kittens. Jade and Spike were ready to go. And it sure as hell was going to end better than last time. They stalked up the stairs of one of the less dilapidated buildings in this area, no wallpaper peeling or cracks in the wall. So this was where Doc had decided to set up shop. Did he think it was going to last any longer than his last place? He was bloody wrong. No more screwing around. Spike would tear off Doc's head and toss it into the fire. And then feed the rest of his body to the fishies. Spike heard the whistling of a blade as Jade drew that machete of hers out of its sheathed. She loved that little beat up blade. He had no idea why, but she was attached to it. As it was, he was hoping to fight most of this battle without needing her. She had regained her strength over the hours, but it still wasn't her best. She was short of breath climbing the stairs and she still leaned on things. But she told him that she was fine, so he'd believe her. He wasn't a caretaker and he sure as hell wasn't her watcher. If she said she was fine, that was the end.

This time, Spike didn't bother smashing the door down. He pushed the one that the demon had said was Doc's number, and lo and behold, it opened. Spike couldn't help the leer on his face, the ruthless, bloodthirsty urge that surged through him. No more screwing around. It was a mantra.

"And I'd like to order another Jirandum Codex book. Yes. Mine went missing a couple days ago. That'd be lovely." Doc was talking to someone, but by the lack of response, and the slight buzzing, Spike deduced that it was on the phone. Trying to recreate his library, was he? Well, then he shouldn't have let it all get sucked into another dimension, along with an extremely pissed Vampire. There was a click as Doc put down the phone, humming to himself. Jade and Spike entered the apartment, a light creak of the wood as Jade stepped through the short hallway to reveal another room, with Doc sitting at a desk. There were bookcases, but mostly empty, and only a handful of mystic items and ornaments. Doc glanced up, startled. For the first time, there was genuine surprise and maybe even fear on the demon's face, a light shaking in the depths of his black eyes. Spike savored it. That was right. Spike still inspired fear. And death.

"Shame you lost your collection, innit?" Spike smirked, feeling his forehead morph, his teeth becoming harder and longer. He was on hyper alert. Doc was not getting his hands on anything else that could cast any spell whatsoever.

Doc looked a little nervous. "Back already, are you? Can't depend on any spirit dimension any more. Did you at least bring any of my things back with you?"

"You won't be needing it," Spike spoke confidently. He watched as Doc's hand twitched, reaching for something on his desk. Spike charged forward, but something hit first. Doc let out a howl, blood pouring from his caught hand, stuck to his desk by Jade's machete. She was breathing heavily from behind Spike, having thrown her blade. Good on her. Not lingering to be impressed, Spike flung himself over the desk to the trapped Doc. Oh, the demon had made a mistake this time. He was in a corner, and he was trapped by a pissed Spike. "This is for Dawn," Spike snarled, his glee of fighting getting overridden by his anger. This was the son of the bitch that had make him break his promise. Had him look at Dawn, knowing there was nothing he could do to save her. Made him fall through the air, a failure. Unable to protect the sister of the woman he loved. Watching the woman he loved die too. That was what Doc had done. He grabbed Doc by the back of the neck, slamming his forehead into the desk. He snapped Doc's neck in one quick movement. But it wasn't over yet. Doc was still, for now, but the demon had suffered worse.

"This is for Buffy," Spike continued, taking Jade's machete and cutting off Doc's head. It toppled to the ground, spraying blue blood everywhere. But he wasn't sure, not yet. He took a hold of the headless body and dragged it over to the fireplace. It had already started, dim coals, sparks and flickering flames. He tossed Doc in there, and his clothes lit easily, spreading to his flesh. The skin took on a mottled, gray look as it began to get burned.

"And that's for me," Spike spoke solemnly into the flames. For throwing him off that tower. For getting him sucked into a portal. For trying to help Glory, that hell-bitch. He wasn't sure how long he was staring at the body when he heard Jade come up beside him. She was solemn too, no doubt because of his blood somber funereal attitude. She held the head, an impressive feat, for she did so without making a face or saying eww. Without saying anything, really, she tossed it into the fire to reunite it with its head.

"It's done," She said to him, trying to comfort him or something, Spike didn't know. The vampire nodded his head, letting that satisfaction surge through his body. Doc would never hurt anyone again. No scared little girls that couldn't defend themselves.

"Yes," he agreed. "Damn right, Slayer. It's done."