Rating: PG for a bit of British swearing
Summary: Sequel to Reassembling. Principal Wood's arrival wrecks more havoc than anyone could imagine
Beta read by the wonderful incandragon
Reassembling can be found at: http://spanderfiles.com/arvs/texanfan/reassembling.html
Previous chapters at: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memories.bml?user=texanfan&keyword=Readjustment&filter=all
AN: RL has bitten me but good, so this will be the last chapter this year. i hope to have ten for you in January. I hope this is a pleasant stopping place.
Rupert called or emailed with daily updates, all brief messages with a dearth of new information. The darkness did not, in fact, spread. However, days passed and it remained, while team Angel insisted they could handle matters on their own.
Xander kept his messages low key. Spike sensed the underlying worry, especially since Xander made him promise multiple times to tell him if he planned on taking a trip to Los Angeles. Spike suspected if he made such a trip Xander would be meeting him at the airport, which was endearing if somewhat irritating. He chose to chuckle at the concern rather than let his pique lead to thoughts of evisceration.
He kept the news on, even though they knew less than he did, as he stalked restlessly around the apartment. After less than a week, although it felt like six, the sun reemerged over the city of angels. There was a general stand down from red alert and Spike headed for his first good day‘s sleep in too long. His finger hovered over the off button on his cell phone for a moment before he decided to leave it on one more day, just in case. It turned out to be a good thing, as a mid-morning call from Rupert woke him up.
“What’s the situation, Rupert?” Spike wasn’t a big believer in greetings, besides, who knew how badly bollixed things could be now.
“Those idiotic, reckless half wits have thoroughly bollixed things this time. They removed Angel’s soul.” Rupert’s voice had a hard, cold edge to it, with more than a little Ripper seeping through. Not that Spike blamed him. The thought of Angelus running loose in what he still considered his territory had him struggling not to crack the case of the phone.
“I’ll be on the next flight out there,” Spike answered.
He booted up the laptop, online being the fastest way to acquire a plane ticket, when Rupert hastily said, “I need you to stay there.”
“Why?” Spike made sure his tone indicated that he better make it a damn good reason.
“Angel’s team swears they have him contained and they want Willow to re-ensoul him. She, Tara and I are heading there right now. At the moment, I wouldn’t trust this group to contain a girl scout, so Jonathan and Xander have stayed behind with Dawn. If they haven’t heard from us in two hours, they’re going to you. I’m hoping the better part of a continent will keep Angelus from tracking them down too quickly. With luck, we will arrive, perform the spell and be back home in time for dinner.”
“Since when has luck ever been with us?” Spike asked snidely.
“Exactly so,” Rupert agreed. “I can’t believe they thought this was a good idea.”
“So, which one of that bunch has turned evil now?” Spike asked through gritted teeth.
The dark chuckle Rupert responded with signaled his complete agreement. “If you don’t receive word in three hours, make sure Xander and Dawn are getting on a plane headed your direction and not off on some half-baked rescue mission.”
“No, the half-baked rescue will probably start five minutes after they touch down. Cover Willow, Angelus will want to take out the person who can restore his soul first,” Spike advised, racking his mind for everything he could remember about Angelus and his methods. “Don’t trust any of his crew. Angelus is a clever bastard and he loves his mind games, he could have turned any of them, or threatened one to control another.”
“I am very versed in Angelus’ methods, Spike,” Rupert chided. “Not only did I research him thoroughly, but I was treated to first hand observation when he reemerged in Sunnydale, as you may recall.”
Spike recalled very well the battered condition of the Watcher the day he formed his first alliance with Buffy. “I remember preventing Angelus from taking a chainsaw to you,” he reminded.
“I do remember,” Rupert sighed. “I assure you we will be careful. I have no interest in any of us being at his mercy. I will ring you back when we know more.”
“Be sure you do.” Spike cut the connection and tossed the phone on the bed. He couldn’t afford to fling it against the wall like he wanted.
