There wasn’t even room to decently pace. It felt like she was just spinning in circles. Fred halted, wrapped her arms around herself, and sighed. If something didn’t happen soon she was going to scratch her own eyes out. Never in her life had she felt such boredom.
“I’m going loony bird,” she muttered to herself.
“What’s that?” Her current keeper asked, looking up from the book he was reading.
“Nothing,” Fred said,
plopping in the nearest chair. She
stared at Wesley Wyndham-Price across the tiny living room of her prison. He was the second police detective assigned
to watch over her. The first had
developed appendicitis that pulled him from the case and got her moved. Currently they were in some high security
location in the middle of
Wesley laid his book down and returned her stare. She felt her belly curl in interest. He was handsome, intelligent and another cop.
“No,” she stated, standing to pace again. This time, however, she felt Wesley watching every movement she made. She shouldn’t feel like this, wasn’t she in love with Spike? She reiterated to herself every wonderful thing about Spike, twisting her engagement ring as if it was a rosary. Despite all the things that was worth loving in Spike, it still came back to he was with Buffy again.
She should just take the ring off; tell the bad guys that Spike couldn’t care two bits about her when the blonde was around. This time when Buffy showed up Fred ended up in hiding, away from Spike while Buffy was with him. No matter what Fred did it always ended up being about Buffy.
“You said no. It was a very emphatic no. What was it for?”
“Nothing you would understand.” Fred hopped up on one of the barstools and returned Wesley’s stare. The attraction she was feeling had to becoming out of the boredom and the need for someone to find her attractive. She was confident about one thing in her relationship with Spike; they were great in bed together. Well that, and their mutual love of food and old movies.
Other than that, he was all jump into the action type and she was ‘let’s study it to death first’ type and they often went in different directions. He hated it when she suggested he slow down before jumping into something and she hated it when he wanted her to be more spontaneous. The push pull they did only seemed to work with sex.
An image of the wedding dress she always fantasized about came to her mind. Feminine with lots of lace it that suited her romantic nature. When she broke the news of her engagement to her parents, they were so happy for her. Her father was all excited at the thought of giving her away and her mother was relieved Fred wouldn’t be alone anymore. Tears welled up in her eyes as she wished Spike was with her to reassure her that her dreams would come true.
Before she could retreat, Wesley was in front of her, wiping the tears from her cheeks. His touch was gentle. The pity in his eyes was intolerable. She couldn’t decide whether to punch him or lean into his touch.
“We don’t have a lot to do,” Wesley whispered. “I’m a good listener.”
“Good line.” Fred laughed.
Wesley stepped back, taking his touch with him. “It wasn’t a line. If you prefer not to talk with me, I’ll return to my book.”
“I’m sorry.” She linked her hands together. “I miss the life I was building.”
“And your fiancé?”
“Of course I miss Spike.” Except it wasn’t what she said. She closed her eyes as she pondered what her subconscious had blurted out. It was the life she said she missed and not the man. It couldn’t be true, could it? Suddenly she wanted to punch something. All this solitude was driving her bonkers. If she could just talk to Spike everything would be all right. Yes, that’s what she needed was Spike. Only he was with the woman he was in love with. “I just don’t think he misses me.”
“Ah, that’s why the tears? I think you’re overreacting. How could he not miss such a beautiful intelligent woman?”
“Because he’s with Buffy. It’s been about Buffy for years now and I was the convenient woman.”
“Was he the convenient man for you? Or has it been about this Spike for years for you?”
Those questions she couldn’t answer. She shook her head. Wesley was waiting. “I don’t know.”
But she did. She was trying to figure out how to answer when the cell phone rang. They both jumped, turning to stare at it. It was supposed to be for emergency purposes only. Something thumped in the hallway and Fred wondered if she would ever have the chance to make a choice.
The four men moved closer to the car, pointing their guns at the occupants. They didn’t say anything, just stared at them with hatred in their eyes.
