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This story is No. 1 in the series "The Hard Man". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: YAHF: A simple white trench coat turns Xander into someone that's going to make everyone pay. No one kidnaps John Taylor and gets away with it. Buffy/Nightside crossover. Takes place after "Hell To Pay" in the Nightside series.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Literature > Fantasy > Author: Simon GreenthegoodfightFR181180,171133125,21928 Jan 106 Mar 10Yes

Chapter One

A/N: OK, so this is something that has been rolling around in my head for a while. Just something I wanted to do for fun and excitement. If you don’t know John Taylor or the Nightside then I suggest reading the Nightside series by Simon R. Green. They’re fast reads and fun. Obviously I don't own either Buffy or the Nightside series. They are owned by Fox/Mutant Enemey/(Probably some other people) and Simon R. Green, respectively.

Chapter 1

Alright, this was just plain odd, which was saying something for him. After allowing himself a moment to look around at the street he was standing on he started walking. As he moved, he patted down all the pockets in his long white trench coat making sure that everything that should be there was. Finding yourself standing in the middle of a strange place was bad enough but without any type of defense would be suicide. So far, everything was where it should be right down to the packets of pepper and salt. After he patted himself down, he shoved his hands deep into his front coat pockets, set his face with a determined look and kept walking. It didn’t matter where you were, if you walked with purpose, confidence and acted like a right bastard, people left you alone and generally stayed out of your way. He had no idea where he was heading, mind you, though that made sense since he didn’t have a clue as to where he was.

His eyes flicked to his left and right taking in more of his surroundings. The houses where neat and orderly affairs, which made him positive that he wasn’t in any part of the city he had ever been in before which is something he didn’t think was even possible. Sure, there seemed to be some of the usual noise of the city coming from around him. Some of the usual creatures and demons he could make out running about so he couldn’t be that far out of the heart of the city? He knew the ritzier areas where strictly for the Powers and Dominations which none of these beings where. Hell, some of them looked more like they had gotten their look from the Who’s Who in Hell book from a century or so ago.

Still, there was something bothering him. Something wasn’t sitting right with him in this place. It smelled too clean, for one thing. But, there was also the distinct lack of rubble or destruction anywhere. People had been working hard to rebuild after the war but nowhere was this cleaned up by a long shot. Finally, he stopped and looked up into the sky. The moon was their but it wasn’t anywhere near full. Also it was only the size of a normal moon, nowhere near the size he was used to. This settled it for him. He was no longer in the Nightside which raised a countless number of other questions.

But, he couldn’t allow himself the luxury of stopping and thinking. He had to keep moving and keep up the scowl that was no longer just an act. Even if he was inwardly thinking ‘Shitshitshitshitshitshit,’ he had to look the part of someone who had everything under control. From what he could tell, the things running about could still pose a threat to him and would probably eat him alive, body and soul, if he even hinted at being weak or unsure. Besides, he was John Taylor. He had a reputation to uphold. Which is why when a red headed teenager ran up to him calling him Xander he only stopped and gave her a look.

“Xander, thank God. You’re alright!” the girl said. She was dressed in some kind of clubber get up which screamed come on’s and lurid possibilities. He had seen better in his time, much better. But still, the kid could pull it off if she had managed to get the right walk and attitude down but she didn’t.

“Sorry, kid. Not interested. You may want to change your pitch a bit though,” he told her and moved past her. His voice sounded strange to him, wrong somehow, another thing to take in.

“What? No! Definitely not! You’re Xander. Xan-der,” she repeated the name again, slower, as if that would make him believe her. “Well, your sort of Xander. I mean, you’re Xander but only you’ve turned into your costume. Everyone seemed to. I did too, see?”

She finished her ramble and stuck her hand through his chest causing John to take a step back. “Hey! Hands off,” he told her brushing off the front of his coat. He silently cursed himself for not noticing the fact that the girl was a ghost. He would have thought he was slipping but the redhead really looked more solid than most of the ghost he ran into. Hell, her cheeks still had some color to them. But, when he looked a bit closer he could make out the lamp post behind her, though it was faint. Still, he should have picked up on it.

“Great, all I needed was some whacked out spirit,” he mumbled.

“No, it’s true! It’s Halloween and we dressed up and now where whoever we dressed up as. All the kids turned into demons and monsters and now I’m a ghost! And your Xander only you dressed up as...well, you didn’t even know who you dressed up,” the ghost finished.

