Against Your Will
Cryssie, Hoyland54, Miz Thang, Pygmie & Wadjet
The smell of burning incense was filling the dim room. Only the trembling
flames of several candles, precisely arranged in a circle on the floor
in the middle of the room, provided some weak light. The red-haired girl
was sitting cross-legged in the circle, eyes closed, murmuring words of
an ancient spell. A chilly draft swept through the room, making the flames
Her head fell back as the trance became more intense. She let herself
be taken over by the power of magic, feeling her strength slowly fading
away. That was the usual effect of this cleansing ritual, which Willow
had performed day by day since learning about Kennedy's illness.
But this time something was different. She couldn't tell what, but it
felt like a higher power attempted to take control of her mind. Her vision
blurred, and then all she could see was an almost blinding flash. She
flinched. A moment later, like thick fog vanishing when the sun starts
to shine, her vision cleared, and she saw a huge, modern building.
She couldn't make out the sign above the entrance, but according to the
exterior design and the men in dark suits entering inside, she suspected
it was some kind of headquarters or office for people in authoritative
positions. Her eyes focused on a certain office inside, revealing some
furry, muscular, snarling animals. Willow immediately recognized the monsters;
she had already seen some of that kind.
Her heart sank for a moment, remembering someone she used to know. But
before she could ponder her past, the vision moved on in the opposite
direction, just to reveal the next possible victim of these monsters.
Blood almost froze in her veins at the sight. Having recognized the young
guy, her eyes widened in terror. She wanted to scream, but no sound came
out of her throat. Her body shook, and she collapsed onto the floor as
the vision suddenly broke off. After a long minute, still a bit dizzy,
she propped herself on her elbows and looked around.
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Some of the candles went out, however the air in the room
was completely still. Breath ragged from anxiety, Willow wondered what
had happened. A post-magic vision, she noted, astonished. She had
never experienced anything like this before, but she remembered having
read about the topic in some of Giles' books. According to her memories,
the books said that post-magic visions often predicted future events.
And then that would mean....
Not caring about the exhaustion she was feeling, she jumped up from the
floor and breathlessly ran out of the room.
Spike leaned against the door of the Land Cruiser, with his back to the
gas station, and stretched his muscles. They were on their way to Indianapolis,
the destination for the next assignment, when Mena started complaining
about needing to use the restroom, so they agreed to stop at the next
diner, gas station or roadside rest stop that would suit their purpose.
The winner happened to be a gas station near a highway junction. Mena
jumped out at once and ran into the ladies' restroom. Figuring his Slayer
would be occupied for a while, Xander decided to go inside and buy a packet
of bubble gum and some cold beverages.
So Spike was briefly left alone. Not that he minded. The time they had
spent together since meeting in Gilroy was already more constant than
he would have liked. He had always enjoyed spending some time by himself.
Even when he had been human. Although he had attended many social functions
in his mortal life, he had always felt like an awkward outsider. It was
a strange dichotomy; on the one hand, he liked certain people and yearned
for their respect and friendship, but on the other hand, he often felt
more comfortable when he was alone.
After Drusilla sired him, he became the youngest member of the vampire
family led by the very dominant Angelus. William the Bloody struggled
to find his own place in that "family" but was only happy and
at ease during the occasional nights when Angelus chose to be magnanimous
and accepting. They shared some good times together, but as years
went by, William began to rebel more and more often and developed his
new persona as Spike.
Truth be told, he was more happy than disappointed when Angelus left
them. Not much later, he and Dru were on their own, since the domineering
and condescending Darla had never really enjoyed his company and often
lost patience with Dru. And as much as he loved Dru, there were even times
when her company grew tiring, and he enjoyed the occasional night out
on his own. That part of his nature remained true to this day. Although
he sometimes yearned for friendship, he also appreciated time to himself.
And it was important to him for any friendship to feel true and be freely
Although he had helped out the Scoobies (and, by the way, what self-respecting
group of people would refer to themselves that way?) for a few years,
he had never really been one of them. He knew that all too well. However,
after a relatively short while in L.A., he had become a real member
of Angel's team. Unfortunately, that hadn't lasted long. He wasn't sure
how long this temporary, new team was going to work together either.
Although it kind of felt good to be part of a team again, Harris and
Mena hadn't actually chosen to hook up with him. They had been forced
into it. So even though they seemed to be getting along fairly well, it
wasn't a true team, was it? For that matter, Angel's team hadn't really
chosen him either. Things just sort of developed into him being one of
them. Maybe this temporary arrangement could develop into something longer
and more solid, too? He reckoned he might be able to handle that, as long
as they allowed him some time on his own.
That alone time was necessary because he still didn't consider himself
a social person. He had always stubbornly insisted on having his own way,
and he didn't see that changing much anytime soon. His stubbornness had
been too much a part of him for too many years. And Harris was even more
stubborn than he was. Mena showed moments of willful obstinacy, too. On
second thought, this team was doomed to fail. Well, he'd just stick it
out as long as he could then. At any rate, he found this moment of blessed
solitude quite refreshing.
Taking an enjoyable, albeit unnecessary breath of the fresh evening air,
he just stood there, looking up at the dark-blue sky, searching the bright
stars as if they held some sort of answer to all his hopes and dreams.
In the old days, he would have enjoyed this moment even more with a cigarette,
but he didn't smoke regularly anymore. Sometimes he missed it, but resisting
the temptation wasn't really as hard as he had thought it would be. And
it seemed to matter so much to the humans he'd spent time with the last
couple of years.
Gazing up at the sparkling stars brought back nostalgic memories of Sunnydale.
He remembered his patrols with Buffy, hanging out at The Magic Box and
The Bronze with its Spicy Wings and Onion Blossoms. Good, old Sunnydale,
he sighed, smiling wistfully. Hard to believe it doesn't exist anymore.
Lost in his thoughts, he almost jumped at the sudden ringing of his phone.
"Bloody hell," he gasped, as he fumbled in his
jacket pocket to retrieve it. Pushing the "yes" button, he answered
"Hello, Spike. It's Buffy."
Spike caught his breath as he heard the well-known voice on the other
end of the line.
"Hi, pet. What's up?"
"Nothing good, sorry to say."
"Buffy, what's wrong? Are you all right?"
Spike's voice immediately had filled with fear. His first thought was
that she might have been hurt or that the Senior Partners had caught up
to her. He feared the worst and cursed himself for not being there, taking
care of her and the others. He could never forgive himself if the Senior
Partners took their wrath out on her and the Bit instead of him.
"I'm fine, Spike, don't worry," she assured him, smiling at
his very noticeable concern for her safety.
Spike expelled a deep sigh of relief. He liked using the simple gestures
and other bits of body language that humans used to express their emotions,
even when they involved things that vampires no longer required, like
"But that's not true for each member of our group," Buffy went
on sadly, glancing at a distraught Willow standing beside her.
"You're scaring me, love." Spike was getting worried again.
"The Nibblet? Or Andrew?"
His genuine concern for them touched her. Buffy knew Spike always had
cared about Dawn. The two of them had built up a special friendship during
those 147 days she had been dead. It was a relationship that Buffy many
times considered more of a secret alliance than a simple friendship. Buffy
had trusted Spike with Dawn's care, and he had never disappointed her.
She was glad that he and Dawn would now have a chance to rebuild that
And as for Andrew, Spike had easily accepted him as a member of the gang,
no matter how irritating the guy was at times. She knew Andrew was so
impressed with the vampire that he would be very touched to learn that
Spike was worried for him, too. Buffy couldn't help but smile slightly.
This Spike, worrying for anyone other than Dru and himself, was definitely
different than the one she first had met over six years ago.
"No, they are all right, too. Don't worry," she replied. "It's
Kennedy," she went on quietly, glancing at Willow, whose face flinched
in pain at the mention of the person she loved. "We're more than
a little anxious about her health. She's very seriously ill."
"Kennedy? Wait, pet, isn't she with Willow in...?" The realization
that Buffy had taken his advice and left Rome for Brazil, both surprised
and pleased him. That meant she trusted him.
"Yes, we're here in Brazil," Buffy smiled sheepishly. She knew
he would be delighted that she had done what he had asked of her.
Spike smiled, too. Buffy wasn't someone who usually took the advice of
others; she always had such a strong will of her own. One more member
of the stubborn brigade. He was glad that this time, she had acted on
"I see," he noted, satisfied. "Good decision."
"Thought you'd think so."
"As for Kennedy, you shouldn't worry about her, pet. I mean, she
is a Slayer after all; her Slayer healing will kick in and beat
He could hear Buffy's desperate sigh through the phone. Something
isn't right there, he thought.
