The First Taste - 3
~ Outside Willy’s Alibi Room, Saturday 11:30 p.m.~
When Asher left the club, his hunger had been sated, but he still felt empty. He could not survive on teenage hormones alone for very long, but he dared not feed in a town with a slayer. His mind puzzled over the moment Willow had shared with him as he was leaving. He had tried to enthrall her to forget about him, but it felt as though she was looking right past the thrall into his thoughts. Perhaps she had some magic in her, like necromancy or divination, or perhaps it was due to her living on a hellmouth. Whatever it was, when she looked at him she saw through his shadows, and he couldn’t help but find that frightening. No one had looked for his pain since Julianna, and he had so much more to hide now than he had then. Perhaps he should avoid the redhead. She would only lead to trouble.
Nearing the alley by the demon bar, Asher heard the sounds of a scuffle. Several vampires were ganging up on a single man, no make that, single vampire. “I’ll have you know I was your master once!” The slurred British voice complained in between the various punches. “And I’ll be your master again, you worthless bunch of …” A knee to the groin knocked the vampire to his knees, cutting off his rantings, but the man wasn’t about to take it lying down. He swung back, his arms flailing wildly as though the alcohol had caused him to be disoriented. No vampire could get that drunk though, Asher thought.
The gang began kicking at the vampire, but none of them succeeded in shutting him up. “Just you wait ‘til those commandos take you! Let’s see which of you are smart enough to get out of that maze! They’ll lock you down and experiment on you and I’ll just laugh! Ugh!” A hit knocked the vampire down face first, but Asher had heard enough.
“Be gone!” Asher yelled, stepping out from the shadows, scaring the young fledglings. They were gone before Asher could count to ten.
“Thanks mate, but really I had it under control.” Spike said, cockily getting up to his feet.
“Yes, it appeared so.” Asher answered sarcastically.
“Well, I better be going.” Spike dusted himself off and turned to walk away.
“I need to speak with you.” Asher quickly spoke up.
“So speak.” Spike said, rubbing the back of his head. It felt like somebody had ripped his skull open and tried to sew it back together again. “But we’re not getting any younger, so make it short.”
“I have a feeling this will take awhile. Will you come to my place for the day? We can talk, no?”
“No. I may be short on funds, but I’m not some young meat you can ‘chat up’ for the day. If that’s what you’re looking for pal, you’re better off inside Willy’s.”
“You misunderstand me.”
“Oh, I think I understand you plenty, and I’m not that kind of bloke.” Spike slurred, wishing he was really as drunk as he wanted to act. It was no fair that he would go through all the trouble of stealing a bottle of tequila and not even feel a buzz.
“I am from the Vampire Council.”
“Well la-de-freakin’ da.” Spike glared at Asher.
“Surely you have heard of it?”
“I wasn’t born yesterday, of course I’ve heard of it. But you must be pretty low on the totem pole to get sent to Sunnyhell on their business.” Spike accurately summed up the situation, much to Asher’s chagrin.
“I am looking for information on the military group. You say you have escaped from them? I must speak with you.”
“Well, what if I don’t want to speak with you? What if I know what you’re going to do with anything I say? Who do you report to anyway, the Queen of Nightmares? No thanks, I’m not going to answer any questions that give that group more ammunition.”
“Monsieur, you are weak. I could easily kill you now, and I will, if I think you have nothing to contribute. Now ask yourself, is it worth ending it all, when you are a continent away from any immediate danger if you were to divulge your experience?”
Spike began walking away slowly down the alley, trying to hide the slight limp from his weakened state. He soon found a hand around his throat blocking the way. “I gave you a choice.”
“And I am making a decision.”
“You are making the wrong one.”
“Then it was never a choice.” Spike’s eyes locked on Asher’s, watching the shadows swirl across the master’s face.
“You wish for death?”
“Don’t sound surprised. You wish for it too, you’re just not brave enough to greet the day, and frankly, neither am I, but if you’re willing to do it for me…” Spike smirked at the older vampire.
“You did not escape from wherever they kept you just to die.”
“No, I escaped to get revenge on the blasted slayer, but I can’t and you know why?” Spike was getting a full head of anger, and Asher wasn’t about to interrupt the rant. “Because the bloody U.S. army did something to my head so that every time I try to hurt someone I feel like I may as well be dead. Unless you and your Council can do something about my head, you may as well kill me!”
