“Mags, wait!” Spike shouted after the tabby who had become a grey streak toward the hospital entrance – faster than any cat had a right to go. Some stupid git practically held the door open for the cat, and she raced inside. “Bloody hell. How am I supposed to get her home?”
Buffy seemed just as dumbfounded. She gestured at the building. “More importantly, how did she go so fast? She kept up with you and me!”
“She’s a right cheetah, isn’t she?” With a heavy huff, Spike started after the cat. He was going to get evicted, he would never find another place that kept Doyle at bay, and he was sure as hell going to miss that cat if he was kicked out. If he didn’t tear her limb from limb for running off once he caught up to her.
Buffy jogged up beside him as he barreled onward. “The tattoo. . . well, the feeling brought me here. Maybe Mags is somehow tied to all of this?”
Spike hesitated and glanced at Buffy. She was beautiful even with no makeup and her golden hair a mess from running. “More likely than not, Mags is caught up in the crosshairs of whatever mojo that tattoo has going.”
“Maybe,” Buffy said, not sounding entirely convinced as she hopped over a parking block.
Before Spike could reply, the doors to the hospital slid opened, and he stopped short. “Hey.”
“Huh,” Buffy said from beside him.
A shadowy female approached them, carrying a large pocketbook. A feline silhouette lounged in her arms. The cat’s tail swished perkily as if she knew all along this was supposed to happen. Of course, she did. Spike resisted the urge to roll his eyes.
Buffy interrupted his eye-rolling musings with, “Cordelia?”
“Buffy? This is a strange way to see each other again.” Light from the streetlights fell across the woman’s features, helping Spike identify the woman he vaguely remembered. She scratched behind the cat’s ears, and she purred. Spike was a little jealous that Mags was purring for someone she’d barely met. Cordelia held the kitty up to her cheek. “Though I don’t mind this welcome committee.”
“What are you doing in the hospital?” Buffy asked.
Spike bit his tongue. This was for the bird to explain. Fred had filled him in. Evil bodily takeover planned for years. Check. Sex with Angel’s son, breaking Angelus’s poor little heart. Check. Giving birth to a rogue member of the Powers that Be – the sods. Check. One lady in a coma. Check.
“I’ve been in a coma,” Cordelia said simply. “Long story. But the point is. I’m dying. And the Powers that Be owe me a whopping favor, so they sent me back here.”
Not even blinking at the mention of imminent death, Buffy crossed her arms. “How can we help?”
Cordelia tilted her head in confusion. “Why are you here?”
“Buffy has a magical tattoo. Acts as a kind of guiding light. Brought her to me. And then, brought us to you,” Spike said.
“And apparently the cat, too,” Buffy added.
Cordelia narrowed her eyes at Spike, almost like she was seeing right through him. Kind of like when Anya had seen straight into his soul. “You’re different.”
“He has a soul,” Buffy informed her. He was still startled when she was proud of him.
“He does?” Cordelia sounded incredulous, which sent an arrow of annoyance through Spike’s chest.
“Earned it fair and square,” Spike said, his chin jutting up a little.
“Huh. Good for you.” Cordelia gently set Mags on the ground. “Now that we have that out of the way, can we get on with business? I really need to find Fred.” She glanced down at her hospital gown that the hospital staff had apparently let her walk out in without blinking a bloody eye. “And even more importantly, I need some clothes.”
Spike shifted uncomfortably, his body urging him to move. “Sun’s coming up soon. I know where Fred is, and I’m sure someone at the ole evil law firm will scrounge you up something to wear.”
“Right,” Cordelia said. “The Powers told me. And you know, too. Apparently. Wolfram and Hart.” She signed. “Worst decision ever.”
“Preaching to the choir,” Buffy said.
Spike was happy that she was less than pleased with Angel. Spike smirked. Just a little.
At that moment, a cab pulled up beside them, and a man rolled down the window and poked his head out. “Did someone call a cab for a ride?”
“Um, no,” Spike said with suspicion.
“Um, yes,” Cordelia said, pushing past Buffy toward the vehicle. “I called for one.” Mags trotted along behind her and jumped into the cab as Cordelia eased in.
“Cat,” Spike growled. He was learning to just go with it.
He exchanged a look with Buffy, who offered a slight shrug. They didn’t really have a choice with the sun on its way over the horizon. Buffy followed Cordelia and the cat, and Spike joined them, dread washing over him.
At least, Buffy was wedged up against him, her thigh pressing into his and her head on his shoulder. He slid a casual hand onto her thigh, and she let out a soft sigh of contentment. She smelled heavenly. She loved him. He could live in that moment forever.
