NIGHT SEVENTY TWO
The pair of them stared determinedly into the darkness. Wasn't quite complete darkness, at least not for them. Jade could just make out the golden gleam of Spike's eyes, the full effects of vamp-face applied to their search. Not so much hers, just relying on her somewhat-better-than-a-human's sight instead, the same trepidation as always about letting her demon face come out. If she didn't see it and Spike didn't see it maybe it wouldn't exist. It was a stupid thought, she knew Spike was fairly comfortable with both human and demon faces, seeing more than enough in his lifetime, and she knew enough about him to know it wasn't a big deal. To him, anyway, but it was to her. She hated him seeing her in anything less than human, so she limited it as much as possible.
And as it was, they didn't really need it tonight. They'd been scoping out Lorne's bar for the last two nights, but they hadn't seen anything. Nothing that looked like bounty hunters, although that was a bit out of Jade's league and more into Spike's. She hadn't done a great deal of mixing among demons or hunting them for that matter, before she came to Haven. She'd killed a few after she'd become a Slayer, but it was mostly vampires that Pen had her fight. And not being the studious type, or never very good at it, Jade had learned better by fighting them, rather than reading about them in books. She had looked up the Miquot Clan so she at least knew what to look for, but other than appearance and some kind of description of bone knives coming out of their arms, Jade hadn't learned all that much.
Still, she wasn't worried. There was the trepidation that came from waiting, and the worry that they might not get to the Clan before the Clan got those on their list, although the Slayer in her was less concerned. The Slayer would note that those on the list—demons, were probably bad anyway, and thus, not altogether worth saving. That was what Pen had tried to teach her, but Jade knew better. Knew Demons like Lorne, and Nigel and Clem, where they weren't inherently bad, their races less dangerous than some. And then a demon like Hazim even, where his race was bloodthirsty and murderous, yet this Prio Motu demon was an upholder of justice, even if his moral center was firmly rooted in gray. And then of course, there was her and Spike.
Demons, though it was far, far from that simple. And all of it was like that. No black and white. As much as she had forgotten for a time, the thought of her losing her soul so scaring her—and it still did, but not so incomprehensibly she couldn't think straight—souls and demons and things weren't simple. Demons could do good things without a whisper of a soul in them, and humans could do catastrophically terrible things with them. Things that would earn them a spot on someone's kill list. But maybe the demons were innocent.
Either way, she'd do what she could to save them, and hopefully to stop the bounty hunters, remove them far, far away where they couldn't push a more deadly confrontation. Deadly for them, that was. From what she had researched, Jade didn't fear facing them. She and Spike were more than a match for them, the only question was how many of the clan had been sent. Just a couple, or more, it would be worth knowing, but they hadn't even caught a whisper of any of the hunters.
Not until now.
Two figures appeared onto the street, leaving the underground tunnel that led down to Venia. Jade knew they weren't the bounty hunters; their appearance was admittedly human, but as she listened hard, finding a distinct lack of anything, she knew the two weren't human.
Spike confirmed it with a whisper in her ear, "Vampires." That would have been the end of it, as they weren't the demons Spike and Jade were looking for, save for the sudden and small motions in their peripherals. Apparently they hadn't been the only ones waiting. They could make out the shadows moving to follow the two figures that hurried at inhuman speed across the street.
As the two vampires glanced around, cautious, but not aware, Jade caught a sight of their faces, recognizable to her. She turned towards Spike, who crouched beside her closely, on the roof they had made their vantage point. "I know the vampires. Antov siblings. The remaining two, Tony and Rosa. About three hundred years old."
Spike looked impressed, raising an eyebrow. "You keep an eye on the vampire community, do you? What, do you have a William the Bloody history book as well?" He teased her with that last comment, his lips twisted into a smirk, even as he spoke in hushed tones so no-one could overhear, particularly the two vampires they were discussing.
"I kept an eye on the ones of note," Jade corrected, stifling a laugh as Spike's brow furrowed, the vampire pouting out his bottom lip and looking affronted. "I meant in Haven. Why they were here. They crossed Dracula back a while ago. Fled here to escape him. Which was probably just a punishment Dracula didn't have to implement. But when I first came here, thought I should know the players."
Spike surveyed her, the faux hurt gone from his face and a contemplative expression there instead. "Smart," he observed matter-of-factly.
"There were three of them, but Marko was staked a little while back. By Bailey."
"Little Barbie?" Spike frowned in recognition. "Bet that pissed off his sibs."
"That, and they have thrall. As Dracula's progenies, he must have taught them. Not something I wanted to cross."
"What, were you scared, Slayer?" Spike taunted, his tone light, though Jade knew he wasn't one to run from a fight, and didn't have much respect for those that would.
"Just being careful." She answered, then turned from his visage to look back at the Antov siblings. "They're moving."
"We'll follow," He said, his eyes on the prize now. "Wait for the bounty hunter sods to make the first move."
And they did, as they found the shadows move, so did the vampires, trailing the Antov siblings down the street and into the more dilapidated downtown areas—more fit for a vampire nest. Jade shot a worried look up into the sky, which was admittedly still quite dark, but it had gotten rather late. If the Miquot Clan were hoping to follow the vampires to their nest and attack them during daytime while they couldn't retreat, well, Jade and Spike wouldn't be able to go very far either. Spike glanced back at her, noting her worried look, pausing after a fluid jump to look back at her.
"Got just over two hours, Bloody Mary," He reassured her. The sun wasn't good news for either of them, but at least Spike could survive under the rays of it a bit longer than she could. As strong as she was being a Slaypire, she still was just a fledgling. Too susceptible to the light for her to be at ease with it. But he knew, better even than she did, so she relaxed, focusing instead on their task. The two vampires continued speaking to each other in a language Jade could only barely discern as Russian, as per their last name and origin, however it just as likely could be Bulgarian or Czech, so terrible was her ear for languages. They seemed unaware of their tails, the demon and the vampire variety, not noticing when the shadows drew closer as the vampires entered a narrow alley.
Jade and Spike shared a look, the both of them silently deciding to jump down from their roof vantage point and down to the streets themselves. Jade drew near to Spike, thankful for her own dark attire, which consisted of black jeans and a sweater, the pale of her skin being the most conspicuous, the palest white that Spike shared with her. But they were one with the shadows, and Jade even shifted her visage to give her a better glimpse.
She could see them now. Instead of shadows, they were solid forms, reptilian looking as they were in the demon database she had glanced through. Spikes that reminded Jade of a dinosaur, the stegosaurus maybe, jutted out from the top of their head, in varying length and amount. And she could see quite a few of them.
"Lorne never mentioned how many there were," Jade muttered to Spike, stretching up towards him so she didn't have to speak over the barest of whispers. He smirked back at her, obviously unworried. There was a flurry of activity ahead, then a sudden stop as the Antov siblings realised they weren't alone. Cold fingers brushed against Jade's equally cool skin as Spike entwined his hand around her wrist, pulling her to a stop, behind him, wanting to watch first before they barged in. Jade watched the figures make themselves known, at least a dozen that surrounded their prey, so far as unaware of Jade and Spike as the Antov siblings were.
The woman, Rosa, had arched a brow, her nearly white-blonde hair cascading down her shoulders, dead straight. Her vampire visage had overtaken any human features, and her golden eyes glinted back at their company. Her brother was stockier than Rosa's lithe form, and he stood shoulder-to-shoulder, a more furious look on his face compared to Rosa's bored one.
"So that's what that smell was," Rosa commented dryly, her lips drawn back to reveal large fangs.
"Told you it wasn't me," Tony muttered back. He glanced back at the Miquot Clan demons, tossing back his hair as a thick lock of his white-blonde hair fell in front of his forehead. "Who the hell are you guys?"
One of the demons stepped forward. "I am Ivak of the Miquot Clan. There's a bounty to collect on you."
"Really? Actual money now?" Rosa spoke, her golden eyes shifting from the speaking demon to her brother. Her disinterested expression lightened somewhat as she inquired hopefully, "How much? Could I collect it?"
"Hey!" Tony protested, growling back at his impertinent sister.
"Both of you," Ivak clarified in his warbled tone.
"Worth a try," Rosa shrugged, ignoring Tony's glare.
"I can't believe that you—" Tony started, his angry tone raising an octave or two as the demons surrounding them stiffened and moved closer, the atmosphere changing as the vampires too shifted into attack pose.
"The bounty says wanted dead," Ivak continued, his beady eyes focused on the bickering siblings, drawing a slimy tongue in front of his teeth. He nodded his chin in a flagrant, excessive gesture to the members of his clan, drawing Rosa and Tony's focused glowers. There was a shing! A pungent odor lit the air as bone knives protruded out of the demons' scaly arms, and they advanced, carrying their weapons in their hands.
"Oh. Right." Rosa said as the reptilians fell upon them.
As old as the vampires were, these weren't humans. They were demons, strong and fast and out numbering them, and accurate as hell. Rosa was caught by a bone knife to the shoulder and fell, cursing, the demons falling upon her as Tony was backed into a corner.
Jade transferred her weight to the balls of her feet, waiting on Spike's go ahead. She glanced at him, and he met her gaze.
"'Nuf proof." Spike said succinctly, then with a wink at her, he'd had enough of waiting and threw himself into the fray, Jade close on his heels.
"Oi, you blighters." Spike drawled as he came into view, in full swagger before the demons, who turned with hisses to see him. "S'not the best town for bounty hunt'n. I suggest you all move on." His lips twitched into a smirk. "But it be a bit more fun if you don't."
"Do not interfere, vampire." Ivak snarled. "The Miquot Clan does not back down."
Spike shrugged. "Fine with me. Just thought I'd give you sods a chance." He threw himself into the fight as quickly as the demons turned their attention to him. Jade followed, dashing towards the group that held Rosa, knocking away one of them as the blade sunk into Rosa's arm, probably meaning to remove the vampire's arm from her body. Disarm the vampires—literally—before dragging them out of town to kill them. The blade whistled past Jade's open palms as she dodged the sharp edge and kicked the closet demon in the stomach instead. She was aware that they were rushing to the rescue of vampires, evil soulless creatures in the views of Slayers, and rightly so. However, this was Haven. Named exactly for what it was: a sanctuary for demons. The place was kept hidden by magic and the peace was kept by Sheriff Hazim, and these bounty hunters were violating the probity of the town. Jade had kept to the rules while she was here. She staked the vampires who failed the rules, who killed or tortured or made a scene that was frowned upon in Haven. It kept the fragile peace between the many different races of demons who held refuge there, and so whether these vampires were deserving of a dusting or not, she'd protect them. At least for now.
The demons didn't hesitate to defend themselves against Spike and Jade as soon as they were revealed, hissing and spitting at the vampires. And immediately, Jade found her worry that they were outnumbered faded, replaced with a euphoria. This was going to be a fight. A good one. She hadn't had one in far too long. There was no fear, no hesitation, just relaxation and even an excitement. There was no holding back, not in this fight, no apprehension that she might slip out of control. It was Spike and her, and from a glance at him, she could see the same giddy grin reflected on his face as he slipped in and out between their foes gracefully. He had been missing the fight as well, and now danced with a fearless exuberance, laughing as he both dealt blows and received them.
And Jade was the same, swinging her leg in a pirouette, launching the closest Miquot demon far from her, raising her elbow in front of her face to knock away another bone knife that had been launched at her. There was a dull throb as the blade sliced through her sleeve, but it was forgotten in the moment, the pain inconsequential as she launched herself at her opponents, lightning fast and unstoppable. This was good, she thought to herself, as she caught a demon by the throat and slammed his head into the pavement, her knee jutting out to strike another in the stomach. No holding back, it was fun to be this fast and strong. To be able to deflect and react with such ease without compunction or holding back. She was a ball of energy, twisting and turning and dancing.
She glanced at Spike, whose cheek was dripping from a long gash across his face, a similar slice on his shoulder and neck, but his eyes were shining, bright and blue, a wide smile on him as he looked back at her. Her eyes focused then, on the demon coming up behind him. She jumped then, and Spike caught her with ease, as if they had practiced before. And they had, against each other over the last month, to the point they recognized each other's moves, and Jade had a feeling Spike knew her strength better than she knew herself, telling her when to hold back and when not to. And he swung her then, letting her outstretched foot kick one of the demons in the skull, who dropped back with a hiss. His hands were around her waist as if they were dancing, and they were, in a way Jade had experienced her whole life. Fighting was in her blood, even in the short time before she knew she was a potential, before she became Slayer. She could avoid it for a while, but in the end, this was where she belonged, in the thick of the fight.
She wasn't used to having a partner, at least not one near her level of fighting. Bennett had tried, patrolling with her so that she wouldn't be alone, and he had tried his best to be formidable, for a human, but that was what he was, human, and there was part of her that had always had to be vigilant, always needing to protect him. Not so with Spike, who didn't need her protection and would probably knock her out if she tried. But no, she didn't have to worry—too much—about the blood on Spike, or the blows he took, because they were nothing to him, just part of the dance, and he wouldn't have it any other way.
Neither would she.
She leaped out of Spike's grasp to bear another demon to the ground, ignoring his futile cut across her upper arm as she choked the breath from him until his body was limp under her ministrations. Then she leapt back to her feet, glancing about. She picked up a fallen bone knife, flinging it through the air. Not unsurprisingly, it missed its mark, only barely slicing the leg of another demon as it embedded itself in the ground. Though Jade had always preferred fighting with weapons as a Slayer rather than hand-to-hand combat, that had extended to her bow and her machete, and not throwing weapons of any sort. Her strength and her speed were greater, but not her accuracy. She shrugged at the realisation, resorting then to her knuckles as she struck at another one. They were rather hardy, being able to take hers and Spike's punches, but not hardy enough.
She felt the edge of a blade cut the back of her shoulder, but before she could even turn to defend herself, she could see the flicker of movement and Spike's gleeful growl as he pulled back her attacker, landing a punch on the scaly head that knocked the demon right to the ground. It didn't get back up, and Jade could see now that the hunters had thinned. Thinned, knocked out or dead, but none were fleeing. Some code of loyalty or perhaps family, they refused to leave the fallen, even as those standing were less and less. Jade could respect that, but it didn't mean she'd pull her punches. Instead, she only increased them, seeing the end was close.
She turned towards Spike and he towards her, their shoulders brushing as they stood back to back for a second, sighting out the battlefield, then jumped back into the mix. Jade never tired of watching Spike fight. What he lacked in finesse he made up for in pure tenacity, a burning glee in his eyes at the simple fun of it all. With a heavy boot he knocked another to the ground, and Jade smashed the last one's head against the wall. She stood for a moment, her chest rising up and down as if she needed a breath, more out of habit than anything else. None of the creatures stirred, at least not alarmingly, most too wounded or hurt to climb back up to their feet.
She smiled brilliantly at Spike, who smirked back, equally animated.
"Been far too bloody long," Spike grinned.
"Yes," Jade breathed in agreement. "Nice to just… fight. No holding back." She meant fighting against an enemy instead of a friend, but Spike looked impish, playing at affronted.
"Oi!" He muttered in protest. He took a step towards her and she backed habitually, her back hitting the solid alley wall, a crumbling brick that had taken a couple of hits during the fight.
"Used to holding back, are you?" Spike asked in a low voice, the energy just emanating off of him, so much that he could barely stay still. He pressed an open palm to his chest, mock heartbroken. "That really hurts a bloke. Making me feel incompetent and the like."
She smiled apologetically, but couldn't quite keep the grin off her face, bouncing on her feet so much that she was nearly vibrating. "Far from it," she assured him, and his eyelids sunk halfway, gazing at her half-lidded. He had crowded her in front of the wall now, their knees almost touching, playing at intimidation but being far, far from it. His white-blonde curls were in disarray, giving him a foppish, endearing look, though the blood on his marble skin added some seriousness to it. But not enough, not for her to quail in his presence. But as he neared, the energy changed abruptly, instead, provocative rather than playful.
"Good," Spike muttered, licking his lips. His eyes were wild, sporadic and dashing, settling on her eyes, then lowering to her lips, and she felt her stomach tense, her whole body still as suddenly, without much warning, he leaned in. He moved, and she reacted, much as they had done in the fight, except instead of dancing and fighting around each other, his mouth was suddenly on hers, descending with a ardor that quashed any timidity of hers, and she met his lips with the same fervor. He tasted like blood and cigarettes, the scent of leather in her nose, and all the scents of Spike. She remembered kissing the demon, how she had changed her shape to look like Spike, to feel like Spike, but it was a poor substitute compared to the real thing, to actually feeling him, warm from the fight, his leather jacket beneath her fingers as she curled her fingers around his shoulder, pulling him nearer to her, even as her shoulder protested, her sore wound grinding up against the wall, completely forgotten.
Instead there was Spike. It hadn't quite sunk in yet that this was Spike she was kissing—that was kissing her. No chaste, quick kiss either, or a smooch to bring her back from the dead. This was euphoria and ecstasy, one hand wrapped around her waist, digging deep into her hip, the other hand around her neck, keeping her close as if she even wanted to pull away. With a hesitation borne of fear he might disapprove, one of her hands trailed up to the back of his skull, touching his hair like she had never had the courage to do before. Not gelled at the bottom, it was surprisingly soft beneath her touch. And she was greedy for the touch. She'd been arm's length with him all this time, too nervous, too hesitant to step past the line, but he had done it first, his lips battling hers just as intently, passionate, though not gentle. It didn't matter. She'd take anything, gentle or rough from him. Wouldn't complain. This was Spike. She was putty in his hands, nearly literally now, astounded that he could be cold, yet his touch ignited fire in her in a way she didn't think would be possible after she had died. But she was wrong, and she hadn't felt so alive since the shower, and just thinking what he had done for her then made her feel even more warm inside, as if she had a beating heart again.
His lips pulled her bottom lip between his own, one gentle, teasing nip with his teeth that stung but didn't hurt, a feeling of pleasure rather than anything else. And then he pulled back, leisurely, rather than with alarm, and their chests rose and fall in unison, Jade taking breaths she didn't need as her eyes found Spike's. He looked surprised, but not regretful, with a whole of emotions that were unreadable in the span of his light blue eyes, but after a searching gaze, his lips twitched into the smallest of smiles, reassuring her. Perhaps it was in the spur of the moment—a traitorous thought that had plagued her even through the kiss, though she had done her best to push it away. And though she knew that the kiss likely meant more to her than it did to him, as long as he didn't regret it…
His eyes flickered back to her lips again, and though his shoulders had pulled back, he was still entwined around her, his hand shifting from the back of her neck to the sharp line of her jaw, thumb resting their affectionately. He shifted, and he might have kissed her again, if not for a sudden, haughty voice that brought them out of their reverie, the world they had lingered in for a few seconds where only the two of them existed.
"So did you leap in to save us in hopes we would join in your makeout session, or…" Rosa's voice, and Jade could see her over Spike's shoulder now as her eyes focused, remembering that they were hardly alone, and their private space was littered by unconscious demon bodies and two bleeding, very unsouled vampires. Rosa was looking at them expectantly, her hand on her hip. Her blonde hair was somehow, incredibly immaculate, still stock-straight in a way Jade had never managed but would always envy, though there was blood and a bit of grime on Rosa's face, her hair was perfect. Rosa had raised a eyebrow-less, bumpy brow, her voice sounding languid and bored, a slight, mocking smile on her dark red lips. Jade's eyes flickered, suddenly very, very grateful she no longer had a blush to give her away as she was struck with embarrassment. Kissing Spike in front of people, something that had been personal and intimate, in front of two vampires who were staring at them hungrily and a bit skeptically.
Spike made a low growl in his throat, sounding like frustration as he released Jade, turning towards the two siblings almost regretfully. Jade busied herself by tucking her loose hair behind her ears. "Yeah, yeah. You're welcome. You can get out of here now." Spike had a sneer back in his tone, dismissive to Rosa and Tony.
"Yeah, I'm fine with that," Tony spoke aloud, rubbing at a particularly nasty gash on his forehead as Rosa shrugged. "Not that we needed any help," the vampire added as a side note, earning a eye-roll from his sister.
"Shut up, Tony. This is a mess. We came this shit-hole so we didn't have to watch out. Now we've lost Marko, and some idiot is sending goons after us."
Tony rose to his full height, towering over his sister, his expression turning a bit more serious and bloodthirsty as he gazed at the fallen Miquot Demons. "Well, then we better make sure these ones don't come to tell on us, yeah?" He fingered a bone knife that had been stuck in his thigh, and took a step towards the demon.
Jade moved in recompense, meaning to step around Spike but he moved up too, the same thing on his mind. "No slaughter for you," Spike said firmly. "We'll handle this. Git."
Tony scowled fiercely. "These demons tried to kill us. I want a bit of their blood on my hands."
"You get to leave with your lives instead," Spike disagreed cheerfully, relaxed and casual, yet still intimidating. Tony held his gaze for a few long seconds, defiant. Rosa let out a impatient sigh.
"Let them do what they want. Hurry up. I want something to eat." At her words, her brother reluctantly and slowly turned from the bounty hunters, though he kept twirling the bone knife in his meaty fingers. With another sigh, Rosa latched onto his arm, pulling him back. The two siblings departed, albeit with a few looks over their shoulders, Rosa throwing out a, "I owe you a beer," pointedly at Spike, winking at him before they disappeared into the night.
Spike shook his head. "Sure the town would be a bit better without that naff," He said, looking at Jade a bit hopefully. She bit back a laugh, smiling as she nodded her head regretfully.
"No killing," She reiterated Haven's rules, then looked down at their fallen foes. Spike followed her gaze.
"What are we going to do with this lot?" He asked with a sigh. Some of them were still alive. "Hazim'll have a bloody fit if he sees this in town." Jade smirked at the thought that Spike was just as worried about their Prio Motu Deputy as she was. Wasn't smart to antagonize the beast, especially one without human reserve or morals. Order in his town came first, before anything else.
"Drag them out of Haven," Jade offered. "And hope they don't come back?"
"Yeah, that'll do. Think they know what to expect, if they come back again." He glanced at her, the business dropping from his expression as his eyes roved over her, stopping on her mouth for a moment, something like temptation springing back up into his eyes before he overcame it and stepped towards the fallen. She opened her mouth to speak—should she ask about the kiss? She decided against it. If he wasn't going to speak of it right now, that was fine. They had enough to do. And she didn't want to be the one who made a deal out of it, even if there was little else she could think of at the moment. Spike kissed me, was a mantra that kept popping up in her head with such regularity it was embarrassing, like she was a kid with a crush again. So she took to the task with ardor, spending her energy on that, rather than dwelling. That could wait until later.
Thankfully, they hadn't been too far from the boundary of the town—likely due to the Bounty Hunters wanting to drag the vampires out of Haven before killing them. They took them all, dead and dying and badly wounded, knocking out the ones that tried to resist.
Her shoulder complained against the strain, though it hurt less as the time went on, the cut being long but not deep, and her healing kicking in at an advanced rate. Spike had explained it to her after she had been gored by the branch. Vampire and Slayer healing was a bit different. Vampire's healing was slower, but more thorough, as there were no mortal wounds, anything that would a kill a vampire would do so quickly, so they would heal from anything, even a bullet to the skull or the removal of organs, though it would 'bloody well hurt for a long bloody time.' Slayer healing was quicker, more resilient, though they weren't quite as good against fatal wounds. A bullet to the heart, the lungs, anything that could kill a human could kill a Slayer too if it was devastating and quick enough. In Jade's case, she likely had the best of it, a quicker healing, and from wounds that would kill a human. However, he had told her—and she knew this first hand—that as quickly as she healed, that didn't mean the pain was any less impactful. Just usually a shorter span of it. So her shoulder was down to a dull throb, and cuts on her face were little more than paper-cuts by the time they had gotten the last demon out of Haven, though in the time it took them, the sky had lightened considerably.
Spike frowned at her across from the bodies, a flicker of worry across his face. "You should head back, Slayer." He told her. They had pulled the demons to an abandoned gas station, and though they were outside town limits, their house was on the other side of Haven, though even without a vehicle, she could make it back there easily. They both could, but she answered his frown with one of her own at his wording.
"What about you?" She ventured, trying not to sound too worried. He didn't like being patronized, or taken care of, though he certainly was used to the role of caretaker.
"I'll finish up here first. Make sure that these buggers know to piss off. Unless they want a second round." His eyes glinted with the challenge, then grew more serious at her obvious reluctance. "S'all right." He stepped around where they had grouped some of the demons together, to where she waited. He reached out with a hand, and though surprised, Jade forced herself not to move, still shocked by the feel of his cold skin on hers as he lightly thumbed her cheek, affectionately in a way that astounded her. "Go home, luv. I'll be there in a jiff."
Jade nodded, letting her reluctance wash away, even as she stifled the urge to lean into his hand, afraid he'd take it away. "I'll see you soon, then." She said, as casual as she could manage, and fled before the sun.