Setting: Post Normal Again
Entry 11 - Communication
Spike also told himself he showed up to sort through the mail because there was always the possibility there might be a letter for him. He didn't want to admit that the quiet and books held their own attraction, an oasis of calm in the chaos that formed his existence.
The answering machine clicked on and Anya's voice filled the room. "Thank you for calling the Magic Box, serving Sunnydale's magical needs since 2000. We're closed at the moment, but if you leave a message after the beep, someone will get back to you as soon as possible."
He would play through the messages once this call was done, make a list for Anya. Spike had already done two such lists, each sitting on the counter, awaiting her return. It wasn't much, just another small thing to keep him occupied.
The machine beeped and the caller came on. "Hello, Anya, it's Giles. I know you're probably not there, but when you do get this message, would you please call "
Spike grabbed for the receiver. "Rupert, it's me."
"Spike? What are you doing there? Where's Anya?"
"Still missing. I've been coming in, making sure the mail doesn't pile up too bad."
"Does Xander know you're doing this?"
"Do you think the Whelp would tolerate me doing anything with the shop?"
A pause. "Good point. So no word from Anya."
"No." Spike caught the cord in his free hand as he shifted position. "There are rumors she's with D'Hoffryn; he's gone to ground, along with Halfrek."
"Oh, yes. The, ah 'justice demon' you wrote me about. I've managed to do some research on her. Apparently a lesser demon, most of the information I was able to find comes from the early twentieth century. I couldn't find much on her origins. Was there something in particular you were interested in?"
Spike remembered the dark-haired demon smiling and primping in his direction. "Just trying to figure out where she might know me from. Doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things."
"I suppose not. Spike, I got your letter today."
"Oh." Damn, he wanted a cigarette. "Buffy's okay; at least physically. Tara told me that much."
"You saw her?"
"Tara? Yeah, we bump into each other every so often, have coffee or something." He let out a sigh. "Not so often now, since she and Red seem to be getting back together. Anyway, she stopped by; let me know that Buffy had gotten the antidote into herself at last."
"At last? I thought Willow asked you to make sure she drank it."
At that moment, Spike really wished Giles hadn't called. This would have been much easier to gloss over in a letter. "I'm afraid I let her down. Said my piece, got all huffy and stomped out."
All at once, the frustration bubbled up. "What do you want from me? I've been pulled this way and that. I shouldn't have said it to her then, but it had to be said sometime. You're not here, Giles. You don't see what it's like."
He turned, leaning against the counter and letting his head drop back, trying to get some of the tension out. "What do you expect of me, Giles? It's not like I'm the souled one, all full of good intentions. As I'm constantly being told, I'm an evil thing "
"Stop it. Spike, I didn't call to listen to you feel sorry for yourself. I called because well, frankly, your last letter has me worried. Everything seems to be going wrong."
Spike considered a moment before answering. "Remember a couple of years ago when I was working with Adam?"
"Yes, your betrayal is something I want to be reminded of."
"That's not the point." He sighed. "Remember when I turned the lot of you against each other? Said one thing to the Whelp, another to Red "
"A pack of lies." Giles' voice was tight across the line.
It wasn't supposed to go like this. Spike felt his shoulders tense, the old defenses go up. "She did treat you like a retired librarian and you know it."
In the silence that followed, he said, "I'm not trying to rake up old memories. But that's how everyone's acting. Red jumps guiltily every time someone mentions magic. Harris is trying to reassure himself he's not like his father by acting exactly like him. Anya's disappeared; Tara and Dawn seem to have assumed crash positions and Buffy "
He stopped, his mouth suddenly dry. "I can't read her anymore Giles. I used to think I knew what was going through her head. Now, she's distant; the body's here, but when you look in her eyes, she's somewhere else. No just with me, either. Any luck with that shrink?"
If Spike listened hard enough, he would swear he could hear Giles cleaning his glasses. "Unfortunately, the Council has done very little in the way of caring for the Slayer's mental health. The only work that's been done in any recent memory is apparently a bit concerning Faith, and I don't think it's necessarily applicable here. There doesn't seem to have been much of a call for it before now."
"You can't really believe that."
"I have my doubts, but all I have to rely on is the records. I looked earlier this year, but I couldn't find any mentions of mental illness or difficulties."
"Probably because they covered it up." He pinched the bridge of his nose. He could feel the pounding start behind the eyes. "The average lifespan for the Slayer is, what, three to five years once she's been called?"
"Five is generous. The average is most likely three."
"So we can safely say that there have been between thirty-five to forty-five slayers since I was turned."
