"You know this guy?"
Rachel looked up from her work and shook her head. "We don't have any appointments scheduled either."
"Better see who he is then. Keep an ear open." Dawn straightened her skirt before opening the door.
The man turned at her entrance and Dawn gave him a professional once over. He was tall, dark and handsome in a way that the patients of Hollywood plastic surgeons could only dream of. He was dressed in a Zegna suit that she was fairly certain didn't come off the peg and had a haircut that would cost more than most people were paid in a week. There was also something about him that set her teeth on edge.
Before she could introduce herself, Dawn found her hand trapped in a limp handshake and Nigel Edwards was talking a mile a minute about how much he needed her help. Well, not her help, but the help of her boss if she would be so kind as to let him know.
Dawn opened her mouth to correct Mr Edwards' misconception then reconsidered. He was nice, polite and extremely interested in becoming a client, but everything about him seemed coated in a fine sheen of oil and being in his presence was making her skin crawl. She pasted on a smile and ushered him through the office and into the meeting room. This was one client she was more than happy to hand over to Spike.
Closing the meeting room door, Dawn made a phone gesture to Rachel.
"Chicken." Rachel grinned and picked up the phone to put in the wake up call.
Shrugging Rachel's teasing off, Dawn headed for the kitchenette to play the good little PA and make coffee for Mr Edwards.
Dawn hated having to get Spike out of bed early, especially when he'd been up all night cleaning up an infestation of Hyleen larvae from the KPMG offices. She didn't want to deal with Edwards and she didn't want to inflict the man on Rachel. Although with Rachel's inherent clumsiness under stress, there was a good chance she'd slip and accidentally geld the man. As pleasant an image as that was, Dawn shook the thought off.
If Declán, Rachel's boyfriend and their occasional client wrangler, had been around it would have made life a lot easier. He had a manner that put people at ease, but he was off gallivanting around Barcelona with Wolf for their day job. Interpol may have had more important work to do, but their timing wasn't the best.
She'd just finished with Spike's espresso when the man himself appeared, wrapping his arms around her from behind and kissing her neck.
"Is there a reason the Rejulls' are desecrating that cup?"
Dawn looked up to see the office demons doing unspeakable things to Mr Edward's cup of coffee. "That's enough, boys." She distracted them with their own espresso and rescued the decaf.
Spike raised an eyebrow when he saw that Dawn had no intention of replacing the coffee. "I take it our new client has managed to get you off-side already?"
"He's a bit of a sleaze. Aside from that, he seems legit. He's a walk-in, found of us via a friend of a friend and seems to have something weird — his words — on his premises."
Spike downed his espresso, picked up two mugs and held the door open for Dawn and followed her through, placing the mugs on her desk. Rachel waved good afternoon to Spike and picked up her mug of chai, sighing in delight as she sipped.
Taking a deep breath, Dawn opened the door to the meeting room. "Decaf, milk, no sugar." Dawn tried not to shudder at the finger that ran along the back of her hand as she handed over the somewhat adulterated coffee and left the room as quickly as decorum would allow.
Returning to her desk, Dawn took the offered earbud from Rachel so she could listen in on the meeting. She giggled as she heard Spike introduce himself as William Fuilteach. The name was something of an in-joke. Wolf had furnished Spike with a passport using that name and he'd found it useful to keep it as a civilian identity. Dawn had to admit that Spike having legal identification made running their business that much easier. "What did Edwards get up to while he was on his own?"
Toggling a key, Rachel called up a screen overlay showing a playback of Edwards hunched over the meeting room notebook. The computer was blocked from accessing the LAN, but was remotely monitored from Rachel's computer. They'd found it an interesting exercise to see who fiddled with the computer and what they looked for while they were sneaking about. "He had a quick look to see if he could access the network, then ran a search for image files."
"Let me guess, porn." Dawn rolled her eyes.
"Of course." Rachel had been surprised by the number of suited businessmen who, not only accessed the computer without permission, but looked for pornography material while waiting in a meeting room. It was quite creepy.
