The Magic Word
The brief skirmish against vampires was over. Buffy wasn’t pleased about Riley and Spike getting involved in what she saw as her mission, and had cut both of them down to size with a few sarcastic comments. Now she walked away slightly ahead of Riley, pointedly refraining from girlfriendy things like allowing him to take her arm.
Riley fumed inwardly at Buffy’s attitude. Okay, she was the Slayer, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t have help, did it? What was he supposed to do while she was out patrolling? Sit at home – what was it that Spike had suggested? – oh, yeah, knitting sweater sets? He opened his mouth to utter a retort, but then thought better of it. No use complaining, it would just annoy her. Although, if he took a slightly different tack, he could get his point across without appearing to be moaning …
“Don’t you think you were maybe a little hard on Spike?” he said.
“Huh?” Buffy turned to face him, and her brow creased in one of her delightful frowns. “Hard on Spike? What’s wrong with being hard on Spike?”
“Well, he was trying to be helpful,” Riley pointed out. “Maybe you didn’t need his help that time, but maybe another time you will need it. Saying ‘Thank you’ wouldn’t have hurt.” ‘And the same applies to me,’ he added mentally.
“He only helps because we pay him,” Buffy said.
“So? He’s got to live,” Riley pointed out, warming to his theme. “Well, maybe not live exactly, but, you know what I mean. And you didn’t pay him tonight. Like I said, you could have at least said thanks.”
“He just got in the way,” Buffy snapped. The unspoken sub-text of ‘and so did you’ hung in the air between them.
“Fine!” Riley snapped back. “You can manage by yourself. We get the message. I’ll just go buy some knitting needles, okay?”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Buffy said, pouting. “I’m glad you want to help. Okay, I didn’t need any help tonight, but hey, I guess better to get it when I don’t need it than not get it when I do, yeah. Thanks. And, okay, I’ll say thanks to Spike when I see him next.” She extended her arm to Riley. He took it and they walked off together.
Spike emerged from behind a tree and stared after them. He wiped blood from his nose. “Uncommon decent of Soldier Boy,” he muttered. “S’ppose he’s as fed up with the Slayer treating him like a spare prick at a wedding as I am of the way she treats me. Be a first if she does thank me. ‘Bout bloody time. Still, good to get a bit of recognition, even if it is from Captain Cardboard.” He turned and headed back towards his crypt.
“Hey, Spike,” Buffy greeted the vampire. “I’ve got a proposition for you.”
“Slayer,” Spike acknowledged. He sat atop the sarcophagus, trying to look casual, hoping that Harmony would have the sense to keep quiet inside the coffin and not attract Buffy’s attention. “Do us a favour, love? Next time, knock. Only fair, we can’t enter your place without an invite.”
Buffy tossed her head, and was about to utter a scornful rejoinder, but then she remembered that she’d promised Riley that she’d thank Spike for his help when she next saw him. “Sorry,” she said instead. “Look, Spike, thanks for your help the other night. Maybe it didn’t work out quite the way you planned it, but it was a good thought.” She took a wad of cash from her pocket.
“No big deal,” Spike said dismissively. “Just fancied a spot of violence before bedtime, thought helping you out was as good a way to get it as any other. What’s the proposition?”
“Riley’s sick with some Initiative thing, and he’s missing,” Buffy explained. “I think he might be in the caves. You find him, bring him to the fourth floor of the hospital, their doctors get to him in time,” she held up the money, “and you get the cash.”
Spike sucked in his lower lip and thought for a second. Normally he wouldn’t care one way or the other if Riley was ill or might die, but the man had spoken up for him the other night. Not something that often happened; Willow had spoken up for him before, but that was about it. “Fair enough,” he said. “Only, if he’s not there, and I wander around for bloody hours and I can’t find him ‘cos he’s not there in the first place, I want at least something for my trouble.”
Buffy frowned. “I guess so,” she said reluctantly. “Okay, here’s twenty. That’s yours anyway. Find him, bring him to the hospital, you get the rest.”
“You got a deal, Slayer,” Spike agreed. He took the twenty and tucked it away. “See you at the hospital, then.”
Buffy left without any more words. Spike jumped down from the sarcophagus and slid the lid aside.
Harmony peered up at him nervously. “Has she gone? Did she say anything about me?” She raised herself to a sitting position, looked around, and then clambered out of the coffin.
