And we’re off to the next part. Special thanks to all those who helped with the British dialect in this chapter.
Part II: London, England
Buffy couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “What?”
Giles sighed. “I need you to go to London and meet with a representative from the Council. It’s someone I trust, so you needn’t fear for your safety.”
“I can take care of myself,” Buffy replied. “It’s just that I don’t see why I have to go, if it’s your friend. I mean, not that I mind, it’s just—it’s the Council.”
Giles gave her a sympathetic look. “I understand your reluctance, Buffy, and I would be happy to go myself, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to get back into the country.”
Buffy frowned. “What are you talking about?”
“The INS can’t give me any guarantees that my visa will be approved next time, and if I leave the country, I might be denied entrance again until the paperwork goes through.” Giles took off his glasses and began to clean them vigorously. “Without the Council pulling strings, who knows how long that will take.”
As much as she didn’t like the thought of traveling to England to meet a member of the Council without her Watcher, she liked the thought of Giles not being in Sunnydale even less. “Okay. I guess I’ll just have to find my way.”
Giles shook his head. “You didn’t seriously think that I’d let you go by yourself, did you? I’ve already asked Spike to accompany you.”
Buffy’s eyes widened in alarm. “You what?”
“I asked Spike to go along,” Giles explained patiently. “I questioned him, and he speaks several languages. More importantly, he knows his way around London, and he’s quite capable of getting the both of you out of trouble.”
Buffy didn’t like the sound of that. “Why Spike, though, Giles? Willow could go with me.”
“Willow hasn’t avoided customs agents for the last century,” Giles responded. “I’m not expecting trouble, Buffy, but if I were to go with you, I would know how to get us both out of the country and back to the States through other channels if necessary. Or, at worst, I’d be able to get you back.” He grimaced. “Where the Council is concerned, I’ve learned to plan for the worst, even if I like to expect the best.”
Buffy knew that she wasn’t getting out of this one. “Fine. When do we leave?”
“The day after tomorrow,” Giles replied. “Time is apparently of the essence, according to Miles. You’ll leave on an evening flight and have a layover in New York. With any luck, you’ll get into Heathrow in the early hours of the morning, giving you both plenty of time to find a hotel room before the sun comes up.”
Buffy wasn’t sure she liked the sound of that either. “A hotel room? As in, one room?” She crossed her arms. “Come on, Giles. You can’t expect us to share a room.”
“The Council is paying for one room,” Giles replied. “Mostly because they’re only expecting one of you. If I were to pay for a second room, that would give them warning that you’re to have company, and I want to keep that a surprise.”
Buffy frowned. “What do you know that I don’t?”
“I don’t know anything that I haven’t told you,” Giles assured her. “It’s simply that I have a premonition that you’ll want to be careful on this trip, Buffy. I think it’s necessary to go, but I don’t want you taking any more chances than you have to. I trust Miles, but he’s been quite secretive.”
She still didn’t like the idea, but she could understand Giles’ concerns. Refusing to go, if it really was the kind of emergency that only the Slayer could deal with, might result in the loss of innocent lives. Giles couldn’t go, but Buffy was on summer break, so it wasn’t like her schedule was full.
Even the thought of sharing a room with Spike wasn’t all that disturbing—not nearly as disturbing as it probably should have been. The fact was that the dreams had been particularly vivid lately, ever since Riley had left for good. He’d had a few weeks’ worth of leave, and he’d spent the first two of them with her before flying back to Iowa.
Although Buffy didn’t love Riley, she cared about him deeply. But Riley needed a job, and he liked being in the army. It was where he was meant to be, and it hadn’t taken long for both of them to realize that.
Besides, Buffy hadn’t been able to ask him to stay just for her. Riley had offered, and the only response she’d been able to give him was, “I think you should do what you want to do.”
Obviously, he hadn’t wanted to stay in Sunnydale.
Explaining to her mom that she had to go to England on Council business was a lot easier than Buffy had expected it to be. “You’re going alone?” Joyce asked doubtfully. “I don’t know, Buffy. I think it would be better if you had someone with you.”
