‘Welcome to Sunnydale.’
Spike didn’t slow down as he neared the sign proclaiming his arrival on the Hellmouth. Instead he pressed his foot down harder on the pedal and purposely slammed straight into the sign.
“Oops,” he murmured dryly to himself, a slow grin pulling up his lips. He hit the brakes, coming to a jarring stop and swung open the door.
With vampiric grace Spike unfolded himself from the Desoto. He slowly made his way around to the front of the car and leaning against the hood, he pulled out a pack of cigarettes from the breast pocket of his duster. He popped a cigarette into his mouth and flicked back the top of his lighter. He brought the flame to the tip of his cigarette and puffed on the filter until smoke filled his useless lungs. Slowly, he let a cloud of smoke billow from his mouth as he scanned the horizon before him.
Spike rolled his tongue over his teeth and sighed. “Yep,” he muttered, “looks like Hell all right.”
“Spike,” Darla greeted as she opened the door to her great-granchilde, a wide smile stretching her mouth. Her eyes devoid of real warmth, she simpered, “You came. It’s so nice to see you.”
“‘Ello, Darla,” Spike returned, not bothering to return the false enthusiasm Darla was displaying.
“I wish I had known you were coming ahead of time,” she reproved, “I would have saved you some.” She gestured to the young man lying on the floor; his pale features testimony to the fact he had been completely drained.
“’S’all right,” Spike said. “I stopped for a bite at a truck stop on m’ way into town. Big fella,” he patted his stomach, “should be enough to tide me over for awhile.”
Darla smirked. “Please come in.” She stepped away from the door to allow him entrance. “Make yourself at home.”
Spike stepped over the threshold and looked around the room. “Nice set up you have ‘ere,” he commented, eyeing the posh furnishings.
“Yes, isn’t it?” Darla tilted her head and took in the room. “The woman I fed on that lived here was an interior decorator.”
“It shows,” he remarked.
Darla sighed theatrically. “My, it certainly has been a long time, hasn’t it?” she said. “When was the last time we saw each other?”
Spike jaw tensed as he recalled their last encounter.
“Oh, that’s right,” said Darla, her tone maudlin. “It was Prague, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Spike replied tightly, “that was it.”
“And how is our dear little Drusilla?” Darla inquired. “It was just terrible what those barbarians did to her. I always did hate Eastern Europe,” she continued, giving a little shudder for effect. “Didn’t she come with you?”
Spike cleared his throat. “’Fraid not,” he told her coolly. “She wasn’t up for the trip. But she did send her love.”
“Oh,” Darla remarked. “That’s too bad. I was hoping we could have a family reunion,” she spoke regretfully. “Angelus is here, you know – in Sunnydale that is,” she added, looking directly at Spike, assessing his reaction to the news.
Spike sucked in his cheeks and pursed his lips. “That right?” he said. “Well, how do you like that, then? I’ll have to make sure to catch up with m’ good ol’ sire while I’m here. But first...” He slapped his hands together, rubbing them in anticipation. “You said somethin’ about having Slayer troubles.”
Darla’s mouth twitched. “You know, that’s one of the things I always liked best about you William,” she said, “you get right to the point.”
“Yeah, well, just because I have all the time in the world, doesn’t mean I wanna waste it,” he replied. “So what’s the deal with this Slayer then? And just why is it you need me to take care of her instead of doin’ it yourself? I never woulda took you for the helpless sort, Darla,” he mocked, his blue eyes watching her expression change.
“I am far from helpless,” Darla replied, her eyes hard. “Believe me, I would love to put that sanctimonious bitch in her place. Unfortunately, I’m not allowed.” She turned her head away, lips pinched with irritation.
“Not allowed?” Spike’s brow furrowed. “Oh yeah, that’s right,” he said, lips curling as his brow smoothed out, “you take orders from that Maestro chap, don’t you?” He chuckled, his amusement at Darla’s predicament clear.
“Yes,” Darla hissed, “I do as my Master wishes. Because, I know the kind of power he possesses,” she continued, her tone becoming reverent, “and I want to be by his side when his power is restored and he takes what’s rightfully his.”
“And what might that be?” Spike asked, brow hitched.
One corner of Darla’s mouth curved up in a slow smile. “The world.”
“Oh, does that belong to him? I always did wonder,” he returned with a smirk.
“He would have already risen had it not been for that bitch’s meddling,” Darla went on, ignoring Spike snide remark. “If she hadn’t ruined the Harvest.”
“So your Master’s into farmin’ now, is he?” Spike quipped.
Darla glared in response.
