DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course. 
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY:  Spike killed the Mayor but Trick, who had been following him, arranged for the cops to show up, making his getaway more difficult.  Wesley and Willow called Buffy to assure her that she was safe from Spike, and when she discovered that Spike was planning on using Faith to get to Wilkins, she and Mickey raced over to Faith’s apartment building just in time to help Spike get out of there…

*************

Chapter 15: The Good, the Bad, and the Innocent

Willow’s hands were shaking as she pounded at the door.  “Spike!” she called out, desperation bringing a harsh rasp to her voice.  She paused, pressing her ear to the wood, and then started pounding again.  “Giles?” she tried this time.  “Xander?  Guys?  Let me in!”

Wesley hung back, watching as her unease deepened into panic, occasionally glancing down the alley at the street to see if anyone noticed the pair standing outside the warehouse door.  It wasn’t a nice part of the city, and he’d been surprised when she’d navigated them there so easily, hopping from the cab almost before it had stopped moving to make a beeline for the almost-hidden side entrance.  He had followed after, but as the seconds ticked away and the silence poured through the cracks around the hinges, he witnessed Willow’s anxiety pulling at her muscles as she slumped forward against the wall.

“They’re not here,” she mumbled.  “Where could they be?  Giles at least should be here.”  She turned around, and he saw the tears glistening in her eyes.  “It was a set-up for all of us, I think.  They’ve killed Giles, and they’ve killed Spike, and I’ll bet they even killed Xander, and they’re going to come after me again, and…” 

Each phrase became more and more disjointed, hysteria hitching with the sobs that were starting to wrack her body.  Without hesitation, Wesley stepped forward, wrapping his arms around her to pull her against his chest.  “Nobody’s going to hurt you,” he murmured, stroking her hair.  “I already promised you that.  I’m not about to rescind my word at this point.”

“But where are they?” 

Her words were muffled against his shirt, but she wasn’t making any sign of moving.  Instead, his body flushed in heat as she stole her arms around his waist, clinging to him in more need than he’d ever seen her exhibit before, and he fought not to break out into a grin at the feel of it.  “I’m certain---,” he started, but was cut off when she wrenched herself away.

Turning, he saw a familiar platinum head sauntering toward them from the mouth of the alley, not even faltering when Willow launched herself at him with a squeal.  The pair hugged for a moment before Spike set her down to the ground, his blue eyes flickering over her shoulder to meet Wesley’s. 

“Got a bone to pick with you mate,” he said coldly, the muscles in his jaw twitching.

He refused to show signs of being cowed by the other Englishman, in spite of the danger radiating from the man’s body.  “And I believe I owe you an apology,” Wes countered.  “I should never…”  He stopped when Buffy entered the alley, followed closely behind by Mickey.  The singer wasn’t exactly who he was expecting to see, though her presence certainly explained the lack of Faith in Spike’s custody at the moment.

Willow noticed her at the same time, and frowned as she looked up at her friend.  “What’s going on, Spike?” she asked.  “What happened out there?”

“Inside,” he replied tersely.  Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a single key and walked toward the warehouse door, unlocking it and holding it open for them to enter.  When Wesley approached first, he stiffened, eyes narrowing into suspicious slits as he blocked the entrance.

“It’s jake,” Willow said, stepping between the two men.  “Wesley is just jake.”

“Blighter told Buffy I was tryin’ to kill her.”

“And I’m very sorry for that,” Wes said.  “I jumped to the wrong conclusion.”

“I also seem to recall you showing up at Red’s hotel, a little hot under the collar because you found out who I was.”

“And again---.”

Willow’s hand on his arm silenced him.  “Wes saved my life, Spike,” she said firmly.  “And if Buffy’s the reason you’re here in one piece and not in a body bag, then he saved your life too, because he’s the one who convinced her you weren’t out to blow her down.  Now.  Resolve face here.  He’s coming in, and you two aren’t going to fight, got it?”

With a roll of his eyes, Spike stepped aside, allowing the group to traipse into the dark interior, casting one last look down the alley before following after.  “Hang on,” he said, and reached for where he remembered the light switch on the wall was.

They blinked as the overheads came on, revealing the dingy office that led to the rest of the building.  A dust-laden desk dominated the space, its only adornment a telephone, with rows of filing cabinets along two of the walls.  “Where the hell is Ripper?” Spike muttered as he began to prowl around the edges of the room.  “Hasn’t anything this day gone right?”  He stopped in front of Willow and pointed to where Wesley was hovering near the door.  “And why is he havin’ to save your life?” he demanded.  “All you had to do was pick up a few things and meet me outside when I was all done.  What’s so bloody dangerous about that?”

