All About Spike
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Things Present – Things Past
By Estepheia and Marcee

Part 38 - Back to Business

At the sound of a rapidly approaching carriage, Buffy and Spike had quickly let go of each other’s hands and assumed a fighting stance. But both Slayer and vampire quickly relaxed, when they recognized the newcomers. By the time the door was flung open and a familiar figure tumbled out, Buffy was already smiling.

“Xander! How did you find me… I mean…”

“Buffy? Buffy is that you?”

“Last time I checked I was still me, so yup.” Buffy gave him a fierce hug that made her friend’s ribs crack. “God, I’m so glad to see you!”

“Hey Buff,” he croaked happily. “Air? Please? Now?”

She let go of him to peer into the carriage and was surprised to see both Willoughby and his son Charles. The Watcher was visibly relieved to see her. After what had just happened at the Council lab, Buffy’s opinion of the Council had reached an all-time low. She just hoped that she could still trust Willoughby, that he was still on her side, rather than Hartford’s. One of the good guys.

Meanwhile, Xander got into babble mode. “Willoughby found you. You know, he used this compass-spell. Hey, are all Watchers able to do magic like that? What if Hartford and the others do a finding spell? But what I’d really like to know: were you and Spike holding hands just now? Cause if you were…”

Buffy stepped back to take in Xander’s appearance. “Oh wow, you look so… different,” she cut him off in mid-babble. “Really great, you know, what with the suit and everything. Like a gentleman. Or you would, if like, it were the right size. Do you have a hat to go with it?” Her eyes sparkled with suppressed mirth.

Xander grinned and was about to strike a pose, when he caught on. “Oh no. No. We’re so not talking about fashion here, Buffy. Could we get back to that part where I saw you and Spike holding hands just now?” Xander prattled. “Cause if you were, I’d have to rinse my eyeballs with gasoline. You may not LOOK like the real you, Buffy, but I know you’re in there and – God, I’m disturbed!”

In the meantime, Willoughby had climbed out of the carriage as well. He exchanged a glance with Harper. The coachman calmly kept a loaded crossbow trained on the vampire, but awaited the Watcher’s orders.

Spike tried hard to look cool and assured, with a bit of cocky thrown in for good measure, but the Xander-Buffy reunion brought a scowl to his face, so the actual vibe seemed more surly than anything else. He kept a wary eye on the coachman, *ex-army, I bet,* and turned to face the thin gentleman whom Xander had identified as Willoughby, Maeve’s Watcher.

“Crawford,” the Watcher stated, his voice flat.

“Not anymore,” Spike said with a dismissive flick of his wrist. He reached into his pocket and dug out his tobacco pouch.

“Obviously.”

“Going by the name of Spike these days.”

Willoughby turned to Xander. “This is your friend? You brought a vampire back in time? Have you taken leave of your senses?”

Xander lifted his hands in a Who? Me? gesture.

“Hey! I’ll have you know I’m here in what you might call official capacity,” Spike snapped indignantly. “Buffy’s Watcher sent me. Her real Watcher. You should be happy that I’m here to fix this god awful mess.”

“Spike, did you just pull rank on a Watcher? I must be in some kind of parallel dimension,” Xander needled, but without venom.

Willoughby ignored them both and addressed Buffy. “Have you forgotten your calling? You are the Slayer, defender of the people. How can you ally yourself with his kind? He is a vampire and as such he is unequivocally evil.”

“Damn right I am. I’m as evil as they come!”

“Shut up, Spike!”

“I stood by you when you allowed Angelus and his wicked brides to escape, even though it went against everything I was taught. I placed my trust in you. But this is going too far!” Willoughby lectured the Slayer coldly. “Or are you going to tell me that this vampire has a soul as well?”

“What? A soul? Me? Not in a million years, mate!”

Buffy shot him a withering glance before turning back to Willoughby. “Spike has fought on our side of the fence for years now. I trust him and that’s the end of it,” she said in her most resolved voice.

