DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: The feds have arrived at Heaven, resulting in a confusing shootout between Buffy and Faith, and the arriving forces; it left Angel and Wesley unconscious and bleeding on the floor…
Nothing like a couple bleeding bodies to make all hell break loose, Faith thought as she watched the feds scramble to prevent anyone else getting hit. Wesley’s assistant---what had she said her name was again? Oh yeah, Jenny---came bursting through the doors, and immediately dropped to his side, ripping open his jacket to expose the spreading crimson stain on his white shirt.
She knew it was her bullet that was buried in his body. She’d only fired three rounds, two of which had been deliberately wide, and Buffy’s shot had dropped Angel before Faith had managed to squeeze off one. Now she could only watch helplessly while Giles and Xander knelt by Wesley as well.
“Don’t crowd him!” Jenny barked as she worked. Her fingers lit on his neck, and her face was tight.
“Is he alive?” Snyder asked.
“Barely. We have to get him to the hospital. Now.”
Giles straightened and holstered his weapon. “Our car is right out front. We’ll take him.”
Xander had already scooped Wesley into his arms when Snyder nodded. “Do what it takes,” the fed said. But as the quartet rushed from Heaven, a swarm of police brushed past them, led by no one other than the man himself, Officer Riley Finn.
Only when they started squabbling amongst themselves did Faith’s attention divert from the show, her ear catching the murmured cadences of Spike’s voice by the stage.
“Run, you stupid git,” he was saying. Blue eyes bored into Wood’s, both men crouched on the floor only a few feet apart. “Last call for freedom. Diversions don’t get any better than this.”
From her vantage point, she couldn’t see Wood’s face, but she heard no words come from his mouth. Instead, his body began to inch silently backward, creeping from the protection of the table to edge to the doorway within which she waited. He stood when his heels hit the wall, all panther-like grace and stealth as his eyes remained on the crowd at the foyer doors for a moment before turning to the exit.
His gaze was enigmatic as he looked down at her. “I don’t suppose you’d like a ride somewhere?” he murmured in a caramel voice that reminded her of their afternoon spent in his bed.
A quick survey of the room was all the time she needed. “Yeah,” Faith replied, pushing the door open just enough for the two of them to slip through. “Drop me off wherever you’re going.”
They were both gone before anyone other than Spike and Buffy could notice.
Kate stepped aside as they carried the bleeding man out of the club, droplets of crimson scattering to the elegant floor like rain, and then scurried forth to see Riley towering over a dwarf of a man, arguing about something that sounded like jurisdiction.
“We have everything under control here,” Shorty said. His chest was puffed up in self-importance, and instinctively, Kate moved to Riley’s side in a show of solidarity.
“Since when does under control translate to gunplay and dead bodies?” Riley barked. He jabbed a finger at Angel’s inert form. “Especially when one of those bodies belongs to Angel Wilkins?”
As if he’d been directly addressed, Angel groaned, prompting both policemen and federal agents to crowd around him.
“Doesn’t look like he’s dead to me,” Shorty replied smugly and turned away as if he was done, hooking his thumb toward the doors. “Get him outta here, boys.”
“And I said…” Riley blocked the exit, arms folded across his chest. “Nobody’s going anywhere until I start getting some explanations, or I’m going to haul your asses down to the precinct and book you for obstruction of justice.”
With an exasperated sigh, the smaller man reached into his pocket and extracted a leather wallet, opening it and flashing a gold-colored badge. “The name’s Snyder,” he said, “and you’re out of your depth here, Officer. In fact, you’re interrupting a major bust, so if you don’t want to be charged yourself, I suggest you run along and let the big boys do the dirty work.”
At that moment, Kate took the luxury of looking around the interior of the club, seeing for the first time the two women near the stage and the crouched figure on the floor. “Um…Riley?” she said, eyes locked on the man with the odd bleached hair.
“Not now, Lockley.”
“No, I think now is exactly perfect.” She pointed across the room. “That’s William Rook.”
The hitman’s name jerked Riley’s attention around, and he stiffened as he watched Rook rise to his feet. A smug smile spread across his face as he looked back to Snyder. “You’ve got a fugitive of justice in here,” he said. “And I’m not leaving without him in cuffs.”
“I don’t think so.”
