The first thing she noticed, before she was even fully conscious, was her Slayer sense going crazy. Demons. So many freaking demons. With the intensity of the tingles running down her spine, it was like standing in the middle of a hornet’s nest. That got her attention enough to pull herself from the groggy stupor. God, she felt like she’d been drugged. Or had a hangover. Or both. It was hard to tell, but her head was splitting and everything else felt like it was weighed down with lead. Except if it was, you know, actual lead, she’d probably be just fine and able to move and possibly throw said lead at whoever had pinned her with it. This was something worse. It was oppressive.

Her eyes opened, just enough for her to tell that her vision was majorly blurry. Not good, if there really were that many demons that close to her, and when had her senses ever been wrong? Aside from Angel? She tried again to move. Sit up. Push yourself up with your arms. Sit. Up. It was like something was there, holding her down, and she had to fight with everything she had just to move her limbs .

She managed, barely. The effort it took left her panting for breath as she slumped against the plain white wall behind her . God, she felt... what? Weak? Like a normal human? It wasn't even this bad when she experienced the cruciamentum. At least then she could move, and think, and act. This wasn’t normal. This was nowhere near the realm of normal, or even her specialised corner of the abnormal.

She shook her head, trying to clear it. Like that would work. Whatever had her in this condition wasn’t going to just be shaken off. It was a spell, or a powerful drug, or something. She took deep breaths, trying to push down the nausea. Nothing was trying to kill her yet. Nothing was getting any closer to her. No big angry demon hoard descending on her. Think, Buffy, think. Last thing you remember.

She tried. Before everything was blurry and... She was on patrol, maybe? She remembered Spike, walking through Restfield. Right? He was… She clenched her eyes shut, trying to recall. He'd had a paper bag in his arms. There was a carton of cigarettes poking out of the top of it. She couldn’t remember if he’d said anything to her, or… anything else after seeing him. Just that he looked… sort of panicked to see her. Terrified.

No, there was pain. Blinding freaking pain, and then everything went black. Ow… yeah, even with the lovely perk of fast healing, the muscles in her back were still incredibly tender. She grimaced as she lifted her shirt, trying to look at the damage. On her ribs, two angry circular bruises stood out against her skin. A quick search with her hand revealed two more marks on her lower back that felt the same; small, circular, painful. Kind of crispy.

Well, at least her vision was clearing up and she was starting to feel like she might be able to get her feet under her. She looked around, trying to orient herself. Her brain was still pretty foggy, not quite processing her soundings. Everything was spinning, making her feel even more nauseous. She’d kill for a glass of water and a dark space to sleep it off.

Everything around her was white, and harsh, and strangely sterile. Made worse by the smell of disinfectant and the constant hum coming from the lights. Like a hospital, but not. Because at a hospital, there wasn't a big glass door that prevented you from leaving. At a hospital, you weren't in so much pain you could barely crawl to said door. At a hospital, the door wasn't electrified so that when you leaned against it for support, you got shocked halfway back across your cell.

And at a hospital, your worst enemy didn't pace in an identical cell across the hall from you.

Spike. Of course it was Spike. Always. Stupid vampire. How had she not noticed him before?. Against that bright white everything, you'd think the big black trench coat would kind of stand out.

She pulled herself back to the door, careful not to actually touch it again, because she was so over the blinding pain at this point. "Spike." God, why was her voice so raspy? "What did you do to me?" Every word came out in a gasp, and she had to take in big lungfuls of air. She felt like she was going to pass out, or be sick, or both.

He stopped pacing, and stared at her. Even with the distance between them, she could practically feel the anger rolling off of him. The death glare and ticking jaw were always dead giveaways. Then he sucked in his cheeks and huffed.

"Said the same thing about you, pet, first time I woke up here."

The first… God, her head wouldn't stop with the pounding. What the hell was he saying?

"Welcome to hell, Slayer."

