Author: Holly (hangingavaricehotmail.com)
Timeline: Post Smashed (with the assumption that everything after that never happened. IE, the characters are together, stayed happy with no 'almost weddings', no one was shot with black magic repercussions, and Seeing Red never took place) and during The Silence of the Lambs. I know this doesn't work chronologically, but I'm going to say it does. Humor me.
Summary: Andrew is appointed by the Scoobies to undertake rather disturbing research.
If anyone had noticed the weather, it went wisely unvoiced. Too archetypical—nearly creepy given the nature of the most recent assignment. The unsettling air that surrounded them was dry and bland, despite the thunderous storm that roared around them. Of course, trips to an asylum for the criminally insane were not, by definition, supposed to be hugs and puppies. And it wasn't as though they hadn't taken on worse. They had. Time and time again.
That didn't stop them from taking turns to shiver off personal wiggins. All except Spike, who lounged comfortably against the rustic stone of the exterior wall, lighting a cigarette despite the weary observance of the weather. They were currently protected by the stretched outer roof, and he had a suspicion that smoking inside was a no-no.
Not that he cared a lick.
Casual negligence was a currently enviable state. The newest annoyance from Sunnydale—well, one of three if he wanted to be fair—was currently pacing back and forth, twitching uncontrollably in stride. His hands were steepled with near reverence over his lips and nose, nearly dividing his features in half. The sight was so pathetic that the peroxide Cockney couldn't help but laugh.
"Remind me again why I have to do it?" Andrew all but cried, skin paler than usual. He could easily rival any vampire to cross his path. Too many hours spent in Warren's basement concocting ridiculous schemes that always failed while downloading Star Wars Internet porn. He did have the full appearance of a computer geek, and that effeminate lisp wasn't doing much to heighten his status.
"We've been over this already," Buffy said slowly, as though speaking to a delinquent child.
"But any of you guys would be way better!" The poor boy truly looked pathetic. Standing there, shivering in the cold and eying the entrance doors as though they would eat him alive upon attempting to cross the threshold. Then again—the worst—they wouldn't, and he would have to go through with it.
"If we want answers, we need someone who he will talk to," the Slayer explained. "That means someone who won't lose their cool."
"Someone who won't lose their cool?!" Andrew all but screamed. "I'm so without cool!—"
"No argument here," Dawn muttered. She went wisely unacknowledged.
"—Warren stole my cool and used it to make the Freeze Ray. I have no cool left!"
The Slayer was unmoved, and looked far from impressed. "Therefore none to lose."
At that, whatever snappy excuse, ready and coiled on his tongue, snapped inward with a vengeance. Anyone could see that the boy was shaking, and quite possibly the worst candidate for the interview as far as stomaching the process and getting clerical answers from the target. However, in a strange sense, he was also their best option. It came down to volunteers. Buffy was more than certain that she could handle whatever came her way—human monsters not providing much of a challenge with the actual dealing. She had dealt with Faith in a variety of failed attempts and oh let's not go there again's. When it came down to it, she was pretty bad at eliciting anything further than deepened scars and furrowed hatred. She was not a good option for the case.
The fact that Andrew was scared shitless had every possibility of working to their advantage. Monsters liked scaring people. She knew this for a fact, and was banking on the hope that the monster in question would rise to the challenge.
"I would go," Willow offered helpfully, "but the filleting thing really throws me off. Creepiness. I can fillet a number of demons, but a human guy that would do that willingly? No siree, Mister. Keep me right out."
"I read an article about him that says he doesn't appreciate rudeness," Anya added. "Xander thinks that my blunt but highly attractive honesty would not be beneficial to extracting information."
Spike snickered. "That his fancy way of bein' the big man?" He appraised the former demon's fiancé with the skeptical once-over. "'You're good enough to rip the innards out of an unfaithful troll with a hankerin' for large mallets, but any dollybird of mine's gonna stay the bleedin' hell away from a caged sociopath.' Hypocrisy, Harris. Look into it."
"So says the Evil Undead Who's In Love With His Would-Be Dinner."
"Slayer," Buffy hissed defensively. "Not dinner."
The vampire shrugged and tossed her a tantalizing wink. "Same thing, 'f you ask me. An' who are you to talk, mate? She still makes a helluva yummy dinner."
"Ack!" Dawn protested, hands flying to cover her ears. "TMI! Minors present!"
"I'll thank you not to corrupt my sister," the Slayer sniggered irately.