The intervention of the fourth party caused all of them to turn and see Lindsey McDonald pushing his way through the throng. The warm sweep of his gaze over Kate was enough to make her smile momentarily, before she remembered where she was and returned to solemnity.
“And who the hell are you?” Riley demanded.
“This is Lindsey McDonald,” she said before Lindsey could respond.
“The mouthpiece who went missing?”
“The one and only.”
Pulling a sheaf of papers from his briefcase, Lindsey held them out for inspection. “I see my reputation precedes me,” he said, flashing Kate another grin. “But as I was saying, you’re not taking my client anywhere. As of five o’clock this afternoon, all outstanding warrants for William Rook were officially dismissed, by order of Mr. Snyder here as a representative of the federal justice system. If you care to check in with your captain, I’m sure you’ll find that there’s no need to take Mr. Rook into custody, and in fact, if you do so, you’ll most likely be faced with your own charges of false arrest.”
Deep lines furrowed Finn’s brow, and Kate craned her neck to read the papers over the swell of his arm. “Is there a player in this you’re not representing?” he muttered.
“I’m merely interested in seeing that all interested parties have their rights preserved,” Lindsey clarified. His eyes turned to Kate. “I certainly didn’t expect to find you here, Miss Lockley. That’s…an unexpected surprise.”
“And your ability to pop up in the oddest places is just as surprising,” she responded coolly. “Too bad Faith’s not around to require your services, too.”
Snyder frowned. “I thought she was…” he started, and pushed his way through his men to stand at the edge of the dance floor. A furious scowl darkened his features. “Where in hell did Wood go?”
She hung back, watching as both uniforms and suits worked in tandem to get Angel comfortable. An ambulance was on the way for both him and Dru; that had been one of the first orders Snyder had barked after dispatching a crew to search for Wood. The blood, though, was everywhere---spattered on the wall where Angel had struggled with the men, staining the clothes of everyone who came into contact with him, pooled along the seam where the wall met the floor…which prompted the irrational wondering if the tile was somehow warped so that the fluid could roll in such a way.
Buffy started when he turned his head to look at her, his eyes narrow slits as he glared at her. “Bitch,” Angel muttered.
“Excuse me?” she said indignantly, stepping forward. He confessed to being responsible for all the misery in her life, and she was the bitch? The desire to shoot him again, just to shut him up, suddenly swelled inside her.
“You heard me,” he said. He batted at the hands that were trying to staunch the flow of blood from his shoulder. “After everything I did for you, this is how you repay me?”
“Don’t even start on the issue of repayment,” Buffy snapped. “If I were you, I’d be thanking my lucky stars that the list of stuff I could tell them wasn’t tacked on to whatever else they’ve got on you. You’d be frying at Sing Sing for sure.”
For a moment, his eyes fluttered shut, his breath ragged as he deeply inhaled. A choking cough interrupted the peace of his breathing, and it was almost a minute before he’d regained his composure enough to lift his lids again. “I’m not going to forget,” Angel said, and his voice was eerily soft, sending shivers down her spine with its icy calm. “When I beat this rap, you just know the first thing I’m going to do is find you. You can hide in Timbuktu, you can hide in Siberia, you can hide on the fucking moon. It won’t change a thing. Hide, and I’m going to seek. It’s not over, Buffy. You and me are forever.”
It was like a punch to her solar plexus, and she went rigid. “I should’ve aimed lower,” she said, the flaring of her nostrils the only outward sign of her agitation. “Aimed for your heart instead of your shoulder. Oh, wait. You don’t have one.”
“Ambulance is here,” an approaching agent said.
Too quickly, Buffy was bustled away, but when she turned to find Spike, she found herself confronted with the broad chest of Officer Finn. She froze.
“You all right?” he asked gently.
She nodded. He’d heard her. There was no way he couldn’t have. But her mouth refused to work any more, suddenly dry and dangerously close to going into overdrive by convulsively gulping down air.
“I don’t know who’s going to get the write-up,” he said, and the careful tone in his voice made her risk a glance up into his kind eyes, “but whatever department it is, I’ll do what it takes to make sure your name doesn’t come up in conjunction with Wilkins’ injury. You don’t need that kind of hassle.” Briefly, his gaze jumped to Snyder bearing down on them. “I think you’re going to have enough anyway.”
“Thank you,” she breathed. “I don’t know how…but…thank you.”
