Episode 9: Meeting the New Boss
Not mine, not ever. You don't even want to know all the things I'd change if I owned BtVS.Author Notes:
You'll probably notice that alarmingly little happens in this chapter, and that is in large part because very little is intended to happen. We've had some heavy plot/groundwork episodes recently, and there is a need to bridge some gaps and cover some ground until things pick up back to the major plot again.
Thanks to Starway Man, my BetaThe Iron Coin Chronicles: Season 1
Episode 9: Meeting the New BossNovember 24th, 1998
Mayor's Office, Sunnydale
Spike was, to say the least, not having a good Tuesday night.
First off, his plan (such as it was, thanks to the hangover) to use Willow to do a love spell to get Drusilla back had had to be abandoned. His backup plan to use the red-haired witch to kill off the Slayer and the Magnificent Poof had gone down the gurgler as well. His ultimate backup plan – namely, get the hell out of Sunnydale – had also been rudely interrupted, just as he was heading for his car.
One couldn't deny that William the Bloody was not used to being bodily manhandled and dragged into a moving van. The whole thing was made worse by the fact that a black hood that had been shoved over his head and his wrists had been clamped into handcuffs. Five minutes of pulling at the enchanted handcuffs – vampire strength, they bloody well HAD to have had some mojo put on them – and attempting to hit any of his attackers with his legs, had yielded no results. Normal handcuffs, even the best quality police ones, meant nothing to a vampire; especially not one of his age.
“So, who the bleedin' hell are you lot, and what do ya want with me?” Spike demanded after he gave up attempting to free himself.
“The name's Trick.” said a man's voice with a accent from the American South. It reminded Spike about the last time him and Dru had been down there. Southerners were so tasty. All that grease, butter and fat they ate... He shook his head and forced himself back to the present.
“Can't say I've heard of you. So what do you want, mate?” William demanded.
“It's not about what I want, bro. It's about what the boss wants. If it were up to me, I'd have left you there going up against the blondie Slayer. Hell, just let you two kill each other, and you're both out of our way. Or else she kills you. But for some reason, the boss wants to give you a job.”
“A job? Sorry, mate, but I don't do employee of the month.”
“I told him the same thing, a while back.” Trick's voice said, and Spike didn't need eyesight to know his fellow undead (there was no breath or heartbeat associated with the voice, he could tell that as well) had just shrugged philosophically. “And yet, here I am. On account of this is one cat you don't want to piss off.”
Finally, still blinded by the hood, Spike was yanked out of the van, into a building and up two flights of stairs. He was then shoved into a room, pushed down into a chair, and the hood removed from his face.
Huh. Rather than some sort of intimidating demon, or at least a Master vampire, all Spike could see some fatherly-looking, middle-aged human – someone who smelled normal, and even looked normal. “What the hell is this, mate? You're working for a soddin' bloodbag?” Spike demanded, assuming 'Trick' could hear him.
“I'd watch your language, Mr. Pratt, if I were you. Or should I just call you Spike?” The human spoke up, folksy charm permeating his voice. “The name's Richard Wilkins. I'm the Mayor of Sunnydale.” He gestured to Spike's wrists. “Ah! Let's get rid of the handcuffs, shall we? We're all civilized men here, I'm sure. Let's just have a nice, polite, productive discussion...”
A black-skinned man stepped closer and unlocked the handcuffs around Spike's wrists. Spike took immediate advantage of the tactical error, elbowing the black vampire in the face and lunging for the human on the other side of the desk. His claws were almost on Wilkins when some kind of unseen force shoved him back into the chair, and held him immobilized.
“Now, now, Spike. I'm getting the feeling you just aren't a team player.” Wilkins said with the same broad smile he'd had before, his voice lacking none of its previous charming tone. “And if there's one thing I don't like, it's a man who insists on not being a team player. And you don't want to get on my bad side, do you?” He reached for a plate next to him and held it out to Spike. “It might make me reconsider my previous orders to not send a committee out to deal with you, once and for all. Snickerdoodle?”
“What the hell do you want, you bloody git?” Spike growled, still trying to free himself from the invisible shackles holding him immobile.
