The First Taste - 4
~ Sunnydale Mansion, Saturday, 11:50 p.m. ~
“This is your idea of a hideout?” Spike smirked as they landed. Willow, too, found the location amusing. “Why don’t you just put a sign in the front yard that says ‘Welcome to my evil lair, help yourself to my hostage’?”
“What is wrong with this house? It does not stand out from the neighborhood.” Asher frowned. Normally vampires chose dark places like the warehouse district. He thought it was pretty clever to establish residency in the golf course neighborhood.
“Well, yeah, if you were the first one here, but this place has history.”
“Pardon?” Asher arched his brow.
“You must be renting this place from my grandsire, who not only created a stir in these parts, but also dated the slayer for quite a while. This will be one of the first places she’ll look.”
“Is this true, ma chaton?” Asher turned to Willow. Willow blushed guiltily and nodded.
“Fine, we will move from here tomorrow night, but we have much to discuss and little time to cover it all.” Asher answered, ushering them all inside, and carefully locking the door behind him. “Would you care for something to drink, mademoiselle?”
Willow looked at the vampire oddly. He was acting much more like a gentleman than a kidnapper. “Some water would be nice?”
“Very well. Monsieur Spike, I shall get you a drink as well, oui? Perhaps you should explain to the mademoiselle why we have need of her services while I am in the kitchen?”
“Right.” Spike nodded warily, surprised that Asher would trust the two of them alone. Of course, Asher was right that Willow was pretty crippled without her crutches, and Spike was barely strong enough to escape himself, but still, it was careless. “So Red, we have a bit of business proposition for you.”
“Business?” Willow squeaked.
Oh yes, this situation could be quite fun, if he played it right. Remembering her delightful fear from the last time Spike kidnapped her, the vampire smiled in delight. Scooting close to her on the lone sofa, Spike silkily murmured. “Yes, a business proposal. You see, Asher and I have some common goals that we’d like to accomplish, but we’re missing certain… assets… you might say. We need certain skills that a woman such as yourself could supply.”
As he leaned closer and closer to her, Willow found herself falling for the cold blue eyes. Damn these sexy blonde vampires with their pale eyes and seductive voices. Willow whimpered a quiet “eep”.
“There are so many assets you could provide us with, and I’m not referring to your magic.” Spike smiled a knowing grin, seeing how well he had snared this girl. He had always had a way with the ladies, and this was no exception. As he gently brushed her hair back behind her ears, he noticed her shiver with anticipation. One would have thought after hanging around the tramp of a slayer, this girl would be much more resistant to any sort of advances but evidently she was no more sophisticated than a child. He decided to play this for all he was worth.
“Since I came to your dorm, all I can think of is you. You fill my dreams. Do you know how beautiful you are when your skin flushes with sudden red at all your naughty thoughts?” Willow blushed at that. “Ah, there goes a naughty thought now. I find your wickedness quite attractive, Willow, you know that.” Spike purred, leaning closer until his face was mere inches from hers.
“I think it is not wickedness, but chastity that causes her to flush. Your hungry flirt borders on intrusion, my friend.” Asher interrupted Spike’s game, amused that Willow’s face could turn redder than her hair. “But here, address your hunger while I address the mademoiselle.” Asher handed Spike a goblet of red wine, spiked heavily with A negative.
“Spoilsport.” Spike mumbled, enjoying Willow’s blushing.
Asher took a seat on the other side of Willow, and offered her the glass of water. “I believe what Monsieur Spike was trying to say was that we request your assistance with a problem. As you know, I am looking for the military. As it so happens, Monsieur Spike has recently escaped from their capture. Unfortunately, they have fitted him with some sort of device that prevents him for causing harm to any human as far as we know. I know you said that you would not want to openly pry, but I think you will agree that we must take some action against them, now that we know they are using torture.”
“Torture?” Willow was a bit skeptical that vampires could ever play the victim.
“Damn right it’s torture.” Spike took a break from gulping down the wine; already his color was returning. “You wouldn’t take Bambi, tie its mouth shut, let it loose in the forest, and then watch it starve to death. It’s inhumane!”
