The Witch and the Dragon – Chapters 13 & 14

Standard Disclaimer

This is fan fiction of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, which were created by Joss Whedon. If you like, you can read my thoughts on the ethics and legality of fan fiction.


[Start reading story from beginning]

[Go back to chapters 11 & 12]

Chapter 13

T-minus four days, and so much left to do. So many questions still unanswered.

Of the eighty-seven demon species on her shortlist, which were most likely to show? How long was the manifestation likely to last? Should her witches concentrate on defense spells, or offense? With three major forces – the witches, the Slayers from the Watchers’ Council, and Zeta Black – none of whom was likely to take orders from the other two, how should they organize themselves?

Willow had been battle planning all morning in the first-floor conference area, which they’d turned into a makeshift War Room. She was on her way back to her office when Margaret, her secretary, stopped her.

“Ma’am, there’s a Bill Morrison from the Peace Village NGO, here to see you.”

“I asked you to clear my calendar.”

“He doesn’t have an appointment. He just showed up.”

She walked away. “Have him talk to Phil, he can handle it. I don’t have time.”

“Ma’am?”

Willow stopped, tried not to sigh too loudly. “Yes, Margaret, what is it?”

“Sorry, it’s just…he flew here from Kazakhstan to see you specifically. He flies back tonight. If you don’t meet with him, I think it could damage relations with Peace Village.”

Willow rubbed her temples. Peace Village was the only major NGO on the ground, caring for refugees, at the Kazakh-Chinese border. They had been courting the Foundation for membership for almost a year now. And Willow did want a presence in Central Asia as part of their long-term strategy.

“All right. Send him in. Twenty minutes, that’s it.”

She was in her chair, trying to massage the stress from her shoulders, when he entered.

“Dr. Rosenberg.”

She stood up. “Please, call me Willow.”

“Right. Bill Morrison, CEO of Peace Village.” Big grin. They shook hands and sat down.

Unusual-looking fellow. Ragged T-shirt and jeans, almost insultingly casual. Mop of chestnut hair. Arms and face browned by the sun. Strangest of all, a silvery pair of aviator sunglasses, which he was evidently planning to leave on.

She pushed aside her misgivings and tiredness, switched herself to business mode. “Pleasure to finally meet you in person, Bill. As you know, the Maclay Foundation has been reviewing your application for some time. We’ve done a great deal of research on your organization, and I have to say, I’m impressed. You’re doing good work out there.”

“Awfully kind of you.”

He had an odd accent, too. Somewhat like a Kazakh native (though he was obviously Caucasian), but mixed with something else.

“To tell you the truth,” he continued, “I’ve done a fair bit of reading on you, Crimson Goddess.”

Willow frowned. Who had he been talking to? “That is a very unofficial nickname, and one I don’t approve of.” She tapped some keys on her desk. “Now, according to your last report – ”

“Why?”

“Sorry?”

“Why don’t you approve of people calling you Crimson Goddess?”

She looked up. “Well, among other things, I’m not a goddess.”

“Oh, no. No, indeed, that’s true.” That insolent grin was back. “As it happens, I’ve met a goddess or two in my time, and they didn’t have a tenth your power.”

“And as you’re no doubt also aware,” she said coolly, “I’ve lost most of my magical capacity. May we get back to business?”

“The burnout, yes, I’ve heard. Very sad. Still, you’ve trained a loyal personal army of the strongest witches in the Western Hemisphere. I imagine that takes the edge off, no?”

Willow was rapidly getting annoyed. “It’s not an army, it’s a college, and they are students. And I am a student, too. We all learn from each other.”

His grin vanished. “Oh, spare me the false modesty, Doctor President Rosenberg. It doesn’t become you. Shall I go down the list?” He sat back and propped one leg on the other. “Inventor of the oscillating quantum transistor, without which the modern computer would not exist. Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Winner of the Turing Prize. And, let’s not forget, celebrated war hero.”

She ground her teeth. “Is there a point to this?”

“Total net worth: officially, $2.1 billion. Unofficially, about five times that.”

Her eyes widened. He had done his research. “Look, I don’t know where you’re getting this information, but – ”

“And shall we talk connections?” He seemed to be enjoying himself. “A direct line to the CEO of Wolfram & Hart. An address book that reads like a Who’s Who of Silicon Valley. Highly placed contacts in the Watchers’ Council. Personal friend of the living incarnation of an Old One. Back-door access to every intelligence database worthy of the name, foreign and domestic, supernatural and otherwise. And, oh yes, nearly forgot. Former college roommate of the Dragon of Zeta Black.”

He furrowed his brow, as if thinking of something for the first time. “Why, little Willow, some might call you the most powerful woman on the planet. What does a person do, I wonder, with that much power?”

She racked her brain, trying to figure out his game. Was he a spy for somebody? No, he wouldn’t reveal himself like this. Blackmail? Surely he wasn’t that stupid.

Willow opted for the direct approach. “Why are you here, Mr. Morrison? It’s obviously not about the Foundation.”

“Ah, yes, the Foundation. Full name: the Tara Maclay Memorial Foundation. A fitting tribute to a truly remarkable young woman. How did she die, by the way?”

She stood up slowly. Voice tight with anger. “I can snap my fingers and have a dozen witches here within seconds.”

“Would those be the same witches who are just students, and not your personal army?”

“Mr. Morrison,” she growled, “I don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish, but…”

“This must be your famous emotional self-control. Tell me, how’d that work out for you when Tara got shot in the heart?”

“You’re trying to provoke me,” she said slowly. “It’s not going to work. Now, I’ve run out of patience. Whatever you were trying to do, it’s over. So why don’t you fly back to Kazakhstan, or wherever you’re really from, and tell your employer that – ”

He tilted his head. “Bored now.”

