Pen in his mouth, Andrew flipped through the dossier Mr. Giles had given him on Dana Shulps, doing his Professor X best to ignore the giggles from the other end of the cabin. A Watcher is wise and steady. Not easily distracted, he told himself sternly. A loud shout broke his less than laser-like concentration, and he glanced up to see three of his team engaged in a rousing – and painful looking – game of snap, while the others dozed, their soft snores mingling with the quiet drone of the Council jet's engines.
With a shake of his head, he willed himself back on task, photo of a scared young girl with tortured eyes reminding he had a job to do. An important job. A job Mr. Giles had entrusted to him.
There was a mentally unstable Slayer out there – and he'd been tasked with bringing her in.
Andrew had a sneaking suspicion that he wasn't really the top man for the job, despite what Mr. Giles had said, and that Mr. Giles would have preferred to send somebody else – anybody else – in his place. But there wasn't much choice. He was the only one available thanks to the lack of qualified candidates, post-First Evil, and lack of time.
Still. It never hurt to put on a good show of confidence. Mr. Giles had impressed upon him the need for utmost caution in dealing with Angelus, who might or might not be evil again. Vampires who headed up evil law firms were probably a lot like that guy in The Godfather. Angel would respect a show of strength – he hoped – so that was what Andrew would give him.
He'd heard tales of Angelus' cruelty. Andrew really, really hoped he was getting the Green Lantern Angel, and not the Parallax version.
Anyhow. Mr. Giles could have totally put one of the Slayers in charge, instead of him, but he hadn't. Mr. Giles also hadn't kicked him out of the provisional Watcher's Council yet, which must have meant the older man saw something worth cultivating in him. Andrew figured he was like Black Widow, led astray by sinister forces, only to be rehabilitated to the side of the white hats and become a major asset for Team Good.
His thoughts turned to Black Widow as the Council jet bumped down. Natasha Romanov was totally hot. And kicked major ass. Hey – maybe Marvel had based her off of a Slayer. Andrew pulled his notebook out of his breast pocket and jotted down a note to check into that.
After getting his team settled in a nearby hotel – expense accounts were, like, so cool – he double-checked his Watcher's gear in preparation for the upcoming battle of wits. Pipe, jacket, dossiers. Check. The tools made the man, and he would need every tool in his arsenal to combat the evil lurking in the shadows.
Or maybe hiding in plain sight, he thought, standing in the lobby of Wolfram and Hart. Andrew looked around, goggle-eyed. He'd never seen so many kinds of demons in one place, strolling in and out of the lobby like it was an everyday thing.
The likelihood of having to face evil Angel jumped to a code very probable. Andrew swallowed and stiffened his spine, and resisted the urge to check the front of his pants for dampness.
When he recognized the woman headed his way, he took a step backwards and jammed his hand into his pocket, surreptitiously fingering the cross within. Andrew remembered Harmony from Sunnydale High, and thanks to Dawn's story about the time Harmony had kidnapped her, he also knew she was no longer a mortal, but a dreaded Vampyr.
Andrew shivered. But in a one hundred percent manly fashion.
"Are you the guy from the Watcher's Council?" she asked.
Since she showed no signs of wanting to tear into his jugular, he cleared his throat and said, "I am, my good minion. Is your Master about? I have business to conduct with him."
One hand on her hip, Harmony wrinkled her nose in disdain. Andrew lifted his chin a little higher, and half brought the cross out of his pocket.
"Follow me," she said, in a tone that suggested he was the lesser creature between the two of them. Evil, foul, disgusting b-witch of a hellbeast!
Who was wearing a really pretty dress that totally suited her complexion.
Andrew briefly considered the possibility Harmony wasn't evil anymore, since she hadn't even glanced at his neck, but discarded it. Hel-lo, Wolfram and Hart. You probably had to sacrifice a baby just to make it to the first interview. Or at least a pig. Which was really, really hard to do, and icky and not nice at all. He should know.
The introductions with Wesley were awkward, what with Wesley having been fired from the Watcher's Council for gross ineptitude. Andrew felt sorry for the man, who had to be seriously embarrassed. But not too sorry. He knew better than to be trapped into sympathy for a minion of the Evil Empire – sympathy was a slippery slope to being nice, which led to doing favors for the dark side, and that never turned out well in his experience.
