All About Spike

Chapter: 1  2  Epilogue

When Darkness Falls
By Athene

Summary: Spike gets in serious trouble. Will the gang choose to help him, and if so, how far will they go to help an "evil soulless vampire"?
Rating: PG
Author Notes: Thank you to Matt and Emma for proof reading. I am a feedback junkie, please support my habbit! This was my very first Buffy fic, so please be gentle to it.
Story Notes: Set during season six, post "Tabula Rasa"
Disclaimer: I don't own any of them. Joss Whedon and co do.



PART 1

Spike paced restlessly. While the human inhabitants of Sunnydale frequently wished for the days to be longer, to stave off the night for few more hours, Spike spent his days in anticipation of the moment the sun would set.

Of course, that was largely due to the fact that Spike was a vampire. He had to admit, however, that even before his siring he had always preferred the hours of darkness, and his (much) younger days had contained many a late night walk, sometimes seeking poetic inspiration, often just because the late nineteenth century could appear so much more palatable when taken out of the harsh light of day. The Thames, normally a filthy, stinking flow of industrial waste, was transformed into a picture of tranquillity when bathed in moonlight. The memory of the twinkling constellations reflected on the rippled surface of a lake at his grandparents' country house was an image that had stayed with Spike for over a hundred years.

Except, of course, for those few hours just three days earlier when Willow's spell had erased all their memories completely. For that brief time he had been able to escape the reality of what he was - the irony of the tamed monster, the vampire with a chip in his head, a lonely, miserable creature rejected by humans and demons alike. For that brief time, he had been human. The Scoobies had accepted him as one of them, he had even gained a 'family' of sorts. For that brief time, Buffy had actually cared about him.

Spike stopped pacing abruptly and cursed. He wasn't going to start thinking about that again. The mental order came a moment too late, and he sighed melodramatically as he wondered how many more times Buffy was going to mess him about before she worked out what she actually wanted. Twice now they had shared a kiss, and twice now she had followed that up with avoiding and denial and feigned revulsion. God, he hoped it was feigned. On more than one occasion, including that weird time with the uncontrollable singing, he had made his feelings perfectly clear to her. He just wished for once she would make a decision and stick to it, even if that decision was to stake him. He was starting to wonder if oblivion might not be better than spending the rest of his immortal life feeling like this.

Unable to wait any longer, he risked a peep round the edge of the door to see the last rays of sunlight slipping below the horizon. At last. Spike strode out into the graveyard, with an air of determination. He had decided. He was going to find the Slayer and have it out with her once and for all.

It was almost an hour, and two cemeteries later before Spike heard the sounds of a fight drifting across the peaceful, starry night. Before he even consciously thought about what he was doing he was running towards the sound, crouching low, eyes scanning for movement. He might not be able to hunt humans any more, but more than a hundred years of undeath had instilled a predatory instinct that now governed his reactions without him even realising it.

A blur of speed to his left, and suddenly he was aware of three figures moving to the discordant beat of mortal combat. Two were similar, tall, cloaked individuals. Not human, or even vampire. Some sort of lizard-men demons with scaly skin. Even in the meagre light of the almost full moon Spike could make out differences - the one wielding a short staff was rather bluish in colour, the unarmed demon appeared more green. The third was the object of Spike's search - the Slayer herself.

Buffy launched a series of blows and kicks on the blue demon, knocking him back a little. He remained standing in spite of the onslaught and counter attacked with a single devastating swing of the staff that sent the Slayer flying. That sight alone was enough to get Spike moving, sprinting across the distance between them with an enraged snarl.

Koros demons, he thought rather abstractly as he ran. Tough, but not that tough. More known for intelligence and ability with magic than for being particularly feared combatants. Dangerous, yes. But not too much of a match for the combined strength of the Slayer and a vampire.

The green Koros had no idea what hit him. He was a full head taller than Spike, but the vampire had surprise and momentum on his side for the first strike - a full body tackle that sent the demon sprawling. 'Blue' swung around, distracted, and Buffy used the opportunity to fight back, her first kick sending the staff spinning out of his grip, her second landing squarely in his chest. Satisfied that she was holding her own, Spike turned back to the Koros he had tackled. His momentary inattention earned him an elbow in the face, and they exchanged a series of blows that ought to have put any normal human into a casualty department.

Within those first few blows Spike had assessed his opponent. 'Green' wasn't very strong, but he was quick, and he defended well. Spike guessed Blue was the real combatant of the pair, and that this one was just trying to hold him off until Blue finished with the Slayer and came to his aid. Spike didn't intend to let him live that long.

He noted on the periphery of his vision that Buffy and Blue were moving off, their fight degenerating into a series of sprints and tackles. That wasn't good. He wanted to keep the other half of the fight within his sight in case Buffy needed his help. He had already paid once for taking his attention off Green and wasn't about to do it again however. He needed to finish this, now.

They both circled each other, looking for an opening. Spike counted on his reactions being faster than the Koros. He lunged forward, a double hand punch aimed straight for the demon's gut. Green effortlessly sidestepped, and Spike's reflexes worked fast enough to at least hit, but it was little more than a harmless sideswipe and suddenly he was off balance and spinning to keep his opponent in his sights. He saw the Koros slip his hand into a pouch at his belt, and wondered what weapon could be so small that it would fit into that. He had to take the opportunity while the demon had only one hand free, and moved to attack again. In an almost lazy gesture Green's hand came out of the pouch and released a spray of glittering powder into the air in front of Spike's face. Spike reacted, back-pedalling immediately, but it wasn't fast enough. He felt a slight itchy tickle as the golden powder touched his face. Then an intense wave of pain hit, and he couldn't stop the reflex to cover his face with his hands. His eyes spasmed shut too late to prevent the powder from getting into them.

Spike was all too aware of how vulnerable he had just become to attack, but it was taking all his willpower to not scream. His eyes were burning. He sensed movement behind, and then a kick took his legs out from under him and he hit the ground, still unable to pull his hands away from his face to defend himself. Something solid impacted his chest and he reflexively curled up, furious with himself for not being able to fight back. A second wave of burning seared through his eyes and this time he couldn't stop himself from crying out. Another rain of blows hit his back and chest, and he felt ribs cracking.

Then the attack stopped. He shuddered as the intense burning passed, settling into a sharp, constant pain. He heard footsteps moving away, and finally managed to force his eyes open, in spite of the stabbing sensation. It seemed to be taking a moment for his eyes to adjust, and he shook his head and blinked a few times to get rid of whatever powder might still have been in contact with his face, slowly getting to his knees as he did so. It was taking a long time to adjust. Spike gently rubbed his eyes, hoping he wasn't just grinding powder further into his pupils. He blinked again, his eyes watering, as he finally began to realise the truth. There was no adjusting.