John was only able to stare at her for a moment. This was a bit much to take in and believe which, of course he didn’t. It made no sense. Something like that would take a bit of power behind it. Sure, maybe some kind of lesser god or a Power and Domination could pull it off but they wouldn’t really have any reason behind it. That was, of course, assuming that any of this was true. If it was, it raised two big questions for him. Who would dress up like him and, more importantly, what happened to the real him?

He considered using his gift to find himself but that seemed like it was asking for trouble. For now it was probably best that he didn’t use his gift till he found out more about where he was. Just because Lilith was taken care of didn’t mean that there weren’t other things out there that could find him and there was no shortage of people and things that where most definitely not people that would want to hurt him. Mommy dearest may be gone but that didn’t mean his troubles where. But first things first.

“You’re saying that I’m not me, right? Well, what sort of proof do you have? Something like this would take a whole lot of power and would be hard to pull off without someone noticing,” he said, trying his best to sound casual. He felt his anger building up inside of him from the very idea of this being true but didn’t want to let it show. Best to never let them see you explode till you needed too. Also, if he strained himself, it was almost as if he could hear some tiny voice inside his head yelling at him to be nice to the ghost keep her safe. Which was crazy since baring a necromancer or some kind of spirit eater the ghost was perfectly safe and sound. You know if you didn’t count the fact that she was dead.

“Proof? I’m a ghost!”

“Yes, I can see that.”

“But I wasn’t always!” she shouted.

“No one ever is,” he said, rubbing his forehead and letting out a breath. John just knew he was going to have a really bad headache really quickly if this kept up.

The girl threw her arms in the air, “I was dressed as a ghost! I was alive a few minutes ago until whatever happened, happened. I was alive, thank you very much.”

John raised an eyebrow, “The ghost of what exactly?”

Before the spirit could answer him, however, John spun around to face some sort of demon from what he could guess. The thing was maybe five foot ten, red and muscular and had devil horns curling out of its forehead. The small amount of clothing it was wearing consisted of a beaten leather tunic and the same type of beaten leather coverings on its forearms. It certainly led credibility to the girl’s story. No self respecting demon would be caught out of Hell wearing something like that. The thing looked like it had stepped directly out some storybook about damnation. It took everything in his power not to simply roll his eyes at it. John may be a bit more lost then usual but it would be a cold day in Hell before something this pathetic was able to sneak up on him.

“Mmmmm...meat,” the thing growled.

John did roll his eyes at such a pathetic line, took two steps towards the sorry excuse for a demon and kicked him square in the groin. As expected, the demon folded to the ground whimpering, holding his nether regions tightly.

“I think it might be best if we moved this somewhere else, miss,” he told her indicating to the sidewalk.

“Willow. My name is Willow,” she told him then looked back at the creature that was still on the ground. “You, um, didn’t hurt him too bad, did you? I think I may have class with that one.”

“You have class with a demon?”

“Costumes, remember?” the girl, Willow, reminded him.

He shrugged and started for the walkway and out from the middle of the street. It felt odd standing in the middle of a roadway after avoiding standing in them all his life. There were less painful ways to die then venturing out into the street and most of them didn’t involve getting eaten by something that only looked like a car.

Willow followed him, suddenly getting excited as she seemed to remember something. “Buffy! We have to find Buffy!”

“Buffy? Who’s Buffy?” John asked. He had stopped once they hit the sidewalk but started to tentatively walk over to a parked car. For all he knew this is where those things that looked like cars came from. Once he was sure it was safe he knelt down and looked in the side mirror.

“Our friend, she dressed up as some kind of noble women,” she told him. “She’s out there and if you don’t know who you are then she might not now either. It’s not safe out there especially if she doesn’t know anything.”

“Crap,” John whispered. As he examined his face, he knew instantly that the face looking back at him wasn’t his. It was fuller then his own, definitely younger too. By about at least ten or twelve years if he had to guess. Oh, and the other thing that made him sure was that he knew his own damn face when he saw it and this was not his. Hell, the hair color wasn’t even close.

Now he was getting angry again. “Someone’s going to pay for this,” he growled. “No one hijacks my soul and plays games with it. Kathy had tried to talk me into getting protection for this sort of thing but the premiums are so damn expensive!”

He needed to think. He needed to sit somewhere and think. Preferably with a large drink in front of him.

