While Spike’s every instinct screamed at him to hit the road and hit the road now, he was able to retain enough levelheadedness to identify that as a bad idea.
Acting first and thinking later was what got people killed. And since people in this case meant Buffy, he could take no chances.
First, he needed to make sure that Dru hadn’t been having him on. That she and Darla had actually nabbed the Slayer and this wasn’t some elaborate ruse, or Angelus’s idea of a funny joke. Then he needed to make sure the Scoobies knew—and if they decided to mount up their own version of the cavalry, not to aim any of their pointy weapons at him.
Wishful bloody thinking, that, but he’d do better to tell them what he knew and what his plan was now than have to explain it while staring at the business end of a stake.
That didn’t even start on the bloody timing of all this. Glory the Wonder Bitch was out and about, running a general muck over things, hunting for the Key—whatever that was. Buffy had complained earlier about the Council swinging by for a visit, too. To top everything else, Angelus was loose once more, this time with Darla for company.
And if they had Buffy… He shuddered to think of what they would do to her.
Then he did think of it, and the images his mind produced had his demon roaring for blood. If they touched one hair on her head, he’d rip them all to bloody pieces.
The Scoobies would blame him, no doubt. Despite the fact that he and Xander had been getting along for once, that Buffy had been talking to him like a person, that he’d shown up at the Bronze to warn her, her mates would blame him. And they certainly wouldn’t trust him to bring her back. At least there they didn’t get a bloody say. He was the only one who stood a chance of getting close enough to learn where she was.
Spike could only hope the Watcher was thinking clearly enough to recognize this. The others couldn’t hope to come within a stone’s throw of Angelus. LA was not the Hellmouth and Wolfram and Hart wasn’t the run-of-the-mill monster of the week. Those bastards would make search and rescue damn near impossible.
Spike’s first instinct was to swing by Giles’s flat, as it had been Scooby Central most of the previous year, but then he remembered the Magic Box and quickly altered his route. It was well after hours, but there wasn’t a doubt in his mind that everyone would be sitting at the tables, digging into books and shouting accusations.
The light was on. He was right.
Thanks to their heated debate, Spike walked through the doors unnoticed. Bell and all. The Scoobies were situated awkwardly across the foyer—Anya stationed at her customary location behind the cash register, Xander and Willow taking up table space, Giles at the staircase that led to the restricted section, and Tara in the corner, looking through old volumes of useless information. All of them, save Glenda the Good Witch, red-faced and shouting.
Spike cleared his throat, which wasn’t very effective.
All right. He’d tried for polite.
Silence immediately descended as all eyes fell on him.
“You!” Xander screamed, jumping to his feet and pointing.
“Yeah, me. Hello all. Just wanted to drop by and say firstly…” He focused on Willow and the whelp. “I bloody told you so. Secondly, I’m gonna be outta town for a few days. I’ll drop you all a line from LA.”
With that, he turned to leave.
If only it could be so simple.
“Stop,” Giles ordered in what Spike assumed was as close to his Ripper voice as he was likely to hear. But when he spoke again, his voice was strained, as though he was trying to be civil. That couldn’t be right. “Spike…you said you saw Drusilla in town earlier tonight?”
Spike turned around, aiming a glare at Harris and the witch. “This right here’s what I meant by I told you so.” He shifted his attention to Giles, who was staring at him with a mixture of desperation and contempt. “I told these two that I got wind that she was in town. Little birdie dropped by my crypt to spread the good news.”
“It was Darla,” Willow said softly. “You saw Darla.”
“Kinda left that part out with your friendly warning,” Xander added bitterly.
Spike’s eyes widened. “Oh, right. ‘Cause you were so keen on believing what I said about Dru that you’d have accepted that a vampire that dusted four years ago is out and about again. No, no. Easier to blame the messenger. Forget that I risked my bloody head racing across town to tip the lot of you off.”
“There isn’t time for finger pointing,” Giles snapped. “Spike, just tell us what you know.”
A sigh. “Y’know, this is just gonna slow me down.”
“Just tell us! Buffy is gone, and for all we know—”
For a moment, all Spike could hear was static. He balled his hands into fists, pounding back the need to roar. So that was that. They had really taken her. He had known it, of course, but hearing it made it real.
