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Disclaimer: This is fanfic, based on the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Characters are property of Mutant Enemy. This story was written for fun, not profit.

Summary: After Buffy receives a mysterious telephone call from Spike, she sends Xander to London to find out what's going on. This story's set in an alternate universe where at the start of S7, Spike didn't return to Sunnydale and the First Evil didn't start devouring from beneath.

Thanks, Anna S, for the awesome beta!

Feedback is always welcome!



London Calling


by
Shadowscast



1
The Message


As soon as Buffy opened the door, Xander could tell there was some new problem. Her smile for him was perfunctory, and she headed back towards the kitchen without a word, leaving him to follow.

That was a good Sunnydale practice, come to think of it—never invite anyone in, just see if they can cross the threshold on their own.

"What's up this time?" he asked as he followed. He noticed the papers spread out on the coffee table; it looked like Dawn had been working on homework there, but she was nowhere in sight now. "Just tell me it's not something else at the school. Our construction schedule's already far enough behind..."

He met up with Buffy in the kitchen. "Listen," she said, and pressed a button on the answering machine.

'Hello, Buffy.' Xander felt a chill run down his spine. He hadn't heard that particular voice in a good four months, 'good' being the operative word. The voice was tinny and a bit strange—distorted by the machine, and maybe the connection hadn't been great on the other end—but Xander would never mistake it for another.

Spike.

'I—I was going to come back to you, but now I can't,' the message went on. 'So I'm just ringing to say...I'm sorry.' There was a weird noise, like Spike was choking or something. 'Bloody hell,' it went on, the words muffled as though they'd been spoken away from the receiver. Then, loud and clear again: 'I'm sorry for everything.' With a sharp click, the message ended.

Buffy just stood there, frowning at the answering machine and running her fingers lightly over its buttons.

"So the evil dead thing's back in town," Xander said, feeling his voice get cold and protective all at once. "I swear to God, Buffy, I will stake him this time."

Buffy shook herself, like she was waking from a daydream, and looked at Xander. "I star-sixty-nined it. He's not in Sunnydale. The call came from a pay phone in London."

"Okaaay." Xander frowned. "He's on the other side of the world. That's my second-favorite place for him to be. Close runner-up to blowing on the wind in the form of dust. So what's the crisis?"

"You heard the message. Spike's in trouble."

"Okay, whoa, slow down." Xander let a bit of a laugh creep into his voice, because this had to be a joke. "First, he didn't say that. Second, why the hell would we care if he is?"

"He didn't say he was in trouble, but he sounded..." Buffy shook her head, searching for a word. "Desperate. Forlorn. I think he was crying." At least she seemed to be having as much trouble associating that last word with Spike as Xander was. "That's not the Spike we know."

"Yeah, the Spike we know is more into laughing at the pain of others. Or possibly causing it. So again I say: what's the problem?"

Buffy took Xander's hand and squeezed it. Looking him straight in the eye, she said "Xander, I need you to go to London and find out what's going on with Spike."

"Oh, hell no, you did not just say that." Xander pulled his hand away from Buffy's so abruptly he whacked his elbow against the kitchen island. Buffy winced, but didn't say anything else. Xander rubbed his elbow and tried to stay calm. "Buffy, please tell me you didn't just tell me to fly to fucking England to see why Mr. Date Rape is having a bad day."

"I owe him—" Buffy started, but Xander cut in.

"No, no, and again I say no. If he's in trouble, I'm cheering on the trouble."

"I'm not asking you to do it for him. I'm asking you to do it for me."

"And I'm saying no for your own good."

Buffy glared at Xander, and Xander glared right back.

She blinked first. Sighing, she went and sat down at the table. "Come on, sit," she urged Xander quietly.

He joined her, and plucked an orange from the bowl on the table. He'd come here straight from work; he hadn't had dinner yet.

"Look, I know you don't like him," she said. "But you've fought alongside him lots of times. He helped out while I was dead. All that's got to count for something."

