Here is the end of a story that I started during the hiatus between Season 6 and 7 when I wondered what it would be like to have Buffy or Spike as a direct report and remarked to a friend that at least I didn’t have to deal with that at work. Her response was something along the lines of, “Write that,” and we tossed ideas around for a while. I’m very glad I blew the dust off this and finished it, because it was a lot of fun.
Thanks for all the comments. I’m going to try to reply to each one, but not tonight. I need to go pay attention to my family, who have been very understanding all day long about my obsession with this fic.
“How did you know it was him?” Dawn asked. She took a popcorn bag out of the microwave and shook it experimentally.
“The awards. That was the link we were missing. I was looking at the list of performers in the talent show, and I remembered that Eric had been going to be one of the contestants. Then someone dropped the list of finalists for the Productivity Award, and Rita was at the top. So I went back and tried to find out as much as I could about awards the other victims had won. The lady who was poisoned had won the best entry in the monthly potlucks three times with her chili. The guy who Xander crashed into—”
“Didn’t crash into!” said Xander around a mouth full of popcorn.
“Okay, didn’t crash into, had worked 25 more hours of overtime this year than Harry. The eviscerated guy had just been nominated for a Customer Service Award, and the one who was drowned in his bathtub had set up a carpooling program and was up for an Ecology Award. I couldn’t track down any more, but that was all the pattern I needed to guess who the next victim would be.”
Dawn slapped Xander’s hand away from the popcorn and dug in the fridge for a can of soda. “So you watched this Rita girl, and then Harry jumped over the cubicle dividers?”
Buffy nodded. “He was hopping all over the place. Like a grasshopper.”
“Weird.” Losing interest, Dawn wandered out of the room.
“Hey!” Xander looked up from sandwich making to point at Spike. “You said that thing that caused my accident jumped like a grasshopper.”
“Typical assensus demon.” Anya peered over Xander’s shoulder. “Make me one too, honey? Where do you think the phrase, ‘When you tell him to jump, he asks how high,’ came from?” She looked up, surprised to find the others glaring at her.
“And you didn’t mention you had this bit of knowledge before because–?” Buffy demanded balefully.
Xander quickly squired Anya and their sandwiches out of the kitchen, leaving Buffy and Spike alone.
“So ends the Case of the Curious Cubicle Killings,” said Buffy.
“One more victory for Nancy Drew.” Spike drained his beer and set the bottle down.
Buffy took the bottle and dropped it in the trash. “Not one of my favorite assignments. I didn’t exactly like Harry, but I didn’t enjoy whacking him against that wall either. And could he have been creepier at the end? Well, maybe if he screamed, ‘my precious’ when you gave him that tacky little trophy. Otherwise, pretty high on the creepy rankings, and I’ve seen some major wigginess in my time.”
Spike slipped an arm around her shoulders. “Still wish it had been that bitch Melandra instead. Would have enjoyed seeing you beat her to pieces more.”
“Me too. She’s impossible.” She leaned against Spike. “You, on the other hand, were very sweet to let Harry think he’d won the Talent Show.”
He shrugged, managing to shift her closer and rub himself against her as he did so. “Well, just because he’s a murdering demon doesn’t mean he didn’t deserve a bit of happiness.” His hand snuck under her blouse. “Speaking of which—”
She shoved his hand away. “Everyone’s in the living room! Including my sister, who I have often lectured on the inadvisability of dating vampires.”
Spike reached for his coat. “Something tells me it’s time to patrol—”
The next morning, Buffy headed down the long hallway with her morning cup of coffee. She was late. The mob in the cafeteria had been larger than usual, and for once they weren’t squabbling over the Coffee Fund. In fact, the frizzy-haired woman with the lunchbox obsession had offered to pay for Buffy’s cup in exchange for lurid details about Harry’s death. Buffy insisted on depositing her own 15 cents, and was now hurrying to her desk, hoping to escape Melandra’s wrath at her tardiness.
Her path was blocked by Stan’s considerable bulk as he lumbered out of his office, smiling an apology for delaying her, but clearly in a hurry himself. Looking past him, Buffy saw Rita sitting next to Stan’s desk, neatly stacking up a pile of papers. As Stan trod off, Rita smiled at Buffy and waved her inside.
“Close the door.” Rita stood up and moved behind the desk, setting a large briefcase down next to the PC monitor.
Buffy did so and sat gingerly in the chair Rita had just vacated. It didn’t slide spasmodically and was surprisingly comfortable, so she settled down with her coffee. “Thanks.”
“Should go the other way.” Rita stopped in the act of placing papers into the briefcase. “The thanks, I mean. You saved my life.”
“And you kept Spike and me from having to explain a lot of inexplicableness to the cops.” Buffy sipped. The coffee was bitter.
Rita shrugged. “It was the least I could do. And I’m sure they were happier not knowing. They can question a bunch of people and add the stories to their open case file eventually. They know the routine. See no demons, hear no demons, speak no demons.”
“You know about demons?”
“I used to date one. Nice guy. I’m not prejudiced, as long as they don’t try to kill me.”