Turned out that the hospital was only a few blocks from the law firm, and Cordelia paid the cabbie with some cash from her purse as Spike and Buffy exited the cab. Mags pranced away like she knew where she was going again, and lightheaded from the loss of a snuggled-up Buffy, Spike didn’t even bother being irritated.
Cordelia slammed the cab door shut. “Let’s go. Who’s been inside?”
Spike raised his hand and somehow found his voice. “That’d be me.”
“Show me where to find Fred.”
“In those doors and up the elevator. You prepared?” Spike asked, realizing he'd left the damned barbeque weapon in the cab.
“The shitshow that’s in there.” Spike inclined his head in the direction of the law firm.
“I’m sure we’ve seen worse,” Buffy said.
Cordelia lifted both eyebrows at him. “Listen to your woman.”
Spike couldn’t help but grin. If Angel’s right-hand lady could see that he and Buffy had something, Angel sure as hell would, too. If he’d accept it, Spike had no idea.
Cordelia shook her head and breezed by them, and Buffy smiled at him. In a simple gesture, she offered him her hand the way she’d done a thousand times before in Sunnydale, and for a moment, Spike remembered that actions spoke louder than words ever did. She’d shown him how much she loved him with deed before she’d ever said she loved him.
With that realization, he took her hand, lacing his fingers through hers. Angel was going to get an eye full.
And Spike was going to love every minute of it.
Together, they headed into a different sort of hellmouth.
Though the sun wasn’t up, the law firm was busy. No one seemed to take notice of them as they strode through the lobby toward the elevators. Spike figured it was probably a little like most law firms if the stereotype of lawyers working 80-hour work weeks held true. Angel, of course, was nowhere in sight. Bloody bastard never did cooperate with Spike’s grand entrances. Buffy squeezed his hand, and he became aware of the anxiety zipping around in his belly. He smiled at her as he led her onto the elevator.
Once on the floor where Angel officed, Cordelia zeroed right in on Harmony sitting at her desk, the familiar little unicorns lined up in a battlefront of ceramic and pointy spiraling horns and golden hooves. Spike’s ex was on the phone talking to someone in an animated way – the same animated way that he used to tune out while he hunted down whatever it was that he was focused on at the time. Cigarettes, rings that would make him invulnerable, rifles.
Harmony didn’t notice them. Instead, she snarled into the phone, “Aliens have invaded Zimbabwe. There’s no time for rational solutions. And yes, flying into the airports there is a no-go. Meaning it ain’t happening.”
Spike heard angry, unintelligible shouting on the other end of the line.
“Fine!” Harmony shouted and slammed the phone down so hard that the plastic should have broken. “Uhhhggggh!” Her contorted face relaxed when she saw Cordelia. “Cordelia! Oh, my god! You’re awake.”
“What’s wrong?” Cordelia asked, not even bothering to question why Harmony, of all people, was working at Wolfram and Hart.
Harmony swept around the desk and hugged her friend. “You don’t even know how glad I am to see you.”
Cordelia smiled. “Same.”
Harmony held up a tabloid with pictures of grey aliens with big, bulbous heads underneath a headline that read, “Aliens Block the Export of Diamonds from Zimbabwe.” “Those guys on the phone want a bunch of diamonds we owe them, but we can’t get any diamonds from Zimbabwe right now because those damned aliens are ruining everything!”
“Hey! Watch the stereotypes!” hollered a grey-looking alien wearing a suit and tie and leading a client toward the elevators. “Don’t believe everything you read in magazines.”
“I’m not talking about you, Frank,” Harmony yelled back. “And these aliens look nothing like you!” She blew him a kiss.
Frank rolled his eyes at her and jabbed an elevator button.
Cordelia’s eyes were wide. “Aside from the fact that an alien just walked by, and he’s dressed like a lawyer – ”
“Oh, he is a lawyer. I still wonder what they thought of him in law school. He’s a little bit prickly if you know what I mean, and he likes to dye his skin different colors. The tie-dye was the coolest.” Harmony interrupted. She looked thoughtfully at the ceiling before refocusing on them. “I don’t know what planet he’s from. He told me, but I forgot. I should really write these things – ”
“Harm,” Spike said, fiddling with a unicorn that was teetering on the edge, “we’re looking for Fred. And Angel if you’ve seen him.”
“Oh, Angel’s still asleep. He told me not to wake him up under any circumstances, which I know he doesn’t really mean because he gets mad at me if I don’t get him when important stuff is happening. Like the alien thing.” Harmony inhaled before putting her hand up to her mouth as if telling a secret, “He’s been very busy lately, dealing with some very important stuff that’s made him very grumpy. He’s been doing lots of things and not noticing everything I – ”
“Fred,” Cordelia said, gently guiding her friend back around.
“Right. I think Fred fell asleep in her lab. I mean, that’s what Knox said.”
