|Story Title:||Can't Buy Me Love|
Don’t Stop Believin’
It’s New Year’s Day – Spike’s championship fight is tonight. Can he really win against all odds or will this be his most spectacular failure ever?
MacKenzie Verity Weckerly born October 9th, 2010
Edmond “Eddie” Giles Rosenberg-Maclay born March 11, 2010
Joshua "JJ" Harris was born on April 21st, 2004
The twins (Danielle Dawn, "Dani" and William Rupert, "Billy") were born on February 12th, 2004.
Annie was born on February 14th, 1999
Spike and Buffy were married in February 1999
Buffy was born January 19th, 1981
William/Spike was turned by Dru in
All the Potentials were endowed with full Slayer power in February 2003.
Buffy and Spike learned of the other dimensions and got the memories from the 'Rome' Universe in May, 2003.
The ‘Wish-World’ lasted from January 19th, 2005 to January, 16th 2010.
Don’t Stop Believin’, Journey http://youtu.be/rfUYuIVbFg0
ScreenCaps courtesy of ScreenCap Paradise: http://www.screencap-paradise.com/?cat=3
Thanks to 'epd4' for betaing this chapter. Any mistakes are mine because I can't stop fiddling ...
|Rating / Warnings:||
NC17. Content is only suitable for mature adults. Contains explicit language, sex, adult themes, and other adult situations that some people may find objectionable. If you are under the age of 17 or find any of these themes objectionable – GO AWAY.
(Next Day) Saturday, January 1st, 2010, 1:00pm at the mansion:
“Ok … so what do you need to do for this one?” Willow asked Bess, pointing to the computer screen.
“‘Three equals nine minus ‘x’ ….” Willow read off the equation.
“Ok … so I have to subtract three from nine … which is six, so ‘x’ equals six,” Bess replied confidently as she studied the simple algebra problem on the computer screen. “Three equals nine minus six,” she summarized.
“Right! See? It’s not that hard once you know what to do,” Willow encouraged the girl.
Bess smiled proudly … it really wasn’t that hard, it was just math … with a mystery. It was Sherlock Holmes math.
“Ok … this one’s a little tougher,” Willow continued as the next equation came up on the screen from the ‘Basic Algebra’ program the computer whiz had installed on Buffy’s computer.
“Ten equals two ‘x’,” Willow read. “Now what does it mean if the letter and number are next to each other like that?”
“Multiply … so I have to divide ten by two, which is five … so ‘x’ is five,” Bess calculated aloud.
“Perfect! Who said you weren’t a math whiz!? You’re totally good at this,” Willow continued to encourage her. Yeah, they were simple problems, but you had to start with simple before you got to hard; you had to crawl before you run.
Bess sat back in her chair and smiled. Maybe she could actually do this.
“Whatcha doing?” Buffy asked as she walked in from the hall. She’d been cleaning and dusting and straightening knick-knacks, she even spent an hour rearranging the kitchen cabinets and alphabetizing the spices … anything to keep her mind off tonight’s fight. Spike was sleeping … when he got up, she’d spar with him a little bit, just a light warm up, then another mug of Slayer blood and then … Pele. Buffy’s stomach was in knots… in fact, the knots were in knots … it was a whole festival of knotty knots in there; she preferred naughty knots … they were way more fun.
Willow and Bess turned to look at Buffy, both smiling. “Bess asked me to show her how math with letters worked … I downloaded a program onto your computer for her to use to practice,” Willow explained. “She’s doing really great.”
Buffy’s brows went up slightly. Bess had never asked her to show her math with letters … which, granted, was probably a good thing, but … Oh, get over it!
“That’s terrific!” Buffy gushed, still wondering what brought on the sudden interest in math.
“I thought …” Bess answered the unasked question. “…maybe later … I could try that GED thing again.”
Now Buffy’s brows really did go up. “Really? I mean … sure! Anytime you’re ready – you just let me know. No pressure,” Buffy added quickly, “… just … you know, when you’re ready.”
“I’ll see if I can get through this ... program … and Annie’s gonna help me with the computer, too,” Bess explained. She’d actually asked Annie about the math with letters, but, although Annie knew what it was, they hadn’t actually done it yet in school. Her sister advised Bess to ask Aunt Willow … she was the smartest math person she knew.
