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Why do I even bother? That was the question raging through Spike's mind as he paced, an empty flask in his hand. Periodically he stopped and tried to take a drink, only to remember he had finished off all the alcohol hours ago. Which was, of course, her fault. If she hadn't been so, so –
"ARGH!" Spike flung the drained dry bottle across the room, the glass shattering in a satisfying explosion of temper.
And what a temper. Buffy's words last night had stung. It wasn't just that they had fought; no, it was worse. It was that she had so loudly and clearly told him that he didn't matter. That the ring she wore was just a piece of metal. That everything they'd slowly been creeping towards could crash and burn the instant he dared do something as simple as worry about her. Try to warn her. Try to be everything a man should be when his wife WAS ABOUT TO GET HERSELF KILLED!
"What the hell is she thinking?!" he shouted to the empty crypt. "They're trouble. I know they're trouble. She knows. Then why the bloody hell won't she admit it? I know why. 'Cause she's a – "
A timid voice broke his train of thought. Spike spun around, finally spotting Clem cowering near the doorway.
"Uh, Spike, I hate to bother you, it's obvious you're in the middle of, uh, something," Clem began to speak.
Spike shot the other demon a 'duh, you idiot' Glare of Death. "I'm ranting here! You know what happened last night? My lovely wife Buffy just told me she didn't give a flying f – "
"I have something to tell you about Buffy!" Clem interrupted, twitching his ears nervously.
"What, she have to save you from the commandoes again? Maybe that'd knock some sense into her incredibly thick skull," Spike snarled.
"Well, you see, the thing is – "
"Of course, that wouldn't work. Slayer would make up some excuse for them. Never mind the fact Soldier Boy's gone mad, no, she wouldn't notice that. Instead she'd rather spend all night nitpicking about a little petty larceny. So what if I help myself to the occasional wallet? Where's that in the scheme of things, compared to say torture?"
"Then she goes off on 'well, you used to do that too, Mr. I-Got-My-Name-Stabbing-People-With-Railroad-Spikes'. Well screw you Slayer! At least I admit where I am on your bloody scale of morality. Your precious soldiers are doing the same thing and calling themselves saints. You just wait and see how saintly they are when you're on the rack!"
"Yeah, about that – "
"And don't go looking to me for help because IT WILL BE ALL YOUR FAULT!" Spike shouted, his rant finally coming to an end.
Clem saw his opening and took it. "Buffy's been kidnapped by the Initiative!"
Spike rushed over and shoved the weaker demon up against the wall. "What? Why didn't you say so in the first place? What happened? Where is she?"
"She's kidnapped, I saw it happen across the street they put her in a van and drove away and I don't know where they took her – "
"Well you should have followed them then!" Spike roared.
Clem winced. This was what he was worried about. "I thought I needed to tell you first! I mean, if they got me too then both of us would be gone. And then who would tell you?"
Spike closed his eyes and took a deep ragged breath before letting Clem down. "Tell me exactly what happened."
Relieved his friend was no longer looking to rip his head off, Clem quickly recounted everything he had seen from his window.
While Clem was talking, Spike was mulling over his next course of action. He would have thought his first reaction would be, "To hell with this, let her burn." Instead, here he was planning a rescue mission for someone who probably didn't love him anyway. Did he care?
At the moment.........no, he didn't. All he cared about was Buffy being all right.
Clem finished. Spike looked up and said, "Okay. Here's what we're going to do. We're going to go in there, and get her back."
"We?" squeaked Clem.
"Yes, we. You owe her, and you owe me. We."
"Whatever you say, Spike."
"Right then. Let's go."
"Don't we need weapons?"
"Help yourself. Get me the axe."
They marched out the door. Well, Spike marched and Clem reluctantly trailed behind.
They made it about five steps before they bumped into Anya.
"Spike! And another demon whose name I do not know!"