"It's really bad, Spike. She's got some weird tropical disease that
no one has ever heard of. It might be a mutated virus or something like
that. She was on a mission recently in an Amazon Rain Forest, so the doctors
think she contracted it there. They've got no idea what caused it or how
to fight it. The point is, there hasn't been any improvement so far. She
has been sick for more than two weeks now, and her Slayer healing abilities
don't seem to be strong enough to defeat the disease on their own."
"Did you contact Rupert? That bloody Council should be able to do
something for her."
"I did. He browsed through their entire database, asked their medical
experts, looked up many lexicons and Internet sites, but nothing. This
disease seems to be a total mystery. All we can do is keep waiting and
hoping. Willow even tried to help with magic, but nothing has had any
positive effect yet."
"Magic?" Spike's eyes narrowed. "That's a bloody dangerous
"I know, Spike. But Willow's been desperate. Besides, she didn't
do anything too heavy, just some cleansing and protecting spells. You
know, to drive off the malicious, evil forces and such."
Willow bit her lip and nodded.
"Talking about magic, though, that's the main reason why I called
you. Willow did this protective spell again today, but this time, she
had a vision right after the ritual."
"A vision?" Spike raised an eyebrow. The word 'vision' immediately
reminded him both of Cordelia and his own recent vision quest in the Vapor
Caves. Both thoughts made him think of Angel's team again, the friends
he had lost and already missed so much.
"Yes. A "post-magic vision"...that's what Willow called
"I see. And what exactly does that mean? Do post-magic visions have
some special significance?"
"According to Willow, post-magic visions are very rare. But they
can happen right at the end of a magic ritual, mostly due to the huge
concentration of powers, if the Wicca is skilled enough in magic. And
as Willow found out for herself, these visions usually predict future
events. What's even more upsetting is that her vision was about one of
A few years ago, Spike might have burst out laughing at the idea of one
of the Scoobies having visions of the future. Those seemed to belong in
the realm of someone like Dru, someone who was at least a little crazy
or a bit touched, as people sometimes described it. But since he had heard
about Cordy and her future-predicting visions, which were apparently a
'gift' from the Powers That Be, he wasn't so skeptical about this idea
"Spike? Are you there?" he heard Buffy ask.
He had been so lost in his thoughts about the past that he hadn't noticed
he had become silent for some moments.
"Sorry, love. I'm still here," he replied with a sigh. "What
did you say these visions were about?"
"Do you remember our friend Oz? You might have met him."
"Yeah, love, I think so. He was that guitarist boyfriend of Red's,
right? We never officially met in Sunnydale, but we had an unfortunate
encounter in L.A. when you sent him to deliver the Gem of Amarra to Angel."
"Oh, right, I had forgotten about that. Well, in Willow's vision,
some werewolves were about to kill Oz in a huge office building in Chicago.
Willow is extremely worried about him." She glanced at the witch
"Willow and I would have come ourselves to help protect him in Chicago,
but it is so far, and Kennedy's health is critical. We really shouldn't
leave now. And since I certainly won't let Dawn and Andrew go there alone,
there's no other solution than to ask you to go."
"Buffy, you know I'd do it for you in a heartbeat, but what about
our mission in Indiana? Rupert's given us an assignment that he..."
"That's okay, Spike. The plans have changed. I have just had a discussion
with Giles, and he agreed with altering your mission, in order to check
on Oz. Besides, the Indiana situation sorta resolved itself. So your next
destination is Chicago now."
"Right," Spike conceded.
"You're always welcome, pet." He heard Willow's voice in the
background but couldn't make out her words, then Buffy spoke again.
"Willow says to tell you she's glad you're back, Spike, but also
to assure you she had nothing to do with your resurrection."
Spike chuckled and replied, "Tell her thanks, love, and that she's
not under suspicion. I know who brought me back. They're such bloody wankers,
though, that I can't be sure bringing me back was a good thing to do."
"I'm sure, Spike. I don't care who did it or why. I'm just glad
"Means a lot to hear you say that, Buffy."
"I'm not the only one who feels that way, Spike, but for now, we've
got to focus on getting you guys to Chicago. Please leave immediately;
every minute counts. We'll contact Oz and let him know you're on the way
and get his current address and phone number. Willow only has his e-mail
address, but she knows he's somewhere in Chicago. When we get all the
information we'll e-mail you everything, including his e-mail address,
so you'll have every possible means to contact him when you reach Chicago."
"Sounds good. We've made a pit stop at a gas station. As soon as
Harris and Mena get back to the car, I'll explain everything. We'll be
there as soon as possible."
"Okay, and let's keep in touch. Contact me as soon as you've learned
something about Oz and the werewolves." Then she continued a bit
softer and almost shyly, "or just to talk."
Spike smiled at her last words. Might that mean that she's really missing
him? He hoped that was true.
"I will," he replied. "I promise."
"One more thanks, love, and you'll create the new daily record of
anyone thanking me for anything," he noted.
Buffy smiled. "Maybe I want that honor."
Now it was his turn to say it. "Well, thanks, love. That's right
sweet of you to say. Best be leaving now. Call you later."
"Right. We'll be waiting."
Spike ended the call and turned to see where his so-called companions
had been for so long. Mena and Xander were slowly approaching the car.
"Bloody hell, would you two hurry a bit?" Spike grumbled.
Xander and Mena exchanged an amused look.
"Samahani, there was only one toilet, and I had to wait to
use it," Mena retorted cheerfully, as she jumped in and made herself
comfortable on the backseat.
Spike grimaced and glanced at Xander.
"What?" Xander asked defensively. "I was just buying some
gum and cold drinks for..."
"Don't say another word. That would have taken no more than a minute.
What were you really doing, checking the sodding map again?" Spike
teased him with a grin.
"Yeah," he replied, a bit puzzled. He hated being the butt
of Spike's jokes. He handed Mena a Coke as Spike opened the driver's side
door to get in, but Xander quickly blocked his way.
"Oh, no," he shook his head with a stern look and handed another
Coke to Spike. "My turn to drive."
The vampire groaned in dismay. "Bloody hell, it'll take forever
to get to our next destination..."
"Sorry, pal, but being the Watcher in charge here, I'm pulling rank,"
Knowing it wasn't worth arguing about, Spike sighed helplessly and headed
to the other side of the Land Cruiser. Xander smiled with satisfaction
and slid himself onto the driver's seat.
"You were flirting with the salesgirl, huh?" the vampire smirked
as Xander turned the ignition key.
Xander stared at him with sudden embarrassment. "W-whaat?"
Mena couldn't help but chuckle as she opened her Coke.
"Harris, vampire here!" Spike grinned, pointing at his nose.
"Your clothing smells of her perfume." He opened his Coke and
drank some of the cool, refreshing liquid.
Xander's cheeks flushed. He started to chew his bubble gum with annoyance,
grumbling something about Spike minding his own business.
Spike laughed, apparently enjoying the situation, and winked at Mena.
She tried vainly to stifle another giggle but failed.
"Buffy, what did I ever do to you that made me deserve having the
most annoying vampire on Earth as my teammate?" Xander glanced up
at the sky with exasperation as he drove onto the highway.
"Oh, quit whining, Harris!" Spike laughed. "I've got some
important news for you."
"More important than mocking me?" Xander growled, shooting
the blond a scathing look.
"Hate to say it, but yeah, even more important than that, mate."
Xander looked over at his companion again. Something in the vampire's
tone of voice made him suspect that there might be 'trouble in River City'.
"Oh, I should have warned you, you need to bear off to the right,"
Spike grinned as they passed the exit Xander should have taken.
Xander shot a puzzled and suspicious look Spike's way.
"Why should I? We're going to Indianapolis, aren't we? This is the
way to Indiana." His eyes narrowed.
Spike chuckled. "Oh, have I forgotten to mention that the important
news involves a change in plans?" he teased with a wicked grin, enjoying
Xander's shock. "Buffy just called. Our new destination is Chicago."
The high-pitched sound of screeching brakes broke the silence of the
night as Xander pulled the Land Cruiser to an abrupt halt on the side
of the road. So abrupt in fact, that he nearly jack-knifed the trailer
carrying Spike's precious Viper.
Mena grabbed the seat for dear life and stared at the guys with a gasp
as some of her Coke sloshed over the edge and dripped onto her lap.
"Bloody hell! You blithering idiot! You could have wrecked my sodding
car!" Spike screamed at Xander.
"Who cares? Why didn't you tell me earlier about the change?"
"I just got off the bloody phone!" the blond vampire retorted
"Will you two just shut up!" Mena shouted. "Stop all this
constant, petty bickering! I just can't stand any more of it!"
Both men looked at her, quite startled at her vehement outburst, then
back again at each other. Mena's bottom lip was trembling, and she had
tears in her eyes.
"Samahani," she apologized, bowing her head.