He couldn't see.

"Bloody hell," he muttered, knowing that his eyes were wide open, but seeing only blackness. What the hell was that powder? More to the point...

"Buffy."

He had to warn her. Spike froze, listening hard. In the distance he could still hear footsteps moving away, and the faint sounds of a fight. He had no idea if there was anything he could do to help like this, but he couldn't just sit here and do nothing. He carefully got to his feet, putting his hands out to warn of obstacles ahead. Then he started to stumble after the sounds made by the escaping Koros demon.



Blue had barely hit the floor, a stake lodged in his shoulder, when the second demon came running. Buffy took a deep breath for round two. She couldn't see Spike chasing it, and wondered if the vampire had finally picked one fight too many. He had certainly turned up at the right moment (yet again), and allowed her to get the upper hand in her fight. Right now, though, she had another demon trying to kill her, and decided she could worry (or not) about what had happened to Spike later.

The second demon was more cautious, less sure of itself, and Buffy took advantage of that, launching attack after attack, never letting it recover long enough to get into a rhythm of its own. Eventually she swung it around and kicked it backwards off balance. It staggered back, crashing into something, and Buffy heard a familiar English voice yell a curse as the green demon fell into a tangled heap on the vampire. There was a brief and fairly undignified brawl as they both tried to stand up while keeping the other down. She paused for a moment to catch her breath, feeling an odd mixture of relief and disappointment that Spike was still alive after all. Well, not strictly speaking 'alive'. As she watched, Spike scrambled to his feet, and promptly tripped over a gravestone.

"Klutz," she muttered, moving in to take his place. Green had got up and was ready for her when Buffy attacked again. He defended well, and she realised with some concern that she was no longer managing to land many blows effectively. Now, though, it was two against one, and she was on the team with two. She manoeuvred the combat around so that the demon had his back to Spike, assuming that her ally (in the loosest possible sense of the term) would take the opportunity. Instead, she noted that he was crouching low, obviously tensed for a fight, but he wasn't even looking in the right direction, much less moving to help her.

"Hey Spike. You gonna help or are you just enjoying the show?"

His head snapped around to face Buffy, and as Green grunted and back-pedalled away from her Spike finally acted. He launched himself, somewhat clumsily, at the demon, his arms outstretched. He ploughed into it, scrabbled for a moment and then grabbed it from behind, pinning its arms.

"Buffy, kill it now. I can't hold it for long."

Buffy didn't need to be told twice, and whipped another stake out of her jacket. A split second before she acted, it occurred to her that if she pushed it too far she might accidentally stake Spike along with the demon, then she plunged the stake into its chest anyway.

Everything seemed to stop for a moment, and then the demon, with Spike still holding it, collapsed sideways into a heap. Spike scrambled to untangle his arms, pushing the demon away with something that looked like disgust on his face.

"Nice," he muttered, getting to his knees but making no attempt to stand.

Buffy was startled by a movement behind, and spun around to see Blue getting up and running away.

"Hey!" she yelled, chasing after it. Wasn't he dead? Obviously not, and Buffy was mildly pissed that it was still capable of running away after the pounding she had given it. Blue was fast, but Buffy thought she was starting to gain on it until it ran round behind a crypt and disappeared. She skidded to a halt and looked around, but the demon had gone.

"Damn. There's always one that gets away."

A little disappointed, she wandered back to Green's body to find Spike still kneeling next to it.

"Thanks for the backup," Buffy's voice was laced with sarcasm. "If you're going to insist on slaying as a tag-team sport, you could at least be competent at it."

"What?" He looked up, but Buffy noted he wasn't even looking at her. She glanced behind to see if he was actually staring at something else back there.

"Oh come on. We should have finished that way quicker with both of us on it, but you were too busy claiming your 'klutz of the night' award."

It occurred to her that she ought to have been a little more grateful that he had shown up and helped at all, instead of berating him about a few tactical errors. But then, this was Spike, and if she gave him even an inch of slack she wouldn't be rid of him for the rest of the night. This way, maybe he'd huff off and she could finish the patrol alone and get back to Dawn.

A look something between frustration and anger crossed his face, and Buffy wondered if she was being a little too harsh. She held her hand out to him in a conciliatory gesture, intending to help him up. He didn't take the hand, didn't even acknowledge it was there. It began to dawn on Buffy that there was something not right. He was still looking at her, but not at her. He seemed to be trying too hard to steady himself, one hand tracing along the edge of the demon's body, as if to assure himself that it was there. Buffy felt her heart sink as she finally realised what was wrong.

She silently held her arm out to the side, and snapped her fingers. Spike reacted, his head turning to the direction of the noise with a suddenly confused expression, and she knew for sure.

"Spike?" She tried to force her voice to be gentler. "You can't see, can you?"

He hesitated for a moment, then every tensed muscle in his body seemed to sag, and he shook his head, a look of resignation on his face.

"Not a bloody thing."

"What happened?" Buffy knelt in front of him, lifting his chin so she could see his eyes. He tensed again at her touch, then relaxed and let her tilt his face towards the moonlight.

"Mystic version of mace spray. Bloody effective if it hasn't worn off already."

He winced and jerked away as Buffy prodded at the bleeding cut on his forehead, and the raw skin around his eyes.

"Sorry."

"It's alright," he mumbled, not very convincingly, and added, "There might still be some in his belt pouch if you want to see what it is."

Buffy found the pouch, but in the darkness of the cemetery she couldn't see much inside it, and didn't want to dig around too deeply considering what it had done to Spike. She pocketed it, and stood up.

"We should go back to the Magic Box. We can find out what this is, and we should probably try to wash it out if there's still any in your eyes."

Spike nodded, surprisingly acquiescent, and Buffy held her hand out again, before remembering, and taking hold of his arm to help him up. He had barely stood up when he staggered and buckled back to his knees, wrapping an arm around his chest with a cry of pain.

"What now?"

"I don't know. I got kicked in the ribs a bit, but I didn't think it was this bad."

Buffy was suddenly a whole lot more worried. What if the 'mystic mace' had done more than just blind him?

"Come on. Faster we move, faster I get you out of my life for the night." She wrapped Spike's arm across her shoulder, and lifted him to his feet, letting him lean most of his weight onto her.

"Now, don't you take this as an opportunity just to walk me into stuff, right?" He tried to make it sound like a joke, but Buffy saw the look on his face was a mixture of intense concentration as they walked, and absolute terror.

