About an hour and a half later sated, mostly at any rate, and showered Spike and Buffy were getting dressed. At some point during their shower Spike had heard someone knock on the room's outer door. He had no idea how long ago the knock had come, but it was long enough that Spike could gloat just a bit when they got downstairs.
"Ready then, pet," he asked as he slipped his boots on and laced them up. Spike donned his typical black jeans and a crimson T-shirt, no outer shirt worn over it. He slid his arms into his new leather jacket. It was short, nothing resembling the duster and he had done that intentionally. Buffy had the duster no doubt, but Spike had not asked for it back and Buffy had not offered it to him. Both seemed to understand it had no place in his current life.
"Yup," she said cheerily, and Spike had to wonder if it was a façade. "Let's go see if we can figure out what to do about Quentin Travers and the Council. And then maybe Angel will let us tag along and kill some things."
"Feeling up for a spot of violence tonight then, sweetheart," he asked as they left the room. He paused in the hallway taking in the grandeur of the hotel Angel had chosen as his domicile and his base of operation. He certainly had a flair for doing things in a grand way. It was not like this place stood out or anything and if what the spawn said was true, that his father was planning on fixing the place up it would stand out even more. It would be nice, though, Angel would not settle for a poorly done restoration job.
"Yeah I am. A day with my dad, dinner with his girlfriend, meeting my ex's teenaged son who shouldn't even be walking. I'm looking for a good slay."
"We could spar."
"We'll see," she said softly and Spike felt a gnawing in the pit of his stomach that he hated. Hated feeling it, hated that he loved her so much she could make him feel it.
"So, we got to the house and it was fuckin' cockroaches," a man said. "Hundreds of them." Spike did not recognize his voice, one of the human minions employed by Angel Spike reckoned.
"You're kidding me," the voice Spike recognized as Connor's said.
"I told her to look in the phone book under exterminators." A woman's voice, not the Cordelia bint. "I'm going to have nightmares about it tonight."
"So it was nothing then," Angel asked.
"It was nothing," the unknown man said. As Spike and Buffy got to the foot of the stairs he saw the man in question was in fact human and black. He had his arm around a twig of a white human who looked like she would fall over if breathed on.
"Buffy," Angel said far too happily for Spike's liking.
"I hope we're not interrupting," Buffy said. She was taking in the unidentified couple as well. They certainly were not two people Spike would have pictured being together, but he was not one to judge.
"Not at all. Gunn and Fred were just telling me about their crawling wall nuisance that turned out to be cockroaches. I almost didn't believe Cordy's vision that you were coming."
"This is your lucky day I guess because it seems her vision was right."
"This is Fred and Charles Gunn. We call him Gunn. You met Connor I heard."
"Yeah, he showed us to our room. Nice to meet you," Buffy said. Spike might not have even been there for all the attention they were paying him. Buffy, Buffy, Buffy, he should have known this was a bad bad idea. He noticed, though, that Angel managed to restrain himself and remained seated on the couch. He wanted to get up; Spike was familiar enough with Angel to recognize the slight movement he had made only to change his mind.
"This is Spike," Buffy said finally when no one said anything to her.
"I'm going to find Cordelia and go home," Connor said, standing and seemed all too anxious to leave. Spike could not help but notice that all did not appear to be well between father and spawn. Good. Spike hoped Angel got nominated for horrendous father of the year.
"Good night, Connor," Angel said in his broody voice and Spike could not help but snicker.
"Thanks again, Connor," Buffy said, offering him a smile. Whether she could detect the intensity in the air between father and spawn Spike did not know.
"Sure," Connor said and the lad actually blushed.
"Tell me what's going on, Buffy," Angel said as he finally stood from the couch once Connor had left the room.
"Well," she glanced at Spike an unspoken question asked with her eyes. He said he wanted to be the one to tell others about his soul. She wanted his permission before blurting it out in front of Angel's cohorts. He nodded his head slightly. "You know about Spike's soul quest."
"Yes, he told me about it."
"And you and I both recommended he call Giles. I wanted him to call Giles merely to, you know, so Giles could jot it down in his journals."
"Wait a minute," Gunn interjected. He was met with the infamous Slayer glare for interrupting.
"Spike here has his soul?"
"Yes," Buffy said simply.
"And he did this intentionally?"
"Yes," Buffy and Spike both answered at the same time. "Can I go on now?" Buffy asked.
"Yeah, sorry," Gunn said and both Angel and Spike chuckled. Angel had been on the receiving end of her admonishing just as often as Spike had. It was good to see someone else getting the annoyed Buffy treatment.
"Well, Giles woke us up this morning at an unholy hour telling us that the Council had his phones tapped."
"Oh shit," Angel said.
