Mercenary Hearts 10

Part 10

A clearing on the outskirts of SD, following evening.

“I’ve got a confession to make.” Buffy’s voice cut through Giles’ thoughts.

After searching her slightly flushed face, suspicion formed and Giles gave a heavy sigh. “You went to the bar.”

“Nu-uh.” She couldn’t help the smug grin. Okay, Buffy had planned to, but… “Had an interesting run-in with a few local vamps. Waited till they finished yakking before dusting their asses…or is that assi? Hmm.”

According to his young charge, the vampires had overheard the leader of the new arrivals talking to the bar owner, Willy– who apparently had been held one-handed a few feet off the ground by his shirt front. Impressive.

“Anyhoo, Willy had heard on the demony grapevine that there was going to be some sort of pickup tonight. A few new Shoesizes.” The chatty vamps had been really helpful. Not that it saved them from the point of her trusty stake.

“Said they were there for some planned future ‘party.’ I reckoned Blondie and the Bear def. wouldn’t wanna miss shortlisting the invitees.”

“So you decided it was a good way to kill two birds with one stone?”

Buffy rolled her eyes at her Watcher. ”If I wanted to dust those two, I wouldn’t have brought this, would I?” she lifted the cloth-wrapped package she’d grabbed earlier from Giles’ house.

His brows rose in surprise. I must be slipping. He hadn’t even noticed that she’d taken it. “Enlighten me.”

“I’m thinking pow-wow.”

“The demons or the Vamps?” asked Xander, who’d been close behind and eavesdropping on the conversation. He’d thankfully been allowed to tag along; smirking triumphantly at the ‘losers’ who were left to do boring research.

“Do I really need to answer that?” Buffy smiled at his ‘oh, right’ reply. Not that Xander was dumb… just a little slow catching on.  A bit like she was with Math. And Science. And-

“I’m not too sure that this is a sensible idea.” Giles gave his patented frown as mild disapproval. “We still know very little about them, and the only thing we can be thankful for is a single intervention that…. well, saved a few people’s lives.”

“Not just any lives, Giles,” she reminded him. “Anyway, if it goes according to plan-“

“What plan may that be?”

Buffy chewed at her bottom lip a bit before responding to his valid question. “It’s still kind of on the vaguey side- but! I thought you could do your sleuth-y bit and pry stuff out of them?” Although Giles still had reservations, he admitted, reluctantly, that Buffy’s suggestion made some sense.

“Uh oh. Looks like we’ve missed the pre-dinner drinks.” The slayer saw a dead Shousace on the ground, and in the distance, heard distinct sounds of fighting.

They quickly made a path through dense foliage and came to a standstill, watching for a moment as the two vamps they’d just been discussing, as they fought three demons between them. Another demon lay dead several feet from them.

The younger vampire was easily a match for his opponent possessing a whip-lean frame that effortlessly avoided the blows currently raining down. His leather duster flowed around his body like a matador’s cape.  The only indication that he’d missed blocking a few punches was the sluggishly bleeding cut on his lower lip, coating his exposed fangs. Eww.

The taller vamp had his hands a bit too full- taking on the remaining two demons. They were circling around him searching for a weak spot. He had, at some point shed his duster. Buffy couldn’t help but admire the play of rippling muscles as he blocked every blow that was attempted – then winced as a meaty fist connected with the side of his head.

“I so shouldn’t have swiped his sword,” she muttered under her breath as she removed the cloth that wrapped the package. Then surged forward, yelling out to catch his attention. The sword spun through the air towards the dark-haired vamp, who easily caught it in one hand then quickly sliced an arc down on the demons’ offending arm.

As it howled and stepped back clutching its bloody wound Buffy took her chance with a high spinning kick. The momentum staggered the demon, sending it crashing into a nearby tree. Before he could get to his feet, she landed on his back and jammed her stake deep into the side of his neck. Hooking her knees under his armpits, she held fast until it finally collapsed under her.

Evening the odds made a difference, and the battle lasted only a few more minutes before all three demons were splayed out on the ground dead.

Wiping his sword on the dead body of the demon, Angel took a moment to covertly eye the slayer and the humans, who now stood close together watching his and Spike’s every move. He wondered at their unexpected assistance; cynically putting it down to a kind of payback for helping them out. He doubted the girl would want to owe them any favors.

He walked over and reached for his abandoned coat. Unlike Spike, Angel liked to keep his clothing gore and rip-free. Not always successful, which was why the other’s duster was worn around the edges, whereas he’d invested in more than enough replacements.

They took their time walking over to face the group. Angel indicated the sword and looked directly at the young slayer. “Thanks.”

Buffy shrugged one slim shoulder. “No use to me. I prefer my trusty stake.” She flipped it through her fingers in an overt show of dexterity. He didn’t look impressed. She pooched her lip.

The older man in the group spoke next. Angel sized him up as he surprisingly went into share mode. Enlightening them on what he’d found out about the Shousace. His eyes narrowed thoughtfully: a Brit. Well-read, and fully cognizant in things that went bump in the night.

He knew what he was. With every slayer there was her watcher hovering in the background. Being around for a couple of centuries made it even easier for Angel to pick them out.