“You’ll do great,” Willow assured her. “If you can’t get it, then just click here where it says ‘show me’ and it’ll walk you through it, then it’ll give you another question just like it for you to try again. And, if you get really stuck, you can just call me. I got your mom through algebra one and two in high school, which was … wow … a crazy whirligig of fun, let me tell ya. If she can do it …” Willow stopped talking when she saw Buffy’s frown. “What meant is … your mom did great … picked it up just like that!” she amended, snapping her fingers.
Buffy rolled her eyes and sighed. “What she means is, if I can do it, a trained chimp could do it…”
“Actually, some chimps have been shown to have excellent natural mathematical acumen … uhhhh ….” Willow paused again. “But … I’m sure you guys are way smarter than chimps … way, way smarter.”
Bess didn’t hold any illusions about becoming a veterinarian, but she thought she might be able to be an assistant one day. She’d done many of the things at Dr. Lowenbram’s office that his assistant Darlene did except the bookwork and assisting with surgery … she’d even given shots and taken some x-rays with supervision. If she could get her GED maybe … maybe she could actually go to college and get a job, a real job that she could be proud of.
(That night) Saturday, January 1st, 2010, 8:45pm, at the fight club:
Spike had tried to get Mr. Andreev to give him (or even let him buy) four tickets to the bout, but the boss would only let go of two per fighter. Buffy had really wanted to bring Faith, Willow, and Giles with her to the fight … just in case. In case of what, she didn’t know … but figured with that line-up, they could handle just about anything that came up. But with only two tickets, she had to make a choice. Of course, she could’ve nicked a couple more, as she and Faith had done previously, but was a little afraid someone might notice that there were three other people with her rather than just the one, and start asking questions. Spike said Mr. Andreev had eyes and ears everywhere. So, in the end, Buffy chose Faith to accompany her to the fight again. If the fight had to be stopped, and Spike didn’t keep his word and stay down when she told him to … well, she thought Faith would be the best one to have at her side.
Willow prepared a magical potion for Buffy that she thought would take down the invisible barrier between the fighters and the spectators, she also created a magical ‘fire extinguisher’ of sorts, which should quell the flames if Spike were to be set on fire. Of course, they were untested and Buffy hoped she wouldn’t need them to save Spike’s life; Spike didn’t know she and Willow had done any of that. She hoped, she prayed, that Spike was right; that this Pele guy wasn’t invincible … that he didn’t breathe fire and wouldn’t, with one wave of his arm, simply engulf her husband in flames. Spike kept telling her not to worry – have a bit of faith, he had a ‘reliable source’ for information about this demon, his methods, his weaknesses, his strengths. Plus, Spike pointed out, he had watched Pele fight before on the closed circuit TV in the locker room; but then, the fire demon would’ve most likely also watched Spike fight before, as well.
Now Buffy stood ‘ringside’ and chewed nervously on her thumbnail while Faith placed their bets at the window. The Pele demon was the odds on favorite, but it was clear that no one was counting Spike out, despite his obvious handicap against the fire demon. Pele’s odds were 1:2, Spike’s were 2:1. Not as wonderful a payday as that ten-to-one payout Buffy had gotten last week, but there were no rumors flying this time about Spike’s wellbeing (or lack thereof) to influence them. Of course, if Spike won, the wager she was making of $8,000, which would bring back $24,000, would look like chump change compared to the half million he stood to win.
The bell rang, announcing only ten minutes left to place bets, and Buffy jumped as if she’d been shot. She would’ve so much have rather been the one fighting than the one standing by like a slug doing nothing. She briefly wondered if they had tag team events … fighting with Spike would be so much less stressful than standing up here watching.
Suddenly, heavy gates dropped over the betting windows, making Buffy jump again. She turned in time to see Faith sauntering back towards her, stuffing the betting ticket down into the front pocket of her jeans. Despite the jeans, Faith had worn her pearls tonight ... over a tight black tank-top which reveled many (but not all) of her 'horny man bait' tattoos. The look was ... well, very Faith.
“Relax, B,” Faith coaxed as she pressed in next to Buffy at the railing, shoving a fur-clad supermodel-wannabe out of the way and making the woman stumble on her six inch stiletto heels and fall against her date, who didn’t seem to mind.
“Yeah, easy for you to say. It’s not your flammable husband down there,” Buffy grumbled, holding her ground as someone on the other side of her tried to muscle up to the railing as the announcer came into the pit below them.
“Spike’s smart … he’s strong, a good fighter – he looks like he knows what he’s doing,” Faith assured her.
