Cause And Effect
Kiristeen ke Alaya

Genre: Buffy/Highlander xover
Series: Sequel to 'Things That Bump in the Night' and 'A Gentle Reprieve'.
Warnings: slash, angst, violence, rape (non-graphic), torture (graphic)
Rating: NC17 (for violence and sexual content)
Pairing: Xander/Spike, Spike/Buffy (unrequited)

Summary: Three weeks following Buffy's death, Spike is set upon by human thugs. Out numbered, out maneuvered, and unable to effectively fight back, Spike suffers their attack, and is taken prisoner. His attackers are led by someone out for vengeance, and Spike finds himself in a world of hurt. After months of barely surviving his captor's 'hospitality', and nearly dead, Spike is dumped -- left to be a pointed messanger. Xander stumbles across him, and saves Spike's life by giving the vampire some of his own Immortal blood, not only unknowingly setting in motion a series of life altering events -- for both of them -- but also interfering with the plans of Spike's abductor.

Author's Note: This story takes place after the end of Season 5 (Buffy is dead), and before the beginning of Season 6. (Buffy has not been brought back.) It will go AU from there most likely. I do not know at this point whether Buffy will be brought back or not. It entirely depends on where the muses take me. If she is, it won't happen until sometime in 'Picking up the Pieces'.

Warnings: Here be slash. For those of you who don't know what that is; it's a romatic/sexual relationship between two characters of the same sex. In this case two males -- specifically Xander and Spike. This story contains rape, though it is not overly graphically described. There is implied torture through most of the first 5 chapters, but it isn't until the 7th that any of it is described in detail.

Disclaimers: I don't own any of these characters. I don't own this particular concept of vampirism nor Immortality. This world of Buffy and Vampires belongs to Joss Whedon et al, and the concept of Immortals and the Game belongs to Panzer, Davis, and Rysher entertainment et al. I will make no money from this now or ever without the express written permission from the respective legal owners. (Like that is likely to happen. lol) This story is purely for entertainment value.

Beta Warning: This has not been betad, so all mistakes are mine. I have edited the story, and spell checked it. (of course we all know how reliable spellcheck is for homonyms). Hopefully, I haven't missed anything major. If I've missed one of your particular pet peeves in grammer or spelling, be sure to let me know -- just please be polite. : ) All feedback -- except flames -- gratefully accepted, craved even. Flames will find their way to my fireplace -- they burn nicely.

Chapter One

Spike strode down the dark Sunnydale street, one arm holding the grocery bag that contained his smokes, blood, and a variety of junk food he enjoyed along side -- or mixed into -- his blood. Wheatabix he liked especially. He had taken a liking to that cereal crumbled into his mug of blood during his enforced stay with the watcher when he'd first been chipped. He started doing it simply to annoy the watcher, but had been very surprised to discover that human food helped improve the taste of the pig's blood -- not that it was a difficult thing to do. It still wasn't as good as human -- or vampire -- but it was a far sight better than drinking the swill straight.

He paused suddenly, the shortcut he used to take quite regularly off to his right. He'd avoided it, almost religiously some might say, since the night he'd been tazered in the park, since the night that had irrevocably changed his unlife. When he'd only had a chip in his head, it had been easy to tell himself that it wouldn't work forever, or that one day it was coming out. It had been easy to ignore the changes he saw in himself, but denied.

But he couldn't deny that had it not been for the chip, he wouldn't, now, have a soul. While he shuddered to truly consider a return to what he'd been before the chip, some small part of him longed for the ability to live a single day without inhibitions again, without remorse -- and, oh please, without fear.

Fear was now something he lived with on a daily -- or nightly rather -- basis. It wasn't something he was used to. It curled in his belly, making it difficult to eat, or sometimes do much of anything. Sometimes it was over-powering, curling in and around the guilt that still plagued him at times.

He didn't fear the things most people did. He didn't fear vampires, demons, or anything of the other things that were supposed to be nothing more than myth and fairy tale. He feared humans -- which wasn't right.

He couldn't hold his own against one, even as well as the niblet -- and she fought like a girl . . . a little girl. Of course, she'd gotten better in the last couple of months. She'd had to, what with--

Suddenly wanting to yank back some control into his life, Spike ignored the growing unease he felt -- that he'd allowed to deter him up until now -- and stepped confidently onto the path that led through the forested edge of the park. Grinning, his step grew lighter. He'd been an idiot, he told himself, to avoid taking this route, for allowing one bad experience to control him like that.

Half-way through the park, he ruthlessly shoved down the growing unease that surged inside him -- he refused to call it fear again -- just as he reached the clearing where he'd been tazered by the commandos such a short time ago. Nothing's going to happen to you, Git! Just because it happened once, doesn't mean twaddle! He frowned, pausing in mid-step as the realization struck him that he was carrying almost the exact same bag of supplies he had been that night. A shiver wavered it's way down his spine.

Rolling his eyes as he forced himself to cross 'the spot', and cursing himself for being such a superstitious fool, he still couldn't quite prevent himself from quickening his step -- just to get through the so-called danger zone that much sooner. Breathing a sigh of relief as he passed out of the park and into the cemetery, he again berated himself. It hadn't fully registered -- until just now -- exactly why he'd been avoiding using the path. He should have known better. He was over a hundred years old. It could have been a crippling, life-threatening abhoration if he'd had to run from a demon he couldn't defeat.

Or from humans, a snide voice sounded in his head. He ignored it.

Now glad, however, that he'd at least managed to get hold of at least one rampant emotion, he continued on through the cemetery wishing it could be as easy to banish the hollow feeling left by Buffy's death. Looking around the very familiar sight, Spike sighed. Nothing had been the same since Glory's defeat. Oh, he was glad she'd been defeated. There was no question about that -- from either his soul or his demon. If she'd survived, the world would literally have become a living hell. Even had he not had his soul, he'd have had no desire to see hell any time soon. He had always liked this world -- well usually -- with its wide variety of entertainments.