The guys both realized they had behaved like total fools. The poor girl
was still overwhelmed by her ordeal in Georgetown; the last thing she
needed now was to endure her companions' childish quarreling.
"No, love, I'm the one who's bloody sorry," Spike said softly
"Same here," Xander murmured guiltily. "I..." he
glanced sheepishly at the vampire. He corrected himself, "We
didn't mean to upset you. That was just plain stupid, and we're sorry."
"Yeah, Jamani, your Watcher is right. Sometimes we act like
a couple of stubborn mules."
Mena was touched by their apologies. She didn't expect this kind and
"It's okay," she smiled. "I think I'm still just a bit
tired and stressed out. I'm going to try to sleep a bit. You guys can
drink my Coke."
She handed her Coke up to Spike, made herself comfortable on the back
seat and closed her eyes.
"Ninakupenda, guys!" she murmured with a little smile
before drifting off to sleep.
Spike and Xander exchanged glances.
"What did she say?" Spike inquired.
Xander shook his head and smiled. "She loves us."
Spike felt a lump in his throat as he glanced at the girl on the backseat.
"Sweet dreams, Jamani," he whispered to her with a soft
"Okay. Why don't we try this again? What else is there I don't know
about yet?" Xander asked, as he shrugged off his previous anger.
He drove down the highway toward the next exit, so that he could turn
around and head back for the turn off he had missed.
Spike sighed and started to tell him about the call from Buffy and the
danger that Oz might be in.
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"I still can't believe we've got these jobs," the young blonde
woman sighed with a delighted and satisfied smile. She leaned back against
the headrest of her seat, gazing at the clouds through the window of the
plane flying from San Francisco to Chicago. The light, apple-green Chanel
suit she was wearing hinted of a mature, sophisticated, highly educated
and successful businesswoman, but in truth, Lisa was barely twenty-seven
The guy on her right glanced up from the book he was reading to say,
"You totally deserved it." He smiled and squeezed the girl's
hand. "Lisa, you're the smartest woman I have ever met and the prettiest,
too. I'm proud that you're my girlfriend."
Lisa looked at him with a pleased smile. "Jack, you're carrying
it too far again. I'm not that clever. And besides they wanted you first..."
"No time to be humble, honey!" Jack put a finger on Lisa's
lips, shushing her playfully. "The headhunters at Wolfram & Hart,
one of the premier law firms of the entire world, might I add, considered
you skilled enough to offer you a job, didn't they? And winning an award
for 'Student of the Year' at Stanford certainly meant something, didn't
"So there you have it, Miss Stewart. You have definite proof. Debate
is concluded, and all further appeals are rejected in this matter,"
Jack noted emphatically and gave her a little kiss.
"Jack, you're incredible," she laughed happily and returned
the kiss. "I love you."
"I love you, too." He took her hand in his and added, "Landing
jobs like these will change our lives. We'll have enough money to buy
a house of our own..." He pulled her closer and gazing down at their
joined hands, continued on with his happy plans.
"At this firm, we'll have the opportunity to learn a lot of new
and exciting things. Before you know it, we'll make full partnership,
and then you will become Mrs. Jack Stevenson. We'll make tons of money,
and then we can think about raising that family you keep talking about..."
"I'd love to go even farther," she mused. "Maybe someday
become a judge. Maybe even deliver a sentence in one of your cases,"
"Only if that's positive for me," Jack teased wickedly.
"Well, clearly, only if you deserve it," she smirked at him.
Jack laughed and kissed her again. "Hmmm - it seems I may just have
to resort to bribery then." He kissed her once more.
Click on image to enlarge
Three young men were sitting in the same row of seats in the opposite
section of the plane. They weren't much older than Lisa and Jack, and
they, too, wore business attire. Despite the air conditioning in the plane,
it was still a bit stuffy, so the guys had removed their suit coats and
were enjoying a game of cards.
"All I can say, guys, is that we're damn lucky. How many people
fresh out of college get offered such a great job," a dark-haired
guy asked, throwing a card onto the 'pull down tray' in front of him.
"Your turn, Rob."
"You've got that right, Danny," agreed the guy next to him
as he drew a card. "We should be pretty proud of ourselves."
He studied the cards in his hand, adjusting his glasses. After a moment
of pondering, he chose a card and threw it onto the pile.
The third card player, a guy with short blond hair, was considering whether
he should pick up the card that his companion previously dropped.
"Come on, Chris, we don't have all day to wait for you," Danny
complained impatiently. Chris raised his eyebrow.
"Are you going to be this impatient in the courtroom as well? Strategic
moves take a lot of careful thought and planning, just like important
cases do. That is, if you care to win them. And if you don't intend to
win, I don't think the firm will employ you very long."
Rob chuckled. "Watch that guy, Danny," he pointed at Chris.
"He's already practicing his most obnoxious argumentation technique."
Danny grinned at his friends. "Sorry, buddy," he addressed
his lines to the blond. "But after I ace this seminar, I'll be the
first one getting a case to work on."
"Someone is pretty full of self-confidence here," Chris sneered.
"At least I have some," Danny retorted.
"Oh, so you mean that I have none?" Chris glanced at his companion.
"Well, if the length of time it takes you to figure out which card
to play is any indication, then no!" Danny laughed.
Chris smirked. "I ask you again, have you ever heard the word 'strategy'?"
Danny grimaced. "Strategy is worth nothing if you're not fast enough."
"Guess we will find out soon enough which tactic wins," Chris
smiled calmly and dropped an ace. "By the way, do you think Wolfram
& Hart has no strategy? Don't kid yourselves. We're all a part of
their strategic plans for soaring profits. Or did you think they hired
us out of charity?"
Rob's grin faded as he started to think about his colleague's words.
"Well, Chris has a point," he noted, breaking the short silence.
"Wolfram & Hart has been around for a long time. They aren't
beginners, and they're definitely not fools. They know exactly what they're
doing and why they're doing it."
Chris nodded. "I'm sure they have plans concerning us. I mean, look
at how resilient they are. The whole L.A. branch gets wiped off the map,
but does that stop them? No. They transfer all the records to San Francisco,
start construction on the new and improved L.A. offices, and at the same
time, hire a whole new work force. Doesn't look to me like they've missed
"Have you considered what this might mean? That we just might be
the next generation of Wolfram & Hart? We're all part of that 'bringing
in new blood' thing they kept talking about at the job interviews."
Rob's eyes were sparkling with excitement.
"Well, I'm up for being 'new' blood. How about you?" Danny
smirked. "Welcome to our new life, guys."
Mike was in the middle of wolfing down a juicy Big Mac when his cell
"Damn it," he cursed. He gingerly put the burger back on his
plate, wiped his hands and picked up the phone.
"Yes?" he gulped down a huge bite as he answered.
"You and your partner will be leaving immediately for Chicago,"
the strict voice ordered without wasting any time for courtesies.
Mike recognized the curt British accent at once. Rolling his eyes in
disgust, he shot a meaningful glance at Tom, sitting across from him in
the fast-food restaurant.
"Your mission now has a dual purpose. As always, I expect your full
attention to be dedicated to the task. Am I making myself perfectly clear,
"You can count on us, sir. What do you want us to do?" Mike
"I'm sending you a file that contains the details along with some
photos. Your assignment is to keep your eyes on the subjects and report
any incidents or subtle nuances that should occur. And, of course, the
vampire remains your primary responsibility. I don't think I have to remind
you of the consequences of letting your guard down, so to speak, where
he is concerned."
"Yes, sir," Mike replied nervously, "I mean, no, sir.
You won't be disappointed in us."
"I strongly advise you to make sure your performance doesn't come
up - lacking," Sirk remarked dryly and hung up.
Mike gulped uneasily. I really hate that pompous ass, he thought.
He wasn't used to his employer having doubts about his work, but Sirk
made it a point to belittle him and his partner at every opportunity.
Reluctantly, Mike slid off the chair, without finishing his food, his
appetite suddenly fading.
"New destination," he announced.
Tom shook his head and frowned. "Damn! Just once I'd love to eat
our dinner in peace!" he grunted and drank the rest of his ginger-ale.
"Might as well get used to it," Mike replied, heading to the
entrance. "I doubt it's gonna get any better."
"Great," Tom murmured with a sneer, following his partner out
Sirk leaned back in his armchair, a look of smug satisfaction on his
face. The lawyers at the Chicago branch of Wolfram & Hart had reported
that a new law firm dealing with "mysterious" cases had settled
in the Windy City; and that was definitely something that didn't appeal
to Wolfram and Hart's top brass.
With the San Francisco branch handling double the workload while the
L.A. offices were rebuilt, it was crucial to keep the firm functioning
at the top of its game. There was no room for a rival firm edging into
Wolfram & Hart's territory. All business of a supernatural disposition
belonged to them, and rivals simply would not be tolerated. Sirk agreed
with the Senior Partners' decision to make sure any competition would
be dealt with quickly and permanently.
