Previous parts here:
Part One / Part Two / Part Three / Part Four / Part Five / Part Six / Part Seven / Part Eight / Part Nine
Angel of the Morning
“I wish you could stay, Giles.” The stocktaking was all finished – good thing that Dawnie had owned up when she did! – and Giles was flying out in the morning. I was gonna miss him a lot.
“Thank you, Willow,” Giles said. “Don’t worry; I’m not leaving for good this time. I shall return.”
“Yeah, but when? I’ll miss you.”
“Oh, I doubt it. I’m sure that Spike will keep you more than sufficiently occupied to compensate for my absence,” he said, his eyes twinkling.
“Well, guess so, but it’s not the same,” I said. “You still think you can get him fixed up with legal ID?”
“I don’t see why not,” Giles said. “I’ll certainly do my best. I should be able to give you some news within, ah, perhaps three or four days.”
“That’d be super great,” I said. “Uh, Giles, before you go, I was just wondering, you know, if, well, how come you’re okay about Spike being with me when you were all big with the ‘no road to Buffy’, even when Spike had been pretty much one hundred per cent with the helpfulness for ages?
Giles pursed his lips and his hand started to move towards his non-existent glasses. He stopped half-way through the gesture and put his hand to his chin instead. “Ah, yes. Despite all the changes in Spike, and even though his, ah, love for Buffy did inspire him to some indisputably selfless behavior, I always felt that there was something unhealthy about his feelings for her. There were definite elements of obsession, rather than love, and I believe it had more to do with her being a Slayer than her being a beautiful and charming girl. I wasn’t at all comfortable with it, and whatever positive effects it might have had on Spike I disregarded.”
“So, what changed your mind?”
“Nothing. I still feel exactly the same way about Spike and Buffy. Everything that I have discovered about the relationship that they had while I was away has only confirmed my misgivings.”
“Oh,” I said. That had thrown me more than somewhat.
“Spike acts in an entirely different way towards you. You are relaxed in each other’s company, you consult each other before taking decisions that affect you both, and in fact you act like a perfectly normal couple in a perfectly normal relationship. Buffy inspired Spike to grand gestures, noble sacrifice, and all that sort of claptrap, whereas it seems that you inspire him to be a good boyfriend. “
“He’s been good to me, yeah,” I put in.
“It’s all much more reassuring than was his attitude towards Buffy,” Giles smiled. “I’m more than happy to give the pair of you all the support that I can.”
“Thanks, Giles,” I said, and then I got this sort of wave of Giles-love and gave him a great big hug. I was going to miss Giles a whole lot when he went back to England. “You sure you can’t stay?”
“If I did stay, how would I manage to do anything about establishing a legal identity for Spike?” Giles pointed out. “I’m going to have to do a lot of twisting of arms, and inveigling people to do favors for me, and it would be extremely difficult to do it all by telephone and letter, ah, I mean e-mail. I will come back, I promise, although I’m not sure when. Of course, you would be more than welcome to visit me in England, over the summer perhaps, and you could even bring Spike if you could work out a way of him traveling safely.”
“Me go to England?” I hadn’t thought of that. Going to London would be pretty cool. Getting Spike there wouldn’t be easy, but hey, we could work something out. “Hey, that would be great.” I carried on with the Giles-hugging, and that was when Spike came in.
“Something I should know, love?” he said, raising an eyebrow at me, and grinning. “Oi, Rupes, you pinching my bird?”
“Alas, she appears to be too smitten with you to perceive my true worth,” Giles replied, grinning just as widely. “I shall have to return to England in the same state as I left it, as a lonely bachelor, with no prospect of that status changing in the near future.”
“Unless you can get lucky with Lydia the Tattooed Lady,” Spike teased, and Giles burst out laughing. Spike joined in, and so did I, and then Dawn came in and wanted to know what we were all laughing at, and that was it with the serious talking for the night.