“They have neutered you?” Asher asked in disbelief.
“Hell no! I can’t bite. I can’t hunt. I can’t even think harmful thoughts, but I didn’t say anything about being neutered! I’ll have you know those parts work just fine thank you very much.” Spike answered haughtily.
“Fascinating.” Asher murmured. He had no idea the humans’ army had such abilities.
“Fascinating, he says.” Spike scoffed. “I’ll show you fascinating!”
“I would rather hear more about your experience. If they have indeed bewitched your mind, my sire would be interested to know how the process is reversed.”
“Bewitched? No, this isn’t witchcraft; it’s science. They put something in there.” Spike pointed to his head.
“Do you know of anyone who can get it out?”
That comment stopped Spike in his rant. Did he know anyone smart enough to get it out? What the heck was in his head anyway? Maybe if someone could get into the military records and find what had happened, they could undo it. Unfortunately, it had taken him long enough to find the website with Buffy’s dorm number that he knew he didn’t have the genius needed to break into the records he needed. Most demons he knew were completely computer illiterate, and he was hardly in a state to force someone to do it for him. They’d have to be scared of him already. “Red.” He whispered.
“The slayer’s best friend. She might know how to get this out.”
“She is petite, with red hair?” Asher asked, unwilling to admit what his subconscious was telling him.
“Yeah, and on crutches now so she should be easy pickings. If I can just get her some place with a computer she can get the records on how they did this.”
“I do not think that will work. Mademoiselle Rosenberg claims she knows nothing about the military.”
“Well of course she says that. She’s the slayer’s best friend. She’s not going to help you unless you’ve got something on her.”
“Yeah, you have to kidnap her or hold her friends for ransom. And then of course, you’re working against the clock since the slayer will come looking for her. But there’s no one else in this town who can do it.” Spike frowned. “Damnit.”
“What is it?”
“I can’t kidnap her. Damn headache.”
“Well, perhaps I can persuade her then.” Asher let Spike see a flash of his enthralling abilities.
“I like the way you think.” Spike smirked.
“Then we are in agreement to work together, Monsieur?”
“Spike, the name’s Spike.” He said, offering his hand.
“Asher. Now shall we see about a redhead?” The older vampire shook the younger vampire’s hand and thus a partnership was founded.
~ Downtown Sunnydale, Saturday, 11:35 p.m. ~
“Willow, run!” Graham yelled, hoping the girl would get away while he faced off against all the vampires. Willow just looked at him like he had lost his mind; like she would be dumb enough to try to outrun five vampires… on crutches!
“That’s right darling, just start the chase.” One of the vampires leered at her. “Who knows, maybe I’ll let you win.”
“Give me my bag, Graham. I’ve got mace in there.” Willow hissed at her companion, hoping he wouldn’t ask any dumb questions. She needed the stake and holy water gun inside.
“Then again, maybe not.” The vampire’s face shifted to its uglier counterpart. He made a dive for Willow, but Graham got in his way, and the two fell down to the ground throwing punches. Willow was surprised by how well Graham was holding up considering the vampire’s strength, but she knew they didn’t have much time. If only she could reach the bag…
Her plan didn’t last too long. One of the smarter minions decided it would be a good time to make off with the girl, and grabbed Willow, knocking her off her crutches. She let loose a scream loud enough to be heard all the way back to the Bronze. Maybe she’d be lucky and Buffy would have left with Riley already. On second thought, she was screwed.
She swatted at her assailant, trying to distract him. She glanced over to where Graham was being pinned to the ground by two vampires while a third was moving closer for the kill.
A sharp whistle froze the fighting. “Found her!” A cocky British voice called out.
“Spike?” Willow asked, both relieved that the fighting was stalled and worried that Spike was still in town and evidently wreaking chaos.
“Ah, excellent.” A pale form emerged from the shadows, floating forward as if he were a ghost. “Take her to my place; I will join you soon.”
Spike smirked. Pushing aside the young vampire that had been trying to drag Willow away, Spike offered Willow a hand. She looked at his hand as if it were a snake about to bite her. Getting tired of waiting for her to move, he used his strength to flip her over his shoulder, cave man style. “Now this is the way to make an exit. Sayonara suckers!” Spike called, running down the street with Willow in his grasp.