Fortunately, all the L.A. files and magical research books had been teleported
to the temporary headquarters in San Francisco minutes before the building
collapsed. No magical or financial means had been spared in the effort
to safeguard the firm's wealth of data and equipment, despite the efforts
of Angel and his team. The loss of the Circle of the Black Thorn, however,
had been a serious blow. Finding replacements of their prowess would take
On the other hand, construction of a brand new L.A. office was already
in progress on the identical site. It was designed to be an exact replica
of all the Wolfram and Hart offices worldwide and would be, once again,
the pinnacle of the firm.
With the help of the San Francisco branch, the Senior Partners had recruited
an 'elite' task force. These new, young, and very eager lawyers were going
to take the matter of any rival competition into their own hands.
Of course, not by their own will, Sirk smirked.
This 'new breed' of lawyers had been carefully prepared for their task;
the medical experts at Wolfram & Hart had outdone themselves this
time. An excellent job, indeed! The implants and the werewolf blood would
make sure the new lawyers unwittingly fulfilled their tasks. And soon,
that little problem of competition from a rival Chicago firm would be
solved. There was nothing like the elimination of your rivals' top players
to both interrupt their progress and send a clear message. If Wolfram
& Hart hadn't already known that for themselves, Angel's team had
certainly just reminded them.
"Werewolves. I simply can't believe it," Xander muttered.
"Get over it already. You've been grousing the entire way from Colorado,"
Spike said as he drove the car past yet another mileage sign, this one
saying 10 miles to Chicago. Mena was asleep in the backseat.
"Explain to me again why you won't drive faster. Oz is in danger,"
"Because when we get pulled over, I'd have to talk to the policeman.
I never talk to policemen. Cops and vampires are natural enemies. Besides,
I'm going nine miles over the speed limit. That's plenty fast for these
winding roads. If you were driving, you'd be ambling along at exactly
the speed limit, and you know it."
Xander bit back a retort, not wanting to start another fight. He had
finally acceded to letting Spike drive shortly after the sun went down.
The vampire had driven him crazy by constantly fidgeting and switching
the dial on the radio, claiming to be looking for something besides country
music and high school basketball.
He didn't really know quite what to think of the situation. The full
moon wasn't for another couple of weeks, so there really wasn't any reason
for anyone to be worrying about werewolves. Except, of course, that Oz
had changed that time the soldiers had him locked up in their evil underground
lair. He couldn't help but wonder, then, if Oz was in fact the actual
danger Willow had seen in her vision. But you're not supposed to think
that about your friends.
"You got a plan for when we arrive?" Xander asked.
"Kind of thought you were in charge, what with being the Council
stooge and all. But, yeah, I know somewhere that's bound to have rooms."
"Who are you calling a stooge, you walking corpse!" So much
for playing nice."I am so not looking forward to sharing another
hotel room with you, but at least I'll have a little more personal space
there than when we're in this damn car."
The task of holding up the détente had now shifted to Spike, who
was keeping his mouth shut. He didn't really think that they had been
fighting as much as they had in the past. He was fed up from being halfway
polite all day, and he could only assume Xander was tired from driving.
What was so wrong with a little ribbing between driving companions, anyway?
Spike didn't really have an opinion about the trip to Chicago. He certainly
wasn't opposed to helping Oz, but wasn't entirely sure what his role was
supposed to be in the greater scheme of things. Sure, he could help Oz,
but was he supposed to be working for the Council? Because he wasn't sure
that was such a good idea.
They remained quiet until Spike pulled off onto the Orleans exit ramp.
A couple of turns later, they were pulling into the parking lot of the
While Xander was checking them into the hotel, Spike woke Mena, and they
cleaned the car up a bit and got their bags sorted. The trio carried the
bags into their two rooms. Nobody really wanted to share, but the Council's
budget didn't really stretch that far, Xander had decided.
They dropped their bags as soon as they got inside and flopped down on
the beds. Xander and Mena ordered sandwiches and ate them with little
enjoyment; they were more tired than hungry, Xander especially. He crawled
into bed and fell quickly asleep. Spike, on the other hand, lay on the
bed for a while, but after he had flipped through all the channels on
the television five times, decided he was probably too restless to stay
in the room.
He reckoned a little walk might be the best way to pass some time. He
hadn't been in Chicago in ages and was anxious to see what might have
changed. Besides, there might be a big nasty walking around in need of
Spike wasn't really the sort to frequent coffee shops late at night,
but apparently Oz was, so there they were. Spike had decided to go for
a walk, since he had been stuck in the car all day. He had crossed the
street to avoid the Christian Life store. Places like that always made
him feel a bit uncomfortable.
He had ended up walking past a coffee shop and had caught sight of someone
who looked a little like Oz. At first glance, Spike thought this was too
improbable to be true, like when you think you see someone who is actually
dead. He reckoned he should make sure it wasn't Oz, though, because he
was pretty sure Oz wasn't dead. Yet.
Once he was inside, he went over and tapped the man on the shoulder.
It was, in fact, Oz.
"Hey," Spike said.
Oz turned around. "Spike. New clothes."
"Mind if I sit down?"
"What're you doing here? I mean, I heard you guys were coming, but
I sure didn't expect to run into you here. And now."
"Life's a funny thing, sometimes."
"Yeah. Speaking of which, I also heard that you've progressed from
semi-evil to world-saver," Oz said, gesturing to the opposite chair.
"That was a surprise."
"Right. Sorta surprised myself on that one, too."
"Way to change your karma, man. Very Zen."
"If you say so. Anyway, we're all here because Willow had a vision
that you were in danger."
Click on image to enlarge
"Yeah, what's up with that? Willow having visions, I mean. And,
no offense, but why'd they send you?"
"Buffy said it was some sort of post-magic thing, kind of a one
off. Er... as to the second question, it's kind of a long story. I don't
know how much you've heard, but after the Apocalypse in Sunnydale, we
had another one in L.A...."
Oz broke in and said, "What else is new?"
"Giles has taken over the Council, Angel's dead, Xander's a Watcher,
and he and his Slayer have been ordered to guard or assist me, whatever
you want to call it."
"So they're here? Only not."
"They're at the hotel. I took a walk because I was restless after
As Spike and Oz continued to talk, the two young lawyers in love from
California, in town for a seminar, were about to go to bed in a hotel
room very near that same coffee shop. Suddenly, the phone rang. Lisa picked
it up only to hear a low buzzing noise. She briefly thought, That's
odd, before handing the phone over to her partner Jack without a word.
He looked at her oddly but took the phone, thinking that it must be somebody
he knew who Lisa didn't like. After hearing the buzzing, he set the phone
down. They both robotically began to remove their clothes, and soon their
fingers started to elongate, and their skin turned to fur. They trampled
over their discarded clothes and bolted for the door.
"Closing down the machine," the man behind the counter called.
Spike and Oz watched the only other person in the shop, a guy who was
dressed like a lawyer or a high-powered businessman, as he tidied his
papers into his briefcase and tossed his cup into the garbage.
"I suppose we'd better head out," Oz said as he downed the
last of his coffee and shoved his cup into his bag.
"They're reusable," Oz said in reply to the questioning look
he got from Spike.
"So what exactly is this danger Willow saw me in?" Oz asked
as they began to head down the street towards no particular destination.
"Werewolves was all Buffy told me," Spike replied as they heard
a scuffle in an alley.
They both looked around the corner and saw the well-dressed man from
the coffee shop about to be mauled by two werewolves. Spike pulled out
the taser he had taken from Mike and his partner when he had first confronted
them and quickly zapped the werewolves. The setting was not high enough
to slow them down much, but it turned their attention to Spike, allowing
Oz to lead the "lawyer guy" out of the alley.
Spike fought with the werewolves, and hit each of them with the taser
a couple more times, but they soon seemed to lose interest and ran off.
Click image to enlarge
"What was that?" the lawyer guy asked.
"Wild dogs." Spike had been around long enough to know the
standard lies, even though he didn't usually have to deliver them.
"Look, I'm not stupid. I know those weren't wild dogs, and I think
you know what they were. The odds of wild dogs that size running around
Chicago are pretty slim."
"It's late and we should be getting home," Spike said, thinking
that the situation was getting worse every second.
"I'm James Black. Call me if you ever want to give me an explanation,"
he said, handing Spike his Wilde & Williams business card. He walked
off down the street.
Spike and Oz exchanged a look.
"Either that was a really eerie coincidence, or there's some weight
to Willow's vision," said Oz.
"Yeah. I'll walk you home and then head back to the hotel. We can
sort this all out tomorrow."
