Chapters Three and Four of When You Need a Job Done Right, Send a Slayer
“Okay. So what do we need to know, who do we need to beat up or slay, and what the hell was that dragon doing?” Buffy stared at Angel, who sighed and stood up straighter.
“Buffy… about Spike—”
She held up her hand. “No personal stuff. Not till we’ve accomplished our mission. Then we will have that conversation – trust me.” She let her disappointment and anger show just long enough to make him nod and lower his head, then she continued, “But right now I want to know the whole situation.”
“Pretty simple, really. The Senior Partners – which are sort of the evil version of the Powers That Be – were pretty pissed of at us for taking down the Circle of Black Thorn. Thanks to Ilyria, Spike and I somehow survived the demon army they threw at us, but when she opened a portal and took most of the army with her to… who the hell knows… we still had a lot of demons left behind. Somebody, probably the Senior Partners, but we don’t know for sure, slammed a glamor on the city and cut it off from the rest of the world. The demons left behind are still squabbling with the ones already living here, the vampires are mad because the demons are running things, and the humans have to worry about being swept up by demon slavers.
“We’ve been saving as many as we can get to – with help from the dragon – but we’re outnumbered. So without Cordy’s help—”
“Cordelia Chase is a dragon?”
Angel gave Buffy a sad glare that showed her how much they were no longer in each other’s lives.
“Cordy is dead,” he said flatly. “The dragon seems to have some of her… essence… and it helps us when it can.”
Sam nudged the girl next to her. “Does anybody else feel like we’ve stepped into somebody else’s soap opera?”
Matching glares from Buffy and Angel had her stepping behind her companion and drawing an imaginary zipper across her mouth.
“You’ll get used to it, Sam,” Faith said as she re-entered the room. When Buffy raised a questioning eyebrow, she continued, “Your honey is watching for the portal to reopen so Julie doesn’t have to worry about what might be waiting for her when she comes back.” Faith smiled at Angel. “I take it not all the vamps know you keep the door locked.”
He shrugged. “The demons have mostly learned they can’t get in, but the vampires know we have people in here, so every once in a while one thinks he’s going to get in and help himself and we have to teach him a lesson.”
“And who usually hands out that lesson?”
“Spike does. He likes that kind of stuff.” Angel shrugged. “I’d just as soon pick them off with a crossbow and be done with it, but—”
“But he’s more a hands-on kinda guy. Yeah. I guess I should have remembered that from Sunnydale.” She rubbed her jaw. “Packs a mean wallop when he’s pissed off.”
“You fought with Spike?” Angel looked back and forth between Faith and Buffy. “Why? I thought you were all together against the First.”
“There was a… misunderstanding… about B here, and he was defending her honor, or something.” Faith looked uncomfortable for a few seconds, but Buffy said nothing about having been kicked out of her own home and the moment passed. “It was no big deal. Everybody kissed and made up, and Blondie used that gaudy jewelry to close the hellmouth and be a hero. Win – win.”
“That’s why he came out of the amulet,” Angel mused. “We wondered.”
“He didn’t tell you? That he wore it and burned up closing the hellmouth?” Buffy stared at Angel in shock.
“He said he died a hero, and on fire. I didn’t know you’d given him that amulet to wear, and he never mentioned it, so I didn’t make the connection. I figured he was just exaggerating what happened to him. I’m surprised Wes or Fred didn’t pick up on it though….”
“He was my champion,” Buffy said softly, ignoring the way Angel visibly flinched at that quiet declaration. “And then he… died… and I didn’t know—” She shook herself, noticing that Angel had flinched again but opting not to pursue it in front of the girls. “So, where are these people we need to get back into the real world?”
“They’re downstairs in the basement. It’s safer down there if anything gets in and goes looking for them. They’ve got weapons and they can defend themselves when there’s only one way in.”
“Okay, well, somebody needs to tell them we’re here and that they can leave as soon as we know when the portal will be available.”
“I’ll go give them a heads-up,” Angel said, seeming relieved to have a reason to get out of the room.