"Not enough to cancel out the times he tried to kill us." Xander ripped at the orange's peel.

"He's got the chip now. He can't hurt anyone."

"Except you. And he sure took advantage of that." Xander would never forget it, it was seared into his memory: Buffy on the bathroom floor, with her robe torn and her thigh bruised and her eyes full of tears. Spike's coat hanging on the stair post.

Buffy grimaced. "That was...a low point. But you don't really understand what it was like between Spike and me."

"Maybe because you never told me," Xander said, a little too harshly. It was still a sore point. "Buffy, I know the two of you had had sex before, but nothing excuses what he did."

"Tried to do," Buffy corrected him.

"That's not the point."

"Yes it is. I wasn't some poor defenseless little girl getting jumped by a big strong man, Xander. I'm stronger than Spike, and he knows it. On some level he must have known I could stop him if I wanted to."

Xander shook his head. "Still no excuse."

"Maybe not." Buffy looked sad. Xander wished she'd be angry, instead. He wished she'd stop trying to justify Spike's attack on her. "But I did some inexcusable things to him, too." She glanced over her shoulder, making sure they were still alone in the kitchen, and she lowered her voice. "I was hating life, Xander, and I was hurting in ways I couldn't explain, and I took it out on him. I used him. God, there were a couple times when I went to him for sex and he said no, but I kept going—and he always changed to 'yes' pretty fast, but I don't know if I would have stopped if he hadn't."

"That's different," Xander insisted. He didn't want to hear this. "You weren't doing anything he didn't want, and besides, he's a monster."

Buffy went on as though she hadn't heard. "He told me once that you always hurt the one you love."

"Did he say that while he was sexually assaulting you?"

"No, he said it right after I finished pounding the crap out of him for trying to stop me from turning myself in over Katrina." She gave a choked little laugh.

"You don't love him," Xander said. It wasn't a question.

"No," Buffy agreed after the briefest hesitation. "But if he's in trouble, I owe him some help. I'd go myself, but I can't leave Dawn..."

"I'd go myself before I'd let you go," Xander said, realizing as he did that his defenses were crumbling, that what he'd just said was a short logical leap away from actually agreeing to go. "Spike's the one vampire in the world who's more dangerous to you than to me. But what about Giles? He's already in England. Why don't you ask him to pop over to London and check up on Spike, if it's that important to you?"

"He's busy with Willow, and all that Watcher Council stuff." Buffy didn't quite meet Xander's eye.

"You think he's even less likely to go along with this plan than I am."

Buffy looked poised to argue that point, but after a second she gave it up with an apologetic nod. "That, and I don't want him to get in more trouble with the Council."

"And what about money? Neither of us is exactly rolling in the dough, Buffy. Plane tickets to London cost, I don't know, a lot."

"We'll manage it," Buffy said firmly, and Xander knew he'd lost. Buffy was smiling with such tangible relief Xander couldn't back down now.

She was the Slayer, he was the last remaining Slayerette, and no matter how much he didn't like this plan of hers, he was going to do it for her.

He was going to London.





2
London


Xander had never flown before. The short flight from Sunnydale to LA was very cool. From his window seat in the small plane, he watched the ground fall away while his stomach got pressed against his spine. Suddenly he could see all of Sunnydale, spread out underneath him like a lovingly constructed model. There was the rebuilt school, the hospital, the mall, the graveyards. It was hard to believe it was real.

An hour into the nonstop flight from LA to London, Xander had already made the transition from starry-eyed airplane newbie to jaded international traveler. Okay, technically he hadn't even set foot in another country yet, but the trip got old fast. He was in the center seat in the middle section, fighting for elbow room with two strangers. His knees bumped the seat in front of him, a baby cried in the row behind him, and instead of an in-flight movie the airline was showing a series of infomercials.

"Coffee, tea or juice, sir?" a flight attendant asked at the end of his row. "Would you like a complimentary newspaper?"

