All About Spike - Plain Version
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Haunt of the House
By Jericho TGF
Occasionally, people see things that are so out of the ordinary - so bizarre or obscene or...wrong...that the mind doesn't quite allow them to process what it is they're seeing.
Sometimes that's a blessing. Sometimes, just sometimes, it's better not to be able to process the unbelievable. But the Slayer and the vampire were both, themselves, unbelievable. And they did unbelievable things. Fought unbelievable things. Dealt with the unspeakable, the horrible, the worst of the worst. They didn't have the luxury of not being able to process what their eyes were telling them. Buffy, for one, wished she did.
Ida Heggan, the sweet and friendly innkeeper of the Carr House, hung inches off the floor, suspended in mid-air. The right side of her face dripped blood, her entire right side down to her waist was covered in lacerations, her trendy business suit a mess of sliced fabric. A few large, glass shards stuck grotesquely out of several wounds. Visible energy coursed over and through the matronly woman; flickering, hot energy that glowed angry and red, then vile and green. Hair, once professionally coiffed and neat, snapped and flipped and twisted as if alive, snakelike. Wide, brown eyes flashed insanity and crazed intent. A mouth known for smiles and kindness was twisted into a macabre but silent howl of unrestrained rage.
And she was no longer Ida. The haunt had come...with a vengeance.
Slayer and vampire had little time to react before a hostile hand shot up - palm out - and a ball of energy erupted from it with malevolent intent. An instinct for survival and the inherent speed of their reflexes were the only thing that saved them as they leapt over the back of the couch in complete synchronicity. Spike reached an arm out as he went, tipping the couch with them, giving them marginal protection from above as well as in front as they crouched behind it.
The ball of energy slammed into their barrier. Buffy and Spike flinched at the sound of cracking wood and ripping fabric.
"We can't stay here," Spike ground out, feeling the couch pushing into him with each blow it took.
Buffy, kneeling next to him, a hand up over her head supporting the back of the couch, rolled her eyes at the glaringly obvious statement, wincing each time she felt the couch giving under the weight of spectral fury.
"Infidels! Interlopers! Feel me! Feel my wrath!"
It was superhuman sound, unimaginably loud and completely beyond comprehension that it could issue forth from any human throat.
"Demon, can you feel it?! Do you and your whore have any idea of what I am capable?"
Buffy's head snapped up and fire crackled in her eyes. "That's it!" she shouted, startling Spike, who jerked his head around and glared at her. "That's it. I'm done."
"Buffy," he hissed in warning, not liking her sound of voice at all, "you're not think - "
She didn't give him a chance to finish. As soon as she felt another energy bolt plow into the couch, she used all her Slayer strength to push it up and away. She was so pissed, she'd put more into it than she'd intended and it flipped through the air - before crashing into the wall across the room.
Miranda, slightly surprised by the Slayer's show of brute strength, paused her attack. Perhaps a tactical error, but the girl she'd thought as no more than a bug to be squashed under her booted heel stood and crossed her arms over her chest and glared at her defiantly - and absolutely without fear. It was...unexpected.
Buffy didn't pause long. She charged, taking the haunt by complete surprise, and slammed her fist into Ida's face. And it was Buffy's turn to be completely surprised when it did nothing but bounce off ineffectually.
The haunt was unaffected.
Pinning Buffy with a superior smile, Miranda gathered her energy and flexed her fingers. Spike saw it and panicked. He bellowed in rage and fear and leapt into action, tackling Buffy and bringing her to the ground mere seconds before a blast of power slammed out of Ida's body and hurtled towards them. It passed over Spike's back with enough heat to smolder his leather duster.
His quick thinking and quicker actions had probably just saved the Slayer's life, but it also drew the haunt's attention to the original focus of her retribution.
He didn't know quite what to think when he felt himself lifted off the Slayer. Buffy rolled to her back and sat up, thinking Spike had just gotten off of her, but her eyes flew wide when she saw him hurled into the wall next to the couch.
The vampire landed with a thud and slumped to the floor, slightly dazed by the harsh impact. Before he could recover, before Buffy could do anything to help him, he was picked up in an invisible grip yet again and thrown to the other side of the living room.
He grunted in pain when he crashed into an end table and lamp with such force that they crumbled under the impact. A shard of debris sliced into his back and he gasped reflexively.
Ida's body spun at the hail. The Slayer stood there, fierce and furious, with an antique floor lamp held in her hands like a staff.
"Leave. Him. Alone." Buffy drew back to swing, but she was hit by what felt like a tree trunk and tossed out of the living room, crashing into the reservation desk fifteen feet away.
