Chapter 1: Prologue: Conspiracy Farewell
Spike headed to the laboratory, looking for a little friendly flirtation with Fred and perhaps some new insight on how to make him corporeal again. He walked through the walls jauntily, getting used to the feeling of nothing-ness, if not especially enjoying it. Walking through walls was cool if only to see the look on Angel’s face whenever he showed up at an extremely inopportune time.
Fred was not there when he reached her office, but he thought he might be able to read her notes on him if he concentrated really hard, so he closed his eyes to make the effort. It was then that he heard a plot that made his non-existent blood boil and his dead heart beat loudly in his chest. The young lab assistant assigned to Fred came into the lab and locked the door behind him, not bothering to check Fred’s office to see if anyone else was there. Knox moved to kneel upon the floor and, taking out a torn out page from a book, lit some candles and then held the page up to the light, crooning softly.
Spike listened, his vampire hearing catching every word and shuddered at what he heard. Knox planned to kill Fred and have an ancient Old One take over her body. The innocent looking, evil maniac murmured several phrases concerning his plans and then, apparently now finished with his daily demon-worshiping, put out the candles and left the lab.
Spike’s mind raced with what to do. He couldn’t tell Angel, and there was no way he could tell Fred that her lab assistant, who had been making eyes at her, was actually conspiring to murder her and use her body as a shell to house a demon who would deal out death and destruction to all mankind. Nobody would believe him, nobody here trusted him and there wasn’t a sodding thing he could do with his pass-through-flesh hands. He’d just have to keep an eye out and make sure this sarcophagus thing Knox had mentioned never made it into Wolfram and Hart. He could go to shipping and haunt the security guards till they sent it back. He could and would do something. The girl who had so selflessly and tirelessly worked to restore him would not die. Not this time.
Two weeks later
“So bye then, Charlie-boy,” Spike offered awkwardly and assuredly at the same time.
Gunn smiled and clapped his hand. Wesley and Spike nodded stiffly, the old Watcher-vampire antagonism still in place. Fred wrapped her arms around him warmly.
“Have a good trip and be safe now, you hear?” she told him sternly.
“Well, if anything happens to me I’ll most likely get resurrected and chained to this bloody building and you can lecture me all you want while concocting something for my inevitable restoration, eh, Science-girl?”
Spike tugged at a strand of her hair and she smiled at him. Spike hesitated, then drew Fred aside and whispered in her ear. She swatted at his arm.
“I know! I don’t need those kinds of suggestions, thanks all the same.”
“Then get on it. Watcher’s head’s about as thick as Angel’s, might take you awhile.”
Fred gave him an exasperated smile.
“Go worry about your own love life. I’ll be fine here. I just wish I knew how you got your body back.”
“Give me a ring if you find out, but I’m just glad whoever this bloke is decided to do whatever the hell he did. Having the body’s like heaven. You gotta admit; it’s a nice one.” Fred rolled her eyes at him, but didn’t say anything. Spike cleared his throat and continued. “Thanks, pet, for trying and all to save me. And no worries, I’ll always be here if you need saving. Cause you’re worth it too.”
“That’s so unfair! Every other girl on the planet but me gets to see what you call a nice side. Everybody else gets a goodbye. But not me, the girl who actually decided to give you a chance. Well, goodbye, Spikey. Not that you would’ve noticed I was here or anything. Don’t come back.”
Spike turned to Harmony, stared blankly at her and then inwardly reminded himself that he had a soul now.
“Bye, Harm. Thanks for the tumble. Do me a favor, slip a little of that Killer of the Dead poison in the boss’ blood, there’s a good girl.”
“Sure, Blondie-B- hey! I don’t take orders from you!”
Harmony sat down with a huff and started pouting as Spike turned to Lorne.
“So keep singing there and don’t let Gramps get you down.”
Lorne smiled and offered his hand.
“You keep singing there too, peach pie. Don’t deny it; I heard the ole pipes working a time or two during your stint here. Not a bad set you got there and I’ll let you in on a little not-secret, much better than Captain Tone-Deaf over there.”
“Don’t I know it? Back in the day it was Giselle, then, in Sunnydale, more Manilow than you could stand. Ole Barry seems to be the one thing Angelus favors right along with our Dark Avenger. For that alone I would’ve turned sides.” Spike turned to grin at Angel who stood silent and grim near the elevator. “What? No hug? It’s not like I staked you or anything.”
Angel walked up to Spike and whispered menacingly.
“Get gone and don’t come back.”
Spike playfully slugged him and swaggered toward the elevators with his duster flapping behind him.
“Sure thing, Peaches. I’ll be sure and tell Buffy you said hello.”
Angel swallowed hard, setting his face in a glower, mumbling something about cookie dough, and stalked back into his office as the elevator chimed.
Chapter 2: Ticket to Paradise on the Trio Express
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Once in Rome and standing in front of Buffy’s apartment door, Spike ran his fingers through his hair, then smoothed it down, then ran them through again. This whole seeing Buffy again thing was harder than it sounded.
“Good thing old General Sourpuss isn’t here to see me shaking in my boots over seeing the Slayer again,” he said to himself as he nervously raised his hand and knocked on the door.
Andrew opened it and fell back in dramatic surprise, his eyes wide. His mouth opened and closed a time or two and he put his hand on his heart.
“Spike! Spike! It’s you. You’re not dead! Not dead! Risen and returned to us even as Gandalf in our hour of need. White hair and everything.”
So saying, Andrew flung his arms around Spike and held him close for several minutes. Spike stood there awkwardly and let Andrew hug him. He finally let go and gestured for Spike to come in.
“Come in, please, oh thank goodness you’re here.”
Andrew started hastily clearing away piles of stuff off the couch and smoothing his clothes.
“What’s the problem? You lost your Game boy?” Spike asked absently, walking through the door and glancing around for any sign of Buffy.
“Uh, not quite,” Andrew postulated nervously. “You might want to sit down, Spike.”
Before Spike could comply, a brown-haired, long-legged teenage blur shot into the room and threw herself onto him. Breathing in the familiar scent, Spike held his Nibblet in his arms and marveled at how much he’d missed her.
“Spike, you didn’t die!” Dawn held onto him more tightly. “I knew you’d come back. You always come back; you’re the one who never leaves. You can fix it.” Recovering her teenage dignity, Dawn slid to the floor and finished nervously, “I wanted you to be alive, so you’d know.”
“Know what, Bit?” Spike released her and gazed at how much she’d grown in only a few months.
“That I’m sorry.” Dawn looked down at her feet. “I realized it when you - when I saw Buffy come out of the school without you, that I never got a chance to say it. I-I shouldn’t have been so mean to you last year and threatened to set you on fire. I knew you better than anyone and I let Xan- I let people influence me into not trusting you.”
Spike shook his head in amazement. She thought that was an issue? Well yeah, it had hurt like hell that last year, knowing he didn’t even have the right to talk to her, let alone be the friends they’d been previously. He hadn’t felt that he could call her any of his pet names for her or seek out her company, but now, just knowing she was here and his again was enough.
“Wiped clean then. I’d be a bloody hypocrite to hold that against you after what I’d done. Can you forgive me for what I tried-” his voice grew hoarse, “-for what I tried to do to Buffy? And for leaving you?”
He warily met her eyes and she nodded, looking just as shy. Their friendship restored, she took his hand in hers firmly and spoke shakily.
“I’m glad you’re here. You’re the only one who can find her.”
Spike looked at her sharply and then sat her down on the couch and knelt before her.
“Nibblet, find who? You look done in. Is Buffy-“
“Missing,” came a new voice from the door.
Spike looked up to see Giles watching him with a face that read suspicion, remorse, fear and a touch of joy.
“Rupert,” Spike said, coming to his feet abruptly, “what happened to her?”
Giles didn’t express any surprise upon seeing Spike. Nor should he, because somehow, when it came to Buffy, he would never leave, not even if he appeared to die.
“Death certainly doesn't seem to be an impediment to interacting with your loved ones,” Giles said wearily.
Spike moved alertly to Giles' side and Giles appeared uncomfortable at Spike's concern for Buffy. Spike didn't know why, he'd always been this way, maybe Giles just just hadn’t seen it before. Spike just wished Buffy were here so he could see the other half of the lover-like protection for one’s mate that she had exhibited towards Spike at the end and that had thrilled him and been abhorrent to Giles.
“She’s been gone for three days, Spike. She went out to face a vampire who’s influential in these parts and we haven’t heard from her since. I have asked Faith to come and look for her.”
Spike’s head went down and then shot back up and this time the expression visibly moved Giles; it was pure anger and primal force, the same emotions they all had to feel at the situation.
“Who was it?”
“Someone known only by the name of the Immortal.”
Spike’s eyes flared with emotion and he hissed.
“The Immortal? The sodding Immortal! You let her meet him alone!”
Giles cocked his head in surprise.
“You know him?”
Spike laughed bitterly.
“Yeah, we go way back. And each time we meet I either get beat up, my woman gets violated or I’m thrown in jail for tax evasion. Or all three.” Giles looked at him strangely. Spike shook his head. “Don’t ask. The point is, he’s the most rotten, low-down excuse for a moral ambiguity I’ve ever met and he’s bad news. Buffy’s in real danger; whether she knows it or not.” He mumbled the next part under his breath. “Probably not. Even she’s probably fawning all over the git and thinking it’s like clover and sunshine or whatever else Dru was ragging on about.”
Nobody remarked on that enigmatic statement.
“Well, since you know him, it could help us get her back.”
“Or make it harder. The blighter hates me and mine, he’d do anything to make sure his precious territory is kept safe and anything he wants is his territory whether it belonged to someone else or not. Bloody nuns.” Spike shook his head and began to focus. “Have you gone after him, looked where she was supposed to be, all that stuff?”
Giles nodded, but with evident non-success in his face.
“He was supposed to be at a hotel here in this district; there were no traces of either of them at the address. Further probing into the Underworld here has proved fruitless. They’ve both disappeared and nobody knows where they are or if their disappearances are connected.”
Spike looked at Giles, disapprovingly.
“And you the one with the big brain. Of course they’re bloody connected! That bloody, bleeding, sodding, buggering, rotten, dirty, nasty, son of a-“
Spike ran out of words appropriate to say in front of Dawn and stopped cold. But she looked at him with the old look in her eye, the one she’d had for him during the whole Glory escapade and the summer after Buffy’s death. Seeing this, Spike visibly calmed and asked,
“When’s the Body-snatcher get here?”
“I beg your pardon - who?” Giles looked genuinely puzzled.
“Faith, the Slayer. When’s she get here?”
“Probably a couple of hours,” Giles replied, seemingly amused at Spike’s reference to Faith’s 'borrowing' of Buffy’s body years before.
“Right, well, while we’re waiting for her, I’ll go out and see if I can’t drum up some answers as to what’s happening.”
“An astute idea. I’ll go with you. We have so much to catch up on!”
Andrew excitedly reached for his coat and Spike blanched.
“Uh, not a good idea. You wait here with the others. I work best alone.”
Andrew nodded in apparent understanding.
“I see your game. We will await your return and further orders.”
Giles looked a little put out. Spike seemed to remember Andrew treating Giles with a healthy respect back in the old days, but he certainly never acted this worshipful and obedient around the Watcher.
Spike put his hand on Dawn’s head and whispered to her.
“I’ll get her back, Dawn. Even if it kills me again.” She smiled and warned him,
“You are under strict orders not to die. I mean it. And by the way, remind me to ask you about the whole not dying thing when you get back.”
“Will do, pet.”
With a final pat of Dawn’s hair, Spike exited and headed for the lowlife of Rome.
Beating up witless lowlifes in sunken-down, seedy bars again was so fun, Spike didn’t want to stop. If Buffy hadn’t been missing and Dawn waiting for him, he probably would’ve gone to every single bar in the city. But as it was, the sun was coming up and having found nothing but the firm belief that Buffy and the Immortal had both disappeared, he went back to her apartment to await the arrival of the dark-haired Slayer.
Giles was on the phone when Spike returned and Dawn was sleeping on the couch. Gently and quietly, he carried her with vampire grace to what he assumed was her bedroom, what with the boy band posters and all, and deposited her onto her bed, tucking her in well.
Going back into the other room, he saw Giles had hung up the phone.
“That was Faith.” Giles took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “She’s been held up at the airport. I’m going to go pick her up and I’ll take Andrew with me. You’ll watch Dawn?”
The casual request to watch her took Spike by surprise, but he grasped the responsibility firmly and he guessed that in Giles’ mind, while Spike was prone to wander and had the attention span of a goldfish, he could undoubtedly be trusted to ceaselessly protect someone he loved. The wanker was right too, for once.
Giles called a protesting Andrew out of his room and they left. Spike sat on the couch, resting though not relaxing, for the first time since he’d arrived in Rome. It was distracting and difficult to be here. He could still smell her all over the apartment. She had lain on this couch; she’d used that phone; her shoes and jacket were by the door; an unfinished mocha latte on the counter had been hers. Spike stood, following her scent as it led him to her room. There it overwhelmed him, bringing back memories of pain and joy. Things he fought to forget and things he’d never let go of.
He wandered into the room. There were her clothes hanging in the closet. Pieces he’d never seen, but some he remembered her wearing and others he remembered her not wearing. The mirror had pictures stuffed into all the edges. Most were from high school, depicting Buffy, Willow and Xander, some with Cordelia and that Dog-kid. Giles crept in occasionally.
The years passed and the three lost the look of carefree teenagers. But then Tara and Anya came into the pictures bringing smiles to Willow and Xander, though Buffy’s face depicted anything but a carefree spirit. Spike’s heart ached as he recognized the dead expression on her smiling face. A couple of the pictures were family shots of Buffy, Dawn and Joyce. They brought a lump to his throat; seeing his Summers women together and happy. Spike shook his head, cursing his soul for this sentimentality that plagued him, not realizing it was more an asset to him than his supernatural strength or his British charm.
Spike was surprised to see that he was in some of the pictures, usually off to the side or halfway in, but Buffy had angled them in such a way that he was shown in a more prominent light. He recognized a few of them as times Dawn had insisted on taking his picture, with and without her, to see if vampires turned up on film. He smiled at the picture of him and his Nibblet, her face turned toward him in a classic school-girl crush, his own expressing brotherly over-protectiveness.
To his shock, in a frame on the desk, was a picture of him and Buffy. More like a collage of pictures actually. They were the tiny ones you get at photo booths in malls. Spike remembered the night they were taken vividly. It has been Buffy’s one concession to happiness throughout their turgid affair. The one time she had treated him as a boyfriend and not a tension-reliever. The one time he’d gotten to act towards her as he wanted to.
It was during a moonlight meeting at the mall. Spike recalled taunting Buffy that she was afraid of him and their relationship. That she couldn’t handle it if she were to ever think of him as anything other than a soulless thing. Stung, Buffy had yielded to his request that they take their pictures together. He’d told her that she could keep or destroy them and he would be satisfied with the knowledge that they’d existed.
She’d kept them. There were eight. And they were the most loving, silly, romantic, cute pictures of the two mortal enemies that you could ever want. She’d made him go vamp-face and pretend to bite her. He’d had her cock back her fist like she was going to slug him. Some they just smiled sweetly, others they’d kissed passionately.
Looking at them again after so long, Spike found his favorite. Buffy had her eyes closed in an expression of knowing peace and security that he didn’t often see except when she slept. He was looking at her with adoration and passion in his eyes, just holding her. When Buffy had seen them for the first time, she’d gotten so worked up and ashamed that she wouldn’t even let him touch her. For days after, she wouldn’t let him kiss her or give her any signs of physical affection. Just hard-core, brutal satiation of her need to feel alive.
But she’d kept them and now, when Spike was supposed to have died, displayed them proudly for all to see. He moved to the bed and sat there holding them. He could feel her there strongly. She’d cried there a few nights before. He could almost hear her crying now. Shaking his head and wondering if there was something supernatural going on, Spike thought he was imagining things, but gradually he realized it was real crying and recognized it was Dawn.
Setting aside the pictures, Spike moved to her room quickly and sat on the edge of her bed.
“Leaking there, platelet,” he said with gentle snarkiness.
Dawn laughed a little and sat up.
“I’m just worried about Buffy and happy you’re alive. Why are you alive, by the way?”
He told her all of his adventures from the time of his death to getting to Rome. She smiled hugely at the saga of the Cup of Perpetual Torment.
“You beat up Angel? Way to go, Spike!” He grinned back and smoothed her hair. “So, you don’t know why you’re back or who did it or anything?”
“Nope, just poof-unburned-ghost period-poof-colliding-with-the-door.”
“You walked into the door? Real smooth.”
Spike tousled the hair he’d just flattened.
“Not like I knew what the box had done. I was used to popping through doors by then, real useful for annoying people.”
“I’ll admit, I have learned some good tricks from you in that arena,” Dawn conceded.
Spike leaned back against the headboard and faced her with his arms behind his head.
“So, what’s my Sweet Bit been up to?”
“Not much. I go to school and work in a coffee shop afterwards. It’s fun living here, all cultural and everything, but kinda boring after Sunnydale. Buffy’s sorta unofficially on vacation, so she only slays the vamps who come after her personally. Which is why I don’t even know why she went to see the Immortal. Maybe she was bored.”
Dawn’s voice was sad.
“Doesn’t take much for her to get that way, pet,” Spike said.
“About as much as you,” she teased him.
“We do like the same things. She just didn’t always want to admit it.”
At his words Dawn grew quiet.
“She would now. After the Hellmouth, losing those girls and you. She’s changed, Spike. She’s still Buffy, but that old, hard shell is gone. She missed you; betcha she’d even admit it to Xander.”
His eyebrows rose.
“Losing your shirt there on that bet, Dawn. So, this knowledge from the horse’s mouth or a bit of ancient Key insight gleaned from the ages?”
“Probably some of both.”
They smiled at each other and he rose.
“Get that sleep, Bit. Bet you haven’t been doing that a lot lately. Big Bad’s back, so relax.”
“Big Bad, my aunt.”
He whacked her shoulder and she laughed. Smiling, he headed back to Buffy’s room to search for any clues and to surround himself with her scent, that too.
Giles opened the apartment door to an empty room. Frowning a bit, he moved to Dawn’s room to check on her. She was curled up on her side, long legs having kicked off the covers. He gently replaced them and went to find Spike. He was asleep in Buffy’s bed, looking for all the world like a corpse, and held tightly in his hands was the same set of pictures Giles had noticed Buffy holding earlier that week.
A step creaked under his foot and instantly Spike was on his feet, alert and ready.
“Spike. It’s just me.”
“Don’t startle a fellow like that.”
Spike put the photo back and followed Giles to the main room where Faith and Andrew were just coming in.
“Hey, Blondie,” she called out cheerfully. “Heard you were all living dead again. Congrats.”
“Death’s not my color.” Spike looked her up and down. The tight leather pants and equally revealing red shirt, topped off with lipstick enough to bathe in, looked good on her, if you were into that sort of thing. “I don’t see the Avenging Principal tagging along. You make him stay at home like a good, whipped boy?”
Faith laughed loudly.
“What Wood? Spike, I kicked him to the curb practically before we got to LA. I may be all reformed now, but I still ain’t a saint.”
“Obviously,” he said, flicking an eye at her clothing.
“You like it?” She drew her lips back to reveal her tongue. “Got it all up just for you.”
“Thanks for the effort,” he said, smoothly cynical. “But I’ve reached my quota for Dressed for Hire dates this century.”
Dumping her stuff on the floor, she sashayed past him, grinning.
“Your loss, Blondie. Now, we got any food in this joint? I’m starving.”
Andrew hurried after her.
“This time I’ve not only labeled what’s mine, I’ve booby-trapped it. So you can keep your steal-happy fingers off my Pot-stickers, Miss Faith.”
“Don’t make me smack you, Flyboy,” she told him disdainfully, reaching into the freezer. “Ouch! You little- You weren’t kidding. That’s twisted obsessive, man.”
Faith shook her fingers free of the mousetrap embedded on them.
“Serves you right, Miscreant-girl,” Andrew gloated. “Leave it alone from now on.”
“Oh, I’ll leave it alone.”
Faith started toward Andrew, whose eyes grew wide as he turned to flee.
“Children! If I could have your help,” Giles interrupted wearily.
Faith stopped guiltily and Andrew hurried into the living room to get comfy on the couch. Spike stopped laughing and went in after him. The four gathered for a ‘Council of War,’ to use Andrew’s words.
“Now, Spike,” Giles began, “did you encounter anything useful tonight?”
“Not a bloody thing other than the fact that every rat and flunky in the city didn’t see anything and doesn’t know where either of them got to.”
“Then unless any of you have any suggestions, I have no idea what to do.”
“I do.” Spike smirked. “Hanging around a bunch of has-been detectives lately must’ve rubbed off. I found a clue.”
“What is it?” Andrew asked, excitedly.
“Cryptic message. I hate those.”
Spike dug a scrap of paper out of his duster and handed it to Giles. Scrutinizing it carefully, he read it out loud.
“ ‘Met your fate and the dance begun,
Home is where your feet should run,’
Well, that’s a puzzle certainly. How do you know this is where we should start though, Spike? It could be anything.”
“For starters, it was in her room. And she didn’t put it there. It doesn’t smell like her at all.”
“Excellent deductive reasoning. Let me see it, let me see it!”
Andrew bounced in his seat, eagerly reaching for the paper.
Faith rolled her eyes.
“Can I bring to light here the obvious fact that if Wonder-boy’s nose here is right, then this is a freaking big trap?”
“What a brain you have there, Rogue,” Spike mocked. “Course it’s a bloody trap. And the sooner we go, the sooner we get it over with, if you catch my drift. So come on.”
“Hold up there, cowboy. My mission, remember? Thanks for the clue and I’ll be seeing ya.”
Spike stood up.
“You think for one bleeding minute that I’m not going, you’re dafter than Andrew. The Slayer’s missing and I’m going after her.”
Andrew started to protest and Faith shrugged.
“Whatever, hey, tag along. Just don’t get in my way.”
Giles hesitated, then spoke his mind,
“Faith, I think it best if Spike does accompany you and that this be a full partnership reconnaissance.”
“A trio-ship. Like old times,” Andrew interjected firmly. “I’m coming too.”
“No way!” Spike and Faith retorted loudly.
“Yes way! Giles, they’re hurting my feelings. I’m worried about Buffy too, and I never get to go anywhere. I’m sick of waiting at the house and watching Dawn.”
Giles smothered his rising laugh with a cough and hastened to reassure Andrew who had folded his arms across his chest and stuck out his lower lip in a pout.
“I think you should go too. No-” he held up a hand, stifling the other two’s protests, “-he could be helpful, and it’s only fair that if Spike goes then Andrew does too.” Indignant and murderous glances were shared by Spike and Faith. Giles continued on. “The Council, well, the new one being reformed by me and others, will pay for any of your travel expenses, so don’t worry about that. I’ll get plane tickets for you today, so you can leave tonight. Get packed, Andrew.”
“Right.” The geek hurried away and then turned back. “Where are we going?”
“The Hellmouth that was, twonk,” Spike uttered shortly.
“A keen mind, lean muscle, bristling wit and cool hair and coat to boot. It will be a pleasure working with you, Spike. We shall be the First Slayer Rescue Brigade!”
Having uttered this shocking appellation, Andrew ran to get his things together.
Faith turned to Giles.
“You know the kid’s gonna get fried. If not by Blondie, then definitely by me.”
“Yeah, and plus, the last ‘trio-ship’ the boy was in worked out so very well,” Spike put in.
“Nonsense,” Giles turned away, smiling. “Andrew will be a valuable asset to your…brigade.”
“Ha, ha. Well, whatever.” Faith walked away to raid the kitchen, but Spike stopped her.
“Oi, aren’t you on the run from the cops? I don’t fancy having to dodge the men in blue wherever we end up just cause you slipped your cage.”
She shook her head, turning back towards him.
“I’m all free and clear, Spikey. Got my good-behavior card and everything.”
“The new Council arranged for her early release,” Giles explained.
Faith smiled at him and walked back toward the kitchen, he started to follow her, but Giles stopped him.
“You realize, Spike, someone is probably trying to drag you into a trap using Buffy as bait? The message would certainly suggest it anyway.”
“Not stupid, Rupes. And it could be a lot of people. Could be you, you know. You have tried to kill me before.”
“Yes, uh very true. I’m-I’m sorry for that, Spike.” Spike met Giles’ eyes. “I was wrong and I apologize. I think you- you’re different than you were.”
Spike looked amazed, but then settled back into his old, annoying skin.
“Gee, thanks. Means a lot to me, hearing you say that. Say, you think I can start calling you Dad again now that we got this new, cozy relationship thing going on?”
Grateful to have the past behind them, Giles simply glared and said,
“Come on, pretty please,” Spike cajoled.
“Go pack, Spike.”
“Got nothing to pack, Dad.”
“Go get Dawn up then.”
“Sure thing, Dad.” Spike winked and headed to bring Dawn up to speed.
Dawn was just waking up as Spike knocked.
“Hey, Bit.” Spike opened the door. “Get some news for ya. Faith, Andrew and I are leaving tonight.”
“Good ole home-town of Sunnyhell. Or what’s left of it.”
“So tell me why I’m not going? Don’t say it’s cause I’m too young.”
“You know I wouldn’t dream of it. Threaten to set me on fire again, probably. But the fact is someone’s got to hold down the fort in case Buffy shows up while we’re all out looking for her. Sides, ole Rupes would have a fit if we took you away from school and the education you so deserve and need.”
Dawn laughed at Spike’s imitation of Giles, but then sighed and got out of bed.
“You’d better let me know what’s going on every minute.”
She accompanied her request with hard pokes to his chest.
“Ow. I get the point, literally.” His face turned serious. “I’ll get her back, Dawn.”
“I know,” she said, cheerfully. “Now go so I can dress.”
He obliged, walking out to the main room to help get whatever was needed ready for them to depart and to harass Faith over her clothing decisions.
Some lines from this chapter are from the show
Chapter 3: Home is Where the Crater Is
Faith reached across Spike and smacked Andrew hard whereupon he howled and elicited another groan from Spike.
“How the bloody hell did I get stuck between you two?”
“You’re the illustrious leader,” replied Andrew, obviously still in pain.
“Like hell he’s the leader,” Faith retorted.
“What’s wrong with me as the leader then? My pants aren’t so tight that they cut off circulation to my brain.”
“Maybe not, but my brain isn’t fried from peroxide dosage, Blondie.”
“Must not be, cause a truly fried brain could come up with a much better epithet than the truly obvious.”
“Oh, and what did your marvelously fried brain come up with?” Faith asked, but before Spike could respond, Andrew clutched his head.
“Stop it, you guys. Conflict makes me nauseous.”
“Better buy a big bottle of Pepto-Bismol then, Andy,” Faith said and settled in to look for a cute flight attendant.
“Got her eyes out already. Didn’t take so very long now, did it?” Spike asked Andrew.
Faith scowled at him and thought it was going to be a long flight.
“So what are our plans then, boys?” Faith asked upon their arrival in LA.
“Stay as far away from the poof as possible and get the hell out to the Hellmouth,” Spike replied.
“I wouldn’t mind seeing ole Angel again,” Faith said, stretching luxuriously and showing ample amounts of skin to any passerby.
“But I would. I wanna keep this Buffy-missing thing on the down low, yeah? Otherwise, he’ll get Wolfram and bloody Hart on the job and I’d like to do this without the good ole, evil law firm helping.”
“Sure thing, boss,” Faith said, as much insolence as she could muster dripping from the word.
“Okay then, boy and girl, let’s rent us a wicked cool car with the Council’s money and hie us to the Hellmouth.” Spike led them to the car rental, ordering an expensive, fast model with tinted windows.
“Hold up there, Dash,” Faith said. “Sun’s coming up to make you all nice and toasty.”
“So we drive till we get to the nearest motel.”
“Your funeral. Or second funeral anyway, possibly your third,” Faith added thoughtfully.
After a long drive with Faith and Spike fighting over the radio and Andrew’s repeated insistences that he was carsick, they arrived at the town nearest to the ex-town of Sunnydale. They got some rooms at a motel and met in Faith’s to discuss their next move.
“Sun sets; we go check out what’s left,” Spike said.
“But we won’t be able to see,” Andrew whined.
“Kid’s got a point,” Faith said. “We could investigate a whole lot better during the day.”
“Yeah, without me.”
“Relax there. We’ll work it out. How about this? We go tonight, all loaded up with flashlights and take a look around. Remember, this is a crater we’re talking about. We can go back tomorrow if we need to.”
Andrew nodded enthusiastically.
“I agree with Faith. We should utilize all our options.”
“Utilize, yeah. That’s it.”
“Buck up, Blondie. Let’s all get some sleep and start out fresh and early tonight.”
Spike went to go ask the motel manager about flashlights and Faith dropped exhausted on her bed.
She hadn’t gotten much sleep lately. The Hellmouth in Cleveland was jumping. It seemed all the nasties had relocated their business there after Spike had so effectively shut down their operations here. To add to the matter, the local residents had resented the intrusion and fights between factions broke out regularly, catching bystanders in the middle.
Faith wondered at the wisdom of leaving Vi there with some even younger baby Slayers to handle matters while she was away, but there’d been little option. Of course she was going to go find Buffy. They may not have been best buds, but they were sister Slayers and Faith still had way too much making up to do to let Buffy disappear on her now. With Buffy on vacation and now AWOL, the stress of being senior Slayer was getting to her. Closing her eyes, Faith slept.
Downstairs, Spike had acquired several high power flashlights and was about to go back upstairs when he saw a figure come into the motel, hooded and cloaked so that no skin was showing. Being a vampire, it was no stretch of the imagination for Spike to jump to a conclusion, take in the empty lobby and tackle the figure. During the scuffle, the hood fell off and Spike found himself fighting his old friend, Clem.
“Clem! That you, mate?”
“I was until you started pummeling me. What’d you do that for?”
“Sorry, figured you for a vamp with the hood and all. What are you masquerading as?”
“I might not spontaneously combust under sunlight, but the people of this town don’t really buy the skin condition story.”
Spike laughed and pulled Clem to his feet.
“What are you doing here? Last I heard you were running scared from the First.”
“I was until you decided to demolish the town.”
“Nobody was in it,” Spike protested.
“Relax, it’s okay. You did the world a favor. I didn’t think anybody could do it. By the way, aren’t you supposed to be dead? Not that I’m not glad to see you.”
“Long story, mate. I’m here on some business. You?”
“I came to see if any of the stuff I left is salvageable.”
“I’ve got some others with me. We’re going down there tonight. Wanna come?”
“Sure, I’ll come.”
“Right, well, we’re getting some kip till the sun sets, so meet you down here then?”
That evening, four rested individuals got into the flashy rental car and headed towards the crater that was once Sunnydale. Once reached they realized the enormity of their task. It was pitch dark and their flashlights didn’t reach far and there was no way they were going to be able to find a way down at this time of night. Spike stubbornly insisted on searching the perimeter while they were there. Faith yielded far more graciously than normal and taking Andrew with her, headed out to the right of the parked car. Spike and Clem went the opposite direction. The loose-skinned demon went a step or two behind Spike.
“So, where’s Buffy? Not to pry, but you two seemed way close last year and I thought you’d be together if you weren’t dead.”
“Buffy’s missing, Clem.”
“What? What happened to our girl?”
“Well, we don’t know, do we? But clues seem to lead us here, so here we are, where we’ll have to come back tomorrow, sans me, apparently. There’s nothing here.”
Spike was very frustrated and almost didn’t register Clem’s next words.
“Spike! Look out!”
A large form leapt out of the darkness right at him. Spike jumped to the side and the body landed catlike, on all fours and moved towards him again. Spike moved to face it and saw it was a vampire and there were many more, surrounding him and Clem.
“Rogue!” he shouted. “Got a bit of a sitch here. Could do with some back up.”
“Bit busy, boss,” she shouted back and he could hear bone crunching accompanying her words.
“Right then,” he said. “We do it the fun way.”
Moving away from the edge, he started to fight. This was how he liked it. Few against many, odds uneven, bad elements, barely a chance for survival. Laughing aloud, he fought like a whirlwind, taking punches and dealing them out, through the mess of bodies, dusting wherever he went. Beside him, he could sense Clem using his own strength to beat down the vamps.
“Got a stake, Clem?” he asked.
“One would be nice,” Clem answered, grunting.
Leaping over the heads of several vamps and staking two on the way down, Spike handed Clem his extra.
“Thanks,” panted the demon.
“Don’t mention it,” Spike said, already back in action.
There were only a few left and by the time Faith and Andrew came running up sporting a black eye and limp arm respectively, Spike was trading blows with the last one, playing around before finally, twirling his stake with a flourish, planting it deep in the vampire’s heart.
“That was fun,” he said, grinning. “Been a long time since I fought a group. Cheers you up, you know?”
Faith nodded in agreement and smiled wickedly at him.
“Bet it makes you hungry and horny too. Let’s get back to the motel.”
“Right, cause I could use some buffalo wings. And only buffalo wings,” he answered.
“Aah, still no fun.” She seemed to pout and walked back to the car.