Xander accepted coffee in a tiny plastic mug, and a London newspaper called the Sun. He might as well read up on the place where he was headed. In the week since he'd agreed to make this trip, he'd been busy getting his passport application rushed through and setting up his crew at work to run without him; he hadn't even cracked open the London guidebook Buffy had bought him. The guidebook was now in his duffle bag in the belly of the plane along with some clothes, a few wooden stakes and vials of holy water, and that damn leather duster of Spike's. Buffy had pressed the coat on Xander at the very last minute, at the airport, saying she thought Spike should have it back. If Xander'd had more time to think about it he would have refused to take it. Maybe he'd just sell it to a secondhand clothes store in London.

Jack the Ripper Stalks London! screamed the paper's headline. Huh. Xander raised his eyebrows at that. Even in Sunnydale the undead didn't tend to make the front page of the paper, what with the massive collective denial and all.

Reading the article, he quickly figured out that it wasn't literally Jack the Ripper they were talking about—just a bunch of murders that sort of resembled Jack's.

The Sun has learned that the modern-day Jack the Ripper has claimed a sixth victim. Another young woman was found murdered and mutilated near King's Cross Monday night. Our police source confirms that the woman, whose name is still withheld, was a prostitute.

From old Scooby habit, Xander scanned the article for hints that there might be anything more at work here than a run-of-the-mill human psycho. Not that supernatural evil in London was his problem; London had a whole hive of Watchers to take care of it, after all. And besides, other than looking for Spike, Xander was on vacation.

The newspaper ran through a few more sketchy details about the murder, ending with:

The original Whitechapel murders, which took place in the summer of 1888, were never solved.

So there were some dead women, and the police didn't seem to have any leads, but as far as Xander could tell the newspaper was just making the connection to Jack the Ripper in order to make their headline more exciting. There was no reason to believe that the same killer from 1888 was at work in 2002.

Xander flipped to the sports section and tried to get used to thinking of soccer as football.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*



"Hey, excuse me. I'm looking for a friend of mine."

The burly red-haired man didn't even turn around to acknowledge Xander. His gaze was fixed on the TV over the bar, which was tuned to a soccer game.

"Excuse me!" Xander repeated, louder. This time the man did turn.

"What?"

"I'm looking for my friend," Xander said, holding up a polaroid of Spike. "Seen him around?"

The man squinted at the photo, then shook his head. "Nah." He turned back to the game. Xander sighed, and moved on.

TV detectives always made this part look so easy. Canvassing the neighborhood would take maybe a minute of screen time, tops. Xander hadn't worried too much about the actual finding of Spike before he got here—it had been impossible not to run into him back in Sunnydale. But now it was starting to sink in that Xander was looking for one vampire in a city of six million people (and God only knew how many demons), and he didn't even know for sure that Spike was still in the city. The only lead he had was the phone booth where Spike had placed a call eight days ago.

Xander had gone to that phone booth nearly first thing when he got to London. He'd landed at Heathrow just a bit past eight in the morning London time, which made it just past midnight Sunnydale time. Check-in at the hostel where Buffy had made reservations for him wasn't till one p.m. at the earliest, so Xander had rented a locker at King's Cross—which turned out to be a big train station and subway stop, not too far from the pay phone in question—and ditched his duffle bag there. Then he'd bought a map at a newsstand in the station and set out to find the pay phone.

He'd found it without too much trouble. It was on a fairly busy street lined with four-story buildings which had shops on their first floor, and what looked like apartments above. Disappointingly, the phone booth wasn't red with little windows and a rounded top like the ones on the postcards at the train station. It was just a Plexiglas box with an accordion door.

He'd come halfway across the world to see this?

