Chapter 18: Frenzy
Spike was on the brink of hysteria. It had been hours since Buffy had fled from the apartment, and sundown had come and gone over half an hour ago. Not that it had stopped him, the thick blanket over his head and the cornucopia of tunnels beneath the city streets providing him all the shelter he needed. Darkness having fallen, he now patrolled above ground.
Not a sign.
He had checked everywhere he could think of, any and every place which had some sort of meaning. Nothing. Not a scrap of evidence, not a clue as to where she might be. Where she’d run to. Once, just once, Spike thought he’d sensed her. A shiver had rolled up his spine and he’d stiffened, eyes searching harder for a trace of his missing slayer. Then it had passed and he was left feeling just as desperate—if not more so—than when he’d been detained from following her.
There was one upside. One bloody good reason why no sign was good news...
The Slayer would not go anywhere that wasn’t of her own free will, at least not without a struggle. And while evidence of resistance was present all over town, it was not her. Not Buffy.
If her blood were spilled he’d know. He’d be able to sense it—if he didn’t smell it first.
No blood means she’s not—
“Come on, think you git.”
He had to find her, and he wasn’t going to give up until he did.
Malena was bored, bored, bored. Sprawled out on the bed in the spare room she’d waited. Waited for him. But of course he’d never appeared. Too preoccupied with thoughts of little Miss Perfect.
An exaggerated sigh passed her lips as she rolled her eyes. What would it take for him to notice her again? Simple flirtation was not going to cut it— or blatant seduction for that matter— but short of ordering a hit on the object of his obsession she wasn’t sure what she could do.
The phone beside her rang, effectively cutting short her musing.
“Malena, baby, how’s my favourite slayer doing tonight?”
Annoyance furrowed her brow. He was the last person she wanted to be speaking with right now.
“What do you want,” she snapped.
“Whoa, settle down there cutie, no need to get testy.” The caller paused, and gave a quiet chuckle before he continued. “Of course if you wanted to come on over and work out some of that frustration, then I’m your man.”
“Quit the crap and tell me what was so important you had to call me at my watcher’s. I told you never to—”
“Yeah, yeah. Sorry ‘bout that,” he rushed, the apology sounding anything but apologetic. “But I had some important information I knew you’d wanna hear.”
When he paused again she knew it was for effect, a lame attempt at creating an air of suspense. Malena didn’t have the patience to wait.
“New company in town, hired assassins as a matter of fact. Ordered in special, to deal with that little, ah, pest problem we have.”
Malena’s eyebrows rose. “Really, now that is interesting.” A smirk curled her lips. She could practically see the proud grin on his face. “Nice going. D’you know when the little fumigation party is going to take place?”
“Not as such, but I’ve got my feelers out and no doubt I’ll have some more intel for you soon.”
“Good. Keep me posted.”
A silent reply alerted her to the fact there was something else up for discussion. “That it?”
“Not exactly, babe. I was also wondering when I’d see dosh for—”
“You’ll get your money Willy, quit hassling me.”
A knock on the bedroom door startled her and Malena slammed down the phone, schooling her expression into one of expectation. Unfortunately the Brit who opened the door was not the one she’d been hoping for.
“Hey Nic, what’s up?”
Nicolas walked into the bedroom, his arms resting behind his back as he approached the bed. “How are you feeling?”
“Right as rain,” Malena replied chirpily. “In fact, I feel well enough to head out on patrol.” She dropped her gaze to the bedspread in a gesture of regretful assent. “You’re right; I shouldn’t have taken on that many vampires without backup. Can you let Spike know I’d like some extra muscle tonight?”
Nicolas shifted under her hopeful expression. He thought it was remarkable that even after sustaining injury as she had Malena still expected—was willing—to do her duty. It filled him with pride.
“Your presence won’t be necessary for patrol tonight Malena, I’ve got it covered.”
Malena frowned in confusion, a scowl curling her lips when she came to a conclusion. “Don’t tell me you’re going to replace me with Buffy,” she spat out scornfully.
“Malena you could never be replaced,” Nicolas assured. “And no, Ms Summers won’t be patrolling tonight either.” A frown scrunched his brow as he looked at the clock. “It seems she’s disappeared.”