"You really think I would?"

Spike hesitated before he answered, and his grip on Buffy's shoulder tightened.

"No," he said very quietly. "I don't think you would."

They walked a little further, Buffy providing a running commentary on obstacles, rough ground and steps.

"Buffy. Thank you. For helping me I mean."

Buffy was surprised by his words, but knew from his voice that he was being genuine. She sighed, and carefully guided him around a gravestone.

"Thanks for helping me with the demons. I'm thinking this makes us even."

As they continued slowly on, Buffy began to have a bad feeling that this was not going to be resolved as quickly, or as easily, as they were both hoping.



Tara had finally got rid of Anya and Xander half an hour earlier, after claiming that she wanted to stay and do some reading. It had taken most of the time to persuade Anya that she was capable of locking the Magic Box up when she left, but now that she was alone she was getting surprisingly little work done.

She had fully intended to familiarise herself with some of Giles' more obscure texts. Now that he was gone they were going to need someone with the knowledge of exactly where in this huge collection of books they could find any given bit of information. Willow, of course, had been using Giles' library for years now, and so should have been the obvious choice. But Willow had disappeared the day before, leaving only a short note to Buffy and Dawn saying that she wanted to be alone for a while, and no one had heard anything from her since.

That was the reason why Tara couldn't concentrate on any research, and why she had read the opening paragraph to Giovanni Bestiano's "Daemon Dimensions and Mystic Portals" ten times, and still hadn't taken in a word of it.

It had been hard enough to break off her relationship with Willow, and she knew she still loved Willow more than anything else in the world. But right then she just couldn't trust her any more. Not after knowing that she had tried to alter her memory on not one but two occasions. That, and the changes that she had been starting to notice in her girlfriend when it had become clear she had an obsession with magic.

She was beginning to wonder if it was worth trying to work at all, but was equally reluctant to return to the spare room at her friend Sandy's house where she was currently staying. The room just seemed so empty after she had got used to sharing with Willow.

The front door rattled and Tara jumped to her feet, suddenly aware it might not have been such a good idea to stay here so late by herself after all. She could see shadows moving outside, and then heard a key being turned in the lock. Tara began mentally rehearsing a telekinesis spell to knock the heavy jar near the door into any intruder that she didn't like the look of, and breathed a sigh of relief when she recognised Buffy and Spike. It took a moment to realise that Spike seemed barely able to stay on his feet, and Buffy was all but carrying him.

"Buffy? What happened? Are you okay?"

Tara hurried over as Buffy kicked the door shut behind her, unable to let go of Spike without him collapsing.

"Help me get him over to a chair."

Tara nodded, and ducked under Spike's free arm to let him hold her shoulder, wrapping an arm around his waist to steady him. They half carried him over to the table and Buffy guided him into a chair, where he slumped and stopped moving.

"Buffy, what happened?"

The last time Tara had seen the vampire anything like this was when he had been thrown off the crane tower while trying to save Dawn from Glory.

"Mystic mace," Buffy said, as if it explained everything. When Tara looked confused she elaborated. "He got blinded by some weird mystical powder. I don't know if there's much left, but can you tell what it is?" Buffy fished a small pouch from her jacket pocket and passed it to Tara.

Tara stared in shock at Spike, noticing for the first time how red and burnt his eyes were, the patches of raw skin all over his face, the bleeding cut on his head. Then she turned her attention to the pouch, and carefully tipped a tiny amount onto the table, making sure not to touch it as she did so.

It was a mostly unremarkable pile of golden powder, occasionally seeming to glitter and sparkle in the light as she looked at it from different angles. If she didn't know better she might have thought it was fine sand. It didn't smell of anything in particular, but she was reluctant to get close and breathe any in by accident. She pondered for a while, glancing back at Spike who seemed to be recovering a little now he was sat down.

"Well?" Buffy prodded.

"Give me minute." Tara headed for the books, and came back to the table with an armful. She flicked through a few for a while before finding what she wanted.

"Spike? Can you tell me what happened?"

"Koros demon. We fought. Bastard played dirty with the magic powder. Now I can't see a bloody thing." He sounded impatient and, Tara noted, not nearly as relaxed and cocky as usual.

Tara frowned, deep in thought.

"Well?" Buffy was pacing.

"I think its Golshan poison."

"Poison?" Buffy and Spike's voices responded in perfect synchrony.

"How long ago did this fight happen?"

Buffy shrugged. "About half an hour, maybe longer."

"Hey! Poison?" Spike repeated, sitting upright and staring intently in Tara's direction.

"It's okay, its just a name," Tara reassured him. "I'm pretty sure it must be Golshan. That would explain why Spike's head is still bleeding after all this time. A vampire should have almost healed a cut like that already." She paused to get the facts straight in her head before continuing to explain. "Golshan is specifically designed to target creatures with supernatural healing abilities. It knocks out any kind of regenerative power. It doesn't stop you from healing at all; you just heal at normal human rate. Or, maybe worse than normal human, but that depends on how potent they made it. It says here it was popular among demons as a way of weakening the Slayer, but vampires don't use it because it works just as well on them."

"Guess it was meant for me," Buffy commented. "You just got in the way Spike."

Spike's attention was still focused on Tara, although his blank gaze appeared to be focused on the wall over her shoulder.

"So how fast can you cook up a cure?"

"Uh, hang on" Tara muttered, flicking through the books again. She glanced up apologetically and added, "Sorry, this might take a while. Buffy, why don't you help Spike? If he really has lost his vampire regenerative powers then we might need to treat some of those injuries."

Without even waiting to see if Buffy, or Spike, objected, Tara turned her attention back to finding a cure and restoring Spike's eyesight.



In the four years since she had first met Spike, Buffy had never once envisioned a scenario where she would be providing first aid to the vampire, and one time mortal enemy. While Tara sat with an ever-growing pile of books around her, Buffy found herself cleaning and dressing the burns, and the cut on Spike's head.

"So is this supposed to be temporary or what?" Spike asked, still holding a cold wet cloth over his eyes to quell the burning.

"I'm not sure," Tara admitted. "It mentions an antidote though, and if it was only a temporary effect it wouldn't be so important to have an antidote. So, I guess, not temporary."

They lapsed into silence for a while, the occasional turn of pages the only sound. Spike started to look restless and eventually broke the quiet with small talk in a voice that wasn't quite steady. Buffy wasn't exactly in the mood for small talk, or indeed any kind of talk with Spike, but as the time wore on she began to realise just how afraid he was. She felt an odd squirming in her stomach, and it was with some surprise that Buffy discovered she was feeling sorry for him.