“Because it turns out that you weren’t supposed to walk away from this job!”  Now that she knew he was all right, her own temper was flaring, twin spots of red high on her cheeks.  “That Lindsey McDonald decided to play follow the redhead and stop me from doing the eensy weensy part of this assignment you let me do because apparently, it interfered with their plans!”

“Damn it!”  Spike’s fingers curled into a fist and slammed into the front of the nearest filing cabinet, leaving a large dent in the metal even as it left the skin of his knuckles in bloody shreds.  “I knew those fucking lawyers were bad news.”

At his outburst, Buffy instinctively stepped forward, but was stopped by Mickey’s hand on her arm.  When she looked back at him, he gave her an almost imperceptible shake of his nod, warning her not to interfere.

“Are you going to tell me what happened with you now?” Willow asked.

Before Spike could answer, the phone on the desk began to ring, stilling everyone in the room.  On its second shrill cry, Wesley, who was nearest, picked up the receiver.  “Hello?” he asked tentatively.  He listened, and, “It’s Wesley Wyndam-Pr…”  Another pause, accompanied by the darting of his eyes over to where Spike and Willow both stood.  “Both of them, actually.”  After a brief moment, he held the phone out to the redhead.  “It’s Mr. Giles.  He’d like to---.”  He yanked it back when Spike snapped forward to grab it from him.

“What?” the blond challenged.  “Give me the bloody phone.”

Wesley shook his head.  “He specifically requested to speak to Willow.  He said…he believed she would be…more rational.”

Spike just stood there and glared at him for a long moment before snorting and stalking back to his position.  Tentatively, Wes offered the receiver back to Willow.

The first thing out of her mouth was, “Are you all right?”  She didn’t say much throughout the conversation, merely punctuating it with the occasional, “Uh huh,” and “Oh,” and ending it with an, “I’ll tell him,” before replacing the phone back on its cradle.

“Well?” shot Spike.  “Where is he?”

“Back at his hotel.  With Xander.  It turns out that when they left earlier, Xander noticed he was being followed and double-backed until he caught up with Giles.  They tried losing the guys who were on their tail, but couldn’t shake them, so they just gave up and went back so that they didn’t give away the location of the warehouse.”  She looked over at Wes.  “Looks like I wasn’t the only one they wanted to keep an eye on.”

He nodded and glanced at the other Englishman.  “I think it’s time we shared stories,” he said.

Tersely, Spike recounted the events of his day, carefully editing out the details of his phone call from Buffy, and then listened as Willow shared hers.  When all was said, they stood silent for a moment, digesting all the new information.

“I guess that cuts it then,” Spike said.  “Job’s done and we blow town as soon as possible.”

Willow frowned.  “But---.”

“No buts.  Ripper’s got the plane tickets, our bags are already stashed.”

“Wait a minute.”  Wesley stepped forward.  “Faith can attest that you were in the apartment as can this other gentleman you can’t identify.  The police were all over the apartment building within minutes of the shooting.  Do you honestly believe they won’t have the airport covered?”  He shook his head.  “They won’t leave you a viable escape route.  Buses, trains, planes.  They’ll all be covered.”

Spike shrugged.  “I’ve got the Desoto.  We’ll just drive ourselves far enough out of town before we can hitch a faster ride home.”

“No,” Willow said.  “He’s right.  This was a set-up from the start.  That lawyer made it pretty clear.  Whoever hired us did it with the express intention of making sure you went to the big house for this.  I think they’ve proven they won’t give up until they get what they want.”

“Did you not question why someone would go to the lengths of hiring someone living in California to perform a hit in New York?” Wesley asked.

“They wanted the best.  I’m the best there is.”

“No, you were the best there was.  There is a multitude of highly qualified triggermen in this town.  Freelancers, some who work for Conti, not to mention the ones who might work for the four or five other families that have a foothold in the power around here.  This was personal, and if you want my opinion---.”

“I don’t.”

“---I think you’d be an utter fool to forget that fact,” Wesley finished as if he’d not been interrupted.

“Why in hell do you care what kind of fool I am?”

He answered without hesitation.  “Because it affects Willow.  Because someone tried hurting her today due to her involvement in this and I’m not going to sit back and watch you jeopardize her even further by behaving so irresponsibly.”

“I just plugged your boss.  How do I know you’re not just lookin’ to bide your time so that you can call the coppers yourself?”