“—and the only lead we have is what you told Xander and Willow earlier this evening. Which, by the way…” Giles pivoted furiously to Xander and Willow. “I can’t believe you neglected to mention something as monumental as Drusilla’s presence in Sunnydale. After all, Spike is—”
“A vampire and completely in love with her,” Xander returned hotly. “One that wants us dead, or have we forgotten? Why should we have believed him? Like he’d really warn us about Dru being in town?”
“It did seem kinda wiggy,” Willow muttered. “But we should’ve listened.”
“You’re bloody right you should have!” Giles snapped. “How unbelievably careless.”
Yeah, Spike thought so too. Hadn’t expected the Watcher to take his side, but there was a first time for everything.
As though sensing that thought, Giles shifted his attention back to him, his eyes narrowed. “Darla visited you.”
It was not a question.
“Yeah,” Spike replied, at once very self-conscious. “Just up and showed outta the bloody blue. Well, more to the fact that she was waitin’ for me to get home. Gave me the low down on how she was mojo’d back to the land of the living, so to speak, and offered me a position with her and Dru back in LA.”
“And that prompted you to come and warn us?” Xander shook his head. “I’m still not buying it, Bleach Boy. I know we went a round of pool, but that’s not enough to convince me that you wouldn’t wish us dead in a heartbeat.”
“Maybe you,” Spike snarled. “Listen, I don’t know why I did it, all right?” That was a lie, but a harmless one. They’d freak out even more if he told the truth. “Maybe I’ve been around the lot of you do-gooders too long and something rubbed off. Just know that I’m not yanking any chains here. What you see is what you bloody get. Darla’s involved with this law firm called Wolfram and Hart, who apparently have enough magic juice to raise the undead. They wanted Buffy so the girls came to collect.”
Willow raised her hand. “A law firm called What and What?”
“Wolfram and Hart,” Giles answered.
“Very evil bunch,” Anya added. “Though pleasantly straightforward when conducting business. I used to get a lot of great referral traffic from them.”
And no one seemed that that statement deserved consideration. Bloody typical.
Spike fixed his eyes on Giles. “You know about them, then?”
“Quite. The Watcher’s Council has kept tabs on Wolfram and Hart ever since it altered shape, back at the turn of the century, I believe.” Giles settled against the counter, his glasses falling into his waiting handkerchief. “They are likely the only force that would have the power to revive a vampire from the beyond.”
“Ummm…” Xander waved a hand. “Are you forgetting about Angel being broken out of Hell? I say that counts.”
“Angel was brought back by the Powers for altruistic purposes. There were circumstances behind it that… Well, it was long and complicated, and I don’t have time to go into it now.” Giles glanced upward. “The Powers would have no such motive to bring back a vampire like Darla, especially since she didn’t have a soul.”
“Yeah, well, it’s safe to say that the Powers have bollixed everything up squarely,” Spike drawled. “’Cause according to Darla, Angelus is back.”
At that, Willow shot to her feet, her eyes blazing. “Angel boinked Darla? Was he outta his mind?”
Spike couldn’t keep from snickering. “There are other, less pleasant ways to lose a soul, way I hear it.”
“Mayor Wilkins attempted to remove his soul through a mage,” Giles said. “Chances are, Wolfram and Hart have similar connections.”
“They wanted the Order back in full,” Spike continued. “And they wanted the Slayer.”
“I don’t know, but Darla thought it was a bloody brilliant idea.” Spike shook his head again. “I don’t know exactly how it all went down. When I got to my crypt that first time, Darla was there. Gave me the sale’s pitch along with the full sorry plan. Even offered to rid me of my zapper.” He pointed at his cranium. “Then she mentioned Dru and—”
“I so do not like where this is going,” Xander interjected. “What possible reason would have you turn that down? The chip included? Hell, I’m not evil and it’s sounding like a good deal to me. Something’s not right here. Something’s really not right.”
“He has a point,” Tara offered from the corner, speaking for the first time since Spike had arrived. “No offense or anything, but you really don’t have a reason to be here at all, do you?”
He had a reason. By God, he had a reason. He just knew it was wrong and wouldn’t win him any friends.
“It’s personal,” he replied, hoping that would be the end of it.
