Dedication: Special thanks to my dear friends, Tiana and Sandra, for reading over the fic so far and to Deathisyourart for the very gorgeous inspiration! Other thanks to Sway, Amy, and Gabe for their information on Prague :o)
Part 1, Reunion
Her boots pound the cobblestone pavement in sharp bursts of sound. Cold, crisp air rushes in and out of her lungs with each breath she takes, and she is grateful for the sharp ache in her lungs and the white cloud of carbon dioxide that comes with each exhalation.
She’s also grateful for the throbbing pain in her side.
The pain tells her that she is still alive. She knows enough about death to be familiar with the numbness that comes with her life force slipping away.
After all, she’s died. . . or nearly died. . . more times than she cares to admit.
She refuses to look down at herself, not wanting to the moonlight to illuminate the trail of precious scarlet fluid that’s trailing after her. . . marking the way for her pursuers.
At the corner, there is a major fork in the alleyway, and she hesitates, sparing a glance back over her shoulder. The wind whips blond hair over her eyes, and she tosses the gun she carries into her other hand, pushing aside the errant strands.
No one’s behind her, so she takes a short break to assess her situation.
Tapping her left ear, she speaks aloud, “Come on. Come on. Please be there.”
She fought long and hard to retrieve the object in the pouch at her waist.
And one of her attackers had knocked loose the device planted in her ear. . . her only way of contacting her mission partner. Somewhere along the way, the mission had gotten off schedule, and they’d been separated.
Her ear itches, but nothing happens. The communicator is kaput.
She flips open her wrist computer and checks the time.
It’s almost two in the morning.
She has forty-three minutes to find him and somehow make it to the shuttle before her team shuts the doors and re-sets the magic barriers for another month, leaving them trapped above ground. If they make it to the shuttle by two-thirty, they can radio ahead and buy some more time. She knows Willow can hold open the barrier long enough. . . the political red tape is the problem. The authorities in charge don’t always like to bend the rules.
A footstep echoes across the quiet alley.
She holds her breath and pivots silently on her heel, rubbing a finger over the gun’s barrel to turn it on. She doesn’t like the feel of a gun in her hand. Even with the passage of time and her new circumstances, she still prefers the wooden stakes she and her friends used to spend hours carving what seems like eons ago.
Nowadays wood is too precious to waste on giant stakes.
Instead, the ammunition in the gun maximizes her chances of killing demons and vamps.
Quick and dirty kill.
That’s what Andrew likes to call the results.
He designed the bullets with traces of wood that tore through the heart’s muscle and splintered apart on impact. It’s definitely an efficient way to slay.
If wood doesn’t kill her enemies, the silver knife in her belt will.
Both hands on the gun, she flips her wrist computer closed with a soft click that makes her freeze and listen.
She hears nothing but the sound of the air whistling along the buildings. She wonders what they look like during the day, and she knows she will never have the chance to see. . . not if she keeps insisting that she will only go on missions with her current partner.
She’s been missing the sunlight. . . they all have, but very soon, if she succeeds, that will be remedied.
Moving silent as a cat, she presses up against the stone wall so that her body is positioned behind a slight protrusion. Peering into the shadows, she pays attention to her senses, eyes watching every flicker of light and change of shadow, ears listening for another footstep, and hairs on skin standing on end to detect anyone nearby.
She frowns. She could have sworn. . .
Without warning, a cool hand covers her mouth and pulls her backward.
A cry tries to escape her lips but is instantly muffled by fingers pressing close to her lips.
She doesn’t think.
She just chomps down hard on the fingers, eliciting a string of curses from her attacker. Using the distraction, she pushes on the arm that’s encircled her waist and whirls to face her attacker, aiming the gun right for his heart.
“Bloody hell, woman!” a familiar voice hisses. “First, you bite me, and then, you point that thing at me. You trying to kill me?”
“Spike!” She launches herself into his arms, letting the gun go limp in her hand. His hair is shorn short and rubs against her cheek as she inhales the scent of old leather and peppermints.
Relief pours over her, but she feels him tense at her gesture of affection.
To cover her disappointment, she bounces back, shaking the gun at him. “You shouldn’t sneak up on people like that!”
The moonlight gives her a glimpse of his blue eyes. He holds his palms up defensively. “Watch what you’re doing with that thing. I don’t fancy being dusted tonight.”
She holsters the weapon in her belt. “Sorry.”
“Where you been, pet? You cut out,” he taps his ear, “and then, you didn’t meet me back where we agreed.”
“One of the vamps at the target facility knocked my communicator loose. It hasn’t worked since.”
“And what about the meeting part?” He studies her carefully, grabbing her by the hips and bringing her forward to examine her mid-section.
Aware that he’s voluntarily touching her, she manages, “Technology and Buffy are un-mix-y things. I couldn’t figure out Giles’s mapping system on this stupid wrist computer.”
“Didn’t you pay attention in the briefing?” His fingers loosen her shirt from her pants, sending shivers of desire up her spine. Then, he probes her wound so that she winces. “What happened here?”
“I paid attention!” she insists, batting his hands down. “I just like to use my instincts. I’m not that far off, am I?” He tries to inspect her injury again. “Will you stop that?” She wishes that he would touch her in other ways, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. . . not when he hardly talks with her outside of the missions. “I’m fine. One of the vamps just got a knife in me. It’s just a surface-y scratch. Promise.”
He sighs. He knows better than to mess with a Slayer who’s being stubborn. They have a little over thirty minutes until they have to be at their designated location; he’ll deal with her when they’re safe. For now, he has to attend to more pertinent issues, “It’s just a scratch that’s bleeding all over the sodding place and leaving behind a trail of bloody breadcrumbs for any vamps within a four block radius.”
She blinks. “It’s that strong?”
“How do you think I found you?”
Feeling annoyed, she plants her hands on her hips and asks, “So, tell me, then, where are all these vamps that are following me? I thought I lost them several hundred yards ago.”
“Well,” he shrugs and grins, “you are a bit off course, pet. Had to actively search for you. . . pick out your trail from amidst the other copper-scented trails in the area.”
“So, you admit it; you had a hard time finding me. It’s not that serious.”
“Actually,” his eyes flick to the darkness over her shoulder, “when I said you went the wrong way, I didn’t say that you got yourself out of trouble.”
She follows his gaze, muscles tensing as she grips the handle of her gun. Growls issue forth from the shadows, and golden eyes glow against the inky backdrop of the buildings.
Time for another fight.