“Your loss.” The Mayor set the plate down, then took one for himself, biting into it with gusto. “Now, since you're new here, I'm not going to hold your language against you – this time. But if you keep it up, I'm afraid I'm going to have to insist on Mr. Trick washing that dirty mouth of yours out with soap.” Wilkins finished his baked treat and steepled his fingers. “Now, Spike, I have to admit; you showing up back in my town wasn't something I counted on, at least not this year. But then again, you do have a way of surprising people. By the way, thank you for turning on your old friend Angelus during that whole Acathla mess! It would have set my plans back quite a bit, to have had this world end up sucked into a hell dimension.”
“And what are your
plans then, Mr. Mayor?” Spike stretched the title with a sarcastic pop. “Take over the world?”
“One thing at a time, Spike, one thing at a time.” Wilkins replied with a smile. “Are you sure you wouldn't like a Snickerdoodle? They're actually quite good.” He offered the plate to Spike again.
“Can ya just get to the point of this little meeting, or were you plannin' to talk my ears off?” Spike demanded, deciding to play this cool for now. The bloodbag would let his guard down soon enough, despite the mystical forces he could obviously command... "Trick mentioned something about a job?"
Wilkins set the plate of Snickerdoodles down again. “Straight to business. Well, I suppose we can do that. I understand that since you've gotten back to Sunnydale, you've been working on a plan to kill the Slayer; one of them, anyway. And while I can't help but admire that go-getter attitude of yours, if you're going to work for me... well, I'm going to have to insist that you stop. While she and her little friends may be a nuisance, and I'm going to kill them all sooner or later, obviously... I don't want them dead just yet.”
“And why would that be?” Spike looked around, upon receiving no answer, even if the rest of his body was still immobile. “I suppose you'd frown on me lighting up a cigarette right about now too, wouldn't you?”
“Of course I would. Nasty habit. Put you in an early grave.” Wilkins laughed good-naturedly for a moment, which suddenly gave Spike cause for concern. “Well, I suppose not you, but you get what I mean. If you want to smoke, do it outside of my office. And make sure you don't smell like nicotine when you're in here. I like to work in a clean, healthy environment. Mmm, delicious...” He ate another Snickerdoodle, then got back to talking. “Now, the Slayer – or rather the Slayers, I should say, have proven quite useful at getting problem areas in my town dealt with. The downside of setting up shop on a Hellmouth is that everyone else
wants to use it to end the world. And really, that's just such a bother. So for the time being, you don't touch the Chosen One. Either of them.”
He clapped his hands together, as if just getting an idea. “I've got it! Tell you what. When the time comes to kill the Slayer, I'll let you be the one to kill her. You get Miss Summers, Trick here gets the Lehane girl, and everyone goes home happy. Assuming you're going to be a team player, anyway.”
“Yeah, assuming. So what would I be doing as a 'team player', exactly?” Spike drawled.
“Oh, you know, various tasks here and there. I've got a lot to get done this year, and unfortunately, the Slayers are going to be prowling around, noticing things I don't want them to notice. So while they're busy obsessing over you, Mr. Trick here can get matters handled without any major difficulty. And I may need you to deal with one or two problem areas as well.” Wilkins took an orange envelope out from a desk drawer and handed it to Spike. “You'll be well paid, and I'm sure you'll find working for me quite fulfilling. So, the question is, Mr. Pratt, do you want to be a team player?”
“Do I really have a choice?” Spike asked casually, as a wooden stake suddenly lifted itself up off the table and aimed itself at his heart.
“Why, Spike, whatever do you mean?” Wilkins asked with a smile, coming over behind him and giving Spike's shoulder a friendly squeeze. One that had William the Bloody wincing with pain, despite his undead nature.
“Well, a bloke does like makin' up his own mind, y'know. And you're kind of forcing me into it here.” Spike said, the stake's pointed tip already pressing against his chest.
“Now, now. Forcing is such an ugly
word. I prefer to think of it as 'clarifying one's options'. You do
have a choice, after all.” Wilkins said cheerfully.Yeah, either work fer you or end up a pile o' dust. Some choice that is!
“What the-” Spike paused, recalling what the Mayor had said about watching the swear words. “What the heck. I'm in.” Bloody hell, mate! How do you land yerself into these messes?!