“Xander,” Willow said tentatively. “We need to find Buffy. If she isn’t herself then she could be in real danger.”

“Taylor,” he said with a sigh and standing up again. “My name’s John Taylor.”

The two looked back over to the demon that suddenly let out a sound like a cross between a gurgle and a pained whimper. He scrambled back to his feet and looked at John with wide eyes.

“Taylor? John Taylor?” the thing growled out.

Taking a step forward, John glared at him. He made sure that one of his hands had drifted to one of his pockets where he kept any number of things, hoping that they would work. The demon may be pathetic but that didn’t mean it couldn’t hurt him if he got careless. For all he knew there was more to the thing then he knew, which meant that he would have to rely on dirty tricks instead of a hard bluff. He doubted the thing would know him. He didn’t even look like himself.

However, the demon must have only heard of him by name because he let out another whimper, turned around and started running for all he was worth in the opposite direction of him. It seemed that his reputation had spread further then he had thought. It wasn’t any surprise after the whole business with Lilith but it was still good to see that his very name could get that reaction.

Smiling, he turned back to find that Willow was giving him a questioning look.

“What was that all about? Why’d he run away just ‘cause he heard your name?”

John only smiled a bit more before saying, “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

The two started walking off again in search of the girl, Buffy. Willow was doing more of the actually looking and would call out her name every once in a while until John gave her a look. She at least had the good grace to look sheepish at her foolishness. John, though, was mostly mulling things over.

Sure he had seen and done stranger things then this in his time but it was all a bit disturbing to wake up and find yourself thrust into someone else’s body. There was also a magic in the air that he was only just noticing. It was subtle at times and practically tangible at other moments. It wasn’t anything he had ever felt before but that didn’t mean anything. But there was a hell of a lot more going on than some simple, or rather complicated and potent, spell work going on here. The best thing he could do at this point would be to go along with it, see what he could find out and then track down whoever was responsible for this and let them know just how unpleased he was with them.

Screams could be heard off in the distance and off in the not so distant. Despite being accustomed to such sounds from being raised in the Nightside, it didn’t make him like it any better. These where screams of real fear and terror, pain and suffering and he really doubted that anyone here had been expecting or deserved any of it. Unless they where tourist of course. But, still, there was nothing he could about it at the moment so he just pushed the thought out of his head.

He had to think of this like a case. Find the missing girl, reverse the spell and kick the ass of whoever did this. Best to start at the top than.

“So, what does this Buffy look like, anyway?” John asked.

“Oh, uh, blonde, about my height. She was wearing a dress. Like I said, one of those Victorian ones. Oh! Wait. She isn’t blonde now. She had on a wig, a black wig,” she finished and looked at him expectantly as if hopping that he would remember something about the girl.

John let out a breath, “Alright, so where looking for a girl who is of average height with either blonde or black hair wearing a dress? Shouldn’t be too hard.”

“Well, how am I supposed to describe her? You, the real you, knows what Buffy looks like. It’s not exactly like I have a picture of her on me,” Willow said slightly annoyed.

He couldn’t help but give her a small smile, “I imagine that you wouldn’t in a get up like that.”

The joke had the desired effect, causing Willow to blush slightly and open her mouth only to close it with nothing to say. He had never seen a ghost blush before and he had to admit that it looked cute on her. ‘She’s no Suzie Shooter,’ he thought. ‘But then again there isn’t anyone like my Suzie.’

They kept walking without any sign of Buffy. A couple of times they ran across some kind of monster or creature and every time they moved a respectable distance away when they saw him coming. Word must have traveled fast that he was in town and it was a blessing that not a single person or being knew what he really looked like here. If they had, he doubted that his name would have mattered much. Each time, Willow would give him a look waiting for him to explain which of course, he never did.

They hit what must have amounted for the main road. It was a quaint little street and made John uneasy. It was too...cutesy for him. He missed the grim and the dirt of the Nightside. This was more like some far little town off in the middle of the English countryside. But, he noticed one thing that made him slightly happy. At the end of one of the streets he could see the neon sign of a bar. It was enough to make him almost shout for joy at the idea of a drink.

Indicating to the bar, John said, “Come on, we need some information. Walking around blind like this isn’t doing any good.”

“But, Xan-John, that’s a demon bar, Willies Place. They, uh, aren’t going to be too receptive to us and especially not to you,” she told him.

