The prince is never going to come. Everyone knows that; and maybe sleeping beauty’s dead.”
— Anne Rice, The Vampire Lestat
Elise took care to stay out of sight the following week while she continued with her research. The little bit of time she did spend at the Wolfram & Hart offices was in what she now considered her refuge, the library, tucked in a far corner out of the way. She saw Wes once or twice, and Angel not at all.
Their date had been beyond nice. In addition to his more intimate skills, Angel was a wonderful cook. Yet through it all she felt his reserve, as if he were merely going through some expected motions. It was hardly flattering…
An open book in her lap, she was staring intently at the text, trying to decipher the ancient and unfamiliar demon language, when a shadow fell across the page.
“Hello, luv. I was wondering where you’ve been keeping yourself these days.”
So much for her refuge, Elise thought with a sigh. She eyed the blonde vampire in front of her intently. He was a handsome man in his own right, lean and solidly built. She’d never been one for blondes though, so in her eyes, he paled beside the older, taller vampire.
“Hello, Spike,” she returned with a brief smile.
There were no other chairs in this particular corner of the library, so Spike simply chose to lean against the nearby wall, facing her. His eyes, resting on her, were a stunning, clear blue; his expression however, was bordering on hostile.
Elise raised a brow in question.
“Haven’t seen you around much. Getting tired of the big honcho poof already?”
“No,” she returned evenly, hiding her curiosity at the vampire’s obvious pique. When she had occasion to run into him before, he was friendly and even flirtatious; this seriousness was a side of him she hadn’t seen. “I’ve just been busy.”
“Working on a new book, then?” he asked, plucking the book from her lap with preternatural speed.
Casually, he studied the pages she had been reading before closing the book and handing it back. “Wouldn’t happen to be a book on a certain slayer, now would it?”
Elise stared back at him quizzically.
“Buffy,” he clarified tersely. “Because as the new girlfriend you want to know about the last one, and he won’t talk. Tell me I’m wrong.”
“You’re wrong. That’s not it… well, not completely,” she excused, choosing a partial truth until she had a better feel for the reasons behind Spike’s obvious objections.
“Then what is it… completely?” The blonde vampire gave her an unfriendly, assessing glance. “And you might want to make it the truth. I may not kill human beings as a rule anymore, but I do make the occasional exception.”
Elise’s eyes widened with surprise. “You wouldn’t kill me, and certainly not over something as inconsequential as the subject of my next book.”
She was genuinely stunned by the threat, as well as the vehemence in the vampire’s voice. Why would it matter so much to him? Did he have something to do with Buffy’s disappearance, some reason to fear her uncovering the truth?
“I don’t consider the subject inconsequential.”
She raised her brows haughtily. “Don’t misunderstand me. My book is what is inconsequential. Not Buffy. I’m not that callous.”
Spike considered her words for a moment, before admitting reluctantly, “Okay, maybe I won’t kill you. But I can make things around here decidedly unpleasant.”
“Ok, Spike. Yes, I’m working on my next book, which as of right now, is going to feature a vampire slayer. And yes, I’m using Buffy as the model for my character,” she declared, crossing her arms across her chest defensively. She’d been in tight spots on more than a few occasions; she wasn’t all that easy to intimidate even though was starting to feel a growing sense of unease.
Spike stood there unmoving.
“I’m not going to use her real name, and I’d never do anything to dishonor her memory.”
Dropping his gaze, Spike looked away.
Watching him closely, Elise thought she caught something akin to grief in his expression before he quickly masked it and returned his gaze to her face. “And Angel? What does he think about all of that?”
After a long silence, she answered hesitantly, “He doesn’t know… yet.”
Spike crooked a brow at her questioningly.
“I’m going to write it first, then… I’ll share it with him. If he doesn’t want me to publish it, I… guess I won’t,” Elise explained defensively, not entirely sure it was the truth. At the vampire’s continued silence, she offered, “Consider it a gift of sorts. For Angel. And if not for Angel, then for Buffy. For her memory. Now does that answer your question, or do I still need to fear for my life?”