Riley smiled. “My pleasure. But, you know, if you ever feel the need to call it square, doing a dedication to good ol’ Officer Finn when you’re making it big and famous on the radio or the pictures might not be a bad thing.”
She laughed in spite of the tension in her chest. “It’s a deal.”
“And speaking of deals…” Snyder stopped at her elbow, and she was surprised that she didn’t really have to look up in order to meet his eyes. “You have some testimonies to make, Miss Summers. My men are ready to escort you to my offices.”
“Let me just get Spike---.”
“He’s already been escorted from the premises. I’ll not have you tainting each other’s statements by being transported together. Now. If you please?”
With a heavy sigh, she merely nodded, and followed him from the club. Something told her it was going to be a very long night.
It could be night. It could be day. It could be the middle of the century’s worst snowstorm, and Willow would still be stuck staring at the blank walls around her, floating back and forth in the morphine-drugged daze that was becoming far too familiar, wondering if she was actually in the real world anymore or if she’d actually slipped into some alternative universe opened up by the sedatives.
Her only visitors since Wesley that morning had been hospital staff. Nurse, nurse, cute orderly, different nurse, cute orderly again, doctor, doctor. Keeping track of them was the only way she could keep her brain from disintegrating into the fragments the painkillers were encouraging, but even that was beginning to fail her as she felt sleep threaten to overwhelm.
So, when her door finally opened, Willow was fairly sure it was the hallucination finally winning. Especially when the hallucination looked like the lollipop-sucking munchkin from The Wizard of Oz.
“You’re awake. Good,” he said as he approached the bed.
“I’m awake,” she parroted. “Not so sure about the good part, though.”
“I’m Mr. Snyder. I’m the one who’s been asked to approve your treatment here.”
Her eyes widened. “Oh,” she said simply. Wesley’s boss. How did someone so weaselly get into such a high position of power?
“Yes,” he continued as if she hadn’t spoken at all. “Imagine my chagrin when I’m informed of Mr. Wyndam-Pryce’s abuse of this facility. That not only had he participated in the…fight that led to your injury, but that he’d authorized your immediate treatment prior to any written agreement being reached between him and myself, or he and Rook.”
Suddenly, she wasn’t so sure she wasn’t hallucinating. Under normal circumstances, she was top drawer at interpreting honcho-speak, but this… Did he mean that Spike had struck a deal with the feds? Or that Wes had reached some understanding about his own position with the agency? Or something else entirely?
Her head was awhirl. The conversation she’d had earlier with Wesley swam inside her ears, all his words jumbling and blending together until none of it made sense any more. Maybe he’d told her all this and she’d just forgotten. Stupid morphine. She was almost willing to put up with all the pain just to have her clear noggin back.
“Under the circumstances, though,” Snyder said, “I’m willing to overlook it, Miss Rosenberg. As soon as the doctors deem you healthy enough to travel, arrangements will be made to transfer you. Someplace in California, I think.”
“Circumstances? What circumstances?”
“Of this evening’s events.”
“OK, unless you mean my latest dosage from the cute orderly, I have absolutely no idea what events you’re talking about.”
For the first time since entering her room, Snyder seemed to falter. “Oh dear,” he said. “You haven’t been told.”
“I assumed Miss Calendar would take it upon herself, but perhaps she’s too busy---.”
“Told what?” she repeated.
He took a deep breath. “There was an ambush tonight,” he said. “Wesley was shot.”
“No…” But he’d just been there, she rationalized. And he’d been fine. But just was this morning, and apparently fine meant doing something stupid like turning himself into someone else’s target practice. “Where is…is he…how…”
“I’m sorry, he didn’t make it.” The next seemed to blur together, and she found herself staring at him as if he’d suddenly grown a second head. “Miss Calendar called me some time ago to let me know he was pronounced DOA. She’s taking care of the arrangements---.”
“Dead. You’re telling me he’s dead?”
A long silence passed where he seemed all too fascinated with the hair on the back of his knuckles. “Miss Calendar knows all the details. She’s made arrangements for his body to be flown back to England tonight---.”
“England? Tonight?” There could be a whole ocean between them already. She wouldn’t ever see him again. She squeezed her eyes shut in hopes that that would make this little munchkin man go away, but when she opened them again, he was still standing there.
