Spike sniffs out some information.
The rest of the day passed without Buffy learning anything about possible demons at the office, and almost as little about her job. Lunch was a lot like the first day at a new high school, with only Eric showing interest in sitting with her, and her microwaved burrito raising the concept of unappetizing to new and unexciting levels. Eric, it appeared, wasn’t happy living life down on the cube farm, and was planning to make a name for himself in the world of country music. As a first step, he was going to put Harry’s nose out of joint at the Talent Show, and then he was going form his own band.
After five minutes, Buffy refused Eric’s fourth request for a date, dumped the sludgy mess of cheese and dough in the garbage, and made her way back to her desk. The whole place was a disaster. There wasn’t even any Tab in the vending machines. The fact that even PowerPoint was better than lunch was probably a plot to increase productivity. Only Harry could possibly approve. Buffy was starting to wonder if the dead employees had all staged dramatic and unlikely suicides out of desperation for a moment of real excitement.
During the afternoon, Harry zipped by a few times, apparently volunteering for errands that would drive up his pedometer count, Rita paid another extended visit to Stan’s office, and Melandra deluged Buffy with several dozen emails with huge file attachments in various formats. Spike wandered past once, throwing her a suggestive smirk that destroyed her concentration for at least a half-hour. By quitting time, her wrists and back hurt, and she felt like someone had beaten her across the shoulders with a lead pipe. While she was shutting down her PC, Harry came by collecting empty soda cans for points towards the Ecology Award. He renewed his offer of a ride home, but Buffy felt she’d had as many Harry Points as she could cope with for the day.
The bus was late, Dawn was cranky, dinner was leftovers because Willow and Tara had evening classes, and when Xander showed up, he had Anya in tow. Buffy resisted an impulse to hide upstairs with her head under the covers, and was eventually rewarded with the arrival of Spike and a six pack. She didn’t drink much any more, but some days just screamed the need for foamy goodness.
Eventually, Willow and Tara arrived, breaking up an argument in front of the TV about whether Walker, Texas Ranger or Kung Fu was superior, and an argument between Dawn and Anya about whether all males were insane or just the males Buffy and Anya were dating.
“Dating?” snapped Buffy. “Who’s dating?”
“No one, no one,” said Dawn, rolling her eyes as she patted Buffy’s shoulder. “Rest easy, grasshopper.”
Before Buffy could challenge this, Willow bounced through the door, demanding to know what Buffy had found out.
“That work is boring and my cubicle is not egomatically designed.”
“I think you mean ergonomically.” Tara began making coffee in preparation for the night’s research.
“Well, I am sure my boss is monomaniacly inclined.” Buffy noticed that Spike had wandered into the kitchen too and casually placed himself next to her. “And Spike has a job there too,” she admitted.
“Ooooh!” Willow looked up from unpacking her laptop. “That’s good. You have backup.”
Spike nudged up behind Buffy and whispered, “That’s right, Slayer. I’ve got your—back.”
Buffy shoved his hand away from her butt and looked around to see if anyone else had noticed.
“Wait.” All the Scoobies were clustering together, moving between the kitchen and dining room, and Xander had heard at least part of the last exchange. “Spike got an office job? What alternative universe is this place located in? And what happened to the cab driving gig?”
“The cab is out of commission, and I’m not a desk jockey.” Spike opened the fridge, noted the beer was gone, and poured himself a cup of coffee. “I work in what they call Facilities, which seems to mean wandering about and using a screwdriver every once in a while.” He pulled a flask out of his pocket and dumped some of the contents in his mug. “Since screwing is one of my strong suits—”
Xander interrupted. “Heh, heh, Spike’s a janitor!”
“He’s right,” Buffy got between them before shoving and chip activation could take place. “He’s supposed to repair stuff. They have a separate staff for cleaning bathrooms and emptying wastebaskets.” She smirked. “I understand that Facilities is responsible for shampooing the carpet, though. How are your shampooing skills, Spike?”
Willow was set up in full research mode. “I’ve been trying to calculate probabilities all day, but it’s weird that there’s no one MO for these murders. Most killers have a special style they like to stick to. With this guy, it’s as if he doesn’t care how they wind up dead. He just uses whatever happens to be at hand to kill them.”
Buffy looked over her shoulder. “Hey, is that MS Access you’re using?”
“Yeah.” Willow looked surprised. “I’ve put each death in a database with method, location, time, and some other factors.”
“Can you show me how you did that?” Buffy edged her chair closer.