Spike debated internally for so long that Elise wasn’t certain he was going to answer.
“Oh, bugger,” he muttered, rubbing a hand over his eyes as he visibly sagged. “I think I need a drink.”
Settled in the dark, plush bar down the street from Wolfram & Hart a short while later, Spike toyed with an unlit cigarette. They ordered their drinks and sat in silence until the waiter returned with their cocktails.
“I don’t believe she’s dead,” Spike said, breaking the silence. “I can’t.”
“Then what do you believe?” Elise asked with some surprise. While it had never been said so explicitly, she thought everyone pretty much believed that Buffy’s death had been the ultimate outcome of her disappearance.
Spike slammed his whiskey back in one gulp and signaled for a refill. “I don’t know what to believe.”
Elise mulled that over for minute before asking. “Okay, so then what do you think happened to her?”
Taking the bottle the waiter had left behind at Spike’s request, he poured another healthy draught of whiskey. He took a big drink and looked at Elise directly over the rim of his glass. “I think someone at Wolfram & Hart wanted to get rid of the slayer, and so they did.”
“Oh. Uh. You… uh… well… does Angel know that?” Elise stammered, taken aback by his blunt statement and his candor, as well as the startling implication.
“I may have suggested it a time or two.” Or twenty. His tone was sarcastic and bitter.
“And nothing,” Spike returned sharply. His tone was less harsh when he continued, “Not that Angel didn’t think so as well, he did. It’s just… Damn it. We turned over every thing that could be turned over and even those things that couldn’t. Didn’t find a damned thing. No hint as to what happened… no clues as to where she might have gone. Nothing! Whoever was involved covered their tracks pretty well. But then, that’s a Wolfram & Hart specialty: covering tracks.”
“You cared about her, didn’t you?” she studied the blonde vampire seated across from her.
Spike lips twisted into a fleeting smile. “Are you telling me you don’t know?”
He smirked. “With all your snooping around, I was sure you knew by now.”
“About you and Buffy,” Elise suggested, leaning back in her chair.
“Yep, me and the slayer,” he declared gruffly, though there was a hitch in his voice.
“I may have heard a thing or two. So it’s true then? The two of you were lovers?”
Spike gazed at her speculatively. “We had a thing, yeah. I’m not sure that we were lovers, as much as we were…” he paused, dropping his gaze for a moment before returning his eyes to Elise’s face. “Fucking. Really good fucking, but fucking just the same.”
“Don’t get me wrong. Our thing was… it was what it was. I loved her, for what it’s worth, but I’ve been around long enough to distinguish between pleasures of the flesh and love.”
“She didn’t love you?”
“At the time, she needed someone, and I… I took advantage of that. I’m not saying I’m proud of it… it’s not like I had a soul then. A chip, yeah. A soul, no,” Spike said with a shrug. He looked almost shamed at the memory as he continued, “Let’s just say it happened. But, no, she didn’t love me. She says she did, and maybe she did in some way, but it wasn’t capital ell, love. At least not love in the same way as her feelings for Angel. There was always something between the two of ‘em, even when they were just pretending to be friends.”
“What happened? Between the two of you, that is?” Elise asked, taking out her notebook and pen, along with her ever present tape recorder.
“She broke it off, and I… let’s just say I didn’t take it so well. After that, things were never the same, and I can’t blame her. I did manage to get me a soul though, which…” Spike’s words trailed away. He hadn’t exactly gone for his soul; he had gone to get his chip removed. He probably should have been more explicit about what he wanted at the time… but now he couldn’t say he had any regrets about it. He figured that was probably another thing to attribute to having a soul. “Let’s just say, it worked out.”
Elise raised an eyebrow. “That’s rather vague.”
“Yeah, well, that’s all I’m going to say about it.” Reaching for the bottle, he refilled his glass.