Andrew trailed behind her, eyes trained on her back. Or a little lower down. Who’s to say, it was dark.
On the ride back, Spike explained fully to Clem everything that had happened.
“But so far, of course, zip to see,” he concluded.
“Yeah, and sorry to bring up the obvious, but we gotta go back without ya tomorrow.” Faith glanced at him.
Spike grimaced, but nodded.
However, the next morning dawned dark, cloudy and stormy. Little rain fell, but no sun could be seen. The town’s occupants seemed mystified at the sudden change in the weather and Spike decided to risk it, over the others' protests.
“Look, I’ll take a tarp with me. And if it gets bad, I can wait in the car.”
“Not gonna go over the funeral speech again,” Faith said.
Andrew just stood there, hero-gazing.
“Yet again willing to lay down his life. Before me stands not just a man, not just a vampire, but something more. Something eternally giving-“
Spike stared at him. Andrew turned red and gestured that it was time to leave.
It felt weird to be standing over the mouth of what was once a place where they’d lived. So many memories lay buried under the rock. After careful searching, they found a place to scrabble down the steep slope. Andrew had a lot of trouble and practically fell the last ten feet.
The sight was strange from above, but down in the crater it felt even weirder. Familiar things dotted the landscape, but they were twisted, misshapen, or else exactly the same, but amidst chaos. Spike marveled at how many houses or stores stood untouched as though they’d ridden the collapse like surfers on the waves. Because of the precarious state of the ground and the still remaining hints of the Hellmouth’s energy, there hadn’t been much looting, but signs of scavengers could be seen as they walked down what used to be the main street.
“There’s the Magic Box,” Spike pointed out, almost to himself.
It was hardly recognizable, but that wasn’t too surprising seeing as it had already been destroyed by Willow and never really fixed.
“Ah, I remember it well. The hallowed ground where I encountered the forceful beauty and power of Dark Willow.” Andrew gazed dreamily.
Faith looked at him in surprise.
“Shut up! You went at it with Willow?”
“No, he didn’t,” Spike said sharply. “I may have been in Africa at the time, but Buffy told me what went down. You were cowering behind a spell Anya used to save your life.” His voice wavered as he remembered the feisty ex-demon who had been so like him and who had given her life somewhere in this rubble.
Andrew walked on awkwardly and Spike relapsed into silence. Faith broke it.
“Kinda a mess down here. What are we supposed to be looking for?”
“Dunno really,” Spike replied.
“Why don’t we start with places she liked? Somewhere she’d go,” Clem suggested.
“Good plan, mate,” Spike answered. “She’d go home. Uh, where’s Revello Drive?”
They gazed around blankly, then headed in what they thought was the general direction. And they found it, 1630 Revello Drive. Somehow, miraculously, it had survived. Perhaps some mystic patron saint of houses or some other such thing had decided this house had seen enough damage. Xander could attest to the fact it had enough windows replaced anyway. Regardless, there it sat, a silent witness of many horrors, now enjoying peace in its old age.
Of course the lawn and cement pathway and the trees were gone. Spike slowly pushed the open door and walked in. The handle was broken off. The stairs were slightly askew but intact, the dining room table was turned on its side. The glass doors to the living room were smashed and littered over the entry way. The place looked old, dead and untouched. But the second everyone was inside the house, the door closed with a bang and once again, they were surrounded by vampires.
“This is getting to be a bad habit of ours,” said Faith nonchalantly.
“Good habit more like,” Spike replied, also unconcerned.
“Think B’s weapons chest got through okay?”
“One way to find out,” Spike answered as he leapt over a couple of vamps to the living room and found it and the sofa lying side by side with Xander’s carpentry skills holding the lid closed. Faith kept the vamps away from him till he could grab a couple of swords for Andrew and Clem, throwing Faith one of the long knives she really liked and snatching an axe for himself.
Spike lost himself in the fray, but there were too many of them. As evidenced by dead Slayers all across time, so many vamps against one person, no matter how good one is, he or she will go under. Dust littered the floor, but Spike found himself on his knees held on either side by particularly strong vamps with another one at his back. Forcing his head up for a second, he saw the others in similar positions.
A tall, dark-haired vamp dressed all in black stepped in front of him and tilted Spike’s head to look at him.
“He is the One.”
“One what?” Spike asked. “One kicker of your ass? Give me a sec and then hell yeah.”
“He is the slayer.”
“Huh?” from Faith and Spike.
“Something wrong with the old eyeballs there? Not a girl here.”
“No way he’s a Slayer. I’m the Slayer, well, technically a Slayer,” Faith put in indignantly.
“Not the Slayer. The slayer. Of ours and of his.”
“Run it by me again? Who am I slaying? Wait a minute, I know you. You’re that pal of Lucius’ who ran off when I took over here.”
“Yes. I would not stay under the leadership of such a worthless heretic. You did not deserve the mantle you took nor did Angelus. I have waited to put right your misdeeds for a long time.”
“And what would those be then?” Spike asked, tensing his body.
“You desecrated an unholy icon of belief, you blasphemed in the face of tradition and you broke my rib bone. But your worst crime was killing our leader, the Anointed One.”
“What?” Spike burst out laughing. “You’re still upset cause I offed the Annoying One? Oh, please. Get an unlife.”
So saying, Spike gave a great lunge and, carrying his captors with him, jumped through a hole in the roof. They landed outside on what used to be the front lawn. Wood aplenty lay around and picking up a fragment, Spike made short work of the three he’d carried with him.
Racing back into the house he found Faith had used his escape as an opportunity to stake the vamps holding her down and Andrew had put up a valiant struggle. Clem was also doing quite well for himself. The numbers were thinned enough now that they stood a chance. Spike darted back into the mix.
Faith was fighting the leader. He had stood back from fighting as if it were beneath him, but it seemed he knew what he was doing. She ducked under his leg and caught it with her hand as it came down, twisting him to slam against the wall. He lashed out with his foot and caught her in the stomach. Staggering back, she blocked his punches and then, grabbing his shoulder, flipped him over the couch where his head banged against the weapons chest.
Stunned for a minute, he relaxed, then picking up a discarded sword, he jumped to his feet and swung it at her head. Avoiding it, she rolled to the side where her hand fell upon a crossbow. Buffy certainly deserved to be blessed for her propensity to keep lots of weapons around. Faith grabbed it and fired. Mr. Tradition was no more. But other vamps were to be had in plenty.
Andrew was in trouble and Faith rushed to help him. Clem had a vamp in each arm and threw them out the front door. Spike was easily fending off four vamps in the dining room. Only a few others remained. Then there was one.
Clem had him by the collar. Spike grabbed him and shoved him against the wall.
“Where’s the Slayer?” he asked, growling.
“Bite me,” the vamp sneered.
“Oh, you’re a clever one, aren’t you? I could, you know. Could drain all your blood and you wouldn’t die, just wander in a vegetative state until your brain fried and the sun gotcha.”
“You’d kill me anyway, no matter what I said or didn’t say. You killed the Anointed One, the child who would bring us to our rightful place, and I would never tell you, even if I knew anything.”
“Whaddaya think, Faith? Shall we see if it’s hiding in his insides?”
“Best place to start,” she replied, grinning.
“So, where’s the Slayer?”
“Don’t know; don’t care,” the vamp replied, sounding a little less self-assured.
“Were you not told cause you’re a miserable flunky?” Spike asked.
“I don't have the information you want. Now kill me and be done with it.”
Spike looked into the vamp’s eyes for a moment and then nodded.
Spike released him and started to walk away and the vamp leapt for his throat. Spike turned and, with an almost casual gesture, sank his stake into the heart. Dust exploded in a cloud around him and he brushed it off his clothes.
“Nice job, Sherlock,” Faith said. “Now what do we do?”
“Search the house,” Spike answered. “Grab anything that you want or think others would. Odds are some of your stuff is here even with what we packed up when we left the last time”.
They spread out and started to look for any clue of where Buffy might be. Faith headed directly for the weapons chest and Clem offered to look outside.
Spike treaded carefully up the rickety steps to Buffy’s room and there was the scrap of paper he was looking for; a message of where to go to next, he assumed and hoped. But he was more interested in the other aspects of the room. Buffy had been much too excited and busy to take most of her stuff before, besides clothes and pictures.
In her closet he found the black leather jacket Dawn had stolen for Buffy’s birthday. Buffy had returned it, but he’d later given Dawn the money to get it back for her. Buffy had been delighted to have it, never knowing who had actually gotten it back to her. Spike now took it to return to her.
Turning out of the closet, he stumbled on something soft and furry. Looking down he saw it was a stuffed pig, Mr….Gordo, if memory served. He recalled listening to Angelus rant about Buffy and her obsession with the stuffed pig. This too he picked up and put in his duster’s pocket.
A cursory glance of the rest of the room revealed a smashed jewelry case and the contents spread over the floor. Piecing through them, he found of all things, his skull and bones engagement ring and the silver cross he knew Angel had given her. Another pocket closeted these two items. Standing, he went back downstairs.
Andrew was in the upstairs bathroom. In a household of thirty people where he was one of the only males, seen as a nuisance and viewed with suspicion for his past deeds, this bathroom had been his fortress of solitude. Here was where he ran in times of personal grief. It was in this room that he’d finally come to terms with what he’d done to Jonathan.
Nothing could ever make it right, of course, but he’d accepted as fact what he’d done. Murdered his best friend in cold blood. It hadn’t changed the fact he was alone among hostile people and that he was about to die and rightly so, but he could deal with it.
Making it through the Battle of the Hellmouth was the hardest thing Andrew had ever done. Living in a world of adventure and romance had not prepared him for the reality of the epic battle and real life fighting for his life he’d undergone. Not through his own merit had he survived. And neither did he deserve to. He knew that, but he had anyway.
He’d expected to die. A just punishment for his action against Jonathan. But living with your crime is a harder thing than dying for it, he’d quickly found out. Giles had helped him, giving him a tentative job within the new Council, but it was Buffy and Dawn and their including him in their family that really pulled him through each day.
The past hurt. He saw the two girls suffering daily for their losses, but struggling to keep living in spite of them. The example they set forced him to follow. Andrew loved his new place in life, seen not just as Tucker’s brother or an evil genius, but as Andrew: Junior Watcher to the Senior Slayer of the Vampyres.
Standing on the broken tile, hearing it squeak beneath his feet, seeing the debris scattered over the floor, Andrew was happy. And he owed it all to one person. He thanked Jonathan for bringing him to this place. In a very majestic, flowing, long speech. Andrew was still Andrew after all.
Part of the basement had caved in, but Spike still braved his way down. He had to see it. His cot was flipped over on its side, but it was still there. The punching bag was lying useless on the floor, but, to his surprise, the caricature he’d drawn of Angel was still taped to it.
Setting the cot upright, Spike sat on the edge and gave himself up to memory. To the last night he’d been here. To Buffy’s touch, her smell. Her lips, sweet and golden. Her hands, warm and small. Her skin, smooth and soft. Her hair, silky and sliding.
It had been a night to remember. A night he would treasure. Not just because of the physical touch or pleasure, that he’d known and valued before though never in such a tender way. But the connection, the sharing. Buffy had never been good at communicating verbally or communicating at all except through the pointy end of a stake. But the night before, when he had just held her in that strange house, they’d finally connected. By doing nothing at all but being with each other.
Then the night before he'd died, they’d more than connected, they’d loved. He had cherished her with all the passion and affection she had never before allowed. She had shown him the depth of her trust. She had told him she loved him and he had believed her.
So why he felt he had to not believe her down in the cavern he didn’t know. Maybe he thought it would make it easier on them both. But whatever the reason, he knew with all his being, sitting on a cot in a caved in basement in a broken down house in the bottom of a crater, that Buffy loved him and he loved her. End of story. Except for the part where he had to find her again and all.
Spike rejoined the others.
“I’ve got what we need. Let’s go.”
It was sad and fitting to be walking out of that house after one last brawl. The storm was breaking up outside with an uncanny speed, so they hastened to the cliff face. Climbing up was harder, especially with the stuff they carried, but they all made it, even Andrew, and got to the car before Spike crispy fried.
“So what do we do now, O Finder of Clues?” Andrew asked.
Spike took the scrap of paper out of his pocket and handed it to Faith. She read:
“ ‘Traveled here to find what you lost,
What you gained; was it worth the cost?’
Spike, this is all about you.”
“Yeah, I’m getting that,” he replied.
“So where are you headed?” asked Clem.
“Africa,” Spike said, his grip tightening on the wheel.
“Just where I’ve always wanted to go!”
Andrew bounced in the backseat, gaining a glare from Faith.
Spike called Giles that night to fill him in on what had happened.
“Do you think the vampire attack is connected to Buffy’s disappearance?”
“Oh yeah. Vamps were waiting and apparently had been for a long time. All because I did the world a favor and fried the creepy kid.”
“Be on your guard. This is starting to look like a very well formed plan. The strategy of it is unclear to me. What do you think is the reason?”
The request took Spike off guard for a minute, but he quickly recovered.
“Off me for things I’ve done. I know you Scoobies like to feel I’m your personal scape-goat demon for wronging you, but despite your megalomaniacal pride, you’re not the only people I’ve ticked off over the years.”
“Point taken. We’ll have to ponder this some more. Keep me updated.”
There was silence on the line before Giles awkwardly asked,
“Would you like to speak to Dawn?”
“Short version is we found loads of vamps, no Buffy and are going to Africa.”
“Xander’s in Africa,” she informed him cheerfully.
“What part?” he dreaded the answer.
She told him.
“Looks like he can probably expect a visit from us. We’ll be right about that part.”
“Have fun,” Dawn said sweetly.
“None of your bloody lip, Bit, or I’ll come back to Rome and really drink from your brain stem. Got the chip out now, I could do it.”
“I’m so scared,” she returned, not sounding impressed in the slightest.
“Do me a favor, don’t tell him I’m back, yeah? Wanna surprise him.”
“I always knew you were still evil,” she answered, seemingly not adverse to the idea at all.
The next night Spike said farewell to Clem in what passed for a bar in the tiny motel.
“So, we’ll be seeing ya,” Spike told his old friend.
Clem smiled, and Spike knew more thought than one would’ve imagined ran through the mind behind his friend's simple appearance.
“Find Buffy. The two of you got some catching up to do and I have some catching up to do with my TV. Tell her hi and all that and that I’m still off the kittens.”
“Girl’s a bloody reformer. She even got you off the kittens.” He shook his head. “Well, then, so long.”
Chapter 4: Run From the Camo Tweed
If anybody looked out of place in Africa, it was Andrew. Faith could fit her way in anywhere and Spike had traveled the world for over a hundred years, but Andrew equaled the proverbial sore thumb.
“Where to, boss?”
It was amazing the lack of respect Faith could infuse into that word.
“Well, I got my ruddy soul in some caves over yonder in the next village. Actual tents and tribal customs, that sort of thing. But I think we should show up on Harris’ doorstep and watch him die of disappointment because I’m alive.”
“Ooh, let’s do see Xander. I wish to tell him about our heroics in Sunnydale.”
“One vote then.” Spike looked at Faith who appeared slightly green. “Whaddaya say, Rogue?”
“Whatever you say, boss,” she replied.
Spike’s memory caught up with his perception and he simply said,
“K then, let’s go.”
Faith was not comfortable around Xander. It made sense. When you try to kill a guy that you’d slept with, when he’s trying to stop you from killing others, a certain amount of discomfort is to be expected when you show up at his house without warning. But it had been like that for awhile now. Even when they’d lived under the same roof in Sunnydale she hadn’t been at ease. Sure, she'd made wisecracks about having him before Anya, but that was all for show. To make it seem like she was okay and over it.
But Faith wasn’t over it. It had been a relief when after the battle they had all split up and she was far away from anyone she’d wronged. It gave her a chance to adjust to her newfound life without having to constantly fear she would trip some wire and cause the whole mess to come tumbling down on her head. While she wouldn’t exchange not being in jail anymore, it had been a place where she could quietly deal with her issues. And just because she was free now didn’t mean she was suddenly a cheerfully well-adjusted person.
It would be unnerving to see Xander. But Faith reminded herself of all the conversations she’d had with Angel on this subject, usually involving Barry Manilow in some way or another, and squared her shoulders. She might not handle it perfectly, but she could handle it.
Xander was working with the local people in dealing with the erratic Slayer problems they had had since Willow’s spell months before. He was doing that and trying to forget his own stupidity and the loss of Anya. Time and the environment had done wonders for him. He looked younger, healthier and more stylish than he had in a couple of years and the eye patch gave him a rakish look. He wasn’t perfect and he wasn’t singing in the shower, but he’d grown up. This was evidenced by the fact that when he opened the door and saw the First Slayer Rescue Brigade in all their travel worn glory, he simply raised an eyebrow, saying,
“Oh hell, she told you after all,” Spike grumbled as they went inside.
“Who told me what? Oh, no, I had no clue you guys were coming or that you weren’t dust at the bottom of the Hellmouth. Which, by the way, wow.”
“Didn’t suit me. How’ve you been?”
“How do I look?” He spread his arms wide.
“Quite good, actually. Africa agrees with you, mate.”
“Looking good enough to eat there, Xan.”
“You look like you’re all dressed up with nobody to jump,” Xander replied, observing her clothes.
“You offering?” she asked.
“I would, but last time my neck got kinda roughed up and I’m thinking it’s in too delicate a shape to risk that again.”
Faith actually flushed and stammered out,
“Yeah, I guess I have that effect.”
Xander smiled, not unkindly and turned to the others.
“So, what brings you all to deepest, darkest South Africa? To see me, ah, you really shouldn’t have.”
Spike explained their mission to him with Andrew interjecting lots of unnecessary comments. Xander’s mouth tightened and his eye narrowed.
“I’ll help. What do you need?”
“Not sure really. But come with us to the caves tonight and we’ll have us a finding out party.”
“Will do.” Xander shivered. “This is all very, very backwards. Buffy rescues me; that’s how it works.”
“Times are rough indeed,” soothed Andrew. “But surely with our combined efforts, our lost one will not be lost to us much longer.”
“Sure. So, can I get you guys something? We’re all about the creature comforts here.”
“Look at the little domestic. Sure, be nice.”
“Ooh, let me help. I’ve improved greatly in my culinary skills since the tomato incident. Xander and I can create artistic masterpieces for you all and catch up-a lot.”
Xander did not look greatly pleased at Andrew’s suggestion, but nevertheless, ushered him into the kitchen.
Spike and Faith thankfully sat on something that wasn’t an airplane seat.
“My sleep pattern’s so off, I might as well be a vamp too,” she said, exhausted.
“Well, isn’t that what Slayers are? Vamps without the disabilities?”
“I guess.” She chewed her lip. “You know, it’s funny, I never thought about it before. Just grabbed the power and ran with it. Never thought about where it came from.”
“I know the feeling. Try waking up one morning and realizing you can kill every single person who’s ever gotten on your nerves and then doing it. After you claw your way out of your grave, that is.”
Spike idly fingered his smokes before lighting up and tossing her the pack.
“Our pasts ain’t so dissimilar, huh?” she said, tossing them back and her eyes flicked toward the kitchen where sounds of dish-breaking could be heard.
“Except I didn’t sleep with him before I tried to kill him. Thank God.”
Faith’s eyes shot back to his, then she relaxed.
“Don’t miss much, do ya, Blondie?”
“No, my eyes quite frequently channel amazing things back to my follically-fired brain.”
“You weren’t around for that episode. How’d you hear about it?”
“What, you think Buffy and I never talked? We did do things other than screw each other’s brains out, ya know. Before we even did that, she’d come to my crypt and we’d just talk. She needed it...” His voice trailed off, then he refocused. “So you see, I know all your dirty little secrets.”
“Big deal, so does my shrink.”
“Advice then. Don’t sweat the Xander thing. The boy’s done some major growing up. If he can be civil to me, you’re home and clear.”
“I’m not expecting miracles. No amount of prison can make up for anything I did.”
“And no amount of saving the world can for me. But you know, it’s past. Angel can brood about his crimes all he likes. I’m gonna accept that I did them and move on. That’s called dealing with it. We say we’re sorry like good children and don’t do it again. Coming with?”
“You’re not suggesting some weird, ex-villain accountability club, are you?” Faith asked in horror.
“You bloody daft? You think I want to hear Andrew yammering on about club dues and who gets to hold the red rod of atonement this week? Not bloody likely.”
“Good point.” She relaxed, grinning. “Let’s just muddle on through by ourselves.”
“I’m with you,” he told her.
She rolled her eyes at him.
“So tell me, why did I get two souled vampires for my mentors?”
“Well, obviously with me you know it's a reward. But cause you got Captain Forehead too, well, somebody up there can’t make up their mind about you.”
“I can,” Xander said, entering the room alone. “I know both of you have changed. So have I. Now can we drop it?”
“What? No thrashing out the past and abject apologies for trying to kill each other?” Spike asked cheekily.
“Works for me,” Faith said, putting her feet up.
“Works for us all,” said Xander.
“Let’s eat then,” said Spike. “You got blood, right?”
Unlike Spike, Xander used his influence with the tribal chief to gain entrance to the caves. As they went in, Andrew’s eloquence waxed glorious over the ancient pictures on the cave walls. They had flashlights, but it was still difficult to see.
“Wish I had my bloody lighter,” Spike muttered.
“Where’d you leave it, Poor Big Man Missing the Bitty Lighter?” Xander asked.
“Shut up, whelp, remember you’re a nummy treat now,” Spike infused quite a bit of sarcasm into that remark. “Don’t know where it is. I remember using it back in Sunnyhell the night before I, you know, saved the world.”
“You’d think with all that self-sacrifice and burning up to death, you’d have remembered something as important as that,” Xander admonished.
“Funny how your mind plays tricks on you like that when your organs are liquefying and your skin is disintegrating into ash.” Spike turned away into the interior of the cave. “Oi, Lurky. Got a mo for an old client?”
There was a moment and then something moved in the shadows. Two gleaming eyes of aquamarine glimmered in the dark and a deep, raspy voice answered him.
“What is it you seek now, vampire? You have your soul. You have no chip. The girl you desire loves you. What more do you need?”
“Well, the fairytale ending kinda got suckered by the girl being missing and all. You know something about that?”
“Insolence. I am not the cosmic answer for every slight difficulty you face, vampire! I see many things, but I know nothing of this. Now be gone!”
Blue light flared from the eyes and, blinking, the four found themselves outside the caves.
“You sure told him, boss.”
“Whatever are we to do now? Ah, the universal question that haunts us,” Andrew pondered.
“We wait. Not a favorite stratagem of mine, but the only one I got.”
“How not Spike this is of you. I’m disappointed.” Xander seemed to be in shock.
“Don’t know what you’re complaining about. You get three lovely house guests in the meantime.”
Spike wanted to laugh because apparently that hadn’t occurred to Xander before, but his face grew resolved probably because of Buffy.
Three steps from Xander’s, Spike was shot with an arrow that embedded itself two inches from his heart. Faith caught him as he fell, his weight taking her low enough to miss the bullet that would’ve smashed into her skull. A gun appeared like magic in Xander’s hand and he moved in front of them so Faith could drag Spike into the house. As soon as he was in, she returned outside and Andrew took over watching out for Spike. He was already on his feet, but it's a lot harder to bear arrow wounds in places where a good joggle could cause it to dust you than it looks.
More shots rang out. Figures showed slightly against the moonlight in a ring surrounding the house. Faith ducked behind a column supporting the tiny house, Xander was behind its twin on the other side.
“Slayers are strong; we ain’t invulnerable. We gotta get inside,” she called to him.
“Yeah, with you there,” he agreed as a bullet narrowly missed his left ear. During a pause in the shooting, they ducked inside and Andrew slammed shut the door and locked it. Spike had done the same to the back door and put something in front of the two small windows.
“I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say someone doesn’t like you very much,” Xander told the wounded Spike.
“He always was an observant lad,” Spike said to nobody in particular. “Let’s get on with the taking out of the arrow in my bloody heart!”
“Uh, it’s not in your heart, Spike,” Andrew good-naturedly corrected. “If it were you’d be dead and dust by now.”
“Thanks, Captain Anatomy. Just get it out!”
“Done,” said Faith, ripping it out of him. “Feel better?”
“Oh, ever so,” Spike managed, gasping with pain. “Much better than the time Captain Cardboard shiskebobbed me with his plastic stake.”
“Riley did what?” Xander asked.
“Boy got himself a toy plastic stake and played target practice with my vital organ. It was during his dark phase, playacting at being low enough for Buffy.” Spike thought a moment. “That didn’t come out right. Don’t tell her I said that.”
“Just filed for blackmail,” Xander assured him.
“Well, you can wire congrats to Soldier-Boy later. Now we got a siege and an arrow wound.”
Xander helped him sit down and Faith began dressing the wound and examining it for stray splinters. Xander started to turn away and then stopped.
“I wouldn’t have congratulated him, Spike. That was- it was-“
“Twisted wrong, man,” Faith put in. “I’ve been there, I know.”
“What she said - without the having done it part.”
Spike looked surprised, but pleased at Xander’s agreement with Faith’s assessment.
“All patched up, Blondie.” Faith helped him sit up.
“Bedside manner’s quite refreshing there, luv. Maybe you missed your real calling and the whole Slayer thing’s supposed to be a side gig.”
“Thanks for the affirmation, but let’s save it till after we figure out who the hell is shooting at us.”
“You like to take all the fun out of unlife,” he said.
“I could be wrong,” Xander said, “but I thought I saw several people dressed in…tweed.”
“Tweed?” asked Spike and Faith, incredulously.
“Tweed,” he confirmed.
“Call Giles,” Spike instructed.
Xander nodded and crawled across the floor to the telephone.
“Call the police while you’re at it.”
“Silly, silly Californian girl,” Andrew condescended. “They don’t have police over here.”
As Faith went to twist Andrew’s ears off and he whimpered like a little girl, Xander brightened.
“But they do have a special team of mystics who could help. I’ll see if they can’t do a shield thingy like Willow did when the crazy knights were after Dawn.” He dialed a number and started speaking in a primitive dialect.
Andrew, running from Faith, stopped to stare at Xander in respect, a little of Andrew’s hero-worship seeming to transfer from Spike to Xander in homage of his new linguistic capabilities.
“Five minutes or so,” Xander said, hanging up the phone.
“Don’t got them. Door’s not gonna hold that long,” Faith said.
A few tense moments passed as the shooting got closer and footsteps resounded around the house. Then there was a whooshing sound and the bullets stopped hitting the house. A shout went up from outside. Xander crawled to the door and looked out.
“Definite shield-age,” he said in triumph, “and we got us a stowaway inside.”
“Well, bring them on in to join the party. Maybe they can tell us why we’re having it in the first place.” Faith grinned wickedly.
Xander smiled back and, going outside, hauled in a dark figure dressed in what can only be described as camo tweed.
He was a man in his late forties, with pale yellow hair and paint on his cheeks. Defiance on his face, he struggled with Xander and made a break for the door. In one casual motion, Spike stuck out his foot and the man tripped and fell headlong. Faith picked him up easily and plopped him on the couch, tying his hands with a roll of duct tape handed to her by Xander.
“Easy there, Tweedy-Bird, we just wanna talk,” she said, ripping the tape with her teeth.
“Harris, check to see that the shield is actually keeping the rest of these blighters out,” Spike said, settling himself down more comfortably, vampire healing already in effect.
“Right.” Xander headed outside moving cautiously while Andrew watched the door.
“You won’t be able to defeat us. We represent a cause greater than you know,” their captive said in a tell-tale British accent.
“Cripes, how did I know it was the Tweed-Brigade?” Spike asked himself, sighing.
“I will not listen to that thing speak. He is a monster.”
“And was before you were born, mate. Don’t bother me none, what’s eating you then?” Spike smiled. His smile was friendly and quite soulful - to use an old term - but there was a dangerous edge to it, a primal force that the Watcher could easily see. Spike knew it made him nervous. Spike was, after all, one of the worst recorded vampires in history, few could match his kill ratio, none his Slayers destroyed.
Spike could almost see the man deciding appearances had to be kept up and to nobly give his life for the cause if necessary.
“What is eating me, as you punningly put it, is the fact that you are yet not breathing, William the Bloody. We of the Council have put it upon ourselves to make sure you are dust so that not one more life may be taken by you.”
“You boys still got the old data then. I’m good now. Though it’s a work in progress.” Spike showed teeth, completely human, but the message got through.
The man gulped but obviously strove to speak smoothly.
“Whatever you think you will gain from your facade is pointless. We will see justice done.”
“I’m curious,” Faith put in. “You deal out justice for human types too, Slayer types even, cause I remember some of your types coming after me, me being a murderer and all. I can understand that, back then. But if I’m not mistaken, the Council was the thing that got the law off my back. Doing a little renegade on your down time?”
“We do not serve that bunch of traitors,” he spat out. “We serve the true meaning of what the Council was formed for. We will see it carried out through whatever means necessary, and yes, you will be one of our cases, though not yet. First, we deal with the vampire.”
“Bang up job there,” Spike told him. “Still kicking, if not alive.”
“It will happen, if not by us, then by others.”
“Right, well, bored with this conversation. Andrew, call Giles.”
“I’m on it, Fearless Leader.”
Andrew reached for the phone and called Rome. Giles answered the phone rather groggily. Andrew perkily relayed what was going on and then handed the phone to Faith.
“Yeah, here’s the sitch: looks like they’re gunning for Blondie here. Know of any Council used-to-bes running around looking for vengeance?”
“Well, certainly yes. There were factions of the old remnant left when we reformed the Council and they were most displeased with our new policies. I don’t know any who would band together to join this, whatever it is. It seems to be a most intricate conspiracy, though.”
Xander came back through the door.
“Shield’s doing great. No one can get in or out. How’s the interrogation going?”
“Well, Watchers don’t like me. Nothing new. Giles maybe can give us the skinny. Rogue, let him talk to Tweed-man here.”
Faith stuck the phone to the Watcher’s ear and he grudgingly said,
Spike listend to both sides of the conversation.
“Briars?” came Giles’ astonished voice.
“Rupert,” was the reply.
“Whatever are you doing?”
“What must be done. You know what happened to me. You remember Vienna, the orphanage. I was young but I saw what this thing did to our team, to the children, Rupert.”
“Oh, come off it,” Spike interrupted, looking a little green at the reminder. “I can’t take it back and killing me won’t either.”
“But it will be justice done,” Briars shouted.
“It will be vengeance that will eat at you for nothing,” Giles answered bitterly. “The past must be allowed to remain in the past or it will control you.”
“I refuse to speak about it any further,” Briars replied. “Let them kill me or no.”
Faith took the phone back.
“So, Giles, what do you think?”
“I’m not sure. There are others outside, you say?”
“Well, wait till morning, take the shield down and return to the caves. That seems to be the location used to lure you down. It must have some importance.”
“Got it, G. Thanks.” Faith hung up and turned to the others. “Let’s ride out the storm.”
By morning, Spike was in full fighting form, a bit slow perhaps, but that didn’t matter seeing as there was no one to fight. As the sun came up and the village’s occupants emerged to go about their day, the unseen assailants disappeared leaving the disheveled Briars behind. This did not seem to surprise or worry him.
“The shield won’t last long past dawn,” Xander said tiredly, his face drawn from lack of sleep.
“Looks like we won’t need it past then,” Faith answered, yawning. “They’re gone.”
“You lot get some sleep,” Spike told them, concern he tried to hide showing on his face. “I got more rest than you and I’ll keep an eye on the Avenger Watcher here. Maybe we’ll have us something to talk about.”
The other three wearily agreed and Xander sent Faith into his tiny bedroom. He and Andrew, as far apart as possible, took the couch, while Spike settled his charge in the darkened kitchen. Briars slumped in his chair, the camouflage paint melting in rivulets down his face as the day grew warmer, and glared at the vampire in front of him who didn’t feel the heat.
“Right then,” Spike started, “you don’t like me and I can appreciate that. I really can. But when it comes down to you kidnapping an innocent bystander in order to get to m-“
“She’s no innocent,” Briars growled in protest.
“So you know who I’m talking about? Goody, we caught us no stupid flunky here, but a real high up general.” Spike’s voice smacked of satisfaction. Briars’ eyes grew wide as he realized what he’d given away. “Ah, well, no use denying it. You know where the Slayer, name of Buffy, is, or what happened to her.”
“I have no idea where she is,” Briars replied defiantly.
“That’s funny, cause you know, I’ve never been much for torture. Angel’s gig, not mine. But all of a sudden, I feel a new passion for learning coming on.”
Spike’s face flickered and in the dim light the other man wouldn't be able to see it properly, but he could surely detect a yellow gleam where the eyes should be and would know what happened. Briars blanched and he swallowed hard, but he held onto his answer stubbornly.
“I do not know where she is. No one does.”
“Who’s no one?”
“No one I know. We all knew of her disappearance, but not where to.”
“How’d she disappear? How’d they get her?” Spike’s voice was incredulous. “Tell me how the Slayer was brought down by a bunch of Watchers and don’t tell me it involved Giles and a green card. That excuse is a mite worn out, mate.”