What he did regret, with every fiber of his being, was the cost of Glory's defeat. The cost had simply been too high, had devastated too many lives. Tears he still wasn't used to shedding streamed down his face, and he shook his head, trying to clear it of the now familiar grief. In 120 years as a vampire he'd only felt this kind of all consuming despair twice. It didn't sit easily or naturally in a vampire -- but then he'd always known he'd had a bit more humanity than most -- not that he'd have admitted it to anyone, even under threat of extreme torture.

The first time had been when his consort of over 100 years, Drusilla -- his dark princess, had left him. That time, he'd tried to drink himself into temporary oblivion. It hadn't worked. All that had done was turn him into a sobbing nancy boy who cried at the drop of a hat, and whined to whoever would listen. He would have done -- and pretty much did -- anything she'd asked to get her back, but nothing he'd done had been enough. Nothing would change her mind. He simply hadn't been 'demon enough' for her.

At the time it had ripped him in half, leaving him feeling bereft and completely at a loss as to how to continue. He'd gone so far as to kidnap young Willow -- and Xander -- to force her to do a love spell. It would have worked too, he knew, had he actually followed through with that plan, having had a taste of the strength of her power several years later when she'd accidently made him and the slayer fall in love.

Now that had been a shock, coming out from beneath the power of the cancelled spell with Buffy spread over top of him, the two of them tasting each other's tonsils. A small smirk appeared at the memory. They'd both been utterly appalled. Springing apart and off the floor of the crypt, they had both tried to rid themselves of the other's taste. As he recalled, at least in his case, it hadn't worked very well.

He hadn't been teasing Willow about 'still having the taste of slayer spit in his mouth'. Even eating one of her chocolate chip cookies hadn't rid him of it. Buffy's scent and taste had lingered for days. He'd been glad when it had finally faded.

Now, however, he would trade just about anything to have it back -- even if it was just for a little while. Buffy's death had hit him hard. She'd sacrificed her life to save them all, purposely diving off the tower into the newly opening portal that led to Glory's home dimension. The portal had closed the moment her body struck the ground and her heart stopped beating -- some ten stories down from where she'd leapt.

He'd leave this place if he could, and never set foot in Sunnydale again. He couldn't though. Dawn wouldn't leave, and he'd made a promise to Buffy the night she'd died. She'd asked him to protect Dawn -- to not let anything hurt her. According to prophecy, only the letting of Dawn's blood at the right time and place was what would open the portal that Glory had needed. Prophecy had been right. Prophecy also said that once opened, it was only when Dawn's blood ceased flowing that the portal would close.

He'd promised Buffy he would protect the child. He'd promised to do so until the end of the world -- even if it had ended that night. He'd known exactly what he was promising her, even as he'd done it. He'd promised to keep Glory's minions from cutting Dawn. Well, he'd failed in that. Dawn had been hurt that night. But that wasn't all he'd promised. With those simple words, he'd promised to let the world merge with Glory's hellish dimension -- destroying everything as they knew it -- rather than let anyone kill Dawn to prevent it. He'd promised to kill her friends -- humans -- to keep Dawn alive.

Vampires weren't well known for keeping their promises, but this was one promise Spike intended to keep for as long as he was able. As long as he was alive -- well not dead anyway -- Dawn would live, no matter the cost. Which meant, in the short term, as long a Lil' Bit refused to leave Sunnydale, Sunnydale was where he would be.

The girl, he was somewhat abashed to admit, meant almost as much to him as Buffy had. It wasn't the least bit sexual, which astonished him no end. Put a few more years on the girl and she would be quite the looker, no doubt about it. Instead, this mere slip of a girl, barely into her teens had captured him heart and demon, by simply accepting him -- everything about him.

She didn't fear him in the slightest, which he supposed -- on reflection -- should really piss him off. He was the 'Big Bad' created to be feared -- or at least he had been. But it didn't. Of course, he did have competition in the fear department. He had to admit, it was probably difficult for her to fear a 'mere' vampire, even a master one -- especially one that had rescued and protected her several times -- when she'd been the main focus of an Earth-bound Hell God's obsession for most of her short life.

"Well, well, what do we have here?"

Spike's head jerked up, the sound of the jeering voice snapping him out of his reverie. "Bloody hell!" he muttered. Knew I shouldn't have taken that short cut. It's jinxed! Three humans stood in a rough arc in front of him, all of them wearing nearly identical smirks. Before the chip had been implanted he wouldn't have given any of them the time of day -- well, except maybe to take a quick drink, leaving them very dry and very dead.

That thought sent a rumble of revulsion through him, even as he couldn't deny its truth. Big, rough, and thinking they were something hot, Spike assessed; they were typical street thugs. Now, however, he couldn't even fight back. The soul would let him do that much -- the chip wouldn't. And no, back when he'd had only the chip he'd never once thought he might prefer a soul as leash rather than the chip.

"Don't you know it isn't safe to be out alone this late at night," a second tough sneered. "Especially for a pretty boy, like yourself."

Pretty boy? That didn't sound good. He swallowed, a convulsive reaction he couldn't have controlled if he'd wanted to. If he wasn't in such an untenable position though, he might have smirked. He'd be willing to bet none of them had even seen a vampire, and if they did, they'd be begging like babies to be allowed to live. If he was able to back up the threat, he'd be tempted to let his demon out -- show his true face. Unfortunately, it was an idle threat at best, something to make them even angrier at worst. As it was, he hated the fear and revulsion equally mixed he now felt in place of the gleeful anticipation of violence he used to feel.

It didn't take Spike long to decided that, once again, the path of least resistance was best. He was outnumbered and unable to protect himself. Throwing the full paper bag at the apparent leader, he took off in the opposite direction, leaping over a headstone directly in his path.