The slayers had wandered off to explore the hotel and its rooms, promising to keep an eye on their communicators in case they were needed. Faith shrugged and asked Buffy, “You want to take this break to go settle things with William-the-in-deep-shit-Bloody? I can stay here till Angel gets back.”
Buffy sighed. “I guess we need to talk. At least enough to be sure we aren’t going to screw up something important by getting into a fight at the wrong time.” She smiled at Faith. “Thanks.”
“Hey, it’s in everybody’s best interest to have you two working together and not walking on eggshells around each other. No biggie.”
“Your version of self-defense, huh?” Buffy snorted.
“You got it. If you get mad at each other, at least maybe you’ll be able to take it out on something evil.”
“Relationship advice from you,” Buffy said, shaking her head but giving Faith a grateful smile. “We really are in an alternate dimension.”
“Up yours, B. Just self-preservation.”
Buffy lifted her hand in a wave and walked toward the loading dock.
She squared her shoulders when she got to the door, taking a deep breath and reaching for the handle. “I can do this,” she muttered to herself. “We can have a conversation without yelling.”
“You sure about that, Slayer?”
She jumped when she heard Spike’s voice, having forgotten about his keen hearing. He was leaning against the wall of the building, smoking a cigarette and seemingly relaxed. But she could see the tension in his shoulders and she forced herself to remain calm.
“Well, I know why I want to yell at you… or maybe beat you to a bloody pulp,” she said, taking an equally casual stance against the opposite wall. “But I don’t know why you should yell at me. I’m not the one who left somebody who loved me to grieve for over a year because she thought I was dead!”
In spite of her resolve, Buffy’s voice had risen as she spoke. By the time she finished speaking, she was standing up straight and glaring at him with damp eyes. She blinked rapidly to hold back the tears that had caught her by surprise, and slumped back against the wall, keeping her glare on Spike’s face as his expression went back and forth between anguish and anger. It settled on anger.
“I already said I’m sorry about that, Slayer,” he said, his voice low and controlled. “I figured Andrew would have told you, or someone from the Council of Wankers would have heard about it. And when you didn’t show up… and then wouldn’t help us when we asked—”
“When you asked? When did you ask us for help? And it’s the Council of Slayers and Wank—Watchers, thank you very much. “You didn’t even try to tell us about this!” Buffy waved her hand around to indicate the situation. “We had to learn about it from rumors.”
Spike straightened up and growled. “You wouldn’t trust us to take care of Dana – sent a squad of slayers with the idiot to pick her up. You wouldn’t let Red help out when sweet little Fred was being kicked out of her own body so an Old One could set up housekeeping in there…. Even if we’d been able to contact anybody outside, why would we expect you to help us? You didn’t trust us before, why would you now?”
“We didn’t trust Angel! I didn’t even know you were here until last week.” She lowered her voice, which had started to rise again. “Why didn’t I know, Spike? Even if you didn’t love me anymore, you could have at least let me know you were alive.”
Before he could respond, she continued, her voice firmer, “And anyway, I’ll tell you the same thing I told Giles when he said you and Angel might both be dead by now – this city is full of innocent human beings who are trapped here because of something you and Angel did. Even if you were both dust, I’d want to save the city I was born in. We’re slayers. It’s what we do.”
She faced him, chin high and gaze firm, watching as he shut his eyes as if in pain.
“Buf—“ He sighed and flicked his cigarette into the alley. Standing up straight again, he walked toward her, never taking his eyes off her proud gaze. Ignoring her flinch, he put his hands on her shoulders and rested his forehead against hers. “Thought we’d already said what needed saying. I still love you. How could you doubt it? Was brassed off to think you weren’t willing to help us, but just thought I’d had my time with you and you’d moved on. If I’d had any idea you were grieving, or even missing me….” He raised his head and shook it slowly. “I love you, and it sounds like you—like you still care about me. As far as I’m concerned, that’s all that matters. Can grovel some more, if it would help, but I can’t change anything. All I can do is whatever I can to help fix this mess.”
“I don’t want to fight,” she said. “I mean, I want to kick your ass for being such an idiot, but not right now. Right now, I just want to be happy you’re alive, and here.”