Briars bristled when Spike called him mate, but responded wearily.
“Everyone has their weaknesses. She happens to have one connected with the Council.”
“Of course she’s got bloody weaknesses. Believe me, I’m the one who gets to see them. Tell me how you know about them, Council-man.”
Briars shut his mouth.
“I refuse to speak with you any longer.”
Spike smiled lazily and casually draped his arm across Briars’ shoulders, bringing his demonic face up close to his.
“Well, that’s too bad now. If you knew me, you’d know I just love to talk and I get really violent when people try to stifle that.”
Briars sighed and seemed to undergo a violent inner struggle before replying.
“There’s a test all Slayers undergo at the age of eighteen to ensure their capability as the Slayer-”
Spike snapped his fingers.
“Right, told me all about that, she did. So, you used this strength-reducing magic potion on her.”
“Yes, we provided that information. It was given to her indiscriminately through public service and when she went to meet her opponent, she had no strength to resist.”
“So the Immortal is behind this.” Spike grimaced. “I bleeding knew it. That sodding wanker.”
“I never said that,” Briars said sharply.
“Who snatched her then? Or them both?”
“I am not privy to that information. All I know is that she is being held in a secure location and we are to dispose of you and any others helping you.”
“That’s going well,” Spike said absently.
He was thinking. One of the benefits of being as honest and truthful as he sometimes forced himself to be was that he was hard to lie to. When you hold to the truth and only the truth, painful though it is, you recognize it in others and can clearly see their motivations.
People had often attributed Spike’s incredible perception to supernatural means. They would say it was a special vampire trick or a spell. But it was simply his decision to never lie to himself or others that lent him the ability to pierce through the confusing fog of people’s intentions and get to the root of their feelings. That's not to say he never lied or repressed, but he’d rather face something head on, unflinchingly, then to blunder around in self-inflicted justifications. He needed to know the truth, to know how people really felt. Feelings and truth were his strengths, that and a wicked sense of humor, vampire constitution and incredible good looks, of course.
So Briars wasn’t lying. That meant Buffy truly needed to be rescued and as soon as it was dark, they needed to get the caves to find out where she was being held from the other Watchers, kick their asses and maybe get out of this incredibly hot country with all the sun.
“You’ve been a big help, really and I feel very close to you now,” he told Briars, who blanched. Spike moved to the tiny refrigeration unit and pulled out some blood. Briars watched Spike with incredible distaste as he gulped down the thick liquid. Spike smiled at Briars with blood-stained lips.
“Want some? Or how about donating a little to the cause?”
“Never!” Briars spat out.
“Relax, mate. Your blood’s probably not very tasty anyhow. You’re safe for now. Better get some shut-eye before dark though, you’ve had a rough night.”
Briars shuddered as Spike grinned and drank the rest of the blood.
As soon as the sun went down the foursome were once again on their way to the caves, this time dragging Briars along with them. The moon shone brightly, lighting up the sand as if it were day, casting shadows from the scrub bushes and natural rock piles scattered around.
Of all people it was Andrew who noticed the moon light gleaming off the shotgun barrels and he tackled Spike, sending him to the ground as it went off and forcing Spike to release his hold on Briars who scrambled to rejoin his companions. Spike swore under his breath and pulled Andrew behind an outcropping of rock. The hit to the ground had banged his chest, digging deep into the arrow wound from the night before. It took Spike a moment to get his bearings and when he found them, he saw Faith and Xander had joined them under shelter.
“Getting real sick of this ambush thing, boss,” Faith said.
“Really? Well, just pop on out and tell the nice Watchers that.” Spike gestured to the fanatic, well-aiming Watchers. “I’m sure they’ll stop in a jiffy if you just say so.”
“Got any ideas besides smart comments, Dead Boy?” Xander asked him.
“Let’s end it.”
So saying, Spike leapt from his hiding position, soared through the air and landed in the middle of the Watchers. They grabbed at him, each anxious to be the one to end him, their zeal stealing from them the rational thoughts that would’ve told them to just blow his head off and be done with it.
Xander pulled out a pair of guns from his pockets and handed one to Andrew.
“Don’t worry about hitting Spike,” Xander told the wide-eyed Andrew. “Just get as many Watchers out of the game as possible.”
Andrew nodded, his eyes set and determined in his task. He probably would’ve made a grand speech too, only there wasn’t time.
The three launched themselves into the fight, guns blazing. They won the day, as the Watchers had recovered some of their senses and were starting to employ their guns. There were about twenty of them and probably as many as ten were dispatched by the gun skills of Xander and Andrew. Of course Spike was doing just fine and with Faith at his side, soon every Watcher was dead or unconscious.
“Barely worth it.” Spike straightened up, grinning and examining about five bullet holes scattered over his person. “But good exercise.”
Xander rolled his eyes and collected guns from the fallen.
“What should we do with them?”
“Leave the dead, take the wounded to the village. Blondie and I will go back to the caves,” Faith instructed, holding her right arm tightly, staunching the blood from her own bullet wounds. Xander nodded and he and Andrew went to work.
Spike and Faith walked to the caves and almost immediately spotted an identical paper to the two they already had. Spike picked it up from under a rock and they read:
‘Second Hell; you’ve never been,
But the dark one there atones her sin.’
“Bloody interesting that,” Spike commented. “But I’m stumped now. What’s it mean?”
“We’re going home,” Faith replied. “To Cleveland.”
“I get it now.” Spike smiled, proud of himself. “Writer’s almost as bad as I am. I’d bet you anything Cecily’d never take him over me.”
“You write? Who’s Cecily? Spill the details of that dirty secret, boss,” Faith prodded, catching the hints of a story Spike had unwittingly thrown her.
“Not while you’re breathing,” he answered and they headed back to help the other two, Faith bugging him the whole time to reveal his closet writing habits.
Xander and Spike made a clandestine visit to the village healing rooms and did a little interrogating. All the Watchers said the same as Briars. Spike sighed in frustration on the way back to Xander’s hut.
“Either we killed the ones with the know-how or they’re the best bloody liars I’ve ever seen.”
“Take it easy, you’ve got where to head to next,” Xander comforted Spike and nearly fell over backwards at the thought of it.
“Another place, another fight, no Buffy. This little chase-the-badly-written-clues game is getting real old.”
Xander nodded, thinking of who they were looking for.
“It’s the Buffster, though. I wish I could go with you guys to help, bad company notwithstanding.”
“Keep it up, whelp,” Spike said, smacking Xander upside the head in the same way he had in the hospital in Sunnydale during the Glory episode. This time, however, only Xander held his head in pain. But it was mock pain more than anything else; Spike’s hand was gentler than his earlier self.
“If we didn’t need you right now, I gag at the thought, I’d go back to staking you,” Xander told him.
“Yeah, you always did that so well,” Spike replied, grinning. “I almost miss it.” Spike turned suddenly serious and hesitated before speaking again. “Speaking of old staking attempts, I’m sorry about Anya.” Xander looked uncomfortable. “We weren’t trying to hurt you. We both were hurting and took comfort in the other, that’s all. She was a bloody great woman, spoke what others thought, like me, and I’m sorry for your loss. For all our loss.”
Spike looked about as disturbed as Xander felt, but they both walked in silence for awhile, digesting Spike’s words.
“Forget it,” Xander finally replied. “Thank you.” Then with more zest, “But what happened to the no digging up the past?”
“Oh right. Sorry. Won’t do it again.”
“This one’s for the diary, Spike apologized twice in as many minutes. Gotta remember that,” Xander teased.
“The strong, rakish, manly man keeps a diary?” Spike inquired, a dry edge to his voice.
They updated Giles on what had happened and he promised to send them the antidote for the strength-reducer Buffy had been sedated with. Hanging up the phone, Spike turned to Xander and stuck out his hand.
“We’ll see you later, mate. Gotta keep hunting.”
“Let me know what’s going on,” Xander said, shaking Spike’s pro offered hand.
“Sure thing.” Spike put on his duster and waited by the door.
Faith slapped Xander’s hand and offered an apologetic shrug of her shoulders. Xander nodded, both of them understanding that the past was now the past. Andrew grabbed Xander in a bone-crunching hug and promised to write him long letters giving intimate details of The Great Buffy Search executed by the First Slayer Rescue Brigade. And then they were gone, headed to Cleveland, where, Faith reflected, at least she’d have her own bed.
Chapter 5: Hellbound Rebound
Faith stepped off of the runway into Vi’s waiting arms. Faith was still uncomfortable with the nervous redhead’s eager, touchy-feely-ness, but she understood that Vi had been through a lot in the Sunnydale experience and was anxious to be with anybody who had known her there and who could help her to feel comfortable. Vi was obviously less anxious to see Spike, who she had been majorly scared of during their training time. However, being a Slayer had matured her confidence amazingly and she gave him a shy wave and accepted Andrew’s hug.
“So, you guys couldn’t-couldn’t find Buffy?”
“No, but we’d appreciate a good sleep before we do find her,” Spike said a bit shortly.
Spike’s nerves were drawing taut over the dead ends they kept finding. Good fights, oh yeah, traveling the world, that too, but not finding Buffy, not good. He couldn’t take it and he was about to snap. Faith could tell, having had some experience with snapping herself, and she knew that one mis-timed word from Andrew would have the nerd at the bottom of the deep ravine she and Spike had spied from an airplane window and thought would be a good place to hide Andrew’s body.
“Let’s just get Blondie here back to the house and pick up again in the morning, ok, Vi?”
The Slayer nodded and led the way to the car.
They drove through the silent streets with occasional sounds of a brawl drifting in through the open windows, capably being taken care of by their sister Slayers. Five Slayers lived there permanently with others dropping in. It was sort of a home port for them, a chance to learn and grow with Faith and experience a lot of demonic activity not found in other parts of the world, unless one were in Eastern Europe.
They pulled up to the two-story house that Faith rented with the other girls; it was a bit cramped for them, but they managed with the money the new Council paid them. Spike stalked thankfully into the house and dropped into the first chair he saw.
“Boys, there’s a basement you can share.” Faith showed them the way to the stairs.
“Why’s it always the ruddy basement?” Spike asked, sounding frustrated. “I mean, why can’t people stash me in the attic or the shed or something? How about a laundry room, then? They’re nice, I hear.”
Faith laughed heartily.
“Don’t worry, boss. This basement’s got all the creature comforts a guy who used to live in a crypt could want.”
They descended the stairs and found an ample living space with actual beds there. It had been converted to be a room for the girls who were passing through and was quite comfortable. Spike and Andrew relaxed and Andrew flung himself onto a bed, testing its bouncing capabilities.
“Pillow fight, Spike!” he said excitedly.
Spike shot him a glare and like a true vampire, lay himself on the bed with his hands across his breast and slept like the dead.
Faith shook her head.
“Sorry, Andy, looks like you’ll have to hit yourself with that pillow. Just don’t make any noise.”
Andrew nodded, hyper from all the time-change, and settled himself quietly into his bed before shooting up again and asking the departing Faith,
“Wait! I need a tooth brush. With all the excitement my teeth haven’t been cleaned properly since Rome!”
The next morning they sat down to breakfast, Spike enjoying a mugful of steaming blood mixed with Wheatabix he’d intimidated Vi into running to the store for. Faith was wolfing down bacon and eggs like no one’s business. Vi sipped a protein shake slowly, turning up her nose at the flavor, but stubbornly getting it down anyway. Andrew maneuvered toast toward his mouth with a casual precision and then ruined the effect by making loud yummy noises upon the taste. The other Slayers were still in bed, resting from their labors of the previous night.
“So…what are you guys gonna do?” Vi asked.
“We could use your help, Vi,” Faith told her.
The red-head nodded.
“Of course. But you guys know what’s going on, not me. So what do we do?”
“Where’s the exact location of the Hellmouth, Rogue?”
“Under a dinky little market off Fifth and Quarterly,” she answered.
“Well, second Hell means second Hell, so let’s start there. You got sewers - good ones - here?”
“Not quite like the vamp playground you’re used to. Cleveland didn’t have quite the visionary Sunnydale did.” Faith’s face twisted up a little bit at this oblique mention of the Mayor, but she shook it off. Spike noted it like he noted everything, but he ignored it. Everything took back seat to finding Buffy.
“You think we could go there now or should we wait till nightfall?”
“We should wait. There’s a blocked-in area in every direction around it for a mile. Somebody’s idea of containment. Not vamp-friendly.”
Spike sighed, but nodded.
“You guys should rest,” Vi put in timidly. “I don’t know what you guys have been through, but it looks like it was rough.”
“Tell me about it.” Faith gingerly put her hand on the still tender bullet wound on her right arm. “Rest sounds fab right now.”
“Then tonight we’ll be five by five and ready to kick some demon ass, right, Faith?” Andrew asked eagerly.
She stared at him for a moment and then laughed.
“Spike, you and I are a bad influence on him.”
“Hey!” Andrew shot back. “I am way worthy of my own influencing. Buffy taught me how to defend myself and Giles showed me how to shoot and I am eighty percent more manly than before. Which is really good and cool, like a movie where the underdog rises up through hard work, perseverance and a montage to beat the bully terrorizing his old neighborhood.”
Vi almost looked impressed, which was unusual, considering she knew all about Andrew and had lived in the same house with him.
Spike and Faith just looked at each other and walked toward the basement to train. There wasn’t much room down there, but it would be enough to warm them up for whatever the night would hold.
“Whatever happened to resting?” Andrew asked in bewilderment.
Later that day a knock sounded on the front door and Vi went to answer it. As she pulled it open there was a whooshing sound and something flickered in her sight, but when she turned to look, no one was there.
Vi shivered, but forced herself to relax and reach out with her senses. Something had been there, some force, but it was gone now. Looking down, she spied a crisp white envelope addressed to William the Bloody. Frowning, she picked it up and carried it downstairs.
Entering the basement, she saw Spike fly to the other end and hit the wall with a smash. Vi gasped, thinking an enemy was around, but all she saw was Faith, panting and laughing.
Then there was a whirl of motion and she saw Faith with her arms stretched out behind her clenched in Spike’s grip, his right leg draped across hers keeping them from moving and his teeth buried in her neck.
“Dude, so against the rules,” Faith snapped, body relaxed.
Vi relaxed too.
“And so was that stunt you pulled back there, luv,” he replied, letting go.
“You asked for it, Blondie,” she told him, grinning.
“Been around a lot longer than you, pet. I know that game.” Spike looked up and saw Vi standing there. “What’s up, ducks?”
“S-somebody left this message,” she answered, blushing. “But I think they have the wrong house. Do we know William the Bloody?”
Spike laughed heartily.
“Why, Flower, I’m surprised at you, not knowing one of the most infamous vampires in recorded history! Tsk! Somebody gets a bad training award, Rogue.”
Faith shoved Spike hard.
“As if she needs to know about your sorry-ass past.”
“It’s y-you?” Vi asked, blushing even harder, especially over her new name.
“Absolutely, pet. Let’s have it then.”
Vi handed him the envelope and he opened it to reveal an ornate flowing script that read:
‘William the Bloody,
What you seek will not be found the way you think it will. Bring the Slayer and the Watcher to me and we shall see if we can’t arrange something better. Lendham’s Studio. Seven o’clock. Make no mistake; I will carve your flesh from your bones and this time, you will not escape.’
There was no signature.
“Where’s this?” He showed it to Faith.
“North part of town. We going?”
“Yeah, let’s stop with the stumbling for answers and get some.”
“Okay. Vi, tell His Geekiness what’s up, k?”
“Sure.” Vi turned and hastily went for the stairs, the other two's words fading away.
“We ready for a big, honking trap, boss? Not exactly your smartest move.”
“What can I say? I’ve never been the smart one.”
Spike opened the door to the studio, gesturing Vi and Faith through. Andrew hurried up out of breath,
“You guys left me behind on purpose! No fair using the Slayer and Vampyre speed!”
Faith snorted. They moved through the hallway, all senses alert.
“You know,” Spike commented absently, “it’s nice going into a fight with weapons.”
“With you there, Blondie. The last two were annoying that way.”
“Whatever happened to Buffy’s magic scythe/axe thingy?” he asked. “Be handy about now.”
“B didn’t think it was fair to keep it. Said she wasn’t the only Slayer anymore and everyone should have the right to wield it.”
“So what, it’s the circulating Slayer Scythe of Doom now?”
“Something like that. Each Slayer gets it for a short while. I got it first. I think it’s in Peru now.”
They entered a well-lit training room. Nobody was there.
“Dead end, boss.”
Spike turned around and sniffed the air experimentally. A slow grin spread over his face.
“No, something’s here. I can smell it.”
“Then where-“ Faith began, but something hit her and she flew across the room and slammed head-first into one of the mirrors, shattering it.
Spike spun around and tackled whatever it was. It turned slippery in his grasp and he was kicked off easily and lay stunned.
The creature whirled in a blaze of light and then separated into two separate forms. The first was a man in his late thirties with brown hair, longish features and spectacles. The second, a demon, was covered in muscles that bulged under its black skin, its webbed feet gripping the floor with razor-sharp claws that had their twins on its scaly hands.
Fanatical hatred and primal anger gleamed out of both their eyes which shared the color of glowing scarlet.
Andrew screamed and then hustled Vi toward the fallen Faith.
“Get her! Get her! Spike, get up!”
“I’m fine.” Spike rose to his feet and started toward the evil pair.
Andrew struggled to hold him back.
“We have to get out of here. You can’t fight that!”
“Why the bloody hell not?”
“Tell you later, just trust me.”
Spike hesitated, then nodded. Andrew ran toward the door and held it open for Vi who was carrying the unconscious Faith. Spike played rearguard.
The two forms laughed simultaneously and in the exact same way and let them go.
Faith awoke outside and Vi set her down and they all ran. The minute they set foot in the house, Spike wheeled on Andrew.
“What was that all about?”
”Yeah, Andy! Whatever happened to being eighty percent more manly?” Faith asked weakly, pressing her hand to her bleeding head.
Vi rushed to the kitchen to get medical supplies. Every Slayer’s kitchen was well-equipped with such things.
“That was something that can’t be killed, Spike,” Andrew explained. “It’s a joined summoning. Muy locomo.”
Spike was confused.
“Very crazy. Don’t you speak Mexican?”
Faith rolled her eyes. She’d dropped out of high school, but even she knew that it was loco, not locomo.
Andrew continued. “I do, ever since I became one when Warren left and Jonathan and I fled to-“
Spike moved closer menacingly.
“What is that thing and how do I kill it?”
“It’s two separate beings joined as one, absolutely unkillable until their bond is broken. I know cause I’m an expert on summoning demons. I read about it in this book where this cool vampire hunter-“
“How do we do the breaking thing?” Spike asked, visibly calming a bit as he spied a possible solution.
“Together they’re invulnerable and wield at their command every witchy cool power that you’ve ever seen in a superhero movie, but apart, they’re only as strong as themselves.” Andrew thought hard for a minute. “I could try to reverse the summoning which would break their bond.”
“Can you do that from here?” Faith asked, busily cleaning her wound.
“No, I’d have to be in the same room so I could get the right signature and pitch, and so that he’d hear me.”
“So we go in full guns, you do your magic mojo and presto, Rogue and I kick the demon all the way back to hell?”
“Theoretically, a sound notion, Captain,” Andrew said, obviously trying to sound like Data. “However, I should mention the probability of success is…” He turned sheepish. “Well, I’m not sure of the numbers at this precise moment, but be assured they’re low.”
“Just get whatever gear you need ready,” Spike answered and then tromped off to the kitchen.
Andrew looked startled, as if that part of the equation hadn’t occurred to him before.
“I don’t think I have the proper- wait! Behold, the last vestiges of my former power,” and so saying, Andrew brought forth from his coat pocket a small set of panpipes taken from the rubble of 1630 Revello Drive.
“Gee, cool toy. Wish I had one,” Faith said, unimpressed.
“With this power, with this tool, with this ring, I shall rule them all and restore order to the Galaxy,” Andrew said, making his voice deep.
“Hate to break it to you, kid, it’s not a ring.”
He looked flustered.
“Must you always ruin the moment? I meant, using fictional examples, that this would break the joining and reduce the Minetti beast and his Master to mere pawns to be played with at our will.”
“You talk too much. Just say what you mean and be done with it, will ya?” Faith gathered up her medical supplies and walked into the kitchen. Andrew sighed and started preparing his notes of music. Vi offered him a small smile and said she was going upstairs to relate what had transpired to the other Slayers, whom they would most likely need in their upcoming fight.
“Got to hand it to the boy,” Spike remarked ruefully to Faith in the kitchen. “His info’s coming in handy. He hadn’t gotten us out of there, we’d probably be dead.”
“Guess you’re right. He has changed. Well, a tiny bit,” she admitted. “I wouldn’t ever tell him that, though.”
“Why not? Let’s treat him with more respect, see how he handles it. Might push him over the edge,” Spike suggested with a persuasive grin.
“Little bits of bad still left, I see. Deal.”
“Get set then, we’ll need all your baby Slayers for brute force. And lots of weapons.”
“Now you’re talking my language.”
“Just breathe now, Andrew. You’re gonna do a real bang-up job. Remember, we’ve all got your back and you’ll have two baby Slayers watching out for you,” Spike reassured Andrew on the way back to the studio.
He was looking slightly green, but resolved, though he did shoot Spike a quick double-take upon Spike’s tone and words.
“He calls us baby Slayers one more time and I’m gonna slay him!” a short, brunette Slayer named Felicia muttered to Vi.
Spike’s hearing caught it and he laughed.
“Welcome to try, Wonder Girl, but warnings in advance, yeah?”
Felicia glared at him, but subsided at Faith’s nudge.
“Blondie here’s just a touch above us lowly mortals, gotta give him his due,” she said dryly.
Spike gave her an eyebrow lift before shifting his eyes quickly to Andrew and back. She got the point.
“Andy, don’t be nervous. We’re all behind ya and you know this demon’s gonna wish it never got up today.”
“Are you two drunk?” he asked.
“Nah, just decided to give you the encouragement you deserve there, boy. Big job you’re doing us today,” Spike answered, grinning.
Andrew just looked weirded out.
“Let’s go, boys and girls.” Faith opened the door to the studio and they all ushered in.
Faith and Spike separated upon entering the training room. Vi followed left with Spike and Felicia right with Faith. Andrew fell back with Paige and Heather guarding him.
Spike took on the man, who seemed delighted to have him, though, with the demon and man being one, it was difficult to tell they had separate emotions. Spike swore as the man lifted his fingers and fire flew out of their tips, straight for Vi. Spike knocked her to the ground and the fire flew over, searing them with heat as it passed. Spike looked up and saw the man laughing and then extending his fingers again. This time frost flowed out and formed icicles at the tips and then they were shot from the fingers, aiming for Spike’s heart.
“Won’t kill you, vampire! But we’re here to have fun after all.”
The man laughed again maniacally and another set of five icicles headed for Vi. She flipped over the top of them and then gasped as they boomeranged and came flying back toward her. She kicked three out of the way and grabbed the other two from the air, flinging them towards the man. A wind blew up around him and they started to swirl away back towards her. She grabbed them again and smashed them to the floor. Now a white energy came from his eyes and twisted around her, squeezing tighter and tighter as she struggled.
Spike had used his axe to smash the icicles into pieces and then leapt for the man. The man’s hand waved vaguely in front of him and Spike froze in the air and then started to move in slow motion down with his fist raised to punch. The man walked casually out of the way and time moved back to normal and Spike slammed into the floor.
“Not very impressive. Not as good when you aren’t a ghost, I see. Well, let’s give you credit, perhaps I’ve improved with the generations.” So saying, the man picked Spike up and held him over his head and then threw Spike toward the ceiling so he crashed into the light fixtures and then into the wall. “Let’s see if we can’t get you to hell this time.”
Faith was having just as bad a time as the other two. Felicia had been knocked out within the first few minutes by a mirror the Minetti had telekinetically torn off the wall and flung at her head. Using the distraction time its gloating gave her, Faith had swung her sword and lopped off its head. Panting, she fell back and watched with horror as its fingers twitched and pointed them at itself and a new head slowly came up out of its body, scarlet flame for eyes still in place.
“Come on, Blackie,” she called, “fight like a demon, use your flesh and bone!”
The Minetti laughed and looked at his claws as they lengthened into ten doubled-edged swords. Heather saw Faith’s difficulty and tossed her another sword. Faith held two and the monster ten. Battle was joined.
Andrew frantically drew a circle around himself with some chalk he’d brought from the house.
“Remember, girls, don’t let anything cross this circle.”
They nodded and then had to do just that when the leftover flying icicles headed for Andrew as well as some fragments of the mirror. Andrew sat cross-legged in the circle and muttered a few words. Blue light flared in a circle around the edges and he began to sweat. He got out his panpipes and pursing his lips, began to play them in a slow, halting beat.
Spike lay on the floor stunned, then got pissed and flipped to his feet. He whirled to face the man, who was just about to use his white energy to twist Vi’s head off. Spike grabbed his axe lying on the floor and hurled it at the man’s back. It sunk deep into the spine. Casually the man turned and plucked it from his back. The energy around Vi lessened and she dropped to the floor gasping and then started as all the icicle and mirror fragments formed together to make a mini-Minetti beast with jagged sharp edges, all hurled at her.
Wincing slightly, the man whispered two words and the axe sized hole in his back closed over. Spike squinted at the man as he stalked toward him.
“Pavayne?” he asked in disbelief.
Pavayne chuckled and nodded his head graciously.
“The one and the same. Don’t look so surprised, William. I’m an expert at cheating death.”
“But we didn’t kill you! You’re there, in LA, in a box,” Spike stuttered.
“Yes, I am. But I’m also here. You see I knew I would someday be forced into hell. So I devised a way to stay out as well, to lessen the pain of that experience,” Pavayne said and grabbed Spike by the collar and flung him across the room again.
“How?” Spike asked as blood spluttered out of his mouth.
“Quite simple. A little spell. I would be reborn every second son for every generation of my family. I am fully in LA, and fully in my great great-grandson’s body. But I experience both and being shut up in a box is not very pleasant. It’s not quite how I thought it would be, you see, so when I heard about this little opportunity I decided to join and get a little payback. The demon summoning was just precaution. You understand, purely business.”
Pavayne grew his own claws out and slashed at Spike’s chest, who roared in pain and fell to one knee, then brought his other knee up into Pavayne’s groin and flipped backward to his feet again.
“Tsk. Tsk. Spike, will you never learn? I am not to be dealt with so lightly.” Spike’s axe flew to Pavayne’s hand and he bashed it across Spike’s head.
Spike dropped like a stone and he feebly raised his head and whispered,
“It’s not bloody possible.”
“William, the only things in this life that aren’t possible are leprechauns.”
Pavayne’s head snapped around as they heard Andrew nearing the end of his litany.
Faith fell to the floor, one knee barely usable, her torso covered in shallow cuts. Stubbornly, she rose to her feet again. She was good, but this thing had more speed and resiliency then she’d ever had and nothing she did to it would slow it down. Faltering wearily, she barely managed to parry a thrust for her ribs. Her arms moved sluggishly and the demon pressed in harder, sensing the kill.
Andrew screamed as he felt the summoning begin to break and the magical pressure build up. Pavayne send a bolt of lightening hissing straight toward Andrew and Paige leapt in front of him catching it through the chest. Tears poured down his face, but Andrew sounded the final note and watched in satisfaction as the scarlet flame in their eyes flared brightly and then died.
The fragment Minetti burst into light and Vi sighed a huge sigh of relief. Glancing at Spike, she saw him motion her to go help Paige.
Spike tapped Pavayne on the shoulder, who looked down at his normal hands.
“Is it me or do we do this thing a lot, where you nearly kill me and then I kick your ass? Rules have changed again, bucko.”
Spike slammed his fist into Pavayne’s face and he flew across the room and hit the wall with a loud thud. Spike strode over, picked him up again and tossed him against the other wall.
“How’s it feel this time, mate? Still painful? Oh, good.”
Pavayne’s mouth was covered in blood and he could barely speak, but he managed a parting shot.
“I’ve still got a few tricks up my sleeve.” He pulled out a stake from his sleeve and, as Spike was leaning right over him, it wouldn’t be hard to miss.
“Not now!” Spike’s eyes flared with emotion. “I got my girl to find. I don’t have bloody time for this!”
He had no choice but to pull off Pavayne’s head with his hands. The stake fell from Pavayne’s loosened grip and clattered uselessly to the floor.
Faith felt the Minetti’s strength decrease as it backhanded her and the claws retracted to their usual size.
“Oh goody, now I get to kill you.” The beast slashed at her with the claws, she ducked and felt her second wind come on. “This is where the fun starts.”
She planted her left foot solidly in the demon’s stomach and knocked it to the wall. It caught hold of her foot and twisted it to the left, spinning her body so that her right leg came up and over her other one and she landed firmly on it, and then with her original foot, snapped it back and struck the Minetti’s neck, popping it with a loud crack. It slid to the floor, leaving oily, wet ooze down the wall.
Faith smiled and then picked a rousing Felicia up off the floor, admonishing her.
“How many times I gotta tell you to duck? Lucky you’re not mirror-smooshed.” Faith grimaced. “Great, now I’m starting to sound like B.”
Andrew rose, shaking, out of his circle and knelt over Paige with Vi and Heather.
“She’s gonna be okay, right? She’s not dead, right?”
“Relax, Andy, looks like she’ll be just fine.” Faith came up, supporting the woozy Felicia. “We should get her to the hospital though.”
“We’ll take her and Felicia,” Vi said and gestured to Heather to help her get the two of them out.
Faith relinquished her hold and the four Slayers left, leaving the three travelers blinking at each other.
“Well done there, Andrew,” Spike admired. “Couldn’t have done it without you and your panpipes.”
“Yup, owe you our lives,” Faith put in.
“Yeah, thanks.” Andrew still looked green. “Can we go home now? I think I’m going to be sick.”
The report from the hospital was good. Vi called to say that Felicia had a slight concussion and with Slayer healing should be good as new the next day. Paige was in more serious condition, but with her healing abilities she’d be fine with time. Heather and Vi were being treated for minor cuts and bruises. The story they fed the hospital was that they’d been driving a car and crashed into a power line; the other three had been thrown from the car while Paige had received a jolt from the loose power line whipping around. They were all going to stay the night in the hospital, so the First Slayer Rescue Brigade relaxed and treated Faith’s and Spike’s cuts at the house while discussing their next move.
“Dude, we forgot to look for a new ring-around-the-rosy message.” Faith slapped her head, and then winced at the pain.
“Not to worry, Rogue, snatched it from Spell-boy’s pockets.” Spike put the ragged piece of paper in Andrew’s hands deferentially. “So, where we headed, Andrew?”
Instead of answering, Andrew looked put out.
“Why are you guys treating me so nicely? It’s not funny.”
“What? We just think you deserve it after today.”
“It started before my spell. Is it a joke or a plan to get me to do something stupid? I don’t appreciate it. It’s not very nice.”
“Oh, you want us to treat you mean then? Okay,” Spike said, grinning.
Andrew looked at him determinedly.
“I’m serious. I want you to treat me normally. Whether you like it or not, I’m a part of the team and I have a part to play and I can do it.”
Faith looked slightly abashed.
“We’re just joking with you, Andy. No harm meant.”
“Fine. I know you guys think I’m a geeky loser who wanted to come solely for the purpose of annoying you, but that’s not all I am. Give me a chance. A man can change.”
Those last words caught Spike’s ear and he grimaced, remembering somebody else saying those words and having them brutally rejected.
“I’m sorry, mate. You’re right, it’s possible. You did do a good job today and you earned your right to be here. Let’s try to leave the past behind us, yeah?”
“Absolutely, moi Capitan.” Andrew perked right back up.
Faith nodded in agreement.
“Let’s just figure where all three of us are going, okay? No more tender mushy stuff. Gives me the creeps and Junior here will probably want to hug.” She nudged Andrew slightly and he nearly toppled over.
“So location then?” Spike asked.
Andrew smoothed out the paper and read.
“ ‘Your number now three and your first Slay,
A place for Territory and to get laid.’ “
Faith and Andrew looked at Spike.
“What? I’m gonna have to find this bloke and kill him before he reveals anymore of my past.”
“Any of this have to do with writing, boss?” Faith probed.
He ignored her.
“We’ll stay here and get rested up while waiting for the potion Dad is sending us and then it’s off to China.”
Andrew gasped and his hands went to his heart.
“Really? Do we get to relive more of your exciting and adventure-ridden past, whilst braving our way past unspeakable monsters and salivating, revenge-driven, simultaneous ghosts/reborn-sorcerer ex-murderers?”
Spike glared at him.
“Now you’re just faking.”
Buffy forced her eyes open, straining to see outside the dull throbbing of her head. She was in a plain, unadorned room that looked like a servant’s room she’d seen in a movie once. Manacles bound her wrists to twin columns and she was dressed in the same clothes she’d worn when she’d gone out to fight the Immortal. She winced painfully and struggled feebly at the chains, no strength in her limbs. What had happened to her?
“You should rest, sweet. Your strength is not what it was.”