Spike looked at her and debated with himself. The Initiative doctor might well be able to operate and extract the chip. Forcing him to do so wouldn’t be easy with the chip preventing Spike from harming humans, but he did have Harmony to provide muscle. However, any plan that depended on Harmony’s cooperation had a built-in flaw – Harmony – and it would all probably go horribly wrong. Better to take the smart option and just play it straight. There must have been a couple of hundred dollars in that wad of cash. No point in throwing it away on a ten per cent chance of getting the chip out, and probably an eighty per cent chance of ending up getting staked in the attempt or the aftermath.
“She’s still on the warpath for you, love,” Spike lied. “Gonna be checking around here a lot, I reckon. Maybe it would be best if you skipped town altogether.”
“But where else would I go?” Harmony whined.
“Los Angeles, maybe?” Spike suggested. He didn’t waste any more time on her, just grabbed his coat and headed off for the caves that once had been Adam’s secret way into and out of the Initiative complex.
Spike didn’t have to explore the caves for long. His attention was attracted by a repetitive thumping sound and he headed towards it. It proved to be being made by Riley, who was punching the solid rock walls of the cave.
“Bloody stupid thing to be doing,” Spike remarked.
Riley shook his head. “You know, it doesn’t even hurt.”
“Still dumb,” Spike said. “Slayer sent me. Got to get you to a doctor, mate.”
“The one from the government, you mean? Like the one who did this to me in the first place?”
“Least they’re willing to fix you,” Spike said. “They fucked me up good and proper, don’t catch them saying ‘sorry’ and offering to take the bloody chip out. Don’t know when you’re well off, mate.”
“They fucked both of us up,” Riley said grimly. “The difference is I was supposed to be on their side. You were the enemy.”
“Should have just bloody staked me, then,” Spike said bitterly. “Anyway, got to get you to the doctor. I get you there, I get paid.”
“And how’re you gonna get me there if I don’t want to go?” Riley challenged.
“Not a bloody lot I can do ‘cept ask nicely,” Spike admitted. “Can always go and yell for the Slayer, I suppose.”
Riley’s shoulders slumped. “Guess it’ll be less humiliating for me to go along with you than to have her come and drag me,” he said. “Okay, Hostile 17, lead the way.”
There was a knocking at the crypt door. Spike looked up from the TV screen and frowned. Who the hell could that be? The Slayer always just threw the door open, and he doubted very much if she’d change her habit just because he’d asked her to knock in future. Giles, maybe? The Watcher always knocked, ingrained English politeness overriding his contempt for vampires from his Watcher indoctrination.
Or Red? She’d probably knock, and if it was her that would be right nice. He’d had a bloody brilliant dream the night before, dreamed he was shagging Red and her sleepy-eyed blonde bit of stuff both at once, doing Red from behind while she was busy muff-diving and then swapping round and doing whatshername, Tara, and waking up and finding that all he had in bed with him was Harmony had been a massive disappointment. Not that the disappointment had been the only thing that was massive, and Harm had been very impressed and had done her best to give him a good time, but it had still been a bit of an anti-climax.
Spike reluctantly forced the remembrance of the dream images out of his head. “Come in, why don’t you?” he invited.
It was Riley. Spike’s anticipation deflated, as did other things. “What do you want, Soldier Boy?”
“I guess I owe you some thanks,” Riley said.
“No big deal,” Spike shrugged it off. “Got paid for it, didn’t I? And it’s not like the Slayer couldn’t have found you herself.”
“Still,” Riley said. He was rather surprised by Spike’s attitude; he would have expected the vampire to try to make more out of it. It occurred to him that Spike had some similarities to guys who he had known in the military, full of the bad-ass attitude, always swaggering and talking big, and taking pains not to show any signs of kindness or compassion in case they were taken as signs of weakness. “Gonna thank you anyway.”
“Yeah, well, that’s okay,” Spike said. “Like you said, we both got fucked up by the same people.”
“Talking of that,” Riley said, “seems to me we haven’t done right by you.”
“How so?” Spike asked. This sounded like something that he might be able to take advantage of, and he sat up and took notice.
