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Journeys Part Three: Revelations (Draft)
By Mary

Sequel to Journeys Part Two: Awakenings; part of Journeys Series

Author’s Note

Thank you so much to all the wonderful people who’ve been reading this over the last two years. I can’t tell you how sorry I am that it’s been so long since I updated, and I hope you’re not too disappointed now that I have, because this isn’t a finished chapter – it’s a draft.

I waited a long time before deciding to do this, and it was a very difficult decision. I haven’t written anything for months, and don’t see that changing in the near future. Sending the draft version of the rest of Journeys out feels a bit like sending children to school naked must feel. It’s awful, and embarrassing, but if you don’t, the teacher and the kid’s friends wonder if he’s, like, dead or something, and they’re happy to see him even if he is naked! (Does that only make sense to me?)

Aside from the naked children analogy, for me the deciding factor in choosing to send this out was this; If I was given the chance to read a draft version of Lynn’s long unfinished ‘Secrets and Lies’ (also known as the ‘Chains Series’), would I take it? Fellow fans, you could not tear me away!

Whether you choose to read the story in this state is up to you. If you do, please keep in mind that this is a draft. D.R.A.F.T. There are a lot of unfinished and missing scenes, nothing is polished, and there are inconsistencies galore. There are plot points that have not been totally worked out, some that will make no sense, and scenes that will contradict others and make you go ‘Huh???’ Not all of my plot notes are included here, so lots of stuff will downright confuse you. You’ll find some notes to myself are interspersed, so reading the Journeys draft will probably also give you some insight into how my brain works, something I’m sure you’ll all be endlessly fascinated by! (snort)

I’ll be releasing the approximately 500 pages of the draft over the next few weeks.

Does this mean I’ll never actually finish the story in polished form? Honestly, I don’t know. I do know that I devoted my entire life to it for more than two years, and it would break my heart to leave it in this incomplete state.

Personal news: I finally became a grandmother! My granddaughter was born last week, and I am enjoying her immensely. Between cuddling her and helping to plan the weddings of two of my children (#2 Son and The Daughter), I am happily very busy!

Mary
September 15, 2004

This chapter is for Mezz and AllyV who didn’t ask me one single time at WriterCon when they would see the next chapter. Not. Once.



Part Three: Revelations

You’ve never looked into my eyes, but don’t you want to know –
What the dark, and the wild and the different know?

—Melissa Etheridge

Chapter One

~*~

(((Giles would be looking at angel even more differently now that he’d seen how Spike can behave without a soul.

Also – some talk of Spike's obsessions turning into a truer love. And his learning to relax. Guard yes, but not obsessively.)))

He was there when they walked in.

He hadn’t sensed him, and, later, Angel would put the oversight down to the fact that they were all covered in seriously large amounts of demon slime, and that this particular slime reeked of rotting eggs. His nose was full of the sulfuric scent, which, he would assure himself, was powerful enough to throw all his instincts off.

He was tired, too. They’d hardly slept since they’d given in to Cordelia’s insistent demands that they destroy the nest of LY!!—Drex!! El demons that had been wrecking unprovoked and, as Cordy put it, totally uncalled for, not to mention possibly sacrilegious to the fashion gods, havoc on Rodeo Drive. They’d tried to avoid the job by arguing that the usually deadly LY!!—Drex!! El demons hadn’t actually killed anyone yet, but Cordy had crossed her arms, tapped her foot, glared, and reminded them that the demons had, in fact, harmed people as they looted the exclusive shops, and that that should be enough to merit their involvement.

It had taken them more than two days, but they’d located the nest and wiped it out. Despite being covered in the lime green slime, they were all feeling satisfied and victorious. Cordelia had taken a moment out of the gushing she was doing over some of the ‘spoils’ she had claimed from the nest to complain about her ruined shoes, and the increasingly gregarious Fred was teasing Gunn about the sticky green mess covering his head.

As soon as he caught sight of the distinctive blond head, Angel stopped dead, his good mood gone. How dare he? How dare he come here? Invade his home? The initial outrage was quickly followed by wondering exactly what trouble the other vampire was about to stir up. Spike and trouble, in his experience, nearly always went hand-in-hand.

He was leaning casually against the front desk with a small duffle bag at his feet. Dressed in his usual black, but without his trophy duster, he looked thin and almost elegant, smoke from his burning cigarette swirling about his head. His blue eyes were running over them with a mixture of amusement and contempt, an expression that, like trouble, Angel usually associated with Spike.

Cordelia’s gasp and Angel’s deadly expression had Fred and Gunn looking at the blond curiously.

“Spike.”

The icy rage in Angel’s voice brought Gunn’s crossbow up. He leveled it at the intruder’s heart; a move that probably would have been more threatening had the weapon been loaded. And if Gunn’s head wasn’t coated in green goo.

Spike eyed the weapon with derision, before shifting his eyes to Angel. He smirked.

“Get out.”

“Is that any way to greet family?”

“You are not my family.”

“’s that right?”

Spike’s derision was in his voice now, and his expression stated clearly that they both knew differently. Angel felt his anger go up a couple of notches. Damn him!

“Leave now and I won’t kill you.”

Cordelia turned to Angel. “Why are you giving him a choice? Don’t you remember what happened the last time he was here? Just kill him!”

Neither vampire looked her way. Their eyes were steady on one another. Angel took a step closer to Spike.

“I mean it, boy. You’re not wanted here.”

“Too bad then, innit? Because here,” he gestured, “I am.”

Over the years, the younger vampire had honed the skill of driving his grandsire quickly over the edge, and apparently absence hadn’t lessened his prowess. Angel growled, vamping out, and advanced on the blond. He grabbed his arm and turned, throwing him toward the door. Fred, Gunn and Cordelia scurried out of the way. Spike smashed into the wall near the door, the impact sending a web of cracks through the plaster.

To Angel’s surprise, Spike didn’t launch himself back at him. Instead, he stayed where he was, turning to lean back against the wall. His body pivoted just enough to allow him to watch Angel’s approach. His lips curled into a sneer, and his expression was an odd mixture of anticipation, contempt, and something else; something Angel couldn’t read.

“Still here?” Angel snarled, advancing slowly. “You want me to throw you through the door? It’ll be a pleasure, boy, believe me.”

Angel reached for him, planning to make good on his words, when Spike spoke again. Softly; his words going no further than Angel’s ears.

“Blood of Aurelius. Sanctuary is claimed.”

Angel froze, his eyes widening.

“What?”

“You heard me.” Spike's lip curled again. “Sire.” The last word was tacked on in a contemptuous drawl.

“How dare you?”

Spike’s expression smoothed over to blankness, and he seemed to slump down against the wall as he muttered quietly, “’s not hard at all, Angelus. Not hard at all.”

“How long?” The words fell between them like piercing spears of hatred.

Spike straightened, shrugged a little, and his face took on a familiar cockiness that served to add fuel to the fires of rage burning through Angel.

“Not long. A few weeks, a month or so. Just a quiet room, and no visits from any of you lot. I’ll stay out of your way.”

“You’d better. I don’t want to see you or hear you or even know you’re here. Do you understand?”

Spike inclined his head.

“Cordy,” Angel kept his eyes on Spike as he spoke. “Find him a room. As far away from mine as possible.” He ran his dark eyes over the blond. “Make sure it has lots of morning sun.”

“I will not give him a room!”

“Give him a fucking room!”

Angel swung away, ignoring Cordelia’s shocked sputtering and the confusion and questions on the faces of the others. Without another word, he went into his office and slammed the door.

~*~

Spike eyed the closed office door before shrugging. “Family,” he snorted. “Ya gotta love ’em.”

“Why are you here?” Cordelia demanded. It was clear she felt it was her duty to ask the questions her boss had failed to ask. Not that he planned to give her any answers.

“None. Of. Your. Business.” He paused. “Bitch.”

Gunn stepped forward. “I can make it mine.”

“’s not yours either, mate.” Spike dismissed him, his eyes going back to Cordelia, as he shouldered his bag. “Just give me a key, and I’ll be on my way. You won’t even know I’m here.”

“That’s so not possible. You’ve played too big a part in some wish-I-could-forget-them moments in my life.”

Spike arranged his face into a smirk. “Left an impression, did I? Good to know.”

Spike almost sighed with relief when the bint actually chose a key.

“I’ll take him up,” Gunn volunteered, glancing between him, the bitch and Angelus’ office. But Cordelia refused.

“No. I have a few things I want to say to this psycho blood boy.”

She turned and led the way out of the lobby. Spike followed.

“I hate you, you know,” she began.

“Yeah? It’s mutual.” Actually, he’d never given Harris’ former chippy enough thought to hate her, but with every word that came out of her mouth as they climbed the stairs, the sentiment became truer.

He tried to blank out his mind as Cordelia went into a lengthy tirade of verbal abuse while he followed her to the room she’d chosen. She took the stairs slowly. Flight after endless flight. God, couldn’t she just shut her bleedin’ hole? he wondered. Her tone was grating on his exhausted nerves, threatening to make him do something he’d regret. Well, maybe not regret exactly… Spike figured that anyone who could actually stomach eating her would be doin’ the world a favor.

The bleedin’ Christmas lights he’d been forced into seeing at every turn for three days now, flashing their gaudy and generally revolting words of peace and joy, and the unending sound of carols being played on every radio station, and here in L.A, even on the streets, had only served to make the last few endlessly long days even longer. His head was throbbing, almost as if the chip had fired earlier. It bloody well felt like the familiar aftereffect headache anyway. Which it wasn’t. He hadn’t tried to bite anyone. But, if he heard ‘The First Noel’ one more time, all bets were off.

God, he was tired. So damned tired. The tension inside him built with every step they took, and every word out of the yapping bitch’s mouth.

Cordelia continued to bang on. Blah, blah, blah, Angel. Blah, blah, blah, hurting. Blah, blah, blah, Buffy. At the mention of h- the Slayer’s name, Spike exploded.

“Shut your gob, you bloody cow,” he grated, and backhanded Cordelia viciously across her mouth.

The chip fired, and his head exploded with renewed pain.

Sonofabloodybitch!

Spike clutched his head in agony, and staggered, almost falling to his knees.

The chip worked. The fucking thing still worked.

What the hell was going on? Was it shorting? Decaying in his brain and working when it bloody well felt like it?

His mind was racing, and a terrible fear seared through him, finding its way through the excruciating pain. What if it was her? What if heaven had changed her, or something had gone wrong with Red’s spell, and she’d come back – different?

Dear god, don’t let it be that. Let it be the chip, not her. Never her. If she was no longer human…

Couldn’t bear to see what that knowledge would do to her if she ever gained it.

Cordelia got up, her hand clutched to her bleeding mouth.

“What the hell was that for? God, why am I asking? I just called you a psycho, didn’t I? Well, you know what? I’m not the same little girl I was in Sunnydale. I know how to fight back now.”

Spike glanced at the stake in her hand and curled his lip. Again. Damned if he was going to reveal the fact that he felt like a small bomb had just exploded inside his skull.

“Much as I’d like to take you on, I think you’d best discuss dusting me with Angelus before you do anything he’ll have to kill you for.”

“My god, you’re a completely insane psycho! Angel would give me a huge raise!”

“Why don’t you give me the key and trot off and have a little chat with him about that, ducks?”

“You hit me! You can’t think he’ll actually let you stay here now?”

Spike didn’t much care, but he still managed to snatch the key out of Cordelia’s hand before she stormed off. If he had to break into a room, he wouldn’t be able to lock the sodding door, and that would probably lead to the bitch coming and going as she pleased. He gripped the key tightly for a moment, leaning against the wall as he rode out the worst of the pain.

He’d found out part of what he needed to know. The sodding chip still worked. Sometimes. Maybe. He had a hundred questions about that, and not a bloody clue how to find the answers.

His head hurt like hell, but the pain would recede, and be forgotten. The satisfaction of smashing his hand across that bint’s yapping mouth, though, could well last for years.

~*~

“Are you crazy? He can’t stay here!”

“I can’t ask him to leave, Cordy.”

“Sure you can. All you have to do is open your mouth and let the words ‘Get the hell out of my hotel’ come out.”

She was furious with him. Why had he given that madman a room? And why, even though his eyes kept straying to the blood on her lip, and he looked angrier than she felt, which was saying something, was he refusing to explain himself?

Angel shook his head. “Spike stays, Cordy. Don’t ask me again to kick him out. Believe me, I don’t want him here either, and I’m sorry he hit you, but it makes no difference. Just stay away from him.”