With an inward sigh, Buffy responded, “Spike’s going. Giles already asked him, and I guess he said yes.” She did not tell her mother about the single hotel room, or Giles’ paranoia. There were some things it was better not to burden her mother with.
The relief that passed over Joyce’s face was immediate. “Oh, good. Well, if you have Spike with you, I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
That was another byproduct of Spike helping them out on a regular basis. Although her mom had never been scared of the vampire, they now seemed to have a solid friendship. Buffy had only recently learned that Spike had stopped by last year nearly every week to have hot chocolate or a cup of tea with Joyce.
“Why do you like Spike so much, Mom?” Buffy asked, feeling inexplicably frustrated. After all, it was a lot harder to come up with reasons why she shouldn’t like Spike when her mother was so fond of him.
Joyce smiled. “I’m not sure, sweetheart. Call it a mother’s intuition.”
It wasn’t much of an answer, but Buffy didn’t want to press. “I’ve got to go, Mom. I’m meeting the gang at the Bronze.”
As she’d expected, explaining that she was going to London on Council business was a lot easier than telling her friends that she was going with Spike.
“Why Spike?” Xander demanded. “Come on, Buffy. Tell Giles to let you take one of us.”
Willow was looking equally upset, although Buffy had her suspicions that it was more to do with the fact that she wanted to go to London, than any problem with Spike accompanying her. “I could go,” Willow pointed out. “I’m all with the magic.”
“Yeah, but you guys have never been over there, and Spike has,” Buffy pointed out. “I told Giles the same thing, but he insisted.”
Xander scowled. “I don’t see why Giles likes that bleached pest so much.”
“They are both English,” Willow pointed out. “And, Giles is right. Spike does know the country better than we do.”
Trust Willow to look at the situation logically, Buffy thought. “I’d take you if I could, Xander, but I can’t this time. I’ll be fine. Besides, I thought you kind of liked Spike.”
Xander’s alarmed expression was priceless. “Buffy, he’s a vampire.”
“He was a big help against Adam,” Willow pointed out reasonably. “I kind of like him.”
The young man scowled. “He’s not so bad,” Xander admitted grudgingly. “I just don’t trust him.”
“Well, let’s hope that I can trust him,” Buffy replied. “Otherwise, I could find myself in a whole heap of trouble.”
Truer words were never spoken.
Spike tossed his half-full duffel bag into the backseat of the car, then swung himself inside. “Didn’t think you’d gotten a new car yet, Watcher,” he commented.
“It’s not mine; Joyce was kind enough to let me borrow it for the occasion.” Giles turned. “Did you get the papers?”
Spike nodded shortly. “Yeah. Said I would, didn’t I?”
“What papers?” Buffy asked.
“Passport, proper identification, that sort of thing,” Spike said. “Rupert here didn’t want to involve himself because he wanted to keep it quiet. Apparently, he didn’t trust me to get it done.”
“I did not say that,” Giles said peevishly. “All I wanted to know was whether you’d gotten it done, because if you hadn’t, there’d be a problem with you traveling with Buffy. We’d have to ship you in a coffin or something.”
“Thank you, but no,” Spike replied, shuddering. “We did that once, an’ it wasn’t pleasant. There’s no way I’d go that way again.”
Buffy half-turned in her seat to look at him. “When was that?”
Spike hesitated, not sure that he wanted to bring up his ex, particularly not when they were planning on spending the next few days in one another’s company. “Was a while ago,” he said finally.
“But where were you traveling?” Buffy pressed.
Spike sighed, resigned to the fact that she was going to keep pushing until she got the answers she wanted. “It was when we came over from Prague,” he admitted. “Dru was too weak to travel any other way.”
“Oh.” Buffy turned to face the front again, and Spike rolled his eyes, knowing that neither Giles nor the Slayer were able to see him. It really was a bit much; Buffy always asked questions that she didn’t want to hear the answer to, and then she took her displeasure out on him.
“What was so bad about it?” she asked after a few moment’s silence.
Spike was a little surprised that she had continued her line of questioning, considering how prickly she normally got when Drusilla’s name was mentioned. “Couldn’t move, couldn’t see, couldn’t smoke,” Spike said. “It was bloody awful.”
