DEDICATION: For Colleen, who has provided boundless inspiration and encouragement.
AUTHORíS NOTE: Lines from BTVS episode "The Gift" by Joss Whedon used without permission.
He could hear Dawnís heartbeat pounding as he raced out on the platform. Dawn looked scared but fine, bound at the wrists like some human sacrifice. "Spike!" she cried out, and Doc turned to face him.
"Doesnít a fella stay dead when you kill him?" Spike asked the old man.
"Look whoís talking," he replied.
"Come on, Doc. Let's you and me have a go." Spike lunged forward, and Doc brought up his knife, stabbing the vampire in the shoulder. "Gonna have to do better than that." A flying fist caught Doc in the face, and he flew backwards off the platform. His tongue shot out and he caught a beam, dangling as he struggled to get back up.
Spike rushed to Dawn and severed her bonds. "Run," he instructed her. "Get to Willow." He pulled the bloodied knife out of his shoulder and handed it to her. "Kill anything that gets near you."
"Come with me," she asked tearfully.
"I canít," he said. "I have to finish this. Go, now!" The girl looked at him, her face seized with indecision. Doc crawled up on the platform. "Now!" Dawn ran away, rushing down the stairs.
Doc stood up, a smile on his face. "You canít win, you know that. Youíre just postponing the inevitable."
"Doesnít matter if I win," Spike stated. "Just as long as Buffy does." The demon lunged at him, and the fight began in earnest. Spike fought with all his might, fixing his mind on Dawn, his promise to Buffy. The world collapsed into a blur of sensations: pinpricks of fear and sparks of pain.
One final shove, and Spike stood alone on the platform. He watched Docís screaming face grow smaller as he fell fast towards the earth, landing with a satisfying crunch. Victory was sweet.
Spike ran down the stairs of the tower and stopped on the bottom step. Dawn and Buffy were hugging tightly, crying quietly and whispering to each other. Giles spotted Spike and walked up to him, a pleased look on his face. "Well done," the Watcher said. "Very well done indeed."
A ringing sound interrupted the moment. "Whatís that noise?" Spike asked Giles.
"I think itís your destiny calling," Giles said seriously.
"I donít have a destiny," Spike argued.
Giles smiled at him encouragingly. "Nonsense. Every man has one."
Buffy and Dawn broke apart from their embrace. "Itís not destiny," Dawn said patiently. "Itís your phone."
Spike woke up from his dream and grabbed the cell phone. "Dawn?"
"Guess again," Willow greeted.
"Whatís wrong?" he asked, shaking off sleep. "Is something wrong with Dawn?"
"No, somethingís wrong with your pal Winifred," the witch explained. "According to the records I can find, sheís dead."
"Fredís not dead," he said. "Believe me, Iíd know."
"Winifred Burkle disappeared from the library where she worked on May 7, 1996, and was never seen again. Winifred Langley disappeared from her home in Dallas, Texas in May of 1996, and her skeletal remains were found in Death Valley in October of that year. She was identified by DNA testing. Hereís the interesting thing: Winifred Burkle and Winifred Langley shared the same birthday and Social Security number. It matches on the lease agreement for her apartment, her records at UCLA, California DMV, everything."
"So Winifred Burkle and Winifred Langley were the same person?" Spike said.
"I think so, and hereís where things get really complicated." Willow took a deep breath. "Winifred Langley stood to inherit a multi billion dollar corporation when she turned twenty one. Shortly before she disappeared, she was hospitalized three times. The first time was for a bullet wound in her back, again for a car accident, and lastly for poisoning. All within two months."
"Someone was trying to kill her." Spike sat up, stunned that someone would try to harm Fred.
"Looks that way," Willow agreed.
"Who got the bucks if she died?" asked Spike.
"Mother, father, and older brother were all dead," Willow explained. "The only remaining Langley is her twin Deirdre, who missed being the Publisherís Clearinghouse winner by seven minutes."
"And Deirdre is now living the champagne and roses lifestyle, Iím guessing," Spike said wryly.
Willow leafed through some papers, the rattling clear over the phone. "You got it. Iím looking at a picture of her now. Really beautiful woman, by the way."
"Hey!" Spike heard Tara exclaim, then giggling and smooching.
"Knock off the love fest," Spike demanded. "Some of us arenít getting any."
"Sorry, sorry," Willow said apologetically. "íDeirdre Langley Rice, heiress to the Langley pharmaceutical fortune, at a Palm Beach charity auction. The socialite and her husband Clay have homes in Palm Beach, Dallas, Nice and Malibu.í"
"While her sister lives off the kindness of strangers," Spike commented. "Lovely."
"You think that you know Winifred?" asked the Wicca.
"Fred lives here in the hotel," Spike explained. "Iíll bet you anything that sheís the missing sister."
"I bet youíre wrong," Willow disagreed. "Thereís a dead body, remember? The real Winifred is pushing up daisies."
"Not so, Red. Iíll take that bet," Spike said. "Anything you want."
"I win, you have to give up wearing black for a week," she wagered.
"Done," he said sweetly. "I win, you have to do a spell for me."