Not like living on the hellmouth was all that new to her. Wait. The first time… Waking up. Bright lights. Hospital. “Oh, god.” She was in the commando place. Base. Whatever. But… he escaped, right? So she could too. He wasn't great with plans, and if he could wing his way out of there in a blaze of glory, she should have no problem. "What are you doing here?" She asked through gritted teeth. He didn't respond, just bowed his head so she couldn't see his face any more. "Well?"

Spike sighed and rolled his eyes. "Look, you owe me, Slayer. Okay? Satisfied?" He threw his hands up, like that was the end of the discussion. Buffy tried to think what she could possibly owe him. No, it couldn't be...

“You, what? Infiltrated a top secret government run demon prison that’s doing experiments... Because I owe you fifteen bucks? For, what was it? Mental anguish from living with Xander? Are you kidding me?” She wasn’t sure what was making her head hurt more; Spike, or the unrelenting light.

“Well, yeah. That- and you’ve still got my ring, I’m pretty sure, and I want it back. Made of iron. Bloody handy in a fist fight.”

He’s got to be kidding.

“Don’t lie to me, Spike.” She ignored the thing about the ring. Yes, she did have it. In her pocket, last she knew, and hopefully it was still there. But she didn’t exactly want to give it back. It was kind of cool looking. Didn’t fit her right, but still. She had a thing for mementos.

“What reason would I have to lie, B-- Slayer? What do you want me to say?” He was pacing again, like a tiger in one of those tiny cages at the circus. Ready to lash out at whatever it could reach and sink its teeth into.

“So you didn’t get recaptured and thrown back in here?”

He stopped. “Well, yeah, I did. But not until I was already down here. And then I saw-- Look, they caught me off guard, alright? And I couldn’t fight back, so. Here I am, back in rat prison, waiting to be killed or escape. Happy?”

No. She wasn’t happy. Because it didn’t make any sense. Why would he risk getting caught over so little money and a hunk of metal? Why hadn’t he left town the first chance he got? There was obviously something he wasn’t telling her, and she couldn’t beat it out of him, so the point was moot. She’d just have to let it go, for now.

“Not really. But whatever. You don’t want to tell me, fine. Don’t. I don’t care. Just tell me how we get back out.” She winced as she forced herself to stand up fully. Slayers weren’t supposed to lean on walls for support. Or vampires. Bottom line, she needed to get out of there, and… Well it seemed wrong to leave Spike for some reason. Maybe because he was already harmless. Maybe because she'd probably need him to find a way out. She wasn't going to think about it too much. Thinking led to more brain pounding, and it was doing that enough on its own.

“I came down here to bloody rescue you, alright!? There. There’s your truth. And they handed me my arse, threw me back in here, and now I’m stuck. Because of you. God, I’m such a bloody idiot.”

No disagreeing there. “You. Slayer of Slayers. Came to rescue me? Why?”

He stared her down, breathing heavily. “Because, I owed you one, alright?”

She wanted to argue. She wanted to break his stupid nose on his stupid face and make it less perfect than it was. Wouldn’t stick, of course, so she’d just have to break it again. But no, it was not alright. Nothing was alright. She was in a freaking demon prison lab, and her only hope of escape was enlisting the help of William the Bloody.

And no, she realized, her tinglies really weren’t overreacting. There were dozens of other demons, as far as she could see, which wasn’t much. They paced, and hit the glass, or sat, or growled. But there they were, all just as caged as she and Spike were. Or, she was as caged as they were. Like… Like she was one of them. And that didn’t sit well, at all.

Footsteps echoed down the hall, reverbing off the walls. It was creepy, and ominous, and Buffy strained to see exactly who was wearing heels in the place. She wasn't back to full strength yet, and she doubted she could put up too much of a fight if it came down to it.

She really hoped it wouldn't.

She must have been drugged. Definitely drugged. Some kind of really potent hallucinogenic. Because there was absolutely no way Maggie Walsh and Riley Finn were standing there, clipboards in hand, like Nurse Ratched and her crony looking at her like she was a new pet project.

Oh, ew. Walsh looked horrible under the lighting. Like… Skeletor's angry Aunt Karen. Probably not a great idea to mention that at the moment though. Buffy got the feeling that her survival depended partially on not making the evil bitch queen of death hate her more than she already did.