She was obviously nervous about going into the place but she didn’t understand. Whoever Xander was, he wasn’t him. He was John Taylor and he didn’t back down from anyone or anything. No matter sensible it might be to do so.

He shrugged and walked to the bar. John knew that Willow would follow him. If this body belonged to a friend of hers then she wouldn’t let it out of her sight till it was safe. Then again, they might be friends like he and some of his friends where friends. In which case, she may have her own agenda in mind.

No, he couldn’t think like that. That path led to madness. Best to trust his instincts and go with it till he could get more information and a bar was a perfect place for that, especially if it was a demon bar.

Pushing open the door, he walked in like he owned the place and was there with a purpose. The place was about us sleazy as you could get without being condemned. The air was thick with smoke and music was blasting from the jukebox. There was a fairly large crowd of people and things that were clearly not people in the bar and between the music and the noise of conversation it was practically deafening. It reminded him of him instantly.

John strolled over to the bar and he knew the bartender saw him. It was a small guy with slicked back thinning hair and an on apron over a basic white T-shirt and jeans. The guy did a double take when he saw him and hurried over, ignoring the furry creature that had been talking to him.

“Kid, what the hell are you doing in here? I know Halloween ain’t exactly a demonic night but there’s something different tonight. These things in here will tear you apart no matter if your friends with the slayer,” he said in a harsh whisper.

That was interesting. The kid knew the slayer. John had heard of the slayer, of course. There was even a story that went around about one slayer who had gone to the Nightside trying to rid it of its demons and monsters back in the fifties or so. No one ever found all of her body after those first five minutes and it never happened again, unless you counted the vending stands. But, still, outside of the Nightside she was probably a force to be reckoned with and whoever’s body he was currently inhabiting knew the current slayer. Could be useful information later but not now.

John gave the bartender his best reassuring smile. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll take my chances. Brandy.”

The little guy gave a nervous laugh, “Kid, come on. That ain’t funny. The slayer would kill me if she let me let you stay here let alone serve you any.”

A few of the surrounding patrons had heard him and also let out a laugh. It was probably the laughter that did it to him. Something inside of him snapped. Grabbing the bartender by his shirt, he dragged him forward across the bar and leaned into his face.

“Brandy. Large glass. Now,” he seethed. His face was hard and he made sure to look the little rat faced man in the eyes.

Pushing him back, the bartender stumbled but to his credit, didn’t fall. Clearly, he was shaken but managed to pour the drink without spilling a drop and handed it over. “O-on the house, kid, alright?” he said with a nervous grin.

John nodded solemnly and moved away to the bar and into an empty booth, keeping his back to the wall. A lot of the people had seen what had happened which was fine by him. Nothing like letting people know that he wasn’t to be trifled with, even if it was just man handling a small time bartender like that guy.

Willow had also seen the whole thing and sat down across from him, staring. “John, what was that all about? You said you wanted information, not a drink. Xander’s underage.”

“Yea, I guessed that. Anything else you want to fill me in on? Maybe on who the slayer is now and why the bartender said that I knew her,” John said taking a sip of his drink. He savored it and the burn in his throat, ignoring the pointed look Willow was giving him.

“Oh, uh, he said that?” When he didn’t respond, Willow caved. “Remember that friend we we’re looking for? Buffy? Well, she’s sort of, well, uh, the slayer.”

Taking another sip, John let that sink in. The slayer, a friend of whoever he was in, was out there without any idea of who she was more than likely. He personally didn’t care but he knew that the slayer was supposed to stand up for the same type of people he did. The little people who usually ended up with the short end of the proverbial stick and are prey to the dark things out there. And again, there was that annoying voice in the back of his head yelling at him to go and do something about it.

“You might have mentioned that earlier,” John said with a glare.

Again, the girl looked sheepish and blushed, “Well, it’s a secret.” Suddenly she turned serious and angry. Having seen worse things in his time, on her it just looked cute. “Besides, who are you anyway? Xander didn’t even know what character he was dressing up as and now you have demons running away from you. I want answers, mister!”

John gave her a confident smile and took another sip. “That’s a long story for which we don’t have time. Besides, we have company,” he told her nodding behind her head.