“Ah.” Buffy watched Rita carefully lock the briefcase. “And you’ll get the Productivity Award.”
“As if I cared. And I probably won’t. I expect I’ll be gone by then.”
Buffy startled as a bang sounded on the other side of one of the thin office walls, and barely managed to avoid spilling her coffee. She waited a moment, but as no screams or other signs of anything in need of slayage followed, she said, “Oh?”
“Stan and I are jumping ship in a couple of days.” The briefcase was stowed away under the desk.
Buffy strove for a neutral expression. “Uh, I hope the two of you will be very happy…” She stopped, unsure of the correct formula to use when a woman was running off with her boss. She was sure Hallmark didn’t even have a card for this.
“Well, it’s going to be a lot of work, but his wife is handling the legal side, and with me doing all the grunt work and Stan cracking the whip, I think we can make a success of it.” Rita grinned at Buffy’s confusion. “Sorry. I couldn’t resist. I can’t believe that no one has guessed. Stan has gotten some venture capital lined up and we’re starting our own firm.” She waved her hand. “Not in direct competition with this rat maze, but if they’d known what we were planning, we would have been suspect for ever after, even if we weren’t fired. Until we were sure we had the money to set up our own shop, we didn’t want to say anything about it. We were afraid that people would figure out what was going on, with us spending all our free time together and meeting after work.”
“But everyone jumped to another conclusion.”
Rita leaned back in the desk chair, looking smug and very, very amused. “Stan’s wife is a doll, and he adores her. She’s going to be the company Treasurer. She won’t quit her law firm job for a little while, though, just to be safe.” A more serious expression followed. “Although, after last night, I’m viewing safety in terms of more than just job security.”
A loud thump was followed by some more banging. The wall rattled. “I wonder if I should go check on Melandra’s security,” said Buffy unenthusiastically.
“Nah.” Rita got up and headed for the door. “She was on the rampage when I came in because the new white board for her office arrived yesterday and it hadn’t been hung up yet. Apparently, little things like gory death aren’t supposed to get in the way of her anal-retentive need to have her queendom just as she decrees.” As she turned the door knob, she looked back at Buffy. “What about you? Are you going to apply for Harry or Eric’s jobs?”
“No, I’m not staying either. Melandra’s putting the finishing touches on her Power Point today, and she’s made it pretty clear she doesn’t think I’m permanent employee material. I don’t mind. This company just doesn’t seem like the right niche for Buffy.” The Slayer picked up her coffee cup and followed Rita back to the row of cubicles, venturing a glance into Melandra’s office on the way. Melandra was seated at her desk, hands poised over the keyboard but not looking at her monitor. For once she wasn’t staring out into the hallway, looking for wayward employees, either. A representative of the Facilities department was engaged in riveting her new white board to the wall, and her gaze was riveted to the spectacle.
Buffy wasn’t sure where her hackles were, but she was pretty sure they were rising at the sight of Melandra coveting Spike’s ass. Her impulse to blast her boss for ogling her boyfriend was only quieted by the realization that Spike would enjoy nothing more.
Buffy returned to her cubicle and prepared to while away the time until her exit interview by doing as little as possible. She packed up the few personal items that cluttered her desk and watched a pale woman from Human Resources doing the same with the much more extensive collection in Harry’s cubicle. She felt a deep sense of sadness grow as the many certificates for customer service, cheerfulness, and good attendance were carted off to a shred barrel, and all the little plaques and tiny trophies dumped unceremoniously in the garbage. She was sighing deeply when she caught the eyes of the HR rep and remembered what Spike had said about the employees in that department.
Resolutely avoiding the woman’s gaze, Buffy found her self-esteem slowly rising and a sense of optimism returning. She shivered, and breathed more freely once the woman abandoned the area, leaving Harry’s cubicle stripped and ready for the next soul to be deposited there for forty weekly hours of boredom.
Buffy checked her emails again, deleting two chain letters, an offer from a dating service, a picture of the new baby born to someone in Marketing and the litter of cats gracing the home of someone in International. She spun around a few times in her chair, coming to rest at an angle that let her see Melandra, who was still hard at work analyzing the curvature of Spike’s butt. Melandra may have sensed Buffy’s eyes on her, because she looked up, opened her lips slightly in what could have been a sneer or a smirk, and turned her gaze to her monitor. Her fingers started moving on the keyboard.
A moment later, Spike emerged from the office and wandered down the aisle past Buffy’s cubicle. “Create a diversion,” he said.
Buffy stared at him. “First of all, the case is over. Secondly, I can’t believe you said that. As clichés go—”
“Can’t rely on you for anything, can I, Slayer?” Spike raised his voice. “What do you mean, you forgot to tell me about the letter from the Health Department, you stupid bitch!” He stalked off. A moment later, something rattled noisily just around the corner.
Buffy realized that she was being stared at by everyone within earshot. Most people looked shocked, although Rita seemed amused. Before she could stammer out that Spike was such a joker, Melandra’s voice sliced through the air.