“Yeah, well … looks can be deceiving,” Buffy pointed out as she began chewing on her other thumbnail.
“Which is why we’re here,” Faith continued. “The worst that can happen is we break down the barrier, jump into the fight, kick some Pele ass and get Spike disqualified,” Faith assured her. “Then, he gets totally pissed at both of us, tosses us out of the house into the cold. Homeless and penniless, we eat from dumpsters, catch pneumonia and die a horrible death on the streets… but at least we’ll have each other.”
“Oh, that’s a comfort!” Buffy exclaimed, finally looking at Faith who had a mischievous grin on her face. “You should be a greeting card writer with those warm and fuzzy skills…” Buffy advised, rolling her eyes.
“Right, huh? I can’t imagine why Hallmark hasn’t called me … I’d totally rock,” Faith agreed laughing.
Buffy’s eyes went back to the pit below as Spike and the Pele demon stepped out into view. Spike had on his jeans and nothing else; no t-shirt, no belt, no shoes, no rings, not even his wedding band. He scanned the crowd quickly and found her, their eyes locking across the expanse of the ring.
‘No worries,’ he mouthed to her, unable to contact her through the bond. That magical barrier kept everything out, or in … depending on which side you were on.
‘I love you,’ she mouthed back to him and he gave her a little wink before turning his attention to the Pele Haleakala demon.
His opponent wasn’t really that much bigger than Spike. A bit taller, a bit broader … he might have three stone ten on the vamp, about fifty pounds, maybe a bit more, but it was all muscle, or muscle and gasoline, apparently. Spike had watched the fire demon fight before and knew that he could be hurt; he’d seen him get taken down by other opponents, the only problem was, even when he was down and apparently out of a fight, he could still conjure the fire in his fists. It didn’t take getting your skin scorched for long to make an opponent jump away from the demon and it only took your hair or clothing to be set on fire once to pretty much end the fight.
The Pele demon had fought a couple of other vamps on his road to the championship … they now lay in the cracks and crevices of the granite floor of the pit. Like kitty litter poured on the driveway to absorb oil dripped from leaky engines, the vamp’s dust now served to soak up the blood of the warriors that came after them. Spike was determined that his dust wouldn’t join them in that duty – he could win. He would win. He believed that fully.
The knots in Buffy’s stomach starting pulling tighter as the introductions ended and the ring announcer signaled the beginning of the bout. Oh God … it was really happening – now. This bout seemed so far away when she’d first learned of it a week ago … it was always ‘a few days’ or ‘a couple of days’ or ‘tomorrow’ … but it wasn’t some future event anymore – it was now.
Buffy watched helplessly as the two demons, who both looked pretty much like humans at the moment, circled each other warily, each looking for an opportunity to strike. The fact that the Pele demon hadn’t waved an arm and set Spike on fire was a comfort, at least. Buffy absently pressed her hand against the magical potions in her front pockets, making sure they were still there and ready, just in case.
Suddenly, as the warriors were sizing each other up, the Pele demon’s left hand exploded into a bright yellow flame.
“Right, then, entertain us,” Spike taunted as he jumped in the air and spun a powerful kick at the fire demon’s jaw.
The Pele demon caught Spike’s foot with his right hand, which was not engulfed in flames (yet) and flipped Spike head over heels backwards. Spike landed hard on the unforgiving granite but leapt back to his feet, despite the pain in his neck … a literal one, from landing on his neck and shoulders.
“Got a little extra mojo in them action figure muscles …” Spike observed. “No worries, mate … you ain’t the only one with a demon inside.”
Spike raced across the pit at the demon, hoping to catch his opponent off guard, and it worked, at first. Spike grabbed the Pele demon around the midsection and drove him back against the wall of the pit, slamming him into the rock. The demon’s head cracked against the stone wall of their ‘ring’ with a satisfying crunch. Spike released him, knowing that he needed to attack and retreat quickly, least he be caught with his opponent’s fiery fists. As Spike backed up, the Pele swung said fiery fist at him, catching Spike in the chest and scorching his left pectoral.
The stench of burning flesh wafted up to the crowd and Buffy cried out as if she’d been burnt herself. She was very happy that she hadn’t eaten anything today, otherwise her knotted stomach would’ve ejected it just now. Her hands covered her mouth in anxious fear as she watched, trying not to scream at her husband to just stop this insanity. The money wasn’t worth it … nothing was worth this! No amount of money could bring him back if he dusted; no amount of money could replace him. The crowd around her had no such restraint, however; they were screaming at the warriors, admonishing them to fight, to attack, to kill the other; it was hard to really tell who they were screaming at or rooting for – apparently they were simply rooting for a battle, for bloodshed – the outcome was secondary.