Spike had opened his mouth to say more but now he shut it with an audible snap. Xander’s jaw dropped. The Watcher frowned.

“Everybody, get inside the carriage,” Buffy said, taking charge. She nodded toward the shocked faces of some of the passers-by. “In case you haven’t noticed, we kinda have an audience. And if all this commotion doesn’t put the Council on our trail, I don’t know what will.”

“Don’t you love it when she gets all forceful?” Spike asked with a leer. Both Willoughbys shifted uncomfortably and Xander looked somewhat nauseated by his remark.

Buffy clocked him on the nose. Not as painfully as usual, but still…

“Ouw, what de hell was dat for?” Spike complained nasally, gingerly touching his nose to check for possible damage. But the trademark leer was still in place. How could it not, when he could still taste Buffy’s kiss on his lips?

“Just being forceful, Spike,” Buffy smiled sweetly.

“Foreplay, eh?” he mumbled under his breath and gave her a smoldering once over that could have made a nun forget her vows.

Buffy affected a sigh, determined not to let him - or anyone else - know, how much he affected her. “Get inside, Spike.”

“No!”

No one had taken any notice of Charles. Now all eyes turned to him.

“I’m not going to share a carriage with that…that beast!” The boy pointed an accusing finger at Spike who appeared unfazed.

“Look here, son,” Willoughby started.

“No! That creature is evil, just like the one that killed mother. It must be destroyed.” Suddenly, the boy yanked his hand out of his pocket. He was holding an opened vial and quickly flung its contents toward the vampire. Drops of water spattered everywhere. Buffy wiped the liquid off her face with the back of her hand, but Spike began howling in pain.

Charles thought the effect was rewarding. Where the drops landed, the beast’s features began to smoke and sizzle, as the liquid burned itself into its flesh as if it were acid. Its eyes flashed yellow and its fangs came to the fore, betraying its hideous nature. Instinctively, it clawed at its face.

“Crap!” the American exclaimed. He pounced on the boy and wrenched the half-empty bottle out of his hand, before the Watcher’s son had time to discharge the rest.

The high-pitched scream of a woman could be heard and a few exclamations like “Good god, look at that!” and “Dear lord, what is this thing?” There was a whinnying noise as the horses shied and bucked in a blur of iron-shod hooves, desperate to get away from the flailing vampire and Harper had to let go of the crossbow to try to control the frightened animals.

In the meantime, Buffy was struggling with the vampire, holding on to his hands, trying to keep him from harming himself. “Spike, stop it!” She was calling his name again and again. When that awful sizzling sound faded and the vampire stopped thrashing, Buffy let go, only to grab him again, when he tried to hurl himself at the young boy.

“Let go, I’ll rip his soddin’ arms out!” Spike snarled, running on pain and fury.

“No you won’t,” Buffy snapped, shoving him backwards. She folded her arms and stared him down.

Spike glared at the boy, but some of the tension left his body. He shook his head and his features changed back. Only a small amount of holy water had hit its intended target. Even so, the damage was considerable. One eye was almost swollen shut, and there was definite scarring on his cheek where bits of his flesh was were dark pink and looked almost melted. “Right. You want him alive, Buffy? Then he’s safe from me.” Spike finally said. “Just keep him outa my hair. If he tries that again, all bets are off.”

“Yeah, like you could hurt him, Biteless,” Xander sneered. He let go of Charles Willoughby, but was ready to grab him again, should he try to attack the defenseless vampire.

*Yeah, like you have a clue, Brainless,* Spike almost snapped. *If you don’t watch out you’ll soon be tongueless as well.* He quickly turned to Buffy, who looked like she was rapidly losing her patience: Arms still folded in front of her chest, resolve face. “Get in the carriage. Now! All of you!” She commanded.

So, she wasn’t going to discuss the chip, or rather its current state of malfunction? *Fine by me,* Spike thought, as he followed Xander into the coach. “Gotta give the boy some credit, he’s got balls,” he muttered grudgingly. The Scooby just nodded in agreement.

