Title : The Slayer In Question
Author : Booster
Rating : PG-13
Summary : The other side of The Girl In Question, and what really happened in Italy.
Disclaimer : Buffy and the gang belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
Setting : During The Girl In Question (late Angel season 5)
Distribution: Twisting the Hellmouth, FanFiction.Net, if anyone else wants it, just email and ask.
Feedback: Yes, please.
Special thanks to Uninvited Cat and Houses. You’re both stars.
Buffy knew it was going to be a long couple of days when she saw Andrew accidentally decapitate the Capo.
“Oh fuck,” she said and quickly finished off the last of her opponents. As the local vampire population decreased yet again, she hurried over to the ashen faced Andrew and the remains of Luigi’s body. Checking, she confirmed that yes, their best local contact was indeed dead.
“Is he? Did I..? Again?” said Andrew hesitatingly as his sword wavered in the air around them. Buffy made a mental note to make sure that they never gave him anything more threatening than an eggwhisk ever again.
Straightening up and snapping him a quick glare, Buffy turned away from the body. “Oh yes, you certainly did. Still, there’s a good chance that he’ll be back soon enough. Unfortunately, the situation just got a lot worse than these ex-minions of the Immortal.”
One hour later, in Buffy and Dawn’s new apartment, the emergency Scooby meeting was in full swing. Fortunately, Willow had been on a flying visit to see Giles in the new council headquarters, and had decided to pop over to Italy and visit for a couple of days. She’d mumbled something about getting Kennedy something from the shops, but after one look at the antiquated computer setup they were making do with, had dived straight into fixing everyone up with the most advanced stuff Willow could get her hands on.
Xander, on the other hand, was a most pleasant surprise. He’d planned to turn up on his way back from Africa to surprise them all, and deliver a late birthday present to Buffy. All in all, it was getting like a Sunnydale reunion party, especially with the next visitor due to turn up, Buffy thought grimly.
Finally, Mariah and Lucia were present. The two young Slayers were still somewhat awed by the whole Vampire Slaying, and though taking to the training and actual fighting easily, they tended to hang back in the larger meetings. Buffy thought it was a confidence thing, but then she’d never had that problem herself. Still, time would tell…
Continuing with filling in Willow and Xander on the background, she got to the crux. “I was talking with Luigi a while back. Apparently when the Capo dies, his kind of demon can actually be revived by the right enchantments if they’re done by the right people, and within a strict time limit.”
Dawn frowned. “So, what’s the problem here? We can carry on with the stuff with the Immortal, while Luigi gets himself all regrown.”
Buffy sat down heavily in her chair. “Yeeeeeah. The problem is that this whole pupa re-growth thing is an old family contract with Wolfram & Hart. And the only guy around who could do this type of enchantment moved to LA last year.”
Andrew looked round eagerly “Why’s everyone so unhappy? He’ll be okay and I won’t have killed anyone again.”
Dawn just looked at him, almost bouncing around the room in his happiness. “Andrew?” she said as gently as she could. “That means someone from the LA branch of Wolfram & Hart will have to come out and collect Luigi’s head.”
Andrew looked confused, which to be fair, was a look that hadn’t been seen that much in recent months, thought Willow. “And given that Buffy just landed that stalker type guy in hospital before finding out who he worked for… that means that Angel will probably fly out.”
“Oh.” said Andrew. “Oh!” An interesting range of emotions flashed across his face too quickly for most people to recognize. “Oh!! Oh!!! Um…Dawn? Can I have a word outside?”
“Whatever,” said Buffy sighing, as the two of them headed off to the kitchen. “I remember from the old Sunnyhell research that Angel had a spot of bad history with the Immortal, so let’s face it – he’s going to want to jump in. And I am so not ready for that.”
Willow pursed her lips. “It’s gonna be tough to stop him.”
Xander leaned forward in his chair. “No chance of getting Deadboy deported, is there?”
