“William the Bloody does seem to be well and truly tamed, does he not?” Winston said with a chuckle.
“Buffy tends to have that effect on evil creatures,” Giles said wryly. “They either become tame or they die.”
Winston nodded. “Although in my time line, only Buffy was sent back by the Council, we did have knowledge of Spike’s reappearance at Wolfram and Hart, and his own subsequent trip here. Of course, we were aware of his role in closing the hellmouth, but details of how he reappeared at Angel’s offices and how he was returned to this time were very sketchy. Now that I know him better, it’s hard to believe he doesn’t make a bigger deal out of saving the world.”
Giles nodded. “It took wearing the amulet that Angel provided to be ‘worn by a champion’. I suspect the fact that Buffy is more than willing to share what he did with it has much to do with his reticence. As long as she is impressed, I don’t think he cares that much about the rest of us.” He shook his head. “It seems Buffy made the right choice when she gave it to Spike, even though she thought it had killed him. They haven’t really been any more forthcoming than that about what was seemingly a terrible time for them. Unless Spike has shared more with you?”
Winston shook his head. “I’ve enjoyed speaking with him. He really is very unusual, and much more intelligent than he seems. However, he’s been very careful not to share anything he doesn’t want me to know….”
Giles nodded. “For someone who loves to brag, he is remarkably reticent about his accomplishments. Had Buffy not told me about it, I’m not sure I would even know about the soul. It actually was quite a help to me when I was learning to trust him. Knowing he had done such a selfless thing to save the world… and Buffy… and yet wasn’t using it to insist he was now, as he calls it, ‘a white hat’.”
“Surely that’s not still a problem for you?” Winston raised his eyebrows. “I’d never met the man until I got here, and I was prepared to trust him, just based on what I knew from those who’d been there.”
“I do trust him. Now. I will admit, as you well know, it took me a while to overcome my years of training, and the memory of the difficulties Angel caused when Angelus made a surprise appearance didn’t help. But what we’ve seen in the past year or so has cemented my trust in him.” He smiled at Winston. “You had the advantage of knowing what he and Buffy had done, and how long he’d been helping her. To me, he was William the Bloody, Slayer of Slayers, who on one day was trying to kill my slayer, and then suddenly, he was supposed to be harmless and souled and she was insisting he could be trusted. Having you appear here to back up their story of being sent back in time, went a long way to helping me keep an open mind.”
“That, and the letter you sent yourself…..”
“So, when are you planning to tell Harris that he leaves Anya at the altar and she goes back to being a vengeance demon?”
“Whoa – wait, what brought that on?” Buffy stopped walking to stare at him.
Spike shrugged. “Was just trying to remember anything else that got bollixed up this year before Red went off the deep end. We may as well get the little things out of the way while we can in case we can’t head her off.”
“I don’t think that will happen now,” Buffy said, walking again. “I mean she knows how badly she messed up in our time, and she also knows what she did in Winston’s time. And he knows what she did, so….”
“Don’t know if you’ve been paying attention, love, but she’s not Winnie’s biggest fan any more. Seems like being part of a hellgod-killing magic spell has made her feel almost as powerful as bringing you back did.”
“Don’t smush my excitement,” she grumbled. “You weren’t here for that whole mess—”
“Meaning when you got shot?” His snarl reminded her that he’d wanted to kill Warren last year, and she stopped again.
“Well, yeah, among other things. Like Tara being killed just after they’d kissed and made up. That’s what sent Willow off the deep end. But it isn’t going to happen this time, so….”
“Too bloody right, it isn’t,” he said, the calmness of his voice more frightening than the snarl had been.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” she said, hands on her hips. “Just ‘cause you got away with killing one human—who really wasn’t one anyway—doesn’t mean I’m going to let you start playing judge, jury, and executioner from now on.”
“No idea what you’re talking about, Slayer.” If Spike’s real thoughts were at all different from what he was saying, Buffy couldn’t tell. Suddenly that undercurrent of connection that was always present between them wasn’t there, and she frowned.
“Where did you go?” She narrowed her eyes at him. “How did—Are you blocking me?”
“Maybe?” He cocked his head at her. “This is as new to me as it is you, Buffy. I don’t think I did anything intentionally, but I did try not to be thinkin’ anything you might object to. Can’t feel you either,” he added with his own frown.
Well, stop it! she thought at him. I’m not stupid. I know you were probably thinking about killing Warren. Suddenly she could feel him again, although he spoke rather than trying to connect with her telepathically.
