Spike couldn’t decide if Buffy being there in the cell with him was a boon or not. After their laughter died they both got extremely awkward. Things got even more awkward as other men in labcoats came and respectfully carted away the fallen. Buffy looked daggers at him as they did this, and he refused to look ashamed. Idiots who played with vampires deserved all the death they earned.
After a while of standing in sullen silence, though, Buffy frowned at him. “Do you think they’ll leave us here?” she asked. “Together?”
“No idea.” He looked across the corridor to the other cells. “None of the others are two-to-a-bag.”
“They’d have to actually fight us to split us up, though.”
Spike looked at her. Was she saying she’d fight to stay with him? Or just that she’d fight them regardless? Probably that she’d fight them regardless, despite her bizarrely altruistic soulfulness.
“Is that what you want?” he asked. “Us together?”
“Well,” Buffy said. “We probably are a little safer that way.”
“Don’t kid yourself,” Spike said. “We’re both buggered, together or not.”
Buffy sighed and leaned against the wall. “Yeah. Probably.”
Spike growled and paced a little.
“Do you always do that?” she asked after a bit.
“Pace like that.”
“Yes,” Spike snapped. “Get used to it.”
Buffy grunted and looked at the ceiling, fidgeting a little. Spike’s foot felt vile and squishy. He wanted to take off his sock, and maybe smear the blood all over the walls, just for something to do. If he’d been alone, he would have, annoying his captors no doubt, but with Buffy here it struck him as childish, and he didn’t want to be seen as childish by Buffy.
He realized she was humming something under her breath. He stopped and stared at her. “Why the hell are you singing the jingle for Doublemeat Burgers?”
“What? It’s catchy,” she snapped. “And I’m anxious,” she added, looking down. She started humming again, deliberately, slightly louder than before.
This was clearly going to become hell very, very quickly. Despite how damn cute she looked with her hair all rumpled and uncombed. Spike actually had a comb in his pocket.... He was tempted to offer it to her, but...
God. He started pacing again, and she glared.
The door in the corridor opened. “So it was these two?” said a woman’s voice, something Spike hadn’t heard in this place, apart from Buffy and the lady-fledge across the way. He jumped to the door to look out. “You say they demonstrated loyalty?”
“‘S what it looked like to me,” said a soldier who had come along with the woman. She wore a lab coat. Flanking her were two of the commando guys, bland-face and the only black guy Spike had seen here. “Calling out to each other, standing in front, trying to protect the other and stuff,” said the one with “Gates” on his badge.
“I wasn’t seeing loyalty,” bland-faced Finn said. “Subject 13 escaped. He let out subjects 12 and 9, probably to form a stronger front. He shoved the female in front of him at one point, until I shot it, and he didn’t trust it as a shield any longer. I got them both back to the cell.”
“Together,” the woman said thoughtfully. “But they aren’t attacking each other.” She came right up to the window and gazed down at them, curious. At this distance Spike could read her badge. “Prof. Walsh,” it read, with an alphabet soup of Ph.D., M.D., D.Sc., and probably SSC for her Silver Swimming Certificate, too. “This is very interesting. Most hostiles we’ve seen have been just as destructive toward each other as they are toward human beings. When we leave males and females in the same cell, for example, they tend to attack. Dominance testing, forcible mating behavior. That is why we took to keeping them separate, even when we catch them in packs.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not seeing that here,” Gates said. He stood a bit in front of the woman. “I’m telling you, there’s something different about these two. Behavioral mods? Did you already chip them up, or something?”
“No, not yet,” Walsh said. “The last two prototype microchips caused severe brain damage to the subjects. Perhaps subjects 17 or 18 could have implementation upon arrival, if you can catch any more HSTs of this class. I had planned on doing a few more experiments with number 13 here, before I developed a new prototype, but if you say his behavioral patterns are atypical....”
“Very atypical,” Gates said.
“Well. Open the cell,” Walsh said, indicating with her chin. Spike didn’t see quite where the woman was looking. “We’ll do a few extra surgical experiments on Hostile 9, and we’ll set the other two down for further study.”
Gates and Finn pushed past the woman, and Spike half expected them to open the cell and go after him or Buffy. Spike appeared to be subject 13. Was Buffy subject 9? He steeled himself for an attack, and beside him Buffy did the same, grunting a little. He could see the blood seep from the wound in her shoulder as she tensed.
But the cell they opened was the one next door. Rat roared, and then was zapped and dragged down the corridor by his coat, moaning, but unable to move. “Good riddance!” Spike shouted after him. “Wanker.”
Now that the soldiers were gone, Buffy seemed to think this was her chance. She came up to the cell door. “Are you in charge?” she asked the woman.
Walsh ignored her.
“Look, I need to talk to someone in charge,” she said. “I understand what you’re trying to do, here. I get that you want to rid the world of vampires and demons. I really do understand what you’re getting at. If you want to know more about what you’re doing, I can put you in touch with the right people. The Watcher’s Council is–”
“Notes for reference,” Walsh said, cutting Buffy off. She hadn’t even looked at her. It annoyed Spike for reasons he couldn’t really understand. The woman had pulled out what seemed to be a tape recorder or something and was speaking into it. She rattled off the date and time into her machine, and Buffy looked to Spike, who shook his head. It was clear the people of this institution, whatever it was, had been trained to ignore anything the vampires said.
