By Estepheia and Marcee
Part 44 – Back in Town
“A portal,” the blond lanky kid corrected the officer opposite him. “He used a magical portal to go back in time to get rich and really powerful!”
The burly detective flicked a switch, muting the two voices and turned away from the see-through mirror with a disgusted shake of his head. “My desk is littered with unexplained murder cases and missing persons files and what do I have to deal with? Bored kids who think their life is an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone.’”
The psychiatrist shrugged. “You should see my desk,” she said, “I never thought a small town like this could breed such a case load,” but she took the file the detective offered her, opened the folder and leafed through the pages.
“I want to know if he’s faking it. Nobody can be that dumb.” The detective said. “I’d like your report on my desk ASAP.”
“What about the other one?” the psychiatrist said, peering at the folder the policeman was still holding on to. “Levinson?”
“Oh, that one is a little canary. His dad hired a top-notch lawyer, who advised him to make a deal, so I guess he’s gonna come out smelling like roses. Supposedly, Warren Mears did all the planning. We have a warrant out for Mears. Sooner or later we’ll get him.”
The psychiatrist nodded and gestured towards the switch. “May I?”
“Knock yourself out, doc.”
She turned the speaker back on to listen to the interrogation.
“You have no idea who you’re dealing with,” Andrew was saying. “Warren is smart. He's the Blofeld of our age. And I'm not talking about the lame Telly Savalas Blofeld that George Lazenby faced. I'm talking hardcore Connery Era Blofeld! He’s just waiting for the right moment to come and get me out of here. He’s got enough money to buy this whole town. Or will have. And then you’ll all be sorry.”
“Bank robbers - they just don’t make them like they used to,” the detective said with a disgusted snort and returned to the big heap of files on his desk.
* * *
The return trip was fast and painless. They were propelled forward at breakneck speed, almost as if the past itself was glad to get rid of them.
“Who-hooo!” Spike whooped as he popped out of the portal and into the Magic Box like a cork out of a champagne bottle. He’d have barreled past Buffy, but because she was still holding his hand she acted like a bungee cord and pulled him backwards, saving him from tripping over the girl who sat on the floor directly in front of him. Behind them, the portal rapidly shrunk in size, then winked out of existence.
“Home, sweet home,” they said as one, then gave each other a half surprised, half irritated look. ‘You stole my line,’ Buffy’s glance was saying. Spike just arched his eyebrow.
“Buffy?” Dawn exclaimed and scrambled to her feet in a hurry.
“Dawn! Oh God! I missed you so much!” Buffy gushed and stepped forward. That broke the spell of silence. The room erupted into cheers and chatter.
Dawn squealed and grabbed Buffy in a big bouncy bear hug that knocked Buffy’s and Spike’s hands apart. Buffy kissed her cheek, and didn’t let go immediately. Instead she tightened the grip, overwhelmed by relief and joy at being with her sister and her friends again. For the first time since her resurrection, happiness was something she truly felt and not just vaguely remembered.
“Ow,” Dawn mumbled, but it was obvious she was enjoying the affection.
Spike missed the grateful look Dawn gave him over Buffy’s shoulder. Slowly uncurling the fingers of his suddenly bereft hand, he fell back and looked around, immediately focusing on Angel.
Almost everybody was surging forward until they all stood in a misshapen semi-circle in front of Buffy - the REAL Buffy…every face smiling with happiness and relief. Giles and Cordelia held back a little, forming a kind of second rank. Angel stayed outside the animated crowd, he was the only one whose face showed no emotion whatsoever. His eyes were traveling from Buffy to Spike and back.
“You guys have no idea…” Buffy began as she looked at a very pale but grinning Willow and grabbed her in a warm embrace. “How awful it was.” She nodded at Xander, whose arm was wrapped round Anya’s waist. “Except you, of course.” He grinned lopsidedly. She gave the couple a big hug, then turned to Tara, taking her hand and squeezing it. “I can’t believe,” Buffy said as she approached Giles and gave him a hug and a peck on the cheek, “how long I’ve taken you guys for granted.” Giles looked flustered but more than a little pleased.
Saving Angel for last, Buffy turned toward Cordelia. “Hey,” Buffy said with a cheesy grin. “Nice shoes. But the hair? I wasn’t gone that long, was I?”
Cordelia countered with her most radiant commercial smile. “Oh that. Glitter - latest fashion in the biz.” She nodded at the dark 1880 coat Buffy was wearing. “Isn’t that coat a bit retro - even for you?”
Having re-established their bitch-credentials their grins briefly turned into the genuine article.
