Angelus didn't move, just watched with ill-concealed delight as his son sprawled backwards onto the floor. "I guess the little bird who said Lorne had done a Sanctuary spell was right."
"What the hell are you doing here?" Gunn started for the weapon cabinet, but stopped halfway there with a muttered "Damn." No, weapons weren't going to do them any good at the moment.
"Do I really need a reason to see old friends? Buffy's here and Willow; I haven't had a chance to say a decent 'hello.'"
Angelus strolled forward, casually moving toward Willow and Kennedy. "Like the hair, Willow. It's a better look for you than that real short and kind of curly cut you were sporting the last time you were here." He paused. "Aren't you going to introduce me to your tasty little friend?"
Willow was on her feet, moving to block Angelus from any further approach. "Leave her alone."
"Oooh, the kitten has claws. Big change from the frightened little girl I remember." He leaned in, his voice dropping to a stage whisper. "But you're still that girl inside, aren't you? Don't worry; I won't tell anyone."
Willow's lips began to move, the air around her charging. "Don't!" Lorne yelled. "It'll rebound."
"Aww. And it'd be so fun to watch." Chuckling, Angelus backed away, his eyes never straying from Willow until the magic she'd begun to summon had dissipated.
"You shouldn't have come," Cordelia said.
"Why am I not surprised to hear from Cordy? What's the matter? Embarrassed to be seen with your new boyfriend? That raises a question, though; how the hell did I manage to produce such pathetic children? Connor's a mess, though I could probably absolve myself of blame there and lay it all on Holtz. But William? I'm afraid I'm stuck with responsibility for that one."
"Don't put yourself out, mate." Spike's posture was casual, but Buffy could feel the tension buzzing inside him.
"Well, that's the thing, 'mate.'" Angelus turned toward them, smile gone from his face. "I've done nothing but put myself out about you since you dragged your sorry ass out of the grave. You were squeamish about your first hunt, then you kept bringing us to everyone's attention, damn near getting us torn apart by the mob because of your stupidity. You never learned, never focused, just kept mooning after Drusilla when she didn't really give you any more thoughts that she did those dolls of hers. Yeah, you killed two slayers but only because you were fool enough to go chasing after them."
"While you ran like hell from them.
"Sometimes there are more important things than just racking up points. But that's another lesson you never learned. And look where it got you. A soul."
A quick move and Angelus was almost nose to nose with Spike. "Is it good? Do you enjoy suffering; atoning for all those things you used to love but now are 'sins'? Do the urges still come to you in the middle of the night, all the things you desperately want to do but you know are 'wrong'?"
His voice dropped low, taking on a conspiratorial tone. "Do you lie there next to her and think about sinking your fangs into her neck, tasting that sweet, sweet blood? 'Cause it is sweet, I can tell you. If it was me, I'd be chomping at the bit, eager to get another taste."
Spike's eyes had narrowed and what blue Buffy could see was like ice. She was certain something was about to break, that at any moment Spike would take a swing and give Angelus the satisfaction of watching him slam helplessly against Lorne's sanctuary spell.
Spike, however, did what he did best: the unexpected. Arms folded across his chest, he asked, "Are you quite done?" in a tone of supreme boredom.
Angelus pulled back, a hint of a snarl escaping. This was clearly not what he'd expected. "You've managed to grow a pair. Did they come with the soul?" He indicated Buffy with a quick motion of his head. "Or did she lend you some of hers for the duration?"
"Nah. Darla left the jar she kept yours in behind, and since they were barely used..."
Another snarl and Angelus raised his fist, only to catch himself before he actually threw the punch. "Cute, boy. Maybe you have learned a thing or two."
"Why are you here?" Buffy asked. "It's got to be more than wanting to drop by and offering up a few insults."
"Buffy, Buffy, Buffy." Angelus was backing off, chuckling. "So impatient. Don't you think I might want to see you for your own sweet self?" At her glare, he chuckled once more. "Maybe not."
"Why are you here, Angelus?" Wesley asked, stepping forward.
"Like I said, to see old friends. I was expecting to be welcomed with open arms; but if you guys aren't happy to see me..."
Casually, he began to stroll toward the basement exit...a shade too casually, favoring Connor (who'd managed to pick himself up off the floor) with a grin obviously designed to drive the boy nuts before disappearing around the corner to the basement door. In the wake of his departure, the room descended into silence.
Once again, it was Connor who moved first, racing to pick up his sword from the circular couch and sprinting after Angelus. "Oh, my God! Stop him!" Cordelia shrieked.
With that, the room exploded into action. "Wesley, get the tranquilizer gun!" Buffy called. "Spike..."
"On it. Idiot doesn't realize it's a trap." He sprinted toward the basement stairs himself, Buffy realizing he hadn't stopped to grab a weapon only after he'd disappeared. There wasn't time to worry about that, though.
Grabbing a weapon for herself, she turned to Willow. "I'm going to need you with us. Gunn, I want the two of you together at the rear; keep a close eye on Willow. When she starts casting, she's going to be vulnerable."