“I am here, love. Never doubt it.” He lowered his head again to brush his lips over hers. “And I’ll be happy to prove it to you as soon as we are someplace private.”
Buffy’s giggle broke off as a sound behind them brought them both whirling to face the now-open portal and a smirking Julie.
“Did I interrupt something?” she asked, trying to appear innocent. She paid no attention to Spike’s growl, waving the supplies she’d brought back with her. “Got a dry erase board and markers so we can leave messages. And if they have something complicated to tell us, they’ll make a small portal and just shove a note through it.” She looked dubious for a second. “I guess that means somebody’s going to have to be here all the time so a message doesn’t just blow away—”
“Or get picked up by the wrong person or thing,” Spike added. “This alley stays pretty clear, but it’s not demon or vamp proof.”
“All right, we’ll work that out. What did they say about getting the rescued people out?”
“Jeannie said they can do it. She said to give them about a hour to get set up, and then have the people ready to go as soon as the portal opens.”
“Okay. That’s it, then. Let’s start lining them up so we can hustle them out as soon as it opens. Julie, just leave the board and markers here inside the barrier and come with me to help me explain.” Buffy turned to go back inside, pausing when Spike put a hand on her arm.
“Are we good, then?”
Buffy shrugged and put a hand on his cheek. “As could as we can be right now. We’ll be better.”
He leaned into her hand, turning his head to kiss her palm. “Lookin’ forward to it, love.” He followed the two girls into the hotel, stopping to replace the bar when the door was safely closed.
Faith looked up with quirked eyebrow when she saw them. “So, you went for kiss him first and then kill him?”
Buffy flushed and Spike laughed. “So, that was the decision to make? Kiss me or kill me?”
“More or less,” Buffy muttered. “Just keep in mind, I haven’t done either one yet, so my options are still open.”
“Duly noted, pet,” he said, his grin showing how unconcerned he was.
Behind Buffy’s back, Faith gave him a thumbs up, earning herself a growl from Angel as he entered the kitchen.
“I know you didn’t just growl at me, asshole,” Faith said, narrowing her eyes at him. “Just so you know, B and I divided up the vampire ass-kicking duties, and I got you. Neither one of us is forgetting that you could have hollered for help and maybe prevented this mess.”
“The only time we asked for help, your boss turned us down,” Angel said with a snarl. “He said you didn’t trust us.” He turned he glare on Buffy.
“I’ve already had this conversation with Spike. I didn’t trust you,” Buffy said. “I would have trusted Spike if he called. But I never turned down a request for help. I don’t know who you talked to, but it wasn’t me, it wasn’t Faith, and it wasn’t Willow, and we don’t have a ‘boss’.”
“Well, Giles seems to think he’s still running things,” Angel said. “Wes called him and begged for Willow or somebody with magic skills to come help us save Fred. He got turned down flat. Giles made it sound as if they were your orders.”
Buffy and Faith exchanged identical furious looks. Faith smacked one hand into the other. “That wasn’t his decision to make. Just like not sending us here to help you fight the Senior Partners wasn’t his decision to make.” She smacked her hands together again. “I hope he wasn’t planning to live to a ripe old age. I don’t think he’s got that in his future…”
There was a long silence in the room as Buffy, Faith, Angel, and Spike dealt with knowledge that things could have gone so differently for everyone. The other slayers stared at them, shocked to hear Faith threaten the life of the man who as far as they knew, was the head of the Watcher side of the Council.
Finally, after several minutes of reflection, Angel sighed. “Much as I would like to see Giles suffer, I think we all have to take some responsibility here. I could have told you Spike was here,” he said to Buffy, before turning to Faith. “And I could have told you both what I was doing at Wolfram and Hart, and that it could go wrong in so many ways.” He shifted his gaze to Spike. “And you, you coward, you could have ignored me and just gone to her as soon as you could leave LA. Or at least called her and told her you were here and what was going down.”
Spike nodded, not meeting Buffy’s eyes.
Buffy started to speak, but Angel cut her off. “And you could have kept in touch. You could have told me…. I wouldn’t have tried to keep him here if I’d known you were hurting. I really thought you’d moved on and….” He shook his head.