God, she'd liked Riley, sort of. He was all solid and tall and well mannered. Farm grown Iowa boy. He’d been kind of charming, and polite, and tried to be funny. They’d gone on a date. They’d kissed. Just a normal guy. But then again, maybe not. It was entirely possible that his name wasn't even Riley. Secret identity crap. And all the thinking had her head pounding harder than ever. She squinted, trying her best to get the light out of her eyes without actually closing them.

"Dehydration. That can be a side effect when a powerful sedative is used." Walsh keyed a code into the lock next to the door, and a pack of water dropped to the floor. "Now, I can't saline drip you in there, so that'll have to do for now. There are some painkillers mixed in, for the taser marks. Not that you need them, probably, but we're trying to be civil here."

Civil? This was civil? "What am I doing in here, Walsh? Explain it to me." Despite the confusion and anger, Buffy popped open the pack of water and sucked on it, thankful for the cool liquid. Was that their plan then? Small luxuries? “What are you doing here?”

She tried to posture, to look tough and ready for a fight. They’d seen her in action. Well, Riley had. There was little doubt he’d given Walsh a detailed report. If she really had to, she could probably kick him in the balls and run. Wouldn't be the first time that tactic worked.

“What I’m doing here is vitally important work in the fight against hostile creatures. Demons, vampires. You get the idea, I’m sure. We capture. We study. We test. We learn. And that knowledge is what will help tip the scale in the fight against them. We call ourselves the Initiative.” She paused a moment, giving Buffy time to take in that knowledge.

“Right. So, why exactly am I in here? Why study me? I'm the one-"

“Well, simply put, Miss Summers, I have reason to believe that you aren’t entirely human. We don’t know what you are, yet, but we will.”

Buffy was floored. Not - Not human? “Are you freaking blind? Hello. Normal person here.”

“Not in the slightest, on either account. Monsters can look human, like your friend there.” She turned and gestured to Spike, who was glaring at her like he’d like to rip her bony throat out with his teeth - while they were still blunt. At this point, Buffy might even let him.

“Whoa, hold on. We are not friends. We will never be friends. I don’t know -”

“You are an accomplice, though. You assisted in his eluding of my operatives - causing them great bodily injury in the process. You then removed a tracker we had placed on his person, and destroyed it. Government property, I might add. And I can only assume that, as he hasn’t yet starved to death and looks in fairly good health, that you’ve been providing him blood to recover his strength.” Riley bent to her ear and whispered something, too quiet for Buffy to hear. “And we have intelligence that you two were, quite recently, engaged to be married?”

“Hey! That was a spell!" Of course, they'd remind her of that. Why not? Throw it right in her face.

“And I’d be very interested to know who it was that cast it, if that’s the case. However, Hostile Seventeen eluded recapture for weeks, with your assistance. We were only able to locate him when he came here- directly to you. Despite his behavior modification chip, he did manage to put up quite a fight. Nearly had your cell open at one point. So I have every reason to believe that the two of you have an established relationship that extends beyond any spell that could be cast. Now, as I said before. I don’t know what you are, exactly, but I will. You can count on that.”

Walsh turned on her heel and walked back the way she'd come from, with Riley following after her. He wouldn't even look at Buffy. No apologetic sorry but it's my job face or anything. Just a soldier, blindly following orders. If he’d think for half a second, or try to reason with Walsh, maybe they’d figure out what was right in front of them.

She wanted to scream. She wanted to roundhouse kick her way through the stupid shocky glass and throttle Walsh, then Riley. No way did he not just tell the death bitch about their run in outside the wedding dress store. And why the hell would he do that? Was he jealous? Vindictive? Did he really think she belonged here? Experimented on? Treated like… Like a monster.

A chill ran down her spine at the thought. Spike… he'd been starving just a couple weeks ago. They… hadn't fed him, the whole time they'd had him here. Or if they had, it had been incredibly sparse. They effectively defanged him. Took away his ability to defend himself.

