Notes: Just in under the wire is Chapter 2. See you in my LJ for the rest of the story! Oh, and just in case something is wrong, all my geographical info comes from Wikipedia. I've never been to Europe or the UK, so my apologies if there are glaring errors regarding my locales.
Summary: Spike just started his search for Buffy and is already running into some problems.
The muscles in his jaw were working over time as Spike ran into yet another brick wall while trying to scare up information on the Slayer. His sources had dried up (in some cases literally), died, or moved along, and he couldn’t get a bead on Buffy’s location. After a week of cooling his heels in Paris he decided that since he was just a Channel crossing away from England, he’d try to look up Giles and go from there.
It had been ridiculously easy to get Buffy back into the States. He mentioned trouble on the Hellmouth in Cleveland and she was ready and willing to jump back into the fray. He suspected there were still some unresolved issues between her and Faith, and any chance she could show up her rival would be appreciated. Now he needed to make sure there was a crisis to fix.
Giles unbuckled his seatbelt and watched Buffy and Dawn bicker good-naturedly while they retrieved their carry-ons from the overhead bins on the airplane. His heart sank when he realized he was probably going to break Buffy’s heart yet again. They’d managed to salvage a working relationship out of the ruins of Sunnydale, planning and starting up the Slayer Training Academy in London, but it was fragile and based upon honesty. And now, just months after Spike had sacrificed himself to save the world, he was back and already creating a pain in Giles’ cranium.
Angel hadn’t been very forthcoming, hinting only that Spike might be sans soul once again, and headed straight for Buffy. His poor girl had grieved for Spike, and was just now ready to live life again. As horrible as it made him feel, he wanted to keep her away from Spike until they knew his motives and status. She didn’t need the emotional turbulence that Spike would bring into her life right now. So he had reluctantly agreed to Angel’s plan and hoped that his instincts were correct this time.
All it took to get Giles’ address was a few nights hanging in the local pub. He found one that seemed to cater to the spectacles and tweed crowd, stayed quiet the first few visits, made some discreet inquiries the next, and here he was, standing on the Watcher’s doorstep.
A uniformed maid answered the door. She was obviously briefed in the basics of anti-demon safety as she never stepped over the threshold and never invited him in. When she explained that Mr. Giles was not at home, Spike turned up the charm.
“I knew him back in Sunnydale, you know.”
“Sunnydale!” she gasped, a hand flying to her heart. “Am I to assume you evacuated before it collapsed?”
“I made it out in the nick of time, but Rupert doesn’t know that. I was finally able to make it back here and thought we could catch up over a pint.”
“I’m so sorry, sir, but he was called out of town on business. I can take a message though, and see that he gets it.”
He put on his best pout, and he had a lot of them. “I guess that means Buffy and Dawn aren’t around either.”
“The girls? You know them?”
“They mean everything to me. The summer Buffy was gone, you know about that?” She nodded, her face filled with sympathy. “I took care of Dawn. She’s always been like a little sister to me. And Buffy…she’s the one. You know?”
The maid nodded again, a shy smile on her face. This young man must have been one of Mr. Giles’ “children” that he spoke so highly of. He had not been forthcoming about the losses they sustained in Sunnydale, but it was not unusual for him to be reserved. She knew the battle had taken an emotional toll on her employer and was betting that seeing this fellow would ease his sadness a bit. “That’s where he’s at now, in Rome. With Buffy and Dawn. I bet you could surprise them there.”
“Splendid!” he crowed, trying to stay in character. “Would you happen to have their address and phone?”
Sensing that she had nothing to fear from this man, she invited him in while she fetched the information he sought. He was so charming and handsome, especially when he kissed her knuckles as he left, that she just knew she was doing the right thing, helping him find his girls and advancing the spirit of true love.
Spike returned to London to turn in his hired car and splurged on a Eurostar train ticket. As he was waiting at Waterloo Station he heard a voice from his past, one that was not particularly pleasant.
“William the Bloody,” the old vampire hissed. “It’s been a long time.”
“Not long enough,” Spike muttered.
“What brings you back to the Mother country? Last I heard you were running from a mob in Prague and ended up on the Hellmouth in California.”