“Sir?” The coachman asked the Watcher. “Where to?”

Buffy shrugged.

“Take us to the East End. Try to be inconspicuous,” Willoughby instructed the man.

Moments later the carriage was on its way.

To his – and Xander’s - surprise Spike found himself on the bench next to Buffy. Xander sat opposite, oozing an irritating over-protective-big-brother vibe. Next to him sat Willoughby. He looked as if he seriously doubted the wisdom of his decision to follow Buffy’s leadership in this situation. The Watcher’s son was by his side. The boy stared at Spike with a mixture of loathing and contempt.

The boy wasn’t the only one to keep his eyes on the vampire. The Watcher studied Spike with great professional interest and only a slight frown betrayed his utter distaste for the creature before him. Xander also kept shooting him strange looks, in which dislike, bewilderment and – strangely enough – amusement seemed to be at odds with each other.

For some reason it bugged Spike that everybody was staring at him. He turned away, pretending to look outside the window and did his best to ignore the lingering pain that consumed his face.

“So!” Xander suddenly clapped his hands, startling everybody. “Where are we going?”

All eyes turned to Buffy. “What? Uh, how am I supposed to know? Willoughby, you know this place and time, there must be some place we can hide, right?”

The Watcher looked flustered. “Actually, there are not many locations that I can think of. The house in Kensington is bound to be the first place Hartford will look for us. It is possible Director Bateley would take us in, but he is still in the hospital. My sister’s house in Surrey is too far away. Perhaps we should consider finding a hotel to accommodate us.”

“We could try the warehouse where Spike found me,” Xander suggested. “It seemed deserted.”

“Spike?” Buffy prompted.

“The warehouse might do,” he said with a shrug. “Not a nice place by any means, but we wouldn’t have to stay long.”

“That was gonna be my next question,” Buffy said. “How long until we all go back, and how? Xander?”

“Oh, uh, I’m not exactly helming this rescue mission,” Xander admitted with a rueful grin. “Actually, I’m more of a rescuee.”

“Huh?”

“When Willow opened the portal to get you back, we got in a bit of a scuffle with a bunch of demons and Humpty Dumpty here got pushed through,” Spike explained with a smirk. “He really has a talent for getting into trouble.”

“Hey!” Xander interjected.

“So, Rupert sent me to rescue the both of you,” Spike continued, not even trying to hide his satisfaction. Feeling uncharacteristically magnanimous, he added: “Gotta hand it to the bricklayer, though. He was doin’ alright when I caught up with him.”

“Huh?” Xander was caught off-balance.

“Spike! Cut the blah blah! How, when and where?” Buffy demanded.

“Portal, tomorrow evening, some kind of inn down in Wapping.”

“So, we have some time to kill.” Buffy leaned out of the window. “Harper? Take us to Wapping. And make sure nobody follows us.”

***

“This is the place,” Spike said, more than an hour later, waving vaguely at a spot in the middle of the room.

“Yup, this is where I came through,” Xander agreed. “Although the place was a little less robbed and trashed, then. Did a little redecorating, huh, Spike?”

The vampire gave him a two-fingered salute.

They all stood inside the big dining room, assessing the damage: The place did, indeed, look pretty trashed with overturned furniture, ripped out wood paneling, glass shards and several rusty blotches of dried blood. The house looked even more gutted than Spike remembered it. At least there were no dead bodies lying around. It seemed the cracksmen had taken care of their dead and injured without involving the police. But the smell! To Spike’s sensitive nose the place reeked of dried blood. The others didn’t seem to notice it, but the vampire found it made him extra twitchy. He’d fed well before going through the portal, but since then his body had had to heal several injuries – which meant he was running low on fuel, so to speak.

He shot a glance at Buffy. There was something tense about the way she stood. A pout formed on her face and she had that pained faraway look he hated so much.