Little good it did. With a snarky grin, Spike flickered his cigarette aside to wrap an arm about her waist, whispering something undoubtedly suggestive in her ear. Everyone pretended not to notice. Such had become custom since the two openly proclaimed themselves in a—gulp, still having trouble with this one—re-la-tion-ship.
Xander made what had to be the most exaggerated 'I'm gonna be sick' face, and turned away before he could actually turn green. It did little good in distracting anyone from the topic at hand, however, and Andrew pivoted desperately to him, oblivious of his discomfort. "So, why can't you do it?"
"Yeh?" Spike indulged in a long puff of his cigarette, eyes perking reasonably. "So speak, glorified bricklayer. Won' let your demon bird, who's seen more of the same than everythin' this bloke can dish out. Why can't you brave the dungeon?"
That was all the prompt required to get his mind on a non-gutter track. "Frankly? 'Cause the guy gives me the willies." Harris offered a shudder for effect. "Vampires I can deal with…as long as they don't talk about dinners and Slayers and oh GOD, there goes my mind again." A minute as he composed himself—not aided by Cockney's rich laughter. Buffy elbowed the peroxide pest, who tossed her an unrepentant grin in return, defiantly brushing a finger over her flushed cheek. Recovery time was relatively brief. Within seconds, Xander found his voice. "Burning-mucus spouting demons are an all-go for me. But when it comes to someone eating someone else in the not-so-good way—"
"Ahh!" Dawn cried again.
The interruption went unmentioned, though Harris wisely ignored the dirty look Buffy sent him in response. If she was willing to tolerate Captain Peroxide and his collection of I'm A Walking Innuendo, Ask Me How, then she could surely deal with him. Besides, it wasn't as though everything that could possibly said had not already been covered by Anya. "—Gnaaha. Chalk one for the up-chuck factor."
"A-and I c-c-can't go," Tara Maclay offered weakly, encouraged only by her girlfriend's hand on her shoulder and a squeeze of support. "It's j-just…creepy."
Andrew was losing from all sides. The downfall to his argument. Desperately, he turned to Buffy. "Why can't you do it? You're the Slayer, after all! A-and your boyfriend's killed WAY more people than this guy! You'd know how to handle him."
"Right. All 'cause I'm the Slayer. The Slayer who has a penchant for justice," she muttered. "I'd last all of three seconds in there before wanting to rip the bastard's head off. Sure, I know how to handle Spike. Doesn't take much. Put him in front of the telly or give him something shiny." She giggled in spite of herself at the mock-offended look that overwhelmed his features before remembering that her friends did not share her humor, or crazed affection. "I donot handle random 'I eat people for fun'…" Her eyes caught the vampire's, and she ducked with a sudden blush and Xander coughed loudly. "Okay, bad example. Let's just say, this guy had a choice, and it was far from the straight and narrow. I mean, at least demons have excuses. Evil thing. Kinda with the non-optionness."
"Only took her three years to learn that one," Spike purred, nuzzling her neck.
"Our only other option is Giles," Buffy concluded. "But he's not here. Hence, the here-ness of us." She shook her head with an inkling of very visible distaste. "And that's all well and good for him. He might've bothered to try showing up. His stupid idea, anyway. He wants to investigate all possible demons that were captured and placed into prisons and loony bins—fine. But—"
Andrew was whining now. There was no getting around it. "If he's a possible demon, then why can't you handle him?!"
"Because I'll say something of the extreme Buffy-variety and piss him off." The Slayer shuddered. "I could delude myself into thinking it won't go down like that, but we have reality. I'm not exactly known for keeping my mouth shut when I'm supposed to."
"But she's not as bad as me," Anya quickly clarified, as though her crown was in jeopardy.
"Not as bad as Anya."
The former vengeance demon nodded, satisfied. "No one is as bad as me."
"Be proud, honey," Xander said.
"OKAY! Enough!" Andrew went back to pacing, small body wracked completely with nervous jitters. The weather really wasn't helping. A bolt of lightening flashed through the sky, and the boy all but threw himself into Spike's arms when the thunder crashed in response.
He was consequentially dropped with no remorse. "Get the bleeding hell away from me, stupid git!"
"Why does it have to be me?" he whined, nearly at the verge of tears. "H-he's gonna…he's gonna eat me the minute I get down there!"
"I'm sure he won't be unrestrained in the same room with you," Willow assured him. "That'd be breaking a bajillion safety codes. Besides…okay…not going there. Giving me the wiggins again."