The woman had finished rattling off numbers into her recorder, and had gotten down to the meat of her notation. “Upon personal observation, subjects 12 and 13 do appear to display a more human affect in comparison to most HST’s encountered in Region 7. It is uncertain if this is due to breeding, age, or perhaps some other distinction. According to Gates, subject 13 displayed evidence of strategy, loyalty, and understanding of tools.” She stood back and regarded the two of them. “Residual human affect, of clothing and grooming, appears at first glance to be at a more sophisticated level than the majority of the Hostile Sub-Terrestrials of the vampire class. Some evidence of additional strength in Hostile 12, though this would need to be tested in a laboratory setting.”
She took a step to the side and regarded Spike directly. “Hostile 13 appears divergent in all affect, yet the supposition of divergence in vampiric nature may be erroneous. Clothing is atypical in style, reflecting perhaps past societal norms, indicating an inability to recognize the passage of time. Hair is pale; if natural perhaps indicative of some form of albinism. If these observations prove correct, and all mental and physical aberrations are merely the result of residual human traits, then the subject is likely of no value or interest.”
Spike glared. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. They’d taken his lighter – bastards. He’d been bloody fond of that lighter – but his ciggies were still there. He pulled one of the cigarettes up to look like an aerial or something, and held the cigarette pack to his mouth, in the same posture that Walsh was holding her recorder.
“Notes for reference,” he announced to his cigarettes. “Upon personal observation, it would appear that subject Bug-Shagging Loony with a God Complex is completely off her bird. Brains appear in the anal region. Eyes are piggy, and presumed ineffectual, perhaps indicative of some kind of willful emotional myopia. Genitalia ambiguous, comprising predominantly of cobwebs. If these aberrations are merely the result of residual childhood bullying for her tendency to be an insufferable know-it-all, the subject is likely of no value or interest.”
Walsh stopped and regarded him, her eyes curious. “Notes for reference,” she said into her recorder. “Subject 13 shows evidence of primitive humor. The hostile appears to retain knowledge of irony, satire, and imitation. With patient training and tuition could possibly master limited combat strategy, and perhaps be utilized in more nuanced attack scenarios than other HSTs. Recommend retaining him and his mate,” (“I am not his mate!” Buffy announced, and was ignored,) “until prototype microchip is perfected, rather than risk potential intelligence on untested technology.”
“Notes for reference,” Spike said to the cigarettes with a wicked grin. “Subject displays evidence of extreme thick-headedness. Seems unable to grasp the purpose of vampires, which would be to kill. Particularly self-righteous pseudo-intellectual twats with signs of extreme hubris. With patient thrashing and fracturing will likely be obliterated into a bloody smear on the floor.”
Walsh looked bored. “Notes for reference. In contrast to his seeming intelligence, subject 13 appears to be under the delusion that he can escape the cells a second time.”
“Notes for reference,” Spike said to his cigarettes. “The bint appears blissfully unaware that vampires are not particularly known for their obedience and predictability. Unless she wants her fanny minced into burger meat, she’d best leave the Big Bad and the Bigger Badder Biddy beside him in some kind of ruddy peace, or the only piece she’ll have is the big one I leave of her skull when I pummel her to messes!”
“Notes for reference, presence of researcher appears to be affecting the behavior of the subject,” Walsh said rather hastily. “Recommend withdrawal and all observations to be performed at distance. End notation.” The woman backed away from the cells, headed toward the door, looking, Spike noted with satisfaction, a trifle nervous.
“Notes for reference!” Spike shouted after her. “When I get the hell out of here I’m tracking you down first, bitch!” He shoved the cigarettes back into his pocket. “End notation.”
He looked over to Buffy, who chuckled. “Real mature.”
“Got the bird’s attention, dinnit?” Spike said. “Better’n you with your, I can put you in touch with the right people.”
Buffy looked down. “Actually, we got what we were after,” she pointed out. “Combat strategy, she said. They want to use us.”
“It was always gonna be kill us, use us, or strip us down for parts, pet,” he said. “What else do you keep demons captured for, eh?”
Buffy sat down, and then held her shoulder with a grimace. It had been nearly an hour, shouldn’t that thing have stopped bleeding already? It was just a bullet. Couple days it should be right as rain, and the worst should have been over already. The shot on his own arm was already starting to close (though the same couldn’t be said for his coat. Bastards were gonna pay for that.) Wasn’t Buffy all slaypire extraordinaire? And Angel’s fledge to boot, and he was no lightweight when it came to power and bloodlines, either.
Fledge.... He frowned at Buffy. For all her strength and poise and brilliance, for all she’d been stuffed up tight with a soul and all, the slaypire was still just a baby fledge, not even a year as a demon. And it had been days since she’d fed....
Ach, but that wasn’t his business. His business was to bide his time until he could get the hell out of here, and keep himself from going stark-staring in the meantime.
“Wanna play twenty questions?” he asked, settling down against the other wall.
Buffy glared at him for a moment, and then sighed. “Is it bigger than a breadbox?” she asked.
“Is it smaller than a ring?”
“Can I use it to gut somebody?”
Spike grinned. “Most likely you could, slayer,” he said.