"Yeah," Buffy said simply. "It seems the Watcher's Council is now after both of us. Spike because they don't like that a vampire went off and did something that might put a crimp in their research. And the reasons behind why he did it especially. And me," she shrugged. "I think I'm just a thorn in their side and this is a convenient way to get rid of me."
"Well," Spike interjected. "Sorry, pet, but I might have some insight as to why they're after you."
"She's died twice and she's loved two vampires, I'd say that's reason enough for them to want to get rid of her," Angel offered.
"That about sums it up, mate," Spike agreed. "They don't want any future Slayers to come to Sunnydale in search of the infamous Buffy and come to learn that maybe the tried and true rules the Council has implemented aren't always right."
"And I guess with Faith dead they want total control over the Slayer."
"Faith's dead," Buffy said. "You didn't tell me that part."
"I just assumed you knew, luv, honestly. Gone for four months, I figured it was old news."
"Did you know Faith was dead," Buffy turned on Angel.
"Yeah," he said somberly.
"Why the hell was I kept in the dark?"
"Buffy," Angel said.
"No, don't Buffy me and hear me out. I've been sitting here for months worrying that you were staked or something and no one bothers to call me to tell me you are even back. I had to learn it from Spike after he called you. And now Faith is dead and you don't bother to pick up the telephone and let me know that? What the hell is wrong with you? I mean it's not bad enough that I had you and Spike to worry about? What? Are your friends here all part of a let's keep Buffy in the dark group?"
Fred was staring at her feet while Gunn was looking away from Buffy and Angel. Smart move, both of them. Spike wished he could get away from the line of fire, too, but it would be too obvious if he tried to slink away. This little spat had nothing to do with Spike or the Watcher's Council coming to town and while it drove Spike insane to hear her get so emotional about Angel he had to let them argue it out.
"No, Buffy, that wasn't it at all. I got back and things have been hectic with Connor. Cordelia was missing," he shrugged. "I didn't even know you knew I was gone. Who told you?" Fred and Gunn both shook their heads.
"Wesley. Wesley called me, wanting me to know. He wanted me to know that he would never give up looking for you. But God, when days turned into weeks turned into months I thought you were gone."
"I thought I was, too," Angel admitted. He stepped toward her and Spike's demon broke free, a low, threatening growl rumbled in his chest as his game face dropped into place.
"Back off, Angelus," he hissed. Angel looked as though he was going to push it but stopped, his own game face making an appearance.
"Who's going to stop me, William? You?"
Buffy stepped between them, a hand at either chest. "Stop it, both of you. Spike," she said evenly. "Would you rather I talk to him in private," she asked Spike
"No," he demanded.
"Then back off. I'm not going to do anything with him." Angel backed off first, human face coming back followed by Spike. Both looked like they were about ready to pounce, the only thing stopping them was the fact they knew Buffy would not let them. "So your employees didn't think I deserved to know you were back?"
"Buffy, you're not my girlfriend anymore."
"I thought I was your friend."
"Then I deserve to know, Angel. I don't expect to know about every day events, but I certainly deserve to know when you go missing and months later show up again. Did my friends come tell you when I died?"
"Yes," he said softly, and Spike knew exactly what Angel felt. No, he did not because Angel had not been there, had not seen Buffy dive off that tower, had not been the one in charge of stopping Doc and failed. Angel had not been the one unable to save Buffy, Spike had. Spike had to sit there for those one hundred forty-seven days, looking after Dawn and pretending as if his very reason for living had not jumped off that tower to save the world.
"Listen, I'm sorry, all right. I honestly thought you heard about Faith. It happened back in August so like Spike here I assumed you knew. Maybe Giles just didn't tell you not wanting to add on to your load with Spike and me gone. But no offense," he said, stepping closer to her. He glanced at Spike, whether he heard the low growl or not Spike would never know. He seemed to be asking permission before he reached to touch her neck. "I don't know where you get off coming here marked by another, reeking of another and getting all pissed off that I don't include you in everything. I'm always here for you, you know that, but don't go all high and mighty on the people who work for me who don't even know you for not calling you to tell you they found me. I can't make excuses for Wesley other than to tell you he's in a different place now than he was this past spring."
Buffy pushed his hand away from her neck. "I called and Dawn emailed, they knew we wanted to know about you."
"Is this true," Angel turned to ask Fred and Gunn who both merely nodded.
"I'll have a word with them later on that. They have been instructed to tell you should anything happen to me. I even instructed them to call you should I lose my soul again."
"Because I know you'll stake me or die trying. And no one but you knows me well enough to do it."
"Oh," she said somberly.
"I'll help," Spike could not help but volunteer.
Angel just shook his head. "Thanks, my boy," Angel said using the dig he loved to use to piss Spike off.
"Do you think we can get back to the matter at hand now," Spike said and Fred and Gunn both seemed to readily agree with his change in subject. "I personally would like to get back to Sunnydale as quick as possible. And, pet, you have Dawn to think about. And your job."