- - - - -
Giles must have moved real fast on the ID for Spike front, ‘cause by the next Thursday I got an e-mail from him saying that he’d fixed up a passport. Spike had to go to the British Consulate in Los Angeles, give the name ‘William Shackleton’, and collect a ‘replacement for a lost passport and visa’. Yay for Giles!
I asked Spike if ‘Shackleton’ was his real name, ‘cause I thought Giles might have found that out while Spike was being Crazy Victorian William, but no. It was just some random name that the Council of Watchers could use on a passport, maybe somebody who died as a child or something, and Spike said that he supposed that he should consider himself lucky that at least he was keeping his real first name. He still didn’t tell me what his name had really been, even though I was dropping some pretty big hints.
Picking up the passport was going to be tricky, ‘cause the Consulate was open Monday through Friday eight thirty to five, and so there were all those pesky combusting in sunlight issues. He had to go there in person, so that ruled out asking Angel’s team to collect it, always assuming that Angel would have lifted a finger to help Spike anyway; bummer.
So, Spike went off to LA on Sunday evening. He was going to work out a sunlight-free route to the Consulate office on Wilshire Boulevard during the night, go there in the morning, lie up during the day, and then come back Monday evening. I would have liked to go with him, only that would have meant missing all Monday’s classes, and so I just kissed him goodbye and stayed home.
That was the day that Xander and Anya came back from their honeymoon. I was all ‘Yay, lots of catching up to do, lots to tell them’, and I was really looking forward to seeing them again. But, hey, I’ve already said I can be all kinds of dumb sometimes.
- - - - -
The honeymoon looked to have done Xander good. He must have been somewhere around five or ten pounds lighter; like what he’d been eating the past couple of weeks hadn’t exactly had any calories, or like he’d been doing one whole lot of push-ups. Anya was thinner too, and hey, that wasn’t doing her any favors at all, but that stressed-out look that had been in her eyes lately was gone and she looked tired in a way that was kinda smug and happy. I recognized the look in her eyes ‘cause I’d seen it looking back at me out of the mirror lately. Kinda made me wonder why they’d bothered to go to Baja for the honeymoon ‘cause, hey, bet they’d hardly been out of the hotel room. Sunnydale Motel would’ve done just as well.
It was just me and Buffy who met up with Xander and Anya Harris – that still wigged me out a little; they were actually married, like wow – at the Bronze. No Dawnie, ‘cause Buffy was worried about Anya making with the TMI and so she’d packed Dawn off to Janice’s, and Tara wasn’t there either. She had stuff to do for class on Monday, and maybe I should have made a point of asking her to come, but it didn’t occur to me. I mean, this was just catching up with friends, my friends more than Tara’s, no big, right? Wrong.
There was TMI from Anya, just like we’d expected, but Xander wasn’t all with the trying to shush her; he was all laid-back and calm, just making with the fond smiles. I don’t know if this was ‘cause of Dawnie not being there, or just ‘cause he’d had all the tension boinked out of him, but I thought it was a good sign. I had some TMI of my own for Anya, and I thought maybe Xander wouldn’t be too wigged this time.
I didn’t even get to the TMI before Xander started with the nastiness. I started off by telling them about Spike’s little adventure with the demon and being all Victorian Crazy William, ‘cause hey, it was important and, now that it was all over, really funny too. Buffy and I made with the story, and Anya made with the laughs at the right places, and Xander made with the nasties.
“Seems like a whole lot of trouble to have gone to,” he said. “Why didn’t you just stake him?”
“Xander! That’s not funny,” I said. Only, he didn’t sound as if he’d meant it as a funny. Just all matter-of-fact and like he was stating the obvious.
“God, Will, don’t tell me you still have a thing for the bleached nuisance,” Xander said, giving me an eye-roll and shaking his head slowly. “I thought him not being here, inflicting his presence on us, meant you were over that stupidity.”
“Hey!” I protested. “That’s not nice.”
“Oh, she’s still seeing Spike,” Buffy put in. “All night, every night.”
“You’re sleeping with Spike?” Xander gasped. His mouth twisted and his eyebrows went up like a Space Shuttle taking off.
