By L.A. Ward and Sanguine
Chapter Three: Never Mind the Bollocks
Well, maybe 'relaxing' wasn't the right word. It was quiet--eerily quiet these days, quiet in a way made Buffy look over her shoulder because something *must* be wrong. Only when Buffy looked, nothing was there. She told herself that everything was okay, but she didn't believe it. It was too quiet and too lonely. And why wouldn't it be? Tara was gone. Willow was gone. Giles was gone. Anya was persona non talkie because saying her name sent Xander into mouth-frothing fits or brooding that rivaled Angel's. And of course there was the missing man. . .person. . . *thing* she wasn't supposed to think about.
All in all, not a lot of people left in the life of Buffy. Typical, wasn't it? Just when she figured out that wallowing in misery did nothing but make her miserable, Buffy woke up to discover the lives of everyone around her had been shot to hell.
"Whatcha doin'?" a sleepy eyed Dawn asked from the doorway.
"Wha-uh. . .?" =Better not tell her I've been thinking. = Buffy-thinking had equaled a bad thing for a long time now . It freaked Dawn out, and Buffy had only recently convinced her sister that she wasn't half suicidal. "I got up early to watch the sunrise."
"Uh. . .yeah." Dawn stared doubtfully at the dense white fog that had fallen over Sunnydale a few days ago. It obscured anything over three feet away. "You think it's evil?"
"Oh, definitely. It's summer and it's sabotaging our tan lines. But-" Buffy tossed her stake into the cotton candy whiteness and heard it clatter against the flagstone pathway "-it's not big with the fighty. Not sure what I can do about it."
Dawn gathered her pink terry cloth robe around herself and sat next to Buffy. "Maybe we should call Giles."
"And have him explain 'there's this thing called El Nino?' I don't think so. Besides, if fog is a sign of the apocalypse, Giles is in London sitting on ground zero." She gave a wan smile before looking into the fog. "Still, it's weird."
"Creepy and weird."
The fog was so thick it looked like a solid, living thing as it moved passively along currents of air. It seeped through crevices, and fell in vaporous waterfalls down manholes and storm drains until it filled the sewers and catacombs beneath the city. It moved. It flowed, traveling ceaselessly, searching as it entered the graveyard. It filtered into the coffins-both empty and full-and spread through the tombs and crypts. Then it found what it sought and began to coalesce, pulling in its tendrils, gathering itself. Changing.
Giles shoved the warlock against the wall.
"Oh, very impressive," Reggie exclaimed.
With his glasses securely tucked in his pocket, Giles gave the warlock his patented Ripper glare. "If you *ever* see the witch again, you will send her on her way. Is that understood?"
The warlock laughed. "A Watcher making threats? Why should I-" The choking sound the warlock made as Giles tightened nunchucks over his throat gave said Watcher a visceral thrill.
"I am not just any Watcher," Giles said. "I do not make idle threats. If you dose her with magic again, I will see you dead. Is that understood?" The warlock, still choking and turning a pale shade of blue, nodded, leading Giles to reluctantly release his chokehold. "I believe we are done here." He stepped back. "Miss Grant?"
"Oh, yes, quite." Lydia, dressed in a gray wool skirt and ivory-colored blouse, looked very prim and proper standing in the middle of the dramatically lit room.
The floor, ceiling, and walls had all been painted black, which only threw the colorful patrons and artwork into high relief. A shockingly impressive Modern art collection hung on the walls. There were white, blue, red, and yellow block patterns by Mondrian, frenetic splatter paintings by Pollock, and a blurry-edged celadon and traffic-cone-orange canvas by Rothko. It looked as though someone had robbed the Tate Gallery, which might well be the case with these demons. But Giles admitted the artwork complemented the colorful occupants of the room.
In one corner sat four green Fyarl demons. In the opposite corner two blue Lazuli incubi played darts while hot pink, tangerine, and fuchsia Farquart pixies drank banana daiquiris with little umbrellas in them. Giles became acutely aware of how absurd the scene must look to someone unused to the vagaries of demon society, and he wondered what lapse in sanity had led him to bring two young Watchers to this place.
