disclaimer in part 1

Relief
by Rebecca Carefoot
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PART SIX


Spike blinked. Then blinked again, shaking the fog from his mind. He touched his temple absently, turning his head from side to side. Dru stared at him, her head cocked. Darla was drumming her fingers impatiently against the dashboard.

"I don't feel any different," he said.

"You will," Dru answered, with a little smile. "When you feed." Her smile broke into a grin, and she opened the door to the car.

Darla climbed out after her. "Finally. I'm starving here."

Spike touched the back of his head, then ran his fingers over his lips, still feeling slightly disconnected. He shrugged and opened the door on his side, taking the hand Dru offered as he stepped out. It wasn't that he doubted her power. He'd seen it too many times to doubt. He'd watched her take possession of countless minds, twist them, play with them, turn them inside out. He knew what she was capable of. But he didn't see how even she could bypass a computer chip.

They entered the bar with Darla in the lead. A few of the humans that filled the place looked over as the three of them entered, but most were too focused on the game that played on the two giant TV screens on either end of the bar. Darla curled her lip at the stench of beer and the dull roar of the crowd as points were scored. She grabbed the closest warm body, a man returning from the bar with a newly filled cup, and without preamble or hesitation, sank her teeth into his neck. Dru laughed, and pulled Spike over toward the bar, then let go of his hand and dashed away through the crowd. He followed a little slowly, reluctant to embarrass himself when the chip kicked in and the blinding pain started, not wanting to burst her bubble or see her face fall when she realized modern technology was beyond her grasp.

When he reached her again, she was standing behind the bar, one hand tight around the back of the bartender's neck, the other holding a whimpering young girl, who Spike suspected had only managed to get inside the club with the help of a fake ID. The girl's wide blue eyes were filling with tears. Blonde hair fell to her shoulders. Dru's fingernails bit into her arm, and she jerked against the vampire's unflinching grip.

"I found one for you, Spike," Dru said. She shoved the girl against the bar, and Spike reached out to grab the back of her neck and hold her against the bar. He looked at her warily, sending a doubtful glance at Dru. He wasn't hurting her yet, but if he went any farther the chip would activate. Dru smiled, and motioned for him to go on. "She's a good one," she said. "Young, the way you like."

"You always pick the good ones," Spike said. He stared at the back of her head, her golden hair, pictured those blue eyes. Pictured another set of eyes, a little like hers, tinged with green. "But-"

"Just drink," Drusilla said. "Don't be afraid. Mummy has made you strong again, you'll see."

Spike's eyes narrowed. He could see Buffy in this quivering girl. He could feel every sting of rejection, every slight, every taunt, every ounce of contempt. He felt her, and he looked at the blond girl he held helpless. He lunged forward, expecting the pain to jerk his body upright. His teeth sank into the tanned flesh of the girl's neck, and she moaned in pain. Blood was in his mouth, warm, sharp, sweet, fire on his tongue. After a moment of pure shock, he fed greedily, swallowing the liquid like a man dying of thirst. It was everything he hadn't let himself remember in those long months of stale refrigerated pig's blood, setting his entire body tingling with power, with pleasure. He could hear the girl's heartbeat, fluttering fast with fear, then slowing as he drained her life. As he took her into himself. As he was himself again. He was Spike. He was vampire.

He dropped her limp, spent body, and turned his golden eyes on the crowd as whispers of what was happening in the back spread through their dull minds. The humiliations he'd suffered since the chip was put in, the shame, the crippling hatred of what he'd become fell away as he felt her blood, her warm life, coursing in his veins. He bared bloody teeth, and took a deep breath of the terror that filled the bar like perfume. His hands shot out, grabbing one who ran for the door, and his teeth sank deep inside the man's neck. He was death, and it was joyous.