"I know," Buffy said softly and took a seat on a love seat.
"Oh yeah, you have to tell me about your job," Angel said and Spike glared at him. "Not now," Angel said with a grimace. "But I'd like to hear about it. It sounds like a good move for you, Buffy."
"Thanks. My dad gave me some money today, too, so I think Dawn and I will be all right."
"Good," Angel said simply. Spike took a seat next to Buffy. Gunn and Fred did not seem as uncomfortable about being there as they had a moment ago. He knew Buffy was tired and wished he could take her upstairs and put her to bed. She had been up since half past five that morning. She had come into the bedroom with him at some point in the afternoon, but she had not slept. The shower they took probably exhausted her further.
He was startled when she placed her hand in his, lacing her fingers through his. "We were told to leave. I don't know what they want, how many there will be. The three that came for Faith last year," she said with a shudder.
"What," Angel pressed.
"Did Faith tell you what she did?"
"What do you mean what she did? She's done a lot of things, Buffy, you'll have to be more specific."
"She had this thing, some magic brass knuckles, we switched bodies."
"What?" Spike and Angel said at the same time.
"Yeah," Buffy said and relayed the tale to them of the brief stint Buffy had at being Faith and Faith had at being Buffy. "In the end, she did the right thing, she was getting set to leave Sunnydale and didn't to save those people at the church. But the three men the Council sent to capture her." She shuddered as she recalled that night being chained up in the armored car. "They settle their affairs before going out on a mission, they don't expect to go back home."
"Mercenaries," Angel said.
"Yeah," Buffy said somberly. Spike placed an arm around her, offering her his other hand if she still wanted it to hold onto and drew her close.
"I'm sorry, pet," he said softly. "I didn't know."
"It's not your fault."
"Well, Giles made it sound like the man in charge was coming."
"Oh, I'm sure Quentin is coming himself but he won't be coming alone."
"I can come to Sunnydale with you. Between Spike and I we can keep things in order while you're sleeping and while you're at work. Take shifts."
"I can't ask you to do that, Angel. Connor."
"Connor and I are not exactly on speaking terms right now, Buffy. He's not even living here. He was just here tonight to get Cordelia. He," Angel sighed.
"He's the one who put me in the ocean."
"He locked me in a cage and dropped me in the ocean."
"No way," Buffy said and Spike could feel her anger rise. It was amazing how he could sense her emotions by her bodily reactions.
"Yes way," Fred said. It was the first time the girl had said anything. "He acted all summer like he was all concerned, all wanting to help us look for Angel and all along he knew."
"I don't see how going to Sunnydale is going to help things, though," Buffy said, regarding Angel.
"Well, it probably won't, but you need my help. I mean, that's why you came here, right?"
"I guess. Giles told us to hide, I thought of my dad but I really don't want to stay with him and his girlfriend if I don't have to."
"Does Giles know you're here?"
"No, we didn't tell him where we were going. He assured me he has not referenced you since you left Sunnydale in his journals," Spike said.
"Well, then you are safe here but Dawn is up there still. And obviously you're needed there, Buffy."
"Where is Dawn?"
"With a friend away for the weekend. No school on Monday."
"So you can stay the night and head back to Sunnydale tomorrow, with or without me."
"Yeah," Buffy agreed.
"Okay. Give me tonight to think on it. They're human," Angel said and met Spike's eyes. Spike nodded.
"I already asked her if it's us or them, she said us."
"Are you up for this, Spike?"
"As up as I'm going to be, Peaches."
"I'm serious, Spike. It took me years, lots of them, to function on a daily basis let alone go up against a human being."
"I'm doing it for Buffy."
"You got your soul for Buffy," Gunn said.
"Yeah," Spike said simply.
Gunn glanced from Spike to Angel; Fred seemed to follow his gaze.
"What?" Angel asked.
"Nothing," Gunn said.
"Just say it."
"It's just sort of funny is all. I've never a met a vampire who would do such a thing. Didn't think it was possible." He seemed to be speaking carefully, and Spike suspected what he was driving at. Angel did, too, more than likely. Angel had been fine, but as Angelus he had killed someone who had found a way to restore his soul to avoid getting it restored a second time. Angel loved Buffy; Angelus more than likely loved Buffy too, but not enough to get his soul for her.
"Any patrolling to do," Buffy asked, apparently sensing this was a subject best not dwelled on.
"What," Angel asked incredulously.
"You heard me. I'm in the mood to patrol. You know fight evil, kill demons, stake vampires. The bad, soulless ones," she added with a pout when all eyes fell on her at the stake vampires part.
"Well, this isn't exactly like Sunnydale, Buffy."
