Title: Whose Torment Is This, Anyway?
Banner art: okdeanna
Pairing: Buffy/Spike, with appearances from some of the gang from both AtS and BtVS
Word Count: 1085
Rating: PG13 (for possible cussin’)
Summary: Six months after the battle of the Hellmouth, Buffy brings her team to Wolfram & Hart on a legal matter and finds that she’s been kept out of the loop in some important ways.
Chapter One: Destiny’s a bitch and so am I
Buffy, Xander, and Willow strode into Wolfram & Hart unmolested. They passed a security guard who was too busy fiddling with his walkie talkie to notice them. They stood in the lobby, watching people and demons rush about, all apparently reacting to something dire. Phones were ringing, buzzers buzzing, and under it all, a far-off klaxon sounded.
“I’m starting to understand why we couldn’t raise anyone on the phone,” said Willow.
“Nice to know that the bad guys have bad days, too,” noted Xander.
“We don’t know that they’re bad guys, exactly,” said Buffy, trailing off as a red-skinned demon with horns, a tail, and a smart business suit trotted across to a set of double doors, his cloven hooves making a very distinctive clicking sound on the elegant wooden floor.
The reception desk was unattended. It took five tries before they got someone to stop and talk to them. Finally, Buffy corralled a petite woman holding a stack of files and waiting for the elevator.
“Angel? Wes? Cordelia? Anybody?” demanded Buffy. The small woman shrugged and shook her head, and tried to scurry away. Buffy grabbed her upper arm, whipped out a stake, and pressed it to the terrified woman’s — no, vampire’s — chest.
“Who’s in charge?” She gave the arm a little shake when all she got was a whimper. “Today.”
“Um. Counselor Gunn?” squeaked the woman.
“Oh! I know him! He’s one of Angel’s,” said Willow.
“Lead the way,” said Buffy to the quaking vampiress.
“I’m just from the steno pool,” she protested. “The higher ups don’t exactly let us know their whereabouts.”
“C’mon. Show a little initiative,” suggested Buffy with a little nudge from her stake. “Otherwise I might forget that this is a protected wildlife refuge.” She leaned in to speak directly into her captive’s ear. “Where I come from, vampire is always in season.”
“We could t-try the lab,” said Steno Pool.
“Great. Let’s go.”
Steno Pool gestured toward the stairs, and off they marched. Nobody paid any attention to them. Xander muttered, “Be vewy, vewy quiet.” Willow rolled her eyes.
After wandering down one hallway and another, they pushed through the double doors into the lab. Half a dozen people in lab coats hurried about, or hunched diligently over various pieces of equipment. A thin, pretty woman walked toward them.
“Fred!” cried Willow.
“Willow! What a surprise! What are you doing in LA? Who’re your friends?”
“We came to…oh! This is Xander and this is Buffy! Guys, this is Fred Burkle!”
“So happy to meet you both. I’ve heard all about Buffy, of course, but nobody mentioned you had a Nick Fury-type on your team.”
“That’s what I keep telling them,” said Xander, beaming at Fred.
“Not everybody appreciates the Fury,” said Fred with a serious nod.
“Fred. You’re the science gal, right?” asked Buffy. She let go of Steno Pool in order to shake Fred’s hand. “Nice set up.”
“Thanks. I’m still amazed at what we can accomplish with the right resources. Which might be part of what you’re here for, right?”
“Right!” said Willow, snapping back from her interested perusal of a particularly arcane device. “We came to pick up some Slayers that our mystics located in the greater Los Angeles area. But we ran into a hitch.”
“Hit a snag,” said Buffy.
“Screwed the pooch,” added Xander.
Charles Gunn walked in just as Steno Pool reached the doors. He nodded. “Hey, Tamika.” She gave him a brilliant, if surprised smile before making good her escape.
“Charles! You remember Willow. These are her friends, Xander and Buffy,” said Fred, Just in case he’d missed it, she gestured meaningfully with her eyes as she again mouthed “Buffy” with exaggerated care.
“Buf-?” He caught himself. “Hey, Willow. Xander. Buffy. Nice to meet you. Finally.”
They exchanged pleasantries Apologies were made for the disarray of the office. They all trooped down to a more comfortable conference room and ordered coffee. When everybody was settled, Willow explained the situation.
“We’ve pretty much rounded up everybody, but one of the girls is in a secure psychiatric lock up, and I don’t think we made the best impression when we tried to visit before. I thought they were going to forcibly admit Andrew for a while there. I could probably magic us in, but we’re trying to keep a low profile. We thought this might be a job for the legal eagles. So Buffy decided to try Angel. Where is he anyway?”
Charles cleared his throat. “Well, I’ve got a pretty good idea, but we might want to get started on this without him. I’m sure he’d want the firm to extend every courtesy to the Slayer’s organization in his absence. Who knows when he and Spike will get back from questing after the ‘Cup of Perpetual Torment’? Vampires, man.” He shook his head and chuckled.
“Excuse me. Did you say ‘Spike’?” asked Buffy.
Willow and Xander exchanged worried glances.
“Yeah. You know, William the Bloody? His ghost popped out of an amulet Angel got in the mail, a few months back. Fred here has been working on getting him back into solid shape ever since.”
“Charles…” began Fred, watching Buffy’s face drain of color.
“It’s not your fault nothing worked, Fred. We got some great R&D out of it, at the very least. Don’t worry about it,” he said, completely oblivious to the affect his news was having on their guests. “So this morning, Blondie gets a package of flash, and instant undead! Right away everything goes haywire, and it turns out the Shanshu prophecy is having feedback problems due to the presence of two souled vampire champions on earth. Our archivist said that the mixup will be resolved when one of them drinks from the Cup of Perpetual Torment. Fun, huh? So they took off for the desert to find the thing. My money is on Angel, but Spike got a head start.”
He smiled companionably around the table, and only then noticed the shocked looks and dropped jaws of the visitors from the Slayer’s Council.
“Angel didn’t tell you,” he realized.
Three heads shook in unison.
“Spike’s one of yours.” They nodded.
“He’s- he was mine,” whispered Buffy. “My champion.” Under the table, she rubbed her left palm. It was unmarked but tingled at the memory of their last moments together: clasped hands bathed in mystical flames.
Willow and Fred looked at her sympathetically. Xander studied the tabletop.
“I guess I’d better start at the beginning,” said Gunn.
Continued in Chapter Two: Are we there yet?
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