“Well, yeah, but last I checked, you weren’t Bambi. No offence, of course.” Willow scooted away from the irate Spike, which only put her closer to Asher.
“But his point is the same. Don’t you believe denying anyone the right to feed is inhumane?” Asher tried to appeal to this girl’s sense of ethics, as she struck him as the kind of person that actually cared for those pesky details.
“Under most circumstances, yes, but in this case I’m the prey. Hate to break it to you, but I’m sort of biased.” Willow looked at her captor with a sense of disbelief. They were really trying to appeal to her sense of vampire rights? How crazy was that!
“Does that mean you won’t help us?” Asher asked, carefully swirling his own glass of wine, as if contemplating the meaning of life.
“Nope, sorry, you got the wrong gal. Well I guess I better go now. Don’t worry, I’ll see myself out.” Willow got up, and started hopping towards the front door, going only a single step before falling against the wall.
“That’s it? You’re just going to let her hop out of here?” Spike angrily asked Asher, who was watching Willow try to hop a few steps more, dragging her cast foot behind her.
“No, but it is amusing to watch her, no?” Asher smiled as Willow froze, her skin going ashen white. “Ah, it appears that she has remembered that while you are muzzled, I am not.”
“Although, I can see why she got that impression with you prancing around in that lacy shirt.” Spike mumbled under his breath, still resentful that he had to be rescued, by a damn Frenchie at that.
“Would you like me to help you back to the couch? It is far more comfortable than the wall.” Asher asked Willow politely. She half-hopped turned to face him, and the look of betrayal on her face went right to his undead heart.
“Come now, don’t look so upset.” Asher set his glass down on the coffee table and walked over to where Willow stood. “You know I could kill you several times over by now, and yet I have not. All I ask is that you assist us on a simple task. That is the least you can do for us after we rescued you from those young ones.”
“You probably sent them after me in the first place.” Willow grumbled, trying to sound a lot braver than she felt.
“Nah, that was bonus.” Spike watched the scene from the comfort of the sofa.
“At least listen to what we propose before hopping to the door and making us fetch you, eh?” Asher asked, a playful sparkle in his eyes.
“Alright I’ll listen, but I’m not making any promises to help you with your nefarious plan.”
“Since when has taking down the government been a nefarious plan?” Spike was surprised by the dirty looks from both Asher and Willow. “Well, sure there’s that period of civil unrest that follows any good bloody coupe, but that’s not really nefarious. Not nearly as nefarious as what the government is already doing.”
~ The Initiative, Sunday, 12:00 am~
“And how is our patient doing today?” Dr. Maggie Walsh looked lovingly at the operating table in front of her. The majority of the body was covered by a white sheet, but a gruesome head stood out against the white pillows.
“I am doing quite well, and how are you mother?” The head spoke.
“I am fine, thanks for asking.” The doctor began inspecting the body. “How is that new wrist working for you? I still think we could do better with that graft, but I haven’t found an appropriate donor yet.” Maggie muttered more to herself than the body she was inspecting.
“I find it a fascinating wrist. It contains much knowledge, and I would be sad to see it go. Right now I am building memories on things we have not said. It is as though this wrist has a mind of its own, with a different language intact.” Adam smiled happily at his own advancement.
“Hmm. If it is sentient, that may prove to have compatibility problems later on. I think….” Dr. Walsh’s musings were interrupted by a loud struggle outside.
“Dr. Walsh said she didn’t want to be disturbed!” A sentry shouted louder.
“And I said that she needs to hear this now, and if you don’t go in there and get her, I’ll break down the door myself!” Forrest yelled back.
Dr. Walsh knew that whatever was going on must be important as Agent Gates would never come in on his off day if it could be avoided. Sighing, she threw the sheet back over the body, and locked up her experimental room. “Officers, what seems to be the problem?” Dr. Walsh stepped out of room 314, locking the door behind her.
“This officer was trying to override your no disturbance command.” The sentry quickly informed his commanding officer.
“Agent Miller is down, one civilian has been abducted. Agent Finn is in pursuit.” Forrest quickly summed up the situation.
