A Nice Little Business by Lilachigh
Chapter Four: Finding Spike
“Spike!” His name sounded more as a wheeze than a word. Agnes tried again as a thin, white hand reached down and pulled her effortlessly to her feet. “You’re...you’re alive!”
His mouth, marred now by a scar that ran diagonally from his top lip to his chin, twisted into what she hoped was a smile. “No, still dead! Agnes Pringle, bloody wondering hell. I thought you were dust a long time ago. And by the look of the smouldering bits of wood in your hair, you will be very soon!” He brushed off the fiery sparks, slammed the door shut against the hungry flames and pulled Agnes towards the window.
“Spike, we’re three floors up!”
“Well, we’re not getting down the stairs, are we?”
His booted foot sent glass shattering out into the night and before Agnes could even start to object, she found herself picked up and flying....flying....flying through the air...and then everything went black.
Her sense of smell came back before anything else - her nose seemed to be buried in a thick, dusty cloth and she sneezed violently, then moaned as pain shot across her head. Her hearing came back with a rush and she could hear the chug of her camper-van engine and realised someone was driving it. She lay very still - she was being kidnapped, obviously, although she was a realistic enough vampire to reckon that it was the van they wanted, and not a short, plumpish, middle-aged vampire lady. So if she kept quiet, then perhaps they would just leave her alone because her head ached too much to consider having to use her fangs to survive.
Keeping her eyes tightly shut, she suddenly recalled the silliest dream she’d just had before....well, before someone obviously hit her over the head - she’d dreamt that Spike was alive and living upstairs in Mr Rayne’s hotel and she’d seen him when the hotel caught fire. How ridiculous was that?! She’d heard through the vampire grapevine that tragically her friend had been dusted in the Great Dragon Apocalypse, along with so many others. And, she thought muzzily, as the rocking of the camper-van made her feel slightly sick, she’d never really forgiven him for not letting her know he was alive when he’d somehow survived the Sunnydale earthquake. Agnes knew she owed her own unlife existence to dear Richard who had come as a sort of vision one night and warned her to leave Sunnydale immediately.
“Aggie - open your bloody eyes and speak to me. You’re not badly hurt.”
“Spike!” She fought through the headache and struggled to sit up. She was lying on the seat behind the driver and there was no mistaking those platinum curls or the slim, leather covered shoulders. “What’s happening? How can you be here? I don’t understand.”
“You don’t understand? Bloody hell, Aggie, neither do I. I thought you were dust long ago. And here you are in England.”
“The hotel - “
“Gone. Burnt to the ground by now. You banged your head on the window frame when we jumped. I reckoned we’d be best far, far away from there and luckily, the keys to the van were in the ignition. I didn’t realise until I looked around the place that it was where you’d been living.”
“Oh. But - ”
“Time for explanations later on. We need somewhere to stay. Ethan isn’t going to be too happy when he finds his hotel in ruins. He’ll probably blame me.”
She stared out of the window, peering for signposts. Thinking clearly seemed to be a little problem at the moment - she felt she was still living inside some sort of weird dream. Spike alive: Spike driving her camper-van: Spike rescuing her from a burning building. Agnes knew she had a romantic streak that she tried valiantly to suppress because vampires were certainly not expected to harbour gentle thoughts, but even in her wildest imaginings since she’d heard of her friend’s final departure from this world, had she thought of a situation like this.
“Turn left, into the woods. I have a house. We can stay there.”
“A house? Blimey, you’ve come up in the world a bit, Aggie. You had the back room of Willie’s bar and then a little tearoom in Sunnydale. A house in England? Come into money, did you?”
“It was a gift - from an old friend,” Agnes murmured. She didn’t feel like telling Spike about Dear Richard’s helpful gesture that had meant she had somewhere to go with the vampire children she had saved from Sunnydale. It wasn’t that she wasn’t overjoyed to see him again, of course, but for the last few months they had been friends, they had had little in common. She had never understood his obsession with the Slayer - oh! A shudder ran up her spine and the hairs on the back of her neck twitched as they always did when Buffy Summers was around. Fearfully, she peered round the interior of the van, but of course there was no one there.