“Wesley was a good man,” Snyder said simply. “I’m sorry his career with the agency had to end this way.” And with a curt nod, he left the room.
The room was stifling, the walls too close, and more than anything else, Willow wished that the drugs in her system could eradicate all memories of what she’d been told, that she could lose herself in oblivion and not consider that she was alone again. Of course, she’d settle for just remembering more clearly their conversation from that morning.
Something about trust and Jenny and what had to be done were the pieces that echoed the most often, but it was the other, the words that pulsed in time with her heart rate that resounded the loudest.
Hot tears pricked her eyes, and she burrowed herself as far under her blankets as her injury would allow her.
It couldn’t be true. She wouldn’t let it.
Wesley. Wasn’t. Dead.
All he wanted was some sleep. Too much had happened in the last twenty-four hours, and the thought of facing the next twenty-four without the benefit of forty winks---or twenty, he’d settle for twenty---left Spike with a bad taste in his mouth that not even the nicotine was helping to fight.
Staring out at the twinkling lights of the city, he exhaled slowly, watching the smoke curl up and away as it caught on the slight breeze. Behind him, he could hear Ripper and that Calendar dame packing away the things in the hotel bedroom, removing all remnants of personal belongings for shipping off. She was going to tackle Wesley’s flat the next day, and it was a job he didn’t envy her. It was going to leave her with that final sense of goodbye she’d been studiously avoiding since leaving Heaven. One that had been hanging over him in spite of doing everything he could to keep it at bay.
He was done here. Snyder had what he wanted; the local cops were still arbitrating for some of the kitty, and McDonald was sticking behind to keep everything on the up and up. He’d heard secondhand the tale of how they’d picked up Lilah Morgan, and wished fervently he’d been there instead of holed up in a tiny windowless room with a sweaty fed who refused to allow him to see Buffy. As of that moment, Spike still hadn’t seen her. That cop who’d led the bulls brigade at Heaven had turned watchdog on anyone trying to get to her, so he’d eventually left after convincing the pretty police psychologist to slip Buffy a note.
The soft tread on the carpet behind him didn’t distract him from the skyline, and Spike tapped his cigarette with a flick of his thumb, sending his ash scattering into the wind. “Gonna miss this view,” he commented. “There’s nothin’ like New York at night, that’s for certain.”
“We’re about done here,” Ripper said quietly. “Jenny’s taken a room closer to the hospital in order to better maintain an adequate watch. There’s nothing left for us to do.”
“Maybe not for you.”
“Not goin’ anywhere without her, Ripper.” He turned then, his face stolid. “I didn’t do all this to leave Buffy behind.”
“They’re not even letting you see her.”
“All the more reason not to do a runner.” Dropping his cigarette over the sill, Spike stood, but winced when he began to pace. Immediately, Ripper was at his side, leading him to the couch where he collapsed in the corner. “Can’t even walk right in my current state,” he joked, massaging his injured thigh. “So running’s pretty much out of the question.”
With a heavy sigh, Giles removed his glasses and sat down on the table’s edge opposite his friend. “You can’t stay in the city, Spike,” he said softly. “Snyder’s made it very clear that he wants you out of the way while they continue searching for Wood, and then there’s the matter of Drusilla Conti’s father.”
“I fuckin’ saved Dru.”
“And she was shot while in your presence. Plus, you were instrumental in Angel’s apprehension. Conti has no idea that he’s not next on your list, so he’ll see you as a turncoat. You can’t risk him coming after you, too.”
“I’m not leaving Buffy---.”
“Does she love you?”
The simple question made him stop, searching Ripper’s clear eyes for some duplicity. “Yes,” he said, and believed it with his entire soul.
“Then she’ll follow,” Ripper replied. “You have to trust her, Spike. And the last thing she’d want is for you to put yourself at more risk by sticking around merely for her sake.”
The logic of the argument battled with the exhaustion clogging Spike’s thoughts, and his head fell back against the cushions. “I’m not leaving without at least talkin’ to her,” he said quietly.
“Of course not.”
“So that’s it then.” He stared up at the ceiling, meandering in the swirls of the plaster as the reality of it hit. No more excuses. No more job. No more legal shenanigans to keep him tethered to the place that had brought him both Buffy and the redemption of his name. “Guess we’re goin’ home…”
To be concluded in Chapter 45: Her Kind of Man…