Willoughby, too, looked grim. “Charles, would you please help Harper care for the horses in the courtyard?”

The boy nodded and left the dining room.

Willoughby turned to Spike. “There seems to be a certain poetic cruelty in the fact that you brought us here.”

“Been here before?”

“Fighting Angelus,” Willoughby answered curtly, not feeling very much inclined to revisit the details in his memory. He saw the Slayer staring at the floor where Darla had dropped the body of the young woman she had killed and at the dried pool of blood that marked Bateley’s near death.

Spike took in the Watcher’s injured arms and the bandage on the man’s throat and pursed his lips. “You’re alive,” he finally stated. “Not many crossed his path who can say that.”

“He murdered my wife,” Willoughby told him, quietly.

*Life’s a bitch and then you die,* Spike thought, but wisely kept his mouth shut. Instead he just nodded and focused his attention on Buffy. He could see her square her shoulders and take a deep breath.

“Willoughby, can you do some kind of invisible-we’re-all-totally-hidden kind of spell?”

“I have very few spell components with me, but I can certainly try to cast a spell that will deflect the more common scrying methods,” the Watcher replied. “I may need a few other items.” He looked uncertainly at the vampire and the American.  “Neither of you would happen to have a scarf or handkerchief?”

Xander reached into his pockets and shook his head.

“I’ve got what you need, Watcher.” Spike handed over the piece of fabric.

“And some matches, perhaps?”

Spike grinned, “Looks like today’s your lucky day.” Spike reached into his pocket again and held out a box of matches.

“This should be fine,” Willoughby said as he reached into his black leather bag, the one that held his spell books, and pulled out a stick of incense.

“Good,” Buffy said absentmindedly. She took a deep breath. “Spike, Xander check the rest of the house. Make sure we’re alone here.”

The two men nodded and left.

***

“What will happen when Maeve gets back?” Buffy asked the Watcher as she cleared a space for him to set up the cloaking spell.

“I would imagine she’ll face the Council.” The Watcher sounded melancholy.

“They’ll test me, I mean, her…they’ll test her again?”

“There will indeed be an investigation,” he answered. “I will have to write a detailed report and Maeve will no doubt be thoroughly questioned and tested. However, there is only one Slayer. The Council cannot afford to waste time by testing her too thoroughly. Once her identity is confirmed, Maeve will go back to slaying demons and vampires at the Council’s behest. She will, of course, be given a new Watcher.”

Buffy stepped back from the small circle she had cleared in the center of the room. “What about you? What’s gonna happen to you?”

“Presumably, I will be dishonorably discharged, perhaps even imprisoned for betraying my Council oath. Director Hartford is not a forgiving man. There may be a slight possibility that Director Bateley’s support – should he provide it – will allow me to resign from the Council without scandal.”

“I’m sorry,” Buffy stammered helplessly. “I wish there was something I could do. To help.”

“Do not trouble yourself on my behalf, my dear,” the Watcher said gently. “I am only concerned about Maeve’s welfare and my sons’. And more recently, yours. Do not worry. I will not disclose anything you have told me about what will happen in the future. Hopefully, Maeve and I will have sufficient time to concoct a plausible story about how she came to be possessed by the spirit of a long dead Slayer.”

“Thanks,” Buffy said sincerely. Then she focused on the task at hand and pointed at the cleared circle. “Is this okay?”

“Yes, that will be fine. Thank you.”

“What about Charles? And George? What will you tell them?”

“Everything.”

“Good.”

The Watcher settled himself in the center of the clearing. “I will begin the cloaking spell now.”

***

“Right, then,” Spike led the way and Xander tagged along. The inn was a pretty big place with many rooms, most of which were no longer in use. Every room they came to had been methodically stripped of everything even remotely valuable.

“Looks like this used to be a workhouse or orphanage before it became an inn,” Spike remarked, as they crossed the courtyard where Charles was helping Harper see to the horses.