“Now which of you laid a finger on ma chaton?” Asher asked, his icy voice striking terror in the hearts of the younger vampires. It took less than a minute for them all to rat out their friend who had tried to take Willow. “I see.” Asher arched an eyebrow, amused by the easy betrayal. In a movement too fast for the human eye, Asher reached forward and snapped the vampire’s neck. By the time Graham’s eyes tracked where Asher now stood, the pale vampire was wiping the dust off his hands. “Anyone else?”
The fledges shook their heads emphatically, not about to become Asher’s next example. “Then I suggest you leave.” They ran off without being told twice. Graham, seeing his chance, tried to stand up. “I do not think that is a good idea.” Asher scolded Graham lightly before hitting him on the head, knocking him to the pavement unconscious. “I do not want to be followed, but I can not kill you, in case you are important to her.” Asher picked up the man’s cell phone and set it on redial, hoping the last person he called would be able to rescue the man then walked away.
~The Bronze, Saturday, 11: 37 p.m.~
Riley felt a light buzzing at his side. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to take this.” Riley said, picking up his cellphone.
“Okay. I guess I’ll just be right here?” Buffy glanced around nervously. Did he find her boring and have his friend call him just to create a diversion? Was this the twenty-first century brush off? She anxiously watched Riley nod to Forrest and head outside. Oddly enough, Forrest turned and followed Riley. Since when did guys have to go to answer the phone together? As if girls going to the bathroom together wasn’t contrived enough? Buffy decided something wasn’t quite right and decided to follow the men, at a safe distance.
“Graham? Graham? What’s up buddy?” Riley said as soon as he got outside. “Uh-oh.” He mumbled, glancing at the phone.
“What’s up?” Forrest asked, glancing around suspiciously.
“I got a call. The number’s Graham’s but there’s just silence on the other end.” Riley shook his head. Graham was very careful about his cell phone, there was no way this could be an accident.
“Do you suppose he’s been attacked and needs back-up?” Forrest asked.
“Quite possible.” Riley frowned. “He was headed towards Stevenson with a civie. We should probably retrace his steps, and try to find him.”
“Find who?” Buffy asked sternly. She was hoping her concerns were unfounded.
“Graham. His phone is going off, but he’s not answering.” Riley answered, blushing at being caught by the girl he had been trying to impress.
“Oh my god, Willow.” Buffy’s hand covered her mouth in shock. She should have known better than to trust her best friend with a frat boy.
“He probably just accidentally turned the phone on in his bag.” Forrest tried to calm Buffy.
“And that’s why he needs back-up?” Buffy glared at him, letting him know she wasn’t buying it.
“It might be dangerous Buffy, if they’ve been mugged. You should really stay here.” Riley tried to convince the petite freshman to stay in the crowded Bronze.
“If you want me to stay behind, you must make me, and I swear if Willow’s in danger, I could flatten your ass any day.” She growled.
“Fine then, just try and keep up.” Forrest snarled at Buffy then took off in the direction of Stevenson Hall. Buffy took off after Forrest, and Riley found himself in the back of the group running towards campus. If Maggie Walsh knew how he was running this endeavor, he’d lose his command for sure; Riley shook his head. A potential civilian down, a civilian in pursuit, and breakdown in communication- if this were a real mission, he’d be severely disciplined when he reached base. Good thing this was his night off, Riley snorted.
~Sunnydale Neighborhood, Saturday 11:40 p.m. ~
“Um, Spike?” Willow’s brain was still trying to process the fact that she was hanging upside down over a vampire’s shoulder. “What are you doing with me?”
“I’m rescuing you, ducks, duh.” The vampire replied snappishly, quickly walking away from the sight of the scuffle towards his favorite cemetery.
“What kind of gratitude is that? What about a ‘thanks for saving my life, Spike,’ or ‘I owe you one, Mr. William the Bloody’. But no, all you have to say is why? I’ll tell you what’s wrong with the youth of today…” Spike ranted, trying to avoid any intelligent questions. He wasn’t quite sure his plan sounded so good now that he didn’t have that Asher bloke as back up.
“Um, thanks for saving my life. Why aren’t you killing me?”
“Believe me, if the thought crossed my mind, I’d regret it.” Spike groaned, hefting Willow up higher on his shoulder as he was beginning to slow down. A bloke couldn’t just go all night without a bite to eat, and it had been several nights since he had had anything more than a stolen plasma bag.