Andrew kept a suspicious eye on the green-skinned demon named Lorne while he waited for Angel to return. Under other circumstances, he might have liked Lorne, but he was deep within the belly of the beast and a trained Watcher could never be too careful.
When the woman with the man's name was introduced, Andrew frowned, sure he knew her from somewhere. Her voice was strangely familiar. He was still trying to figure it out when he heard voices, and Wesley said Angel's name.
Eyes closed, he centered himself for the battle ahead. You won't fool me, Senator Palpatine. I know your true identity. He'd come up with a great opening line – Well met, Darth Angelus – when the sight before him knocked his witty repartee right out of his head.
"Spike?" It couldn't be. Could it?
The apparition looked like the Hero of Sunnydale, from his totally bitchin' hair right down to his totally badass boots. Sounded like him too, with that exact same I'm too cool to care about you tone Spike had always had.
"Spike?" he said again, and ran forward, too overcome with joy to stop himself. Anya, Buffy, Spike, the potentials – there'd been so much death. Too many friends had paid the ultimate price in the fight against evil, and now here was Spike, returned to him from the ashes of Sunnydale.
He hugged the vampire, who felt just as firm as he remembered, and even had the same smell – you really got to know a guy's smell when you spent hours behind him on a hog. "It's you! It's really you!" Andrew gushed. "My therapist thought I was holding on to false hope, but I knew you'd come back! You're like… you're like Gandalf the White, resurrected from the pit of the Balrog, more beautiful than ever. Oh, he's alive, Frodo." It was a miracle. A true miracle. "He's alive."
After that, facing down Angelus and his crew of evil minions masquerading as really nice people was easy. Any time Andrew began to feel nervous, he reminded himself that Spike was there. Spike. Spike, who'd risen from evil to become a hero, just like himself. Andrew knew he could trust Spike to have his back.
On the plane ride back to HQ, Andrew had a celebratory Zima. Just one, though. He was still the man in charge. The man, he thought, with a small smile, thinking of how he'd Mission Impossible-ed his mission of finding and subduing a Slayer gone Dark Phoenix.
And like David to Goliath, he'd stood up to Darth Angelus and his Evil Empire.
When Angel had seen Andrew's team of Vampyr Slayers arrayed behind him, all of whom would have as soon staked him as looked at him, he'd folded and run, tail between his legs like that Scut Farkus bully from A Christmas Story. It had been an outstanding moment, if he did say so himself. Mr. Giles would have no choice but to trust him with more responsibility after this.
It totally sucked about Spike's arms, though. Andrew's eyes teared up, thinking about it, and he sniffled. He wondered if he should call after he got back to England, and see how Spike was doing. Maybe send him a fruit basket. Did vampires eat fruit? Some kinds of bats did, but vampires weren't bats at all, so that wouldn't make any sense.
He made a note to check into it.
Speaking of Spike… Andrew glanced around the cabin, but there was nobody to talk to. Nobody that would care about the amazing epic return of the souled Vampyr from the dead… or more dead… at any rate. He sighed. Such an incredible saga of triumph, and nobody to share it with.
Oh well. Spike had told him not to tell. It was easy to keep a secret when there was nobody worth telling. It would be a lot harder once he got back to HQ. Mr. Giles had a way of getting into Andrew's head and making him spill every last thought, no matter how he tried to ward himself against the older man's Jedi mind tricks.
Taking a sip of his drink, he realized he'd never gotten the story of Spike's resurrection from him. Come to think of it… Andrew wasn't sure Spike had ever really died… ed. Died more. Dusted. All they had was Faith's description of how Spike had channeled pure sunlight, zapping an army of Uber-vamps with a single cleansing blow, the way a Dalek vaporized its victims.
When the Vampyr With a Soul hadn't emerged from the Hellmouth, everybody had assumed that he'd burned up too. According to Willow, even locator spells had suggested Spike was no longer of this world.
All of which led Andrew to wonder if maybe Buffy might not be dead either. They'd never found proof of her demise, either physical or mystical. Just… nothingness. Day after day of searching, and nothing.
Kennedy and Faith had kept at it for days, even after Willow's spells had failed to locate the Slayer. Just in case. The only thing they'd found was the rest of what Willow had later confirmed was Buffy's jacket, shredded and covered in blood. There'd been copious amounts of blood on the ground around the jacket, but of Buffy herself, there was no sign.