"Fuck!" he muttered, there were two more wanna be assholes directly in front of him. Skidding to a near stop and taking off in a new direction, Spike tried to evade them. He was certain he wouldn't enjoy whatever this group had planned -- especially with the additional evidence of the two who'd been sneaking up behind him. If they were after money, he didn't have any, and that was sure to piss them off. So like anyone out of options, he ran. It grated along the last nerve he had, running from humans like a . . . well, he didn't have an appropriate comparison at the moment, but he was sure he'd think of one -- when he no longer needed it.

Unfortunately, he was pretty sure it wasn't money they were after -- at least, he was sure it wasn't only money -- not if the lurid, rude calls following him were anything to judge by, and he sure as hell, wasn't going to stand still for that. Him on the receiving end of that by humans? He so did not think so.

Hearing the men still behind him, as well as to his right, now, Spike veered again, heading directly for the stone wall he knew was behind the grove of trees to his left. They were slower than he was -- for which he was eternally grateful -- but they out-numbered him, and could conceivably out maneuver him, if he wasn't careful. Well, the wall was no great impediment to him. He could jump and lever himself up and over it with relative ease. It would, however, slow them down considerably. Dodging around trees and bushes lining the east side of the cemetery, Spike grinned as the wall came into view, taking the last three strides at a dead run.

Launching himself upward, he grabbed the edge of the stone barrier and swung himself up and over -- just like he'd planned -- clearing the top without anything more than his hands touching it. Spike hit the ground on the other side safely, straightening from his crouched landing wearing a self-satisfied smirk.

"Oh, buggering, bloody hell!" he swore, anger and frustration bringing out his true face. The three new men facing him stepped back automatically, and Spike felt the wonderful -- and slightly nauseating -- wave of sudden fear rolling off of them. It felt good.

Too good, a voice taunted.

Well, well, looky here boys; we've found ourselves a vampire . . . and he's out all by himself."

I am so fucked! It was just his luck, he'd found a gang that not only knew about vampires, but wasn't afraid of them, either. Edging sideways, he backed up against the wall, rolling his eyes in additional frustration when two of the men he'd been fleeing, landed on either side of him. The wall, apparently, hadn't slowed them down as much as he'd hoped it would.

Spike snorted, sneering at the men around him. "Like I need protection," he said, masking his growing concern with disdain, "unlike you fellows. Like to hunt in packs, do you? What's the matter? Can't handle being out in the dark on your own?"

Spike knew he was pissing them off, but all he needed was one -- just one -- of them to really feel the fear, then it would ripple through the others.

"He's right, guys," said a timid voice from behind the others. "I've seen what vampires can do."

Yes! Spike crowed inwardly, careful to keep his disdainful expression firmly in place. Bluff was all he had, and by hell he was gonna bluff with everything he was.

"Stow it, Peterson. The vamp's out-numbered and cornered. He doesn't stand a chance and he knows it. Why do you think he hasn't attacked yet? He's just trying to scare you off."

That's the leader, spike realized, his eyes narrowing. He was going to really have to think his way out of this now. "You think so, do you?" Spike sneered, taking a threatening step forward. By all that was evil he wanted to crush the man's throat beneath his bare fingers. As his hand clenched in a subconscious gesture, emulating what he really wanted to do, Spike winced against a sudden, short spike of pain that flashed through his head. Bugger it! I didn't do anything! Even my bleedin' soul didn't object.

Raising a hand and casually inspecting his fingernails, Spike continued, wishing he actually felt the way he was acting. " I think I just like the anticipation. You know what I'm talking about," he suggested, glancing back up to meet the leader's eyes squarely, "don't you?"

The leader grinned at him, nodding.

"Dragging things out, making the victim wait, it makes the final victory all the much sweeter," Spike drawled, wanting to let his gaze take in all who surrounded him. Unfortunately, he didn't dare take his eyes off the leader. "Yes, my little happy meals on legs, I'm looking forward to this."

Spike heard a gasp from somewhere to his right, but kept his eyes trained on Mr. Leader. He almost frowned when the leader's smile grew.

"You're good," Leader said. "I'll give you that. I might even be tempted to believe you," he continued, "except for one small detail."

"Oh, this ought to be good," Spike snorted. Uh, oh! "And just what small detail is that?"

"The word's out, see. We," Leader indicated the rest of his group with a casual wave, "ran across a little demon fellow, oh, about a week ago. He gave up some very interesting information 'cuz he thought it'd keep him from getting roughed up. It didn't, of course," Leader laughed.

Spike nodded knowingly, all the while he was near to actually praying inside. Please don't let it be information about the chip. I can work around the soul angle. He leaned forward, as if to impart some great secret, lowering his voice to a stage whisper. "They've even been known to lie."

Leader laughed loudly, the sound trailing off to a snicker. "You should know," he said, "but aren't you curious to know what he said?"


Spike shrugged, making a noncommittal sound -- as if he didn't care one way or the other.

"Oh, you'll want to know this," Leader continued with a leer. "He said there was a vamp around here who'd gotten caught by some government types."

Bugger it!

"He said this bleached blond couldn't fight back -- couldn't bite. Said he was . . . helpless."

Spike's insides froze at those condemning words -- anger rising at the last one. He wasn't bloody helpless, just a little . . . hindered. Again he shrugged, forcing one side of his mouth up into an unafraid smirk. "And if this . . . informative demon was lying? What then?"

If anything, Leader's smile grew even bigger. "We're prepared for that, too," he said smoothly, then turned his head just a touch, calling out over his shoulder, "boys!"

All of them, nearly as one, pulled out stakes with one hand and withdrew heavy crosses from beneath their shirts with the other.

Okay! Spike thought, involuntarily flinching backward at the appearance of so many crosses, an incredible sinking feeling in the pit of his belly, I was wrong before. Now I'm really fucked. They were going to kill him. He wasn't so sure, now, that he wouldn't have preferred the other fate, after all. At least he'd have survived that. He had before -- well without the human angle.

Nodding, in seeming approval, Spike didn't allow his smile to falter. If he could get only Leader to attack, he might be able to escape through the hole he created. "Alright then," he said, waving the man forward, "come and find out whether or not your little 'friend' was telling the truth . . . or not." If he died tonight, he wasn't going down without a fight -- chip or no chip.