Rupert was a pretty crafty bastard himself, angling them all exactly where he wanted them. Protecting Dawn pinned Xander in Sunnydale away from danger in a way nothing else could, just like protecting Xander and Dawn halted Spike from charging back to California. Spike hoped the confidence Rupert displayed in his own ability to keep the witches safe was not misplaced. Then again, Angelus had never faced Willow at her current power level, certainly not with Tara there to rein her in or augment her at need. If they guarded themselves well victory was, if not assured, probable. He still chafed at being benched.
Sleep no longer an option, Spike slouched on the couch perusing the telly’s offerings in an attempt to distract himself. Nothing held his interest in the endless parade of human misery and pettiness on view on daytime television. They considered him a monster, hm?
He debated calling Xander, but he didn’t want to tie up the phone when they needed communication lines open. Several attempts to sit down and type an email proved futile as restlessness sent him pacing after a few words, picking up random objects, only throwing a few of them.
Eventually, the phone rang.
“Well?” he answered.
“Just got the call from Giles,” Xander told him. “Angel’s soul is back where it belongs.”
“Good.” Spike sank into a chair, trying not to let too much relief slip into his voice. “Everyone okay, Will handle it all right?”
“Sounds like it got kind of hairy there for a little while. Some big, bad mystical force didn’t want Willow to put Angel’s soul back, but there’s not much that can stand up to Willow and Tara combined. The hellgod smack down twins prevailed, Angel’s all remorseful and tortured again, Giles didn’t get hit on the head and, as soon as they pack up the magical doodads, they‘re headed home.” Relief positively flooded Xander’s voice. “Looks like we have our yearly apocalypse averted with a minimum of fuss this time.”
“Oh you don’t get off that easy,” Spike said, warming to the teasing. “Come spring something worse will be knocking at the door.”
“But until then,” Xander clearly didn’t plan on being diverted, “life goes on. Giles told me about the invite for Christmas.”
Spike wasn’t sure why he was nervous. Of course, he wanted them to come, wanted to show off the nice apartment and the respect he’d earned. But Xander was a stubborn git and could throw a monkey wrench into his carefully laid plans. “And?” Spike asked cautiously.
“I was just wondering how much time I should ask off work. We get the week between Christmas and New Year’s, but I’m thinking it would be cheaper to fly up a few days earlier.” Xander’s matter of fact tone, like saying no never crossed his mind, made Spike grin like a prize fool, but he just couldn’t seem to care, besides there was no one there to see.
In the interests of disguising just how thrilled he was, he handled the logistics in a calm manner. “Probably right. There’s three bedrooms, I’m thinking that should be plenty of room. Get the best fare you can and let me know when you’re coming.”
“’I’ll find out what Dawn’s last day at school is, then check them out. Giles might have to wait, Christmas being a big shopping time.” Xander could be sitting in the living room debating dinner options with him. It was a bit surreal, considering all that had happened between them.
“Then he’ll get stuck with the couch, first come, first served,” Spike tried to inject a teasing note, but was afraid it fell flat.
“I’m, really, that is-” now Xander was the one sounding nervous. “I’m really looking forward to seeing you. I miss you.”
Did Xander actually think Spike was going to mock him for that? “Call me when you know your schedule.” Spike hung up before he could get all weepy. He might not mock Xander for his feelings, but letting Xander know how desperately he wanted to see them sounded like an abysmal idea.
Spike felt like a bit of human celebration so he headed to St. Mark’s Place. The city changed a lot while he was out west but St. Mark’s still sported the types of shops and hang outs he’d missed. He missed Manic Panic’s old store front, but progress meant he could order from them online. Still, he browsed music stores, searched the jewelry racks for an appropriate gift for Dawn, and stuck his head in St. Mark’s Comics with an eye for a Christmas present for Xander. He’d need to do some serious shopping for the whole gang if they were all headed this way. He considered his options over a slice of Ray’s pizza. Tonight was for window shopping, maybe picking up a few trinkets, he still had plenty of time.