“Disappeared?” Malena repeated, barely managing to keep the hopefulness from her voice. “But where—”
Anticipating Malena’s question Nicolas continued. “She requested access to Mr Giles’ diaries, which I granted. She had assured me she would return, I’d expected as such before sundown but it would seem she has other plans. I’m not altogether certain she’s still within city limits.”
“Oh well.” Malena shrugged, her good mood improving exponentially. Buffy gone was a very good thing in her book. She continued when her response resulted in a look of surprise from Nicolas; there was no need to let her watcher in on just how much she disliked the other girl. “I mean, an extra set of hands wouldn’t have hurt but Spike and I did fine keeping the body count low before she showed up and I’m sure we’ll continue.”
Thoughtful silence fell between the two, Malena quietly smug at the fact her watcher didn’t consider the other slayer’s presence to matter much. With the other girl out of the way everything would go back to normal. She’d be able to pick up where she left off, and that was a most pleasant thought.
“Could you send Spike in please?” Faux sympathy coloured her expression. “I’m sure he’s...” She trailed off, thinking of a suitable word before continuing, “disappointed she’s gone.”
“Disappointed would be an underestimation,” Nicolas informed, totally missing Malena’s point. “I’d say borderline crazed was more accurate.”
“Sure, whatever,” she shrugged off. “Could you—”
“Oh,” Nicolas realised. “I’m afraid I can’t. Spike’s out searching for her. He left shortly before sunset, despite my warning.”
“Before sunset!” Malena spluttered, scrambling to climb off the bed. “Why would he do that? I’ve got to go look for him, he could be hurt!”
Nicolas had expected Malena would respond in this manner, so he’d come prepared. Grasping her arm he guided a syringe he’d hidden behind his back toward her wrist, piercing the skin and injecting the serum before she knew of—and could thwart—his intentions.
Confusion flooded Malena’s expression seconds before darkness overcame her.
Withdrawing the needle tip from her wrist Nicolas stood and made his way toward the bedroom door, halting to cast a look at his unconscious slayer.
“It’s for the best,” he murmured, before he exited the room and quietly closed the door.
Fat wet tears tracked down her swollen cheeks as she stared blankly at the closed diary before her. Buffy had wanted answers, and now she had them. More than she’d ever expected.
At first reading his words had felt almost voyeuristic, she felt like she was intruding. These writings were Giles’ private thoughts, and reading them without his knowledge had felt wrong. However this feeling of outright betrayal dulled with each word and page read, until it was little more than the barest twinge of guilt.
His entries were meticulous, every detail precise and comprehensive. The many battles she’d fought, demons she’d slain, apocalypses’ averted; each event was recording with painstaking attention. Some, in fact, were so accurate it was like watching a movie, his words triggering memories of the events described on the weathered pages. Reading them was like welcoming back a long lost friend, Giles’ words a comfort in this disturbing world. They restored to her a sense of belonging, a welcome change to the complete and total lack of self from hours before.
Not only did the diaries provide a rebirth for her belonging in this world, but also an avenue for discovery. The battles she recalled, some with perfect clarity, so there were no surprises there. However, seeing her life catalogued through another’s eyes was. In the beginning Giles’ frustration came through clearly, she was obviously not what he’d expected. And his descriptions of said feeling brought a fragile smile to her face.
As time progressed the frustration—and sometimes disappointment—faded, giving way to a burgeoning sense of pride. That alone had been enough to kick start the waterworks. When pride gave way to affection, and that in turn to something else—something completely unexpected—Buffy had dissolved once more. The things she hadn’t seen, was too blind to notice at the time, were not absent as she’d believed.
He loved her.
Giles... Giles loved her, as if she were his own flesh and blood. Like a daughter. His daughter.
When she hurt, he hurt. When she cried, her sorrow was mirrored in his helplessness. This was proven as fact when she read of Angel’s departure. Not his death—though she’d felt Giles’ sympathy for her there also. It was when Angel had left for LA. Despite her best attempts at normalcy, a pretence she’d believed successful at the time, Giles had seen through and found her anguish. And he’d hurt for her.
And that revelation was both awe inspiring and heartbreaking.
Because, despite the devotion she’d read so clearly from those pages, she was lost and alone today.