“Guess they don’t have any Hyatt or Hilton hotels in this century, huh?” Xander tried to fill the awkward silence as they entered the adjacent building. “I mean, the Motel 6 is like a five-star-hotel compared to this dump.”

Spike opened every door they passed, inspecting the rooms and closets with a careful eye.

Xander continued his nervous babbling, “And what’s with all the hay? Everywhere you turn in London, there’s hay. Bales of it! Here a bale, there a bale, everywhere a bale bale!”

“Harris, do you ever get tired of hearing yourself sound like an idiot?”

“Hey, did you have horses?”

“Huh?”

“Horses? When you, uh…lived. Did you have them?”

“No.”

“What about other pets?”

“A dog.”

“Really? What was its name?”

Spike stopped in his tracks and turned to face his companion.

“Okay, Harris, where are you going with this?”

“Just asking. Small talk, you know. Besides, I’m kinda curious about your life, you know, before the whole vampire thing.”

“I was born. Died. End of story.” Spike said with a frown, hoping to ward off any further questions, but then his face softened. “Died tonight, actually,” he said wistfully, remembering Buffy’s words: ‘I’m telling you I didn’t stop it.’

Xander thought of William Crawford, and how only a few hours ago the shy librarian had fled the scene of his humiliation and rejection only to end up killed by a crazy vampire. And for once, Xander Harris didn’t know what to say.

***

“I want that American and I want him now.”

“We will find him, sir,” Richard said.

“He ruined my dinner reception,” a very angry Hartford muttered as he limped up the stairs of the Diogenes Club, the sharp tap of his cane much louder than strictly necessary. “Who does Willoughby think he is? Hiding such things from the Council. From me?”

“I have already had the Enchantment Room prepared, sir,” Richard gushed from a few steps behind.

“And I need that Slayer back,” Hartford said as he slammed open the heavy oak door to the room.

There was a large map of the city tacked to the wall. A small wooden podium holding a jar of crystals and a spellbook stood before it.

“There is something not right about her; something wrong in her head. And I intend on finding out what it is even if I have to dissect her brain myself.”

“Shall I get your robe, Father?”

“No,” he waved off his irksome child.

Hartford stood before the map and began to recite a spell.  He lifted his arms outward and bellowed the foreign words with authority. “Quaero terrarum et lumen.”

He took a brilliant blue crystal out of the jar and threw it toward the map before him. The crystal exploded into tiny luminescent fragments and flew toward the map in unison.  As they crashed into the paper on the wall, they began to form a thin blue line. The line glowed; sometimes brighter, sometimes softer, and it moved. It looked like a living, breathing blue serpent, dancing on the white wall.

“Celox! Modo!” he roared. “Quaero!”

The line glowed a little brighter; it moved a little faster. It slithered around the map, ferociously trying to find its place.

Richard whispered, “How soon will you know?”

“Soon,” Hartford answered without turning around.

***

Willoughby sat on the floor and folded the handkerchief carefully with one injured hand.

“Let me help you,” Buffy offered.

“In a moment,” he replied, sounding much older and more worn than Buffy had ever heard him. He placed the incense and matches directly in front of him and then closed his eyes.  He took a deep breath, then, “Oh Horus, Son of Osiris, hear my plea. Protect us and hide us from our enemy.”

He lifted his head toward Buffy, but his eyes remained closed. “Please tie the handkerchief around my eyes, as a blindfold.”

She did as she was instructed.

Willoughby reached out in front of him and his hand closed on the incense stick. “Now, please light a match and place it between my fingers.”

Buffy took the match from Willoughby. Looked around for a place to strike it against, and finally decided to try it on the floor.  Sure enough, it sparked and lit. The flame was large and hissed loudly.  She carefully passed it to the Watcher on the floor.  He lit the incense. Oily blue smoke began to curl up lazily, releasing the spicy aroma of sandalwood and musk into the air. Willoughby held the match up. “Please snuff it,” he instructed.

