DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Spike and the others are preparing to get some definitive answers regarding just who exactly is behind the hit on the Mayor…
He carried his clothing into the outer room, unwilling to rouse Buffy from her much-needed slumber. It had been a late night, or an early morning if he wanted to look at it that way, and she was going to have to perform in just a couple hours. Though he hated the circumstances that required her to sing, Spike knew that she would still want to give it her best, to give the Mayor the send-off she probably thought he deserved, and he wasn’t about to be the one to rain on her parade. Besides, if she woke up now, odds were good he’d end up being late, and this morning, that just couldn’t happen.
He winced as he dialed the phone, eyes glancing furtively toward the hall to see if the sound would wake her. The other end was picked up even before the first ring had ceased to be.
“Everyone ready?” he said in a low voice, tucking the phone into his shoulder as he pulled on the first of his boots.
“Willow and Xander are back from fetching their uniforms,” Giles said. “We were just waiting to hear from you.”
“And you’re jake with switching places with Wesley?”
There was a long pause, and Spike heard the distant sound of voices in the background. “Since the injuries to his face are my responsibility,” the other man replied, his voice tight, “I suppose I can hardly complain if he’s not exactly suitable to be seen in the lobby, now can I?”
It was as close to an admission of fault that Spike knew he was going to get from his old friend. “I’ll meet up with you lot at the warehouse after,” he said. “Hopefully we can get this sorted by sundown.”
“Hopefully. Do be careful, Spike.”
“Always, old man. Always.”
Setting the phone back down in its cradle, he struggled with his other boot as he half-hopped, half-walked to the kitchen. Not that he should be surprised, but he’d worked up quite an appetite through the night and since he probably wouldn’t get a chance to eat until after he’d ditched the lawyer bird, breakfast seemed like a cracking idea. He just hoped there was something edible to be found.
Spike’s head was buried in the refrigerator when he heard the bedroom door open, and he’d just straightened when a sleepy Buffy appeared in the entrance. “Please tell me you weren’t planning on a clean sneak,” she teased as she fought to stifle a yawn.
His gaze swept over her thin form, the way the hem of his shirt hung to the middle of her thighs, only a few of the buttons done up in her false sense of modesty. “You should still be in bed,” he scolded as he set the jam on the counter, resisting the urge to go over and bury his face between her semi-exposed breasts.
“Then you shouldn’t have done that rampaging elephant impersonation out here. It’s really good, by the way. Had me convinced.” Crossing to his side, she wrested the knife from his hand and began slathering the spread on the toast he had waiting for it. “Pop some more in,” she instructed, waving the knife toward the toaster. “This sounds heavenly.”
His fingers were hovering above the appliance when it struck him, and Spike glanced over his shoulder to see Buffy reaching into an overhead cupboard for a couple mugs, all the while humming under her breath. It was the domesticity of it all. The normalness. The day-to-day routine enacted by couples who weren’t preparing to kidnap a lawyer in order to put the screws to him or going off to sing at a pretend fiance’s murdered father’s funeral. Had he ever really had that? He knew that answer even before the question had finished posing itself. Absolutely no fucking way. Drusilla got bored just from sitting for longer than five mintues; she’d have been tearing her hair out long before this.
And yet…he liked it. It warmed a spot in the pit of his stomach he hadn’t been aware was even chilled
“What?” Buffy froze in mid-spoonful, eyes fixed on him. “You’re staring at me.”
“Just thinkin’ that I’m the luckiest bloke alive,” he commented, and stepped forward to cover her hand with his, guiding it back to the tin of coffee before pressing slightly to release the spoon in it. Pulling it up and around his neck, Spike dropped his own hands to her waist and leaned forward, his lips skating along her brow. “You’ll spoil me, you keep this up, you know.”
Buffy giggled as his breath tickled in her ear. “I never knew making a cup of java for my man counted as spoiling,” she teased. “I’ll have to remember that one for future reference.”
Inside his trousers, he was already growing hard at the fresh scent of her hair as he buried his nose in it. For a split second, he entertained the idea of lifting her up and taking her right there on the counter, but her voice quickly brought him crashing back to earth.
“Who was that on the phone?”
And it was exactly for that reason, the knowledge that he’d have a devil of a time keeping his hands off her if she was there, that Spike had hoped she’d stay asleep long enough for him to get out. Because he couldn’t afford to be distracted today. Not with the shyster to sort out.
“Ripper,” he replied, stepping back to the toaster. “Just finalizing the arrangements for later.”
Buffy’s smile faded, and she picked up the spoon she’d been holding, twirling it absently between her fingers. “You’re going to be careful, right?” she asked. Her face was a blank canvas, her voice neutral, but the fidgeting of her hands told him all he needed to know. “Not that I don’t trust you,” she hastened to add, “but, you know, kidnapping usually involves cops, and the thought of you getting caught just gives me the heebie-jeebies.”