Of course, Giles knew the lapse in sanity's name was Quentin Travers. Travers had insisted that Giles not work alone, and, though there had been many volunteers, Claridge and Grant had seemed to be the most amenable-and malleable--of his available choices. Still, it felt wrong to drag two neophytes on this misguided mission.
"We should go," Giles said tersely.
Lydia followed Giles to the door, but they were missing someone. Giles turned to find the youngest Watcher fascinated by the discovery that Farquart pixies had three breasts. "We're leaving, Reggie."
Reggie blinked owlishly. "Of course, of course." He stumbled over his feet a little before following Giles and Lydia outside. "Was that truly a Troll in there?"
Lydia nodded. "I believe so, Reggie."
"And a Nayr Spirte?"
Feeling tired and frustrated, Giles unlocked the car. "Yes, Claridge, in London. Will you bloody well climb into the car?"
Lydia slid into the passenger's seat. "Sir, I realize we are no closer to finding William the Bloody-"
"What we are, Miss Grant, is short of time. That arrogant prat Quentin Travers gave us a week to find Spike. Forty-eight hours and six demon haunts later, we are running out of places to look."
Reggie leaned forward from the back seat. "I am sure the Council understands the difficulty of the task assigned to us."
"In my experience the Council 'understands' precious little." Giles cranked the car. "Although you are probably right. *Travers* understands."
Reggie's brow furrowed with confusion.
Lydia explained, "Mr. Giles suspects he has been set up to fail."
Reggie glanced from Giles to Lydia. "Surely not."
"You must admit, Reggie, it makes a certain kind of sense." Her gaze darted toward Giles. "Mr. Travers does not particularly like you, sir. And he's never been supportive of my research."
"Calls it a bloody waste of time."
"Yes, thank you, Reggie."
Giles almost smiled and attempted to console his younger companions by saying, "At least tonight's search wasn't a complete waste. I rather enjoyed striking fear into the magic dealer's soul."
Reggie's spectacled visage brightened. "That was brilliant! He'll think twice before crossing the Council again." Reg all but bounced in the backseat with uncontained eagerness. "Could you show me that move with the nunchucks? It was--"
"Exactly! I envy you, sir. I truly do. On the front lines, fighting the good fight, every day, do or die as you face down demons."
Giles moved the small sedan into traffic. "Well, today is over, and I'm returning you to the Council."
"No tomorrow." Reggie looked so crestfallen that Giles felt compelled to add, "With Spike being as-" Giles searched for a word "-domesticated as he is, the places we have searched have been relatively benign. The places I must now go. . . These are not places for Watchers without field experience."
"But how do we gain field experience if we are not allowed into the field?"
"Don't muddle this with logic, Claridge. It has been a long night." Aware of Lydia's unhappy expression, Giles asked, "Do you have something to say, Miss Grant?"
"You only have five days left to find William. You may need our help, sir."
Reggie blinked. "Five days? Are you sure it isn't three? I was under the impression Mr. Travers was referring to a work week not a. . ." Faced with Giles' glare, Reggie's argument trailed into silence. "Yes, of course, five days."
Giles considered his situation and silently conceded that Lydia might be correct. Still, he hated to lead these two into danger. "If I agree to this, you must do *everything* I say without discussion, is that understood?"
Reggie cried, "Brilliant!" Lydia, however, frowned.
"Does something concern you, Miss Grant?" Giles asked.
She bit her lower lip before venturing to say, "I don't wish to question your methods, sir."
"Except you wish to question my methods."
Her gaze met his. "It's just that I wonder whether searching demon haunts is the most efficient way to find William."
Giles stopped the car at a traffic light. "What would you suggest? I confess I haven't the foggiest notion of where to look. And even if we do find Spike, it's difficult to imagine him agreeing to play Louis for your version of 'Interview with the Vampire.' I'm not even sure what purpose such an interview would serve."
