Part One: The Decision to Stay
The music blared in the car’s speakers as it sped along the highway out of Sunnydale. Spike was singing at the top of his lungs with renewed enthusiasm, having just found his mojo back after leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. With a plan and hope in his heart, he hardly noticed the roadblock through the haze of his black-smeared windshield.
The sirens caught his eye a few hundred yards before total annihilation, and he slammed the brakes on so hard that his foot almost went through the floorboards. “Fuuuuuccckkkkk!”
Spike turned the wheel just slightly in an effort to avoid plowing into the police car and damaging his DeSoto further. He needed to drive back to his dark princess, and she was a lot of miles away if she was still in the same place. His body crashed back against the seat as the tires left skid marks in parallel protest.
He couldn’t open the door because the sun was shining bright and golden all around him. He was trapped like a sodding sardine in a can or maybe a frog in boiling water. All he knew was that sun be damned, he planned on ripping the lungs out of whoever was blocking his path.
The crackle of static followed by some feedback from a bullhorn resounded followed by, “Mr. Spike, I know you’re in there. I’d just like a moment of your time before you leave our fine city.”
A mixture of curiosity and fury fueled the vampire as he rolled down his window just a crack but not enough to fry himself. “Who the hell are you?”
The voice was really quite jovial. “Someone who has one hell of an offer for you. Pardon my French. Also, no pun intended since we’re on a hellmouth.”
Spike squinted through the uncovered parts of his windshield but only saw a megaphone sticking out of the window of the police car. “Why should I give a fuck about your offer? I have places to go!” This was just another bloody inconvenience.
The man chuckled into the speaker. “How would you like to dispatch another Slayer? Or maybe two? If you’re lucky.”
This caught Spike’s attention. There were two Slayers in Sunnydale again? Last he knew, Dru had killed the new Slayer in town – the one who had helped Buffy cripple him. Maybe if he bagged two Slayers, Dru would be so impressed that she’d leave behind whatever demon she was probably shacked up with and take him back again. “I’m listening.”
“What?” Another click. “I can’t hear you.”
“I’m listening!” Spike shouted.
“Perfect. I knew you’d like the sound of that. How about we move this little conversation to my office in town? It’s awfully hot out here, and I don’t really like how my shirt’s sticking to my back.”
This bloke didn’t know the meaning of heat. “Where’s your office?”
There was a click and short screech like the device was being turned back on. “What did you say?”
Spike rolled his eyes. “Who the hell are you?”
There was a sigh. “Oh, I thought you knew. I’m Richard Wilkins the Third. Mayor of this lovely Southern California town.”
“All right, Trip. I’ll come.” Spike rolled the window back up and turned the car around, following the police car back to Sunnydale.
At city hall, there was a convenient spot in the covered parking that a hand sticking out of the police car window indicated was for Spike. A shady walkway led to a side entrance. The sense of dread in his stomach led Spike to believe he might be walking into the belly of the beast even as he was protected from the sun. He smirked. He’d faced much worse, and he was more than sure he could show this mayor a thing or two if things got out of hand.
A middle-aged man with a broad smile plastered on his face appeared at the front of Spike’s car, almost making him jump. This Dick reminded Spike of the overly exuberant Willy Wonka from the film that Dru loved. She always thought it was hilariously funny when the one girl blew up like a giant blueberry. The man waved at him as if beckoning a small child into his chocolate factory, and Spike fought the urge to roll his eyes even though this mayor probably couldn’t see through his windshield.
Hiding his hesitance but not his predatory guardedness, Spike allowed himself to be led into the building, down various hallways, up a set of stairs (for the exercise!), and finally to the reception area of a large office where a startled younger man in a suit stood to attention.
The new man’s eyes widened at Spike’s appearance, and he wrung his hands, fretfully. “I’m so sorry, sir. The committee was supposed to be on top of things, and I don’t know what happened, but I-I’ll get with Mr. Trick right away and fix this.” He fumbled for the phone on a nearby desk, the receiver tumbling out of his hand. Somehow, he managed to catch it by the cord though the device still clunked on the desk.
Trip held up a placating hand. “Allan, Allan. No need to be hasty. Mr. Trick was at fault, and he’ll pay his due. And the committee failed, but in doing so, I realized my initial idea about Mr. Spike here was a bit hasty. Hang up the phone.”
Allan somehow managed to deposit the receiver back in its resting place without further issue.
“I need you to do me another favor.”
