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In a half forgotten dream

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This story is No. 6 in the series "That the autumn leaves were turning". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Buffy and Willow go look for the missing Wombles which leads to more trouble than they were expecting...

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Literature > Childrens/Teen(Current Donor)vidiconFR18422,2790152,8807 Sep 121 Dec 12Yes

Books and Burrows

Author’s Note:

Thanks very much to my Beta, Letomo.  And to Cordyfan for advice.

The following ways of notation may be found in this story. This is excluding whatever I need to represent chatting, texting and stuff like that.

Speech: “Who’s on first.”

Thought: *What’s on second.*

Vision: #I-don’t-know’s on third.#

Chinese: »Who’s that?«

Latin: ~Who’s who?~

Telepathy: %Who’s that in my mind?%

I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Angel, they were created by Joss Whedon. I do not own the Famous Five, they were created by Enid Blyton. Narnia and Susan Pevensie were created by C.S. Lewis. The Wombles are the creation of Elisabeth Beresford.

In a half -forgotten dream

Chapter 1, Books and Burrows

Buffy sighed as she looked out of the window at the pouring rain. “Why did we decide to live in London again?” she asked Willow, who was sitting by the dining table with a weird collection of books on physics and mag sprad all around her.

“Hmmm?” Willow was deep in her study of the thin, tattered notebook Kennedy had procured for her in Germany. Willow had not inquired too deeply as to how she had managed to convince the owners of the shop to sell it. Willow hoped that it merely involved a lot of money, but she was too enthralled by the find to dig deeper. And felt guilty about it. She wondered how much it would cost to airfreight cookies to Munich.

“Why did we decide to settle here?” Buffy asked with an indulgent smile on her face. Since the encounter with the Casarua Willow had been concentrating very hard on her magic, frightened by the power of the creature and the damage it had nearly done.

“Because it’s convenient for shopping?” Willow teased, looking at Buffy’s new calf-high leather boots.

Buffy stuck out her tongue. “When it’s not raining. Ugh,” she scowled out of the window. “I can’t believe I promised I’d help to clear out the lower levels of that Womble Burrow! I have to go out in this!”

Willow rose gracefully from her chair and moved over to hug Buffy. “Now, now, we’ll both go there and it won’t be as bad once you’re inside.”

Buffy smiled and pecked the redhead on the lips. “I suppose. And we do need to find those other missing Wombles.”

“Yes, we do,” Willow shuddered. “I really could have done without that ‘1001 uses for bits of Womble’ lecture that Spike gave us.”

Buffy sniggered. “Yeah, but it was kinda cool to see him get head slapped by George.”

“She’s making him come with us, to apologize and atone,” Willow sniggered back.    

“Wonder what the Wombles will think of that…” Buffy sighed and looked at the clock. “Well, it’s not going to clear up. Let’s go down to the lobby and see who’s shown up.”

Willow looked at the notebook. Buffy rolled her eyes and grabbed Willow’s witching bag and her own bag of gear and then hoisted Willow over he shoulder.

“BUFFY!” Willow complained, loudly. “Put me down!”

“Nope. Remember the agreement? Well, you’re obsessing over that thing. I don’t care how important you think it is. You haven’t touched your tea or your sandwich,” Buffy pointed at the table where the cup of tea she’d brought Willow earlier sat stone cold and the sandwich had hardened into a brick-like consistency.

“But Buffy! Eeep!” Willow glared at Buffy who had delivered a warning slap to her rear and was now heading for the door, two bags and a witch over her shoulders.

“Yes?” Buffy asked, quite calmly.

“This is humiliating, let me down!” Willow demanded.

Buffy looked side ways at the curve of Willow’s butt. “Nope, the view’s just too good.”

Willow sputtered. “Buffy!”

“Do you promise not to complain about not being able to study that notebook? Will you promise that when we stop and get you something to eat you will eat it, and drink as well? Do you promise not to study it for at least twenty-four hours after we get back?” Buffy demanded.

“Oh come on, Buffy, I’m not a child!” Willow objected as the door opened and Buffy stepped into the hallway, closed the door and locked it.

“I told you to come to bed with me at eleven last night. How late was it when you finally went to bed?” Buffy asked quietly.

Willow swallowed. “Three-thirty?”