“Have you lost your mind?” she demanded. Her eyebrows rose. “Again?”

Angel walked over to her and wrapped his hands around her upper arms. Cordy started to relent, expecting him to apologize to her. Instead he lifted her, set her outside the door of his office, and shut the door firmly in her face.

She wanted to scream when she heard the click of the lock.

~*~

Spike dropped his bag onto the floor of the depressingly average hotel room. An almost crippling pain was still shooting through his head, and he felt twinges of the nausea that sometimes accompanied the courtesy-of-the-sodding-Initiative headaches.

He lit a cigarette, visually explored the room until he spotted an ashtray and swept it up as he went to the window. Christmas lights were flashing on the streets below. With a low growl, he pulled the curtains closed to shut them out and took a deep drag on his fag.

He’d have thought his bleedin’ sorry excuse for a grandsire could have come through – once. Pillock.

Stumbling a little, Spike felt his shoulders hit the wall behind him, and his body began sliding down, sliding, slowly, as if his legs could no longer support him. With a little jolt, his bum hit the floor, and he stopped moving. His eyes, blank and unfocused, stared sightlessly into the dark of the room.

Except to light another cigarette, or to smoke one or crush one out, he didn’t do much else in the way of moving for nearly forty-eight hours.

~*~

Buffy put the lid on the last bowl of leftovers and put it into the refrigerator. Since no one had actually taken a single bite of any of the dishes, they were technically probably not leftovers. They were, like, parts of a delayed meal, or something. Provided either she or Dawn ate some of them later. If not, they’d probably turn out to be garbage.

It was Christmas day.

Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la.

There weren’t any boughs of holly, and she sure as hell didn’t feel jolly. There weren’t even any halls to deck, providing she’d been in the mood. Well, er, no tree, anyway. She and Spike had planned to get one the night after they’d gone to see the Lord of the Rings. That plan had gone to hell, and since then, her mood hadn’t been anywhere near the kind of mood that could have gone through the family Christmas decorations for the first time since her mother’s death. She didn’t think she could bear any ghosts of Christmases past right now.

She had put up Dawn's stocking, and laid the gifts she’d gotten her on the hearth. They were still there, untouched. Dawn hadn’t spoken to her since the day after the – since the day after.

Buffy closed her eyes and gripped the handle of the refrigerator, squeezing, as she relived the day after confrontation with her sister. She’d been dreading it, knowing it was going to be hard. She’d known Dawn was probably upset. Okay, not probably, was. The whole flying at her with her fingernails curled into claws and her words ‘I friggin’ hate you’, had made that pretty clear. The sobbing she’d been able to hear behind her sister’s locked door for the rest of the night had driven the point home.

Buffy is angry at everyone. She was mad at Dawn and Spike and Xander. She was upset with Giles for no reason whatever that she could think of, and most of all, she was angry with herself.

Buffy knew there was nothing she could do to change things. The chip didn’t work. Spike’s leash was broken beyond repair, and she could never trust him anywhere near Dawn again.

She had been so sure, so sure he had changed. But when she’d looked into his eyes when the chip hadn’t fired; when she’d seen the joy there… It had shocked her; terrified her. She’d had the horrible, and horribly familiar, fear that she was going to have to dust him.

But even so, she hadn’t been prepared for the strength of Dawn’s fury, and the cold depth of her anger.

Dawn had been waiting for her when she got home.

“You had to do it, didn’t you?” Dawn began. She’d been leaning against the wall near the base of the stairs, with her arms crossed. Waiting. She straightened as she spoke.Anya, who’d been sitting with her, had risen and slipped silently out of the house, her face uncertain and confused.

Buffy took a deep breath. She’d known this confrontation was coming, but that didn’t mean she was ready for it.

“And now, at Christmas time. Do you think I haven’t had enough traumas in my life this last year? You just wanted to make it complete by kicking my best friend out right before the holidays, right? Merry Christmas, Dawn!”

“Look, Dawn. I know you care about Spike…”

“No, you don’t know. You weren’t here. You were busy being dead, and he was busy taking care of me. You left me. You and mom both left me. But Spike didn’t. He stayed. And every single day he was there for me. And now he’s…” Dawn swallowed convulsively. “I went to see him this morning –”

“You did what?” Buffy was horrified. Hadn’t she made it clear? No, of course she hadn’t, she reminded herself. She hadn’t told Dawn anything last night. Hadn’t told her that Spike's chip wasn’t working. “You can’t go near him, Dawn. Not until…”

“—and he was like a whole different person.” Dawn ignored her sister’s interruption. “Because of you. Because you are such a bloody bitch. Can’t you ever just be nice to people? Ever?

“God, for awhile I actually thought you’d changed. Really changed.” She shook her head in a gesture of self-disgust, rolling her eyes heavenward. “I was so stupid. Why do I keep hoping? I should have known…” She looked back at her sister. “Didn’t take you all that long to get back to your old self, did it? The biggest bitch on the planet! And you’re gonna do what you always do, aren’t you? Make sure no one around you enjoys their life too much…”

“Dawn –”

“You’re an expert at it, you know. It’s certainly working on me and Spike. Why don’t you spread your holiday cheer to Giles tomorrow? How about Tara – oh, no wait, you can’t! She’s out of town. I guess you’ll have to wait ‘til she’s back. Then you can ruin her life, too!”

Buffy grabbed at Dawn’s arm as her sister whirled to run up the stairs. Dawn’s whole body jerked at the force of the grip, and she cried out in pain.

“Spike is – Spike is dangerous, Dawn. He can hurt you, and he will. Xander warned me, tried to remind me…” She saw again the relief and joy that had been in Spike’s eyes when the chip hadn’t fired. The memory helped to firm her wavering voice. “Without a soul… Spike – we can’t trust him. We have to…”

Dawn brought her clenched fist down on Buffy’s forearm, trying to break her grip. “Take your hand off of me,” she demanded furiously. Her eyes were swimming with tears and Buffy knew her sister was determined not to let them fall in her presence. She glared at her until Buffy reluctantly released her arm. “You already threw me into a wall the other night. Don’t you ever, ever, use your ‘I save the world Slayer strength’ on me again. Do you hear me? And you don’t have to worry about me spending time with Spike. Not anymore. He left.”

“He…” Buffy could feel the reaction to those words spread through her body, leaving ice in its wake. She felt like she couldn’t breathe. “What?”

“He’s gone. Because of you.

If possible, Dawn’s glare intensified, and Buffy could read nothing but accusation and anger and – and hatred there.

“And you’re wrong, you know. Spike loves me. He would never hurt me. Ever. Even without your oh-so-precious-can’t-possibly-be-capable-or-worthy-of-anything-good-or-decent-without-one, frigging soul.”

Buffy met those vivid blue eyes. She had known Dawn would be angry, but she was still shocked by the intensity of her reaction. Did Dawn really think she had left her? That their mom had as well? She needed to talk to her about that. Tell her... But even more than that, she was concerned about something else – something she could see in the depths of her sister’s eyes. Something she hadn’t expected, and didn’t understand. She watched Dawn race up the stairs.

After the sound of the slamming bedroom door made its way down to her, Buffy sighed and buried her face in her hands. She pushed them up through her hair and clutched her head tightly.

Now what? She wondered. She could understand Dawn’s anger and hurt. She could even understand if Dawn felt betrayed by her death, as if she had willingly left her. In a way, she supposed she had. And she also understood that Dawn would be angered by her warning about Spike. She knew they had become very close while she’d been – gone.

But, in god’s name, why would her sister look at her with that lurking in the depths of her eyes – that terrible overwhelming fear?

~*~

“Hello?”

“Watcher.”

A brief pause. “Spike.”

He didn’t beat around the bush. “Did the Slayer tell you?”

“About the chip not working? Yes.”

“Is she okay? Is Dawn?”

“Buffy is angry and worried. And, as far as I know, Dawn isn’t talking to her.”

Spike gave a little snort. “I – I need your help.”

“I must ask you, Spike. Have you fed?”

“No.”

“You give me your word?”

“Yes. I haven’t fed. Just the usual revolting pig swill.” Spike paused; then continued quietly. “Do you accept my word? Have I – have I –” He couldn’t force out the words.

Giles’ voice was steady. “Earned that?” he finished for him. Giles barely paused. “Yes.”

A long silence stretched over the phone wires.

“Thank you,” Spike said at last. He didn’t even attempt to conceal the emotion in his voice. “Can you come to L.A.?”

“Yes. When?”

“Today?” Spike gave another little snort, this one laced with derisive amusement at his own impatience. He was a bit surprised when Giles didn’t hesitate.

“Where shall we meet?”

~*~

angel can think that he hasn’t seen any sign of Spike since he showed up – and it will have been a few days. Two in spikes room, Angel POV:

Angel and Cordelia were sitting near the registration desk, laughing together, when Giles came into the lobby. They looked up, their expressions registering their surprise as they recognized him.

“Giles!” Cordelia’s wide smile made her pleasure plain. “I haven’t seen you in – well, since…”

…Buffy’s funeral. From the looks of remembered pain on everyone’s faces, Angel knew he wasn’t the only one finishing her sentence silently.

Giles spoke first, easing the awkward moment. “Hello, Cordelia. You’re well, I hope?”

“Yes.” Cordy relaxed, sending a grateful smile to the Watcher. “You’re looking pretty dapper yourself,” she added, and Angel watched her run her eyes ran over the long olive coat, the blue t-shirt and the worn jeans the Englishman wore. “Much less tweedy. It suits you.”

FIX

Angel’s reaction was different. He rose slowly to his feet, his body was tightening in anticipation of bad news. Something unsuited to a phone call. The last time that had happened, when Willow had… Angel couldn’t think of any other reason Giles would come to his hotel. They’d kept in touch, haphazardly at least, for the first year or so after he’d left Sunnydale, but not much since. And he had no idea how much Wes kept in contact with his former co-worker.

Cordelia’s eyes darted between the two men, and her warm tone faltered. “Is – everything okay? Giles?”

“Fine, thank you, Cordelia.” He nodded at Angel. “Hello, Angel.” Giles' voice was calm, but decidedly cool.

“Giles.” Angel’s voice was cautious.

“I’m here to see Spike,” the Watcher told them.

“I knew it!” Cordelia exclaimed. “He did something, didn’t he?” She glared at Angel. “I told you he was hiding from someone. Her eyes went back to Giles. “You’ve been hunting him down, right? How did you find out he was here?”

“He called me.”

“He – ? Oh.” Cordelia frowned. “And, um, why?”

“That’s his business, I imagine. Is he here?”

“Yeah,” Angel replied. “He’s staying here, anyway. I’m not sure if he’s in his room or not.” He was. Even though he hadn’t seen any sign of him since his arrival, Angel always knew precisely when Spike left the hotel and when he returned. He could feel him. “533.”

“He’s expecting me.” Giles inclined his head toward the stairs. “This way?”

“There’s an elevator,” Angel offered, wondering distractedly if Wes and Gunn had managed to repair it after the last damage it had incurred. He’d almost never used it himself, and…

But Giles was already on his way up the stairs. “This is fine. The exercise will do me good. Thank you.”

Angel and Cordelia stared after him.

“Do you think he’s gone completely wacko?” Cordelia asked, tipping her head to the side curiously.

Angel doubted it. But he was beginning to feel like he might.

~*~

((work on POV – one or two?))

The room was relatively small, and aside from the overflowing ashtray, almost militarily neat. The bed looked untouched.

Spike himself was not so undisturbed. His hair, usually so ruthlessly smoothed back, was wildly disarrayed. Giles blinked in surprise at the mass of wild curls. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew he’d seen Spike’s hair in this state before, or near enough as not to matter, but it still struck him as odd, and – unexpected.

((((Giles can think about how b isn't talking to anyone. she seemed furious, as if she was angry at the world. Dawn wasn't speaking to her, Christmas had been a nightmare during which Xander and Anya had tried to make it a celebration



Giles is surprised that Spike took off so fast, since tenacity seems to be one of his main personality traits, but puts it down to depression.))))



“Is the Slayer okay? Dawn?”

“No different than they were this morning, to my knowledge,” Giles told him, coming into the room. “How about you?”

Spike snorted. “Been better, mate.” He led the way to the requisite small round table flanked by two uncomfortable chairs that sat in front of the window. Spike emptied the ashtray into the wastebasket, and took the second chair, bringing the ashtray with him. The air was already blue with remnants of smoke, but he lit up again, anyway. Giles tried not to cough. Or reach for the pack. Resorting to smoking when he’d learned of Buffy's resurrection had been one thing. Lighting up with the regularity of a strobe light while getting completely pissed was quite another. He’d tried to put his lapses down to Spike’s unruly influence. He was determined that he was not going to pick up the habit he’d shed along with his Ripper persona.