He must have made a friend of someone in the bar because two men who looked like bad knock off of the mafia come over to their booth. By men, though, he meant that they were clearly male but one was a vampire while the other looked like a shark. The vampire was obviously one of the more progressive types, which you didn’t see much of in the Nightside. The vampires there tended to stick toward the more romantic look. The shark, though, was a new one for him but not that unusual.

“Ah, Mr. Taylor, I presume. Word of your arrival has been spreading through town. I can’t say that I’m not surprised. I mean someone of your reputation, here, in Sunnydale! Well, I’m surprised is all,” the shark said. His voice had a slight hiss to it, which probably meant he still had his gills.

“News generally travels fast. Though I can’t say I particularly care. So, piss off,” John said not even bothering to look at the two of them.

The vampire growled and made a move but the shark put his hand out to stop him. “Now, now, now, Mr. Taylor. We’ve only come to talk to you on behalf of our very esteemed Mayor. He wishes’ to...extend his warmest greetings to you but asked that you leave our fine town.”

John gave them a smile that made both of them backup. “And he’s sent his two very best to see to it that I leave town, right?”

The shark reached into his coat and pulled out a gun, “Mr. Taylor, this can go very easy if you would just...consider our esteemed Mayor’s suggestion. Things aren’t that safe in this town. It could be...dangerous for you.”

“Well, danger. That would definitely be a change for me,” John told him. He looked between the two of them and then down at the gun pointing at him. “Your gun’s empty.”

The shark looked at him, then down at the gun in disbelief. John held out his hand and let the fifteen bullets that had once been in the gun fall to the floor. For some reason, the gun wielding enforcer felt the need to pull the trigger, surprised that nothing happened and started laughing nervously.

“Run along before I decide to do something similar involving your organs and a bucket,” John said with a nasty smile on his face.

The two choose to smartly leave, though not as fast as most would. I guess they too had some kind of an image to uphold but he doubted that they could keep this from getting out. Things like this had a way of getting talked about and he knew that people at the bar where already whispering about it. The only distressing thing was that he was sure the vampire had mentioned about him not fitting the description they had been given. That meant someone out here knew who he was and what he looked like. That could cause problems.

Willow had that look on her face again. The one that reminded him of a puppy that wanted to run away but was too curious to do so. “How’d you do that? Are you some kind of wizard or warlock or something?”

“I’m John Taylor,” he told her with a sly grin.

“What does that even mean! Who the hell is John Taylor? At first I thought you were some kind of comic book character b-but people know you! They know John Taylor like he’s a real person,” she said, her voice getting higher and higher.

“That would be because I am a real person. Only now this is starting to make a bit more sense. He said that I’m in Sunnydale, right? That wouldn’t happen to be Sunnydale in California, would it? In America?” John watched Willow nod in response and groaned. “The bloody Hellmouth? You have got to be kidding me!” John slammed his fist on the table in frustration.

“I, uh, guessing you’ve heard of us, huh?” Willow said nervously. Clearly she wasn’t used to people acting like this. Maybe it was the body of her friend acting like this.

John made himself calm down. It wouldn’t do any good to start getting angry right now. He’d save it till he could hurt someone.

“Yea, I’ve heard of this place. Everyone has. Sunnydale, California. Home of the bloody Hellmouth,” John told her, downing the rest of his drinking.

“That’s why we have to get out of here and get Buffy, John. If you know about this place then you know how dangerous it is,” Willow pleaded.

“Dangerous? This place? Hell, this is a weekend getaway and relaxing vacation destination for the things where I’m from. The only reason most of us stay away is because of how touristy the whole thing is. I just know I’m never going to live down being here.

“I need a phone. I need to call Kathy and get her to get Suzie or somebody to get me out of here. She’s at least been here before. Then again she’d go just about anywhere if her mark runs,” John said mostly to himself.

“Kathy?” Willow asked. “That’s the second time you’ve mentioned her tonight. Is she someone important to you? Can she help somehow?”

“Kathy? No, not at all. Kathy’s my secretary. She sort of adopted me after I saved her from a house that was trying to eat her. No, who we want is Suzie Shooter. She’s the one who’s been here before when a bounty tried hiding out in this shit hole of a town. The only time she ever charged her client more for the distance but I think that she only resented having to come here.”

Willow was silent for a moment before she whispered, “Oh...,” and left it at that.

“Damn, the phones are probably still down. It’s taking forever to get everything up and running again.”

“I know I’m going to regret this but, uh, why are the phones down?” Willow asked.