“What did you do?” Buffy’s voice was sharp despite the trouble she had in forming words.
“I believe you’ve heard of the Cruciamentum?”
Her eyes shot up and she glared.
“Do I look eighteen to you? Perfect, I’ve been drugged again. What do you want?” Buffy’s eyes scanned the room and finally focused on a cloaked figure hidden in the shadows, seated in a chair by the door.
The figure shook as rich laughter floated out from it.
“Relax, you are my honored guest. After all, this is not about you.”
“I beg to differ,” Buffy forced out. “Seeing as I’m the one in the chains, something about me had to matter.”
“Concession. But all we need from you is the fact that someone else needs something from you.”
“I’m bait,” she stated flatly. “I hate being bait. That’s Cordelia’s job, now let me out!”
The figure leaned back in the chair.
“You’ll soon realize how little a threat you are to us, but consider the chains a compliment. Powerless you may be, but you do possess a certain skill and knowledge that could prove formidable. Precaution, my dear, you understand.”
Buffy rolled her eyes.
“You know what? Unless you have something important to say, I’m gonna get some beauty sleep, seeing as I haven’t been so bored since Dracula was in town.”
She closed her eyes and put her head down.
The figure leaned forward again in interest.
“Not even to hear news of your demon lover and how desperately he searches for you?”
She didn’t bother to open her eyes.
“I am so sick of this Angel crap. We are over! Would people just get a clue? I mean, come on! My demon lover, as you put it...” Buffy swallowed hard “...is dead. So let’s leave the condolences for later, I have some sleeping to do.”
“You speak of William the Bloody? So do I.”
Buffy’s head snapped up so fast she could feel the whiplash.
“Spike? Alive! You wanna run that by me again?”
Chapter 6: Not My Bloody Job But I'll Do It Anyway
Andrew collapsed onto a bed in a hotel room, still drained from his spell-casting and jet lag.
“You guys go look; I’m wiped. I just…need…sleep.” And he was out like a light.
Spike chuckled and quietly covered him up before going to find Faith.
“Boy’s out for the count. He’s got guts; just not stamina.”
“Well, you gotta admit, we kinda won the supernatural lotto in the stamina category. Otherwise neither of us would be that strong either.”
“You literally did get the lotto, didn’t you?” Spike tilted his head to look at her. “Out of all the choices for Slayer in the world you get picked. Someone must’ve known you’d turn out all right.”
“Don’t get all mushy on me. Must be your bad writing streak coming out to play.”
“Give it up. Not telling.”
“Ok, ok.” She changed the subject. “You got picked too, you know. Maybe not for some grand purpose, but hey, What’s-Her-Creep could’ve chosen anybody.”
“Drusilla!” Spike corrected sharply. “So we both got picked. We’ll have a party after we find the other special Chosen One, yeah?”
“Sorry, boss.” Faith looked at him strangely as they walked. “Didn’t mean to hit a nerve there or anything.”
He sighed before answering.
“It’s all right. Sorry, I- it’s nothing.”
She was quiet for a minute.
“You sure you don’t wanna talk about it? No pushing; but I’m always here to make fun of whatever you’re going through.”
“What bloody encouragement that is!” Then he went on. “Just, well, being here brings back memories. Best night, well, second best night of my life. Anyway, it was up there. Bagged me my first Slayer, showed up Grand-daddy, and me and Dru- well, it was special.”
“Dude, I do not wanna hear about you and the Morticia-wannabe.”
“You think I wanted to hear about the bleeding bullwhip?”
Faith laughed loudly.
“Really? You looked quite intrigued about it to my recollection, Blondie.”
“You’re not quite as sweet as you think you are, pet.”
“You weren’t so stuck on B I’d make you eat that. But back to the story.”
“No story, just thinking about how we were and thinking how we ended up. Wound’s still fresh.”
“I didn’t mean to pour salt in there, calling her names and all.”
“Kinda set me off. Anyway, what’s with the wannabe crap? People always do that, they call me Billy Idol wannabe, call her Morticia and call Angel, I dunno, Brooding Hulk Man? We’ve been around a lot longer than that junk! They stole the looks from us mostly.”
“Settle down there, cowboy. No one’s infringing on your look. You got the whole bad boy thing going on for ya, you got B, so let’s find her and the past can settle itself.”
“You better not be trying to be my bloody shrink, Rogue.”
“Na, it’d get too weird messing around in your brain. There’s been too much government interference there anyway, not to mention all the peroxide. So, where we going?”
“Looking to find the building Miss Chinese caved in.”
“That was a hundred years ago!”
“Yup, might take awhile.”
It actually took a few days, during which Spike thought it must’ve burnt down that night, but no, it had been saved and was now an historical landmark.
“Whaddaya know? We’re famous!” Spike pointed to the marker that explained the historical significance of the site and was, fortunately, also in English. “Says here this was thought to be one of the sites that were home to four dangerous criminals, two gents, two ladies, who were responsible for much of the rioting. They had been tracked across several continents, then one of the gents had been lost in Romania and they followed the other three here where he rejoined them and then they were never heard from again. That was sad that, the end of the Scourge. In a strictly nostalgic point of view and not an actual one.”
“Ooh, Spike! I have my camera! Let’s get a picture of you by it and then one of you pretending Faith is the Slayer you killed and the one of all of us…”
Andrew had fully recovered and joined in the search with a zesty spirit. Spike and Faith grumbled a bit, but they finally agreed after Andrew refused to budge another inch without them and he got all his pictures in all their poses, including one ridiculous one with all of them standing with their hands over their eyes as if they were searching for something. Both Spike and Faith insisted it be destroyed immediately upon development.
“Hang on one second!” Spike stopped them from going inside. “This here marker, it’s been handled recently.”
“Yeah,” agreed Faith upon closer inspection. “Looks like it was cut open and then resealed.”
Grinning, Faith brought out a knife and sliced it open upon the prior incision. Inside, behind the official document, was a white, embossed envelope with William the Bloody and Friends printed across the top.
Faith handed it to Spike, who opened it and read aloud.
“ ‘We are pleased to invite William the Bloody to bring his friends to this address on the next night at seven o’clock. We promise no harm to all at this time. We wish to discuss details of negotiations between our peoples. Dinner provided. Formal dress required.
Nedahi of the Kenari clan of the Groxlar.’ “
“Can we go?”
“Might as well. We haven’t been eating too good of late,” Faith said.
“Might be worth it,” Spike agreed. “I’ve never heard of this Nedahi, but I know the Kenari all too well. They’re all about honor and respect and such and they ain’t too happy with me over some territory squabbles we had back in the twenties.”
“Do you think they’d double cross us?” Faith asked.
“Nah, they’d rather die. But they’re definitely planning on getting me somehow. They just want to be up front about it.”
“Hey, lucky us. Free dinner and notice of when they’re going to try and chop your head off.”
“Sympathy’s overwhelming. We better get us some snazzy clothes.”
“Shopping trip,” mused Andrew. “Not very heroic.”
“You’ll live,” Faith told him. “Let’s go.”
They walked to find some cool new clothes, Spike asking Andrew,
“Where and when did you get that bloody camera?”
Faith opened the door at the insistent knocking.
“Ok, ok. I’m here, I’m ready. What’s the rush?”
Andrew’s mouth fell open and rushed to the ground so fast Faith was sure it would never get back up again. She put her hand to her throat and exclaimed in mock admiration,
“You boys dressed up all for me? Which one wants to escort me?”
Inwardly, she thought Andrew actually cleaned up rather well and Spike, as always, was a complete hottie, but his ego didn’t need to know that.
“Pleasure’s all yours, Andrew,” Spike said, stepping aside.
Faith felt a twinge of hurt, but she didn’t show it and instead asked,
“Too much for ya to handle?”
Spike stepped back in front of her.
“Don’t mean to imply you’re not desirable, pet. Just want to make it clear I won’t ever be one of your boy toys. And that’s a right smashing dress you’ve got on.”
She rolled her eyes but felt better.
The dress was beautiful. It was blue with thin straps off the shoulders, gently clinging to every curve with grace and flowing out behind her. She twisted around, displaying her bare back to Andrew, and preceded them out the door. Spike fixed Andrew’s tie and they followed her, two black-clad, blonde men with very different personalities.
Spike knocked on the door. They waited a few moments and it was opened by a tuxedo clad man who ushered them into the room.
It was a private restaurant. The only people other than them were the waiting Groxlar. There were five, all standing to receive them. Spike walked to before the foremost and bowed low.
Nedahi bowed back and gestured for them to sit.
“My esteemed enemy, we wish to give welcome for your presence.”
“Honored to be here, Nedahi,” Spike said for Faith and Andrew’s benefit and then began speaking in a different, rougher, yet more graceful language.
Faith arched her eyebrow and sat down.
Nedahi switched to English for them.
“We shall eat. Please be at home.”
The dinner was served, thankfully of the human variety, with a large goblet of blood for Spike. He sipped it appreciatively. Dinner was pleasant with everyone enjoying the delicacies provided though the three guests noticed the Groxlar were not eating as much as they were and apparently liking it even less.
When Nedahi saw them noticing, he motioned for them not to worry.
“Please enjoy. We are on restrictive eating habits. A truce and trade negotiation of ours and it is difficult adjusting.”
“Angel got you to stop then?” Spike asked, grinning.
“Exchange of their lives for other things. Very profitable, personally uncomfortable.”
Spike leaned toward the other two and explained,
“They eat the heads of babies. Angel made a trade with them using his all-powerful resources.”
Andrew’s eyes grew wide.
“Babies? Well, that’s very evil, of course.”
“I suppose them being stereotypically evil makes it okay?”
Andrew started to protest his innocence of liking the evilness of stereotypes and Spike rubbed his temples.
After dinner they retired to a smaller area where dessert was served and Nedahi turned the conversation to the matter at hand.
“William, you understand affairs are not settled between us after last we encountered you?”
“You still have a beef with me cause I wouldn’t let you settle in a certain house in town cause Dru had taken a fancy to it and I killed one of your people.”
“Yes, that is the matter.” Nedahi twitched slightly at Spike’s casual reference. “We wish to offer for you to settle this matter now.”
“What do you want?” he asked. “I’m kinda in the middle of something here. Looking for the Slayer, you seen her?”
“We see many Slayers. We know of the search you make. We offer information for you to find her and for you to honor your trouble with our clan.”
“You’ll tell me where she is if I…?” Spike let his words trail away so Nedahi could fill in the blank.
“We do not know where she is. We only know how to look. You will enter the Duel of Honor to Justify and should you not fail, that you shall win.”
“Who am I fighting exactly?” Spike asked.
A younger looking Groxlar stood up. He was tall with a huge head and pair of arms. The perfectly shaped circle mouth - just the size of a baby’s head if one thought about it - and the beady, black eyes smiled like ice.
“I am Abriduah of the Kenari of the Groxlar. An honor to kill you. I claim right and honor for your death.”
Spike smiled at him.
“Okay then, we’ll do that.”
Nedahi smiled with polite courtesy in return.
“A day of preparation we will give. The house of history you passed earlier will be the site and weapons shall be had. Till then we say farewell.”
Nedahi stood up in dismissal and so did the other Groxlar. Spike rose and after a look to his companions, they did also, and, exchanging bows with the Groxlar, they left.
“Strange people,” whispered Andrew on the way out.
“You have no idea,” said a voice from behind them. They whirled around, Faith and Spike at the ready. “Relax and quit the shoving. I’m here to help.”
A short man, dressed in an urban leather jacket with a bright green shirt and a hat that was long out of style, stepped from the shadows, hands up.
“Who are you?” Faith asked skeptically.
“The name’s Whistler. I have business with Mr. Short, Blonde and Soulful here.”
“Everybody has business with me lately.” Spike turned to Faith. “We should make a list.”
“Ooh, I can do that,” Andrew volunteered excitedly. “I’m very organized.”
“Yeah and look how far you’ve gotten,” Whistler told him. “But don’t worry, you’re on the right track. Stick with these two. They’re edgy, short-tempered and reckless, but they’ll get ya home.”
“Look, I’m tired,” Faith interrupted, “and a little fist-happy, so get to the point before I take the hat and make you eat it.”
“I guess most Slayers are that violent,” Whistler said to himself. “Look, I’m just here to encourage our vamp to keep going. The Powers wanna make sure he doesn’t give up or give in like some do.”
“The who?” Andrew asked.
“The Powers - big movers of good in this universe. Spike here’s their new poster boy.”
“Spike?” Faith snorted.
Spike shot her a look and then turned back to Whistler.
“I don’t know you, but I’ve heard of you. You’re Angel’s little demon; picked him off the alleys and hoisted him off to Sunnydale.”
“Yeah, that was my gig. Defining moment for him.”
“So what? Angel’s out, I’m in? You’re my new personal soul-coach?”
“No, Angel’s not out. But he’s got his own issues. As soon as what we’ve got cooking heats up he’ll be back on track. You, however, need to get started and that’s where I come in.”
“Get started doing what exactly?”
“You’re taking over Angel’s old job. Actually you’ve been doing it unofficially for years, but congrats, now you’re official.”
“Official helper of the Slayer. We know she’s not all Only One anymore, but she’s got a bit more clout than the rest.”
“So, do what I’m doing and know everything that’s holy and good is backing me up? Ok, bye now.”
“Hold it up there. All you vamps are way too jumpy.”
“What do you need now, Shorty?” Faith asked briskly.
“A job where people are polite,” he replied. “Anyways, this thing with the Slayer. You don’t need to be the big rescue knight. And she doesn’t need to do that for you either. This is a partnership deal. Angel was supposed to do it, but it just didn’t work out that way and when you took his spot with Acathla we decided you were the one.”
“Great, I’m the one what?”
“It’s not actually a title, Spike. It’s just who you are. Keep at it. So pep talk’s over, go win one for the team.”
Whistler smiled and walked away.
“That was major weird,” Faith said.
“You have no idea,” he answered and they made their way back to the motel in silence.
Andrew bounced up and down on his bed in his and Spike’s shared motel room.
“You nervous?” he asked. “About tomorrow night and that whole fight to the death thing?”
“Not really,” Spike considered. “I’ve fought Groxlar before. They’re tough but not all-powerful.”
“I used to be scared of you,” Andrew said conversationally, “when we first met. You were pretty awe-inspiring.”
“Really now? How’s that?”
“Anybody with nerve enough to bluff somebody into thinking he’d actually break off the head of a classic Bobba Fett action figurine is worth a few shivers.”
Spike laughed really loudly.
“I would’ve done it, you know. So that’s why I’m frightening, is it? My image; I can feel it crumbling.”
“Well, that and then next time you bit into my neck and started eating me after you Hulk-smashed your way through the wall.”
Spike perked up.
“That was good, wasn’t it? Too bad I wasn’t really myself at the moment.”
“Trust me, Spike,” Andrew said reassuringly, “you’re scary.”
“Thanks,” Spike said dryly.
Andrew quested down his comforter to find that especially comfy spot.
“So, why didn’t you kill all of us that time? Once Warren got you your information, I mean your chip worked, right?”
“Exactly,” said Spike. “My chip is what stopped me from being able to hurt humans. Couldn’t even point a gun at one of you lot. Weren’t you listening at all last year during that cabub about my chip being out and all?”
“So that’s why you went after Bobba and not us. The mark of a desperate man.” Andrew was truly impressed.
Spike shook his head.
“Told you, not why I did that. I probably wouldn’t have killed you anyway. Always been soft like that.” Spike sighed, apparently not really wanting to talk about it any longer. “You should get some sleep, yeah?”
“But I’m not even tired.” After a pause he spoke again. “So, you’re special with the Higher Power Whaddamacallits?”
“Guess so.” Spike lay down on his bed and crossed his arms behind his head, staring at the ceiling.
“Wonder what that means?” Andrew replied, turning on his side to face Spike with his right hand supporting his head.
“Means? Nothing. Wonder-demon didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know already.”
“So everything’s fine then?”
“Of course everything’s bloody well fine,” Spike snapped. “Everything’s right,” he whispered to himself.
Andrew quieted and then said, sitting up,
“I’m thinking of something and it begins with a B.”
The next night they gathered at the old, decrepit historical house where Spike had killed his first Slayer and he and Dru had spent some quality time together.
About thirty Groxlar were there and Abriduah was loosening up in the corner. Spike started to stretch and prepare as well. Nedahi approached them.
“Have you a second prepared, William?”
“Guess that’s me.” Faith raised her hand.
“Excellent. Would you come to me and receive instructions?”
“See yas.” Faith went to the group of Groxlar marking out a circle in the ground.
“How are we in here without getting in serious trouble?” she asked Nedahi.
“We have arrangement with officials to use the space in sacred moments.”
“Ah,” she said.
Spike continued to prepare with Andrew keeping up a stream of mostly useless advice.
“Please to enter the circle,” Nedahi said.
Spike and Abriduah entered the circle and Nedahi stepped out. Faith and another Groxlar came forward and presented two swords to the combatants. The circle was cleared of all except the two duelists and then the line of the circle suddenly lifted and rose to hover about waist-high in the air, shimmering clearly.
“Why’s it doing that?” Andrew asked nervously.
“It prevents any to enter until the Duel is finished,” Nedahi answered. He raised his voice. “Please it to begin.”
Abriduah bowed low and then lunged at Spike who ducked under the blow and returned thrust for thrust. It went on that way for a time and the clanging of metal upon metal rang out sharply. Both were skilled and matched in their skill. Time would decide the victor in the one who did not tire first. The odds were with Spike. While Abriduah was about equal to him in strength and stamina, he needed to breathe whereas Spike didn’t.
Spike waited until he saw Abriduah take in a fresh gulp of air and then started to press his attack, driving Abriduah to change his position and leave himself off guard.
Then suddenly that changed. Abriduah pressed in and Spike pushed for defense. Blow upon blow rang against his sword until Spike’s fingers felt numb. He decided to do this the old fashioned way and leaning backward to avoid a thrust at the throat, grabbed the flat of the blade between his two hands and pushed it forward, knocking Abriduah in the head.
“Don’t think Buffy’d mind me using her moves,” he muttered as he grabbed hold of Abriduah’s outstretched, startled hand and swung him to fall on the ground. Spike reached for his sword which he’d dropped and hopping astride the fallen Groxlar, put his booted foot on Abriduah’s sword hand and stuck his own blade into his opponent’s chest.
The circle’s barrier lowered. Spike had won.
Nedahi stepped in again and, raising his hands, called for silence.
“William the Bloody has the honor and the wrath of the Kenari is pleased. We are grieved no longer.”
Groxlar came and picked up Abriduah and carried him away. Nedahi handed Spike a piece of paper and the Kenari clan walked out of the building and into the night air. After a few minutes, Spike, Faith and Andrew did the same.
When they were back at the hotel and Faith was cleaning a gash in Spike’s side, Andrew quietly said.
“You killed him. I know he was trying to kill you and all, but you just did it.”
Spike raised his head and smiled slightly.
“Didn’t kill him, mate.”
“What? But, but, I saw you - we saw you.”
“Come on, Andrew. You should know more about the demon world than that. Groxlar can’t be killed that way. That’s what makes it so tough to kill them.”
“Then how’d you win this fight to the death if there was no death going on? Other than you being a walking corpse, that is,” Faith asked.
“I saved a life to repay for the killing of a life.”
Andrew was confused.
“So, the only way to win was to not kill him?”
“No, if I’d killed him I’d still have won.”
“Then why didn’t you? If you’d have been trying to kill him, I probably wouldn’t be putting your side back together.” Faith finished dressing the wound and sat down on the bed relaxing.
Spike put his shirt back on and leaned against the headboard.
“I just kept thinking about this whole prophecy/Higher Power stuff. I don’t want any of it!” Andrew looked at Spike in surprise. “Like I told His Royal Poofness, I don’t care about atonement and I hate the thought of some Higher Up Being messing around with my unlife, mixing things up to get it the way they want it. The only destiny I ever cared about was being with Dru.”
“So what’s the deal with that being so big with the not killing of the Groxlar dude?”
“Well, mostly to piss off Angel I looked up this prophecy of the vampire with a soul. Yada, yada, bloody boring. Didn’t really impress me all that much, but I don’t mind being back and destined and all that if it’s for a good reason So when Demon-boy comes along and says, ‘hey, you got a destiny and a mission,’ I say, ‘fine, but I’m gonna do it my way.’ “
“What’s your way, Spike?” Andrew lay on his stomach facing them, with his head cradled in his hands, leaning on his elbows with his legs swinging in the air behind him.
“My way? Let’s say not Captain Forehead’s way. I know what he would’ve done. Killed him and said it was necessary for a Higher bleeding Purpose. That his sacrifice would be remembered. I know about sacrifice and saving the world, but I did it myself. It was my life I was playing around with. Angel likes to talk about free will, about how he stopped that big nasty who’d taken over the cheerleader, but all he’s talking about is his own free will, his right to choose for others. Anyways, not what I’m after. Just wanna get done, get Buffy and get going.” He ended with a leer.
Faith rolled her eyes and Andrew swallowed.
“On that note, boss, where we going now?”
“Oh right.” Spike pulled out the note and read it.
“ ‘Dark Princess wants music; music she gets,
Dark Princess tires; away they are sent.’
We, kiddies, have won a fabulous trip to the lovely city of Istanbul.”
Chapter 7: Mariachi's Revenge
“Can’t we go clubbing or something?” Faith seemed close to her breaking point. “The non stop geek-a-thon is getting to me.”
“I resent that!” Andrew squeaked from his corner of the taxi where he’d been rambling about some science-fiction-zero-gravity-action-figure footballer or something like that.
“I swear I’m gonna snap his arms off if he doesn’t shut it!”
“I’m not your sodding marriage counselor!” Spike exploded. “Settle your own bloody problems!”
Andrew leaned back to sulk and Faith winked at the young taxi-driver looking at them in the rearview mirror.
But Faith did get her wish. Spike agreed to find a night club so they could blow off some steam. Faith recruited the help of every male worker under thirty their hotel employed to select just the right place to go.
It was loud and smoky and flashing lights were everywhere. Seemingly just what Faith would want. As they entered, Faith caught the attention of several male bodies and soon they were all raucously dancing to what Spike supposed could be construed as music. He and Andrew found a table and sat down and ordered some drinks.
Several girls came over and asked Spike to dance in charmingly halting English, but he refused all of them.
“Why don’t you dance?” Andrew asked. “I’m sure Buffy wouldn’t mind.”
“You never know what she’d mind or not,” Spike replied darkly. “Tells you you’re through and that you have to move on and the second that you do, the wrath of Buffy falls on your head for following her suggestion.” He shook his head. “Anyway, not the point, kid. I don’t dance like this.”
“Like the world will fall apart if I don’t shake my body as fast as I possibly can.”
Andrew smiled, then said excitedly,
“Here comes another one. Better get your no-face on.”
Spike sipped his beer calmly.
“No, this one’s coming for you.”
“What?” Andrew about fell out of his seat.
A short, brunette, sweet-looking girl in a pink halter top stepped up to their table and leaned over Andrew.
“Hello, I am Amee.”
“A-andrew,” he stuttered.
“Would you dance?”
Andrew looked desperately to Spike for an answer, who grinned and nodded.
“O-okay,” Andrew replied.
Amee took his hand and led him off to the dance floor. Spike laughed as he saw Andrew try to dance. But soon the vampire settled back and thought about their next move.
He knew who they would be dealing with. The Three. A complete joke, of course. There had been another trio of vampires called the Three, much deadlier and more dangerous. That is, before they were dusted by Darla, of all people, when they had failed to kill Buffy. This group was muy different. Putting emphasis on the muy; they being a Spanish mariachi band.
Back in the thirties, Dru had dragged him to hear some music with her and had fallen in love with a three-brother mariachi band. She said they made her head sing and the stars come out to play. To oblige her, Spike had jumped them out back and taken them to their current residence and turned all three of them to be her entertainment-minions.
Ari, Pedro and Gilberto were just that: minion material and fumbling ones at that. But because they had shared both human blood and now a common Sire, they were intrinsically linked in strength, able to communicate with one another telepathically and quite adept at thrall and knife-throwing for some reason. That could prove to be a danger here, though Spike still had to laugh at the idea of the Three being a serious threat.
Dru had quickly tired of their endless, although quite skilled music, and whined to Spike to make the colors stop spinning and the little men go away. He had done so, selling them to a rival Master vampire across town and then leaving the country at his Dark Princess’ behest.
Whatever happened here, Spike wasn’t seriously worried at all, but he still didn’t have time for any mistakes with Buffy counting on him.
Just then Faith sat down, breathless, with a drink in her hand, waving off her male companions.
“Be back later, fellas. Keep it warm for me.”
“Having fun, pet?” Spike inquired.
“This place is awesome.” She lagged back in her chair. “Who knew a Middle Eastern country would be such a fun ride? Guess who’s here.”
“You’re supposed to guess.”
“Rogue!” Spike warned
“You’re no fun,” Faith complained, but then complied. “Oz!”
“Dog boy’s here?”
“Yup, up there on the stage, just like always.”
“Did he see you?”
“Don’t think so, why?”
“Well, last time he saw either of us, we were playing for the other side. Might not take our word for it that we are law-abiding, white-hats now.”
“Good point,” Faith considered. “Well, he doesn’t have to know we’re here.”
“Be nice to have him on our side,” Spike said, thinking of the long-range attack possibilities. “Boy’s got good cross-bow action.”
“Your call, Blondie. You want him sticking those cross-bows in your back, be my guest.”
“We’ll figure that out later. Now, here’s Romeo back from the trenches.”
Andrew sat down, bewildered, clutching a piece of paper.
“She gave me her number.”
“Might want to tell your new bird that you’re just passing through,” Spike pointed out.
“So is she.” Andrew sighed, lost in a world all his own.
“So back to Oz,” Faith directed.
“Where’s Oz?” Andrew came out of his daze. “We’re going to Oz?”
“Not the land, you git, the person.”
“Oh, who’s Oz?”
“Werewolf, old beau of Red’s. Ran off a few years back around Glinda-time.”
Andrew blinked, putting together Spike’s words.
“Willow’s old boyfriend.”
“Got it in one, Brain-trust,” Faith replied.
“Wait, we went to high school together then.”
“So why are we talking about him? Is it reminiscing time? Did you guys start reminiscing time without me again?”
“He’s here, squirt.” Faith gestured to the stage where a short, red headed figure could be seen playing lead guitar.
“Let’s go say hi.” Andrew hopped off his chair and walked to the stage before they could stop him and stood there like a groupie. The set ended and Faith and Spike watched Andrew accost Oz like a long lost brother, despite the fact that Andrew had never seen Oz before, and lead him over to their table.
Oz blinked, probably in surprise, showing no emotion when he saw who was sitting there.
“Spike, Faith,” he said.
“Oz, old buddy, sit down, take a load off,” Faith invited.
Oz sat down cautiously.
“Coma wore off,” he stated. She nodded. “So you two are working together now?”
“Not especially by choice,” Spike said.
Faith hit his shoulder.
“Watch it there, Blondie. Who saved who in Africa?”
“Who bloody well saved who in Sunnyhell and in China?” he retorted.
Oz looked at them.
“Creepy combo, but it works.”
“Look, Dog boy, we don’t expect you to believe us or little Andrew here, but we are the good guys now.”
“Really?” Oz was naturally skeptical.
“Really,” enthused Andrew. “Faith went to prison and reformed and then helped out Angel when he lost his soul and came to Sunnydale to help us with the First and Spike fell in love with Buffy and got his soul and saved the world and now we’re all looking for Buffy to save her from some unspeakable evil.”
“What happened to Buffy?” Oz had apparently been able to focus on the important part of Andrew’s ramblings.
“You remember back when she lost all her strength and what not? It’s like that only it’s being done by a whole lot of people who are pissed off at me and are using her to get to me. Here.” Spike dug in his pocket and tossed a cell phone he’d picked up in Cleveland to Oz. “The Watcher’s in there. Call him and ask.”
Oz did so.
“Hello?” Giles answered.
Spike could clearly hear the voice over the connection.
“Yes, this is Rupert Giles. To whom am I speaking?”
“This is Oz.”
“Oz? Oh my, this is a surprise. How are you doing?”
“I’m pretty good. Listen, got a question for you.”
“Of course, what is it?”
“Got Spike and Faith and some other guy here. Just wondering, they still evil?”
“Sometimes I wonder that too.”
“Hey! Dad, I heard that!” Spike called.
“They’re fine, Oz. Faith did do some time in prison and Spike has been helping us out pretty much ever since you left and now they’re looking for Buffy who has disappeared. I assure you, there’s no chance of them doing any harm to you, just likely themselves.”
“Heard that too.”
“Just checking, Giles. Thanks,” Oz said into the phone.
“Of course, Oz, anytime. Goodbye now.”
“Satisfied?” asked Faith, her words laced with double meaning as indeed, most of her words were.
“Yeah, so we gonna find Buffy?”
“You’re planning on helping?” Spike asked.
“Sure, memory lane and everything.”
“Reminiscing time!” Andrew cried excitedly.
Spike ignored him.
“Right then, well, let’s go back to the hotel and do a spot of strategizing then.”
“You go on, I’ll catch up,” Faith said, eying a new bunch of victims.
Andrew walked along slowly, watching and listening to all the sounds of the city, taking mental notes to write in his diary. He smelled food on the air and heard distant music, upbeat happy music, down the next alley. He stopped to listen and lost himself in the sound.
Spike and Oz noticed at the same time that Andrew was no longer with them, their sense of smell letting them know the scents around them had changed. They were walking along the street headed for the hotel and immediately turned around looking for him.
“Andrew!” Spike yelled. “Get out here, don’t have time for your games. Got work to do!”
“What? I’m right here.” Spike whirled around and there was Andrew, standing calmly behind him.
“How’d you do that?” Spike demanded.
“I told you, I am a Watcher now. I know how to conceal myself from the vampyres. I’m practicing for when we meet up with your not so friendly old friends.”
“Well, cut it out. Let’s get back to the hotel and stay together this time.”
Oz and Andrew fell quietly in line with the irate vampire.
“Where you staying, Dog boy?” Spike asked.
“Motel not too far from here, though not quite up to this scale of class.” He gestured to the neighborhood they were walking in.
“Never thought I’d say this, but it’s nice being on the Council of Wankers’ good side occasionally.”
Andrew loitered behind, snatching at things in the air and continually turning to stare behind him. Spike completely lost his patience. He’d begun to respect Andrew lately, to give him credit for not being a complete spazz, but now here he was, horsing around when he knew they had things to do. Important things.
“Andrew, get moving! What the bloody hell are you playing at?” Spike probably would’ve really started off on him, but his cell phone rang, interrupting him. Swearing, he answered it.
Faith’s voice replied on the other end,
“Listen, boss, got a sitch here.”
“Well?” Spike wasn’t too patient at the moment.
“I kinda need you to bail me outta jail.”
“You got arrested! Again!”
“Hey, that thing in Cleveland, not my fault. Anyways, turns out single gal walking around with a bunch of guys at night ain’t allowed around here.”
“Bloody hell,” he muttered. “Just what I needed. Fine, where are you?” She told him and he hung up the phone. “Now we gotta get Rogue out of jail. Night’s just too good for words.”
Andrew interrupted him, mid-grumble, as if anxious to make up for his former lapse of attention.
“I’ll go to the jail and get her for you! Just give me the money and you take Oz to the hotel and tell him our secret plan. The Dark Ones - One! I mean - and I will meet you there.”
“Fine.” Spike threw a wad of money at Andrew and then stalked back to the hotel. Oz followed wordlessly. “This here’s our room.” Spike unlocked the door and led the way inside, shedding his duster on a nearby chair, then flopping on the bed, breathing heavily from habit.
“Bad day?” Oz asked from the doorway.
“Nah, just lost my temper is all. I’ll apologize to him later. Buffy needs rescuing right now and all they can think about is bloody dancing and loitering. You can sit down, by the way.”
Oz moved to sit on the back of the desk chair, facing Spike.
“Gotta admit, didn’t think you’d fall for her too.”
Spike smiled ruefully.
“Girl’s got her ways, I’ll own up. Mostly being a royal pain and smart-mouthed, self-righteous, silly bint, but she’s got her good points. I don’t suppose you’ve ever seen her naked?”
Oz shook his head.
“No, well, yes. But no.”
Spike raised his eyebrow.
“Which is it?”
“Buffy was a rat. De-ratting comes minus the clothes. There were boxes though.”
“Oh well, good times. Seems I miss all the fun stuff. Anyways, it’s not just about her body. The girl’s got more heart and tries the hardest to show it and hide it at the same time, than anyone I ever knew. And I’ve known quite a few.”
“Yeah, she tries.” Spike shook his head. “Getting off-topic before I turn into a nancy-boy, let me recap for you our various adventures before Lady Shag Me and Mr. Story-time come back.”
Andrew returned sans Faith.
“Where is she?” Spike asked irritably.
“They wouldn’t let her out. They took all my money and said that I was too American to know better and to come back in the morning. At least, that’s what I think they said.” Andrew sank onto the bed despondently and snatched at a nearby bug on the dresser. “I failed again.”