“Second on the right - “
“And straight on till morning!” Spike grinned and swung the van round a tight corner, narrowly missing a car coming in the other direction, the beam from the headlights bouncing off bare tree branches and frost covered bushes. At last the van lurched up the frosty track leading from the road and came to a halt outside Agnes’ house. Dear Richard had called it a country cottage when he put it in her name, a retreat from the dangers of life in America. Agnes had been forced to admit that her idea of a cottage and the Mayor’s were slightly different. Hers had a thatched roof and roses trailing round a little wooden door. This building was more like a small manor house, built from rosy red bricks at the height of the first Elizabeth’s reign and lovingly looked after for centuries until the last owner had sold it to a nice American gentleman who had promptly ordered the builders to install central heating and double glazing.
“Posh place, Aggie.”
“It’s far too big for me now the children have gone. Do you remember them, Spike? Vampire children who had lost their parents? They’ve all been adopted except for a couple of the bigger boys who wanted to live on their own. They could have done with a few pointers from you on how to survive.”
Spike was silent at the tone of injured admonishment in her voice and watched as she scrabbled under a hideous plaster gnome for the front door key. His memories of those few months in Sunnydale when he and Buffy had been - well, whatever it had been was long gone now. He could vaguely remember Agnes asking him for help on several occasions and deciding he would do it later....well, no use worrying about it now. Those days were long gone.
It was bitterly cold and he waited on the step until Agnes remembered she had to ask him in. An hour later they were sitting in the big kitchen, the walls still decorated with the crayoned drawings the vampire children had done, showing lots of humans being eaten by jolly looking vamps - the red crayons were always the ones that got used up first. Somewhere a boiler was pumping heat into the radiators and the house was warming up. Agnes had delved into the freezer and they were drinking tea and eating buttered crumpets with dried ox blood sprinkled on top as decoration.
“So, are you going to tell me what you were doing staying with Mr Rayne? And why none of your friends know you survived. I still get a Christmas card from Clem, you know. He’s never forgotten you. He went through a very bad patch when he thought you’d been eaten by a dragon. I heard he almost turned to drink!”
Spike wiped melted butter off his chin. How could he possibly explain how he’d felt - afterwards? How he’d gained his senses to find himself lying curled up ignominiously in a doorway with half a ton of dead dragon shielding him from the end of the battle. He hadn’t even been badly injured, just suffered a knock on the head. It would have been embarrassing if it hadn’t been so terrifyingly beyond belief. The soul he’d fought for so hard had left him feeling deeply ashamed. His friends had died in pushing back the demons from Hell. Had they wondered where he was? He couldn’t remember killing the dragon - had that happened early on in the battle? Spike was filled with dread that they’d thought he’d run away, fled the scene, determined to save his own miserable skin. He’d found their bodies, or what was left of them. Except for Angel, of course. There was no sign of him and deep within Spike, he’d known that his best friend, worst enemy was still alive.
But he wasn’t there, not even a bloody arm or leg and Spike could still feel the overwhelming sense of betrayal that had flooded through him. He himself would never have left the scene until he’d discovered what had happened to Liam, but obviously when the fighting was finally over, Mr Broody had just taken off, doing his own thing. Probably headed back to his usual retreat in Tibet or some other sodding place out East. He’d always had a liking for the poxy Orient, although Spike could remember quite clearly that it had been Liam’s desire to visit China that had ended with him killing his first Slayer so not all bad.
He glanced to where Agnes was diligently pouring him out another cup of tea. It was one of unlife’s miracles that she had survived all these years. Vampires he’d known far brighter than her had perished but somehow this plump, stubborn Englishwoman defied all the odds. He had yet to hear what she was doing working for Ethan Rayne but of one thing he was quite certain - she obviously had no idea how evil that man was and there was no way Spike was going to tell her his own twisted reasons for getting involved.