“And how do I know you won’t put a bullet in my back the minute the opportunity arises?”  Wes held himself firm under Spike’s narrow-eyed scrutiny, refusing to look away.  Finally, Spike violently exhaled and shook his head.

“Damn trust issues,” he muttered.  Louder, he said, “Fine.  Point taken.  So the game now is find out who set me up and take them out.  I can do that.”

We can do that,” Willow said.

“Right.  We.  We should start with that shyster.  You said you left him tied up at Heaven?”  At her nod, he said, “Get Ripper on the horn.  Fill him and Harris in on what’s goin’ on.  Then the three of you are goin’ to have to find new places to stay---.”

“If you don’t mind my saying,” Wesley interrupted.  “I think Willow is best served remaining in her position at the club.  I can help keep an eye on her then, and she can still be in a position to gather information for you.”

“I like that,” Spike said.  “Now, I just need to sort a place for me.”

From behind all of them, Mickey cleared his throat.  “If you want,” he said, once he had their attention, “I’d be more than happy to help out.  As payment for helping me with Bobby the Bear.”

Though he nodded his agreement to the sense in the offer, Spike’s gaze was riveted to the blonde at Mickey’s side, his face solemn.  “What about you, Buffy?” he asked quietly.  “Where do you see yourself fittin’ into this wonderful, fucked up, mess I’ve made?”

She took a long time to respond, but the anticipation of the others as they awaited her response left Wesley more than aware that he was the only one in the room who wasn’t completely in tune with whatever this shifting dynamic was between her and Spike.  It explained why she’d been so rattled by his announcement that morning, but how something could’ve developed so rapidly between the pair, he had absolutely no clue.

“If I know where you are, they can get to you through me,” she finally said.  She went on, ignoring the flaring of anger in the blue depths of his eyes.  “I’m still a part of the Wilkins family in a way.  I have to maintain that until we get you in the clear.”

“Which means you’re goin’ back to Heaven, doesn’t it?”  The rest of it went unspoken, but all of them---even Wes---knew what he wasn’t saying. 

And back to Angel.

“I think it’s best.”

He just stood there, staring at her, his hands balled into fists at his side, before he stuffed them into his pockets and marched for the door.  Without a word, he yanked it open and stormed out into the sunshine, leaving the rest of them speechless.

“I should get out there before he rips one of the doors off my car,” Mickey said with an apologetic smile to Buffy as he hurried after Spike.

Willow’s eyes were kind as she reached out and touched the blonde’s shoulder.  “He’s just a little overwhelmed right now,” she said softly.  “He’ll come around.”

“I should’ve trusted him,” Buffy said.  “Maybe then…”  She sighed, shaking her head.  “I’m too tired to think about this right now.  I don’t suppose you guys would give me a lift back to my apartment, would you?  I seem to have lost my ride.”

“Sure,” Willow said.  “We’ll share a cab.  You should really get some sleep.”

As he followed the two women out of the warehouse, Wesley’s thoughts were a jumble.  What exactly had he missed in this development between Buffy and Spike?  She acted as if he was the boyfriend, not Angel, and his territorial behavior about her whereabouts exhibited the same features.  He would have to make sure and ask Willow once they were alone.

*************

Her brown eyes flashed as she stared up at the cop, wishing that she could just slap the stolid Neanderthal into the next century.  Christ, when were they going to make hearing tests required for these losers? Faith thought irritably.  “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a hundred fucking times,” she said, her voice deceptively low.  “The guy who shot Richard was William.  The Bloody.  Rook.  R.  O.  O.  K.  You want me to draw you a picture, too?”

“Look, I understand you’re distraught, but really, there’s no need for that kind of language, Miss---.”

“It’s Faith.  I’ve told you that, too.  More than fucking once.”  She shook her head, pacing around the bed, wishing that he would just stop blocking the door to the living room and let her out of there.  “Jesus, if you can’t even remember that, how the hell can I expect you to remember the name of the bastard you need to get out there and find?  Do you even know your name?”

He sighed.  “It’s Officer Finn,” he said patiently.  “And this will go much smoother if you would just calm down and finish answering my questions.”

She stopped before him and put her hands on her hips, well aware that her nightgown was cut dangerously low and clung to her in ways that had distracted even Spike for a second.  “I think I want to talk to whoever’s in charge of this little charade,” she said.

“Then that would be me,” he replied, but his gaze never left her face.

Disappointment darkened her features.  “Well, isn’t that just grand.  I get tied up, gagged, and forced to listen as my lover gets shot, and you’re tellin’ me I’m stuck with Mr. Smith to see this out?”

“It’s Finn.  I told you that.”