He didn't have long to wait. Leader threw a solid punch. Spike danced to the side, neatly avoiding the blow, careful to keep half his attention on his potential escape route. He just had to get Leader to step forward a couple feet more. "Is that all you've got," he taunted, circling to the side just a bit. Leader threw a second punch, and Spike dodged that one as well. He was all set to leap for the open spot in the line of men when Leader caught him with a blow from his off-hand, snapping Spike's head to the side.

Fuck! That hurt! Pushing it aside -- he'd been hurt by the best and this human couldn't hold a candle -- he lunged for the opening, only to go down following a double kick to his gut, one from each side. Two others closed the opening just as he tried for it, he realized to his dismay. Where are the bloody slayerettes when a bloke really needs 'em? he thought.

Holding his gut with one hand he jumped to his feet and made a second break for freedom. Yet another man stepped directly in front of him, and instinct driving him, steeling himself for the pain, Spike grabbed the man's arm, swinging him around and into the two men who'd kicked him.

Three human shouts of pain were echoed by a fourth as Spike clutched his head, nearly collapsed -- his legs trying to fold under him -- and kept trying to stumble forward. Sharp, sereing pain ripped through his ribs, forcing him to his knees. One hand supporting him on the ground as he looked down, he was shocked to see a wooden stake piercing, horrifyingly, through the left side of his chest. As darkness descended, pain finally getting the best of him, he realized he was still among the land of living due only to a miss of less than an inch. The bastard had almost staked his heart.

Chapter Two

Spike came to suddenly, startlingly -- bound and gagged. He immediately tried to wrench his arms apart, and gasped against the gag as pain shot through his chest and was echoed along his arms. What the hell did they tie me up with? he thought in disgust as he willed the pain to recede. Tape? Whatever it was, it stuck uncomfortably to his skin, pulling the hairs on his arms when he tried to move. And while it was minor compared to the agony that rippled through his chest, it was annoying just the same.

Giving up on that for the moment, Spike blinked and tried to focus on his surroundings, but couldn't see anything at all. Where ever he was being held, it was too dark for even vampire sight -- which meant there was absolutely no light at all. He struggled again, hoping to free himself, only to stop instantly as pain once again shot through his chest. This time, prepared for it, he was surprised to feel an echo of it in his lower back as well.

Bugger it! he thought. They hadn't bothered to remove the blasted stake. Or maybe, he thought, horrified, maybe, they'd left it in on purpose. What better way to make sure he stayed incapacitated?

In a fit of growing rage, Spike tensed every muscle in his body, straining against all that held him in place. Agonizing pain lanced through him, and his chest and legs were left feeling like they were on fire -- as if he'd awoke to find himself suddenly exposed to the deadly rays of the sun.

It had hurt before, kind of a dull ache -- except when he moved. Now, it was all he could do not to cry out. His head felt like it was spinning, leaving him lightheaded and dizzy. He swallowed quickly, careful not to move at all for several long moments.

Groaning behind the gag, he resumed working his arms as soon as the pain receded enough, careful to move his upper arms as little as possible while he tried to loosen his wrists from what felt like yards of sticky duct tape. As strong as the stuff was, that was the only thing he could think it might be. After only a couple of minutes, however, he relaxed against the floor of his prison. He knew without doubt that, given enough time, he could work himself free of his bonds, but with the wood still stuck through his chest, it was going to be an extremely long and painful process -- tiring as well. Extreme bloodloss was as debilitating to vampires as it was to humans -- well, almost. He refused to even consider the possibility that he might actually lose enough to worry about being dusted.

In the meantime, he decided, he needed to figure out where he was being held. Gritting his teeth around the gag, Spike awkwardly lifted his arms up behind him, trying to tell how big a space he was in. Not very, he concluded as his hands bumped against cold metal not more than 6 inches above him, jarring him painfully. For a split second he wondered if they'd put him in a bloody coffin, but quickly realized the shape was all wrong for that. He had too much space on either side of him.

He shuddered as his mind replayed the last time he'd been in one, and he quickly forced himself to think of something else. That was all he needed was to dream about his awakening as a vampire again tonight. Sniffing the air around him, he rolled his eyes. He was in a bloody boot. He'd ridden in several willingly, but this was just plain undignified. His being here now, really didn't bode well, he thought. The fact that it had been sealed so well that absolutely no light reached the inside was telling, and he really didn't like what it had to say.

Instantly stilling as he heard voices outside his confinement, Spike listened. Perhaps he could learn something, anything, to help. Muffled as they were, however, he couldn't really make out what any of them were saying. He could only tell that they were growing closer. Had he been out longer than he'd assumed? How far had they taken him? Were they even still in Sunnydale?

Moments later the vehicle moved under him, and was followed only seconds later by the sound of several doors slamming shut, shaking him. He moaned as the stake shifted. The engine turned over, sending him back to struggling frantically against his bonds. Only this time he resolutely ignored the pain it caused him. He had to get free and out of this vehicle before his abductors got where they were headed. He knew damn well their destination held nothing good for him, and he stood a far better chance of getting completely away if he was still in familiar territory.

The vehicle took off in a squeal of tires, ramming Spike back against the rear of the boot. The sudden, harsh movement tore the stake sideways, opening the wound further, and sending spirals of pain through his chest and down into his abdomen. His lower back, too, felt like someone had tried to tear him in half.

He cried out, thankful -- when the pain subsided enough for him to think at all -- that the gag had muffled his scream. He didn't want to give these people the satisfaction of hearing him yell in pain. If Glory couldn't make him break while trying to beat information out of him about who 'The Key' was, these buggering humans sure as hell shouldn't be able to do so.

It pissed him off that they'd managed it once, even if it had been by accident -- and using a motor vehicle to accomplish it. His only comfort was the fact that they didn't know he'd given in to the pain; they hadn't heard him. Chuckling, despite the continuing pain, he had to admit, he could be glad they'd stuck him in the boot, for no other reason than it made it easier for him to get free. They certainly couldn't act to stop him from trying, if they couldn't see him trying anything.