He had been just a touch claustrophobic for weeks afterwards.
Buffy nodded slowly. “I can see that.”
“This is the way to go,” Spike said. “Flying first class.”
“You’re not flying first class,” Giles said.
Spike scowled. “You said we were when you asked me to take this little jaunt.”
Giles smirked. “No, I think what I said was that I would look into it. I did, and it was much too expensive. Besides, the Council is paying for Buffy’s ticket, and they wouldn’t even consider sending her first class. You’ll both just have to make do in coach.”
Buffy frowned. “We are sitting next to each other, though, right? I mean, the whole point of Spike going with me is for us to stick together.”
Spike raised an eyebrow. That was quite a change from the Slayer’s usual tune, and he had to wonder what had brought it about. Normally, she couldn’t wait to get rid of him, but it seemed that she’d finally come to see the value in having him around.
“You’re traveling together,” Giles said, his tone vague. “I made certain that you had a window seat, and Spike had the aisle.”
Buffy frowned. “Why would Spike get the aisle?”
“I thought you wanted the window,” Giles responded.
“I get the aisle because it means I’ll be less likely to burst into flame should things get sunny,” Spike said for the Watcher. “An’ if something happens, they’ll have to go through me to get to you. That’s what my presence on this trip is all about, after all.”
Buffy turned in her seat again. “If that’s what it’s all about, then why did you even agree to go?”
Spike had asked himself the same question more than once, and he still hadn’t come up with a satisfactory answer. “Because he’s paying me, an’ it would be nice to see the mother country again.”
She seemed to accept that answer and settled back in her seat without further questions. When they got to the Sunnydale airport, Giles let them both out at the doors, obviously not planning on waiting for their flight to leave.
Spike went around to the driver’s side door to get his ticket from the Watcher, and to get any final instructions. Buffy, always impatient, was already inside the airport. “What are you really worried about?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Giles admitted. “I just know that I’d rather that Buffy wasn’t alone. Miles didn’t sound terribly surprised when I told him that I wouldn’t be able to go, and he immediately insisted that Buffy be the one to meet him instead. As I explained to Buffy, I trust Miles, but it’s always best to prepare for the worst where the Council is concerned.”
Spike nodded. “Might be a cake walk, or it might be a trap then.”
“Precisely.” Giles pressed a roll of bills into Spike’s hand. “I’ve already given Buffy some money,” he said in a low voice. “That will get you through any ordinary expenses.”
Spike raised a scarred eyebrow. “What’s this for then?”
“Extraordinary expenses.” Giles gave him a nod. “Good luck, Spike, and take care of her.”
Spike nodded. “Yeah, you got it, Rupert.”
The first leg of their trip was surprisingly smooth. There had been the flight from Sunnydale to Houston, then they had caught their connecting flight to New York City. All that time, Spike had been amazingly civilized. He’d been polite to the flight attendants, had even charmed a second drink for the both of them. Spike had even been incredibly solicitous of her well being—at least, for him.
Once in New York, they had a long layover, mostly to avoid flying while the sun was still up. By taking the red eye from Sunnydale, they had managed to fly into JFK and get to the gate for the flight on British Airways before the sun came up. They would leave late in the evening and get in early the following morning, London time.
Spike had already checked the weather in London, and it appeared as though they were forecasting heavy clouds and rain, so he’d be safe enough if they got in later than expected.
Of course, all that meant that they had 12 hours to kill, and nothing to do.
“I hate airports,” Buffy announced.
Spike was sprawled out in a chair, his head tilted back. “Why don’t you go get yourself somethin’ to eat.”
“I’m not hungry.” Buffy looked over at him. “What about you?”
“What about me?” he asked.
“Aren’t you hungry?”
“Ate before I left,” Spike replied. “I’ve gone longer without food before.”
Buffy sighed, shifting listlessly. “Why did you agree to come, Spike?”
“Told you already,” he responded. “For the money.”
“That can’t be the only reason,” Buffy objected. “You’ve been working with us for how long now?”
Spike shrugged. “Dunno. A while.”
Buffy knew exactly how long. “Seven months. You helped us against Adam, too, even though you didn’t get anything out of the deal.”