Gunn offered no argument, taking up his axe. "Where do I go?" Kennedy asked, getting to her feet.
"You don't." There wasn't time to sugarcoat the words. "It's going to be bad enough down there; I don't need to be worrying about someone who isn't one hundred percent."
Buffy turned away, not bothering to wait for whatever objections might have to offer. The two previous encounters with Angelus had not been a walk in the park, but this was going to be worse. They were venturing into an enclosed space he knew better than they did and where he'd had time to plan all sorts of nasty surprise.
Might as well get this over with.
It didn't take that long for Spike to catch up with Connor. Snagging the boy by the collar of his shirt, Spike jerked him backward, not even trying to be gentle. "Where the hell do you think you're going?" he hissed.
Connor whirled, fist coming up, but Spike blocked the blow with the ease of long experience. "I was trying to stop him," Connor said, annoyance soaking his voice. "No one else seemed willing to do anything."
"Everyone else realized he was trying to get us to follow him. Think about it. Why would he want us doing this?"
After a long moment, the boy's eyes widened with realization. "It's a trap."
Spike released Conner with a disgusted snort. "God, you're as thick as he is. This is his battlefield, not ours. Of course it's a trap. Now we need to get out of here before..."
A low rumble filled the tunnel, a decidedly unpleasant sound. "Shit."
Connor tensed, sword at the ready. "What is it?"
Spike sniffed at the air. "Krevlach demon if I'm not mistaken. Big, stupid, mean..." There was another rumble. "And I think they're behind us."
"So we go further, continue following Angelus."
"Who the hell do you think set them on us?" It was all Spike had time to say before the demons were upon them. It couldn’t really be called a fight; six Krevlaches against Spike and Connor more closely resembled a bar brawl. Connor used his sword, hacking and slashing with a will, Spike used what he had available: his fists. Blood and body parts began to fly, making movement in the sewer tunnel treacherous.
They'd killed two of the beasts and were working on the third when pounding feet heralded new arrivals. For a moment Spike feared it was more demons but then he heard a female voice shouting and knew his slayer had arrived with reinforcements. More blood, more body parts, a final whistling swing of a sword and the remains of six Krevlachs were littering the tunnel.
"Are you okay?" Buffy asked, scrambling over a severed arm (at least, Spike though it was an arm; it could have been a leg). She scanned his face for injuries and the look in her eyes made every trial, every pain he'd endured worth it to see the tenderness there.
She smacked him on the arm. "Ow! That hurt, Buffy."
"You took off without a weapon! How did you think you were going to protect yourself?"
"With my fists, just like I always do."
"And get yourself hurt or killed in the process. Is this stuff acidic? We have got to get you more clothes when we get back to Sunnydale, assuming I don't strangle you myself."
She was fussing, worry taking the sting from her words. If they weren't standing in a sewer surrounded by demon parts, he'd kiss her. He considered doing it anyway, but Connor was cocking his head in that annoying way that said he sensed something. "He went this way...and he's close."
No need to say who "he" was. Connor started to head down the tunnel, but stopped when his foot hit another demon body part. "Do you think there might be more demons lying in wait?"
"Possibly. He could have easily gotten away while we were fighting, so he probably wants us to follow." Spike looked toward Buffy. "Your call, Slayer."
His use of the word was deliberate, reminding the others who was in charge here. Not that there was any doubt whom he'd follow. Buffy frowned, peering down the darkness that lay ahead. Then she turned, calling out, "You guys still with us?"
Gunn, Wesley and Willow came forward. "All accounted for," Gunn said. "Doesn't seem to be anything behind us."
Buffy nodded in acknowledgement, then looked down the tunnel again. "You're sure you can track him?" she asked of Connor.
"I learned well on Quor-toth," he replied. "I can track him."
She was frowning and Spike could see her weighing each option. Then her eyes slid toward him and he knew she'd made her decision. "Let's go get him."
Angelus was leading them on a merry chase, always just ahead of them. Twice more they encountered demons that seemed to be laying in wait for them, though never more than they could handle. It was almost as if the demons' purpose was as canon fodder, softening up Buffy and her troops for the main event.
She was beginning to regret the decision to continue the hunt when Connor paused. "I think..." he whispered.
"What?" The boy did have good tracking abilities, which kept her from having to drop into that semi-fugue state needed to sense him from more than a short distance.
"He's up ahead...and he's not moving."
It wasn't the first time that had happened, either. He was finally going to face them or he had another set of demons waiting. No choice but to send word down the line. "Everyone ready. We're about to go."
She held them for just a moment to prepare, and then indicated Connor should move ahead. Slowly they advanced, keeping close together. Another advantage of letting Connor do the tracking; it made him more cooperative.
The light within the tunnel changed as they rounded a corner, and a short walk led them into a large circular chamber that had to be some kind of junction or maintenance point. Ladders led upward toward two levels of iron scaffolding, pipes and valves casting weird shadows in the small work lights that glowed from a few points. "Took you guys long enough."
He was standing on the lowest level of the scaffolding, looking down on them with a confident air. "That's right; I forgot you ran into some trouble on the way. Believe it or not, Spike, I took a page from your book; I hired the minions this time. Not a bad idea, actually. Especially when you only have to pay them half up front."