“So, am I the only one who hasn’t done something to apologize for? Hey, that’s a first. I’m the good girl.” Faith looked very pleased with herself. “If everybody’s through taking the blame here, can we get started fixing it?”
“Right.” Spike spoke first. “We need to get our guests upstairs and ready to dive through when that portal opens. Then we can talk about Big Bads and how to get to them.”
By the time the portal flickered back into existence, the anxious humans, some of whom had been living in the hotel basement for weeks, were all pushing and shoving to be the first ones out. It took the snarling vampires showing their true faces and the slayers convincing several big men that they were going to be last now that they’d made asses of themselves, to turn the mob into a semi-orderly line. Children first, then the elderly, and then the adults who hadn’t tried to be first. All in all, it took almost an hour due to both the size of the portal and the need for everyone to get out of the way on the other side.
When the last one was gone, Buffy bent down, stepped through, and made sure they knew that was everyone. She spent a few minutes talking about using the message board and receiving information from them.
“We should know more later tonight,” she said. “Angel and Spike are going to take us with them when they go out. And we’re going to meet the dragon.” She waved and disappeared from the compound the slayers had taken over, reappearing in the alley just in time to see Faith and Spike attacked by the first of what appeared to be at least a dozen demons.
“Can I play too?” she asked, wishing her sword was still on her back rather than resting with her scythe, just out of reach on the loading dock. It was pretty obvious the demons were focused on the portal, and she was afraid to move away from it until it was safely closed. She used her fists and feet to keep them from diving through, and as soon as the portal disappeared, she dove for her weapon, with which she removed the nearest demon’s head.
By then, Angel had emerged from the hotel with his own sword and an axe, followed by the slayer squad with their own swords. None of the demons survived to carry word of the portal out of the alley.
“What the hell was that?”
Angel shook his head. “I don’t know. I’d like to think it was just coincidence that a gang of demons walked through here just as the portal was open, but…” He gestured to the building. “Let’s get inside. At least we can be safe while we worry about it.”
Everyone trooped inside, at the last second, Buffy grabbed the dry erase board and markers and set them just inside the door. “Just in case,” she mumbled when Spike raised an eyebrow at her. He shrugged and locked the door.
“Wasn’t objecting to it, love. Prob’ly a good idea. No sense leaving any more information out there than we have to. Now that we have more demon-killers here, we can just post a watch when we have something to communicate.”
He sighed and rolled his eyes. “Right. If you have something to communicate. Forgot my place there for a minute.”
Buffy glared at him, glanced around to see they were alone in the hallway, and grabbed him by the belt, yanking him close to her. “Your place is right here,” she said, losing the glare when his face softened into a smile. “But the slayers are my responsibility – mine and Faith’s. You and Angel don’t get to make decisions about them. ‘K?”
“Whatever you say, love. If you keep those fingers where they are, you can get me to agree to pretty much anything…”
Realizing that her hand was resting next to the bare skin of his stomach with her fingers inside his jeans and just brushing his lower abdomen, she flushed and pulled it away. She tugged his shirt down to cover the exposed skin. “I didn’t mean to do that,” she mumbled.
“I know,” he said with a grin. “But it felt good anyway.”
“Oink, love. That’ll never change.”
“I guess we can’t expect a soul to fix everything,” she said, her snort of laughter taking any sting out of her words.
“It might’ve penned that piggy up at first, but I got over it.” His expression turned serious. “I’m not quite the wimp I was when I first got it. I hope that’s not going to be a problem…”
Buffy shrugged. “Wimpy Spike was sweet… but he wasn’t very sexy.” She walked away quickly before he could continue the conversation, entering the kitchen with a cheerful, “So, where are we going tonight? And when do we get to meet the dragon?”
Angel looked back and forth between her smirking smile and Spike’s stunned expression, then shook his head. Forcing his gaze back to the rest of the people in the room, he said, “She usually finds us. I don’t know how, but so far she’s shown up when we need her. As far as tonight goes, we’re going to hit a factory on the other side of town where they’re using humans as slave labor.” He paused and looked around the room. “The plan was just to try to sneak them out of the dorm, but with all this extra help, we might be able to close them down completely. If we can take out the bosses….”
