Beta'd by kitty_poker1
Xander was shocked. More than shocked, actually. Flabbergasted was more like it, even if that was a stupid word. When Riley had left to rejoin the Initiative the year before, he’d figured that was the last they'd see of the man. Either the Government would get him or the demons they were fighting would.
“Xander? Is that you?”
Spike seemed to be affecting more than just his new gay lifestyle because Xander wanted to snark at the soldier. He bit his tongue for the moment and decided to play things cool. “Yeah, it's umm, me, Riley. Hey.”
Oh yeah. He was cool. Not.
“Hi. I'm thinking about moving back to Sunnydale and I stopped by Buffy's house the other night but it was closed. And the Magic Box looked deserted. Is Buffy around?”
Xander wasn't sure what to say. Willow had told the AI guys about Buffy's death; he'd been too busy dealing with Anya's. His mouth opened and closed for a minute as he tried to find the words. “Riley...I'm sorry, man. She's gone. Her and Joyce both. Anya, too. There isn't...well, there's not much left for you. It might be best if you moved on.”
He hated to sound like a bastard, really. But he knew how much Riley disliked Spike, and how much Spike hated the man, and with good reason. The thought of Riley, Spike and Angel living in the same small town made his skin crawl.
“Oh. Oh, man, I didn't know. I'm sorry. That's just....what happened?”
Xander closed his eyes. “The Hellmouth happened; what else?”
“Is Giles around? Do you guys need help?”
At that his temper snapped. When Riley had left Xander had done his best to get Buffy to realize what was happening. Still, he couldn't help but feel pissed at the soldier. So what if his girlfriend wasn't paying enough attention to him? That wasn't enough of a reason to leave. Plus there was that whole not showing up for patrol thing and using grenades against the vamps. Blowing up things was fun, Xander knew from the high school, but that was still way overkill and not a sign of a stable person. “Look, Riley, we're handling it. You can go back to your Black Ops or whatever you were doing and just...polish your gun or something.”
There was total silence on the line, not even the faint hiss of background noise. For a minute Xander thought Riley had hung up but then he spoke. “Can I at least come to the house and visit Dawn? I won't stay long, just in and out.”
“Right. So you can say hi and leave? Not a good idea, Riley. She's been through enough.” Xander shook his head. Riley was being weird. “Besides, Spike is still in town and he still hates you. We've got things handled. Thanks for calling, though.”
Before Riley could say anything more, Xander hung up. He and Riley had never been that close, and while he could understand the man's need to talk to someone after finding out his ex was dead, he was just acting oddly.
He just hoped that Riley didn't bring any more of his commando friends back with him. Spike was finally free of the damned chip; he didn't need to be tagged again. And after watching Spike with the damn thing, Xander wouldn't wish it on Angel. Cattle prods worked just as well and Xander would rather get that tingling feeling of torturing Angel himself.
Too bad Spike and Angel were treasure hunting in the tunnels or he'd call and warn them. Then Xander shrugged. What were the odds that they'd run into commandos underground?
Near the college?
Feeling nervous, Xander got up and closed the shop. He had no idea where Spike might have gone, but maybe he could at least find Fred and Dawn. Hopefully, they could find the others before anything bad happened.
“Pack it in,” Spike snapped.
“I didn’t say anything.”
“You didn’t have to. You were bloody thinking it.”
Angel laughed and shook his head. “Thinking what, exactly?”
“Stuff about me and Xander.”
“No. Actually, I was thinking something completely different. Obviously your own conscience, such as it is, is trying to tell you something.”
The conversation stopped and the only sound that remained was of their feet crunching over rocks and rubble. The cave system was extensive and in any normal town it would have been a cavers’ paradise, a tourist hot spot and a place for teenagers to explore when they should have been tucked up in their beds. But this was Sunnydale and, as much as the general population liked to stay quietly ignorant of the town’s supernatural status, there was still enough fear in their hearts to stay away from a place like this.
It was pitch black and although Spike had thought to bring a flashlight or two along with him, they weren’t needed right now. As they had journeyed though the cave and the light faded behind them, Spike had changed to show his demon. The pupils in his golden eyes fully dilated and Spike’s vision altered from near blackness to show soft outlines of the crumbling, jagged walls and the dusty redness of the ground.
The cave was damp and cold and for a split second Spike truly wished for one of Giles’ polo-neck jumpers, one of the thick knitted ones. He pulled his duster further around himself and noticed Angel doing the same with his jacket. “Don’t remember it being this cold last time.”
There was the barest hint of a smile lurking on Angel’s lips. “You were too busy being evil to notice.”
Spike opened his mouth to complain about that statement. He closed it again when he realised that Angel was actually right.
