Title: Soul Cages (Chapter 1 of Don't Stop the Dance)
Author: Xionin
Rating: PG-13 this chapter.
Pairing: Buffy/Spike. Other major characters included.
Feedback: I would love to hear from you! perra_de_amor@yahoo.com
Distribution: I would be honored, just let me know where.
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Mutant Enemy and Joss Whedon...which is a crime. What's the old saying? "Youth is wasted on the young." These characters are wasted on them.

~Xionin

Soul Cages

"Bloody hell." Spike grumbles as he storms away from Revello drive, his black leather armor flowing behind him with familiar fluidity. He'd left the Summers home only after making sure Buffy was back and relatively unharmed. He felt no need to stay and gloat in his capture of the demon. Argue that the 'big bad' was back. He knows it is a small drop in the proverbial bucket.

"I know what she's trying to do," he mutters, continuing the argument with the voice in his head. "But...bloody hell!"

He winces as he recalls her words. I want *dangerous* Spike: the one that tried to kill me when we first met. "Was she kidding," he thinks aloud. She wants the one that he'd gone, quite literally, through Hell to get rid of? The one that failed her? The one that nearly…

No, that's not what she was saying at all, was it?

"Well...I get it," he answers himself. "Not pulling our own, are we now? That's the point an' all, innit?." he kicks a rock on the ground with a little too much force and it careens into the side of a parked car, nicking the paint and setting off an alarm in the process.

"Bullocks!" Spike quickly rounds the corner, not wanting a confrontation with an angry car owner, unless it happened to be another nasty.

"All of us 're slackers or whatever ridin' her coattails and what-not." He reasons. "Doesn't take a bloody genius to suss that one out, does it?" his pace slows at the realization, his anger lulling to mere annoyance.

"What a motley crew, us lot." he instinctively turns towards Willy's, the need to slam down a few drinks weighing on him heavily.

"Yeah, we're quite a bunch of bloody warriors." He muses. "A Wicca afraid of her own power..." he thinks of the destruction the normally gentle willow had wreaked in his absence last year. Wonders, briefly, if things could have been different had he stayed. But he couldn't have, could he. Not after...

Spike, I'm hurt.

He physically shakes the thought.

"Hell I'm bloody afraid of Red m'self," he snorts to no one. Instead he thinks of Anya, which leads to another painful memory. Again he shakes it off and searches his pockets for cigarettes.

"Let's see..." he continues his walking analysis. "We've got an ex-vengeance demon with the tact of beans on toast. A self-righteous watcher with a major chip." He admits to feeling a pang of sympathy for what Giles had been through recently.

"Guess I'd 'ave one to, if..." he doesn't want to finish that thought. Doesn't want to think of the obliteration of the watcher's council: all those people…all those souls. Sure they weren't exactly friends. Barely tolerated each other, really. But he…they…didn't deserve that. No.

"Oh," he rouses himself out of the temporary bout of, whatever, "and an infuriating whelp of a handyman who's major talent is getting sliced up by his dates" he takes a moment to appreciate his own wit.

"Hmmph...doesn't take a bloody genius to know that all she's really got watchin' 'er back are a bunch o' scared chits and a coupla of little boys. And Giles.

"And the principal."

The principal.

This stops him in his tracks. He's inundated with thoughts of the Slayer and her new…ally.

Buffy and the principal on a date, him bloody feeding her "the best thing" she's ever had in her mouth.

The principal, son of a slayer.

Buffy and the principal working together all day.

Walking with Buffy in the sunlight, her hair golden, her skin...ok, new thought QUICK.

"Didn't know slayers had kids."

Thoughts of Buffy as a mother.

A slow smile spreads across his face and his head drops at the thought, his chest full of pride at the possibility.

"She'd make a great mum," he says softly.

Thoughts of a bite size Buffy playing in her pram, smiling up at her mommy and daddy.

"Daddy."

Who would that be? Not me, that's for bloody sure.

Not wanting to linger on that notion, he resumes his trek to Willy's.

"Yeah, she's got the principal," he continues glancing about: nope, no one to catch him in this one-voiced conversation.

She's got me. Yeah, she's got me all right. Nice and tidy.

At that thought his quickens his pace from anger, perhaps, or is it fear.

"I shoulda left," he voices to the night. "'It's not time for him yet' it says to the little boy. Not time. Time for what? Shoulda left, but couldna. Not when she says..."

I'm not ready for you to not be here.

And what did that bloody mean, anyway.

He turns down an empty alley.

