This wasn’t the worst pickle Spike had ever found himself in.

   Chained and tortured by the Immortal, he’d survived that. Captured and held by Nazis on a submarine, he’d survived that. Arrested for tax evasion and kept in prison for months, starving for blood. He’d survived that. Not to mention twenty years as Angelus’s protegé, Darla’s whipping boy, and a century as Drusilla’s unbreakable dolly. Yeah, these guys weren’t so tough.

   For him. But after two days of nothing-much-happening, he was getting bored. The few soldiers who walked past might as well have had their eyes and ears stoppered for all the good shouting at them did. Spike even tried dropping trou and giving them a good show, just to see if they’d even look at him. No dice. They were clearly instructed to believe that the demons in the cells were as lewd and stupid as monkeys in a zoo, and to ignore everything they did.

   His next-door-cellmate was the stupid minion, whom Spike had taken to thinking of as “Rat” based on what he’d said when he’d first spoken to him. “I’m rat. I’m a lab rat, just like the others.” The problem was, rats were actually rather pleasant creatures, and Rat bloody wasn’t. The bugger just wouldn’t shut the hell up. Spike had already determined he was going to stake the nit if he ever had half a chance. He often found he didn’t like his own kind much, and this minion-class wanker next door was no exception.

   Rat didn’t just talk to Spike. He talked all the bloody time. To himself, to the demon on the other side of him, to the vamp girl across the way. She seemed to know the bugger. They’d probably been from the same gang. They flirted, lamely, mostly recalling past kills. A properly dumb minion really knew nothing but obedience and the kill unless they survived past fledge age, and Rat appeared to be no exception. The idiot was a master of the single-entendre. “I’d really like to be screwing you right now,” he’d say bluntly to the girl, sometimes several times an hour. To his credit, she didn’t seem any smarter, and she never once said his advances made her want to rip out his tongue, tear it into one long strip, and garotte him with it, which thought frequently entered Spike’s head when the idiot started ‘flirting’.

   Whenever the minion started grating on his nerves too much, Spike went to the other side of the cell. There he kept trying to engage Buffy in some kind of conversation. Anything, even bloody I-Spy, because they had sod-all else to do in this hell hole. But Buffy wasn’t talking, apart from the occasional acknowledgment that yes, of course she was still there, you dope. He kind of wished he’d never asked about her turning. Before that, she’d seemed kind of willing to talk to him. Someone decent to talk to was a godsend in a place like this.

   Particularly as there didn’t seem to be any real way out.

   The first blood packet fell down the first day. Spike checked it, sniffed it, and yeah, it did seem drugged. “You gonna risk it, slayer?” he asked Buffy.

   “I’m not stupid,” was the terse reply.

   He wasn’t, either. But when the second blood packet dropped from the tiny hole in the ceiling, Spike had an idea. It wasn’t a good idea... but it was an idea.

   The question was, what to do with the blood? He couldn’t drink it, that was obvious, but the cell was bright white tile, and bloodstains would show up luridly. He was pretty sure they’d notice if he lined the edges of the cell with it. That left hiding it somewhere. He considered his coat pockets, his clothes, and finally landed on his boots. He leaned back against the bright white wall and undid his laces, casually, as if he was just rubbing his feet. He didn’t know if they had cameras on him or anything, so he had to be surreptitious about the whole thing.

   He had two packets of blood... that was going to be helpful. He grabbed both of them, and opened one. He mimed drinking from the full one while he used his coat to shield his pouring the blood into one of his boots. With an elaborate set of stretching and palming things, he managed to switch out the empty packet for the full one. He made a big show of frowning at the two packets of blood, one full and one empty, and shaking his head as he considered one, smacking his lips as if the first one had tasted strange. He threw the empty packet against the wall, and leaned back. He yawned, then shook his head, woozy. He acted as if he was suspicious, glaring at the full packet of blood which he had “only just realized was probably drugged!” He quickly slid his boots back on, (ignoring his now sticky foot) and paced the floor, glaring at the hallway, anxious, worried, and a little off kilter.