He hadn't had much hope of clues, but he'd gone into the booth anyway. It had smelled faintly of urine and perfume. On the wall beside the phone there was a panel that looked like it was meant to hold some official ad, but it was covered with little cards advertising "escort services." The full-color pictures of the women were as graphic as Playboy illustrations. Xander stared at them blankly for a few long seconds, jet-lagged and culture shocked (this was a public phone booth! children could come in here!) before remembering what he'd come in for.

There was lots of graffiti in the booth, but nothing that seemed connected to Spike. There were cigarette butts on the floor, but what the hell did that prove? Nothing at all.

Xander had been tempted to call Buffy from the phone booth, but it was one-thirty in the morning in Sunnydale by then, and he had nothing to say that was worth the cost of an overseas call from a pay phone.

He'd spent the rest of the morning finding Big Ben and looking at it. ("Big Ben is actually the bell, not the clock or the tower," said his guide book, but never mind that. He still set his watch by it.) He'd spent the afternoon asleep at the hostel, then returned to the pay phone and started a search pattern.

He knew that Spike had been in this neighborhood at least once. If it'd been a one-shot deal Xander had approximately no chance at all of finding him, but if he was a regular in the area, Xander should be able to find him by asking around in the pubs.

At least, that was the theory. Xander figured there was one thing working in his favor, at least: no one who'd seen Spike even once could fail to recognize his face.

Xander glanced down at the photo he was holding as he walked out of pub number eight of the night (the Thirsty Blue Dog). Spike was scowling, facing the camera but looking just to the right of the photographer. The background was black, and Spike's skin looked paper-white in the flash. Xander remembered that Tara had taken this photo towards the end of the summer Buffy was dead, in a graveyard after one of their group patrols. Tara had been trying to cheer everyone up; she'd brought along a camera, and made everyone pose for "hero" shots.

Xander swallowed hard, remembering Tara. He would have brought a different photo, if there'd been any others.

Back out in the night, he headed down the road looking for the next pub. He found it, walked through the door, caught a glimpse of bleached blond hair, and discovered that it wasn't so hard to find one vampire in a city of six million people after all.

The pub was smoky and dimly lit and crowded, and it didn't have a mirror behind the bar. There was a television mounted on the wall above the bartender, and it was showing another soccer game—or maybe the same one. Everyone sitting at the bar, and half the people at the tables, had their attention riveted on the TV. Even the bartender was standing transfixed, a white towel twisting between his hands.

And near the far end of the bar, face lifted towards the TV like all the others, was Spike.

He looked about the same as Xander remembered. His face was a bit thinner, the cheekbones standing out even more sharply than before—but that might just be the pub's lighting playing tricks. He was wearing a soft-looking black shirt, unbuttoned, with a black t-shirt underneath. So, yeah, that was all about normal. Seeing his hand resting on the bar, Xander noticed Spike had on black nail polish, which seemed like the kind of thing that could get a vamp beat up in a place like this, but never mind. There was an empty shot glass in front of him—more normal. It looked like it'd held something clear, not blood, and all of the people in the room looked like, well, people, so Xander guessed this was probably not a demon pub. Yay for that.

Since Spike didn't seem to have noticed him yet, Xander decided to watch from the sidelines for a bit, see if he could learn anything. He made for the one vacant stool at the bar, at the very end where the counter curved into the wall. It had no view at all of the TV, which was probably why it was empty.

Settling onto the stool, Xander realized that the room had suddenly become nearly silent—there was a sense of tense anticipation, a collective breath-holding. Everyone was watching the TV.

Xander remembered reading on the plane that there was going to be an important "football match" between England and Wales tonight. It hadn't meant much to him, but maybe that's what was playing.