Anya looked ready for a chat. Spike did NOT have time for a chatty Anya. "Look, I'm in a hurry – "
"In the interest of facilitating your relationship with Buffy, I have come to invite you to go out to dinner with Xander and me. I hope that this will make Xander be nicer to you and support your marriage to Buffy. My magazines always say relationships have a better chance of survival if family and friends support you." She turned to Clem, "However, you are not invited. Though I do know a lovely Mistan'I who is currently single."
"Really? What's her number?" Clem asked eagerly.
"Let me check my cell," Anya began to say, before Spike slammed his axe into the ground. Anya and Clem jumped. Clem accidentally set his crossbow off. A cat yowled in the distance.
"The Initiative has Buffy," he growled. "We don't have time for this."
"The commandoes have Buffy? Do you have a plan to rescue her?"
"Yes. Find her, get her out, bring her back."
"That's not a very good plan," Anya remarked. "Xander could make a better plan."
"No he couldn't."
"Yes, he could. Xander knows a lot about soldiers. He broke into an army base once," she said proudly.
"Well, bully for him."
"To successfully rescue Buffy, you might need his help. In fact, you will probably need Willow too. She is good with computers. And magic. But I am better with magic," Anya added defiantly.
Clem glanced over at Spike. "You know, that's not such a bad idea."
It really wasn't. Spike sighed. "Right then, to Scooby Central we go."
"You mean to Giles?"
"Yes Anya, to Giles."
They set off.
"You know, I've always liked that show. Especially the dog. Wow, he's really funny."
"Clem? Shut up."
Scooby Central. Home of the Scoobies. Spike glared at all of them, just on general principle. They were bickering over the best way to rescue Buffy. Also on whether or not he should be included. Xander thought this was all part of some sort of evil plan on Spike's part that would get them all killed. Spike had almost ripped the whelp's head off for daring to say he'd hurt Buffy like that.
He probably would have if the chip hadn't fired.
So now he was sitting in the corner, nursing a headache while slowly being excluded from the plans to rescue his wife. Not Xander's wife, or Giles' wife, or Willow's wife. Though the last image did sound worth considering.........
Get yourself back on track, a Buffy-like voice told him. You can be such a pig!
"I could hack into their system and shut it down," Willow suggested across the room.
"First we have to find a way to enter their complex before we can consider such tactics."
"Well, we need such tactics considered when we go in there."
"What she said."
"M-maybe a spell that disrupts e-electricity?"
"Oh! Yeah, we could use that."
Spike was ready to jump up and scream at them, "Stop sitting around and DO something! She's in danger and she needs our help now!"
The last time he had done that was five minutes ago. Anya had patted him sympathetically on the arm and pointed out that they could all die if they didn't have a plan beyond 'rescue Buffy'. And then she added that she disliked the thought of her death or Xander's.
He should have just taken Clem and gone after Buffy himself.
On her monitor, the scene inside the Giles house played. Walsh watched the images intently, sipping her coffee. It had the right amount sugar now, after she had a little chat with the supply department.
Oh look, the vampire's microchip was activated. How nice to see her inventions in action. It made her feel all warm inside. Of course, that could be the coffee.
Behind her, Walsh heard Finn enter the room. She didn't acknowledge his presence until after she finished her coffee. There were some things that just shouldn't be interrupted. A good cup of coffee was one of them. And there was always the power play factor. She so loved those.
Finally, she turned around. "What do you have for me?"
"The hostile has been taken and is being secured as we speak, ma'am," Finn reported. He had a bald patch at the top of his head. Walsh smirked. She had already been informed of the gum incident.
"Good. Tell them to dose her with a stimulant, I don't want to be waiting all night for her to regain consciousness."
"Yes ma'am." Finn paused, peering at the monitor. Hostile 17 was gesticulating wildly, a blonde woman at his side, speaking earnestly. "Do you want me to arrange for the other HST's capture?"
"No. He is planning an ill fated 'rescue attempt'; it will be amusing and educational to watch. You are dismissed."
