All About Spike
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Things Present Things Past
By Estepheia and Marcee

Part 22 - Attack of Conscience

"Xander!" Cordelia yelped as she fell backward. A barrage of images assaulted her.

[A criss-cross of iron bars across a small window. A barred door. Screams. Xander, dressed in a straitjacket, his eyes widened in fear. A thin rivulet of blood crossing the floor toward bare feet.]

Angel dropped the duffel bag he was carrying and caught her with practiced ease. The irritated `What's-Spike-doing-here' look was instantly replaced by obvious concern for Cordelia's well-being.

*Oh bugger, we really needed the L.A. Raider and a fainting cheerleader thrown into the mix,* Spike thought.

"What's happening?" Dawn asked, putting into words what everybody else was thinking. Everybody except Spike. He carefully cultivated a `couldn't-care-less' vibe and leaned against the wall, his arms folded in front of his chest.

"It's a vision," Angel answered as he brought Cordy over to a chair. His gaze swept quickly across the battered shop, took in the magical circle on the floor, the bandages on Anya's leg and Buffy's - or rather Maeve's - arm, went past Willow, who looked like death warmed up, passed over Dawn and Tara and rested briefly on Giles, who looked less than pleased to see him.

"Cordelia has visions now?" Dawn said, impressed. "Cool! Looks kinda painful, though."

Angel nodded absentmindedly.

Holding Cordelia steady as another jolt of pain made her flinch, he stole a furtive, almost shameful glance at Buffy. He knew it wasn't her. During their phone, call Giles had confirmed what Cordelia had seen in her vision in L.A.: that this was, in truth, Maeve McKenna, the Slayer he had killed or - from the girl's point of view - would kill. Giles had also expressly forbidden him to reveal that fact to her. *How can I possibly act like nothing happened?*

He found her looking at him and dropped his gaze, guilt rising up in him like bile.

"Who are they?" Maeve whispered into Anya's ear.

"Angel and Cordelia," Anya replied, picking unhappily at the bandage that covered the ugly cut on her leg. "Angel is Buffy's vampire ex-boyfriend and Cordelia is Xander's ex-girlfriend. Angel used to be evil but a curse gave him his soul back and now he's one of the good guys."

Anya was so absorbed in her own problems that she didn't notice Maeve's sharp intake of breath.

[A large room with many cots. Sleepers in hospital gowns, strapped to their beds. A blonde vampire with a ravaged face bent over a woman struggling against her confines. Blood. Fangs. Faces, lots of faces. Confusion. Hysteria.]

"We have to help him!" Cordelia blurted. She tried to stand, but Angel held her in place.

[Wide eyes, terrified. Fangs. Screaming. Howling. Xander. Oh no! Xander!]

"What is it, Cordy?"

There were tears in her eyes. Angel didn't know if the cause was physical pain or emotional. "Tell me."

"Xander," she said. "I know where Xander is."

"He's missing?" Angel asked.

***

After the initial shock of Angel's appearance had worn off, Giles outlined the events to date. While Giles elucidated, Tara cared for Cordelia and Willow.

Angel stared at the letter Giles had handed him, the letter Buffy had written to her friends. ` Keep Dawn safe for me. Please.' Words she had directed at Spike. *How can she trust him with Dawn's life?* He looked up and saw the other vampire smirking at him.

He fought his resentment and tried to concentrate on the problem at hand. "June 1880," he interrupted Giles's summary with a frown, trying to remember what he had done at that particular time. His memories as Angelus were often painfully vivid, but not necessarily linked to specific dates. He caught a warning glance from Giles.

"That's right," the Watcher said. "At least we know the exact date. Sending that letter was very resourceful of Buffy. Quite ingenious, actually."

As the Watcher continued his lecture, Angel couldn't stop stealing glances at the Slayer. She sat next to the miserable looking ex-demon, Anya, and was holding her hand comfortingly. He didn't think Maeve recognized him. It seemed her and Angelus's paths hadn't crossed, yet.

What if she found out that she'd die at his hands? Would she hate him? Of course she would. He wondered if that hatred would seep into Buffy's skin and taint it forever.