“Stop fretting on it,” he assured. “To be square, I think this whole thing’s goin’ to be a walk in the park. I’m not goin’ anywhere near the hotel, and as for McDonald…” He snorted, shaking his head. “The guy’s a suit. My money’s sayin’ he’ll sing before I even have to pull out my piece.”
Her smile didn’t reach her eyes, though, and she turned away before he could say anything further. Bugger, Spike thought. Can’t wait for this shindig to be over so that I can blow the hell away from this town. Grab Buffy and get her as far from this godforsaken place as possible. Maybe show her a bit of Europe before we settle in California. Yeah, that might be just what’s called for.
He just had to sort out this Wilkins business first.
As he watched Willow disappear into the rear entrance of the hotel, his knuckles were tight around the steering wheel, deathly white as if the bones themselves would break through the skin. In spite of a refreshing night’s sleep, waking on the couch with her slim form stretched out on top of him like a human blanket, Wesley’s nerves had quickly wound when it became apparent his part in the job was changing. Not that he was against driving the getaway car, but he would’ve much rather preferred to be inside as was originally planned, watching for Lilah Morgan’s comings and goings and keeping abreast of everything that transpired on the upper floor, rather than waiting helplessly outside for them to exit with their hostage.
A quick glance into the rearview mirror yielded confirmation that Giles was even less pleased with the new arrangements than he was; however, Wes had overheard the phone conversation with Spike where he’d admitted it was his own fault and took a small bit of satisfaction from that. For Willow’s sake, he wanted to like Giles. Under other circumstances, he was certain they could’ve even been friends. But Wesley wasn’t blind. It was obvious---to him, at least, if not to the redhead---that the other Englishman had stronger feelings for her than those of faux paternity, and as long as she was going to be even semi-interested in someone other than him, Giles would exhibit every jealous feature he possessed.
Of course, it didn’t help the matter that Wesley had lied to them about who he was.
“Now, you’re all straight on what’s going to happen, right?” Xander queried from the back seat.
Wes nodded. “I hardly think even I could bodge this up,” he said wryly. “Sit. Wait. Drive. Fairly simple.”
Giles’ snort of derision was almost undetectable. “I’m sure if there’s a way…” he muttered, but quickly glanced away when Xander elbowed him in the ribs, a furious scowl creasing his features as he turned to stare out the window.
“Don’t kill him,” the young man instructed, his hand on the door handle. “We need him to drive the car. And I think Spike and Willow might get sore at you if we went back with his dead body.”
The slam of the door made the car tremble slightly, leaving the pair in heavy silence. The desire to look back at Giles was great, but Wesley kept his gaze locked forward, unwilling to kowtow when he’d already proven his readiness to share in their duplicity. If Giles didn’t like it, then it was his own tough---.
“Oh, dear,” he heard from the back seat, and mentally kicked himself when he turned automatically to look.
“What is it?”
Giles was peering through his window, removing his glasses to clean them rapidly before replacing them on his nose, his squint becoming even more pronounced. “Nothing,” he replied, but when his hand dropped to the handle to ready his escape, Wesley’s grip shot out and curled around his arm.
“Hold on there.” Danger gleamed in his eyes. “Nothing is hardly the cause for you to take the run-out like that when you know you’re not supposed to go inside for another ten minutes. Now, for the sake of not screwing this royally up, you will tell me what the hell is going on.”
For a moment, it looked as if Giles was going to slug him, but Wesley remained firm, staring him down until the older man sighed in capitulation. “Mr. Trick appears to be here,” he finally said, and pointed out the window at the sidewalk.
“So…?” But his question trailed away when he saw the spectacle before the hotel. Not just Mr. Trick. For all intents and purposes, it appeared that Mr. Trick had brought along enough muscle to take out a small army. “Damn,” Wesley muttered, and immediately released his hold.
Giles frowned as he watched Wes reach for the glove compartment and extract a long revolver that had been stowed there. “What in blazes do you think you’re doing?” he demanded.
He didn’t even bother looking back as he checked the gun’s chamber, sliding in the extra bullets to fill it up. “You may wish to play the hero and go in there alone,” he replied tightly. “And after your little exhibition last night, I have to admit it would give me great pleasure to see you get a taste of your own medicine.” He snapped the gun shut again, tucking it inside his jacket before turning cold eyes to the back seat. “But I’ll be damned if I’ll let your arrogance put Willow in danger. Shoot me in the back if you must, but you’re not going to stop me from going in there and backing her up.”
He was out of the car before Giles could respond, and scanning the oncoming traffic when he felt the other man’s presence at his side. “For God’s sake,” he heard the older man say, “don’t go off half-cocked in there. We’re outmanned and outarmed. We have to take it smart.”