“I need to know what’s happening with the chip,” Spike said bluntly.

“It didn’t fire when you hit Buffy. It seems clear that it has malfunctioned.”

“Don’t think it has, Watcher.” Spike raised his eyes to meet those of the other man. “But I don’t know.”

Giles sat opposite Spike. His hands were folded and hanging loosely between his knees, and his body was leaning slightly toward the vampire.

“Did you attempt to feed?” He asked, and there was a wealth of disappointment in his voice, a note approaching betrayal.

“No. But I hit that bitch – Angelus’ sidekick.”

“Ange – you mean Cordelia?” Giles was shocked.

“Yeah. The night I got here. She was yammering on and on, and she said something about the Slayer and brood boy, an’ I –” His hands moved expressively. “Know I shouldn’t have. But I don’t regret it. So, if you wanna leave now...”

“And the chip fired?” Giles asked instead, and could almost see the wave of relief that went through Spike at his lack of outrage.

“Oh, yeah, full on. But I found out something else, too. Something worse.”

“Go on.”

“The B—Slayer wannabe is part demon.”

“Cordelia?” His shock was even greater this time.

“I guess. That twittery one told me. Ran into her in the kitchen the other night. Third night I was here, I think it was. I popped in to nick some of the grandsire’s blood, and she told me where I could get my own. Don’t even remember how it came into the conversation.”

“The twittery one?”

“Yeah, um, Fred, I think her name is. New addition to the camp of champs.”

“But Cordelia is still part human?”

((((Spike would KNOW Fred was human. He didn’t realize it about cordy cause he was so upset and exhausted.) finding out that cordy is part demon has really confused Spike and he doesn’t know what to do about it. He’s tempted to go out, take on some demons, see if the chip has somehow reversed itself and now only works on demons and that he can kill humans again, but he decides he shouldn’t pick a fight with demons if it turns out he can’;t fight them. Besides, this was Angelus’ town. And what if brood boy actually rescued him? That would be intolerable. Time to call Giles, see if he can help him get some answers.)))))

“That was the impression I got, but I dunno for sure. Didn’t quite know how to ask. Gave a minute of thought to askin’ Fred if she was human herself, but I was pretty sure she’d object if she said ‘yes’ only to have me smack her upside the head to see whether or not my brain would explode.”

“We need to find that out,” he paused, his eyes meeting Spike’s. “Do you want to hit me?”

The men looked at each other seriously before they both broke into reluctant smiles. It eased a lot of the tension in the room.

"Now there's a question. Once upon a time, Watcher..."

Giles could almost see scenes of their past flashing through Spike's mind. No doubt the time the vampire had spent chained in his bathtub figured prominently in those memories.

“It’s somehow not as appealing now,” Spike went on.

“But I think you’d better. Like you, I don’t think we’ll run into a lot a volunteers.”

“Yeah,” Spike agreed.

They stood, facing each other, and Giles braced himself.

“Just so you know, Watcher, I’m not feeling even a twinge of anticipation. It’s damned unnatural.”

Giles relaxed slightly, and Spike chose that moment to strike. His fist connected with Giles’ jaw, and they both howled with pain.

“You’re one hundred percent human, right?” Spike asked, clutching his head.

“Yes, sod it all. That bloody well hurt.”

“Didn’t exactly tickle for me either, you know.” He paused. “Can’t hold back much,” he explained. “Damn thing seems to have some understanding of intent.”

“You were holding back?” Giles groaned, cupping his jaw. Already, it was beginning to swell. He ran his tongue along his teeth to make sure they all seemed secure. They did.

“Well, yeah,” Spike admitted. He went to a small cooler sitting on the nightstand. He pulled out a jar of blood, and set it aside, taking out an ice pack instead, which he applied to his head. “Not a lot, mind you,” he said, eyeing the Watcher, and Giles could plainly see that the lie was being offered in an effort to make him feel better. Spike removed a second ice pack and held it out. “Ice?”

Absurdly, the question made Giles think of Chevy Chase saying, “Lip balm?” in some foolish comedy Xander had talked him in to watching. But he accepted it gratefully, and after Spike had replaced the blood in the cooler, the men sat down again, each holding a flexible ice bag to their respective injuries.

“We need to find someone who can help us test the chip out thoroughly,” Giles commented after a few minutes of nursing his jaw. He was thankful to hear that his voice hadn’t taken on some odd inflection or thickness from the punch. Holding back, he thought in disgust. He’d damn well watched Spike work out often enough, hadn’t he? He should be bloody grateful he was alive. “I have a couple of contacts. I can make some calls.”

“Yeah, I guess, “Spike agreed. He hesitated. “What about B—the Slayer?”

Giles looked up, and Spike went on quickly. “What if something went wrong with Red’s spell? If it’s her? If she’s not completely human anymore?”

“Dear Lord.”

“It’ll kill her, you know.” Spike got up and began pacing. “She’s coming back to herself, but she’s still fragile right now. I don’t think she can take one more thing. And this? It’s gotta be one of her worst nightmares. Almost like – almost like getting turned.” His voice broke a little.

Giles took pity on him. “Let’s see if we can’t make sure the chip isn’t shorting out at all first. Maybe some little electrical connection just didn’t – connect – when you hit her.” For the most part, electronics were a mystery to Giles. He wasn’t even sure if ‘electronics’ was the right word in this instance. After all, the chip wasn’t plugged in to anything, was it? “Before we worry about any other consequences, let’s get the chip evaluated thoroughly.”

“I’ve given this a lot of thought, Rupert,” Spike began. Then he paused, his mouth twisting in self derisive amusement. “Haven’t thought of another bloody thing since I got here.” He went to the window, drawing back the curtain to look out over the flashing holiday lights decorating the endless expanse of city. “I – Dawn. I love her, Rupert, an’ I’m not gonna let her down. Not gonna leave her like she feels a lot of others have.” His hand clenched tightly into the folds of the curtain, crushing the fabric hard. Slowly his fist relaxed. “When the chip didn’t fire, I thought maybe it was my chance… Prove to the Slayer that I could…” He paused, swallowed. “It doesn’t matter,” he went on. “I know the Slayer will never trust me anywhere near her kid sis without a working chip in my head.” His fist clenched again. This time it took him a little longer to force it to relax. “If it’s not working, I -- I want a new one put in.”

Giles stared at his rigid back in shock.

Spike turned and faced him.

“Can you arrange that?”

~*~

It wasn’t the chip. The doctors Giles had arranged to meet with did extensive testing, and found it to be fully functional. The chance of it just randomly not working on Buffy were extremely slim. Impossible, the doctors had said, but Giles knew enough to know that nothing was ever truly impossible.

((((Any explanation of who the doctor’s were? Needed?)))))

That left the logical conclusion that the problem lay with Buffy. It also left Giles wondering if Spike would have gone through with his stated wish to have a working chip implanted if the current one proved faulty. When he’d asked him, Spike had just shrugged. He would never know now. Perhaps Spike would never really know either.

Spike and Giles sat at a rather cramped booth in a dark corner of a pub near the Hyperion. Giles had had something to eat, but even with a few things on the menu the watcher knew the vampire enjoyed, Spike chose to chain smoke instead. He was nursing a beer, and fidgeting in his seat. Giles watched him, taking a long drink of his own beer, while he waited for Spike to share whatever it was that was making him so restless.

“I think she’s still human,” he said at last. “B—the Slayer.” (using this too much – edit)

Giles hadn’t needed the clarification.

“She doesn’t feel different to me. Doesn’t smell different.” Spike stared into his beer. “And she tastes the same,” he added very quietly.

It was Giles’ turn to shift in his seat. He really didn’t want any details on their sex life, not even something as simple as kissing. Oh, dear Lord, he thought, wincing inwardly – he hoped Spike was talking about kissing. He could tell himself he’d accepted their relationship, even that he was growing comfortable with it, if it, er, still existed. But a mind free of any details, was a mind that allowed sleep to come a great deal more easily.

“I’ll find some reason to do a series of tests on her when I get home. I had thought about doing it right after she was brought back, if you remember. But someone persuaded me to wait. Perhaps I’ll insist on a complete physical as well. She detests doctors, and hospitals, but I think I can use her death and resurrection as a plausible excuse. And it quite likely is the reason there’s a problem. Perhaps the magic Willow used altered her in some way. Not making her non-human, exactly, just – different. Some little thing that’s confusing your chip. A CAT scan, some molecular studies, perhaps, a complete blood workup...”

“Told you, her blood’s the same.” Spike looked out over the crowd. “I’m not mistaken on that, Watcher. I’d know her blood anywhere.”

“You’d... You’ve drunk from her?” Giles sounded appalled.

Spike looked back at him. Hadn’t he just said so a minute ago? Thought the Watcher had taken it a little too well. Maybe it had just sunk in. “No. Well, not exactly.”

What, exactly?”

“She cut her hand.” Spike grew defensive. “Was just a taste. ‘s not like she objected.” He paused. “Well, to that anyway.”

“Perhaps you should explain what, exactly, you’re talking about,” Giles pressed.

“’s nothing,” Spike mumbled, avoiding his eyes.

“Let’s see if I have this straight. You feel that Buffy has not undergone any significant change because her blood is the same. Blood you tasted before her death, and have tasted again since her resurrection.”

Spike finished his beer. He glanced at Giles’ glass. “Get you another, Watcher?” He rose without waiting for a reply, and went to the bar. Giles stared after him. What wasn’t he telling him, and more importantly, why? Aside from the guilt he’d expressed over his perceived failure to keep Buffy alive, Spike didn’t express much in the way of regret for past deeds. It didn’t seem to be a part of the vampire’s nature. So what had he done that he was so reluctant to talk about now? When, before her death, had he had the opportunity to drink from Buffy? And why had his Slayer never told him?

Spike slipped back into the booth, pushing a heavy glass stein toward Giles.

“Got a favor to ask,” Spike said. He seemed to have no intention of answering Giles’ question.

Giles raised a brow.

“It’s about the bit. I want her to know I haven’t fed. Want her to know the chip’s working, and I haven’t hurt anyone. An’ that I didn’t try to either. Except for hitting that bitch that hangs out with Angelus, of course.” He shrugged. “You can tell her that if you want. Your call. And I want you to tell her I’ll be back. Don’t know when, exactly, but I don’t want her thinkin’ I’ve abandoned her. She’s got a lot of issues with that. Will you do that?”

Giles eyed him speculatively. "This," he gestured between the two of them, "relationship must work both ways, Spike. Before I agree to help you out any further, I want you to tell me about Buffy's blood. The whole story," he tacked on. It wouldn't do to give Spike an out. He too often seemed to find a way to use them.

Spike took another draught of his beer. He reached for a cigarette, but the pack was empty, and he crumpled it up and tossed it onto the floor with disgust.

Giles watched it roll across the old tile. Litterbug, he thought.

“It was after – after...”

Giles read that devastated expression. “After the tower,” he supplied.

“Yeah,” Spike swallowed. “I don’t remember much. Guess my health took a turn for the worse.” He looked up at Giles, and his lips twisted a little in a ghost of his old smirk. “An’ – a little angel brought me somethin’ to make me better.” He stared into his beer again, and waited.

The Watcher was a bright fellow. He didn’t have to wait long.

“Dawn.” Giles stated.

Spike confirmed his conclusion with a nod, and watched the expressions flickering across the other man’s face as he mentally worked out the details.

“Did she let you drink from – no. No,” Giles said again, his thoughts crystallizing. “Buffy’s blood. From their freezer. Dawn brought it to you.”

“That she did, mate.”

Giles was silent a moment as he let all the implications go through his mind. And to wonder why the possibility had never occurred to him before. He should have long ago become used to the things young people would do for their friends. Hadn’t Xander and Willow taught him that? Hadn’t Buffy? “Dear Lord. Getting it to you... The chances that child must have taken...”

“Yeah.”

“And the rapid recovery. The increase in strength we saw when you fought the dragons...”

“Yeah.”

“From Buffy’s blood...”

“Packs quite a punch, our – your Slayer’s blood, Rupert. Strong, powerful. It was –”

Never gonna taste her again.

Never gonna have her blood in your mouth, in your throat. Never gonna feel her power, her passion. Never gonna have her body in your arms, never gonna… Never. Never…

Don’t think about her.

Don’t fucking think about her.