"Okay," she agreed. "Thereís a pretty simple answer to this question. Iíll need her fingerprints to verify her identity, but since Deirdre and Winifred were identical twins, I can fax you the picture."
"Iím heading downstairs; thereís a fax in the office." Spike pulled on his jeans and headed down the hall. Once he was there, he read the fax number off the machine. "Fred must have been down here earlier," he commented. "Everythingís labeled within an inch of its life."
"Fred works for Angel?" Willow asked.
"Sort of. Sheís the reason I was asking if anyone had ever come back after spending years in an alternate dimension, if there are any problems caused by that." Spike paused. "Fred has some eccentricities."
The fax machine chimed and began printing. "I havenít found very many examples," Willow said. "Most people head for an alternate dimension itís strictly a one-way trip, unless theyíre demons that work in our world and live in another."
"Was there any mention of mental illness in Winifred Langleyís medical history?" Spike watched the fax machine slowly spit out the paper.
"I donít think so," said Willow. "I can pull it back up." Spike listened to the clacking of her keyboard. "She was treated for depression twice, for several months after the death of her brother and then her father. Her condition was treated with outpatient therapy and a prescription antidepressant for a few months. Nothing abnormal."
The fax beeped as it finished printing. Spike pulled out the paper and looked at an image of a woman in a low cut dress, her long dark hair spilling over her shoulders as she laughed. It was Fred, but not Fred; there was something harder in the eyes and brittle around the mouth. "This is definitely Fredís sister, no question. Keep working on the transdimensional angle, Will. I really need to know whatís wrong with her."
"Will do," Willow said chirpily. "A lock of Fredís hair and a fingernail clipping would be great, if you want to seal the deal on her identity. Oh, and if you talk to Dawnie, tell her that Iím sending her a batch of Taraís special brownies and that book on love spells she wanted."
"Oh for Christís sake, Wicca, donít send her a book of love spells," Spike protested. "Last thing that girl needs to do is start messing with the forces of nature."
"So sayeth the evil vampire," said Willow. "Youíre awful stuffy for a creature of darkness."
"You know, I really hate that expression," he snapped. "Iím not a creature. Iím just aÖ"
"Stud muffin of darkness? Dude of evil? Deathily challenged person?" she suggested.
"Blow it out your spell book," he said.
She blew him a kiss. "Miss you too. Take care of yourself."
Spike set down the receiver and looked at the fax in his hand. Should he tell Fred about all of this? His gut instinct was no. She might get upset and have another episode. The whole thing could bring up a cloud of memories that could damage her, and that was the last thing that he wanted to do. He could just snip a bit of her hair, grab a fingerprint while she slept. No need to burden her with all of this mess. Best he leave the girl in peace until he was sure. He turned on the shredder and fed the fax in, watching as it was cut into confetti.
Spike walked up the stairs, bearing an inkpad and a sheet of paper, scissors tucked into his back pocket. He knocked gently at Fredís door twice, and there was no answer. Slowly he swung the door open and saw Fred lying in bed, her arm thrown over her forehead. She moaned and rolled over. The sheets twisted around her waist, displaying her nude chest, covered only by her hair.
Naked Fred. She threw her arm back, revealing one pink tipped breast, and Spike dropped the inkpad and paper on the floor. He bent down to pick them up and the scissors slid out of his pocket, landing on the floor with a thump. "Bloody hell," he muttered in annoyance.
He gathered up his things and stood up. Fred was watching him bemusedly, resting on her side with the sheet pulled over her breasts. "Do you need help with something?"
He froze. "Morning."
"Morning," she said cheerfully. "Why are you here?" Spike held up the paper, ink and scissors. "Come to slit my throat and then do a finger painting?" He laughed, quite high pitched and loud in the small room. "Youíre being really weird," she commented.
"Iím sorry," he said. "Iím off kilter."
"Why?" she asked.
"Youíre naked," he blurted out. "Itís hard to think, knowing that."
She blushed. "Iím sorry. I wasnít really expecting anyone to come into my room." She sat up, the sheet sliding ever further down, barely covering her. "Turn around and Iíll put my robe on."
He complied, listening to her light footsteps and the swishing of silk. "Iím decent now," she announced, and he turned around to find her poised primly on the edge of her bed, the covers pulled up. She wore a soft pink kimono, the sleeves hanging over her hands. Her legs were crossed, revealing one knee and a great deal of long, slender leg. "So whatís up with the arts and crafts?"
He looked down at the paper and inkpad. "I guess I really should explain," he said seriously.
Someone knocked at her door, and Fred walked over and turned the knob. Angel stood there holding a box of donuts and a white paper bag. "Can I come inside?" he asked.
"Iím angry with you," she warned him. "So if youíre in the mood for an earful, then come right on in."
He smiled at her. "I think I can take it."
"In that case, I invite you in." She took the bags from his hands and he entered the room.
Angel stopped short, seeing shirtless Spike sitting on the bed, looking quite at home. "What the hell is he doing here?"
"If youíre going to start in on him again, then just leave," Fred said adamantly.
Ignoring her, Angel advanced on Spike. "I told you to stay away from her," he growled. "Youíre even more stupid then I gave you credit for."
