"So, how's it going?" she asked, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
Buffy crossed her arms and sighed.
"I don't know. Good, maybe? We talked a little....I'm supposed to be meeting him soonish."
"Want me to come?" she asked, giving that little half smile.
Buffy thought about it for a moment, then shrugged.
Buffy opened the door to the shop, and shouted inside that they were leaving, which was most likely ignored. The girls headed out, walking in silence for a while. Buffy was the first to speak up.
"He forgave me, you know. Just like that. 'It's okay...' he said. Why would he do that? After what I did?" Her voice was getting smaller.
Tara gave the Slayer a sidelong look.
"He loves you. It's obvious. He's t-t-aking whatever he can get from you."
Buffy didn't respond. They were nearing Spike's crypt, and both halted, seeing the door wide open.
"D-Does he usually leave his door open?" Tara whispered.
"No, he doesn't. Paranoid and everything." She pulled a stake from her jacket and crouched low. "Come on."
They crept forward, slowly, Buffy entering the crypt first. Tara followed nervously, a defensive spell on her lips.
Buffy furrowed her brow, looking around. Her Slayer sense told her the place was empty. Worry began to clutch at her chest.
"Spike?" she shouted, tucking her stake away, and relaxing somewhat. She turned to Tara, watching as the girl also relaxed her battle stance.
"He's not here. Where would he go? He wasn't really in any condition for a midnight stroll."
Tara nodded, looking around.
"Do you think something happened to...to him?"
The look on the Slayer's face answered her question.
Spike's eyes snapped open. His first thought was 'Ow...,' his second coming a few moments later. Wait a sec, this isn't my crypt...
"Stand up," came a voice from somewhere to his right.
He frowned. Who in the hell thought to give him orders? He turned his head to see for himself.
Ah. Robot-boy and his two friends. Ha. He just stared at the group, puzzled amusement reflecting on his battered features.
"Spot, you're going to learn really quick not to disobey me. When I say stand up, you stand up!"
That was it. Spike dissolved into laughter -- riproaring, in your face, you bleedin' idiots kinda laughter.
Warren's face turned beet red in anger. He held out the control and pushed the yellow button.
Spike's laughter choked off and came to a screeching halt as the chip went off full blast. He keened and grabbed his head, curling his knees close to his chest. The bastard held the button for thirty full seconds before releasing it.
"Stand up," floated again into Spike's hearing when rational thought returned. Glaring the full-on 'I'm gonna tear you to little bits' glare he was famous for, he slowly pulled himself to his feet.
"Good boy. Now, you're not to speak unless spoken to. You're not to move unless you're told. And you will do everything we say, without hesitation. Understand?"
"Not bleedin'...," he began, and yelped when the chip went off again, nearly sending him to his knees.
"This is so cool." Andrew fidgeted excitedly. "It's just like that Star Trek episode when Picard got captured by the...."
"Shut up, Andrew." Warren snapped.
Panting, Spike watched this interaction.
Warren grinned, looking back to Spike.
"Now, it's time for your paper training, Spot."
Spike grinned right back.
"They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks..."
The sound of agonized wailing echoed throughout the basement lair of the Troika.
"This is going to be harder than I thought..." Warren said over the vampire's screams, finger still holding the yellow button down.
"How are we supposed to train him anyway? He's a vampire, Warren. They aren't exactly trustworthy." Jonathan asked.
"It's easy. Like an animal, he will respond to negative and positive reinforcement. All we have to do is make him see that we are in charge. Then we have ourselves our very own trained attack vampire."
He released the button and the screaming stopped. Spike's eyes were squeezed shut, blood trickling from his nose.
"Stand up, Spot." Warren commanded. He watched as the vampire struggled slowly back to his feet.
"Now, what's your name?" he asked.
Spike panted, trying to gather his shattered thoughts.
"Spike," he said, and was zapped again, a quick jolt of intense pain tearing through his head.
"Wrong. What's your name?"
He drew in a deep breath.
"WILLIAM THE FUCKIN' BLOODY!" he shouted, before falling over again, clutching his head tightly and biting his tongue to keep from screaming.
"Stand up," Warren commanded again, this time through clenched teeth.
Wiping blood from his nose, he did as he was told, as quickly as he could. The pillock had held the button for a good two minutes that time. He wasn't about to repeat that experience again.
"What's your name?"
"Spot," Spike replied, gritting his teeth.
Warren grinned, and Andrew clapped his hands in excitement. Jonathan had long ago stopped watching.
Continued in Chapter 5