“Was,” he said. “But I didn’t try to shut you out, just tried not to think it very loud.” When she just stared at him dubiously, he added, “I swear, love. I didn’t do it on purpose. That’s not what the bond is about, hiding things from each other.”
“It was kind of….” Her voice trailed off and she raised worried eyes to him. “Scary. I didn’t realize how much I’ve become used to that little tickle in my mind that tells me you’re alive. If I hadn’t been standing here looking at you, I’d have been terrified that you dusted.”
Spike put his arms around her and pulled her in tightly. “Ah, love. I’m sorry. Never meant to do that to you.” He nuzzled her neck. “Reckon this means no secrets for us… ever.”
“No big secrets. Little ones like what we’re getting each other for Christmas….”
His laugh shook them both. “And there she is, my girl who keeps her priorities straight.”
They started walking again, shoulders brushing as they did.
“Don’t kill Warren, ‘k?”
He sighed. “I can’t promise you that, love. Depends on what he does this time. But I promise you I won’t kill him just so he doesn’t get a chance to do anything really evil. If he gives me a good reason, all bets are off.”
“I guess I can live with that,” she said with a sigh of her own. She gave him a sideways glance. “I think we get along better when we have something really evil and dangerous to fight,” she grumbled.
“Be careful what you wish for, love,” he said with a nudge.
“I know. I know. I just don’t want us to start fighting about unimportant stuff just because we’re bored.”
He held the door for her to walk into the gallery.
“Don’t think it’s going to be a problem,” he said, as they stepped into what was obviously an attempted armed robbery.
Joyce was backed up against the counter, arms raised defensively as one man rifled through the cash drawer and the other held her at gunpoint. They could see her store manager Sara huddled on the floor, holding her bleeding head. Both men whirled to stare at the intruders, the armed one bringing the gun around to face the new threat.
“I’ve got the gun,” Spike growled, as Buffy looked back and forth between the two men.
“Over my dead body,” she said, dropping to the floor and rolling into the man’s legs, causing him to fall. She had the gun in her own hand before he could think about bringing it to bear on her, wrenching it free and throwing it across the room. Where, to everyone’s surprise, Joyce ran to pick it up.
The man at the cash register moved to intercept her, only to find his way blocked by a grinning vampire in full game face.
“Don’t think so, mate,” Spike said, grabbing the man by the throat and lifting him into the air. He looked over to where Buffy was now sitting atop the no-longer armed robber and punching him repeatedly.
She continued to pummel the man’s face and torso long after he had quit moving, her own anger fueled by Spike’s silent encouragement. He frowned when she didn’t seem inclined to stop, and ceased his mental applause. He dropped his own now-unconscious victim to the floor and faded back into his human face.
Buffy? Slayer? You’re about to kill him, love.
She stopped, met Spike’s worried gaze and shuddered all over. One look at Joyce’s horrified expression, as well as the equally frightened Sara, and she stood up, hiding her bloody fists behind her back.
“Um, so, are you okay, Mom?” She started to walk toward Sara, stopping when the woman flinched back against the wall. “May—maybe you’d should check on Sara and see if she needs to go to the hospital?” Buffy said, embarrassed at her behavior now that it was over.
To kill time while Joyce coaxed Sara to her feet and tried to convince her that Buffy and Spike were not monsters, Buffy called 911 and asked for police and an ambulance. She glanced at the two men and raised her eyebrows at Spike, who shook his head.
“Not dead, love. But yours isn’t in very good shape. Mine’ll be okay once he gets his wind back.” He nudged that man with his foot. “Quit pretendin’ you’re unconscious, you berk, or I’ll see to it you stay that way.” The man opened a bleary eye and tried to glare, but one sight of Spike’s fangs changed it to a flinch.
Buffy ducked into the little employee restroom and quickly washed her hands and the sleeves of her shirt. She brought a wet paper towel out and handed it to Joyce who used it to blot up the blood on Sara’s head.
“So, what the hell was that?” Buffy asked. “Who robs an art gallery, for god’s sake?”
Joyce sighed and shook her head. “They were looking for the new shipment,” she said. “I’m not sure why, but it seemed they were following orders to find something in the crates. But when they couldn’t get the sculptures out, they decided to settle for whatever we had in the cash register.”
“Not much there, I expect,” Spike said, smiling at Sara and clearly trying to appear as harmless as she’d formerly thought him to be.
“No. Almost everybody uses credit cards for purchases. We never have much cash in there. I think they were getting mad about it.”
“Is that why he hit Sara?” Buffy fixed a baleful eye on the conscious but cowering would-be robber.
