Offers You Can't Refuse
Late S. 3 AU. Buffy's only way to stay alive and expose a plot by the corrupt Quentin Travers involves staying out of Sunnydale and staying one step ahead while Giles finds a way to save her life and get the evidence to stop the corrupt Head of the Council. But who watches the Slayer's back when she's the prey? If the motivation is right, Spike will do anything to help the woman he loves.
Author's Note: I've played with the end of the season three timeline a little bit, nothing major, just bigger lapses of time between the "episodes".
Now nominated at Sunnydale Memorial Awards, Round 28. Thank you friends!
Direct Quotes are obviously not mine, but belong to the fabulously talented and creative people who wrote them. In this case, some of season three's dialogue will be used.
Nothing of Buffy belongs to me, except my sincere admiration. However, this story is all mine.
"Stop sniveling and begging. I thought I made it very clear to you that we have no help to offer for a vampire." A dry, careless voice came across thousands of miles.
"Of course, Sir, but on my own behalf, I'm asking if there's anything we can do to expedite this. At least if we found a remedy, she could focus on the major event at hand. As it is, I cannot budge her from this one foolish task, even though she knows the entire city, perhaps the state, is about to suffer from this demonic ascension."
"Budge her? You tell her to concentrate on the ascension! It is an order from the Council, passed to you, given to her. End of chain of command. You are her Watcher. You control your Slayer!"
"Yes, Sir." Only no, it wasn't so. "It's merely that there's never been quite the level of bond between her and I that there was between her and her former Watcher-"
"That's the point, Pryce." The urges that Travers had been nursing since the night he fired Rupert Giles were being stirred into a sudden boiling point. "That's what led to his dismissal and removal from the Council."
Wesley trembled at the mention. The disgrace on the house of Wyndham- Pryce should he ever be cast from the ranks of Watchers... "Of course. I merely meant to say that she doesn't follow my directives."
"Hm." Travers twirled in the leather chair in his oak paneled study. "Have you mentioned the Slayer's Cure?"
Wesley stiffened. "I- I'm not certain I'm familiar with that."
"A vampire who drains the blood of a Slayer will be healed from almost every ailment known to demonkind."
"Sir, that would kill her!"
"I'm talking of the other slayer, Pryce. Lehane. She shot him. She can cure him."
"The same problem, Sir. Surely you see, she would die, even if Buffy could catch her. Buffy- I mean, Ms. Summers, wouldn't take a human life, even if-"
"That's the only help I can offer. Mention it. Report to me tomorrow." He hung up. He rested his hand on the phone for a long time after, a speculative look on his face.
Wesley made his way back to Angel's bedside only to be stopped in the great hall by his predecessor.
"Did you reach the council?" Giles demanded.
"Yes. They-" he paused. Killing a human to save a vampire? Unheard of. Unallowable. Travers was merely frustrated, surely. "They couldn't help."
"Couldn't?" Buffy's tone was equally demanding.
"Wouldn't. It's not Council policy to cure vampires."
The other Brit's eyebrows rose. "Did you explain that these were special circumstances?"
"Not under any circumstances, and yes, I did try to convince them."
"Try again." Buffy's tone sent frost creeping across the skin.
"Buffy, they're very firm." He tried to reason gently. "We're talking about laws that have existed longer than civilization."
She shouted with raw desperation in her tone, "I'm talking about watching my lover die. I don't have a clue what you're talking about and I don't care."
"Buffy, we'll find a cure." Giles reached for her shoulder.
"The Council's orders are to concentrate on the upcoming ascen-"
She cut him off. "Orders? I don't think I'm gonna be taking any more orders. Not from you, not from them."
"You can't turn your back on the Council."
"They're in England. I don't think they can tell which way my back is facing."
"This is preposterous! Giles, talk to her."
He gave him a long, cool glance, joining his Slayer. "I've nothing to say right now."
"Wesley, go back to your Council and tell them, until the next Slayer comes along, they can close up shop. I'm not working for them anymore."
The Watcher with patent leather hair and a nervous personality gesticulated fervently as he exclaimed, "Don't you see what's happening? Faith poisoned Angel to distract you, to keep you out of the Mayor's way, and it's working. You need a strategy."
"I have a strategy. You're not in it."
Wounded and puffed up pride took the place of the genuine concern he felt. "This is mutiny."
