By Elsa Frohman
Spoilers: Through Never Leave Me
Summary: Six weeks! You can't expect me to just leave him there!
Fingertips glided over his skin as gently as butterfly wings. Her touch healed, closing the wounds and taking away the pain. His eyes were closed, but he knew who was with him. Her scent washed over him as a balm. He tried to speak, but a finger touched his lips.
"Shhh... You don't have to say anything."
The pillows were soft beneath his head, and the bed embraced his aching bones. He was home -- safe in the arms of the woman he loved.
"Rest now," she whispered. "Everything's all right now. It's over."
"Buffy," he said, though drawing breath to speak was a terrible effort. "You didn't have to ..."
"Yes, I did. I couldn't leave you there."
"Not worth it..."
"Stop saying that. Don't ever say it again. You are worth it. Because I say so."
He sighed, overwhelmed by weariness. He felt the weight ... the weight of his own body pulling against the bonds that tied him to the wheel. It was cold, so cold. And it hurt, everything hurt, his arms, his shoulders, the open wounds on his chest and abdomen.
His eyes fluttered open. Not home. At least, not her home. The place was familiar enough, though. He'd spent months here before she'd come and taken him to Harris' apartment.
But at least he was no longer suspended from the ceiling. The wheel had been lowered again. He was upright, his feet touching the dirt floor. He raised his head, though the effort cost him dearly. Buffy stood in front of him, looking at his wounds with clinical interest.
"What's so funny?" she asked.
He could barely draw the breath to speak. Breathing flexed the damaged muscles of his chest and sent streaks of pain through him like electric shocks.
"Won't work," he said.
"Can tell the difference now."
"Doesn't matter. She doesn't care about you. At least I care enough to come see you."
"She thinks you're one of us, you know. She thinks I sent my Harbingers to rescue you. She won't be coming to save you. She thinks you're on our side."
"You're lost. Nobody gives a damn what happens to you."
He laughed again weakly.
"You'll be dead soon."
"Too late... by a long shot," he replied, his lip curling in what almost looked like a sneer.
"Really dead. Not undead. You're not long for this world, sweet cheeks."
"Bollocks. Can't bleed to death."
"Right... but there's a lot more in store. Believe me, I can make good on that threat. And it won't be quick. You're mine. All mine. Nobody else cares to claim you."
"You can't do anything to me. Not anymore."
"You think I care if you kill me?"
"It would be a waste. I think I'd rather make use of you. You know what I think?"
"I think so, Brain, but where are we going to get a duck and a hose at this time of night?"
Buffy's image frowned.
"Inappropriate humor. You think you've broken my hold on you."
He was alone again. It was dark. He couldn't see much. Just as well.
When he opened his eyes again, Ian Matthews was glaring at him. Peter Harcourt had his arms pinned from behind. Matthews slammed a fist into his gut.
They were upperclassmen -- he wasn't. He wasn't even sure what the transgression had been this time. Didn't matter.
"Say it!" Matthews snarled. "Say 'I am a pathetic prancing ponce,' you little faggot."
William pursed his lips and tried to glare back at the older boy. Matthews was nearly six feet tall and weighed close to 17 stone. Harcourt weighed at least as much, though he lacked the other boy's height. A slight boy even for his age, which was three years less than these two, William knew he had no chance in a fight with either of his tormentors, let alone both at once. But that didn't mean he would roll over and be their dog.
Matthews hit him again, knocking the breath out of him.
"I think you must like pain," Matthews sneered. "Do you like pain?" The older boy grabbed his chin and forced William to look at him. "Are you one of those perverts who likes to be hurt? Are you?"
Spike shook his head. That wasn't right. Nobody ever said "pervert" when he was at school. Everything was getting mixed up again. Couldn't let himself get confused. He was dreaming. Matthews and Harcourt had been dead for ... how long? Hard to say. Hadn't kept track of them after he left school. Never wanted to see them again.
Matthews hit him again.
"Be careful," he said, giving the older boy a defiant look. "You don't want to miss and hit my face. Then there'll be a bruise and someone will ask what happened. Can't have that."
