Title: Readjustment 11/15
Rating: PG-13 for violence
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/r
Previous chapters at: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memori
In the end, Rupert helped him verify his bar crawl information. They pinpointed the location and discussed the likely form of the trials. Spike balked at the realization that he had to call Xander. The appeal of hearing Xander’s voice battled with the knowledge of just how disappointed and resigned Xander would sound. Spike wasn’t looking forward to the conversation, but leaving without talking to Xander smacked of cowardice. Besides, he’d promised he wouldn’t just disappear again. One promise broken was more than enough..
“Spike! Are you all right?” Spike began to wonder if the appearance of his number on the caller id always caused such panic.
“I’m fine, Xander. I take it you’ve spoken to Rupert.” While Spike needed to speak to Xander himself, to explain what he intended, he’d told Rupert he could give Xander a heads up before he called.
“He kept mumbling something about the little mermaid, which made no sense whatsoever,” Xander sputtered. “I mean, what does a singing crab have to do with anything?”
“Blasted Disney,” Spike grumbled.
“Yeah, he said something similar, then he told me it meant you were going to get your soul or die trying. Now, tell me he’s got it all wrong,” Xander demanded.
“Did he tell you why?” Spike half hoped he had. He didn’t relish admitting weakness to Xander.
“He said I had to ask you, so consider yourself asked.”
Spike realized Rupert felt it wasn’t his place to fill in that gap. In a way, it was a kindness: Rupert refused to color Xander’s perception of events, giving Spike freedom to say whatever he thought best. It also served as very effective punishment. “I broke my promise. I killed some housewife from West Virginia.”
“Oh,” Xander said in a small voice. “Did she attack you?” Xander’s question bore the thinnest thread of hope.
“No, she was being raped. I took out the two guys attacking her. I was finishing with the second one and she just wouldn’t stop screaming. Had this high pitched, grating whine of a voice, so I kicked her to shut her up. Didn’t think about it, probably have given more thought to shutting off the alarm clock. I was all the way home before I realized what I’d done.” He didn’t say he was sorry. He wasn’t sorry and lying to Xander changed nothing. Of course, he was sorry that he’d broken his promise, frustrated and a bit angry that Xander had won that particular argument, but he just couldn’t drum up any emotion over the woman herself, and that’s what Xander cared about.
Silence rang from Xander’s end of the line, then that sigh of resignation Spike had been expecting. “Spike, I won’t say I’m happy about this, because you’d know I was lying, but I accepted it as a part of you long ago. I don’t want you to change yourself because of some promise to me and I sure don’t want you to rip yourself apart with a soul, assuming you survive to get it.”
“I’m not getting it for you, Xander,“ Spike assured him.
“Spike, you love being a vampire. Why else could you possibly want a soul?” Xander said in a reasonable voice that drove Spike nearly mad. Xander knew better than to talk to him like an idiot child.
Besides, he’d given a lot of thought to the question before he called Xander, knowing he’d be asked. When he’d first had the idea it was almost an impulse. If you lost something valuable you went and got it back, simple as that. But that answer wouldn’t satisfy Xander, and Spike realized it was a momentous enough decision that he needed to give it a bit more thought. He’d spent his entire vampiric life trying to put distance between himself and William the bloody awful poet. He’d been more ruthless, more arrogant, bolder than any other member of his clan just to put that whining milk sop behind him. Now he intended to invite him into his skull to knock about and, if Angel was a good example, take over the whole show? Spike had to admit, from the outside it seemed crazy. Thing was, as much as he’d tried to separate himself from William, he never truly had. He was still love’s bitch; he’d loved Dru as much for her fractured innocence as her deadly viciousness. The Judge labeled him too human because of his love and affection while Angelus was pure demon. He was counting a lot on that difference, just as he realized that the parts of him that loved Xander, Dawn and the others were likely leftover portions of William. In the end, though, only one answer truly satisfied him. “Because it’s mine, Xander. It’s rightfully mine and I want it back.”
“But it’ll destroy you!” Xander protested. “Remember Angel? Big brooding guilt machine? Ring any bells?”
“Way I hear it, Liam had plenty to be guilty over long before he was turned. When Darla was feeling particularly evil she’d tell us how Liam’s dissipation was his undoing. Only thing I was guilty of was a broken heart.”
“What does that mean, Spike? You aren’t making any sense.” There was a note of desperation in Xander’s voice. “Let me come up there, we’ll talk about this, work something out.”