“Angel,” Buffy said, a warm smile on her lips. “You’re here.”
“Of course,” Angel said, visibly unnerved by the large audience. And then he added with great sincerity. “I’ll always come if you need me.”
A moment passed between them and there was an awkward silence. Then Dawn made a mad dash for her sister and captured her in a big hug once again. The Scoobs took her cue and closed the circle around her, all excitedly talking at once. The only one who wasn’t interested in Buffy’s adventures was Anya. She was noisily fussing over Xander’s bruises and cuts. Her happiness was grating and gratifying at the same time.
Spike shrugged. Time to head out.
When he sauntered past the Scoobies, Xander managed an apologetic grimace and a hurried pat on Spike’s back, the others didn’t even register his departure. Even Giles seemed too distracted.
Not so Angel.
He tensed. Part of him wanted to just stay and drink in the image of shiny happy Buffy in the midst of her friends, part of him considered it his mission to follow Spike and make sure that he didn’t wreak havoc on Sunnydale – now that the chip was out. But by the time Angel had made up his mind and stepped out of the Magic Box to shadow the other vampire, Spike was gone.
* * *
There was a chime as the door of the Magic Box was opened again.
“And where do you think you are going?” Giles asked, as he stepped outside.
Angel didn’t turn, just scanned the street with all his senses. “You saw how they arrived, hand in hand,” he said, sounding strangely flat.
“Contrary to popular belief I’m not blind. Although frankly, sometimes I wish I was.”
“You can’t turn a blind eye on this: Spike’s dangerous again.” Angel waved his hand, warding off Giles’s reply. “Yeah, I know. He brought her back. But does Spike know that the chip is gone? Does Buffy know?”
“Rest assured that I will tell her. But what do you want me to do, after that? Tell Buffy what to do? It’s not like I haven’t tried before. In fact, I gave her the whole do-not-get-involved-with-a-vampire speech already, when she went out with you. What makes you think she’ll listen to me this time?”
Angel nodded almost imperceptibly, accepting the rebuttal.
Giles sighed. “She hasn’t grown any less headstrong, you know.”
“Then don’t talk,” Angel said tersely. “But something needs to be done.”
“Not by you, though. This isn’t L.A.,” Giles said. “And not now. There’s a time for everything. Leave Spike to me.”
* * *
Spike was glad to get back into his customary jeans. He looked at the rumpled pile of discarded clothes disdainfully.
Spike wasn’t surprised when there was a loud knock upstairs. “Come in,” he yelled. The door was opened and footsteps approached.
“It’s me,” Giles’s voice could be heard.
“Surprise, surprise,” Spike muttered sarcastically, and buttoned up his black shirt. “Well, come on down.” He ran a comb through his freshly gelled hair, slicking it back, carefully grooming himself into big bad Spike.
The Watcher climbed down the ladder and looked around impassively, taking in the carpet, the furniture and the clutter of personal effects. “Posh,” he remarked.
“Bourbon?” Spike asked and gestured towards the bar.
“No, thank you.”
“Suit yourself.” Spike poured himself a stiff one, downed it and put the glass down. Then he turned around and studied the Watcher. Giles had his right hand in his pocket, clutching something.
“She told you about the chip then?” Spike guessed. Without waiting for an answer he took the plunge: “Let me guess, you’re here to check if the chip’s working again in this century? Sorry mate, can’t tell you. Haven’t tested it. Yet.” Spike gave the Watcher a defiant stare.
“That is not the purpose of my visit,” Giles answered stiffly.
“No? But seeing that you’re here…” Spike moved like a blur. His fist connected with the other man’s jaw. Giles stumbled backwards and crashed against the wall. He found himself pinned by the smirking vampire.
“Looky here, no migraine,” Spike said, wondering for a moment if he should have faked one. He hesitated, then he let go, smoothing the crinkled fabric of the Watcher’s coat with exaggerated care, before stepping back and giving the man some space.
“I could have told you that,” Giles said dryly, rubbing his jaw. “As it happens, the chip is in my possession.”
“Oh?” was all the vampire had to say to that.
There was an uncomfortable silence as the two Englishmen eyed each other warily.
Finally, Spike nodded. “Well then? What’s the verdict?” he asked, suppressing a flutter of apprehension.
When the Watcher didn’t answer right away, Spike nodded at the man’s pocket. “What you got there? A stake? You gonna be my executioner? Stake me, just in case?”
“Not quite. I’m here to tell you what will happen if you don’t behave yourself.”