Letting out another sigh, John explained. “Where I live, is...recovering from a war. Mother dearest decided to come in a clean house, so to speak and subsequently laid waste to nearly all of the Nightside. At the moment the powers back online but phones are still down. I think they’re having trouble filtering out some of the more distressing other worldly infomercials.”

Again, Willow met the answer with silence but at least this time she managed a follow up question after a moment. “Your...mother?”

“Yea. My mother, that great and powerful biblical myth, Lilith. Cast out of Eden because she refused to bow down to Adam, though I’m told that’s really more of a parable.

“She would have destroyed the whole world in order to reshape the Nightside.”

“Your mother’s...Lilith?”

“Not important,” he told her with a wave of his hand. “We need to find this Buffy, the slayer. Normally I would use my gift to find her but let’s save that for the moment, shall we?”

They both stood up. John didn’t bother asking how she had managed to sit without falling through the booth. That, however, didn’t stop Willow from continuing to ask questions.

“Your gift? That thing with the bullets?”

“No, not that. I find things, whether or not they want to be found. People, objects, answers. It’s all the same really,” he told her then headed for the bar. It was a sign that the patrons where smarter then they looked because they all gave him plenty of room. The bartender took one look at him and looked about ready to wet himself, but went over anyway.

“Kid, I don’t know what kind of stunt your pulling but you’re getting yourself into dangerous territory. Do you have any idea who those two worked for?”

“Not really someone who cares about whose toes I step on. I’ve seen scary things then this town in my laundry hamper.

“I need information though. Something’s off with tonight and you know it. Anyone new in town? Anyone say anything or mention anything?” John asked. They were talking lowly, knowing that anyone could be listening. No matter what town or city you’re in, bars are a place where people talk and bartenders listen. Unfortunately, it’s also a place where other people listen as well and neither one of them had anything to gain by someone overhearing.

“Jeez, you’re really him, aren’t you? I don’t know how it happened but you’re really John Taylor, huh?”

“Yeah, I am. So you know that I’m not someone you want to make upset, isn’t that right?”

“Yeah, yeah, sure. I know that much, at least. Uh, English guy. Just came into town not so long ago. Not big time at all but some of the locals where talking about him. His was Erik, Ian, Eon...something like that,” the bartender told him.

“Anyone who might know where he might be?”

John watched the guy shake his head, “Not a clue. He never came in here himself.”

After a beat, John nodded and left the bar with Willow following behind him. He even made sure he held the door open for despite the fact that she could just walk through it. He could be classy when he needed to be.

Once they got outside, the reality of the situation hit home again. Superheroes were doing battle with supervillain’s, monsters and demons were running around, out in search of whatever prey they could find and a five-foot tall Godzilla ran amuck trying to tear down a building. So far, he wasn’t having much luck. But still, the general chaos was clear. It was enough to make John homesick. But, this wasn’t home. This was the Hellmouth and it was a poor man’s substitute for the Nightside but it still made a mess of things in its own way. Whoever made this particular mess though didn’t count on him being here. And John was going to show them just how stupid a move that was going to be.

John shook his head but instantly snapped out of his thoughts when Willow called out to him. He turned just in time to see a fist come at his face that would have hit him if he hadn’t moved away right away. Years of practice in fights gave him instincts that even while being in a different body where hard to suppress.

“Well, well, well. What do we have here? The slayers little pets all out on their own,” the owner of the fist chuckled. “This night just keeps getting better and better.”

John righted himself and looked at the man who had tried to hit him and stopped cold. It was a vampire in full game-face but he was unmistakable. The long black leather coat, almost identical to his white one, hung around like a cape and he stood there with a confidence that would have intimidated anyone else. But John wasn’t anyone else, and the bleach blond vampire was about to be reminded of that.

“William, can’t say I’m happy to see you. But then again, we didn’t exactly part on the best of terms, did we?” John asked, matching his cocky grin.

Spike laughed, “No, can’t say we did. You and the great poof put a bit of a kink in my plans. Almost had the slayer right where I wanted her too. But this more than makes up for it.”

“Really, that was the last time? I could have sworn that the last time we met you tried to stiff Alex out of his bar tab and I had the pleasure of you spilling your drink on me when you tried to run. You know how hard it is to get blood out of this coat?” John asked him.

“ the hell did you know about that, whelp?” Spike asked, the grin vanishing from his face.