Spike gritted his teeth. He hated admitting he’d been wrong. “Xander, there’s nothing to talk about. You were right. I can’t come home like this.”
“So don’t come home.” Xander’s voice took on a level of resolve that surprised Spike. “They don’t need me here in Sunnydale now that they have Faith. We can go anywhere you want, you can show me all those places you’ve talked about. I’ve never been farther than Oxnard, I’d like to see what I’ve been missing.”
Spike smiled to himself, flattered even as he shook his head. Xander was offering to turn his back on everyone he loved to be with Spike: maybe he thought he could curb Spike’s more violent tendencies. In all likelihood, he could, but the effort, the constant battle would wear him down. Xander would forgive every slip and mourn each death as a personal failure. That wasn’t the life Spike wanted and it certainly wasn’t what he wanted for Xander. Besides, never seeing Dawn again was not something he was willing to accept. “That’s a very tempting offer, luv. Didn’t know Faith was such a good wage earner, able to pay for everything you do, is she?”
Xander hissed at the direct blow. Spike assailed him on the one point where he had no defense, his responsibility to his family. “Please, Spike, don’t do this. There has to be some other way.“
“Not for me.“ Spike felt a shudder go through him at the thought of subjecting himself to something like the chip again. “I know you want to help, but there isn’t another way that keeps everyone safe. I’ll take my chances. I’m figuring them to be pretty good.”
“How? How can this be anything but the worst of all possible ideas?” Xander questioned.
Much as Spike loathed talking about his human past, he imagined he needed to get used to it. “I’m not like Angelus, he’s pure demon, I still have bits and pieces of my human self floating around inside my noggin. He takes up residence in here again I’m counting on him not minding a bit of company.”
“That’s your idea? You’re going to risk your existence on the chance you’ll have a nice roommate?” Xander protested, but his heart wasn’t in it. Xander was a stubborn sod but he recognized a losing battle when he saw one. “I’m not going to be able to talk you out of this, am I?”
“’Fraid not, luv.”
“Will you let me help you?” Xander pleaded.
“You can’t. This is something I have to do alone,” Spike said as kindly as he could. He didn’t want Xander anywhere near the demon he was going to confront.
“Yeah, I figured. That’s the standard boilerplate for something like this. At least keep in contact. Don’t leave me wondering. Please?”
“I might be out of communication for a bit getting there, but I swear I’ll call you before I go in and I’ll contact you the second I win,” Spike assured him. Grabbing a satellite phone shouldn’t be a problem, and he knew Xander would be worrying himself sick until he knew Spike had made it. “I’m coming home, Xander.”
“You better be, Spike, you’d better be.” Spike pretended he didn’t hear the tears in Xander’s voice.
Spike spent the next two days putting his affairs in order. Anything he couldn’t part with he put into a safe deposit box, a small one sufficed, after all these years he traveled light. He bought Xander a collector’s edition Data. It seemed appropriate somehow. Then he shipped all the Christmas gifts to Sunnydale, since there was no telling just how long he’d be gone.
He briefly considered keeping the apartment but decided against it almost immediately. He doubted William would let him keep the ill gotten gains, all the more reason to spend them before he left. He started with airfare. He bought first class from New York to London to Entebbe. Booking the return trip puzzled him for a bit. Eventually he gave himself two weeks to complete his mission. After that he expected to be successful or dust. He smiled when he imagined William coping with first class all the way back to Sunnydale.
He hired an off road vehicle to be waiting for him when he reached Entebbe. Satisfied with the reservations, he went shopping. Firstly, he needed a passport. Enough money exchanged hands to get a bona fide British passport by the end of the day. A satellite phone came next on the list. Seeing no reason to skimp, he ran over to Sharper Image and bought the most expensive one they had on offer. A tent guaranteed to block the sun’s deadly rays followed. Dodging the sun in a country with miles between buildings sounded like hell to Spike, and he wanted every advantage he could get.
The tent, phone, laptop and a couple changes of clothing fit into a duffle bag and he headed for the airport.
First class was the only way to fly such a distance. He imagined being stuffed in the cattle compartment in the back and he shuddered. Then he ordered another drink. The change of planes at Heathrow gave him a chance to stretch his legs, once he got through customs, but the fifteen hours to Entebbe nearly drove him spare. Getting off that plane came close to a religious experience. Once again, first class proved worth it as he beat the crowd to immigration and customs and breathed free, early evening air in under an hour. He loaded the Land Cruiser with his duffle and headed into downtown to acquire everything he couldn’t take on the plane. A few discreet inquiries and he loaded up on knives. He doubted he’d be allowed to use them in the trials, but he had to get there first. He purchased a sleeping bag and a few other creature comforts before heading to the nearest bar.