“The bosses being?”
“One of the minor demon lords. And his minions, which are mostly lesser demons, but I think he uses some vampires as security.”
“Sounds like a plan. When do we leave?” Faith stood up and glanced around at the eager slayers.
“We’ll leave in another hour. It’s going to take two vehicles – I’ll drive the van and Spike can drive the bus. I’ll take the girls with me… and Faith.” He sighed. “And Buffy can go with Spike.”
“Where do we get a bus?”
Spike nodded toward the door to the basement. “We’ve got an underground parking garage,” he said. “Got the entrance hidden pretty well – although we do have occasional vamps thinking they can make a lair of it – so far it’s worked. The barrier contains a glamor that makes it hard to see the entrance to the garage and of course, the demons can’t get in anyway.”
“Okay. Weapon up girls. Who knows what we’ll need. Stakes for sure, but probably swords or axes for the demons.”
“We have a pretty good armory,” Angel said. “Faith, you know where it is. Do you want to take the girls to pick out whatever they want or need?”
“Got it. Let’s go, slayers. Free weapons!”
Angel, Spike and Buffy watched the slayers follow Faith to the weapons storage area, leaving the three of them refusing to make eye contact.
“Don’t you want to pick something out, Buffy?” Angel said.
“I’ve got my scythe, and my stakes. I’m good.”
There was another uncomfortable silence, with both vampires sneaking looks at Buffy.
“What?” she finally exploded. “What’s wrong with you two?”
“Nothing,” Angel said stiffly. “Nothing at all. I guess you and Spike are… you and Spike. And that’s… well, it’s not fine, exactly, but I can live with it. As long as you’re sure, Buffy….”
“As long as I’m sure? As long as I’m sure? As long as I’m sure?” Her voice had risen with each repetition. “What the hell, Angel?” She glared at him. “I hope you aren’t under the impression that my love life is anything you’re entitled to have an opinion about. Because that would just be—”
Spike’s growling was a steady background sound as Buffy and Angel glared at each other.
“Be quite, Spike. I’ve got this.” She placed one hand on Spike’s arm, then faced Angel again.
“I am not a possession for you and Spike to argue over, or a prize for you to compete for. And I sure as hell don’t need to know if you’re ‘fine’ with my choices. I. Don’t. Care. What. You. Think. You left me. I cried. I got better. You got better. You had girlfriends. I fell in love with somebody else. Somebody who stayed, even when I was just a body in a grave. Somebody who proved himself over and over. Somebody you don’t approve of. Get over it.”
She stopped, breathing heavily as she realized what she’d said while Spike was listening. She cringed, waiting for him to crow about it, but he was uncharacteristically silent, only moving closer to her and putting a hand on her lower back. “I think he got the picture, love. Let it go.”
“Who are you, and what have you done with Spike?” she muttered, turning to face him.
“Empathy,” he said. “Comes with the soul package, apparently.”
“Huh,” was the most intelligent thing she could think of in response.
They were all saved from further embarrassment by Faith’s return, followed by the slayers, now armed to the teeth.
“Did you leave anything there?” Angel asked, obviously more to give himself something to do besides stare wistfully at Buffy and Spike.
“There’s some stuff there for you and Blondie to look through.” Faith walked to the big refrigerator and peered in. “The girls and I need to eat before we go off demon-slaying. Whatcha got in here?”
“Just the basics – mostly for the kids. Bread, milk, eggs, peanut butter….”
While Faith rolled her eyes, the other girls immediately began grabbing things to make sandwiches.
“Note to self. Rob a demon-owned grocery store tomorrow.”
Almost as if the past year hadn’t happened, Buffy and Spike walked to the hallway and sat down side-by-side, backs against the wall and legs stretched out in front. Their shoulders were just touching. Not enough to give anyone a reason to say anything about inappropriate behavior, but close enough that there was no doubt they were together.
“Come on, big guy,” Faith said as Angel stared at them talking softly with their heads close together. “If Cordy could see you belly-aching over B and her honey, she’d smack you upside the head.”
His only response was a growl, but he turned away and sat on a stool facing another direction.