Blocking out the odd, distorted sounds of the vehicle's passengers, Spike concentrated on working his wrists side to side, still trying to keep his upper arms as still as possible. Each twist he made gave him just a little more play, stretched the tape holding him secure just a little bit further. Unfortunately, each time he started to get impatient and pulled a touch too hard, he stretched the muscles of his chest, making him flinch and still. And with each stab of pain he endured, Spike upped the length of torture his captors would endure before he killed them.

He'd never been overly fond of drawn out torture, being too impatient to drag it out that long, but he'd make an exception this time. Even his soul was in agreement on that score.

Oh, he knew he couldn't do it now, or even tomorrow, but he had confidence that given enough time, he'd find a way to get the chip removed. Once he did, these idiots who were tampering with beings they couldn't possibly understand would regret it. They would pay. They would rue the day they had first crossed paths with Spike, William the Bloody. He may have come by his first nickname in a less than honorable way -- from a vampiric point of view, but he'd earned Spike legitimately. And that was something these people would learn the hard way. If Spike was surprised to feel nothing but eager anticipation of that time, he didn't show it. He simply continued working his bonds and dreaming.

No, he thought suddenly, maybe he'd earn himself a new nickname. Railroad spikes had been good in their time, but now-a-days there were so many more . . . subtle tortures available, tortures that allowed the victims to survive longer. Yes, he'd find something new, something far more painful than spikes. In the darkness surrounding him, Spike smiled evilly. One day, they would regret him. That was the only thing he was sure of right now. Except, of course, that the length of their torture would depend entirely on how quickly he managed to get away.

Used to the steady thrum and sway of the moving vehicle, Spike stilled instantly, all his senses alert, when the car slowed to an unexpected stop. Training all of his enhanced senses on the world outside his dark prison, he tried to figure out what was happening. After a mental count of 75, however, he nearly growled in frustration. He couldn't hear anything -- even the humans in the car were quiet -- and all he could smell were the exhaust fumes of the vehicle. Unleaded, he thought irrelevantly. It definitely wasn't diesel at any rate.

The car moved forward again, and Spike's frustration grew. How long had they bloody been traveling? He wasn't sure, but knew it had been too long for him. He didn't even have a way to know how fast they'd been traveling -- not really anyway.

The sound the tires made against the pavement was a small clue, of course. The high pitched whine that had accompanied most of his enforced trip told him they'd been traveling at relatively high speeds, and he wasn't happy about that. Each mile that he traveled meant it was less likely the Scooby gang would be able to find him.

Spike's body and thoughts froze as one. Would the gang even look for him? Or would they simply wish him good riddance? Bloody hell! Would they even realize he was missing? His unbeating heart twisted and cramped in his chest as he realized he wasn't certain. The gang would stop at nothing to get one of their friends back -- they'd proven that time and time again. The question now running through Spike's mind was would they do anything at all for him?

Dawn would, he thought suddenly. Dawn would miss him, would realize he was gone. Yes! he thought exultantly. Lil' Bit will miss me. She'll know something is wrong. The problem with that, Spike realized, his excitement fading as quickly as it had come, was would they believe her? She was a 'mere' child. As smart as she was, she wasn't a grown up. Would they listen to her . . . and even if they did, would her concern stir them to do anything?

With a sinking feeling in his heart, Spike knew they probably wouldn't. They'd simply put her ideas and upset down to the recent death of her family. Of course Dawn panics the minute someone doesn't show up. She just lost her mother, and right after that lost her sister. She doesn't know Spike. She's 'just a child'. She doesn't realize she can't trust him. Spike's mind quickly came up with excuse after excuse that the others would use to explain away Dawn's worries and fears.

He blinked furiously as he realized anew that there was no one he could count on except himself. Then he got angry. He was a vampire for crying out loud -- even if he was a chipped one with a soul. He didn't need anyone, least of all a human child.

Willow! he thought suddenly. She might notice. She might worry. She might even believe Dawn. There was hope after all.

Spike frowned, nearly growling at himself. What the hell was he doing hoping for help at all? He was a master vampire. Whatever lay ahead of him, he'd get through it. He'd survive, and anyone who managed to hurt him had better beware, because he would come back for them.

His burst of bravado left as quickly as it had come. Oh, who am I kidding? Spike closed his eyes, tears leaking out the sides of his tightly clenched eyelids. He wasn't a master vampire anymore, and if he was really honest with himself, he hadn't been for a very long time. Giles had it right the first time. When the watcher had first said it, Spike had automatically objected, no male liked that said about them, but -- Spike laughed, the sound grating and forlorn, devoid of any trace of humor -- he was right. When those government assholes had put the hell-be-damned chip in his head, they'd rendered him impotent.

He wasn't a vampire anymore. He wasn't even up to the level of the humans. He was the prey of the prey. He was nothing. He was less than nothing. He was an idiotic, impotent demon who'd gone and fallen in love with the slayer. How much more pathetic could he get? He couldn't -- that was the answer to that question. Why should anyone care what happened to such a pathetic loser?

I care, damn it! he thought suddenly, fiercely. Breaking free of the suffocating feeling of doom, Spike once again began yanking at the sticky mess that held his arms immobile. The gag muffling whatever sounds he made, Spike allowed himself the luxury of screaming to his heart's content as he pulled, yanked, and twisted. It was with an astonishing burst of immense satisfaction that his hands came suddenly free.

He grinned, panting through the pain. He was almost there. He wasn't helpless. He would never be helpless. The back of his mind continuing to catalogue the sway and rhythm of the car, the twists and possible turns it made, Spike pulled the tape the rest of the way off his wrists, wincing at the additional pain as it pulled free, taking hair and even some flesh with it. Then alternately clenching and relaxing his fingers, he stretched his arms as far out to the side as room -- and wounds -- permitted, relishing the small amount of freedom he'd gained.