I tried to use a bit of levity to defuse things, and I remembered something that the Buffybot had said to me. “No, I had sex with Spike. I’m sorry if it bothers you. You’re my best friend.”
Xander looked kinda stunned, but he shut his mouth. Anya’s eyes gleamed. “Oh, I could so see that coming. So, you’ve been getting lots of orgasms? I thought you looked nicely satisfied. Every night since we’ve been away, right?”
“Yeah, lots of times, in lots of different positions,” I quoted the Buffybot again. “I could make sketches. Well, not the night when he thought that he was William shut up in the asylum, of course, but every other night.”
“Oh, you so have to tell me all about it,” Anya said, shuffling a little closer to me. “Vampire stamina is legendary, of course, but I bet Spike has imagination and flair to go with it.”
“Uh, yeah,” I said, suddenly feeling pretty uncomfortable. Buffy was giving me the great big sad eyes and the trembling lip treatment, and Xander’s lip was curling in a very nasty sneer. It looked like my attempt at lightening things up hadn’t worked.
“God! How could you?” Xander said. “You let that evil soulless thing have his way with you. How could you sink that low? A vampire.”
“Uh, hello, last boyfriend was a werewolf,” I pointed out. “Look, we –”
Xander wouldn’t let me finish. “And look how well that worked out,” he broke in. “But at least Oz has a soul. Spike’s just a creature that looks like a man. A demon. How can you be so stupid?”
“Giles was okay with it,” I told him.
“Giles isn’t here to deal with the consequences,” Xander shot back.
“Dawn’s all ‘go Willow and Spike’.” I reminded him. “Tara thinks we’re good for each other.”
“Dawn’s a fifteen-year-old with a stupid crush. God knows what Tara can be thinking. Unless she’s just trying to keep in good with you so that she can be there to pick up the pieces when it all goes smash, which it will.”
“Oh, come on! Like he’s going to be faithful and true to you? ‘Cause he has such a great record. Moved on from Drusilla to Harmony. Dumps Harmony when he gets his creepy obsession for Buffy. Doesn’t get anywhere with her so he moves on to you. How long do you think you’re going to last?”
Buffy squirmed a bit but didn’t say anything. I couldn’t say anything about her thing with Spike; it would just get Buffy mad at me and would probably make Xander even worse. “Spike’s not like that,” I said. “He still loves Buffy.”
“He does?” Buffy said.
Xander didn’t notice Buffy’s reaction. “So you’re, what, his sex toy? God, Willow, what happened to your self-respect?”
“He loves me too. Just different than Buffy. Hey, I still love Tara, only not the same way as I did.” This was worse than the intervention at the Magic Box had been. I’d had some backing there, but I wasn’t getting any help now.
“Huh,” Xander sniffed. “So he says. He’s just pulling the wool over your eyes so that he can get some. Why can’t you see it, Will?”
“Why can’t you see that it isn’t any of your business?” I snapped. I was starting to feel very cranky. “Tell him, Anya.”
“Leave me out of this,” Anya said, stabbing me in the back. “A wife should support her husband. Like a husband should support his wife in any dispute involving a third party, whoever that might be, shouldn’t he Xander?” Oh great. Anya was picking right now to get her own back for Xander taking my side against her a few times in the past. Or she was setting things up for something she wanted Xander to do in the future. Either way I was getting caught in the crossfire and there wasn’t going to be any backing from Anya coming my way.
“It’s my business because you’re my best friend and I don’t want you to make a terrible mistake that’s going to ruin your life and maybe get people killed,” Xander said. “Well, you’ve already made the mistake, but there’s still time to put things right. Or I could put them right by staking the peroxide pest.”
“Don’t you dare!” I yelped. “Leave Spike alone.”
“There’s no need to stake Spike,” Buffy supported me, although pretty feebly.
“So dump him,” Xander commanded.
“You don’t get to give me orders, Xander.” I was getting pretty mad now.
“Come on, Willow, since when do I give you orders? I’m telling you what’s the best for you. You’ve been my best friend pretty much my whole life.” He gave me that quirky little Xander smile. “Maybe not when we were in diapers, but pretty much ever since then. I want to protect you ‘cause I love you.”