Taking a step forward, making himself almost nose to nose with Spike, John said, “William, take a look in my eyes. I told you never to set foot in Strangefellows again and you haven’t. That’s a right smart move, especially since Alex has been known to go on, in great length, about hiring Suzie to come around and collect your sorry arse if anyone even hinted at the idea of you being back in the Nightside.”

Spike didn’t meet his gaze, merely looked at him right at the bridge of his nose. John could tell that he was trying very hard to figure things out and was almost there with it. He couldn’t help but give him one more hint. “You forget, William, no matter how much of a ‘Big Bad’ you think you are, I’m worse,” he whispered.

“Bloody hell,” Spike whispered. “It can’t be. John bloody Taylor? How in the hell did you end up here? And in the whelps body at that?”

John shrugged, and out of the corner of his eye he saw that Willow was watching with rapt attention. Poor thing really was confused by all this but he couldn’t do anything about that. She had seemed genuinely scared of William, or Spike, or whatever the hell he was going by these days. It wouldn’t hurt to put a bit of a squeeze on him then. He might even be able to get some information if he was lucky.

“I’m looking for someone from the home land, William. Just came into town a few days ago,” John let his voice grow hard. He didn’t have to ask or threaten Spike to talk, they both knew he would.

Spike swallowed hard but turned around to address the group of minions behind him. It was a ragtag grouping of half pint demons and full-fledged vampires. All in all, maybe about a dozen or so and more than half where kids who had turned into monsters due to the spell. “Take a hike, you lot. Show’s over for now. Halloween’s our night to stay in doors.”

The crowd answered in varies growls and murmurs. They weren’t too happy about the idea of being sent home.

“Spike, who is this guy? I thought that this was supposed to have changed things for the night? What about finding the slayer?” one of the vampires said, stepping forward.

Not to be made weak in front of his minions, Spike spun, grabbed the clearly larger vampire by his ears and slammed him to the ground. “You’ll do as I say or I’ll make sure you never do anything again, you hear me?” Spike asked, stepping on the creature’s neck. Once he was sure that the vampire would listen without fighting, Spike let him up and the group started to disperse.

After they were well enough away, Spike took out a cigarette and started smoking on it like it was the only thing keeping him from shaking. It might have been true since whenever he glanced at John he quickly looked away in fear of catching his eyes.

“Alright, what the hell! You know him?” Willow practically screamed though neither John or Spike could tell at which one of them. Spike was the one to answer her though.

“This bastard? Hell, I wish I’d never met him. I never would have come to this place if Taylor here hadn’t got in my way,” Spike said pointing at him with his smoke. “Oh no, but John bloody Taylor had to just get involved and make me more enemies then I can count in that damn place.”

“Me? William, you’re the one who started going on about being the biggest bad this side of the Thames.”

“I was high off slayers’ blood you idiot! I had just killed my second one! Of course I was talking big. But you didn’t have to send me out like that,” Spike countered.

“You tried to stiff Alex on your tab when he went to kick you out. What do you think was going to happen?”

“Whoa, hold on. What happened? What’s going on?” Willow asked.

Noticing Spike sizing Willow up John spoke up before he tried anything stupid, “She’s a ghost, William. Don’t, unless you want me to get upset with you again. Trust me. I’m looking for an excuse to get violent.”

Spike eyed Willow for one more second before shrugging and giving her a wink, “Aren’t we all, mate?”

Willow stepped up, apparently either too angry to be scared of Spike anymore or he had lost too much face in the past few moments. Either way, she got into both their faces. “I want an answer, right now. Who is this guy?”

Spike looked worried for a moment, looking to John for an answer. He knew that it wasn’t Willow the vampire was afraid of, but rather if he should say anything and if it would hurt him to do so. It didn’t matter so much to John. No one knew the whole story and it would be interesting to hear what kind of stories the vampire had heard about him. So, he shrugged and Spike started talking.

“Listen, pet. That whelp you and the slayer hang around with is currently playing host to one the baddest, ruthless bastard’s that I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting. This is John Taylor, not some small time player like the Master was or Peaches. He’s stared down more things than anyone else, including whatever this slayer or any other damn slayer has run across. Hell, last I heard you took on Angel’s from both Above and Below. Nearly destroyed the whole damn Nightside in the process,” Spike said turning back to address John.