Experimenting with his newfound freedom, Spike realized something he hadn't before. He couldn't move his legs. The sons of bitches had taped his legs together too. He growled deep in his throat, reveling in that tiny release of his pent up anger. They would definitely pay for this indignity. Several minutes, and three deep, not truly needed, breaths later, he calmed down enough to realize he could worry about getting his legs free later. Right now, he needed to get the stake out of his chest. That was what was crippling him most severely. Until it was removed, his body wouldn't be able to heal properly. Hopefully, he had enough time to both get it out, and let the would heal -- at least a little -- before he had to act to obtain his freedom.

No longer trying to move, or do anything more than listen, Spike allowed his body to relax fully, resting with both hands curled lightly around the tip of the stake protruding obscenely from his chest. Realizing that he would pay just about any sum of money -- or even blood for that matter -- to have someone else remove the bloody stake, Spike steeled himself for the coming pain.

He snorted, wincing. Pain? he thought, just a touch hysterically. The word didn't even come anywhere near describing the experience he was about to inflict on himself. If there was someone else, it would be over quickly, not much pain involved -- not really -- just one quick stab of utter agony. Pulling the stake the rest of the way through himself, however, would rival the worst Angelus had ever done to him. Of course they couldn't have shoved it in from the front. Pulling it back out the way it went in would have been relatively easy. The problem lay in the fact that he was going to have to pull it out grabbing the narrow end. He shuddered -- regretting it instantly.

Frowning, he took a second to wonder why the hell he was doing it to himself. Surely whatever these humans could come up with wouldn't -- couldn't -- be as . . .inventive as what Angelus had managed many times. He'd survive it. Why was he so friggin worried?

And if they kill you after? asked a sinister voice inside him.

Oh yeah. That's why.

Taking one last breath, filling underused lungs as deeply as possible, Spike held the air inside and yanked. He screamed as the stake moved, rubbing the splintered wood against raw wounds. He let go almost instantly. Panting away the debilitating pain, Spike once more reached for the stake, groaning when he realized he'd moved it less than a third of the way through. He certainly hoped he had a lot of bloody time left.

Inch by agonizing inch -- resting between tries -- Spike managed at long last to pull the sodding stake free of his body. Throwing it toward the head of the boot, immense satisfaction coursed through him as he heard the cursed thing thud three times before falling to the floorboard. It was then that Spike noticed the difference in sound. He frowned as he listened closely, taking a moment to figure out exactly what the difference was.

Gravel! They weren't traveling on solid pavement or asphalt anymore. Sometime during his de-staking they'd turned onto a gravel road, and he'd missed it. Fuckin-A, he thought -- to use slightly more modern vernacular. When did that happen?

Once his surprise abated, however, it didn't take him long to figure out that they had to have changed from one road type to the other very recently. It had to have happened during his last, successful, attempt to rid himself of the wood piercing his body. Five minutes -- or less, he reasoned, returning his concentration back to the sway of the car, and using a small portion of his mind to count the seconds between turns, and between the subtle accelerations and brakings of the vehicle he was held captive in.

He hoped that when he freed himself every little clue he could gather now would help him find the way back to where he belonged -- the quicker the better, as far as he was concerned. As it was, hunger was beginning to make itself known. Dinner had been in that grocery sack.

The car banked to the left sharply, pushing his body down toward his feet and against that side of the vehicle. Left turn, he thought, ten minutes -- give or take -- after the road turns to gravel.

At what speed? asked that insidious voice.

"Sod off!" he muttered angrily, frustrated when the gag completely muffled the words. It didn't have the same feel to it that way. He reached up and jerked the gag out of his mouth, ripping it completely off himself.

Spike gave it an addition count of 200 before even attempting to flip onto his side. It was then he realized that something was really wrong. It was far harder to do than it should have been. The lower half of his body felt like a dead weight -- and all too familiar dead weight. No, he whispered, shaking his head, denying his new knowledge. He could feel them, his legs. So that couldn't be it. But even with the, as yet unhealed wound in his chest, and with his legs tied even tighter than his arms had been, it should have been relatively simple to roll over.

It was with a deadening feeling in his gut that it became impossible to deny what exactly was wrong. Somehow, they'd managed to paralyze him. How, though? The last time it had happened, it had taken a fight with Buffy, a fall of over 15 feet, and a huge, old-fashioned, church organ landing on top of him.

Irrational panic set in. His body reacting automatically to the sudden rush of fear and adrenaline, he began panting, unable not to. He fought the all consuming feeling. He couldn't afford to panic now. So, he couldn't move his legs . . . yet. So what. It would heal given enough time -- nothing to panic about.

Right! he thought angrily, unshed tears clouding his eyes. Tell it to someone who believes it!

Damn, but he hated feeling helpless like this. It left him feeling . . . vulnerable, so bloody . . . weak and inferior.

"NO!" he screamed, giving vent to his ever-growing rage. Eyes wide, fear coursing through him, nearly unchecked, Spike desperately tried to focus on anything other than his new discovery. He didn't want to imagine how they'd done it. He didn't need to know that. He didn't want to think about how long it would take to heal. He already knew it would take far too long -- been there, done that, hated it the first time round.

He tried listening to the voices inside the passenger section of the car, but, unfortunately, they weren't saying much. Bugger it! He needed something to think about, something to concentrate on. Counting time was just not enough.

The car slowed to a stop, mockingly rocking his prison, and it was with very mixed feelings that Spike tensed, awaiting what would happen next.

Chapter Three

The lid of the boot popped open and Spike was instantly blinded by the sudden light flooding in. He flinched backward, slamming his eyes shut; the bright light instinctively reminding him of the sun. When the half-expected pain of bursting into flame never came, Spike tentatively opened his eyes. After the total darkness he'd spent the last couple of hours in, the light cast by the . . . porch light seemed blinding -- bright as day.

