SPOILERS: Through the end of season five of BTVS and Season 2 of A:tS. AU At:S "Heartthrob."
DISCLAIMER: All hail Joss Whedon, UPN, the WB, FOX, Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. GO team! Theirs, not mine.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Buffyís dead. Really.
DISTRIBUTION: Please ask my permission first, just so I know where itís headed.
FEEDBACK: Sure, fire away to email@example.com
A group of people surrounded Spikeís sarcophagus, staring down the blond vampire. "Iím not doing it," Spike said firmly. He exhaled a stream of smoke as he reclined, the very picture of boredom.
"Itís the only way that you can be near me," Dawn argued. "Itís bad enough that I have to move in with Dad and evil new stepmom without losing all of the people I love."
Spikeís eyes lit up when the girl professed her feelings, but it quickly faded. "You really think your dad is going to let you roam around the streets of Los Angeles by yourself?" he asked with a snort.
Dawn and Willow exchanged looks. "Spike, this is what youíve been doing all summer," the witch said. "Saving humans, killing bad demons, making sure Dawn is safe."
"It was bad enough you bossing me around." Spike countered. "I donít fancy taking orders from Angelus."
"Donít call me that," said Angel, as he crossed his arms across his chest. "Iím willing to give you a chance because everyone deserves a fresh start. Thereís a lot of work to be done; a great many people who need help."
"I donít especially want to go help the helpless," Spike said. "Iíd rather be eating the helpless."
"Comments like that just reinforce the fact that you must leave," Giles said sternly. "The new Slayer and her Watcher are on their way to Sunnydale. Iíve been told through the grapevine that these two take their duties very seriously, and go by the book."
"Youíre incapable of keeping a low profile," Tara said softly. "Itís too dangerous for you to stay here. The demons all want to kill you, and thereís a good life waiting for you in L.A." She winced. "I mean, a good- existence." Willow smiled at her and patted her hand.
"Please?" Dawn said. "Please come with me?"
"Little love, I donít want to-" Spike began.
"You promised Buffy!" Dawn interjected.
The vampire looked at her, pain raw in his eyes. With a sigh, Spike hopped up and ground out his cigarette. "Best get packing." Dawn squealed and threw her arms around Spike. He smiled, and hugged her back.
"Iím pretty sure they werenít real," Gunn argued.
"High and firm, but with a little- jiggle to them," Wesley said. "Definitely real."
Cordelia walked out of the office into the lobby, carrying an assortment of file folders. "Whether the clientís hooters are real or silicon isnít really relevant," she said. "The check she wrote isnít rubber, thatís for sure." She handed Gunn a folder. "Last known addresses of five mistresses of the clientís husband; use your grace and charm to get some dirt," she said.
"Not a problem," said the young man with a grin.
"Wesley, these are the names of motels Prince Charming has been known to frequent. Clerks, maids, front desk- talk to them all and see who is going-" A large crash resonated up from the basement.
The Angel Investigations team looked at each other warily. "Is he back already?" Gunn asked.
Cordy shook her head. "Angelís not supposed to be back from his walk the earth like Kung Fu, grieve the loss of his one true love angst-a-thon for another week."
A second loud crash had them running for the weapons cabinet. Gunn grabbed a crossbow, Wes a two headed axe and Cordelia a sword. Cautiously, they made their way towards the basement.
Angel strode out of the shadows, his face dark. "I leave you all alone for a couple of months, and this is the greeting I get when I come back?"
Cordy tossed the sword aside and ran for Angel. He looked pleasantly surprised as she threw herself into his arms. "I missed you," she whispered in his ear.
"Me too," he replied.
"What did you bring us?" she said eagerly.
"Me, for starters," said a crisp voice. Cordelia stepped backwards as Spike appeared from behind Angel.
"Bad vampire, guys," Cordelia announced. "Big bad. Stake now, or forever rest in snack sized pieces." Gunn and Wesley stepped forward, their eyes locked on the threat in their midst.
"Let me explain," Angel said soothingly. "Everything is just fine."
"Last time Spike was in Sunnydale, I got a rebar through the abdomen," Cordy pointed out. "Last time he was here, he tortured you. In my book, thatís far from fine."
"He canít hurt humans anymore," Angel explained. "He was helping Buffy fight down in Sunnydale, and now heís going to help us."
"I donít think we need that kind of help," Gunn said. "Youíve got a soul. No reason to trust this guy."
"Iím not asking you to trust him," Angel said. "I donít trust him either. All Iím asking you is to give him a chance."
"Youíve lost your mind," Cordelia announced.
"Seems like a good bit of that is going around," Wesley said.
"Fredís not really nuts," Gunn said. "Sheís just adjusting."
"Trouble adjusting is a little different from locking herself in her room for three months," Cordy said. "The girlís nuttier than a Snickers bar."
"Iíll talk to her," Angel assured his friends. He turned to Spike. "Iíll show you to your room."
"Heís not living here?" Cordy asked, aghast.
"Not that living is the right word," Wesley said.
