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Chapter Three


When Buffy came around for the second time, there was no easy snapping of the cuffs that chained her to the wall. At first she thought they must have pulled out the special HST strength handcuffs after her first escape attempt, but as the tranq gun drugs wore off she began to realise there was something more seriously wrong. There was a needle mark on her arm which might not have been so surprising but Buffy healed fast. Major wounds gone in days, the tiny red dot left by a syringe should have disappeared by now. Buffy was starting to suspect whatever they'd given her had dampened her Slayer powers and she was afraid.

Chained up, not exactly a new thing for the Slayer, but never in exactly these circumstances and she'd only ever once been powerless. It panicked her then and it panicked her now. Her friends were scattered for the holiday season, and while Buffy knew they'd rally to her aid as soon as anyone realised she was missing, Buffy wasn't sure she'd rate their chances against the US Army. From what she'd overheard from her captors and the little she'd seen of the base, that's precisely who had her now. The men had all been darkly dressed, lacking insignia but clearly in some kind of ranking uniform and all armed in some fashion.

She must have been here hours now, including the two turns at being unconscious. It was hard to tell, without the benefit of a window, but it had to be well into Christmas Eve. Dawn was probably not even worried yet; she rarely returned from a sleepover before midday and wouldn't be concerned if she found the house empty unless her masked intruders had left obvious signs of their presence.

For the first time since the sting of abandonment had started to fade, Buffy began to really regret Riley's departure. He would have noticed her gone, if they'd still been dating, and with Willow away in the sticks he was possibly the one person Buffy knew with the contacts and know-how to maybe get her back. It was sad, really, to be thinking of him so soon only in terms of use, it said far too much about the strength of their relationship. At least she could be sure in her own mind that he had nothing to do with her abduction.

Buffy must have sat there a couple more hours without seeing a soul. This place seemed considerably less well funded than the Initiative's extensive complex and much smaller from what she'd seen during her abortive escape attempt. No fancy sliding bullet proof glass panels, just regular old doors, which would have been hopeful if she'd still had her Slayer strength. As it was, she could only wait and dread what was in store for her and worry about the sister left at home alone.

The Initiative should be reassuring compared to demons. Buffy could be fairly sure that whatever their agenda was it was probably non-apocalyptic, but for personal choice Buffy was starting to think she'd pick demons. Their goals were usually immediate, at least. Buffy had no wish to spend the next few years being experimented on in some underground government facility; that was enough to make the grisly death seem quite attractive. The accommodations here might be rough and ready, but she got the distinct impression this was just a temporary holding place.

A couple hours more and the fear was starting to pale compared to the tedium and discomfort. The drugs had left her head and mouth fuzzy, hours without water and the fuzz was now a carpet where taking a breath through her mouth left her tongue stuck uncomfortably in place.

There'd been neither sight nor sound of anyone the whole time, so a commotion outside was almost a welcome distraction. As muffled thuds escalated to running and shouting, then a persistent battering started up outside her door, Buffy dared hope that the cavalry had come early. Those hopes were dashed as the door swung open to reveal one battered soldier holding a swipe card and behind him her leather clad ex-archnemesis in game-face, holding the soldier, in an obviously painful headlock. And this was the universe's way of punishing her for mentally preferring the quick death by demon, because she hadn't meant like this, chained up and powerless, unable even to get to her feet before she was drained dry by the vampire she'd been too soft hearted to stake.

At least with the army she'd likely still be alive long enough for her friends to mount a rescue attempt, but with Spike and his short attention span she'd be unlikely to make Christmas, mere hours away though it might be. Because whatever Spike had been up to in the week since she'd seen him, he was obviously now chip free. And that didn't lead to long lived Slayers. Unless he decided to toy with her a while, avenge himself for those weeks chained in the bathtub, which was maybe less of an upside when you considered the potential torture. So when Buffy heard more running footsteps she honestly didn't know who to root for, though that didn't make it less frustrating that she couldn't affect the outcome one way or the other. Spike flung the soldier he was holding across Buffy's cell where he slumped unconscious, and the vampire disappeared from view. Tugging uselessly on her chains, to Buffy the pause was interminable, it was impossible to tell how the fight was going from noises alone. If Spike had sold her out to these people to get his chip removed then he'd obviously reneged on the deal because it sounded like a small war was going on out there.

Another soldier, dead or unconscious, was flung into the room and Spike was back in the doorway, then stalking towards her, still in gameface. Buffy braced herself, wondering if he was about to end their dance right there but he bent and pulled her chains out of the wall with a breezy 'hello pet,' yanked her to her feet with the slack. Though she feared it was pointless Buffy dug her heels in, which hardly slowed him down. And then she was sure it was her and not the handcuffs, she'd been stronger than Spike last she'd checked and he should not be able to haul her around this way. He turned to look at her, surprised that she'd even tried to resist, jerked impatiently on the chain. "Let's be a moving sweetheart. I can't kill the whole bloody army if they turn up."