Spike was just barely conscious, his eyes heavy and sight blurry. Dazed and confused, he caught movement out of the corner of his eye and turned his head to try to get a better look at what caught his attention. A little blue light pulsed just inches from his face. Something about it was familiar, but he just couldn't get his mind to wrap around what it was.
There was no mistaking the fact that it appeared to be looking him over, however, and he could only hope that it wasn't something keen on making him dusty. Somehow, he didn't think it was.
Surprised when the little blue ball danced away from him, expanding as it went, his eyes followed it with vague curiosity as it floated over to the dangling body of the inhabited innkeeper. Her back was turned, she was focused on something over by the reservation desk but Spike couldn't see what it was. As long as the bitch wasn't tossing him about like a rag doll, he couldn't really care what it was. He needed to get to Buffy.
Raising his head gently, he cased the room. She was nowhere to be seen. Not exactly comforting. He sat up gingerly, wincing at the sharp pain in his back, and could finally see what Miranda was so intent on. And he almost died again at what he saw.
Miranda's arm was outstretched, her hand in a claw as if she was trying to wring the life out of the very air. Crumpled by the reservation desk, clutching her throat and turning a dangerous shade of red, was Buffy. Miranda was choking her. From several feet away she was choking the life out of her.
All thought of his own pain and little blue balls of energy fled on hellish wings.
Leaping to his feet, his game face surged forward and he snarled. "NO!"
Miranda's head swung around, but she didn't release her stranglehold on Buffy's throat. In a glance she sized up the impotent vampire charging towards her and she flicked up her unoccupied hand, sending out the same kind of wall that held Buffy in place back in their room. Spike was stuck. He struggled against the invisible but indissoluble wall but could move no closer.
One arched eyebrow raised as the haunt studied the fiend in front of her. "Tell me, vampire," she rasped, "do you love her enough to sacrifice everything for her? Give up everything for her? Can you comprehend that kind of love? No. Of course you can't. It's not in you, is it? You are an abomination. Evil. That's what you are. Have you deceived yourself into believing this...thing...between you can last? You would have killed her. It's what you do. Just like he killed me. Of course, now you don't have to. I'll do it for you."
The struggle was ferocious and feral and wild. Spike railed against his constraints, screaming Buffy's name again and again, hearing the haunt's words as little more than an irritating buzz in the back of his mind.
Buffy was dying. He could feel it. Hear it. In her faltering heartbeat and her wide, terrified eyes. He was watching the life ebb from her and there was absolutely nothing he could do to stop it. His mind screamed against it, howled against having to lose her again. And again he had only himself to blame.
Spike didn't see the blue energy slide into haunt's line of sight. He didn't notice Miranda's attention shift away from him or hear her waspish tirade cut off abruptly. Nor was he witness to the coalescing form in that blue energy, or the look of fear that flashed across the haunt's appropriated face.
The vampire was completely unaware that there was another battle being waged in that room, a battle of wills. There was nothing for him but Buffy's dying form, several feet away. So close, yet miles and miles too far. He didn't see two energies clash together, was oblivious to the sparks that snapped and crackled as a result.
All Spike knew was that he was suddenly free from the restraining wall of energy and he crashed into the floor at the suddenness of its release. Not that he stayed down for long. In a blink he'd rolled and leapt to his feet, charging to Buffy's side. The relief in seeing her taking in a huge unrestricted lungful of air made him weak-kneed and he dropped to the floor by her side. Trembling violently, he pulled her up into a sitting position.
Buffy buried her head in his shoulder but he yanked her away to stare at her. He needed to have the reassurance of that glorious natural color of hers rushing back into her face. She pouted a little at being set away from him, but he lowered his head to plunder her mouth for a brief but powerful kiss, which in her oxygen-deprived brain was more than consolation.
He didn't even realize that he still had his game face on. Buffy did. And she couldn't have possibly cared less. When they finally pulled apart, Buffy ran a trembling hand across his ridged forehead, smiling slightly.
"Been a while since I've seen the 'grrr' look on you," she said in a voice scratchy and dry from the abuse her throat had taken.
As soon as she said it, he remembered the reason he'd gone bumpy in the first place and he spun around, kneeling in front of her, ready to act as an undead shield to keep the haunt from doing any more damage to his girl.
He needn't have bothered. All that was left of the haunt's presence was the unconscious and supine body of Ida Heggan and the general destruction of the house itself. A hand on his shoulder made him jump, but it was only Buffy.
Only Buffy. He chuckled ruefully at that thought. Two words that should never be used in the same sentence, 'only' and 'Buffy'.
"She's gone, Spike. I saw...I don't know what I saw, but she's gone. I don't think it's for good, though."