Fighting for his life on an empty stomach sounded like utter stupidity, and he’d been two days without a proper meal already. He wasn’t overly picky in his selection. If he wanted to make it to the cave by sunrise he needed to make tracks, so he hung out in the alley behind the bar and waited for his prey. Even so, he let a teenage girl stroll by unmolested as too small to satisfy his appetite. The next passerby fulfilled his parameters quite nicely, a big bruiser of a bloke with meaty fists, bloodshot eyes and the smell of alcohol on him. Drawing attention right now smacked of amateur hour and this one was too soused to raise the alarm quickly.
“Evening, mate,” Spike greeted his dinner as he stepped out of the shadows.
The man’s response was in a language Spike had never heard, but it sounded downright unfriendly. Not that he considered this a problem, since he liked a little spirit in his meals.
Not wanting a fuss, he clocked the bloke on the side of the head, stunning him, then dragged him back into the shadows where he buried his fangs in his neck while holding his mouth shut. The man thrashed for a moment or two, but the blood was flowing out of him too rapidly for that to last long, and his struggles merely made it gush faster.
Spike was all too aware this might be his last live meal, and he savored it like someone about to start a diet savored a last piece of chocolate cake. When blood no longer pumped out of his victim Spike reluctantly arranged the body in a dark, inconspicuous corner, wiped the blood from his own mouth and headed back to his waiting SUV.
As prepared as he could be, he headed west. He consulted his map several times, making sure of his bearings. Sunrise was still a few hours off when he hit his destination. He parked in a shaded spot just outside the sprawling village that stood at the mouth of the cave. Through that entrance lay a change to his whole existence, or its end. In the opposite direction lay his last chance to back out of the whole deal. He rang Xander without any regard for the time in Sunnydale.
Xander picked up on the second ring. He sounded anxious. “Spike?”
“I’m here,” Spike said simply.
“You decided against the scenic route, huh?” Xander’s stab at humor felt half hearted at best.
Spike hated causing him pain but this was something he had to do and he said as much. “I came here to get something. If I feel up to it afterwards, and there’s time, I’ll do some sightseeing, but I suspect I’ll just want to go home.”
“I don’t suppose you’d be willing to skip the whole thing and just come home, would you?” Xander knew better than to ask him that. Still, he guessed it had to be said.
“You know I can’t.”
“Can’t blame a guy for trying.” Xander’s voice lost the trace of shakiness and grew firm with resolve. “Since you won’t listen to reason, I want you to go in there and fight. I’m counting on you to win, Spike. Win and come home to us.”
Spike appreciated the pep talk. It made him feel warm to remember that people missed and needed him. “I intend to, this will be over with before you know it. Rupert thinks the trials shouldn’t last more than a couple days. I’ve given myself two weeks to be on the safe side.”
“I know,” Xander sounded indulgent now, a much better sound than afraid. “You emailed me the flight information, remember?”
“Haven’t had a chance to check my email since London, didn’t know if you’d gotten it.” Spike covered with irritation so he wouldn’t ask if there would be anyone to meet him there.
Xander must have known what he was thinking. Boy was a bloody mind reader some days. “I’ll be there to pick you up. I’ll probably have to sneak out on Dawn and Giles if I want you to myself on the drive home. Everyone wants to come with me, but I’m claiming boyfriend privilege.”
Spike told himself the smile meant amusement at Xander’s silliness, not how relieved he felt. “Oi, you didn’t ask me, maybe I want to see everyone.”
“Tough.” Spike could hear the smirk in his voice. He almost hated to cut the communication short but stalling might trap him for the day.
“I need to go, Xander. It’s almost sunrise.”
“Call me, as soon as you win.” There was a slight hitch in his words.
“I will. Don’t fret.” A useless adjuration, Xander fretted like an old woman when someone he loved was in danger.
“Spike,” Xander called out as Spike prepared to hang up.
“I love you. Remember that.”
“I never forget it,” Spike assured him. It strengthened him at times like these. “Love you too.”
He cut the connection before Xander could say something that might weaken his resolve. He hid the phone under the front seat and got out of the SUV. His destiny awaited him.