“Get back to work!” She stalked up to Buffy’s desk. “Just because it’s your last day, doesn’t mean you can distract everyone else with your games. Since you’re so obviously bored, you can just start going through those filing cabinets by the back wall and shred everything in them that’s more than six months old.”
Buffy sighed and rose to her feet. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Spike sneaking back into Melandra’s office. She couldn’t be sure, but she thought he headed to the desk before going back to work on the white board.
“Oh,” added Melandra, “make sure you take a staple remover with you. Because you need to pull all staples, paper clips and other fasteners before dropping anything into the shred barrel.”
Buffy made a face behind Melandra’s retreating back. Then, ignoring the ping from her computer that said yet another email had arrived, she pulled open her desk drawer to search for a staple remover. With the perversity of office drawers everywhere, it displayed only the highlighter Buffy had been unable to find a half-hour ago and the scissors she had spent fifteen minutes looking for the day before.
She shut the drawer and opened her mouth to ask if anyone had a staple remover she could borrow, but stopped, surprised by the amazing synchronicity of behavior by the residents of the aisle of cubicles.
One by one, everyone stared in astonishment at his or her monitor, eyes widening. Slowly, amazement changed to amusement, and laughter began. Eerily, the laughter seemed to echo from all over the huge building.
Rita crooked her finger, and Buffy came to read over her shoulder.
My kinkiest darling,
Lay out your favorite outfits and toys for tonight. I’m bringing the champagne, and maybe something new in leather too. Perhaps those very special opera gloves we saw at The S & M Boutique?
Afterwards, we can plan our next vacation. Thanks to my latest pretty swindle, it’s going to be First Class, no matter what the destination, and I’m betting I return to a Vice Presidency even after making the company unwittingly pay off my mortgage. Those Wolfram and Hart consultants were worth every penny. I’ve managed to inflate my bottom line on paper at the same time that I’ve siphoned off the real profits to my Caiman Islands account. Maybe it’s time to buy up again? I could use the tax deduction and a bigger Jacuzzi. And maybe a real wine cellar downstairs—or a real dungeon.
“Melandra just sent that to everyone in the building,” said Rita in an awestruck tone.
“She—” Buffy looked at Melandra’s door, and saw Spike leaning against the wall, screwdriver in hand, smirking at the woman behind the desk. Melandra’s mouth was opening into a disbelieving scream that altered to a gasp of, “Recall—recall message—recall message, DAMN YOU!”
Buffy’s feet dragged as she made her way past the miles of cubicles for the last time. The excitement over Melandra’s email had delayed her escape. She had had to wait for an exit interview or risk not being paid, but even HR had been convulsed by the discovery of her erstwhile boss’ embezzlement and sexcapades. Well, the sex aspect had overwhelmed everyone except a few executives and some very steely-looking people from the Accounting Department who Buffy was certain had to be some kind of emotionless demons.
At least Buffy had the satisfaction of knowing that she had outlasted Melandra at Asshatery Industries. And, unlike Melandra, she wasn’t leaving in a police car. She frowned, wondering how she would get home. Had she missed the last bus?
She started fumbling in her pockets for change to call for a ride as she turned the corner to the final corridor leading to the exit. Nothing except two useless pennies. Exasperated, she looked up and suddenly found herself smiling. The exit was just a few feet way, its glass doors promising freedom and revealing a dramatic sunset. Leaning against the wall just inside the door was a vampire who owned a DeSoto and would certainly be willing to ferry her home.
Then Buffy remembered she was angry with him and assumed a stern expression. He smiled back with his most annoying smirk.
“Why still here, Spike? Isn’t your shift over? Or are you trying to rack up more of the big bucks with overtime?”
“No. I got fired too.” He dropped the cigarette he was smoking and used his heel to grind the butt into the carpet he was no longer even nominally sworn to protect and clean. “Seems they could cope with me spending too much time hanging about a little blonde temp and not doing any actual work, but the complaints about my smoking did me in. I don’t mind, but the Bit will be disappointed. I’ll have to find some other way to keep your sister in nail varnish and shampoo.”
He waved a hand at the door. “I just had to hang about and wait for sunset.”
“And maybe take care of some other loose ends?”
“Why, Slayer, I’m sure I have no idea what you mean.” His grin belied his words.
She tried to be stern. “Spike, it was you who sent that email from Melandra’s account!”
“Now, love, don’t be too sure. Maybe it was that email daemon who keeps telling me my messages have been returned.”
“Spike, even I know that isn’t a real demon!”
He shrugged and capitulated. “Are you going to tell me that bleeding cow didn’t deserve it? Besides, she left it up on her monitor, plain as day, just to go out and go spare on you for no reason at all. All I did was address it and send it on.”
Buffy wanted to yell some more, but instead she found herself noticing that his eyes were the same dark blue as the twilight sky. All she said was, “You don’t feel the least bit sorry for what you did, do you?”
He glanced out the door, noting that the last of the sun’s rays had just faded away. In an almost chivalric gesture, he held the door open for her to exit before him. “Well, you know what they say, love. S & M means never having to say you’re sorry.”
And a final thanks to my sweetie, Mr. M, who is responsible for Spike’s parting line.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/28699.html