“I meant Mr. Smith, as in the movie character, you dumb mug.”  She waited for some sign of recognition but got none.  “With Jimmy Stewart?”  Still nothing.  Faith rolled her eyes and started pacing again.  “Great.  Just fucking great,” she muttered.

Officer Finn looked back down at his pad, eyes scanning his notes.  “So, the doorman tells us that the colored fella we found unconscious out in the living room spent most of the morning hanging around downstairs.  Do you know if he was working with Rook?  Or what his name was?”

“No, and no.  Kind of hard to be chatting him up if I’m tied to a four-poster, now isn’t it?”

“And you didn’t actually see Rook shoot Mr. Wilkins?”

“Why is this concept of being me tied to a bed so hard for you to understand?  I saw him knock Richard out.  I saw him take a pillow from the bed.  I saw him drag him into the other room---.”

“Why would he do that?”

“I don’t know, why don’t you ask him?  Like, when you arrest him?”  She flopped onto the chaise, her nightgown riding up her legs, exposing the expanse of her thighs to his view.

Finn snapped his pad shut.  “I think it would be good for you to talk to someone down at the precinct.”  When her mouth opened to argue, he held up his hands to cut her off.  “She’s not really a cop.  I mean, she is, but Kate specializes in helping the women who’ve been involved in violent crimes.  She can help you sort through some of your feelings regarding what’s happened today.”  Hurriedly, he scribbled down a name on a piece of paper and handed it over to her.  “I suggest you call her.  She’s very good at what she does.”

Deliberately, Faith tucked the note into her cleavage, and smiled when Finn blushed.  It disappeared, though, when he stepped into the outer room.  Idiots, she thought.  All of them.  They’re never going to catch Spike if they spend all their time with their little pads up their asses.  Didn’t matter, though.

If they didn’t want to do it, then she’d just do their job for them.

*************

Riley’s face was grim as he emerged from the bedroom, his gaze only cursorily darting over the other police officers in the room before catching the attention of his partner.

“That one’s got a mouth on her,” Graham Miller said, an amused smile on his face.  “I think they could probably hear her downstairs.”

“Yeah,” Riley agreed.  “Too bad she’s not telling me anything useful.”

“Are you kidding?  We’ve got the goods on William Rook.  That’s pretty damn useful if you ask me.  You just don’t get it because he was before your time.  We never could pin anything on the bastard.  Having this fall into our laps was a stroke of luck.”

“We only have the goods if that colored fella will testify or if forensics comes back with something.”  He frowned, looking around the room.  “Where’d he go?  Did you guys already get his statement?”

Miller joined him, sweeping his gaze around before settling on a uniformed cop placing tape on the floor where the body had been found.  “Hey, Meers, I thought I told you to keep an eye on that guy.  Where is he?”

The dark-haired officer looked up, his eyes wide.  “Did you?  I don’t remember.  I haven’t seen him since I started bagging evidence.”

“Great,” Riley muttered.  He waved another cop over.  “Go find the other witness.  I need to talk to him.”  To Graham, he said, “Just what I need.  A missing eyewitness and some mysterious hitman roaming my streets.  You know, sometimes I really miss Iowa.  Life was much simpler there.”

Graham laughed.  “Simple is boring, my friend.  Enjoy the big city fun while you’re still standing to do it.”

*************

Leaning against the door jamb, Wesley sighed as his blue eyes swept over the interior of Buffy’s dressing room.  He didn’t know why he was surprised.  The way the past twenty-four hours had been going, the fact that the lawyer he’d left tied up and the body of the man he’d killed were now both missing should’ve been expected.  There wasn’t even any blood on the floor to indicate that anything had ever been there.  Somehow, some way, McDonald had gotten out with all of the evidence that he’d ever been there in the first place.

Part of that was good news.  Now, Wes didn’t have to worry about how he was going to get rid of the body himself.  Though having a corpse around Heaven was hardly anything new, one that was dead because of his hand was most definitely a novelty, and one that would never have escaped Angel’s attention.  He wouldn’t have been reprimanded, but things would’ve most definitely changed for him around the family.  Considering the events of the day, they still might.

Buffy had been silent all the way to her apartment, barely even saying good-bye when she finally climbed out of the car.  Once they were alone, Wesley had tried to press Willow for details, but she’d been evasive, claiming ignorance on any of the specifics.

“Ask Buffy,” she’d said.  “Or Spike.  Although he might not take it the best way, so…ask Buffy.”

