"Hi, honey. I'm home!"
Spike's brain barely had time to process the fact that he was clutching a cheap, synthetic wig in his hand when a hard punch caught him in the gut, followed by two quick jabs to the face and a kick in the chest which knocked him backwards. He staggered, falling against a set of fire-escape stairs. His hand touched a length of pipe and he swung at her. She grabbed the end of the pipe, pulling him around into the crate he'd had her trapped against brief seconds ago. Unfortunately, those seconds were enough time for Buffy to leap into action. Spike's 'minions' had reverted to terrified children, with a few confused-looking adults in the mix. The opposite side included soldier-boy, his grandsire and the Slayer, who was currently attempting to beat him senseless with the pipe. It wouldn't kill him, but she could make it hurt like hell. Spike doubled over in pain as she caught him under the chin, causing his mouth to fill with his own blood. He crashed into the crate and slid down to the ground.
"You know what? It's good to be me."
Bitch! When the odds were this much against him, Spike decided discretion was the better part of valor. There'd be other days. He kicked out, getting his feet under him, using his forearm to deflect a blow from the pipe. He whirled and dashed down the alley. Putting on a burst of speed, he leapt for the chain link fence and clambered over it. He ran for almost a block before he realized that the Slayer hadn't bothered to chase him. Spike shrugged his shoulders, settling his duster more comfortably on them and ran his hands through his hair, smoothing it back.
Why hadn't he just killed her immediately? He'd had the chance. She was quaking and terrified and he could have drained her dry—should have drained her dry—in an instant. But, no. He had to carry on a conversation with her. He'd taken time to gloat, and thus had bollixed up his plans once again. Would he never learn?
But there was another reason . . . that terrified, whimpering milquetoast practically having the vapors wasn't Buffy. He could have killed her in an instant, but where was the glory in that? His goal was to set a record other vamps would be hard-pressed to ever beat—bagging three slayers. For that to mean anything, he actually had to kill three slayers. Not two slayers and a damsel in distress. That just wouldn't have been the same.
Spike sauntered down an alley in the commercial district. He was suddenly brought up short by the heady smell of blood and dark magics. He sniffed the air, pinpointing the source of that enticing scent. His senses zeroed in on the back door of one of the shops. Good. Public accommodation—no invitation needed. He raised his booted foot and kicked the door. A second kick brought with it a screech of metal as the deadbolt tore through the wooden housing holding it in place.
Spike stepped over the threshold and took a deep breath, slowly drawing the room's secrets into his lungs. Hot wax, plaster dust, old books subtly underlay the more pervasive smells of blood, fear and magic. And pheromones. Two men had passionately engaged in some activity recently—fucking or fighting or both. A slow smile curved Spike's lips and a single eyebrow raised. Maybe tonight wouldn't be a total loss after all. Someone was having a bit of Halloween fun—why shouldn't he join in?
"Come out, come out, wherever you are," Spike called in a sing-song voice. "Ollie, ollie in free!"
He made his way past a smashed statue covered in melted candle wax to the door of the shop proper. From the looks of the remnants of discarded clothing flung around, this had been a costume shop. So that's how the mage had done it. He'd hexed the costumes, turning the wearer into whatever fantasy he or she had chosen. Spike had to give him points for catching the Slayer in his web. Even if he couldn't bring himself to kill her in that condition, it was bloody fun seeing her trembling with fear like a lost little lamb. He'd definitely like to meet the man that had pulled that one off—shake his bloody hand.
Spike returned to the back room and looked more carefully. There. A trap door in the floor. Spike ran his fingers around the barely discernible edges. There must be some trick to opening it. Oh, well. Finesse was never Spike's strong suit. He slid his nails into the crack and ripped the door open. A secret room, is it? Of course the mage would have an escape route all planned out.
Spike slipped through the trap door and landed lightly in the room below. The smell of blood and magic was even stronger here. A man was huddled in the corner, half dead from the beating he had received.
"Come to finish me off, Ripper?" he asked in a thin, reedy voice.
"You the mage that worked the mumbo-jumbo on the costumes, then? That was a bit of alright."
"You're not Rupert."