“Do you mind?” she asked, holding up the tape recorder. “It helps me remember things when I’m writing later.”
Shaking his head no in answer after a long pause, Spike took another sip of his drink.
“What was it like, given the history between the three of you, and you all here and working together?”
The blonde vampire seemed to consider her question for a moment before answering. “It was… let’s just say that at first it wasn’t all grins and giggles. Angel and me – we aren’t the best of friends under the best circumstances, and those were not the best circumstances.”
“You fought over Buffy,” Elise surmised.
“Only a coupla dozen times… more.” He chuckled then sighed. “I figured she’d choose him in the end. Like I said, they always had a thing. But a guy can hope. I did save the world and all.” The last bit came out the cheek and bravado that she was used to seeing from the blonde vampire; it was oddly reassuring.
“Why did you stay at Wolfram & Hart? I mean, it had to hurt – seeing them together if you were still in love with her.”
“Guess I liked the fight. The soul and all, makes me want to be a better person.” Spike shrugged and gave her a slight grin. “Besides, there are few things I enjoy more than annoying Angel, and I do that best when I’m around.”
“Angel… he’s your sire or your grandsire?” Elise asked, having read a bit of the history of both vampires recently.
“Grandsire I suppose in the true sense, but I learned everything I know about being a vampire from him. He was the meanest bastard I’ve ever come across, then or now,” he said, the words coming out like an affectionate compliment. “We did have some good times back in those early years.”
“I don’t think I want to know,” she murmured, picking up her gin and tonic and taking a drink. She was fairly she didn’t even want to contemplate the specifics behind either of those statements.
Spike only grinned and lifted his glass slightly in salute.
“How did you find out about the subject of my book?” the novelist inquired, finally asking the question that had been at the front of her mind since Spike appeared in the library. “And why did you insist we talk out of the office?”
“I think you can guess the answer to the second question. As to the first… I make it my business to know what goes on around the office, and especially things pertaining to Angel.”
With a lift of her eyebrows, Elise gave the blonde vampire an assessing glance.
“It’s not what you think, so before you go making up something like you writers tend to do,” Spike countered with dismissive shrug, “Let’s just say it’s in the interest of all of us at Wolfram & Hart to pay attention to everything that goes on around Captain Forehead. It’s simple self-preservation.”
A brief smile crossed her face at Spike’s name for Angel. “I can see that,” she agreed thoughtfully. There was a sinister feel to Wolfram & Hart, even with ‘the good guys’ running the place. “Do you – or Angel – have someone at Wolfram & Hart you suspect?”
“No, not really, and there’s one of the bigger problems,” Spike replied regretfully. He stubbed the unlit cigarette on the table before tucking it behind his ear. “Without a single clue, there’s not much else to do but wait and hope they trip up. And they will, eventually. At least I have to believe that. So I’ll hang around until they do.”
“Angel… do you think he believes she’s still alive?”
Spike dropped his gaze and stared at the amber liquid in his glass for a long moment. When he lifted his head, his blue eyes were pained and bleak. “No, I don’t think he thinks she’s alive. If he did… he looks for her at times, I know he does even if he doesn’t say so, but I don’t think he expects… Look, don’t take this the wrong way, but if he thought she’d come back or that there’s even a slim chance in hell he’d find her, the two of you wouldn’t be… well, shagging.”
Elise considered that for a moment before tipping her head slightly in acknowledgment. “Vampires… they have some sort of connection to their mates, don’t they?”
“They do,” he admitted quietly before taking another drink of whiskey. He hated to admit it, but Angel’s defeat and acceptance had nearly been his own.
“I’m sorry, Spike,” Elise murmured sadly. “Buffy must have been very special. Everyone seems to have loved her.”
“Yes, that she was.”
Lifting his glass, he held it up in salute. “To Buffy.”
Elise lifted her own. “Where ever she may be.”
Two hours later, Spike and Elise walked to her car which was parked a few blocks down from the Wolfram & Hart offices.