“Excellent! Now, if you don't mind?” Richard's hand suddenly shifted to Spike's head, and the vampire hissed with brief agony as the demon-worshipping sorcerer laid a binding spell – a geas of loyalty, like what had been done to Trick – upon him. The compulsion was to ensure that his vampire servants could never turn against him, evil soulless bastard that Wilkins was. “There we go, all done.”
“Welcome aboard, Spike,” Trick smirked at his new co-worker as the invisible force field vanished, and the stake clattered to the floor – Spike's destiny suddenly veering away sharply from what it otherwise would have been, as William the Bloody cursed silently at the invisible leash he could now feelaround his neck.November 25th, 1998
Chase Residence, Sunnydale
Cordelia Chase woke up, finding herself buck naked and her head resting on Xander’s equally naked chest. A moment later, all the memories of the previous evening came back.Oh my God! I lost my virginity to my boyfriend last night!!
Cordelia thought to herself wildly, panicking slightly. This was because she honestly hadn’t planned on going all the way with Xander for a while yet. Not that she was the type of girl that wanted to wait until she was married, of course; if a Hellmouth High education had taught her anything, it was to live life to the fullest while you still could. Too many people she knew had either died or simply vanished, since she was a little kid.
But still, as said, she'd been planning to wait another few weeks until Xander's eighteenth birthday. It would have been one hell of a birthday present, too. Cordelia mentally smirked to herself; she'd bought a set of revealing lingerie and underwear, plus matching panties with a giftwrapping-style bow on them, plus a tight see-through top that she filled out very well – which also had a bow on it. When she'd modeled the clothing in her bedroom the other day, the young woman had known she looked like a very hot Christmas present. One that would be given early to Xander this year, on the day of his birth.
Still, while she might still use the outfit – hey, she looked absolutely incredible in it! – Cordelia figured she'd have to come up with a new birthday present this year, as she'd more or less given the old one to him last night.The dweeb finally told me that he loves me,
Cordelia thought happily to herself, treasuring the words her boyfriend had spoken last night – before she'd climbed on top of him and virtually raped the guy. Good thing that her parents were away, and the maid had left the house for the evening. And I guess I was finally ready to take our relationship to the next level, or whatever. Mmm...
“I could definitely get used to this...” Cordy said with a soft smile, as she snuggled closer to her sleeping boyfriend for a few moments. But when she glanced over to check her alarm clock, she saw what time it was. Damn it!
Cordelia swore inside her head. “Xander!” The Chase girl then said urgently, as she propped herself up on one elbow and shook her boyfriend urgently. “Wake up!”
“Huh? Cordy-?” Xander said fuzzily, not recognizing where he was. Then the memories came back for him as well, and his eyes went wide as he sat up. “Oh!
That, that, that wasn’t just another highly erotic dream-?”
“No -” the brunette started to say, before she stopped. Then Cordy said, “Wait – another
erotic dream? You have erotic dreams about me?”
“Sure.” Harris admitted. “Along with just about every other guy that goes to our school! And not that I'm complaining or anything, but last night, why did you...?”
Miss Chase sat up, but held the covers to cover herself somewhat. “I know. I mean, I guess it was just a spur of the moment thing...y'know, after everything that's happened with your father.”
“Well, gotta admit, it certainly helped keep the nightmares away.” the former virgin joked, still trying to deal with the enormity of what had happened the previous evening.
“Sure, go ahead and laugh!” the cheerleader said crossly, slapping him on the chest. “It was our first time, for both of us, and all you can do is -”
Cordelia never got the chance to finish that sentence, as Xander took her in her arms and kissed her. Kissed the ever-lovin' hell out of her, actually. Once he finally let go, she said dazedly, “Uh, what was I saying...?”
“You love me. And I love you.” Xander said seriously, staring deep into her eyes and making Cordelia's heart flutter. “And...”
“And look at the time, you so need to get out of here!” Cordelia said urgently, pointing at the alarm clock and shoving Xander out of the bed. “Get your clothes on, right now. And climb down the balcony onto the patio, and then go home.”
“Ow! Honey, that hurt.” Harris complained, rubbing his butt over where it had landed on the soft, thick carpet.
“Oh, don't be such a baby.” Cordy chastised him. “Besides, I’m supposed to get up for school soon. And do you really want the maid to see you come out of my room, and tell my parents that we spent the night together as soon as they come home?”