She shook her head. "I like to think of it as graduation. Giles, I can't stay here any longer. I'm gonna see if I can help the others." But as she spoke, the others came to her.
Willow ran forward with a book outstretched. "Oz found something! A Slayer's Cure! B-but there's a problem with it."
"I'll do whatever I have to. No problem." Buffy answered without even hearing what the situation was. She turned and looked at Wesley with open contempt, then gave Giles a softer, needy look. "Watch Angel for me?"
"Of course." He agreed. "I'll call if there's any change."
"Buffy, you don't know what you're doing. There's only a week left until the ascension!"
She ignored him, calling out over her shoulder, "Get a job.", as she marched off.
"Good afternoon, Sir."
"Try midnight, Pryce." Travers answered his bedside phone with the same grumpiness with which he answered his office phone. "You told the Slayer about our orders?"
"Ah, she was also informed of the so-called Slayer's Cure."
"I see. Lehane?"
"A terrible fight, Sir. Both Slayers are in the hospital."
"Damn. Too soon."
"I need one of them alive and active until after the Mayor is defeated."
"Well naturally, we need-" Wesley paused. "Come again?"
Travers never answered anything until he felt like it. The perks of power. "She's refocused on the ascension?"
"I believe she'll stop it if at all possible, Sir, but- hrm. There's been a breakdown in communications. The Slayer stated she no longer wished to follow Council orders. She stated that, hm, until the next Slayer comes along we might as well close up shop."
"We seem to be thinking on the same lines." Travers mumbled.
Travers raised his voice to normal levels, no longer speaking to himself. "She's strong willed." His plan took unshakable root. Oh, not the details, simply the outcome.
"She's refusing any and all contact with me. Mr. Giles and her little band of friends, and even the vampire, are assisting her." He let a faint edge of a whine into his voice. "Under these circumstances, I believe it is within my rights to ask for a new assignment."
Travers chuckled. Nonsense. Wimpy Wyndham-Pryce was hand picked for this position. "No, what you need to ask for is a new Slayer, my boy."
Wesley's unease mounted. "I've tried to ask her. I have. I've reasoned, commanded, threatened, cajoled- even said please and offered to help her in the field!"
"Admirable, admirable." Travers' chuckle faded. "She's done this before, of course. When I fired Rupert, she 'quit'. She may come back."
"Pardon me for disagreeing, but I doubt it. The final straw seemed to be the Council's unwillingness to help Angel."
He sat straight up in his crisp linen pajamas. "Now you hear me, Pryce. There's nothing in this world as dangerous as a rogue Slayer, and I won't tolerate it."
"Lehane is in a coma. You may not have to tolerate for too much longer." Wesley replied in a bitter voice that had no traces of his usual deference.
"Not her." Travers voice rose. "Summers!" He took several deep breaths and then said in a tightly controlled voice. One last chance. "She may stay in Sunnydale until she stops the mayor. Then I want you, and her, on a plane to England. She will receive an official reprimand from the Council and several months of retraining."
Wesley removed his glasses and leaned his elbow on the counter of his small flat's kitchen. He had never heard of a slayer being "retrained" at the Council's headquarters. "I think it hardly likely that she'll agree to accompany me, Sir. She's made it plain she wants nothing to do with you- ur, the Council. She starts attending the local college in September as well."
"Since when do we allow slayers to attend college?"
"I believe very few have made it to college age, but those that have-"
"The job of a slayer is to fight evil! Slay demons! Stake vampires! There is no degree in that, and pretending there is distracts from their purpose!" Travers barked.
Wesley pulled the receiver from his ear and looked at it with a confused frown. He'd never heard his "boss" so bombastic, and say such ludicrous things. There was no law in the Watcher's Points of Order and Conduct to prevent a Chosen One from attending college or taking a partner or having a "day job", as long as her Watcher felt she could handle her duties in addition. "With all due respect, Ms. Summers is more than capable of attending college and patrolling the Hellmouth. She's managed to make it through high school, more than most slayers have, unfortunately, and with the help of her friends has successfully-"
"I've heard about those 'friends'. No more. The title is Chosen One. She will be reeducated on that principle in particular. On all the principles found in the Slayer Handbook. She'll reread it, cover to cover, under my direct supervision if necessary."