Suddenly, the room erupted. Everyone was whistling and cheering and slamming their fists on the tables, grinning—except for Spike. Spike was scowling, shouting something in the general direction of the TV and making that two-fingered gesture which Xander had once, but only once, mistaken for the peace sign. The men standing nearest Spike started to react to him. It looked like they started shouting back and forth, though Xander couldn't make out any words over the noise in the room. The man on the far side of Spike from Xander was turning red in the face as he yelled. He was wearing what might be a soccer jersey and was built like an NFL linebacker. He waved his hands as he talked. Spike, facing away from Xander now, shifted into the guy's space in what would definitely look like a threatening move if you didn't know Spike had a chip in his brain that stopped him from attacking humans, and he did still have the chip, didn't he? Xander swallowed, taking a quick look around the room for possible makeshift stakes. Soccer Jersey Guy made a move like he was going to punch Spike, but he stopped himself. Then Spike's head tilted a bit to the side, and Xander just knew that whatever was the worst possible thing to say at that moment, Spike was saying it.

Soccer Jersey Guy walloped Spike with a left uppercut that threw the vampire right off his stool. Spike ricocheted off a couple other guys who hastily moved back, and ended up on his feet, looking dazed. That lasted only a second or so; then Spike yelled something else at Soccer Jersey Guy, who looked stunned that Spike was still standing and talking at all. Spike took a step towards the guy and brought his fists up, provoking another punch—this one to Spike's gut. Spike barely even fell back—he just grinned, and took a wild swing way wide of the guy's face. Xander suspected Spike had never intended that one to hit, which would explain why the chip didn't fire. Soccer Jersey Guy caught Spike's extended arm, twisted him round, shoved him up against the bar, and punched him in the back of the head.

There was a loud crack, and Xander felt the bar under his elbows vibrate. It wasn't Spike—it was the bartender, who'd brought out a nightstick from somewhere and thwacked it against the bar's thick wooden countertop. Everyone in the room froze for a moment, just long enough for the bartender to yell "Oi! That's enough!" A couple men came on Soccer Jersey Guy from behind and grabbed his shoulders, pulling him away from Spike. Soccer Jersey Guy was scowling and breathing hard.

"Did you hear what that wanker said?" Soccer Jersey Guy demanded, loudly, of the room in general.

The bartender crossed his arms. "Get out of my establishment, now."

Soccer Jersey Guy shrugged, grumbling, and nodded to a couple of guys standing near him. They all headed out.

"And you, Billy," the bartender continued, looking at Spike now. "You've had enough. Go home."

"Well that's not bloody fair, is it?" Spike protested. "I didn't lay a hand on that bloke."

"You never do, do you, Billy?" The bartender's question was obviously rhetorical. "Go home."

Spike shrugged and headed for the door, not sparing a glance in Xander's direction. His lip was cut and bleeding a bit, but he looked otherwise unhurt, and there was a manic glint in his eyes.

Xander stayed in his seat for a moment, sorting through what he'd just seen and heard. From the bartender's remarks it sounded like Spike had developed a hobby of coming in here, starting fights with humans and letting them hit him. There had to be a catch, but Xander couldn't see it.

He left the pub and looked up and down the street. Spike was about a block away.

Xander followed as covertly as possible, a block behind and on the opposite side of the street. Meanwhile, he asked himself why he didn't just go up and say hello. If he lost sight of Spike now, it would be hard to find him again. Still, it seemed like a good idea to learn as much as he could before talking to Spike directly—evil undead things didn't tend to have what you'd call a monogamous relationship with the truth.

They walked for about ten minutes, taking a couple of corners. The neighborhood wasn't making Xander feel very comfortable. There were a lot of boarded-up storefronts, gang tags on the walls. Ragged people in doorways asked Xander for spare change as he walked by, and he felt pangs of guilt each time he said "I don't have any," and kept walking. He'd given all his change away on the way to the subway station from the hostel.

Finally, Spike stopped to talk to a couple of women—women standing on a corner, wearing short skirts and high boots and tops which were too skimpy for the cool September night.

"Hookers," Xander whispered to himself, almost startled that he'd recognized what they were. He'd never seen one before; Sunnydale didn't have any. Naive much, Xander? Okay, if he stopped to think about it Sunnydale probably did have a sex trade, just not the standing-on-the-street-corner kind. Besides the clean cut small town thing, there was also the vampire problem.