"No," he drawled, shaking off his demon visage and turning back to her. "We don't have that kinda luck, pet. No doubt 'bout that."
Feeling less lightheaded, Buffy got to her feet and stood on shaky legs, holding on to the reservation desk for support. "What the hell was that, anyway? Spike, she was so strong."
Frowning, the vampire brushed a strand of hair off her forehead, feeling frustrated that he couldn't provide any answers.
Buffy moved to Ida's side, afraid of what she would find, but was relieved when a quick check revealed that she was still alive. "Check out the bathroom under the stairs. See if you can find any towels or anything. We need to stop this bleeding."
Spike moved to do her bidding while Buffy gently removed the three shards of glass still embedded in Ida's right arm. They weren't too deep and didn't bleed too badly when they were taken out.
Ducking his head back into the living room, the vampire called out to her. "Sorry, pet. No dice on the towels - I'm gonna check out the kitchen."
She nodded in response, letting him know she heard him, but didn't take her attention away from the fallen women. Thoughts were chasing around in her head, a huge, jumbled mass of them that made absolutely no sense. She felt like she was trying to put a puzzle together with several key pieces missing.
A dishtowel flew threw the air and landed on Ida's arm, startling Buffy enough to make her jump. Spinning around, she frowned at Spike.
"Don't do that!"
Spike raised a brow and smirked. "Dinn't realize you'd be so jumpy."
"Yeah...well...oddly enough, I get a little jumpy when dead bitches almost choke the life out of me, right after they try to fry me into oblivion."
Frowning at the memory of how close he came to losing her again, he bobbed his head in apology. "Think I may finally have an answer to one of those questions you asked, luv."
Turning back to Ida, using the dishtowel Spike threw, as well as the one he handed her to stop the blood, she said, "Answers would be nice. What'd you find?"
"Judgin' by what I saw in the dining room, that Kaplan lot we met earlier, two older birds, and what I'm assumin' to be the cook, all unconscious - unhurt, mind, but sleepin' like babes, all - I'd say Miranda decided to drain the batteries on the lot of them. Figure that's how she juiced up her power, did what she did."
"Great," Buffy mumbled under her breath, "couldn't have just gone with Duracell, could she?"
Once the towels were wrapped around the worst of Ida's wounds and the blood had stopped flowing from the rest, Buffy leaned back on her haunches and shot a serious look at Spike.
"We need to get everyone out of the house, but I'm not leaving you in here alone."
"Normally, I'd be offended by your lack of confidence in my abilities. Course, nothin' normal about this bloody situation." He raised his chin in her direction. "What's on your mind, then."
"We wake up the sleeping beauties, run the basic cover story - gas leak, small boomy thing blew out the windows, yadda yadda - you know, the usual. They can take Ida to her house; she said it was on the grounds. From there, they can get her to a hospital."
"Are you out of your bleedin' mind? That'll never work. More holes in that story than a soddin' block of Swiss."
Buffy rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest. "Spike. You remember your little raid on the high school way back when? Do you know what principal Snyder came up with as a cover story? Gang on PCP. Trust me, this'll fly. I've had a lot of experience with the fact that people believe what they want to believe. Besides, it'll work a lot better than 'scary haunt is using you as a coppertop, run away, run away'."
He smirked at the expression on her face and conceded her point.
Facing him, she saw something drop from his hand and she glanced at the floor next to his feet. "Damn."
Following her gaze, curious at her frown, he noticed the small puddle of blood next to him. "Oh, bloody hell."
"Spike, you're hurt!"
"Yeah, looks like. Dinn't even notice I was leakin'."
Buffy got up and went to him, grabbing his hand carefully and looking at it. She didn't see any cuts or wounds. "Take off your coat."
Spike turned his shoulders so Buffy could see his back. She gasped when she saw the eight-inch piece of wood embedded deep into the flesh just under his right shoulder blade. It was sticking out of him at an angle, holding his duster firmly in place.
"Oh my God, Spike, why didn't you tell me?"
"You were a bit busy at the time, luv, what with bein' choked to death and all...after that, I just forgot about it."
Buffy threw up her hands, completely frustrated. "Who forgets a large block of wood stuck in their back? Are you trying to get dusty? Suicidal tendencies aside, I think I need to know when you're hurt." She reached behind him and yanked the shard out, slapping it into his palm before spinning off in a huff.
Too surprised to do any more than gasp in shock when the wood came out, he looked down at his hand, now filled with a rather large and bloody stick. Grinning, he squared his shoulders and turned his head to catch her retreating back as she headed for the dining room.
"Don't think I'll ever get tired of seein' just how much that chit loves me."