"Oh. Oh, I think I've found it." Tara interrupted Buffy's thoughts, and all attention turned to the witch.

"Okay, the antidote is actually made as a by-product when you make the poison, so the Koros demons might have it." She read a little further and paused. "Oh, that's not good."

"What's not good?" Spike was barely containing his impatience, and even Buffy was starting to wish that Tara would get to the point.

"Well, both the poison and the antidote have a very short expiry time. If we can't find it soon it will probably have gone off and be useless. But, I suppose on the plus side that means they must have been making it near here recently so it can't be far away. If they've kept it at all. But I think they would have, because you always keep the antidote handy when you're dealing with poisons like this, in case of accident." Tara seemed to realise she was starting to babble, and glanced up at Buffy and Spike, a hopeful look on her face. "So, all we have to do is find the Koros demons' lair."

"Oh, that's all," Spike muttered. "Koros demons like dark, underground lairs. Which narrows it down to anywhere in the whole of Sunnydale's extensive underground passages and sewers. That should only take us about ten years to explore fully."

"Sorry," Tara said quietly.

"No, hang on," Buffy said. She was remembering something and it occurred to her that it might be the only clue they had. "The Koros that got away disappeared right by a crypt in the graveyard. Maybe there's a way down into the tunnels through the crypt, or nearby. That would at least narrow down the area, give us a starting point."

"How long do we have?" Spike asked Tara. "How short is 'a very short expiry time'?"

"Depends on how potent it is. Could be days, could be hours."

"So, if it isn't a stupid suggestion," Buffy interrupted, suddenly having an idea. "Why don't we just make another lot of poison, and get the antidote that way? That would be easier than hunting Koros demons all night."

Tara shook her head, looking worried. "It doesn't work like that. The antidote is specifically tied to the poison it was made with. Even slight variations in quantity of components, or temperature it was brewed at would make the antidote from one batch useless for treating the poison from another batch."

"Right then." Spike stood up, slightly shakily, and steadied himself against the edge of the table. "Lets go."

"Excuse me?" Buffy wasn't sure whether to be amused or angry with the vampire.

"Like the witch said, time's wasting. Lets go."

"You can't be serious. You can't come with us. You can't see." Buffy saw that Spike was going to start arguing again, and added, "We'll call Xander and Anya for backup, and you should stay with Dawn while we check it out."

"Buffy, I don't think we can reach Xander and Anya. They said they were going out tonight." Tara looked almost apologetic at having to pass on the message, and Buffy absently wondered just how long it was going to take for the witch to get even a little self-confidence.

"Well, there you go then," Spike said, as if that resolved everything. "You two can't take on the Koros demons by yourselves. No offence Buffy, but Blue was kicking your ass all over before I got involved. And Tara, all due credit on the research side, but you're not exactly the combat queen. You'll need my help."

"Help? Spike, you'll be more a hindrance than a help. You'll slow us down, and it will be doubly dangerous if I'm trying to watch your back as well as my own."

"I can take care of myself. I don't need a bloody baby-sitter. And I've still got vampire strength and speed. Just not the healing."

Buffy walked up to him. "But it's not just your eyes. You were wiped out after the fight."

"That was just system shock. I'm used to being able to shrug off hits like that, but suddenly I couldn't. I'm okay now, though." He tentatively reached forward until he found Buffy's arm, and held it. "If Tara's right about this antidote then I have to be there when we find it. It might make all the difference. If I have to wait for you to get back and it's too late then I'm screwed."

Buffy found herself staring into Spike's eyes. Even without his unnerving ability to focus so utterly on one person, his gaze still burned with the intensity and passion that she had come to know from him. She knew she should refuse. Vampire strength and speed or not, he was still likely to be a liability. But he was right about one thing - she and Tara were going to have problems if there was more than just the one Koros demon.

Against all logic, and against her own instincts, Buffy heard herself say, "Fine. Whatever. Just try to stay out of trouble."

She called Dawn while Tara checked for last minute details about the antidote. Then, with Spike holding tightly to Tara's gently guiding arm, they headed out.



Spike was almost starting to get used to the absolute blackness that surrounded him by the time they reached the graveyard. Strangely, he was less concerned with the actual fact of being blind than he was with the feeling of helplessness that went with it. Since becoming a vampire, Spike had always believed very firmly in looking out for himself, and never needing to rely on anyone else if he could at all help it. Now he had to place his trust in Buffy and Tara just to get around, and he hated that.

He still ached from the fight, no more so than usual, but he suspected he was noticing it more now because it was taking so much longer to wear off. Just how long did a human need to heal a few broken ribs and burnt eyes, anyway? It wouldn't matter if they could find the antidote, and although he had been the one insisting on moving quickly, he was beginning to worry that they didn't have enough information to be able to find it.

"Well, here we are," Buffy announced, interrupting Spike's thoughts. "This is where he disappeared."

Tara guided Spike to a gravestone, where he lurked while the two Scoobies searched for a hidden entrance. It was a little disorienting, being able to hear them moving about but not seeing them. However, Spike found his sense of spatial awareness, gained from over a century of hunting and fighting, was really starting to kick in. He could tell Buffy was a little way to his left, Tara was further back and it sounded like she was struggling to move something heavy. That he could still help with.

Spike stood up and started moving around the gravestone, keeping one hand on it to anchor himself. This wasn't so hard. Gaining confidence he stepped away from the anchor... into nothing. The ground dropped away beneath his feet, and Spike fell. Grasping for purchase and finding none, he tried to brace himself for an impact he couldn't gauge.

THUD. He hit the ground hard and stumbled off balance, dropping to a crouch and tensing against incoming attack. None came, and he would have breathed a sigh of relief if he had actually needed to breathe.

The immediate question - where was he? He wasn't sure how far he had fallen, but it smelt damp and earthy, and something else that he couldn't quite place. The ground felt like bare dirt, and the sound of traffic from the road above was somewhat muted now. Probably it was one of the many tunnels under Sunnydale.

"Spike?"

Buffy's voice was coming from above, but Spike was more interested in making sure there was nothing down here with him.

"Spike? You okay?"

Earth sifted down and brushed against his skin, and he shivered as he was uncomfortably reminded of the feeling of the powder first touching his face. Another thud next to him, this one lighter, and he swung round and crashed into Buffy.

"Hey! Its me, okay."

Spike stood up, feeling Buffy's hand on his arm to steady him.

"Now, see that's why I said you shouldn't come with us. We haven't even found the Koros demons yet and already you're taking a crash course in Practical Plummeting one-oh-one."