The thought of them doing that to her… Putting her under, poking and prodding and doing whatever medical procedures they wanted… God, she already felt violated. What if they put a chip in her? Found a way to… what if they already had? She didn't want to think about being defenseless. She didn't want to think about being at their mercy. Or what tests they could possibly want to run on her, or how they planned on doing them. She wanted to go home and curl up in her bed. She wanted hot cocoa with her mom. She wanted to listen to Giles talk about random obscure Slayer things. She wanted to study.

Anywhere else, anything else. Just not there.

She sunk to the floor, tears stinging her eyes, and wrapped her arms around her knees. She couldn't panic. Panicking only wasted energy, and she needed to conserve. She needed to plan. She needed to get out. She needed to somehow destroy their operation in the process. But all the logic in the world couldn’t stop the wave of desperation and fear, and the first sob nearly choked her. She felt like a lost child, all alone, with nobody to help her. No way to help herself.

Is this how he’d felt? For the first time in a hundred and twenty odd years. Vulnerable. Weak. Hopeless. Exposed. No longer a killer. No longer able to survive on his own. Begging for help from people he'd just as soon kill. Having nowhere else to turn. And the way they’d treated him… Going from this, to being chained in a bathtub. Mocked. Taunted. God, she’d been so horrible to him. Offering her throat that way. She remembered that look in his eyes. How badly he’d wanted it. How much he was trying to resist, because the alternative was an electric shock to his brain.

At the time, she’d found it funny. The way he begged Giles to make her stop. Having Spike at her mercy. Being able to say whatever she wanted, do whatever she wanted, and he couldn’t do anything about it but glare at her. He’d been starving, and she’d threatened to withhold blood from him. No wonder he hated her so much.

"Spike." She said his name so quietly, she wasn't even sure he'd hear her.

"Look, Slayer. I don't want to hear it right now. Bad enough being stuck in here again. I don't need to hear your high and -"

"I'm sorry."

"-mighty - wait. You're sorry? You?"

"I didn't… I'm just sorry. Okay?"

Could have been the sedative still making it hard to think, or whatever pain medication had been in her water. Maybe it was the stress, or the way Walsh talked to her like she was less than human. What they were doing here wasn't right. You kill the demons that are killing the people. You didn’t use them as lab rats.

"Well that's two words I never thought I'd hear coming out of your mouth. You feeling alright over there?"

"Uh, no. But thanks for asking. I… I just need some time."

She was going to get them out of there. Somehow. She couldn’t leave Spike there. She had to make it up to him somehow. She’d treated him like garbage, and he’d still come in after her. She couldn’t explain it. Why he’d made that decision. Why he even cared. If he even did, really. But for whatever reason, he’d put his life on the line. For her. The least she could do was the same for him.

“Oh yeah, no. Take all the time you need. Not like the clock is ticking down to when they decide to kill us.” Spike scoffed at her. “You know, I figured you’d be raring to bust out of here. Not sittin’ there and moping about being in a bleeding demon prison. It’s us or them, love. Take your bloody pick, before they shove a chip in your brain, too.”

Okay, I know he’s making sense, but why does he have to be such a jerk about it? I can barely move. He thinks I’m gonna start kicking doors down?

“I-I think they gave me some kind of drugs. How long do those take to wear off usually?”

“Depends on how much you take, I’d wager.” She looked at him questioningly. She wasn’t taking anything. “Word of advice, Slayer. Don’t let the people holding you hostage make you a drink.”

She glanced at the empty bag on the floor. Walsh had said there were pain killers in it. That was all. But why the hell… I’m so stupid. “Got it. Die of thirst. That gives us, what, three days?”

He nodded. “More or less. You’ve been out for one already. Drink it slow next time. It’s what I had to do to get out of here. Fooled them into thinking I was out. Won’t work again, but at least you’ll be able to move.”

“I, uh… I think I’ll try to get some rest.”

“Yeah, get some kip. Need your strength, Slayer. I’ll-” he stopped and shook his head. ”Just get some rest.”

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