Spike clenched his fist, pausing briefly before going on. “Never tasted anything like it. And I could never mistake it. She cut her hand the other night an’ I – I –” Spike squeezed his fist tighter. “I tasted her. Blood’s the same. No question in my mind.”

The two sat quietly for awhile, nursing their beers.

“Do you suppose that could be an explanation?” Giles asked thoughtfully.

“What’s that?”

“Having drunk her blood – having been restored by it. Do you suppose your chip recognized that somehow, and no longer sees Buffy as – well, not inhuman, but not different from you either? Rather like a blood tie between vampires. Kindred, in a sense.”

As a theory, it was of a rather more mystical nature than those the doctors had espoused. Those had revolved, for the most part, around the possible altering of molecular structure or something of that sort. Being based on blood, thought, his own theory could be said to have some scientific underpinnings. Giles gave a mental nod, rather pleased with himself for having come up with it. After all, his own experiences had led him to believe that mystical explanations should hold at least as much weight as scientific.

Spike eyed him.

“Not a theory I’d expound on at length to the Slayer,” Spike said dryly, remembering Buffy’s horrified voice, ‘Oh. My. God. Were you trying to turn me?’. “Don’t think it’d go over too well – suggesting she was somehow related to vampires.” And she doesn’t know – not about Dawn’s involvement.

“I rather think it would be the other way ’round. You related to her.”

Spike’s expression clouded further. “Still not seein’ it as something she’d wanna hear. An’ it sounds a bit far-fetched to me.” He paused, before admitting tiredly, “But then, I’ve never had a clue how the chip could figure the difference between humans and non-humans anyway, so who am I to say?”

“Well it makes as much sense to me as some of the other possibilities running through my head since the doctors told us everything was fine with your chip – that Buffy’s cell structure was somehow altered during re-entry, so to speak, and your chip no longer registers her.”

((((Is this going to be relevant??:

He realized his mistake when she rolled her eyes at him. “Really? Oh, god, thank you, thank you! I’m so glad, so relieved! I’m way up there on the normal scale when compared to demons!”

He knocked her elbow out from under her, so that her head flopped to the ground.

“Ouch!” she protested.

“Didn’t hurt,” he derided her. “Chip.” He gestured to his head, indicating the general state of him not writhing in pain.))))))

Giles finished his beer and pushed the stein away.

“I don’t suppose it makes much sense to be hashing through this until I’ve had a chance to run some tests on Buffy.”

“You find something wrong with her, an’ she’s gonna feel like a freak. Even if it’s not demon related. She already feels – well, bein’ the Slayer an’ all, comin’ back from the dead a few times...”

“I know.” Giles’ mind had been working along the same lines. “I shall just have to find a way to reassure her that she’s human and normal. Or – as normal as a slayer can be said to be.”

Giles was watching Spike’s hands. They had stopped their desperate fist clenching, and were now carefully shredding a paper napkin. “When I first became her Watcher, she used to talk a lot about being a normal girl.” He paused. “She doesn’t so much anymore.”

“She’ll never be normal,” Spike said. “’Cause she isn’t. She’s the Slayer. Never understood why she was so anxious to blend in when she was born to stand out.”

He made it sound so simple and straightforward.



(Consider Spike not specifying that Dawn be told he hadn’t fed or tried to feed. This knowledge would ruin the scene later with Buffy. Perhaps he can just say that he wants Dawn to know he’s coming back, and that they might hold off with the chip news until they’ve tested Buffy in case it might be something that upsets Dawn or adds to her worries.)



“’ppreciate it if you’d keep my whereabouts quiet for awhile,” Spike muttered a little later, changing the subject. Not that the Slayer would ask, Spike told himself. Had to care to ask, didn’t she? He swallowed, opening his mouth and forcing sound out. “In case the bit asks or somthin’. Just feel like I need a little time to myself. But I want Dawn to know I’ll be comin’ back. I know I already mentioned it, but I want you to give me your word you’ll tell her. I don’t want her worryin’. An’ she will.”

His girl loved him. That he knew. He could feel it all the time. Like a little light glowing inside him. Aside from some words spoken to him in a vision, ‘You’re what I need, what Dawn needs, and I’m counting on you, to protect her’, it had been one of the only things keeping him going through most of the long summer of Buffy’s death. That and his promise.

Still was, sometimes.

Dawn.

She matters.

She’s the only thing that matters.

The only thing that can.

“I’ll keep your confidence, and I give you my word that I’ll speak to Dawn. You might consider giving her a call yourself, though. My guess is that she’ll want to hear from you.”

Spike didn’t comment, his eyes remote.

Giles drew a deep breath. “I have a favor of my own to ask,” he began. He waited until Spike seemed to be paying attention. “Not long ago, I asked you if you would be willing to write your memoirs for me. You refused. I’m asking again.”

Spike’s eyes met his. The vampire looked exhausted suddenly, as if all the, er, life had drained out of him. All of the energy. As if he’d been pushing himself, and pushing, and pushing, and had just suddenly, completely, lost the ability to continue on for one minute longer. Giles had never seen him like that, not even after Glory had beaten him to a bloody pulp. Spike had always seemed so alive to Giles. Annoyingly alive, usually. He’d always seemed to exude some – something. Even when he was still and silent. Certainly, he was always impossible to ignore or overlook. But tonight, he seemed different. Lifeless. Empty. Almost like he’d been when they’d first found him after Buffy’s death. He was moving and talking, but his eyes held the same nothingness they;d held then. Empty, deadened pools of blue.

Perhaps the battery of tests he’s been subjected to earlier had worn him out.

Oh, don’t be daft, Giles, old man. It doesn’t have a bloody thing to do with the tests, and you know it.

Spike shrugged, and let his eyes drift away, gazing blankly out into the open areas of the pub.

“Whatever you want, Rupert,” he said quietly. “I’ll do what I can.”

Giles stared at him, feeling genuine concern for his well-being; for his safety. For a moment, he contemplated asking Angel to keep a close eye on the younger vampire, but he soon let the idea go. There was no love lost between the two, and the situation would be very difficult, not to mention damned unpleasant, to try to explain to Angel. Giles frowned, wondering why Spike was staying with the other vampire.

“Thank you.” He paused. “Do you need some alternative place to stay?”

Spike gave no sign of having heard him.

Giles made a decision and straightened his shoulders.

“I have another favor to ask, as well,” he told the blond. Ignoring the fact that Spike was not acknowledging him, Giles went on. “It’s about you, Spike. About your future.”

Spike’s head, which had fallen onto the back of the booth, rolled toward him. “What is it?”

“I don’t know what will happen between you and Buffy when you eventually return to Sunnydale. But, for some time now, I’ve watched you change. I’ve watched you grow, and begin to become something new, something beyond what I’ve always been taught a vampire could be. I hope – I hope you’ll continue on that journey – to become this new being.

“And I hope you’ll do so regardless of Buffy’s feelings, or the decisions she makes. I don’t know what Buffy feels, but I do know that this much is true: ‘You can’t make someone love you. All you can do is be someone who can be loved; the rest is up to the person to realize your worth.’ I’m not suggesting that Buffy doesn’t love you, or that she does. I don’t know, though I do believe she feels something for you.” He was relatively certain his Slayer had very strong feelings for the vampire. Whether they were, or could ever be, what Spike wanted, he hadn’t a clue. Buffy certainly hadn’t said anything to him, and, in fact, he didn’t think Buffy was even aware that he knew of the nature of her relationship with the vampire. But her actions and behaviors since she’d been resurrected had made him believe his Slayer felt some – connection – to Spike. “All you can do, Spike, is keep striving to be something better – something more – than what you were. What happens after that is up to some other power. You can only control you.

Spike looked at Giles. His mouth opened once or twice before he spoke. “You seem to be under the mistaken impression that I’m no longer evil, Watcher.”

Giles raised his brows, refusing to dignify Spike’s words with a verbal reply. They’d spoken of this before, and Spike knew perfectly well how Giles felt about the subject. He was making every effort to judge Spike on his current actions. And, aside from witnessing him nicking cigarettes more than once, he hadn’t seen him do anything evil for months now. Though it might deeply offend his own environmentalist tendencies, it was rather a stretch to fit litterbug into the category of ‘evil’.

Spike shifted a little uncomfortably under the Watcher’s steady regard. “And do you have one of these pithy little quotes handy for every occasion?” he asked.

Missing the vampire’s annoyance entirely, Giles looked pleased that he had noticed. He touched the knot of his tie. “Yes, actually.”

The vampire rolled his eyes, and took a final swallow of his beer. Without another word, he rose and left. Giles watched him go out the door. He may be willing to give Spike the benefit of the doubt when it came to his evilness, but his manners remained quite often utterly deplorable. As was often the case, Spike had avoided a serious discussion by ignoring most of what Giles had said. Or at least pretending to ignore it. Long ago, Giles had begun to understand that Spike had a habit of not commenting on things said that touched the deepest places within him.

Giles contemplates that Spike was not much of a quitter, he’d always been remarkable tenacious – obnoxiously so, in some cases. and the fact that he’d taken off for LA, PLUS the fact that he wasn’t coming right back – well, Giles thought it had a lot to do with Spike’s lingering depression. They’d never actually talked about it, but there was no doubt in Giles’ mind that spike had been suffering some pretty severe depression since Buffy’s death – even perhaps in some forms since the Initiative chip had been implanted.

Buffy’s return had not suddenly made Spike’s depression disappear. That’s not how depression worked, something he knew well from personal experience. He had to admit he didn’t understand vampire physiology at all. There were so many contradictory things. No breath, Angel had told Xander, explaining why he couldn’t give Buffy mouth to mouth resuscitation when she drowned in The Master’s lair. Yet both Angel and Spike breathed all the time when they fought, and Spike certainly needed breath to smoke his unending cigarettes. Not to mention air was required to speak. No blood circulating, which seemed to have no effect on their ability to, er, engage in sexual relations. He let his mind drift to how much simpler his life would have been if that hadn’t been the case.

And how much duller, another part of his mind whispered. Ripper peeking through.

He hadn’t meant that! Giles assured himself. He had no interest in Spike’s and Angel’s, er, sexual activities. But their ability to love Buffy… Now that, he admitted, he found fascinating. He’d mused on it many times – the unlikelihood of two vampires both loving his Slayer so deeply. And Spike, without even the benefit of a soul…

expand

Spike also still felt guilt. And now he worried constantly about how to protect b & d – something he’d never had to contemplate before – he was having a lot of trouble dealing with that. He knew spike felt he had failed them both that night at the tower, and was determined not to fail them again. If spike said casually over chess “I’m having some trouble concentrating lately.” He could pretty safely translate that into. “My mind is spinning all the time, and I have no idea what’s real and what’s not” or, depending on the tone and body language, it could even be translated to: even “I’m fairly certain I’m going completely bonkers, but I’m not sure how to test myself for that.” He was getting fairly good at translating spike to giles

Also Giles is aware that Spike gets almost NO sleep. Giles reminded himself that Spike had been taking care of himself for a long time. Chances were he had a fairly good handle on it. Still…

Giles sighed and finished his own beer. His mind went to Buffy, and his brow creased in concern.



Author’s Note:

There’s a ton of stuff to be worked out in these next couple of chapters, as you’ll see. Parts of them are extremely sketchy, and included here are a lot of things, plot points that I was at one time considering, and haven’t yet worked out whether or not to work into the story. Since I use a lot of foreshadowing when I write, it’s necessary to include these little notes to myself throughout, so that I remember that I have decisions to make before the final version of that particular chapter can be released.

Please keep in mind when reading this draft version that there’s a lot of this that I haven’t even LOOKED at for more than a year. I might not even remember what all the notes mean!! (Hmmm, now, where the hell was I going with that???) :) And I imagine there are several things included that were first written before the massive overhaul of Awakenings, and thus, make no sense whatsoever. (Another :) )

Also, one little thing about how I write. I find myself roughing out a draft, then refining it over and over. It isn’t until I’m about halfway through my dozen or so revisions (seriously, it’s really pitiful the number of times I can rewrite a single sentence) that I really start concentrating on how I think Giles or Spike or Dawn, etc. would phrase things. Even if I know what they have to say in the scene, and some of the words and phrases they’ll use, I will, as the chapter starts to take shape, spend a lot of time rewriting dialogue until I think it actually sounds like the person speaking (or at least until it does in my head). I think you’ll really notice that as you read over some of the scenes.

I hope there’s enough in these two chapters that makes sense to make them worth your time!