Mena lay awake. Xander had fallen asleep almost as soon as he laid down,
and Mena didn't really think she could turn on the television without
waking him. The wall between their adjoining rooms was so thin that they
could almost hear each other breathe. Besides, there wouldn't be anything
good on television at this time of night, anyway, nothing but infomercials
and really old, usually bad movies.
She did try to fall asleep, since she figured sleep-deprived Slayers
were probably less effective. The importance of proper rest had been drummed
into her head during her training in London. It had seemed sensible, so
Mena took that advice seriously.
There was a sudden, loud crash of breaking glass outside the window,
and she thought she heard voices.
That was a little weird she thought, but dismissed her sense of
Then came a rustling sound and a non-rhythmic banging, as if a bird were
trapped in the walls. Mena knew the walls weren't very solid, but that
had to be nearly impossible.
Mena couldn't take it anymore and went through the connecting door to
the adjoining room where she woke Xander to tell him what was going on.
Xander though she was probably overreacting.
"It's a big city," he said. "There's noise at night; that's
just how it is."
"I know. There are cities in Kenya, you know. Nairobi's no slouch
when it comes to noise. Granted, the noises are bound to be a bit different,
being thousands of miles away on another continent, but it's not as if
I am complaining about being kept awake by fire engines."
"All right, all right. We can go take a look in the alley, but then
I'm going back to bed."
They trooped out of the hotel and located the window of their room from
the outside. There was no pile of glass to be seen under it or anywhere
else in the alley, although it was clear that the alley hadn't been cleaned
in a while.
Some time after they had both returned to bed, Mena started to hear the
noises again. The television switched on and started flying through the
channels faster than she thought possible. Mena swallowed a scream and
decided to go and sit in the lobby until morning, which was not that many
It was nearly dawn when Spike returned to the old hotel, hoping to catch
a little shut-eye before dealing with everything he'd just encountered
He was surprised to find Mena in the front lobby when he walked inside.
She was slumped in one of the ancient high-back chairs, her head lowered
and bobbing slightly. To his mind, it looked as though she'd been there
most of the night, fighting off sleep
The sound of his voice brought her instantly to her feet, where she swayed
for a second before finding her balance. Her eyes had a somewhat wild
look about them as she turned her head from side to side, checking to
see what was happening. She calmed when she realized Spike had returned.
"Didn't mean to give you a start there, love," he said lightly.
Something had happened, from the looks of it. "Rough night?"
Mena sighed as she fell back into the chair and closed her eyes. "You
could say that." She rolled her head from side to side to ease some
of the tensed muscles. "Have you seen Xander yet?"
"Just got in."
"Something is not right in this place, Spike," Mena stated
flatly. "I saw things last night
heard voices. I told Xander,
" She fixed a steady gaze on him. "I think we are dealing
with ghosts again."
He cast a glance around the lobby area. "You think this place is
"If you had been here last night, you would not think, you
would know." Mena tilted her head to one side as she looked
at him. "Is this a more common thing than I was aware of before?
Ghosts in hotels, bed-and- breakfasts, and such, I mean."
He figured his limited run-ins with ghosts likely didn't make him an
expert. Other than the recent spirits in Colorado, he'd dealt with the
less-than-pleasant Pavayne, the vengeful spirits in the Sunnydale High
School basement, and - oh, yes - the would-be "ghost" in his
Sunnydale crypt that had ended up being an Invisible Slayer who'd come
for more than just a prank. He chuckled low in his throat at the memory.
Mistakenly believing the chuckle was directed at her and the situation,
Mena frowned. "You do not believe me?"
Spike abruptly pulled himself back to the present and self-consciously
cleared his throat. "No, I believe you," he said firmly. "Usually
a good explanation behind them, though." He turned in place, surveying
the crooks and crevices of the large room. "What did Harris say?"
Mena sighed heavily. "I do not think he believes me. Things stopped
happening after I told him, so he did not experience the same things I
"Typical," Spike muttered. "What happened?"
Mena related the events of the previous night, carefully recalling as
many details as she could remember, while Spike took mental notes about
the hotel's ghostly welcome committee. Xander came upon the twosome in
the middle of the recitation, and wisely waited until Mena had finished
"I didn't hear anything, and the way things have been going lately,
I figured she was just worn out," he said and nearly grimaced. Even
to his ears, that answer sounded lame.
Spike's eyes narrowed. "You didn't investigate? You didn't think
to search the place? Mena was out here most of the bloody night on watch."
Xander's mouth opened, then shut. He looked over at Mena. "You didn't
go back to your room?"
Mena shook her head. "I told you that was where most of the activity
was happening. Just because nothing happened when you were in the room,
did not mean it wouldn't happen again later." She indicated the chair
where she'd tried to keep a watch of her own.
"I figured the lobby was as safe as any place. That way, if anything
really did happen, I could get out quickly enough."
by terry & alllie
Xander blinked at that. "So, if anything really happened
I'd get no warning?"
Mena's chin lifted defiantly. A specter-ridden, restless night did little
to bolster her patience. "Mjinga!" she sputtered. "What
was going to harm you? You did not believe me!"
Spike moved between the two before anything more could be said. "Easy,"
he said and sighed inwardly. No rest for the weary, at least not right
away. "Let's take a look-see around this place; see if we find
anything out of the ordinary."
As they walked the hallways, Spike filled them in on his eventful night
with Oz. When he came to the part about the werewolves' attack on James
Black, Mena's brow furrowed.
"I do not understand. I thought werewolves only turn when there
is a full moon."
Xander considered that for a moment. "But, Spike, you said Oz didn't
go all wolfy. What's up with that?"
Not unimpressed with the deduction, Spike glanced at him. "There's
got to be something else going on then. I bloody well know werewolves
when I see them."
Waking up from a deep sleep, Spike glanced at the clock on the bedside
table. The display read 2:17 PM.
Good Lord, he thought, I didn't intend on sleeping that long.
Mena had insisted that he get some rest. He was truly amazed at how caring
and attentive this child was. She never hesitated to show her concern
for Harris and himself. It was right sweet to see such motherly instincts
in someone so young. That particular trait reminded him quite favorably
of Tara and also Buffy's mum, Joyce. Mena would likely be a good woman
in several years, that is if her duties as a Slayer didn't end her life
Staring at the ceiling, he thought about Mena's experiences the previous
night. Needless to say he was worried about her. She seemed to be coming
Maybe she was just a little skittish after that scare in Colorado or
maybe she really was hearing actual noises. Either way, it had her pretty
A yellow 'post-it' note stuck to the clock caught his attention.
Didn't want to wake you up; went to have lunch with Xander, see you
later. Hope you caught up on your beauty sleep. Mena.
Spike smiled. He liked this girl; really liked her, and that motherly
trait she shared with Tara and Joyce reminded him of the Nibblet. He sincerely
hoped he'd see Dawn soon, and that they could repair their friendship
that had been so bitterly derailed. When he had talked with Dawn on the
phone in Rome, it had truly seemed that she wanted this, too.
Thinking of the Bit, reminded him of Buffy, and he realized he really
should call her and let her know how things were going. Since it was still
daylight, Spike couldn't leave the hotel yet. But he wasn't in the mood
to stay put, trapped within the four walls of his room either. Maybe a
little joy ride would be just the ticket.
Jumping off the bed, he grabbed his jacket and hurried to the hotel's
parking garage. He quickly unlatched the ties on the Viper, started up
the ignition and backed it off the trailer. The tires squealed as he turned
to the exit, and revving up the powerful engine, he sped out.
The Viper provided him shelter from the burning daylight,
thanks to its vampire-friendly glass, and driving this beauty was certainly
better than sitting in the room at the hotel waiting for sunset.
As he cruised down the road, with the strains of Billy Idol's Shock
To The System, blaring out loud on the radio, Spike felt his spirits
lifting. Spike had always loved to drive. The old Desoto and him had been
true mates. That vintage machine had never disappointed him, and he had
fond memories of it, too, like the first time he managed to get Buffy
to take a ride with him.
Flashback: Sunnydale - 2001
Spike and Buffy were sitting in the car watching the warehouse where,
according to Spike's words, the suspects of that murder on the train
were hiding. Spike looked over at Buffy who rolled her eyes, and gave
him an impatient look in return. Spike just shook his head, and continued
his surveillance of the building. He told her he was sure this place
would be full of vamps any time now.
Buffy frowned, apparently more than suspicious of Spike's intentions
and a little nervous at being alone with him. When he suddenly reached
towards her, Buffy screamed "Hey!" and almost jumped out of
her seat. Calmly, he opened the glove compartment and took out a flask.
After taking a huge swig, he offered the drink to her.
"Ewwww," Buffy grimaced in disgust.
"It's not blood, it's bourbon," Spike reassured her.
"Again...Ewwww," she repeated the disgusted look, but not
as strongly as before.
Grinning ruefully, Spike simply shrugged," Suit yourself."
Spike smiled at the memory. Buffy really didn't know what to make of
him back then. If he'd tried a little harder he might have been able to
thaw her icy demeanor that night, but then...well...maybe not. Too bad
though ...could have made beautiful music in the back seat of that Desoto.
His thoughts wandered on to L.A., where he met his new love: Angel's
He remembered the first day he had taken that car without Angel's permission.
He had just gotten himself all corporeal again, and he and the ponce were
racing off after that bloody cup of perpetual torment.
Flashback: Los Angeles - 2004
Spike was racing down the desert highway at night in Angel's Viper,
singing along with the radio. Suddenly the car's cell phone rang.
"Yello," he picked it up. He knew it was the tall, dark and
"You took my Viper," he heard Angel's cold voice.
"My Viper now, mate," Spike grinned in amusement. "Possession's
nine-tenths of the law. Oughta know that, running a law firm and such."
"You think this is a game?" the other vampire snapped. "People
"And one of us is going to stop it. Hey, what do you know? I vote
"There's no voting. It's a prophecy. And the Shanshu's not about
you, Spike," Angel claimed.
"Still can't accept it, can you? Sad, really," Spike sneered
with the grin on his face. "All these years believing you're the
signified monkey, only to find out you're just a big hunk of nobody
"I really wish you'd stayed a ghost," his grandsire retorted.
"But I didn't, did I?" the blond vamp boasted, immensely
enjoying Angel's frustration. "Burned up saving the world, and
now I'm back for real. Wonder why that is? Oh, wait. 'Cause I'm the
one, you git!" he laughed.
"Spike, I don't have time to..."
"What's that? I'm losing you. You're..." Spike imitated static
to get out of further conversation and piss the hell out
of Angel. "What do they call it?.... Oh, right. Breaking up. You're
breaking up. "
"Spike, don't..." Angel protested.
"Ponce," Spike smirked and promptly hung up.
"Oh yes, fond memories indeed," he sighed, enveloped in his
Spike eventually pulled the Viper over at a scenic little park outside
of the city, overlooking Lake Michigan, and took out his cell phone. As
he prepared to make the call, his thoughts wandered back to his vision
in the Vapor Caves. Buffy had been smiling at him.
He missed everything about her, but he really missed her smile. Sadly
his Slayer smiled too rarely, but when she did, she lit up his world.
How long has it been? he wondered, a little more than a year
since the Hellmouth closed and he'd died there. So many things have happened
since then, he sighed.
He dialed the number and waited anxiously for her to pick up. After all
this time he still got butterflies in his stomach, just anticipating the
sound of her voice.
"Hello?" she said.
"Hi pet. It's me," he spoke softly.
"Spike!" Buffy exclaimed.
Was it just his imagination or did she sound delighted to hear from him?
"I've been waiting for your call," she said cheerfully.
"Any good news, love? How's Kennedy doing?"
She hesitated when she answered him, and her voice was filled with sorrow.
"No change there. She's still fighting bravely against this disease,
but..." she trailed off. After a short pause, she continued. "Spike
- I'm so scared - I don't think she's going to make it."
If his heart could have, it would have missed a beat, as he sensed the
pain in her voice. God, he desperately wanted to be there beside her now,
offering her comfort and consolation.
"I know you're scared, pet. But don't give up. You bloody well never
She sighed, and he wished he could just reach out and hold her, give
"We never give up. You know that."
Did this 'we' have a double meaning, or did he just imagine he heard
it that way?
"That's my girl," he smiled, and he could swear he heard her
laugh a little too. At least he hoped she had.
"So what's up with you? Have you found Oz?" she asked.
"Yeah, love. I've already met with him, and he's fine. No need to
"And those werewolves that Willow saw in her vision?"
"Well, actually we did run into one, but... it's a complicated story,
pet. The good thing is, that wolfie is no threat to your friend."
"But the vision..."
"Red must also be exhausted and especially anxious right now. That
might explain her vision and her natural concern for Oz. There
may be werewolves here in Chicago, but they don't appear to be after him.
"Maybe you're right," Buffy replied quietly. "But if not...
then you could be in danger if you're there trying to help out..."
"Our whole bloody lives are filled with danger, love. We jeopardize
our safety day by day, minute by minute, but that's just what living is
all about. You should know that better than anyone."
"Spike, I'm serious, please be careful," Buffy begged. "Werewolves
are dangerous monsters."
"And I'm the Big Bad, remember?" Spike grinned.
"Hey, are you getting shirty with me? Never did quite get the meaning
of that term. Brit-speak makes me all bloody sack of hammers. Did I get
that one right? Besides you're more like the Good Big Bad now,"
she reminded him with a smile.
"And you worry too bloody much, pet. I guess that makes us even."
By this time the sun had already ducked under the horizon, turning over
its place to the moon and stars.
Buffy smiled, "Okay - I'll try not to worry if you try not to play
Superman all the time."
"That's a deal," he promised.
"Oh-oh, I'm afraid I gotta hang up now. World War Three is about
to break out between Andrew and Dawn any second now."
Spike laughed again.
"Don't envy you the job of keeping those two apart. But, as much
as I've enjoyed talking with you, love, I'd better go, too. Give my regards
to the Nibblet and tell Andrew he might as well give up now."
"I will. Take care, Spike, talk to you soon." Buffy replied,
then she hung up.
Spike laughed to himself as he pictured Dawn and Andrew 'duking' it out.
The poor sod doesn't stand a chance, especially if little sis is still
learning moves from her big sis.
With that amusing image in his mind, he turned the Viper around and drove
back into the center of the city. Hungry and in a good mood, he decided
to have some dinner in that diner near the hotel.
Spike sat down at the counter of the diner and glanced around the room
to get the lay of the land. He knew from personal experience that vampires
liked to hang out at diners late at night, looking for potential victims,
but there didn't appear to be any vampires other than himself there tonight.
At least, not at the moment.
The booths against the walls were almost empty, but there was a young
couple sitting at the counter in the seats next to his, chatting merrily.
"Would you like something to eat?" asked a middle-aged waitress
who looked not only bored and very tired but also as if she would rather
be anywhere in the world other than this diner.
"Er... yeah, can I have a very rare hamburger and a Coke, please?"
The young man sitting next to him turned and said, "You've got a
bit of an accent. You from London?"
"Yeah," Spike replied, inwardly rolling his eyes. Conversations
with perfect strangers would never be something he enjoyed doing. There
was a time, not that many years ago, when he just would have killed the
guy and been done with it, but that easier, more carefree time was past.
Good guys had to make an effort to at least be polite, if not actually
pleasant and charming.
"How long have you been here?" the pretty young woman chimed
"Off and on, for the last ten years or so." Spike knew, of
course, that he couldn't tell them that he and Dru had first come to the
States in the early 1960's, and that he still looked exactly the same
age he was then.
"Off and on? That sounds like a lot of moving around. What do you
do for a living?"
"Security." Spike almost laughed aloud at his spontaneous response.
"Sounds interesting. Lisa and I are both lawyers."
"Are you here in Chicago on business?" Lisa asked. They seemed
to be tag-teaming him now.
"No. Just visiting a friend. It's a nice city though. Take it you
two are based here?" Spike hadn't intended for this conversation
to actually go anywhere, but he was a bit bored, and they seemed reasonably
"No. We're here on business. We're attending a seminar that's being
hosted by a Chicago law firm called Wilde and Williams. They're a fairly
new firm but are very quickly building a reputation as tough negotiators
and as nearly unbeatable in the courtroom."
"I'll certainly be keeping my ears open for tips that might help
us out in our careers," said Lisa. "Jack's in tax law and I'm
in real estate, so we won't be attending all of the same workshops."
"Wilde and Williams has assigned one of their lawyers to lead each
of the various workshop discussions. They're taking their position as
hosts very seriously. They've even promised to recommend the best places
for meals and entertainment and such. You know, sort of like our own private
tour guides," Jack laughed.
The leader for the Real Estate group is a guy named Matt Lawrence,"
said Lisa. "I chatted with him on the phone last week; he seemed
like a great guy."
"Anyway, we both hope to learn something new from the seminar and
also to do a little networking. Schmoozing your fellow lawyers can pay
off later on," smiled Jack. "And since neither of us have visited
Chicago before, we're looking forward to checking out the city."
"Yes, I do hope we have time for a little sight-seeing before we
head back home, but we really won't be here very long."
"Not as if you'll mind getting back to our lovely new apartment,
right, honey?" Jack chuckled, glancing at Lisa.
"Yeah, I love San Francisco so much," she smiled. "Chicago
is just a bit too windy for me."
"They don't call it the Windy City for nothing," Spike noted.
"But it's a great town. There's a lot to see and do here. Take a
sailboat out on Lake Michigan. Lot of good nightclubs, if you're into
that sort of thing. So, you're from San Francisco?" he asked, taking
a sip from his Coke.
"Yeah," Jack replied. "Our favorite city, although L.A.'s
always an interesting town to visit and hang out for a while."
Spike nodded. "Once you've been in L.A., you'll bloody never forget
Spike's burger was then delivered by the waitress, and Jack and Lisa
said goodnight before paying their bill and leaving the diner.
Although they had turned out to be a pleasant enough young couple, Spike
was grateful for the peace and quiet as he ate his burger. His mind began
to replay the phone conversation he'd had with Buffy, which gave him plenty
to think about before returning to the hotel.
Only minutes after Spike's departure in the Viper, Xander returned to
the hotel after grabbing a quick snack at a nearby McDonald's. Brushing
off the remnants of his double cheeseburger, he crossed the street. He
had no sooner stepped up on the sidewalk, heading to the side door, when
he heard a familiar voice call his name. He looked to his left and saw
Oz standing there, hands in pockets and grinning.
"Oz!" Xander exclaimed. "Long time, no see!" He extended
a hand. Oz clasped it and shook it firmly.
"Yeah," Oz agreed. "Wish this visit was for more positive
Xander nodded. He, Spike and Mena were still working on the werewolf
situation. Oz, he knew, was a part of it somehow, although he doubted
his involvement was for any underhanded purposes. He'd always been a good
friend and had been an important part of Willow's life for a while.
Xander suddenly felt a little self-conscious. He wondered if Oz had ever
completely forgiven him for that time in Sunnydale when he had been found
kissing Willow who had been, at that time, Oz's girlfriend. Despite them
each having a significant other, he and Willow had felt some romantic
twinges for each other and had gone about exploring them in the worst
possible way. It had ended badly for everyone involved, especially for
Oz and Cordelia, who had been Xander's girlfriend.
Cordy had immediately dumped him for that lapse in judgment, but Oz had
eventually forgiven Willow. They had stayed together as a couple until
Oz, deciding he needed space and time away from Willow to figure out a
way to control his inner wolf, had left town. Willow had been devastated
by his departure, but found a new love in Tara, who was also a kindred
Oz returned to Sunnydale once he thought he'd solved his wolf control
problem, but by that time, Willow had moved on to a new love. When his
jealousy triggered his wolf, causing him to attack Tara, it became apparent
that Oz hadn't truly gained control over his transformations. So, he had
left Sunnydale again to continue his struggle for control over his werewolf
nature. At this departure, however, he and Willow promised each other
that they would always remain friends. That was the last time any of the
Scoobie Gang had seen Oz, and that had been, what, over three years ago?
"Good to see some familiar faces around here," Oz said hesitantly
as though following Xander's train of thought. He stopped and frowned
thoughtfully for a moment. "Although I never would've thought I'd
consider seeing Spike's face again a good thing." He shrugged.
"Things change. Life alters. Weird."
"Uh, yeah," Xander said slowly, still feeling awkward. "So,
how've you been?"
"Can't complain. You?"
"Same." Xander looked up at the hotel. "I mean, other
than the weirdness we're dealing with right now, I guess things could
Oz grinned. They both had experienced much worse and so could appreciate
the calm before the storm.
"You still playing in a band?"
"Yeah, actually. Hooked up with Pete, our lead singer, at a concert
about a year ago. Nothing big time yet, but we play regular gigs around
"And the ladies?" Xander asked. "Band guys are always
Oz ducked his head slightly. "Not really. The whole werewolf thing
really puts a damper on a long-term relationship."
"Oh, right," Xander said, mentally kicking himself.
"What about you? Any lucky lady caught your attention?"
The sadness swamped him, as he'd come to expect whenever he thought of
his past love. "You remember Anya?"
"Well, things got really serious," he said levelly. "Got
all the way to the altar even." He blinked a couple of times against
the burning in his eyes.
Oz frowned, knowing that the end of the story was obviously not in the
"happily-ever-after" category. He waited silently to hear the
"But I couldn't go through with it. We broke up. She wouldn't hardly
speak to me except to hurl insults."
"You're talking about the same Anya, right? The Vengeance Demon?"
"Yeah. Well," he qualified, "she wasn't a Vengeance Demon
at the time. She'd given it up, but she went back to it after we split
Oz raised his eyebrows at the possible ramifications that could follow
pissing off a Vengeance Demon. He was amazed Xander was still a coherent
biped and not some slurping, oozing pile of puss after what he said he'd
"Yeah," Xander said emphatically, responding to Oz's expression.
"It was really bad for a while after the whole 'leaving-her-at-the-altar'
deal. But we eventually worked through things." He stopped abruptly,
remembering some of the better times they'd shared before.
Oz could sense the pain, could see it hovering in Xander's eyes. "What
Xander swallowed hard. "She was with us in that last battle in Sunnydale,
against the First Evil," he said with a question in his voice.
Oz nodded. "Yeah, I heard bits and pieces about that," he confirmed.
Xander shook his head. "She didn't make it."
"So," Oz began slowly after several seconds had ticked by in
silence. "Our love lives, not the best topic."
Xander managed a slight smile, knowing Oz was trying to lighten the mood.
"Never has been."
"Yeah," Oz agreed. He glanced down the street and saw a small
bar on the corner. He gestured at it. "How about a drink?"
Xander quickly glanced up at their floor of the hotel. "Mena's probably
still in research mode, checking for information about local wolf or wild
dog sightings, mauling injuries, and such. I guess a quick drink wouldn't
Oz smiled as they began to walk toward the bar. "You know, I spent
some time in Nevada. Met a girl; got a little serious."
"Yeah? What happened there?"
"Found out she was a mining heiress," Oz said as though the
circumstance was a highly undesirable thing.
Xander looked perplexed. "And that would be a problem because...?"
"Her father owned a silver mine," Oz said with a lopsided grin.
Xander laughed as he reached the front door of the bar. "Go figure."
He let Oz enter first and, still chuckling to himself, followed him into
the dim interior.
While Xander and Oz were talking, Mena busied herself with research on
the Internet. She looked up numerous listings that dealt with werewolves,
everything from the origins to cult groups that worshipped the creatures.
She saved a few of the most informational sites to the Favorites for
future reference, then began a local search for news items describing
any type of strange or unexplained attacks that could be attributed to
She had already stopped by the front desk and talked to the attendant
there about the hotel's history. Hoping to find any clues to the ghostly
activities, she had asked if there had been any shady dealings or tragic
events. The young woman had looked at her a little funny and said that
she didn't know of anything like that. It seemed likely the staff would
definitely pass on that kind of legacy, but to her knowledge, no. At least
nothing had been said to her.
Mena frowned as she scanned her latest search results and found nothing
with any potential. She looked at the clock on the side table and wondered
what was keeping Xander. Surely he should be back by now.
She sighed and leaned back against the pile of pillows she had propped
against the headboard. She had just closed her eyes to rest for a bit
when she heard the eerie sounds begin again, just as they had the night
The temperature in the room dropped noticeably, but not so much as to
be uncomfortable. The lights above the headboard blinked on and off in
an erratic pattern. The TV channels flipped, creating a jumble of static
noise in the room. Even the phone went berserk, ringing non-stop.
Holding her breath and too scared to move, Mena watched as the computer
screen wavered and blinked. It looked like the computer had gone haywire,
shuffling from one site to the next, randomly starting and stopping. The
progress sped up to a dizzying pace. Then, just as suddenly, everything
stopped, except the phone. It continued to ring for a few moments then
ceased as well. The ringing sound reverberated in the room.
Mena sat frozen in place and listened as her heart thumped several times
in her chest. She glanced around the room, half expecting something to
jump out of the walls and attack. After a half-minute had passed uneventfully,
she finally sat up again and took a deep breath, letting it out shakily.
It was only then that she realized the Internet site that had ended up
on screen was playing a MIDI file. It was a soft, sweet, familar song
that she didn't immediately recognize, but she knew it would come to her.
It was a well known, old English Folk song.
Shifting herself closer, she began to read the page that had, seemingly,
been left for her by whatever power had just moved through the room. Her
eyes widened as she scanned the page. It was a website for an English
"Je?," she muttered in confusion. She looked up quickly
and scanned the room again. She knew the entity had left and wasn't likely
to return. She looked down again at the screen and shook her head, trying
to comprehend what was going on.
She hit the "Back" button, but nothing happened. The "Refresh"
button was also ineffective. Nothing she tried would remove the page from
the screen. She listened as the sweet tune continued playing, over and
over. Finally, she simply closed the laptop and leaned back against the
Did the ghosts want her to see that page for some reason? Was it a clue?
Mena frowned, completely bewildered. What could an English pub possibly
have to do with their situation?