Xander stopped at a bus stop, nearly across the street from Spike and the girls. If Spike looked around he'd see Xander, which was fine. They had to talk eventually. Otherwise, what had been the point of spending $600 on plane tickets and taking two weeks off work and flying across a continent and an ocean?

Spike took something out of his pocket; a pack of cigarettes. He shook out one for himself and handed the pack over to the girls, who helped themselves. He lit his first, then theirs.

They stood there talking for as long as it took to smoke the cigarettes. Xander was too far away to hear anything. The girls gestured with their hands as they talked; Spike didn't, much. Was he hiring them? Xander didn't like to think about that.

Then Spike tossed his cigarette butt into the street, spun on his heel, and walked right towards him. Xander felt a quick surge of adrenaline.

Spike didn't seem to notice him at first. Maybe the sheer unlikeliness of their meeting at random in London was making Xander invisible to him. About ten feet away he stopped, blinked once, and said "Xander?" in a tone that almost managed to sound unsurprised.

"Um, hi, Spike," Xander said. He was tempted to add 'Fancy meeting you here,' but decided against it.

He still didn't know for sure that the chip still worked.

"You followed me here," Spike said, coming closer. Not a question. Xander just nodded. "From where?"

"From the bar—er, pub."

Spike considered that for a moment. His lip had stopped bleeding, Xander noticed. And he did look thinner than Xander remembered. And there were dark roots showing in his hair.

"What were you doing in my bleedin' pub?" Spike asked.

"Um, I'm visiting London. Tourist." Xander pulled a couple of pamphlets out of his pocket and waved them vaguely.

"Oh." Spike stared at him a moment longer, then took out another cigarette and lit it. "Great city, London. Lot different than the last time I lived here."

"So, um, why'd you decide to move back? I mean, you have, um, friends here or something?" Smooth, Xander. Real smooth. The vamp'll be giving up all his darkest secrets in no time.

Spike gave him a look that said 'idiot.' "I've got...interests in town."

"Did you come here straight from Sunnydale?" Right after you tried to rape Buffy, you bastard?

Spike didn't answer for a moment; his cigarette tip glowed red. "I made a stop in Africa first. So, how is everyone back in Sunnyhell?" He smirked at his version of the town's name, and Xander briefly considered punching him in the nose. "Little Bit doing all right?"

Dawn was about the only person from their group who was pretty much all right, so Xander was glad to answer, "Yeah. She just started going to Sunnydale High."

Spike raised his scarred eyebrow. "Thought you lot blew that up."

"Yeah, they rebuilt it. I mean, we rebuilt it. I was on the construction crew."

"Huh." Spike shrugged it off—no concern of his. "How about the witches?"

Xander tensed. Spike didn't know what a rough question that was. "Tara's dead," he said. "Willow's off with Giles, trying to pick up the pieces." There was no need to say more than that; no reason for Spike to know how close Willow had come to ending the world in her grief.

"A vamp get her?" Spike asked, expression neutral.

"No. Human." Xander tried to make the words tight and hard enough that Spike wouldn't ask anything more.

It seemed to work. Spike looked into Xander's eyes silently, taking another drag on his cigarette. Xander noticed Spike's eyes were icy blue—had he known that before? Finally, Spike said, "And Buffy?"

"She's doing great without you."

There might have been a flicker of hurt in Spike's eyes before he turned away. If so, Xander was glad.

"My bus's coming," Spike noted. "You actually want it, or were you just standing here to watch me?"

Xander saw, with a joy that not even a surly and mysterious vampire could diminish, that the bus was one of those big red double-decker ones. He'd seen some around during the day, but thought they were just for special tours or something. Following Spike onto that wouldn't suck. "Does it go to a subway station?"

"'S called the Tube here, Yank." Spike took a last pull on his cigarette and flipped it into the gutter. Then with a barely restrained sigh he added, "Bus goes to Euston station."

