He stood, tossing the papers back on the table. The others watched, expecting.
"Though Warren wasn't clear on the why, I think I've pinpointed the moment Spike broke." He spoke firmly, his tone all business.
When he didn't elaborate, Buffy gestured for him to continue. He cast a look toward the still sleeping Dawn, before looking back to the Slayer.
"I think we need to know," she responded to his unspoken question.
Angel drew an unneeded breath.
"Alright. It was during one of the all-night sessions he pulled. He was trying to get Spike to tell him about himself. Warren found a scar on his side, made by what appeared to be a knife. When Spike refused to tell him where he had gotten it.....He reopened it. Stabbing him there. It took a few hours, doing it over and over, before he told him. After that, Warren had little trouble with him. He didn't say what Spike had told him; I guess he didn't consider it important. I need to know what happened with that scar. Why it was so important."
No one spoke. Buffy had paled again, hugging her arms around herself tightly. Lorn, most unconnected with the events, shifting in his seat.
"It obviously had to be something he was either ashamed of or afraid of. Right?" he offered.
Willow cleared her throat.
"He was never very...sharey. We would only know if he was hurt when it showed. But...but it had to be recent right? Since it's a scar..."
Angel nodded. "Yes, fairly recent."
"I know." Dawn's voice suddenly broke in.
Everyone turned to look at her. She was sitting up, holding Spike's duster around her.
"Dawnie, you shouldn't have had to hear that..." Buffy started, before her sister cut her off.
"If I hadn't, none of you would know." Her lower lip trembled slightly, but she drew herself up, and put on a brave face.
"That night. With Glory..." she started. "When I was on the tower. Before Buffy had to jump."
Everyone tensed, painful memories surfacing. The fact that the Slayer was back did nothing for the pain her death had caused.
"I sent Spike up there..." Willow remembered.
Dawn nodded, hugging the coat closer. When she spoke again her voice was emotionless, detatched.
"That creepy old man....Doc, was going to cut me, and start the ritual. I saw Spike come up behind him, and I was so relieved...But Doc was too fast. He got around behind Spike and stabbed him...." she held up the duster, showing the clean slice through the side of it. "Here...It must'a hurt a lot, but he tried still. Doc threw him off the tower. He...blamed himself. If he had saved me, Buffy wouldn't have died."
Everyone was silent again for a moment.
"Dawn, why didn't you tell us this?" Tara asked, tears shining in her eyes.
"Because none of you cared!" The girl was close to tears now herself. "None of you wanted to know. Don't tell me if I had, Xander wouldn't have used it as ammo."
Xander swallowed, and remained silent, unable to deny the fact.
Angel took in this news. It was still hard to see his grand-childe denfending a little girl. So unlike the Spike he thought he knew.
"Thanks, Dawn..." he said, sincerely. "I know that was hard, but it helps a lot."
She smiled a little, and leaned back against the wall.
"So, you can fix him?"
"I think I can....I just have to know one more thing." He already suspected, but he had to be sure. "What's the most important thing in Spike's life? I know you guys don't know him that well..."
"That's easy." Willow piped in, eager to help. "Buffy. Or Dawn. Or both." She furrowed her brow.
Angel looked at Buffy to confirm. She nodded slowly.
"He's in love with me."
"Good." Angel said, struggling to control the lingering jealousy in his voice. "Makes what I'm about to do that much easier."
The dream had come again, through the fog. The faceless beast tearing to shreds everything he cared about. He supposed it was a dream; memory couldn't be so shapeless, could it? It didn't matter anyway. He was still trapped, lacking the will to push through the fog to touch where soft voices sometimes filtered through. He had no idea when he had entered the fog. He only knew it was safer there. Let his baser instincts take control. It didn't matter. The need to hide, and be alone.
Parts of him knew what was happening. But he just couldn't seem to care. The fog was comforting, painless. He didn't have to remember there. He didn't have to see the look on his Slayer's face when he had smashed it.
He was somewhere familiar, that he knew as well, but anywhere could be familiar. Every once in a while, someone would come in, feed him, threatening to make the fog disappear. But it always rolled back in, after sleep.
But something had changed. When he woke last, a sliver of fear had touched him, the voice he heard something he remembered from long ago, when he was weak and useless. He had lost something important to that voice. But he couldn't place it. Protective instinct had almost driven him from the fog, but he didn't have the strength to fight it.
Suddenly he realized he was no longer alone. That voice was there again, taunting. He refused to see, to really listen. But it pressed on....