Spike followed Angel up the staircase, carrying a milk crate, a duffel bag slung over his shoulder. They walked down the hallway, and Angel knocked on a door. "Fred? Itís Angel."
There was a shuffling noise and then the door slowly opened, revealing a petite girl with long, tangled brown hair. "Angel?" she said in a sweet Southern accent. "Oh, it is really you! I thought you might have been an auditory hallucination." She beamed at him, her face lighting up with happiness.
"Itís really me," he said, smiling at her.
"And me," Spike interjected. The girl turned and looked at him curiously.
"This is Spike," Angel said. "Spike, this is Fred."
Spike extended his hand to her, and she tentatively shook it. "Youíre not a human," she remarked. "Youíre something else."
"Thatís right," Spike confirmed. "Vampire. But I donít kill humans, not anymore. You donít have to be afraid."
"Oh, Iím not afraid," she said. "Angel saved me from slavery, and now Iím here, and there is real oatmeal and soft beds and a room with a door that locks."
Spike raised his eyebrows. "She fell into an alternate dimension and was trapped there for five years," Angel explained. "Sheís only been home for a few months." He turned back to Fred. "Cordy says that youíre not coming out of your room."
"I like it in my room," Fred said. "Peace, quiet. No dirt. No bad things. Itís better in here."
"Well, why donít you think about coming downstairs?" Angel asked. "Itís nice down there, too. Roomier."
"I come down for food," she said. "Thatís enough." She bit her thumbnail. "I have to get back to work now," she said as she closed the door in their faces.
"Interesting girl," Spike said. Angel walked across the hall and opened the door, gesturing for Spike to go inside. Spike did so, finding a typical hotel room.
"This is your room," Angel said, handing him a key. "Butcher deliveryís at six, and Iíll start ordering some extra blood for you. Youíll work from seven to midnight processing the paperwork, since Willow said that you know how to type. Reading over the files will give you a good idea of what we do around here. When you get the feeling for how you might like to contribute, you come and let me know."
"And if I decide that I donít want to contribute?" Spike replied.
"Doorís open, youíre free to walk out whenever you like," Angel said. "What you choose to make of yourself is up to you." Angel walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.
Spike unzipped his duffel bag and started putting his belongings in the dresser drawer. He pulled out a small gift-wrapped box. Sitting down on the bed, he opened it, revealing a framed picture of Dawn and Buffy. "Make us proud," said the Post-it that was attached to the frame. Spike traced the faces of the sisters in the picture, and carefully placed it on the bedside table.
He pulled a bottle of bourbon from his bag and sat down on the bed. He took a swig and closed his eyes and saw Buffy, lying dead on a pile of rubble. With a sigh, he leaned back against the headboard and picked up the remote. He drank steadily through the bottle, watching Tom and Jerry try to outwit each other.
The last marker was dried out. Fred shook it, once twice, but it was no good- it was dead. With a sigh, she rolled her shoulders and stood back to appraise her work. Her writing covered three walls of her room now, and she followed along with the flow of her thoughts, trying to fix in her memory where she had left off. She left her room and darted downstairs. In the office, she found a box of black permanent markers. She patted the box affectionately. Sharpies, black, medium point; just what she liked. She pulled open the cardboard and sniffed one with a smile.
A pain in her belly caught her off guard. She rubbed absentmindedly and realized: hungry. She opened the door to the refrigerator. No leftovers, no nothing. She had money upstairs; Gunn had given it to her, encouraged her to go out. But she was scared to go by herself. Scared of portals opening up, of people who would hurt her. Scared sheíd fall into the other place again, and be a cow.
She bit her fingers and walked downstairs. Angel was sitting on his couch, staring at a large lidded metal jar on the coffee table. "Did you need something?" he asked, as he turned to look at her.
"I'm sorry to interrupt," she said shyly.
"That's alright," Angel replied. "I'm dwelling on the past. It's probably good to break away from it." He gestured to the urn.
Fred sat down next to him and looked at the urn. "Those are Faith's ashes," she said quietly. "I heard Cordelia talking about her memorial service, how no one was there but her and Wesley."
"I should have been here for her," Angel sighed. "I promised her I'd help her, and then I just let her slip away."
"You couldn't have saved her," Fred said. "You're very strong, but she got sick."
"She died alone," Angel said. "At least Buffy didn't have to go through it alone." His face clouded, his grief palpable. Fred gently set her hand on his shoulder and patted him. "I'm sorry. I'm sure you didn't come down here to hear about this."
"Iím just hungry," she said apologetically. "I came to see if you had any food."
"I donít have anything to offer except blood," he replied. "Do you want me to go out and pick up something?"
She smiled and nodded. "That would be so nice."
The telephone rang and Angel picked it up. "Cordelia?" he asked. He listened for a moment, his brow furrowing. "Weíll be right there," he said. He hung up the phone and turned to Fred. "Cordyís in trouble," he said, hurriedly standing up and pulling on his coat. "I have to go."
"Is everything okay?" she asked.
He hesitated. "Iím sure it will all work out," he said encouragingly. He rushed out of the room, dialing his cell phone.