“You’re off duty. Why is your unit engaging in any sort of conflict?” Walsh indicated that Forrest should follow her as she quickly walked to her office.
“Well, I’ll be sure Graham mentions we’re off duty to the hostiles next time.” Forrest mumbled under his breath, sheepishly adding a “ma’am” when he realized Dr. Walsh had heard him.
“Where is Agent Miller?”
“He’s getting his ribs taped up in quarantine.” Forrest replied.
“And Finn?” Forrest shrugged. “What does that mean, Gates?”
“It means, ma’am, that I don’t know the exact location of Finn.”
“Well, you better start talking then.” Maggie scowled at the soldier. She had better things to do than deal with units playing sheriff on their days off.
“We were at a club, ma’am. Finn asked Miller to walk a girl to her dorm room. Evidently this Rosenberg girl was on crutches, and Finn thought that she’d be easy bait going by herself. Ten minutes later, Finn gets a call from Miller, but there’s no reply. We tried to follow his path, but were followed by Rosenberg’s friend, Summers. We found Miller about a mile away, unconscious. The girl was missing, and her crutches were hanging from a light post. Miller reported that he was taken down by five H.S.T.s, and that the girl was taken by Hostile 17, but he was unable to maintain pursuit. Summers took off into the night. We’re not sure what she heard, but Finn was afraid she was going in pursuit of Hostile 17 alone.”
“Was Miller contaminated?”
“Not that we could detect.” Forrest answered.
“That’s curious.” Walsh immediately sat down at her computer, and began typing. “Did Rosenberg recognize Hostile 17?”
“You’d have to ask Miller, I wasn’t there.” Forrest frowned; normally Walsh didn’t ask dumb questions.
“You were on the raid in Stevenson. Do you find it odd that Hostile 17’s last known location was Rosenberg and Summer’s room?” Forrest looked surprised at that bit of information, then extremely thoughtful. “I want you to find Finn, and then the two of you are to tail Summers. If she leads you to Hostile 17, call in a full unit. I expect you to report every other hour.”
~ Giles’ Residence, Sunday, 12:20 am~
“Good lord.” Giles mumbled to himself, annoyed by the pounding at the door. He had been about to go to bed, but thought that he could finish his book first. Unfortunately, his pleasant evening of reading was being rudely interrupted. “Who can that be?”
“Giles! It’s me, your favorite slay gal. Let me in!” Buffy yelled up at the window, assuming Giles was still in bed.
“Buffy?” Giles opened the door tiredly, his mind not quite ready to deal with an energetic slayer.
“Willow’s gone! For real this time.” Buffy barged in, not even waiting to see if he’d offer an invitation. “She was going from the Bronze to her dorm with this guy. He called ten minutes later. His friends and I took off to find them, but we only found Graham, and he was all beaten up. I tried to find Willow, but all I found were her crutches hanging from a light post. Graham said she had been taken by seventeen.”
“He didn’t say.” She frowned. “He probably doesn’t know, he was beaten up pretty badly.”
“Was he bitten?” Out of instinct, Giles was already inching towards the giant Encyclopedia Demonica.
“No, I checked. It looked like he had just been beaten up by something strong.”
“Was there any blood?”
“Nothing more than you’d expect from his scratches.” Now that Buffy was in the comfortable routine of reporting to her watcher, her mind was slowing down enough to think clearly. “Vampires normally don’t abandon their prey like that, and when we reached him, he was definitely alone and unconscious.”
“I concur, that does not sound like vampires, unless they were searching for something else either on his person, or on Willow’s.”
“No, they still would have taken a snack. You know how they are.”
“Hrm. That is a point. So if the attacking force, seventeen you say, if they left this fellow in tact, it is quite possible they need Willow in tact too. Now did you notice anything else unusual that might tell us what it is? Slime trails, missing branches nearby?”
“There weren’t any nearby trees. In fact, I thought it was odd that the crutches could get up so high, since there were no trees to climb nearby.”
“So we are either looking for something that can fly, or some thing that is strong enough to throw crutches ten meters, would you say? Also, we are looking for something in a group of seventeen.”
