Part III: Lyon, France
Spike was ravenous; it had been four days since he’d had anything to eat, and he would need to grab something soon. He couldn’t help but replay the previous evening’s events over and over in his mind; the Slayer could have easily been killed, and then what would he have told Giles?
That reminded him that they still hadn’t contacted the Watcher, and they owed him a phone call at the very least. Spike’s immediate thought had been to get to a secure place and then decide what their next step ought to be. Buffy had followed him willingly up to the point where he’d suggested that they catch the next flight back to Sunnydale.
“No, Spike,” she’d said stubbornly. “I want to know why it was so important to the Council that I not get that information.”
“You don’t know that it was the Council,” Spike had argued. “Could’ve been some maniacs with guns. There’s plenty of them around.”
“Miles wanted me to have this,” she’d said, holding up the leather case. “I need to know why. He died to make sure I got it.”
Spike had sighed and agreed; it did seem a bit odd that a gunman would come out of nowhere to shoot what appeared to be an innocent man. At the same time, they didn’t know anything about this Miles character, other than the fact that he was one of Giles’ old friends.
People changed, though, and Miles might have been no different.
Buffy still lay sleeping, oblivious to the fact that it was approaching late afternoon. Once they had retrieved their things from the hotel room, Spike had kept them moving, either walking or taking the Tube for fear someone might be tracing their movements. It had only been when he was certain that no one was following them that he had checked them into a rundown inn that had been around the last time he was in London, nearly twenty years before.
Judging from the ancient, threadbare furniture, and the old fashioned wallpaper and shag carpet, there weren’t a lot of people aware of its existence these days.
She began to stir, waking slowly. “Spike?”
“Here, Slayer,” he said from his position near the window.
Buffy sat up. “What time is it?”
“Late afternoon. Just waiting for the sun to go down now.”
“Where are we going next?” she asked. “We can’t stay here forever.”
Spike shrugged. “That would be up to you, wouldn’t it? Have to see what that prat left you.”
“Don’t call him that,” she ordered. “It’s not nice, and he’s dead.”
Spike snarled. “I’ll talk about him any way I like, considering that he nearly got you killed. If Rupert had gone, those gunmen would have been after him, too. You thought about that yet?”
Judging from the expression on her face, Buffy hadn’t given that idea much consideration. “You’re going to need to eat soon,” she observed, changing the subject.
Spike nodded. “Yeah, I will. Have to find a butcher’s later.”
“So what are we going to do?”
He motioned towards the leather case sitting on the battered table next to the bed—the only one in the room. Spike had resisted the lure of sleep for just that reason; he had a feeling that Buffy might not react too kindly to his suggestion that they share, and one of them needed to keep an eye out for trouble. “Let’s see what he gave you, yeah?”
Buffy tossed the covers off, revealing her fully-clad form. Spike had warned her not to change, in case they had to leave quickly. In Spike’s experience, they wouldn’t have the time to spare to get dressed if someone located them.
She unzipped the leather case, revealing several pieces of old parchment paper, yellowed and crumbling at the edges, as well as a pad of paper, covered with scribbled notes. Making a face, Buffy picked up one of the loose pages carefully. “It’s not in English.”
“Give it here,” Spike said.
Buffy gave him a dirty look. “No.”
“Let me see it,” he said, growing frustrated.
“Why?” Buffy said. “You said that you wanted to go back to Sunnydale.”
“I said that we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into,” Spike shot back. “If I don’t bring you back in one piece, your Watcher will stake me. We don’t know what that git wanted.”
“Stop calling him names!” Buffy said, rising to stand toe-to-toe with him. “He was Giles’ friend, and now he’s dead!”
Spike seized her by the arms. “And it’s not your bloody fault!”
Buffy twisted free of his grip. “Shut up, Spike.”
“It’s not,” he insisted, recognizing that he’d managed to hit the nail on the head. “The Council wankers were likely the ones behind this, and you can’t take credit for their idiocy.”
“He was Giles’ friend,” Buffy objected weakly. “I was—”
“And he knew what he was doing was dangerous. Let the blame rest where it should; we need to focus on getting out of this with our skins intact,” Spike insisted.