   Artfully, he “let the drug overtake him,” fighting against it, sagging and then battling it off, over and over again, until he had to sit down, and then drag his head back up as it tried to nod, and then... then... he went down... and lay on the ground, occasionally forcing his eyes to flicker open, wrestling against the anesthesia.

   And sure enough, a handful of men in lab coats showed up with a gurney, opened the cell door with some kind of key card, and strode in confidently to pick him up. He was really hard pressed not to groan, or burst into laughter. The guys were dumber than that minion next door! They didn’t check to see if he was really out, they were so damn confident in their drugs and their cells. They hoisted him up, carried him out to their gurney. Spike waited a bit for that moment right before any restraints were attached, that second when everyone feels well, that’s sorted.


   Buffy’s voice, sounding horrified, almost blew the game. Spike almost opened his eyes all the way to look at her. He ignored her, but her next words landed like a blow. “Hey, leave him alone. Yeah! You! Listen! You need someone for your experiments? I’m volunteering.”

   He did open his eyes at that. Buffy was standing by her plexiglass doors, glaring out at the lab sharks in their little white coats, and they frowned at each other at her words.

   “Take me instead,” she insisted.

   They hesitated another second, and then turned back to Spike, clearly instructed to ignore any behavior on the part of the creatures in the cells, no matter how out of character for evil demons. There was a second of confusion as they saw Spike’s eyes were open. Game up, anyway. Spike burst up from the gurney, ripping the one restraint they had almost attached, and grabbed the throat of the nearest lab-shark. “So sorry,” he said in his darkest voice. “Can’t stay. Got somewhere to be.”

   “Spike! Let him go!” Buffy shouted.

   Spike glared. “Pick a side, girly!”

   “Don’t kill hi-ahh!”

   Too late. The bugger was already dead. Spike threw his trachea aside and whirled for the other one, who had very wisely fled down the hall. Buffy was staring at the bloodied lab-shark in some kind of horror as Spike ripped the keycard from the bloke’s breast, and then ducked as the first one came back at him with a syringe. Idiots. If they’d had the damn thing, why didn’t they just hit him with it before they’d let him out of the cell? Spike twisted his arm up behind him and stabbed the bugger in his own neck. He went down – if it was bad for vampires, the drug was probably lethal to humans.

   “Get the other key!” Rat shouted from the cell behind him.


   “The other key! That one opens the cells, the one on his hip, that one gets the main doors! Hurry!”

   “Cheers, mate!” Spike said, ripping the keycard from the lab-shark’s hip pocket.

   “Let me out!”

   “Don’t really feature hearing your prattle, mate,” Spike muttered.

   “You don’t know the layout,” Rat shouted. “I’ve been here for weeks. I’ve heard them talking, I know the doors. You’ll never get out without me!”

   Spike thought about it, realized the bugger was probably right, and groaned with annoyance. “Hurry!” Rat shouted as Spike dragged the keycard through the slot. “Hurry!” An alarm was sounding now, and red lights flashing against the ceiling. Rat’s cell door opened, he bolted out – the female vampire across the way watched the two of them in vain hope. But even though Rat had been keeping up a steady chatter to her this whole damn time, he didn’t look at her twice.

   Which was why Spike’s next impulse bugged the hell out of him. He couldn’t decide if it was because Rat had ignored his girlfriend, or if it was because Buffy had stood up and told them to take her instead, or even if it was because she’d gotten pissed off at him when he’d killed the lab-shark, and he half wanted to see if she’d kill to get out. But without even consulting his own head about it, Spike didn’t take off after Rat. He paused at the ex-slayer’s cell door, slid the keycard into the slot, and said, “Get off your ass, cutie. Gonna be a hell of a ride.”

   Her door took some time to open, longer than either Spike or Rat’s cell doors, seeming to get caught on something. That didn’t matter to Buffy. She jammed through sideways, even though it was only open a few scant inches, crying out as the electricity still seemed to be coursing through it. Spike found himself grabbing at her sleeve to drag her through as Rat shouted at them to hurry the hell up. Spike had no doubt the bugger would have left without them, except for the fact that Spike held the key cards.