“Okay, then. The lab.” Spike took the lead, starting to head back for the elevators.
“Thanks, Harmony,” Cordelia said, giving her friend another hug. “Always remember. You’re important. You’re worthy. You can do good things even without a soul.”
Harmony’s thank you in return was heartfelt, and Spike felt a tug of sympathy for the poor bird. She’d always been lonely.
Back on the elevator, Spike punched the appropriate button and noticed something. “Where’d Mags go? Oh, bollocks. She’s lost in the bowels of the building that personifies evil itself.”
Buffy took his hand again. “Hey. Fred first. Mags second. We’ll stay until we find her.”
Spike reasoned that they didn’t know how long Cordelia had or what exactly she was after. He didn’t want anything to happen to Fred. She’d saved him more than a time or two. “Right.”
“Thanks, guys,” Cordelia said, leaning against the elevator wall. “Not sure what I’m looking for exactly, but I’ll know it when I see it.”
Buffy bent to adjust her boot and check under her sock. “Yep, still glowing. Feeling still present. We’re doing the right thing.”
The elevator dinged, and as soon as the doors parted, Spike was pushing past the throng of lawyers trying to board the boat and not bothering to acknowledge their protests. He led Cordelia and Buffy right to the entrance to Fred’s lab and stopped short at what he saw.
“What the bloody hell is that thing?”
The long, stone sarcophagus was bedazzled up top with crystals and was like nothing Spike had ever seen. It looked. . . ancient. Felt ancient. His soul stirred with unease; he usually didn’t feel the thing – hadn’t felt it since under Sunnydale High when he’d saved the world. And now, here his soul was again, asserting itself. And that couldn’t be good.
Cordelia charged ahead, making to push the double doors and go in.
But Spike put an arm out to stop them. “Wait.”
“What?” Buffy asked. “Is it that old tomb-looking thing?”
“Yeah,” Spike said. “It feels – ”
“Fred!” Cordelia shouted.
Spike immediately saw that Fred was approaching the artifact with intention and curiosity on her face. Her hand reached out to touch the stone.
The trio reacted at once, and they burst through the doors in a crashing group. This startled Fred who drew her hand away and stared at them with her mouth slightly open. She blinked at them in almost disbelief, and then her surprise transformed into a wide smile of joy.
“Cordy!” Fred rushed at her friend and embraced her tightly. She drew back and looked Cordelia up and down. “Are you okay? I mean, you look okay.” She hugged her again. “You feel okay.”
Cordelia laughed, returning the affection. “I’m okay.”
“Wait ‘til Angel finds out you’re awake. He’ll be so happy to see you!”
“He will?” Cordelia hesitated and seemed confused about something, which Spike made a mental footnote of. Then, she shook her head as if trying to rid her mind of something. “I’ll see him in a little bit. For now, we all need to stay far away from that thing.”
“What thing?” Fred glanced over her shoulder at the sarcophagus. “Oh. That thing. I was about to have someone put that in containment. Why?”
Cordelia shuddered. “Good. Containment is of the good.”
Though Spike was tempted, no one questioned Cordelia about why she was having that reaction. There was something about the set of her jaw despite the fear in her eyes that made Spike believe her intention was true.
Buffy stepped up. “It looks heavy. I could push it somewhere for you.”
“Oh, um,” Fred said, “only if you wear some gloves. Let me get you some.” She lifted both eyebrows at Spike and gave him a knowing look. “This is Buffy, huh?”
He nodded with happiness that she’d noticed, that Fred knew and acknowledged that he and Buffy had a connection.
While Fred helped Buffy, Spike softly said to Cordelia, “You’re sure about this.”
Cordelia glanced briefly over and then back to the stone as if it was going to move and attack someone if she didn’t stare it down. “As sure as houses.”
“We need to find Knox,” she added. Then, her eyes widened. “Knox is important. In a he-needs-to-be-stopped kind of way.”
Spike watched her with intention. “Just get a transmission, did you?”
Cordelia nodded. “Something like that.”
“Fred?” Spike called as Buffy started to maneuver the sarcophagus.
“Yeah?” Fred said as she slipped on her second glove.
“Seen that ponce you used to date?”
“Spike,” Fred said, flushing. “He was nice enough. Just not my type after all. I-I haven’t seen him. Why?”
All of a sudden, a loud hiss emanated from a nearby office followed by an even louder, “Ow!”
“Mags!” Spike’s ears easily let him know which office, and he threw open its door to find that the cat had drawn a good amount of blood on Knox’s arm with her pointy bits. Spike grinned. “Who’s the good kitty?”
Then, he strode toward Knox and slammed a fist into his face. Knox hit the floor with a satisfying thump before he even had a chance to speak.