Spike ignored her, not caring for the lecturing tone she had taken. He also continued to ignore the conversation that started going on between Buffy and Tara. Something was familiar. He stood completely still, listening, concentrating. A thin breath of wind from above gently caressed his face, disturbing the air in the tunnel. Then he knew. It was the smell.

"Koros demon was down here," he announced, cutting Buffy off in mid-rant.

"What?"

"This is it. This is the tunnel he used to get away. I can smell it. Caught a good lungful of the smell when I was fighting, I recognise it." He turned to Buffy with a self-satisfied smile. "Told you you couldn't do this without me."

"Oh great. So now you're turning into Yoda Zen master or something?"

"Are you sure?" came Tara's voice from the surface above.

"Yes," Spike hissed finally allowing the frustration to show.

He could picture the look on Buffy's face, and knew she was weighing the options. Then he heard her tell Tara to come down with them, and after a few minutes they were moving again.

They hadn't walked more than ten minutes when the earth moved. Literally. The floor shuddered slightly, and Spike felt Tara stop dead at his side.

"It's just a tremor," he said. "It happens someti..."

The tunnel shook violently and Tara screamed and collided sideways into Spike knocking him from his feet. A fine sifting of dirt in the air was followed by a rain of earthen clods and stones, and he instinctively rolled, bumped into Tara lying next to him, and moved to cover her body with his own. The crashing around them was almost deafening as it echoed along the tunnel, and Spike braced protectively over the witch, letting the roof impact on his back and shoulders. In anyone else the action might have been considered noble, but for Spike it was simply practical - humans were so much more breakable than vampires, and right then he needed this particular human alive.

As suddenly as it had started the shaking stopped, but Spike didn't move until he was certain that the last of the roof had stopped falling. He pushed himself upright and let the debris slide off his back, wincing at the latest injuries to his ribs.

"Everyone okay? Buffy? Tara?"

He reached out to find the witch and assure himself that she was still alive. There was the sound of rubble moving not far away to his right, and he was relieved to hear Buffy muttering a curse before she replied, "Yeah, fine here." She paused a beat before adding, "Tara?"

Spike finally found Tara's arm and was surprised when she jerked at his touch and burst into an explosive coughing fit. He felt her sit up as she recovered, and she coughed out an affirmative. Eventually Tara accepted his offered hand and they both stood up.

"Well, wasn't that fun?" Spike commented. "Did the earth move for you ladies as well?"

"Don't start Spike. We so don't have time."

He heard Buffy moving off again, and took that to mean that the tunnel was at least still intact. With another reassurance from Tara that she was indeed fine, they set off into the darkness after the Slayer.



Tara hadn't lived in Sunnydale for long enough to be used to the earthquakes, and was still a little shaken by the experience. She found the earthquakes actually quite interesting in an academic sense, but not necessarily when she happened to be in an underground tunnel that really didn't look fantastically stable. She threw frequent glances at Spike, primarily to check he was still okay, but now with a new interest. She had been surprised at his protective reaction to the tunnel collapsing, and eventually worked up the courage to give voice to her thoughts.

"Spike? I... um... I mean, thanks for saving me, back there."

Spike waved her off, somewhat dismissively. "Whatever." He changed the subject quickly. "So what are we looking for when we get there? How will you recognise this antidote?"

"It should be a liquid, but the details are kind of hazy after that. Mostly the texts refer to the poison, not the antidote."

"Am I supposed to drink it, or use it to treat the burns or what?"

"Um, again, texts not too clear. But I kind of assumed drink it."

In truth the texts had been near to non-existent on this subject as far as Tara had been able to tell. It was pure luck and guesswork that she had managed to find the relevant books so quickly, but they were all rather low on details, especially when it came to the antidote, and considering the time constraints she had made the decision that it was probably better not to wait for further research. She would have felt a whole lot more confident if they had been able to get the gang in for full scale research, especially Giles and Willow. They were so much better at this than she was.

Tara realised with some dismay that her train of thought had led directly back to Willow, a subject she had been trying to avoid. Then it occurred to her that she wasn't sure what was more worrying - that her thoughts turned to Willow so easily, or that she had managed to not think about her love at all for even a short time. Either way, Buffy and Spike were relying on her right then, and she couldn't allow herself to become so easily distracted. Being relied upon for Scooby Gang stuff was a very new feeling, but Tara decided then and there that she was not going to let them down.

Ahead, Buffy suddenly stopped, and Tara did likewise, waiting for a signal. Instead, Buffy took off at a run, and Tara turned to Spike, wondering if he was going to be okay with trying to run in a rubble filled tunnel. The unspoken question was answered when he set off as well with an exasperated, "Come on witch. Keep up." He held tight to Tara's arm, forcing her to stay with him at a pace barely short of a run. Even so, they couldn't keep up with the Slayer - Tara lacked the physical speed and stamina to do so, and Spike kept stumbling, only staying on his feet with a lot of luck and vampiricly enhanced agility.

They rounded a corner into a large room just as a demon, probably the one that Buffy and Spike had referred to as Blue, flew through the air and impacted the wall. Buffy was standing poised for battle in the centre of the room. Another, greyer, Koros demon was backed against the far wall searching frantically in a large wooden chest at the same time as trying to keep a wary eye on the Slayer. The room looked almost comfortable, with rugs on the floor, drapes hung on the walls in places, and candles judiciously spread across the walls and on the table set against the back wall by the chest.

While she had seen pictures in books, this was Tara's first real look at a Koros demon, and she noted that neither of these two looked fantastically threatening. They both appeared to be little more than tall, slim humans, who just happened to be covered in small reptilian scales. She knew how deceptive appearances could be when it came to demons, however, and stayed back in the doorway.

"What's going on? What's she fighting?" Spike had paused a step ahead of her and was now standing perfectly still, obviously trying to place the movement within the room.

"Two Koros demons." Tara quickly scanned the room, searching for the object of their trek. She wasn't entirely certain what she was looking for, but assumed it would be only a small amount of liquid, and so a vial or bottle would seem likely. Nothing was obvious, and she found her attention drawn to the chest as the grey Koros pulled out a dagger and lined up to throw it.

"Buffy! Look out"

Buffy dived out of the way as the knife whistled past the point where she had just been. Blue launched itself at her, and they fought furiously. Tara saw 'Grey' pull out another dagger, and this time advance slowly round towards the combat. She wanted to help Buffy, but Tara knew she was of little use in a fight. Instead she decided to concentrate on finding the antidote.

"Spike, stick with me and cover my back, okay?"