"Well, I still don't see why I'm the best choice!" Andrew squealed defiantly. "Anyone here is a better choice than me! Why not Spike?"
A moment of stillness spread throughout the Scoobies.
Then Anya snorted.
Dawn started gagging on her gum.
Tara's eyes widened incredulously, and she shared a look of private humor with Willow before mirth got the better of them.
Buffy just stared at him as though he had grown another head.
Spike blinked as though it were of no matter to him. He reached for his cigarettes once more with an indifferent shrug, somewhat irritated that he had consigned a perfectly good fag to the wet pavement before finishing it off. As much as he enjoyed coddling Buffy, those things were bloody expensive, and he wasn't in the position to just knick whatever he pleased anymore. He had to be respectable and all that, as the Slayer's boyfriend and all.
And did he mention those things were bloody expensive?Probably, but it deserved the emphasis. He had newfound respect for Xander's biweekly paycheck, especially since he benefited from it almost more than the boy did.
So he wasn't openly stealing things anymore. That didn't mean he would pass up a ten-dollar bill just lying around with no one to claim. And honestly, if Harris hadn't learned by now to be careful with his money whilst around vampires, he didn't deserve it.
Bugger. He'd drifted. Oh well. Didn't look like he'd missed anything too horribly interesting…
"—absolutely, positively, NO WAY Spike is going into the dungeon!" Buffy was yelling. God, she could wake the dead with that shrill—bloody awful pun, mate. Let's forget you ever thought…that. "He'd be gone faster than you can say Hoover Dust Buster."
Again, not sparkling with originality, he supposed it was the thought that counts. "'Preciate the sentiment, luv."
The Slayer reeled and blinked at him as though he were a very small child. "It's not sentiment, Spike. If you go down there, you're going to end up causing trouble."
At that, he frowned. It wasn't often she took a tone of such blatant mistrust with him…not since they sat down and worked out the kinks in their relationship. Oh, and hadn't that been a fun two days. Between shagging and eating and yelling and laughing and crying and more shagging and—
"What makes you say that, pet?"
"The fact that you're William the Bloody, for one. Big time on the soulless side with a severe affinity for chaos. Not to mention the most ill-tempered, rudest vamp on the face of the planet." There really wasn't much to argue with there. He was a bad, rude man. And he reveled every minute of it. "You'd get no information out of him and totally ruin all chances of Giles completing his…whatever this is. Field study. Or you'd get the bright idea that it'd be a really funny gag to spring the dangerous serial killer from jail. 'Cause hey. Big chaos, hear me roar."
Spike contemplated her argument at that. There really wasn't much to contest. The idea of meeting the notorious Dr. Hannibal Lecter was an honor that attracted as much appeal as taking a nice, sunny daytime stroll. He had heard of the old git, sure, but never really paid much attention to him. Drusilla had. Oh, she had followed the case like none other—claiming to know where he hid the bodies and wanting very much to see if he would like to eat her heart.
Right nutter. That had been a little much, even for Dru. He was overjoyed when the case was finally put to rest. There were other obsessions for his Dark Princess to enjoy. She had on occasion brought the matter up before their ill-fated move to Sunnydale, but not with enough frequency to merit concern.
But now. The thought was almost delicious. From what he knew about the doctor—a regretful lot for tolerating with his former's crazed obsession—he understood that Lecter abhorred discourtesy. And Buffy couldn't be more correct in her assertion of his character. He was a bad, rude man, and Lecter would either ignore him completely or try to give one of his infamous psychological analyses. Oh, that would be a laugh. And if he wanted to make things really interesting, he could cause all sorts of havoc by…
Balls. He knew that look. The Slayer was reading his thoughts. He was in trouble.
Spike cleared his throat self-consciously, even as he was unable to completely rid himself of the delighted smirk that had spread across his lips. "Right. Chaos. That would be bad."
"Very bad," she growled.
"Wicked an' naughty."
"What isn't, luv?"
Xander brightened a bit at that. "What? Stake-worthy? Maybe you should send him in…"
"No. Not sending Spike in."
"She doesn' want me staked," the vampire declared proudly.
"I wouldn't go that far," Buffy murmured. "Okay, Andrew. You're here because we caught you. Because Warren and Jonathon decided to let you take the fall. Considering the massive pain in my ass that you've been lately, I say this is only fair. No one else is up to giving the interview, so it's going to be you. Got it? All more besides, we made the deal and you agreed. You didn't want jail time and we needed someone to help us with these analytical…things. For Giles. Since everyone here is too young, too wigged, or too rude to do it, you're our best shot. Since you're not a Scooby, you don't get a say. You're not here because we want you here. This isn't up for discussion."