“What’s personal?” Harris was all but screaming now. “Drusilla and Darla waltz into town, offer you everything you’ve said you wanted for over a year, and you say that you had nothing to do with it?”
Willow intervened at that, her tone less demanding, but equally concerned. “Then why didn’t you mention this earlier? If you’d said Darla was alive—”
Fuck. This again?
“Do any of you listen or do you just sit around waiting to for some schmuck to stick with the blame?” The hold he had on his temper had all but vanished. “I already told you why I didn’t mention Darla, and what of it? You’re the bloody sods who lost your Slayer! I did what I could. I came as soon as I got word, and why the bleeding hell would I show my face here if I’d had anything to do with Buffy being nabbed? Do you see a please stake me sign anywhere?”
Willow at least had the decency to look a little chagrined at that. Xander just glared.
Spike sighed. He needed to get a hold of himself. He had more he needed to say—or rather, more they needed to hear—and despite how bloody good it felt, screaming wouldn’t accomplish anything.
“Listen, I didn’t come here to waste time squabbling.” He began backing for the door once more. “Even if I knew it was sodding inevitable. The lot of you have your fair share to worry with here. Nibblet, deranged Glory bint, Council of Wankers.”
Giles narrowed his eyes. “How do you know about that?”
“Slayer told me earlier,” Spike replied. “Look, I told Dru and Darla no, but I’m the only one here who has a stone’s throw chance in hell to get close to enough to get Buffy out. So I’m heading to LA—”
“That’s. It.” Harris kicked in his chair and rounded the table, his eyes blazing. “You know how much I trust you? Zero. That’s how much. You go from hijacking doctors to get the chip out of your head so you can kill Buffy to telling us you’re the only hope for getting her back in like a month and we’re just supposed to buy it? When have you ever wanted to play the hero?”
“That right there is the difference between the likes of and the likes of me,” Spike replied. “I don’t aim to play anything.”
“So you are a hero now?”
“I’m the bloke who can get in. You wanna offer yourself up, Harris? You won’t make it past the front desk before they chuck you out.” He motioned to the rest of them. “Don’t guess any of you lot got an invite to join in the mayhem. These lawyers aren’t your average baddies. Hell, Glory might be on their sodding payroll for all we know. You go in and you get dead. Fat lotta good that’ll be to the Slayer. Like it or not, I’m the best bloody chance you got.”
Xander looked mutinous, his face tomato-red. But he didn’t say anything.
“That’s right,” Spike snapped. “Think whatever you like. I’m leaving tonight for LA.”
“Where will you go?” Giles asked. “Understand that I am not condoning this in any way. I don’t trust you—I never have and I never will. But you are right. If you are telling the truth, then you are our best option.”
Willow’s eyes widened. “But—”
“Spike is connected to the Order. That is more than any of us can say. And should he be lying, we will not be any worse off than we are now.”
“Except he can get that chip out,” Xander spat. “Then we’ll have the Fanged Four to deal with.”
Giles hesitated. “Yes. But Buffy will not be worse off. I don’t think Spike poses more of a threat to her than Angelus does. And given that we know Spike teamed up with Buffy before to defeat him—”
“That’s right,” Spike said, puffing out his chest. “I did. Nothing in it for me then.”
Xander sneered. “Except your girlfriend back.”
Well, yeah, that had been the deal. Bugger all.
Giles frowned and cleared his throat. “As I was saying, Buffy is now in the hands of two, soon-to-be three, very ruthless, legendary vampires. Even if Spike is lying, she will not be in more danger than she is currently. And as it is…” He sighed heavily—one of those full body sighs. “The fate of the world is still in jeopardy. Glory is not going to take a break because we are down a slayer. If anything, she is likely to escalate—”
“Glory? Glory? We’re bringing up Glory?” Xander demanded. “Who cares about Glory? We have bigger problems at the minute! If Chips Ahoy is going to Los Angeles, then—”
“He goes alone,” Giles said solemnly. “Like I said, Xander, we must care about Glory, otherwise there might not be a world for Buffy to come home to.”
“We can’t trust him!”
Spike rolled his eyes again.
“I know that. But it appears that we have no choice.” Giles took a step toward him. “Where will you go?”
Finally a question he could answer without having to reveal something personal.