Without waiting for an answer she propelled Spike around the edge of the room, circling well away from the fight, heading towards the chest. It was a huge wooden box, covered with ornate carvings and almost the stereotypical image of a pirate's treasure chest. Instead of treasure, however, it contained a jumbled assortment of books, talismans, pouches, herbs, weapons, and - there - among the jars of roots and animal body parts that she really didn't want to look too closely at; a small glass bottle filled with golden liquid.

"Spike, I think this is it," she cried excitedly as she reached for it.

Without warning the vampire crashed backwards into her and they were both sent sprawling. She looked round to see Grey advancing on them while Buffy continued to fight with Blue across the room. Spike was on his feet in an instant and hurled himself blindly at the demon with a feral yell of anger. Tara saw his face change into the all too familiar vampiric mask and he grabbed hold of the demon as he ran straight into it.

Tara knew this was her chance, and scrambled back to the chest. Keeping a close eye on how near Spike and the Koros were, she found the bottle and then double-checked the chest for anything else that could possibly be the antidote. Finding nothing, she stood up and surveyed the scene in time to see Buffy finish off Blue, using the same dagger that had so barely missed her only moments before. They both turned their attention to the remaining battle as Buffy moved to help.

Spike wasn't doing well. Tara heard him yell out, and then he was thrown into Buffy, blood flowing freely from a gash on his hand. As Buffy and Spike struggled to extricate themselves from the tangled heap, the Koros demon lunged at Tara and grabbed the bottle, then ran towards the tunnel.

"Stop him. He's got the antidote."

Tara set off after the demon herself. She was pretty sure she had no chance of stopping it, but if she could delay it for long enough for Buffy to get there...

There was a low rumbling, and seconds later the room shook violently as a second quake struck. Tara stumbled to her knees and stared in horror as the floor cracked across the middle of the room, and a jagged rift tore open between her and the others. Buffy hauled Spike away from the edge, yelling for everyone to take cover. Tara looked round to see the Koros demon had also fallen, and a glint of gold caught her eye. The antidote was rolling across the ground - towards the rift. Buffy hadn't seen it. Tara summoned all her concentration on the tiny bottle.

"Levitatum."

The bottle halted in its rolling progress, and slowly, very slowly, tentatively, floated into the air. The ground continued to shake. The rift opened wider, deeper. But Tara was focused solely on the bottle. There was nothing else in the universe. The quake, the demon, the rubble falling around them, all were unimportant, irrelevant. The only things that existed were Tara and the antidote; the only thing that mattered was closing the distance between them. The bottle dipped and bobbed as it floated, but it was slowly moving towards her through the chaos.

Buffy was fighting with the Koros again. But Tara was only peripherally aware of the action. It didn't matter. Concentrate. Focus. A roof beam cracked over her head. Ignore it. Focus. Nearly there. So near. Focus. Another crack. A low rumbling that gained in strength slowly but surely. Ignore it. Nearly there.

The roof collapsed over Tara's head. The last thing she saw as the beam crashed down was the bottle of antidote waver, and then fall at the edge of the rift.



"Buffy! What the bloody hell is going on?"

Spike could hear the sounds of fighting even as he struggled out of the pile of rubble. Didn't these demons ever die? He crouched, motionless, listening. As the rumbling died away he could make out the fight more clearly. They were moving around too much for him to get a clear shot at going for the demon though, and he wasn't going to risk trying to intervene if all he could achieve was to get in Buffy's way.

He growled in frustration. This was too much. Buffy needed help, and he couldn't give it. He was no longer sure where Tara was either, though that bothered him less. He thought he knew the general area she had gone down, but Buffy had muttered something about the quake opening up a rift, and he was fairly certain that the rift was between him and Tara. He had no intention of finding it the hard way, particularly considering that deep rifts underground on the Hellmouth tended to lead to some rather nasty places.

"Spike."

On instinct he reacted to his name, turning towards the sound of the witch's voice across the cavern even though it made no practical difference which way he was looking.

"Spike." She coughed weakly, and Spike started to get to his feet.

"Stop. Don't move." Her voice was stronger for a moment, the words a direct order, and Spike froze.

"Tara, what's going on? What can I do?"

"Don't move. About a metre in front of you the floor has opened up. Whatever you do don't move forward."

"Right," he muttered. "Forward bad. Got it. What can I do? Where are you? What about Buffy?"

Tara started to speak but burst into another violent coughing fit. She moaned weakly as the coughs finally died away.

"I'm trapped," she replied eventually. "Buffy's okay. Fighting, but okay. Oh. Oh, hang on. Spike, I can see the antidote again. You can get to it I think."

"Right. Where?" Spike tensed trying to keep track of where the combat was still going on somewhere to the right, the sound of Tara's voice from some way in front, and exactly where the bloody rift was.

"Move left. No, right. Your right."

Not exactly inspired with confidence, Spike obeyed. He crawled slowly in what he hoped was the right direction, always feeling ahead for obstacles and great gaping holes in the ground.

"How far?" he called to Tara.

"Not yet. Further. Be careful, it's right on the edge of the rift. If you knock it, it might fall off."

"Oh, bloody fantastic. Isn't that always the way?" he muttered to himself. There was crash some way across the room and he heard Buffy cry out.

"Tara. What happened? Is Buffy okay?"

"I'm fine," the Slayer grunted in response. "Spike, get out of the way."

"Where the hell to?" he yelled, growing ever more frustrated.

"No, Spike. Keep going. You can almost reach it," Tara called across, before collapsing into another coughing fit. This one sounded worse, like the force and the lack of air were racking her chest apart. Unable to do anything for her, Spike followed her instructions. His left hand skittered on loose rubble and fell into nothing for the second time that night.

"Bloody hell," he muttered, quickly yanking his arm back and shuffling away from the rift.

"No Spike," Tara called back, wheezing and fighting against another cough. "It's right in front of you. Feel for it with your right hand."

Spike hesitated slightly. He knew how close he was to the edge. Another quake now and he'd probably go over and into the Hellmouth itself. But on the other hand...

He suddenly realised that it had come down to how much he trusted Tara. Well, he reasoned. She's got me this far.

He tentatively reached forward, feeling, searching, exploring, trying to understand every undulation of the ground with his fingertips. His hand was still slick with blood but he ignored that.

"Tara. Where?"

The witch couldn't answer, caught in the grip of another fit and it sounded like she was literally fighting for air. Spike tried to tune her out and concentrate on his search. He could feel the frustration growing. The bottle could be right next to his hand and he wouldn't know it. Buffy and the demon were still fighting, getting closer to him, and Spike was bloody sure he didn't want to be in their way right then. He didn't want to have to rely on Tara's guidance but he could do nothing else without her.