Spike rolled his eyes at her direness. “Well,” he began, clucking his tongue, “if this girl really is as much of a pain in your Master’s old wrinkly backside as you say, then why won’t he let you take her out? What’s he waitin’ for?”
“He isn’t,” Darla haughtily informed him. “He’s recruited real professionals to handle the girl: The Three.”
Spike’s eyebrows rose. “The Three, eh?” He sounded impressed. “She must really be trouble if he called in that lot.” He blew out a breath as if bored. “Well, if your little Slayer problem was already taken care of, what the hell did you bother me for then?” he asked.
“I didn’t know about The Three when I sent for you,” Darla replied, her blonde head rose arrogantly. “I only found out about them today.”
“So the job ain’t done yet, then?” His eyes narrowed with curiosity.
“No, not yet,” Darla told him. “But I don’t think that Buffy will be a problem for much longer.” She smiled, an almost dreamy expression on her face. “As soon as that bitch is dead he’ll be free... and then he can come back to me.”
“Come back?” Spike questioned. “You ain’t talkin’ about the Master.” It was more an observation than a question.
“It’s Angelus,” she said stiffly, her dreamy expression erased. “She’s keeping him from me.”
“What? The Slayer’s got ‘im held hostage or somethin’?” His tone was derisive.
“In a way, yes,” Darla replied, not at all amused.
“An’ does that way happen to involve shackles and a cage? ‘Cause that was the way I was talkin’ about.”
Darla pressed her lips together. “He’s being held captive by his own emotions,” she imparted scathingly. “That soul of his is a bigger nuisance than I ever knew. Filthy Gypsies,” she cursed, turning her back on Spike in her irritation.
Spike started to laugh. “What? Are you tellin’ me that Angelus has a thing for the Slayer? Oh, that is delicious.”
Turning back to face him, Darla narrowed her eyes. “How dare you? You would be nothing had it not been for Angelus taking you under his wing. You would still be a sniveling idiot torturing people with your awful poetry, instead of acting like a real man,” she spat.
All amusement disappeared from Spike’s face. He ground his teeth together. In a flash he was in front of Darla, looming over her menacingly. “You watch your tongue, luv,” he warned. “I’m no one’s whipping boy any more. I’m my own man now, you hear? I didn’t come here for a stroll down memory lane. I came here ‘cause I’ve got a bitch to kill, an’ that’s all I care about. Got it?”
Darla’s lips slowly stretched upward, aroused by Spike's threatening manner rather than intimidated. “Well, that’s good to know,” she approved. “You’re focused. You’ll have to be if you’re going to go after the Slayer. And if you are, then you might want to hurry before The Three finds her first.”
Spike pursed his lips. “Right,” he said, his stance relaxing. “So why don’t you tell me, got any ideas to where I might find the bint?”
Spike felt a tingling sensation all over his body the moment he entered the Bronze; Darla had told him he would have a good chance of finding the Slayer there. Spike’s eyes scanned the crowd, drawn to the stairwell where Angel was lurking in the shadows, his own gaze fixed intently on something, someone. Spike followed Angel’s stare. He would have known the blond sitting at the table chatting with a redhead was the Slayer even if his sire hadn’t been making googly-eyes in her direction. Spike could feel the power emanating from her even across the room. It was palpable.
Spike tilted his head to the side. He pursed his lips, eyebrows rising as he gave her a silent appraisal. He couldn’t fault Angel for having the hots for the girl; she was a hot little number all right.
But as nice as the girl was to look at, Spike felt his gaze once again pulled to his sire. The corners of Spike’s mouth curved up seeing the longing in Angel’s eyes. He felt vindicated in a way. Spike remembered all the times Angelus had derided him for how much he loved Drusilla. And now, here he was, pining after the Slayer. He shook his head. Hard to believe this was the same vampire that had been the Scourge of Europe. The man that had taught Spike the finer arts of torture, having sometimes used those methods on Spike, telling him he needed to feel the effects first hand to appreciate them fully.
Spike couldn’t fathom this was the same man he had once feared, had admired. The man he had spent countless amounts of energy resenting and loathing – and occasionally, loving. He couldn’t imagine having any of those feelings for Angel now. He was too pathetic.
Spike saw a movement out of the corner of his eye, and his focus was once again aimed at the Slayer. She was getting up from the table and bidding her friends goodnight. He shook off lingering thoughts about Angel and remembered his purpose in coming here. He watched the Slayer make her way to the back exit. He turned around and went out the front, going around the building to the alley just as Buffy was coming out the door.
Spike began to follow the Slayer, careful to stay down wind of the other vampire he knew was doing the same.