"Angel, I lived in LA until I was sixteen, I got called here. There are cemeteries here, there are vampires here, and there are demons here."
"Sure why not," Angel said. "Fred, Gunn, you in?"
"Sure, then I get to say I hung with the Slayer," Gunn said. Fred did not look too pleased about that comment, but Gunn apparently missed it.
"It's not that big of a deal," Buffy said, apparently having picked up on Fred's look.
"Oh, right, it's nice to know you're at least a little humble," Gunn said. "But I've seen Angel in action and if he thinks you can beat him, I want to see you in action. I was beginning to think you didn't really exist."
"Who me or the Slayer?"
"Both," he said simply.
"Well, let's go then." Buffy stood from the love seat, her hand still holding Spike's. He did not like this. The last thing he wanted was for her to get hurt, she was tired and had too much on her mind.
He used their joined hands to draw her to him, his eyes meeting hers evenly. "Are you sure about this, Slayer?"
"Yeah, more than sure. Let's go," she said simply. "You've got weapons I assume."
"Yeah," Angel said. "Fred, you coming?"
"No, I'll just stay here. It's late and after those cockroaches," she shivered. "I need a bath."
"Okay then," Buffy said. "Let's go."
"Isn't she going to change," Gunn asked.
"Change into what," Buffy asked.
"She patrols in street clothes, Gunn," Angel said.
"Oh," Gunn said as Buffy glanced at her outfit. Spike thought it was rather conservative for Buffy. She wore a pair of jeans and a black tank top with the wider type sleeves. It was made of that ribbed cotton material though and it clung to her every curve.
"Let's weapon up then," Angel said. "Spike, what's your poison?"
Spike walked to the weapons. "Are we hunting for anything in particular?"
"Ask your girlfriend."
"Well, you know what's in these parts, she doesn't."
"No, I haven't any knowledge of anything special."
"Well then," Spike said, pocketing a couple of stakes and taking out a crossbow. "This will do."
"That's my boy," Angel said and Spike could swear that time the words were not said with sarcasm.
"I appreciate you offering to come back."
"I'm doing it for her, Spike, and Dawn. Not for you."
"I know, but I can still thank you for it. I don't think she should go out tonight."
"Me neither, but which of us is going to get her pissed at him?"
"You could do it," Spike said.
"Right, I don't feel like getting my ass kicked for suggesting she might not be of the mind to patrol."
"Me neither," Spike agreed.
"Do you need some blood before we go?"
"No, I'm fine," Spike said and found himself with his back against the wall and Angel vamped out with his hand at Spike's throat. "What the bloody hell, Peaches?"
"You're feeding off her."
"I am bloody well not feeding off her."
"I saw her neck."
"Yeah, what of it? She's a big girl. You don't think she'd kick my ass if I did something she didn't want me to do?"
"In three years I never fed off her."
"Yeah, you did once and apparently it gave her a taste because she likes it."
"She's not a food source, Spike."
"Bugger off, Angel. She's not yours anymore. You left her, remember, after you just about bled her dry from what I've heard. Not from her mind you, she'd never say a bloody bad word about you." Spike shoved Angel off of him. "You have a problem with it, talk to her, tell her not to ask me to do it anymore."
"If I find out you're hurting her."
"Do you think she'd have worn her hair that way if she didn't want you to see it? I did not feed off of her. Ask her. Go ask her, Angel."
"Ask me what? Can I not leave you two alone without getting in each other's faces? Can you two call a truce for my sake if for no other reason? You're the only two souled vampires in existence, I love you both, and I'm never going to cut either of you out of my life."
"He says you let him do that to you."
"I did," she said with a shrug.
"How long have you been doing that? Isn't that exactly what Riley was doing that got you all pissed off at him?"
"No, it's not like what Riley was doing. I am not paying Spike to feed off me. And it's none of your business how long I've been doing anything with Spike." She grabbed a crossbow and some stakes from the cabinet. "Now can we get off this and go patrolling before I kick both your asses instead of the bad guys asses? I'm ready. You guys coming," she said walking back toward Gunn. Spike and Angel both just stood there and watched her walk.
"She's stronger, you know," Spike said his eyes still on her retreating body.
"Yeah. She's getting more and more amazing every day. I watched her for a few weeks before that coma thing I told you about and she's bloody amazing. Strong, fast, one would think," Spike glanced at Angel. "She was one of us with her speed and agility."
"Well, let's go so the show gets started then, don't want to disappoint Gunn and have him think we cheated him out of seeing the Slayer in action."
"Right," Spike said and strode into the main room. "Let's go, pet."
"You have a spot picked out," she looked to Angel.
Angel and Gunn's eyes met. "Yeah, there's a spot that with four of us, two being vampires and one the Slayer we can do some heavy damage at."
"Let's go," Buffy said simply, letting Angel and Gunn lead the way.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com