“Well, putting that chip in your head, making it so as you can’t hunt people, I’m not gonna say it was a bad thing, but what the hell were you supposed to do next? I never saw anything about fixing things up for you Hostiles to start living among people. Were you supposed to starve or what? Don’t seem right to me, somehow. I mean, after World War Two there was the Marshall Plan, set the Germans back on their feet, we helped out the Japanese too. Seems that we should have had something like that for you vampires; otherwise, what was the fucking point of the chips? Might as well have just killed you.”
“Don’t seem right to me either,” Spike agreed. “I never knew what the fuck they were playing at, but my guess is there was some way they could switch the chips off and on, or was going to be. Send us out to eat just certain people.”
Riley shuddered. “I think you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head, Hostile – Spike. I wouldn’t have thought Professor Walsh to be capable of anything like that – ‘cept it turned out that she was fucking with us too, her own men. And that Adam thing – what the hell did she think she was doing?”
“Beats me,” Spike said. He wanted Riley to return to the ‘Marshall Plan’ idea, that sounded like there might be some profit in it for him, but he decided to let the ex-soldier get around to it in his own time.
“You worked for Adam for a while, didn’t you?” Riley asked.
Spike squirmed slightly. He decided that honesty was the best policy in this instance. “Bloke said he’d take the chip out if I did what he wanted. Only he kept jerking me around, always something else he wanted me to do, so in the end I said ‘stuff it’ and went back to helping you lot out. One thing I can say for you do-gooders, you keep your word.” He waved his hand in the direction of a chair. “If you’re going to be hanging around, sit down. You’re looming. Can’t relax with you towering over me like the sodding Empire State Building.”
Riley looked suspiciously at the tatty chair, salvaged from the town dump, but decided that it would take his weight and sat down. “So, if Adam had played straight with you, you’d have played straight with him?”
“S’pose so,” Spike admitted. “Long as he wasn’t wanting to destroy the world, that is. Bloody pointless, that is. Dunno why so many berks want to destroy the world. Sort of like the place myself. And what would we sodding do next?”
“I’ve never understood that either,” Riley agreed. “Now, rule the world, I can sorta understand that one, and I guess that was what Adam wanted to do.”
“Don’t understand that one either. Too much like hard work, innit? I’d just go for having loadsa money, flash car, pretty birds, decent sound system and a few good CDs, bit of violence before bedtime, and a telly with full coverage of Man U and England matches. Let somebody else worry about the economy of North Dakota or whatever.”
“North Dakota has an economy?” Riley grinned. “Look, I can’t offer you the car and the pretty girls, not even lots of money, but if I could come up with the cash to keep you in cigarettes and blood and a few beers, how about you work for us on a more regular basis?” He looked at the salvaged TV set. “And I know a guy who’s getting rid of a better TV than that one. I could get it for you. Can’t do anything about the soccer coverage. Unless, maybe, cable? It might be a bit hard to arrange in a cemetery, I guess, but we could ask.”
Spike frowned and pretended to be considering the offer. “Tempting,” he said, “but have you got the dosh? Dunno what they pay you for whatever it is you do at the school, but I wouldn’t have thought it would be all that much. Can you keep the cash coming? And, is the Slayer okay with this? She’s the boss, right?”
Riley grimaced briefly. “Yeah, she’s the boss, and I’ll clear it with her, but I can’t see her having a problem with it. I’m good for the cash. You’re right that a TA don’t get paid all that much, but I was on full combat pay for a year and I never got the chance to spend it. Hell, I don’t even spend the TA allowance, what with the cheap food and accommodation included. Long as you don’t expect too much, I’m good for it.”
“Fair enough,” said Spike. “But if I do special jobs I get a bit extra, right? Bonuses for world saving, wounds in the course of duty, that sort of thing?”
“Guess that’s fair,” Riley said. “We got a deal?”
“In principle,” Spike agreed. “I’ll have to add up what the blood and fags cost, come up with a figure.” He lit up a cigarette, ignoring the distaste on Riley’s face. Spike’s crypt, Spike’s rules. “The Watcher was rabbiting on about something like this once, and I didn’t take any bloody notice. See, he missed out saying the magic word.”
“You mean ‘please’?” Riley said, puzzled. He couldn’t remember having used that word anywhere in the conversation.
“Nah, mate. Cash.”
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.
Three and a half hours until I have to set off for work; I’m going to see if I can get far enough with the next episode of “Sunnydale Passions” that I’ll be able to complete it tomorrow or Saturday.