Andrew looked about ready to cry. "Wha…there has to be someone else, Miss Slayer. What…what about that other vampire you know? Angel? Doesn't he run a detective agency? If so, I think that would be the absolute best option."
There was a moment of stunned silence as the Scoobies regarded each other.
"You know, Buff," Xander said finally. "That's actually a fairly decent idea. With as much as I'm not advocating a visit from Mr. Likes-To-Brood, he could probably be here by tomorrow."
"Bollocks to that," Spike snarled. "'S the whelp's turn. Remember? Bein' a pain in the Slayer's arse? I'm not bloody stayin' here 'f you're gonna call Peaches."
"And the reasons to call him just keep piling."
"One more word outta you, Harris, an' I'm gonna rip your head off an' drink from your brainstem."
"That gets less and less intimidating the more you say it."
"Jus' wait, you bloody ponce."
"Ohhh…more threats from Chips Ahoy. I'm shaking."
"GUYS! Stop!" Buffy stomped demonstratively into the pavement and the bickering automatically ceased, even if the dirty looks kept coming. "We're not calling Angel. I arranged the meeting with Dr. Chilton for today, and it's likely we're not going to get back in after this. It took forever to convince him we're not some traveling band of circus folk—"
"Now why would 'e think that?" Spike drawled sarcastically, puffing furiously at his cigarette. "What? You got a Slayer, a Key, a vamp, the whelp, two Wicca's, an' a partridge in a pear tree. Sounds bloody normal to me!"
There was a moment of silent consent.
"Actually," Willow intervened. "Considering where we come from, that is a bit normal."
"No need to get cute."
Tara shot her an appraising look that clearly stated the joke was appreciated.
"Why can't we wait?" Andrew whined. "If it'd only take a day, I'm sure Dr. Chilton would—"
"Perhaps you're not listenin' 's well as you could be," Spike snarled. "No. Bloody. Peaches. Got it, Bright-Boy?"
"Well, doesn't Peac…Angel have—like—associates?"
Xander snorted at that. "Oh. Great idea. Let's get Wesley the Wonder Boy up here. See how fast he accidentally calls the Council. Or better yet, Cordelia. She could give him fashion tips on how to lighten up the cell."
"There was that li'l Irish fellow," the vampire mused. "Think 'e died, though."
"Oh, maybe the green guy with the nice voice," Willow suggested eagerly. Then she frowned as the notable flaws in that plan leaked through. "Oh. Never mind."
A long sigh coursed through Andrew's frail body. He hadn't wanted it to come to this; he really hadn't. But it looked as though the Scoobies were going to leave him with no choice. And honestly, he couldn't be held responsible for his actions…
"What?" everyone replied in blunt shock.
"No. I refuse to go down there. You guys might be with the toughness and crime fighting and the 'only you can prevent forest-fires,' but I'm not. I-I'm the bad man. Bad." He slapped his own wrist as though to verify his duress. "I'm a bad bad man!"
Dawn snorted incredulously. "Man."
"I'm a bad man, a-and you guys can't trust me down there! What if I wanna set him free, huh? Y-y-you were all worried about Spike. Well, he's n-not the Big Bad anymore, is he? I-I-I'll do it. Y-yeah, that's right! Then I'll sic Lecter on you like—"
Willow blinked. "Okay. I never thought I'd be quoting vamp me, but definitely bored now. What about you, Buf. Bored?"
The Slayer nodded. If time hadn't been an issue, she might have found the presence of mind to be amused. "Oh yeah," she snapped. "Most definitely bored. Come on, Andrew. You're just delaying the inevitable. The sooner you go down there, the sooner you can come back up and we can go home."
"Y-you can't make me."
"Oh, yes I can."
"Y-you an-and what army? You're the Slayer, not 007. Y-you don't have some cool license to kill. A-and I'm human."
"Oh, but Willow and I could turn you into a newt," Tara offered.
"Then you'd be not-so human," Spike added, still a little scathed at the insinuation that he was no longer the Big Bad. "An' I'd be free to shuffle you loose of the mortal coil, y'got me? Quit causin' the lady trouble an' get your arse down there."
By this time, Andrew was thoroughly petrified. There would be no more arguing. With a small nod, he turned to Dawn and quietly asked for the questionnaire.
"'Atta boy!" Anya cheered with forced enthusiasm.