“Why wouldn’t they let her out? You had enough money right?” Spike sat up and rubbed his forehead.
Andrew froze as if the question was much too hard for him to answer.
“I-I, they said, she was…an example for all…bad women,” he finished lamely.
Spike stared incredulously.
“B-bad women.” Andrew nervously drummed his fingers on his arm and spotting a mosquito, moved over to the window, before turning and facing Spike with a plastic smile. “Don’t worry, Spike. Faith will be back in the morning, so our plans won’t fail-” he started to say, then jumped uneasily. “Our plans, meaning yours and mine, not mine and anyone else’s, like masters or anything. Cause, that’s just silly.”
“I’m going to check out my old haunts. See if your brain gets back while I’m gone.” Spike grabbed his coat and then said to Oz. “Watch him. Boy’s gone fruit loops.”
Spike couldn’t find any traces of the Three at the abandoned house he and Dru had laired in back in the day. Discouraged, he patrolled the streets awhile, even went by the dark jail, but without really trying he couldn’t get in to Faith and he didn’t want to make the effort, not tonight. He decided to go back to the hotel.
Riding the elevator, he kept hearing the strangest familiar sounds and upon entering the room, he saw the reason why.
The Three had set up shop in the middle of his hotel room and their music was playing loudly in his ears. Spike burst out laughing. He couldn’t help himself, the strain and ludicrousness of the situation took hold of him and he guffawed his way down to the floor, holding his middle and letting the tension of weeks drain away.
The band kept playing and the middle man, Pedro, raised his head and asked, grinning,
“Senor Boss, just like you like, eh?”
“We keep playing for you forever. Let you always keep us,”
Ari just kept strumming. Spike finally managed to check his laughter a little and noticed Oz lying on the floor unconscious, with Andrew standing over him, a bat in Andrew’s hand.
“What are you doing?” Spike yelled, still giggling a little.
“Couldn’t have him messing with the Dark Ones’ plans. Music pretty.”
Andrew grasped the bat firmly in one hand and strode toward Spike through a particularly happy thread of music.
Spike grasped hold of himself and spun out of the way of the bat, grabbing it from Andrew and throwing him against the wall.
During this time, Ari had stopped strumming and produced ten knives which he threw at Spike in rapid succession. They forced his body toward the wall and pinned him there with the knives’ points through his clothes and hilt deep into the wall. Spike couldn’t move his arms or his legs and blood dripped down the wall from where the sharp blades had pierced his flesh. Spike struggled fiercely to get free, managing to rip his left side, not all the way loose, but enough that he could make a defense of some sort.
The brothers stopped playing and, laying down their instruments, came toward Spike with more glittering knives in their hands. Over in the corner, Andrew roused himself off the floor and stared in astonishment at the scene laid before his eyes. It seemed he was weighing his options and decided to bunk because he dashed out the still open door and disappeared down the hall.
“Boy left you, huh? He was easy to take, mind so open to new things.”
Spike closed his eyes and prepared himself. The Three surrounded him and easily dodging his weak and short blows, went to work on him with their knives.
“We good with knives, no?” Ari asked, chuckling. “Our new Master, he like knives.”
“He like us for knives,” Gilberto agreed. “We miss the bright lady and want to come home, but mis hermanos and I forced to stay away. Forced to play for him.”
“Dru was never your bright lady and I had the perfect right to get your bloody music out of my home. Not my fault you didn’t like your new minion job.”
Spike turned his head to avoid a vicious stab and succeeded in pulling his left arm off of the wall. He grabbed Ari by the throat and slammed his head into the wall. Ari stumbled backwards, holding his head and muttering in Spanish. Gilberto and Pedro sent up twin cries of pain and redoubled their assault.
Spike bent his arm upwards and, still struggling to free the rest of him, tried to pull one of the knives from the wall. They wouldn’t budge, sunk in by tripled vampire strength. Blood poured from him in multiple places and through the vision of it covering his eyes, Spike spied Ari’s dropped knife and with a desperate surge of strength, Spike pulled out his left foot from the wall, stomped on it and sent it spiraling in the air toward his hand.
Catching it, he swung it in such a fast arc that it sliced right through Pedro’s head, sending it and the rest of him crashing to the floor in a cloud of dust. Gilberto stopped cold and Ari’s head snapped upright. They shuddered for a moment and Spike used the opportunity to try and break himself free again to no avail. The remaining brothers opened their eyes at the same time and screaming an awful blood cry, looking confused and outraged, they came for Spike again.
And there was nothing he could do. They were weakened in their strength, but doubled in their fury and he had one arm and leg and a knife with no help, to fend them off. He screamed as well, when a knife pierced his chest and twisted in his non-vital organs that felt vital, nonetheless. Through the pain, Spike dropped his knife and Ari grinned maliciously.
In the corner Oz woke up and twisting around, saw what was happening. He leapt up and grabbed an abandoned guitar, which he hated to do, but he saw no other choice and bashed Gilberto in the head with it. Gilberto spun around and laughed in his throat,
“We play, you and I? Very, very good.”
Gilberto walked toward Oz, who looked around the room for something to defend himself with, the guitar being somewhat destroyed. Gilberto launched at his throat and Oz turned so that fangs raked his arm instead. The pain sent him stumbling back and Gilberto advanced towards Oz again.
Another knife pierced through Spike’s shoulder. But it wasn’t a one-sided fight, Ari’s head sported two black eyes; the color scheme was quite interesting with the yellow eyes and bumpy forehead. Grabbing Ari’s knife away from him, Spike slashed it at Ari’s ribs. Ari dodged away and came again.
“You no get us this time. We have plans for you, milkmaid. Mis hermanos and I. Except no Pedro now. We just sell you at first, but now you stay with us forever.”
Ari dragged his knife across Spike’s forehead and he could no longer see through the blood and pain.
Gilberto dropped Oz to the floor, banging his head against the bed on his way down. Oz put his legs together and kicked as hard as he could. Gilberto doubled over and Oz kicked again, getting the vampire’s head this time.
“No more games. Ari gets all the fun. I kill you now and go play.”
Gilberto leaned over Oz and, holding him down with one arm, brought the knife down with the other.
Faith burst into the room and jump-kicked Gilberto in the head, snapping his neck and sending him sailing limply across the room, banging Oz back into unconsciousness on the way. She turned her attention to Ari, who unstuck his knife from Spike’s belly and, upon seeing the fallen Gilberto, sent up a war cry and prepared to face her. She feinted left and as he moved to block her, grabbed both his arms and flipped him over her head. The knife raked her cheek on the way over, but Ari landed hard on his back. Faith moved to Spike and helped him tug free.
“Couldn’t handle even three dweeb vamps without me? Face it, Blondie, you need me.”
Faith winked at him and strode back out to Ari who was now on his feet. Spike assessed his physical status and decided he could still move, if not exactly fight. Gilberto still lay on the floor with Oz beside. Gilberto had started twitching and one hand still grasped his knife. Spike moved as quickly as a normal human could, across the room, and, grabbing Andrew’s bat, did a fast dusting.
Faith and Ari were still moving, a blur of Slayer speed and vampire strength, though Ari was obviously more adept at playing mariachi than fighting and it showed. With several easy maneuvers, Faith had him up against the wall right next to the door. She held him there with one arm and sticking her hand out the door, yelled,
Like magic one appeared in her hand and she stuck it deep into Ari’s heart. As his face crumbled into dust he looked at his dusted brothers and sighed in relief,
“We one again.”
And then he was gone.
Spike leaned over Oz and checked his stability, then sank gratefully to the floor beside him. Faith walked out of the room and then came back in, dragging a reluctant Andrew behind her.
“I’m sorry, Spike. It wasn’t my fault. I was under thrall. I couldn’t do anything about it and I knew I had to get Faith to help and she broke the jail window and then we were too late and don’t kill me, please?”
Glaring slightly, Spike fainted.
When Spike woke up, all his wounds were bandaged and dressed and blood was sitting on the table beside his bed. He drank it all and felt strengthened. He wouldn’t be up to god-fighting any day soon, but he would be up to his full strength quickly, despite the multiple stab wounds and lacerations.
“Feeling better?” Oz walked into the room sporting a nasty bruise on his forehead.
“Oh yeah, it’s like being born again. The really painful part.”
“Well, check out the upside. Your clothes are bearing that fashionable torn to shreds look.”
Spike looked at his duster and groaned, thankful that it was not too bad, but still, he would have to patch it up again. He hated that.
“Where’re the other two?”
“Faith is explaining not being in jail. Andrew: hiding under the bed.”
“Get out here!” Spike barked. Andrew crawled sheepishly out from under the other bed. “I’m not gonna eat you. Stop looking like a worm on parade at the national Fish Bait Fair. Thrall happens; deal with it.”
Andrew looked up hopefully.
“You aren’t mad? I mean, I told them where you were and helped them keep Faith in jail and I hit Oz.”
“Course I’m bloody well mad at you. You caused the next clue to get dusted. My brain wasn’t working too well and I didn’t think to check el Gilberto there before I dusted the git. And I sure wasn’t trying to do a once over on Pedro.”
“Oh, clue’s found,” Oz said. “Pulled it out of the wreckage of a pretty nice guitar.”
Spike leaned back again.
“Good, okay, Andrew, you’re forgiven. Should’ve realized it was thrall anyway, the way you were acting. Though the difference wasn’t that noticeable.”
“I’m really sorry, Spike. It will never happen again. I promise never, ever to do those things again. I won’t fail our mission ever and will strive with all my being to uphold the noble code of the First Slayer Rescue Brigade…and always eat my vegetables,” Andrew concluded, as though trying to think of something else that was honorable he could aspire to.
“We have a code now? I hope I bloody well never have to hear…” and Spike sank back into unconsciousness.
The next time Spike woke up, Faith was checking his bandages and when she saw he was awake she handed him some more blood. Downing it, he sat up and felt much better.
“How long have I been out?”
“Two days. Quite some beating they gave ya, boss. Lucky I saved your ass.”
Spike smirked at her.
“Just doing my bit with the distracting, there. Nice to know little Andrew decided to wake up in time to fetch you.”
“Yeah, though I had a hell of a time explaining the broken window and twisted steel bars. Breaking out of jail is fun, but the clean up isn’t.”
“Why didn’t you just, you know, stay away from there?”
“Gotta do the right thing, Blondie. Remember, I pull for the good guys. Didn’t want to get Giles all in trouble when I’m traced back to him through my record. He’s my keeper, ya know? Keeping me out of trouble.”
“Man’s a Watcher and a Keeper, next thing, he’ll be a bloody Taker or Mover,” Spike muttered to himself, still slightly off. “We should send him a postcard. ‘Hi, how are you? We’re fine, touring the sights, getting stabbed. By the way, congrats on making Watcher, Keeper, Librarian and what all else. Wish you were here.’ “
“Snark-man’s back. Guess he’s up to figuring out where to go next. Andrew, get in here.” Oz and Andrew walked into the room and sat on the other bed. “You got the slip, Andy?”
Andrew pulled out a slip of paper from his pocket and handed it to Faith, who read:
“ ‘You won the first round; now she can’t come,
Try to save the girl; we’ll make you undone.
One worshiper dead and laid at his door,
Ghosting’s not finished; come back for more.’
Wow, we got us a four-liner here. Whoever it is, they’re really stepping up to the plate, pulling out all the stops.”
Spike’s head sank back onto his pillow in exhaustion.
“We gotta go to LA. Sod it all. Now I have to explain to Angel about this whole mess and he’ll try to take over and take her away and now Science-girl’s about to get into trouble and I don’t know who we’re dealing with except that they’re bleeding demon fanatics. Bloody perfect.”
“Rest a bit, boss. They never seem to do any damage till we actually arrive, so take it easy. I’ll tell Giles what’s up. Maybe we can stop over there before we hit the States again.”
Spike nodded and went back to sleep.
This time when Spike awoke he was ready to get going and soon everyone was all in a bustle getting ready to leave. Oz came by to send them off.
“Thanks again, mate, for trusting us and the help and all.”
Spike shook Oz’s pro offered hand.
“Despite the head bashing; this was fun.” Oz shrugged. “I miss it.”
“World could always do with a bit of help,” Spike pointed out. “Betcha Giles would have something for you to do.”
Oz cocked his head.
“I hadn’t thought of that.”
“Well, you’re pretty good at unexpected arrivals. Come with us and we’ll drop you off.”
Oz thought about it. He had nothing going on in Istanbul. Nothing to keep him and suddenly, he remembered the sense of purpose he’d always had while working with the Scoobies, even if a lot of that had to do with Willow. And this was more than that. It had been awhile since he’d checked up on Willow, as he liked to do from time to time, just making sure she was okay before moving on to someplace new. All things considered, it didn’t take much to convince Oz.
“Great, now we’re all best friends again.” Faith shoved in between them. “Let’s grab his gear then and get outta here.”
Andrew picked up his bags and Oz smiled to see him make sure Amee’s sure-to-never-be-used-but-always-wondered-at-number was inside. Faith helped Spike with his bags, as he was still a tad wobbly and they headed out.
Chapter 8: His Broodiness and the Peroxide Pest Save the Girl
“Feed me, Giles, I’m starving.”
Faith breezed into Buffy and Dawn’s apartment, dropping her bag on the floor.
“Hello, Faith. Nice to see you,” Giles replied, obviously resigned to Faith’s entrances by now.
“Yeah, yeah, love all around. Where’s the food?”
Giles sighed and led her into the kitchen where Dawn and he had prepared some dinner.
“Spike! You look awful! What happened?”
Dawn looked anxious and Spike reached down one hand to reassure her.
“Nothing, Bit. Just a couple of vamps looking for a little payback.”
“I’d say they got it,” she said, tracing a cut across his face.
“Nonsense, feel right as rain.”
“Whatever,” said Faith, pushing between them to grab some food off the table. “Had to nurse him for three days. Lucky I was there to bail out his ass, otherwise his dust would be blowing in the wind.”
“Easy on the gore there, Miss Faith,” Andrew interjected. “Dawn may be an all-powerful, mystic Key, but little Keys have ears too, you know.”
“Andrew, don’t stand up for me,” Dawn told him and he blushed.
Oz entered the room with the rest of the bags.
“Key?” he asked.
“I’m human, but I’m also energy used to open portals and I’m not really Buffy’s sister, though I am, because all of our memories were fabricated to make us think I was. So even though I remember you saving my life on occasion, we’ve never actually met. So, hi, Oz, I’m Dawn.”
“Oz,” he replied, shaking her hand.
Giles came back into the room.
“Yes, hello, Oz. It’s wonderful to have you. We’ll be only too happy to put you up and help you get situated here.”
“Yes, well, in the meantime, you all can get washed up and we’ll have a nice meal before these three head out again. Uh, where are you going?”
“LA,” sighed Spike.
“You do recall my, uh, having some concerns about Angel’s involvement with Wolfram and Hart and the wisdom of consulting him at this time?”
“I know, Dad. I feel the same way about the bloody law firm that you do. And I’m betting Angel’s starting to as well. But, we got some business there with his people. This concerns all of them, whether any of us like it or not.”
“Angel better get ready. I’ve a feeling serious fangs will fly upon arrival,” Faith said in anticipation, having never seen the two vampires in action and longing for a good view for her first time.
“So, boss, who we dealing with this time around? Things would’ve gone a bit smoother back there if you’d given us the heads up.”
Spike stretched his legs into the aisle and adjusted the huge hat he always wore on the plane to protect him from sunlight, even though they caught as many red eye flights as possible. It distressed his ego, but Faith and Andrew loved giving Spike a hard time about it. In fact, Andrew’s new chief goal in life was to get a picture of Spike in it.
“It’s complicated. Not really sure. I’ll have to give you the whole story.”
“I love stories,” Andrew said, sounding excited. “They’re always so much nicer than real life. Tell us the whole thing.”
Faith rolled her eyes but settled in after mentioning that perhaps they could hear about any bad writing during the epic tale.
Spike told them how he had been brought back to Wolfram and Hart as a ghost after dying in Sunnydale and how he’d overheard Knox plotting to kill Fred and bring back an ancient demon to take over her body and when he’d gotten his body back he’d left to go find Buffy, but:
“First, I paid a little visit to Mr. Demon Worshiper and made sure he’d never be able to pull off his surprise guest. Guess some others want to make an attempt though and that they want to make sure I don’t get in the way again.”
“Spike, that’s serious,” Andrew said, stunned. “What are we going to tell Angel?”
“The bloody truth. Time for the poof to get his head out of the clouds and back down to the business of taking care of his own. If he can’t handle that, then I will. They have to be warned anyway, that someone’s after Fred.”
“Angel can handle this,” Faith said. “He handled all my crap for years. The man can deal.”
“Bloody funny coming from the one person I’ve known he’s never messed up with and always believed in,” Spike retorted and then added thoughtfully, “don’t know why it’s you, though. I’d have gone with the cheerleader myself. Girl had spunk.”
“What, you saying Angel’s got a thing for me?” Faith sounded incredulous. “No way, man. Too twined around with Buffy.”
“Don’t think so. I mean, he says he is and he probably thinks he means it, but Cordelia got his heart somewhere along the Big Bad and Higher Power way. So, sorry, Rogue, but I think you fall into the good project category.”
Faith shook her head.
“I didn’t think he was, ya know. I just…hate playing second fiddle.”
“Well, cheer up; you’re not second fiddle in Andrew’s heart. I mean, just cause you two can’t stand each other and act like bleeding teenagers with me-me-me syndrome, doesn’t mean you don’t care.”
Both squawked and tried to hit Spike, who ducked and yelled loud enough for the whole plane to hear, all the while desperately trying to keep his hat on.
“I may not be Angel’s favorite person, but I know this situation best of all, so let me do the talking. I let my personal, seething hatred get in the way, then Rogue can take over, understand?”
“So commanding,” said Andrew in admiration.
Faith just ignored both of them and focused on adjusting her halter top to better reveal her cleavage and conceal her stakes. The elevator chimed and opened to reveal the main floor of Wolfram and Hart.
“Oh my gosh! Spike, what are you doing here? I thought I told you to leave and never come back.” Harmony jumped up from her desk and advanced on Spike, pointing her finger aggressively.
“My, Harm, don’t you look just smashing in that skirt. How ever do you manage it, aside from the immortality, of course?”
Harmony did the vampire equivalent of a blush and smoothed her skirt.
“Do you really think so, Spikey? Thanks, I got it at- Hey! You’re distracting me. What do you want?”
“Meeting with the Big Boss and his subservients if you don’t mind, pet. Important, very important.”
“He’s very busy right now, Spike. And who are these two?” she asked disdainfully, pointing at Faith and Andrew.
Faith grinned and moved in closer to Harmony, managing to loom over her, despite Harmony’s heels.
“I’m Faith, the Vampire Slayer. And if you don’t go get Angel right now, I’ll help you to remember exactly what my job involves.”
Harmony shrank away.
“Oh, right. Well, I’ll just tell him you’re here then.”
“Harmony! What is going on out there? Didn’t I tell you I wanted some-“ Angel’s voice trailed off as he stepped out of his office and saw who was there.
“Greetings, Big Guy,” Faith said, walking closer. “How’s it hanging?”
“Well, Gramps, how’ve you been? Love- no wait, still hate the hair.”
“Faith,” Angel said, ignoring Spike, “what’s going on?”
“We got some bad news and Blondie here is best equipped to tell ya about it. Andy’s just along for the ride.”
“And for valuable help and assistance,” Andrew put in.
“And for being put under thrall,” Spike muttered.
“And to help,” Faith conceded. “But we gotta talk to you and your what’s ems. Ya know, Gunn, Stick-girl, Wes. And the Green-guy.”
“Somebody mention my name?” Lorne walked up, his ever present cell phone, for once, not attached to his ear. “Sweetie, good to see you back again. And our Blonde-brownie back too. We should have a party.”
“Your last one turned out so well,” Angel reminded him.
“Yeah, well, literally be rest assured. I’ve been sleeping the full nine yards a night lately, Angeline.”
“Angeline?” Faith guffawed.
Angel glowered and turned around to stalk back to his office.
“You wanna talk, we’ll talk. Harmony, get Wes, Gunn and Fred in here, now!”
Everybody followed him into his office where shortly the aforementioned three entered on the double.
“Spike! You’re back!” Fred rushed to give him a hug, then returned to Wesley’s side where he put his arm around her. “Hi, Faith.”
“Spike, good to see you back, man.” Gunn offered his hand and Spike slapped it.
Angel sat down impatiently.
“If all the touchy-feely, Spike-ness is done, can we get back to why in hell he’s here?”
“Right then.” Spike sank down into a chair and slouched over it, relaxed. “Let’s get this started.”
Everybody found spots of one sort or another and Spike started to explain why they were there.
“This here’s Andrew. I believe you’ve all met the delightful Faith before. We three are looking for Buffy.”
“What happened to her?” Angel growled at Spike. “What did you do?”
“Nonsense, not me at all. Why’s everything got to be my fault? She’s missing, without her strength, and my money is on the Immortal as for who’s got her.”
Angel’s grip tightened on the edge of his desk.
“The Immortal?” he whispered in horror.
“I knew you’d understand that anyway. She’s been gone for some weeks now and we’ve been all over this bloody world looking for her. Keep getting these sodding cryptic notes as to where to look and everyplace we end up, we just find another one, that and demons to kill.” Spike touched the barely visible bruises over his eyes. “The last one led us here, but it also brought up other issues concerning you lot.”
“What kind of issues?” Wesley asked, and Faith could see his mind was already working on the problem.
“Ones involving your little Queenie there.” Faith pointed to Fred, who recoiled.
Wesley tightened his arm around her.
“What’s it got to do with her?” he asked, his voice tight.
“You all remember little science bloke worked for her back during my haunting stage?”
“Knox. But...he’s dead. He was found with his neck broken inside his own house,” Fred whispered faintly.
“Your work?” Angel immediately concluded.
“And proud of it. I was in the lab awhile back listening to him wax on about his glorious plan to kill Fred there and bring some ancient demon to take over her body. You can bet I bloody well killed him soon as I was able.”
“Knox. Evil. Well, yeah, I guess, duh.” Fred looked down at her hands. “I guess, I just thought he liked me.”
“He did, Fred,” Spike said gently. “That’s why he was planning on it. Thought you were worthy for his beloved demon god or whatever.”
Wesley looked down at her in concern.
Fred smiled at him.
“It’s okay, Wes. I’m fine. I still love you best after all.”
Wesley kissed her forehead before raising his head to look at Spike.
“But now that Knox is not here to bring this demon, Fred is no longer in any danger, correct?”
“We don’t know. You see, Percy, our little note here says that yes, demon can’t do her song and dance, but there are other followers who want a little revenge on me and may use Science-girl there and/or Buffy to do it.”
“Can’t you do anything, Spike, besides get my people into trouble? My family?” Angel’s voice was exhausted.
Spike stood up and moved over to the desk.
“Look, Your High and Mighty Broodiness, it’s not my fault there’s baddies out there. Your problem is you’re too good at wanting to be the only one to decide everybody’s lives for them. You’ve had your share of bad patches, I’ll admit it. But now when they need you, get off your sodding high administrative horse and be the champion of the people you so desperately want everybody to think you are. Fred and Buffy need you. Use your precious resources you love so much and find out from this beast you’re riding in, who these demon-peons are and help me kick the crap out of them. Then you can go back to your brooding over Cordelia and signing checks.”
Faith stared at Spike, impressed in spite of herself. Andrew, of course, was leaning against the wall for support in the face of this perceptive declaration.
“That’s what I’m talking about!” Gunn said in agreement.
Faith watched Angel closely. He raised his head with what seemed like new strength and she knew that even though Angel would never admit it, he felt a small spark of fire in his dying hope at Spike’s words.
“Spike, you never give up, do you? Just to get you out of my life...” His voice lowered. “...and because it’s Buffy, fine. Everybody back to your departments and give me something, anything on who might be doing this. Fred, someone you trust is to be with you at all times. Faith, Spike, and…uh, Andrew, stay with me and give me the full report. Move it, people. Our family’s at stake.”
Everyone dispersed to their separate tasks, Wesley pausing to ask Spike a question.
“Did you happen to catch the name of the demon that was to be summoned?”
Spike thought a moment.
“Illyria? Iyria? Something like that.”
“That gives me something to start with anyway.”
Wesley, too, scurried off to his office.
“Check out the obedience there,” Faith whistled. “Way to muster the troops, Angel.”
“Yeah, big general type you are now,” Spike agreed. “So, what you need from us?”
“Spike, I need you to just sit down and shut up for once. Give me the exact details of everywhere you’ve been and what you know about who’s after Fred.”
“Can’t exactly do that if I shut up, now, can I, Gramps?”
Spike wandered down to Fred’s lab for Fred-duty, as Lorne called it. The scientist was busy researching when he arrived and he waited, looking at the things he remembered.
“You here to watch-dog me?” she asked, seemingly resigned.
“Yeah, my turn and all. Gotta keep you safe, pet.”
She smiled, probably a little exasperated with her boys and their over-protective streaks.
“I’m not gonna disappear into thin air, Spike. I may have some sort of demon after me, but I’m not a little girl who needs her daddy to keep the monsters away. I’m quite able to save myself now.”
“We all can save ourselves, luv. Sometimes we need help is all,” Spike answered, winking at her.
She swatted his hand before moving on to her work while Spike continued his inspection of the room.
“So you and Watcher-boy finally got it on,” he said conversationally.
Fred blushed and flustered her way around the counter.
“Yes, not that it’s any of your business, Spike.”
“Just checking, Science-girl.” Spike smiled at her.
Faith and Andrew lounged on the couches while Angel was out conferring with an actual devil demon. Horns, tail and everything. Faith thought it a touch ironic.
“This place is so big.” Andrew stared around in awe. “I feel so small and insignificant.”
“Yeah, well, you’re supposed to.” Faith nudged his shoulder. “Kid, places like these are designed to put you down. They’re all about the high-power client, rich and mighty brown-nosers here. You and me, we don’t fit in.”
Andrew brightened up slightly.
“We’re the same then?”
“No way are we the same. We just got common enemies. So buck up your chin. Ole Angel will have our info soon and then we can ride this cult till they drop and get the hell out of town.”
“Good, this place is too much for me and the people here are so…cold.”
Faith stared at him.
“Interesting word choice there, Andy. To be honest I’m kinda worried about the sitch here. I mean, here’s this incredibly bad-ass corporation and they just hand over the reins to their arch-enemy like that? Without some ulterior motive, even, and Angel fell for it? Spike’s right that the heat’s turning up. I don’t wanna be in LA when the thing blows up and I don’t think Angel and Co. should be either.”
“Well, go ahead and tell Angel that. I wouldn’t. He’s grumpy,” Andrew stated. “I prefer Spike if I need some vampyre company.”
“Yeah, for company go to Spike. But Angel’s a great guy. He’s just been through a lot lately with Cordelia going evil and all and I don’t think he appreciates the blast from the past fresh with real truths that Spike’s been hammering down his throat.”
“I don’t think he’d appreciate anything anyone tried to do for him,” Andrew muttered.
“Not true there. He totally thanked me and everything for kicking his ass and landing him back in a steel cage. Man’s an appreciation machine.”
Faith and Andrew laughed and then they looked up as Angel came through the door, followed by everyone else, including Harmony, who hovered around with a refreshment tray to offer to everyone.
“All right,” Angel said, once everyone had gathered. “We just got a threatening note. Normal day at Wolfram and Hart. Wes checked it out, so why don’t you read it?”
“Thank you, Angel,” Wesley replied. “The note simply offers an exchange. Spike for not hurting Fred. And they say that they can harm her even without being in possession of her and they want no more involvement in their ‘religious affairs,’ as they put it.”
“What’s the plan, Angel?” Gunn asked. “How we stop them from hurting our own?”
Angel rubbed his forehead.
“You got any bright legal ideas?”
“Not really, you know I haven’t been so sharp in that area recently. And the price for redo is a little too high for me right now, so unless something happens, I’m pretty much useless to you except as the muscle.”
“Muscle with heart,” Angel replied.
Gunn looked honored and tried to cover it up quickly.
“Wes, how about you?”
“I’m afraid not. I believe if we could just obtain their location a simple fight would put an end to this forever. I have also found some more information on Illyria, the ancient Old One Knox spoke of.” Wesley said Knox as if it were a dirty word. “She was a very powerful and influential demon at the time when the Old Ones walked the earth. Even now, some like Knox worship her after thousands of years. Her powers are legendary and awe-inspiring. However, to have her inhabit our time once more would involve the hollowing out of a vessel for her, in this case, Fred.”
“No,” said Angel, “that’s not happening. I won’t let it.”
“None of us would, sweet tart,” Lorne put in. “But we gotta figure out how to stop it before all hell breaks loose and I’m not just talking about my mother. I’m talking scary fire and brimstone, wet the bed, Olivia Newton John kind of hell.”
“What do you know about it, Green-man?” asked Spike inquisitively.
“Heard Knoxy-boy singing, didn’t I? Back when we first took over? Saw some sort of hell bringing in his future. I put that down in my report, didn’t anyone read my report?” Everyone looked around sheepishly. “Point is, cupcake, that I thought it’d been taken care of and you did take care of his share of it. But he’s got friends, ugly mean ones and they want their god back too.”
“Can I make a really bad suggestion?” Fred asked. “Maybe we could talk to Eve and see if we can get the Senior Partners in on this? They could be a big help if they wanted to be and we are on their team now.”
“No, we’re not,” Angel said, rising from his desk. “The last thing we want to do is bring the Senior Partners into this. They have their fingers in too many of our pies as it is. They targeted each and every one of us for something and I know it’s my fault we’re here and being tempted to accept their help, but we won’t go any further than we have to. We run Wolfram and Hart. But with anything involving our people, Angel Investigations will take care of on its own.”
“Fine speech there, except for the part where you left out, ‘oh yeah and we just used all our powerful new resources to take care of this on our own,’ ” Spike commented.
“Let’s get technical, Spike,” Angel ground out. “From now on we will use our own resources. Satisfied?” Spike just smirked at him. Angel focused his attention back on everyone else. “So, we need to find out where these guys are? Did they give us a way to get a hold of them?”
“Yes, actually,” Wesley supplied. “A phone number. I traced it back to a bar about twenty minutes away.”
“Good, then, call and tell them we’ll give them Spike. Preferably gagged.”
“Hold up there just one bloody minute-” Spike began, but Faith interrupted him.
“Angel, your house and all, but Giles did sorta put Spike in charge of this operation. You should confer with him about any delivering of himself over to the enemy.”
“Gee, Rogue, warm feelies all over,” Spike said, sounding surprised.
“Just don’t wanna have to explain your dusty body to the brat,” Faith told him.
Spike grinned and replied,
“I’m telling the Nibblet what you called her.”
“Hiding behind a teenager, Spike. What a Big Bad you really are,” Faith replied.
Angel clenched his jaw impatiently, and Faith rolled her eyes. Sure, he couldn't be aware of the camaraderie that the three had established over their travels and was probably thinking they were just wasting his time, but geez.
“I just thought we could say we’ll send Spike and then kill them all while we’re there. Good plan, O Spike the Leader?”
“My kind of plan anyway,” Spike replied. “Let’s get moving then. Sacrificial lamb to the slaughter.”
They quickly conferred as to who should do what where and it was decided that Angel, Faith, Gunn and Andrew should accompany Spike on his outing to give himself up, while Fred, Lorne and Wesley remained behind, partly to protect Fred and partly for any surprises that might show up. That done, Wesley left to make his phone call which resulted in arranging for them to bring Spike to an abandoned warehouse that night. In the meantime, Wesley had Fred looking through all of Knox’s files that could be found and Wesley was researching as much as he could on Illyria.
The information was both illuminating and interesting and appealed to Wesley’s scholarly thirst for knowledge. Illyria’s remains had been put in a sarcophagus and placed in the Deeper Well, a resting place for her kind protected by a Guardian. It was foretold that she would one day be a Presence among men again, but the only person who could draw her forth would be the one who could perform certain rites and undergo specific trials to become worthy. And…Wesley’s eyebrow rose as he turned the page…that would take several years to complete.
So they were safe on that front, Knox being dead, until someone new from her sect arose to try and complete the task of bringing her back. There seemed to be some more references to that, but try as he might, Wesley couldn’t find what they entailed.
Fred wrinkled her nose in disgust and horror as she found Knox’s notes detailing the events that enabled him to carry the honor of bringing back Illyria. Underneath that shyly awkward, bookish, genius exterior had been a thoroughly sick and fanatical man. Fred shuddered and practically ran to Wesley’s office, bursting through the door without knocking.
“Fred! What’s the matter? Are you hurt? Is something wrong?” Wesley abandoned his books at once and led her to sit down.
“I-I’m sorry, Wesley. I just didn’t want to have to look at that stuff anymore. Demon slime I can handle, but this was-was…”
“Truly barbaric,” he finished for her.
“It just is hard to think that, well, that I trusted him. As much as anybody here, I mean. I keep bringing trouble down on us, Wesley.”
“What!” he cried. “Nonsense.”
“People keep having to save me, Wesley. My family. And I don’t want any of y’all getting hurt.”