Lydia raised her chin. "I realize you are a man of action, Mr. Giles. But I think you underestimate the need for in-depth historical research. Do you have any notion of how many of the Council's records contradict one another? Why, in William's case alone, I have found two different sires and three different ages attributed to him."
"And this matters in what way?"
Warming to her subject, Lydia's voice rose in pitch and insistence. "It matters because it is indicative of how slipshod much our data is. If we cannot provide accurate information about the most fundamental of facts, what else does the council not know? You are a field Watcher, and I have enormous respect for that. I only ask that you offer me equal respect as a historian."
Giles considered Lydia for a long moment. "Of course. You are right. I apologize."
Mollified, she relaxed into her seat.
"Though if you don't mind my asking, why Spike? I know he has been useful upon occasion, but, Miss Grant, if you wish to do significant research, shouldn't you find a more significant subject? The Master, Angelus, and Dracula have far more storied histories. Or, if interviewing a vampire is your goal, I'm sure something can be arranged with Angel."
"I'll be honest, Mr. Giles, I'm not particularly interested in Angel or Angelus. There have been countless papers written on the subject and-" She grimaced. "-I admit I find them rather dull. Other than the Sunnydale incident, Angelus seems to have had a rather ordinary career-rape, torture, killing-standard vampiric activity. And his human self seems to have been little more than your typical eighteenth-century wastrel. If not for the curse, I don't believe Angelus would have warranted much attention. As for the Master, he predates all of our records and without a significant archeological find I have little hope of breaking new ground where he is concerned. And Dracula? Let us be serious. He's quite passé."
"Leading you to choose Spike of all creatures." Giles still could not quite believe it.
"Oh yes, William…uh… that is *Spike* has exhibited a great many anomalous traits. For instance, despite being soulless, he has helped save the world on more than one occasion."
"For selfish reasons."
"Perhaps, but given that we are taught all vampires crave chaos and destruction, choosing to avert disaster for any reason is worthy of note. And, of course, there is his tendency toward near-human emotions. He is quite fascinating."
"Perhaps. At a distance. Up close he is usually an irritant, and entirely likely to eat one out of house and home."
Reggie's eyes grew huge.
"Weetabix," Giles explained. "Tea, chicken wings, salt and vinegar crisps. He has a predilection for human food."
"Another anomaly,' Lydia observed with some satisfaction.
"I still cannot believe you are comfortable in such close quarters with a vampire." Reggie sounded awed. "It's quite extraordinary."
Sometimes it still shocked Giles. There were times, even without Willow's mindwipe spell, when he actually forgot what Spike was. Lydia was right. Spike was an anomalous creature.
Lydia bowed her head. "I realize most Watchers consider the history of demonology to be outdated and somewhat pointless. But I believe one day it may prove vital to our survival."
Giles eased the car through traffic. "I believe you may be right. But that does not help us find Spike."
"If you don't mind me saying so, sir, perhaps. . . "
Giles glanced Lydia when her voice trailed off. "Go on."
"Perhaps in William's case, with all of his anomalies, we shouldn't think 'what would a demon do,' but what would *Spike* do?"
"You mean think of him as a person?"
"Yes. Think of him as a man. What would the man do? What are his interests, his likes, his dislikes, his preferences? Where would this *person* go?"
Giles blinked. Bloody hell, he had never thought of it like that.
"Bollocks!" Simon Cook scoffed. "You weren't there."
Antony Lister bristled at having his story questioned. "Was so. Lesser Free Trade Hall."
"Mmm-hmm." Simon took a swig of his lager. "Who else was there? Who performed?"
Simon rolled his eyes. "Too easy. Who else?"
"Liar! Read a few books, but you don't know a sodding thing. They didn't perform the same night as the Sex Pistols. Now if you'd said 'Slaughter and the Dogs' I might've believed you. But Mandala Band-"
"Solstice," a new voice interrupted the argument.