Definitely no Slayer strength then. Buffy fell into step besides the vampire as he strode down the corridor and through double doors propped open with more unmoving soldiers. There'd been no finesse to his entry, it looked as if the vampire had simply walked straight into the compound and dealt with anyone who'd gotten in his way. If he'd gone to all that trouble and risk just to get his hands on her... well it really didn't bode well for what he might have in store next. But she would wait until they were well away from all men with tasers before she made her stand; if by some miracle she managed to beat Spike powerless she didn't want to run straight back into the hands of the army.

Logic told her that the Initiative drugs would metabolize soon enough. Buffy doubted they had the know-how to permanently remove her powers even if such a thing were possible, and whatever reason they'd had for snatching her from her home must be connected to her strength in some way. If Spike dallied with her long enough maybe they'd wear off, but though he'd promised not so long ago he'd get his one good day she couldn't see the vampire sticking to any one activity for a whole 24 hours. Whatever his original idea in snatching her like this she'd be unlikely to live long enough to put that plan into action.

Outside there seemed to be no-one around at all, though even Spike could not have killed everybody on the site. He hoisted her over a fairly flimsy chainlink fence and Buffy landed lightly on the other side, briefly considering running then. But as far as she could see there was only sandy scrubland for miles, and with his extra inches, superior eyesight and no need to breath, Spike was likely to be much faster over the rough terrain. Better to play along meekly. For now.

Seconds later, Spike was over himself, catching her elbow and guiding her through a gap in the dusty bushes. Buffy's heart lurched as she saw her mom's car and her worst fears were confirmed as she spotted her sister laid out on the back seat. As Spike opened the passenger door and the automatic light came on, she could see the rise and fall of Dawn's chest and didn't know whether to hope or dread. The dead at least were safely beyond torment, Spike had obviously gone to some trouble to get them both captive and there couldn't be any way in which that was good. All those threats that began 'when I get this chip out...' and Buffy had never taken a one of them seriously, assuming, on the slim chance of him ever removing the chip, that his plans would boil down to fight to the death which she would then win. Problem solved. Obviously Spike was capable of more planning than she'd ever given him credit for and far from winning the fight she was in no position to offer even the slightest resistance.

As he got in the car beside her, the evening took on a whole new dimension. Buffy could remain stoical in the face of her own fate-worse-that-death, could consider the possibilities of her ending with some measure of detachment, but not for her sister. How she wished the girl had gone with mom. Buffy had fought hard to get them both safely out of town for Christmas while Giles tried to find out more about Glory and The Key in England, but Dawn must have sensed she was unwelcome and put her foot down the way only teenagers could. And Buffy, unable to say why Sunnydale wasn't safe, had had to give in. She'd worried still more when Dawn had announced mom had left permission for a sleepover, but the threat of Glory hadn't seemed immediate and maybe the worst thing she could do now was start treating Dawn differently.

The girl might not really be her sister, the bond between them magic and manufactured memories, but that had long since ceased to matter for the Slayer. She couldn't picture the sleeping teen as nothing more than a ball of energy, only picture her mom coming home to find both her children gone. So though it pained her to do it, to show that weakness, and she fully expected Spike to laugh in her face, Buffy fell back to begging.

"Please don't kill her."

The vampire did laugh, but it wasn't the bwa-ha-ha of evil glee, just an amused chuckle followed by an entirely unexpected "Okay." Though she knew she sounded stupid Buffy couldn't help but repeat the word.

"I said okay. 'S only two little syllables. Can't say I didn't want to, mind, but I won't kill her. You're looking a bit weird Slayer, you doped up or summat?"

"I... Maybe."

"I didn't bite her," Spike continued easily. "So chill out. Don't want anyone getting hurt, do we? I just slipped her a couple of your mum's sleeping pills." He gave her that big, aren't-I-so-clever grin, Buffy tried not to flinch. "She's much less annoying when she's taking a nap," he added cheerfully, starting the engine and fishtailing round the corner of the desert road as the compound doors started to open.

Buffy had no idea where she was, being unconscious for the journey out. She couldn't make out much in the dark of the desert, the dusty track and sparse vegetation were typical for southern California but for all Buffy knew typical of Texas and Arizona too, only her mother's car told her for sure they were still in America. All a mute point when she didn't know what direction they were heading.

There was really no guessing if she could take him at his word not to kill her sister. On the surface of it he had no particular reason to lie, and there'd been moments recently when Spike seemed to have shown more sensitivity of feeling, almost compassion, than you'd expect to find in a vampire. That night on the porch a few weeks ago, for instance, only hours after he'd promised her eventual death, when he'd inexplicably forgotten to mock her tears, offered comfort in that awkward British way. But maybe even then he'd been plotting to get that stupid chip removed. Only a few weeks more since the last time he'd really tried to kill her, if you don't count turning up at her place toting a shotgun. A few weeks since he'd lunged at her neck, fangs gleaming, ready to tear out her artery in a way that left no room for second thoughts. Brought up short by the same chip he'd just rid himself of.