Spike felt anger welling up in him. Something inside him objected very strongly to the word ‘behave.’ He opened his mouth, but a steely glance from the Watcher stopped him. He closed his mouth and pursed his lips.
“There comes a time when people have to choose. What side are you on, Spike? And don’t say Buffy’s, because you and I both know, she won’t live forever. We’ve been given a respite, nothing more.” Giles paused.
Spike nodded, reluctantly.
“You helped us the whole summer and you helped us get Buffy back out of the 19th Century, and for that we are more than grateful. But now that the chip is no longer modifying your behavior, I need some kind of reassurance from you that you won’t go rampaging around Sunnydale, vandalizing and murdering whenever it tickles your fancy. I’m not asking you to make a commitment for all eternity. But I’d like you to give me your word, that you’ll never give any of us a reason to have to end you. And when I say ‘us’, I mean Buffy, Dawn, Willow, Xander, Anya, Tara and myself.”
Spike laughed and shook his head. “My word? You’re asking a vampire to give you his word? What would your Council chums say to that?”
“What if I don’t promise anything?” the vampire asked with a frown.
“Then you give me no choice,” Giles continued, “but to use this.” He showed Spike the taser he had kept in his pocket. “I still have that chip and I am quite certain I can find a capable surgeon who’d be willing to put it back in or kill you trying.”
Spike’s first impulse was to say something suitably defiant, like ‘over my pile of ashes’ but truth was, the thought of the chip didn’t infuriate him the way it used to. He’d been without it for more than 48 hours and hadn’t felt any different. He still loved Buffy, he still doted on the Nibblet and he hadn’t felt truly tempted to eat Harris, or anyone else. With or without the chip - it made no difference to who he was, only to what he could do and what he couldn’t. Even so…
Spike made himself a new drink and swirled the amber liquid in his glass. “It’s not that easy,” he muttered.
“I never said it would be,” the Watcher said softly.
“Still a vampire.”
“I’m well aware of that.”
Spike gulped down his bourbon for extra courage, then met Giles’s gaze squarely. “I have no soul, and no intention of getting one.”
“You have us,” Giles said.
Spike blinked. “Yeah, and a sorry bunch of wankers you are,” he snarked.
Giles just waited quietly.
“Fair enough,” Spike said. “You have my word.”
At that Giles pocketed the taser and held out his hand. It was a strangely old-fashioned gesture, but somehow Spike found it appropriate. *Why not?* As he shook the Watcher’s hand Spike could feel some of the tension drain out of the man.
“Now, what happened to my watch?” Giles asked.
“Lost it,” Spike said with a shrug, not bothering with an apology. “Brought you something else instead.”
He picked up the spoils-of-war bag, fished around in it and got out a handkerchief that was rolled into a bundle the size of two fists. He set it on the bed and peeled back the flaps of the fabric.
“Take your pick,” the vampire said, looking very satisfied with himself.
Giles studied the jewelry before him - rings with large gems, golden chains, earrings with large pearls, a diamond bracelet - but he made no move to take anything.
“Are you out of your mind, Spike? You risked changing history for a few trinkets?”
“How stupid do you think I am, Rupes?”
“I’d say that depends on the circumstances. Would you like me to mention some of those instances? A certain robot comes to mind…”
“Ease off, Giles! Don’t you know a rhetorical question when you hear it?”
“Don’t play games, Spike.”
Spike lit himself a cigarette. “The whole trip brought back some memories. Just after I was turned, Angelus and Darla were extra sour, cause their rooms had been burgled while they’d been out to see a ballet or something. Darla complained a few times how she missed her pearl necklace.”
Giles lifted a string of large, perfect pearls to the light. “This one.”
Spike was positively gloating.
“You’re saying all this used to be the property of Angelus, Darla and Drusilla?” Giles asked, wanting to be sure.
“Half-inched all the money, nicked all the baubles, lifted Angelus’s property deeds, helped myself to all his shares, drank his brandy and walked off with his complete investment portfolio,” Spike gleefully counted, lifting a finger for each evil deed. “Meaning, I cleaned him out.”
Giles’s lips twitched slightly.
“What do you plan on doing with your spoils?”
Spike shrugged. “Pay the plumber? Buffy told me money’s tight. I mean, I don’t really need it, do I? If I want something I can always nick it.”
Giles suppressed a sigh, reminding himself that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
“So, you want some of this?” Spike asked and shoved the jewelry under Giles’s nose.
“I think not. But thank you.”
Spike nodded. The Watcher watched in silence while the vampire stored his treasures away.
“William, may I give you some advice?”