Spike jumped back further from the demon, patting a hand down on his sizzling flesh to make sure it hadn’t caught fire. It wasn’t severe enough to dust him, although it hurt like a son of a bitch – but it was worth it, he’d hurt the Pele too, Spike could smell blood.
Spike and the larger demon began to circle each other again, looking for an opening. When someone in the crowd accidentally dropped their drink over the railing, the glass shattered against the invisible force-field and the Pele demon looked up momentarily towards the sound. Spike took advantage of that distraction and moved forward quickly, swinging hard with his right fist aimed at the demon’s jaw. The Pele recovered quickly from the momentary wane in concentration and caught Spike’s hand in his and engulfed it in flames.
Spike tried to pull his fist back, but the large demon held tight as the fire began to envelop Spike’s hand and ignite the flesh of his arm. The vamp struggled in vain to pull his arm back, but the Pele’s grip was too strong. He could hear Buffy screaming above the din in the club … first she was yelling, “NOOOO!” then he heard her shrieking, “Kick! Kick him! Take his legs out!” … and Spike did.
Spike had to bring his whole body closer to the fire demon, which didn't fill him with joy, but it was his only chance. He swung one leg up in a powerful kick, landing soundly between the other demon’s legs, hoping that would get a ball-busting reaction from the larger man – it did. As the Pele’s knees buckled, his grip on Spike’s fist loosened and Spike pulled free. He cradled his burning hand against his stomach, trying to smother the flames while at the same time turning and planting a hard side-kick to the fire demon’s abdomen.
The larger demon ‘ooomphed’ and stumbled backwards as Spike’s foot hit what he hoped was his solar plexus … he could hear Buffy scream with relief, although the fear in her tone was still evident. It was funny how he could pick her voice out amid all the other screaming spectators … but it was unmistakable.
Buffy and Faith had gotten caught up in the excitement of the crowd and the fight. Faith succumbed to it first, naturally falling in with the other fight fans to encourage Spike; it took Buffy longer, but the electricity in the air and adrenaline pounding in her veins won out over her terror. Now they both screamed words of encouragement and advice, pounding their fists against the shatter-proof railing along with all the other spectators. Buffy had gotten so engrossed in the fight itself that she’d nearly forgotten the magical potions in her pocket … if she had remembered, she might’ve been tempted to use them in those moments when Spike had been held in the larger demon’s grip.
Buffy was caught between fear for her husband and pride. Part of her wanted to stop this whole thing – just forget it; it wasn’t worth the risk; another part of her wanted him to win, to kick that demon’s ass straight to hell where it apparently belonged. At the moment, the kick-ass part of her was in control as she cheered him on and forced herself to ignore the blackened flesh peeling from his hand and lower arm where it had been caught by the fiery demon.
Spike could hear her screaming at him to ‘Kill the son of a bitch! Just fucking kill him!’ as the two combatants went back to circling each other warily. There was his Slayer … her dark demon side drawn out by the violence and bloodshed. It actually brought a small, smirky smile to his lips to hear her let go of her fear for his safety and just give into the dark excitement of it. His dark, fallen angel was in the house - he could feel her passion even through the magical barrier and it buoyed his confidence even more.
Sensing Spike’s mind was elsewhere, the Pele demon lunged forward at the vamp, both hands engulfed in flames, swinging his burning fists wildly, trying to make contact with skin, hair or fabric – anything that would burn.
But Spike actually wasn’t distracted at all, despite the smirk on his face, he was watching for the demon to make a move and was ready for him. Spike dropped down suddenly, just as the Pele demon reached him, and swept his legs out, catching the larger man between the knees and ankles and toppling him to the ground. Spike sprung back up in a millisecond, it seemed, and was stomping down violently on the fire demon’s face and chest with his feet.
Blood spurted from the downed demon’s nose and mouth, Spike could feel and hear ribs cracking and breaking under his assault. Just like most things that were not undead, the Pele demon had to breathe … that was his biggest weakness. All those big action figure muscles couldn’t do a bloody thing if they didn’t have oxygen … and everyone knows you can’t have fire without the big ‘O’. All Spike had to do was stop him from breathing while avoiding the fiery fists. The Pele demon, of course, had other ideas.
