The 4th Floor
Buffy gave him a look of severe scepticism that made him almost laugh. They stood in the lobby of a small office complex. Wandering over to the unattended front desk they saw a small sign that read ‘Watcher’s Council 1000 B.C – Present Day. Please Ring Bell for Assistance.’ This time Buffy turned to glare at him, sure he was playing a practical joke.
“This is the Council Headquarters?”
Spike smiled and gestured to the bell. “Find out.”
She paused, debating, and then pressed the bell quickly. Buffy took a step back and looked around worriedly. Spike’s smile widened. He hadn’t smiled so much in the past few years and all it took was the return of the Slayer to get him grinning. All it took. Like it was such a small thing. It wasn’t, it was a large, vital thing. Maybe everything. Or maybe he was just a sentimental tosser.
He cleared his throat and leaned against the desk, watching her. She had dressed in jeans, trainers, and a white T-shirt – items hastily borrowed from Willow’s wardrobe. Spike vowed to take her shopping properly. She’d always liked shopping, he remembered. Her hair was tied up tightly in a ponytail and wisps of it fell around her face, blowing in the air-conditioned office.
Buffy turned unexpectedly and caught him looking. She smiled nervously. He returned the nervy smile and quickly averted his eyes, hands tapping against the desk in embarrassment.
“Where’s my assistance? I need assistance!” Buffy complained.
Spike rolled his eyes. “Americans. No bloody patience.” He pressed the bell again just to placate her.
She folded her arms and leant her back against the desk, looking at him sullenly. He beamed at her. The Slayer rolled her eyes but couldn’t stop the smile that flitted across her glossed lips.
Spike leant towards her and whispered conspiratorially. “Where’s your hotshot lawyer then, Summers? He’s supposed to be here.”
“Norman is probably running late,” she replied not rising to the bait. “I’m sure he’ll make it. He’s never steered me wrong so far.”
He bit back a laugh at that and settled for smirking. The Slayer flicked a v sign at him and it was glorious. He’d missed the banter a lot, he realised. Spike didn’t have many friends who he was so at ease with. A lot of the time he was working or spending time with Mya and that didn’t leave much time for a social life. That and the fact that he was a vampire put great limitations on his free time to be hip and meet new people. He snorted at the very idea.
“I’m sorry,” Buffy said suddenly, stepping up closer to him.
He glanced at her, confused. “For what?”
“Xander. For what he said.”
Spike sighed and shifted awkwardly. “He’s protective of you.”
“That’s not an excuse.”
“No,” he nodded and looked away. “But I understand it. I even agree with some of it. I have a past. A bad one. I can’t – I won’t – forget it. If I do, I might go back to that.”
She shook her head rapidly. “Not. Gonna. Happen.”
“You trust me.”
“Of course,” Buffy smiled.
“Maybe you shouldn’t,” he said, eyes downcast. “All I ever did was make things hard on you. Hurt you.”
She shrugged easily. “More than mutual. And I like to think we got past that before I stepped into The Land Before Time.”
“There were cartoon dinosaurs there?”
“Well, no,” Buffy’s brow creased then she saw his amused look. “Hey, don’t be glib.”
Spike held his hands up. “Never again. Anyway, you don’t need to apologise for Harris. He’s a wanker and I know that. But he’s not all bad.”
She tilted her head and her eyes roved over his face in a thrillingly intimate way before she spoke. “You still manage to surprise me, thirty years on.”
“More than mutual,” he arched an eyebrow. “Long may it continue.”
It was at that moment that a woman shuffled towards them in a demure-looking trouser suit, brown hair falling around her shoulders and heels clacking on the linoleum floor. She looked put out, annoyed, and generally huffy. Spike liked that in a woman. And Valerie was a nice enough sort once she had a couple of glasses of wine in her.
She sighed as she came to a halt in front of them. “Spike, what now?”
“That’s not a nice tone to take, Val,” he stood up straight. “And anyway I’ve been summoned. So there.”
Valeria huffed and turned to look at his companion. “And you are?”
“Buffy Summers, murderer at large,” she scowled.
“Cool,” Valerie turned and started off. “Follow me.”
Buffy frowned and looked at him. “Watchers say ‘cool’ now?”
“Welcome to the world of tomorrow,” Spike drawled.
Spike followed Valerie and Buffy stuck by his side, their footfalls loud in the empty lobby. They were led through some heavy double doors and to an elevator which the Watcher opened using a key card. They all piled in and the button was pressed for the 4th floor. Buffy didn’t know it but the whole office complex didn’t belong to the Watchers. Only the 4th floor.
Spike stood at the back of the elevator, the two women standing in front of him. The view this afforded him was more than welcome. Valerie glanced over her shoulder and gave him a look that told him she knew exactly what he was doing. Spike feigned innocence.
The elevator doors slid open and the office before them was revealed. Desks in neat little rows, pristine white floors and walls. A potted plant in the corner. Identical looking people on phones, tapping away at their computers. The monotony of it all made him want to fall asleep. Valerie walked down the centre of the room towards a door. The door to the head honcho’s office. Spike knew it very well.