“Which means you need me to do something for you.” Willow said, feeling a bit dizzy from all the bouncing, but not quite sure what to do about it. “Well, I’m sorry but no. I’m not going to do a love spell just for you to get Dru back. That screwed up my life last time, and I’m not going to fall for that again.” Willow tried to fix her resolve face, but it didn’t help that her head kept bouncing against Spike’s back with every step he took.
“Oh, a love spell? Give me a break! You’d probably give me a heart contusion!” Spike mocked her. “I’ve seen your idea of a love spell.”
“I’ll have you know I’m a badass Wicca! I could cast a love spell, just not for a loser like you!”
“Oh yeah, well… aargh!” Spike crumpled into a ball as the pain exploded in his head. As he fell to the ground, Willow was thrown off his shoulder, landing awkwardly on the pavement.
It was at this point that Asher managed to catch up with them. He glanced between the growling blond and scowling redhead. With an unnecessarily sigh, he picked them both up and shook them lightly. “You are too weak to walk, and you have no crutches. I suggest you quit your growling so that we can get inside and talk like civilized human beings.” Willow looked about to object, but Asher refused to be contradicted. “There is no trail for your friends to find you, and upon my word, there can be a feeding frenzy here within minutes. Neither of you are well liked amongst the patrons of Willy’s.” Both hung their heads at that and allowed Asher to help them up. “Now, to my humble abode,” Asher lifted them both in the air, finding it easier to fly than walk. How he ever got by as a human, he’ll never recall.
~ Downtown Sunnydale, Saturday, 11:42 p.m.~
Riley finally caught up to Forrest and Buffy, thoroughly winded. Forrest also seemed out of breath, but Buffy looked far more worried than winded. She had immediately bent down by Graham, checking his neck first for punctures. “There’s a pulse.” She announced.
“Thank god.” Forrest sighed.
“Where the hell is Willow?!” Buffy jumped up and began searching the local area for any sign of a struggle going in any direction.
“We need to make a report.” Forrest whispered to Riley.
“Can you call it in? I’ll guard the scene.” Riley whispered back. Forrest walked off about 20 feet, trying to stay away from Buffy as he made a call into base.
“Graham, hey buddy, can you hear me?” Riley knelt by his friend.
“Huh?” Graham, mumbled.
“Oh thank god, you’re alive.”
“Not now, we’ve got a civie in the midst.” Riley spoke
“Is he awake?” Buffy knelt by Riley’s side. “Have you seen Willow?” She asked frantically.
“Ambush … five H.S.T.s… girl taken by seventeen.” Graham muttered, looking up at Riley, not even seeing Buffy yet.
“That’s impossible. There couldn’t have been that many.” Buffy frowned, there couldn’t have been seventeen “muggers”, especially if this frat boy was left alive.
“Buffy, Forrest has called for an ambulance. We should get you home.” Riley knew it was his job to take charge of the situation.
“Which way did Willow go? Which way did she go?” Buffy demanded of the still woozy Graham. “I need to find her.”
“Buffy, you need to get back to your dorm. What if she calls and you’re not there to help her?” Riley tried to help her up, but Buffy wasn’t so ready to be helped. “We can go to campus police and get them started looking for her. She may still be on campus.”
Buffy made the mistake of glancing up. “Oh god.” Two crutches dangled from the streetlight.
“Forrest? Ask for another ambulance. I think we have a shock victim here.” Riley yelled at his friend as Buffy started shaking.
“She shouldn’t have been alone. It’s all my fault.” Buffy stared at the two props waving slightly in the adagio breezes.
If Buffy hadn’t been so traumatized she would have noticed that the paramedics arrived within five minutes, a record for Sunnydale. She would have also noticed Forrest guarding the perimeter as though it was a reflex for him. She might have also noticed the taser gun pressed against her, as Riley held her close to him and let her sob for her missing Willow. However, she was too busy trying to pull herself together before going off to rescue Willow. After all, it might not be too late.
It was only when the paramedic tried to put her in the ambulance that Buffy realized what was happening. She needed to pull herself together and rescue her friend. Ignoring the shouts from the paramedics, Buffy jumped off the stretcher and began running to the only place she knew she could find help.
“California girls are weird.” Riley shook his head at the retreating figure.
“That may be the case, but she’s potentially contaminated. We need to find out what she knows, and do some damage control.” Forrest countered.
“So, I’m running after her?” Riley frowned, he just wanted to get back to the base and make sure Graham was okay.
“Hope you got your Nikes.” Forrest jibed, getting into the Initiative ambulance with Graham.