He thought of what lay ahead of the young Slayer, once she got back to her own time. *All the terrible things I've done to her and to her family...*

Worse even, if they didn't get Buffy back, if for some reason Buffy were stuck in the past, she'd be the one to die at Angelus's hands.

Angel was only half listening when Giles concluded his dissertation with, "And now, in addition to the swapped-Slayer issue, we have an injured, naked and confused Xander physically trapped in another time period. With Willow incapacitated, our options are limited. Returning spirits to their natural places was a relatively simple procedure, but getting Xander's physical presence back to our time plane is, to say the least, much more complicated and requires an enormous amount of power."

"Power we don't have," Anya mumbled.

Angel nodded. "We're here to help, what can we do?"

"Well, if Cordelia is up to it, we need the details of her visions. It is possible the Powers are trying to tell us how we can repair the damage we've done. And, Angel, if there is anything you can remember from that time, perhaps we can cross reference your memories with Maeve's Watcher's journal..." Giles stopped himself.

Angel's eyes flicked to the Slayer and back to Giles.

"Anya? Are you alright? You look pale," the Watcher observed. "Tara? Do you have a driver's license?"

"Sure, although... I haven't ... I mean, I'm not a great driver."

"Take Xander's car and drive Anya and Maeve to the hospital. Those makeshift bandages won't do them much good. They both need proper treatment. Perhaps Dawn can accompany you. Join us at the house afterwards."

"Hospitals, ew," Dawn made a face but got up anyway and picked up her backpack.

"Will you be okay?" Tara asked Willow. "Maybe you should come to the hospital with us..."

"Don't worry, I'll be fine," Willow assured her. "Finer than fine, I already feel much better, I just need a little rest, that's all. I'll see you guys later."

Tara took the keys from the little pile of Xander's clothes and possessions and offered Anya a supporting arm. Together they walked to the door.

"I do not think I need to see a doctor," Maeve announced calmly. "My body is already healing. I think I should like to hear what Mr. Angel has to say."

"Maeve, I'm not sure that is such a good idea, you really should have a doctor look at that arm of yours," Giles insisted.

Maeve looked at Spike, who had been unusually quiet since Angel's arrival. An unspoken question passed between them. He shrugged and nodded.

"You do not need to send me away. I already know what the Journal says. Spike informed me."

Angel and Giles both turned to glare at the blonde vampire.

Anya, Tara and Dawn had been about to step outside but now they turned around. "I'm not going to hospital so you can discuss things behind my back," Anya declared reproachfully. "Giles, how could you!"

"Yeah right, that's so typical, let's get Dawn out of the way so we can talk about stuff," the teenager said, just as peeved.

Giles sighed.

***

Cordelia was lying on a mat in the training room with a pair of sweatpants tucked under her head. She had a folded wet paper towel across her forehead and her eyes were closed. But when she spoke, there was an energy and a clarity one would never expect from a person who looked so...broken.

"He was in a mental institution," she told the group that was gathered around her. "I saw that place before, in the vision I had in L.A., but at the time I didn't understand what I was seeing. Now I do."

Willow was lying on the couch, but her eyes were open and she was alert. Tara sat solemnly near her feet. Giles was in a chair near the couch with a pencil and pad in hand and Maeve, Dawn and Anya all sat on the floor next to Cordelia. The vampires remained standing, as far apart as the room would allow. Spike was flicking his cigarette lighter open. Closed. Open. Closed.

"Will you stop that?" Angel hissed through gritted teeth.

Spike gave him a defiant stare that plainly read `Make me!' Open. Closed. Open. Closed. He was in a foul mood.

Angel just shook his head and turned his attention back toward Cordelia. Open. Closed. Open. Closed. *Why does he need to be here anyway? Just cause he helped kill a few demons after Buffy...* He didn't really want to go back to that place right now. *Concentrate.*

"I saw Darla. Her face looked like it was burned, but I know it was her. Drusilla was there, and so were you," she said quietly. "You...They were using the hospital as a feeding ground. It was like a nightmare. Those people... they were tied to their beds. They couldn't even fight or try to run away... So helpless!"

Angel wondered if the memory of this horrible vision would etch itself into Cordelia's brain. *What is she thinking of me, now? Sure, she's always known that I've done some terrible things, but knowing and seeing are two different things.* The thought that those images of the past might destroy their friendship terrified him.