“Okay, I don’t want to have to fight all three of you – unless I have to,” he heard her say.
Spike smirked as the fighting ensued. He was tempted to stay back and watch and see how the Slayer fared on her own. He wanted to see if she was really as tough as everyone seemed to think. But then he figured if The Three did end up killing her, that would put a damper on his own plans. Plus he knew if he didn’t step in, Angel was waiting just around the corner to do just that himself.
The idea of what Angel’s face might look like when he saw Spike jump to the Slayer’s aid was almost too much to resist in and of itself. So, chuckling silently to himself, Spike, the Slayer of Slayers, stepped up to save one’s life.
One of the Three Stooges was just about to take a bite out of the girl when Spike grabbed him by the scruff of the neck. “Now, now,” he chastised, “do you know what happens to pups that get a mite too frisky?” He kneed the vampire in the groin. “They end up neutered.”
Buffy’s eyes widened at the platinum haired stranger that had granted her a reprieve. She watched him fend off the vamps that attacked her, momentarily struck dumb. However she quickly regained her senses when she saw her rescuer get swiped in the ribs. She pushed her self off the fence she had been backed into and grabbed the vampire holding the pipe. She whipped him around and threw him at his cronies, sending them all crashing down like bowling pins.
She knew they wouldn’t stay down long, so she took advantage of the small window she had and grabbed hold of the mystery man’s hand. “Run!” she ordered him. She pulled him along with her and headed for her home.
“Come on! Get in!” Buffy yelled at the stranger, pushing him ahead of her into her house. She rushed in behind him and slammed the door on one of the vampire’s hands. She struggled with the door before the vampire finally retracted his wedged arm. Once the door was closed Buffy quickly twisted the locks.
“I’ve heard they can’t come in unless they’re invited,” Buffy said as she looked out the window for signs of the vampires lurking about, “but, I don’t really care to test that theory right now.”
“Oh, it’s true,” Spike remarked, and thank you so much for inviting me in, he added silently. He was tickled with the idea of him having an all-access pass to the home of the Slayer.
Buffy turned around to scrutinize her savior for the first time. She wanted to ask him questions, but when she got a look at the gash across his ribs, and the blood seeping through his shirt she figured the Q&A would have to wait.
“You should take off your jacket and shirt,” she told him, pointing to his wound. Spike looked down at it – he’d hardly noticed. “I’ll get some bandages.”
“So,” Spike ventured as he stood in the Slayer’s kitchen, topless while she tended to his wounds, “you must have really gotten on someone’s bad side if they sent The Three after you.”
“The Three?” Buffy repeated. “That’s who those guys were? You know them?” Her curiosity about the English guy went up a few more notches at his apparent knowledge of her attackers.
“Of them,” Spike clarified. “They’re bad business.”
“Yeah, I got that impression,” she muttered.
“So, you got any ideas about who sent ‘em?” he asked, wondering how much she knew.
“Several, actually,” she said, wiping the blood from his torso. “But, I’d put my money on it being the Master. I’m assuming since you knew The Three, you’re probably familiar with who that is?” She glanced up briefly from her task.
“Heard the name.”
“Speaking of names,” Buffy segued as she finished bandaging Spike gash. “And I don’t want you to take this the wrong way being as you pretty much saved my butt back there, but, just who the hell are you anyway?” She took a step back, waiting for his response.
Spike chuckled. So the girl wasn’t as dumb as she appeared. “No worries, love,” he said. “I don’t take offence to your bein’ suspicious. Your line of work, I ‘spose you’d have to be. And, as for saving your backside, well that was my pleasure. I’d have hated to see anything bad happen to one as fine as yours.” He gave her a cocky grin.
Buffy sucked in her cheeks, trying to ignore his lewd comment – and hoping she wasn’t blushing because of it – and crossed her arms over her chest. “So you know who I am too, then? Well now, this is completely unfair. You have to tell me who you are.”
“Most people nowadays call me Spike,” he told her. “But me mum always called me William.”
“William,” Buffy slowly repeated. “Well, all right Billy Boy, so how about you tell me what you were doing in that alley?”
Spike shrugged. “Right place, right time?”
Buffy looked down at the bandage she’d just applied, then back up to his face, her eyebrows raised. “I’m thinking more like wrong place, wrong time.”
Spike smirked. “I ‘spose you’ve gotta point there.”
“Okay, enough of being coy,” Buffy said. “Why were you there?”
“I was on my way to see an old friend,” he told her. “His place is near there. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure he’s a mutual acquaintance.”
“Really?” Buffy sounded dubious. “And just who might that be?”