“We’d never take that into account if it meant you, Fred,” he said softly. “That is what family does. We might grow apart as clearly demonstrated by this past year, but at the critical moment, we’ll always be here for each other.”
“I know all that. I just have trouble believing that we could rally around while we’re here.” She looked around his office. “In this place we should’ve never come to.”
“You feel that too?” He gently lifted her chin with his fingers and looked in her eyes. “This will all be over and we’ll save our souls together, I promise you.”
She smiled and he kissed her thoroughly before they both went back to their separate work.
“Time’s a wasting, boss.” Faith walked into the hall where Spike was pacing impatiently. “Let’s get you all trussed up.”
“Finally,” he snapped as if making him wait to be tied up was an unforgivable sin and stalked to where she, Angel, Gunn and Andrew stood waiting.
“Change of plans, Angel.” Wesley came running out of his office. “These texts about Illyria. They’re very cryptic and random, but I believe there might be a back up spell or something to that effect. I should go along with you in case of any magical surprises.”
“All right, fine. Gunn, you stay here with Fred and Lorne.”
“Just when I get the chance to do some real slice and dice,” Gunn complained, but handed his axe over to Wesley.
“Let’s go,” Angel said and they all walked to the elevator.
They entered the warehouse cautiously, alert for any ambush. But all they saw was a group standing in the center of the room waiting for them. There were about twenty figures with a mixture of both demons and humans, but all bore a mark upon their right cheek of blue flame sweeping through a series of endless circles. The foremost spoke and as soon as he did they realized their mistake.
“Impero,” he said simply and each of them watched, as if frozen, in horror, while Spike struggled uselessly against invisible bonds as they dragged him toward the Illyria worshipers.
“Reductum,” said the leader and Spike screamed while the others felt control of themselves return once more.
They moved into an offensive position, each eying a quarry.
“Fight on; we are prepared to die for Her. But you will not reach him before his death brings Her.”
The leader smiled, a human smile over alien features, and melted into the group and started to mutter words over Spike as the rest moved forward to guard them.
Then Wesley understood the passage he had read earlier and with growing dismay cried out.
“Angel! This is the spell. If they finish it, Spike will die and Illyria will be brought here and drawn into Fred!”
“Then break the spell, Wesley!” Angel gutted out as he swung his broadsword into an enemy face.
“While we break some heads.” Faith ducked under a knife-thrust and elbowed the man attacking her out cold.
Wesley fumbled for the papers he’d brought revealing the incantation to break the spell. He grasped Andrew’s arm.
“Help me! Hold this for me as I read.”
“Okay, but I’m much better at summoning de-”
“Just hold it!” Wesley shouted, already concentrating on the pages and starting to utter something in an archaic language.
A silver light had encircled Spike and his tormentor and through it Spike could be seen on his knees, held down by an unknown force, as the leader muttered faster and faster. Spike seemed to be weakening as though all his strength were being torn out by the words.
Angel drew off about half of the fighting force to the catwalks above the main floor. Faith battled the rest and prevented them from reaching Wesley and Andrew. Both had tried, without success, to break the barrier between them and Spike.
Wesley gritted his teeth and shouted the final word of the incantation just as Angel felled the last of his foes. With a blaze of light, the barrier vanished and Wesley collapsed just as Spike did also, his stolen power seemingly rushing back into him.
A demon gave a cry of rage and rushed toward Wesley to smite him down for the interruption of their ceremony. Andrew cradled Wesley’s head and didn’t see the murderous demon bearing down on them. Faith made a split-second decision to let Spike handle himself and brought her knife down in a curling arc into the demon’s back as he brought his own down toward Wesley and Andrew, who had just now noticed the demon and was starting to jump up.
She turned back toward Spike and saw the leader sneer.
“Choices. Yet it is too late, Slayer.” He held a sword poised over Spike’s limp head, who was still reeling from the suddenness of his returned strength. “All I have to do is dust him and all your efforts will have been in vain.”
And he raised his sword and brought it swinging down.
A sudden noise from overhead caused him to look up as Faith started to run to him.
“Not my family you don’t!” Angel roared as he jumped off the catwalk and landed before him. “Spike may be an annoying nuisance, but he’s blood.”
And Angel sent his sword flashing into the man’s belly, pulling it out with a flourish as the man fell and Angel looked like his old self as he did it. Faith rushed past him to Spike who sat up coughing heavily and looking as if he’d just been resurrected from a Hellmouth.
“Boss, you gonna make it?” she asked, helping him to stand.
“Yeah, but I think my brain’s gone mental. Did I just hear Angel stand up for me?”
Faith smiled and answered,
“Yup. Guess he likes ya after all.”
“Now I know something’s mental, but it’s either your brain or his,” he mumbled.
She chuckled as Angel glared at Spike and muttered something about,
“Ungrateful peroxide pests and he didn’t know what she was thinking,” before stomping over to Wesley who had only just regained consciousness.
“Wait, luv,” Spike said almost incoherently. “Gotta get a clue.”
“Huh? Oh right.”
Faith knelt down and rummaged through the dead man’s pockets before pulling out a blood-stained note that would reveal their next location. Faith supporting Spike and Angel supporting Wesley, they exited the building and headed back to Wolfram and Hart.
“Spikey! Blondie-bear! What happened?” Harmony rushed out from behind her desk.
“He’s fine. Harmony, get a medic up here!” Angel snapped and grumbled, “she’s my assistant as she points out so often. I’m the one she’s supposed to be worried about. But no, it’s Blondie-bear!”
Angel shook these thoughts off and strode into his office.
The medic arrived and examined Spike and Wesley in Angel’s office proclaiming them both to be fit and able. Wesley suffered from spell back lash and Spike from having all his insides taken out and then jammed back in.
“They’ll settle soon and be ready for anything they might want to undertake,” the medic said and then glided back to the medical facility.
Wesley rested on the couch and Fred sat beside him, holding his hand.
“Wes, care to tell me what that was back there?” Angel asked.
“Certainly.” Wesley roused himself. “Because Spike had killed Illyria’s Bringer, the powers of the Bringer - the honor, I should say - were transferred to him. This man, in killing Spike, would receive the same benefits only with the added bonus of the spell which would draw out power from Spike to bring Illyria into Fred without the usual steps. Quite ingenious really, but nasty.” Wesley winced, clutching his head. “Glad I was there.”
“Me too, Percy, me too,” Spike croaked.
“Wait up now,” Gunn cut in, “how would they have gotten Fred? She wasn’t even there.”
“Well, because Knox had marked her out for the job, whoever did the spell would automatically use her, whether she was in the vicinity or not, unless he performed the proper steps to appoint a new vessel for Illyria.” Wesley smiled at Fred and kissed the back of her hand. “Happily, the spell was interrupted before it could be finished and secondly, with Spike being still alive, no one else can perform the proper rituals to raise Illyria until they kill him.”
“So I’m gonna have Illyria groupies hunting me for the rest of my immortal life?” Spike sighed. “If it wasn’t you, Fred, I’d-“
“Thank you, Spike,” she said quietly. “You’re a real part of the family to do that for me.”
“Not part of his bloody family!” Spike recounted, pointing at Angel.
Angel sighed and looked at his Grandchilde.
“Yes, you are, Spike. Whether we like it or not.” Angel lowered his voice and mumbled quickly. “And I have you to thank for helping me remember the importance of family again. I think some definite changes need to happen around here. If it weren’t for Cordelia and Con-” he stopped quickly “-Cordelia, I’d leave here.”
“Take my advice, mate. Leave here anyway. Cheerleader or no cheerleader. You can take care of her elsewhere. Here, she’s just in danger.”
“Spike. It’s my decision. Stop pushing.”
“Fine, whatever. You go your own way and speaking of going, where we going, Rogue?”
Faith brought out the bloody paper and read from it slowly to decipher the words through the blood.
“Well, if Angel wasn’t such a gory fella, we could find out.
‘No connection, no past,
Nothing to fall back on;
Island nation, New Zealand mast;
Your heritage, where has it gone?’
And still with the four really bad lines. So, I’m guessing New Zealand?”
Andrew practically shot out of his chair.
“That’s where they shot Lord of the Rings! Can we visit Mount Sunday, please, please, please?”
“Cool it, Andy. This is not a geek vacation. It’s a ‘pick up Buffy and try not to get you killed’ trip.”
“I’ve been fighting. And I know as well as you what we have to do. Nobody ever said we couldn’t make detours, Miss Dancing At Clubs All Night and Getting Arrested For Indecent Behavior Person.”
“Do we have to be reminded of the painful lesson we learned back in Sunnydale? Cause I ain’t adverse to teaching it again, but it could get a little messy for you,” Faith told him warningly.
He gave in with bad grace.
“I’m not afraid of you, Dark One. Our powers are one.”
“Which means?” she asked, apparently as clueless as everyone else.
“None of your business,” Andrew answered.
“If we’re done with this…conversation?” Angel asked. “Get out of my town and do that. Whatever it is.”
“Don’t mind them, Gramps. They like to do that. Gets all that tension out and leaves their minds free and empty.”
Faith shoved Spike and he nearly toppled over, his equilibrium still a little fuzzy.
“Spike, the second you hear from Buffy or find her, you tell me. Faith, make sure he does.” Angel glowered extra hard to make sure his point got across.
“Don’t worry, Big Guy. We got people all over we’re informing on B’s status. Giles, the brat, Xander. We’ll put you on the list.”
“Thank you, Faith. You’re really coming through, aren’t you?” Angel smiled at her.
“What? I get my insides ripped out and it’s ‘thank you, Faith for saving all our lives?’ Unlife just will never be fair,” Spike retorted.
“Spike, get out of here,” Angel gritted through his teeth. “Go, before I decide to smash that pretty head in.”
“So you admit my head’s the pretty one? Anyway, who smashed who last? And we wouldn’t want to muss up our hair gel, would we, Your Broodiness?”
Angel clenched his jaw and then turned to sit behind his desk focusing on his paper work.
Spike grinned and made his round of good byes again, parting on much better terms with Wesley and earning another hug from Fred. Andrew hugged everyone and promised to write them long letters detailing everything about the Great Buffy Search. Faith simply nodded to everybody, before the threesome left to continue their search.
This time when Buffy opened her eyes she could focus them right away on the hooded figure, seated at a writing table. He was writing furiously, even sometimes biting on his feathered quill as if to think of a certain word or phrase that eluded him. She felt much better, like she had strength to do things normal people could do, though it still didn’t feel natural to her. But if her strength continued to return she would be able to break free, probably in the next few weeks.
That is if Buffy’s mind wasn’t completely caught up in the revelation that Spike was alive. She wasn’t surprised that Faith was looking for her, she was the obvious choice and Andrew, well, nothing he did would surprise her. But that Spike was alive! Her heart hammered every time she thought of it and even being chained up couldn’t change the fact that she wanted to sing and dance all over the place.
Buffy closed her eyes again and thought about what her captor had told her. Of how he had concocted a plan to revive Spike from the dead and use her as a means to pay him back for things he’d done over the years. Of how the demon circuits had buzzed with the news and people from all over clamored to be involved and be the one to put an end to William the Bloody for the final time. It reminded her of Slayerfest ’98 and Mr. Trick’s plan to kill her and Faith.
Despite the audacity of them to kidnap her and use her to lure Spike here, Buffy could almost kiss them for what they’d done. Bringing Spike back to her again and with no snatched-from-heaven-feelings to deal with. She couldn’t wait to see him when he came for her.
It wasn’t like there weren’t serious things to discuss with him or that she didn’t have issues about him and guys in general, but she had never come so close to perfect happiness before and no two-bit theatrical villain was going to keep Spike from her. Buffy rattled her chains to get her captor’s attention and to gauge her strength. It was increasing despite the daily injection.
“Well rested, are we?” he asked. “I do hope so as I would feel such a terrible host otherwise.”
“You are a terrible host. Maybe you’re stuck in the Middle Ages, but it is considered impolite to chain up your guests these days. Oh, and they usually prefer to be asked if they want to come.”
“Very droll, my dear. I must say I am sorry to not be taking a closer interest in your situation, but I am so fascinated in your friends and their antics.”
“Oh yeah, what’d they do this time?”
“I suppose, bella, it wouldn’t be any harm to tell you.”
“Gosh, do I feel the flattery. Stop, I’m blushing.”
“Sweet girl, you flatter yourself. Your lover was just in LA and everyone rallied around your cause so unanimously, I was quite touched. But now they are on their way again and I am quite looking forward to what’s in store for them soon.”
“Don’t get presumptuous on me now. You might not be here to watch.”
“My darling Slayer, you underestimate me and overestimate yourself. I have been here a long time and plan to be here longer still. This is my favorite little spot, you see and I do hope you’re enjoying it as much as I am.”
‘There he goes on again, with the enjoying myself. It’s like he’s so used to swooning females he can’t help trying to get me to join their ditzy ranks even though I’m chained up. I’ve got to stop thinking. It’s turning my brain mushy,’ thought Buffy.
“Well, this talk has been so nice, I think I’ll go back to sleep now. I’d join you, but, you know.” She lifted her hands for emphasis. “Chains.”
“Sweet dreams, bella,” he answered.
She rolled her eyes in response. He got cornier every day.
Chapter 9: William the Bloody in Charge
Faith finally threatened to gag Andrew in the airport if he didn’t shut up about all the wonderful, touristy, Lord of the Rings things they could do in Wellington. Much to Faith’s dismay, it was only after Spike issued his own threats as well that Andrew finally did stop. Disgruntled, she stalked to a waiting taxi and slid inside with a flirtatious smile for the driver, who blushed, cheering her up instantly.
“So, Spike, what horrible event from your past we viewing this time?”
“No bloody idea,” he answered. “Been to Australia once a long time ago. Me and Dru were there for two months. Fed off of dockworkers, then Miss Edith told her it was time to go and we left. Never offended anyone I can think of and never tried to destroy the world once.”
“Good for you, Tiger,” Faith praised him sarcastically.
“So,” he continued as if she hadn’t spoken, “I don’t know where to look for whoever’s trying to kill us this time.”
“Maybe they’ll send us a note,” Andrew suggested cheerfully. His window was open and he was busy breathing in all the New Zealand air.
“Right,” Spike said, sounding unconvinced, and then leaned forward to speak to the driver, “Can you just take us to a hotel, please?”
Andrew crowed triumphantly in Spike’s sensitive ear making him jump and swear.
“Pay up, Miss Know it All,” he demanded of Faith. “You said he’d never say please! Ha, Ha. I am more adept in Spike knowledge than you.”
“Don’t boast about it, kid.” Faith glared at him before digging into her pants pocket and pulling out a pile of crumbled bills. “I got better things to do than color-code the vamp’s personality flaws. And hey, I can still rearrange that annoying little face of yours.”
Spike idly asked how she could fit anything into her pockets with the pants being so tight and all. Faith shot him a look while Andrew chortled and actually caressed his newly-gotten money singing a little song over it.
“I got my money. I’ve got my money. Such pretty money.”
Faith did start to hit him then, but Spike caught her arm.
“Cool it, Rogue, before I get tetchy about you trying to win money off my speaking habits.”
She rolled her eyes at him but desisted from molesting Andrew.
“Your show, boss,” she answered in mock humility.
The three travelers rested that night and then met the next morning for breakfast, Spike surreptitiously slipping blood in his coffee mug.
“So what do we do?” asked Andrew, crunching loudly.
“Dunno. Suppose I could check out the local demon crowd.”
“Sure that’s wise, boss?”
“Either that or we go to Andrew’s tourist spots,” Spike told her.
Andrew looked up hopefully, Faith shuddered and a new voice chimed in.
“Wouldn’t recommend it. Not unless you want a real good tan to go with your not-so stunning outfit.”
Their heads shot to the slightly glowing, dark haired woman now sitting at their table with them, looking longingly at the fruit on top. None of the other diners seemed to have noticed anything unusual.
“Who’re yo- Cordelia?” Faith said, sounding shocked before her hand moved to the knife she had hidden in her napkin.
Cordelia waved her hand airily and Faith’s arm dropped limply to her side.
She stared at Cordelia, obviously nonplussed, who answered her.
“Hey there. Chill, Faith.”
“Aren’t you like the chick that’s in a coma?” Andrew asked nervously, awed by her literally shining beauty. “Oh, and we went to high school together!”
“Yes, small-brained one, my body is in a coma. My spirit on the other hand is busy being a Higher Being, which, frankly, is downright boring.”
“So what? You’re here trying to kill down time?” Spike asked, leaning back.
Cordelia focused her attention on him.
“Spike. As a matter of fact, doofus, I’m here to help you.”
“Really? Well, you look quite fetching. Though, I have to say it was bloody stupid chopping off all your hair.”
“Gee, thanks. Good thing your opinion doesn’t matter in the arena of hair care. Which reminds me, your own hair. What’s the point if you’re not all evil anymore?”
“Just rakish and manly is all, pet.” He smirked at her.
Cordelia laughed an indulgent laugh.
“You think that if it makes you happy then.” Then she seemed to speak more to herself. “Not that Angel’s hair is any better; note to self, talk to him about that.”
“Getting back to why you’re here,” Faith prompted.
“Oh right. We Higher Beings, so much on our minds. Anyway, last year with the whole hijacking of my body thing, big red faces in the divine spaces, let me tell you. The Powers, as I keep telling them, are supposed to help people. This past while we’ve been dealing with internal issues. Now we’re ready to get back in business. I assume Badly Dressed Demon Guy did his vague mission act on you?”
“Yeah, saw him way back in China.”
Cordelia was sidetracked for a moment.
“You know, of all the bad dressers I know, yourself included, Whistler’s the worst. Even Xander and Doyle had a leg up on him.”
“You know for a supposedly Higher Being, you’re awfully flighty,” Faith informed Cordelia who glared back at Faith.
“Do you want me to put your head on backwards? Cause I can do that.” Her fingers started to twitch, but then she glanced over her shoulder. “Fine, I won’t. Satisfied?” Spike raised his eyebrow. “Okay, we’ll get to the point. Just for Miss Recently Evil Herself. The Powers are here for me to give you the skinny on Buffy Quest 2004.” Andrew looked envious that he hadn’t thought of that title himself. “Then I get to wake up, touch things again and get my guy’s head out of his-”
“Unmentionables?” Spike supplied innocently.
“-And drag his ass out of Wolfram and Hart and back into the Hyperion where it belongs, with me.”
“How touching, Princess,” Spike said. “But I’d like my love story to have a happy ending too. So where’s Buffy?”
Cordelia looked indignant.
“I’m not your fortune-teller, dumb ass. For one thing, I have much better fashion taste. And you can tell your little Slayer that I totally resent her Cordelia bait comment. That is so five years ago.”
“Do you know where she is or not?” Faith asked impatiently.
“Of course I know. But I can’t tell you.”
“Who has her then?” Andrew asked, still shy of this sharp tongued, powerful woman sitting across from him.
Cordelia opened her mouth as if to speak, but then looked over her shoulder again in annoyance.
“All right already, I won’t tell them. Lay off. Sorry, guys, looks like that nut is for you to crack. She’s safe, okay? Now, my deal is to help you in the here and now. The guys you’re after, vampire cult. Not happy with Spike’s unconventional evil behavior, before and after the soul. The reason you’re here in the outer regions of the world and far away from any decent shoe stores is that they want you confused. They also don’t plan to show themselves, to make you all bothered and nervous waiting for them to strike.”
Spike snorted, showing his opinion of that plan.
“Relax, Spike, tonight I’ll take you to where they are and you can kill them all, okay? Good, see ya then.” And Cordelia snapped her fingers and disappeared.
“Neat little trick, that,” Spike said in envy.
“Why thank you,” she reappeared for a moment. “Comes with the whole Higher Power thing.”
“Stop squirming, you wuss.” Faith tightened her grip on Spike’s arm. “Aren’t you a little dead to be playing with sunlight?”
“Not my fault the silly bint decided to open the bloody curtains on my arm.”
“Poor Spike,” Andrew commiserated. “Burns are the worst. Once back in my evil days-“
“Andrew, I’ve had about enough of memory lane as I can stand for another lifetime. Could we save the ‘when I was evil and burned’ story for later, yeah?”
“Okay, fine. Only cause you’re hurt.”
“Something good came out of it then.” Spike sighed.
“I don’t know, you’re awfully cute when you’re all banged up and wounded,” Faith teased.
Spike glared at her.
“Not up for emotionless flattery either, luv. Perhaps Miss Glow and Shine can get us through this next part quick, but this whole thing is really starting to get on my nerves.”
“All those bad poems bringing up bad memories, huh?” she asked in mock sympathy.
Spike gritted his teeth and finally burst out with knowledge he'd sworn never to tell another being, living or otherwise.
“Fine! Bloody well fine! You want to know about it, okay!” Spike pulled his arm away from Faith and braced himself against the bed. “Back when I was human I was in love with a bird called Cecily - now known...” he allowed himself a twist of a smile “...as Halfrek, the dead vengeance demon. Being the sappy sort, I wrote her a bit of poetry. It got read out loud at a party one night; Cecily heard it and gave me and it the bum’s rush. I fled into the night like a nancy-boy where Dru decided to make me into her shining knight. I was known as William the Bloody Awful Poet, but I assure you...” A yellow glint showed in his eyes. “...after I was turned, people called me William the Bloody for very different reasons. So there, Rogue, you satisfied?”
“There are some areas to be filled in,” she told him wickedly, “but it’ll do for now.”
Andrew shivered in delight at the story. Faith rolled her eyes at him.
“Will nothing make him stop that?” she appealed to anyone, anything.
“I certainly don’t mind trying,” Cordelia said, popping up beside Faith. “Ready, guys? The sun just set.”
“I know!” Spike snarled, hauling on his duster and feeling grouchy over more embarrassing disclosure of his past.
Cordelia raised her perfectly shaped eyebrows.
“Who staked his ass?”
“Don’t mind, Blondie. He’s just trying to improve his Sire imitating and brooding skills,” Faith told her.
“I am not! I may be upset, but I’ll tell you straight out and not just sit there glowering at you from under my caveman-sized brow expecting you to know what bur’s under my saddle today.”
“He’s beautiful when he gets started,” Faith mentioned.
“Yes, he is,” Andrew agreed.
“Less talk, more action, peons!” Cordelia slapped her hands together and they were all whisked away, landing at the entrance to a run-down building in the middle of nowhere. “This Higher Power thing I could get used to,” she said with relish.
“Let’s just get on with the killing and mayhem,” Spike demanded. “And don’t call me your peon.”
“People with hearts of dried up walnuts sure do seem to have the touchiest feelings,” she commented to herself before leading the way inside. “Now, people, listen. I can’t touch anything, so you’re on your own there, but I do have my kick-ass divine-ness.”
“Yeah, all hail Cordelia, let’s just do this,” Faith said.
To their surprise, the inside of the building was set up to look like the hall of a feudal lord in medieval times. It was like traveling back through time and Andrew’s eyes almost popped out of his head trying to take it all in.
“Interesting decoration choices, quite fashionable even,” Cordelia said. “Say if you’ve been dead for five hundred years. Honestly, vamps know nothing about style.”
“Hey! My crypt was quite posh,” Spike protested.
“Yeah, I got the airborne view of it and believe me, the distance could’ve been farther.”
“Silly cow,” he muttered to himself.
She glared at him, but before she could exercise her Higher Being wrath, lights flared in the hall as torches were lit and vampires flooded the room. They seated themselves at tables that lined the room before joining another table placed sideways across the other table’s ends to form a U-shape.
“My lords and ladies, we have guests,” the center form at the head table spoke. Only Spike and Cordelia could see her clearly. It was a tall vampress, with ice-cold blue eyes and red hair that swept down her back in such a fashion as suggested it was too good for this life. Her slender form showed pale skin against the torchlight and the old-fashioned black dress she was wearing reminded Spike of something Drusilla would wear, only slinkier. “My name is Janevra. In the name of our clan, we bid thee welcome.” Her voice was as cold as her eyes, crisp, clear and perfect, but lacking anything that demonstrated she was alive. “Before we begin, please, will not you sit?” Janevra gestured to seats beside her.
Something in the back of Spike’s mind was shouting at him, telling him something, but he couldn’t think what it could mean so he ignored it for the time being.
“Boss, what happened to the hack and slash mayhem we had planned?” Faith whispered, obviously disappointed.
Up at the head table, Janevra’s lips curved into a smile completely lacking in humor.
“I assure thee, Slayer; the time for blood will come. This we promise.”
“Goody.” Faith was mollified.
Spike, Faith and Andrew walked to places set for them. Cordelia seemed to prefer to hover behind them, showing off her new powers.
As they were seated, Janevra raised her goblet in a toast.
“Members of the Court, we toast these who will not be with us long.” The vampires in the hall all raised their own goblets and drank deeply of virgin blood, Spike was sure of it. “After we have supped, I shalt take thee to our chamber where we shalt discuss thy errand here,” Janevra promised them. “Thy appearance was unexpected so waiting is not unwarranted.”
Faith made a face at having to wait. Cordelia also was audibly impatient.
“You guys do the waiting thing. I’m gonna pop over to LA, visit Phantom Dennis, and check on Angel. I’ll be back for the big confrontation.”
And she blinked out again. The vampires didn’t so much as blink.
“Don’t suppose you’ve got any buffalo wings or perhaps a flowering onion?” Spike questioned. “No? Didn’t think so.”
“A Hot pocket?” Andrew piped up.
Janevra’s lips curled once more, this time with a slow disdain and she seemed to be filing their remarks away for future reference. But all she said was,
“We have done. Let us begin.”
She led the way down the hall through large stone doors and into another vast hall, this one with a dais set at its far end with a raised seat upon it. Tapestries adorned the walls and there were no windows. Spike suspected, indeed he could almost smell the magic, that the building had been enspelled to look smaller on the outside than it actually was. Or the other way around.
Janevra walked to the dais and sat down on the chair, molding it to her form and enveloping it in her frozen nature. The vampires crowded into the room after them and sat in chairs that lined the walls. Spike, Faith, Andrew and suddenly, Cordelia, stood in the center of the hall before the dais.
“Thou hast been summoned here, though not at this exact time, William the Bloody, to stand trial for the betrayal of thy kind.”
“And what betrayal might that be?” he asked lazily.
“For throwing off the mantle of thy nature, befriending and treasuring that which is the enemy, for the killing of thy brethren and the despicable retrieval of that which had been blessedly taken from thee. More crimes thou hast committed, but these are enough.”
“You’ve been a busy boy, Blondie,” Faith complimented.
“I get bored easy. Legs cramp up.” He directed his next words to Janevra. “What bloody right do you have to pass sentence on me?”
“I am the Master of thy clan, William the Bloody,” she answered. “I am Janevra, childe of Carlon, childe of Tristan, childe of Nadine, childe of Donella, childe of the Master of the Clan of Aurelius.” Janevra stated her lineage proudly, but Spike inwardly scoffed, his was far grander.
Then what had been nagging at him all night suddenly clicked in his brain. He laughed long and loud while everyone else stared at him.
“For someone who’s so big on vamp tradition, you sure haven’t studied your masters,” he chuckled.
Janevra frowned, as if suddenly unsure.
“What dost thou mean?”
“I dost mean,” he spat at her, “that you are minion material compared to me." Spike seemed to grow taller, more commanding and kind of creepy. Even Cordelia seemed impressed. “For I am William the Bloody, Slayer of Slayers, childe of Drusilla, childe of Angelus, childe of Darla, favorite childe of the Master of the Clan of Aurelius. The Master is dead and Darla is dust. I am the grandchilde of the true Master of the Clan of Aurelius. I am your Master and I order you by blood right, as mine’s a hell of a lot purer than yours, to stand down and give up any scraps of bad poetry you may be hanging onto.”
There was a pause and silence reigned in the hall. Then Andrew fainted.
Faith caught him and knelt over him as he lay, hitting his face. Spike stood unmoved, waiting for Janevra’s response. She struggled. Her lips opened, her eyes flashed fire, the first sign of life she’d yet shown. Then, reluctantly, stiffly, vastly different from her coldly, graceful movements of before, she stood from the chair and knelt before it, saying softly,
Spike swaggered up to the dais and sat in its high seat, lounging. The vampires of the hall slowly stood up and one by one knelt before him.
It was several hours before they could leave. Spike had to spend them in conference with the leaders of this particular part of his clan, negotiating and establishing rules for his Mastery over them. Obviously, he wasn’t going to be staying with them, so he appointed Janevra to be his acting Regent. Basically the only thing that changed was the vampires were no longer allowed to kill them. But being vampires and tradition minded ones at that, it took them hours to sort that out.
At long last the three travelers headed back to the hotel with their next clue firmly in hand. Cordelia met them there; having winked out the minute negotiations had started, stating that they made her recall her vision headaches with real longing.
“So you guys are set to go then?” she asked.
“Yup, we got the goods right here,” Faith assured Cordelia.
“Good. Now I can leave and not see you anymore.”
Spike shook his head.
“Get out of here, Cheerleader. Thanks for the reconnaissance, but go do your glow-girl act somewhere else.”
“Since you’re missing Buffy, I’ll ignore that,” she said with marvelous grace. “Angel, here I come!” Cordelia hastily checked her appearance and then, snapping her fingers, disappeared.
Andrew sighed after her, but he quickly snapped out of it.
“Good work, team! We beat the bad guy. Well, Spike did, and nobody got hurt!”
“Yeah,” agreed Faith gloomily.
“Nobody got hurt but Spike, who was playing peek-a-boo with Mr. Sunshine and lost. Now we can find out where to go next.”
Spike was too tired to get mad at Andrew, so he just wordlessly handed the nerd the paper.
Andrew opened it eagerly and in his best theatrical voice read:
“ ‘Your dark beauty, she’s wicked; she drowns out the light;
Was unfaithful, ungrateful; chose Chaos all night.”
“Bloody hell,” Spike moaned and sank his head in his hands, “Is there anything this wanker doesn’t know?”
“What’s it mean?” Andrew asked.
“We’re going to Brazil and I have to relive having my heart broken in a thousand pieces.”
Faith thought for a moment then seemed to remember something.
“Dude! Willow’s in Brazil. Betcha she’d help.”
“Well, duh,” Andrew replied. “Buffy’s only her best friend!”
“Don’t push it, Andy,” Faith told him. “Buck up, boss. Willow could probably find her. She’s all big with the mojo.”
“But wait...” If possible, Spike’s face turned even paler. “Is she still with Kennedy?”
The three of them stared at each other in horror. There weren’t words for that possibility.
Chapter 10: Say Goodbye to Kansas and Smile for the Camera
Having notified Giles of their next destination, they weren’t surprised to see Willow waiting for them at the airport.
“Hey, guys! I’m happy to see you, well not happy you’re here for the reason you are, cause Buffy being gone is bad, but happy to see you all alive, like Spike, who we all thought burned up.”
“Red, see you haven’t lost the rambling touch,” Spike told her dryly.
She smiled a little.
“Sorry. It’s just something happening to Buffy gives me the wiggins and I start to do that thing that I do when I get the wiggins and...”
“Ramble away, Will, just answer us one question,” Faith interrupted. “Where’s Kennedy?”
Willow turned bright red and stammered, looking at the floor.
“I-I don’t know?”
“You asking us or telling us, Will?” Spike forced her head up gently.
“Telling,” she mumbled, returning her head to looking at the floor. “We aren’t together. Just not- Kennedy just isn’t down with my Willow-vibe magic-ness and I couldn’t handle…differences she had.”
“Thank God!” Faith released her breath.
Andrew did a little jig on the sidewalk.
Spike starting walking a bit more jauntily.
“Okay, that’s cleared up then. Now, Buffy.”
“I tried the locator spell, but no luck with the finding of her actual body. I did get this weird spirit sense of her though, like she was hovering nearby, or part of her was.”
“Do you know where?” Faith asked.
“I was working on that when you guys got here, so I’ll keep it up when we get back home. Sorry, I only have a little house. Looks like it’ll be the floor for you.”
“We’ve been worse places,” Andrew said, and then recounted their tale for her.
Spike and Faith noticed that a lot of things seemed to have changed since then, such as Andrew’s thrall adventure and his now possessing manly pectorals and a large fighting repertoire.
Willow listened politely, but clearly her mind was somewhere else.
“So you saw Oz? How-how’s he doing?”
“Great,” Spike told her. “Planted him off with Giles. You should ring him.”
“Really? Do you think so? It’s been such a long time and so much has happened and well, maybe.” Willow re-concentrated on her driving and when they reached her tiny apartment went directly to work on the locator spell.
Faith, Spike and Andrew dropped all their stuff and rested for awhile. The constant traveling was unsettling, even with all the Council’s money to pave the way into nice hotels.
“Sometimes I wish I wasn’t me,” Spike groaned as he sipped some blood Willow had thoughtfully picked up for him.
“Who would you be then?” Andrew asked seriously.
“Anybody’s better than this at the moment,” he replied. “If I wasn’t me, I’d say screw this and go eat a nice, virgin girl about sixteen, then have me a long shag and some kip.”
“Thanks for the visual, Blondie,” Faith joined in. “Wanted that for about the next never.”