Spike raised an eyebrow. “Wouldn’t say that, necessarily. You’ve been a hell of a lot nicer since then.”
Buffy scowled. “You didn’t get anything tangible out of it, like money or anything.”
“Dunno. Your Watcher brought me a real nice bottle of Scotch as a thank you.”
If anything, that only pissed Buffy off more. “I want to know why.”
“Why you’re helping!”
Spike frowned. “What does it matter?”
Buffy pegged him with a glare. “Spike, we’re going to London together. If all goes well, we’re still going to be spending the next five days together. I’d like to know that I can trust you.”
Spike was quiet for a moment, then he admitted, “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know what?”
“I don’t know why ‘m goin’.” Spike leaned back in his seat once again, closing his eyes. “All I know is that your Watcher said you needed me on this one, an’ it sounded like an interesting way to spend the time.”
Buffy frowned. “And Adam?”
Spike cracked one eyelid. “Trusted you lot a hell of a lot more than that freak show. I had no reason to believe he’d keep his promise; at least Rupert showed up with my fags on time.”
Buffy fell silent after that, thinking about what Spike had said, what his changing loyalties might mean. At the very least, it seemed to indicate that vampires could change.
Or that one vampire could.
It was raining when they landed in London, the sun hidden behind thick banks of clouds; Spike was more than a little relieved. Giles had done him the favor of calling the airlines ahead of time, warning them that he had a sun allergy, and while exposure wouldn’t kill him, it would cause serious burns.
Spike was impressed at both Giles’ foresight and his ability to carry out a good lie. The fight attendants had been very helpful indeed, and a couple of the women had been extra attentive. Spike, never one to pass up an opportunity to get something for free, had charmed his way into several of those little bottles of liquor. He’d drunk a couple, and stolen a few more as the cart passed by while he pretended to sleep.
Buffy, of course, had seethed the entire time, although to all outward appearances she had been reading her fashion magazine or sleeping. Spike’s enhanced senses told him that she wasn’t doing either—although she might have been reading if the article was enough to raise her blood pressure, and if it took her twenty minutes to turn the page.
Spike didn’t think that it was likely.
“I need you to follow my lead, luv,” Spike murmured as they approached the customs’ agents.
“What? Why?” Buffy’s eyes narrowed. “What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to get us through this as painlessly as possible,” Spike hissed back. “’ve done this before.”
Buffy glared at him. “I can take care of myself, Spike.”
He probably should have let her try, but Spike wanted to pass through without too much trouble. It would be better, should they end up having problems, to leave no mark. Customs’ agents remembered problems like they wouldn’t remember a young, blond couple.
“Look, Slayer,” he said as they moved ever nearer. “We want to get through without them remembering we came this way. I’m a pro at that.” Buffy gave him a skeptical look, and Spike snorted. “How do you think I survived this long?”
She frowned, then rolled her eyes. “Fine, but I reserve the right to say I told you so.”
“Fair enough,” Spike said.
He couldn’t help the smug grin that formed as soon as they’d passed through without even getting a second glance. Showed the agents his British passport, mentioned how he wanted to introduce his girlfriend to the family, and they were done.
Spike waited for Buffy to say something, but she remained silent, and he glanced over to see if she was upset about being wrong. Instead of looking angry, however, Buffy merely appeared thoughtful. “Something up, pet?”
“How do you do that?” she asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Look like someone else,” Buffy replied. “You do the same thing around my mom. She really likes you, you know.”
Spike shrugged, knowing what she meant, but unsure of how to answer. “Comes from years of experience.”
Buffy nodded, not saying anything more.
Spike chose not to press the issue; he led the way to the baggage claim, where they both picked up their suitcases—a neat black case on rollers for Buffy and a beat-up duffel bag for him. Spike supposed that luggage said a lot about the person carrying it. The Slayer’s suitcase was perfectly normal, perhaps reflecting her own desire to blend in with the rest of the crowd.
He didn’t quite understand that longing, mostly because William had blended in; once upon a time, Spike had been utterly unremarkable, and he didn’t understand why anyone would want that kind of anonymity.