Mary



Chapter Two

((((Lots of stuff to be worked out here with the timeline – when does everyone find out everything they need to know in these next couple of chapters?, etc.

Giles would talk to Buffy about the blood thing if he was doing the tests on her, so the talk with Dawn will have to be moved up to before the test. Or Giles could decide not to talk to Buffy about the blood until he knows more. Taking Spike’s words to heart about it upsetting her.

Tara is still out of town, Giles searches Willow’s house while she’s cruising with her parents. Giles has Buffy do the hospital tests to rule something physical out and to get the silent guarantee that she’s still human.

Tara comes back, finds out the Giles still doesn’t know about the spell, and gets Willow’s books out. She studies them, then shares them with Giles. THEN they do the other tests on Buffy. Changed scenario affects conversations – check carefully for continuity, and to avoid contradictory things happening.))))





“It’s like a Norton Anti-Virus to detect demonic forces.”

“I beg your pardon?” She might just as well have been speaking Greek. Well, perhaps Sanskrit was a better analogy. He actually knew a fair amount of Greek.

“It’s for c-computers. It scans files to make sure none of them are infected with various t-types of viruses.”

“A virus being something that corrupts files.”

“Yes.” Tara smiled at him. Giles felt a little glow of warmth. For some reason, approval from Tara tended to make him feel good about himself. “It’s n-not like I think Buffy is acting like she’s being influenced or anything. ‘Cause I don’t think she is. A-acting like that.”

Giles smiled, trying to reassure her.

“And even if Spike’s chip didn’t fire when he hit her, I don’t think she’s a demon. At all. E-even, um, a little.”

“I don’t think you do feel like that, Tara. Tell me about this talisman,” Giles encouraged.

As it often did, Tara’s stutter faded as she moved into an area she felt more comfortable in.

“It won’t hurt Buffy or anything. All she has to do is touch it. That way, we can use it without even telling her, if, um, if you feel it would be better. I wouldn’t want her to think that we think she’s under some demon influence.”

Once again, Giles smiled. Tara really was an incredibly kind young woman. “Perhaps that would be best,” Giles agreed. “But if you don’t feel Buffy’s under any unnatural influence, and I agree with you,” he added hurriedly. “Why do you feel this is necessary?”

“Because of how Willow brought her back. The papers I gave you? I’ve been studying my copy of them, too. Like we agreed. And…” Tara’s eyes teared. “She took some terrible chances, Mr. Giles. I found her notes. There were location spells that she could have done. Spells she should have done, for Buffy’s safety and for our own. And she didn’t do them.”

Willow’s notes make it clear that she didn’t know if Buffy was even IN another dimension or if she was just, um, DEAD…

But Willow seemed to proceed on the assumption that Buffy was in a hell dimension, and continued as if that was the only possibility. And even then, she didn’t test all the hell dimensions…

Fear clutched at Giles, and he felt himself go cold.

“These location spells would have opened very tiny portals into different dimensions and told us whether or not Buffy was there. Or, at least they would have told us whether or not someone from our dimension had passed into that one recently. You know, so we should check it out more, um, thoroughly. But those spells are time consuming and kind of boring. Very repetitive. And there are so many dimensions to test, that it really does take a lot of time – months probably. I guess she decided they were too much work, and that we didn’t have that time, for some reason. But they’re incredibly important. Because when you pull a human being out of some dimensions, you can do terrible things to them if you haven’t performed specific protection spells unique to that dimension. We could have gotten Buffy back without her mind, or without her soul. Or even turned inside out or something like that.

“And Willow – I think she understood that. Her notes are pretty clear. She knew, but she didn’t do them…”

Tara’s expression revealed that she was feeling the same shock, disappointment and horror as he.

“And she certainly didn’t tell any of us. When she came to us for help, she told us about the research she’d already done, the conclusions she’d reached. And we – we trusted her. We never thought she might be lying, or hiding im-important information. I’m not sure if I can ever forget that. Or f-forgive it.”

“Quite,” Giles murmured. He really couldn’t think of anything else to say. He didn’t know if he could forgive Willow that deliberate disregard for safety – for life – for Buffy’s life – either. Willow had stated very clearly that she believed Buffy was in a hell dimension. If that was her belief, couldn’t she at least have tested those? She could have given the shrimp dimension a miss, perhaps, but if she honestly believed Buffy had been trapped in a hell dimension, and that they were rescuing her…

He thought it rather a good thing that Willow was currently cruising in the Caribbean with her parents, who had thought their daughter seemed rather stressed out and so had made arrangements to take her along on their planned vacation. If she was in Sunnydale, he wasn’t quite sure he’d be able to restrain himself.

“So, you’re thinking that perhaps Buffy…”

“I don’t think so, not really. I don’t think she’s under some demony influence. From, you know, being brought back without the proper safeguards and protections. B-but, um, I thought maybe we should check,” her voice faded. “J-just in case.”

~*~

Talk with Giles could be here, or could be right about the time Willow comes to the shop, back from her cruise. Perhaps she and Giles chat about Willow, and it morphs into a conversation with Giles about Spike.

Do the test results show something in Buffy’s blood? The doctor doesn’t think it’s anything serious, she’s also a little anemic, underweight, etc. Heart rate is a little too high, she’s very strong, her blood pressure is fine. All in all – she’s in her normal good health.

This would also be a good time for Giles and Buffy to talk about Willow, because Giles now knows more about the resurrection spell. He tells Buffy that tara just gave him Willow’s complete notes – or MORE complete, and that he will be studying them.

Buffy could still be worried about this, even tho she knows Rack wasn’t involved. There were other power dealers in town, and maybe Willow had gone to one of them. She’s also worried about what Anya said about purchased power being unreliable, dangerous. Did Willow purchase the power she’d used to bring her back? Had it had some strange effect on, her, Buffy? Was it responsible for some of the problems she was having? No, but Buffy worries about it a little. (Had it made her more susceptible to Spike? She doesn’t say this part.) Giles is able to reassure Buffy here. Willow’s notes, which he had gone over once completely, and was now studying more carefully, made no mention of the use of purchased power. Also hadn’t Willow said that she met Rack after the Tabula Rasa intervention? It was quite unlikely, if she was already seeing a power dealer, that she would feel the need to switch to another. One worry off Buffy’s list.

Does Buffy, however, show some remorse to Giles? Talk a little about Xander’s fears, and how they had raised her own. Asks him a few questions about Spike – has noticed their friendship, wants Giles impressions of Spike. Explains how she blew up, her reasoning, etc. I mean, what if I was wrong again, like Xander said? I have responsibilities. I can’t afford to make mistakes.

Does she talk about ‘does Giles think she was wrong?’ does she explain to him how it was always so easy with Spike, so relaxed, so comfortable. Is that weird? Is it wrong?

Wonders about how being with Spike always felt so right, and that she rarely even gave a thought to the whole vampire thing.

Keep the Spike parts impersonal: Just Spike as a part of the group… He’s changed. She’d trusted him, Dawn… asks him about his own relationship with Spike. Feels reassured that Giles shared her opinion.

This realization helps to confirm these thoughts:

She also knows that before Spike knew whether the chip was functioning, he hadn’t tried to test it out – on Dawn, who had come to him (and wouldn’t killing her sister be the ultimate punishment for her if he was angry with her?), and that he hadn’t tested it on anyone else – hadn’t tried to kill. Instead, he had taken himself away from everyone she cared about and called Giles for help. Were those the actions of a monster that was just biding his time until he could tear everyone she cared about to shreds, glorying in the violence with the added bonus of causing pain to her? Running away, or taking a step to protect her friends? Maybe a little of both? Xander’s ranting about Spike attacking the minute the chip was non-functional hadn’t panned out, had it?



~*~



Buffy will start the job at the beginning of the new semester – later in January.

Buffy PRIVATE THOUGHTS:

Also – Buffy’s inability or reluctance to feel anger, etc. this could be part of the slayer essence that she felt was missing when she first returned. And it could help her realize that that “dark” part of her was something she needed in order to do her job – she was less effective without it. The slaying skills had come back, but the passion was lacking, along with the internal fire – not hatred, or even anger – but a kind of heat, a determination, the harder edges needed to be a leader, to make decisions, to BE the slayer.

Buffy will be having Spike thoughts after her birthday party too – so dole out what will go here and what will go there.

while Spike is in L.A., Buffy thinks about believing in herself, having confidence in her own choices, and not needing her decisions validated by her friends.

Also, trusting her instincts – its hard, but they were often what got her thru (maybe when they have to make the decision about how to go after Doc.

She cared about Spike. And it wasn’t only the sex. Okay, if she was being brutally honest girl, she’d admit that the sex was good. More than good. Unbloodybelievable. But if she didn’t care about Spike, it wouldn’t be, no matter how acrobatic or whatever it got. That just wasn’t her style. She wasn’t some kind of skanky ho who could indulge in endless hours of sex with someone unless she genuinely cared about him.

And she did. Care about him.

A lot.

Spike was also a good fighter. He was one of the strongest opponents she’d ever faced and one of the strongest allies that had ever stood by her side. It was logical for her to accept his help. Smart. Slaying was a physically taxing and emotionally draining job. Spike's role as a partner eased both of those things for her, taking some of the weight off her shoulders.

He did that. Not just by being a good warrior, but in lots of little ways.

He was funny. And clever, and smart-mouthed and sexy and strong and comforting, and he had those arms, and the most beautiful back, and that mouth…

Did Giles share with Buffy Spike’s saying that he would be coming back (for Dawn)? Buffy could then be thinking of this time apart as a break. Or would Giles telling Buffy anything at all about Spike mess with too much in the next few chapters? So have to work out exactly what Giles will tell Buffy about Spike.

Buffy thinks that maybe the break will be good, will give her some time to sort of calm down. Since she’d come back, everything had been kind of a blur, and not just because of the whole fuzzy thing. There had been a lot to adjust to. The changes she felt inside herself, the things she had forgotten, some of which she was still relearning. She’d only been back two months when Spike had left – so that whole relationship had changed really fast, had escalated… Much as she just wanted to ‘go with’ things sometimes, she was well aware that that had led to trouble in the past. She was the Slayer, and she had responsibilities. She couldn’t afford to take reckless chances. Now she had to decide if a relationship with Spike constituted a reckless chance or not. Thinking with her heart – did it with Angel – disaster. Thinking with her head – did it with Riley – disaster. She somehow had to figure out how to balance everything. She cared about Spike. Maybe more. She didn’t know. She wanted him to be a part of her life, and not just as a liaison with the demon community or someone that she beat up for information, roles he’d taken in her previous life. She pushed away the little frisson of nausea. (Explain about feeling KINDER since heaven?) She knew she preferred patrolling with him. It was so much easier, not having to fight the demons, AND keep a constant eye on her friends. Not that she wasn’t aware of Spike and whether he needed her help, but most often he didn’t, and so it was much easier to concentrate on the task at hand, confident that he could hold up his end of things. Not that she didn’t appreciate all the help the others had been over the years, but there was still a certain amount of relief that they weren’t doing much in the way of patrolling anymore.

When she’d said to Giles that she was the one who always went to Spike, it was the first time she’d really realized it. Why was that? But she couldn’t deny that almost since the moment she’d come back, her every instinct had taken her to his side. He was the one she’d confided in, he was the one she was comfortable with, with whom she felt peaceful, relaxed, drawn to, connected to. She felt safe with him, and for some reason – her mind was still trying to work around this one – she sometimes felt that her being with Spike was safer for the others too. Why would that be? It seemed to make no sense. Was it because it WAS safer for her to fight with Spike? He was a warrior, like her. The others were not. Having him at her side DID protect the others – they didn’t need to patrol with her, didn’t need to endanger themselves. THAT made some sense. Was that an explanation?

Spike had a real gift for making her feel loved. He made her feel so loved. Desired, needed. Understood. Angel had done that. Made her feel amazing, like she was truly special. But sometimes, and a little guiltily, she really didn’t feel that Angel had understood her as well as Spike did. Feeling like that almost felt like a betrayal of the feelings she’d had for Angel, and she had to tell herself quite sternly that it wasn’t a betrayal at all. It was just an observation. Her feelings for Angel had changed, but nothing could take away from what they had been to each other – before. Spike had something of a gift for seeing people, really seeing them, and he’d always seemed to have a particularly good insight into her. It had annoyed her to no end in the past.