A pad of post-it notes found its way into Allan’s hand, and he held a pen at the ready. Spike was a little impressed by this. This mayor had power.
“I need you to fetch Mr. Spike and me some drinks. Not the kind you’re thinking. It’s far too early for the scotch. Just sparkling water for me. Do we have any more of that grapefruit flavor?” The Mayor turned to Spike as Allan realized he’d forgotten to take off the pen cap and removed it with his mouth before scribbling furious notes. “Mr. Spike, what can I get you?”
Spike thought something of the alcoholic persuasion seemed necessary, but it probably wasn’t a good idea to dull his senses. There was something about this place that made his skin crawl, and he wasn’t used to things setting him on edge. He was the one who set others on edge. Well, everyone except Buffy. The Slayer always just seemed irritated with him, and she bloody well irritated him. He shoved her out of his mind. “Blood would be good. A-positive, if you have it.”
The Mayor nodded in approval. “I think we can arrange that.” He patted Spike on the shoulder, and Spike fought the urge to snap his neck and be done with him. “I already like you. Thinking about your nutrition and staying sharp.” Before he entered his office, the Mayor took a moment to nod at Allan. “Thanks, Allan. After you bring the drinks, why don’t you take the afternoon off? You’ve been working far too many hours.”
For the first time, Spike witnessed the poor bloke stop vibrating for a moment. “Thank you, sir.”
Forty-five excruciatingly long minutes and a mug-and-a-half of A-positive later, Spike sat forward in the leather chair where he’d been lounging and said, “Let me get this straight. You want me to stick around Sunnydale and distract the Slayer, and possibly Slayers, for reasons you can’t go into right now. And you’re willing to pay me whatever my asking price is.”
The Mayor steepled his hands and smiled encouragingly. “That’s all correct. Within reason on the price.”
Spike considered that he might be able to walk away from this with enough cash to shower Dru in dresses and nummy treats. . . after he tortured her, of course. That’d win her back from whatever simpering demon she had at her beck and call now. He gritted his teeth. He could handle the Slayer and whatever little companion Slayer came along with her. “That sounds reasonable.”
The Mayor grinned and sat forward, holding out his hand. “Perfect.”
As the man’s palm settled against his, Spike felt the sense of dread return. He sure as hell was going to have to be on his toes.
* * *
From the journal of Richard Wilkins, III:
Aside from the need to find a way to fund a decent golf course, I made some progress on the Slayer situation today. While I initially thought having this Spike character around would be a terrible and inconvenient idea, I think having him batting for the home team, so to speak, is the best idea I’ve had all year. Well, the best idea besides installing hand sanitizers in all the government buildings around town. Have to prevent the spread of sickness, especially during that pesky flu season.
* * *
Setting foot in the mansion on Crawford brought up more feelings than Spike anticipated.
It hadn’t been all that long ago that he’d been crippled and in a wheelchair, while Angelus had his way with Dru and almost ended the world. Spike’s heart ached with betrayal at the memory of his dark princess draped all over her sire. He could still hear the sounds of them fucking echoing through the halls.
Now, Spike was stronger, and Angelus was Angel again though Spike didn’t really see the difference. Angel just moaned and moped a bit more because he couldn’t be with Buffy the way he wanted.
Spike figured his grandsire would be moping right about now, and Spike could come poke at him all with the purpose of letting the whole gang know he was sticking around to cause trouble for the near future.
But the sound of a roaring fire – the kind Angelus always liked to burn ad nauseam – didn’t greet Spike’s ears, and he didn’t hear the almost imperceptible sound of his grandsire’s Tai Chi motions – the kind that he’d learned to make him seem all sodding Zen and sexy.
Instead, Spike heard a different sound altogether. He strained to make certain that his brain was correctly interpreting what his ears were picking up.
Someone was crying.
Spike found her in the garden.
He was all prepared to rush in and be pompous, but the tilting curve of her shoulders as she sat on the bench stopped him.
Instead, he found himself asking, “Slayer?”
He internally berated himself for sounding so bloody gentle, but he couldn’t help himself. A woman in pain always got to him. Maybe it was leftover emotion from seeing his mum cry over the years, or maybe somewhere in the vestiges of his human heart, he felt something akin to empathy.
“What do you want, Spike?” The Slayer didn’t even bother to turn toward him as she should have if she knew the smart Slayer thing to do. She turned to glance over her shoulder at him, and Spike saw that her eyes were red and puffy, and her cheeks were soaked with tears. She hid her face again. “What are you still doing here?”