“Sounds about right.” Needing a distraction, he patted himself down for a cigarette, lit it, and waved it about, trying not to suck it in his lungs. The old master was fronting several minions and looking to play King of the Mountain. He just wanted to get on his damn train and didn’t care about these tossers. “But don’t get your knickers in a twist, Hedrick. I’m just passing through, and I’m not looking for trouble.”
“I just want to catch up, William. What’s the harm in that?”
Spike had trouble ignoring that loaded question, so he gritted his teeth and flicked his cigarette to the ground. “Fine,” he ground out through clenched teeth. “What do you want to know?”
“I wonder if your trip to the Hellmouth all those years ago was fruitful. Did you accomplish what you set out to do?”
“To cure Drusilla you mean?” The other vampire nodded. “Yeah, mate. She’s back to her old self.”
“And just where is the lovely yet deadly Drusilla tonight?”
“Wouldn’t know. We parted ways some years back.”
“Do tell! You two were inseparable! One might actually believe the rumors that you left her for a slayer.”
“You heard wrong, then.”
“So, you didn’t take up with the Slayer, William?”
“Right.” He shifted, his posture becoming defensive. “What’s this all about? You fishin’ for something in particular or are you just nosy?”
“What I want, William, is for you to remember that I am the Master of London and as such you will accord me with the respect due my station. As a matter of fact, I have heard many things about you in the past few years and I am merely curious.”
Spike couldn’t hold back any longer and burst. “About what? You’re curious about Dru? You can have her, for all I care. She’s a bit flighty, though, and seems to be going for the gross-out factor these days. Chaos and Fungus demons, that sort of thing. So I stayed on in Sunnyhell, trying to bag my third slayer, only this one bagged me. Then I saved the world, did you hear about that one? Went up in flames, only to be dragged back, because someone who’s not playing with a full hand is dealing the cards, you know, and no one who truly deserves it gets to die anymore.”
“Maybe I am curious about how your presence coincides with the abundance of abnormally strong teenaged girls who have been patrolling our streets lately.”
“Mini-slayers? They’re here?”
“That knowledge comes with a price William.”
If there were slayers here, Buffy might be nearby, or someone else he knew. So clenching his fists, he asked, “What’s the price, Hedrick?”
“I only ask for your loyalty. Pledge it to me, and I will share what I know.”
“Fine. I pledge my fealty to you, Sir Rodney Hedrick, Master of London.”
“Good to see you remember your manners, William.”
“Had ‘em bloody well beaten into me, didn’t I?” Spike replied. “Now what do you know about slayers?”
“They’re depleting my numbers, for one. Roving gangs of girls staking all my minions. They are usually with a Watcher or older girl who teaches their killing ways. It’s simply dreadful, I tell you.”
“Have you done any recon on the girls, see where they’re coming from or rot like that?”
“We have, and the Slayer you seek is not among them anymore.”
This guy knew way too much for his comfort. “What do you know about that?”
“The fair Buffy Summers is a legend far and wide. She has seduced not one, but two of the great Aurelian vampires, and in addition is the greatest Slayer that ever fought our kind. Now, since you have pledged your loyalty to me, I wonder how you will reconcile that with the presence of your soul, and your desire to find Miss Summers.”
Fuck. Spike smelled set-up, and might have realized it too late. He focused his senses, trying to find something that would give him an advantage. When he heard a minute change in the sound of the train’s engine, he acted.
Summoning all the rage he felt at his helplessness and the obvious anger at whoever was feeding information to Hedrick, he flew into a berserker rage and ripped the head off the London master before he knew what he was doing. Finding himself surrounded by howling minions, he set about dusting as many as he could. There was some confusion when the elder vampires realized they now had a shot at becoming the Master, and they set upon themselves.
Spike heard the train preparing to leave the station and with a great leap, he cleared the melee and landed atop the train. He lay panting on the roof for a few moments before finding a hatch and lowering himself into what appeared to be the luggage compartment. Brilliant stroke of luck, that was. He settled into a pile of comfortable looking garment bags and let the soothing motions of the train lull him into slumber, leaving London’s problems in London. He knew if he came back there’d be a price on his head, but he didn’t plan on coming back for a long time. His last thought before falling into a restless slumber was whether Angel had been the one to sic Hedrick on him. If he was, things just went from bad to worse.