Memories—both good and bad—rushed at her, and it became too much for her to handle. Clutching a pillow to her chest Buffy curled into a ball to cry away her unhappiness. Quiet tears continued to fall from her already cried out eyes, a sob clawing at her throat.
“Why aren’t you here?”
Business was quiet. It was too quiet as far as Willy was concerned, although said state wasn’t exactly a surprise considering the competition. Ever since the new joint had opened up in town his clientele had slowly been defecting. ‘The Reliquary’ was bad for business but Willy wasn’t stupid enough to believe any attempt at intimidation tactics on his part would be successful. More than likely it would have the opposite effect and he’d be forced to shut down, or worse, shut up—in a permanent sense of the word.
If only the former frequenters of The Alibi Room knew the true cost of their reallocated patronage, he didn’t think they’d be so accepting of the freebies ‘The Reliquary’ provided. The hidden costs. Free will was something he held near and dear and he seriously doubted his former patrons would have been so eager to frequent the new venue had they realised exactly what they were signing up for. Or signing away, depending on the way you looked at it.
Then again, a fair number of the demons of Sunnydale weren’t the possessors of a high IQ, so forewarning may not have deterred them.
“Bunch of mindless drones,” he muttered.
A scaly faced demon grunted in displeasure and Willy lifted his hands in apology, quickly pouring a double shot of whiskey as a peace offering. He couldn’t afford to lose any more business.
Willy sighed. There really was no market for the small businessman these days. Maybe he should think of relocating; there was high demand for establishments such as his on the east coast. And as far as he was aware he wouldn’t be competing against the likes of Wolfram and Hart.
Whipping a dishtowel off the bench behind him Willy patted away the perspiration on his forehead before returning to drying glasses.
The beaded curtain at the entrance clinked. Alerted to the presence of a new customer Willy pasted an overly bright smile on his face to greet the newcomer, only to have it waver when he realised who it was.
“Spike, buddy, pal! Long time no see.” The tremble in his voice gave away his nervousness, a fact he knew would not be missed by the perceptive vampire. Knowing distraction would be the only way to save himself from his own big mouth he continued. “What’ll it be tonight? I’ve got some O+ fresh from the blood bank and my source informs me the donor was young. Nubile even. A glass of this’ll wipe away the years, make you feel all youthful again. A pint may—”
Spike growled. “Willy.”
“Not that you’re looking your age of course,” the bartender babbled, mopping at his forehead once more before running a hand through his greasy mane. “Is it just me or did it suddenly get hot in here?” He laughed uneasily.
“I’m lookin’ for the Slayer.”
“Last I heard she was recuperating from that fight last night; nasty business that was,” Willy replied. When Spike’s brow lifted curiously he realised he’d said something he shouldn’t have and laughed once more. “You know how it is, buddy, some demon comes in and brags about his conquest.”
Either he was more convincing than he gave himself credit for, or Spike was more distracted then usual.
“I was talkin’ ‘bout Buffy.”
“Oh, you meant the dead one?”
The second the words left his mouth Willy realised his mistake. The thunderous expression on Spike’s face was almost enough to motivate a bowel movement. Willy gulped back his fear. “I meant the one who passed. Tragic really, considering the circumstances, losing her family and her honey bear must’ve really sent her over the edge and I’m really not really helping myself, am I?”
Taking a step back from the bar—a fruitless attempt at putting some distance between himself and the obviously furious vampire before him—Willy squeaked out an apology. “I promise I’ll shut up now if you don’t kill me.”
If it weren’t for the fact Willy was more useful alive than dead, Spike would’ve been tempted to rectify his living status.
“She’s not dead, she’s missing, and I want answers, now,” Spike growled threateningly.
“Not dead? That’s a,” he twitched in fear when the murderous glint returned to the vampire’s expression, hurriedly continuing, “a wonderful surprise, really great news. No one deserves a second chance more than that kid, if you ask me.”
“I ain’t heard nothing, I swear.” He nodded profusely, his heart thundering. He was blatantly lying, and he knew the instant the vampire realised as much. His eyes flicked from side to side, searching for an escape route but before he could even blink in the direction of the back room Spike had leapt across the bar and smashed him into the wall behind him. Willy gurgled when a fist closed around his throat, effectively cutting off his air supply.