A couple days later he was growling at his laptop as he read the subject line of Xander’s latest email.
Sent: December 10, 2002 7:51:36 PM
Subject: Please read the whole message before you do anything, okay?
Don’t be mad at anyone, I asked them not to tell you until I could get a handle on the situation. A few days ago, when the happy morons in LA realized sucking out Angel’s soul wasn’t such a good idea after all, Wesley broke Faith out of prison. She and Angel have some kind of weird bond thing going on and Wesley figured she could recapture him. Which she did, so go team.
Anyway, once the fireworks were over LA seemed a little close to the people looking for her, and we could use an actual slayer instead of a robot so, she came home with Giles and the girls.
EVERYTHING IS ALL RIGHT!
Faith and I have issues, but she actually tortured Wes and he broke her out of prison so I figured I can give her another chance at least. So I talked to her. She’s changed, well, not fundamentally, she still tries to put up the tough chick defense mode, but she’s a little more open with her vulnerabilities now. Seems she got some help while she was in the big house. Anyhow, I talked with her about the kind of weird history we have and she gave me the kind of sideways apology that someone expecting to get slapped down always seems to give. I told her that since my last two serious relationships were mass murderers I can cut her some slack. The upshot is that you don’t have to worry.
She’s going to man the Hellmouth while we’re in New York, so that’s a plus. We gave her Buffy’s old room, which makes me happier than catching sight of the bot recharging on Buffy’s bed. Anyhow, you can start yelling now.
Spike closed the email, picked up his cell and dialed the land line at home.
Usually, one of the girls answered that phone, but Xander must have anticipated his call because it was Xander’s voice saying, “Hello.”
“Let me talk to Faith,” Spike said in a perfectly calm and reasonable voice.
“Now Spike, there’s no need--”
“Put the Slayer on, Xander,” Spike cut him off without raising his voice.
Xander recognized an argument he wasn’t going to win and called Faith to the phone. He heard Xander tell her, “Spike wants to talk to you.” Spike was pleased he didn’t bother trying to get them to play nice.
“Hello.” Faith clearly had no idea why Spike wanted to talk to her, he’d change that for her.
“Slayer, you know who I am?” He didn’t snarl, there was no need to.
“You’re Xan’s boyfriend, and that is an image to keep a girl warm at night.” Spike could see what Xander meant about her hiding behind the tough act.
“Everyone in that house belongs to me, Slayer. I’ve killed two of your kind. Lay a hand on any of them, fail to protect them, and I’ll take my third. As far as what keeps you warm at night, as long as you don’t touch what’s mine you can imagine all you like. Are we clear?” He suspected Faith was the type of person who liked the rules nice and defined, whether she planned to abide by them or not.
“Crystal,” she replied, insolence lacing her voice. “Now, you listen to me. I’m going to do my job here and protect the Hellmouth. I’ll do it the way I think best without you, or anyone else, armchair quarterbacking me. Anytime you think you’re vamp enough to take me out you’re welcome to try. Are we clear?”
“We understand each other then. Let me talk to Xander.”
“Your boyfriend has a big mouth,” Faith bit out, followed by an “oof” as she handed the phone back over, forcefully.
“What did you say to her?” Xander pleaded.
“Something that needed to be said.” Spike finally allowed himself to smile. “She’s a little spitfire isn’t she?”
“Well she was certainly spitting fire when she left,” Xander said, indignant. “Seriously, don’t help. I think I’m going to be murdered in my sleep now.”
“She’s not going to hurt you. She probably wants a shot at me, which suits me just fine. You just make sure she keeps her hands to herself.”
“Not even close to a problem, Spike,” Xander reassured. “Sure, she’s hot and dangerous and treats sex like an Olympic sport, but she’s not my type.”
Certain all those terms applied to him, Spike let a little growl slip into his voice with his reply. “Exactly what is your type?”
“Loyal,” Xander replied without any pause or irony.