“Spike?” Buffy asked, dumbfounded at the threat outside the car. She trembled uncontrollably, clutching Spike’s arm unable to stop her nails from digging into his arm. This couldn’t be real. It must be the horror of her past replaying in her mind that projected the bad guys into hallucinations outside the car. Within the steel cage of the car she was safe. Hell was outside waiting for her. It was as if the building itself had spawned the threat outside the car.
“Please,” she cried out, wiping the back of her hand under her nose then flipping it over to dash the remaining tears from her cheeks. “Make it go away.”
“Buffy, calm down,” Spike whispered.
“You see them?”
“Yes, they’re real, “Spike said. “Don’t make any sudden moves. Do you understand?”
His voice brought her crashing back to reality. The voice that tenderly took her from her prison, the voice that whispered so softly to her as she learned about making love and the voice that explained life to her with quiet reason. She trusted it above all else. She forced herself to take a deep breath yet was unable to stop her body from shaking.
“It will be all right,” she murmured under her breath. “It will be all right,” she squeezed her eyes shut trying to get herself under control.
Spike’s body pressed in front of hers wouldn’t protect her if the men started shooting. Nothing could save any of them from bullets. Their only chance at survival rested in Spike’s ability to get them out of this. And he would need to know she was all right so he could concentrate on the situation.
She visualized the hurt and frightened girl standing alongside the stronger woman she was becoming. The woman hugged the girl before sending her to a safe place. Along with the girl went Buffy’s emotions. She opened her eyes. .
“Is somebody going to do something?” She relaxed her grip on Spike, switching to a soft caress instead to let him know she was all right. “If we’re going to die I’d rather get it over with instead of wait.”
Gunn hid a chuckle under his breath even as she felt him raise his hands. “Hey,” Gunn shouted out the window. “You know, it’s me…Gunn. Lower them things before you hurt someone.”
“You know them?” Spike asked. He didn’t sound surprised or condescending just curious. Buffy watched him appraise the scene, he was a cop and she could feel the tenseness in his body that foretold his readiness to dive into action at the first sign of the situation escalating. It made her feel safe, but it also reminded her that she was able to protect herself. She squirmed until her hand was on her lap and ready to reach for the gun strapped to her own leg.
“Yo dawg,” one of the men said, approaching Gunn’s side of the car. He signaled for the other men to put down their own weapons.
Buffy breathed a sigh of relief as the men on the other side of the car relaxed. The doors swung open as they climbed out. She scooted out on Gunn’s side then slid down the side of the car so she was behind him. There were a few moments of backslapping, shoulder slamming as the five men greeted each other.
“Guys, I want you to meet some friends of mine,” Gunn said, gesturing across the top of the car to Spike. “This is Spike.”
“He stinks like a cop,” a shorter Hispanic man said.
“He is a cop,” Gunn replied. “But he’s cool. He’s Buffy’s cop.”
“This is Buffy?” This time it was a short black man who spoke. He pushed past Gunn so he could stand in front of Buffy. “Girl, we have heard so much about you.”
The heat from a blush rose in her cheeks as the men stared at her in obvious appreciation. She suddenly wished she had her old baggy clothes on instead of the costume she was wearing. Crossing her arms around her middle, she stared at the ground. “Hello,” she mumbled.
Gunn slid an arm around her shoulders, pulling her close to his side. “Buffy, the big mouth is Rico, this here,” he pointed at the tall Hispanic, “is Mike,” he waved at the men in the back, “and those two are Dominic and Chow.”
“Chow?” Buffy asked, looking up at the youth curious as to where he got the nickname.
“I’m the only one who can cook anything worth eating,” Chow answered, with a shy smile of his own. “If it weren’t for me they would be eating beans out of a can every night.”
“Nice to meet you,” Buffy replied. “Maybe you can give me some pointers because I can’t cook very well.”
“It doesn’t look that way to me,” Rico inserted, giving Buffy a once over that made her skin crawl. “You’re so hot that you’re cooking all by yourself.”