The flare of triumph almost made him smile, but instead Wesley glanced across, meeting the other set of blue eyes in understanding. “Whatever it takes,” he said in place of the bitter retort that had first sprung to mind.
There was a long pause, and then, Giles nodded. “Whatever it takes,” he repeated, and joined Wesley in searching the traffic for a break to cross.
Her reach for the phone was automatic, her gaze wary as she watched Lindsey bent over some paperwork at the desk. “Lilah Morgan,” she said, and then rolled her eyes at her own stupidity. It was difficult to break the habit, even when she wasn’t officially at work.
“Just the dame I was hopin’ to barber to.”
The small hairs on the back of her neck stood up at the rumbling purr on the other end of the line, and she instinctively turned her back so that Lindsey couldn’t see her as she spoke. “Do I know you?” she asked, her voice revealing none of the tightening that was happening inside her stomach.
The sound of a tongue being clucked came through the phone. “Now, that disappoints me,” the man scolded. “Here I was, thinkin’ I was all special, and you don’t even recognize the voice of one of your own? I am shocked and dismayed.”
Enough words this time for the English accent to be unmistakable, and Lilah’s heart sped up. “William?” she asked, this time speaking even lower. If this was him, she didn’t dare use either his nick- or surname, not with Lindsey’s prying ears so damn close. William could be just about anybody.
A chuckle. “Got it in one, duck. Or two, since you didn’t cotton on straight away.”
“How can I help you?” Professional. Distant. Nobody would ever know who she was talking to.
“Thought you and me might be able to arrange to meet up. I’m interested in seeing this circus hit the road, and something tells me that you’re just the dame who could help with that.”
“Oh? Interesting, considering we’ve not had the…” She froze for a second as she heard Lindsey shift in his seat. “…privilege of meeting prior to this,” she finished as obliquely as she could.
Another chuckle. “Right. Got it. McDonald’s sittin’ right there, isn’t he? And little miss lawyer doesn’t want him to know you’ve got me on the line.” She could almost hear him smiling. “If you weren’t actually a two-bit, shifty shyster, I might actually like you, Lilah Morgan.”
Oh, I can bag this one and be on a plane by sundown if I play it right, she thought, a delicious curl of pleasure sneaking its way up her spine. Out loud, she said, “You said something about meeting up?”
“First off, it’s not what you’re thinkin’. I’m not turning myself in. You lot hired me to do a job, and it’s done fair and square, just like the contract called for. But now the coppers are after me, and something tells this poor ol’ boy that you might be able to do something about that.”
“And not McDonald, you mean?” He snorted. “Because the wanker’s pissed me off, that’s why. Makin’ a play at Red, pulling his Trick on Ripper. You’re the one I’m ready to play ball with. That prat can just go fuck himself.”
She bit back the desire to giggle like a schoolgirl. Easier, and easier. Hate Lindsey, love me, she thought in excitement, though none of it showed on her face. “I’m not sure what you expect me to do for you. Things are…complicated.” That’s right; I’ll just play it cagey.
“Hear what I got to offer. It’s all I’m askin’. Someplace public, on my terms. No monkey business from either of us.”
Well, that was one part of the bargain she wouldn’t stick to, but no reason to tell him that. “And how do I know you’re on the up-and-up?” she asked.
This time when he laughed, it was a chilling sound that destroyed the delight that had begun to accelerate through her veins. “Because if I wanted you dead, pet, you’d be sittin’ on that couch with a bullet between your pretty little eyes already and not jawing with me.”
She held herself stiffly as she scribbled down the instructions he gave, her words terse. When she set the phone back down, Lindsey immediately said, “Who was that?”
“An old client,” she replied automatically. “Wants to meet for brunch about some potential work for us to do.” She rose to her feet, grabbing her suit jacket as she tucked her purse under her arm. “I’ll be out for a few hours. Don’t wait up or anything.”
Lindsey shook his head, returning to the paperwork in front of him. “It’s the middle of the morning, Lilah,” he said. “So, unless this is the sort of client that you expect to keep you until the middle of the night, I’d say odds are good I’ll still be glued to this chair.” He looked up then, eyes searing over her appreciatively. “On second thought, I hope it is that kind of client. You could probably use the extra cash when Holland boots you from the firm for skipping out on your spydog routine.”
She didn’t even deign to reply, and wished that the floors weren’t carpeted so that he could get the full effect of her heels clomping across the room as she strode determinedly for the door. It’ll serve the little joker right, she thought as she stepped into the hall. I make that call from the lobby, scoop Rook up like my own little trophy, and Lindsey darling can run scuttling back to LA with his tail tucked between his legs.
Lilah smiled. She loved it when things went her way.