“If you ever want to write a good vampire book, I’ll be more than happy to tell you all about a certain handsome blonde vampire with a rather notorious history.”
“Anne Rice already covered that subject; The Vampire Lestat. You may want to check it out sometime,” Elise said with a smile as she pressed the button on the key to unlock the car doors. She now had, in her possession, over an hour of tape-recorded conversation about the hours after Buffy’s disappearance and the weeks and months of searches that followed. Spike left out nothing he thought might be helpful or useful, and had even gone as far as to suggest that under the guise of research for her book, she could ask more questions than most without raising the Senior Partner’s suspicions. It was an opportunity to find clues that might lead to those responsible for Buffy’s disappearance. Though, he admitted doubtfully, it was unlikely she’d find anything, as much as he hoped for the contrary.
“Already read it. It’s a bit farfetched in parts, but she did manage to nail some of my characteristics accurately,” Spike commented lightly.
Laughing, Elise slipped into the car and closed the door. At his signal, she rolled down the window. Spike leaned on the door. “Oh, that whole ‘I’m going to kill you’ bit? You know I didn’t mean it, right?”
“Yeah, Spike, I know,” she smiled, turning the key. The Porsche Boxster engine roared into life. “But it was good. I was really convinced there at first.”
“Yeah?” Spike said cheekily.
Without knocking, Marcus Hamilton opened the door and entered Willow’s office. He sat down in the chair opposite her desk and casually crossed his legs, waiting patiently for her to acknowledge him.
“I told you not to come here,” Willow said without looking away from the computer screen she was staring at so intently.
“Yes, well, I’m not overly fond of the basement or the geeks you stock the place with, so trust me when I say there’s little to no chance of me coming all this way for a purely social call,” Marcus returned coolly.
“What is it?” Willow asked impatiently, looking at him for the first time.
“The woman, Elise Seymour, what did she want?”
“She was asking questions about Buffy. Apparently she’s working on a new book.”
“I don’t think that’s a subject we want her digging into, do you?” he returned dryly.
She rolled her eyes. “You’re kidding, right?”
“I wouldn’t joke about this. Neither would the Senior Partners.”
“She’s a novelist,” Willow sneered condescendingly, making the occupation sound shameful or contemptible. “She writes fiction books. So what if she asks a few questions? She’s not going to find anything. Besides, she said it’s a love story.” She snorted dismissively. “She’s asking questions about how they met, and when they got together. She’s probably just using it as a way to find out if Buffy is still any competition for Angel’s affections.”
“That may be true, but I don’t like it. I think she should be warned off.”
“By who? You?” Willow snapped arrogantly. “That will only arouse suspicions. If not hers, then Angel’s because she’d whine about it to him.”
“She’s asking too many questions,” Marcus asserted firmly.
“So? She isn’t going to find anything. There’s nothing to find,” the red-haired Wiccan countered confidently.
“And if she does?”
“If she does, then we’ll deal. But she won’t.”
Marcus started back, undaunted. “You mean you’ll deal with it.”
“Yes, I’ll deal with it. I held up my end of the bargain.” Willow’s eyes darkened, and her expression grew hard and cold. “Even though the Senior Partners failed to uphold theirs.”
“Still harping on that, are we?” Marcus inquired archly. “All of the terms were met, except for one.”
“Whatever,” she returned bitterly.
The Senior Partner liaison quirked an eyebrow. “I’ll trust you to handle this situation.”
“If there is a situation that needs to be handled, then yes, I’ll take care of it. I already said I would.” Willow returned frigidly.
“See that you do,” Marcus said as he rose to his feet. “Or it will be your head the Senior Partners will want on a platter.”
“Or it will be your head the Senior Partners will want on a platter,” Willow muttered mockingly as Marcus left the room. Resting her elbows on the desk, she leaned forward stared at the door with narrowed eyes. The Senior Partner Liaison was becoming annoying; if he continued to prove difficult, she just might have to do something about that.