   Buffy popped out like a cork from a bottle, and Spike dragged her behind him, as the shock seemed to have slowed her reflexes. “Come on, come on!” Rat shouted, just as the door he was standing by opened.

   It wasn’t the lame lab-sharks on the other side. It was the geared-up commandos, with their body armor and their weaponry, and they took Rat down within half a second. Spike balked, his head darted, he tried to assess. If they’d just gotten through that door a little faster – there appeared to be a maintenance hatch in the foyer behind the hall, but the commandos were between him and it, and the door was bottlenecked with them. He could see it now; he’d have thrown Rat to the soldiers, punched through the hatch, made it out through wherever that hatch led...

   But he’d stopped to bring out Buffy, and those extra fifteen seconds had cost him.

   Buffy stepped in front of him, leftover slayer instinct or sheer chutzpah, he had no idea. “Come on, boys,” she snapped, vamping up. “I dare you!”

   They dared. Two pulled out their zappers, and one actually pulled out a gun. The bland-faced jerk leveled his pistol at them, said, “Down!” to his crew, and pulled the trigger.

   Buffy was thrown back against Spike with a grunt as the bullet pierced her shoulder. It wouldn’t be lethal, but Spike was furious about it anyway. “Hey! No way to treat a lady!” he shouted. The next shot grazed his sleeve. “Don’t damage the goods!” he said, pissed off more by the damage to his coat than the damage to his arm. By this time he had Buffy behind him, and he wasn’t that surprised that the gun-toting maniac had only been buying time for the blokes with the zappers. They caught Spike in the chest, and however-many-volts it was jolted through him, sending him back against Buffy again.

   Bleeding, Buffy caught him, dragging him back away from the soldiers, insulated from the electricity by his leather coat. “Back!” shouted one of the soldiers. “Back! Get back in there!” Buffy paused by the door to her cell. It still hadn’t opened properly. The soldiers noticed the same thing, and pushed her back again, circling, flanking her. Spike tried to shake off the effect of the stun guns, finally able to put weight on his feet again, but everything was whirling in his vision. “Get in there!” the soldier who had wielded the gun shouted. Buffy took a step away from him, and Spike fell with her, and then they were both in his cell, and the soldier slammed a button on the box by the door and the door slid shut.

   “Finn! What are you doing? They’re both in there!”

   “Easiest way to contain them,” Finn said. “If it bugs Walsh, we can tranq them, drag them apart later.”

   “What the hell is with that cell?” said another soldier, examining Buffy’s malfunctioning cell door.

   “I don’t know. There’s a big dent in the tile here, though. Think she might have damaged the gearbox?”

   “Possible. Though these cells were made to contain hostile sub-Ts.”

   “Maybe she’s a special model or something,” said the soldier. “Stronger or some shit.”

   “The girl?” Finn laughed. “She don’t look so special to me.” He and the soldiers sauntered off, Finn going on, “Better call in the clean up crew, get them in to pick up after 13. How’d he get out, anyway? I didn’t think they were clever enough to...” his voice was cut off as the door closed behind him and his crew.

   Spike gasped, wrestling with the lingering effect of his zapping. He looked over at Buffy. She looked daggers at him. “You let me out,” she accused.

   “You told them to take you, ‘stead of me, ” he retorted.

   She looked awkward. “You put me behind you,” she said.

   “Same to you.”

   They glared.

   “You killed him,” Buffy finally said. She looked behind her at the fallen lab-sharks. “Both of them.”

   “I’m a vampire.”

   “They were human,” Buffy said.

   “And again,” Spike snapped.

   A moment later someone came by, dragging the limp body of Rat by the scruff of the neck, and deposited him back into his cell beside Spike’s.

   “Are we both in agreement that that Rat desperately needs dust?” Spike asked.

   “Oh, hell, yeah,” Buffy with fervor.

   The two of them looked at each other, mutual enemies who had each, against all odds, and without rhyme or reason, just made a futile attempt to save the other. And suddenly they were both laughing in utter, uncontrollable hysteria.


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