Walsh smiled as Finn left. He was much better behaved now that the Slayer was in custody. No doubt looking forward to the planned experiments. As was she.
It was not every day she had her hands on such a specimen.
Her head hurt.
Her arms hurt
Her chest hurt
In fact, Buffy was pretty damn sure that her toes hurt. Her entire body resonated with a sort of aching buzz. And her heart was pounding in a funny way. Kind of like running a race, except not. Since she wasn't actually running.
Come to think of it, what was she doing?
Buffy reached out to test her surroundings. She was lying down. On something hard, but with a little give. Sort of like chairs in a waiting room – rocks covered with this thin layer of squishy cloth so you can pretend you're comfortable. Buffy tried to sit up.
First of all, that made her head spin.
Second of all, she couldn't. There were straps on her arms and legs, pinning her to the waiting room chair board thing.
This was not good.
Buffy opened her eyes. She was in the center of a sterile, white room. There were people in lab coats walking around. Lots of machinery and tubes and things she didn't know the name of were being pushed in her general direction.
This was really not good.
One lab coat guy noticed she was awake and walked over, clipboard in hand. He glanced at it a moment, then glanced at something beside her. Buffy turned her head and saw him looking at some sort of monitor. That's when she saw the wires leading from her to the thing. Great, way to go creepy sci-fi on her.
He wrote some stuff down and checked his watch, giving a soft whistle. Then he waved some other lab coat guy over. "Tell her the subject has regained awareness."
Other guy left. Clipboard Guy stared down at his, well, clipboard and hmmed.
Buffy decided it was time to start with her trademark quips. "Tell me doctor, will I ever play the piano again?"
Clipboard Guy looked up, as if surprised she could talk. He then proceeded to scribble something down. Buffy wondered if he was making notes, 'Subject tells bad jokes'. As she prepared to ask him that, she noticed Professor Walsh and Riley heading towards her. What? She was expecting Riley, but when did Walsh get here?
Walsh was walking in front of Riley. In fact, everyone in the room was parting for Walsh. Huh. Guess she really was a heinous bitch.
"You know, I hope this isn't going to affect my grade this semester," she managed to say. "Unless it's extra credit. I could go for some extra credit."
"Indeed you could," Walsh remarked dryly. "Your last test was abominable."
"What can I say? I was busy." Buffy raised her head and met Walsh's eyes. "Out of curiosity, what's the big evil plan?"
"There is no evil plan," Riley snapped. "You are the only evil one here."
Buffy rolled her eyes. She noticed that Walsh did too at Riley's outburst. "I heard you the first time. By the way, nice haircut," she said, nodding to the bald patch where he had obviously taken scissors to his gummed up hair.
"You are an anomaly. I study anomalies. You may call that the 'big evil plan' if you wish. I do not care."
"You're all heart. So I'm not here to satisfy Riley's dreams of burning bondage love?"
Riley started, a panicked expression on his face, and then glowered some more. He began to rant about something. Possibly Buffy's innate evilness. Buffy ignored him and focused on Walsh. "Some guys just don't handle the break-up well, do they?"
"Indeed," Walsh said, equally ignoring Finn. "I have set up a series of tests especially for you, Hostile 95."
"Don't I feel special. That just made my day! Well, that and being zapped to kingdom come by a bunch of supposedly friendly fellow demon killers.
"We do not kill them," Walsh explained, "that is a waste of knowledge. No, we – "
"Go all mad scientist on them. Gotcha. So what are you going to do, Dr. Frankenstein?"
"With all your demon research. Now that I'm on the list, I figure I have the right to know."
"Learn to control, to contain, and to use HSTs for our benefit."
"Oh. I see. More toys for the big boys to play with." Buffy paused. "So where do I fit in?"
Walsh studied Buffy for a moment. "In two ways. One, you are rumored to possess certain abilities beyond that of a human female. And two, you are engaged in a relationship with another hostile. In fact, you consider yourself married. I am fascinated from a psychological standpoint that hostiles mimicked human mating practices. That is my specialty, after all."