“Angel Investigations,” Spike replied. “If it hasn’t been torn to shreds by now. I’d wager that Cordelia and that little mixed chap have a contingency plan or what all in place. I’ll start there, see what they know, and work my way up.”
“Spike.” Giles’s gaze was level with him now. “I want you to listen to me very, very carefully. Should anything happen to Buffy, anything at all, I will hold you personally responsible. I don’t give a bleeding fuck if you are involved or not. Something happens to her, it’s going to happen to you too. Do you understand me?”
It was a rare day when the Watcher used such raw language.
Then again, today seemed to be the king of rare days.
“I get you, Rupert.” Spike nodded. It was nothing he hadn’t expected. Nothing he wouldn’t demand himself if he’d been in the Watcher’s place.
“You are to remain in constant contact with us.”
“I can do that.”
“I don’t like this,” Willow said, her eyes going from Giles to Spike. “Not that I don’t trust you… Well, I don’t trust you, but you get me. I don’t understand why we have to be sitting ducks. Can’t we be standing ducks? Or flapping ducks? Or rushing-to-help-Buffy ducks? I just don’t get it…especially where Glory is concerned. Without the Slayer, what exactly do we hope to accomplish? Throw rocks at her?”
At that, something behind Giles’s façade began to crack. “There are things,” he said slowly, “that have to be taken into consideration. Things that involve Glory that I cannot disclose. Here.” He added the last with a pointed look in Spike’s direction. “Let’s just leave it at that for now. We will discuss the details later.”
Spike couldn’t agree more. “Right,” he snapped. “Save your sodding dramatics. It’s of no interest to me.” He turned to Willow. “And don’t get your knickers in a twist. Whatever the old man has up his sleave’ll be common knowledge two seconds after I walk out the bloody door.”
Giles nodded, his gaze still fixed on Spike. “Before you leave, Spike, a word in the back, please.”
Right. Nothing could be that easy. Never mind he was wasting more time. Spike looked around the room, then made to follow the Watcher.
He expected Rupert to lay into him the moment they were alone. The man had been far too agreeable up until now. Once more, though, Spike was surprised. The second they were alone, Giles did little more than break out into a furious pace that explained where he’d been storing his excess energy. And for a few minutes, that was all there was. The Watcher wearing the floorboards to and fro, making eye contact every few seconds, looking like he would say something before falling into step again.
This would be funny if Spike weren’t in such a hurry.
“So, what is it?” he asked when he couldn’t stand the silence any longer. “Wanna lay down with the ground rules? Do not touch the Slayer? Do not look at the Slayer? Do not interact with the Slayer? Do not—”
“Do not shut up? There’s a new one.”
“I mean it. This…” Giles pressed his hand against a wall, looking older in that moment than Spike had ever seen him. “What you are about to do… God, I can’t believe I’m trusting you to—”
“Trust me or not, mate, I’m doin’ it.”
“Why? If I knew why, perhaps I could… I just don’t see what possible motive you have to go to Buffy’s aid.”
How the hell was he supposed to answer that? The truth wouldn’t make Giles feel any better, and it likely would eat up more time they couldn’t afford to waste. There was too much that he still did not know, did not understand, and he rather doubted that ‘I’ve had the sudden desire to shag the Slayer senseless’ would score any points.
He had to hand it to Giles—the man was asking all the right questions.
“Honestly, mate,” he began, “I don’t know. I can’t explain anything right now. Trust me, things’d be a lot easier if I could say bugger all and let them have her.”
“Forgive me if that’s not at all reassuring.”
“Well, this isn’t the first time this sort’ve thing’s happened where the lot of you are concerned. That one time that Glenda the Second’s magic went all wonky, making you blind to everything with demon blood?” He waited for Giles to nod before continuing. “Yeah. Walked in, saw the Slayer struggling under some beastie she couldn’t see and leaped in to save the bloody day. Don’t ask me why—she certainly didn’t. Didn’t even get a thank you for that.” Another brief break. “I don’t like any of you, you know. But I just… I can’t let them have her. Angelus and Dru were bad enough. Throw Darla in the mix, a bird with a wicked grudge and a mean streak a mile long and all hell breaks loose. I don’t want the Slayer mixed in with them.”
“This is about possession, then? She’s the Slayer, therefore you get to kill her?”
