Jacob Carter came into the main chamber of the ship. Spike was seated on the throne which was positioned centrally, high on a dais. Buffy was seated at his feet, her legs tucked beneath her. She was watching the scene before her with a blank expression. Xander was lounging, one step lower, his attention on the centre of the room. Jack O’Neill and Riley Finn stood formally, either side of him, staff weapons held upright. In the area below the throne, Sam Carter and Sam Finn were fighting with quarterstaffs. It looked to Jacob as though Sam Finn was actually training his daughter but then, Samantha would not have had much experience with the quarterstaff. P90s and nuclear weapons were much more her style. He watched proudly as Carter swung the quarterstaff from one hand to the other as if she had been doing it all her life. Sam Finn attacked suddenly and Carter blocked it deftly. Another sweep with the quarterstaff at knee level sent Carter into a neat jump before ducking as it came round at head height. Sam Finn paused as she caught sight of Jacob.
“Well?” she asked expectantly.
Jacob looked around. “This is all very formal.”
Buffy stood and stretched. “We thought it might be an idea to practice what it is we’re supposed to be doing.” She sent Spike a half hearted frown. “And Spike thinks that I would be best sitting at his feet.”
“You’re not his bodyguard, Buffy. You are his slave. A plaything, nothing more.” Jacob tried to explain but knew that she was pissed that she was being relegated to an archaic position.
Buffy caught the beginnings of a smile on Spike’s face and pointed her finger at him. “Don’t think this isn’t going to come back and bite you on the ass.”
“It will provide more of an element of surprise” Jacob added. “In these situations, the women tend to be submissive, quiet. They do not expect them to be warriors.”
“Is this going to be the ultimate slay then?” Xander asked.
“I think pretty much covered that when I managed to beat Glory” Buffy said. “One god is pretty much like another.”
“Except Glory was actually a god. Ahmose isn’t.” Xander looked at her in concern. He didn’t really like mentioning Glory and Buffy’s associated death and resurrection.
“You’ve fought a god?” Jacob sounded shocked.
“It’s complicated.” Buffy looked at Spike. “What do you think? Can we pull this off?”
“Spike says if you can restrain your temper, there should be no problems.”
Selmak spoke in the hard edged tone but it sounded unreal, as it was Spike’s voice with Spike’s British accent.
“You can tell Spike that…” Buffy began but then realised that Selmak was teasing her. She grinned. “I’ll try.”
“Resume your positions.” Selmak said and Buffy settled herself at his feet again, a blank expression veiling her face. Riley Finn and O’Neill pulled themselves to attention. Jacob still felt a little disorientated without Selmak’s constant presence in his mind and found himself longing for her reassuring voice. He looked forward to the end of this mission and her return and that surprised him a little. He knew she would return with intimate knowledge of Spike and the life he had led.
“Jacob, what news?”
Jacob bowed formally. “My Lord. I have spoken with the First Prime of Ahmose and a meeting has been set. He looks forward to greeting you.” Jacob paused.
“Jacob?” Spike had sensed his hesitation.
“My Lord. He said he would hold a feast in your honour.”
Silence fell in the room. Spike rose from the throne and paced the room. Buffy, for once doing what she was told, stood up and followed him at a pace behind. Xander stayed where he was, reclining on the steps but watchful.
“This is most unfortunate” Spike said. “Spike will be required to take over during the feast. Is there no way to avoid this?”
Jacob shook his head. “I am sorry My Lord. The feast is being held in your honour. You will be required to attend and to feed.”
“Will My Lord be expected to provide as well as receive?” Sam Finn’s quiet subservient voice echoed through the room.
“No.” Jacob was relieved about this as this had also worried him slightly. He knew this was something which might come up and was thankful that the First Prime of Ahmose had confirmed that on this occasion, they would be enjoying the entire hospitality of Ahmose.
“I have a question, My Lord?” O’Neill was attempting to sound submissive and failing completely.
“Speak” Spike gestured.
“May I ask what you will be feeding upon?”
Selmak relinquished control and Spike turned and faced them all. “It is likely that they will be female, probably young.”
“Better flavour?” O’Neill couldn’t help himself.
“Exactly.” Spike did not even smile. “It is doubtful anyone will die. When feeding, vampires can drain a person dry. But when feasting, it is the fashion to take a taste. Many different tastes. Even if I was required to provide dinner, I could guarantee that you would all walk out of here alive. Slightly worse for the wear, but you would be alive.”
“Spike? You talk like Selmak,” Buffy smiled and he looked down at her with a half smile. He tugged at the collar round her neck until it revealed the scarring on her neck.
“We’ll keep yours on show.”
She nodded. Spike lowered his eyes and they gleamed as Selmak took control again.
“It would be usual for my personal slaves to display marks of my favour.”
“You said we wouldn’t need to be marked,” Xander said defensively. “I like my neck as it is thank you very much.”