Buffy inhaled. “No!” Willoughby said forcefully. “Snuff it. Do not blow it out.”

“Oh,” Buffy said. “Um. I was gonna,” she insisted, not convincingly. She licked her thumb and forefinger and quickly closed them on the upheld flame.

***

The blue snake-like line on the map was shrinking in length, but increasing in speed and intensity.  Hartford was standing directly in front of the map.  “So they’ve gone past Regent’s Park and south to Holborn.” Hartford traced his finger along the faded blue trail that the dancing crystal left in its wake. “They’ve moved past Tower Hill.” He chuckled at nothing in particular. “We’ve almost caught up with you,” he said with satisfaction. “Faster,” he willed the blue beam. “Faster.”

***

Willoughby moved his less-injured hand through the billowing smoke of the incense in a complex pattern.  He spread his fingers wide and used them to trace a grid in the air. “Horus, cloak us with a ghostly cloud. Spread your wings, safeguard and shroud.”

The smoke began to form an almost invisible weave in the air above the incense stick. It grew larger and larger until it was the size of a quilt, floating like a window in front of the blinded Watcher. 

Willoughby tried to stand, but was having trouble. Buffy, careful not to disturb the smoke, made her way to him and helped lift him from behind.

“Is that it?” she whispered.

“Almost.”

***

“Almost!” Hartford exclaimed, momentarily distracted by the excitement of the chase. The ruined dinner function was forgotten as he commented on the course the carriage had taken: “Through Whitechapel, then North to Shoreditch. Show me, show me where they went,” he told the blue dot.

The blue dot began zipping madly, almost vibrating. It reached Shoreditch, but then it turned back and traveled south again, glowing brighter and brighter, as it closed in on its target. Hartford put his hands on the wall and leaned in toward the dot. “Willoughby, are you trying to create a false trail, my friend? I can see you are careful. But you cannot fool me. Almost there,” he said in a conversational tone. “And then, you and your Slayer are mine.”

***

The smoke weave danced in front of Willoughby, shimmering like a mirage.

The Watcher reached into his coat and brought out a vial of blue powder.  He sprinkled a pile into his hand and flung it into the smoke screen. “Abscondo!”

There was a brilliant flash of light, and then it was gone.

***

“It’s gone!” Hartford was aghast. “How can this be?” He stared at the blank map on the wall in front of him. “It was right here. I was almost upon them!”

He slowly turned toward his son. “What did you do?”

***

“What are we going to do if we find someone?” Xander asked after a long uncomfortable silence. “I mean, what if there really are bad guys? Bad human guys? Bad human guys with guns?”

“Looking a little yellow there, Harris,” Spike chided. “Need me to find you a stuffed bear to cuddle?”

“Yea. You’re one to talk, Chips-A-Hoy! You’d be a bloody pulp if we happened upon some criminals.” For some reason, that Xander couldn’t quite fathom, the thought bothered him. A little.

“I can hold my own,” Spike muttered.

“Yea, the only thing you can hold is a sign that reads “Please help me, Buffy!” Xander snickered.

Spike stopped abruptly. Xander almost bumped into him. Spike turned around. "This," he said with a smirk, "this is something I’ve wanted to do for a long, long time." With one good swing he sent the human stumbling backwards. Xander fell on his butt, rubbing his aching chin. "What the…" And then one could literally see the realization hitting home.

One Behavior Modification Chip: .2 million.

Spellbook to Send Vampire into a Century Where the Chip Doesn’t Work: .95. 

Xander’s shell-shocked expression: Priceless.

"That’s right. Chip’s not working in this century," Spike informed him with a malicious smile, tapping his fingers against his left temple.

*Oh crap!* was all Xander could think, as panic spread through him. *Now I’m history. Vamp-food. Railroad spike pin-cushion.* Yet, some insane part of the back of his brain was hoping - against everything he had ever heard, learned or believed about vampires - that maybe… hopefully… inconceivably… Spike. Might. Not. Kill. Him.

