Buffy didn't find a single vampire out on patrol, but that was a normal occurrence after a big mission. The vampires tended to lay low for a few days until the smoke blew over before returning to their usual activities of murder and mayhem. It would only be a matter of time before a new master came to try and take over Sunnydale, drawn by the power of the Hellmouth, and the pattern would repeat itself.
Other demons and supernatural creatures were also a mainstay on the Boca Del Infierno. However, the were quickly dispatched by the tight-knit group of friends, each doing their own ‘job.' Giles was the primary researcher, with Xander backing him up with the book-work. Willow used the more modern technology of the Internet to help gather and record information, and she usually developed the plans for group missions. Cordelia kept them dressed and armed with the specialized weaponry and fatigues, even going as far as attending gun shows and antique auctions to restock their supplies.
The Slayer was still just that -- the Chosen One who fought the forces of darkness. She went on patrol twice a night, slaying what vampires she found, and meeting with her Watcher in between the rounds to check in. At times, when there were no big prophecies to defeat or uprisings to put down, Buffy, Willow, Xander and Cordelia would go to the ‘adult' Bronze-like club they had found just outside of Sunnydale. When Oz was in town, sometimes he would join them, but most times Willow would disappear for several days until the werewolf went on assignment again.
"Hey guys," Buffy greeted, as she came down the basement stairs of the bookstore where HQ, or headquarters, was located. Cordelia was sitting behind a laptop, typing in her mission report. Willow was behind the main PC, entering information into the vampire database. Giles was, as usual, leafing through a book, cup of tea in hand. She bent down to pet Angel, who's tail was wagging so fast, his entire back-half was wiggling. "Anything happening?"
"Just debriefing," Willow replied without looking up from the screen.
"How was patrol?" Giles asked.
"Dead," Buffy said, picking up the local paper to see if there was any mention of the previous night's activities. She found a small article on page seven about the reuniting of the missing people with their families, kidnaped by a "crazed PCP gang." She smiled when she read that. Sunnydale never changed.
"A-And Spike?" Giles said.
"He's dead, too," she replied. "He's almost lifeless. He can't eat, or bathe, or even dress himself. The only responses I get from him is when I give a command he recognizes, just like a dog -- no offense Angel."
The dog yipped upon hearing his name, spinning in a circle in hopes of getting a treat. Buffy rolled her eyes at the animal's antics. "Wills, I think your familiar has a screw loose."
"Ethan's fault," Willow said. "He's been corrupting my dog."
"Now that I'd believe," Giles commented, returning to his book.
"Alright, Slayer," Willow said, getting the debriefing underway. "Report."
Buffy took a seat and began. The Watcher-in-training took both a written report and an oral one for the records. "Six or seven in the entryway, upwards of fourteen in the study. No structural damage except for the front door when I kicked it in. Used up my clip, left several stakes. By the way, Cordy, I like the fifteen-round clip better than the twelve-round."
"As do I," Giles added.
"That's what Xander said, too," Cordelia said. "I'll stick to getting those then."
"Saw a room filled with computer equipment," Buffy continued. "But I think Spike was Santiago's prized possession. He was the only thing under lock and key."
"Then if Santiago is still alive, he may want Spike back," Willow said.
"Jensen not tracking?" Buffy asked.
"Jefe," Giles said. "Is tracking very well, Buffy. He has not attempted to locate Santiago as of yet."
"Anything else?" Willow inquired.
"Nope," the Slayer replied. "That's my story and I'm sticking to it."
"Not you, too," Cordelia said. "Country music is so passe. Old country is even worse."
"It's not that old, Cordy," Buffy said. "Besides, it's not like I listen to country all the time. I just like Collin Raye."
"At least it's better than that-that music you used to listen to during training," Giles pointed out. "And I use the term ‘music' loosely."
"Ha, ha, Watcher-man," she said, making a face at him. She looked back at Willow. "Mind if I do the tear-down?"