“Remember Scotland?” Angel asked. “Up to our necks in snow. And that damn wind all night long. Good whiskey, though.”
Spike nodded and grinned. “Yeah, I remember.”
“We didn’t have time to feel the cold. Too many people to kill. So much blood to drink.”
Spike frowned and shot Angel a genuinely puzzled look. “Are you trying to catch me out or is this actually your method of wallowing these days?”
“Come on, Spike. All that screaming. All that pain. Don’t you remember how much better blood tastes when it’s coated with abject fear?”
“’Course. And I remember how much fun hopscotch was; doesn’t mean I want to go hopping about on one leg, does it? You on the other hand, mate, are just gagging for it.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“Come on. Which one of us sits in the dark and avoids human contact? Which one of us is comfortable standing next to Fred without needing to back away two steps? Oh, Angel, one of us still craves the screaming and it isn’t me.”
“Fuck you, Spike. I help people. I would never hurt a human being.”
“Didn’t say you would, did I? Said you wanted it. It’s an acceptable difference, but it also means you’ve got no fucking right to-” Spike’s words cut off at a distant sound. He stopped and looked behind him, back up the tunnel they’d just walked down.
Both standing still as statues, they listened, not moving even a muscle, their eyes fixed firmly on the point of the tunnel where it disappeared around a corner. They waited, and waited.
“What was that?” Angel said after some time had passed and no other noises were forthcoming.
Spike stared in silence for a moment longer. He couldn’t identify the noise. It had been a distant sound and could have been a chunk of rock falling from the wall or an animal scurrying over rubble in the dark. He shrugged and clapped Angel on the shoulder. “Must have been the wind between your ears.”
They carried on in silence, their feet moving more quietly than before, until they arrived at a large hollowed-out intersection. “This is it,” Spike said. “We had to bore our way up once we got here.” He gestured to the far side of what nearly passed for a room. “Walls were thinnest from underneath.”
Spike led the way to the corner where a makeshift ladder had been erected.
“How do you know it’s all still here?” Angel asked
“I check it now and again.” Spike climbed up into the crypt like it he’d done it a hundred times before. “Gotta say, I’m surprised old Rupes never commandeered this lot.”
“Maybe he didn’t think it was worth it,” Angel answered as he struggled up through the floor and stumbled out into the crypt.
“Or maybe one too many apocalypses and teenage angsts got in the way. Then there was the Initiative; those bastards upset just about everybody’s applecarts. Fuckers were everywhere.”
Angel nodded and looked around him, accepting the flashlight from Spike. His face softened to its human planes as he shone the light around the room. “Okay, wow. How come the Initiative didn’t claim all this? There’s a fortune here. ”
“Don’t suppose they ever found out about it. They were hunters, opportunists. They took whatever jumped out at them, but actually using their brains? Not a chance.” Spike tapped the side of his head. “Government. Not the sharpest of tacks.”
Angel wandered over to a long table set against the wall. It was covered with thick grey dust and cobwebs lying over piles of jewels and trinkets, deep gold glinting through its shroud of time as the flashlight beam passed over it. Angel reached out and brushed at the dust, the cobwebs sticking to his fingers. He pulled his hand back and shook it, his face twisting with displeasure. “We should have brought a vacuum cleaner.”
There was a wooden box at Angel’s feet. Like the table, it was thick with dust. Spike pulled out an old rag from his duster and neatly wiped it. He grinned up at Angel. “Always be prepared. Did Darla teach you nothing?”
Unamused, Angel blinked and pointed down at the box. “Just open the damn thing, Spike.”
There was a small brass plaque on the front and Spike rubbed at it with his thumb. “Looks like Latin. Let’s just hope it doesn’t say Pandora.” He flicked the catch and lifted the lid. Inside were gold coins – a lot of gold coins. “And here’s what I’m talking about. Reckon that’s a couple of year’s wages for Xan, at least.”
“I don’t think he’ll be able to spend them at Wal-Mart,” Angel said dryly.
“Cheeky fucker,” Spike muttered as he slid the box from under the table with a loud scrape. “I know a bloke, alright? Shift this lot in a second. Now, you gonna grab something so we can head back or would you like to stay here and gather a few more cobwebs?”
It was ten minutes before Angel spoke again. Halfway back through the tunnels with a cloth sack full of what looked like rubies, he turned to Spike and said, “I’m not happy about this.”
Spike shifted his grip on the box of coins. It was heavy and Spike was half-tempted to ‘accidentally’ drop it on Angel’s foot with a happy whoops!. “Colour me utterly astonished. Look, we gotta get some money from somewhere. Can’t live on nothing, can we? The Magic Box isn’t exactly going to feed all of us, and it isn’t like we can charge people to help them.” He gave Angel a pointed look. “The whole bloody town would go flat broke in a week. So you give me an alternative, clever clogs.”