“Closer to four,” Buffy replied. “Do you remember that I called you to come to bed three times?”

Willow shook her head. “No.”

“Do you remember when I put that tea and that sandwich by your elbow?” Buffy’s voice was still quiet.

Willow bit her lip. “No. I’m sorry.”

“It was hours ago. Well?” Buffy demanded.

“Okay. I promise,” Willow answered in a tiny voice. “I’m sorry.”

Buffy gently put Willow down. “I’m sorry for being high-handed, but it seemed the only way to get through to you. And we did promise each other to take care of each other and stuff.”

Willow leaned in and kissed Buffy, grinning. “And stuff. I love you, Buff.”

“I love you too, Will. C’mon, we’ve got Wombles to find.”

*******

The group in the downstairs meeting room wasn't huge, but it was rather larger than a typical Slayer Strike Group. Besides Buffy and Willow it included Heidi and Millie, as well as three trainee Slayers overseen by Emma Knight and one of Willow's fellow witches, a tall, young man with fluorescent green glasses called Timothy. He wore combat fatigues and carried a battered leather satchel with spell components. George, looking determined, and a rather sheepish looking Spike completed the group.

“Okay, everybody know why we are here?” Buffy asked as she mounted the small rostrum.

“To find the Wombles, take out what took them, and don't die!” The three trainees chorused, raising their swords and crossbows and waving them in the air.

“Yeah, that goes triple for you, Buff,” Willow warned sotto voce.

Buffy grinned. “Hey, I've never had this much to live for before,” she looked over her troops and then at Emma Knight who was inspecting a rather serious looking submachine gun. “Are they ready?”

Emma nodded. “They're all armed, as well briefed as we can make them and eager. Except for Spike.”

George thumped Spike on his shoulder and Spike grunted. “I'm eager. I'm all sorts of eager. As eager as one of Baden-Powell's bloody boys.”

Buffy grinned. “Okay, the cars are outside-”

“We're driving!” Spike, Willow and Emma chorused before one of the Slayers could do so.

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Buffy pouted cutely as they drove the two vans to Hyde Park. “I'm a much better driver than I was, you know,” she complained to Willow

“Sure you are, Sweetie. That still means that we mortals cower whenever you get behind the wheel of a car.”

Buffy smirked. “Cower? You've been hanging with Giles too much, Will.”

“Actually, I've mostly been hanging with Emma, discussing magic and science and stuff, but she's British too, and older than Giles, so she speaks even Britisher,” Willow replied as she flicked on her indicator light.

“Britisher?” Buffy giggled. “Don't let Emma or Giles hear that. They might tell Her.”

Willow rolled her eyes. “Oh really Buffy. It's not like I'll ever meet Her.”

Buffy cleared her throat. “Errr... actually.... errr... Gilesmaysortahavetoldherwe'retogetherandshewantstomeetmyConsort,” she rushed out.

Willow blanched and almost threw the car into a spin. “WHAT? Buffy! I can't meet with the Queen! I'm just Willow Rosenberg and she's the Queen! What will I talk about? Wear? I'll- I'll faint!”

“Willow, calm down!” Buffy breathed a sigh of relief when Willow visibly took hold of herself and regained control of the car.

“Sorry,” Willow muttered. “You were joking, right?” she pleaded,

Buffy didn't reply but pulled out a Special Investigations branch card and slotted it into the holder behind the window. It would allow them to park just about anywhere without repercussions.

“Buff?” Willow asked again.

“She asked for you by name, Will. Miss Willow Danielle Rosenberg. Sorry,” Buffy apologized. Buffy very carefully did not add the slew of titles that Her Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary had added to that name. Though Consort of the Slayer did send a tingle down her spine each time she heard or read it. 

Willow groaned. 'Great. Wonderful. Next it will be the President.”

Buffy winced. “Ah... He and the First Lady may have expressed an interest in meeting us both if we ever get back to the States.”

Willow's eyes widened and her grip on the wheel must be almost painful, so white were her knuckles. “Oh.”

“Will, you're one of the strongest, bravest women I know. You've faced countless evils. You can meet with a Queen and a President,” Buffy soothed.

Willow nodded. “Sure. Right. I can't be sick on the day?”

“Willow!” Buffy glared.