(((Check this part with thoughts in earlier chapter when she’s walking with Dawn to check out Emily. What exactly did she think then? Don’t repeat thoughts.))) With Riley, it hadn’t been that way. Riley had insisted that he’d wanted the whole package, that he’d ‘gotten it’, but she’d never felt that way. She’d always felt that he didn’t get it – didn’t get it at all. He may have said the right things, but he’d always made her feel like deep down he wanted her to change, to be different, to be NORMAL.

Normal.

God, that word. How many hours had she spent thinking about a normal life, longing for one, bemoaning the fact that she didn’t have one, and probably never would.

She rarely even thought of it anymore. Maybe there just comes a point in your life, after, say, you come back from the dead a second time or something, when you finally just admit you’re not real high on the normal girl scale.

And that maybe you’re okay, anyway. And that maybe you’re okay with that – that reality.

That maybe you’re not meant to be normal – that maybe destiny has taken you in a different direction, and was taking you even further away from an average life.

Does Buffy think now about the kind of lover Spike is?

Mention that she’s had some coffin nightmares?

The nightmares of the coffin, that had been falling off in frequency and intensity seemed to be making a comeback. She’d had several since he left, and two just last night. She thought perhaps tonight she would find a good book to read, and maybe give the whole sleeping thing a miss. Dawn was always recommending those Harry Porter books, the ones with the wizards and the muggers. She said they weren’t just for kids, and that she thought Buffy would like them. Of course Dawn wasn’t really in the mood to lend them to her right now, but maybe she could slip into her room while Dawn was at school, and um, nick them. Things had been so tense in the house since Spike had left town that Buffy was glad high school students didn’t have as long a winter break as college students. It was healthy for both of them that they weren’t together more than they were.

While Spike is in LA, Buffy thinks on feeling so drawn to him and on the connection she feels – feeling inside each other, the warmth, the mind reading. If they’re not meant to be together – what did all that mean? She chats with Giles about it??? She seriously considers if she could have misunderstood everything that had happened since she came back – was some force trying to bring them together? Good? Evil? Were her ‘feelings’ not completely defined – being manipulated?



Buffy now knows chip is still working AND that she is okay.

She also knows that before Spike knew whether the chip was functioning, he hadn’t tried to test it out – on Dawn, who had come to him (and wouldn’t killing her sister be the ultimate punishment for her if he was angry with her?), and that he hadn’t tested it on anyone else – hadn’t tried to kill. Instead, he had taken himself away from everyone she cared about and called Giles for help. Were those the actions of a monster that was just biding his time until he could tear everyone she cared about to shreds, glorying in the violence with the added bonus of causing pain to her? Running away, or taking a step to protect her friends? Maybe a little of both? Xander’s ranting about Spike attacking the minute the chip was non-functional hadn’t panned out, had it?

Buffy realizes that for some bizarre reason, since she came back, the only time she’d really ever considered the fact that Spike was a vampire was when he’d hit her and the chip hadn’t fired. She hadn’t thought of him as evil, hadn’t thought of him as a killer, or a threat. He had just been there – a part of the gang, in a way, but separate, as well, a little apart. Spike.

Sorta – one of a kind. Unique.

Yeah, that’s it.

He still annoyed her a lot, but in kind of a different way. Like she didn’t find his annoying manner quite so – annoying. That she even kind of enjoyed it. What was up with that? All his sarcastic little comments interjected into their conversations. She liked them… ((Has some of this stuff already been said in an earlier chapter?))

Use this as exposition time to catch us up on Buffy’s feelings and state of mind on a lot of things.

In crypt:

How could it seem so empty, so devoid of life? She wondered. Spike wasn’t even alive, so logically, his absence shouldn’t make the crypt seem so – dead.

But it did. No telly flickering with scenes from that stupid soap, Passions, that he and her mom had been so obsessed with, or from “I Love Lucy’ reruns, or, best case scenario, old movies. No candles wafting their wonderful scents around the room, and keeping the corners from being too thick with shadow.

No sound except for the hum of the refrigerator.

He’d been gone less than two weeks. She was sure of the amount of time because Giles had mentioned it in passing this morning.

It felt like a year to Buffy, and she wondered if that was because she was having so much trouble determining the passage of time, or for – other reasons.



(((Dawn has not yet told Buffy about the coat in any conversation they’ve had, because, at this point, they haven’t HAD any conversations. )))



She climbed down the ladder to the lower level, finding his coat crumpled at its base. She picked it up, smoothing the well worn leather under her hand. Dawn had said he’d told her to take it, but that she’d left it there. Buffy had been sure Spike wouldn’t have left it behind, and finding it there caused a moment of sharp pain in her chest. She moved further into the room, and laid the coat on the neatly made bed.

Spike could be such a slob sometimes that it had always surprised her to find the bed neatly made. She closed her eyes against visions of how thoroughly they always managed to mess it up.

The refrigerator couldn’t be heard down here, and the complete silence unnerved her.

No music playing, no soft murmurings, no rapid breathing. No words of love and lust, desire and need, being whispered roughly against her ear.

“You’re so hot, Buffy, so tight, always so tight. When I first slide inside you, I could swear I won’t last a minute, a second. Always feel like I’m gonna explode as soon as you sheath me. Love being with you like this, being inside you, touching you, tasting you. You’re so bloody beautiful, so… Your skin –soft, smooth, gold. Your hair, yeah, lean back like that; let it brush against my thighs. Oh, yeah, more. Arch your back more. Ah, fuck, gonna come. Buffy. Buffy.”

Hips arching off the bed as he thrust wildly up into her as he came, deeper than she’d ever known a man could be. Inside her. Part of her. Hers…

Hers…

Damn him!

How dare he leave her!

How could he leave her?

Of course, he’d left her.

Everyone did, didn’t they?

She struggled to push away the thoughts of her threat to kill him.

His face twisted up in anguish. “You can’t know what it was like. If you…”

She doesn’t believe he’s gone. Her reaction? Fear? Anger? Resignation – another guy left her. Does she start to fear that she’s really hurt Spike? Does she feel regret? Does she realize that she needs him? Does she curl up on his bed with the coat and cry?

She missed him.

There; she’d admitted it. Well, maybe she’d admitted it to herself before.

“I miss him.”

There; she’d admitted it out loud. It wasn’t like a tree falling in the forest. Even if no one was here to hear her, it still counted. She’d still said it. She’d heard it. Meant it.

Buffy climbed onto the mattress and lay down, curled onto her side on her side of the bed, her eyes focused on his side. His empty side. She could picture him there perfectly, his eyes soft in the candlelight, as he gazed into her face.

“I love you, Buffy.”

Buffy swallowed, letting her eyes fall closed. They’d only been lovers a few weeks. It shouldn’t all feel so familiar, so comfortable to her. It shouldn’t feel so – meant to be.

And it had. From day one. Literally.

From the moment she’d seen him, standing there at the base of the stairs looking up at her, she’d known. She was going to be with him. She hadn’t known why or how, or for how long, but she’d known it with everything in her fuzzy, fearful heart.

He belonged to her.

She missed him.

Was she going to be honest with herself?

Buffy curses her ability to drive away the men in her life.

Because of you. Because you are such a bloody bitch. Can’t you ever just be nice to people? Ever? I thought maybe you’d changed. I mean – you were in heaven! I would think something like that might change you, knowing heaven exists and you get to go there again someday… I thought it might make you a better person or something. And for a while I thought it had, but I was wrong, wasn’t I? You’re back to your old self – the biggest bitch on the planet! And you’re gonna do what you’ve always done – make sure no one around you enjoys their life too much either, aren’t you?

If she was going to be honest with herself, she’d have to admit that since she came back, and aside from Dawn, Spike was the only one she wanted to spend any time with. And she’d been the one to seek him out – every time, really. He hadn’t seduced her. Well, he sorta had, but she’s been pretty instrumental in initiating their physical relationship too. And she didn’t regret it. She loved having sex with him. It was amazing. She wanted to spend time with him. She enjoyed his company. She continued to feel comfortable with him in a way she didn’t feel with anyone else. Even Dawn, she thought with some guilt, although the two of them had been closer in the last few months that she could remember them being in years. She’d probably messed that up now. She’d even started to have a couple of chats with Giles.

Since she’d come back, everything with Spike had just clicked, almost like… she didn’t know.

She was feeling more involved, more a part of things, more connected to the world and the people around her.

Being buried under her responsibilities. And strangely Spike seemed to take some of that off her shoulders. Was it just that she knew he was the only one as strong as she was? And was he stronger than he’d been before she dies? He sure seemed to fight better a lot of the time. He’d been good before, but he’d seemed to have grown a little less so the longer she’d known him. Was that because he was unable to drink human blood? Had it been affecting his power? But he seemed faster now, stronger and tougher. Spike had sometimes seemed to be – lacking fire. His fire was back.

She trusted Spike. She’d begun to trust him before she died, and when she came back the building trust just seemed to have escalated, or even jelled.

But when the dreams had begun, when she’d begun to have doubts, fears, begun to question herself. She couldn’t blame Xander for that. He may have voiced a few things, but they were things already buried somewhere in her subconscious, things she’d been ignoring with a totality that was almost shocking.



Is this the place she lets some of her anger toward Xander fall away? That would make sense.



She barely even though of Spike as a vampire. He’d just been – Spike.

And hers.

When she got back to the upper level, she realized she’d carried his coat up with her. She draped the duster over the back of the leather sofa that had replaced the ratty old chair as his preferred place to sit while watching television, glanced around the room one last time, and left, closing the crypt door quietly and firmly behind her.

The refrigerator kept humming.

A minute later, the door crashed open. Buffy strode back in angrily, grabbed the duster, and left again, taking it with her. The door slammed in her wake.

~*~



Spike thinks here on needing a break as well. Needing to decide how he can go back. He’d already given his word that he would – thru the Watcher to Dawn. Had he done that because giving his word would eventually force the action? Had he been afraid that if he didn’t he wouldn’t go back? Ever? He just needed to learn to close off that part of himself, the part that belonged to her – to the Slayer. Close it off, ignore it, hide it away. It would be hard, but he knew he could do it. After all, he’d spent most of the time since Dru had turned him closing off different parts of himself. Become a bleedin’ expert at it while he was livin’ with Angelus and Darla. After years alone with Dru, he’d been able to open up a bit again. Let her in, let himself out.

But he knew how to guard. How to force his mind to change, to shut down. Might be harder this time, with her, because he was afraid that this time all of him belonged to her, and not just parts, but he could still do it if he was determined. He just needed – time. Just some time. A few more days, a few weeks, maybe. Just a little time more time. Build some walls, let the mortar dry.

The trust thing. It had long been a problem for him. But he knew it was important to the Slayer, and he knew that not having hers was the kiss of death to anything between them.

Of course, he’d always known…

He’d never cared much about trust before. He hadn’t felt it for anyone, and hadn’t given a rat’s arse if anyone trusted him. In fact, he’d’ve probably taken it as an insult.

Until Dawn. That was mutual, and it just – was.

But this lack of trust – it hurt in a way he’d never imagined, and had never experienced. That she thought he could harm Dawn, harm one hair on his girl’s beautiful head… that had twisted something inside him, made him furious, made him hurt, made him despair.

He’d tried to tell himself over and over. Never gonna last. She was the sodding slayer, wasn’t she? Not gonna look at him as anything. She’d just needed someone she felt connected to. And there was no denying they’d felt connected. But he’d known it wouldn’t last. And the sex had been great, unbelievable. He’d thought maybe she thought so, too. Hard to tell sometimes. Her body reacted to him but she never said much, not during sex and not about sex at other times.

(((He may think she loves him, but he figures it won’t make any difference…wouldn’t last anyway??)))

He loved her. Maybe it had just been amazing to him because of that. Maybe she’d never quite felt the same… And they’d only been shagging for a couple of weeks, a month or so, no more… Maybe it would have worn off. Yeah, wanker, try to tell yourself that. He’d been torn between thinking she might be starting to love him, that maybe she did, and knowing that it would never happen, never last. It had all felt so right to him… so… But he’d never seemed to get beyond the fact that he was beneath her.

Buffy’s lack of trust in Spike – he can take some of that – even understands it. But her jumping in front of Dawn – thinking that he could hurt DAWN. He loved Dawn. THAT is completely devastating to him. Spike feels he’s worked hard to keep his promise, almost recreated himself in this regard at least. NOTHING could have devastated him like that – her belief that he could hurt DAWN. She could have doubted him when it came to Harris – to anyone – even the Watcher & it wouldn’t have hit him like that ((Spike’s depression may be a contributing factor to his giving up here – but it’s only part of it. EVERYTHING. He’d give everything for Dawn.)) Also, her lack of trust here, pushes him over the edge into suicidal depression. Spike is already depressed – has never really gotten over her death – and he has no idea how to deal with caring about humans. He just chained Dru up to keep her safe. He worries about B&D all the time – feels a strong responsibility to keep them safe.