“Fella goes by the name of Angel.”
“Angel?” Buffy’s eyes sparked with interest.
So, Angel’s affections don’t go unrequited, ain’t that sweet?
“You know Angel?”
Spike let out a low chuckle. “Oh, yeah. I know him. Very well.”
Buffy’s brow pinched at the hint of suggestion in Spike’s voice and in his expression. Was he implying that he and Angel were... She shook away the thought. Now was not the time to obsess about that kind of thing.
“So, what are you then,” she asked Spike, redirecting the conversation into less trepid waters. “Some kind of rogue vampire hunter?”
Spike pursed his lips in consideration. “Well, I’ve been known to take out a vamp or two in my day – if they get in my way or piss me off enough,” he responded carefully. “But, I wouldn’t say they’re my primary prey.”
Buffy was just about to ask what his primary prey was when she heard the sound of the front door opening. Without a word she dashed out of the kitchen.
Spike listened as the Slayer floundered trying to coax her mother up to her room. She didn’t sound like she was doing too well. He figured he should probably lend her a hand again. He quite fancied the idea of himself being the dashing white knight – rescuing the maiden fair. He snorted quietly at the thought before joining Buffy and her mom.
Her eyes widening with alarm at the sight of him in her house, Buffy’s mom offered a simple, “Hello,” making the word sound like a question. The woman was clearly suspicious of the strange man in her house alone with her teenage daughter.
“Hello,” he returned, allowing his gaze to roam over the woman in a way that usually got the ladies a little warm under the petticoats.
The horrified look on the Slayer’s face made the whole night worth it.
“Uh, mom, this is... Will,” Buffy introduced, thinking her mother wouldn’t take it as well if her daughter was spending time with someone called Spike. “Will, this is my mom, Joyce.”
“Your mum?” Spike remarked with disbelief. “You’ve got to be jokin’ me. I would’ve thought you two were sisters.”
Buffy fought the urge to roll her eyes. Seriously? Is he really trying to pull that line? No way will mom ever fall for something like that, she’s not an–
Joyce giggled at the compliment. Buffy gaped at her mother’s reaction.
“Oh, that’s very kind of you,” she said to Spike. “So, how do you know my daughter? You don’t go to school with her.” It wasn’t a question.
“Er, no, I don’t,” Spike confirmed. “My high school days are long over.”
“Well, it couldn’t have been that long ago,” Joyce contended. “What are you, 23, 24?”
“Somethin’ like that,” Spike replied.
“Sp – Will,” Buffy interjected, “is a student at the community college. He’s tutoring me in English.”
“I’m a bit of an expert,” he added with a wink.
Joyce giggled again. “Yes, I suppose you would be,” she remarked. “Well, I’m afraid it’s a bit late for studying,” she added in a more ‘mom’ like tone.
“You’re right,” Spike agreed. “If you don’t get a good nights sleep all the studyin’ in the world ain’t gonna do you a lick of good.” He did his best impression of earnest scholar.
Joyce smiled. “Right. Well, it was a pleasure to meet you, Will,” she said.
Spike smirked. “Oh, no. The pleasure was all mine.”
“I’m going to head on up to bed now. Buffy?” Joyce prompted.
“I’m going to say goodnight and do the same thing,” Buffy assured.
“All right,” Joyce replied. She smiled at Spike again. “Goodnight, Will. Again, it was very nice to meet you.”
“You too. Night.”
Buffy waited for her mother to ascend the stairs and to hear the click of her bedroom door closing before reeling on Spike. “‘Ain’t gonna?’” She gaped at him. “You’re supposed to be tutoring me in English and that’s the way you talk?”
Spike shrugged. “Hey, you said it, not me.”
Buffy finally let loose the eyeroll she’d been holding in. “By the way, don’t you think you laid on the flattery stuff a bit too thick?”
Spike shrugged. “Don’t know what you’re talking about. Your mum’s a good lookin’ lady. I think I complemented her accordingly.”
Buffy’s eyes turned upward again. “Whatever,” she muttered. She turned and opened the door as noisily as possible. “We better make a show of saying goodnight, then we can sneak up to my room.”
Spike waggled his brows a little, a slight smirk playing on his lips.
Buffy sighed. “Or would you rather me put you out for real, so you can take your chances with The Three?”
“No, thanks,” he replied. “I can’t say that sounds like much fun.” He put his hand over his injury to add emphasis.
Buffy bit the inside of her lip. “If I do let you stay the night here, you’re not going to do something to make me regret that decision, are you? Or anything that requires me to break your hands, or some other body part?”
Spike held up his hands and wiggled his fingers. “Promise to keep these all to myself.”