Spike was not in the mood for lies, and if he had to kill every demon in Sunnydale to get the information he needed to find Buffy he’d do it. Nothing was going to stand in the way of finding his girl.
A shake and Willy’s head smacked against the wall with a loud thump, sending a glass something smashing to the floor. Spiderwebs of pain crackled across Spike’s skull in response to his chip firing, and he grimaced against the pain. The barman’s face was turning a nice shade of purple and Spike knew it was a matter of seconds before the slimeball succumbed to unconsciousness, and that just wouldn’t do. Relaxing his grasp on the man’s throat he leaned in close.
“Now I’m not going to ask again. I want answers, and if you can’t give me what I need then I’ll go beat it out of someone else. Got it?”
Willy nodded eagerly, a desperate gasp for breath sucking in much needed oxygen to his starved lungs. “I heard something, a few whispers.”
Spike felt some of the tension roll off his shoulders at the croaked confession. “Go on.”
He gulped in another deep breath, his personal safety more important than that of his sources. “There was some talk about Ms Summers’ return, idle chatter. The demon folk in this town are curious, I was curious, and after a couple drinks lips start loosening, you know what I’m saying?”
When Spike’s jaw ticked with barely restrained anger Willy figured he’d best get to the point. “Now, at first I assumed it was all talk but when the same words come from several mouths it lends an air of truth about it. Interest is high when it comes to your slayer, and let’s just say curiosity has claimed the lives of several cats in this town since the whispers began.”
Now that was unexpected. Spike had assumed news of Buffy’s return would get around; Willy was right when he’d said the slayer was a talking point in this town—always had been.
“Someone doesn’t want word getting around,” Spike observed.
Willy nodded. “Someone that eager to make sure word doesn’t travel, makes a person think perhaps they’ll be rectifying her presence.”
Spike had come to the same conclusion, and once more his fury ignited. With deliberate calmness he squeezed the bartender’s neck, as if to remind the man just how easily he could rectify his presence, before releasing him completely.
Willy immediately put as much distance between them as possible, knowing that Spike was not finished with him yet.
“Now for the million dollar question Willy, and don’t make me remind you of the consequences of an incorrect response,” Spike said slowly.
The vampire’s voice was deceptively calm, and as far as Willy was concerned that was just as terrifying—if not more so—than outright rage. He had an inkling of the direction Spike’s questioning would take, could practically see the wheels turning in his head, and as much as Spike terrified the life right out of him the consequences of squealing on those in power was far more threatening to his wellbeing—and that was saying something.
“I haven’t seen her,” he confessed honestly. “But if I hear or see any trace of her you’re the first—only,” he corrected, “pers—vampire I’ll tell. Scout’s honour.”
He saluted weakly, shrinking beneath the vampire’s displeased stare. Obviously from Spike’s expression his answer to the unspoken question didn’t satisfy. So to say it was a surprise when the vampire turned and stalked away from him was an understatement.
For a moment Willy considered keeping his mouth shut and thanking his lucky stars Spike had grown bored with tormenting him, then thought better of it.
“Hey, Spike,” he called out, moving from behind the bar in a gesture of goodwill.
Spike stopped, turning slowly to look over his shoulder.
“Say hello for me to the regulars at ‘The Reliquary’ when you stop by. I’m sure you’ll find the establishment...” he paused, searching for the appropriate word before continuing, “enlightening.”
With a nod of understanding Spike left.
A sigh of relief passed Willy’s lips. He’d pointed Spike in the direction of the answers he wanted, but if questioned by the up and ups he could pass it off as doing them a favour. He was certain Spike would be a welcome addition to the ranks of their ‘army’.
For a split-second Willy almost felt guilty about sending Spike off to what would either be certain death or the forcible removal of his free will, but it soon passed.
After all, this was a capitalistic society and he had his own interests to look out for. And those interests included his continued existence.
With a shrug he returned to the bar, retrieved the dishcloth from where it had fallen, and began wiping down the bench. Thanks to dwindling business, and the ruckus Spike’s interrogation had resulted, it was going to be a long night.
He just hoped he made enough to pay his weekly protection fee, any extra would be a bonus.