Full Summary: Two competitors. Two prizes. One winner. When Spike and Buffy are transported to an alternate dimension and forced to compete against each other in a race of logic, wit and strength, who will succeed? As the finish line draws closer, will they find themselves getting closer, too? Set between seasons four and five.
A/N: This is set sometime in the summer between seasons four and five. Spike hasn't yet had his little revelation about Buffy, and she's still with Riley. But don't worry, Riley won't be making an appearance any time soon. This one is a little different to my previous fics... but I hope you like it. Many thanks to PaganBaby for beta reading!
"What did you do?" Spike's tone was hard, scornful.
"What did I do?" Buffy crossed her arms across her chest and glared.
"Shoulda known it was you when I woke up," Spike said, "something like this. Reeks of you and your soldier boy. S'not enough that he and his band of merry men stuck that chip in my brain, now you have to go and dump me in the middle of nowhere?"
"Spike, what are you talking about? I haven't done anything, and neither has Riley." Buffy paused, and looked around. She and Spike were standing in the middle of a small field, lined on all sides by a snarl of thorned bushes and trees with pointy branches. "If anything, I should be asking you what's going on."
"I don't have a bloody clue, Slayer!" Spike started to pace, leather coat flapping behind him. "Went to sleep in my crypt, woke up here. And that's all I know, swear it."
Buffy frowned. Spike wasn't a very good liar, she'd heard him bluffing on more than one occasion and it was always easy to tell when he wasn't telling the truth. Right now, it sounded like he was.
"Well, where are we?" She looked around again, eyes travelling the length and breadth of the field, looking for something – anything – to clue her in on their whereabouts.
"Another dimension, I'd wager," Spike said, and nodded towards the sky. "Sun's up, and I'm not on fire. Good an indication as any."
"Great," Buffy sighed, and sat down on the grass, which was far too green to be natural. "So what do we do?"
Spike eased himself onto the ground next to her, drawing his knees up to his chest and resting his forearms on the tops of his legs. "Well don't look at me!"
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Of all the people to get trapped in another dimension with, it had to be you."
"Yeah, well don't think I'm any happier about it than you are." Spike reached into his pockets and cursed when he found nothing but an empty pack of cigarettes.
"Those things will kill you anyway."
"I'm not even going to bother to answer that one, Slayer."
"You know, whoever it is that's put us here has provided lots of nice, pointy bits of tree," Buffy said. "But not one weapon. How about that."
Spike slipped into game face and stuck his tongue out. "Don't need a weapon."
"Cute," Buffy said. "But I thought weapons made you feel all manly?"
"So sweet of you to remember all the little things I've said," Spike smirked. "'Course, I am a pretty interesting bloke, so s'only natural."
"The only interesting thing about you, Spike, is the pile of dust that'll be left after I'm done staking you."
"Ooh," Spike mocked. "Sassy. All words and no action though, eh, Slayer?"
"I hate you."
"Feeling's more than mutual, pet."
Both Buffy and Spike jumped, and looked around to see where the voice had come from. In the corner of the field, the tangle of trees and thorns parted, and two hooded and cloaked figures walked slowly towards them.
"Did the trees just move?" Spike asked.
"We said be quiet! You will obey us, evil minion of the devil!"
Spike snorted, but said nothing more, and looked towards the two men expectantly. "Well? Where are we?"
"All in good time," the shortest figure spoke, and then indicated his companion. "This is Gavriel, and I am Natan. We are masters of this realm."
Buffy was getting impatient. "That's very nice, but it doesn't explain why you've got us trapped here."
She took a step towards Gavriel and Natan, fists clenched and intending to throw a punch or two. As she neared the men, the air around her became thicker, like tar, until she met a complete resistance when standing in front of them.
"You cannot do us harm," Natan said, his voice commanding. He waved a hand and a stone table with four chairs appeared. "Please, take a seat."
Buffy and Spike sat down, shooting wary glances at each other and at the two men. Neither had any idea of what was going on, but it seemed like their hosts were about to make with the big reveal, so for now, they'd listen.
"Gettin' bored now," Spike said, and drummed his fingers on the tabletop. "Got that explanation for us, chaps?"
"Indeed," Gavriel nodded. Buffy peered into the folds of his hood, but he was either wearing a mask or had no face. She shuddered, and hoped it was the former.
Natan waved his hand once more, and a patch of air above the table rippled and swelled, distorting into the shape of a window. Through the window, Buffy could see into a dark, dank room where two figures were huddled together against a wall. "You recognise these people?"
"Oh god, Xander and Willow!" Buffy stood up, and tried to seize one of the men – Natan, Gavriel, she didn't know – by the neck. But she was met once more by the strange resistance of the air, and she sat down, frustrated.
"Mmm, yes, your friends." Gavriel's voice was bored, disinterested.
"What have you done to them?"
"Oh, they're just sleeping. And now: the interesting bit! You must undertake a quest… a game, of sorts, in order to rescue your friends."
"They're not my friends," Spike muttered. "In fact, I hate the lot of 'em. So I can leave now, yeah?"
"Of course not," Gavriel laughed. "For what is a game without a little competition? You, my friend, will race against the Slayer in the hopes of beating her to the finish line."
"Why would I want to do that? Did you not just hear me? I hate the bleedin' Scoobies."
"Which is why your reward will be different," Natan put in. "Something that you desire…"
Spike sat up, and started to look a little more interested. "What would that be, then?"
"If you win, we will remove the behavioural modification chip that is implanted in your brain."
"What?" Buffy shouted. "You can't do that!"
"We can, and will," Natan's voice was smug. Buffy wanted to hit him. "But only if he crosses the finish line first. If you win, then his chip will remain where it is."
"And if he wins, what happens to Xander and Willow?" Buffy felt the beginnings of a headache coming on. She wanted nothing more than to be back home, snug and warm in bed with her boyfriend. No, scratch that. She wanted nothing more than to pummel these two idiots and then be back in her nice, comfy bed.
"Should you lose, they too will remain where they are."
Buffy stared. "So it's Spike's chip or my friends?"
"That's stupid!" Buffy glanced at Spike. His face was blank except for a tiny crinkle at the corner of his mouth, where it was lifted slightly in the beginnings of a smirk. She had no doubt that he would do anything to get rid of his chip, even if it meant that Xander and Willow had to die.
"Those are the rules," Natan said. "Now, do you wish to partake in this challenge?"
"What happens if we say no?" Buffy asked.
"Then you will all die."
"Don't know about you, Slayer," Spike said. "But if that's the only alternative and they're offerin' to take out my chip, I'm in."
"Spike." Buffy turned to look at the vampire, and gripped his arm, her eyes wide. "Please."
They both knew what she was asking him. Spike shrugged her hand off, and shook his head. "No can do. I'm in this for myself."
Buffy turned back to look at Natan and Gavriel, her mouth set in a thin line.
"Explain exactly how this quest thing works, then." If Spike wasn't going to co-operate, then she would have to do what she did best.