Spike was struck dumb by the pain he’d glimpsed in the depths of her green eyes, so he stumbled on his words. “Same as you, I reckon. Here to visit Angelus. Where is the grumpy old sod?”
Buffy drew her legs up so that her chin rested in the valley of her knees. “He’s gone.”
“Out for a bite?” Spike knew it probably wasn’t that.
“He’s gone because of what you said.” She didn’t sound angry – just defeated.
Spike took a few steps toward the bench, rounding in front of her, his hands stuffed awkwardly in his duster pockets. “’Bout what?”
“Us not being friends.” Her voice was a little muffled because she buried her face in her knees.
“Oh.” Spike slid onto the bench next to the Slayer but far enough away that she couldn’t stake him with a flick of a hand and the right plunge of a bit of wood.
Several seconds passed before Buffy spoke again. “You were right. We were just fooling ourselves. We’ll never be friends.”
“So, what? You kicked him to the curb?” Angelus would never leave what he deemed his otherwise.
Her next words were sarcastic. “No. He left because he wanted to make the right choice for both of us.”
Spike slapped a palm on his thigh. “Of bloody course he did.”
Buffy laid her temple on her knee and blinked up at him. “What do you mean?”
“The part about me not being surprised?”
She sniffed. “Yeah.”
Spike narrowed his eyes. “Why are you being so nice?”
She turned her head the other way. “Just answer the question.” She paused. “Please.”
“The long and short of it is that Angelus likes to be in control and take others’ decisions from them. He’s always been that way.”
The Slayer was silent for so long that Spike thought for sure he’d get a fist in a nose. Then, she quietly said, “You’re right.” She hesitated and then glared at him. “I don’t know why you’re still here, but it’d be in your heart’s best interest if you left.” Spike stared at her, and her eyes blazed at him. “Now.”
Spike was half-amused and half-afraid she’d stake him good and proper, so he bounced up to his feet – all indifferent like. “I’ll go.” He strode toward the door back into the mansion. He spun halfway there and walked backward, poking a finger in her direction. “But mark my words, Slayer, this isn’t over.” He wasn’t sure exactly what wasn’t over, but that didn’t matter. He’d have the last word. Damn it.
“Whatever,” came the Slayer’s muttered reply.
Fury rose up inside of Spike raw and unfettered and hardly tied to that one word, but he didn’t care. Resisting the urge to smash something, anything within reach, he stormed out of the mansion, drove back to his new apartment building without getting into a wreck, and practically pulled the door off his apartment. Slamming the door closed, he picked up the first thing in his path – the unsuspecting coffee table – and threw it against the wall where it made a sizeable dent in the drywall and a mass of splintered wood. Why the Mayor had furnished his crib with objects that could kill him was beyond Spike. Was everyone in this town very stupid?
Spike paced the small space like a caged and very pissed off tiger.
What the hell was Spike doing in Sunnydale? Why the hell had he agreed to this idiotic over-the-hill Mayor with his mission? What was Dru doing now? How many bed partners did she have lined up while Spike was lollygagging around small-town California? Why did she even think he was hung up on the sodding Slayer? Obviously, Spike hated the Slayer, annoying, self-righteous bitch that she was. She’d been a thorn in his bloody side ever since he and Dru had come to this godforsaken hellmouth. She certainly wasn’t someone Spike wanted to pal around with for any length of time.
And so, Spike’s thoughts circled around and around as he paced.
As his anger slowly dissipated, his thoughts coalesced into a semblance of a plan as they often did when he flared hot but then rapidly cooled.
And those thoughts centered on two things: how to find out more about this vague mission that the Mayor had and how to understand the supposed hang up on Buffy Summers, so Spike could prove once and for all the Dru that he was the vamp of her dreams.
* * *
From the journal of Richard Wilkins, III:
My contract with this Spike fellow is already paying dividends. Somehow, he convinced Angel to leave town, using Angel’s love for the girl against him. Pretty clever. It’s in keeping with his jealousy about his partner choosing Angel over him. Allan seems to think I’m crazy that I sent Mr. Trick on his way. (That vampire’s tricks were more ephemeral than solid.) Allan doesn’t say so, but I see the uncertainty in his eyes anytime I speak about Spike. Allan is loyal to a fault, but he doesn’t always see the bigger picture to come. Oh! There’s a knock on the door. Guess it’s time for my weekly massage. Well-deserved this week, I think. I like Melissa; she has excellent hygiene.