Buffy snorted. “You know Wolfram & Hart, and you know what sort of influence they have. If Angel’s tapped fully into that, then we’re all screwed.” She turned to the two so far silent junior members of what Xander was calling the GoodSlayers, but everyone else was trying to call the Rome branch of the New Watcher’s Council. “No, I think we need to deal with the local branch of Wolfie & Co right now. Mariah? Your mother Ilona? She’s an actress, right?”
Mariah, a long haired blonde Slayer, frowned in confusion. “That’s right. But why do you ask?”
“She the one with the big…. amounts of time free right now?” said Xander, changing tack halfway through his sentence, after just one look from Willow.
Buffy smiled. “Nice save there, Xander. Let’s just say I have a plan to deal with our current pain in the Immortal butt and our old friend ….”
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Dawn and Andrew were having a slight difference of opinion over a recent omission from the one and only field report that Andrew had filed. Andrew was experiencing a slight technical problem in his breathing while Dawn explained in length why Andrew really shouldn’t forget to mention sudden spontaneous resurrections.
It was two hours later before all the plans to create their own Rome branch of Wolfram & Hart were finalized. After being dragged away from his new library in England and to the phone, Giles had been able to set his remaining contacts in America to check up on Angel and found that, as expected, his plane was due to arrive in about 10 more hours.
Buffy and Lucia had just left, heading over to Lucia’s place to get her final outfit ready for her date with the Immortal the next night. Dawn decided that all things considered, this might be a good time to mention Spike to the others. She and Andrew wandered out from where they’d been lurking in the kitchen. Andrew kept trying to get oxygen back into his throat, and to hide the marks from where Dawn’s hand had been gripping it so tight. “Um… everyone? We might have even more of a problem than we thought”
Willow and Lucia turned to gaze at them. Xander lowered his head to the kitchen table, and just rested it there for a moment. “Worse than Deadboy coming to town? What could possibly be worse than one of Buffy’s exes turning up?”
“Two of them,” said Dawn bluntly. “Andrew forgot to mention a small detail from his trip to LA. Namely that Spike’s no longer dead-dead, but alive-dead again, and working with Angel.”
Xander started banging his head against the table. A muttered comment escaped the rhythmic thudding, “Really should have learned not to say things like that. Right up there with the W word.”
Willow stepped forward, concern in her face “Spike’s alive? How? And why hasn’t he come looking for Buffy?” She paled. “Oh goddess, Angel and Spike! There’s no way that either of them would let the other come alone!”
Dawn nodded grimly. “Yup. And given that Buffy’s finally starting to get over both of them, there’s no way in hell that I’m telling her that Spike’s back. Let alone that he’s in town.” She glared around the room, and particularly at Andrew. “No-one is telling Buffy anything about Spike, ok? Not a thing.”
Xander, who was by now rubbing his sore forehead, sighed deeply. “Lovely. Now I’m getting Thanksgiving flashbacks.”
Willow was thinking hard. “It doesn’t change any major bits of the plan. We just keep Spike running around Rome with Angel; keep them both as far away from Buffy as possible and try to get them out of town ASAP.” A mischievous smile crossed her face. “And Thanksgiving, Xand? Not suffering from syphilis again!?!” Xander, lost for words for once, spluttered and finally resorted to sticking his tongue out at Willow. Mariah decided to not stand quite so close to him, and scooted along a bit, causing a reproachful look from Xander.
The doorbell rang, and Andrew scuttled off to answer it. The sound of several voices floated in from the hall, and three people entered the room. Well, if one human and two demons collectively counted as people, thought Dawn off-handedly. “Mama!” exclaimed Mariah, and hugged the tall woman. “This is my mother, Ilona!” she proudly said, waving her hands expansively around the room. “And these are the great Scooby gang – Slayers of the Vampyres!” Andrew, who was coming into the room, decided to go back into the hall.
Xander wandered over to the two demons, and shook their hands before getting hugged enthusiastically by Ilona. “Um, delighted to see you,” he managed to get out, while keeping his eye as high up as possible. Trying to change the subject, he turned to the other two again. “Ilona, this is Nico,” he said, gesturing to a demon with a most unfortunate combover that drew the eyes in a similar fashion to that of Ilona’s breasts.
“Delighted,” Nico said, bending over Ilona’s hand. “My cousin Clem speaks most highly of you all. I am very happy to be of some small service to you, provided, of course, that the proper remuneration is arranged.”
The other demon, a tall figure with slightly scalely skin, spoke for the first time. “That, you need not worry about. As the new acting Capo for the Petrocchis, I can guarantee that money will not be a problem here.”
Dawn bowed to him slightly. “Thank you, Charles. You okay with this whole plan of Buffy’s?”
Charles grinned, displaying some very pointed teeth. “A chance to put one over both the Immortal, and Wolfram & Hart? Luigi himself will be sorry to miss out on this, but it will give us a great story to tell him after his resurrection.”
“Well then,” said Xander happily. “Shall we all go and sit down, and discuss the final parts of the plan? I must warn you that there’s gonna be a tiny little alteration to it that Andrew’s just let us know about.” As he led them to the seats in the lounge area, he mouthed at Willow “Charles?”
Willow mouthed back “English mother,” and waved her hand, magically bringing some more wine glasses down from the shelf. Joining everyone, she sat down and continued “Just to make things even more confusing and complex, we’re not telling Buffy this particular part either….”
Ten back-breaking hours of work later, the duplicate Wolfram & Hart office was set up in the premises of a bankrupt dotcom firm that Charles had politely refused to talk about. Buffy wasn’t quite sure how much of this was actually legal, but there were some questions that she really didn’t want answered.
Andrew’s descriptions of the LA branch of Wolfram & Hart had been helpful, though not as helpful as the large number of photographs he’d shot while hanging around there during that business with Dana. Buffy made a mental note to call the coven in Devon some time soon, and see how they were doing with her.
Xander’s construction skills were still the single most important part of the plan, and he’d carried it off perfectly. Hard to think sometimes that the boy she’d met when she’d first arrived in Sunnydale had grown up and become the respected boss of a construction crew. She watched him for a moment, dealing with the plans, organizing all the demons from the Petrocchi family, Dawn by his side helping with all the translations. They’d come a long way from Sunnydale, hadn’t they? Strange how it only sunk in at times like these.
Her cell phone rang, and she answered it. It was Lucia at the airport. Angel’s plane had just landed, and he’d gone straight to his waiting car. Buffy whistled loudly and got everyone’s attention. “Hey! He’s touched down here. Time to get moving!”
They all nodded, and re-doubled their efforts at the final touches to make the place look right. If everything went as planned, Angel would almost certainly be ending up here. She checked her watch again. Time for her to be getting down to the club as well. The Immortal didn’t object to a certain amount of lateness, but face it – she’d put way too much work into this to let him turn his charms on any other tramp flashing their assets around the club.
On her way out, she made one last phone call to Willow, currently hanging around just outside Buffy’s apartment window, ready to prompt Andrew. The warning probably wouldn’t be needed just yet. His first order of business would almost certainly be getting the head.
“Oh!” she suddenly realized, reaching the front door. They still needed to come up with a decent reason as to why Luigi’s head was separated from the rest of his body. “Yo! Anyone come up with a decent story for the head yet?”
Blank looks greeted her. ”Fine!” she yelled, throwing her hands up in exasperation. “Guess we’ll have to go for the ‘some demon came along and bit it off’ idea then!” She turned on her heel, and made a grand exit, totally in the Italian style. Sometimes, she thought maybe she was picking up way too much of the local way of doing things.
Behind her, Xander nudged Dawn with his elbow, and smiled proudly. “That was my idea, you know.” Dawn just rolled her eyes, and got back to the job in hand.
Willow and the two Italian Slayers waited patiently at the rear of Buffy’s apartment. From this point, and with a slight assist from Willow’s magic, they could quite happily hear just about everything spoken in the apartment. Andrew had been rehearsed on exactly what to say, and more importantly what not to say.
Of course, this was Andrew they were depending on, and all plans went out the window as soon as he hugged Spike on first sight. Though it wasn’t until the term “snuggling” popped up that Willow really wanted to do something nasty and rat shaped to Andrew.
Still, with luck they’ve been scared off, thought Willow. Maybe they’ll just grab Luigi’s head and leave Italy.
Buffy started to relax for a moment. Here, on the dancefloor, things would be easier for a while. Lost in the music, lost in the dance for the moment. She spun around in her own little space in the crowd of people on the floor, feeling the beat flowing through her, the rhythm filling her. The Immortal danced alongside her, but she ignored him.
So far, this ‘date’ was going fine. She’d got to the club that Charles had suggested (again she suspected some sort of financial involvement from the Petrocchi’s, but really didn’t want to think about it too hard) and met the Immortal there. He’d been practically peering down that barmaid’s top when she’d got there, but that didn’t matter. They were there together now, and things could finally get happening.
The sound of a scuffle from the back of the club drew her attention for a moment, and she could see several of the Petrocchi enforcers heading towards the incident. She cast a brief look towards the now gathering crowd, but couldn’t see anything through the press of people. Off to the side, Charles waved frantically for attention and indicated that yes, she’d been right: Angel couldn’t just come to Italy, get Luigi’s head and leave quietly. Just once she’d have liked to have been wrong.
Moving closely up to the Immortal, she danced close to him, capturing his attention completely. She moved to the rhythm, and swayed suggestively in front of him. Memories of the last time she did this (to poor Xander, of all people!) came to mind, but she ruthlessly pushed them down. Moving close to him, she whispered softly in his ear, “Why don’t we go back to your place? What I’d like to do to you really isn’t practical in front of all these people….” She trailed off at the end, shooting him a flashing glance full of promise.
He danced up close to her in return, raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. “But of course my dear,” he whispered in response. He placed his arm around her shoulder and guides her towards the exit. Ahead of them, Buffy saw Nico in his new tux slipping out ahead of them with some of Charles’s enforcers around him clearing the way. A small smile crossed her face as she saw the familiar bag in Nico’s grasp. Just turn up in her city, would he?
One slow car chase later, after the two vampires had finally noticed the missing head, and failed to catch up with Nico, everything was just about ready at the fake Wolfram & Hart offices. One of the Petrocchi enforcers had gone past in a taxi just after the vampires stolen scooter had been wrecked, and Angel and Spike had promptly jumped in and demanded to go to Wolfram & Hart. They’d hadn’t even needed to use the fake W&H employee waiting around the corner to suggest the idea to them. Dawn grinned happily at just how well everything was going, as she grabbed her stuff and pulled Xander through to the security office.
Xander frantically checked his clipboard one last time as the lift dinged and opened its doors. Safely tucked out of sight in a corner of the office, he cast a look at the security monitors. There stood Angel and Spike alright, both looking a little lost at the familiar décor, and the busy routine of all the “people” that the Petrocchis had rounded up and shoved into suits. Deadboy and Deadboy 2 : The Platinum Menace. Oh, he was going to enjoy this so much.
Beside him, Dawn looked a little pensive actually seeing Spike alive and in the flesh (so to speak) for the first time since Sunnydale. Still, she consoled herself, if he’d really cared for Buffy (and Dawn), Spike would have been out to Italy like a shot. She made a mental note to sit Andrew down after all this mess was finished and find out just what else he’d left out of his report.
On the screen, Ilona had advanced across the lobby to meet Angel and Spike. Xander noticed that she’d managed to change into an even lower cut dress than before, which was certainly doing its job at distracting the two vampires. He offered up a silent prayer of thanks that Mariah was too busy now with Lucia and Willow at the Immortals town house, to see just what sort of outfit her mother was wearing.
Ilona spat on the floor theatrically. Xander assumed she’d got to the gypsies part of the script they’d all agreed on. He started fiddling with the camera controls trying to bring the sound up, but succeeded only in finding the zoom-in buttons. Just as he was moving the camera focus in, Dawn’s elbow caught him in the ribs. “Ooooff!!” was all that came out, as he straightened up and glared at her.
Dawn raised her eyebrows, “Play with your knobs later, Xander” she said, and turned back to the screen. There, they could see Ilona escorting the bemused vampires into her office.
“For your information, Dawnie..,” started Xander once he’d got his breath back, before breaking off as Charles came round the corner into the security office, carrying the bag that had once contained Luigi’s head.
With a most evil grin, Charles set it down next to the pile of explosives he’d earlier delivered. “Nico’s all set, and waiting for you to finish with the bag,” Charles said, his pointed teeth flashing in the semi-darkness.
“Just in time,” Dawn remarked casually, switching the camera feed to that of Ilona’s office. “She’s about to explain the whole ransom culture to them.”
With an air of happiness and almost whistling a cheerful tune, Xander set to work.
Meanwhile, Buffy in her apparently love struck daze had been escorted to the Immortal’s massive town house. Looking around the large and ornately furnished apartment, she idly wondered just how long he’d lived there. The furnishings were so last century it was unreal, and the whole place looked so cluttered in places.
The Immortal turned to her from the drinks cabinet, and offered her a glass of wine. “To the other part of my soul. May our joining be energetic and fruitful.”
That did it. Buffy leaned in close to the Immortal, placed her lips softly by his ear and said “I’m sorry, Immie darling, but I think I’m going to have to kill you now.”
“But Buffy? My dearest…. Surely you cannot do that to your beloved? Come close to me, and gaze into my loving eyes.” he spoke in a soft tone of voice, moving towards her with an expression of mild disbelief.
Buffy just looked at him, and he stopped dead. “Nice try, Immie, but I got nose plugs.”
He blinked. “Pardon?”
Buffy smiled. It was a cold smile, with no trace of humor in it at all. “We figured out the whole pheromones deal a couple of weeks back when Dawn had that cold. After she got Willow in on it, and the two of ‘em flushed my system out, I’ve been foot loose and most definitely fancy free.” She advanced across the room, closing the gap between her and the Immortal.
“But I….I…” he spluttered, trying to put the table between the two of them.
“Oh, that’s such a good little deal you’ve had going for hundreds of years now.” Buffy said, her intent eyes still tracking his moves. She gestured towards the side of the room. “Willow over there did a little research after we started looking at you sensibly.”
“Hey there,” said Willow, waving casually with one hand as she leant against the room’s only entrance, and coincidentally the only exit. “Fascinating stuff those pheromones of yours. High enough doses cause females to become highly suggestible, and raise their hormones to stupid levels. Men, on the other hand, suffer a dysfunction in their higher brain functions causing them to become stupider in effect, and more prone to obsessional behavior and violent mood swings. Makes a whole deal of sense of how you get all your followers.”
The Immortal lunged for a bell pull, and tugged strongly on it. From some distance away, a bell began to toll. “Ha!” he said, “My devoted servants will be here any moment. Make your peace with your souls!”
The bell suddenly stopped, and silence reigned for a moment. “Oh yeah,” said Willow, “Guess we forgot to mention that we had a couple of Slayers with us polishing off what’s left of your private guard.” The bell rang once more – a dull clang, similar to that of a head hitting it with some force. Willow winced in sympathy.
The Immortal stopped, visibly composed himself and drew himself up to his full 5’ 8’’ height. “This is ridiculous!” he sniffed. “I am The Immortal, and all my followers merely understand the brilliance and the glory of my presence!”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Yeah, yeah. Well, all we’re after is the artifacts you’ve been hording for the last couple of hundred years.” Her eyes narrowed. “Oh, and there’s a little matter of what amounts to three or four hundred years worth of date rape.”
Willow casually swung her hand, and threw a sword across the room towards Buffy. Without a care, Buffy caught it one handed, and brought it up level with the Immortal’s face. She spoke slowly and carefully, “I really don’t like people like you. At all.”
“Buffy?” the Immortal said, backing away across the room, until he ran back into the wall behind him. “Put down that sword, Buffy! Buf--!”
Willow strolled across the room from where she’d been leaning against the door frame, and peered dispassionately at the now headless Immortal. “Told you he wasn’t a vampire. That’s five bucks.” Narrowing her eyes and gazing towards the corpse, “Hmmph,” growled Willow. “Bit of an anti-climax there. I was expecting lightning and energy at the very least.”