"Do you have enough to get a profile on this guy yet?"
Rachel grinned and gestured to her second monitor. "He's a stockbroker, like that came as a surprise. He's got an office in London. From the address, I don't think it's much more than a broom cupboard. The business name is legit, there's no complaints filed against either the company or Edwards personally. You cleaned out a nest of Phloutd demons from an office in the same block six months ago. That could be the connection that sent Edwards in our direction."
"You're a star." Dawn winced as her earbud picked up a grinding sound. "Are you hearing that?"
Rachel nodded and checked the audio feed. "It's not interference. Hang on…" She fiddled with the sound levels, frowning in concentration as she tried to track the sound. The diagnostics were clear, so she checked the playback of the last couple of minutes to see when it started. "Ouch. Got it." She re-cued it for Dawn to hear Edwards informing Spike of his appreciation for Dawn and Rachel and what he'd like to do with them. The noise Dawn had noticed was Spike grinding his teeth.
"Eew. Just when you thought he couldn't sink any lower." Dawn wondered if their client had any redeeming characteristics.
"Do you have enough detail to narrow down his problem?"
Typing the limited information they'd overheard into her database, Dawn ran a search. "The mucous doesn't narrow it down. There are fifteen known demons that match that description in the Greater London area at the moment, most of them are harmless, but three are nasty enough that I'm tempted to wait until Edwards returns to work and lock him in with it in the hopes that it will eat him." It was always one of the problems with dealing with the general public; they didn't have a grasp on things that went bump in the night, so vague descriptions could mean anything.
Dawn nodded to the monitor. "Looks like they're wrapping up. Care to smile for Mr Edwards or join me on the floor in pretending we've left for the evening."
"That's a no-brainer." Rachel slid onto the floor beside Dawn as Spike led Nigel Edwards out of the meeting room. The girls huddled out of sight, almost giving themselves away when Spike named an exorbitant fee that was accepted without question by Edwards before he left in a flurry of grateful handshakes.
"You can come out now." Dawn and Rachel looked over the desk to see an amused Spike watching them from the door.
"I can't believe he just accepted that." Dawn was stunned, it was more money than they earned in the past month.
Spike look just as dumbfounded. "I expected him to turn it down so we could be shot of him. Maybe I should have gone higher."
"I don't know whether to slap that man or kiss him." Rachel screwed her face up at Dawn's comment. "Okay, I do know, but still, that's a lot of money to throw around."
Spike stretched, sighing in delight as his spine making popping sounds. "Well, I'm up and the sun's down. Let's get this taken care of before he suddenly comes to his senses. Rachel, got a layout of the premises?"
Rachel grimaced. "You're not going to like this." She led them back to her computer and opened a browser. "Okay, Google Earth puts his office here." She pointed to the screen. "And this is his company web site. Check the hero shot of Edwards with the office behind him, you can just see the roof of the building across the road through the windows. You'll have a clear view of anyone in the office from that rooftop, but the weather report says it will be bloody cold tonight."
"Damn." Spike glanced up at Dawn as she rummaged through the closet. "Andrew still has my ski jacket."
Rachel tossed her great coat to Dawn. "There are gloves, a scarf and hat in the pockets. Mind the bulldog clips on the hat, Wolf left one of her prototypes at my place. It's warm, but a little idiosyncratic in design."
Dawn shook her head as she gratefully accepted Rachel's coat and looked in the pocket and the clip-festooned hat. She still had trouble getting her head around the fact that a person who could rip out a human heart with her bare hands was just as skilled with a knitting needle. Maybe it was the circles they all ran in; Dawn had to wonder if she'd soon develop an interest in bobbin lace or stump work. It wasn't that long ago she wouldn't have even recognised the terms, so the fates may well be pushing her in that direction.
"You good to go?" Spike's hand on her shoulder shook Dawn out of her thoughts.
"Yeah, I'm right." She shouldered the pack Spike handed her. "You want us to drop you home on the way, Ray?"