"You said you saw Xander," Anya urged.

"Yes. He's there. He's in a straitjacket. He's trapped. There's a barred door, like in a prison. He's scared."

"Can you tell us the name of the institution?" Giles asked as he hurriedly scribbled notes onto his pad.

"St. Luke's," Angel said.

Everyone turned to look at him. "She's talking about St. Luke's." There was a hint of despair in his voice. The mentioning of Darla's ravaged face was bringing back memories of obsession and bloodshed.

"I know St. Luke's," Maeve said. "I could tell you where it is."

"As could I," Spike said. "Willin' to bet our buddy Angel, here, could lead you there blindfolded. He probably still has a key."

"A key?" Giles asked.

Angel looked around at the faces he's known for so long. Willow, Giles, Dawn. And most importantly, Cordelia. *I have to tell them everything.* He shuddered. Talking about the things he'd done as Angelus didn't come easy. "We used to..." he started. "The hospital, it was..."

"...one of many quaint and cozy feeding grounds," Spike interrupted sarcastically.

"We would go there regularly," Angel continued. "Spike is right. I had a set of keys. We made it look like the kills were made by a patient." He closed his eyes reliving the memory. "I don't remember Xander being there," he said, "But it was over 100 years ago. I mean, anything's possible."

Anya moaned in anguish and put her face into her hands. Maeve put a tentative arm round her shoulders and gave her a comforting squeeze.

"Even if you don't remember Xander, the fact that Cordelia saw you all in that vision means that Xander could be in immediate danger," Giles said, furrowing his brow in worry.

Cordelia nodded without opening her eyes.

"I can try..." Willow began as she struggled to sit up.

"No, Willow. Don't," Tara told her, but helped her lover elevate herself.

"You can't possibly," Anya said. "Look at you. You can barely sit up. And you think you have magic powerful enough to open another portal." She shook her head. "This is all your fault, you know."

"But it would have worked," Willow started. "It would have." She was growing agitated. "It's not my fault," she said as she shook her head. "If it hadn't been for the Chronoth demons messing this up we'd have Buffy back by now."

"Willow," Tara said, trying to sooth the upset redhead, "you need to rest."

"I don't care who's fault it is," Giles cut in, his anger still palpable, "Let me make this perfectly clear: from now on there will be no more spell casting unless I say so. We cannot allow for any more mistakes."

"But I..." Willow started. Then her nose began to bleed again. She put a hand to her head and took a deep breath.

"Maybe we should take her to the hospital?" Tara looked at the others.

"I'm fine," Willow said. "I'm fine." She laid back down after glaring momentarily at Anya. "Just let me lie down. I'll be okay. I can still help, you know, read books and stuff."

"No," Giles said sharply. "I don't think so. You need a doctor and you need rest. The same goes for Anya. Tara will drive you both to the hospital." He stifled everybody's protest with a decisive gesture. "Trust me, right now there's nothing we can do for him. We all need something to eat, some rest and some time to think."

***

When they all filed out of the shop, Spike took Tara aside for a moment. "Can you do me a favor?"

"Sure. What is it, Spike?" the blonde witch asked.

He pressed a number of bills into her hand. "Since you're going to the hospital," he mumbled, lighting himself a cigarette, "you might just as well get me the real deal while you're there. This is good for 5 bags of 0 neg. Go to the morgue and ask for Pete, tell him I sent you."

"Oh...um... sure." She put the money into the pocket of her cardigan.

He strode off, but she called after him. "Spike, about what Mr. Giles said..." she said haltingly, "...you know, about you not caring what happens to Xander..."

He stopped and looked at her over his shoulder. "Yeah?"

"I'm sure Mr. Giles knows that that's not true," she concluded. And with that she hurried to get into the car.

Unable to decide whether he should be pleased or put off by this sudden and unasked for vote of confidence, Spike decided to deal with a much more immediate problem, namely how to get to Revello Drive: *Do I hitch a ride with the poof or with the Watcher?*

***

The trip to Revello Drive was passed in silence. When they reached the Summers' house, Spike got out of the car and sauntered to his motorcycle.

"Spike, where do you think you're going?" Giles asked, irritation evident in his voice.