“Yeah, okay. Just joking,” Willow smiled. That was me making a joke,” *Okay, need to make an untraceable potion to make me ill about three days before the visit. You can do this, Rosenberg!*

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The vans having been parked in Hyde Park the group made its way towards the front entrance of London's main Womble Burrow.

George was on point and Buffy guarded the rear with many backwards glances, since Willow trailed the main group, walking between them and Buffy, muttering and kicking stones. Spike fell back to talk to Buffy.

“What's up with Red?” He asked. 'You two have a fight?”

Buffy gave him a look. “Maybe a little one. The Queen wants to meet her and Will is nervous.”

Spike grimaced. “Ah, she wants to meet me too. Haven't met her since she was a nipper. Haven't done much since the Korean War. Couple of jobs behind the Iron Curtain, but nothin' important enough to meet Her Majesty.”

”A nipper?” Buffy asked confused.

“Small girl. Well, teenager, it was after World War II. I met her before that too,” Spike stuck a toothpick in his mouth and glared at Buffy to say something about it.

Buffy shook her head. “I still can’t get my head around that you’ve been a good guy for so long.”

Spike chuckled, a trifle bitterly. “I wasn’t good, Buffy. Don’t ever think I was good. I was useful; I had a license to kill. I had the backing of the British Government and could literally get away with murder. I was the hatchet man and assassin they used when they didn’t want to seem involved. I gladly murdered, tortured, raped and killed and sometimes my pleasure and the government’s interests lay alongside each other,” he glanced ahead at where George was walking, all her senses sharp, head moving from side to side as she scanned her surroundings.  

“I considered Turning George. Make her my Childe,” Spike spoke softly, as if to himself.

Buffy gasped.  She also noted the slight tension that suddenly gripped George’s shoulders.

“There was something about her… If my experiences with Turning had been better, I would’ve done it,” he smirked at Buffy and winked. “And if I thought there’d been half a chance of getting her and Dru in the same bed with me I wouldn’t have hesitated either.”

George spun and glared, saw Spike’s smug expression, Buffy’s slightly amused one, huffed, turned and stalked towards the burrow.

Buffy looked at Spike. “She's making you sleep on the couch tonight, I hope you realize that?”

Spike grinned. “Haven’t done anything else, Luv. No, George isn’t ready and I won’t push her. I love her, but she’s magnificent when she’s angry and I can never resist teasing her.”

Buffy saw that a small amount of tension left George’s shoulders again. “And Dru?”

Spike shrugged. “Dru’s my Sire. Hard to explain to a non-vampire. There will always be a place in my heart for Dru. And in Annie’s as well, I know.”

George whirled and strode to Spike. “Okay, you’ve teased her with that for years, William! I want to know what it means!”

Spike sniggered. “Ah, now there’s a tale to tell… But I won’t tell you now. I want Annie to be there, in full blush.”

Willow had fallen back now and opened her mouth, obviously hoping to get the story now, but George held up a hand. “Is this something Susan should hear?”

Spike grinned. “I think she’d be very amused.”

George nodded. “Good. But it will be soon, Wil!”

Spike leaned in and kissed her. “It will, Luv, it will.”

Buffy’s glance at Willow confirmed she wasn’t the only one who thought there was a lot of meaning in that phrase.

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Outside the Womble Burrow

The door into the Hyde Park Burrow was large and round and incredibly well hidden, Buffy had to admit again. It was also beautifully carved once you knew it was there and could see it for what it was.

The door was guarded by a large young Womble called Anchorage who tried to look impressive. His attempt was rather derailed by the presence behind him of the even larger Tomsk, the vast breadth of his shoulders and the calm coolness of his gaze a marked contrast to his untested junior.

“Hello Tomsk!” Buffy called out cheerfully.

“Miss Buffy,” Tomsk bowed with old fashioned politeness, a gesture that was returned by Spike.

Tomsk eyed the vampire impassively. “You may enter this Burrow, Vampire. But if you harm one of my family, I will stake you.”

Spike snorted and stepped inside. “As threats go that is not one of the best, mate.”

Tomsk made a small gesture and Spike turned to look. A blunt fence post stood just outside the Burrow's entrance. “It depends on what route one takes to the heart and how long it takes to get there.”