It was nearly sunset. He threw down his pen in disgust, looking at the pile of papers on the desk. Two weeks and the stack had grown to be quite substantial. At least he had something to show for the hours he hadn’t been sleeping. He hoped the Watcher appreciated it.

He didn’t really see how writing down stories of his exploits over the years was gonna be of much benefit to the Watcher or the Council, but he’d told Giles he would have a go at it.

Stories of his time with Dru and Darla and Angelus, the four of them together. Stories of the hunger and the hunt. Angelus’ curse, his departure, and his brief return. Killing his first slayer. The break with Darla some time later. His travels with Dru; Europe, Russia; the colonies, back to the Continent, Spain, the drab time in Paris, the disaster that had been Prague.

Writing it all down brought a lot of things to the surface that he usually preferred not to stir up. ‘Course most of them had been pretty stirred up already just by residing in the same building as Angelus. They hadn’t crossed paths again since that first night, but he was always extremely aware of the other vampire’s presence. This close to him, the call of his grandsire’s blood was almost constant.

Aurelius.

He threw himself down on the bed, trying to persuade his mind to blank out, relax.

Sleep. Just sleep.

Don’t think about her.

Don’t think about her smile, the pleasure of hearing her laugh.

Don’t remember her taste, the intoxicating scent of her skin, the heat of her body surrounding you, the way her body grips yours, holds you deep inside her. Don’t think about the way her breath catches in her throat when you’re moving in her, stroking, stroking, the tiny little moans, the way she gasps or the way her gorgeous body goes completely taut just before she comes.

Don’t think about the odd floods of warmth that ran between you, making you feel so close to each other, and god, never, never, never, think about that night on her sofa, of being inside her; all of her, body, mind – soul, maybe – with just your mouth on her throat, and your hands twisted into her hair. Don’t think about her eyes begging you, ‘Take me back – where we were. Take me there again…’

Don’t even dwell on the sight of those same eyes feral with fury, her words tearing your heart out. Were you trying to turn me? Stay away. Don’t you ever touch her again, or I will kill you. Do you understand me? They’d hardly even argued since she’d been brought back, and to have her turn on him so violently, so thoroughly…

Don’t think about her.

At all.

Just sleep.

Sleep.

Please.

A few minutes later, he rolled to his feet, grabbed his cigarettes off the nightstand and went out.

~*~



Chapter Three

(((Decide how this scene would work with what Giles did or didn’t tell Buffy, and make certain he doesn’t tell her anything that will screw up Buffy’s trip to L.A. too much.)



“Angel Investigations.”

“Angel?”

“Yeah?” Oh, god. “Buffy?”

“Yeah. How are you?”

“Good. I’m good.” How about you?”

“I’m good too. Well, okay, anyway. Living.”

“Yeah, I heard that.” But not from you. He didn’t say it, but the words hung there; hovering somewhere in the wires and electronics that made up the miracle of telephone communication.

“I’m sorry to bother you,” she began.

“You know you’re never a bother.”

“Yeah, well, you might change your mind when you hear why I’m calling.”

And, with that, he knew. He knew what she was going to ask him. And he sure as hell wasn’t going to go looking for Spike so she could talk to him.

“It’s... Actually, it’s Spike. I was wondering if you’d seen him.”

She doesn’t know he’s here. She’s just in the process of looking for him. Why was she looking for him? Why the hell was she looking for him? And why hadn’t Giles told her that he was here? “Any particular reason you’re looking for Spike, Buffy?” His voiced was laced with a mixture of anger and hurt and maybe a few other things. He was certainly feeling a lot of different things. Could she hear any of that?

“I don’t know how much you know about what’s been going on here. Spike – he’s been helping out quite a bit. Even, you know, before...”

“Willow told me a little,” Angel admitted.

“Well, he has been.”

God, she sounded so impersonal, he thought. And so – remote.

“And, um, well, he took off a couple of weeks ago. He told Dawn he was going to L.A. That he had business there. I thought maybe...”

“I haven’t seen him, Buffy.”

He disliked lying to her, but Angel felt he had little choice. Spike had claimed Sanctuary. Along with the expectation of protection, or at least freedom from being killed, Sanctuary, in his mind, implied a desire for secrecy, or at least for privacy. Besides, Giles knew perfectly well where Spike was. Why was the Watcher keeping that information to himself? Unless Spike had, for some reason, told Giles he wouldn’t be staying at the Hyperion. Still…

“I’d appreciate it if you’d keep your eyes open for him. He can’t – with the chip in his head, he can’t defend himself against humans. And you know how he tends to attract trouble.”

Her voice conveyed a mixture of concern and something approaching – god – a fond amusement. Angel swallowed. Fury and hurt battled to headline his list of emotions. What the hell was going on?

“I’ll do that,” he said, managing to keep his voice even. “Goodbye, Buffy.”

“Bye, Angel.”

Damn him.

Spike. Reviled spawn.

Blood.

Your blood.

Your own.

No. Not mine. Never mine. Dru made him. He’s…

Sanctuary.

Why the hell had Spike claimed Sanctuary?

He’d taken pride in the steps he’d taken to get past his vampire roots, but that pride has always been mingled with shame. He was a vampire. It’s what he was. Was there no way to incorporate that with not being completely evil? Angel was well aware that he was anathema to other demons, his very existence a thorn in their collective sides. But Sanctuary… He’d been shocked to hear the words fall from Spike’s lips. And furious. Which, he suspected, was the very reason Spike had used them. His boy had always known how to push his buttons. ‘Course he’d always been pretty good at pushing Spike’s as well. Sanctuary went to the deepest part of him, his blood. Their blood. Aurelius. He could deny his nature from now through eternity, but some things went too deep to overcome. Aurelius. Pride. Power. No matter that he constantly struggled not to act on his vampiric nature. He still was. Vampire. Other. And he was Aurelius. That was him, his blood, his heritage. He never spoke of it, but it was in him, running thickly in his veins. Aurelian blood. Try to explain this a little better. Spike and Angel didn’t have much to do with their Aurelian heritage. But it was in their blood. Even on the rare occasion they openly denied that their heritage meant anything to them, they could look into each other’s eyes and know they were both lying. Their mutual hatred for The Master had made it easier to deny it though.

He and Spike had only ever really related on a few very basic levels. Abuse. Domination.

~*~



It had been brewing. There was really no question about that. Buffy walked down the hall of the school in the direction of the Principal’s office. She was cringing inside, remembering how often her mother had had to make this walk in order to meet with one of her principals. Had she felt this terrible mixture of fear, anger and embarrassment?

Fighting, cutting classes, burning down the gym. The list of her infractions had been long and varied. Not to mention the number of times per week it had been updated. God, her ‘permanent record’ folder must be a foot thick. She probably had her own file drawer. The Buffy Summers ‘Take A Look at This Loser’ File Drawer. Had it been transferred from the old school? Oooh – maybe it had blown up during that whole Mayor Wilkins apocalypse thingy. She would live in hope.

Buffy had never tried smoking, so she was pretty sure her record didn’t include that, and she couldn’t really remember if she’d ever been accused of stealing. Perhaps Dawn just wanted to create her own unique record of delinquency. Establish her own identity, so to speak. Aside from getting suspended for swearing at a teacher just after she’d discovered she was the key, Dawn’s record had been relatively clean. To this point.

Her sister was already there, seated across from Principal Davis. Her expression was mutinous, and her arms were crossed, but Buffy saw the color rush into her face when she came into the room, and Dawn refused to meet her eyes.

Dawn had barely spoken to her since Spike had left town. The few times she had deigned to speak, her words had been biting and sarcastic, her tone laced with anger. Even, Buffy was afraid, hatred. She’d refused to do anything around the house, and she barely came out of her room. She’d even been mean to Tara when their friend got back to town. And it was really hard to be mean to Tara. So Buffy was taking the whole Ticked Off Dawn scenario pretty seriously. She knew a long mom type talk was looming, and she was dreading it. She just wasn’t good at talking about stuff. She never had been. Oh, she’d had her moments, probably the most notable of which was trying to talk Angel out of greeting the sun on the bluff overlooking Sunnydale that morning of the miraculous snow. But for the most part, sharing her deepest feelings was not a strong Buffy, er, strength type thing.

Principal Davis’, call me Steven, um, no thank you, words washed over her. Stole the cigarettes and a few other things, from a local convenience store, skipped class a dozen times since school had resumed after winter break, hanging out with some of the less desirable elements, mouthed off to three of her teachers, using very interesting and creative language, smoking in the hall, in open view, police had read her her rights...Court date. Three day suspension…

Buffy turned her head and eyed her sister. Boy, she was making up for lost time.

“We had a crisis over the holidays,” Buffy finally injected, interrupting the ever-lengthening list of her sister’s failures as a human being. “A – close friend disappeared. Dawn’s been pretty upset about it. Some of this might be due to that.”

Principal Davis raised his brows.

“I know it’s not an excuse. But, um, it might explain some of it. She’s had a lot to deal with this last year – with our mom, and, well, some other things.” It was hard to explain the whole key/hell god/end of the world situation to most people. Even in Sunnydale.

“You do realize I’ll have to inform Social Services of this incident?”

Fear squeezed her.

“I’m sure you’ll do what you have to. Can I take Dawn home now?” Buffy stood up, anxious to leave. She’d hoped to never enter a principal’s office again after graduating herself. You would’ve thought destroying the high school would have helped make that dream come true, but there always had to be something, some loophole, didn’t there? In this case another whole school…

switch to Dawn pov: ? right now it jumps back and forth…

The absolute silence they treated each other to on the long walk home wasn’t broken until they entered their house. When Dawn started up the stairs, Buffy’s words pulled her to a stop.

“I think we need to talk, young lady.”

“You’re not my mom, so you can drop the act.”

“No. But if you keep this up, you’ll have a new mom. A foster mom. And you’ll be living with her. Is that what you want?”

Dawn was silent, but her expression clearly revealed her horror at the thought. Then her face hardened. “I’m sure it would make you a lot happier.”

“Why would you think that?”

“I know you don’t love me. I’m just a problem you have to deal with. One of many. Just one more thing to fit into your ‘Why the hell did my friends drag me back to life?’ life.

“That’s not true, Dawnie.” Pain clutched at Buffy’s chest. Is that really how Dawn felt? She’s a teenager, Buffy reminded herself. She was displaying a typical teenage reaction, and was also striking where it hurt most, a teenage strength.

“Don’t bloody lie to me!”

“I know you’re upset about Spike...”

“Wow! Observiness.”

“Can we talk about this calmly?” Buffy asked. Her head was beginning to throb.

“I doubt it,” Dawn sneered.

Buffy bit back her angry retort, forcing her tone to remain calm. She could at least try to act rationally. After all, she was supposed to be the adult. And how come she hadn’t gotten a say in that? She didn’t think she was anywhere near ready.

“Can we try? Please?”

Dawn sat down on the sofa. Her back was rigid, her arms were folded again, and her face, as mutinous as ever, was turned away from Buffy. They might just as well be back in the principal’s office. But at least Dawn was still in the same room, and sitting. Buffy considered it a step forward.

“Why don’t we start with Spike? I think he’s the biggest part of our problem.”

“Ya think?” Another sneer.

“That night – that last night before he left – when we had that fight...”

“Yeah?”

“He hit me.”

“Spike hit you?” Dawn’s eyes went wide. “He loves you! Why would he hit you?”

“We were arguing and, um...”

“Oh.” Understanding dawned, and Dawn’s expression hardened again. “You hit him, and he hit you back.”

“Well, yeah. But...” Buffy drew a deep breath. “The chip didn’t fire, Dawnie.”

“What?!”

“I guess it’s okay,” she reassured her sister. “It’s working alright, and he didn’t try to feed on anyone or anything. He wanted you to know that.”

“You’ve talked to him?”

“No. Giles went to see him in L.A. They had the chip tested and stuff, ‘cause there was some confusion… They weren’t sure why it didn’t fire on me.”

“Yeah, Giles told me he was in L.A. He said Spike wanted me to know he was okay. And the chip – it’s okay, too? It works?”



why would Giles not tell Dawn about the chip? Spike specifically asked him to.

Spike hadn’t sent a message for her, she thought with a mental pout. Of course, she hadn’t expected him to, and it was completely unreasonable for her to feel hurt. She still did, though.