Yeah, he knows what it sounded like, but he's long given up any hope. He is nearly content just to be near her and to be there for her and the niblet in the thick of the fight.

He's nearly content knowing that she believes in him somewhat, and that she needs him…for…anything. "Anything at all, really."

'I'm alright' he'd told her, when inside it was killing him that she was so tender now, and yet so far away. She was responding to the brand new spark within him with gentle touches, careful concern and yet she is just as confused as ever.

But it is different. She is different. They are different...with each other. More...

"Dunno...something," he finishes the thought with a sigh.

"Need a smoke." He searches his pockets and finds a box with one lone cigarette. His hands are shaky and he drops the pack trying to get the damned thing out. He kicks it further down the alley, near a puddle, when he steps forward and reaches down to pick it up.

"Oh BLOODY HELL!" He screams and kicks a nearby trashcan.

"Well, well…if it isn't Sunnydale's very own Benedict Arnold." A large, gritty looking vampire steps from the shadows and between Spike and his wayward pack of…uh…cigarette.

"Fellas," two vamps, a blonde and a redhead, round the corner of the building into Spike's view. "This is the Slayer's little lapdog." He eyes the other two, and they circle behind.

"If you get close enough to read his collar, the name on it says Spike." Laughter all around. Spike just rolls his eyes, but he is assessing the strength of the three.

"Here Spikey, Spike. " The redhead chuckles a little too heartily at his master's lame joke.

Brown noser. Spike emits a low growl followed by a slow, gutteral laugh that eventually becomes bellowing.

"What's so fucking funny?" The leader masks his sudden apprehension with bravado.

"Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh mate. You really don't wanna be standin' where you're standin' right now." He looks down at the box containing his last cigarette.

"Oh no?" The vamp, eyeing the object on the ground, slowly and deliberately steps on the dropped box, grinding its contents to dust beneath his boot.

Spike looks down at the debris and then slowly up at the offender, his eyes flashing yellow. "No."

He slips into game face and, in a single fluid motion of his leather duster, sends a roundhouse kick to the vamp's face, staking him as he struggles to regain his balance.

All the redheaded vamp sees is a fist coming through the cloud of dust as Spike lands a right on his jaw. He swings wildly at his nimble elder and misses horribly.

He pays for it by receiving a kick from Spike's steel-toed Doc Martens to his ribcage. There's a distinct sound of breaking bones. Spike follows the kick with an elbow to the back of the head. He stumbles forward and looks up in time to say "oh sh-" as Spike pulls him back by the hair and plunges the stake into him.

This leaves the quiet vamp, who is frozen in terror. He's obviously a fledgling. Spike can smell his panic and hesitates in his advance on the youngster, feeling a bit sorry for him. He can feel his fangs retreat as he slips back into his human appearance.

Perhaps nineteen years old, the boy has hair so blonde that it's almost white. Coupled with the saucers he now has for eyes, he is quite the picture of fear. He's also not in game face and looks very much like a child.

"Oi." Spike drops his fight stance and nods to the frightened newly-dead's head of hair. "How'd you do that…get it so-" He steps closer, pointing at the kid with the stake. The other man cowers back a step. "I've never been able to m'self. Bloody uncooperative, this." He points to his own closely cropped, blonde head. "But yours. You use peroxide?"

"Uh-uh..it-it-it's natural, actually." Comes the shaky reply from the retreating vamp, his Southern California accent prominent.

"Oh geeehht out, really?" Spike's attention is now totally focused on the shiny happy strands of perfect blonde hair on the youngster's head. He squints his eyes, searching for the tell-tale brown roots. Not seeing any, he flashes a bright smile at his confused opponent.

"Bloody brilliant, that." Having had his curiosity satisfied, Spike resumes his predatory glowering, stake twirling in his fingers.

"Uh…th-th-thanks?" The vamp doesn't know whether to run or what. He makes a half-hearted attempt at a defensive stance but then decides it's better to be a coward and unlive another day. He turns and takes off running down the alley.

"Cor…runs like a little girl." Spike muses, shaking his head in disgust. He moves to give chase but then realizes he doesn't feel the desire for another kill. In fact the last two have left a bitter taste in his mouth. The sooner he gets that first cigarette the better. And if he's going to have one, well, it's like the advertisement says: betcha you can't…

"Bugger!" he rounds the corner and throws open the door to Willy's. Spotting a stool at the far end in the shadows, he plops down and demands a bottle of Jack and his first pack of cigarettes of the night.

TBC Chapter 2: Contact