The whiny Watcher was about to say he imagined it would be Buffy's first reading of the handbook, but didn't want to dig her in deeper. He hated her disrespect and the fact that she cast aspersions on his ability to do his sacred duty, but he admired her spirit, her ability to achieve the impossible. The handbook didn't have a section on that, nor did he believe you could "train" a young woman to believe so passionately in her convictions, to fight with all her heart. "You sound as if you want to break her, like a - like a willful horse."
"That's an appropriate comparison. Slayers like Summers get broken, one way or another." Travers sighed. "It sounds harsh. But look what happens to renegades. You don't want her to end up in a coma as well, do you? Only one of two Watchers in history to have two Slayers under his care... and loses them both because he didn't have the command over them he should have?" The voice trailed off, hinting at the ridicule Wesley would suffer, the shame and disgrace.
"I will tell her. I'll speak to her mother if need be."
Travers made a disgusted sound. "Yes, you may consult the mother. Americans... Report tomorrow."
"She-" There was a sharp click in his ear. Wesley stared at the phone. "She may still be in the hospital..."
He hung up and began working on his most persuasive yet forceful speech, a terribly uncomfortable feeling in the back of his mind the whole time.
Five days until graduation...
"I've tried everything. Orders, explanations, reasoning, rationalizations, promises- even threats and bribery." The young voice shook.
Travers showed a flash of a cold smile before his face set in its perfect mask of stoic emotionlessness. "I see."
"I'm terribly sorry." The shaking was more pronounced. There it goes. A long and relatively unblemished career... Status as Head Boy... three generations of Pryce's carrying the tradition... Over. He waited to be fired.
"How is Lehane?"
"Ah- comatose. No improvement." Wesley answered in surprise.
"Is she easy to get to to?"
"Is she under guard?"
"The mayor has his henchmen hidden all over the town, and the hospital. There aren't enough of us to take them on and post our own guard."
"I meant was she under the mayor's protection." Travers saw all the stands of his fragmented plan knitting together. "She's not easy to get to, you can't go in?"
"Well- no. I did try to visit her, but several thuggish looking men prevented it."
"She can wait. No, she's not the priority at all."
"I imagine you would be. You're not a leader, Pryce. You don't like to make the hard decisions. No discipline."
The words stung, so he remained silent. Travers continued. "There should never be two slayers. This second string batch- Kendra, Faith. Definitely inferior, wouldn't you say?"
"I-" Wesley was offended. Faith's actions and ethics yes, they were definitely "inferior" compared to the attributes of most slayers, but Kendra had been, by all accounts, extremely focused, hardworking, and much loved in her short time as an active slayer. "I wouldn't say inferior, not Kendra. Faith didn't begin this way, either, it was more of a bad run of circumstances and her lack of ability to trust, the desire to-"
His superior continued as if he hadn't spoken. "The mystical life force of the Chosen One is not meant to be so strained. We'll work on that problem later, some sort of spell to recombine essences when Lehane dies."
The nagging feeling Wesley'd had turned into a sudden blinding certainty. He gripped the phone and prayed for days of strain to be the cause of this sudden terrible foreboding sensation.
"No, the true Slayer line passes through Summers. And it's Summers who is the real problem." Travers paced the length of his desk, cord stretching as far as it would go each time before he turned. "Faith is a rogue's rogue, thoroughly unsuitable, a black sheep. Summers is commendable in her fighting abilities, her kill count, her resourcefulness, her ability to pass the most difficult of tests, killing or defeating several master vampires, and averting apocalypses."
"Impressive." Wesley choked out.
"Shocking, Pryce. All that- without being under control of the Council! All that under a disgraced Watcher, all that with the utmost disrespect for myself, and the Council. Unsuitable."
"She is the face of this governing body, and she ignores our orders, she exploits and flaunts the lack of control we have over her! No. No, I won't have it."
"What can you do about it?" He whispered, but in his gut, he already knew.
"We need a new slayer. One completely under our control, at our beck and call." Travers began speaking in slightly kinder tone. "One that we would entrust to you, of course, Wesley."
His given name. Wesley swallowed. "I'm not sure I follow."