Willow looked at him too. “I thought you said your mom almost destroyed the Nightside?”

Spike choked on the smoke he had just breathed in. “Your mum? Your mum came back and laid waste to the Nightside? Who the hell was she?”

John gave him a look, he was giving a lot of those today and the brandy had done nothing to offset the oncoming headache. Spike, though, had enough sense to not ask any more questions.

“William, this guy I’m looking for, where is he?” John asked through clenched teeth.

Shaking his head, Spike threw the now spent cigarette on the floor. “No clue, mate. But I definitely want to buy him a drink. This is just....neat.”

“That drink better come with a straw because after I’m done with him he’ll be getting all his meals that way,” John growled out.

“John, no! We have to make sure Buffy’s OK first,” Willow reminded him.

“If we can get this guy to fix this then Buffy won’t be in danger anymore. So, we can either look all around town and try to find your friend and hope that we can fix this later or we find this guy and convince him to do it now,” John explained to her. He wanted this over with and fast.

“Are we talking the kind of convincing that involves a bit of violence and bloodshed?” Spike asked.

“Very definitely, I’m thinking. Suddenly and all over the place.”

“Count me in then.”

Willow again looked like she was trying hard to figure out what was going on. “ want to help? Bu-but you where just trying to kill us a few moments ago?”

Shrugging, Spike took out another cigarette. “What can I say? That was before I knew that your boy there dressed up as John Taylor. If I had known that I would have kept walking. Besides, Taylor here does some of the very best violence. Just being around him on this should be enough to get people buying drinks for ages.

“Say, how did the whelp dress up like you?”

“Damn if I know,” John told him truthfully.

“John, you can’t seriously trust him, can you? This is Spike where talking about,” Willow said wide-eyed.

“Willow, I need someone with a bit of muscle for this. I seriously doubt that walking through anything that’s going to be trying to stop us is going to help any. There’s no telling what this guy has backing him up. Besides, I need someone who has a good lay of the land,” John was trying to put her at ease but it didn’t seem to be doing any good. She still looked horrified and frightened at the idea of him working with Spike. Maybe she still hadn’t come to terms with him being inside of her friend’s body but he didn’t have time for it since a very disturbing thought had popped into his head a few moments ago.

If he had been transported into this kids body then what the hell happened to the kid’s soul? Sure, he had picked up on that annoying voice in the back of his head as the body’s own mind but that had nothing to do with the soul. What if his soul had been thrown into his body? There are any number of things that could have happened to him by now. He really didn’t like that idea, especially if he did get this reversed and then ended up being dead cause of the kid. Worse yet, what if that meant that he was stuck in this body.

No, he couldn’t dwell on that right now. He needed to just stick with his plan. Get the damn spell reversed, thrash the person responsible and then beat on them some more, just for good measure. But, they had to find the man first and Spike had been curiously quiet about knowing anything. Either he was purposely trying to avoid the subject or he was just being his annoying self. It was hard to tell which it was since he had only met the vampire the one time but had heard about him from time to time.

Still, it might be safer to have Willow along, just in case. If she knew the slayer as well then she might also have a beat on things. Besides, it never hurt to have another set of hands around, even if said hands couldn’t hold a thing.

Motioning to Willow to come closer, John started whispering to her. “Listen, I don’t know what’s going to be happening when we find this guy, but I do know William the Bloody. He’s a braggart and blow hard but he’s good in a tight spot if the stories about him are true. He can’t take me and he knows it. He probably doesn’t even think that I know he can hear me right now, isn’t that right?”

“Oy, stop talking me down like that, Taylor. You know, I have no problem with leaving you and little red ghosty here all on your own,” Spike said walking over so that the three of them stood facing each other in the middle of the chaos surrounding them.

“I don’t like it. What if he, you know, tries to bite you or something?” Willow said, still uncertain. “Last time we saw Spike he tried to kill us all during parent teacher night. Even Angel’s afraid of him, I think.”

Spike grinned, his face going back to human at once. “Angel said that? Damn straight! Red just made my night.”

“Fine. Great. Let’s get on with this. I want to get the hell out of this place as fast as I can and back to the saner would of the Nightside,” John said, hardly believing that he had just called the Nightside sane. But, at least there he knew what was going on. For the most part anyway.

Spike shrugged, still grinning like a mad man, “Lead the way. Your guess is as good as mine.”
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