*

Angel held the phone between his ear and shoulder, shuffling through a stack of numbers and addresses. He listened to it ring on the other end, and tried to clear her from his mind. He saw her in front of him, her voice breaking as she described the ruins of her life, the pain that filled her to overflowing. He felt the length of her pressed against him, her hair brushing lightly against his skin, a teasing caress. He heard her voice, accusatory, disappointed, determined. He loved her for it, and he hated her for coming. For making him doubt what he knew was simple. He was certain of what he needed to do, and she only made what was difficult even harder.

The phone stopped ringing, and a voice spoke in a demon tongue. Angel answered, asking about Darla and Dru, her face fading as he returned to his quest. He wouldn't let her come between him and the task he had to do. No one could stop him. No one could help him. Not even her.

And when it was over, she would understand.

If she didn't, it wouldn't matter. Nothing would.

*

Buffy stood in the back of Gunn's truck as they pulled up a darkened alley. Her eyes darted from side to side, her grip tight around the sword in her hand. She hopped out of the truck as it screeched to a halt, scanning the ground. Cordelia, Gunn and Wesley piled out of the truck, carrying an array of axes, knives and clubs.

"Where is she?" Cordelia asked. "I'm sure this is the place."

Buffy's eyes fell on a dark slick that smeared the wall. She pointed to the smear leading up the wall, into the window of a rundown building. "I'll go in first." Gunn looked like he might have argued, but he was distracted as she tossed her sword to him. He caught it, and watched her shimmy easily up the drainpipe next to the window. She clung level with the window, and held out her hand. Gunn tossed up the sword, which she caught before launching herself through the window.

She rolled, coming up on one knee, the sword out. Her eyes registered a girl lying on the ground, and then a large green demon fell on her, its mouthful of long needlelike teeth gaping. She slammed her elbow backward, knocking it off before it had a chance to bite. Then she whirled on the spiny headed thing, advancing with her sword up and ready. One of its arms shot out, swinging like a board, slapping into her body. She staggered with the impact, but she'd already brought the sword around, and she slashed downward, slicing through flesh. The thing roared with pain and charged. Buffy jumped over a lashing claw, ducked and rolled under the downward slam of a fist, and imbedded her sword up to the hilt in the thing's skull.

Gunn pulled himself up in through the window and took in the carnage, the dead demon slumped on the ground and Buffy standing over it, easing her sword out of its head. "We miss all the good stuff?" he asked.

Buffy wiped at the hot, sticky, black demon blood on her face. "If being coated with demon blood is what you call the good stuff."

"Damn," Gunn said, his face falling.

"You can have the demon blood next time," she said. She looked around tiredly. "The girl?" They peered out through the open door into the hallway where she crawled toward the stairs, whimpering.

"You're okay now," Gunn said. "I've got you." He touched her gingerly on the arm, and she looked up at him with fear-filled eyes. "I've got a truck downstairs. We'll get you to the hospital." Her face flushed with relief, her lips trembling with unspoken gratitude, her hands pressed to the bloody wound on her side. Gunn scooped her up easily into his arms and headed down the stairs behind Buffy. "I'll admit, this part is pretty good too," he said.

"Not as messy," Buffy said with a smile.

"True," Gunn said. "Demon blood is damn hard to get out. And the dry cleaner always gives you the evil eye."

Buffy laughed and the two of them hurried out into the street where Cordelia and Wesley waited beside the truck.

*

"Spike!" Darla said, snapping her fingers in front of his face. He growled at her, not lifting his teeth out of his third victim. She grabbed him by the nape of the neck and shook him, hard. He quickly finished draining the guy, and dropped the dead body, turning on her with anger in his eyes.

"Don't ever touch me when I'm feeding," he said, his voice low, filled with threats.

"We have to go," she said. "There are millions of people in this city, you don't have to kill all of them tonight."

He stared at her from under lowered eyelids for a moment, the blood still singing through him, the craving for more unabated. "I'm still hungry," he said, a little petulantly.

"He's a growing boy," Drusilla cooed.