Buffy glared at him. “You’re really sick, you know that? You don’t care at all that someone died last night, do you?”
“Long as it wasn’t me or you, Summers, I don’t give a rat’s ass.”
Buffy scowled. “Fine.”
Spike moved to pick up one of the older pieces of parchment. “It’s in Latin.”
“The language is Latin,” Spike replied. “Go call your Watcher and get cleaned up. I’ll look it over and see what I can do with it.”
“You know Latin?” Buffy asked incredulously.
“Used to,” Spike said in as repressive a tone as possible. He didn’t want to deal with her questions.
Buffy gave him a sharp look. “And you can read it now?”
“If I can’t, we’re buggered,” Spike replied, sitting down to work, deciding to completely ignore the Slayer for the time being.
The conversation with Giles went about as well as Buffy had expected; her Watcher got very quiet, and then asked after her well-being. “I’m fine,” she replied. “We’re working on figuring out what the Council didn’t want me to know.”
“Perhaps you’d better come home, Buffy,” Giles suggested. “This may just be a wild goose chase.”
“Would someone have killed him over a wild good chase, Giles?” she asked impatiently. “He wanted me to find this; it was important to him. I got him killed, and—”
“You were not responsible for his death,” Giles said sharply. “You can’t blame yourself for the actions of others.”
“Let me talk to Spike,” he said.
Buffy sighed and handed the phone to the vampire. “Here.”
She listened to Spike’s side of the conversation for a few moments, then went to take a shower, since the vampire’s responses were monosyllabic and told her nothing. The bathroom was at the end of the hallway, shared with the rest of the floor, which Buffy found strange. Spike had informed her that their floor was relatively unoccupied, so that was something.
By the time she got back to their room, Spike was off the phone, looking at the notes and the old documents.
“What did he say?”
“Said to be careful and to keep in touch,” Spike said.
When he didn’t continue, Buffy plopped down in the sole chair in the room. “How long are we staying here?”
“We leave tonight,” Spike said. “Next stop looks like it’s going to be Lyon.”
Buffy frowned. The name sounded familiar, but she wasn’t sure why. “Where’s that?”
“France, near the middle,” Spike replied. “According to this, the Watcher’s Council used to be centered there back in the Middle Ages. They hid some important documents in an old abbey.”
“And that’s what the Council doesn’t want me to know about?” Buffy asked.
Spike shrugged. “S’pose so. Hard to say without finding the documents themselves. ‘ve been there a couple of times, and it’s a nice city. Plenty of tourists to snack on when I was there with Dru.”
Buffy raised an eyebrow. “You won’t be snacking on tourists this time.”
“Hardly,” Spike said, catching her eye. “Besides, that’s not the point of this little jaunt, is it?”
“No.” Buffy hesitated. “Can we do this, Spike?”
He met her eyes. “What do you mean?”
“Can we do this without either of us being killed?”
“Dunno, but I reckon we’ve got a fighting chance,” he replied, without providing much reassurance. “We’d best get ready to go. I’ll need to make a stop at a bar I know of, and then we’ve got a long trip ahead of us.”
Lyon was pretty much as Spike remembered it—a city redolent with history, the way that so few American cities were. He could smell the age in the stones that lined the streets, the way he could in London, depending on the location.
It was no wonder that older vampires tended to flock to Europe; it felt more comfortable.
Of course, Spike had always been one to change with the times—to a certain extent, anyway; he embraced change, but only when it suited him to do so.
The chip had been a different story, of course, although Spike had managed to roll with that punch. The Initiative had meant to de-fang him, but all they’d managed to do was to redirect his energies to something a bit different.
They had not destroyed him, not by a long shot.
After a quick stop at a demon bar that carried blood, Spike had purchased tickets for the both of them. They’d taken the Chunnel from London to Paris, then the train to Lyon. According to the papers that Miles had given Buffy, one of the old monasteries in the area had housed a sect dedicated to the hunting and destruction of demons.