Buffy sucked in her cheeks, looking contemplative. She didn’t think inviting a stranger up to her bedroom was the wisest decision – and there was something about this guy that had her Spidey sense tingling. But her only other choice was to send him out where three vampires might be lying in wait to get revenge on the person who ruined their plans to kill the Slayer. As the Slayer, the main objective was to keep people safe, not send them into dangerous situations. So, as she saw it, she didn’t really have a choice.
“Okay,” Buffy said after a moment. Then she turned to the door and hollered goodbye to no one.
And she thinks I lay it on thick? Spike thought watching the display.
After Buffy finished she turned to Spike and jerked her head toward the stairs, indicating he should follow her.
A sly smile spreading across his face, Spike, as quietly as possible, did as he was directed and followed the Slayer up to her bedroom.
“He spent the night?” Xander spluttered. “Are you crazy? You just slept with some strange guy you don’t know?”
“I didn’t sleep with him. He slept on the floor,” Buffy stressed. “And, he’s not a complete stranger, he said he was friends with Angel.”
“Right, Angel,” Xander said in a derisive tone. “The cryptic message guy that you know absolutely nothing about.”
“You know, Buffy,” Giles interjected, “and it comes as quite a shock to me saying this, but I believe that Xander may have a point.”
“Thank you!” Xander exulted. “And also, hey!”
“You are the Slayer, Buffy,” Giles went on, ignoring Xander’s last remark. “And as such you must be on your guard at all times. You mustn’t allow yourself to ever lay vulnerable.”
“Yeah, that’s right,” Xander agreed. “Listen to Watcherman, there should be no laying of any kind.”
Buffy looked at Willow and the girls shared an eye roll.
“It’s also possible that this fellow could have been lying about his association with Angel,” Giles pointed out. “And although Angel has proven helpful to us in the past, it’s also true, we don’t really know anything about him.”
“Okay,” Buffy said patiently. “I get your concerns here, and trust me, I had the same one’s myself. But what was I suppose to do, throw him out on the street to take his chances? He was already hurt and The Three could’ve still been out there – or some other vamp the blood from his wound might’ve attracted. And besides all of that, if Spike wanted to harm me he could’ve while I was sleeping and he didn’t.”
“Wait,” Xander said. “This guy’s name is Spike? Spike? Spike is not the name of a good guy. Spike is an ex-con. A gang leader. Psycho killer.”
“I suppose your right,” Giles said to Buffy, again brushing aside Xander’s comments. “And everything worked out all right. But, you should still find out whatever you can about this... Spike character. Since he claims to know Angel, that should be a good place to start.”
“And I would love to start there,” Buffy said. “But, in the brief encounters I’ve had with him, Angel has failed to slip in his address and phone number with the warnings of impending doom.”
Giles cleared his throat. “Right, well, you said Spike told you he was on his way to visit with Angel when he stumbled upon you and The Three. So, you know he lives in that area.”
Buffy nodded her head. “True,” she granted. “But, what do you want me to do, just start knocking on doors at random?”
“You could ask around in local establishments,” Giles suggested. “See if anyone knows where Angel lives.”
“Okay,” she sighed. “I can try that. But, first I think I’ll just have Spike tell me where Angel lives when I get home.”
“He’s still there, at your house?” Xander wanted to know.
“Yeah, why?” Buffy said. “He was still asleep when I woke up this morning, so I didn’t bother him. He’s hurt. He needs rest. What’s the big? It’s not like he can do anything to hurt me while I’m not there.”
“Spike,” Buffy hissed after closing the door to her bedroom. She looked around the room and found no one. “Spike? Are you here?” she called out again, a bit louder. She checked the closet. Nothing.
Buffy saw her desk reflected in the mirror on the inside of the closet door. There was a piece of paper lying on top of the desk that hadn’t been there before. Buffy whipped around and crossed to the desk. She snatched up the piece of paper and read:
Sorry I couldn’t stick around any longer, Slayer, but I’d somewhere I needed to be, someone to see. But I want to thank you for your hospitality. And don’t worry, I was able to keep myself entertained while you were gone. I did some interesting reading.
Buffy’s brow creased in a frown as she lowered the note. She was hoping Spike would still be around so he could answer her questions. Now she was going to have to do what Giles said and scour Angel’s neighborhood looking for him.
Buffy was about to put the note back down where she had found it, when she noticed what it had been laying on: her diary. Which she knew had not been out like that when she left that morning.
Her eyes widened in horror, gore rising in rage as her fist closed around the piece of paper crumbling it, imagining it was Spike’s skull.