"Nobody cares what happens to you!" Matthews said, cocking his fist back to strike again.
The blow never landed.
He opened his eyes again. He was in the basement of Sunnydale High School. Alone again.
"You're not alone," said a familiar voice.
Angelus stepped out of the shadows. Or was it Angel? Angelus, Angel -- not like there was a difference.
"So, how's the soul working out for you?"
Spike frowned. He wasn't at all certain he wanted to expend the effort to draw a breath and speak.
"Was in town. Just thought I'd stop by and pay a visit," Angel said. "Came up from LA to see Buffy. We're getting back together, you know. We're soulmates."
Angel gave him a smug look.
"She's one hell of a woman. And she loves me. In fact, she'll never love anything as much as me ever again in this life. So, how could I stay out of her life? We were meant to be together -- forever."
Spike let his eyes flutter closed.
"Maybe we'll invite you to the wedding. I'd let you be the best man -- but you're not," Angel's voice continued.
"You're not real."
"I'm real as I need to be," the voice, no longer Angel's replied. "Real enough to control you. Real enough to make you kill those people. Real enough to destroy you."
"I've got a silly question," Spike said, opening his eyes to find nobody in the room with him.
"Why haven't you?"
There was no answer.
"There must be some reason you don't just have one of your toadies put a stake through my heart."
"That would be too easy. I'd rather play with you some more."
Angel was back -- no, this time it was clearly Angelus. He looked as he looked when Spike had first seen his grandsire -- long hair, mutton chops, cold eyes.
"No, it's more than that. For some reason, I'm important to you."
"Don't flatter yourself. You've played your part. Your blood raised my pet. You've killed a good dozen people. Right now, you're little more than a pleasant diversion."
"I'm going to figure it out."
There was no reply, and he found his attention wavering. He was slipping out of consciousness again.
He came into the common room, only to find Harcourt there. The older boy had him before he could reverse and retreat. The older boy was glowering.
"I told you I wanted my shoes shined, toad."
"I couldn't. I had to stay after maths class," he answered, panic rising as he tried to back away.
Harcourt grabbed him and twisted his arm behind his back.
"When I tell you to do something, you do it, toad."
"It wasn't my fault. I had to stay after," he said.
"Who do you think you are? I'll tell you who you are. You're nobody. Nobody gives a damn about you, toad. The sooner you get that through your thick head..."
He twisted away from the older boy's grip and turned to face him. Harcourt was wearing an AC/DC T-shirt. That wasn't right. Not that it wasn't appropriate. Just not right.
Harcourt was gone. He was back in the high school basement.
"My poor Spike," Drusilla said, her voice full of concern. "They've hurt you. The bad, bad people have hurt you. They've taken away your strength. You need to feed."
"No thanks, pet."
"I'll bring you a nice, tender young girl. Then my Spike will feel better."
"You have to feed, my darling. You must. If I untie you now, you'll just fall down. You have to be strong again. You're my brave knight. You have to fight for me. The King of Cups will have his picnic."
"Please... pretty please with sugar on top. I'll find you a nice pretty one," she cajoled.
Drusilla stepped back and motioned to one of the robed figures who stood in the shadows. They'd been there all along. Why hadn't he noticed?
"Go catch a girl and bring her here for my Spike. He needs a tasty treat. We must be much nicer to him now. He's ours again. And he's very, very hungry."
"Now don't be greedy, my sweet boy. If you finish all of this one, I'll get you another."
"I won't feed..."
"Oh, don't be afraid, my darling. The nasty little thing in your head won't hurt you. We've fixed that. No more nasty little shocks lying to my Spike."
"Stop it. I know you're not real."
"Nothing is. Don't you know that by now? It's all just a story. A nasty, nasty story with a bad ending. But we can rewrite it, my sweet boy. We'll be together forever. We belong together. The dark princess and the dark knight. You'll forget the Slayer. She's already forgotten you. She wasn't worthy of you."
"No. I don't want you around anymore."
"It's the soul, isn't it? Dirty, dirty. All covered with stains. You'll never get it clean."
"Doesn't matter. Nothing I can do about that now."