Willow’s hands played with the hem of the apron tied around her waist as she watched Xander pick up the receiver of the house phone for the seventh time. “It’s still working,” she said, aggravated. She jumped when the far-off sound of a door closing echoed down the empty hallway, her head jerking around to make sure that they were still alone. “It’s worked each and every time you’ve checked.”
“I don’t get it.” He glanced down at his watch. “We passed Spike’s marker fifteen minutes ago. Why hasn’t Giles given us the ring to let us know it’s all clear to go up?”
She didn’t know, she wanted to scream, but didn’t, instead pinching her lips together in an attempt to bite back the nerves that were scrimmaging with her common sense for control. She hated it when plans went haywire. Order. That’s what she liked. Equations that balanced. Books with happy endings. And there was nothing orderly, or balanced, or happy about her head at that very moment in time.
With a flick of her wrist, she lifted the tablecloth covering her trolley, exposing the shelf below. “Get in,” she barked, much harsher than she intended.
Xander looked at her like she was crazy. “We go up there without knowing that Morgan dame is gone, we’re going to make Spike a very unhappy camper.” He took a step away when she pushed the cart threateningly toward him, holding up his hands in protest. “And McDonald’s seen your face, remember? He’s going to finger you as soon as they open the door.”
“Which is why you’re going to knock like we originally planned,” she argued. Striding decisively forward, she hooked her hand around his forearm and yanked him toward the trolley. “I’m just going to wheel you up there, you announce room service, and if the female lawyer is still there, then we leave without doing anything. And if she’s gone, then we go ahead as we’re scheduled to.”
He winced as he banged his head on the metal edge, ducking it further to situate himself uncomfortably on the lower shelf. “I think I liked you better without a boyfriend,” he grumbled from his folded up position. “You were less bossy then.”
Ignoring his comment, Willow dropped the tablecloth and took her place behind the cart. She squeaked, though, when she tried to push it and managed to only roll it a few inches. “Geez, Xander, how many donuts did you eat for breakfast this morning?” she complained. Screwing up her face, she tried again, but immediately shook her head. “OK, get out,” she announced, flipping the fabric back up.
“I’m not that heavy,” he said, clambering to his feet.
“You might as well be Charles Laughton for as much as I can push you,” she groused. “We’ll just go up separately, and I’ll hide around the corner when you ring. And pray nobody sees us on the way.”
As they walked along the hall toward the service elevator, she didn’t acknowledge the fact that she was already praying. Please let this not get us shot, she wished as she pushed the up button. I’m not really in the mood for dying today.
She didn’t even bother to ask who it was before she pulled open the door. “Mornin’, Clarence,” Faith drawled, draping her body against the edge of the entrance.
Lindsey frowned. Her face still made him want to wince out loud, but her attitude gave every indication that she was feeling better. Yet, her words… “Clarence?” he quizzed as he stepped into her suite.
“Yeah, you know.” She waited expectantly, then rolled her eyes when it became apparent he had no clue what she was talking about. “Clarence Darrow, you nitwit. Forget it.”
“No, it’s just…” The shake of his head did nothing to clear the cobwebs that had obviously settled into his brain. Off my game today, he thought. Maybe Lilah was right to get out of this place for a while. “How do you know who Clarence Darrow is?”
“What, you think just because I make my living on my back, I don’t know how to read a newspaper or a book? Shame on you, counselor. If you can’t figure out the people you’re claiming to help, how in hell can you expect to figure out someone like William Rook? He’s going to slip through your fingers like oil, you keep that kind of slipshod thinking up.”
She was right, and he knew it. Better to just change the subject. “Have you had breakfast yet?” he asked.
Faith shrugged. “Just some juice.” She seemed about to give him some wiseass comment---probably about maintaining her girlish figure---but then thought better of it. “Truth is…chewing’s not my favorite pastime right about now.”
Her gaze remained stolid, but Lindsey could see the pain she was still experiencing buried in the brown depths. “Croissants are soft,” he said, crossing to the phone. He dialed a few numbers, and held the receiver up to his ear. “And I haven’t eaten yet. Room service will do us good.”
The corner of Trick’s mouth canted as he watched Lilah sashay through the front doors of the hotel, a satisfied smile on her lips. “Looks like our job just got easier,” he commented, turning back to face the quartet that accompanied him. “McDonald’s alone now, so no worries about stray bullets taking anyone out we don’t mean to.”
The nearest man grunted, shifting awkwardly in the suit jacket he obviously wasn’t accustomed to. “So, we’re back to the original orders?” he asked as he followed Trick to the elevators.
“Yeah,” Trick said. He pushed the up button and stepped back, keeping his voice low enough so that only his cadre could hear him. “Shoot to kill, boys.”
To be continued in Chapter 30: Men with Guns…