Simon's gaze raked over the newcomer. "And what would you be knowin' about it?"
"I was there."
Simon and Tony laughed. "Right. 'Cause six-year-olds were common at Pistols' concerts."
Spike almost smiled as he motioned for a pint. The female bartender had eyed him since he'd walked through the door, but she had never approached him, only stared at him suspiciously. The first time she spoke it was to Simon.
"He's right." She slid a Guinness down the bar in Spike's direction. "And for the record, I *was* there."
Simon and Tony fell silent. They clearly viewed the woman as an authority on the subject, and drinking in the ambience of the cluttered pub, Spike began to suspect she was responsible for the bright yellow and carmine "Never Mind the Bollocks" Sex Pistols' poster beside the front door and the "Anarchy in the U.K." poster next to the entrance to the loo.
Spike watched her wipe down the bar. She kept glancing at him, looking wary, looking as if she suspected that something evil had walked through the door. Did she know him? Should he recognize her?
She was somewhere in her late thirties to early forties, with long dark hair and tired blue eyes. There was something almost bird-like in her delicate frame that made Spike want to say, "Good lord, eat a sandwich, would you?"
Simon nudged Spike's shoulder. "Got an eye for our girl? Should warn you, she's got issues."
=Show me a woman who doesn't.=
Women with issues were Spike's specialty. The more screwed up they were, the more attracted to them he was. But Spike wasn't interested in this woman--not in that way. He just felt he should recognize her.
His gaze moved to the dark blue poster of Sid Vicious standing over a coffin with the words "From the Grave" emblazoned over his head. Spike remembered that tour. He tried to think back.
He and Dru had spent all of seventy-six and most of seventy-seven in Belgium, although Spike vaguely remembered a few lusty weeks in Paris . . . maybe. Years had a tendency to blur together, and lately, Spike had grown glad of that fact. Anything but the most recent past had a dreamlike quality. It didn't seem quite real. Time had blurred the edges of his nightmarish history to make the memories bearable in his newly souled state--though Spike did his best not to think about the past at all. It did no good. Nothing in recent or distant memory held anything like comfort, just pain and distress.
He was a monster. He'd said it long ago, but now he knew what it meant. For over a century he had been a murderer, a schemer, and a menace. . . and then there was what he had almost done to Buffy.
=Don't go there, mate. There lay dragons.= He leaned back in his chair, and listened to the two middle aged punks arguing.
"I saw them Boxing Day."
"Tony, if you're goin' to lie, at least lie well. You didn't see them at the Roxy on Boxing Day."
Tony looked offended. "Didn't I? And how would you know?"
Spike became irritated. "'Cause they cancelled the show, you git."
The female bartender looked at Spike with startled blue eyes. Damnit, why did she look so familiar?
Simon elbowed Tony . "The lad knows his stuff." Simon faced Spike. "You discover the Pistols with the 'God Save the Queen' re-mix?"
Spike snorted. "The re-mixes are awful. Should've left the originals alone."
Simon chuckled. "Someone raised you right. Hey, Emma, another pint for my young friend. "
=Emma?= Spike squinted for a better look at the woman. He tried to picture her as a girl. Add a few pounds to her. Subtract some of the world-weary exhaustion from her eyes. Give her some spark, some fire. =Oh, shit. Emma.=
Spike saw her swallow. He could hear her heart's rapid beat. The scent of fear was in the air as Emma slid the glass toward him, looking as cautious as she would approaching a wild animal. . .or a vampire. Spike caught her hand. "Emma?"
She pulled away. "Oh God!" And ran for the door.
Simon rolled his eyes. "What did I say? Issues."
Spike followed Emma into the street. "Emma!"
But she was nowhere in sight. Spike tried to hold still, to listen for her heartbeat, her footsteps or her labored breathing, but Simon and Tony were standing at the pub door, drinking and wanting to know, "You an old friend of Emma's?"
=Friend? No. More like an old nightmare.=
Continued in Chapter Four: Strange Days