“Only not in any sexual way,” Anya pointed out hastily.
“You’re like a sister to me, always have been, and I don’t want you to get hurt. And you will get hurt if you don’t listen to me and break things off with that corpse that walks like a man.” Xander’s smile had disappeared by the time he finished.
“Like you haven’t socialized with him,” I riposted. “You played pool with him often enough. You’ve saved each other’s lives.”
“But I never forgot what he was,” Xander said. “If you start thinking that he’s really a guy then you’re betraying Jesse.”
That was a low blow and it caught me right off balance. “H-how do you work that out?” I said.
“We had that whole big lecture from Giles, remember? ‘You’re not looking at your friend; you’re looking at the thing that killed him’. Vampires are demons living in a dead body. That’s all. Evil by nature.” He caught Buffy’s eye and hastily added “Unless the vampire has a soul, that kinda makes him human.”
I wasn’t so sure that it was thinking about Angel that had made Buffy look wigged, but that was her business. “Look, I know all that, but Spike’s different. And it’s Spike that I know. I never knew the William from eighteen-eighty, apart from when Spike went freaky with the demon venom. This has nothing to do with the thing with Jesse.”
“It has everything to do with it,” Xander insisted, and he went on to explain why, only I didn’t see that what he was saying made any kind of sense. He just kept on and on, kvetching away all evening, with Anya keeping out of it and Buffy only speaking up when Xander mentioned staking Spike.
And maybe he wore me down just a bit.
- - - - -
I handed Spike his passport back and he put it in his pocket. “All legal now, pet,” he said. “Dunno about decent and honest, but I suppose I’m getting there.”
“Yay, go Spike!” I said. “You don’t even look too bad on your passport photo. Hey, I got a reply from that Cerqueira Alves guy in Brazil. He says he remembers you and he’ll send a certificate in the name of William Shackleton. One hundred and fifty dollars to get it in English as well as Portuguese, and he takes PayPal, so I sent it right away. Maybe we should start looking for somewhere for you to hold your dojo or whatever, right? Enter the Spike.”
“Bloody brilliant, love. I’ll give you the cash. Up for a celebration? The Bronze, I think. Can’t be arsed to go any further after two hours on the bike.”
“Yeah, cool. Only,” I said, a little unhappily, “we’ll have to keep the public displays of affection down.”
Spike frowned. “What? Never done more than snog you there, love, no more than fifty other couples do every bloody night. New management?”
“Uh, no. I kinda promised Xander.”
“What the fuck has it got to do with him?” Spike’s frown turned into a hard line across his forehead and his eyes went kinda cold. “None of his sodding business. Thought we’d got all that crap sorted.”
“Well, yeah. It’s just, well, he found out that we’d started sleeping together, and he kinda took it bad, and he went on and on until I said okay, I’d cool it with you a bit.”
“You what? Like I said, what the fuck has it got to do with him?”
“I know, I know, sweetie. It’s just, Xander’s been my best friend since we were in kindergarten, before that even, and I don’t want to upset him.” I tried to use the puppy-dog eyes look. “I’ll make it up to you, Spike. Just, no touching in front of Xander, not ‘till he gets used to things, and we don’t leave together. I’ll come over later.”
“Bugger that!” Spike snapped. “Had it up to here with that sort of thing with the Slayer. Not being a sodding dirty secret any more. No way.”
“That’s not how it is,” I tried to explain. “I just don’t want to rub Xander’s nose in it.”
“Bollocks! Look, who’s your sodding boyfriend anyway? Me or the bloke who just married another girl?”
“You are, sweetie,” I said. “Of course you are.”
“Then we just act natural when we go out,” Spike said. “If you look kissable you get sodding well kissed, Red. We leave together, and if it looks like we’re heading off for a shag, well, bloody tough on anyone who objects.”
