The demon looked up at him with its unreadable face.
"I will give you what you require in order to achieve your goals."
The tent flap rustled in a strange wind, and he could smell the dryness of the air outside from where he knelt on the demon's oriental carpet. The harsh white sunlight beyond the entrance filled him with instinctual foreboding.
The demon inclined its dark head, not featureless, but impossible to truly look at and perceive. The eyes simply slid off. The cloud that was its presence lifted suddenly, and then all things lifted, faded away. And they both were gone to what had come before.
He awoke in a cold stone place.
He looked about him, confused. It was a crypt. He was among the dead.
But these dead lived comfortably. Books lined a shelf on one wall. The floor was carpeted by many carpets. A bed stood in among some skulls lying randomly by the stairwell.
He couldn't remember... how he got here, what had happened. It was silent and dark. And then a sound broke the darkness.
The movement of a door.
Footfalls came down the stairs and the dark haired man spoke again.
"Spike, where did you come from?."
Then a pause. A quizzical look.
Xander had never seen Spike with the particular expression he bore. He stared at Xander like he was looking through him, and looked frightened. Frightened. Somehow, it raised a snake of fear in Xander, too.
"We hadn't seen you in so long, figured you'd cleared out. Buffy's fighting a whole nest out there, I ran to get some of your weapons. For some reason, the beasties that bite have gotten... well, bitier since you left. Wanted to help. Never expected you to be here. Come on, we should go, she needs us."
Spike cleared his throat.
"Ok, are you of the sober?" Xander asked. But he knew something was wrong. "We don't have time for this, Buffy's waiting."
"Yes, your doomed obsession, object of your harassment. Don't you remember?"
"I am afraid... no, I can't." Spike whispered. He thought he could remember dying... once. And then there was an insufferably long, vague blur.
"Great. You stay there, ok? I'll be back," Xander said, pulling a lightweight axe from one of Spike's weapons chests. He needed to help Buffy and he couldn't wait any longer. She needed him.
Buffy landed on her feet, running. She was trying to draw them somewhere she could take the offensive. One vampire tried to tackle her, but received a stake thrown behind her for a reward.
She scaled a statue and vaulted herself around a memorial bench, behind which she pulled out her crossbow and took out three of them before she had to give up more ground.
It was strange to fight this many and be so alone.
Willow was gone, and her support with her. Anya, Tara, gone. Summer wasn't yet old, and the fight, the long struggle, had increased. Xander was brave, but she feared for him every time he appeared on her patrol routes. She thought he did it because he found a reason this way. Dawn was barely there at all, drifting through life alone and unreachable.
She pulled away from the main group, arms encircling a branch, pulling herself up into a tree from which she had better range. Perched on a branch, she fended off those who would climb to her, and kept a good range from those who would follow after.
The Slayer was taking up guerrilla tactics. There were too many. There was a time she'd have had even him with her-- strong and resourceful like herself.
But not like herself, never like herself. And the quiet despair moved in her.
But he had gone somewhere even before all this had happened. Gone away. And there was no one to watch her back.
Six more of the vampires were dust below her at last, and the other three had fled. And then a movement in the bushes. She raised her bow, reaching to her quiver with lithe speed.
"Hey!" said Xander. She didn't shoot.
Buffy leapt gracefully to the ground, where she landed silently.
"If they don't kill you, Xander, I might," she said, walking up to him, catching her breath.
"Big words Buff, big words," he said, smiling a moment, shrugging. Buffy was looking behind him, where Spike stood by a tree, watching.
"Oh, yeah. Spike's back. Now you'll have someone else to hit on you ineffectually," Xander's smile faded, and he continued, "Really Buffy, I'm not sure but there's something weird about him."
Spike continued to stare at Buffy. She stared back, and stepped closer to him. She looked intently in his face. And then she knew.
"No," said Buffy, "He's not back-- it's William."
Continued in part two