"Thatís enough," Fred said, tugging at Angelís sleeve. "Iíll come down and talk to you later when you arenít being all big dog."
"I want you out of here," Angel spat at Spike, brushing Fred aside. "Youíre too much of a liability. You take advantage of the weak-"
"Thatís rich coming from you," Spike said angrily. "Failed actress, fired Watcher, street thug. Youíve really recruited a top notch team here."
"Any one of them are worth ten of you," Angel rebutted, locking his hand around Spikeís throat. "You worthless-"
The distinctive sound of a gun cocking filled the room. Angel froze, feeling the cold barrel pressed against the back of his head. "You and I both know this is most likely an empty gesture," Fred said. "However, I am mentally unstable, so you really canít be sure."
"You donít want to do this, Fred," Angel said calmly.
"Right now I do. Growing up, we had a neighbor used to beat his dog every time he had a bad day. Thatís who you remind me of right now, and I donít like you very much." Fred tightened her grip on the gun, her hand steady and sure.
"I promise I wonít touch him again," Angel said. "Just stop pointing the gun at my head." Fred stepped back and Angel turned around to face her. "You know that wouldnít have killed me."
"It would have made a less than pretty hole, and it definitely would have mussed the hair." Fred set the gun down and took his hands in hers. "I know you mean well, I really do. But you need to back off."
"Did I seem like that much of an threat that you needed to pull a gun on me?" he asked, his voice soft.
"Yes," she said. "You really did."
"Iím sorry I upset you. Iím just so worried for you," he said sincerely.
"Please find another way to show it," Fred informed him. She turned to Spike. "Apparently, I have some things to discuss with Angel."
"Iíll be in my room," Spike said. He got up from the bed and kissed Fredís cheek, tucking her hair behind her ear.
The door shut behind him and Fred turned to Angel. "Excuse me for a minute while I put some clothes on."
"Sure," he said. She picked a dress out of the closet and some things out of the dresser and stepped into her bathroom. Angel sat down on her bed and took the paper bag off the bedside table, removing a plastic cup of blood.
A few minutes later, Fred returned wearing a light blue lace dress, her hair pinned up in a soft chignon. The puffy layers of her skirt surrounded her in a cloud as she sat cross-legged on the bed next to Angel. She opened the box of donuts and picked one. "You got blueberry," she said happily. "I love those best."
"Thatís what Cordelia told me," Angel said, sipping his blood.
"Not a good enough bribe to get me to forgive you for the way youíve treated Spike, but a nice try," Fred observed.
"Being near Spike is a huge risk for you," Angel announced. "Letting him come to Los Angeles was a mistake, and I put both you and Dawn at jeopardy. Iím going to ask him to leave the city, and not come back."
"That would destroy him," she said briskly. "The only thing that keeps him going is Dawn. If you take her out of his life, he wonít have anything."
"I canít afford to take a chance on him." Angel took a sip of blood, his eyes downcast. "Two human lives are more important than Spikeís happiness or desires. You and Dawn could have been killed last night, and that overshadows everything else."
"Life is risk," Fred insisted. "If I wanted to be safe, I never would have left the hotel. Dawn is a teenage girl, with a good head on her shoulders. We donít need to be protected, and we donít need you to tell us who we can care about."
"Iím the responsible party here," Angel proclaimed. "This is my town, my turf. Spike is a manipulative, selfish bastard who will use anything and anyone as a pawn to serve his needs."
"This isnít about fear of what Spike will or wonít do," Fred said. "You just donít like him, and you want him somewhere he wonít get on your nerves."
Angel looked away. "Thatís just not true."
"Youíre lying," she said flatly. "I can see it in your face, plain as day."
Angel raised his chin and stared at her. "This isnít negotiable. Spike is gone, out the door. Itís over."
"Then I guess Iíll go too." Fred crossed her arms and leaned forward. "Youíre supposed to help the helpless. There isnít anyone more defenseless than Spike. A three year old with a toothpick could kill him. If nothing else, he needs someone to protect him from humans."
"I don't want you to leave," Angel explained. "Thatís not what I was trying to accomplish here. You need a safe place to stay, and I think you need to get some training with weapons and martial arts, so you won't have to open a portal to defend yourself."
"Then let Spike stay, and we wonít need to have this conversation," Fred argued. "I donít want to leave the Hyperion, but you stick by this ultimatum and I will go."
Angel sighed wearily and drained his cup, tossing it into a wastebasket. "Guarantee me that he really wants to work for good, that he wants to help with our mission and protect the innocent. Can you do that, Fred?"
"No." Fredís hands tapped on the donut box, her face agitated. She closed her eyes, and Angel looked at her worriedly. Her eyes opened wide and she clapped her hands. "But we know someone who can. Lorne!"
"This is that important to you?" Angel asked.
"Yes," she assured him.
"Then weíll go to Caritas tonight and have Lorne read him," Angel said. "If he says Spikeís intentions are good, then he can stay."
Fred smiled with relief. "Thatís fine, Angel. Thatís fair."
Continued in Chapter Seven