Chapter 15 – Deception

A/N – A big apology for taking over two months to post this latest chapter.  Excuses?  The usual, I guess.  Busy, tired, uninspired…just plain blah.  Anyway, thanks to those of you who're still following this story and have left reviews.  They help, believe me, they do!  Now, at long last…chapter 15.  Enjoy!

"Cameron?"

Giles studied the younger watcher, and waited for his response.  But Grey remained silent, looking back at him with indecision in his eyes. 

"I suppose," Grey said finally, "that I should fill you in on our little mission." 

Nodding, Giles leaned forward over the table.  "Yes, do tell."

Still looking uncertain, Grey sighed, then settled back in his seat.  "Well," he began, "nearly a year ago, Quentin Travers approached me about a special project he was working on.  Actually, I'd say it was more of a vendetta where he was concerned, for he was hell-bent on finding this woman, or rather monster would be a better term for her.  She had already eluded him and a team of our finest people once, and he informed me of the urgency in locating her.  She possesses considerable power, and knowledge of the Council.  She's—"

"Emily Pierce," Giles cut in abruptly.

Grey's eyes flashed surprise.  "Yes," he said.  "How did you…?

"I've heard rumors floating around headquarters about Quentin having something in the works," Giles explained, "but I had no idea who was involved."

Grey bowed slightly.  "Guilty as charged," he said with a grim smile.

The older Watcher shook his head.  "Quentin's an arrogant fool," he muttered, "do you have any idea what this woman is capable of?"

Grey shrugged.  "I've read the file."

"And she's a hundred times more dangerous."

Grey seemed unfazed.  "Quentin has put the coven in Devon at my disposal…and a squad of our finest men.  He let me handpick my team.  And of course, I'll have Hope…"

"And Faith?"

"We won't be needing her," Grey answered hastily.  "She'll be safe, if that's what you're worried about.  I've specifically told her—"

Giles shook his head.  "That counts for nothing with Faith.  Obviously, you don't know her as well as you think you do."

Grey frowned.  "She wouldn't—"

"Whatever lead you've found," Giles said, his tone intentionally ominous, "I'd drop.  Give up your search now.  This woman, Emily, is more dangerous when threatened.  Believe me, it's best to leave her alone."

Grey's eyes narrowed, suddenly skeptical.  "Why are you protecting her, Rupert?"

Giles looked back, his face grim.  "It's not her I'm protecting."

* * *

They stood a safe distance from the window, watching as gray tinged clouds rushed to keep pace with and effectively shroud the sun as it made its way upward.  Spike held the Slayer close, her back against his chest, his arms wrapped possessively around her upper body. 

"If Em's alive, I'll find her," he said, grazing her hair with his lips as he spoke.

Buffy swiveled to face him.  "But how?" she asked, looking puzzled.  "A location spell, maybe?"

He shook his head.  "No, Em's already got some kind of mojo going to block those." His mouth pursed into a quick smile.  "Actually, I've another idea in mind."

"What is it?"

His smile deepened.  "Same thing I did to find you, luv," he said.  "I'm a ghost, you see.  And because of that, I can go wherever I wish…wherever I whim."

Buffy frowned.  "I don't—"

"Shh, pet.  Don't worry, you'll see," he said, now lifting his hand up to her face to caress her cheek.  "I'm gonna have to go away for a bit.  Leave you."

Sighing, he slowly pulled away from her, and turned his attentions to the floor, searching for the clothes that they'd carelessly strewn about the room.  He snatched up Buffy's cotton nightgown, and handed it to her, then reached for his pants.

"Now," he said gently, "you're gonna have some explaining to do after I'm gone."  His tone sounded light, but his eyes were filled with concern.  "Angel's gonna know that we mice have been playing with his er, balls of yarn, while he's been away."  He held up the vampire's shirt.  "See?  Clothes all rumpled, a few buttons missing…"  He sniffed the air a couple of times.  "And your smell…  I could take a dozen showers, and he'd still know."

"But, what…" she began, eyes wide with alarm.  "What should I tell him?  How can I possibly explain…what happened?"