His fingers brushed against the smooth surface of glass and Spike froze yet again. He didn't want to loose it now. He felt slowly forward and traced the shape of the bottle until he was certain that he had it, and then closed his hand around it.

"Yes," he whispered, finally allowing himself a smile.

Something big flew over his head flailing wildly and on instinct Spike flattened himself to the ground. His left hand skittered at the edge again but the antidote was safely gripped in his right hand.

"Spike. Get the hell out of the way," Buffy yelled again. This time she was close, her voice almost next to him, and Spike realised that somehow she and the Koros demon were fighting directly over his prone body.

"Shit," he muttered, torn between wanting to get away and not daring to actually move. Something heavy - the demon - trampled onto his back and Spike yelled as he felt more ribs crack. The demon drove its heel into his spine, but Spike realised it was not an intentional attack. The Koros was tumbling backwards towards the rift and was trying to dig in, grab hold of anything to stop itself falling. Spike growled and arched partly upright intending to throw the demon off. The demon toppled into the rift and he heard Buffy cry out, felt her being dragged across him towards the edge.

The bastard was trying to take her with him.

On instinct Spike snatched his left hand out and yelled Buffy's name. A hand closed tight around his own and his arm swung out over the edge of the rift and arced around until the dead weight hanging onto him slammed bodily into the wall below. Spike's shoulder jarred painfully at the impact and he bit back another yell. But he had done it. Buffy was safe. Almost.

He braced himself and started to pull her up even as her other hand closed in a tighter grip around his wrist.

"I got you. Just hang on." He tried to sound reassuring, but after everything that had already happened to him, and the system shock of not being able to immediately deal with the latest injuries, his shoulder was already burning with the strain. The ground rumbled for a third time and Spike could have screamed with frustration. Not again. Not right now. But the anger of one vampire was not going to stop the geological force of plate tectonics, and the rock beneath him started to shudder and crack.

"Buffy. A little help might be good. NOW."

He could feel her moving, her feet scrambling for purchase against the rocky wall, and he continued to pull her up, ignoring the screaming muscles in his shoulder. The earth shifted violently and fell away from beneath his knee. Spike was forced to flatten himself to the ground again and he felt Buffy slip. Her fall was stopped short at his arm's length and Spike was almost pulled over the edge with her.

"Spike. Just keep still," Buffy called up. He felt her trying to pull herself up, climbing hand over hand up his arm. That was okay. He could keep still.

Or not.

The ground continued to shake and he felt himself sliding gradually towards the edge of the rift. He needed to get hold of something. But that would mean letting go of the bottle that was still clutched tightly in his one free hand.

"Oh no. You bastard. No."

Spike felt the weight of dramatic irony crash down upon him as he fully realised the choice he had to make.

His sight. Or Buffy's life.

Who the hell was he trying to kid? There was no choice.

Spike let the bottle tumble out of his grip, heard it tinkle as it hit the ground and rolled, even as his fingers were already searching for a handhold. He found a ridged undulation in the rocky floor and wrapped his fingers into it. Buffy was muttering something as she climbed, but he was filtering her out and concentrating on the tinkling path of the bottle as it rolled in front of him. From somewhere across the room Tara was coughing again. He was barely even aware of the demon within him retreating and returning his face to normal.

"Slayer. Don't suppose you could grab my cure on the way past, could you?" he commented in a casually desperate voice.

"Huh?"

Buffy was hauling herself over the edge and scrambled over him, before pausing to pull Spike away from the rift as well.

"Buffy, wait. Grab the..."

She wasn't listening, only interested in getting them both well away from the rift.

The ground shuddered in the grip of another aftershock, accompanied by the sound of breaking glass, and tinkling of broken shards falling into the distance. Spike knew then it was over.

Buffy stumbled and they both fell and collapsed side by side.

"What was that?" Buffy asked in a vaguely curious voice.

Spike bit back a thousand possible things that she didn't need to hear, and replied in the most controlled voice he could manage, "My cure."

"What?" Buffy stopped, and he recognised the silence of sudden realisation. "Oh."

Buffy moved to get up and he slung an arm across his face and turned away from her. He kept his eyes closed, trying for a moment longer to hide from the truth of the decision he had just made.

"Spike?" A small, deceptively delicate hand touched his shoulder. He hesitated before shrugging it off and sitting up.

"Don't. Just don't say anything. Go get the witch and lets get the hell out before there's another bloody aftershock."

He heard Buffy walk away from him. There was the sound of rubble being moved, another coughing fit, and then hushed voices. A vampire's enhanced senses could have probably heard exactly what they were saying in spite of the whispers, but Spike ignored them and used the time to recover his composure. Eventually two sets of footsteps returned to him, and stopped.

"Spike?"

There was a conspicuous absence of a reassuring hand this time, and he finally forced himself to open his eyes and face the darkness.



Buffy glanced at Tara with a somewhat awkward look when Spike didn't move. Tara gave her an equally helpless look back, and winced at the multitude of minor injuries she was now nursing. Buffy could understand that the vampire would need a few minutes to get himself together, but Spike had been right about leaving before there was another aftershock, and she knew that she needed to get them both out of here.

"Are you okay to...?" Buffy faltered, then recovered. "Are you ready?"

Spike wavered to his feet, looking like he was feeling every individual blow that he had thrown and received that night, for the first time in over a century being unable to shrug off the cuts and bruises in the knowledge that they would be gone by the following night.

"I'm okay," he muttered, and reached out, somewhat tentatively. Buffy took his arm immediately, and received a flash of a grateful glance before he turned his face away from her again as they started to move. Almost as if he was trying to hide.

Their walk out through the tunnels was uneventful, but slow. Tara was limping badly, and after that many quakes the floor was so broken and rubble strewn that even with her guidance, Spike kept stumbling and falling. Each new stumble was accompanied by a whispered curse, each one a little more frustrated, a little more disheartened than the last.

Buffy wanted to say something, but what could she say that could possibly help? She was the first to admit that she didn't want to feel sorry for him, she didn't want to have to comfort him. He was a creature of evil, a vampire. He had been her arch nemesis not so many years ago. He was Spike.

But he was also the one who had stood against Glory with her, who had done everything in his power to protect Dawn while she had been... gone, the only one who she had been able to confide in when she had been brought back. He was the one who had just given so much to save her life. Buffy of all people knew a bit about self sacrifice to save others, but she was reeling from the revelation that he might be capable of the same. Like the moment last year when she had looked into his swollen and battered face and seen the sincerity behind his admission that he would have let Glory kill him before he would give away that Dawn was the Key. However much she didn't want to think there could be anything good in him, that he couldn't be trusted in any way, that he was still a bad guy, she couldn't deny that he had come through for her. Again.