Buffy cocked her head at Willow, as she finished wiping her sword on the ornate window curtains. “You definitely spent way too much time watching TV with Xander as a child.”
Willow giggled. “May I remind you just who decided to go for beheading, ‘cos Xander insisted that you had to try, huh?”
Buffy smiled back. To be fair, it had been mainly to shut Andrew up, but she wasn’t going to admit that. Ever. “So, how’s operation Distract Angel going?”
Willow smiled weakly. “Going with a bang, last I heard.”
Xander snuck one last look around the corner into the plaza, and somehow, somehow managed to stuff his fist into his mouth long enough to stop laughing out loud. The smoke was beginning to clear away from the centre of the explosion, and there stood Spike and Angel, gently charred and covered with soot. Oh, how Xander wished he had a camera right now.
He stood back to let Dawn have a peek too. He knew that military stuff buried in the back of his would come in handy some day. Who’d have thought it would be cutting down explosives to about 10 percent efficiency? Beside him, Dawn almost giggled aloud before clamping a hand over her mouth.
Getting back up from kneeling, she and Xander shared a gleeful look, high fived each other, and ran back to the car. Knowing the circles those two were busy running in, it seemed like it was time for yet another visit to “Wolfram & Hart”.
Indeed, half an hour later, Ilona stepped out of the main conference room for a moment, and shut the door carefully behind her. Then she doubled up in silent laughter. Making her way to the security room, she was finally able to laugh as loud as she wanted to. “Ah, Alexander…,” she eventually said, “That was indeed a well calculated explosive device. They are in there now, wearing nothing more than shreds and tatters.” She giggled again, “It is most amusing.”
Dawn folded her arms, and adopted her version of Willow’s Resolve Face. “And now we’re going to give them some clothes back. They haven’t done anything too bad here, after all.”
Xander pouted. “Can’t we at least dress ‘em up in silly clothes now? That’s the only thing left to make this into a really bad sitcom.”
Dawn looked at him and the others. Even Charles found something more interesting to look at in the far corner. Then suddenly she grinned. “Okay, you can do stuff to Angel alright. Never really liked him since Angelus came out in Sunnydale.” Her face grew serious again. “But be nice to Spike. No matter what he is now, for one summer he looked after me and kept me from going insane. He deserves that much at least.”
Charles cleared his throat. “I believe that we might be able to get an exact duplicate of this Spike’s duster. Would that be fitting?” He snapped his fingers and two of the Petrocchi demons came over at once. Sending one off to get a replacement coat, he turned back to the others.
Ilona was staring at the leather jacket that the remaining demon enforcer was wearing. “That is one of the single most revolting jackets that I have ever seen in my life.”
The demon simpered happily. Then looked up at the four people around him giving his jacket considering looks. One glance at Charles, and his shoulders slumped. Without a word, he started pulling it off his back.
“Yes!” exclaimed Xander, pumping his fist in the air. “Biker!Pimp!Angel it is! And I get to have it all on tape!!”
Willow and the other Slayers had just barely made it back to the rear of Buffy’s apartment before the two vampires turned up again. They’d managed to send Buffy back to the fake Wolfram and Hart offices with all the stuff from The Immortal’s residence. Part of the deal with the Petrocchis had involved a fifty-fifty split after all.
Andrew stuck his head out of the bathroom window pretty fast. Willow’s threats after the first meeting had certainly got pretty specific, and there was no way that he wanted her to revert back to chasing after him with a truck again. “Willow! Help! Angel’s talking all about cookie dough! What do I do?”
Willow sighed. ”Tell them Buffy’s moved on, or something. Oh! And they should too!”
Andrew disappeared back into the bathroom with a relieved expression on his face for the moment. Thinking fast, Willow turned to Mariah and Lucia. “Quick! Spike and Angel don’t know you! Run round to the front of the apartment, and pretend that you’re there to pick Andrew up for the night!”
Lucia looked confused, and made a limp wristed gesture. “Is he not…. You know?”
Mariah just pouted, “Ewwww! Andrew?”
“Just act!” Willow said frantically pushing them round the side of the apartment block. “Your mother’s so good Mariah, you must have inherited some ability!”