"That'd be great. Let me shut the PCs down, say good night to the Retjulls and I'll meet you downstairs."
Wrapping Rachel's coat around herself even tighter, Dawn stamped her feet to keep the circulation moving. "Ray wasn't kidding about it being brass monkeys out here. Great, now I'm starting to pick up your weird local expressions. I think I've gone native."
Spike snorted. "You went native long ago." He leaned back against the stairwell, shielding the glowing end of his cigarette from view. "You're losing the Yank accent, love. Don't know why you're surprised, you speak Italian with a native accent. You have a gift for making yourself at home, of fitting in."
"I didn't realise I did that." Dawn blushed at the compliment.
"It puts the clients at ease, makes you better at your job and it sounds incredibly sexy when you leave voicemail on my mobile." Spike lowered his voice to the deep, husky drawl that he knew always made Dawn go weak at the knees. "And I'd like to ask a favour."
Dawn swallowed, lost in the heat of Spike's gaze. "Anything."
"Tell me you'll never wear that hat in public again."
Dawn smothered a giggle in her gloved hands. Spike had a point. The hat looked like it had started life as a pilot hat and finished up as a tea cosy. Hideous 80s two tone acrylic yarn certainly didn't help matters. But it was freezing and she was rather too fond of her ears to sacrifice them to frostbite for the sake of fashion. That thought made her giggle again as remembered the times she'd had to sit through her sister complaining about the cold on patrols when she had insisted on dressing for fashion instead of practicality.
"Hello. We have movement." Spike nodded to the office across the road. The lights were still off, but one of the computers had been turned on and they could clearly see the silhouette of the intruder.
Training her binoculars on their target, Dawn sighed in relief. Of all the demons that matched the loose description they'd been given, they couldn't have gotten luckier. Bhukod demons tended to be on the quiet side, if a bit mucousy, and they certainly didn't have a reputation for tearing humans and vampires apart if startled. "Um, Spike. How did he get in? The sensor by the door indicates that the alarm is still on, so he didn't come in that way. Any ideas?"
Spike took her offered binoculars and scanned the office. "I can only see the single sensor by the door, but it wouldn't cover the small office next to reception. If the building is cheap enough to only have a single alarm sensor installed, I'm willing to bet the wall between Edward's office and the outside hallway doesn't go above the false ceiling. I reckon our visitor's been sliding aside the false ceiling tiles, hopping over the wall and staying in the corner so he never sets off the alarm."
"Clever." Dawn picked up her gear and headed for the stairs. "Let's see what he makes of unexpected guests dropping in."
"Ow," Dawn clapped her hands over her ears. The reference she'd consulted on Bhukod demons hadn't mentioned anything about an ability to shatter eardrums.
"Steady on, mate." Spike held his hands up to calm the still screaming demon, who was now standing in a puddle of viscous slime. "Breathe. That's it. Slow breaths. I'm Spike, this is Dawn. You got a name?"
The loose-skinned demon stuttered as he tried to get his heart rate back under control. "Bev… Bevan."
"Sorry to startle you, Bevan, but we didn't want to set off the alarm either." Dawn eyed the demon in concern. "Are you sure you're alright?"
"Just let me make sure my heart is still beating and I'll let you know." The demon dropped back into an office chair. "What are you doing here? I thought nobody used this office after hours."
Spike scratched the back of his head. "We're here at the request of the bloke who owns the business. According to him, you're not on the payroll."
"Ah. Yes. Well. I thought I was being careful. What gave me away?"
Dawn nodded to glistening puddle under Bevan's chair. "Your fright response is a bit of a giveaway."
Bevan twitched in embarrassment. "Oh. Don't take this the wrong way, but you humans are pretty weird looking without your clothes." Dawn nudged Spike in the ribs as he open his mouth the correct the demon. "I accidentally stumbled over some images when I was working here the other night and it, well…"
"Scared the snot out of you?" Spike finished with a smirk as Bevan shrugged.
Dawn on the other hand was interested in what Bevan had found. "There's porn on the computer? Locally or on the LAN?"