“Good point.” Xander nodded, as he hurriedly jumped out of the bed and started to put his boxers on. As Cordelia put her robe on, Harris gathered the rest of his clothes from all around the bedroom and started getting dressed. Wow. I had sex. Me, Xander Harris, had sex. And with a real live girl. Man, I can't believe I had sex with a real live girl last night! And that she was Cordelia!
After the guy had finished dressing, he moved to the balcony doors of the bedroom. “Cordy? See you at school later on today.”
“Yeah. You bet you will.” Cordelia smirked, as she disappeared into her private bathroom for a quick shower.
Xander shimmied his way down to the ground floor, and then started sprinting across the lawn to get home before his mother woke up. Hopefully, she wouldn't have noticed how he never came home last night; but if she had, equally hopefully she'd just put it down to the stress of Tony Harris's death, and him not wanting to stay in that house for any longer than he had to.Hey, at least Mom likes Cordelia, if I have to admit the truth, Xander cogitated to himself, as he left the grounds of the Chase residence and started to slow down to a swift walk.November 25th, 1998
Sunnydale High, Sunnydale
Xander walked through the halls of Sunnydale High with a spring in his step, feeling stupidly happy. Indeed, for the first time in a long time, Xander's happiness was one hundred percent genuine, no affectations or acts at all.
It wasn't the fact that he'd had sex that was the source of his happiness – though that was, in its own way, very much of the good – and it wasn't even that he'd had sex with Cordelia Chase, the hottest, most sought-after girl in Sunnydale High. No. It was that he had made love to the woman that he loved. That his relationship with Cordelia had ascended to a whole new level. God, that sounds incredibly cheesy...and yet, I don't give a crap.
Xander tried again, and failed, to control the grin on his face. Things weren't perfect – far from it – but...he now had a shard of pure, unadulterated happiness, and he was going to hold onto it for as long as he could. As long as he possibly could.
Still, as he approached the door to the library, Xander managed to get grin under control, at least a little. He had no intention of spreading the word, even to his friends. Cordelia wasn't a prize to conquer and then brag about.
Inside, Buffy and Faith were going at each other with wooden staffs, sparring intensely. As he entered the room, Xander could almost see the excess anger that Buffy was working off with every attack, the ferocity and speed of her moves forcing Faith onto an uncharacteristic defensive tack.
What the heck...? He must have missed something
last night.... Xander wondered about that as he looked around the room. Giles was behind the main counter checking textbooks in, and Willow and Oz were sitting pretty close together at the main table, speaking quietly. Rather than interrupt-slash-disturb them, he went for Giles, leaning on the counter.
“What's eating Buffy?” Harris asked conversationally.
Giles didn't even look up at him. “If you hadn't been completely unreachable last night, you might have some idea.” The librarian 'answered' with a somewhat terse tone. “Where on earth were you?”
The Watcher, for his part, didn't actually regret Xander's absence last night. It had all worked out well without him, and besides, it was fairly obvious that he'd been spending time with Cordelia – when the call was made, and judging from Xander's expression when he'd entered the library, the young man would have been rather distracted anyway had they managed to get in touch with him. Rupert could remember what it was like being that age, and so didn't begrudge Xander his happiness with the cheerleader, as surprising as the match seemed to his way of thinking.
No, the thing that bothered Giles, and the real reason that he was being short with the boy, was far more important; and far more subtle. A part of him – and not a small part, though not the largest – wasn't sure if he could or should trust Xander anymore. While the underlying person was the same, Xander was not behaving the same way...and the mysterious source of his information was hardly to be trusted, accurate though it may be. To lie was simplicity itself, but to lie with the truth was a higher art. And whoever the source was, he or she hadn't reported anything about what would happen to Willow, which meant Xander couldn't forewarn him of every major happening to befall his charges.
Giles mentally shook his head. He had to admit, he did not like unknown and potentially dangerous elements around his Slayers; and unfortunately, such dislike might be coloring his attitude. Whatever else, Xander remained Xander, that much was true. Rupert suspected he wasn't being fair to Xander, though he did have every right to at least be somewhat cautious regarding the information the boy received.
“I...I was with Cordy at her place. What'd I miss?” Xander said, answering Giles's prior question.