“Who would you be, Faith?” Andrew inquired, recovering from the bluntness of Spike’s comment.
“Dunno. Somebody with family, not so much with the jail. But I’ll keep the body, suits me fine.”
“Yes, it does,” he agreed before hastily moving onto himself. “I think I’d like to be an astronaut, maybe a rocket scientist or a guitarist. Anyway, I’d be cooler than cool and have people screaming my name everywhere I go.”
“Like that would ever happen!” Faith scoffed, sitting back and closing her eyes. “Now shut your yap and let me sleep.”
“Not so much with the good.” Willow popped her head in. “Not if you want to get this trail while it’s fresh. Her essence is nearby, but it’ll go kaput real soon, unless we go now.”
“We’re on it.” Faith jumped up and pulled Andrew to his feet, he was having trouble disentangling his feet from the stool rung he was resting them on.
Spike stretched and grabbed a battle axe.
“Let’s go. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”
Willow led them to a street down town where vendors peddled their wares and artsy cafes crowded the buildings.
“It’s coming from…” Willow pointed “...the playground?”
They hurried forward into a small park, where the traditional swings and slide had been set up for the children of the neighborhood to use. None were occupying it now. The only person in sight was a middle-aged, gray-haired man sitting in one of the swings as if he were waiting for them.
“Ethan!” Willow gasped.
“Who’s Ethan?” Andrew asked.
“Magic guy,” Spike answered. “Does Chaos mojo. Guess I’m getting the double meaning part of the poem now.”
“Did you take Buffy?” Willow demanded, her hair starting to glow as she gathered magical forces around her.
Ethan shifted nervously on his swing, but shook his head and spoke in his smooth, British accent.
“No, but I’m definitely involved in this. I’ll admit it straight out. Nothing personal, just following my path, but I’m trying something new this time. Open confrontation. I’m quite nervous about it, actually.”
“Oh, you better be.” Faith lifted her knife and caressed it with her other hand. “I hear you’re a fair tell at singing pretty songs. Let’s see what you'll sing for us now.”
He swallowed hard, but remained where he was.
“Always a big fan of music, but not at this moment. Let’s just calm down, shall we? Why don’t you all sit and I’ll tell you some more?”
They warily eyed him, but seeing as he was ready to talk, did as he suggested. But as soon as it happened, their legs stuck and nothing they did would budge them. Whatever had touched the ground, stayed there and for most of them, that left them in pretty humorous positions.
Willow started to mutter, but Ethan shook his head at her.
“It will take you awhile to break the spell. By then, you’ll already be gone.”
“Where?” Spike growled. He’d had his fill of not being able to move lately.
“Special little place. You’ll love it. You get to be different, not have to deal with the pressures of your life.”
“What if I like the pressures of my life?” Faith ground out.
“Really? Well, that’s a shame. Oh well. You’ll still look the same, but won’t be able to implement yourselves in quite the same way.” Willow’s chanting grew louder. Ethan started to hurry his words. “Let me see; did I miss anything? Oh, try not to get locked up in a drug rehab for acting crazy and like yourselves. And there might be repercussions if you start slaughtering everyone you see. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the glamour, maybe even want to stay. But maybe you’ll get out, and I’ll try not to be here when you do, but I do have serious staying and gloating problems.”
“You’re gonna have more than that when I get through with you!” Faith told him.
Spike just sat there and waited for Willow to break the spell. He knew she could. With that mother of all spells she’d pulled off last year, there was nothing she could not do.
“Too bad old Ripper isn’t here,” mused Ethan. “This would tickle him awfully, but then you’ll be seeing 'him' soon. Now actually. Ta ta.”
Ethan waved his hand and muttered a few words. Sweat poured down his cheek.
A cloud formed around the four on the ground and they choked and gasped on it, even Spike. It surrounded them, it filled them and crammed into every part of them. Then it disappeared, pulled headlong from their bodies and it took them with it. Four screams split the air as they felt all they were ripped from themselves and sent soaring into the air with the cloud.
It was a cold journey and empty, until they slammed into something and were shoved into it. It felt like going back into themselves, but something was wrong. Utterly wrong. This was them, their bodies. But some things were not there, others were changed. They weren’t standing outside on a playground in Brazil. They were on the edge of the Sunnydale crater. The sun burned overhead, only it wasn’t the sun, it was huge floodlights. People were everywhere. Spike was kissing Buffy.
The shock of once more being in her arms and feeling her lips was so wonderful that he threw himself into it with enthusiasm. He could feel her pouring into his every sense. Something still wasn’t quite right, but he didn’t want to analyze anything while he was involved in this incredible kiss. Through the fog of his mind, he heard someone yelling.
“Cut! That was excellent.”
Buffy broke away from him immediately. He almost cried out at the loss, but unwilling to protest for fear of one of her violent reactions remained quiet. Spike looked around him and noticed he was on a set of something made to look like the crater. Cameras and lights and people filled the room. A woman came over and brushed makeup over his face; he started to protest, telling the woman that that phase of his life was over, when he saw Buffy run away from him and jump into the arms of a man standing on the other side of the camera. Pangs tore through him, but he couldn’t stop watching.
“Boss,” he heard from behind him.
Spike turned to see Faith, Willow and Andrew standing there. He almost fainted with relief. He wasn’t alone.
“What the bloody hell is going on?” he asked.
They stared at him blankly.
“We’re in some sort of set, some sort of alternate world,” Willow theorized. “That was Buffy, but she doesn’t seem to know you the same way we do. This looks like a television studio and we’re the actors! At least, that’s what side of the camera we’re on.”
Andrew pointed to all the equipment.
“It all says Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight. What does that mean?”
“In this world, Buffy’s a show?” Faith questioned. “You got to be kidding. Who’d watch that?”
“How do we get out of here?” Andrew wondered. “They all think we’re actors. Hey, that’s pretty cool.”
“No, it isn’t,” Spike said sadly, watching 'Buffy' snog another fellow. “Look at that nancy-boy. Betcha he’s got a girly name.”
“Calm down, boss. That’s not your girl,” Faith assured him.
“Looks the hell like her,” he muttered.
Willow started to hyperventilate beside him.
“Look, look! It’s- she’s not dead- it’s Anya!”
They all turned and saw her, walking around the other side of the set, chatting with Xander and Dawn and some man in a baseball cap that had Joss on the front.
“In this world, she must not have died, but lived to do the…the show,” Willow said.
“James,” the man in the baseball cap cried, “come here. We need to work on this bit here. You too, Sarah.”
Spike and the rest stared as the woman they knew as Buffy disentangled herself from her man and walked over to the group, turning over her shoulder and calling to Spike.
“James, let’s go.”
“Oh! I’m James here. Who the bloody hell would name someone that?” he grumbled as he walked over. “Figure out how to leave!” he demanded of the rest of the group over his shoulder.
They were discussing positions for the next scene when he got there.
‘Great,’ thought Spike, ‘my entire existence seems to be a bad sci-fi freak show.’
Baseball-cap-man was saying something.
“I want you, Sarah, and James to be here, canoodling and such on the back of the bus. Buffy’s still timid about your relationship, but she’s definitely going for it. Spike is just happy to be alive and with her.”
Spike rolled his eyes at this.
“Joss,” Xander asked, “did the script get changed again? I thought both Tony and I were going to go in, but it looks like it’s just me now.”
“Ah, Tony - the big star-” said the man who must be Joss “-had to go to a special singing thing today. So it’s just you and we’ll send in Emma after awhile to keep you from getting beat up too much by the two 'superheroes.' ”
Everybody laughed except Spike. Apparently this was funny.
“So, James and I do our thing, have our dialogue, then Nicky comes in to berate us, Emma enters wanting her reunion orgasms and then we’ll cut to the hospital?” Sarah asked.
“Exactly. So, get behind there and try not to make Freddy jealous,” Joss said. Once again, everybody but Spike laughed. “James, you doing okay? Don’t need to get a double for you, do I? James?” he added when Spike didn’t respond.
“What? Oh, right. Yeah, sure. All good.”
“What’s with the accent?” Nick asked. “Normally you can’t wait to stop using it.”
“Well, uh, just trying to do well. New form of…method-acting.” Spike hurriedly searched his brain for movie lingo to use.
“You don’t need to brain up,” Emma told him. “Your reviews were really good this morning. And you got nominated and everything.”
“What? Well, good. But I got to go.”
“Right, well, we’ll call you when we’re ready to get started,” Sarah called after him, sounding confused.
Spike quickly walked to where his people stood.
“Right, we got to get gone, they’ll know us for phonies sure,” he told them. “It’s not an alternate reality, it’s the Real World: an Alternate Reality!”
“How do you think I feel?” Faith snapped. “Some old bat named Marti came along and told me I gotta go play nursemaid to Wood when you’re done smooching your beloved Buffy.”
“It isn’t her!” Spike growled. “She wants Prince Charming over there.” He pointed to the man she’d been kissing earlier.
“Well, Kennedy’s dead here and I have to mourn her,” Willow said. “But listen, we might have a chance to get out of here. I can read the signature patterns on each of us left over from Ethan’s spell. If I can get us all alone and work on it, we could probably break it.”
“You sure, Red?” Spike asked her impatiently.
“Well not one-hundred-percent-I-know-we’re-all-fine-sure. But hopefully no one will end up with cat’s ears by the time I’m done.”
“I hope not.” Andrew shivered. “That would be horrible.”
“Right, people! Let’s get moving.”
Spike and Sarah moved onto the corner of the set where the school bus was located. Spike felt completely awkward, like it was their first date. He was supposed to be kissing and wooing this woman who he didn’t even know, while she was wearing Buffy’s body and facial expressions like a costume, and now they wanted him to take his shirt off. Normally he’d be only too happy to go shirtless in front of Buffy, but this wasn’t Buffy.
They settled down; she was wiping off nasty red stuff they’d smeared on him. The camera trained on them and thank God, she had a big long speech before he had to say anything.
“I can’t believe you’re not dead. I mean, I know you did die, I saw it, but you’re not dead now. I thought one of us would be gone when all this was over and now that it’s over, I don’t know what to think.”
This was just so much of how he’d wanted to hear her react to his being alive, that he had to try to talk.
“Buff-” he began, reaching for her.
She stopped him with a finger on his lips.
“Don’t say anything. I need to say this.” She looked down at her hands. “I’ve always had issues with guys. I know you know that. I thought I needed time for me, I told Angel that, but what I needed was the right guy. I don’t know if it will be forever, but right now, that guy is you. If you still want me.”
“Always,” he whispered, caught up in the moment.
This time when he reached for her, she responded and the washcloth fell from her hands as he embraced her. Their lips met and for him, time stopped. This was his heaven.
“Still macking on the evil undead?” Nick interrupted them. “Can you just wait till you get a room and I don’t have to watch?”
“Don’t have to watch now, whelp!” Spike said tersely.
The camera blinked off.
“That’s not your line, James.”
Spike looked chagrined.
“Sorry, uh, what is it?”
“Don’t you have macking of your own to do?”
“Right, uh, don’t you have macking of your own to do?”
The camera blinked off again.
“I need some more, James. Let’s leave out the uh too.”
“Okay. Don’t you have macking of your own to do?”
“Like with me?” Emma walked in and wrapped her arms around Nick. “We are together again, right? I mean, you said that and all before I almost died. Was that just a goodbye-soothe-your-last-moments thing?”
“No, no,” Nick hasted to assure her. “We’re of the good. I just wanted to let Buffy know we needed to get to the hospital now. A lot of these girls are more wounded than we can help them with.”
“Oh right!” Sarah jumped up. “I’m so sorry, of course, let’s go.”
“Slayer,” grumbled Spike, “always got to be the big hero.”
“James, that’s not your line.”
“I’m sorry. I’ve bloody well completely forgotten everything. Can I take a few, learn it again?”
“It’s all right,” Joss decided. “We’re ahead of schedule for once and there’s some editing to be done and some story work. Go home, study your script and we’ll pick it up again tomorrow. See what a nice director I am?”
“You’re the best, Joss,” Sarah told him, grinning. “Freddy, let’s go home. See you all tonight.”
Spike watched longingly as Freddy and Sarah walked off, presumably to do things that only he should be allowed to do with her, well, with his Buffy anyway. Spike walked back to Faith, Willow and Andrew, who looked uncomfortable and completely out of place.
“Quick, let’s get outta here and work on that spell thingy.”
“Please yes,” Willow said.
The four of them got out as quickly as possible, not stopping for 'costume' changes or makeup removal on their way out, only to pick up their personalized scripts and a copy of Who’s Who in the Buffy World.
The door to the studio stopped Spike in his tracks.
“It’s day out, I can’t go out there.”
“Oh, shooey,” Willow agreed. “Plus, we don’t have anywhere to go. We’re all new and outsidey and don’t know where we live.”
Just then, someone from the outside pushed the door open so fast they didn’t have time to react and Spike was enveloped in sunlight.
“Kinda tickles,” he remarked as everyone stood in awe and watched him not be burned.
“Yay for Spike the sunlight vamp!” Andrew cried.
Spike rushed outside and stood in the sun, drowning himself in it. He wanted more; he wanted to rip off all his clothes and let it sink into him. Being where he was and who he was with, he didn’t do that.
“Let’s go to a park or something and figure out what to do,” he suggested, unwilling to leave the sun. They all agreed and soon they were walking the city streets in search of a park.
“This is so cool.” Andrew pored over the book. “This has everything we’ve ever done in it. It’s like someone was recording our lives like in The Truman Show.”
“Someone was recording our lives,” Faith told him. “In the not-cool-we get-to-go-live-in-the-real-world-again kinda way.”
“Okay, first off, why am I not burning up?” Spike asked the obvious question. “My heart’s not- wait, it is beating! But I’m still dead and I can still.” His face shifted and his game face came out. “So I’m- what? Why is my heat beating, but I’m still a vampire?”
Willow was theorizing on this.
“I think we retain some of our powers and not others, like I’ve noticed my magical power level is at way less than normal. I feel kinda naked without it. At least I still have some of it or we couldn’t get out of here.”
“Faith, what have you lost?” Andrew inquired. “You still wicked strong?” She reached out her hand and lifted him off the ground. “That’s a yes,” he squeaked.
“But...” Spike said and threw a lightening fast punch at Faith’s head. He pulled it, but he would’ve slammed into her otherwise.
She stammered in disbelief.
“I, I wouldn’t have caught that. My reflexes, my senses, they’re gone.”
“Well, the upside of me is that I haven’t lost anything!” Andrew cheered up at the thought.
“Too bad you didn’t lose your power of being annoying as hell,” Faith muttered.
He stuck his tongue out at her and moved out of the way before she could reach him.
“I’m faster than you!” he rejoiced. Then he went back to reading his book.
It was taking a long time for Willow to finish analyzing their auras in preparation for the spell to get them home, so Faith and Spike had nothing to do but fend off the people who kept coming up to them for autographs.
“Maybe the park wasn’t such a good idea after all,” Spike groaned as the tenth girl asked him for a kiss. “These bloody women won’t leave me alone!”
“Sucks to be you,” Faith told him grinning.
It was cute watching him defend himself like a lost puppy dog. Maybe James-whoever could’ve handled it, but not Spike.
“I know who we all are!” Andrew crowed. He had flipped to the actor’s section of the book and found who they were supposed to be in this place Ethan had sent them.
“I’m Tom Lenk,” he said proudly. Spike snorted. “It’s a great name. Ooh, I’ve been on the show before. I played a vampire that was one of Harmony’s minions!”
Spike laughed even harder.
“You played as one of Harm’s minions! Bloody hell. So you’ve been a vampire then?”
“I guess,” Andrew replied. “Ooh, here’s you Spike. Your name is James Marsters. You got kicked out of acting school. And you have an album out.”
“Yup, called Civilized Man.”
“Bloody stupid title,” Spike grumbled.
“Faith, your name is Eliza Dushku. And your tattoo is fake.”
“Is not! I went through a lot to get this thing,” she cried.
“Willow, your name is Alyson Hannigan. You weren’t even the one originally selected to play Willow and you’re married to Alexis Denisov.”
“Who?” Willow was confused. “I’m all straight? That’s a pretty girly name though.”
“Alexis Denisov, who currently plays as Wesley Wyndham-Price on the show Angel.”
All heads spun around on that one.
“No way! I married the Marlboro Man?”
“Ha, ha.” Spike couldn’t stop laughing. “Poor Fred,” he chuckled.
“Didn’t know Wes had it in him,” Faith agreed, “Seducing the poor little Willow away from her beloved Kennedy.”
“That’s probably not how it happened,” Andrew told them, but he obviously thought it was pretty funny too. “Anyway, here’s everybody else. Xander’s name is Nick Brendon, but he goes by Nicky. Giles is Anthony Stewart Head, but we all call him Tony, Anya is Emma Caulfield, Buffy is Sarah Michelle Gellar who is married to Freddy Prince Junior.”
“Junior?” Spike scoffed.
“Dawn is Michelle Trachtenberg, Angel is David Boreanaz and Joss, that guy, he’s the creator of the show. He’s like majorly important.”
“Didn’t seem that impressive to me,” Faith commented.
“Well, he is. He created Buffy, then Angel and then some show called Firefly. Anyway, let’s steer clear of him.”
“Agreed,” said Faith. “Any guy who’s supposed to have made us up, gives me the heeby jeebies.”
“Red, you done yet?”
“Yes,” Willow sighed and broke off her concentration. “Okay, good news is we can break the spell. Bad news is we have to convince someone who lives in this reality to help.”
“Who?” Andrew asked.
“Anybody, just so long as they belong here. Does anybody think anybody would believe us?”
“First thing,” Spike said, “I know it’s everybody’s first instinct to rush to Buffy, but we’re not pulling Sarah or whatever her name is, into this.”
“I understand,” Willow said. “Not Xander or Giles either please. Maybe Dawn.”
“No,” Spike said. “Here the Nibblet is just a kid, probably all high and mighty with the fame. We need an adult.”
“How about Anya?” Andrew suggested.
“Yeah, she’ll do, she seemed to have a level head. Won’t be all screaming with terror at the likes of us and our bloody crazy stories,” Spike agreed.
So did Faith.
“Hell, I think we’re crazy. She’ll freak, but I think not as bad as some of the others. We could tell this Joss guy, I suppose, but he’d probably want us to stay and live out our lives on the screen so he won’t lose his show and the ability to manipulate our lives.”
“Then tonight at the thing, whatever it is, we’re supposed to be at,” Willow told them, “we have to get Anya’s- Emma’s help; it might take awhile. It would if it were me.”
“Oh well,” Spike said. “We gotta try. The real Buffy is counting on us.”
“Aly?” came a soft voice behind them.
Spike groaned, expecting more fans. But instead Wesley was coming to them across the park.
“Aly honey, I was worried about you. You were supposed to be home an hour ago.”
It was really weird listening to him because he spoke without the British accent. They all looked at Willow expectantly.
“Ah, hi,” she said nervously. “We were just talking about acting stuff, cause we’re actors and we need to…act together to be better actors.”
“It’s obviously working.” He chuckled. “That was perfect Willow babble to my ears.”
“Ha, ha,” she laughed, looking at the others to help her. “Thanks.”
“I think we’d better get home now, because we still have to prepare for the gala dinner tonight.”
“Gala dinner?” Andrew asked, searching through his book as if that would tell them anything about it.
Alexis looked at him, seemingly confused.
“Of course. The big charity auction that Buffy/Angel is holding tonight. The one we’re all going to.”
“Oh, that one.” Andrew faked a laugh. “Silly me, all the fame going to my head.”
“Sweetie,” Willow interrupted hesitantly, “we’re playing a game. Um, pretending that we don’t know who we are. Can you tell us where we all live?”
Alexis looked at her strangely.
“Yes, of course. Work too hard again? You won’t have another episode? Last time you forgot who you were, thought you were someone else.”
Willow smiled nervously at him.
“Nope,” she said. “All fine and sane here. Just a lot of heat and stuff. We just wanted to see if you could do it, you know, show us where everybody lives.”
Alexis raised his eyebrow at her lame excuse and looked like he wanted to pursue it further but wouldn't in present company. He reached out and she took his proffered hand, looking at Spike in panic. He just laughed at her. She stuck her tongue out at him and they all followed Alexis to his car.
That night they were clumsy. They tried their best to act natural and friendly with these people, but it was hard and they all made mistakes. The hardest thing was to not call everybody by the names they knew them as. Willow wanted so badly to hug Xander, but she didn’t know if Nick would find that appropriate or not. Spike just glowered as he saw Sarah talking with not only her husband, but David Boreanaz aka Angel as well. Even with their periodic moments of spazzing, Faith and Andrew still had a blast, especially Andrew with his book.
One of Faith’s was a photo op with the Mayor, or rather Harry Groening. She had wanted nothing more than to hug him, and all she could do was stare for a moment or two. Andrew’s was when he saw Warren and Jonathan and someone asked for the Trio’s picture. Standing in between the person he’d killed and the person who he thought had told him to do it, was wig-worthy. Poor Adam Busch and Danny Strong didn’t know what was up with him that night. Andrew kept stifling the impulse to touch them to make sure they were real.
All four of the displaced team struggled to keep their emotions to themselves as they talked with people they didn’t know wearing the faces of their friends, lovers and family. They stuck as close to Emma Caulfield as possible, in order to find a way to explain their situation and ask for her help. She didn’t seem to mind, chatting with them over this and that and as a result witnessed more of their goof ups than anybody else.
When they arrived they found that they could mingle around the various displays for auction before dinner would be served. Almost immediately Willow nearly had a heart attack. Spike frowned as she swooned in Alexis’ arms.
“Red, what is it?”
She pointed wordlessly across the room and they followed her finger to see two people who they never expected to see talking together. Tara and Oz. Willow’s eyes filled with tears.
“It’s not them,” Spike whispered into her ear while a worried Alexis went to get her some punch. “It’s Amber something and Seth…?”
“Green,” Andrew supplied via his trusty book.
“I know,” Willow said, gaining strength. “Please, I don’t want to talk to them. Please, I can’t handle seeing her and having it not be her, not able to talk to or touch-“ Willow broke off for a moment. “And her with him and not having seen him and it’s just like my dream with the cheese-man and the no flossing.”
“Darling, are you all right?” Alexis was back with the punch.
Willow sipped it eagerly.
“Yup, just a little woozy. Too much…something.”
“Aly, you okay?” Emma appeared at their side. “Alexis said you weren’t feeling well.”
“Red just got a little tired,” Spike said.
“Red?” Emma looked at him, amused. “You really are getting into this whole method-acting thing, aren’t you?”
“Uh, yeah,” Faith broke in. “Don’t mind him; just a little dazed. The four of us made a trip to the park today. Bad idea. Too many Buffy-lovers.”
“Did you have to say that?” Spike barked out, not liking the terms Buffy and lovers put together unless it had something to do with him.
“Hey, guys, what’s up?” A dark-haired, smiling man walked over to them. His voice sounded very familiar, but none of them could place it. “What’d I do?” he asked, grinning when they didn’t say anything.
Andrew was feverishly scanning his book looking for a picture.
“Andy,” Alexis said, “glad you could make it. Last I heard you were doing a show instead.”
“Decided to join James here and our other master musicians for their show later.”
"It’s Lorne!” Andrew hissed in Spike’s ear.
But he was too busy digesting Andy’s last words.
“Singing? There’s singing - by me? I don’t do singing.”
“The modesty act is good, James,” Emma said, watching Spike with interest. “Tone it down a little if you want to be believable.”
“It better be believable,” Spike groaned. “Cause I really mean it.”
She looked at him strangely.
“I believe you do.”
“Listen, Alexis, you and I have got to go over to the Angel table for some photo ops,” Andy said. “You can get back here to your ravishing wife later.”
“Of course,” Alexis agreed. He turned to Willow, “I’ll be back later, have a good time.” Then he kissed her quickly and left.
Willow turned as red as her hair, as if trying to deal with a world where Wesley kissed her and Tara was alive talking to Oz.
“Listen, Emma,” Faith said, “now that it’s just us, we need to talk to you.”
“All right, what is it? You four have been totally weird all day. And I’ve never seen the four of you so attached to each other.”
“We’re not ourselves right now. I know you noticed that, but you might not believe why we’re not ourselves. Do you think we could get together with you privately and maybe demonstrate how not ourselves we are?” Faith asked her.
Emma nodded, obviously curious, though probably entertaining the notion that this was an elaborate prank.
“James!” came a female voice coming toward them.
They all turned to see Drusilla coming up to them. Willow and Andrew recoiled and Emma gave them a dissecting sort of look. Drusilla gave Spike a small hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“I hope Patricia would be okay with that,” she told him grinning. “You guys are adorable together. It has been ages since I’ve seen you. Where have you been?”
Spike turned around to Andrew, muttering under his breath.
“Who’s Patricia? There’s a Patricia now? Who’s this being Dru?”
Andrew turned to consult his book, Emma watched with interest as Spike turned back to the woman.
“I’ve been…traveling a lot,” he offered.
She smiled at him.
“I’ll believe it, but still on top with the accent. I don’t know how you do it. I’m always glad to come back, but the accent is the killer for me.”
Andrew poked Spike in the ribs and Spike leaned in for a surreptitious conference.
“Her name is Juliet Landau. Patricia is your girlfriend.”
“Girlfriend?” he asked, stunned. “Why do I have a girlfriend?”
“Well, honestly, Blondie, you ain’t that ugly,” Faith told him.
“Ix-nay on the ondie-blay,” Andrew admonished.
They quieted instantly before turning back to Juliet and Emma.
“So,” Spike asked them, going for nonchalant and failing miserably, “what are you doing? I mean lately, with acting and stuff.”
Juliet started to tell them all about her latest project and how thrilled she was to be doing it and also to be coming back to both Buffy and Angel this year. They were interrupted by Andy again who came to snag Spike to do their show. He seriously had to be dragged backstage where he met with Andy, Tony, and several other people such as Adam Busch and Christian Kane, who had played Lindsey on Angel, which Spike remembered from Andrew’s earlier lecturing.
“This is set up like karaoke,” Andy, who seemed to be in charge, told the others. “So people are going to be telling us what they want us to sing and there’ll be a machine and everything, so don’t worry if it’s been awhile since you sang a particular song.”
Spike started to panic. He really started to panic and Tony and Christian had to literally haul him back to his seat when he tried to make a run for it.
The musical had been torture for him. Not because he was a bad singer, far from it, but because when he sang he had no control over what was happening to him. Spike had no wish to repeat that now, but before he could stop it, he was onstage with the others and listening to the crowds cheer, which loosened him up a little. Tony went up first and the immediate request was for Standing the song he’d done in the musical, which Andrew had loved reading about earlier that afternoon in his little book to Faith, who hadn’t been there.
Spike listened to Tony as he sang and suddenly he understood a lot better why Giles had left that year. He didn’t think it was right, but he could forgive him his part of abandoning them. Tony sang a couple of other songs and then it was Andy’s turn. He sang It’s Not That Easy Being Green and Lady Marmalade, apparently two songs he’d done on Angel. Spike thought the first one was a little obvious, but hey. Adam went next and sang a couple of songs that Spike hadn’t heard of. Then Christian sang a song called LA Song that he’d done on the Angel show and some others. All too soon, it was Spike’s turn.
The first song asked for was Rest in Peace, his song from the musical. Spike panicked. That song, he didn’t remember it and he didn’t want to. But he went on realizing it probably wouldn’t go over too well if he starting swearing at the crowd. The words showed on the screen and he started to sing, surprised at how easily it came back to him, despite some minor goof ups at the beginning. The song affected him as he thought about how far he and Buffy had come from then and how far they could go and real tears showed in his eyes as he finished the song. Cheers erupted and he looked over the vast crowd of people wondering how totally nerdy they would have to be to watch the neuroses of the Scoobies for eight years and then add Angel on top of it.
They asked him for another song, Behind Blue Eyes by the Who. Spike readily acquiesced, thinking of when the song had first come out and made Dru decide to turn the entire band so she could have them forever. Luckily he’d been able to talk her out of that one. The words came easily and he enjoyed singing it, imagining that no one was there. But the audience all roared when he finished and then they all had to sing a group song. The crowd opted for silly and before he knew it, Spike found himself singing the Oompa Loompa song from Willie Wonka and groaning inwardly, knowing how Faith and Andrew would torture him later about it.
Their grins as he made his way back to them confirmed his fears, but thankfully, the show was the last part of the evening before dinner. They made their way into the dining area where Spike found himself seated between David and Tony and across the table from Emma.
“James,” David greeted him, “it’s been awhile. We’re all looking forward to your guest appearances on the show this year, though. Nice that the networks finally agreed to cooperate.”
Spike looked at him strangely. This stranger was wearing Angel’s face and it was weird to have Angel talk like that to him. Angel never looked forward to seeing him.
“Well, I…like acting so I’m glad too,” he replied awkwardly. He could feel the lameness of the remark and flinched.
But David just smiled and toasted him.
“We all like your acting, too.”
“Yes,” said Emma. “It is rather intriguing.” She eyed Spike speculatively and seemed to note his rather terrified and confused expression. And with that, the night was over.
Spike met up with his three dimension-traveling companions on the way out. Willow was acting nervous.
“What is up with you?” Faith finally asked her. “Would you chill?”
“You’d be a little edgy yourself if you had to go home with Wesley, the man you married!” Willow whispered harshly.
“Come on,” Faith assured her. “Ole Wes would never force ya. Just act tired.”
“I am tired,” Willow said. “It’s going to take all my energy tomorrow to break Ethan’s spell.”
“So when are we gonna talk to her?” Andrew asked, gesturing to Emma coming toward them.
“Early tomorrow, before set call or whatever the bloody hell it is,” Spike said, still disgruntled from his performance earlier.
“Emma,” Andrew asked her as she joined them, “could we talk to you tomorrow before we work? It’s a matter of diabolical importance to the universe.”
“Is it?” she asked. “Well then, of course. Meet you outside the lot tomorrow then.” She waved her hand at them. “Goodnight, you wacky kids.”
Alexis came up then and claimed Willow who walked away with him as edgy as a polecat.
The other three went to their respective homes that each could not believe belonged to them, then couldn’t handle it and decided to all stay the night at Spike’s place and prepare themselves for the morrow by reading their scripts.
Spike was sleeping in his bed when a jolt shot through him that reminded him of the chip, but it wasn’t just in his head, it was through his whole body. Dimly through the pain coursing through him, he could hear screams. That would be Andrew.
Cursing, Spike sat up and tried to walk; he couldn’t. It was a helpless feeling, but he could only lie there and groan through the agony pounding into him.
Five minutes passed, though it seemed an hour, and the pain receded, leaving him weak and drained.
"That’s it," he said to himself. "No more pain. No more torture, draining spells, chips or anything else. Sod it all."
But Spike knew, even through the pain, that he would keep looking for Buffy until either he found her, or he was dust. At the moment though, he had to go see how Andrew was.
Spike stumbled along in the direction of the room he thought he remembered stashing Andrew in. He met Faith outside the door in the same condition as he was.
“What the hell was that?” she gasped out.
“No clue, luv.” He too had difficulty talking. “But let’s get the boy before we start investigating.”
She nodded and they entered Andrew’s room to find him lying on the floor, shuddering.
“Andy, you gonna make it?” Faith asked.
“What is it? Why does it hurt?” he moaned, half conscious.
“We don’t know,” Spike answered him. “But we gotta find out and get to the witch. If she hasn’t been hit too, which I strongly suspect she has, she could probably help.”
Just at that moment, the telephone rang. They all jumped.
“Ah, hello?” Spike picked it up, hesitantly. He wouldn’t have answered, but if was Willow he couldn’t afford not to.
“James,” Alexis’ voice shouted in his sensitive ear, “get to the hospital!”
“What’s up, mate? Is Will-Alyson okay?”
“No, she’s not okay!” The man sounded desperate. “She’s had an attack of some kind and she keeps calling for you. I think she’s delusional. She keeps saying, ‘Get Spike!’ I can’t make any sense out of it. Just come to St. Mary’s please. We’re in the ambulance now.”
“I’ll be right there,” Spike assured him. “Let’s go,” he said to the others.
“You think she was hit worse than us?” Faith asked him.
“Probably,” Spike answered. “You and I got our super stuff so we made off better than Andrew. This is magic so it makes sense the one with the magic would get it the worst.”
“This is magic?” Andrew asked, his eyes wide. “It hurts.”
“That it does,” Spike said. “Let’s just get to the hospital and make sure Red’s all right.”
The hospital doors flung open as Spike swept through in his duster, which he’d neglected to take back to the wardrobe person when they’d left the day before. Faith and Andrew strode along behind him. They made a determined picture.
“Where is she?” Spike demanded of the desk nurse who looked up, frightened.
“Where’s who?” she asked nervously.
“Will-Am-An-Aly-“ Spike cut off, sputtering. “Who?” He turned to Andrew.
“Alyson Hannigan,” Andrew said. “She was just brought in and she asked for us.”
“Are you family?” she asked, her duties returning to her.
“Might as well be,” Spike muttered. “Look, we have to see her. Her husband called us.”