Even as his sight began to clear, hands were already grabbing him, pulling him out. He fought against them. Useless though his mind told him it was, he couldn't just let them manhandle him. Managing to wrench himself out of one set of hands, he found himself half-way dropped back into the boot. The hands on his other arm remained firm, however, gripping him painfully.

Well, that did a bloody lot of good! he thought morosely, the silence of the two men trying to pull him out a touch unnerving.

The back-hand across his cheekbone, snapping his head to the side and sending explosive pain up into his eye, didn't help his mood either. He clenched his teeth together, certain it was only the beginning, but was surprised when no other blows came. The two men merely hauled him out. They tried to stand him on his feet, but his legs buckled almost immediately. He'd stood! Spike nearly howled with glee, even as they dragged him toward the old farm house. It hadn't been for very long, but he'd stood. That meant that whatever they'd done to him, it was healing normally. It wasn't like before. That alone was nearly enough to make him weep with joy.

Not even trying to get his feet under him, Spike bided his time. Until he could do more than drag himself, escape was just a dream. It galled him to admit to being virtually helpless, but that's what he was. The chip wouldn't let him fight back effectively. It hampered him far more than his soul did. He could get in one good blow before it activated, and that was only if he didn't think about it too hard before hand. Now, he couldn't even run. The rage behind his despair began to grow again, the demon within pacing mentally as Spike could not do physically.

Perversely enjoying the slight pain caused by being dragged -- because that meant he could feel -- Spike resisted closing off his mind to everything external. As much as he might want to do so, he had to pay attention. The tiniest detail could mean the difference between escape and recapture when the time came.

There wasn't much around the house itself, he noticed. They'd cleared away any bushes or plants that might have been next to it originally. They'd gone so far as to clear a three foot swath out of the grass -- at least next to the porch and as far on either side of it as he could see, caught as he was between the two men. Loose dirt and mud surrounded the house like an old fashioned moat around a castle.

Swallowing convulsively, Spike realized that wasn't a good sign -- at least for him. It spoke of advanced planning -- well-organized, advanced planning. He shuddered as he realized it reminded him of his capture by the initiative. Of course, he'd escaped from there. Unfortunately, he didn't think these guys were going to underestimate him as badly as the government poofs had. He just wondered if he'd been the object of their search -- as Leader had intimated -- or whether any vampire would have done. Or had they been looking for a vampire at all?

One thought about the thoroughly light proof boot convinced him. They'd been hunting vamps. Now he just had to figure out if it was him specifically they'd really wanted -- or whether it had been simple happenstance.

The door opened as they approached, though no one was immediately visible to Spike. He reared back instinctively when the man who'd called him 'a pretty boy' stepped out, holding a heavy length of cloth. The men holding him tightened their grip, but that didn't stop him from growling low in his chest.

Pretty Boy laughed. "What's wrong?" he asked, sounding overly solicitous. "Aren't you enjoying our hospitality?"

Spike remained silent, his eyes narrowing in tightly held anger.

"Guess not," Pretty Boy replied cheerfully, while the two that held Spike chuckled. "Well," he shrugged, "maybe he'll enjoy the entertainment better."

Spike stiffened as Pretty Boy reached out with the cloth, covering Spike's nose and eyes with it. It took every ounce of willpower he had to appear docile, despite all the insurmountable odds against a struggle being successful. It simply wasn't in his nature to meekly accept this . . . indignity.

"A little late for the blindfold," Spike drawled, unable to hold it in any longer, "don't you think? I've already seen where we are." The snickering sounds from the three men he could no longer see disturbed him. That wasn't the response he'd been expecting.

"Oh, that's not what the blindfold is for," Pretty Boy purred softly, grabbing hold of Spike's chin and yanking his head upward to a painful angle. "I've been told that depriving someone of one of their senses heightens all the others. I'll have to remember to ask you later if that's true."


They dragged him over the threshold heedless of his feet thudding over the door jamb. Expecting to be dropped soon after, Spike was surprised when they continued dragging him. He tensed as he heard the door slam shut behind him, the sound ominous and so . . . final.

He tried to see either over the top, or underneath the thick, blanketing blindfold, but Pretty Boy had applied it too well. He couldn't see a bloody thing. Swallowing convulsively, Spike could not help but fear what lay ahead. He had no fight, no bite, no legs, and now no sight. He really, really didn't want to know what else these wankers had planned. A shudder traveled the length of his body as he realized he was being systematically destroyed.

Yeah, he knew his eyes were only covered, simply removing the blindfold would restore his sight, but at the moment, that really didn't help much. A vivid imagination, and long experience, giving him image after image of what else they could do to disable him. It wasn't a pleasant experience.

He tried to rear back when he heard and felt a door suddenly open in front of him. It sent a cold, forbidding draft over the bare portion of his face. The grips on his arms tightened and he found himself being hauled down a flight of stairs. Each drop of his feet down another step set a tiny jolt of pain through his lower back. Making the injury worse, no doubt, Spike thought despondently.

Sighing in relief as they reached the end of the stairs, Spike groaned as he was unceremoniously dropped to the floor. He immediately lifted himself up onto his elbows. That blindfold was coming off! It was worse than the bloody gag. A firm, sharp shove square between his shoulder blades forced him back to the ground -- a knee, if he was any judge -- the increasing weight holding him there, painfully reawakening the still tender wound in his chest.

Gritting his teeth against making any sound, Spike took the only option left to him. He listened. Except for the sounds of life coming from the three humans in the room with him, and the increasingly uncomfortable knee in his back, Spike could have been alone. No one spoke or moved, his guards' heart beats and breathing growing loud in the unnatural silence. Spike was tempted to say something, anything, just to see if he could provoke some kind of reaction.

Just as he drew breath to speak, however, the back hem of his shirt was yanked up and he immediately tensed. What are they going to do now? A seemingly long moment passed, then Spike felt a tiny tug, immediately followed by a sudden sharp twinge of pain -- nothing that would have normally made him even wince, but coming now, made him gasp in surprise. What the hell? His left leg began to ache -- like he'd just stood after having it in one position for far too long.

