A/N: I'm back! Sorry updating took so long this time. In my defense, I had to move out of my parents' house and back into a dorm for the summer, so my life was crazy for about half a week. Hopefully the smexy updates to 'Five Words or Less' kept you satisfied meanwhile. =)

This chapter contains quotes/scenes from "The I in Team", "Living Conditions", "Harsh Light of Day", and "Fool for Love". And one teeny-tiny Star Trek reference.

I know the time scale is running sort of slowly (the last six chapters have taken place in 24 hours of Buffyverse time!) but things are about to pick up. Thank you everyone who has reviewed, favorited, and followed!

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Lorna dodges a commando, and faces off against Spike in the Summers house, only to discover that he was there for . . . a listening ear? To Lorna's dismay, Mrs. Summers and Dawn have bonded with the blond menace and don't want her to stake him. Nevertheless, Lorna calls Willow over to de-invite him from 1630 Revello Drive.

Chapter 8: Hollow Threats

Later that night, deep underground in the base beneath Lowell House, Professor Walsh reads her favorite lieutenant's report on Lorna Branson's movements and activities.

"I expected more from you, Riley," she says with a sigh. "You let a girl outrun you, a girl who may pose a threat to the Initiative and all that it stands for."

"Professor," Agent Finn protests, "with all due respect, I've never seen a girl who could run like that. She isn't normal. She's perceptive, clever . . . she spotted Agent Gates and Miller faster than any other H.S.T. we've encountered. It took us forty-two minutes to track her to the Bronze and then that apartment, and when she detected our presence she eluded us in twenty-eight seconds . . ."

"And you weren't able to determine her purpose in going to that apartment, or the reason for her hasty departure?"

"We didn't get close enough to plant a bug on the apartment in time to record her conversation, but city utility records report an incoming phone call approximately a minute before she left. It was traced to 1630 Revello Drive here in Sunnydale. And we have intel on two of the three people she arrived at the apartment with, two other students in your class: Willow Rosenberg and Daniel Osbourne. The third companion is an unknown, but we're running his picture through our database now."

"I see. Well, that's better than nothing. Get back to our man in the utility company and tell him I want that phone call. I'm counting on you Riley. Make me proud."

"There she is!" Willow hisses. Seizing Lorna by the arm, she ducks into the lunch line at the dining hall and hides her face behind a tray.

"Come on, Will, is Kathy really that bad?" Lorna grins, watching Willow's peppy roommate pass them – conspicuously wearing one of Willow's flamboyantly multicolored sweaters.

"Absolutely!" whispers Willow, tentatively lowering her tray. "Lorna, she has her outfits written up on index cards and she gives them names like 'Easter at the White House'. I find that deeply, deeply disturbed, don't you?"

"Then why is she wearing your sweater?"

"She says I spilled pancake syrup on one of hers . . . well, I let her think it was syrup. It was really for this potion I was trying to brew, and it sort-of . . . splashed . . . and it was totally an accident!"

"Boyfriend or loan shark?" says a male voice in front of them. Lorna and Willow look up into a pair of gray eyes which belong to an older student they haven't yet met.

"Excuse me?" asks Lorna warily, wondering why this guy is butting in on their business.

"The person you're hiding from," the boy replies.

"Oh . . . Both! Ugly break up," Willow quickly fibs, glancing around Lorna to see where Kathy went.

Lorna chuckles quietly to herself as she levels her food tray and starts selecting meal items.

"Freshman, huh?" assumes the older student, still trying to make light conversation. He's fairly attractive – with soft-looking brown hair, a tall athletic build, and a warm smile – but it's also apparent to her that he's smugly aware of his looks. 'Self-assured,' is how she'd describe his expression, anticipating goo-goo eyes from girls wherever he goes.

"It's that obvious?" Lorna responds to his query.

"There are signs. For instance, people who've been around for a while know how to use their dining hall card. Work it right, and you can get three meals worth." He demonstrates, piling his tray with food. "The goal is to polish off as much as humanly possible in one sitting – enough to get you through the day if necessary – while chipmunking items for future consumption."

Willow ponders his suggestion thoughtfully, but Lorna sticks to what she picked out and hands her punch card to the cashier. The three of them stand awkwardly with their trays, the older boy lingering beside them.

"So . . ." he begins to say.

"There's Oz," Lorna points out to Willow, spotting the were-boy and Xander sitting at a table halfway across the seating area. "See you around," she adds obligingly, meeting the eyes of the dining-card schemer.

"Parker Abrams," he introduces himself. "I'm at Kresge Hall."

"Hi," Lorna answers curtly. Willow makes up for her brusqueness by offering Parker Abrams her hand beneath their food trays.

"Willow Rosenberg, Stevenson," the redhead informs him. "And this is Lorna Branson."

"Okay. Well, see you around, Willow and Lorna of Stevenson."

Grinning at them, Parker strolls away, and Willow turns to Lorna as they make their way between tables to where Oz and Xander await them.

"You were a little . . . cold," she shrugs – an impressive feat considering the precariously balanced food on her tray.

"To that Parker guy?"

"Yeah. What gives?"