If only it were that easy.
“If it makes you sleep better to tell yourself that…well, I don’t rightly care what makes you sleep better.” Spike shook his head and headed for the door again. “I’m all you’ve got and you know it. And you also know I don’t welch on deals. You said it yourself—I helped Buffy before. Before there was a chip. Before my hatred of the lot of you grew to colossal proportions. Helped her because I can’t bloody stand Angelus. Still can’t. And he’s not gonna have forgotten that.”
“You helped her because of Drusilla,” Giles said. “Angel had Drusilla and you couldn’t stand it. Now Darla’s in the picture, so I imagine Drusilla is fair game once more.”
Spike snorted. “Do you really think Darla being back will mean he stops shagging other girls? None of them know the meaning of the word faithful, least of all your former soul boy. Angelus hardly ever does anything just because he wants to—he does what he can to make others hurt. He could give a fuck about Dru on most days, but he knew how it burned me to see her with him so he did it.”
“You were in the family before.”
“Right. Didn’t much care for it then, either. But I was the new kid. Couldn’t say much, could I? Then he got a soul shoved up his ass and I had Dru to myself for nearly a whole bloody century.” Spike snickered again and shook his head, old resentments bubbling to the surface. “Nearly a hundred years of just me and her. I never would’ve thought she’d go back to fawning over him like she did. Like what we had didn’t matter. But that’s what happened because Dru never was mine to begin with. Learned that bloody lesson, didn’t I? So no, Rupes, there is no me and Dru. I’m her favorite toy, sure, but still a sodding toy.”
It wasn’t until his voice broke off that he realized he’d actually said all of that aloud. Spike widened his eyes and looked up. The look on Giles’s face was unreadable—somewhere between apathy and pity, though at the moment he wasn’t sure which was worse.
So he heaved another breath, shook himself off, and refocused. His sad history with Drusilla was not relevant. “I’m all you’ve got,” he said again. “Regardless of whatever ugly business there was with me and Angelus, I have a helluva better chance of getting close to them than any of you do. And I’d know where to look. More than Wolfram and Hart and that sham of a detective agency Angel was chiefing. I know them all more than any of you bloody watchers ever can. I’m on your side in this. Bygones be bygones and all that rot. You get me?”
There was a long stretch of silence.
“When the Council arrives,” Giles said at last, “I will not mention what has happened. If they get involved, things could become even harrier than they already are. But if the news they present about Glory is dire, there is every chance that I will be taking a leave of America with Joyce and Dawn in tow.”
That didn’t make any sense. “What?”
“I can’t tell you any more than that, other than I hope to have the others with me. Willow and Tara have school, of course, and I would not want to endanger them. And as hesitant as I am to abandon the Hellmouth in a time of crisis, I see no alternative at the moment.” Giles paused. “If it comes to that, you will have to contact me in London.”
“You realize you’re making about as much sense as Dru on a good day.”
“I can’t tell you more.”
Spike frowned, then shrugged and reached for his cigarettes. “Right. So if you decide to make a great escape, how do I reach you?”
“I’ll leave my London contact information with Cordelia, providing she’s still...” Giles glanced down. The word alive populated the air between them like a comic strip dialog box, but he didn’t breathe life into it. Instead, he said, “I hope it will not come to that, but I see no alternative. I nearly suggested that you take Dawn with you and leave her with her father, but it makes no sense to take her from one dangerous situation and leave her in another. With Angelus on the loose and Hank Summers showing no interest in being involved with his daughters’ lives, Los Angeles is the last place for Dawn right now.”
How Dawn figured into anything still wasn’t clear, but Spike figured it better to simply nod and move along. “Right,” he said. “I’ll be in touch.”
Spike headed for the back exit without another word. No sense parading himself through the front again. It’d just welcome more questions, and he didn’t have time for that.
Buffy didn’t have time for it.
“One more thing,” Giles said. “Please…tell her…”
Spike didn’t as much as blink. “I will.”
“How do you know—”
“Because I’ve seen every sodding made-for-TV drama this bleeding world has to offer. If my first guess is off, I’m sure to get it within the top three.” He paused at the door. “Take care of yourself, Rupert.”
There was no answer, and it was just as well.
The time for conversation had ended.
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