“I’m sorry, but you need to be family. Let me just call up to her husband.”
“Look, you daft bint,” Spike began when an intern approached, his eyes agape.
“Betty, you idiot. That’s James Marsters. And Alyson Hannigan, his co-worker, was just brought in. Yeah, let them through.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Marsters,” Betty began, her face flushing as she recognized them, pushing the button to let them through, probably while planning how to tell her friends that James Marsters had called her a ‘daft bint.’ “We just have to be extra careful around here.”
Spike was through the doors before she had finished speaking and Faith and Andrew followed along. They met a pacing Alexis in the hallway outside her room.
“Thank God you’ve come!” He hurried over to them. “She’s stable now, but the doctors have no clue what happened and she keeps asking for you. Oh hello, Eliza, Tom. Thank you for coming too. Maybe she did mention you two in her ramblings come to think of it. Not that any of it made-“
“Can we see her now?” Spike interrupted him.
“Of course, I’m sorry. Please, see if you can make some sense out of her.” Alexis ushered them through to Willow’s room.
She lay in the bed, pale and flushed; probably that was how they looked too. She smiled weakly at them as they stood by her bed with Alexis hovering on the outside.
She sounded awful.
“Of course we bloody well came,” Spike told her. “What made you think we wouldn’t?”
“I thought you’d have gone back,” she murmured.
“And how were we supposed to do that without you?” Faith asked her.
“They could’ve won. You guys couldn’t tell. They could’ve made you go back.”
“She keeps talking like that,” Alexis told them. “What does it mean?”
“I don’t understand it all myself there,” Spike told him. “But don’t you worry. The doctors will make her right as rain.”
“And we probably won’t be working tomorrow,” Andrew sounded disappointed. “Not with her down and all.”
“I imagine you’ll just shoot around her,” Alexis assured them.
“Oh.” Spike and Faith were definitely disappointed. Willow closed her eyes and fell asleep. They trooped back into the hallway. Andrew fainted again.
“He couldn’t take it either,” Faith commented. “Poor guy.”
“He’s not strong like us,” Spike reminded her. “I’m surprised we’re not down there with him.” Alexis rushed off to get a doctor, fearing that his wife and the other cast members had somehow been poisoned the night before at the benefit. The doctors came and strapped Andrew to a gurney to examine him while Alexis returned to Willow.
Spike and Faith waited outside the room while the doctors made their diagnosis.
One of them came outside and spoke to them.
“Are you family?” she asked.
“Close friends,” Spike answered.
“Are there any family members here?” she persisted.
“No, it’s just us, lady,” Faith told her.
“Well, he’s in stable condition. His readings are the same as Miss Hannigan’s, though less dramatic. We’ll need to keep him for awhile for observation.”
“Sure thing,” Spike told her. “Can we see him? Is he awake?”
“Of course, go on in,” she told them.
They went into the room and found Andrew looking well. But they could tell he was in pain and they honestly didn’t know how he’d managed to pull himself together to even make it to the hospital. Conveniently the hospital had placed him in the same room with Willow, so they were able to keep watch on both of them.
Later that night Alexis was summoned away by the doctors and he went with them after asking them,
“You’ll watch over her?”
“Of course,” Spike assured him.
“I’m calling Joss,” he said. “So I’ll talk to him about Tom and see what he wants to do today.”
“Thanks,” Faith said.
As soon as he had left, Willow’s eyes popped open and she said,
“Thank goodness, I can wake up now.”
“You were faking?” Faith asked in disbelief. “You looked wiped, Will.”
“Oh, make no bones about it,” Willow assured her, “wiped is me. But I wanted to keep us all together here for as long as possible. And as much as I love hubby dearest there, he doesn’t need to hear this.”
“Hear what?” Andrew had woken up.
“What caused the big ouch,” Willow answered him.
“Then you know what did this?” Spike asked her.
“I have a theory.” She smiled brightly. “Is a theory good?”
“It’s a start.”
“Well, when Ethan decided to make us his dimension play toys, he sent us into this alternate world. Normally that’s easy. Just point, click and you’re there. But if he’d done that, then there’d be pairs of us walking around. Not that that wouldn’t have been good Chaos-y fun, but he wanted more. So he shoved us into our alternate doppel’s bodies. Now they’re like inside while we’re in control of their body.”
“Sorta like how Angelus is always cooped up inside Angel,” Faith said.
“Basically. Though they belong in the same body, we don’t. My theory is that they’re trying to make us leave.”
“By killing us?” Andrew asked, incredulously.
“Well maybe. I don’t think they even know what they’re doing,” Willow said in thought. “But their anger and desperation is sorta manifesting into big pain and hurt for us. It’ll happen again, but this time, it literally could kill us by, say, driving us from their bodies and we die without our own. Or it could send us back to our own, I don’t know. Either way, the strain isn’t good for our - their bodies.”
“How’d you mean, Red?” Spike asked.
“Well, we’re feeling the pain cause we’re in control, but the bodies are theirs so when we’re gone, they’ll have to deal with the effects of their own emotions.”
“Bloody hell,” Spike swore. “It’s never simple, is it? Basically, we gotta get gone before these buggers oust us from their bodies and kill themselves.”
“Maybe yes,” Willow said. “Everybody having fun yet?”
Alexis came back into the room.
“Honey, you’re awake.” He crossed to Willow and took her hand. “The doctors say you’re going to be just fine, though they couldn’t find a cause. It was as if your body suddenly and violently decided it didn’t like you. If it were to happen again there could be some long-term damage, but they’re confident you’ll be fine. So, are you fine?” he asked, caressing her fingers.
“Sure,” Willow said, pulling her hand away. “Just sleepy is all. I need rest. Lots of it.”
“Of course,” he agreed, smoothing her hair back and kissing her forehead. It was oddly reminiscent of something he'd always seen Oz doing and Spike felt bad for this man who thought Willow was his wife.
“Thank you, sweetie,” she told him. “I’ll see you later.”
“Joss said to tell you both that he’s seriously planning on killing you off, but to get well and that shooting would resume tomorrow morning if your doctors said you were up for it.”
“Good.” Spike and Faith breathed a sigh of relief.
Andrew still looked disappointed. Spike rolled his eyes since he knew how much Andrew had wanted to try his hand at acting.
“I have to get ready to go to the set now,” Alexis told Willow. “But as soon as we’re done, I’ll be right back here with you. You’ll be okay without me?”
“Yeah, don’t worry. I’m of the good. So go.”
“We’ll be here,” Spike told him.
Alexis looked relieved.
“Thank you. This is above and beyond the call of friendship.”
“Well, your girl here is important to us,” Faith said awkwardly.
Willow’s eyes flashed at that.
“Thank you,” Alexis said again and he left.
They talked again after he left, but decided they really couldn’t do anything until it was truly morning and they could talk to Emma and get her to come to the hospital, so they all settled in for some much needed sleep, Spike and Faith grumbling about the uncomfortable-ness of hospital chairs.
When she heard what had happened, Emma came by to see how they were doing. They sat her down firmly and proceeded to give her the talk.
“Listen, Emma luv,” Spike began. “Like we said earlier, we aren’t ourselves and the reason is we are the characters we’re supposed to be playing. Where we come from, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, all of it, is real. I really am Spike, that’s Faith, Willow and Andrew. We got sent into your dimension by Ethan Rayne who maybe you’ve heard of and stuck inside your actor’s bodies.”
“You know, I almost believe you,” she said, before starting to laugh at what she knew had to be a prank.
“It’s hard to understand, we know,” Willow told her. “We all had to face the fact demons were real too. Only in much more life-threatening circumstances, like when Spike’s grandmother jumped one of my best friends and I was trying to seize the moment-“
“Off the point, Will,” Faith broke in.
“Right.” Willow shut up.
Emma looked even more amused.
“You guys have acting down to an art. How long have you been working on this? Don’t tell me the sick spells are part of it?”
“A very nasty part,” Andrew said, putting his hand to his head.
“The point of all of this; is we have to get home to our dimension. In it, Buffy’s missing and we have to find her.” Spike started to press the point.
“Buffy, Miss Perfect, is missing and she needs you four to find her? Oh, this is so funny, guys.”
“We’re telling you the truth.” Spike got very serious. “We’ll prove it to you, but the reason we’re telling you all this, is we need your help to get back. Gotta work some anti-world mojo or something. Will’s got that part.”
“So go ahead and prove it to me,” Emma told them, a twinkle in her eye. “And don’t use the fake stuff from the set; you know I’ve seen it all.”
“Betcha you’ve only seen this on television,” Spike said and morphed right in front of her.
Emma’s eyes went wide, but she kept silent. Faith stood up and lifted up Andrew’s bed with him on it. Emma shrank further back into her chair. Willow pointed her fingers to the chair next to Emma and it levitated off the ground.
“What are you people?” Emma asked faintly, rather proud of herself for not fainting.
“We’re a Master vampire, a Vampire Slayer, a way-powerful witch and a nerd,” Faith told her. Andrew started to protest, but she interrupted him. “Let us handle this one, Andy; you’re fragile and weak right now.”
“Am not!” Andrew grumbled, settling back into his bed.
“Andy’s also a bad-ass demon summoner,” Faith modified. “Satisfied?”
“Much better,” he assured her.
“Now that his ego’s intact...” Faith rolled her eyes. “We don’t want to be here in the bodies of your friends, Emma. Help us go home.”
“What did you do to them?” Emma asked, still deadly quiet.
“Didn’t do nothing,” Spike told her.
“This really bad Chaos-man who’s been on the show before, Ethan Rayne, jerked our essences from our bodies and shoved them into your friends. Now they’re trying to get out, by hurting us, but they’re hurting their own bodies, not ours, and it would be really good to go home now!” Willow explained.
Emma shook her head, confused.
“Robin did this?”
“Not Robby-boy himself the actor, but his actual character from our world,” Spike said. “Hate to put on the pressure, pet, but we gotta get going now. We don’t belong here.”
“What do I have to do?” Emma asked, steadiness now in her voice. She wanted them gone so she could pretend this had never happened.
“We kinda need you to be the person who says in a deep scary voice, ‘we don’t want you here, go home!’ ” Willow told her. “Only you don’t have to do the scary voice. But it could be fun for you, being an actor and all.”
“I’ll save the acting for the screen,” Emma decided. “So, when do we do this?”
“As soon as-“ Willow began, but she interrupted herself by screaming as she convulsed.
Spike and Faith dropped to the floor, shaking, as Andrew began to shout gibberish. To Emma’s untrained ear, it sounded like Klingon. But he, too, was obviously in pain and she ran for the doctor.
When Spike came to he was on a gurney being wheeled toward the morgue. He jumped off it amid shouts of disbelief from the orderlies manning his gurney.
“You were dead! You didn’t have a pulse,” they shouted.
“I know! Been dead for awhile now, though the heartbeat’s a bit new!” Spike shouted at them, “Where are the others?”
“Intensive care,” one of them said in shock.
Spike took off running down the hall. When he arrived, he found Faith and Andrew in stable condition, but Willow was still busily being worked on. He practically fainted against the table, still overcome by this pain episode.
“Boss, you all right?” Faith’s weak voice reached through the pain drumming in his head.
“Bloody perfect,” he stammered out. “Red’s gonna be all right, isn’t she?”
“Sure, they got her stable now. But we gotta jet fast or she’s gonna be a goner. This magic stuff is draining her.”
Emma sat in a chair outside, watching them with a pale face. When she saw Spike, she rose and walked over to where he stood by Faith’s bed. Andrew was still unconscious.
“You were dead,” she told Spike shivering.
“I’ve always been dead, luv,” he told her.
“But you were alive, Blondie,” Faith said. “Then you died and now you’re alive again.”
“Still a mite curious about that myself,” he answered. “We’ll have to wait for Will to reveal all.”
“Revealing, okay,” Willow’s barely audible voice echoed in Spike’s ears.
“She’s stable.” The doctor sighed in relief. “We’ll keep her here for now, but she should be okay if this doesn’t happen again. Get her husband here.”
The doctors all left, leaving Emma alone with the four patients. Spike sat down thankfully on an empty bed. Emma sat in a chair while Willow struggled to sit up.
“Don’t,” Faith told her. “Keep your strength for getting home.”
“We have to go now,” Willow said. “Another hit like that and I’m a goner.”
“So Emma here is ready, we’re all set, let’s go,” Spike said.
“We have to let me get my strength back first and Andrew has to be awake,” Willow told him.
“Fine, in the meantime, tell me why I’m not dead?” Spike asked. “We’re all very curious to know.”
“Don’t know exactly.” Willow thought for a moment. “Well, like I said, our insides, who we are, were placed inside a foreign body. The parts of ourselves that were our body aren’t here, cause we have a new one. So that’s why Faith’s reflexes are gone, they were connected to her body. Her strength comes from her soul.” Faith smiled a little, but didn’t say anything. Willow continued. “Me, the magic that is gone, is the magic I drew from my body that had accumulated there over the years. Andrew’s body and Tom’s body are the same exactly, so he didn’t lose anything. Except for maybe some things like doing the splits or something.”
“I can’t do the splits anyway,” Andrew’s voice, thick and raspy, entered the conversation. “Tucker always could, but not me. Must have been different evil genes.”
“Don’t talk nonsense, Andy,” Faith told him.
“Spike’s the most complicated, as usual,” Willow said. Spike made a face at her. “He’s a vampire, but this body hasn’t done the whole blood-sucking thing with his demon, so it’s more like possession than a hybrid. That’s why the body’s still alive and he can be In Sunshine Man.”
“If James’ body was alive, how come it died?” Emma asked quietly.
“That’s kinda my blank spot,” Willow admitted. “But my guess is that because no one was driving, meaning Spike was unconscious and James was repressed under Spike, the body died without anyone in control of it. Spike still has his strength and supernatural stuff because his demon brings that to him and the demon’s in this body. And that’s all for Inter-Dimensional Traveling School today.”
“You gonna be okay, right, Red? Not backing out on us?” Spike asked her, worried at her condition.
“Be fine and dandy as soon as I get my body back. Just need a few things.”
“Like what? We should do this before your husband gets here and finds you like that,” Andrew pointed out.
Willow closed her eyes a minute and when she opened them again, they were clearer and more defined.
“Anything to make a circle around us and our hair.”
“Our what?” Spike squawked, putting a protective hand on his head.
As much as he didn’t want to admit it, he liked his hair. A lot. It didn’t stupidly stick straight up or require more hair gel than an entire boy band, unlike others he could mention, and he liked it that way.
“We need something of ourselves for Emma to ban, so it’s either your hair or any fingers you want to donate,” Willow’s voice rasped and Spike instantly obeyed, plucking a few strands of hair from his head and throwing them at Faith, who stuck her tongue at him and let the hair fall to the ground.
Emma returned with some baby powder that she sprinkled in a circle around the four of them; Spike holding Willow, Faith supporting Andrew. Then she made another circle around herself, and her previous circle under Willow’s direction. Faith had cut off locks off all their hair and handed them to Emma, who held them in her hands along with a lighter procured from her purse. Willow began to chant some unintelligible words and then spoke clearly, a dim glow emanating from her.
“Gatekeeper, we implore thee, open the doors for us and send us to our place of belonging. Banish us from these forms and prepare our own to receive us.”
A light began to shine along the edges of each circle. Willow nodded to Emma, who was starting to look seriously freaked out.
Emma placed all the hair inside a hospital bed pan and lit it on fire and spoke the words Willow had told her.
“Gatekeeper, I implore thee, send these back to where they belong. Burn their essences from the bodies wrongfully occupied. Ban them and release the spirits captive within.”
Emma shook and Willow continued to chant. The lights flared all at once and the First Slayer Rescue Brigade, along with their honorary member, disappeared as the bodies they’d been in collapsed. As they whirled out of time and thought, they could hear Emma’s voice echoing in their ears,
“Goodbye. I hope you find her.”
Then there was nothing.
Emma rushed over to her friends and helped them sit up as they came to.
“Emma, what happened to us?” Alyson sat up and rubbed her head. “Did something happen on set?”
“No, you fainted, sweetie,” Emma told her. “You’re in the hospital, but you’re gonna be fine. Alex is on his way.”
“That was majorly weird.” James sat up and cracked his neck. “Emma, what happened? Why am I in a hospital? With all of you?”
“You fainted; you’ll be fine. I’ll let Patricia know you’re okay.” Emma wondered how many times she was going to have to repeat herself. “Tom, Eliza? You’re okay, you’re in the hospital. Let’s get you back into bed.”
Emma helped them all to settle into their beds and went to get the doctors and perform the necessary phone calls.
Alexis rushed into the room and grabbed Alyson’s hand.
“Sweetie, are you all right?” he asked anxiously.
“I think so.” She looked around. “I had the strangest dream.”
Over the next few days, the fan base of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was relieved to hear that the four members of the cast who had taken seriously ill were going to be just fine. It was surmised that someone had sabotaged them at the benefit and charity dinner they had all attended the night before their attacks, though no one was ever charged for the crime.
In the meantime, shooting got back underway and everyone eagerly awaited the next season of the show they’d all come to love and cherish. And if Emma remembered her time with a real Vampire, Slayer, Witch and Demon-summoner, she never told anyone.
Buffy opened her eyes to make sure her annoyingly smarmy captor wasn’t at his desk doing his writing thing, whatever that was supposed to be. He wasn’t. She quickly broke the chains on her wrists and stretched them for the first time in what seemed like years. Getting to her feet, she stretched every part of herself to make her body limber for the fight ahead and then explored the room.
There was only one entrance or exit and it was locked, though nothing she couldn’t break if needed. The only bit of furniture was the writing desk and the chair that belonged to it. Opening the drawer, and breaking off a piece of the back of it, she held a make shift stake. Tearing off a piece of her skirt, she wrapped it around the stake to protect her hand from splinters. Turning around, Buffy prepared herself for battle.
Chapter 11: Little Loose Ends All in a Row
Spike came to himself in an old hut filled with school balls and sports equipment.
“Bloody hell, that hurts.” He put his hand to his head. “Give me a dimension where something doesn’t happen to my head.”
“You have quite a nice head,” Andrew commented from his position atop some gymnastic mats.
“Junior here has funny ideas about nice,” Faith said, sitting up. Both of them glared at her. “What? All I’m saying is that the Oompa Loompa Man shouldn’t be so attractive to Thrall Boy.”
Spike grimaced, knowing he’d just have to take it.
Willow shot upright, detangling herself from the volleyball net draped over her form.
“What’s with the net, Will?” Faith asked.
“Maybe Ethan thought I needed to be warm,” she mumbled.
Spike stood up immediately.
“Let’s find that worm. He must’ve been behind all the magic in this shindig from the beginning. The no sun at Sunnyhell, the essence of Buffy floating
around. Probably even glamoured Rome so I wouldn’t find Buffy when we started out. I want to give him a piece of my fangs.”
“Well, sun’s down,” Faith pointed out. “Everybody ship-shape and ready for worm hunting?”
“Let’s go get that guy.” Andrew hopped down from his perch and strode dramatically over to the door and flung it open. They filed out and spotted the note over the door.
Andrew read it aloud in his best Ethan impersonation:
“ ‘Glad I got out of there in time. Just wanted to say, thanks for the laughs. It certainly has been the most profitable and amusing enterprise in awhile and quite a stretch for my magical talents, with the glamours, weather-magic, and dimension-traveling. Quite a caper, eh? Please remember, it was just business. Chaos calls and I answer. By the by, here’s where you want to be. Looks like the fun and games are over.
Your first and last; the final test;
The Room of Pain; she’s been my guest.’ “
“Well, sod it all and call me a genius,” Spike crowed, apparently reconciled to the loss of Ethan. “The bugger’s admitted it. We are dealing with the Immortal, kiddies, and now we get to go back to Rome. That part I’m less happy with. Leading us on a wild goose chase. Should’ve known.”
“Well, good luck with that,” Willow said faintly. “And remind me not to help you anymore.”
“Ah, you had fun and you know it,” Faith coaxed her. “Besides, B’s at stake here.”
“She could handle him,” Spike said absentmindedly. “If she weren’t being poisoned. Let’s just get our stuff and go.”
They headed back to Willow’s house and she drove them to the airport.
“Tell Giles I’m gonna come and visit soon,” she told them. “Brazil’s kinda ooky without friends.”
“We’ll tell them, all of them,” Spike told her.
She blushed and gave them all a hug.
“It’s been fun and really painful,” she told them. “Tell Buffy I said hello.”
“Will do,” Spike answered and she waved as they entered the airport.
“Giles, gear up,” Spike said as he walked in the door. “We know where she is finally.”
“Spike, the sun is up. Wait till it goes down at least.”
“Fine,” Spike grumbled before sitting down on the couch. “Where’s the Nibblet?”
Giles rubbed his forehead.
“Ah, she should be home momentarily. She gets off work at two.”
Andrew went to work putting his stuff back in his room that Oz was now sharing, then the two of them, plus Faith, made some enormous sandwiches and parked themselves in front of the television where Spike had made himself comfortable watching Xena.
“Good choice,” Andrew approved.
Spike made no comment, just intently watched the screen as Xena howled her war cry and landed on someone’s head. He’d seen Buffy do that once or twice.
“For Pete’s sake,” Faith told them, grabbing half of Andrew’s sandwich, “it’s not like you guys don’t get enough action living in the real world.”
“Ain’t the action we’re watching, Rogue, and you know it.” Spike grinned at her and then returned his attention to Xena’s ample cleavage.
“I’m so telling Buffy on you.” She grinned back.
“Let her know how you’ve been drooling over me the past month while you’re at it,” he cautioned.
Faith shook her head and settled in to watch.
“I could so kick Xena’s ass.”
Giles went to work in the other room. They made a nice domestic scene for Dawn to burst in on.
“Spike!” she squealed. “You’re back!”
Spike opened his arms to receive a Dawn whirlwind and hugged her tightly.
“Got where your sis is,” he told her.
“I can come help get her right?” she asked determinedly. Spike hesitated. “Spike! Buffy’s been training me and I’ll be careful. I just need to see her. Please.”
Spike nodded, inwardly knowing how Giles would react.
“Let’s plan then, shall we?” put in Giles, apparently postponing his parental disapproval.
Spike showed everyone the route they would use to get to the Room of Pain and what the layout was like the last time he had seen it. It had been over a hundred years before, but Rome hadn’t changed that much. Especially in the supernaturally protected parts of the city.
“There’s a big hall before the actual room,” Spike told them. “The Immortal likes to keep minions, lots of them. We’ll have to fight through them before we can get to Buffy.”
“What if they hurt her while we’re fighting?” Dawn asked.
“Active point there, Bit, but there’s only one way in or out of that room and we’re gonna have to fight to get there. Just trust that Buffy will be okay. She’s a big girl, been taking care of herself for awhile now.”
“What do you want us to do?” Oz asked.
“Split up when we hit the door. Rogue, stay with Dawn. Andrew, you stick with me and Dad stays close to Dog-boy. I’m gonna go straight for the door when I get there. You guys keep them off me.”
“Got it,” Faith told him.
Spike nodded, knowing she would do her part, including his unspoken request for her to protect Dawn.
“Let’s load up and beat that evil.”
Andrew jumped up and headed over to Buffy’s new weapons chest that Xander had made for her before departing for Africa. Swords were taken by all as well as stakes and Faith tucked a knife or two in her pants, including the one she’d filched from the ruins of the Summers’ home. It had been the Mayor’s gift to her and she had reclaimed it. Now it was ready to work for the side of good.
They arrived just after dark. The building was tall and immense with forbidding statues cloaked in shadow arranged in front. Andrew shivered at the sight and Spike snorted in disgust.
“Blighter’s always gotta go for the effect! Okay, people, let’s save her.” Spike kicked the door down and walked through, Faith and Andrew on either side.
The room seemed to be filled with vampires. It was difficult to tell how many there were, they moved so quickly. Spike found himself in the midst of a dusting party and he enjoyed it immensely. Several cuts and bruises later, he found himself almost at the door, Andrew panting beside him, but still upright. Spike could see Faith fighting on the other side of the room, Dawn slightly behind her and managing quite well. Oz and Giles were holding their own.
A vampire appeared in front of him. One he remembered from the last time he’d been here. The one who had taunted him on his way out that the Immortal could have any woman he wanted, even Spike’s.
The vampire grinned, seemingly also remembering.
“Your love life any better, William?”
“Be peachy if you’d just get out of the way,” Spike grunted as he ducked under the vamp’s, whose name he couldn’t remember - was it Bernard? Ok then - Barney’s leg and whirled to stick his leg behind Barney’s, tripping him.
Barney reached up and grabbed Spike’s lapels, pulling him down and slamming his head on the door. Spike balanced himself on his hands and wrapping his feet around Barney’s head, jerked them both hard to the left, leaving Spike on his feet by Barney’s head as he lay on his back.
Barney swung his leg, kicking the back of Spike’s knee, causing him to fall on his back. They both flipped to their feet. Spike gripped his stake with one hand and yelled to Andrew to get him his sword, dropped in the first attack. Andrew scrambled for it and Spike blocked one punch and elbowed Barney in the face.
Dropping flat under a jump-kick, Spike grasped the handle of his sword as Andrew handed it to him and, sick of all the games, stood up and swung it, cleanly decapitating the vampire he’d called Barney.
Now nothing stood between Spike and his goal, though he vaguely wondered where the Immortal was hiding. Kicking down the door, he saw where as he watched Buffy, neatly and gracefully, stake her captor.
Turning to him and panting from the fight, Buffy smiled and remarked,
“Gee, took you long enough.”
Spike swallowed hard and dropped his sword. It clattered to the stone floor.
Buffy tsked at him.
“Spike, that’s one of my favorites.”
“Come here,” Spike managed to say, his voice rough.
All this fighting, all this searching for her and here she was, ten feet away, and he couldn’t move. Buffy raised her eyebrow, but walked slowly toward him, never taking her eyes off his. Behind Spike, Andrew was shouting meaninglessly as he battled vampires, but at that moment, only they two existed.
Buffy stopped mere inches away. Spike reached out his hand with the palm extended and she clasped it as she’d done before in the cavern. No flames ignited, but at her touch, the paralyzing hold over Spike broke and he pulled her into his arms and kissed her.
After such a long separation, it was hard to not devour each other right there, but after several moments, when she could no longer breathe; Buffy decided that if she ever met the Princess Bride grandfather in some weird Hellmouth-y way, she’d tell him his five kisses were nothing on this one.
Spike pulled away, letting her breathe, and rested his forehead on hers, stroking her hair.
“Buffy love, I love you so much.”
“I love you too,” she whispered back and rejoiced in the feel of his solid, not burned up body, finally hers once more.
“Never get tired of hearing that,” he murmured as he brought his lips back down to hers. “Wait a minute. We were supposed to rescue you. How did you escape?”
“I broke the chains and walked out?”
“That’s my girl,” he murmured and another kissing session started.
“I’m still young and impressionable here,” Dawn’s voice interrupted them. “The emotional traumas of my life have already left me scarred, don’t add to it. Get a room.”
But a smile split her face and she elbowed Spike out of the way to squeeze her sister to death.
“Hey, Dawnie.” Buffy hugged her sister tightly.
“Buffy, thank God you’re all right,” Giles said, coming into the room for his own hug.
Faith, Andrew and Oz followed him, Faith staking the last vamp on her way in.
“Good to see you alive, B.”
“Thanks for the search and rescue,” Buffy replied. “You too, Andrew. And, um, oh, Oz! Hi.”
“Buffy,” Oz acknowledged.
“Oh, it’s good to be back with people like familiar, taciturn Oz, instead of chatty, annoying Immortals. Except Spike, of course.”
Giles and Dawn surrounded Buffy and Spike let go of her hand with a squeeze. He wandered over to the pile of dust that was the Immortal. Faith and Andrew followed him and they stood there a moment looking at it.
“Dusty,” Faith commented.
“Yup,” Spike replied.
“An era has passed.” Andrew sighed. “The Fellowship is broken.”
“Yup,” Faith replied.
“You two have serious emotional problems,” Andrew told them before pulling them into a group hug.
Spike and Faith tensed at first, but then relaxed and for one moment let their genuine affection for each other show before pulling back into their usual insults.
“We’re emotional?” Faith asked roughly. “Who’s the clingy, whining one?”
“Who’s the hooker jailbird?” Andrew returned.
“Growing a pair,” Spike approved. “Keep it up, kid.”
“I haven’t started on you yet, mister,” Andrew told him. “The Oompa Loompa singing, bad poem writing, please-saying, mariachi band enjoying-“
Spike cut him off.
“Whoa. That was Dru. And who enjoyed the music lately? Wasn’t me, Enthralled One.”
Andrew started to natter on about something, but Spike ignored him as Buffy approached him once more. Faith pulled the staring Andrew away as Spike put his arms around Buffy.
“I missed you,” she whispered .
“Me too, love, me too.”
“You missed you too?” she smiled at him.
“Yup. Why? Who else would I be missing?”
Buffy jabbed him in the ribs and he winced.
“Careful, pet. Been wounded there a lot lately.”
“If we go home, I’ll kiss it and make it better,” she whispered in his ear, flirtatiously.
Spike shivered at the thought.
“Wait, Buffy. Let them have their fill of you yet.” He gestured to the chattering group behind them, recounting the battle. “Then I promise you can kiss anywhere you like.”
“I’d rather have my fill of you first, but I’ll make a list,” she told him, desire smoldering in her eyes.
They looked down at the Immortal’s dust again.
“Yes!” Buffy suddenly shouted and jumped into Spike’s arms, wrapping her legs around his waist.
“Yes what?” he asked, bemused, relishing the feel of her in his arms and the certain places his hands got to be while holding her steady.
“I know. I’m ready.”
“Ready for what, love?” he asked again.
“I’m ready to eat,” she replied, grinning.
“You’re hungry? Well, that’s easy enough to fix. Let’s get you something. A mite peckish myself.”
“No, silly vampire.” Buffy hugged him. “I’m ready to be eaten.”
“Eaten? Like eaten-eaten? Or eaten-eaten,” Spike suggestively suggested and started to nuzzle her neck.
Buffy rolled her eyes,
“No, you psychotic sex fiend. I’m finally done baking; I’m finally cookies and I want you to eat me,” she told him.
Spike did a double take.
“Now I’m really bloody confused, Slayer. Explain to me what the hell you’re talking about.”
Laughing, Buffy recounted for him the conversation she’d had with Angel two nights before the battle of the Hellmouth.
Slowly grinning, Spike’s confusion cleared up right away and he kissed her thoroughly.
“Let’s see what we can do about that eating you, then.”
Buffy shivered in response.
They arrived back at Buffy’s apartment and tended the minor wounds received by most of them. They spent awhile calling people to let them know Buffy was all right, (though Spike wouldn’t let them tell Angel and wouldn’t tell them why), and listening to Andrew planning a big reunion party for the holidays.
The next day Giles, Oz and Andrew left for London and Giles’ flat. Giles was working on a Council position for Oz. Something like Werewolf Consultant. Andrew looked forward to eagerly showing off his battle experience and know-how to the other Junior Watchers during training.
Faith left at the same time for Cleveland with Buffy’s promise of help should the Hellmouth there get any worse. Faith made promises of her own, one to Buffy to be back for Christmas, and the other to Andrew to at least think about not stealing his food when she was back.
This left Dawn home with Spike and Buffy, with which arrangement she was perfectly happy. Her romantic teenage soul rejoiced in the consummation of her favorite couple’s love.
Buffy and Spike liked the arrangement too.
Chapter 12: Epilogue: Cookies
Angel was cleaning out his desk. Today was his last day at Wolfram and Hart. The Senior Partners weren’t happy about it, but Gunn had legally cleared him of his contract with the last bit of his brain upgrade. Apparently he missed the Gilbert and Sullivan, but other than that, Gunn was happy to go back to being the muscle.
The Senior Partners had threatened to restore Connor to what he was but a little glow-show from Cordelia had convinced them otherwise.
Angel smiled at the thought. Cordelia, his very own flesh and blood, not horned or tailed, but certainly glowing, Cordelia. She was waiting for him back at the hotel to commit perfect happiness. Her Higher Being-ness allowed that. Apparently every time the soul left she could just zap it right back. Angel couldn’t wait to go home to try it out.
Fred and Wesley were on a vacation, some time away for just the two of them and Angel had given it to them whole-heartedly.
Lorne had taken Harmony for a weekend trip to Las Vegas, so long as she promised not to sing. Lorne had also promised Angel not to set foot in the Tropicana and Angel had reluctantly agreed to give Harmony a trial period as Angel Investigation’s official secretary when they returned, seeing as Cordelia had grown somewhat beyond the answering phone phase of her life as she had pointed out to him using lots of flashy superpowers.
The smile disappeared off Angel’s face as he picked up a cheesy postcard off the desk and read it.
Just a note to let you know Buffy’s all right and the Immortal’s dust. Almost smiling, aren’t ya? She sure gave it to the poncy bugger. Anyways, heard you’re out of Evil Inc. Good on you. Cheerleader gave you a right beating, I guess.
The most important bit of news, however, is this: I’m eating cookies.