As Spike lifted his foot and lined it up with the larger demon’s throat, preparing for a killing blow that would obliterate his windpipe, the Pele demon reached up and grabbed hold of Spike’s foot and ankle and twisted with all the strength of those 'action figure' muscles.
Spike screamed out in pain as his knee wrenched in an unnatural angle before his whole body turned to follow the trajectory of his foot and ankle. Unable to pull free from the demon’s grip, Spike dropped to the ground with a hard thud, which would’ve knocked the wind out of him if he had actually needed wind in the first place. Spike reached for his painful, mangled knee, briefly wondering if there was some kind of conspiracy against his soddin' knees, as the Pele demon scrambled atop the downed vamp and locked his fingers around Spike’s throat.
Spike wrested his arms out from between their bodies where the larger demon was holding him down and reached up and clamped his hands around the Pele’s neck. The fire demon’s fists suddenly burst into flames around Spike’s neck. Spike could feel the heat licking his flesh hungrily, searing pain shot in all directions from his blazing throat as the larger demon pressed down harder and squeezed his fingers even tighter.
For a moment Spike thought that he wouldn’t have to worry about burning, because it felt like his head was about to be detached from his body by the larger demon. Spike could hear Buffy screaming, telling him to kick him off, and Spike tried, but with his one knee mangled, he had no power in it and his efforts to dislodge the Pele were easily thwarted. Spike summoned every ounce of strength he had and fought to crush the larger demon’s windpipe with his hands, but more pain shot out from his charred hand and fingers as he tried to tighten it around the demon’s throat.
To most of the spectators, it seemed like a Mexican standoff … each demon gripping the other by the throat, trying to strangle the life out of the other, but Buffy knew it was far from being an evenly balanced clash at this moment – Spike was losing – badly. The flames emanating from the Pele’s hands were starting to spread down Spike’s chest and up to his face. If he fully ignited, it would be over – not just this fight, but every fight, forever. Spike would be gone. Dust in the crevices of the granite floor … kitty litter.
Buffy pulled the magical potions from her pocket as she watched and waited … seconds ticked by. How many? She didn’t know. The demons were still at each other’s throats, neither seemed to be waning, but Spike couldn’t take the flames much longer … how much longer? How much longer could he hold out? She didn’t know.
“Throw it!” Faith urged her. “He’s gonna dust!”
Buffy looked quickly from the battle in the pit up to Faith’s eyes. There was fear there, genuine fear. Buffy couldn’t remember ever seeing that kind of fear in Faith’s eyes before… another second ticked by. Time seemed to grind to a halt, everything was in slow motion. Spike’s words hurtled through her mind, ‘Don’t underestimate me…’ he had admonished her … ‘I won’t,’ she’d promised. Did he still believe he could win? More importantly, did she? Buffy couldn’t reach him through the bond … he was still fighting, but he was losing.
Anothersecond ticked. The demons continued to struggle, muscles bulged and quavered against the strain, blood poured from wounds, mixing with sweat and dripping onto the dirty granite below them. Neither noticed.
Anothersecond ticked. The Pele’s face was turning red; was it from lack of oxygen or from the strain? Buffy didn’t know. Spike was screaming and growling … roaring in pain and effort. Buffy couldn’t stand another second of it. She was going to lose him … their family was going to lose him. MacKenzie would never know him … their children would be devastated … for what? Money? Money couldn’t buy love. Money couldn’t give them what he could. Nothing could replace a father’s love, nothing.
Buffy felt like she was underwater – drowning; she could no longer hear the crowd, even though they were louder than ever; she couldn’t see anything but Spike … flames bit angrily at his face, his skin burnt, blackened; she couldn’t even feel anything, even as the whole building vibrated with the energy and passion of the spectators. It was like she was trapped in a bubble filled with thick, sticky syrup making every movement a monumental effort.
She slowly raised the pouch with the magical potion and poured the glittering black dust into her palm. It seemed like she could see each individual grain of the sparkling dust as it dropped from the satchel into her hand – slower than slow motion. She took a deep breath, preparing to blow the magical battering ram onto the barrier that separated them from Spike. Faith was poised to leap into the pit as soon as the barrier was down – ready to pull the Pele demon off Spike, to save him.
Don’t underestimate me, Slayer …
The world stopped spinning. Time stood still.
Don’t Stop Believin’, Journey
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