“That’s better.” Faith cocked her head at him. “Just so you know? Between what I saw when I was in Sunnydale, and what I’ve heard and seen from Buffy all year… they’re the real deal. You might have been her first big crush—” She frowned when he growled again. “I was there. I know how she was about you when she was a teenager. But those two have history neither one of us knows anything about. Some good, some bad. She’s a grown woman now and she moved on. And so have you,” she added. “Give them a break.”
Angel sighed and nodded. “Taking relationship advice from you… I must be losing it.” He glanced into the hallway again. “You know, the worst part of it is… I love them both.” He glared at Faith. “You tell Spike I said that, I’ll rip your heart out.”
She just laughed at him and said, “Bring it, old man.” Her expression softened. “So, you’re gonna be okay with it?”
“Hell no, I’m not okay with it! She’s… she’s Buffy. And he’s… Spike, for God’s sake.” He shook his head. “But if I’m being honest with myself, I can see that they’ve got a lot more in common than Buffy and I ever did. I don’t need to know their history together to know that.”
“Okay. Well if that’s settled, how about you tell me what we’re going to be looking at later tonight? Should I give the real world a heads up that we might have more refugees?”
He shook his head. “No, whoever we rescue tonight can stay here and rest until we’re ready to send them through. If it goes well, we might be coming back with 50 or 60 people.”
“So, tell me about this demon lord and his minions. What are we looking at?”
They spent the rest of the hour talking about the layout of the compound, where sentries were likely to be found, and how hard it would be to get to the big boss. The other girls listened and chimed in with questions, giving Angel a good idea what an excellent job Buffy and Faith had done training the new slayers.
When it was approaching time to leave, Spike and Buffy joined the group being quickly brought up to speed on the tentative plans that had been made. Buffy offered a quiet suggestion or two, and Spike added to the information about the compound, and then Angel indicated they should get ready to go.
The all followed Spike down to the basement, and out through the heavily locked door into the underground garage. The slayers fanned out, their senses telling them there were more than two vampires about. With a grin, Spike grabbed Angel’s arm and kept him back.
“Let the girls have a little fun first. Get their juices flowing. The vamps aren’t going to know what they are, they’ll probably—yep, here they come now. Like lambs to the slaughter.”
The small gang of vampires that had taken refuge in the seemingly deserted garage were delighted to find what looked like meals walking toward them and jostled each other to get to them first. When the potential meals didn’t run and scream, but instead grinned and pulled stakes and crossbows out, the vamps frowned and slowed their approach.
“What the hell…?”
“Slayers. They’re slayers!” said one of the older vampires. “I don’t know how they got in here, but that’s what they are.”
He turned to run, only to burst into a cloud of dust from a crossbow bolt to his back. It quickly turned into an execution, as Buffy and Faith stood in the garage exit, blocking them from escaping that way. The slayers methodically staked every vampire they caught, then spread out through the garage to look for stragglers. They located one, hiding under the bus they were planning to use, and pulled him out to meet his dusty ending.
All the girls extended their senses, exchanging nods as they agreed there were no other vampires present besides the two waiting by the door.
“Okay, let’s load up and go,” Buffy said. “Faith and Angel have the squad, Spike and I will have the bus for the rescuees. We’ll pull it right up to the door closest to the dorm, and then join the fight?” She finished with a question in her voice and looked at Spike for verification.
“That should work. If we can get them out and onto the bus first, we can leave someone to protect the bus and move in to clear out the compound.”
Angel spoke up. “I think we should take out all the sentries we can before you go in. Let us open the gate and clear the way.”
Buffy shrugged. “Sounds like a plan. But how will you get in?”
“We’ll think of somethin’,” Faith said with a grin. “Won’t we girls?”
“Damn, I think I want to go with them,” Spike said as the chattering slayers piled into the van talking about how they could take out the sentries with their crossbows, then climb the walls and take care of the guards at the gate from the inside.
“Oh don’t get all huffy on me, Slayer. You know you’re wishing you could do something more exciting than ride in on a bus.”
“Hmmph!” She tossed her head and pushed open the door to climb into the old city transit bus.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/532620.html