Fred walked back up the stairs to her room. She stood in the hallway outside, listening to the sounds of television coming from Spikeís room. She knocked on his door, and he quickly answered. "Hi," she said.
"Hello," he replied. He opened the door wide. "Would you like to come in?"
She shook her head. "No, thatís okay. I just need to ask you for a favor."
"What exactly do you need from me, pet?" he asked with a slow smile.
"Tacos," she replied. He looked at her oddly. "Well, Iím really hungry, and thereís no food in the hotel, and Angel would have gone with me, but he left to go meet Cordelia."
"You want me to go out with you for Mexican food?" he asked.
"No, I want you to go pick up food and bring it back here," she explained. "I donít want to leave the hotel."
"Why not?" he asked.
"Iím scared," she admitted softly.
"Scared of what?"
"The outside," she said seriously. "Thereís bad people out there, bad places. Portals." She shook her head. "Itís too risky."
"So youíre just going to stay in the hotel and hide away?" he asked. "Sounds like a horrible waste."
"Itís the intelligent thing to do," she said. "Iím very smart, so I respect my opinion."
He looked angry. "There are people out there, dying young every day, who would give anything to have the life youíre wasting. Itís a disgrace is what it is. May as well be dead, hiding out from the world."
"Well, I thought about killing myself," she said seriously. "But I donít want to burn in hell."
"What would you have possibly done to burn in hell for?" he asked.
"Suicides go straight to hell," she replied. "And I would like to see my Grandpa Pete again someday, so I want to go to heaven."
He tilted his head and looked at her quizzically. "Youíre a very odd girl," he declared.
"Yes, I am," she said. "Does that mean that you wonít get me food?"
"Why donít you come out with me?" he asked.
"I couldnít," she said.
"Because youíre too frightened?" She nodded vigorously, her eyes wide. Clearly the girl had been seriously traumatized. Spike decided to cut her a little slack. "Iíll do it," he said. "Where do you want me to go?"
"Taco Loco," she said. "555-3056. Itís right across the street. Iíll show you."
She stood up and Spike followed her across the hall. He stood on the threshold of her room as she walked in. "I invite you in," she said dramatically, with a sweep of her hand.
She walked over to the window, and he came inside, eyebrows raised at the complete disorder of the room and the walls covered in writing. She gestured him over and they looked down the street. Fred pointed out the green sign of the restaurant. "You just go downstairs and go out the main lobby doors, then make a right and cross the street."
"Itís literally across the street," he remarked. He turned towards her. "We could be there and back in five minutes. What do you say?"
"No," she said. She looked at him, her brown eyes soft and shining. "I know Iím crazy. It doesnít make it any easier, you mocking me."
"Iím not making fun of you," he said. "Itís just ridiculous-"
She turned away and pulled a fresh marker from the box in her pocket. The girl looked around the room. There were reams of paper covered with symbols, and she looked through the stacks. "I need to find a piece of paper to write down what I want," she explained.
He extended his hand, palm up. She came over and took his hand in hers, writing slowly and precisely on his skin. When she was done, she dropped his hand and rifled through a pile of papers and junk, finally coming up with a small beaded coin purse. She pulled out a twenty dollar bill and handed it to Spike. "Iíll be back in a few minutes," he said.
"Thanks," she replied. She turned to the wall and began writing again, picking up where she had left off in the long stream of information on the wall. Spike watched her for a moment, and then turned and left.
Spike was waiting for his order when his cell phone rang. He smiled and pulled it out of his pocket. "Hey, niblet," he answered.
"Hey, vampy," Dawn replied.
"Howíd the big welcome to L.A. dinner go?" he asked.
"It was actually extremely cool," she said. "Dad is way overcompensating for being invisi-father for so long. Apparently Stepmom wants to have a baby, and heís showing her what great parent material he is."
"What do you think of Mona?" he asked.
"Sheís nice," the teenager replied. "She knows sheís not Mom, and sheís not trying to be. Dadís another story. Really clingy and over interested, and he laughs way too loud."
"Youíll have to give him a chance," Spike said. "I know this isnít how you wanted things to work out, but maybe it will be for the best. Youíll have a normal high school experience off the Hellmouth. Your sister would have liked that."
They both paused, feeling the jolt of pain that still occurred every time they thought of Buffy. The cashier handed Spike his bag of Mexican food, and he left the restaurant. "Met a girl," he commented, changing the subject.
"Really?" Dawn said. "Is she pretty?"
"Beautiful," he said. "Really lovely. Sadly, sheís mad as a hatter."
"That shouldnít be a problem," Dawn teased. "You were with Drusilla for like a thousand years."
"Iím not looking to date the girl, Dawn," he said. "She lives across the hall from me at the Hyperion."
"So sheís your hot roommate then," Dawn said. "Lots of potential there."
"Iím not trying to score with the insane bird," Spike said as he entered the lobby of the hotel. "I have to go. "
"Spikeís in looove," crooned the teenager.
"Sod off," he said, and hung up to the sound of her laughter.
Continued in Chapter Two