"Depending on when that was "
Spike couldn't help but smile. "1880. First half of the year. You've been wanting that info for a while, haven't you?"
Another silence. This time, he was certain he heard a pen scratching on paper. "To be quite honest, yes. I think your estimate may be accurate."
"Didn't really get a good look at a slayer until about 1896 -- Angelus never had the stomach for a dangerous fight -- and didn't actually fight my first one until 1900. So we can probably lower the estimate to between thirty and forty."
"The first slayer you fought was in China."
More dangerous ground. "Yes."
"So you killed the first one you fought."
"It was kill or be killed, Giles. That's the nature of the game. I'm trying to make a point here, give you something from a different perspective."
Again, he heard that scratching sound. Giles was taking notes. "Sorry. Go ahead."
"I've seen at least three slayers in the last hundred years who seemed to be having some trouble aside from the usual death wish. I've seen another that was what I would call crazy; she managed to get herself gunned down with her bootlegger boyfriend. That's four women, Giles; at least ten percent. Are you going to tell me there hasn't been a need for the Slayer to get a little psychiatric help before now?"
A much longer silence, so long that Spike almost thought the line had gone dead. "There is a specialist the Council retains to help Watchers who've lost their Slayers. I've had a session with him myself. He might possibly be able to assist Buffy."
Spike closed his eyes as a deep sigh of relief left his chest. At last; something that might do some good.
"I'll have to talk to him, of course, see if he's willing."
"Get him over here. I don't care what you do, just get him here. I'll spill my guts to your Miss Chalmers, give her names, dates -- she can find out exactly what sort of pitiful existence Dru rescued William from. Just get the man here."
"Then there's the problem of getting Buffy to accept his help. She's not particularly, ah, fond of the Council. If she finds out he works for them, she might suspect his motives."
"If I was Buffy, I'd be suspicious, too. But if you come along, you'll be able to convince her it's a good idea. She'll listen to you. You may have to take the reins from her hands again for a while, but if she's getting real help, it might be worth it."
Another pause. "You know he'll tell her a relationship with you isn't healthy."
Now it was his turn to fall silent. "Yeah. I know," he said after a long moment. "It's not like I've really had her, though. Just held on as tight as I could and pretended."
"I haven't asked how you are holding up."
"As well as can be expected. Try to stay out of everyone's way. Don't fancy talking to Buffy with the others around; probably wouldn't accomplish much. I've seen her out on patrol a few times, but there's always someone with her."
"Are you going to tell the others about the two of you? I mean, if Buffy doesn't."
"If I walked right up and announced, 'Guess what? Buffy and I have been doing the horizontal mambo, only she dumped me after Soldier Boy came back,' Harris would stake me then and there. Or, he'd laugh, say I was delusional and then stake me. Don't think it would really do any good. Buffy needs to make that decision for herself. Maybe with my threat hanging over her head, she'll be pushed to action."
"Or in another direction. Be careful, Spike. Buffy does not like having her options dictated."
"You're telling me? Whenever I've seen her given a choice between A or B, she somehow always manages to invent G. I mean, a rocket launcher to take out the Judge? Brilliant."
"Actually, that was Xander's idea."
"Leave a man some illusions, Watcher."
A bit of a dry chuckle. "Very well. I do intend to call the house, see if I can find out why Willow hasn't returned my e-mail. I won't mention that we spoke, though."
"Appreciate it. If you did, I think I'd have a very angry Slayer on my doorstep. Don't care to see that at the moment."
"I'll leave a message on the machine if I can convince our fellow to come. Then, I suppose the hard part will be getting Buffy to agree."
"Need any help on this end, I'll do what I can. Oh, meant to tell you: I finished some comments on the thesis and mailed them off a few days ago. You should be getting them soon."
"I take it you did not mention what a pitiful existence Drusilla rescued you from?"
"And give away all my mysteries? No. However, I think she'll be quite happy with the Angelus information I've included. Let me know what you think."
"I'm looking forward to it. And, Spike "
"Thank you for coming in, even if it's only to sort the mail. I appreciate it, and I'm sure Anya will as well."
There was that warm feeling again, the pleasure of having his efforts recognized. "I still owe you, Rupert. I'm a man that pays my debts."
"I've come to believe you are, Spike. Take care."
Giles rung off then and Spike replaced the phone in the cradle. He looked at the flashing light on the message machine. Yes, he could copy off the calls but he felt restless, just as he had for the past week or so. Even with this latest hope from Giles, everything was in limbo. It was as if everyone knew the timer had been activated and was just waiting for the big explosion.
The question was: when?
Continued in Entry 12 - Just a Few Comments...