Letting out a momentary sigh, Giles explained: “Xander, Willow was kidnapped last night. By Spike.”
A mixed look of horror and concern spread across the young man's features as he turned around to look at Willow...she had seemed fine when he'd entered...but the way she was carrying herself, the way she was holding Oz's hand tight enough to have white knuckles? Willow was holding up, but...he could tell...now that he was looking... “She's fine, though...I mean, he didn't – I mean, she looks fine, physically, that-”
Giles shook his head, interrupting Xander. “She wasn't harmed physically, beyond being chloroformed by Spike. She was just bait, as it were. But that damned vampire threatened to turn her into his new...ahm...partner, once he'd killed Buffy – luckily, though, as you can see, neither of those eventualities happened.”
“And the Buffster dusted that son of a bitch in the end, right?” Spike went after Willow...and I wasn't there to help! I mean...I suppose...hell, I I wouldn't have been all that much in the way of help...but still.
“No, wait.” Xander realized. “He's not dust, is he? Spike got away, and that's why Buffy is so pissed off right now.”
“Quite.” Giles responded.
“So what exactly happened? How did he get away? Did Spike have some kind of escape route planned ahead of time?”
Giles shook his head. “It would not appear so. He called Buffy and told her that he had kidnapped Willow, and that she had two hours to find him or she would be dead. And he wouldn't say where he was. Luckily, Oz managed to track down her scent. Although he told her to come alone - as you might expect – she didn't. She took Angel, Oz and Faith with her, who handled the minions Spike had on hand. Oddly enough, he actually had a moderately decent, if thoroughly uninspired, trap set for Buffy, as an additional layer to the whole thing.”
Xander raised an eyebrow and Giles elaborated, “Spike waited for her on the upper level of the factory, after he'd weakened the floor significantly, with a whole host of rebar spikes waiting underneath for her to fall on. She didn't, as you can see, and in the ensuing fight, he managed to run out of the building. Buffy followed...and that's where things got, um, strange.”
“Strange? For something in Sunnydale to qualify as 'strange', it's got to be pretty out there.” Xander said knowingly. “What the hell was it?”
“Ah, err, Spike was pulled into a black van – against his will, given his apparent struggling. Buffy spotted that Mr. Trick vampire within the vehicle, she saw his face for a moment. It would appear he decided to save Spike, although for what purpose I have no idea.”
“Alright. How upset is Buffy that I wasn't reachable?” Xander asked frankly.
“Not very. Spike getting away has driven other, smaller issues, out of her mind, I'd say. I wouldn't bring it up, though.”
“Alright.” Xander nodded, and then went over to where Willow and Oz were sitting. He sat across the table from them.
“Giles told me. How are you holding up, Will?” Xander asked softly.
“Oh, I'm -” Willow cut herself off a moment. “No, I'm not
fine. But I'll manage. We've been through a lot of bad things. This is just one more.” She forced a small laugh. “Heck, it's not even the first time I've been kidnapped!”
“Alright.” Xander looked to Oz. “Thanks.” He said softly to the werewolf. Willow was, whatever else, his best and longest friend, and Oz had been instrumental in saving her life. The werewolf just nodded back. There wasn't anything else that needed to be said. They would both, for their own reasons, do everything they could to protect Willow, when it was needed.
That was when something truly dawned on Xander Harris. For the first time since he'd gotten the Iron Coin from the Jester, something truly major had happened, and he'd not foreseen it. Which meant Fate hadn't planned it...but...
The image of Cordelia falling through those basement stairs...and that spike piercing her gut...flashed across his mind. I don't know how...but that was probably supposed to happen then...if that was supposed to happen...damn it, what the hell else was supposed to happen there, last night? Was Fate just taking advantage of something Spike would have done, anyway...or did the Iron Coin simply not show me everything?
For the first time, the real limits of his foreknowledge really hit home in Xander's psyche. He wasn't omniscient, even if he constantly used the mystical artifact to try to detect the bad stuff coming. Well, not just the bad stuff, of course; but hey, Hellmouth. Whaddya expect?
But still, he wasn't all-knowing thanks to possessing the Iron Coin. Not in any sense of the word. He was...just a tool for the Jester, and the forces of Chaos. Something to stick it to the Librarian, and the forces of Fate.