Spike looked at the stake for a bit, then turned and grinned. “Now that is a threat! Well done. C'mon Luv. We've got a Womble Patriarch to meet.” He offered George his arm and after a moment's hesitation she accepted it.

Buffy looked in bemusement at the couple as the walked down the broad, well lit passage. “He seems quite comfortable here.”

“The Vampire known as Spike negotiated an amount of Womble blood with then Uncle Bulgaria in 1914, after an assault by Hishorlik demons decimated our numbers. In exchange he destroyed the tribe of Hishorlik as well as two tribes of Grethek and three nests of vampires. He did nail one of the vampires to our front door, as a 'bit of a lark', but otherwise was honourable in his dealings with us,” a warm baritone came from behind Tomsk and Wellington stepped in sight. “Miss Buffy, Magistra Rosenberg.”

“Womble blood? What did he want that for?” Buffy asked, wrinkling her nose in disgust.

Wellington shrugged his sloping shoulders. “Apparently we taste good and for vampires the blood has medicinal value. I believe he used it to help suppress the visions and accompanying headaches of his then paramour, a vampiress called Drusilla.”

Willow looked thoughtful but her underlying curiosity was clear to Buffy. “I don't suppose I could get a small amount of Womble blood to see if I can divine anything from it? I would exchange some of my own as a gesture of good faith.”

Wellington smiled. “I will suggest it to Great-grand Uncle Bulgaria. Come, he's waiting for you.”

The Womble Burrow was rather different from the last time Buffy had been there. It felt warmer and more secure somehow. More like a home and less like a hole in the ground. She could see that the others had similar reactions. Even Emma Knight's habitual combat-ready stance lessened, until she was more like a purring house cat than the tiger barely holding back from pouncing she usually was.

Buffy moved towards Willow, who was discussing her plans with Timothy. “Now, you will remain here. Your primary focus is towards combat and the Wombles are woefully short of combat oriented magic.”

Buffy touched Willow's shoulder and the redhead turned. “Yes, Buffy?”

Buffy made slight gesture and Willow followed her into a side passage. “Well?”

“Will, what's going on in here? Everybody is relaxing. It's as if there's a huge 'Sunnydale Syndrome' spell on this place to make you feel safe and comfortable,” Buffy hissed.

Willow blinked and then giggled. “Oh dear, safe and comfortable? The horror!”

Buffy glared. “It's not funny, Will. Something is going to jump out of the shadows and eat one of the Kiddies, I can feel it! This can't be a coincidence!”

Willow put a soothing hand on Buffy's shoulder. “Buff, don't worry. It isn’t an enemy. Come on, I'll explain once we're there.”

Buffy gave her girlfriend a dubious look. “Okay, but if anything jumps out and eats a kiddy, I'm so totally blaming you!”

Willow rolled her eyes in amused exasperation. “Silly. Come on.”

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The group had split up, the three young Slayers and the junior support witches being taken to see a game of  'Wombles and Ladders' under the supervision of Timothy, Heidi and Millie, while the senior members of the expedition were headed to meet the Womble leadership. The door to the Womble Patriarch's office was a beautifully carved single piece of oak, inlaid with semi-precious gems and representing a woodland scene. Willow gazed at it thoughtfully before knocking and opening the door at the call to enter.

Great Grand-Uncle Bulgaria looked old and white and wise. He sat in front of a fake fire in a beautiful Adam fireplace, the gas flames licking around the artificial logs.

He rose rather shakily and smiled broadly over his three pairs of glasses. “Ah, welcome. It is ever so good to see you again. I thank you for assisting us in this, after all the aid you already provided.”

Spike glanced around. “S'nice. Better than your last place. Neither wet with bits of worm or sandy or dry with nothing to sit on,” he plumped down on of the low seat, put his feet up on the seat opposite and smirked.

To Buffy's surprise Bulgaria, George and Willow all smiled or chuckled. Though George did flip Spike's boot-clad feet of the seat with a muttered “Behave, William,” before sitting down in the same narrow loveseat the vamp was occupying.

The door opened and a small tea trolley was wheeled in, pushed by Madam Cholet who smiled at all of them warmly. “Hello, Dears,” she gave the humans a look and then tutted, moving the trolley in between Willow and Buffy and handing each girl a plate and heaping it with pastries. “You two look far too thin, and so do you dear,” She added as she turned to George. “Really, doesn't anybody take care of you children?” she scolded them mildly.