"We're late," Darla countered. Spike stared at the nearly empty club. As many people as could escape had stampeded for the door; the stragglers lay in broken heaps on the ground. He grinned.

"I guess we're done here." Dru held out her hand, and he grabbed it, pulling her into a tight embrace. He touched his teeth lightly to her throat, and she shivered in his arms.

"Did I forget to say thank you, princess?" he asked. Her hand stroked the side of his face, her fingernails scratching his skin, leaving raised pink trails that faded as they quickly healed. His hands slid down to her hips, digging into her flesh. "I'll thank you properly later," he growled. She sighed, her fingers twisting against his chest.

Darla tapped her foot against the ground. They slowly turned to look at her, and she raised her eyebrow.

"We have auditions to hold," she said. "Did I mention it? Or have you both lost your hearing?" She straightened her shirt and crooked her finger. Spike and Dru followed her outside, hands twined together. Police sirens were wailing in the distance, getting closer as they climbed inside the car and roared away.

*

Angel hurled the stack of contact information he held at the wall, the papers fluttering through the air, useless. He bowed his head, his hands clenched at his sides as he tried to empty himself of anger, of all emotion, and feel nothing but purpose. The phone rang, and he snatched it up.

"What?" he half growled. He closed his eyes against his own rage.

"We're back at Cordelia's," Buffy said. "I killed your demon and saved your innocent. Not that you care."

"Buffy..." he started.

"Whatever," she said, cutting him off. "I'm coming back there now."

"Don't bother," he said.

"Don't tell me what to do," she answered, and the phone slammed down. He stared at it a moment, emotions, too many to identify, swelled up under his skin. He crushed the phone to the cradle, and did the same to all feeling, sweeping it down, drawing in an unneeded breath. Refocusing on what was important.

The phone rang again, and Angel picked it up slowly. "Yes?" he said, his voice carefully neutral, determined not to let her get to him this time.

"Angel?" It wasn't Buffy. Angel blinked. "Hello?"

"Kate," he said finally.

"Yeah," she said. "Remember me?" He waited, not responding to the sarcasm. "I thought you were going to take care of those two vampires we talked about. The ones who killed those women at the dress shop."

"I'm dealing with it," Angel said.

"Are you?" Kate asked. "Because I'm getting reports of a massacre in a wine cellar belonging to a Wolfram and Hart employee. And now this thing at the bar..."

"What thing?" Angel asked.

She seemed to be reading as she said. "Two female suspects. Pale skin. One with dark hair, one with light. One male. Dyed blonde. Some sort of facial deformities reported on all three. Possibly gang related." She stopped reading. "We both know what this is."

"When did it happen?" Angel asked. His eyes narrowed. Since when was Spike a part of this?

"Tonight," Kate said. "Just a couple hours ago. They drove off before the unit got there." She paused. "Somebody reported a black DeSoto down by the docks, running a couple lights, swiping a mailbox."

"Fuck," Angel said, remembering the DeSoto outside the fight club. His teeth clenched, and he shut his eyes, returning his attention to Kate, who was still speaking.

"The car's parked outside a warehouse now. I was going to send in a unit to check it out..." She trailed off, making it a question.

"No," Angel said.

"No?"

"You send any cops there right now, none of them will come out alive."

"What's going on?" Kate asked, her voice sharp with distrust.

"It doesn't matter," Angel answered. "Just give me the address. I'll take care of it."

"That's what you said before."

"Kate..." he said, his tone a warning.

"Fine," she said with ill grace, giving him the address. "But you better not-" He hung up, and grabbed his weapons bag on the way out the door.

*

When he reached the address, there was no car parked outside. He fought the sinking sensation in his gut, and slid the metal door to the warehouse open. His eyes fell on several demon bodies sprawled in agonized angles on the ground. The ones who couldn't cut it.

So they had muscle. And Spike was in town. And he had no idea where they were going, or what they were planning. Great. Just great.

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