"You?" Willow asked, amazed.
"Yeah, me," Buffy scowled. "It's not like I haven't done them before."
"Only when you have been dragged kicking and screaming," Giles muttered.
"I heard that," Buffy said.
"Any reason? It can't be because you've decided you love doing the work...," Willow said.
"There may be some info about Spike," the Slayer answered truthfully. "And since I've become-"
"A statue-sitter?" Cordelia supplied.
Buffy glared at her. "Interested in what happened to him, I want to do a search first-hand."
"Do you want anyone to go with you?" Willow asked, giving her approval as mission leader.
"Nah," she replied. "I'll bring the cell in case I need help."
"Just don't forget the notebook," the redhead instructed.
"Wills, I do more reports for you than I ever did in school," Buffy said, moving in front of the laptop Cordelia had finished with.
"And you'd only get B's and C's for grades from me," Willow murmured.
"What was that?" Buffy asked.
"Nothing, Buff," she replied, giving her best friend an innocent smile.
"Now why don't I believe you?"
"Willow and her stupid forms," Buffy grumbled, turning to a new page in the notebook. She'd been at Santiago's lair for several hours now, cataloging everything in the place. "This is why I hate doing tear-downs." At least she had found Spike's duster and what she assumed were his shoes, they were the only two things in the closet of the room in which he was kept. But she had found nothing more on ‘la estatua vivo' to point her in the direction as to why he was how he was.
The computer beeped, and the Slayer looked up and saw that the disk was full. She popped in another blank cd and hit the mouse so the downloading of the hard drive would continue. Willow would sift through the information contained on the vampire's PC and determine the content's worth. The entire gang had taken a crash course in computers and, under the hackers tutorial, each of them became pretty adept at using them. Even Giles, as much as he loathed to touch the "dread machines."
In the bag on the floor next to her were all the things she deemed important enough to pick up, including spent casings and abandoned stakes. She'd found some of the kidnaped victims' wallets and purses, which she added to the bag to return, and several books that had possible occult value. No sign of any stray vampires or the master, Santiago.
"Buff? You here?" she heard Xander call out.
"Down the hall, third door on the left," Buffy called back. In a moment, the dark-haired man joined her. "What're you doing here?"
"I figured since I lucked out on missing the debriefing, the least I could do was give you a ride home," Xander said, taking a seat next to her. Buffy still didn't possess a driver's license, even after all these years. She had gotten so used to walking, she'd eventually just stopped wanting to drive. "How's the tear-down coming?"
"Almost done," the Slayer replied. "I saved this room for last in order to wait for the computer to download."
"Find anything out about your houseguest?"
"Nothing," Buffy shook her head. "Maybe Willow will have some luck with these cds."
"Just be careful, Buffy," Xander said. "Even though Angel and your hellbeast like him, Spike's still a vampire. One without a soul."
"And here I thought soulful vampires were a common thing," she replied sarcastically. "And Spike's not a hellbeast."
"Which one?" he teased.
"You know, your wife said the same joke earlier," Buffy said.
"What can I say?" Xander shrugged. "Great minds think alike."
"Or you two share a brain," she replied with a grin.
Cos my heart is broken in pieces
Yes my heart is broken in pieces
Since you've been gone
Spike was sitting exactly how she'd left him almost six hours before. The cat had disappeared, probably hiding in her secret weapons closet again, and the vampire was the perfect statue as his new name implied. Buffy sighed sadly, but forced a cheery note in her voice as she took the duster out of the bag.
"Look what I found," she said, holding it up in front of him. "Bet you've been missing this." He gave no reaction. "It's a good thing I found it, too. It's starting to get cold outside. Not that you'd notice. Must be nice not to feel cold or hot."
She walked over to the closet. "I'm going to hang this in here," she said, opening the door. She frowned when she saw all the clothes. "If I can. Jeez, Cordy got you a lot of stuff. I wonder if there's a twelve-step program for shopaholics like her."
Buffy looked at her watch, grimacing at the time. She'd done a second patrol with Xander before he dropped her off at home. "Three o'clock. You know, this is why I'm self-employed. Can you imagine me actually having to get up in a few hours to go to a ‘real' job? I know I did it in high school, but I was young then," she said, then chuckled. "Listen to me, I sound like I'm eighty when I'm only twenty-six."
She went back over to him and pulled the t-shirt over his head. "I think we're going to have to get you a new schedule. This sitting around here by yourself has gotta suck. How about I wake you up when I get up, and you can watch me work? I can guarantee you, it's just as boring as what you did all night. Stand."
Spike stood and the Slayer undid the fastenings on his khakis and let them drop to the floor. "Sit," she instructed. He sat back down and she pulled them over his feet. "Ok, Spike, time to sleep." She waited while he automatically climbed under the covers and was staring blankly up at the ceiling, the same as the night before, then she sat on the edge of the bed, continuing talking to him.
"I didn't find out anything about who did this to you during the tear-down," Buffy said, reaching out to lay her hand on his exposed arm. "Maybe Willow will find something out from what I downloaded off Santiago's computer. I just know that if I can answer at least one question in regards to you, I can bring you back from wherever you are. Then you can go out and kick whoever's ass."
She sat silently for a few minutes, just watching him lay there. She squeezed his arm. "Goodnight, Spike," she said, rising. She shut off the light on her way out the door.
"Hi Angel," Buffy said upon opening her front door. Three weeks had passed since she'd taken Spike in, and she had yet to have any sort of response from him. "Come on it."
"Thanks," Angel replied, entering her house. The Slayer closed the door behind him. "How are you?"
"Fine," she answered, picking up her cat, who had come to investigate, and petting him behind the ears. "You?"
"Fine," he said.
"Good," Buffy replied. After a moment of silence, she shook her head. "This is so pathetic. Come on, Spike's in the kitchen keeping me company."
Buffy had done as she had said, altering Spike's schedule so that he got up when she did. She dressed him, then made sure the curtains were closed in her office before she brought him into the room to sit with her while she worked. Once the sun set, she'd have him sit in the kitchen with her while she cooked and ate dinner, then fed and bathed him, before she went out on her first patrol. Then she'd return home and watch tv with him before putting him to bed and going out on her second patrol.
"Is he still as Willow described?" Angel asked, following her into the kitchen.
"Yeah, no change," Buffy answered. She dropped Spike to the ground, and he scampered off after a toy mouse she kicked with her bare foot. When they entered the brightly lit room, she went around the table, set with her dinner, to the blond vampire and tilted his chin up. "Spike, look who came to see you."
She looked over at Angel to see him frozen in the doorway, staring at his childe with a stunned expression on his face. "Freaky, huh? Cordelia's fashion sense hasn't changed," she joked, referring to the clothing she'd dressed Spike in that morning.
The joke brought Angel out of his stupor, and he walked around the table to get a closer look at the other vampire. "Buffy, I've never seen anyone like this before, unless they were in a hospital," he said.
"I know," Buffy replied, brushing Spike's long hair back. She'd left it loose after combing it earlier that morning, although she would tie it before she fed him. "Did Willow tell you he's been like this for at least six years?"
"No, she didn't," he answered.
Buffy looked up at her ex-boyfriend and saw that his eyes reflected sadness and pain. She forced herself not to reach out to comfort him, instead she retook her seat and picked up her fork. "Why don't you sit down so I can finish eating, and I'll tell you what I do know about Spike."
Angel nodded and pulled out a third chair at the square kitchen table, sitting down as asked. "I'm sorry I couldn't get here sooner. Malicious faerie infestation in a theater," he explained.
"It's ok," she waved his apology away. "I've been so busy with work and slaying, time just kinda slips by, especially since Oz came home. Without my morning conversations with Willow, I tend to not even remember what day it is."
"What do you do with Spike all day?" Angel asked.
"I have him sit in the office with me, and I'll talk to him or we'll listen to music," Buffy replied. "If I'm picking, I'll have him follow me around from storage room to storage room, to give him some exercise. Stuff like that."
"He'll follow you under his own power?" he said, studying Spike.
"Yeah, it's one of the commands he knows," she answered with a little sigh. "There are eight of them I've been able to figure out, so far. I just wish one of them was to get him to brush his teeth. That's so not the fun activity."
The cat came flying into the room, flicking the toy mouse with his paws and chasing after it. It rolled near Angel's foot, and Spike used that excuse to claw the dark-haired vampire's leg. "Are you having any trouble getting him to eat?" Angel asked with a grimace, swiftly moving his leg.
"Other than it being kinda messy, no," Buffy replied. "I've been thinking about getting one of those kiddie juice cups. You know, the ones with the lids? But I don't know if the blood will run through the holes that well."
Angel frowned. "How do you do it now?"
"I hold the container from the butcher's shop under his nose until he goes game face, then I tilt his head back and say the command word while basically pouring the blood into his mouth," she answered. "That's why it gets so messy. And blood is not a fun thing to get out of clothes, I know from experience."
"So you pretty much have to force feed him, and he does nothing on his own," he summarized. "I hate to say this, but I think it would be better if we staked him."
"No!" Buffy said sharply, slamming her fork down. "That is something that is not gonna happen." The dark-haired vampire opened his mouth to say something, but she cut him off. "Don't even try to convince me otherwise, Angel. If Spike were human, you'd have no qualms about my helping him. And it's my choice, not yours. I'm a big girl, now. I don't need you to hold my hand anymore."
She stood and began clearing the table, her anger at him including her frustration over having him in her home. They were much more relaxed with each other when they were with their friends. She heard him sigh and took that as the cue that he was about to apologize and leave. Like he always did.
"I'm sorry, Buffy," Angel said. "I just don't want to see you get hurt."
"I know," she said, turning to face him. The ensouled vampire had stood and was hovering in the kitchen doorway. "Do you have any theories?"
"No," he shook his head. "This isn't any sort of vampire dominance reaction, although the use of commands is the same."
"Well, thanks for coming up to take a look at him," Buffy said, her angry gaze softening. "I know its hard for you to get away."
"You know I'll always come if you ask," Angel told her. He turned to leave, but she stopped him.
"Uh, are you going to be sticking around for a day or two?" she asked. "It's Xander's birthday and we were going to celebrate it at Cornerstone's."
Angel gave her a half smile. "I'd love to come. My present to him would be allowing him to make fun of me all night without saying a word."
"Then stop by the bookstore tomorrow night," Buffy said, an echoing smile forming on her face. "I'll meet you there after patrol, then we'll go over to Willow's and try to pry the two lovebird's apart long enough to party."
"I haven't told you the story about Cordy, Xander and Angel yet, have I?" Buffy said an hour later while she was brushing Spike's hair after feeding and bathing him. "If I have, oh well, you get to hear it again. And remind me to wrap Xand's present tomorrow. It's a new figurine I designed of him doing the whole Van Helsing thing, hot out of the fire."
She picked up another small amount of his long, bleached hair and started on the bottom, working any knots out. "Xander joined the Marines right after high school got out. He left for bootcamp at the end of the summer. I guess when he got turned into a soldier because of Ethan that one Halloween, it really effected him," she said.
"Angel had already left for LA, and soon Cordelia followed. She ended up working for him, kinda like what Willow used to do for Giles before we graduated from high school. Well, in one of Will's letters to Xander, she mentioned that Cordelia was working with Angel, and he panicked. You see, he still loved her. So, he wrote a threatening letter to Angel, telling him to keep her safe and all that," Buffy continued, Spike's hair running lightly through her fingers.