"...Spikey old boy, you should have been there...The way the blood ran...It was pure poetry. You could have written sonnets about it...."
Fear tangling up in the comfort again. He felt his chest rumble as his baser self growled, annoyed by this intrusion. GO AWAY! He wanted to scream, but he couldn't. the voice was getting louder, his weary mind almost hearing it. Like the soft voice of his Slayer when he had been fed last, it had come through. But he didn't want this voice to come through. It was something he didn't want, ever....
"She didn't even put up a fight...The witches were hard, but if you surprise them..."
Witches? Witches...he knew that. He could put names to the images that word brought up. Images? No! If he was remembering, the fog would lift. He could hear it now, the taunting voice. He tried to move his arms, press his hands over his ears. The pain was returning too, the deep throbbing headache.
"...And the little girl? Man, was she tasty. I just can't stop playing with her. So innocent, you know how I love 'em like that. She doesn't even cry anymore."
His eyes snapped open, and the fog shattered.
Angel threw himself fully into the role. It wasn't the first time he had pretended to be Angelus to get something accomplished. Spike was growling full force now, barely taking breaths in between. His blue eyes were showing some vague awareness, and were locked on him.
"And Buffy, she didn't even put up a fight. The witches were hard, but I surprised them, took the stronger one, and the weaker just crumbled. Big and soft she was, like sinking my fangs into a nice, ripe peach. Beautiful."
He tilted his head, pacing in front of his now unchained grand-childe, hands clasped behind his back. He wafted the scent of Buffy's blood, donated from a slice on her palm. They had to make it as real as possible.
"I tore through the boy, made him watch as I took his demon." He grinned, squatting in front of the younger vampire. "Then I strung her up with her own intestines. He didn't put up a fight after that. It was fun to rip him apart. God, is he annoying."
He got closer, his face inches from Spike's, Buffy's blood on his breath.
"And the little girl? Man, is she tasty. I just can't stop playing with her. So innocent, you know how I love 'em like that. She doesn't even cry anymore. I'm thinking of keeping her forever. You want a taste before I do?"
Something flared behind Spike's eyes. A scream ripped from his chest and Angel suddenly found himself across the room with a throbbing jaw. Spike, enraged, coming after him. He leapt quickly to his feet, ready to keep the other vampire from tearing his head off with his bare hands.
"BASTARD!" Spike screamed, pummeling Angel's face with blow after powerful blow. Angel felt his cheek bone crack, but took the punches until he saw his opening.
He ducked under a high punch, and hooked Spike's arm, pulling it behind his back, locking his other arm under the blond's jaw. Spike's rage fueled his strength, and Angel found himself flipped over the blond's back, landing hard on the floor.
"Spike, do you smell anyone else on me?" he started the next step, while scrambling out of the way of a boot to the head. Back on his feet, he danced away from another wild blow.
"Shut up, you bastard, you killed them..." Another sharp blow to the face was landed, and this time, Angel returned it.
"I didn't, Spike, we had to get you back. Don't you smell the soul on me?"
His words were heard, but Spike barely faltered, staggering back from the blow to the nose.
"Doesn't matter. Bit's not a plaything. Gonna kill you..." He threw a hard punch at Angel's chest, which the older vampire caught, holding the wrist tight enough to hurt. The second hand followed and he did the same.
Snarling, Spike tried to break free, but Angel only tightened his grasp, bones creaking.
"Warren can't hurt you anymore, you don't have to hide. They need you, you know."
Spike's face faltered, but he didn't stop struggling, even though his struggles became weaker.
"They don't, they..."
"We do." Buffy said from her place by the door.
Spike froze, his eyes finding Buffy.
"I didn't...." he started, his voice cracking.
"No, you didn't hurt me, Spike..."
One of his arms gave another half-hearted jerk, and Angel released him, causing him to stumble slightly. The elder vampire stepped back, giving Spike room.
He steadied himself, panting, watching Buffy, and now Dawn, who had come in behind her. He choked back a sob.
They didn't speak. They simply came forward, reaching out gently at first, and then quickly when he didn't flinch away, Dawn on one side, Buffy on the other. They wrapped their arms around him, around each other.
He was still for a moment or two. Angel watched as his arms came up and pulled the girls closer, holding them tightly against his chest, burying his face in their hair.
They sank to the floor with him when his knees gave out and held him as he sobbed.
Continued in Chapter 13