And yet, he did understand, because he’d never wanted a grand destiny, and he’d have bucked it if he’d had one. No matter what Giles had suggested about being meant for something different, Spike didn’t buy it for one moment. He’d joined up because he needed blood, cigarettes and violence, and the Scoobies represented a regular supply of all three.
Buffy wanted normalcy because she would never have it, just as he had wanted to be special, because William never had been.
It was a conundrum.
When they arrived at the hotel, Spike was actually grateful for the two beds, mostly because there was a lesser chance that Buffy would stake him.
And no chance that he’d accidentally cop a feel. Or not-so-accidentally.
To his surprise, Buffy didn’t say anything about sharing a room. All she did say was, “We’re meeting Giles’ friend tonight. Are you coming along?”
Spike shook his head. “Not so he can see me, but I’ll be around. Your Watcher told me to keep an eye on you, an’ it might be easier to do that if no one knows I’m there.”
Buffy took a deep breath. “Okay.”
“Okay.” She shrugged. “It makes sense, I guess.”
Spike raised an eyebrow. “You actually admitting that I might have a good idea once in a while, Slayer?”
“Once in a great while,” she shot back. “And you don’t know the Council like I do, Spike. They’re up to something sneaky; I can feel it.”
Spike nodded. “And that’s why I’m stayin’ back. We both better get some sleep if we’re going to be fresh, pet.”
“Yeah, sure,” Buffy replied.
Spike lay on the bed, fully clothed, listening as Buffy’s breathing slowed and evened out. It was an odd experience for him—to be entrusted with the Slayer’s life. He supposed that he’d earned that trust, in a way, after what he’d done for them against Adam.
Still, Spike had thought of himself as the Slayer of Slayers for a long time, and now he’d been asked to make sure that nothing happened to one. Not only that, but he was being asked to protect her from the very people who were supposed to be in charge of her welfare.
It was an odd change, but one that felt—almost right.
Buffy could sense Spike in the background as she approached the pub where she’d been instructed to meet Miles, Giles’ friend.
And how weird did that sound in her head?
She was grateful to have Spike at her back, although she could hardly believe that thought had passed through her head. The vampire was definitely growing on her; he hadn’t been nearly as irritating on this trip as he was back in Sunnydale, maybe because it was just the two of them.
Or maybe it was something else altogether.
Buffy wasn’t sure how she was going to deal with sharing a room with Spike; he’d taken a shower right after her, then he’d wandered out of the bathroom without a shirt on.
The fact that Spike’s chest was enough to render her speechless was a bad sign, Buffy was sure of it. What would happen if she caught a glimpse of something more? Her brains would probably dribble out her ears, that’s what, and she would forget what a bad idea lusting after a vampire was.
Of course, lusting after a soulless vampire wasn’t so bad. It would be acting on the lust; that would be really bad, and it was something that she absolutely wasn’t going to do. Really.
Buffy glanced around the interior of the pub, shaking off all thoughts of Spike. Although Giles had given her a description of Miles, it was only enough to eliminate half the patrons, which still left a number of middle-aged Englishmen. She frowned, trying to locate one who was eating alone, hoping that Miles wasn’t pulling one over on her by cornering her with a bunch of Council goons.
Buffy glanced up. And up. And up. An incredibly tall, thin man towered over her, smiling diffidently. He was dressed in rumpled clothing that looked a little too small for him, and Buffy liked him immediately; he had kind eyes. “Um, hi?” she responded.
“Are you Buffy Summers?” When she nodded, he held out a hand, somehow conveying earnest enthusiasm without his voice changing from its low pitch. “So nice to finally meet you! I’m Miles Brannon. Rupert has told me so much about you.”
Buffy found herself smiling back; it was almost impossible not to. “I hope some of it was good.”
“Oh, all of it was good,” Miles assured her. He glanced around the pub uneasily, and his wariness sent Buffy’s Slayer senses tingling. “Would you mind a walk?” he asked. “I’m not sure this is the best place to talk.”
Buffy nodded, deciding to trust him, and knowing that Spike would follow. “Sure.”
