By L.A. Ward and Sanguine
Chapter Seven: In Need and In Deed
"Do you think they'll get through?" Dawn asked.
"No," Xander lied.
"Probably." Buffy sighed.
Dawn was quiet for a moment before lifting her chin. "We'll deal." They continued walking down the passageway though Dawn occasionally glanced over her shoulder. She asked Buffy, "Do you know where we're going?"
"Of course she does," Xander answered.
"Not a clue." Buffy stopped walking, pointed her flashlight in one direction then the exact opposite. "Have we been here before? I feel like we're walking in circles."
"God, I hope not."
Dawn squinted. "Wait a minute." She reached up to touch the red X painted on one of the pipes running overhead. "Hold on." She walked down the passage, paused, then knelt to find a metal handle on a hatch door. Dawn grinned. "I know where we are. If we go this way, we're only about a hundred feet from the basement entrance of the Magic Box."
"How do you know that?" Buffy frowned. "Have you been in these tunnels? Who have you been hanging out with?"
Dawn's and Buffy's gazes locked.
"Oh," Buffy realized. =He-whose-name-cannot-be-mentioned.= She opened the hatch door. "I guess we should get going."
Xander held back and looked up at the ceiling. "Uh...you know, there must be a manhole or something around here."
Buffy could almost feel the little lines forming on her forehead as she gazed at her friend. "Xander, we know the way out."
"Yeah, but there must be another way."
Dawn rolled her eyes. "Jeez! Get over it, Xander. Anya won't bite your head off. She might wish your head or your. . .erm. . .*whatever* to explode or grow warts and fall off, but I don't think she can grant her own wishes. You're safe."
"I am not afraid of Anya."
Buffy braced her hands on her hips. "Just doing an amazing impression?"
"I just think there has to be another way."
"Okay, look, I understand why you're standing here kicking the gooey-red slime. I understand being less than 'go team!' about running to Anya. But we have a bazillion creepy critters back there wanting us for snacks. We don't know how to kill them. We don't even know what they are. We also have an 1100 year old walking demon encyclopedia a hundred feet away who, given what she did when Willow went all apocalypsy, will probably help us. So, to quote Cher, snap out of it!" She walked through the door, paused and looked back. "Coming with?"
"What makes you think she would even help?" He sounded annoyed and defensive. "We're not super-popular with her."
"Anya helped before. She was angry and hurt and she helped." Buffy's gaze locked with Xander's. "That's what friends do."
God, what he wouldn't give for a fag. Spike hadn't brought any smokes with him. He had figured the Council would frown on that sort of thing, and he'd lost most of his taste for it anyway. But a nicotine buzz would be helpful at the moment.
He paced the Council's garden glad to have escaped the torture session. Who knew that talking about himself could be torture? It hadn't used to be. He had always loved to talk. Of course, no one other than Bit had ever bothered to listen.
Talking to Dawn, and one night of quasi-fictional havering with Buffy had been the extent of his putting his lifeó-or unlifeó-into words. At least it had been until tonight when heíd had to relate it all to strangers. Looking at his existence, examining it, was something of a thankless task. Wish he hadnít done it. Wish he hadnít done a lot of things.
"I thought Lestat didnít brood?"
Spike looked up to find Willow standing in the doorway. Her hair was clean and glowed like burnished copper again. The dark circles under her eyes were gone. She looked better.
"Not brooding," he protested. "Just taking a break and stepping out for a smoke."
Willow arched an eyebrow.
"Only without the smoke." He tilted his head. "Wouldnít happen to have a fag on you, would you, Red?"
She gave a ghost of her old smile. "Are you trying to corner me into making a gay joke?"
"Not really, but wouldnít be a bad thought. Lighten the gloom around here."
Willow stepped into the garden, her shoes crunching against the pea gravel path. "Thank you," she said softly.
Spike looked at Willow with shock.
Willow rushed on to say. "I know what the Council told Giles, and . . . and I know youíre helping me." She ducked her head. "And I know I said a lot of. . . things. Mean things." She raked her hand through her hair. "And I know if you hadnít found me that night, I wouldnít have crawled out of that gutter."
Spike shrugged and said with self deprecation, "You fall in the gutter, youíre bound to land on something undesireable."
Willow caught his sleeve and stopped Spike from pacing. "I wouldnít even be alive."
He searched her face as if her expression could reveal some deeper truth. "You mean that?"
She blinked. "Of course, I mean that. You dragged me out-ó"
Spike waved his hand as if to erase his last statement. "No. What I mean is, are you okay with being alive? You want it?"
"No more suicidal Willow?"
Willow didnít answer immediately. She thought about it. She took so long Spike began to wonder if she was going to answer at all. She found a bench near the roses and sat down. "Pretty much. I think so. Most of the time." She sighed. "Not much of an answer, huh?"