“Or five.” Buffy frowned. Giles arched his brow. “Graham said something like five achestees girl taken by seventeen.”
“What’s an Achestis?” Giles squinted in frustration. “Is that urban slang for a gang, perhaps?”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “I don’t know what it is, but it’s not a gang.”
“Well, you never know. Kids these days…”
“Giles! Focus here. Willow is missing, we need to find her.”
“Right.” Giles agreed, trying to think straight. He hadn’t heard of any ritual nights coming up soon, so odds were she wasn’t abducted as a sacrifice. Willow wouldn’t be stupid enough to carry any artifacts on her, so that wouldn’t be a reason to take her. If vampires were ruled out, there was still a very long list of other predators that could grab a human size prey without leaving much of a trail. “I suppose she could have been taken to any of the cemeteries or warehouses near where she was abducted. You should look around for any signs of a forced entry. Have you been to Willy’s yet?” Buffy shook her head. “Find out if he’s seen anyone new in town, or heard any rumors. I’ll look for any references to groups of seventeen or this achestis. If you don’t hear anything from Willy, come back here. We’ll call Xander, and then go through this town inch by inch until we find her.”
“Right. Good plan.” Buffy nodded, raiding Giles’ apartment for his various stashes of stakes. “Sweep through all the cemeteries and then I’m going to Willy’s.” She was out the door and down the block before Giles could find his compilations on hellmouth celestial alignments.
Neither of them had noticed a man hiding in the bushes under the open window, struggling to catch his breath. Riley had always been in good shape, but Buffy’s speed was sure taxing him tonight. So she had heard Graham reporting on H.S.T.s, but had no idea what they were. They obviously knew about the hostiles in this town, judging from their conversation. Who was this man that Buffy had run to in such a panic? Why had he sent her out on some mission while he stayed at home reading? There was definitely something fishy about Buffy Summers. Riley wrote down the address then headed off towards Willy’s, hoping he could intercept the girl before he lost her completely.
~ Sunnydale Mansion, Sunday, 12:30 am~
“So let me get this straight. You want me to crack into secret military files that you don’t even know exist, and try to find out how to restore Spike to his evil self?” Willow looked at Asher, having heard the entire story. He nodded. “You’re crazy.”
“I do not think it is too crazy a request.” Asher answered lightly, confident that Willow would follow through.
“Why would I want Spike to bite again?!” Willow felt like pounding her head against the wall.
“Hey now! Just this week you were all sympathetic. You were practically begging me to bite you. What happened to that ‘please kill me now’ talk? I’ll have you know, that with my bite I’m twice the man your wolf ever was!” Spike cried out.
“Oh no you don’t, you are not bringing Oz into this again! My love life has nothing to do with your performance problems!” Willow screamed back.
Asher rolled his eyes. It seemed this pair would fight about anything and everything, just for the sheer joy of hearing their own voices. “Ma chaton, if you would please calm down.”
“What is that you keep calling me?!” Willow turned her wrath on the other vampire.
“He’s calling you his kitten. So tell me, Red, why are you suddenly his kitten and not your wolf’s bitch?” Spike couldn’t help but lash out. He hated being at a girl’s mercy.
“Why you…!” Willow lunged for Spike who was ready to fight back. But as he slipped into game face, his whole body cramped in pain. He fell off the couch clutching his head in agony.
Willow fell on Spike, taking advantage of his distraction to hit him as hard as she could, but Asher quickly pulled her off. Holding her tightly in his arms, Asher muttered harshly. “Look at him! Look at what they have made him! He can not eat; he can not think; he can not protect himself. You think it is laughable to see him so, but I ask you this, how do you know that will not be used on you next? If a vampire can be taken and experimented on so, what is stopping them from taking you next? After all, you are much easier to take down. Would you like to fall crippled to the ground anytime you think of something?”
“No.” Willow whimpered, her squirming stopping suddenly.
“No.” Asher agreed, letting his arms loosen slightly to prevent bruising her more than she already was. “He is helpless, but it could just as easily have been you. You see the technology that must be stopped?”
“I’m sorry.” Willow whispered, watching as Spike curled up shaking out the aftershocks, not crying out though he was obviously in considerable pain.