"I can fix it for you. I'll take the dirty, nasty soul out of my Spike. Then everything will be sweet again."
"See, you feel better already. I'll fix my Spike, and we'll open a vein and drench the world in blood together."
"No, pet. Not gonna happen."
Drusilla stomped her foot. "Don't contradict Mummy! You're a very naughty boy!"
"And you're a liar. If you could remove my soul, you'd never have gone to the trouble you did to get me to do your dirty work. Get lost, bitch."
He closed his eyes and willed himself away from the high school basement. Anywhere would be preferable.
The chapel at school. Stained glass windows, dark wooden pews, the faint odor of incense recently burned. He sat in a pew near the front, a history book open in his lap. The chapel was quiet, and they wouldn't look for him here. He could read his assignment in peace.
He heard the hinges on the door creak. Someone was coming. Please let it not be...
"There you are. Thought you could hide, did you?"
He looked back over his shoulder to find his worst fears confirmed. Matthews was coming up the aisle.
"I told you to wait for me in the common room. You just make it worse for yourself when you try to get away."
"Why won't you leave me alone?" he asked.
"Because I like you," Matthews said, a nasty gleam in his eye. "You're such a pretty little thing."
Spike stood up, a little bit surprised that he could. He wasn't as tall as the upperclassman, but he was a 150-year-old vampire, and if he chose to, he could break the boy in half. No, he couldn't. The chip. But that didn't make any sense. Matthews was dead more than half a century before he got the chip. He was confused. And he wasn't sure the chip worked anyway.
Matthews grabbed two handfuls of the front of Spike's T-shirt, and glared into his face.
"I'm going to make you sorry you were ever born."
"Excuse me," said a familiar, feminine voice. "But you really shouldn't do that."
Spike looked over to see Buffy standing beside them, her hands on her hips. She was wearing jeans and a lace halter top. He had the odd feeling that she was dressed inappropriately for church.
"Who are you?" Matthews asked, looking her up and down in confusion.
"Ian Matthews, allow me to introduce you to Miss Buffy Summers," Spike said formally, the words sounding strange as he spoke them.
"Why is she dressed like that?"
Buffy shrugged. "Whale-bone corsets are so passe. And they ride up when you do a high kick."
As if to demonstrate, Buffy hit Matthews with a boot to the solar plexus. He flew backward and tumbled over the back of a pew. She stalked after him and stood over him glowering.
"You mess with Spike, and you're messing with me," she said grimly. "And believe me, you don't want to mess with me."
Spike opened his eyes. He was still tied to the wheel in the high school basement.
The figure before him was Angelus again -- his face dark with rage.
"You're becoming more trouble than you're worth, boy. Just why is it I don't kill you?"
"Because you can't."
"Can't I? All I have to do is have one of my servants drag your sorry carcass outside. You're not strong enough to walk. The sun will come up, and that will be that."
Spike laughed. "Go ahead. See if I care."
He closed his eyes.
"Aren't you even curious about the vampire your blood raised? Don't you want to know what you're responsible for?"
"What does it matter? It can hardly do any more damage than I've done myself."
"Think again. It's twenty times as strong as you were at your strongest. The blood will flow -- it's already happening. Death, terror, destruction. My pet will make me proud."
"Until the Slayer finds it. I don't expect it's going to last long."
"Fool. The Slayer is no match for a true vampire."
"You're wrong. He's searching for her right now. She's going to learn some interesting things about vampire nature. He's harder to kill than she knows. And he's going to rid me of the meddlesome bitch."
"Don't count your dead Slayers before they're pushing up daisies."
Angelus shook his head slowly.
"Pathetic. You think that just because you never managed to kill her it can't be done?"
"You can talk all you want. I'll believe the Slayer is dead when I see the body -- and probably not then. She's come back twice already. She's stronger than death. It doesn't matter what you send against her, she'll beat it."
"Sad really. You're allowing yourself to hope again. You believe she's going to come for you. But you might as well hope for a Hanukah greeting from the pope. I hate to break it to you -- she's not going to rescue you."
Spike laughed once more.
"Too late again, mate. She already did."
Continued in The "UPN" promo for Part Two