"I'm going for a spin," Spike said, knowing the answer would rub the Watcher the wrong way. He was still angry and hurt by the Watcher's words, though he was too proud to admit it, even to himself. He swung his leg over, inserted the key, and started the machine. It came to life with a satisfying roar, just as Angel and Cordelia pulled up the driveway in their car.

"I thought you had put this kind of irresponsible behavior behind you," Giles said. "Spike, I know you and Angel don't get on well, but that's no reason to..."

"Sod off, Rupert," Spike interrupted him.

He turned the throttle violently and drove off with screeching tires, leaving behind the smell of burning rubber.

***

An hour later, Giles and Angel sat in the living room of the Summers' house, bent over several volumes they had brought along from the shop. Angel was helping with some translations. They were researching the Chronoth tribe and everything they could find out about temporal spells.

They could hear Maeve and Dawn pottering around upstairs.

Cordelia was in the kitchen making more coffee. When the phone rang, it was her who answered.

"Summers' residence... Yes, it's me, Cordelia... oh, good, yes, I'll tell them...hang on." She walked into the living room. "It's Tara. Everybody is fine. But the doctors would like to keep Willow there for a few more hours. Apparently, they want to give her some transfusions, you know, iron, magnesium and all that."

"Tell her to ask Willow for her computer passwords. In case we need to look something up on the Net," Giles told her.

Cordelia passed on the request, listened for a moment then replaced the receiver. She carried the steaming coffee mugs into the living room and sat down.

"So, what's the what with the little stone angels?" she asked, referring to her first vision.

Angel looked up but quickly dropped his gaze again, worried about what he might see in her eyes when he told her. "I used to leave them for her to find, to let her know I was around, hunting her." Grateful that the other Scoobies, particularly Maeve, weren't present he explained, "They were a kind of calling card, because that's what she called me, the first time we met: Angel..."

There was a moment of silence, then Giles, Angel and Cordelia all said it at the same time: "Buffy."

"I think you'd better start at the beginning," Giles said, readying his notepad. "Tell us everything you remember of that first meeting."

Angel sighed. "At that time, in London, there were three of us. Me, Darla and Drusilla," he began his narration. "Oh, and Spike. Although, that was later...I don't remember the exact date when we..."

Cordelia and Giles listened in a mixture of fascination and horror. Neither of them noticed Maeve. She had taken a shower and changed into clean clothes and had caught the beginning of the story on her way downstairs. She sat down quietly on the steps and listened as he talked about his first encounter with her.

"So, the following night, that's the night before the... before we went to St. Luke's, I checked on some informants, asked a few questions. That's how I found out where the Slayer lived. Someone told me there'd be a Council meeting that night. So I knew the Slayer and her Watcher would be out. So, I... I ..."

He swallowed. "The butler tried to turn me away. But the mistress of the house came to see what the commotion was all about, and she invited me in."

Maeve gasped and felt tears rising up. Almost automatically, her hand went to the left sleeve of the baggy sweatshirt she was wearing, where she was carrying a sharpened stake - just in case.

"The butler was the first to die. The woman tried to get away, but... There were two boys. She tried to warn them, told them to lock themselves in their room. I told them I'd kill their mother if they didn't come out... One of them hit me with a cross..." He rubbed his hand absentmindedly.

Angel rose to his feet as the Slayer walked in. He'd been aware of her presence all along. She was pale and trembling. There was a stake in her hand. She was like an apparition, sent to haunt him.

Vampire and Slayer exchanged a look of mutual horror.

"Maeve, no!" Giles exclaimed.

"Wait!" Cordelia tried to move between him and the Slayer with Buffy's face. "He's changed," she said hurriedly. "Angel is not a killer. He saves people. It's his calling..."

"I... If I could undo it, everything I've done, I would," Angel said, truthfully.

"I am the warrior of the people. It is my calling to slay those who would prey on humans," Maeve said after some consideration and with astounding self-control. "To protect, not to wreak vengeance." She slid the stake back into her sleeve and sat down, her hands clasped tightly in her lap.

***

After a few hours of solid drinking, Spike's mood hadn't improved in the slightest. He'd run out of money and when he'd asked for credit he'd been refused. William the Bloody, without credit, that stung.