He was right. I knew it perfectly well. Just like Xander should have backed Anya against me, all those times, I should take Spike’s side against Xander. Only, I couldn’t. I shook my head. “It’d just cause too many problems, Spike. Uh, we could find somewhere else to go, doesn’t have to be the Bronze.”
“Not going to let the tosser dictate where I can and can’t take my girl,” Spike growled. “You going to stand up to him or not?”
“I’m not going to upset Xander when I’ve promised not to,” I said.
“Fuck this,” he snarled, and spun on his heel. “The celebration’s off. See you when you’re willing to stand up to the git.” He stormed off out of the house leaving me on my own and on the verge of tears.
- - - - -
The next few days were pretty miserable. I was all mopey at class. Jenna was sympathetic but said that I was being a total dumb-ass and that I should tell Xander where to go. Only I couldn’t tell her the bit about Spike being a vampire, and so she didn’t have the whole picture. Xander wasn’t being as much of an asshole as Jenna thought. Was he?
Maybe he was, ‘cause Tara thought so too. We had coffee together and talked about it, and she commiserated with me and agreed that Xander was being unreasonable. “Spike too,” she said. “They’re both, well, men.”
“Uh, yeah, kinda noticed that,” I said.
Tara laughed. “They’re like kids in the schoolyard, I mean. Playing their games and picking sides.”
“Well, what can I do about it? I’m hoping Xander realizes that he’s just making me miserable and lightens up. Otherwise I’m gonna crack and go over to Spike’s, and then he’ll take me somewhere that Xander’s bound to be, and there’ll be all kinds of trouble.”
“Do what you think is right,” Tara advised, which so wasn’t helpful, but then she put down her cup and looked me straight in the eyes. “I’m so proud of you, Willow. Not that long ago you’d have tried to fix this with magic. You’re all past that, aren’t you?”
“Uh, yeah,” I replied. “I never even thought of magic. I guess I’m learning good sense, huh?” I thought for a second about the things that could go wrong with a spell like that, and I couldn’t help chuckling. “Hey, if I tried to change the way Xander thinks about Spike, I’d probably make them fall in love instead.”
Tara screwed up her mouth, but her eyes twinkled. “And I don’t think anyone would want to see that,” she laughed. Her tone changed to serious. “Willow – do you do any magic at all these days?”
“I’ve started practicing a few little things,” I admitted. I felt a bit uncomfortable telling Tara, but I didn’t want to lie. “The thing with the Glark Guhl Kashwhatever demon made me think about defense, ‘cause I was way too slow when it went for you, and you’d have gotten bad hurt if Spike hadn’t yanked its chain. I went back to the basics and did a little pencil moving, and I went over the spell that makes the air go thick as tar but didn’t actually test it out, and that’s it. I’m all ready to put up a shield, and shoot stakes at things, and I think I can handle that much without any danger of me going whacky. It’s just some stuff so that I can react in an emergency, no more than that, and I don’t want to try for anything more. Maybe I can’t be Buffy’s big gun these days, but at least I can be her pistol.”
I was all ready for Tara to give me that ‘disappointed in you’ look, but instead she gave me a great big smile. “It sounds like you’ve regained the balance. I’m glad for you, Willow.”
“Uh, yay me,” I said, “but a big un-yay for me losing it in the first place.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Tara leaned back in her seat and looked at me with her eyes very wide. “I look at you now and I see the girl I first fell in love with. You’re back on track, hon.”
“Uh, thanks, Tara,” I said, feeling about as embarrassed as if I’d suddenly been dragged out of the crowd to sing the National Anthem at the Superbowl. “I love you too, but, uh, not the same way as I did. Just as much as ever, but, uh, not with the, uh, it’s just like friends, uh …”
Tara spoke up to get me out of the hole I was digging for myself. “I know. That particular magic isn’t there any more. For me either. I want you to be happy, I think you have a pretty good chance of that with Spike, and I’m glad for you both. I know you’ve moved on, and I’m moving on too.”
I got a warm rush of relief, and I was so glad that Tara looked like she was all over the heartbreak I’d put her through. “You’re dating again? Cool.”
“Well, not dating as such,” Tara said. “Just looking, so far, but I’m feeling good about it.”