Turning back to the computer, Bevan showed Dawn the directory of images. "Locally." He turned away as Dawn leaned over to check the computer, seeing the photos once was enough for him.
Dawn took the opportunity to see what Bevan had been working on, quietly admiring his choice of Mobile Thunderbird as an email client, but saw nothing more incriminating than an email to his family. In Argentina, if the address was anything to go on.
Leaving Bevan's harmless missives home, Dawn took a brief look through the contents of the hard drive. "Nothing too extreme. Although it looks like whoever usually uses this machine has a fetish for women in bondage poses." She looked around the room. The office was bounded by the lobby, the external wall and a small kitchenette. The fourth wall was glass and looked out on the view provided by the external windows. The position of the desk meant the occupant would be able to keep a watchful eye on all of the staff in the rest of the open-plan office space. It could only be Edward's office. Dawn smiled, showing way too many teeth. "If you'd like to shutdown, Bevan, I need to run some software."
The demon sent his message, closed out of his email application and removed his flash drive from the computer. He watched with interest as Dawn connected a small hard drive to the computer, inserted a CD and rebooted. The PC fired up to a DOS prompt and Dawn entered a command that made the lights on her external drive flash like mad. "One of Rachel's toys. She suggested I clone this guy's hard drive. We think he may be a bit dodgy and this should give us an idea of whether we're getting paid for this job or not."
"Cool." Bevan nodded in appreciation, then frowned as he realised he still didn't know where he stood. "So, what happens to me now?"
Tilting her head in thought, Dawn considered the options. She'd caught a brief glimpse of the email Bevan had been working on and recognised the language. Mostly. Her experience was with formal language that was quite often hundreds of years old, not with the living versions and their many dialects and local idioms. "How many languages are you fluent in?"
"English, Spanish, Italian…" Bevan checked off the languages on his fingers. "All of the indigenous demon tongues in the lower half of South America and several variant dialects of related castes in the Mediterranean. Why?"
Digging her phone out her coat, Dawn smiled in delight. "I think I may be able to help." Giles was going to be beside himself at the opportunity to get his hands on a new linguistic specialist. Eying the backpack and sleeping bag under the desk, she just hoped he was excited enough to cover the immediate problem of a safe roof for the night.
"Well, mate." Spike clapped the baffled looking demon on the shoulder. "Care to give me a hand making a little mess?" He snorted in amusement at Bevan's confused look. "Need to orchestrate a little fight scene for the paying customer. Overturn a few chairs, fling some slime about. You know, make it look like we fought the good fight instead of interrupting your evening and politely asking you to move along."
"Or even worse, offering you a job," Dawn added.
"Sorry, what?" Bevan looked from one to the other. He'd always known humans were a little odd, but this pair were nuttier than a fruit cake.
"Let's take it one step at a time." Dawn held her mobile up. "We have a contact who would like to have a chat to you about your linguistic expertise. If you're interested, he's still in his office and wouldn't mind meeting you now. You'll have to discuss pay details with him, but he's assured me that even if you're not interested he can put you in contact with all the Bhukod clan and familial groups in the area." Dawn smiled as a weight appeared to lift from Bevan's shoulders, well, his ears lifted and she may have been misreading her demon body language. She walked back to the computer, disconnected her hardware and shut everything down. "Now, if you wouldn't mind giving us a hand, we can be on our way."
"Could I ask a favour?" Dawn nodded, taken by Bevan's bashful manner. "Where did you get that hat? It's brilliant."
Blinking in surprise, Dawn took the hat off and looked at it, wondering if Bevan's sudden change of fortune had unhinged him. "A friend made it, but if you like it, I'm sure she wouldn't mind you keeping it." Bevan took the hat, removed the clips and happily wiggled his ears through the holes on top. Dawn shook her head, maybe Wolf wasn't quite so weird after all, aside from her appalling colour taste.
Looking quite taken with his new headgear, Bevan shyly knocked over the chair he'd been leaning against, then laughed as Spike scooped up a handful of slime from the mucous puddle and flung it across the glass wall in particularly artful splash.