Angel, on the other hand, was probably drinking the bleeding Watcher's expensive whisky just about now. All civilized, no doubt. Comparing notes on how to fight evil. With Angelus safely hidden under that soddin' soul of Angel's and no mentioning of dead girl friends.

"Bloody Watcher," Spike mumbled, Giles's accusations still in his ear. "Who does he think he is? All high and mighty, thinks he knows me inside out, does he?"

He got on his bike. "If it weren't for Buffy, they could all go to hell, for all I care!" *Except the Nibblet, of course.* He suddenly remembered Tara's kind words to him earlier that evening. *Okay, so maybe not all of them.* He shook his head, trying to shake the knowledge that he didn't wish any of the children real harm, *just the odd humiliation or two, and maybe not even that,* and started the engine.

When would the soddin' Watcher get it into his stupid brain that he had no intention of letting Buffy down?

*Speaking of Watchers...* An idea formed in his head. He grinned. *This should be fun...*

An hour later he had found the right hotel. He rode up the elevator to the twelfth floor and walked along the plush carpeted corridor until he found the right number. He knocked insistently, until finally, the door opened.

Charlie Willoughby stood before him, barefoot, wearing only a pair of jeans and a white dressing gown with the hotel's emblem. He'd obviously been asleep, because he looked slightly crumpled. He squinted at his unexpected visitor. "Mr. Spike! What can I do for you?"

"We need to talk."

"Certainly," Willoughby replied, visibly stifling a yawn, and opened the door to his hotel room invitingly. "Please, come in."

Spike swept past him, his black leather coat billowing behind him. Charlie closed the door behind him. "What can I get you?" he asked and walked to the little fridge. "The mini bar is well stocked, but I can also call room service for tea or anything else you might like."

He froze when he heard the sound of a gun being cocked. He turned around slowly and saw his visitor aiming a double barreled shotgun at him.

"Good Lord!" he exclaimed, suddenly wide awake.

"What I'd like are some answers," Spike said, inwardly pleased that aiming an unloaded shotgun at the man did NOT give him a migraine. "And I'm not leaving `til I get some."

A few minutes later, Willoughby's arms were tied behind his back with the belt of his dressing gown.

Spike hopped on the bed, and made himself comfortable, using the headboard as a backrest. He crossed his legs casually, put the shotgun down next to him and pulled Willoughby's suitcase towards him.

He rifled through the contents, carelessly tossing the expensive clothes to the floor: clothes; toilet articles; a handful of newspapers, like the `Guardian' and the `Times' plus the latest edition of `National Geographic'; that was it, more or less. Spike wondered how much he'd get for the man's digital camera and laptop computer.

"Okay, mate," he said, closing the lid. "Where is it?"

"I'm sorry, but where is what?" Willoughby replied politely, clearly trying not to antagonize him. He looked scared but tried to hang on to his dignity.

"The other business you mentioned. I bet you have another one of those envelopes for us."

"I... I'm really not at liberty to tell you."

Spike jumped off the bed and strode to where the tied up man was sitting. He lifted him to his feet and dragged him to the window.

"What are you doing? Let go of me," Willoughby squeaked.

Spike smiled as the heady scent of the man's fear hit him. He'd almost forgotten how intoxicating it could be. He opened the window, bent down, gripped the tied man's legs and without much further ado heaved him out of the window.

"No! Oh god...please! Don't let go!" Willoughby blurted out, panic stricken.

Spike held his ankles with both hands.

*I don't intend to drop him. I don't intend to drop him,* Spike chanted rhythmically in the back of his mind.

"If you don't answer my questions, the last bit of business you'll have in Sunnydale will be with the street down there." Spike nodded his head toward the ground. Charles didn't want to, but he looked down.

The sight of the twelve story drop made him dizzy. He quickly looked up again, at the face of his assailant. He was sweating uncontrollably.

Spike smiled at him. It was truly satisfying to see the Watcher squirm.

"How's what's-his-name, that Travers guy? How's the Council," Spike asked conversationally.

"Who? What?" was the terrified reply.

Spike let go of one of Willoughby's ankles. The man squealed and flailed about frantically with his leg before he realized that he wasn't falling. That he was still suspended in the air, held only by one hand that held his ankle in an iron grip. He couldn't understand how that was possible.