“Pity that Buffy’s straight,” I said, thinking aloud, and then I could feel myself going as red as a tomato when I realized what I’d said. “Uh, please tell me you didn’t hear that.”
Tara threw back her head and laughed out loud. “Oh, Willow, hon, you do like things to be neat and tidy and orderly, don’t you? Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.” She narrowed her eyes. “Although, I think maybe you always were straight. I wonder if Buffy could be persuaded?” I felt my mouth forming into a big ‘O’ and Tara laughed again. “Just kidding you. Buffy’s not my type.”
I laughed with her. “Yeah, you’re right, I was just thinking that it would be kinda neat and tie up the loose ends. As a basis for a relationship I guess that’s pretty dumb, huh? I can’t tidy people up with charts and different color crayons. It’s just, you know, kinda awkward for me living in Buffy’s house when I’m dating her ex. The whole thing about looking for a place for Spike, maybe for me too, is pretty much on hold right now. I hope I can sort out this thing with Spike and Xander soon. Hey, this week Buffy’s about my only channel to Spike, ‘cause she sees him when he’s on patrol, but I’m not getting much news back that way.”
“You should put your foot down,” Tara advised me. “Tell Xander he’s being an asshole. Tell Spike he’s cutting off his nose to spite his face.”
“I will,” I said. “I’m going to hang on until the weekend, maybe Xander will see that he’s just making me miserable by then. So far he just seems too darn pleased with himself to see anything ‘cept what he wants to see, but I’m hoping. If it doesn’t work out then I’ll go to Spike and, yeah, I’ll do what he wants. Uh, any chance you could, maybe, arrange to be around the Bronze Saturday night? ‘Cause that’s where Spike will take me, and Xander will be there, and the fight might be a whole lot less nasty if you’re around to say sensible things, and if Xander holds back a bit ‘cause of you then maybe Anya will back me up too.”
“I’ll be there for you,” Tara promised. “Always.”
- - - - -
Late the next afternoon Xander dropped by Revello Drive on his way home from work. Buffy wasn’t home, it was just me and Dawn, but I had things to say to Xander that I didn’t particularly want Dawn to hear and so when I saw Xander’s car pull up I went out into the garden to intercept him.
“Hey, Will,” he beamed. “How’s my vampire-free best friend?”
“Miserable and unhappy and frustrated and generally cranky,” I said. “This thing between you and Spike? I’m totally fed up of being caught in the middle. I miss him and it’s all your fault.”
“You can’t be serious,” Xander said, his smile twisting. “You’re much better off without that leech hanging on to you. He was just after you for what he could get.”
“He loves me. Why can’t you admit it?”
“He can’t love you without a soul, Will, everybody knows that. And come on, if he loved you he wouldn’t have backed off.”
“He’s stubborn and proud, and he can be a real asshole sometimes,” I said, “but he does love me. He just refuses to sneak around not touching me if we’re anywhere you might see us, and he’s taken a snit and says he won’t see me at all until we can just be ourselves. And hey, I see his point, ‘cause the whole thing? None of your business, like he says.”
“I’m not going to stand by and see my best friend ruining her life,” Xander insisted, kicking at a stone on the garden path. “I love you, Willow, but you do make some stupid choices. Like, there was that whole bad magic thing, but you got over it. Hey, why don’t you try drinking water to kill these dumb Spike cravings?”
“That was just nasty, Xander Harris,” I said, hurt. “I’m going to go see Spike, and if he wants to take me somewhere that you’re going to be, then tough shit. Deal with it.”
“You’re being a fool, Will,” Xander said. He kicked hard at the stone and it flew from the path and smacked into a garden ornament. There was the sound of pottery shattering. “Oops!”
“Well, you’re going to have Buffy pissed at you now,” I said, sneakily pleased. “Way to go, Xander.”
“Maybe I can fix it, for I am Fix-it Guy,” Xander said, and bent down to pick up the fragments of an ugly garden gnome. It didn’t seem a Buffy thing at all, too trashy, and not like a Joyce thing either. “Hey, what’s this?”