Oz and Xander did not emerge from the pub until about an hour later.
It hadn't taken long for Xander to start recounting some of the more noteworthy
events which had occurred before Sunnydale became a mini Grand Canyon.
He'd gone into great detail about Mr. Sweet and the real-life musical
the Scoobies had been forced to perform, the "Buffy/Spike Hump-fest",
as Xander referred to it, and finally Willow's struggle with magic and
her ultimate victory over both the addiction and the black magic she'd
Click to enlarge
"She's been one busy witch," Oz quipped as he and Xander left
the pub. "She e-mailed me every now and then, but we sort of lost
touch for a while. Must've been when she started into the heavy magicks."
"Losing Tara," Xander said distantly, "hit her harder
than I ever thought possible. She scared the hell out of us for a while
there. But the new Willow is going strong. Last I heard, everything was
going well down in Brazil with Kennedy." He stopped, blinking as
he remembered. "At least until Kennedy's sudden illness, anyway."
"Glad to know Willow's doing okay," Oz said after a moment.
He stopped at the door to the hotel. "Hope Kennedy gets to feeling
"I imagine her Slayer powers should start kicking in any time now,"
Xander said hopefully.
Oz nodded. "Well, I'd better get going. My band's got a gig tonight
at the Excalibur nightclub. You're all welcome to come," he offered.
"Sounds good, but don't forget we're toting a minor," Xander
"I'll pull a few strings," he said. "We don't go on until
about nine, but you can come early, check out the place. It's cool."
He took out an old receipt from his pocket and wrote down his cell phone
number in case anything came up before then. He handed the slip of paper
"Check with a guy named Nick at the back door. He'll let your young
"We'll be there."
With a final farewell, the men went their separate ways, Oz to prepare
for the evening's performance and Xander to check on Mena's progress.
Mena was pacing in her room when she heard Xander enter his own room,
then knock on the connecting door.
"Hatima!" she exclaimed as she wrenched open the door.
"Where have you been?" she asked. Tears of relief stung her
eyes, but she blinked them away. "I had another encounter with the
ghosts of this hotel. They played with the lights and the TV and left
a strange website on the computer."
Xander took a moment to assess the quickly-spoken words, then looked
over at the abandoned laptop on the bed.
"A strange website?" he asked, confused.
"I know it doesn't make much sense," she said, frustration
coloring her tone. "It could be simply by chance, but I do not truly
She walked to the bed and sat down. Picking up the computer, she flipped
the screen back up.
"It would not shut down when I tried," she explained. "It
remained on that one page until the computer finally went on Stand By
after a while."
"What was the page for?"
"It looked like some English pub," she replied.
"A pub?" he asked blankly. "What does that have to do
"Exactly what I have been trying to figure out since it happened,"
she responded. "I am beginning to wonder if it was given as a clue."
"Or maybe it's just some wacky ghost with a stupid sense of humor.
Or a hankering for a Guinness? Or Bangers and Mash?"
"Xander!" she said hotly. "This is serious!"
"Okay, take it easy," he said patiently. "Let's think
it through, and then we'll get Spike's take on it when he comes back."
They pondered all conceivable ideas about the website's appearance until
Spike arrived. Mena again related her experience with the ghostly presence
in the room and the strange website. It still made no sense to any of
them, but Mena insisted that it had to be some sort of message from beyond.
They agreed to keep working on decoding whatever possible information
there could be, but Spike and Xander remained doubtful.
"Hey," Xander remembered, "Oz invited us to hear his band
play at the Excalibur tonight. Said he'd get us all in if we wanted to
take him up on it."
Mena's eyes immediately lit up. "We can go to see a real band?"
She looked first at Spike then at Xander, fairly beaming at the prospect.
"Yes! Let's do that!"
The two men exchanged a look. Spike nodded in agreement.
Mena squealed in excitement and immediately began searching her bag for
just the right clothes to wear. The selection was limited, true, but she
was sure she could come up with something reasonably acceptable.
"Like as not, we can spare a bit of time for a night out,"
Spike said. "With Oz, there's a good chance it won't be nancyboy
pop music." He leaned against the small bureau. "Wasn't his
old band called 'Dingoes Ate My Baby'? Always got a bit of a chuckle over
"Yeah, that's what his band back in Sunnydale was called,"
Xander confirmed. "He didn't say what his new band is called, but
Oz would never play garbage. The guy's a rocker."
Before long, Spike, Mena and Xander hailed a cab and headed to the nightclub.
Mena was chatting up a storm in her excitement at going to a real club
to hear a real band play. She knew Oz had promised to make special arrangements
with the backstage security guys to get her inside. She would probably
have to wear a bright orange bracelet to identify her as a minor, but
she didn't care.
When they came to the impressive stone structure at the corner of Dearborn
and Ontario, Mena was awestruck.
"Outstanding! It looks like a castle!" She looked down one
side and then the other. "Where do we go to get in?"
Spike smiled a bit at the excitement in her voice and her eyes. Xander,
however, frowned slightly. The starry-eyed expression left him feeling
a bit deflated. First Spike, now Oz and the coolness of a band. Sighing
inwardly, he figured he'd never catch a break in the admiration department.
"Oz said we should head around to the back of the building,"
he told them.
Still gazing up at the turrets and details of the building, Mena followed.
"Do you think Oz will let us meet the band members?"
Xander struggled not to roll his eyes. True to his word, Oz had cleared
their names with the security guard at the back door. After checking his
list, the man wound a sturdy paper bracelet the color of a traffic cone
around Mena's left wrist and stamped the top of her hand with ultra-violet
Once inside, they walked backstage and found Oz and a few other band
members getting ready for their performance. Oz looked up from the guitar
he was tuning.
"Hey," he greeted them. He looked at the young girl. She seemed
to be barely containing herself from hopping with excitement. Oz smiled.
"You must be Mena."
She gave him a nod and a huge smile. "Oz!" Mena exclaimed.
"This is so cool! Thank you for getting me in."
"No problem," he replied, amused. "Nick, the security
guy back there, and I are real tight. He actually helped us get this gig."
He turned to Xander and Spike, and his tone darkened. "We cool?"
"For the time being at least," Spike answered. "Mena had
another run-in with the hotel ghosties; thinks they left a clue on her
computer, an Internet site for some pub in Blackpool. Can't suss out what
it means though."
Oz raised his eyebrows at Mena. "More ghosts, huh?" He grinned
suddenly at Xander. "The ghost magnet meets the demon magnet?"
"Ha ha, Oz," Xander said sarcastically but without any real
Oz stuck his tongue in his cheek for a moment. "You know, they say
this place is haunted, too." He smothered a grin when Mena's face
fell. "You can buy tickets for the tour."
"Katu!" Mena cried. "No more ghosts!"
Eyes sparkling with good humor, he mercifully changed the subject. "Our
set doesn't start for a couple hours yet. We're about to talk through
some technical cues with the lighting and sound guys. Real boring stuff.
Nothing to see or hear."
"Right, then," Spike said. "We'll take a wander around
the place, yeah?" he asked Xander and Mena.
Mena looked disappointed, apparently sad she'd have to wait to see the
band together, but she eventually nodded.
"We'll get something to eat in the meantime," Spike added.
Xander and Mena readily agreed to the food idea. They left Oz and his
band mates to prepare for their gig and took a brief tour of the club,
(Mena pointedly avoided the room where the "Supernatural Ex"
tour was gathering) and then finally settled down for a meal.
As the night wore on, the club became more and more crowded. Spike caught
sight of Jack and Lisa with some other people, whom he assumed were their
Click to enlarge
Oz' band, the Rampaging Vegans, had finished their set and had been replaced
by a band Spike didn't really think much of. They claimed to be blending
many different styles, but it was the aural equivalent of mixing lots
of color together, a yucky shade of brown. It didn't really matter. No
matter what they claimed, they were really there to keep an eye on Oz.
Mena seemed to be enjoying herself, soaking up the atmosphere. She had
absolutely loved Oz' band and raved about it enthusiastically. Spike doubted
she had ever been to a club before. Xander was a little embarrassed by
how much she gushed over the band members and their music, and he found
it difficult to look at her, due to the way she was dressed and all the
make-up she was wearing. He wasn't used to Mena looking so much like an
attractive young woman. He much preferred to think of her as the teenager
Click image to enlarge
At this point, he was busy talking to Oz, both of whom seemed to be enjoying
the opportunity to do some more catching up. Apparently, a lot had happened
to both of them since Oz had last been in Sunnydale.
Spike decided to make his way back over towards the bar. As he neared
where the lawyers had been, he heard screaming. A quick look revealed
four werewolves beginning to prowl through the crowd. He pulled out his
taser and hoped that Xander and Mena would see what was going on.
"Everyone stand back!" Xander yelled as he moved across the
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