The very idea made the hairs on the back of Spike’s neck stand up, but that’s where the information was leading them, therefore, that’s where they were going.
“Room for two, please,” Spike said in French, leaning up against the counter of the hotel. It was near the Basilique de Saint-Jean, which was supposedly where these important papers were kept.
The girl behind the counter smiled at him. “You are on your honeymoon?”
Spike started to deny it, and then he gave her a winning smile. “That’s right. What gave it away?”
Her smile grew smug. “You are very tired, no?”
Spike shrugged. “You know how it goes.” He paid for two nights, frowning at the dwindling bills. If they didn’t get some answers soon, it was entirely possible that they might run out of money, which could get—interesting.
“Let’s go, luv,” he said in a low voice when it appeared that Buffy wasn’t paying much attention; neither of them had gotten much sleep over the last two days, and the dark circles under the Slayer’s eyes were proof.
“Two beds or one?” she asked, sounding rather resigned to her fate, whatever it happened to be. Spike thought that the last couple of days had shown her that there were worse things in the world than sharing a bed with him.
“One. Have to save money where we can.”
“I’ve got some that Giles gave me,” Buffy replied.
“We’ll dig into that when we need it,” Spike assured her. “We don’t know how long this is going to take.”
Buffy followed him into their room, letting her suitcase drop with a thump at the foot of the bed. “I think we should go to the abbey tomorrow night. I know I’m too tired to do much tonight.”
“It’ll be closed,” he warned her. “We’ll have to break in you know.”
She shrugged. “Then we have to break in. If they’re hiding information on Slayers that I can use, I’m not going to feel all that bad.” Buffy gave him a sympathetic look. “I’ll see if I can’t find a butcher’s shop tomorrow afternoon. I know you’ve got to be hungry.”
Spike shrugged. “A bit. Think I’ll live, though—in a manner of speaking.”
Their eyes met, and Buffy nodded. “I’m going to change.”
Spike sank down on the bed and began unlacing his boots. He could go without sleep for a long time, but the last few days had done him in. He rose wearily and wedged an ancient, wooden chair under the doorknob. It wouldn’t hold for long if someone tried to break in, but at least the noise was sure to wake him.
He turned to see Buffy coming out of the bathroom, her face scrubbed free of makeup, dressed in a tank-top and shorts. Spike hesitated, then asked, “Shouldn’t you wear something a bit more substantial? If we have to make a run for it…”
“I can fight in this,” Buffy said practically. “Besides, it’s hot, and there’s no air conditioning in here.”
Spike shrugged. He hadn’t paid much attention to the temperature, but Buffy would know. “Yeah, fine.” Lying down on the bed, he couldn’t quite believe it when Buffy flipped off the light and gingerly settled down next to him.
“Thanks for doing this.”
He blinked in the darkness, glancing over at her in surprise. Spike could just make out her features in the dim light. “What’s that?”
“You didn’t have to do this,” Buffy said. “I know Giles asked you to come with me, but this could just be some wild goose chase. We don’t even know what we’re looking for, just that the Council doesn’t want me to have it.”
“That’s enough for me,” Spike said. “Never did like those wankers anyway.”
He could feel her shift next to him. “You want to tell me the real reason you’re doing this?”
Spike sighed. He still didn’t have an answer to that question. “It’s a bit of a lark, innit?”
Buffy let out an annoyed breath of air. “You know I don’t understand you when you use all those British words, right?”
Spike’s lips quirked into a smile he knew she couldn’t see. “Don’t go getting all shirty with me, Slayer.” He was unsurprised when she thumped him on the chest, although not quite hard enough to hurt. Spike chuckled. “Just meant that it could be fun, an’ it’s certainly better than stayin’ in Sunnyhell all summer.”
“I guess so.”
“Something on your mind?”
Spike waited, knowing that she had more to say. It was obvious that Buffy wasn’t quite ready to go to sleep yet. “Just spit it out, Summers.”
“It’s nothing. Just—do you ever think about the spell?”
Spike didn’t have to ask her which spell she was referring to. “On occasion,” he admitted cautiously. “Why?”
“No reason,” Buffy said, her voice carefully even. Spike could hear the jump in her heartbeat. “It’s just, you know, I think about it sometimes, too, and I wondered if I was the only one.”
“You aren’t the only one,” Spike said. “Now go to sleep, Buffy.”
Amazingly enough, she actually did as she was told for once.
Buffy awoke with an arm around her waist. It was a different feeling, considering that the body behind her was lean and cool, rather than bulky and warm. Although, the cooler temperature was much appreciated in the sticky heat of the room. For a moment, Buffy allowed herself to relish the feeling that came with waking up in someone’s arms, and then she extricated herself carefully, not wanting to wake him.
She decided not to give Spike a hard time about it; after all, his hand hadn’t been in an inappropriate place, and he wasn’t responsible for what he did while he slept.
And, yes, Buffy did know just how much things had changed in a short period of time.
She took her clothing into the bathroom to dress, grateful that it was en suite, rather than one shared with other guests. Scribbling a quick note for Spike, Buffy went downstairs, smiling at the clerk working the front desk. “Hi! I was wondering if there was a butcher’s shop nearby?”
The man gave her a skeptical look. “A butcher’s shop?” he asked in heavily accented English.
Buffy knew how it sounded, but Spike needed blood, and they wouldn’t have time to get it later. Breaking into an abbey was going to require him to be in tip-top shape. “Oh, you know, I work at my dad’s butcher shop back home,” Buffy said. “I just like to see how people do things differently. Professional curiosity.”
She was praying that he’d buy the lie, and that her face didn’t give her away. She’d rehearsed of the story ahead of time, though, knowing that they would probably have to ask for directions, and knowing that they had no reason to visit a butcher’s shop when they had no access to a kitchen.
The man was still giving her a bemused look, but Buffy pasted on her best “dumb blonde” smile and hoped for the best. He finally nodded, writing down the directions—in English, thank goodness. Buffy wished she’d paid more attention in her French classes in college now, but she hadn’t thought she would ever be in France. The chance that her Slayer duties would ever allow her to leave the Hellmouth had seemed too remote.
The directions were clear enough, and they led her right past a patisserie that had an incredible array of goodies in the window. Buffy bought several pastries, as well as one of the ubiquitous baguettes, and then stopped at the charcuterie next door for cheese and pâté on the nice clerk’s suggestion. “You need meat on your bones,” the lady had said with a smile. From there, it was a quick walk to the butcher’s, and Buffy found herself moving at a fast clip, wanting to eat and knowing that Spike would be wondering where she was.
By the time she got back to the hotel, Buffy was hot, as well as starving. She was grateful that the butcher hadn’t given her any grief, and that his really cute son spoke good enough English that she could get her request across.
Spike didn’t look terribly happy when she let herself into the room. “Where have you been?” he demanded.
“I left you a note,” Buffy said, handing him the sack with the containers of blood. “And I got your blood.”
“What if someone saw you?” Spike asked irritably. “Not like I can save your arse doing daylight hours.”
“I can take care of myself,” Buffy replied pertly. “Besides, I was hungry.” She opened her own bag and took out the large Danish she’d purchased. She had no idea what the filling was, but it looked amazing.
Spike had already cracked open one container, and was beginning to drink. “Someone still could have seen you. What if they followed you back here? Not like I can run anywhere. And what kind of blood is this?”
“I made sure I wasn’t followed,” Buffy retorted. “Have you seen how many tourists are in this city? I’m just one among many. And it’s cow.”
“Huh.” Spike finished off the container. “Hell of a lot better than pig.”
Buffy watched as he pulled the second container out of the sack. “Hungry?”
“Won’t be after this,” Spike replied. He paused before opening the next one, glancing up at her, his expression almost shy. “Thanks.”
She smiled. “No problem. It was part of the deal, right?”
“Something like that.”
They ate their respective dinners in companionable silence after that.
“So where is this thing supposed to be?” Buffy whispered.