Buffy bit into her buttered scone obediently, her eyes on Madam Cholet, and then moving to Willow, narrowing slightly in thought and then her face cleared as realisation struck.

Spike grinned. Then he got handed a mug and his expression changed. “Wow. This smells... Wow...” He looked at the small cut on the grey-furred Womble lady's inner arm and inclined his head in gratitude.

“You looked a bit peaky after the battle with the Casarua, I thought you needed some feeding up, now eat and drink up, dears,” the Womble lady encouraged.

Buffy looked at her girlfriend askance. “Is this what you wanted to show and tell?”

“Buffy!” Willow exclaimed, mortified, sending a pleading and apologetic glance at Madam Cholet, “She didn’t mean it like that; she's just a little blunt sometimes. I'm sorry. Buffy, apologize!”

Buffy, her ears pink looked at the half-eaten scone in her hand and then up at Madam Cholet. “I'm very sorry, that was very rude of me.”

Madam Cholet laughed, her dark eyes gleaming with amusement. “Oh, Mercy deary. I'm not offended. I assume you felt me when you came in and got suspicious? It happens with those who have to be a bit paranoid to survive,” then her good humour left and she patted Buffy's knee. “And you've had to be more than a little paranoid and watchful for a very long time. I think young Willow here will be good for you and you for her. May you be happy, blessed and fertile.”

Willow and Buffy reddened. A slight smile quirked Emma Knight's mouth as she sipped her tea. Spike laughed uproariously until George elbowed him, very lightly and obviously suppressing her own laughter, in the ribs.

“Okay, now I'm good and embarrassed... Willow can you please explain to me what I'm feeling and why Madam Cholet is causing it?” Buffy asked plaintively, her cheeks still tinged with pink.

Willow, rather more red in the face than Buffy, looked at Madam Cholet, got a nod of permission, took a deep breath and began.

“Okay. Earth Mothers. Now as you all know most witches draw our power from the earth, the difference lying in how much power we can hold within ourselves and use and how much internal spiritual power we have. You also know that in certain places, which we call mana points, or Mystical confluences if you're Giles, it is easier to tap into the energy.”

Buffy nodded. “Yeah, you explained that before. You have a great deal of internal power and can draw a lot from outside of you very quickly.”

Willow nodded. “Yes. Now, in some places we can do it better than in others, it is easier to draw in strength. On the Hellmouth it was quite easy to do magic, but the energy was tainted and dark. There are places where the energy is plentiful and pure, but they are rarer. There are many different names for them, nexuses, confluences, mana points, and many of them have been marked in some way by standing stones and such things. Stonehenge used to be one, but the leylines changed. It’s still a powerful place, but no longer as great as it once was.”

“Okay, I get that,” Buffy nodded. “So, what about Earthmothers?”

“Earthmothers are like manapoints, but they are people. They unconsciously gather vast amounts of power from around them, and other witches can use it,” Willow explained.

Buffy eyed the rotund elderly Womble lady. “So like a sort of battery?”

Willow opened her mouth to reprimand her girlfriend, then nodded. “Yes, I suppose so, though I think it is a rather more mystical and beautiful thing than 'battery'.”

Madam Cholet chuckled. “I can live with it dear, batteries are very useful things.”

Willow smiled, “Okay. Well, they have this ability to give strength to others but they also emanate an aura. Not all Earthmothers are good. Good Earthmothers emanate an aura of love and safety and home. Evil Earthmothers one of discomfort, fear and a need to be elsewhere.” 

Buffy nodded. “So me feeling like this place is warm and homely is not a bad thing?”

“No, it's exactly how things should be,” Willow smiled.

“And why didn't I feel it before, when we came here the first time? And met Madam Cholet?” Buffy demanded.

“You did. Without it most of us would have suffered a good deal worse from the Casarua. Without Madam Cholet I don't think that the Wombles could have stayed here,” Willow asserted.

Madam Cholet nodded sadly. “We thought it was just ghosts, a malign influence. Possibly even the remaining aura from the great slaughter that led to the original inhabitants of this Burrow to abandon it. But the power of the Casarua was greater than all that. It ate away at my power, preventing me from keeping my Family safe.”