He didn’t want to ask Buffy.  He wanted to know what the hell was going on.  It was bad enough he was as deep in this as he was, but he’d been willing to overlook that for Willow’s sake.  He just wasn’t interested in becoming some casualty because Spike couldn’t keep his dick in his pants.

Willow.  God, what the hell was he doing?  Sure, she was beautiful.  Smart.  Resourceful.  Loyal.  Working for a fugitive from justice.  At this very minute, holed up in a hotel room with two other men who were trying to protect that same fugitive.  He was putting his entire career on the line by getting involved with her, and yet he couldn’t stop himself.  Something about her…something he recognized.  She’d be valuable as an ally after this was all over, though it wasn’t as an ally he wanted her. 

He’d made no more advances toward her since that kiss in her room last night.  Or this morning, depending on how he looked at it.  Not that he didn’t want to. 

Seeing her with the gun.  So sure, and yet so vulnerable. 

Thinking she was going to get hurt.  How it had made him want to tear her attackers, limb from limb.

The smell of her perfume every time she walked by him.

God, he had it bad.

With a deep sigh, he turned away from the door and was startled to see Angel at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at him. 

“I’ve been trying to find you,” Angel said.  “I just got a call from the police.”

“Oh?  Is something wrong?”  Better to feign ignorance.  No way should anybody within the family know that he had any connection to the murder.

“Someone plugged my father over at Faith’s this afternoon.”  His face was impassive, his eyes dark.  “They think it was some guy named William Rook.”

“I’m not familiar with that name.”

“Before your time.  He used to be a hatchetman for the Conti’s.  I just wanted you to know, things aren’t going to change around here.  Well, except for the fact that I’m the one in charge of everything now.  But I still want you to be the boss around Heaven.  You do too good a job for me to be losing you over something like this.”

Wesley smiled.  “Thank you.  That’s…good to know.”

Nodding, Angel had half-disappeared into the darkness before he stopped and looked back up at him.  “Hey, did you ever find anything out on that Xander Harris like I asked you to?”

Ignoring the chill that settled over him, Wes casually began his descent down the stairs.  “I’m still working on that.  I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.”

“You do that,” Angel replied, and walked out into the front of the club.

Hurriedly, Wesley strode to his office, closing the door behind him before silently slipping the lock.  Now was the time for what he’d been dreading ever since the warehouse, but he knew it had to be done.  No more avoiding it.

His fingers dialed the number from memory, though it had been months since he’d had the need to do so.  When her voice came over the line, he slumped back into his chair, pulling his glasses off and tossing them onto the desk so that he could rub tiredly at his eyes.

“Jenny Calendar.  Can I help you?” she said.

“Hey there, gorgeous.  How’s my favorite long-distance assistant?”

There was a lengthy silence, the crackling of the miles between them creating static in the connection.  “Wes?” she finally asked.

“You have another boss?  Don’t tell me you’re moonlighting on me.”

“Not like it would be hard.  Most of the department thinks you’re dead, remember?”

He did.  It had been his idea.  Bury him inside the Wilkins family so that finding out their secrets would be simpler.  If he’d only known…

“Does this mean you don’t feel like talking to your old pal?  My feelings are hurt, Jenny.”

She laughed.  “I’ve always got time for you, Wes.  You know that.”  Pause.  “Does this call mean you’re on your way back to D.C.?”

Damn it.  She knew.  “I’d forgotten how quickly the department works.  That certainly didn’t take you long to find out.”

“But you’re coming back, right?  The Mayor’s dead.  The local cops know who did it.  What’s there for you to do there any more?”

“The family’s still active.  Angel’s in charge now.  There’s still work for me here.”  He took a deep breath, steeling himself for what he had to ask next.  “Is…Rook a big fish?” he asked.  “I didn’t know the name.”

“Are you kidding?”  Jenny’s voice was excited, and he could hear the rustle of paper.  “Do you know how many guys around here are shitting themselves because he’s getting nailed by the local police and not by us?  He’s done everything, Wes.  Here, there, everywhere.  And nobody has ever been able to make anything stick.  This is big time news.  The whole department’s buzzing.”  He could almost hear her thinking.  “You…don’t…know anything about Rook, do you?” she asked.

“No,” he lied.  “I’ve only just heard about the shooting.”  He took a deep breath to silence the screaming inside his head.  “I think this is going to…shake things up around here,” Wesley continued.  “Be prepared for me to contact you again.  Very soon.”

“I’m always here for you.  You know that.”

Hanging up the phone, he leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes against the ache that was starting to throb in his temples.  What the hell was he getting himself into?

 

To be continued in Chapter 16: The Girl Who Came Back