“Sorry does not matter, what matters is how you can help.”
“Alright, I’ll do it.” Willow agreed reluctantly.
“Very good.” Asher sat down, pulling Willow into his lap, unwilling to release the girl in case she tried to take out his ally again. Or at least, that was the excuse he gave himself for not releasing the young woman. He allowed himself a few minutes to sit and enjoy the sensation; it had been so long since he had been so close to a young woman who was not fighting or enthralled. Finally, he sighed. “Tomorrow we shall go shopping for whatever equipment you shall require, and we shall move from this location, as you have both claimed it is compromised. During the day, I expect you to create a list of everything we shall need for this endeavor. The night is growing short now. Do you want to make your list now, or get some sleep first?”
Willow silently wondered if it was safe to sleep in a house with two vampires, but her yawn was the tell-tale sign that she needed to sleep, at least a few hours. “Sleep is good, this night has been way too long.”
“Not nearly my love, not nearly.” Asher sighed thinking of all the things he would rather do at the moment than crawl into his bed to die a little death. “Monsieur Spike, how long have you been living here?”
“I come and go.” Spike replied, wearily getting to his feet. ‘What’s it to you?”
“Then I take it you do not need to sleep through the day?”
“Nah, I’m over that phase. Do you need me to watch Red?”
“Oui, if it is not too much trouble. I must be retiring now.” Asher left the two enemies facing off against each other, as he went to Angel’s room to write to his sire and the Council before the dawn took him.
“Sorry about earlier.” Willow offered nervously.
“Don’t be.” Spike said gruffly as he turned and left down one of the hallways. A minute later he returned, pushing his old wheel chair. “Get in.” He instructed her harshly. She silently climbed into the chair, and let him push her down the hall, stopping at a closed door.
“Okay, here are the rules. You are to sleep now. If you wake up before me, I don’t want to hear it. If you try to leave this bed, I’m tying you in. Got it?” Willow nodded.
Spike opened the door and bent down to pick Willow up. “Wait, why don’t you just wheel me inside?” Willow interrupted, not sure she wanted to be picked up by Spike again.
“Why don’t I just give you my car keys for you to make a clean get away while we’re at it?” Spike sarcastically replied.
“Well, I just don’t see why you would have a wheelchair, and then refuse to let me use it.” Willow tried to explain.
“Look Red, that’s my chair, and if I say it stays in the hall, then it stays in the hall.” Spike answered irritably.
“Oh.” Willow replied quietly. She had a lot to think about now. It had completely slipped her mind that this wasn’t the first time Spike had been incapacitated and had turned to her group for help. The last time he had ended up helping stop an apocalypse, for his own personal gains of course, but Buffy had said something about the vampire almost seeming human. Perhaps she had been wrong to try provoking him. Trying to be polite, she wrapped her arm around Spike’s shoulder to make it easier for him to pick her up.
He set her down gently on the bed then to her shock, he climbed in next to her, wrapping his arm around her waist. “Look, Spike, I…”
“Don’t mention it, Red.” He muttered, falling asleep. Willow counted to twenty then tried to slide off the bed. “Don’t try it either, Red.” He said, tightening his grip without even batting an eye.
Song 2: The First Taste- Fiona Apple
I lie in an early bed, thinking late thoughts
Waiting for the black to replace my blue
I do not struggle in your web because it was my aim to get caught
But daddy longlegs, I feel that I'm finally growing weary
Of waiting to be consumed by you
Give me the first taste, let it begin heaven cannot wait
Darling, just start the chase - I'll let you win but you must
Make the endeavor
Oh, your love give me a heart contusion
Adagio breezes fill my skin with sudden red
Your hungry flirt borders intrusion
I'm building memories on things we have not said
Full is not heavy as empty, not nearly my love, not nearly my love, not
Give me the first taste, let it begin heaven cannot wait
Darling, just start the chase - I'll let you win, but you must
Make the endeavor
A/N: Yeah, I know, weird song combination... Believe me it gets much trippier by the fourth song. I guess that's the problem of online radio stations.