“It is true,” Mariah said nodding her head and smoothing her black clubbing dress, “I was rather good at drama when I was at school.”
“And I,” said Lucia dramatically raising her hand to her forehead, “I was the lead heroine in my school’s drama class.”
“Marvelous!” yelled Willow over her shoulder, as she raced back to the bathroom window. Andrew was already hanging out of it looking for her.
“They’re still not going!” he whispered desperately.
Willow stuck her head in her hand and massaged her forehead for a moment. Oh for some Kennedy smoochies right now. “Tell them… tell them Buffy still loves them both, and that she’s moved on. And they should too.”
Andrew ducked back inside for a moment. Willow used that slight moment of quiet to concentrate. Gathering her powers, she spoke a couple of Latin phrases and waited for Andrew’s inevitable return to her. “Willow! I’m wearing a tux!!”
“Congratulations, double o!” snapped Willow. “Now head off out of the apartment – Mariah and Lucia are about to pick you up for a night out. Shoo!”
Andrew looked down at his tux, adjusted the collar, and drew himself up to his full height. “Shaken, not stirred,” he repeated, “License to Kill.” A faraway look appeared in his eyes, as he reverently whispered “Timothy Dalton” and closed the window behind him.
Willow sighed. On days like this, she really didn’t understand why Andrew was still breathing. She was still surprised that nothing had had him for lunch yet.
Buffy sat back in her seat, and gazed round the full table contented. A busy couple of days as she’d thought, but thankfully over now. Angel and whatever flunkie he’d brought had taken off an hour ago, the Capo’s head had been dispatched to LA even before that, and just to really annoy Angel, she’d added the gift tag from the flowers that the Immortal had had waiting for her.
In short, job well done. Time to relax and treat everyone to a slap up posh dinner at one of Rome’s finest restaurants. And given that somehow they’d talked the Petrocchis into hosting it, one they weren’t even paying for. Buffy dinged her knife against the side of her glass, and stood up to get their attention.
“Alright, alright, settle down” she started, before getting hit in the side of the head by an expertly flicked bread pellet from Xander. She looked at Xander, there was a flash of motion, and her knife was suddenly in the middle of his bread roll. Xander promptly decided to listen attentively before she reached for the fork.
“I just want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for all the effort over the last couple of days. It’s been long, it’s been tiring, and most of all, it’s been fun! Special thanks go to Ilona, one of the best currently unemployed actresses in Italy.” Ilona smiled, and leaned forward, causing Xander and Nico’s eyes to almost burst out in appreciation. “Grazie,” she said, “Though of course we will never talk of this again.”
After the appreciative laughter had died down, Buffy turned to Nico, still in his fancy tux. “Nico, thanks for a great job, and I hope it was some fun for you as well.”
Nico waved his hands about expressively. “Every Italian is in some way a frustrated actor. This was a most amusing night, and I get to keep most of the money. It all works out perfectly.”
Moving on to Charles, Buffy just bowed deeply and straightened up. “Thank you, Charles,” she said, catching his eye. “Let’s hope for more such cooperation in the future.” A flash of his teeth, and an appreciative gleam in his eyes answered her unspoken question.
Relieved, Buffy turned to the others. Her two trainee Slayers, Willow, Dawn, Xander and even Andrew. Buffy smiled cheerfully at them, “Yes, I know I still suck at giving speeches, but hey! Trying to improve gal here.” Her face grew serious for a moment. “Thanks everyone for all your help. Couldn’t have done it without you.”
Just about to resume her seat, Buffy paused, struck by a sudden thought; “Oh yes, Giles heard back from the Burkles. Apparently their daughter’s fine and well at Wolfram & Hart – they actually saw and talked to her. So I have no idea what the heck they were trying to pull with that ‘Fred’s dying’ crap a couple of weeks back.”
She smiled broadly “Either way, Angel and his little gang don’t seem to be very effective at being bad. I think we can safely ignore them for the moment.” Raising her glass in a salute to everyone there, Buffy’s eyes twinkled. “So, here’s to absent friends. Long may they stay absent!”