"No. 'm not. Hold on! Rupert? You mean Rupert Giles? The Watcher? He did this to you? Didn't think the nancy git had it in 'im."
"You'd be surprised to know what—and who—Rupert Giles has in him."
"Know him well, then?"
"We go back a long way."
Spike took a flask out of his pocket and offered it to the man, who took a gulp and then began sputtering and coughing. The mage struggled to sit up, and Spike helped him to a camp bed unfolded against the wall. A packing crate functioned as an end table and Spike lit the kerosene lantern on the crate.
"Nice little hidey-hole you got here, innit?"
"It has its uses. Be a good chap and hand me that bottle of water. If we're to have a tête-a-tête, I'd like to clean up a bit."
Ethan soaked a clean T-shirt with water and carefully washed the worst of the blood from his face and neck, wincing as he did so. Spike handed him a clean, garishly patterned shirt—the man had terrible taste in clothes—he found in a box, along with a bottle of Scotch, books and additional clothing. Ethan removed the bloody shirt and Spike developed a new appreciation for the Watcher when he saw the livid bruises covering the man's chest and sides. Spike figured at least two ribs were cracked or broken, and some of the marks on his side looked suspiciously like they were made by the toe of a boot. The man was thoroughly trashed. Spike rolled his eyes. He couldn't eat someone in this condition, if he hadn't been the one to put him in it.
Ablutions complete, the man let out a sigh. His breath hitched as he tried to take in air past the sharp pain of his injured ribs. Spike opened the bottle of Scotch and handed it to him. The man nodded his thanks and took a long drink, then handed the bottle to Spike.
Spike raised it to his lips as the man asked, "Wouldn't happen to have a fag about you, then?"
Spike shook two cigarettes from his packet, lit them both and handed one to the man.
"Ta. I'm Ethan Rayne, by the way. And you are?"
"Spike. No last name. How very 80's."
Spike grinned. The man was more accurate than he knew. The name change was indeed a product of the 80's—the 1880's.
"So what brings a mage like you to Sunnyhell, Ethan Rayne?"
The eyes in that swollen and bruised face twinkled. "Just came for a bit of fun, actually."
"And was it?"
"Oh, yes. There's something about the Hellmouth that seems to increase the chaos exponentially. 's bloody brilliant."
The two looked like overgrown children as they grinned with mischievous delight at the thought of mayhem.
"Yeah. The spell you did was a bit of alright, mate. Best Halloween I've had in ages."
"It was rather good, wasn't it?" Ethan preened. "And getting Ripper all worked up was almost the best part."
Spike indicated Ethan's injuries with a wave of his had. "You call that the best part?"
"Well, one must suffer for one's art, I suppose. Although, I can't deny that I had hoped his passionate response would have been a bit less geared toward violence, but we take what we can get, don't we?"
Spike shrugged and handed the bottle back to Ethan.
"You care for him, then." It wasn't really a question.
"My dear boy, 'care' doesn't begin to cover it. You should have known him when he was younger. Such fire and passion . . . When he was in the grip of the magicks, he was . . . incandescent."
Spike looked at Ethan incredulously. "We are talkin' about th' same Rupert Giles? Stuffy, tweedy librarian, scone wouldn't melt in his mouth Giles?"
Ethan laughed and then paled as he hugged his arms to his body and began to cough. He closed his eyes as a wave of pain-induced dizziness swept over him.
Spike frowned. "You don't look so good, mate. Think you might need medical attention."
Ethan shook his head frantically back and forth. "No. No hospital. He'd find me . . . and I really don't trust him not to finish the job."
Spike considered. A devious mind like Ethan's was too good to waste. Chaos for the sheer fun of it had a definite appeal that Spike couldn't deny. Spike cocked his head. It was still early enough . . .
"Right, then. Tell y' what, Rayne. I'll get y' to LA—that should be far enough—you can get patched up there. In return, you'll tell me everything you know about the Watcher."
Ethan smiled. He'd live to fight another day. What new devilments could he visit on dear old Ripper? The thought was delicious.
Ethan extended his hand. "Deal." He picked up a pasteboard card and grinned. "Mustn't forget to leave a goodbye note . . ."