“Indeed, which I why I think it best if Xander and Riley Finn swap places. Spike looked up at Riley who had a mutinous expression on his face, anticipating what was coming.
“You’ve been bitten too?” O’Neill stared as Riley Finn tugged the collar down to reveal the faint scarring on his neck. It was not as obvious as Buffy’s but it would do. “Who did that?”
“No one you know.” Riley answered sharply. He handed the staff weapon to Xander and took his place on the steps.
Spike paced back to his throne and sat down again, Buffy sinking to her knees at his feet. Xander came to perfect military attention and O’Neill raised his eyebrows, swapping a glance with Jacob. There was something about this boy O’Neill liked. He reminded him a little of himself and lot of his son. O’Neill jerked his thoughts off that track and concentrated back on the discussion which was taking place.
“Then the stage is set.”
The first thing that assaulted Buffy’s senses when they transported aboard Ahmose’s ship was the brightness. She blinked a few times, waiting for her eyes to adjust. She wanted to look round but knew she couldn’t. Instead she stood, her arms at her sides, her eyes looking straight ahead of her. The First Prime of Ahmose was a tall slender man. He wore a similar outfit to that of the men in her group and she mentally rated him an 8.9 on the hotness scale.
“You are most welcome, My Lord.” The First Prime inclined his head and then turned sharply on his heel to walk down the room. Sam Carter and Sam Finn followed with Spike behind them. Buffy and Riley walked side by side, with Xander and O’Neill behind them, staff weapons held at the ready.
The corridor opened out into a large room, ornately decorated. The amount of flesh that was on show made Buffy glad that she had insisted that Dawn not come. By Ahmose’s standards Buffy and the other girls were dressed like nuns. Some of the women in this room were topless, some were dressed in little more than skimpy bikinisand some were in outfits that left absolutely nothing to the imagination. Ahmose was seated on a large throne, a beautiful girl, perhaps only a year or so older then Dawn, sat at his feet. His hand lay languidly on the thigh of another girl who was perched on the arm of his throne. Buffy couldn’t help staring at him. He was one of the beautiful creatures she had ever seen in her life and that life had included an intimate relationship with Angel who was pretty damn attractive. She managed to avoid staring or letting her jaw drop but remained impassive.
His dark hair was drawn away from his face, revealing an impressive pair of cheekbones, large dark eyes with almost feminine lashes and a well shaped sensual mouth. He was dressed in a similar fashion to Spike, but where Spike was pale skinned, Ahmose had smooth burnished copper skin. He was muscular and reminded her of a cobra she had seen once, poised to strike. There was a lot of strength there. She idly wondered how old he was.
Ahmose’s First Prime was in the throes of an impressive introduction which included phrases like Lord of the Stars and King of the Moon. When he had finished, Jacob answered this speech with one equally impressive and peppered with plenty of grand titles. Spike and Ahmose inclined their heads in greeting and Ahmose stood from his throne, shifting the girl who had been sitting next to him, off on to the floor. The girl who had been sitting at his feet rose and Buffy guessed that she was her equivalent. She was human, dressed in nothing more than a tiny wrap skirt made out of some see through floaty material and a tiny piece of fabric beneath it, masquerading as underwear. She was topless and her skin was golden and shone as though it had been oiled. Her collar was gold and revealed the marks in her neck, as Buffy’s did.
Ahmose descended the steps, the girl behind him, until he came face to face with Spike.
“I am honoured with your hospitality” Spike said and Ahmose’s face broke into a smile.
“Come, brother” he said jovially, “none of this ceremony between us.” Spike smiled back and managed not to jump when he was embraced firmly by Ahmose.
“I am doubly honoured,” Spike said and Ahmose laughed out loud.
Buffy exchanged a tiny look with Jacob Carter who was hiding his surprise well. This was not what they had expected at all. Buffy mentally crossed her fingers and hoped that their team would trust Spike and Selmak enough to go what they were told because, after all, they were the ones who were in control here. Jacob’s words about a slave exchange reminded her that they could be split up and this was not an environment she wanted to stay in.
“Come, sit with me.” Ahmose led Spike and his entourage out of the throne room and into another large adjoining room, hung with beautiful tapestries, two large chaise lounges set facing each other, a large table between them. Ahmose sank down on one of them, his personal slave, taking a seat near his head, her feet tucked up beneath her. Spike lounged on the other, Buffy and Riley taking their cue from the other slave.
Ahmose clapped his hands and two little girls appeared. Unlike the rest of Ahmose’s slaves, they were modestly dressed in little toga style dresses, their hair plaited neatly against their heads.
“They will make sure your slaves are well cared for” he said expansively. “Food and wine, whatever they desire.”
Spike gestured for the rest of the team to follow the children but a hand on Buffy’s shoulder told her that she and Riley should stay behind.
O’Neill lengthened his stride and caught up with Jacob, lowering his voice to a whisper.
“That wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“No it wasn’t.”
“Are we up shit creek yet?”
“No yet.” Jacob threw him a tiny look. “But close.”