"So how about you give me a physical and I fill out a survey for you and we all go home happy?"
"No. Insufficient data. Speaking of that, we will begin the procedure now." Walsh flicked her eyes over to Finn. He was jumping up and down in a highly unprofessional and eager manner. "You may begin, Agent Finn."
Walsh swept out of the room. These were only preliminary tests, of little interest to her. She lingered only to order the head researcher to record anything the subject said or did of interest.
Buffy watched her leave. She had hoped that this year's villain would be a little bit more, you know, villainy. At least some evil mwa-ha-ha-ing. Even the Mayor did that. He did it in an aw-shucks, I'm evil way, but at least he understood how these things worked. Walsh, Riley and the rest of the Initiative just didn't get it.
Buffy turned her attention to Riley. The boyfriend who almost was. He stood there with a psychotic grin on his face that reminded her of his idiotic grin. She used to think it was cute, but with the impending torture and all, he was totally losing the cuteness factor.
Spike was right. Riley was an enormous git. And whatever other insults her husband had come up with.
Spike. At that thought, Buffy felt her stomach churn with worry and regret. If only she hadn't been so stubborn. All she had to do was at least acknowledge that he could be right. Then she wouldn't have gone after Riley without back up.
Well, she probably wouldn't have taken back up. She never did. But she would have left a note! Really. She would have.
Notes tell people things, so when she suddenly turns up missing (and how can she turn up missing, she's not there, so how can she turn up? she can't, so how do they know she's missing?), they know where to look.
But she didn't. Leave a note, that is. She was note-less, and strapped to a seriously uncomfortable board while her ex prepared to push buttons and make her scream.
And not in the way Spike made her scream.
"You know you brought this on yourself," Riley told her seriously as he watched the lab tech guy hit switches.
"Yeah, and you hitting me and strapping me down and sticking needles in me had absolutely nothing to do with it."
"Actually, the technicians did the strapping and the needles. I don't have that kind of training."
Riley frowned, trying to figure out if she had just insulted him. She had. He forged onward.
"You could have joined us."
"And together ruled the galaxy as father and son? Or whatever your psycho brain came up with? I don't think so, lover boy."
Riley ignored her. "You chose the monsters instead. You are now another hostile that must be captured, contained, and studied."
"This is because I'm with Spike? You went all psycho because I decided to stay married to my husband?" Spike had really hit the nail on the head in their last argument. He'd insisted Riley was getting a little too crazy jealous.
"Monsters do not truly marry. Nor do they love. They can only mimic human emotions for the purpose of maintaining their illusion of humanity."
"The only one doing that here is you, Riley. I can't believe I ever thought you were even half the man Spike is. He loves me."
And I love him. I do! I didn't realize that until I see the guy I thought was going to be the One getting ready to hurt me. Spike would never do that. Well, now he wouldn't. Though after last night......... Buffy felt herself panicking. Does he still love me? Did he ever tell me, and did I tell him? Am I going to die here without ever letting him know?
Why did I have to be so stubborn! Why couldn't I have just let him in? He was letting me in. He was letting me set the pace and call the shots and he stood by my side and I let him down.
Buffy tried to her hand and see her ring sparkle, only to feel the bite of the straps restraining her. All she could do was twitch her fingers and feel the reassuring pressure. This does mean something to me, she thought. It means everything.
"I'll tell him you said that when he arrives. Commander Walsh is currently watching our sensors for a rescue attempt by Hostile 17. I personally don't believe he will be that stupid, but she does. I hope she's right. Then we can truly see some justice done."
Buffy was summoning her thoughts for an appropriate comeback (something beyond the NOOO! that reverberated through every inch of her being) when Riley finally gave the technician the signal.
The technician looked up. "Success. We are ready to begin testing the subject's response to stimuli."
Riley smiled. "Good."