Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss Whedon, UPN, Mutant Enemy, etc.
Summary: The ends of BtVS 6 and AtS 3 come together
Setting: The near future; say, August
"Go away!" Spike bellowed from the depths of his chair. Whoever it was kept knocking and knocking 'til it was driving him 'round the bend. It couldn't be her, anyway. She never knocked. He poured more bourbon into his mug of blood, though it wasn't helping much anymore. Instead of getting good and drunk, now he got drunk and felt obscurely guilty at the same time.
Not going to think about that.
"Clem! Leave me alone!" he yelled towards the door of his crypt. He'd been back in Sunnydale for three weeks, and he'd hardly left this room. He was NOT brooding; just needed to get acclimated, was all. Sure things looked a little different, but it wasn't that big a change. He wasn't worried. Just needed to settle in a bit, that was it; didn't need to see anyone or get involved in big explanations yet. Or apologies.
The maddening knocking continued. "Bloody hell!" he exploded, bounding to the door in a flash and wrenching it open. "What the bleeding hell do you mean by..." he began.
Two complete strangers stood in the twilight, looking at him uncertainly.
One was a large and muscular young black man with a shaved head, and the other a very slight young woman with long flowing dark hair and enormous eyes. They weren't vamps or anything. Just people.
They gawked at each other for a moment.
"Spike?" the girl said, in a sort of reedy voice.
He realized he was gaping at her, and shut his mouth. He ran his hands over his hair, which hadn't been combed in a week. He squinted at the girl.
"Do I know you?" he said.
"Well, no," she said more confidently in a slightly twangy accent. She sort of reminded him of someone, but he couldn't put his finger on it. "We know OF you. We sort of have a mutual friend. Had. Or have, I hope. Am I making sense?"
"Not really," The young man said fondly.
Spike stared at them. He realized that something was going on here but he had no idea what it was. Another drink might help.
"What do you want?" he said baldly.
"Can we come in?" asked the girl, in a disconcertingly friendly tone of voice. "It's kinda complicated."
"Might as well; my schedule isn't exactly overbooked," he sighed, and waved them in. "Pull up a chair. What can I do for you?"
"We need your help," the girl said earnestly, perching on the arm of his second-best chair. Obviously, she didn't get he was being sarcastic.
"Look, baby, let's start from the beginning," the guy said. "My name is Gunn, and this is Fred -"
"Winifred," she said, smiling and holding out a thin little hand.
Rather dazedly, Spike shook it, and realized they weren't in the least afraid of him. But they must know what he was - what he was still - he lived in a crypt, dammit. In a sodding graveyard. They knew his name (which still counted for something). He collapsed back into his chair, lit a cigarette, and looked at them blankly.
"Am I supposed to know you?" he said.
"Oh, no; we've never seen you. But we know who you are. Or were. You know, years ago, but now, too."
"We work with Angel," Gunn said.
Angel. That was a name he didn't want to hear. The Vampire with a Soul. The One and Only. The special project of the Powers that Be. No matter what his past crimes - and Spike remembered some of them all too vividly - HIS precious soul came with a get-out-of-Karma-free card. He felt his face twist with bitterness and, oh God, shame. What the hell did these people want with him? His last meeting with Angel had not been all peace, love, and understanding.
On the other hand, if they were going to stake him they would have tried it by now. Anyway, the girl didn't look very dangerous; maybe she was Angel's secretary or accountant or something.
"So," he said in (he hoped) an emotionless tone, gazing at the glowing tip of his cigarette, "how's the Great Poof, then? Still righteous and noble?"
"Well, that's just it. We don't know," Fred said.
He looked at her. Huh?
"He's gone," Gunn said.
"That's why we need you."
Huh? One more time.
"Me? What about the cheerleader - what's her name? Ophelia?" he said. "I thought she was all sparkly lights and wacky powers now. Why can't she help you?"
Fred looked distressed. "Cordelia. She's gone, too."
"Isn't one of those big-brain-having Watchers one of your little pseudo-Scooby gang?"
"Wes. He's also gone. And Lorne, our psychic demon friend, too. Gone."
"And Groo," Fred added.
"Right, our super-strong champion from another dimension. Gone."
All right, maybe it was the bourbon, but this was getting weird.
"So what am I s'posed to be able to do for you?"
Fred looked at him with big, soft brown eyes. "You're really our only hope, Spike," she said confidingly. Dawn! It was Dawn she reminded him of, he realized, with her long, silky hair and ingenuous face. Bugger.
"Hope of what?" He knew he wasn't going to like what was coming. But he just couldn't turn away from those eyes.
"To find Angel."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Grandfather sang it under the gallows:
'Hear, gentlemen, ladies, and all mankind:
Money is good and a girl might be better,
But good strong blows are delights to the mind.'
There, standing on the cart,
He sang it from his heart."
William Butler Yeats
Continued in Part 2. Had It Not Been