Utterly unable to know what to say or do in the face of such revelations, Buffy said nothing.

When they finally stood in the cemetery above the tunnel Buffy asked, "Where to now, then?"

"We could go back to the Magic Box," Tara said. The look on her face suggested she wanted to do no such thing, and only wanted to go home and sleep. Well, it was past three in the morning now, and while Tara wasn't exactly a normal human, she certainly didn't have any supernatural stamina reserves to call on.

"What for?" Spike's voice was unusually emotionless. "We've done the research, we've beaten the demons, end of story. We go home."

"Okay, well, we can drop Tara off and maybe you should come back to my house, just for the day. Until we work out if there's any way to..." Again Buffy found herself trailing off, not knowing what to say, or how to say it.

"To what? Get my sight back? There is no way. You both said it. The only cure just dropped into the sodding Hellmouth. If you want to do more research then that's great, but right now I just want to go home and get some quality not-healing time."

Buffy was surprised by the sudden bitterness, and then wondered why she was surprised by it. Of course he was bitter, who wouldn't be?

"I don't think we should leave you alone. Not at first. You can stay at my house for a while."

"Why?" Spike turned to face Buffy for the first time since they had left the Koros demons' cavern. There was a flicker of anger in his otherwise blank eyes. "Buffy, I can't go back to your house. All it takes is for me to stumble in front of a window that I don't know is there and I'm suddenly setting fire to your best carpet." He looked away again and added in a resigned voice, "Just take me back to my crypt."

Buffy remained silent, unsure whether to press the issue. While she wasn't thrilled at the idea of letting Spike stay at her house, she was also less than happy to abandon him like this. She felt she owed him more than that. But he did have a point.

"Okay. Whatever." She took his arm again and they moved off.

When they reached the crypt Spike stood in the doorway, blocking Buffy from following him in.

"Thanks. I'm okay from here."

"Spike, we can stay for a while. You need help."

"No," he replied, more forcefully than any of them were expecting. "I'm fine. Just go away."

"You're not fine. You're blind."

Spike had been backing away into the crypt, but stopped at Buffy's outburst. For a moment it appeared as if the adrenaline, the passion, the hope that had kept him going through the tunnels and the fights abruptly drained away. Buffy had seen him in so many different moods - angry, depressed, drunk, loving, tenderly compassionate, villainously happy. She had never seen him so devoid of emotion. So numb and empty. That was what scared her more than anything.

"Full marks to the Slayer for stating the obvious. No, really. I wouldn't have noticed if you weren't here to point it out." The intention was sarcasm, but the vampire only sounded tired.

"Spike, don't." Buffy didn't want to fight with him about this.

"Look Buffy, how can I put this politely?" He paused to consider for a moment. Then offered them an utterly blunt glare. "Piss off and leave me alone."

He slammed the door shut in Buffy's face. The sound echoed in the silent graveyard, and Buffy stared helplessly at the door for almost a minute until Tara gently touched her arm.

"I think we should go," she said softly. "Give him some time."

Buffy knew from the look on Tara's face that she too wanted to offer more help to the vampire, but if he wasn't willing to accept it there really was little that they could do. With one last glance at the crypt door, Buffy and Tara left.



Spike leaned against the door listening to them walk away. Finally, they were gone.

He was not a stupid man, and he knew Buffy had been right - he did need help. But at the same time he had been unable to stand being with them for a moment longer. He couldn't see but he knew the pitying looks they had been giving him. And the last thing that the Big Bad needed was pity. He was fine. He didn't need their pity, or their sympathy, or the feeling of helplessness. He didn't need their help. He was fine.

He moved away from the door and tripped over the edge of the step into the room, landing in a sprawled heap on the floor.

The lie had almost been convincing.

With a frustrated growl Spike got to his knees, and then thought better of trying to stand. With one hand held out in front he crawled forward until he found the armchair. Okay, now he knew roughly where he was. That was good. Slightly more confident now, he stood up and carefully shuffled around the chair to head towards the trapdoor into the underground bedroom. He heard the chink of glass as his boot hit something, and reached down to find a bottle at the side of the chair. He vaguely remembered leaving a half finished bottle of Scotch here the previous night, and decided now was a pretty good time to finish it.

Only a couple of mouthfuls was enough to awaken his hunger, and he carefully started to make his way to the fridge, pausing to put the bottle down on the lid of the stone sarcophagus as he moved along its edge. His mental map of the room was not as accurate as he would have expected, but a few minutes of feeling along the sarcophagus and the wall finally located the fridge. With a sigh of both relief and exasperation that it had taken so long for a relatively simple task, he felt around until he found the glass of blood that he knew was on the shelf.

"That wasn't so hard," he muttered after he had half drained the glass. "Don't need their help at all. Doing just bloody brilliant without them."

A sound from the graveyard outside startled him and Spike spun round, alert to anyone coming near the crypt. After a moment the voices, probably drunken youths who should have known better than to be wandering around Sunnydale at this time of night, moved away into the distance.

Spike relaxed slightly, and stepped straight into the edge of the sarcophagus. Utterly disoriented, he felt the glass slip from his hand, unable to grip it against the rough bandage that Buffy had applied in the tunnels. He automatically tried to grab the glass even as he heard it smash on the stone lid, and yelled at the sudden stab of pain when his hand came down on the broken shards. Instinctively he backed away, feeling fresh blood begin to soak through the bandage. When he had finished swearing he became aware of the sound of dripping liquid, and knew the rest of the pig's blood was draining away across the lid and probably pooling on the floor. Wasted.

Cursing again he stumbled blindly back into the sarcophagus and felt along its edge to where he thought he had left the Scotch. Again his mental map failed him, and the minutes of frustrated searching with his one good hand dragged out until his fingers finally skittered across the bottle. Suddenly afraid to move again, he slid down the side of the sarcophagus to sit on the floor, still cradling his bleeding hand against his chest.

Was this really what the rest of his immortal life had in store? The self-named Big Bad, feared among humans and vampires alike, killer of two Slayers, reduced to this?

He drained the bottle empty, feeling the anger welling within, welcoming it. Angry was better than numb. Better than feeling nothing. Spike let it build, the anger, the frustration, the self-loathing at his own helplessness. Finally he let loose a primal cry of fury and hurled the bottle across the room, hearing it shatter with satisfying force against the far wall. Then, suddenly spent, he slowly curled into a protective huddle, buried his face into his arms, and wept.

The lie had almost been convincing. But the truth was he was blind.



Continued in PART 2

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