He also noticed that the group was much smaller tonight; only three this time round. To his disappointment, there was no curvy brunette in sight. He found himself wondering where she was. Was she out with a boy? Obviously not that Harris kid, but… No, he couldn’t imagine her putting up with teenage hormone-induced sweaty hands and heavy breathing.  He thought about it…. Nope, he didn’t like the image it brought at all.

Angel was so far from his teenage years that he’d forgotten what it was like. As for hormones? He had those, hell yeah. But minus the sweaty, nervous hands.  And the heavy breathing. You actually had to have a pulse for that.

He was pulled out of his thoughts by his partner’s abrupt move to leave. It didn’t take much for him to lose interest. Or most likely, he just wanted distance between himself and the slayer.

“Spike.”  Angel caught the barely audible sigh at his unspoken request that the vampire stayed put as he reluctantly turned round.  Crossing his arms he stared at the group; pale face reflecting his irritation.

*

Spike? Though spoken in low tones, Giles picked up on the name. Had a sense that he’d heard it before…. Somewhere.  He shelved it for the time being.

“I-I was hoping- do you have any insight into the Shousace’ intentions?” he tentatively asked. “An idea of the numbers involved in this unusual gathering at the Hellmouth, would be beneficial.”

The vampire remained silent, returning his gaze with expressionless eyes; seemingly content to let ‘Spike’ do the talking. “What makes you think we know? He asked with a sneer. “From what I’ve heard, Mouths of Hell tend to attract all kinds of vermin.”

Buffy had noted his overt irritation when first facing them and now watched as boredom added to the mix on his otherwise cute human face. Killer cheekbones. She blinked. Where did that come from? Hello? Vampire! Quickly recovering her equilibrium sarcasm colored her tone when she muttered under her breath. “Yeah, we kinda noticed.”

It was out before even thinking of how it went against their planned ‘pow wow’. Except for a quick, irritated glance from the other vampire, the blonde chose to ignore her. His attention was still fully on Giles.

“Surely if we shared our findings, we would both benefit,” Giles attempted to reason with him.

“We don’t share. Don’t need no stuck up slayer and her Nancy boy watcher pokin’ their noses in our business for a start.”

Giles’ brows rose with surprise. They knew of Watchers? Curious. He made another mental note and added it along with the name- and the possible initial on the base of the impressive sword that had regrettably, in his opinion, been returned to its rightful owner.

Both vampires turned to go, obviously deciding they had nothing more to say. Buffy’s feathers ruffled at the snub and couldn’t help but call after them. “What, not even a ‘thanks for the help’?” Glaring after them, under her breath she added, “Talk about ungrateful. Asswipes”

Spike kept on walking but Angel paused and looked over his shoulder, a pale humorless grin etched his face. “Thanks for the help. Not that we needed it.” His smile twisted into a smirk.

“Sure you didn’t,” Buffy retorted sarcastically. The pow-wow had been a big mistake. Fair enough they were doing their bit by reducing the Shoeshine infestation. But not so willing to share what she was positive they knew. “I shoulda kept your sword and had it melted into a trophy.” The answering sardonic chuckle tightened the grip on her stake.

Giles made one last plea as he watched the vampire step back and turn to leave. “Just think on it. Please. There is strength in numbers.”

“Not necessarily” Angel stated dryly as his gaze flicked dubiously over the two non-slayers of their small group. Then he moved with unnatural speed in a bid to catch up with the other, now-out of sight vampire.

“Well, that went well,” said Xander, and then quickly cringed with an awkward smile at their shared expressions of annoyance. Oops.

****

Angel & Spike returning to Crawford Mansion.

“Here’s your sword, my daring avenger.” Spike sniggered and took a drag of his smoke. He dropped the cringing falsetto to add, “I think you’ve pulled, mate.”

Angel glanced at Spike with a mildly irritated raise of brow before replying, “Not really my type. I prefer brunettes.”

“You forgot a certain skank- who, if I recall, was actually a natural blonde to boot.”   Although Spike was fully aware of the powerful dynamics between sire and childe, it was fun poking the beast.

Angel shrugged. “Yes – but we both know who I favored.”  That shut Spike up.

Drusilla would always be a sore point between them, and was something that had never came up in discussions since the whole curse crap.  For good reason.

Dru had sought Spike out and chose him as a companion. At the time, what with her frequent bouts of incoherence, Angelus became a mentor. He’d taught the younger vampire the art of mass slaughter, which included an incident at a wedding party. Angelus had beaten the groom to death with his own ripped off arm.

Things changed dramatically when he became aware of his soft feeling towards Dru. He made a point of having sex with her to hurt him, and teach him a lesson whenever he thought he needed one. Actions that Spike had never been able to get over. That grievance still bothered him on occasion, even- or possibly more so, since Romania.

Admittedly, on noticing the interest Angel had taken in the stunning brunette the other night, Spike had initially been tempted to try out his charm on her the next time they met. A sort of payback.

But even as the thought had entered his bitter mind, Spike decided against it. He knew that Angelus’ past actions filled the vampire with an even deeper regret than his own.

PART 11

Posted in TBC

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