Movement from the floor caught his attention and he turned in time to see Ida slowly waking up. "Um...Buffy," he called out to her, "may want to come take a look here. This one's comin' 'round."
Buffy hurried back into the room and dropped to Ida's side. The innkeeper was, in fact, slowly regaining consciousness, moaning once as her eyes fluttered open.
"Mrs. Heggan?" Buffy smoothed the woman's hair a bit as she tried to help her back into awareness as gently as possible. "You've been hurt, Mrs. Heggan. I need you to lie still. We're going to get you some help."
Ida's lips moved and a raspy whisper of sound slipped past her lips, but Buffy couldn't hear what she was saying. She leaned in closer when Ida's eyes finally focused enough to meet hers.
"I told you before, dear," the soft sound could finally be understood, "call me Ida."
Buffy sat up and smiled warmly at the woman. "Right. Sorry. Ida." She glanced over her shoulder at Spike. "She's going to be fine."
Turning back to the injured woman when she felt a hand wrap around her arm, she looked down and saw that Ida was frowning.
"Not...Miranda." The innkeeper struggled to speak loud enough to be heard and the concentration to do so was taking a noticeable toll. Sweat broke out on her forehead and Buffy could feel the woman's hand tremble on her forearm. "That wasn't Miranda. That...thing...was not my Great-great-aunt. It couldn't be. That thing was...awful. Hateful. It's not Miranda."
"Shhh," Buffy said, trying to calm the woman's growing distress, "don't speak. Not yet. We need to - "
"It was not Miranda."
"It's okay, Ida," Buffy conceded. Anything to get her to calm down. "We know. That wasn't your relative. It's fine."
"Get rid of it. Please. Get that thing out of my house."
Buffy covered Ida's hand with her own and stared at her seriously. "We will. I promise you."
There was no arguing with the Slayer when she was in her all-business mode and Ida drew comfort and peace from the strength she sensed beneath the small exterior. She finally relaxed and her eyes drifted closed again. Slipping back into unconsciousness, she didn't see the frown that Spike gave Buffy, didn't see Buffy's mouth flatten in a hard line, didn't see the determination that was mirrored on the Slayer's and vampire's faces. She was blessedly oblivious, but oddly secure in the knowledge that of all people, these two would be able to deal with the entity that had done what it had done to her.
Gently removing Ida's now limp hand from her arm, Buffy carefully laid it across the woman's chest before getting to her feet and heading back towards the dining room. Spike's hand shot out, pausing her in her tracks before she could pass by him.
"You do know that was Miranda, right?" He wanted to make sure they were still on the same wavelength.
Buffy sighed and looked at him, nodding once. "Oh yeah. That was Miranda, alright."
"Then what's with the little white lie, Miss Pure as the bloody Driven Snow?"
Rolling her eyes at Spike's penchant for dramatics, she huffed, "First off, a Slayer in love with the not-so-evil undead isn't exactly large with the pureness. Second, I'd have told her it was the ghost of Christmas past if it made her feel better." She glanced back at the injured woman. "Look at her, Spike. Like it or not, this is our fault. If we hadn't come here..."
She trailed off, the all-too-familiar feeling of guilt gnawing at her belly.
He hated to see her like this, taking the weight of responsibility so hard. She always did that. Pulling her into a supportive hug, he felt good that he was allowed to share her burdens instead of just watching her shoulder them on her own like she had for so long. Too long.
"If we hadn't come here, pet, it would have been somethin' or someone else. This house was a powder keg. It woulda gone boom eventually. Better us White Hats deal with it now."
With her face buried in the leather of his duster, Buffy smiled and tried to choke back a chuckle. "Us White Hats? Wait...lemme guess...I'm Buffy Cassidy and you're the Sundown Vamp."
"Hey," he rumbled in mock offense. "Butch and Sundance weren't exactly good guys, luv. Shameful of you not to know your classics."
Pulling out of his embrace, she was grateful to him for being the aggravating vampire that he was. It was impossible to feel guilty and amused at the same time. And Spike, thanks to his unbelievably annoying personality, was always amusing. She loved that about him.
"I'll have you know I am well versed in the classics. I'm with you, aren't I?"
"That you are, luv, that you are." He leaned in to kiss her but stopped when he caught a very suspicious gleam in her eyes. Realization dawned...albeit a little late. "Hey! Did...did you just call me old?"
She laughed outright at his sputtering surprise.
Buffy spun away from him, her balance restored, and headed into the other room to wake up the other residents of the house. It didn't stop her from getting the last word, though, and she called out, "And the vamp gets it in one," over her shoulder.
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