Spike shook his head. “Dunno, exactly. Your friend seemed to think it was supposed to be under the altar. Hard to imagine, though, because this place has been restored, so not all of it’s original.”
Buffy frowned; she didn’t like the sound of that. “So, what? We tap on the floor until we find a hollow space?”
He gave her a dirty look. “We’ve got some vague directions. I’m just sayin’ that it might not be all that easy, considering.”
“Considerin’ that this place has been around for over a thousand years, an’ there’s no telling whether what we’re looking for has been found or not,” Spike shot back.
“Miles thought it was there,” Buffy protested. “The Council must, too, since they’re so hell-bent on killing us.”
Spike shrugged. “An’ they could all be idiots who don’t know what’s really there. No way to find out without taking a look ourselves.” He heard Buffy sigh in the darkness next to him, and Spike cursed himself for a fool. Here he’d been straining to translate that sodding text for the last two days, every free moment he got, and she was giving him hell for not knowing whether they would find what it was they were looking for.
See if he ever did anything nice for her again.
“Where exactly are we headed?” Buffy finally asked.
“Inside, under the altar,” Spike replied, his tone sharp. “Buried with the bones of the saints.”
He could see her glare, but she didn’t respond to his irritation. “What are we waiting for, then?”
He’d been trying to get the lay of the land, and attempting to make sure that they wouldn’t be caught. “Nothing. Let’s go.”
Spike led the way to the small, ancient building. The original structure had been built to survive raids by foreign invaders, and it had managed to remain standing through two world wars and the German occupation. Breaking in was not an easy task, but he managed; Spike had worked his way into a number of other, better guarded buildings after all.
Spike managed to get the back door open, looking around for any sign that the building was wired with an alarm. There was nothing immediately obvious, and so he led the way to the altar, below which the bones of saints were said to be buried.
He didn’t believe that for a moment, as nearly every religious structure built in the Middle Ages maintained a similar claim. It was hard to believe that every ancient relic was what people claimed it to be.
According to the documents that Miles had given Buffy, that was where the information was kept that no one wanted the Slayer to have. Whether the other claims were legit or not, Spike couldn’t believe that he was willingly going into a chapel, full of crosses and holy water.
He was beginning to seriously question his sanity.
Between he and Buffy, the altar was soon shifted to one side, and they both began to feel along the floor for any chink that they might use to get underneath the large flagstones; he thought that with both of them, they might manage to shift one if necessary. Suddenly, the whole floor began to move, and Spike scrambled out of the way to avoid tumbling into the hole that appeared.
Buffy looked at him with wide eyes. “Was that supposed to happen?”
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Spike replied. Lying on his stomach on the floor, Spike felt around inside the hole; it was only about three feet square, but it felt as though it was only a couple of feet deep, which was exactly what he told Buffy.
“I’ll look,” she said. “Keep an eye out.” Buffy lowered herself into the hole carefully, and Spike kept one eye on her and one on the door.
He was beginning to get a little nervous; it was about time that something went wrong, considering their luck. “Better hurry, luv.”
“I’m hurrying,” she said irritably.
Spike heard a noise, and his head snapped around. He heard the quiet popping sound of a silenced pistol just before he felt the sting of the bullet; the pain blossomed in his back, causing him to bite back a curse. “Buffy, they’re shooting at us,” he hissed, dropping flat, hearing the whistle of the bullets over his head. “Move it!”
“Found it!” she exclaimed, handing something to him.
Spike took it, feeling the polished wood of some kind of lacquered box. Buffy lifted herself up out of the hole, staying close to the floor of the church. “We can’t go out the way we came in,” he said.
Buffy frowned into the darkness. “I know. We’re going to have to go through the window.”
The nearest window was the one behind the altar, and it was just narrow enough to cause him to pause. Spike could hear at least two other heartbeats, and while the gunfire had stopped for the moment, they would be presenting the unknown gunmen with a clear shot unless they could get through the window without stopping.
That was unlikely, given its size, and while the bullet wound he already had hurt like hell, it wasn’t fatal—not the way it might be for Buffy. They would have to do this another way.