He understood it though. It was more or less what he felt as well.
Willow appeared to look inward as she explained, "I donít think I want to die. I donít think I ever *really* did. I just wanted the pain to stop."
"It hasnít though, has it?" It was too soon and the things that had happened were too awful to go away because they were inconvenient.
"Away? No. But Iím handling it better now. It takes time, I think."
Spike leaned against a tree, picking at its bark. "Yeah."
"Thank you for that. For the time." Willow lifted her gaze to meet his. "You helped me live."
His thoughts swung back Buffy dressed in lavender as she stood in the wreckage of his crypt. ~I canít love you. Iím just being weak and selfish and itís killing me.~ Spike swallowed convulsively.
"You helped me," Willow said softly.
He gazed at the young witch, slender and pale, but better than she had been only a week before. Her skin was no longer pasty and sallow. Her eyes no longer. . .dead. Willow was alive and healing. And he had helped her? "Thank you, Red," he said hoarsely.
"Hey, Iím the one making with the overdue thank yous."
"Still, thank you." He sincerely meant it.
"No, thank *you.*"
Spike almost smiled. "Now, weíre headiní into a Vaudville comedy routine, Pet."
"The Chipped Vampire and the Powered-Down Witch? More fun than a barrel of monkeys."
"Theyíre not that fun, you know." He pushed away from the tree.
Willow gave him an odd look as she stood.
Spike confessed, "Dru tried to fill a barrel with them once. Got ugly. Nasty little buggers bite."
And to both of their surprise, they laughed.
When working for Wolfram and Hart, one grew used to hearing about the latest plan to destroy the world. Everyone from the sixth floor janitor to the run-of-the-mill MíFhashnik demon had some overly elaborate plot to bring existence to an end. However, it was also a fact that most of these plans didnít stand a chance in any hell dimension of succeeding. That suited Lilah just fine. She was quite happy to see the world not end as long as the MíFashnik paid her retainer fee.
But, as she sat in the middle of a fashionable L.A. restaurant decorated in a dark palette of eggplant, indigo, and burgundy, Lilah felt extremely uncomfortable about the plan she was hearing.
"All of our firmís resources will be at your disposal," Linwood Murrow, her boss, assured the client.
Gavin, that brownnoser, agreed. "I will personally assist you in any way that I can."
But, as Lilah reviewed the clientís list of requests, her concerns grew. How could Linwood promise to do this?
Lilah looked at the client. He was a handsome man with blond hair, aquiline features and pale blue eyes. She had read Wolfram and Hartís file on him, but seeing him in human form was a shock. He was not what she expected.
The client checked his watch. "I should be returning to Sunnydale."
Linwood nodded. "Yes, of course. But, first, a toast."
Lilah raised her glass of Sauvignon Blanc.
Linwood smiled. It was his scariest expression. "To the end of the world."
"To the end of the world." And the clientís crystal flute clinked against her own. He finished his drink and left the restaurant before Lilah voiced her concerns.
"How can we do this?" she asked.
Gavin smirked. "You wouldnít be having an ethical crisis would you?"
"Donít be absurd." She looked at Linwood. "Have you read this list?"
"Why, yes, I have." Linwood refilled his glass.
She grew impatient. "And some of his requests are impossible, or have you forgotten that Darla has been dusted? Again."
Linwood sipped his wine with a placid expression. "I havenít forgotten."
"Then thereís the fact that Angel is in a steel box under the Pacific."
Gavin started laughing. "Iím sorry," he apologized to Linwood. "That never fails to amuse me."
"Yes, you find it amusing, Gavin," Lilah snapped. "*I* find it amusing. But our client seems to want us to produce Angel. And short of hiring the man who found the Titanic, how do we fish a vampire out of the Pacific when we donít know where he is?"
Linwood signaled the waiter to bring the bill. "Youíre worrying over unnecessary details, Lilah."
"Unnecessary details? The listó"
"Isnít important. Things will fall into place."
She swirled her wine in her glass and sat back in her seat. "How? How can things possibly fall into place? We canít supply half the things on this list. We canít resurrect Darla again. We havenít seen Drusilla since Angel set her on fire-ó"
"It will work out," Linwood said emphatically. "If one part is missing, another will arrive to fill its place. Itís all part of the prophecy." He signed the credit card receipt.
"Prophecies can be averted," Lilah insisted. "Or, as we learned with Sahjhan, faked."
"Perhaps certain prophecies can be averted or faked, but this is not just any prophecy. Lilah, weíre talking about the End of Days. The world as we have known it *will* end. Itís a foregone conclusion." He patted her hand in an infuriatingly patronizing manner. "Everything will fall into place."
Continued in Chapter Eight: We All Fall Down