“I guess so. He kept demanding her to show him where we kept the ‘real money’. Jerk!” Joyce sent her own glare that made it clear she’d recovered from watching Buffy almost beat a man to death.
Spike grinned. “Want me to eat him, Joyce?”
“Don’t tempt me,” she muttered, sending the man cringing even more.
Buffy walked up to him and leaned over. “What were you looking for? And who sent you?”
The man mimed being unable to talk, rubbing his bruised throat and glaring at Spike, who just flashed his fangs and laughed.
“Here.” Joyce handed Buffy a pen and a pad of blank paper. “Make him write it out.”
Buffy handed the pad and pen to the man, who nodded, keeping one eye on Spike as he began to write, a frown of concentration on his face.
The arrival of the police and EMTS put such a look of relief on the man’s face that even Sara laughed. While Joyce explained what had been going on when Buffy and Spike arrived, the EMTs were examining the man Buffy beat up.
The EMT glanced at Spike, noting his ordinary size and stature, and frowned. “Did you do this to him?”
Spike shook his head. “Nah, I was subduing this one. The Sl—Buffy took care of that one.”
The man transferred his unbelieving gaze to Buffy. “You did this?”
“He was pointing a gun at my mom.” She shrugged. “It made me kinda mad.”
“Let it go,” one of the cops, who recognized Buffy for who and what she was, said. “Just get them out of here.” He glanced at the one handing Spike the pad he’d been writing on. “You, are you injured?”
The man glanced at Spike, then rubbed his throat.
“Think he’s got a bit of a sore throat,” Spike said blandly. “Probably be alright to talk in a day or two.”
The cop frowned, bending down to peer at the man’s neck and then back at Spike. “I don’t see any wounds”
“Didn’t give him any. Just held him up by his neck long enough for him to rethink his career choices.” Spike stared back at the obviously knowledgeable cop, who dropped his gaze and nodded.
“Okay, take this one to the precinct. The other one can go to the ER and we’ll catch up with him later.” He smiled at Joyce who had been explaining what happened to another policeman. “I guess it’s a good thing your daughter and her… friend… came by.”
“Yes. It certainly was.”
“We’ll have to take the gun with us for evidence, but I’ll let you know if we need more information from any of you. I’m glad no one was badly hurt.” The EMTs had already cleaned up Sara’s small wound and been assured that she was fine, just frightened. Everyone’s gaze immediately went to the man on the gurney. “Well, except for him. But it seems he had it coming, so….”
When everyone not directly involved had left, Spike glanced at the pad in his hand.
“Crate containing small stuff. Get the fat devil. Little blond guy with money.”
Spike began swearing almost before he finished reading.
“Andrew….” Buffy’s tone of voice didn’t bode well for Andrew’s future well-being. She and Spike exchanged looks, his tinged with amber. “Let’s get that crate open and see what’s in it.”
Joyce led them to the back of the store and pointed to the crate in question. It was lying on its side, a crowbar beside it. Spike grabbed one corner and pulled, ripping away the nailed in wood. Between the two of them, it took no time for him and Buffy to completely open the crate.
As Joyce checked off the items she expected to find in it, they were left with a small, rather nondescript gray statue of a snarling demon.
“Fuck!....” Spike said at the same time as Buffy said, “Is that a mini-Acathla?”
“Looks like it to me. The question is, can it do what the big one did?”
“We should just smash it now….”
“We should smash Andrew now,” Spike growled. “Maybe after he tells us what he was planning to do with the ugly little bugger here… maybe not.”
Buffy sighed. “I guess we need to let Giles and Winston take a look at it. They might know if it’s dangerous.”
“Are we doin’ that before or after we rip Andrew’s throat out?”
Buffy shook her head, knowing he wasn’t really serious. “Let’s take it to Giles and Winston first. Then we’ll know what to do with Andrew.”
She picked up the ugly little statue and set it on a work table.
“Let’s get the rest of these crates open and put the heavy things where Mom wants them. Why don’t you call Giles or Winston and ask them where they’ll be later and tell them we have something to show them.”
Buffy began pulling one of the other crates open as she spoke, and Spike rolled his eyes but went to the phone and dialed the Magic Box.
“Have something for you and Winnie to take a look at later on. Where can we find you?”
He paused for a response, then gave a brief rundown of what had happened when they reached the gallery.
“Yeah, yeah. She left him alive, but she kicked his arse right proper. The other one is entertaining the local constabulary with his story of what they were doin’ here. Seems like our old buddy Andrew didn’t get the strong hints to lay off the demon-summoning.”
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