He fell into line with Buffy and they walked along together at a casual pace.
“Dun dun dun dun…” she murmured her rendition of the funeral procession.
Spike hesitated then reached over and touched her arm briefly, as if it would help ease her nerves. She looked at him and he faced forward. Buffy opened her mouth as if to say something but by that time they had reached the door and Valerie had knocked and they were going in.
The boy behind the desk looked up at them, face blank. He looked no more than sixteen years old, with spiky brown hair and wide brown eyes, skin bright and clear with youth – not one to suffer from acne, this teen – his sideburns were rebelliously long and he wore a hoop earring in on ear. His clothes were simple too. Grey T-shirt and Spike was guessing jeans, as was his usual style. Scruffy white trainers were peaking out from under the desk.
Buffy looked around the room, confused, then said: “I’m confused.”
“Well, you are blonde,” the kid drawled in an accent similar to Spike’s, standing.
“Uh, hey!” She folded her arms. “I’ve killed for less. Okay, maybe not killed. But severely maimed.”
Spike nudged her with his elbow and murmured. “Not helping your cause here, love.”
“The kid is rude,” she retorted.
“The kid is your boss,” the boy said, coming around the desk. “Cain Travers.”
Buffy’s face paled. “Any relation to Quentin Travers?”
“He was my grandfather.”
She cleared her throat. “Oops?”
Cain walked over to stand in front of them, eyeing her. “Buffy Summers.”
The Slayer gave an adorable little wave. “Hi.”
“Not bad,” he nodded then turned his gaze to Spike. “Not too bad at all, Spike. Don’t know if she’d made me seek out a soul, but I wouldn’t say no to a bit of fun.”
Buffy looked comically outraged. “Hey!”
“Hello Cain,” Spike smiled. “Still a wanker of epic proportions, I see.”
Cain shrugged easily. “Takes one to know one, mate.”
“Can you guys talk about masturbation at a more suitable time? Like, say, never?” Buffy requested.
“Hmmpf,” Cain snorted, folding his arms. “So, let me see if I’ve got the story here straight. You were the Slayer thirty years ago, and then you jumped into another dimension, and stepped out thirty years later and murdered a man. Correct?”
Buffy narrowed her eyes. “He was a vampire.”
“Is that so?” Buffy asked, eyeing him. “Well, kid, hate to tell you this – but it’s your Council which was so dead set on training me – and countless other girls – to kill vampires. I guess that makes you technically responsible for those ‘murders’.”
Cain grinned broadly. “The Watcher’s Council is not legally responsible for any of the actions carried out by its operatives. You signed a contract agreeing to just that.”
“I…I did not!”
Cain arched an eyebrow. “You did. I’ve checked the archives. The contract also mentioned the possibility of a company car if you served us for twenty years.”
Buffy gaped. “Uh…”
“Oh, Buffy,” Spike looked at her. “You didn’t?”
She threw her hands up. “Hey, I was fifteen! I wanted a car! Dammit. You know, technically I’ve been working for you guys longer than twenty years…”
“Nope, there’s a time dimension clause,” the leader of the Council informed her gleefully.
Spike sighed and rolled his eyes heavenwards. “Well, that’s that loophole buggered then.”
“As if you were ever going to pin this on us,” Cain sneered walking back over to his desk and sitting on it. “But I’m sure you’ll have no trouble getting out of this one.”
Spike glared at the man. “You’re not goin’ to help her at all?”
“Well,” he paused, thinking. “From what I’ve read she’s a decent enough fighter. Bit rebellious. Not easily controlled. I’m not sure we want to put that kind of image out there, let alone be seen to condoning her murderous ways.”
Spike clenched his fists. “Bastard –”
“Let me finish, William,” Cain held a hand up. “Nevertheless, she is a Slayer. She is ours. And we don’t like to lose our property. At least not unless we want it lost.”
Buffy pointed at him. “I don’t belong to anyone.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he dismissed her. “In any case, I’ll have to give it a think over. I’ll call you in a couple of days with my decision. In the mean time you can piss off.”
The Slayer opened her mouth to spit back a diatribe but Spike gave her a warning look and she stopped herself, grudgingly. It was as they were turning to leave that the door to the office flew open and Norman ploughed in looking thoroughly windswept.
Spike sighed as he apologised for his lateness, running a hand over his fine brown hair, green eyes flicking from Buffy to Spike to Cain and then back. He shook the Slayer’s hand and greeted her politely, then did the same to Spike. The vampire had to admit the kid had good manners. Apart from the whole being late thing.
Norman loped over to Cain and offered him his hand. The boy looked at the hand blankly.
Norman cleared his throat and smiled nervously. “So, what did I miss?”
Spike rolled his eyes.
“Nothing much,” Buffy shrugged. “’Cept I’m screwed.”
The lawyer looked instantly concerned. “No, Miss…Buffy, you’re not. Have some faith.”
“Yeah, B,” came a voice from behind them. “You can never have too much Faith.”
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