Spike used his free hand to find his cigarettes, shake one out of the packet and put it between his lips. "Don't tell me you're not a Watcher, Charlie," he mumbled. "I know the job runs in your family."

"Watcher? No, I mean... I don't know what you mean. What is a Watcher? I'm a lawyer," Willoughby babbled, wondering if this was just a nightmare.

"Oh, a pen-and-paper bloodsucker? I'd be doing the world a favor then..."

Spike lit his cigarette and studied the dangling man. He wouldn't have put it past the Council to try and use this temporal cock-up to their own advantage if they found out about it. But, so far, he hadn't found anything to link Willoughby to the Council. No weapons, grimoires, stakes, crosses or vials of holy water. Nothing that would indicate that Charles Willoughby knew he was paying a visit to the Hellmouth.

For some reason, that Spike couldn't or wouldn't contemplate, the fact that Willoughby wasn't a Watcher made his fear considerably less appealing. He suddenly felt the urge to get this sordid affair over and done with.

"Please, don't let me go," Willoughby pleaded. "You're right. There... there is another envelope. I have instructions to deliver it at a later date."

Spike cocked his eyebrow, gesturing him to go on.

"But you can have it now," Charlie continued hurriedly. "Please, Mr. Spike. Please let me in. This is unnecessary."

Spike pulled a shaking, sweaty Charles back into his room where he collapsed on the floor. The stench of fear was overpowering.

"Thank you," he mumbled. "Thank you."

"Where is it?" Spike asked impatiently. Willoughby told him.

The briefcase looked stout enough to withstand even vampire strength.

"The key?"

Willoughby hesitated.

"You wanna go back outside?"

Charlie Willoughby shook his head and nodded at the nightstand. "Over there."

Spike threw his cigarette butt out of the window and walked to the bed.

`Over there' referred to a little leather triptych, one of those portable things that could hold three photographs. Spike picked it up and studied the pictures for a moment. They were snapshots of three young women. There was a strong family resemblance. They all had the same blue eyes and sharp cheekbones. There was also something strangely familiar about them.

"Your sisters?" He asked his prisoner.

Charlie Willoughby nodded nervously. His still felt nauseated, and he couldn't stop trembling.

"Pretty," Spike said absentmindedly. "Right then," he continued, "If I were a little key, where would I be?" He turned the triptych in his hands and pulled out the photographs. Sure enough, there it was.

Spike grinned smugly and used the key to open the briefcase. Inside was a parcel. He broke the seal and removed the brown paper wrapping. More envelopes, tied together with a string. He browsed through them, reading the names of the addressees and studying the handwriting. For a moment he considered opening them but then he dropped them into the open briefcase. Their existence told him enough. He got up.

His eyes fell on the human. He walked over. Willoughby flinched. Spike bent down and untied his hands. He walked to the mini bar and grabbed a few bottles.

Charlie Willoughby watched him warily. There was something wrong about his visitor. Other than the fact that he was a homicidal maniac. Suddenly, Charlie realized what it was and gasped.

"You... you haven't got a... You're a..." he stopped himself.

Spike followed his glance to the mirrored wardrobe.

"What?"

"You're a vampire," Willoughby said in a strange mixture of awe and fear.

"Yeah. So?"

Spike squatted next to him and passed him a bottle of bourbon. Charlie took it but his hands were shaking too much. Spike unscrewed his own bottle and swapped it for Charlie's unopened one.

*And you're giving me a drink?* Willoughby wondered silently.

They drank.

*He's not going to kill me, is he?* Charlie wondered. But the aura of fury and menace was gone and the man - or vampire? - was offering him another bottle and a cigarette. He accepted, slowly regaining his composure.

"I... I grew up with stories about vampires and monsters," he said nervously. "My Granddad told me stories about his grandmother. How she and her friends fought demons and vampires. I always believed he invented them... I actually told him he should write them down, get a publisher ... I thought they'd make a great television series, you know, like the `X-Files'..."

*Great-great grandmother, ey?*

Spike got up and walked to where he had dropped the photographs. He picked them up and studied them, searching for traces of Maeve in their features. They still felt familiar, but he couldn't be sure.