Before he could figure it out, a second tug followed by the same twinge of pain came, causing his right leg to echo his left. Immediately after, the knee lifted from his back and Spike warily listened to the man's movements, ignoring the growing pain in his legs. At least I can feel them! He stopped in front of Spike, standing there in ominous silence.

Before Spike could manage a retort, however, instant, unimaginable pain shot through both his legs. They felt as if they were on fire. One . . . Two . . . Three . . . He screamed. Spike choked off the sound as quickly as he could, the shocking pain easing slightly within just a few seconds.

The sound of joints popping directly in front of him brought Spike's attention snapping away from the slowly fading fire in his legs. A whisper of movement was followed by hands at the back of his head, removing the blindfold, and Spike quickly shut his eyes, not knowing how bright the room would be. An amused chuckle brought his head up and his eyes open, however. Immediately thankful that the room wasn't all that bright, he focused on the man squatting in front of him. He held two long, nearly hair-thin, needles between the two of them. Spike frowned.

"These were placed in your spine, Vampire," the human said, grinning. "They shut off the nerves controlling the blood flow to your legs."

Spike's eyes widened. That certainly explained both the loss of use and the pain that hit him when the pins were removed.

"Tiny little things, aren't they, to cause so much damage and pain." The human shrugged, handing the pins to one of the others. "Of course, anyone -- other than someone with the healing powers of a vampire or other demon -- wouldn't have gotten to the pain part. They wouldn't have recovered from the damage to the nerves."

"What do you want?" Spike asked against his better judgement. He wasn't altogether certain he wanted to know.

"When the boys brought you in, my entire day brightened, Vampire," the human said softly, reaching out to lightly caress Spike's cheek.

Spike purposely flinched away, not wanting anything to do with this man's touch. "Oh?" Spike asked dryly, frowning at the avoidance of his question. "And why's that?"

"That's a long story, Vampire -- one that I will tell you . . . eventually. For now," he said rising slowly to his feet, "I imagine that you're hungry."

Shock snapped Spike's head up further to stare at the now standing man. He was going to get fed during his imprisonment? That was certainly unexpected.

The human chuckled. "Of course I'm going to see that you're fed, Vampire. I wouldn't want you to wear out too quickly, now would I?"

"Who are you?" Spike asked, an involuntary shudder running through him.

"Dr. Weisenburg," he replied, his eyes narrowing, his nearly perpetual grin melting into a frown. "A man you will learn to fear, Vampire."

"Not bloody likely," Spike retorted, even as a second shudder traveled the length of his body. Given long enough, he knew damn well that anyone could be made to live in constant fear -- even him -- of course he was pretty much used to that now. The big question now running through his mind was -- would he be here long enough?

"We shall see," the doctor replied speculatively. "We shall see." Turning away from him, the doctor began giving crisp, rapid-fire orders to Pretty Boy and the other.

". . . .and as soon as you've got him settled, see to his 'dinner'."

Spike frowned at the odd emphasis on 'dinner' and began wondering just what delightful repast he'd have to gag his way through. Surely it wouldn't be something other than blood. Only blood would do him any good.

Pretty Boy and Other yanked him roughly off the floor, not bothering to give him time to try and get his feet under him before they dragged him forward. Cursing silently, it took him three tries to get his weakened legs to function enough that his entire weight wasn't on his arms, pulling painfully at his chest wound. It was never going to heal if they kept re-injuring the blasted thing!

Other pressed a series of buttons on what appeared to be an electronic lock and the entire stone wall in front of him slid to the side, revealing a much larger room than the one they were in now. Manacles of varying sizes lined the wall he could see -- all of which looked plenty strong enough to hold a Fyarl demon, let alone a weakened vampire.

Okay, that really answers the question as to whether or not they were out after a vamp, doesn't it, Spike, old boy?

They moved him several steps into the room while Spike debated the wisdom of trying to escape now. Something told him once he was clapped in irons he was never leaving this place. Cautiously looking around to assess his chances, Spike froze, once again swallowing convulsively. This room made the inquisition look like it had been run by amateurs. Some of the devices he recognized -- a table that looked to be the modern equivalent to the rack, a brazier, complete with heating element, various knives, blades and other such cutting tools. Those bothered him, of course, but what bothered him even more were the devices he didn't know what were for.

Pretty Boy and Other jerked him sharply forward, toward the manacles. He resisted. Surprisingly, they let him go. Unfortunately, without the dubious support of his captors, Spike's legs gave out from under him, and he tumbled ignominiously to the floor. Rolling the instant he hit, Spike scrambled awkwardly to his feet only to find himself immediately pinned between the two humans again.

It wouldn't have mattered much either way, what he'd seen on the opposing wall had rendered the stolen blood in his body icy, leaving him momentarily frozen in shock.

Bugger it all to hell in a sodding hand basket! No bloody way was he staying here! Jerking both arms free of the humans' grasps he stumbled forward, fear and determination giving him the strength he'd lacked only moments before. Catching himself against the frame of the opening between rooms, Spike forced himself forward, making a beeline for the stairs he knew led to freedom.

A hand shot out from the side, grabbing his arm. An instant, and sharp prick on his arm later, Spike felt the world around him begin to fade away. "Bloody hell!" He turned to face his attacker, and had to blink twice when he actually saw someone standing there -- Leader. What in hell was wrong with him? He hadn't smelled the third human, nor had he heard the man's heart beat. As he dropped to his knees, Spike knew that if he continued to make mistakes like that, he wasn't going to get out of the hellhole he found himself in.

As darkness closed in around him, narrowing his vision to mere pinpricks of light, he heard the other two men approach.

"It worked," Pretty Boy said.

"Yeah," Leader replied, satisfaction lacing his tone. "He didn't even know I was there."

"The doctor will be happy about that," Other replied softly.

"He won't be if we don't get this one locked up, though," Leader snorted as Spike's awareness completely faded out.

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