“A garden gnome,” I told him. “Not Buffy’s kinda thing. Must be Dawn’s.”
“No, I mean this,” Xander said, and he held up the gnome’s head. There was something gleaming inside it. “Looks like some kind of camera.”
I stepped over to join him and peered at the device. “Webcam, yeah. And what’s that? A Bluetooth attachment?” I examined it more closely. “Yeah, it is. Wireless surveillance. Shit.”
“Spike’s been spying on the place,” Xander deduced. “Creepy stalker guy strikes again.”
“Huh?” I couldn’t believe Xander’s leap of logic, or rather of something that resembled logic only in Bizarro Land. “Spike? Why would he use a camera? He doesn't have internet access, if he wants something from the net he asks me – or did, before you meddled – and he can stand as still and quiet as a statue anyway. It’s the Initiative.”
“Huh? Why would Riley watch the place?”
“Hello, the Slayer is a big player, stands to reason they’d want to keep an eye on her,” I said. I looked again at the gnome and revised my opinion slightly. “Although, this gnome is a little too tasteless for the Government, not all black and sleek and camouflaged. Maybe more in the style of three nasty little nerds who are all big with the gadgets?”
“Hey, yeah. Jonathan the self-portrait,” Xander agreed. “Not that Jonathan has a white beard, but pretty accurate apart from that.” He prodded at the camera. “Anything you can learn from it?”
“If it’s the Government, probably not a darn thing,” I admitted. “If it’s the Three Little Pigs then maybe one whole lot. Warren’s good with the technical stuff, I have to give him credit for that, but hey, I’m not bad myself. Bring it inside and I’ll start making with the hacking and tracking.”
- - - - -
It took me thirty minutes to get into the network from the camera. Xander phoned home; he wanted to stick around to see what I could find out, and Anya said she’d come over too and bring pizza for everybody. That got a big ‘yay!’ from Dawn; guess she hadn’t been looking forward to my cooking.
I was still trying when Anya arrived, and I kept right on trying between bites of pizza, and that was when I cracked it. I was in, part of the same network as the webcam. There were firewalls to get through, and a shared file folder that was one whole big booby-trap, but I got past the lot. Yay me!
I saved the IP address, and got a line on the ISP, and started looking at what was at the other end, keeping up a running commentary all the time. Everybody was looking over my shoulder but most of the things on screen were just lists and folders, and the others must have been getting pretty bored when I hit a folder that was full of the inputs from a whole load of cameras.
“Uh-oh,” I said. “There are other cameras.”
Everybody spoke at once, wanting to know where, and so I just ignored them and opened the first file.
“The DoubleMeat Palace,” I said, as the image filled the screen. I opened the next. “The Bronze.” Nothing was happening there, it wasn’t opening time yet, and so I moved on. “Hey, what the –? These ones are my classes on campus.”
The next one was Xander’s construction site, silent and deserted. Then there was a street that I didn’t recognize. “What’s this?” I wondered.
“My guess is it’s outside their hideout,” Xander suggested. “Warning system so that they could see us coming.”
“Which pretty much proves that it’s the Three Stooges,” I agreed. “It didn’t feel like Government stuff anyway.” I saved that picture to my own hard drive. “This one’s labeled ‘mag1’. Bet it’s the Magic Box,” I opened it and was proved right. “That’s how they were all ready when Spike led us to their last hide-out, we planned the raid there.”
“Those worms were poking around in my shop,” Anya said crossly.
“This one, ‘spi1’, must be Spike’s crypt,” I said, and clicked on it.
My blood froze. I think I stopped breathing. I sat and stared at the screen, motionless, helpless, unable to do anything else. I didn’t react when Anya pulled Dawn away and told her that she mustn’t look. I didn’t react when Xander growled “I’ll kill him” and headed for Buffy’s weapons chest.
All I could do was stare at the images on the screen. Spike’s sarcophagus. Buffy naked, writhing, head thrown back, mouth wide open.
The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER ©2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox.