"How much longer do we have left?" Buffy asked, thumping her head down on an open book.
"A month," Willow answered, not looking up from the computer.
"That's a month too long," Xander stated while attempting to balance a pencil on his nose.
"Understatement," Buffy replied. "I don't know how much more of Carruthers I can take before I stake him where the sun don't shine."
"Doesn't sound comfortable," Oz said.
The four friends were gathered in the 'new' Slayer Central, a small section in the stacks of the University of Sunnydale's library they'd claimed as their own. Since starting school, Giles had obtained a position within the library as reference assistant for the mythology sections. The former Watcher's office, located in a far obscure corner of the library, was large enough to house most of the books pertinent to the Slayer's opponents.
Many a night had been spent sleeping on the various hard surfaces in that small section of the twenty-four hour library, as they researched whatever nasty that plagued Sunnydale that week. And with the number of different and scary creatures they'd fought against, each of them thought that nothing could come as a surprise anymore.
They were wrong.
"Hey Oz, when's the next Dingo's gig?" Xander asked, pencil balanced.
"Tonight at the Bronze," Oz replied. "We've been getting a lot of play there lately. Don't understand why."
"Maybe it's because you guys play for peanuts," Buffy suggested.
"We've moved up from peanuts to cashews last week," Oz corrected. "Next stop -- almonds."
"Um, guys?" Willow said. "Do we want to know about the glowing green corpses found at the flower shop?"
"No," Buffy and Xander simultaneously replied.
"Oh, ok," Willow said. "Looks like we have another candidate for slay-" Someone came around the corner and she changed course mid-sentence. "-rides. But, there's no snow, so it will be hard."
But no one was listening to her. They were to busy staring at the newcomer.
"Um, hello," he said, ducking his head shyly. "I was told I could get, uh, books. For class. Here."
They continued to stare at him.
"This is the library, correct?" he asked, eyes going from person to person before looking back down at his shoes. "Mythology section?"
"Buffy, do you suppose that-" Giles began as he exited his office, book in hand. "-if Angel were to-" He looked up and saw the newcomer. "-to-to-to...good heavens."
The newcomer's black t-shirt and jeans, long leather duster, peroxide blond hair and familiar facial features, including the bright blue eyes hidden behind a pair of wire rimmed glasses, shocked each and every one of those in the room to silence. Standing in front of them, in the middle of the day, was Spike.
"I can come back," he said, turning to go.
"No!" Buffy and Giles said loudly at once.
The Slayer quickly crossed the room and grabbed him by the shirt, pushing him up against a table. His hands flailed out and smacked down behind him on the table when he hit it. "Spike, I don't know what your game is, but it's not going to work," she practically growled.
"S-Spike?" the blond asked, confusion and fear written all over his face. "M-My name is-is Will. Will-William Sullivan. I've only transferred this semester and-and...bloody hell." He swallowed nervously, pushing his glasses up his nose.
"Right, and I'm Kermit and this is the rest of the Muppet cast," Buffy scoffed.
"Buffy, look," Willow said in an amazed voice from behind the table. Buffy looked past the blond and at Willow was pointing at. Under the tips of his black nailpolished left hand was a large, wooden crucifix that someone had left out.
And it was doing nothing to him.
Buffy released him and stepped back. "O-k," she drew out. "We all agree that we see Spike, right?"
"I do," Xander said.
"But he didn't...ssssss," Willow said, making a sizzling noise and gesturing to the cross.
"Um, I-I think I'm going to go now," Will said, straightening and inching towards the way he came.
"Wait," Buffy said, putting her arm on his. He flinched and the Slayer made a apologetic face. "I'm sorry. It's just that you look exactly like this guy we know..."
"Spike," Will said. "So I bloody gathered."
"This is too wiggy," Xander said. "He even sounds like the bleached-wonder."
"Buffy, you a-and Willow have been the closest to-to Spike. Is there any difference what-so-ever?" Giles asked.
Will leaned back as Buffy leaned closer, her hand still clamped on his arm. He pushed up his glasses and stared at her, wide-eyed. Turning his head, he saw the redhead behind the table studying him, as well. "I'm not this-this Spike person. Honest."
"How old are you?" Willow asked, not seeing any differences.
"Eighteen," Will answered. "I'll be nineteen next month. Can I go now?"
"Y-Yes, of course," Giles said, gesturing to Buffy to release him. "Oh, did you say you needed texts?"
"I'll get them another time," Will said. He looked from person to person, then practically fled from that area of the library.
"I can't tell, Giles," Buffy said, staring after Will with a frown on her face.
"I pulled up his file," Willow said, moving the mouse with practiced ease. "William Bradley Sullivan, freshman. Born 5/3/82. Transfer from Warrington in England. Ooh, he's a brain. GPA: 4.0 on a 4.0 scale."
"Does it have any details that can confirm he's not Spike?" Buffy asked. "Like human stuff?"
"I'll check," Willow said. She clicked several times on the mouse. "Here's his medical record. He's had all his immunizations, the measles in 1985, is allergic to bee stings. Looks human to me."
"Either that, or he went to a lot of work to look human," Oz said.
"That's a pretty elaborate trick," Xander said. "Spike'd be risking a permanent reduction in size if he used a spell to protect him from the sun. Is there a spell like that, Wills?"
"Not that I know of," Willow replied.
"Nor I," Giles added. "Perhaps a little research is-is in order."
The bell rang. "Sorry, Giles, class," Buffy said with a relieved smile. She picked up her bag and quickly left.
"Sorry, G-man, gotta fly," Xander said, grabbing his books and following behind Buffy.
"Bye, Giles," Willow said, walking around the counter. Oz put his arm around her shoulder and they left as well.
"I guess I shall be doing research on my own," Giles said to himself.
"Good morning, Mr. Giles," Wesley said, stepping out of the stacks.
"I would rather be doing research on my own," Giles muttered.
"So, what do you think it could be?" Willow asked Buffy in their class. Will was in the elective class, as well, and he kept darting glances back at the two girls. "Do you think that this guy just really looks like Spike? Or are they the same person...er, vampire?"
"I don't know, Wills," Buffy replied. "This is the Hellmouth. Coincidences don't exists here."
"Maybe a spell, like Xander suggested?" Willow said.
"I think Angel was the magick user of their little 'family'," Buffy said. "Drusilla got the visions and Spike was...well, I don't know what he was. Entertainment?"
Willow giggled. "Yeah, he played the kazoo."
"And had those little knee cymbals," Buffy added with a grin. "Oh hey, I know. We can ask him if he knows Drusilla. If he flinches or ticks or twitches or whatever people do when they lie, we'll know it's Spike."
"And if it isn't?" Willow asked.
"If it isn't, I think Giles was on the right track with the research," Buffy said. "Joy."
Xander approached Cordelia, who had returned to Sunnydale a month before, with a Polaroid camera around his neck. "Cordelia, hold up," he said.
"And here I thought I'd have a Xander-free day," Cordelia said with a sigh. "What do you want?"
"I'm on a mission from God," Xander quipped. She rolled her eyes and started to walk away. He fell into step with her. "No, really. Well, it's Giles, but that's close enough in my book."
"Xander, the point. Get to it," she said.
"I need to get a picture of the new kid," Xander said. "But we already freaked him out once today, so if I just come up to him and say 'hey, I'm going to take your picture now', I think he'd report us to the mental health committee and they'd lock us in those little padded rooms."
"And why would I want to prevent that?" Cordelia asked.
"Funny," he said. "Anyway, I need a decoy."
"Do I look like a duck?" she said, glaring at him.
"Please, Cord. Once you see this guy, you'll know why we need the pics," Xander said. "I'll make it worth your while."
"How?" she asked.
"I won't talk to you for an entire day," he answered, giving her his boyish grin. "So, what do you say?" He held up the camera. "Cheese?"
"Fine. But only because I look really good today."
"Great," Xander said. "Willow pulled up his schedule. He's got AP Physics at eleven."
"You want me to pose with a male Willow?" Cordelia said. "Ugh, the things I do for you losers."
"Fresh from the photo lab," Xander said, entering the back corner of the library with Cordelia. He waved several Polaroids in the air. "You'll have to ignore the blemish on them. I couldn't airbrush Cordy out."
"Can your day start now?" Cordelia said.
"M-Miss Chase," Wesley greeted, a bit uncomfortably. "I...Did you have a, er, pleasant day?"
"It was fine until someone-," she glared at Xander, "-made me pose with Spike."
"You think he looks like Spike, too?" Willow said, behind the computer once again.
"I nearly died when I saw him," Cordelia replied. "It was very traumatic."
"Well, thank you, Cordelia, for your suffering in order to get the photos," Giles said wryly, taking the picture from Xander. "It is most appreciative."
"Ooh! I found something," Willow said excitedly. "I've been tracing William's genealogy through the available Internet resources, and I got as far back as 1806. Get this, there are ten matching dates of death for that year."
"1806, you say?" Giles said. "That would be about the correct year for Spike to-to have been, er, turned."
"That's what I thought," Willow said. "So I looked up past newspaper articles for the area during that year and this is what I found. 'A gruesome scene greeted officers on the night of 25 March at number 12 Parker Street. Ten members of the Sullivan family were found butchered in their home.' I won't read the details, but at then end it says: 'Two sons of Bradley Sullivan, William Bradley, aged 24, and John Thomas, aged 21, were not found in the home. Any information regarding either one is to be brought to the attention of Chief Inspector Hadley, Warrington.'"
"Didn't you say that William was Spike's name back when he wanted to kill us all on St. Vigeous, but he showed up on Parent-Teacher night because he has a severe impulse-control problem?" Cordelia asked, looking at Giles.
"Yes," Giles replied with slight amazement. "William the Bloody. Remarkable memory, Cordelia."
"I got locked in a closet with Willow," Cordelia said. "That's a trauma I'll never forget."
Willow rolled her eyes, then continued. "John Thomas married Elsie Montgomery in 1813. They had two children, Matthew and Louisa. The Sullivan line continues right to William Bradley Sullivan, current student at University of Sunnydale."
"That means this guy isn't Spike," Xander said. "He's Spike's great-great-great-great, um, throw another couple greats in there, nephew."
"So it would appear," Giles said. "However, the fact that this young man is identical in resemblance to Spike is, er, highly unusual."
"I concur," Wesley said. "Marriage to different linages would bring in differing DNA, causing each generation to loose resemblance to the prior one."
"Back to the theory that William and Spike are one in the same?" Willow asked Giles.
"For the time being," Giles replied. "I have sent Buffy to Willy's to see if she may ascertain Spike's whereabouts."
"Mexico," Willy said.
"I thought he was going back to Brazil?" Buffy said, leaning against the counter at the Alibi Room.
"Hey, my sources peg him in Mexico," Willy replied. "In some town called Tampico."
"Thanks," Buffy told him, turning to leave.
"If I can ask, Slayer," Willy said. "Why are you interested anyway? I thought you and Angel kissed and made up."
"None of your business, Willy," Buffy replied.
"Sure, Slayer. Whatever you say," Willy said to her retreating back. When she was gone, the unconventional bartender whistled. "I guess the skinny on her being over Angel was right."
"According to Willy, Spike's in Mexico," Buffy said a short while later back at the library.
"I thought you said he was going back to Brazil?" Willow said.
Buffy shrugged. "Maybe he got sidetracked."
"Do you trust this Willy's character?" Wesley asked. "He could very well be lying to you."
"Not to the Buffster," Xander said. "Not if Willy doesn't want to wear his eyeballs inside out."
"Xander, eew," Cordelia said. "That's disgusting."
"You should see what Buff can do with someone's small intestines," Xander said maliciously to the brunette.
"Before all of us lose our lunch," Buffy said, glaring at Xander. "What do you think we should do?"
"Road trip!" Willow answered excitedly. "It's Spring Break next week. We could go down to Mexico and see if Spike's Spike." She grinned at Oz, who'd joined the group just before Buffy returned. "Spike's Spike. Hee."
"Full moon for me," Oz said, shaking his head. "I couldn't go."
"Oh, then I wouldn't go, either," she said. Then added, before Oz could contradict, "Someone needs to be here for you and I doubt my parents would let me go anyway."
"Don't look at me," Cordelia said. "I'm not going anywhere with or for you losers. Even if it is Mexico. It's probably a hole-in-the-wall town with no descent mirrors for miles."
"I can go," Xander said. "If someone else provided the fundage."
"The Council cannot condone unnecessary expenditures for non-Slayer-type activities," Wesley stated. "However, I do agree that this matter warrants further investigation."
"Let me guess," Buffy said. "You want to go to Mexico."
"Not I," Wesley said. "You alone."
"Me?" Buffy frowned. "Why me? Not that I wouldn't mind a trip to Mexico..."
"You are the Slayer," Wesley explained. "Funds can be provided for a week long holiday to Central America in conjunction with your sacred duties."
"But what about patrol?" Buffy asked.
"I am sure we can handle it," Giles said, agreeing with Wesley, for once. He lowered his voice so only she could hear. "Plus, I'd wager you wouldn't mind a holiday away from the Hellmouth. You can think of it as a belated birthday gift."
"Boy, if you guys are serious, you don't have to ask me twice," Buffy said. Both Giles and Wesley nodded. Buffy grinned. "Cool. I'm going to Mexico."
"With the express purpose of finding, er, this Spike and ascertaining if he and William Sullivan are one in the same," Wesley said. "If they are not, it is your duty to slay the vampire."
"That I can do," Buffy said, standing. "However, convincing my mom to let me go to another country is going to be a laugh a minute. Especially alone. Wait, why am I going alone? And why did I just ask that?"
"Mr. Giles is no longer your Watcher and I feel that you can accomplish this assignment without supervision," Wesley told her.
"You know, I'm liking you more and more, Wesley." Buffy grinned.
"Looks like I'm going to Mexico."
Buffy stretched, working the kinks out of her body from the cramped flight. Tampico, Mexico was located on the Gulf of Mexico, and during this part of the year, was a tourist town. Beaches were packed with Spring Break students during the day, and at night, they frequented the many dance clubs within the small city. It was a perfect place for a vampire.
Grabbing her large duffle, the Slayer headed out of the airport to the bus depot. She'd been given pesos and centavos before leaving Sunnydale, as well as a long-winded speech about the costs in Mexico. The bus ride would cost only twenty centavos, no matter how far she rode it.
The motel she was staying at was located along the beach, courtesy of Giles. She saw many college students, so she didn't feel as out of place as she did on the bus ride over. Her room, located on the third floor, was small and simple, with a double bed, television bolted to the wall, two night stands and a bathroom. The walls were done in white stucco, and she had a sliding glass door that led out onto a balcony overlooking the ocean. It also had a safe, and she'd been given the key upon check-in.
"So, Buffy, what to do first," Buffy said to herself as she unpacked her bag. "Beach or Spike? Hmm, tough choice."
Twenty minutes later, the Slayer's opponent was a killer tan.
Armed with the Polaroids of William Sullivan, a few strategically hidden stakes, and her dancing shoes, Buffy hunted for Spike. The clubs along the strip were packed and jumping, and she was in constant danger of getting pulled out for a dance. Not that she tried very hard to prevent it.
Her strategy was simple, show the bartenders the pictures and ask if they'd seen him. By mid-week of her free vacation, she'd been to over fifty clubs, learned how to dance the salsa and the samba, and been propositioned with every line in the book, but still no Spike.
She moved from the strip into the small city on her search, leaving the highly populated student crowds for more local ones. Her dark tan helped her blend in better, but her blond hair and hazel eyes were a dead giveaway that she was not from Tampico. Luckily, with her Slayer strength, she was not afraid of the danger that would normally represent. A few tight squeezes on arms or hands until bones snapped normally deterred would-be problems.
Entering yet another nondescript Latin club, Buffy surveyed the early crowd with a casual eye. Most of the clubs didn't really start doing business until after ten, so she saved the more popular ones for that hour. But she did not want to neglect her duty by not going to each and every one.
This particular club was set up like an old Spanish hacienda, with walls of dark adobe brick, stone stairs and a hard, stone floor. A band was playing on a platform against the left wall, and a dance floor spread in front of it, lit by low, white lighting. The bar itself was small, running along the back wall, with a dark wood counter and stools in front of it. A hallway led off behind it and she recognized the Spanish word for restrooms.
The rest of the club had small tables and chairs set up a few steps from the dance floor. The furnishings were all black, with flickering candle centerpieces. Around the room were streamers and paper chains in decoration, along with a few piñatas. The whole setup reminded Buffy of the outdoor dance area in the movie The Mask of Zorro with Antonio Banderas. So much, in fact, that she expected the actor, dressed in period garb, to come out with Catherine Zeta-Jones and begin dancing.
Making her way to the bar, she slid onto a stool, adjusting her mid-thigh, light-blue sundress as she sat, and got the bartender's attention.
"Sí, señorita?" he asked.
"Coca-Cola de una botella," Buffy told him using one of the handy Spanish phrases she'd learned. "Por favor."
The bartender moved away and returned shortly with a Coke in a 16-ounce bottle. He pulled off the cap in front of her, then set it down on the counter. "Gracias," she said, pulling the pictures out of her hidden pocket, along with a peso. She set the pink bill on the counter and smiled at the man.
"Perdón," she began, holding up the photos. "El muchacho. Su lo...um..., see...er, seea. What's that word?"
Buffy looked to her right and saw a perfect stereotype of a Mexican señorita sitting on another stool. Her dark hair was pulled up in a simple twist, her dark eyes observed Buffy curiously. She was dressed in a white peasant blouse, which showed off perfect mocha skin and ample cleavage, and a dark-blue loose skirt that went down to mid-calf, and she wore black, strappy heels. "Do you speak English?"
"Sí," the woman replied.
"Oh good," Buffy sighed in relief. She'd had more trouble remembering the correct phrase and usually had to do with gestures and absurd charades. "Can you ask him if he's seen this person?"
Buffy handed her the photos and the woman's dark brow arched at the same time an amused smile crossed her lips. "And why are you looking for him, niña?"
**Child?** Buffy thought, her eyes narrowing in anger. "None of your business."
The woman shrugged. "I was only asking," she said, then began speaking rapid Spanish to the bartender. "I am sorry, he has not seen your friend."
"I never said Spike was my friend," Buffy said, taking the pictures back.
"Then why do you seek him?" the woman asked.
"His, er, brother asked me to, um, look him up since I was going to be here," Buffy lied.
"El diablo rubio estará aqui en una hora," the bartender said, gesturing to the photos.
"Juan, callate," the woman snapped.
"Here in an hour?" Buffy translated, then glared at the woman. "I thought you said the bartender hadn't seen him."
"Niña, el diablo rubio is not interested in you," she said. She smiled cruelly. "The blond devil needs a real woman to warm his bed, not an infant."
Buffy's eyes narrowed, but she refrained herself from wiping the woman's smug smile off of her face. Instead, she smiled at the bartender. "Gracias, señor. Una hora." He nodded and smiled back at her. Then, shooting a scathing glare at the woman, she left the bar with her soda.