Angel heaved a hefty sigh. “I suppose you’re right.”
This time Spike nearly did drop the box. “Bloody hell. You feeling alright? You didn’t get cursed by a bastard bauble, did you?”
Angel’s grabbed at Spike’s shoulder. “Shut up a minute.” His fingers clutched at the material. “Did you hear that?”
Spike cocked his head and really listened. There was nothing at first, just the sound of sweet bugger all, but then… “Someone’s here.”
Angel nodded at him and together they silently moved through the tunnel in the general direction of the sound of several shuffling feet.
“What did the Princess say about a load of vamps dragging people underground?” It had to be vampires. They were close enough now to hear the whisper of voices, five of them. But there was only one heartbeat, sluggish and nearly gone.
Spike carefully lowered the box of coins to the floor next to Angel’s already discarded bag of booty. He cracked his knuckles just because he couldn’t help it and continued creeping towards the voices.
“…That’s what he said. This one’s just a snack.”
“Tasty one, too, aren’t you, pretty?”
Spike and Angel rolled their eyes at the cheesy vamp-speak. They stopped at the corner and listened as the voices began to fade off in a different direction.
“How big is this place, exactly?” Angel edged along the wall and carefully peered into the next tunnel.
“Big. Some natural caves, some that the Initiative dug for fuck-knows what. Plus a lot of new fissures opened up when some of tunnels collapsed. No idea about those, though.”
“But there’s every chance these tunnels span the whole of Sunnydale?”
“Yep. Probably. Perfect vampire housing.”
“Great,” Angel muttered.
Spike tapped him on the shoulder. “Come on. Let’s do this before they get any further. Don’t fancy taking on a whole nest.”
Angel didn’t need to answer. Together they entered the new tunnel and ran at their targets at full speed.
The first vampire went down easily with a stake through his back and into his heart, delivered by Spike. He waved at the others through the falling dust, unable to not wince at the sound of bones cracking as Angel took down the next vampire.
The human victim was thrown to the floor, pale and unmoving. Spike could still hear her heartbeat, but it was slowing by the moment. “Better make this quick, Angelus.”
Another vampire exploded into a cloud of dust. “Not a problem,” Angel said.
“Angelus?” the larger of the two remaining vampires asked. “There’s a name I’ve heard. I thought you were in LA.”
“You thought wrong.”
“You were the Slayer’s bitch, weren’t you?” the vampire continued. He grinned nastily even as he backed away from Angel’s slow advancement. “Heard you ran away when she expired. You’re soft, man. I ain’t scared of you.”
“So why are you walking away?”
The vampire held out his arms and smiled broadly. “Just waiting for you to grow a pair. We’ll fight then.”
Angel shook his head. “We fight now.” He feigned an attack and spun in a circle behind the big-mouthed vampire, kicking him in the back and sending him sprawling onto his face.
While Spike struggled with his own pain-in-the-arse vampire, he watched Angel’s opponent get up from the floor quicker than any other vamp he’d seen. Apart from himself, that was, and luckily for Angel, apart from him, too.
“You shouldn’t have done that.” The vampire wiped red dirt from his face. “I’m gonna chop you up and make you into Angelus-burgers.”
Spike snickered and lost his footing. He toppled to the ground and pulled his opponent down with him. Fortunately, he was still holding his stake and the unlucky vampire impaled itself. But in the split second before the vamp exploded into the air, Spike spotted something. He cursed when the vampire went up in metaphorical smoke, and quickly jumped to his feet to look at the one remaining vampire.
It was on its back with Angel on top, pounding at its face with angry fists. It dislodged him and pushed him away with a powerful shove that knocked Angel into the wall and onto the ground. “Get off me, you piece of shit! I know all about you. You’re a disgrace to your kind. Just be glad I’m gonna kill you nice and quick. You know the difference between you and me, Angelus?”
The vampire exploded and Spike waved away the dust before putting the stake away and brushing his hands together. “Erm, you talk too much and he’s just a brooding wanker? That must be it.” He held out his hand to Angel, his expression serious. He kept his hand steady even when Angel hesitated.
“Thanks,” Angel said eventually, allowing Spike to heave him from the floor. There was blood on the ground and when Angel checked the back of his head, his hand came back red and sticky. “Ouch.”
“I will be.” Angel staggered slightly and leaned against the wall. “He was stronger than I thought.”
“Yeah? Or maybe he was just better trained than you thought.”
“What does that mean?”
Spike bent down to check on the girl. She was still alive, but if they wanted her to live they needed to be quick. “That means I reckon we’ve got ourselves a problem.”