"Maeve, Elizabeth and Edith," Willoughby said, referring to the pictures, not quite sure why he was volunteering information about his family. Except that he seemed to be in the middle of this remarkable family mystery and that he was hoping to find out more about his strange mission.

Spike wondered - very briefly - if he shouldn't apologize for putting the guy through the wringer. He decided against it.

Vampires didn't apologize. Being a vampire was all about not having to.

*Besides, no one ever apologizes to me, now do they?*

He passed the photographs to Charlie who took them with hands that were still trembling slightly.

*He's still alive, what more could he want?*

"See that you deliver those letters as instructed," Spike nodded at the briefcase.

He picked up his gun and walked to the door. "Welcome to the Hellmouth," he said. And with that, he made his exit.

***

When Spike came back to Revello Drive it was almost dawn. The house was quiet. Most windows were dark, the only lights were those the dining room. Giles and Angel were still bent over books and fax print outs.

"Where have you been, Spike?" Giles demanded to know.

"He's got an invite?" Angel asked incredulously. "Again?"

Spike took off his duster and threw it over the backrest of a chair. Ignoring both the Watcher and his grand sire he made his way to the kitchen and checked the fridge. Five packets of 0 neg. *Bingo!*

Giles followed him. He watched the vampire heat himself a mug of blood in the microwave. The Watcher could smell alcohol on Spike, but since the vampire's movements were sure and deliberate he decided not to comment on that fact.

Also, he was hardly in a position to criticize. After listening to Angel's narration he had raided the kitchen cupboards of the otherwise alcohol-free Summers household and finished off almost half a bottle of cooking sherry that had looked like nobody had touched it since Joyce had passed away.

"I'll be with you in a minute," Spike said impatiently. Giles nodded and went back to his books.

Moments later Spike walked in, chewing on a slice of cold pizza. He sat down as far away from Angel as possible.

Angel put the book he'd been reading in on the table. He tensed. Whenever he saw Spike, he remembered hot pokers searing his flesh.

"Any clue as to how we're gonna get Buffy back?" Spike asked, sounding unusually civil. "Or Harris?"

Giles fidgeted with his glasses. "Yes and no. There are spells we could use, but they require more power than we can muster, or rather unpleasant sacrifices. For some reason, it is easier to send someone into the past than moving someone or something forward in time. The less strenuous or risky spells require someone on the other side to create a matching portal at the right time or to at least point the way - because it seems the portals are not visible from the other side."

"Right then," Spike said. "When do you want me to go back?"

"You can't seriously consider sending him into the past?" Angel exclaimed.

"Well, it's not like we've got many options," Giles tried to explain.

"He's a killer! There's no telling what he'll do."

Spike bristled and was about to protest, but Giles was quicker.

"Oh yes there is," the Watcher said sharply. "He'll grumble, insult everybody, probably expect to be paid..."

"You bet I do," Spike interjected.

"...but he'll do his damnedest to get the job done."

Spike cocked his eyebrows. *Oh? What kind of tune is he singing now?*

"But he's evil. You can't trust him." Angel said. He couldn't believe these people were nave enough to trust this vampire, just because he'd hung out with them for the past two years.

"He may not have a great deal of regard for humankind as a whole," Giles conceded, "but he'd never let Buffy or her friends come to harm. Like it or not, Angel, he's part of the team. Mind you, a very irritating part, but a member nonetheless. Isn't that right, Spike?"

Spike realized that this was Giles's way of apologizing for his earlier outburst. All this in front of Angel, no less! The Watcher was looking at him. Spike recognized the unspoken question. He nodded. *Apology accepted.*

"Yeah well," he mumbled, "It would get kind of boring without Harris. And I guess the ladies want him back, too."

Angel looked like he wanted to say something but the Watcher silenced him with a grim glance.

"So, it's decided," Giles said. "Unless we come up with a better idea we will look into means of sending Spike after Xander."

Spike looked at the librarian, knowing he should be pleased. Part of him was, but another part of him felt slightly uncomfortable as his thoughts wandered back to a hotel room, to a very scared man. And faster than he could push it away, it reared its ugly head: a tiny, sickening shred of guilt.


Continued in Part 23 - If Life gives you Lemons...

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