Buffy bit into her scone, finishing it, then took and ate another. “Okay. Now we've looked through all the rooms in the Casarua complex and we've found no Wombles. So we can be sure that all your missing have to be elsewhere. Can we track them with magic?”

Willow pursed her lips. “Ordinarily the power of Wombles prevents them from being seen. Most people ignore them. Divination tends to just slide off them. But I think I've got an idea that might work, get past that natural defence.”

Madam Cholet looked interested. “What do you have in mind, dear?”

“I want to use you as my power source and as an amplifier, feeding the spell back into you so that we both use our power and your love for your Family. Together with the blood-bond and some hair and such we need to get from their beds and brushes, I think that we should be able to track them,” Willow was sketching as she spoke, writing on a pad, intricate flows of magic and neat formulas, a short poem that was the actual spell.

Madam Cholet nodded approvingly. “Oh, very nice. I really need to get Alderney to look at this, and perhaps some of the younger girls as well. And maybe Adelaide... Bulgaria, do look at this, it's marvelous.”

The old Womble looked at the pad, flipping through the pages, rubbing one white ear with one white paw. “Yes, yes. It flows. It is like I can feel the energy move even on the page. Very good, Magistra Rosenberg.”

Willow blushed. “Thank you. But… Ummm, you said you wanted to show this to younger girls? Are there many witches among you?”

Great-grand uncle Bulgaria smiled. “Mostly Earthmothers, actually. But very few have power as great and developed as Cholet here. Most of our girls would be hard put to provide energy to light a candle.”  

Willow’s eyes widened. “B-but they all have the power? That’s incredible! That- that’s awesome! In all of recorded history of the Covens there have only been three!”

Madam Cholet smiled. “Well, we'll be able to tell you a lot about it then, won't we?”

“Later. Wombles before knowledge,” Buffy spoke up. “Okay, all the Wombles who disappeared were outside, working? Either here or on Wimbledon Common?”

“And a few in James and Green Park. We've got small colonies for some of our younger and more adventurous family members there, some from out of town,” Bulgaria rose. “Wellington marked the locations and numbers on this map,” he tapped a map of London with his cane. It was well tacked up on a piece of soft board hung on a wall and obviously used for happier things most of the time. The words 'Yearly Outing – Locations' were written above it.

Willow tapped her lips with two fingers. “Fourteen... Seven male, seven female...”

'What? Oh, bugger, not him!” Spike groaned.

“Spike? You know something?” Buffy asked.

Spike nodded and leaned forward, “Might. It was during the Boxer Rebellion, there was a man who wanted to start a Pan-Asian Empire and live forever, not necessarily in that order.”

“Okay and what does he have to do with this?” Willow gestured at the map.

Spike sighed. “He had Dru and Darla. He wanted me and the Poof to gather a lot of ingredients he needed to increase his longevity and power. He wanted 'three male and three female gatherers from the snow.'”

“Yeti,” Great-Grand-Uncle Bulgaria said coldly. “You got them for him?”

Spike snorted. “Does it look like we've been conquered by a Pan-Asian empire? He kidnapped the girls! He had Dru!”

“Then how is he alive, if he was human?” Willow pondered.

“I said increase his longevity. From what I gathered he was at least eighty when I met him, possibly older. He looked to be in his early thirties,” Spike explained. “But if it is him, he'll most likely be found in the Docks, or at any rate near the river.”

He gazed thoughtfully at the map, and then pointed. “Here. I think he's here. Good escape routes, central location.”

“You mean near the Tube and the river and in a good area of town?” Willow concluded after studying the location. “Like a rich tourist or businessman?”

“Yes. He no longer has to act like a second-class visitor, like before. And it's been long enough ago that people have forgotten about him,” Spike's eyes were hard.

“You seem to dislike him, rather?” George had risen and had put a long-fingered and shapely hand in Spike's calloused rough one. It seemed to calm the vampire down immediately.

“He has a superiority complex the size of China,” Spike stated. “Tosser.”

George sighed. “So, what is he called? Or was? Who are we looking for?”

“A man once called the Devil Doctor. A man called Fu Manchu.” 

End Note:

And here is the introduction of this ‘season’s’ Big Bad. Fu Manchu is the creation of Sax Rohmer.

 
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