A little scattered paperwork and rearranged furniture later, they looked at the room in satisfaction. It looked like a room that had been well scuffled in. "Great." Spike checked the watch on Dawn's wrist. "I'll give you five minutes to get out of here to meet the car Giles sent 'round, before I set off the alarm and call Edwards. The cleaning crew will be here inside an hour and we should have a nice show for him."
They had learned from long experience that, while a client may go into denial over exactly what had set up camp on their premises, having them witness peculiar body fluids being removed from the walls gave them the warm, fuzzy feeling that the problem had been rectified with just the right amount of violence and they happily paid their bills.
"See you later." Dawn squeezed Spike's shoulder as he stooped down to boost her up through the false ceiling and he returned her smile. He'd have liked to do more, especially with the job running like clockwork, but there was a time and a place and the job wasn't over yet. He still had the unenviable duty of another round with Nigel Edwards.
Leaning back against an out of kilter cabinet, Spike lit a cigarette and listened as Dawn and Bevan dropped down on the other side of the wall and made their way downstairs. As he picked up the sound of a car door closing and the vehicle pulling away, he opened the door into the rest of the office and set off the alarm. Wincing at the annoying screeching, he shook his head. It wasn't the first alarm he'd set off by a long shot, but it was moments like this when it struck him that his life wasn't exactly what he would have expected. He wouldn't change it for the world.
When Spike wandered into their office later the following morning, he was greeted with bright smiles from Dawn and Rachel. "You're looking pleased with yourselves."
"Course we're happy." Dawn put her feet up on her desk and beamed. "Edwards is deliriously happy at our prompt and professional service."
"He even mentioned something about the cleaning crew removing a nasty red wine stain from an old office party that he thought would be there forever." Rachel looked up from her report. "The man fairly gushed on the phone this morning. You must have impressed him, he was even too chirpy to sleaze."
Rachel had spent several hours pouring over the cloned hard drive of Nigel Edwards' personal computer and had discovered that while his business seemed completely above board and his interest in pornographic imagery, fetishistic if a little distasteful, his email accounts had revealed that he kept a string of girlfriends in tow at once. Her malicious streak would have loved to have found something that would have closed the man down, but letting his girlfriends tear him limb from limb when they found out about each other did have a certain symmetry to it. Rachel was almost disappointed that Edwards had turned out to be so prompt in settling his account.
Spike couldn't help but catch their infectious cheer. "And did we get paid?"
"Yep." Dawn grabbed Spike's arms and spun him around. "The funds were transferred and cleared this morning. There's even the chance he'll send more business our way."
"We did good then?" Spike spun Dawn out and pulled her back into his arms. Laughing as Rachel rolled her eyes at their antics.
"We have a happy client who paid in full and wants to shout our praises. Giles has hired Bevan on as a translator, and a happy Giles is always a good thing. I've put through an order for those ceramic titanium blades you've been wanting. Rachel has shiny new dual 30" Apple Cinema displays on order for the office and I think we've all earned the day off." Beaming, Dawn wrapped her arms around Spike’s neck and pulled his head down to meet her lips in a kiss that had Rachel grinning even as she made mock gagging noises at them.
Smiling at the happy bundle of excited Dawn in his arms, Spike thought himself a lucky man. There were times he dearly missed the freedom to tear something apart with his bare hands on a whim, but it was days like this when he marvelled at the simple pleasures of a job well done. "I trust you can see yourself home, Rachel?"
"Get out of here before I go into a diabetic coma with the googly eyes you're making at each other."
Laughing as he walked out with Dawn on his arm, Spike felt at ease with himself. There were days it was definitely good to be the boss.
leni_ba's cya_ficathon master list for biggrstaffbunch — dawn/spike, no buffy, post-chosen/post-nfa
Part of the London!verse and the Wolf&Declán!verse
Many thanks to the luscious moonbeamsfanfic for volunteering as beta, any leftover weirdness is all my fault.