"Summers is a liability to us, and by extension the world, Wesley, my boy. Don't you see? She has all the gifts but she is ruled by her whims. She's a danger. What we need is a girl who can be molded to fit the true expectations, the real forces for good. Of course, to be molded like that, she'd need a Watcher who embraces the Council's decisions and rulings whole heartedly. Someone with your excellent school record, Head Boy, passed the written exam with the highest percentage in forty years."
Wesley preened slightly, and then let the words begin to make sense. "Thank you, Sir, but-"
"Call me Quentin."
Oh yes. He's gone mad. "Quentin. Thank you. I admire your ideals on the subject, but I don't see how you want to pursue this."
"Don't you? Then you must not be as intelligent as I thought."
He bridled. "I can't imagine you mean purposely calling a new slayer to replace Summers."
"Summers is going to get herself killed eventually. Again. Lehane has already begun to. These disobedient women, Pryce... Liabilities. We need a fresh start, and Summers is the one who has to be- well, sacrificed is the only word for it."
Murdered is the only word for it.
"Of course, if you're not in agreement, if you don't want the chance to redeem yourself- and save your job, your family's reputation- perhaps your life..." The unspoken threat hung in the air. Wesley didn't rise to it. "I can only imagine those close to Summers come under the line of fire as well." This time the threat didn't hang, it dropped into Wesley's lap.
He didn't cave. But he acted as if he had. "If, heaven forbid, Faith were to pass away from her head trauma-"
"Lehane can wait. I prefer only having one slayer to deal with. In fact- let her vegetate. I'll have someone over there by the end of the day, a specially trained nurse. We'll keep her alive until we've found a way to reunite the Slayer essences. Perhaps if both died at the same second- no, no, too risky... Once we figure the matter out, we'll have the new Slayer deal with her. She'll be under our complete control, and we shouldn't have any trouble convincing her that Faith needs to go. A heartless killer, killing innocent humans, betraying the other slayer... Yes, the new one will see it needs to be done."
He's barking mad. He doesn't even hear himself! Killing innocent humans, slayer betraying slayer, that's what he's proposing! Good heavens. "Quentin, have you been feeling well?" Wesley risked asking.
"I've been the Head of this council for thirty years. I'm merely tired of the- of the sloppiness I've seen in the last four." His lips curled in distaste, as if he smelled the stench of disobedience. "We start fresh. As soon as the ascension is prevented." A delicate pause. "I assume I have your cooperation?"
Never in a million bloody years do you have my cooperation to become a cold-blooded killer. "Of course. How do you plan on, that is- how is this to be arranged?" Don't you dare ask me to do do this...
"I've been considering that for some time."
Wesley's mortification deepened. He's been planning this? It's not some sudden brain fever? Silently as he could, he began easing his way to the cassette player in the flat's living room. Damn- cord wouldn't reach. He couldn't put the phone down now. And no blank tapes. No chance to record this. Damn, damn, damn.
"You realize, of course, that this is an, how should I put this?" He paused, mentally enjoying the play on words he was about to make. "Executive decision. This is not a matter for the board or the full council. The weeks of deliberations and meetings... No, we need to act quickly, every second Summers is so callously disobedient is a second we're all at risk."
The seconds they'd take to put you in strait jacket, that's what you're afraid of. But it's my word against his, and I'm hardly in good standing with the Council now. "I see. Only the two of us know?"
"I'll have some of our loyal members assist me in some groundwork. As for her removal, after consideration, I believe the most natural course of action is for her to die in battle."
"Highly unlikely." The words escaped before he could prevent them. Buffy showed a remarkable ability for getting out of trouble when it looked like all was lost.
"My thoughts as well. Unfortunate so brilliant a fighter should be a lost cause." He sighed with false sadness, then his voice hardened dramatically, "You say nothing of this. Or on your own head be your fate."
Wesley's throat tightened in anger and fear. "I understand."
"Excellent. Now, I've considered many possibilities, but there's only been one being in the world who has had consistent success in killing Slayers. Oh, any vampire can have a lucky moment, any demon can catch one unawares, it only takes one time. But to have killed two, and hunted a dozen with such expertise," Travers closed his eyes and sat down, "it's fortunate he's in London at the moment. I'll have my associates track him down, we'll have him to California in several days time."
Wesley cocked his head. "You don't mean you're going to ask some demon to attack her?"
"No, Pryce. Not just 'some demon'. William the Bloody. I believe he's also known as Spike."
To be continued...