"Well," Lorna answers in a calm but burdened voice, "it's been my experience that cute guys who act all sweet and understanding usually turn out to be dirtbags. Trust me – a guy who thinks he's a catch? Best thing you can say to him is 'Catch ya later'."

Off Willow's scandalized expression she backtracks, "Or he might be a . . . genuine, nice guy . . . like Oz."

"Or Xander," Willow notes with a friendly smile as they reach the table.

"Hey. Say hi to non-college guy," Xander smirks at Willow, immediately snatching a wrapped ham sandwich off her overflowing tray.

As soon as Lorna and Willow take their seats, another tray appears at their table, and Kathy the Evil Roommate along with it.

"Hi everybody, squeeze in!" she giggles enthusiastically, wriggling in between Willow and Xander.

"Er . . . Lorna, Oz, Xander, this is Kathy, my roommate," Willow introduces with as little stiffness as she can feign. "Wearing my sweater," she adds under her breath, leaning over towards Lorna while she pretends to adjust her backpack.

Oblivious, Kathy grins and lifts a huge juicy burger to her mouth.

"So, where are you from, Kathy?" asks Xander.

While Kathy answers glibly, Willow stares in horror, watching a glutinous drop of ketchup dribble from the edge of the burger and splatter onto the front of her sweater.

"Mhh!" she squeaks, almost imperceptibly.

"It'll wash," Lorna whispers reassuringly. "It's not the end of the world."

In the sewers beneath the seemingly harmless Espresso Pump coffeehouse, three skittish vampires pour over a map of the town's tunnels and a dirty scrap of parchment. Brain – the only one of the three who isn't a complete blithering idiot – indicates a spot on the tunnel print-out.

"I've checked over and over. That's got to be the place."

The two others grunt and shrug like Klingon chimpanzees.

"The only problem," Brian continues, "is that we don't have the kinds of tools to dig through from this tunnel" –he follows a route with his finger, comparing the current map to the piece of the aged one– "to the site. Without Harmony, we can't–"

"So . . . you're Harmony's prawns, eh?"

From the shadows of the sewer route behind them, Spike ambles towards the three vampires, his stride leonine, a menacing glint in his eyes.

"Who are you?" gasps Brian, staring at the predatory newcomer.

"Spike. You chums work for me now."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa . . . we already have a boss. Harmony will – "

"Oh, yes, dear Harmony," Spike chuckles darkly. "Harmony's dead, mate. Or twice-dead, as the case may be."

"W-w-what?" Brian stutters, while the two dimwitted vamps echo his fear with alarmed grunting. "P-p-p-p-prove it."

Unfazed, Spike thrusts a hand into his jeans pocket.

"Recognize this, mate?" he sneers, holding up a thin silver chain with a gaudy, sparkly unicorn pendant dangling from it. "Silly bint dropped it in my car. Now, what was she doin' in there, let me think?" He tilts his head, pretending to read something off the ceiling for a few seconds before looking straight at Brian again. "Oh, right. Gettin' her sodding dust all over my leather seats."

He saunters even closer to the terrified trio of young vampires, who back up a few more steps until they're trapped against the table with their maps. "Squealed for mercy, too, she did. Poor, poor Harmony. I'm even sorrier for you boys, all alone down here in the dark, no one to guide you, no protection from the Slayer . . ."

"The Slayer!" Brian visibly shivers, cowardly to the core. "B-b-but there isn't supposed to be a Slayer in Sunnydale anymore, not since the whole Acathla showdown. Word is, she got killed – or one got killed and the other one vanished, probably dead too."

"Well, you see, mate . . . that's the thing about Slayers," grins Spike. "One snuffs it, another one rises. Luckily for you all, I happen to know a thing or two about Slayers. I know how to kill 'em better than anyone. Wouldn't call me the Big Bad if I didn't, now would they? So, in return for offering you boys my protection, you help me get something I want . . ."

His eyes dart behind the cowering minions to the collection of papers on the dingy table. "Before I ripped her yammering head off, dear Harm just happened to mention a certain gem . . ."

"Yes, yes," Brian nods frantically, hurrying in hopes of appeasing Spike. He shoos the two delinquent vamps off to one side and points from the antique paper fragment to the Sunnydale sewer map. "We've determined the precise location of the Gem of Amarra in the 'valley of the sun', which is Sunnydale." He laughs nervously. "I mean, obviously, right? Sunny-dale. Sun-valley. Valley of the sun."

Spike remains stony-faced and analytical, his keen blue eyes darting between the sets of maps.

"And it's definitely the crypt, right? I'm not keen on tunneling into someone's septic tank?"

"It's the crypt," Brian nods. "The radar soundings are clear. The walls are thinnest here, at the bottom. We've got to tunnel from underneath. More work, but I'm sure–"

Quick as lightning, Spike seizes Brian by the back of his neck and slams his face into the table, pressing his cheek to the city map.

"Better be more than sure, mate. 'Cuz I'd hate to have to hurt you . . ."

A/N: Sorry if this one was mostly canon and kinda boring. =( Another Lorna/Spike close encounter soon, promise!