Dawn and Tara joined the crowd at the table, bearing bowls of potato chips and carrot sticks respectively. Tara frowned at the chips but made no comment.
“You want to help me filter death scenarios?”
“No, I want to keep my boss from verbally eviscerating me because I can’t do the same thing with budget numbers.”
Anya looked over her shoulder as she headed to the kitchen. “Well, if you think that your job is more important than finding the thing that almost killed poor Xander and caused damage to his car in excess of the insured value, then I suppose we just have to understand that.”
“Okay,” said Buffy sulkily. “Slayage before work.” She glanced sideways at Spike. “I suppose eventually there will be some pleasure.” She leaned over and looked at the paper in front of her sister. “How’s your research coming? What’s with all the calculations? Is that a numerology thing?”
“Uh, not exactly,” confessed Dawn. “I couldn’t find out anything about your demon, so I’m picking numbers for the lottery. Spike, what’s your favorite number?”
“Sixty-nine,” said Spike automatically.
Buffy looked amused until Dawn giggled, then she cast him a glance of outrage. His eyebrows rose and she frowned. “You’re not being much help either,” she said. “Or did you find out anything today?”
“A bit. Most of Marketing and Human Resources are demons.”
“Doesn’t surprise me,” said Buffy, remembering the chilling gaze of the woman who had hired her.
Spike snickered. “Yeah, Human Resources. Sounds like a vampire cafeteria. Turns out it’s a job for people who—”
“Yes, Spike, we know what their job is,” said Willow wearily. “What kind of demons are they and what are they up to?”
“Not much. They’re just your basic emotional parasites. Drain people’s sense of purpose and ability to enjoy life. Feed off it somehow. Common buggers. Gravitate to jobs like that in Sunnydale, well, and all over the world, really. But their victims usually recover as soon as they’re out of psychic range. There are lots of these demons all over Sunnydale; this lot aren’t your big bad and barely worth the Slayer’s notice.”
“Except when they’re sucking her emotional energy,” grumped Buffy, remembering her job interview. She made a mental note to steer clear of Human Resources.
“Also, that wanker who was showing you around this morning.”
Buffy’s hand stopped on its way to snag a potato chip. “Harry’s a demon?”
“Yeah. An assenssus demon.”
“Sounds dangerous.” Dawn’s hand dodged past Buffy to scoop up chips.
“Not really.” Anya was standing by the fridge, a cup of coffee in her hand and a frown on her face. “They’re approval-seekers. They feed off praise.”
“Explains a lot.” Buffy cheered up. “In fact, I can’t ever remember being so glad to find out someone was a demon. Makes me feel much better to know no human could be that much of a nerd.”
Willow was peering at her laptop. “Found an entry on them. They’re ranked as harmless. In fact, it says here that they make good housekeepers, if you can stand their constant need for attention.”
“If you kept an assensus, you wouldn’t always be out of coffee creamer.” Anya sat down at the table. “They’re efficient shoppers too. Always clip coupons.”
Buffy glanced at the messy kitchen and toyed with the idea of taking Harry home, but remembered how annoying he’d managed to be during the time she’d known him. Better not.
“Don’t want one of that lot around here. Bunch of bleaters,” was Spike’s assessment.
Buffy decided to change the subject. “I did notice this weird smell from one of the cubicles about four aisles down from mine, so I talked to some of the people nearby, and they said they think the guy who sits there is keeping something freaky in his desk drawer.”
“Rats,” said Spike.
“Why, did you miss one, oh mighty smeller of demons?” asked Xander.
“No, Harris, the guy has rats in his drawer. Keeps a litter box and a supply at hand. His kind only like live meat, but they don’t eat anything much bigger than Speedy Gonzalez either. He’s not likely to be killing humans.”
“It seems like Spike’s doing most of the detecting on this job.” Anya regarded Buffy over the rim of her coffee mug. “Since you didn’t accomplish much, I don’t see why you didn’t have enough time to buy creamer this afternoon.”
Buffy, who was already tying to stifle her annoyance that Spike had managed to find out so much more than she had, snapped at him. “Well, there was this really weird woman in the cafeteria. Frizzy hair, sweater, lunchbox fetish. Did you sniff her out too?”
“No.” Spike took the last of the chips, leaving Buffy to stare resentfully at the carrot sticks. “Crazy lunchbox lady is all yours, Slayer.”
Chapter Five: Spike shows Buffy some novel uses for office machinery
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/27024.html