He saw Spike looking at him with great interest, head tilted in that familiar way, studying him. *Not dead, yet.* Xander noticed nervously.

"What? You gonna sit there all night?" Spike asked. He held out his hand. Xander took it warily and allowed the vampire to pull him to his feet.

"You should have seen your face," Spike smirked.

+++

Having completed their reconnaissance, Xander and Spike headed for the main dining room, Harper and Charles in tow. “You do realize, I’ll have to tell Buffy about the chip,” Xander said nervously.

“Feel free,” was all the vampire said. He pushed the door open. They were in time to see Willoughby packing up his remaining spell components. Charles quickly went to help his father, not without another suspicious glance at the former Mr. Crawford.

“Did it work?” Xander asked, when they came in. “The spell, did it work? Are we under the radar?”

“If by ‘under the radar’ you mean ‘undetectable through magic, then the answer is yes,” Willoughby said. “If Director Hartford wants to locate us, he will have to employ conventional means.”

“Did you find anything?” Buffy asked.

“The place is deserted. Probably got a bad reputation that keeps people out,” Spike told her absentmindedly. He was restless. The incense aroma was overpowering but not enough to obscure the smell of dried blood.

“Good,” Buffy said. “Then it’s settled. We stay here and lie low until the portal appears with a poof or zap or whatever, and then we go home.”

“Actually, we’ll be looking for a hand,” Spike commented. “A floating hand.”

“This carpenter is all for going home ASAP,” Xander said, rubbing his hands. “If we’re staying for now, does that mean we have time to eat something?”

“Time? Yes,” Buffy said. “Food? Nope.”

“But I missed dinner!” Xander exclaimed. “I mean I had some of those fancy scone thingies and cakes and stuff, and they were almost as good as donuts, but that was ages ago.”

“It’s not like we can call Dominoes,” Buffy said wistfully. “Although a nice pepperoni pizza with extra cheese would be kind of neat right now.”

“Can’t we go out and get something. Come on, Buff, I missed like six meals since that portal dropped me off. Starving here.”

“Which part of the lying low didn’t you get?”

“I could go,” Spike volunteered, eager to get away from the smell. “Still got cash. Wouldn’t mind a drink. Pretty sure our Watcher here wouldn’t say no to a little nightcap. Dulls the pain, ain’t that right?”

The Watcher did indeed look slightly ashen. The spell had sapped his strength considerably. It was obvious, even to Buffy, that the man was in pain and desperately in need of rest. It didn’t take her long to make up her mind.

“Xander, were there any rooms we might actually be able to use?”

Spike chuckled audibly.

“To SLEEP in,” she continued. “I mean, this was an inn, right? Inns have rooms and beds. Why not use them? Take Willoughby and Charles there. Make sure they’re comfortable.”

Xander nodded. “Yeah, there’s a room upstairs that’s not too trashed. Follow me.” He opened the door and waited for Watcher and son to join him.

“Harper, I’d like you to go with Mr. Willoughby. Keep your eyes open and your crossbow ready.”

The coachman exchanged a glance with his master. “Aye, Miss. I’ll look after ’em. Don’t you worry.”

They left the room.

“Alone at last,” Spike sing-songed and sauntered towards Buffy. “Now, where were we when we were so rudely interrupted?”

“We? Who is we? Spike, this is not a good time for this,” Buffy said. “This is too fast and too sudden, and the wrong time and the wrong place, and everything.”

His temper flared. “Oh yeah, with you it’s always one step forward and two steps back. Do you even know what you want?”

“Spike, we have no time for this. Please, just go and get something to eat. Enough to last us till tomorrow night. I don’t care what. Just hurry.” Buffy said firmly. Then her face softened. “We don’t know if Willoughby’s spell worked in time.  If those Council guys show up, I’d like you here, by my side.”


Continued in Part 39 - On Your Mark

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