Which was more than a little suspicious. Visions of Buffy Summers descending on the provisional Watcher's Council headquarters, Winter Soldier style, flashed through Andrew's head. But who would play Captain America to her brainwashed Bucky Barnes? Buffy was the Captain America of the team.
After finding the bloodied jacket, Willow had tried one last locator spell. When it had led to a complete lack of Buffy, the SunnyD survivors had come to an unspoken consensus that it was time to give up. Even Dawn, poor thing.
The Scarlet Witch had beaucoup de mojo, but Andrew knew for a fact they hadn't explored all the avenues available for finding the Slayer. He pulled out his notebook and made a note to look into demons capable of piercing the dimensional veils.
Stroking his chin, he mused over the idea some more. Then he wondered if he looked Watcher-ly, stroking his chin that way. Maybe if he grew a beard? It would go well with the pipe. On the other hand, Mr. Giles always looked properly studious and thoughtful when he cleaned his glasses. Very Albus Dumbledore. Maybe a pair of spectacles would give him a greater air of authority too.
Andrew wrote it down in his notebook.
"Her soul does not exist in this or any other dimension," the Argus Panoptes intoned.
"Are you sure?" Andrew said, then realizing the giant demon who could squash him like a bug might not appreciate his tone, he added, "Oh great and powerful All-Seeing One." He shifted from foot to foot. "It's just – maybe in a dimension you haven't checked yet? Or don't have access to?"
The hundred eyes turned on him. "I see all dimensions, mortal. None can escape me."
"Oh. Right, of course. Ummm…."
Andrew cleaned his glasses, thinking hard. The demon's answer had taken him by surprise. Buffy's soul didn't exist? Anywhere? That was... worrisome. And upsetting. He'd planned on going back to the others and saying, "I know you're sad about Buffy, but good news – she's definitely in a heavenly dimension."
There was no way he could tell the others their friend had been obliterated for all eternity.
Remembering Dawn's distress over a lack of body to bury, he said, "What about her body? Can you tell me what happened to it?"
The giant's eyes blinked, all at different times and in no particular order. Andrew repressed a shudder.
"If you wish for me to answer a second question, you must pay me a second time."
"But…" Andrew said.
"Be gone!" the Argus Panoptes roared.
Andrew scurried out the door, the giant's hot, plasticky breath following on his heels.
"El merdo," he muttered, when he was far out of hearing range. Getting payment the first time had been difficult enough. And morally questionable, Andrew was pretty sure. Was it worth going through all that again?
He thought of Dawn's tearful face. Yeah… maybe. Possibly. Most definitely.
If he could score another mint condition first edition Star Wars collectible Han Solo. And bear to part with it.
The last time had been… really, really horrible wasn't horrible enough to describe it. It was like… Andrew couldn't think of what it was like. There wasn't any comparison.
So it was back to hanging out on eBay, telling himself that use of the Council expense account to purchase exorbitantly priced figurines he could never afford on his own was perfectly justifiable. "It's not like it's for me," he said to the computer screen. "This is for Buffy. So everybody can have some closure."
It took several days, but he finally had what the demon wanted. With the mint original packaging protected by bubble wrap and securely packaged inside a large, sturdy lockbox, Andrew made his way back to the Argus Panoptes' lair.
The giant took his time removing the bubble wrap, slowly peeling back each layer with a hungry gleam in his multitude of eyes. Using a single razor-sharp claw, he cut the seal on the original packaging, removed the very, very expensive figurine with the utmost care, and balanced it on his hand like the precious rarity it was.
"At last I have you, Han Solo," the Argus Panoptes rumbled, every unblinking eye fixated on poor Han. The giant laughed, and opened his mouth wide.
Andrew had to look away. He thought he was going to be sick.
When the crunching had ceased, he said in a wavery voice, "Please, great powerful and All-Seeing One… Where, precisely, can I find the –" He began to say body, but then thought it better not to leave any loopholes, in case there wasn't a proper body anymore. "Any remains of Buffy Summers?"
The giant, who'd closed his eyes in orgiastic ecstasy, chuckled. "They don't exist, puny one. In this dimension or any other. There is nothing left of Buffy Summers."