"Angel wrote back, reassuring Xander that he'd watch out for Cordy. That's what started the whole thing," she explained. "Xander and Angel kept writing back and forth, each letter about what was going on in Cordelia's life, until one day she found one of Xand's letters. You can pretty much imagine what happened next. She got mad at him for not writing her directly."
Buffy grinned at the memory of Angel's hasty visit to Sunnydale after Cordelia had found out about the letter-writing. "Well, they began to write to each other and fell back in love. Xander's tour of duty ended in 2005, and they eloped the same day he was discharged. Then they moved back to Sunnydale, Xander got a job at the high school library and Cordy opened her boutique, and the rest is fights and closet make-out sessions."
She pushed her cat out of the way so she could shift on the bed, then continued. "I'm glad they got back together. It's funny, but they never blamed you for kidnaping Willow and Xander which caused their breakup. Don't know why. I know I wanted to beat the crap out of you for making Angel and me call it quits, even if it was only for a month or so," she said.
"But that was a long time ago, and right now it's time for good little vampires and Slayers to go to sleep," she said, allowing Spike to follow the command as she quickly climbed off the bed. Her cat immediately made himself comfortable on the vampire's stomach, kneading the blond with his paws.
Buffy set the comb on the night stand, which she finally cleared of the miscellaneous junk that had gathered there, and shut off the small lamp. Then, like she had started to do every night, she brushed her hand against his cheek, said goodnight, and went to bed.
"Well? What do you think?" Buffy asked, holding up the small figurine. "Does it look like Xander?"
Neither Spike answered.
She shook her head at the two, her cat sitting on the vampire's lap in her office, the stereo playing softly in the background. "You two are no help," she said, setting the object into bubble wrap, then putting it in its box. The phone rang and she picked it up, not stopping what she was doing. "Morgana's Wonders."
"I guess Angel and I don't need to bring the pry bar," Buffy said into the phone.
"Nope," Willow giggled. "Oz is packing, so my lips are free enough to talk. For now."
"When's he leaving?" the Slayer asked, putting her specialty sticker on top of the box.
"Monday morning," the redhead sighed. "Two weeks was definitely not long enough."
"When is it ever?" Buffy replied.
"Yeah, but I try not to think that way," Willow said. "So, I take it Angel finally made it."
"He was here last night," she said. "Faerie problem."
"A three week faerie problem?" Willow said.
"Maybe they were really big faeries," Buffy suggested. "It doesn't really matter. He took one look at Spike and wanted to stake him."
"I bet that went over good," she replied.
"Oh yeah," the Slayer said, carefully wrapping the gift. "But you know how it is when we're alone together. However, I did tell him about Xander's birthday hoo-ha, and he'll be there."
"Good," Willow said. "How's Spike doing? I've been a little...busy lately. Sorry."
"No probs, Will," Buffy told her. "You and Oz need the time together, so I don't mind that my best friend has neglected me for two weeks."
"I think I need a shovel."
Buffy laughed. "Ok, I'm the bad. And Spike's doing just fine, far as I can tell." She glanced over at her silent housemate.
"But no change," Willow said.
"No change," she sighed. Turning back to the wrapped gift, she added a small bow to the top. "And Henny hasn't met up with Santiago, so no luck on that front. It's also been real quiet down at Slayerville without you. No new demons, no threats of world endage, no paperwork."
"Just wait, Buff," the redhead warned. "I'll be back on Monday night, brand new sheaf of paper in hand."
"Swell," Buffy teased. "I guess I'd better let you go and help Oz pack. I have a bunch of stuff I need to do before I can leave. I told Angel to meet me at HQ."
"We'll meet you there, too," Willow said. "See ya!"
"Bye," Buffy said, then hung up. She patted the top of her gaily wrapped birthday present, then turned to the two men currently in her life. Suddenly, something she hadn't thought of doing before came to mind. "Come on, Spike. Let's get you fed and cleaned up. I think it's time we get you out of the house."