He led her outside and down the damp street. “Rupert is quite fond of you, you know. As much as I would have liked to see him, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you.” He gave her a concerned look, some of his good humor dissipating. “Did you come alone?”
“Yeah, of course,” Buffy said, hoping that he didn’t see through her lie. “I thought that’s what you wanted.”
Miles nodded. “Yes, well, I had honestly expected Rupert to read between the lines and send someone with you. If the Council finds out what I’ve told you, or what I’ve given you…” He trailed off. “This is very important, you see.”
“I’m getting that,” Buffy murmured. “What can I do for you?”
Miles just smiled. “It’s not what you can do for me, my dear girl. It’s what I can do for you.” He handed her a leather case surreptitiously, in such a manner that let Buffy know he wasn’t used to the cloak-and-dagger. “You’ll want to keep that safe. I imagine when the Council finds out that it’s missing, there will be quite the uproar.”
Buffy frowned, beginning to get alarmed. “Is it stolen?”
“By all rights, it’s yours, or it should be,” Miles responded. “That case holds the answers to what it means to be the Slayer. Or it will take you there. It holds the key.”
Buffy touched the scarred leather. “I don’t understand. What kind of answers?”
“That, I do not know,” Miles admitted. “When I first heard about this, I was intrigued, curious. The more I discovered, the more obstacles I found shoved in my way. As I grew closer to the truth, I knew that Rupert must have this information, or that you must.”
Buffy shook her head, confused. In her experience, Watchers were loyal to the Council, not to the Slayers that they supposedly served. In fact, it seemed that the Slayers served the Council, and it was rare for a Watcher to believe otherwise. Buffy had thought that Giles was the only one with some common sense, but maybe she should have given his friend the benefit of the doubt.
“Because you fight alone, and I don’t believe that it has to be that way,” Miles responded, his eyes alight with a holy fire. “And because you have the right to know the truth, even if it’s at the expense of the Council.”
Buffy opened her mouth to reply, but she heard a muffled popping sound and watched in horror as a red blotch bloomed on Miles’ blue shirt. He stared at her with wide eyes, then stumbled towards her. “Do not let them keep the truth from you.”
There was another popping sound, and yet another red spot appeared on his chest, right over his heart. Buffy caught his falling body, ducking down low, looking around wildly for the source of the shots. She couldn’t see anyone on the apparently deserted streets.
Spike’s voice rang out through the damp air, but she couldn’t see him. What she did see was a gunman standing on the other side of the street, the barrel of his pistol leveled at her.
It was almost as if everything was happening in slow motion. Buffy could see the gunman’s finger tightening on the trigger, and she let go of Miles’ rapidly cooling body, throwing herself into the nearest doorway.
The gun went off again, the stray shot hitting the brickwork next to her head, and Buffy could see two other men coming out of the shadows, converging on her location.
Spike was suddenly at her side, seemingly coming out of nowhere, grabbling her hand and pulling her into his chest, shielding her body with his own. He pulled her down, running half-crouched while he pushed her ahead of him.
“Where are we going?” Buffy gasped as they rounded a corner, keeping her voice down to prevent their pursuers from overhearing.
He shook his head. “Back to the hotel to get our stuff, then I’ll find us a different place to crash tonight. What did that anorak give you?”
“He’s not an anorak, whatever that means,” Buffy replied, knowing the term was derogatory just from his tone of voice. The shock was still overwhelming, and it was a relief to drop back into her usual exchange with Spike. Maybe she dealt in death every night, but this was different. “They killed him.”
“Yeah, they did,” Spike said, hurrying her along with a hand at her back.
Buffy realized belatedly that they probably looked like a couple out for a stroll, but she didn’t have the strength to throw off Spike’s touch. “Why?”
“I imagine we’ll have the answer to that when we see what he gave you.” Spike pulled her along. “That’s going to have to wait, though. Right now, we just need to get back to Sunnydale in one piece. That’s what I promised your Watcher.”
Buffy nodded, but she wasn’t thinking of Spike’s promise; she was thinking of the dying words of a stranger. He’d told her not to let them keep her from the truth, and Buffy thought that she owed him that much at least.
She had to try, anyway.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/149565.html