Spike let out a sharp breath and looked at her with concern.  "Just tell him it was my fault," he said.  "Blame's on me.  And it is."  He stood in front of her now, stroking her hair, a pained expression on his face.  "God, it kills me to leave you like this.  If there were another way…"

"No," she whispered, looking up at him with resignation.  "You have to find Emily. She's our best hope."

Spike then leaned forward and kissed her with uncharacteristic restraint.  "I'll be back," he promised, trying to sound confident.

Buffy stared up at him, eyes shining with unshed tears, and nodded.

"Well, here goes nothing…"  Taking a deep breath, Spike closed his eyes, mumbling, "Emily…Emily…Emily…Where are you, Emily?"

He felt the air around him begin to swirl; at first a mild breeze, it quickly became a frenzied gale.  He felt it tug at him, pulling from his stolen body.  Away and upwards.  Within seconds, he was gone.

* * *

Buffy stood in the middle of the tiny room, covering herself with the worn bedspread, shivering as the winds died down.

She stared at the man before her as he staggered back, falling onto the bed; eyes open wide, mouth agape.  His face seemed to go blank, and then he looked at her with seeming recognition mixed with alarm.

"Angel?"

She hesitated, then rushed to his side.  Sitting next to him on the bed, gripping his hand in hers, she studied his face for any trace, any sign...that he knew, that he'd experienced…what they'd done.

But there wasn't any.

He looked stunned and confused, and totally oblivious.

She squeezed his hand and gazed at him with concern.  "Angel, are you okay?"

"I…" he began slowly, then averted his eyes from hers.  "I feel…kind of fuzzy.  Disoriented."  He glanced at the window, at the morning light shining through.  "What…happened to me?"

Buffy took a deep breath before answering.  He didn't seem to know…anything.  She opened her mouth to explain, but found that she was speechless.  How could she tell Angel what they'd done?   

"Buffy?"  He glanced down at his rumpled and torn clothes, then glanced back at her, his look questioning.

* * *

It felt strange to be back; to be in control.  Angel rose suddenly off the bed and took two quick strides toward the window, stopping short of the sun's rays streaming into the room.  And control wasn't such an easy thing to maintain.  Not when Buffy had been sitting beside him—so close—on the bed.  Not when her scent was all over him. 

She looked at him with surprise, her brown eyes large and worried.  "Angel, what's wrong?"

"Nothing," he replied.  "I just feel strange.  Maybe I should take a walk or something."

"But it's day," she countered.

"Then I'll do the 'or something,'" he snapped back, suddenly annoyed.

Buffy rose from the bed, but maintained her distance, standing several feet away from him.  "I know you're wondering what happened.  And why you…"

"Smell like you?"  Although he hadn't intended it to, it came out sounding like a jab.

Buffy looked away uncomfortably.  "Well, yeah…"

"And why my clothes look a little worse for the wear?"  His tone was almost accusing, and he felt his anger rising.

'Don't!' a voice inside of him warned.  'Don't let your emotions betray you.'

Buffy turned back toward him, but her eyes were lowered. "That too…" she mumbled.

Of course Angel knew all too well what had happened, but he wasn't about to tell her.  After all, under the circumstances, wasn't lying a kindness? 

Always thinking about others, aren't you? 

"Buffy," he said finally, straining to sound calm, "I don't—"

But she interrupted him.

"It was Spike!" she said hurriedly, a guilty look on her face.  "Angel, I'm so sorry.  We…I mean…he's, Spike's a ghost, you see?  A spirit.  Somehow, he possessed your body.  He didn't mean to, and I don't know how it happened exactly, but I, I mean we—"

But he'd let her ramble long enough.  Holding up his hand, Angel silenced her.  "Please," he said, his voice shaking; he struggled for control.  "I don't want to know.  I just…"  He glanced away, before she could see the pain in his face.  He turned to the door.  "…want to get out of here."

Then in several long strides, he passed her.  And his feet kept going; down the hall, up the stairs, and to his room where he closed the door and wearily leaned against it.

Eyes shut and fists clenched, he tried to block the images that were now flooding his mind.   What they'd done.  He could still feel them.  Feel her.  The woman he loved, but couldn't have.  Wounds that had almost healed were now fresh again.  The pain was back, worse than ever.

But he had to think on the bright side, right?  And that would be…?

Well…at least he still had his soul.