The bus stopped for them. Xander had his pass, and Spike paid with a token. The idea of Spike as a regular user of public transit amused Xander a lot. He hoped the vampire would take his grin for sight-seeing enthusiasm as he asked, "Can we get up top?"

"Blimey, you are a tourist." Spike pushed past him and led the way into what turned out to be a small spiral staircase inside the bus. The upper floor of the bus was nearly empty—just a couple making out at the very back, and a man reading a newspaper near the stairs. Xander went right to the front. Spike plopped himself down in the seat next to him a moment later, and immediately put his feet up on the window ledge.

Xander leaned forward to look out the window. It was dizzying, watching the street rush by so far below. He had a nervous feeling of being on the wrong side of the road. The bus seemed to sway wildly as it picked up speed. Beside him, he heard the snick of Spike's lighter opening.

"Hey, no smoking," Xander pointed out the sign.

Spike smirked. "Bite me."

Xander watched the scenery for a few minutes, flapping his hand once in a while to try to send the smoke in the other direction and trying to figure out how much farther Buffy would want him to carry this thing.

"So," he said finally, "What the hell was with that message you left on Buffy's answering machine?"

Out of the corner of his eye, Xander saw Spike shrug. "Was in a bit of a black mood, I guess." Pause. "Don't tell me you've never rung up that vengeance demon of yours in the middle of the night to say you're sorry."

"Hey," Xander snapped, turning to face Spike full-on now and clenching his fists. "Don't ever think that what I did to Anya compares to what you did to Buffy."

Spike exhaled a slow cloud of smoke, still looking out the front window. "Nope. Doesn't compare."

"And you aren't really sorry," Xander continued, hissing low now so the man sitting farther back wouldn't overhear. "You're a soulless monster, you can't even feel sorry. I should stake you right now and do the world a favor."

Spike still didn't turn to look at Xander, though the muscles in his jaw tightened. "I'm not stopping you, mate," he said very quietly, in a tone that gave Xander goose bumps.

Without moving a muscle, Xander imagined doing it. With a phantom hand he gripped the stake he'd neglected to bring with him, let the point hover over the vampire's heart, watched for any flicker of reaction in those dead blue eyes. There was none.

The bus pulled to the side of the road, and Spike finally turned to face Xander. "My stop," he said.

Xander rushed to the back of the bus as soon as Spike was gone. Through the back window as the bus pulled away, he saw Spike opening the door of a boarded-up shop and going inside.


*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*`*

Back at the hostel, Xander sat in the common room trying to decide what to do next.

Option one, which was 'forget Spike, spend two weeks looking at sights and taking in musicals, maybe meet a cute backpacker girl to do the aforementioned with, then go home' was looking pretty good. Buffy had sent him here to see if Spike was okay. Well, mission accomplished. The vampire seemed about as okay as ever. And Xander had managed to resist the temptation to stake him, or even punch him in the nose, so—bonus points.

Option two was 'go back to the place where Spike got off the bus and check it out.' That option wasn't so tempting, but Xander had a nasty feeling that it was the course Buffy would want him to take. And he had come all this way, after all.

An Asian girl got up from another couch and dropped a newspaper on the coffee table in front of Xander before she left the room. He noticed it was the same one he'd read on the plane, with the headline 'Jack the Ripper Stalks London!'

Jack the Ripper. When did the article say the original killings had been? Xander picked up the paper, flipped through to the body of the article. 1888.

When had Spike been turned? 1880, right? In London. Xander had vague memories of being told that Spike had stuck around this area for a few years, and then stayed out of London for the entire twentieth century.

Now Spike was back, and Jack the Ripper was apparently stalking again. Near King's Cross—the same area where Xander had found Spike. And Spike had been talking to prostitutes.

Xander's Sunnydale-bred monster sense had started tingling.

Okay. Maybe option number two was worthwhile after all. But first, a phone call to Buffy to let her know what had happened so far.





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