Even before Buffy could give the order, Wesley was taking aim with the tranquilizer gun. Angelus was too quick, shifting out of the way of his shot. "You're much better with a flame thrower, Wes. Of course, that takes less finesse."
Buffy didn't need to tell Willow what to do, either, power building as she prepared her spell. Unfortunately, Angelus had anticipated that as well. "Have it, boys. Leave the Slayer for me."
At least eight vamps emerged from the shadows, fangs at the ready. They looked hungry. Suddenly Buffy wished she'd had the presence of mind to bring a crossbow. Thank goodness a stake was tucked in her waist band out of long habit. "Spike! Catch!"
She tossed him the sword she'd been carrying and pulled the stake from her waistband. At least this was a fight she could understand; no mystical beasties, only good old-fashioned vamps. She quickly fell into a rhythm, punching, kicking, aiming the stake straight for the heart whenever possible.
Where was that binding spell? It never took Willow this long. Another kick, a stake plunging in and pulling to an explosion of dust and she was able to steal a look.
Willow was holding the back of her head as if it had been slammed hard against something while Gunn held off three vamps. Whatever had happened, it had clearly interrupted the spell casting for at the least the moment. She started to make her way toward them, but got distracted with helping Wesley with the two who were attacking him.
A crunch and she was distracted again, just in time to see Connor slide down the wall and land in a heap. Angelus had joined the fight and he and Spike were now in a tussle, both vampires in game face, howling and scratching at one another, the sword she'd given Spike discarded somewhere along the way. "Can you get a shot, Wesley?"
Grim-faced, Wesley raised the gun and took aim. The dart flew...only to be caught by Angelus, his other arm wrapped tightly around Spike's neck. "Oh, no. No sleepy-time for me," he crowed, tossing the dart aside.
Buffy leapt forward, stake instinctively raised. It served to catch Angelus' attention and made him fling Spike away as he turned all his attention toward fighting her. "Willow! Get that damn spell going!" she shouted, focusing all her efforts at keeping him at bay. That's all she needed to do; buy enough time. There were 'pops' that told her the other vampires were being dispatched, but nothing to let her know if Willow had started her spell.
Then, a flash of white blonde caught her eye and she saw Spike lunge forward with the tranquilizer dart Angelus had discarded in his hand. The movement must have caught Angelus' eye as well as he sent an elbow flying backward to knock Spike to his knees. The setback was only momentary, though, as Spike drew back his arm and shoved the dart home...straight into Angelus' rear end.
The howl of pain mixed with annoyance was nearly ear-splitting and Angelus dealt Spike a vicious backhand that sent him sprawling. There was no puns or clever sayings in response to this attack, merely fury and murder in his eyes.
How long would it take for the sedative to work? Was the dosage high enough? Even if it was, had Spike put enough force behind it to deliver the drug into Angelus' system? These questions raced through Buffy's mind as she ducked a swing that was an abrupt change from his cat and mouse game of only moments ago. Was Spike okay? How many other vampires were left?
The voice was a blessing, the power that flowed out to encircle Angelus even more so. He howled again, struggling uselessly against the bonds. Panting, Buffy dropped to her own knees, adrenalin starting to drop rapidly away. Almost instantly, Willow was at her side. "Did he hurt you?"
She shook her head, finding it hard to speak at first. "I'm fine," she managed at last. "Spike?"
Wesley was already there, helping him up. "I think he'll live."
"I hurt enough to feel alive," Spike complained, gingerly touching his cheek. A bruise was already blossoming on the skin, livid and painful looking.
Buffy could see Gunn, Willow was next to her, Spike in easy reach with Wesley by him. That only left...
"Connor? Gunn, is he okay?"
She could have sworn she heard a muttered, "Do I have to?" but Gunn moved to help drag the boy to his feet.
They were all accounted for, all alive. Letting Willow help her to stand, Buffy realized they'd managed to accomplish their goal. Angelus was firmly bound with no Beast to help free him. The sedative appeared to be slowly seeping into his system, his struggles growing less with each moment. "Um, how are we going to get him back to the hotel?"
"Float him," Willow suggested. "I don't think you want to loose the binding spell until we have him in the cage."
"Or the Sanctuary spell won't permit us to bring him any farther like this. A binding spelling is somewhat aggressive after all." Wesley frowned. "We're probably going to need Lorne to remove the spell before you start your work on his soul; that is also somewhat aggressive magic."
"So why don't we get back and let him get to work on that. Besides, it'll give me a chance to rest up. I've got a splitting headache from where one of those guys slammed me into the wall."
"Hey, remember who pulled him off your neck," Gunn reminded her.
There was more friendly bickering as they sorted themselves for the trip back. This time, Buffy was glad to take up the rear, slipping her arm around Spike's waist as he slipped his about hers. At least they had Angel; that was needed was find his soul. And the traitor.
Buffy had no doubt Cordelia was waiting for them at the hotel.
Continued in Chapter Sixteen