Spike turned around slowly. “If you must.”
“You should consider spending some of your ill-gotten gains on decent accommodation. This is no longer a fitting place for you.”
Spike cocked his eyebrow.
“I think I’d like that bourbon now, if you’d be so kind,” Giles said and walked over to Spike’s record collection. “And I think I’d like my Cream album back, thank you very much.”
The Watcher stayed for two drinks, then left with several records tucked under his arm, smiling cryptically. Spike settled down to wait, and true enough, not ten minutes later, the crypt door opened.
“There’s a thing called knocking,” Spike said when two stylishly booted Slayer feet made their way down the rungs of the ladder. “You should take lessons from Rupert.”
She had changed into something far more tasty than what Maeve had dressed her in. The red leather pants she’d worn at the Bronze, almost a week ago, white tank top and a jaunty ponytail. Plus there was a lively spring in her step.
“Um, sorry,” she said with that quirky little oopsy-grimace he adored so much. “Guess sometimes old habits are kinda hard to break.”
“You’re telling me,” he mumbled, wondering if he should ask her about Angel.
“So!” Buffy said with decidedly fake cheer.
“So?” Spike echoed with some trepidation.
“I—uh-- brought your coat,” she explained. “Sss. Coats. Plural.” She put the woolen coat and Spike’s duster on the bed.
“Thanks.” Spike said casually.
“I, um, well, I mean, I was kinda, you know, busy and stuff, you know, earlier, and I didn’t really get to, you know, say thank you and everything,” Buffy said haltingly.
Spike gaped, having expected something along the line of ‘Forget we ever kissed’ and ‘Don’t you dare tell my friends’ or maybe even a warmed up version of the Watcher’s recruitment speech just now.
“Shouldn’t you, like, tap into your inner gentleman and say ‘you’re welcome’ or something,” Buffy asked chirpily?
“I will, in a minute, when I’ve gotten over the shock of hearing you say thank you.”
“Hey!” Buffy said with mock indignation.
“So, how’s tall, dark and broodsome?” Spike asked, unable to rein in his burning need to know.
“Angel? Left about an hour ago.” She answered, and there was no way Spike could miss the fondness in her voice. He was therefore surprised when she plopped down on his bed.
“Make yourself at home, why don’t you.”
Buffy arranged herself, so she sat cross-legged. Spike could not recall ever having seen her so relaxed around him. She patted her flat stomach. “Did you know that I put on three pounds while I was away? Maeve must have eaten anything that didn’t move and maybe some things that did.”
Spike had no answer to that, at least none that wouldn’t get him into trouble.
“What was she like?” Buffy asked.
“Maeve?” When Buffy nodded, Spike sat down beside her, wondering what would happen if he were to kiss her. “Scared, brave, righteous and strong. You know, typical Slayer-type. Lonely, though.” Maybe he should try touching her hand first?
Before they knew it they found themselves talking.
London, February 1885
“And then Charles said ‘If you are studying Carolinian spells may I suggest that you ask my wife? Her knowledge of Medieval French far exceeds my own.’”
The ensuing laughter caused Maeve to smile. She listened with one ear to the good-natured chatter that always accompanied their research evenings. She took a cigarette out of a little wooden box that sat on her desk.
There was a clinking sound and a hand holding a burning lighter appeared in her field of vision. “Thank you,” she smiled and inhaled deeply.
Horatio Bateley nodded and pocketed his lighter. He leaned back in his leather-upholstered arm-chair and continued to study the Times’ obituary page.
Her smile froze when the butler quietly entered the room, and headed towards her.
“Miss McKenna, there was a gentleman at the door who requested I should give you this,” the butler said uncertainly. He held out a silver tray towards her. “But… he left no calling card… The gentleman said there was no need.”
Maeve carefully screwed the cap on her pen and put it down on her desk, next to the letter she’d been writing.
“Thank you, Trevor,” she said with a nod. After a moment of hesitation, Maeve picked up the small object that was sitting on the butler’s tray. It was a small parcel, wrapped in exquisite paper and tied with a red bow.
Maeve exchanged a glance with her Watcher. Willoughby’s face was ashen.
“What is it?” Victoria asked, full of apprehension. She put down the book she’d been studying and approached her friend.
Maeve untied the bow and removed the paper. Her hands were steady. She lifted the lid and tilted the little cardboard box so its content tumbled into her palm. She closed her fingers around the smooth polished object.
“It is time,” she said calmly, without looking at the tiny stone angel in her hand.
Continued in Part 45 – Home Sweet Home