Spike shook his head. “I’m going through the window; you’re going out the way we came in.”
Buffy frowned. “What? Spike—”
“I go through the window, and their attention is going to be on me, not you.” Spike jerked his head. “Go on, get out of here. I’ll meet you back at the hotel.”
He thought that she was going to argue with him, but instead she closed her mouth with a snap and merely nodded, taking the box that he handed back to her. “What about the hole?”
“Leave it,” Spike said. “We got what we came for.”
Buffy appeared torn, but she nodded. “Be careful.”
“Yeah, you too.” Spike watched as Buffy used the lectern for shelter, then dodged to the first row of pews. He didn’t hear any shots being fired, which suggested that they hadn’t seen Buffy’s quick dash to safety.
He shifted into game face, and stood deliberately. “You want a fight?” he called out. “You’ll have to catch me first!”
The first few shots missed him as he dodged the few steps to the back of the building, leaping up to the narrow ledge just below the window. Spike felt a bullet strike his left thigh, and then his right side, before he broke through the stained glass to land on the ground below, rolling to take some of the impact from his injured leg.
He spared a moment to wonder if the Slayer had made it out okay, then decided that there was nothing he could do about it at the moment. Spike would just have to hope that she had.
Buffy had found it remarkably easy to slip out the back door while all eyes were focused on the vampire silhouetted against the window. She moved as silently as possible, not wanting to alert the gunmen to her presence, knowing that Spike was trying to make sure that she didn’t get killed.
She wasn’t sure that she wanted to examine his motives for that too closely.
Buffy would have tried to take a different route back to the hotel; if she’d been at home, she could have taken as many twists and turns as were necessary to throw off any pursuers. In a strange town, in a strange country, that didn’t seem like such a great idea.
Instead, she made bee-line for their hotel, then ducked down the street just before she reached their corner, hiding in a handy alleyway.
She heard footfalls approaching, and Buffy pressed herself against the wall, holding her breath to keep from making a sound.
The curses that she heard had her smiling smugly. Whoever or whatever was following her had apparently lost her trail, and Buffy waited a few more minutes to be sure that they weren’t standing outside the alley waiting for her to emerge. She didn’t want to risk a confrontation, not when they had guns and she had only a stake.
Buffy didn’t hesitate to go around to the back of their hotel, easily spotting the window to their room. She had been sure to leave it unlocked before they left that night, just in case, and now she climbed up the drain pipe, praying that it was sturdier than it looked.
Although it creaked under her weight, Buffy kept going until she was in reach of the decorative ironwork just outside their window. From there, it was a piece of cake to get inside the room.
Spike was nowhere to be seen, but Buffy didn’t hesitate to start packing their things, knowing that they would have to leave immediately upon his return. She placed the box inside her own suitcase, cushioning it with layers of clothing.
Buffy heard the sound of a rock against the windowpane, and she approached it cautiously, peering down into the tiny courtyard. Spike stood there, his arm raised to throw another pebble. “What are you doing?” she called softly, knowing that he would be able to hear her.
“Toss down our stuff,” he replied.
Buffy didn’t question his order, knowing by now that Spike probably had a good reason. If he didn’t, she could always kick his ass later. She sent down his duffel bag first, and then her suitcase. She followed both a moment later, landing lightly on her feet. “What’s up?” she whispered.
“Watchers out front,” Spike said. “We’re going to have to find a place to lie low for a day or two.”
Buffy frowned, concerned. “Are you okay? They didn’t shoot you, did they?”
“You’ll have to dig out the bullets,” Spike said by way of reply. “Got a place in mind, but it’s not in the best area of town.”
“That’s fine,” Buffy said. “I don’t think we can afford to be real choosy right now.”
He nodded. “Let’s go.”
Buffy followed him out of the courtyard, both of them moving as silently as possible through alleys that Spike seemed completely familiar with. Buffy was glad that Spike, at least, knew where he was going, because she wouldn’t have had the first clue.
While this wasn’t quite the European vacation she was hoping for, Buffy didn’t think she could have had a better guide. It seemed that Giles had known what he was doing after all.