Her breath caught. Her heart forgot to beat.

“Who are you?” she whispered.

“I told you,” he said. “My name is Bill Morrison.”

He took off his sunglasses.

“Or, if you want to be proper about it: William.”

She studied his face. The eyes – the cheekbones – even the accent, changed but familiar.

No. It couldn’t be.

“Spike?”

“Well, now.” He put both feet on the ground and clasped his hands together with mock severity. “That is a very unofficial nickname, and one I don’t approve of.”

“But…” Her head was swimming. Trying to think, and failing. “You’re human.”

“Look who’s talking.” He grinned. “Fancy a pint?”

Chapter 14

Two o’clock on a Tuesday. No surprise the Winking Wizard was deserted. They got a mug of Guinness each, plus a bowl of peanuts for Spike, and found a table in the back.

He took a swig of the dark stout and lowered his mug with a satisfied sigh. “Say this for the bloody Irish, they don’t leave a bloke thirsty.”

Now that he’d revealed who he was, Spike settled back into old mannerisms. The Kazakh accent dropped, and he reverted to his familiar English dialect. Willow couldn’t take her eyes off him. Tan skin, unbleached hair, no longer wearing the leather jacket, and subtly but unmistakably older – yet it was him. Definitely him.

Human. That must be why the locator spells had failed. They’d been looking for a vampire.

“Start at the beginning,” said Willow. “I want to hear everything.”

Spike began shelling the peanuts. “Well, I was born William Pratt, in London, 1852. Wrote my first poem when I was eight years old. Something about bifocals. My mother had it framed, but two years later…”

He broke off when he saw her expression. “Well, fine,” he muttered. “Didn’t want to tell it anyhow.”

Tossing a peanut in his mouth, he started over.

“The year was 2018. Wolfram & Hart was under new management, Dracula was a pile of dust, and Buffy’s righteous quest to off my kinsmen was in full swing. Back when she was still working for the Watchers’ Council, mind. Me and Buffy, you know, we’ve always been a little off-again, on-again.”

Understatement of the century. Willow just nodded.

“So we were off again, but still fighting on the same side. And that’s when she captured Drusilla.”

“Oh,” Willow said quietly.

Spike wagged a finger at her. “My reaction precisely. She didn’t even tell me, you know. I got it secondhand. From Xander, of all people. So anyway, naturally I went to see the old gal. She sired me, after all.”

Another peanut.

“After knocking a few heads, I found her tied up in a basement. She had information, you see, or someone thought she did. Doesn’t matter. Buffy had been…hurting her.”

He took a long drink and sighed.

“Dru was out of her gourd, and she’d racked up more victims than the Inquisition,” he said. “She deserved every bit of it, and worse. But I couldn’t…you understand? I couldn’t just leave her like that. She was singing, Willow. Dusty old white dress spattered with her own blood, and she was singing to me.” Spike was shaking his head. “I couldn’t just…I had to…you understand, don’t you?”

Willow nodded, a lump forming in her throat. “Yeah. I understand.”

“I staked her. Buffy found out, of course. She was livid. Said people would die because of the intel they’d lost. We got into it. Finally she told me, if she ever saw me again, I was dead.” He shrugged. “A bloke can tell when he’s not wanted. I left. Last time I ever saw her.”

“Spike. I’m sorry.”

He waved away her concern. “Not the first time she’s said that sort of thing. So I wandered a while, killing time, more or less. And then I heard about this shaman in Kazakhstan who could turn a vampire human. Shanshu Prophecy in action, I suppose. But there was a price. There’s always a price, you know.”

“I’ve heard rumors to that effect.”

“I can’t kill anymore.” He gestured. “Or, well, I can, but then it’s curtains for me too. Sort of the cosmic equivalent of a chip in the head.”

“I don’t understand,” said Willow. “Why did you want to be human?”

“Oh, right. Would you care to be a vampire these days?”

“Uh-huh. That’s part of the reason.” She leaned her chin on her hand. “Why else?”

Spike didn’t answer right away. He rolled a peanut between his thumb and finger, back and forth, back and forth.

“I was tired of killing,” he said. “When you’re a vampire, you always think about it, even if you’re not doing it. You always drink blood, even if it’s not human blood. I was tired of watching my friends die. Tired of war. Ready for peace. That shaman’s price, you know, it was a pretty cheap bargain in the end.”

“That’s why you started that organization,” said Willow. “Something to do besides killing.”

“Mm.” He tossed the peanut back in the bowl. “Even got married.”

“Oh! Spike, congratulations.”

“Yep. That’s what everyone said, right up till the divorce. Lasted all of seven months.”

“What happened?”

“Zoe, she was a lovely girl, but…” Spike shrugged. “She wasn’t her.”

“Her who?” He gave her a look. “Ohhh. I see. Her.”

“Never got married, did you, Red?”

Willow sipped her beer. “No.”

“Anybody long-term? Serious? Special?”

Kind of a personal question, but after all he had told her, she’d allow it. “I’ve been with a number of women. All special in their own way. But if you mean, anyone like Tara? Not really, no.”

“And why would that be, do you suppose?”

She thought it over. She wanted to give him a good answer. It seemed important somehow.

“I don’t believe in soulmates,” she said. “But if I did, then Tara was mine.”

“Figured as much.” He tilted his mug in her direction. “So now here we are, thirty years later. And if anything happens to Tara Maclay – again – what would the most powerful woman on Earth decide to do next?”

Willow studied a little scratch in the surface of the table. “I won’t turn to the Dark Side again, if that’s what you’re asking. I’ve learned that lesson very well, thank you.”

“Not worried about your darkness anymore, Red.” He gave her a sad smile.  “I’m worried about your light.”

[Go on to chapters 15 & 16]

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