However, Spike wasn't satisfied. He took one glance at the stationary and rolled his eyes. "Bloody hell…who typed up this soddin' thing?"
"I did." Dawn frowned. "Well, they're Xander's questions but I typed 'em up. Why?"
The minute she had spoken up, the vampire went soft. The young Summers girl was the only human on the face of the planet that had a permanent 'get-out-of-jail-free' card when it came to his temper—as long as she wasn't doing something foolish like putting her life on the line. Even her sister, who he was completely taken with, didn't have that sort of lifeline. He'd save Buffy every night until the end of time, but he protected Dawn with every breath he didn't breathe.
Wanker, he thought, and not for the first time. Or the hundredth.
"Did you pick the stationary, Sweet Bit?"
"Nope," Willow interjected with blindingly cheesy smile. "That was me."
Spike domed a brow and smacked the questionnaire demonstratively. "How the bleeding hell do you expect a sodding psychiatrist to take the lot of you seriously when you call yourselves Scooby Gang Incorporated? If the whelp wasn' gonna get laughed out before, 'e sure as hell is now."
A frown marred the Witch's cheery disposition. "It was that or Slayerettes United."
"It was a very difficult decision. I think there was a coin toss involved," Tara verified.
"Bloody priceless. Why don' you jus' title it: 'Tryin' To Find Our If You're A Demon, Mate'? You'd prolly 'ave more luck that way."
"I think I'm gonna be sick," Andrew announced.
"Oh, no you're not. Enough talk." Buffy stepped forward and yanked the questionnaire from Spike's grasp, thrusting it back to the boy. "We're already late."
He was back to shaking again. White as a sheet. It was probably a good thing they had taken that last pit stop on the way. "Buffy, I'm scared."
"Nothing to be scared of," Anya assured him with her usual point-blank logic. "He can't hurt you. He'll likely stare down at you and make some deeply disturbing psychological remarks that strike you as so accurate that you run out screaming, but he can't hurt you."
Everyone blinked slowly.
"Go on," Buffy urged before he could protest again. "Spike and I will be waiting in Dr. Chilton's office…whether he wants us there or not. The others will be in the lobby."
Willow frowned. "You want us to wait in the lobby?"
"We're going to need you unsupervised, in case something happens that requires a reaction of the magical persuasion." The Slayer grasped Spike's arm. "We're waiting in Dr. Chilton's office, 'cause I don't trust that weasel. I know I could take him—easily—but the guy gave me the wiggins. He sounded very…come-ony on the phone."
"Mmm," the vampire murmured, nuzzling her hair. "'F the wanker comes on to you, luv, somethin's gonna come off of 'im."
Buffy flushed once more. He really did have an oddly perverse definition of romance. "Come on," she said, hoping to distract her friends long enough to change the subject. "Let's go. Last I checked, being late is one of those discourtesies that Hannibal the Cannibal doesn't particularly favor."
"Yeh, wouldn't want Andrew to start off on the wrong foot," Spike agreed. "An' in the meantime, I get to do some macho posin'."
"No posing," Xander pleaded. "Please say there will be no posing."
The peroxide Cockney draped an arm around Buffy's waist and steered her into the building, indulging Harris with a condescending wink. "'S not for your eyes, anyway, Junior."
There was nowhere to go but in. They piled inward in parade-fashion. Spike holding onto Buffy, holding onto Dawn, who in turn had to drag Andrew across the threshold. The Wicca's next—hand in hand—leaving Xander and Anya last.
"I've gotta bad feeling about this," Harris told his fiancé.
"You always say that."
"Yeah, and something bad usually happens."
"Big blubbering baby. It's just a building. A building that houses numerous psychopathic madmen. And, yes, the one we're seeing today had a notorious penchant for ingesting those he killed, but if you think about the ancient Sa—"
"Really, honey. You don't need to go into the details."
"I'm just saying. Things might be different this time."
Everyone stopped dead in their tracks and turned to gaze upon her in horror. The reaction was unanimous.
Spike frowned. "Wha? What 'appened?"
"Scooby Law," Buffy said sadly. "There are some things you never say or else everything goes straight to hell."
"You prattlin' do-gooders an' your bloody superstitions."
"Hey! It's real! Happened right before I met you."
"Ha bloody ha, Slayer." He stopped and frowned as he recalled—in varied detail—every painful memory that year had to offer, thus conceding the unlikely love of his unlife might have a point. "So, you're sayin' Demon Girl jus' buggered us up?"
"Yep. Something terrible's gonna happen now."