Then there was kidnapping and drugging her little sister in the first place, that weighed quite heavily on the down side of Buffy's mental weighing up. He'd hardly go to that trouble just to let her go. Maybe he'd not expected to find her so helpless, had just taken Dawn along as insurance in case Buffy was too much for him. The idea didn't seem very Spike-like somehow, too cowardly, too sensible, but there was the overwhelming evidence of her unconscious little sister. Unless he really did have a plan beyond 'get back at Buffy' and Dawn was along to ensure her compliance.

A slight chance even that he didn't know she was without her powers, but almost as if answering her unvoiced question Spike reached over and easily snapped the chain that linked her cuffs. The wall fastening and bits of plaster fell to the floor.

"Must be getting old, Slayer," Spike said with a grin. "They weren't so tough."

Crap. But that could work to her advantage, no point after all hiding a weakness that she couldn't use. His guard would be down and it was the smallest chance she had. It was just possible that the vampire really did want a fair fight and Dawn had interrupted his plans, that he wouldn't try and kill her until the drugs had worn off. You never could tell with Spike, generally he'd always come at her in a straight attack and he'd always seemed to get off on the fighting. But Buffy wasn't going to rely on just possiblys and she wasn't going to fight fair with her sister's life in the balance; she'd appease him for now but if the opening came she'd stake him.

"Your mum's nearly out of gas," said Spike. "There look to be anything following us?"

Buffy twisted in her seat but could hardly make out the road behind the car. If they were following, they were doing it stealthily and mostly Buffy hoped they weren't. The evilest of Spike's schemes didn't measure up to the Initiative's largely well meant experimentation. Buffy hardly knew herself yet what her sister was and certainly didn't want the Initiative getting their hands on her, deciding whether or not she counted as human. Thinking as calmly as she could on the subject, Spike was unlikely to do anything worse than drain her dry. To Dawn at least. And if he had to stop for gas, the pit stop might provide the opportunity she needed. He'd need the keys to fill up the tank so no point hoping he'd leave them in the car but if she could just catch him unawares...

"Nothing with lights," she answered cautiously. "I can't really see."

"Can't hear engines. Can't hear a helicopter either. Reckon I got here just in time, looked like they were planning to fly you out to somewhere better guarded. That place weren't nothing but a glorified helipad." Buffy could see lights up ahead now, the long string of streetlights that denoted a busy road. "Should be at the main drag in a minute," Spike continued. "I think there was a petrol station. If nothing's caught up with us by then I reckon we're in the clear."

"So are you going to tell me your evil plan now?"

"Hey!" One hand casually gripping the steering wheel, Spike took both eyes off the dark and bumpy road to grin at her. "Don't mock the plan Slayer, it was a great plan. Won, didn't I? Got the prize?"

"You got your chip out."

"That too. You wanna complain I can always take you back."

"No!" He was still grinning, looking so damn pleased with himself, entirely unconcerned. Which made sense, really. He'd won, like he said, back to being the big bad and her eventual fate meant little now that he'd had his chance to gloat. Buffy tried to keep her tone conversational as she asked. "Did your plan have to involve drugging my sister?"

"Not really," Spike admitted with an easy shrug. "Just seemed quieter than tying her up. I mean - would you trust her to keep still and shut up in the middle of trouble?" The car bumped onto smoother tarmac, under the bright lights of the freeway, and Spike swung it around into the traffic flow. "After she took my chip out-"

"Dawn took your chip out?"

"Yeah. Quick learner with the smoke and mirrors that one, I'll give her that. There it is." Spike deftly steered her mother’s 4x4 off the road and up to a free pump. "I'll just be a sec, Slayer. Sit tight, yeah? Give a yell you see any soldiers."

That was it; Buffy was going to find a way to kill both of them. Of course she'd noticed that Dawn had a soft spot for the vampire, had been endlessly fascinated back when he was chained up in Giles' bathtub and curious ever since. But never in her wildest dreams had Buffy thought Dawn could be so spectacularly stupid as to set Spike loose again on the unsuspecting public. He must have been working on her for weeks, probably ever since his last try at a chipectomy had failed. She should have staked him then, when he'd proved over and over he could still be dangerous, feeding even for all she knew. If Harmony could kidnap doctors for him she could kill his dinner too. Dawn had mentioned he'd been around but Buffy hadn't thought to suspect he had a plan beyond general annoyance, and all the while he'd been turning those puppy dog eyes on her innocent little sister. Until Dawn had forgotten how dangerous he was, felt sorry for him enough to take the chip out. He was going down. With or without Slayer powers the little creep was dust.

Buffy waited until he'd filled the tank, disappeared inside the near deserted shop, then she took the emergency stake out of the glove compartment, slunk out of the car and flattened herself against the garage wall. He'd be able to sense her outside, she knew, but if her luck held he wouldn't realise how close she was until he was crumbling to dust. Then it would be a simple case of borrowing a phone, waiting for Xander to come and pick them up, and Dawn would be safe back home. After minutes she could sense him getting closer, stake poised ready. It almost pained her to do it, maybe he really would let her sister go and maybe he really did want a fair fight, but helpless Buffy wasn't going to take any chances.

As he came out the door her aim was true, driving her stake into the sinewy muscle over his heart.
Chapter Four

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