Author's Notes: Once again, sorry for the delay. Don't really have an excuse this time, except that I have lost my steam for this fic. I feel it's gotten tired, and dragged out. Like I should have ended it a chapter or two ago. But here I am again, and I am going to finish this come hell or high water. The other problem is that I am so jazzed about writing my next fic, it's taking all my willpower not to just stop this one and start the other. Many thanks to the folks at the TWoP board, namely, Nautibitz and Cousinjean, for urging me on. And as always, thanks to my beta, Fleisch, cos' without her, this fic would be crap.
With all the dying trees I scream...
The angels in my dreams,
Have turned to demons of greed that's me...."
Soul to Squeeze, Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Spike had slept for most of the day. An exhausted sleep that had apparently kept him from dreaming. Small blessing that it was. She had been checking on him from time to time, and he had barely shifted position. Aside from the slightly creepy picture he presented, a corpse in her bed, she was grateful. She had other things to deal with.
The rest of the Scoobies plus two arrived at sunset. Ready to deal with the continuing threat of the now Duo of Nerds. Among other things.
"So, are we going to tell him?" Willow asked, twisting her hands in her lap. Buffy pretended not to notice.
"The chip. Warren and Andrew. All of it. Are we going to tell him?"
That was an interesting question. First off, telling Spike about the chip could be.....She didn't know what it could be. But she trusted him, right? That was important. He was just so messed up right now. He probably wouldn't want to deal with it at all. Would he?
Her troubled thoughts manifested outwardly with her drawing her hands through her hair, and heaving a deep sigh.
"I don't know Will. I just...." she sighed again. "I don't know."
"I don't think we should. I'm still worried about him going all Angelus on us," Xander spoke, shooting a pointed glance in the direction of Angel, who promptly began to ignore him.
"But if he just found out, by accident?" Tara shifted in her seat, glancing around the living room. "Wouldn't that be worse? He would feel betrayed."
Buffy brought up her hand, silencing them.
"Well, he's not exactly up and about right now, so we'll wait until he's better, okay?" If he ever gets better. "Right now, we need to focus on those god-damned nerds."
Everyone blinked in surprise at Buffy's language. But she ignored them and forged on.
"Xander, when you went to the police station, did they say exactly if Andrew and Warren had escaped or were just unaccounted for?"
"Unaccounted for. But I'd bet my life they were the ones that blew up the station."
"Alright, so we'll assume the worst and say....."
"....they've escaped. So where will we find them?...."
The soft voices floated up the stairwell, murmurs so light that only a vampire could understand them.
Well, that had to be one of the top ten most horrible ways to wake up.
For a moment, blind panic clutched at Spike's throat, but he pushed it away. They were just two bloody humans. No threat to him. As they had so amazingly proved over the past couple of weeks. Fuck.
He sat up in bed and looked warily around the room, as if the two harmless humans were waiting in the shadows for him. Bloody irrational fear. He was tired, so damned tired of being afraid. He had faced Slayers, the Boogiemen of his kind, with no fear. Probably because it was also fun as hell. But this....
Suddenly, being naked wasn't the greatest idea in the world.
He stumbled out of bed, eyes frantically searching the darkened room for his pants. He prayed to whoever would listen that Buffy hadn't left them in the bathroom last night.
He pulled them on, wincing a little as the denim caught on his still healing cuts, and quickly grabbed the button-up folded neatly beside them.
The room was becoming claustrophobic, the darkness seeming darker than it actually was. He focused on what he was going to do, rather than the way he felt, striding over to the door and easing it open.
The voices were louder now, of course. Guess the gang's all here.
"Yeah, he seems to be getting better, though he's having nightmares....."
Still talking about him. Though the worry in Buffy's voice was almost enough to send his thoughts into a chorus of 'She cares!', he was sickened by it at the same time. He didn't want to go down there, where they would look at him funny and speak softly and slowly to him, as if he no longer comprehended the English languge. Where they would ask him if he was alright and if he needed anything to the point of nausea.
He slowly pushed the door shut again.
Window it is.
Information about the explosion was coming in slowly. Angel was calling old informants. The news was endlessly giving updates, mostly the same story over and over, but occasionally, something new would 'develop'.
"Buffy..." Angel said softly, drawing her attention to him. "They just pulled Andrew's body from the rubble. Warren is still missing."
She stared blankly at him for a moment. How awful was it that she didn't care about the boy's death? She wasn't glad, no, but she wasn't upset about it. It had probably been his own fault, messing with explosives. What was worse -- she dearly hoped Warren's body followed those of his friends. That slightly freaked her out.
"Alright, so we don't have to worry about Andrew. Just Warren. You guys...keep looking...or watching...or whatever.... I'm going to check on Spike...."
She trudged up the stairs, pushing her hair away from her face. What in the hell was she going to tell him? 'Yeah, the guy who turned you into a puppy is running around free?' No. 'You know how I promised that Warren would never hurt you again? Well....'
She stopped, frowning. She suddenly noticed she only felt one vampire in the house. Spike's unique signature wasn't detectable at all.
She flew into her room, banging the door against the wall in her haste. Her curtain fluttered in the breeze from the open window. Spike's clothes were gone.
"Guys!" she yelled, and ran back downstairs.
Spike trudged through the cemetery, wondering if this was such a good idea. Just a quick jaunt to the crypt to get some smokes. But his head was pounding again, making him dizzy.
The crypt was much as he left it, a little bit trashed, as if someone, or likely, something, had dug through his stuff recently. Understandable, considering how long he'd been gone.
He dropped through the hole into the bottom level, forgoing the ladder as too slow, stumbling a little when he touched ground again. He plopped down on his bed and started rooting through the dresser next to it.
"He's dead, you know."
The voice made him shudder, and he turned slowly, already knowing who it was. Just. A. Human.
"Who?" he managed, trying to keep his voice nonchalant.
"Andrew." Warren said, stepping closer. "It's your fault, you know."
He was slowly getting more and more angry. Which he figured was a good thing. In with the rage, out with the pain.
He shrugged, finding his smokes, and quickly lighting one.
"Good. What do I care?"
Warren smiled grimly.
"Oh you'll care. Stand up. You're coming with me."
Spike blinked at him, the fear now completely gone.
"Are you daft? That doesn't work anymore, boy."
"How do you know I haven't made another controller, Spot?"
Spike's jaw twitched at the name.
"Use it. Don't give a fuck," he answered, smoke billowing from his mouth as he rose from the bed.
"Oh, I will, Spot. And I'll find a way to collar your Slay-whore too."
Spike raised a brow, flicking the cigarette to the side.
"Is that so?"
"Yeah. If you're good, I might let you play with her when I do."
He shifted into game face, enraged, and launched himself at Warren. He felt something rip through his chest as he tackled Warren to the ground, but the pain didn't even register. His hands were wrapped around Warren's throat, and the boy was making the most pleasing sounds.
"Bastard!" he screamed. "You'll never be good enough to lick her boots!" He tightened his grip, and felt something crumple beneath his fingers with a sickening crunch. Warren's eyes bugged out, and then he was still.
Spike sat back, panting. The demon melted away.
Buffy was gonna be pissed.
Continued in Chapter 16