“Oh I lost my memory for a while,” he said vaguely. “Wandered around a bit, wondering who I was, then realised I was English so headed over here to see if anything or anyone seemed familiar.”
“So you had forgotten - everyone?” Agnes asked cautiously, not wanting the words Buffy Summers to burn her lips.
Spike dropped several lumps of sugar into his tea and Agnes frowned. She knew he only sugared his drinks when he was worried about something.
He stirred the bright brown mixture - Aggie’s tea was always the best - and tried not to think of the months he’d spent every waking moment thinking of the Slayer. Buffy had been there when he went to sleep, there when he fed on pig’s blood because he could still remember how much she hated him drinking human blood. She had been there the second he opened his eyes and during the long nights, it seemed something would remind him of her every few minutes. But then he’d finally had to accept that that life was gone for good. If he really loved her, he would wish her all the happiness in the world, hopefully a man who adored her and possibly even kids. The fact that he would cheerfully slaughter the said man was something he had to struggle with as well.
“Bits and pieces started to come back, odd memories - I...I wasn’t too well...” he was proud of that lie - “bumped into Rayne. I’d met him years ago, when Dru and I were in England. Weird bloke. He said he had a room I could use while I was getting better, as long as I kept a low profile. Of course, if I’d known you were in England, then I’d have looked for you, but, to be honest, I thought you were long dusted, Aggie, and I didn’t think I’d be the flavour of the month if I bounced back into some of my other friends’ lives, expecting a big welcome. Too much blood has flowed from too many veins for that to happen.”
Agnes buttered another crumpet. She was desperately tired and her head ached. It would be dawn very soon and she longed for her bed, although she had a nagging feeling that the sheets would be damp and she had no idea where she had put her cosy hot-water bottle.
“Mr Rayne,” she began tentatively, “Is he a good friend of yours?” She was torn between trusting Spike and telling him about the vampire revolution Ethan Rayne was planning and keeping quiet. It made her feel wobbly inside not to trust Spike, but those last few months they’d spent in Sunnydale had made her very wary.
“Ethan? A friend? No, Aggie, he’s not. I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him.”
Agnes felt a surge of relief. There hadn’t been much time between burning down the hotel, finding Spike alive and escaping to think about the vampire revolution, but she knew her immediate reaction had been the right one. Whatever Ethan Rayne planned, no matter how strong his army of vampires was, there were now so many Slayers around that any conflict could only lead to untold misery and death. She’d been worried about tackling this on her own, but now she had Spike and, settling back in her chair, she began to tell him what she’d overheard back at the hotel.
Several miles away on the outskirts of the New Forest, Buffy Summers drove into the parking lot of a little hotel. In the east the sky was getting lighter; she’d been driving around all night, trying to pin down the exact location of the Big Bad that Giles was convinced was working in this area. But apart from being passed by a fire engine and nearly being run off the road by a camper van a few hours earlier, nothing exciting had happened at all. Oh, she’d had her normal attack of what she called Spike-itis that happened when she was tired and her nerves insisted on reacting to distant memories of fire-wreathed hands instead of the empty here and now. And she was so tired, to the bone. All she wanted was a bed and five hours solid sleep. For some reason she was sure she would need to be at her best in the morning. She had the feeling that something unexpected was coming and she wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or bad.
Buffy had never been very good at self analysis but she had to admit she’d been coasting for the past few months, finding it difficult to get interested in any of Giles’ big schemes and plans. And that was so not fair on her Watcher. He was doing his best and she was guilty of that cardinal Slayer sin, not caring whether she lived or died. Well, that was going to stop now. Any vampire that came anywhere near her was going to be dust.
She checked that her stakes were firmly in her belt and headed inside.