Spike bristled at Rico for making Buffy uncomfortable. He also wasn’t happy about Gunn being the man who was protecting her. He made his way to the other side of the car.
“I think you need to watch what you’re saying,” he said, pulling out his most authoritative cop voice. He stopped next to Buffy and Gunn.
“Thought you had another woman?”
Rico stepped closer to Spike, but he refused to back down. Without taking his eyes from Rico, Spike asked, “How much did you tell your friends?” This time he didn’t care about the sneer in his voice.
“Word gets around,” Gunn said. “Sorry man didn’t think you’d ever meet.”
“Buffy is still mine to protect.”
It wasn’t what he wanted to say. He wanted to be able to proclaim that Buffy belonged to him and he was the man she loved. That he couldn’t do because of his own stupidity, but he could still stake a claim as being an important part of her life. He could only hope that she felt the same. If her stiffened body stance was the answer then he was probably wrong.
“I don’t need anyone to protect me,” Buffy said.
Spike doubted anyone but he could hear the quaver in her voice that belied her fear. It was hiding behind the brave front she was putting on for everyone’s benefits. He was proud of her. The girl he once knew would have been quivering in fear, unable to separate the past from the present with such a looming reminder of her nightmare only steps away. Despite the circumstances Buffy was poised on the outside, giving no indication of the inner turmoil she must be experiencing.
“Buffy’s a tough cookie,” Gunn added. “Wouldn’t mess with her unless you want trouble.”
“I’d take her kind of trouble…,” Rico started to say but Mike smacked him on the shoulder stopping him from saying anything else.
“Give it up man,” Mike said. “She’s got all she can handle without you drooling all over her.” He smiled at Buffy. “Just ignore him.”
“I’ll try.” Buffy said, sliding her hand into Spike’s even while she was still in Gunn’s embrace.
Buffy’s action surprised him, but he didn’t comment. Now wasn’t the time or the place for any discussion. They needed to get under cover and soon. He looked around, taking in the windows overlooking the alley. He could feel someone watching them, but he couldn’t pinpoint from where, if there was actually someone there, or if he was overreacting.
“Do we have some place we can move this reunion to?”
Gunn followed his earlier trail to the windows. He must have had the same feelings as Spike did because he turned back to his friends to ask, “Friends up there, Rico?”
“We gotta protect the homeland,” Dominic spoke for the first time. “People always trying to take over our territory.” He slid his gun back into his belt. “You come for a reason other than reliving old times?”
Gunn glanced at Spike as if asking permission to state their business. He gave a quick nod giving his approval, but he hoped that Gunn didn’t give away too many details about their quest to bring down Luke. All they needed to know was that they wanted more information on the youth Luke murdered.
“Yeah, Manuel,” Gunn said. “His killers are making some wrong moves and we need some info.”
“We don’t need no more trouble,” Chow said. “Those dudes are taking over as it is and we’re barely holding ground.”
“They’re trying to kill me,” Buffy said. “And now they’re after my friends and family. Please help me.”
“Man, we really need your help,” Gunn added when Buffy’s pleas were met with expressionless faces. He leaned closer to his friend. “Spike made a deal to keep you guys out of it. We only need information.”
In the next few moments, Rico looked Buffy over and then back at his friends before finally nodding. “Not promising nothing, but let’s move this to some place a bit more private.”
Spike relaxed a bit. “Thanks.”
“You a friend of Buffy and she’s under Gunn’s wing. Can’t really refuse family, now can we?” Rico said with a curt nod. “Drive down a bit further. I’ll have the guys open the door. “
Gunn and Buffy followed the others down the alley while Spike hopped back into his car to follow. A large door lifted at the end of the alley. He slowed down as he drove into darkness, but as he crossed the threshold floodlights switched on letting him see the cavernous warehouse.
“Fuck,” he muttered under his breath as he saw at least a dozen men and women standing around watching his entrance. He pulled to where he was motioned to park. They didn’t look welcoming as they surrounded his car. He swallowed, hoping that Buffy’s trust in Gunn was sound.
to be continued…