Stupid vampire.

“Yeah.”

“So, um, why didn’t it work on you?”

“Oh, Giles dragged me to the hospital for a complete physical – and you know how I love hospitals – and then he and Tara topped off that lovely experience with this whole big buncha other – experiences. Tests. They didn’t tell me why, of course, until after they were done. Just told me they wanted to make sure I’d come through getting resurrected alright. But they couldn’t find anything wrong with me. And they said I’m still human. So I guess that’s good, right?”

Dawn stared at her in mutinous silence.

Buffy shrugged. “Well, I thought it was good. Tara thinks the ‘cosmic forces’ just scrambled me around a little, and got Spike’s chip all confused.”

Buffy thought that explanation was a little non-specific, that it didn’t feel right, but since she had no idea what had happened, it was as good an explanation as any.

“So why’d you have to hit Spike this time? We went to the movie, had ice cream. Everything was going pretty good it seemed to me. I suppose you just decided – Hey! I haven’t hit Spike since I got back! I better take care of that! That’d be about your speed, right? After all, he’s just a thing, right?” Like me, Dawn added to herself. She remembered Buffy telling her Spike was ‘a thing’. It wasn’t so very long after their mother had called her ‘a thing’. Maybe she and Spike were just destined to be ‘things’ together.

“I found out he drank blood from my dead body,” Buffy stated baldly, tensing up at Dawn’s continuing sarcasm.

“What?” Dawn’s mouth fell open.

“It’s just so – I don’t know how he could do that.”

“He didn’t!” Dawn angrily defended her friend.

“Yes, he did.”

“He so did not! We were all right there. I think we would have noticed if he picked you up and started gnawing away on your neck. Besides, your –” her voice broke. “—your body was laying in the sunlight and Spike couldn’t…” Tears came into Dawn’s eyes, and she angrily wiped them away. “Spike couldn’t…” The tears returned, and started falling down her cheeks. “He was trying to get to you, and he…”

Dawn covered her face with her hands, as she forced back sobs. She was too angry to let go and allow herself a good cry right now, but sometimes it seemed like the horror of that night, of those early morning hours would never leave her. Buffy’s body, so still. Willow and Tara clinging to one another, sobbing, Xander, burying his face against Anya’s throat, unable to look after the first shocked viewing of his friend’s body. Giles, frozen, as if he would never move again, and then being forced into movement when Spike’s sobs ended, and he rose from his knees to try to get to Buffy. Giles, grabbing him, restraining him, the two of them struggling. The blood covering Spike’s face, and his eyes screaming even though no sound was coming out of his mouth…

“Giles asked Spike to go with me to the hospital,” she went on, fighting against the devastating memories. She hadn’t had a nightmare about that night for more than a month now. She didn’t want them to start again. They always made her feel like she wanted to die.

Like she should have.

It was supposed to have been her. She was supposed to have jumped. Sometimes she wondered if the whole future of the world was forever screwed up because she’d let her sister persuade her to let her jump in her place.

“The sun was already coming up, and Giles stayed with – with you until the ambulance came. He met us later at the hospital.”

Buffy took Dawn’s hand, stroking it softly. Even though Dawn was angry with her, she accepted the offered comfort.

“I just don’t understand why he would say he did, if he didn’t. That makes no sense.” It was obvious Dawn was telling the truth, and Buffy was honestly confused.

“Are you sure he said he drank from your dead body?” Dawn was far from ready to forgive her sister. Sarcasm started to creep back into her voice as she pushed bad memories away. She pulled her hand away from Buffy’s. “You probably just heard what you wanted to hear. It’s always so easy for you to think the worst of him.”

“Well, not exactly,” Buffy had to admit. “He said he tasted my blood after I –”

“Oh.” Dawn’s face flamed red. God, how dense am I? Dawn asked herself. I should have seen that one coming a mile away.

Buffy stared at her. “What – ? Dawn, what do you know about this?”

“I, um, nothing.”

The lie was obvious. “I wanna know. Now.

Wow! Good mom voice, Buffy congratulated herself, even in the midst of the serious conversation. Dawn must have thought so too, because the words began tumbling out of her mouth so quickly that Buffy could hardly keep up.

“It was me. I gave it to him. He was dying, Buffy. If you could have seen him, maybe you’d understand what it was like. They tried. They tried to get him to eat, and he couldn’t – he couldn’t keep anything down. It was eeeww, hurling blood, not that it was a lot because he could only take a sip or two before spewing, but, God, Buffy. Geesh, even Xander tried for god’s sake, bringing him human blood from Willie’s which wasn’t any better and, Giles... Giles offered to let him drink from his own arm. But even that didn’t work, and Spike was withering away. He looked like a skeleton, and if you could have seen him...

“But what would you care anyway? Of course you wouldn’t.

“But I did. He’s my best friend. And I wasn’t gonna lose anyone else. Cause, you know, after mom dying, then you, I’d pretty much had enough of the whole people dying and leaving me thing. And I wasn’t gonna lose Spike too. And there it was – your blood, sitting in the freezer. You weren’t gonna need it – hello, dead? And I thought maybe, ‘cause he loved you, and you were the Slayer – big blood power for vamps, right? – and stuff, that maybe your blood would be different. That he’d be able to drink it. That it might save him.

“And it did.

“And I’m not sorry. I’m not, and nothing you say is gonna make me sorry I gave him your blood to try to save his life, or that it worked. So now you can use that as another reason to hate me, and him, too I suppose, but I still won’t be sorry. I’ll never be sorry.”

Buffy felt as though she couldn’t move, as shock rocked through her. When Dawn started to get up, Buffy, being careful not to use her ‘I save the world Slayer strength’, tugged her back down.

Dawn tried to pull away, but Buffy’s voice soothed her. “Shhh. Just hold on a minute, okay? Please?”

Her odd tone gave Dawn pause, and she sat still, waiting.

“Tell me what happened to Spike, Dawn.”

“I just did. He was dying. The others wouldn’t let me see him. Gotta protect ‘the kid’, right?” she scoffed. “None of them cared that I cared about him. I was just supposed to sit in my room, I guess. But I saw enough when I found him, and… I snuck in to see him a couple of times, so I knew a lot about what was going on. Some of it, anyway.”

“But I don’t – what was wrong with him?”

“Nobody knows. Or at least nobody bothered to tell ‘the kid’. Maybe they thought it was too scary or important for my delicate ‘kid’ ears. Anya told me they did all kinds of research on it, trying to find out what might be wrong with him, but that they couldn’t find anything. She just thought he was in mourning, but when she tried to tell the others that, no one paid any attention to her. Like usual. So she dropped it. And it’s not like she really knew for sure, anyway.”

Buffy looked at her sister. There were a whole truckload of issues they needed to talk about. And they would. They had to. But…

“It’s um, kinda bugging me that he’s not out there. You know, on the roof, every night.”

Dawn’s eyes went wide. Then, slowly, a very small smile curved her lips. She knew her sister. This was a huge admission. “Yeah,” she agreed. “Me, too. When he first started doing it, I thought it was kinda weird. But I, um, kinda liked it, too.” Dawn looked at her hands. “He really does like me, you know. And not just because I’m your sister.”

“I know,” Buffy assured her.

“And he sorta likes all the parts of me. You know, even the parts that aren’t so – well, nice, I guess. You know, when I get mad at someone, like, um, dad. He doesn’t think that makes me bad, or, er, evil or anything.

“And he doesn’t laugh at me when I talk about, um, stuff, with him. He just kinda listens to me. And he doesn’t make fun of me like some of my friends do. You know, when I read a lot, or um, write a little poem or something. He thinks that’s totally not weird or anything. I told him some stuff one night about being an artist so I could leave something personal behind after I die. Do you know how my friends would look at me if I said something like that? Total freakazoid, believe me.

“Sometimes, he’s the only person I really feel comfortable with. I suppose you think that’s really weird.” Dawn hunched her shoulders. “Sometimes, I think it’s kinda weird too.” Dawn paused. “Have I used ‘weird’ enough times in the last minute?”

Buffy just smiled. Should she tell her sister that since she’d come back Spike was the only one she felt comfortable with?

“I mean, I know he’s a vampire. And, er, stuff. But it doesn’t seem to matter. You know how he was with me when I found out I was the key? When we, um, broke into the Magic Box?” Dawn glanced up at Buffy, waiting for the angry words to start, but Buffy just nodded. “I was, you know, kinda wigged.”

“I remember,” Buffy said.

“And he tried to tell me, that night even, that it didn’t matter…” Dawn squeezed her hands tightly between her knees. “But I didn’t listen to him. Just like I didn’t listen to you and mom. Then one day I was at his crypt, and he told me it didn’t matter where you started out…I kinda liked that idea. I could make myself be real you know. Maybe. A real girl, be, you know, me. A person. Maybe even kinda – normal.” She paused. “Not just green glowy energy.” She looked up at Buffy again. “Did you ever stop and think that maybe I’m not exactly human? Or completely human? Maybe Spike could have killed me all along. Even with the chip. He must have known that, too. I mean, he thinks about stuff. It probably occurred to him. But he never tried to hurt me. To even, sorta test it out. He always seemed to kind of – I don’t know, like me, I guess.”

“I think he loves you,” Buffy told her. The admission didn’t surprise her greatly. It was quite obvious that Dawn and Spike had some real ties, odd and unexpected though their friendship might seem.

“He does.” Dawn was confident. She knew Spike loved her. “I can feel it all the time. Like a little light glowing inside me. Even if…” she paused, then went on in a rush. “Glory told me the key was totally evil.”

“What?” Buffy exclaimed. “When?”

“I don’t remember, exactly. I just remember her saying it. She didn’t know I was the key yet. But I wonder what I did. The key, you know. In the past. How evil was I? Totally evil to someone like Glory must be pretty evil. And those knight guys said I was created to destroy the world.” Dawn was staring at her hands again. They were still pressed between her knees, and she was picking at the dark purple fingernail polish on one of her thumbnails with the other thumbnail. “You really can’t get much more evil than that. And I like – know – that Spike loves me even if I am totally evil. ‘Cause that wouldn’t matter to him.”

“Dawnie –”

“And he told me I wasn’t evil – Spike did. That he knew evil and I wasn’t it.” She paused. “Even when he knows things about me… He still tells me those things don’t make me evil.” She raised her eyes to her sister’s. “When we, um, couldn’t find Spike, and he didn’t come to the funeral, I was so pissed at him. I, um…”

“What?”

“When I went to his crypt to look for him, I, um, had a stake with me.” Her voice trailed off in a horrified whisper. “I was gonna kill him. I wanted to kill him, ‘cause he’d let me down!”

“Oh, Dawnie…” Buffy sympathized. “It was a horrible time for you. I’m sure Spike would have understood.”



Too many ‘Dawnies’



“He did.” Dawn told her. “I, um, told him about it later. I felt so guilty, and I just had to tell him…”

“And?”

“I think he was kinda proud of me,” Dawn admitted, and as their eyes met, neither Summers girl could prevent a quick smile. That sounded like Spike.

“See? Spike knows you’re not evil, and so do I. Because you’re not.” Buffy went back to the subject. Her voice was emphatic.

“But I was Glory’s key. I, um, must have done something. Lots of things. She was evil, and she needed me to help her do evil things.”

Dawn was biting at a fingernail now.

“It bugs me sometimes. To not know what I did in the past.”

“I hadn’t thought of that.” Had she had time? Had she been legitimately too wrapped up in the problems of Glory and her mother’s illness? Or was she just Self Involved Girl, blind to a lot of things going on around her? Things she should notice? Buffy sighed. Maybe it was a mixture of both.

“I’m thinking if you can’t remember it, you’re not responsible for it.”

Dawn looked at her.

“That’s totally lame, Buffy,” she told her. “Just because a person can’t remember something they did, wouldn’t mean they didn’t do it. It’s like – it’s like saying if Spike got amnesia, he was never really a vampire or something. Or because you were all fuzzy when you got back, you weren’t the Slayer then.”

Put like that, it did sound pretty lame.

“Sometimes, I think it’s part of why me and Spike get along. We both used to be evil. And now, maybe, not so much.”

“The monk guy told me you were innocent, Dawn.”

The younger Summers girl looked shocked.

“He did?”

“He absolutely did. If I’d have known you were all worried about this, I would have told you. We just never talked about a lot of this stuff.”

“I guess there was a lot going on,” Dawn was forced to admit.

“Maybe it was when they reformed you, remade you with my blood. Maybe it was like a whole Summers cleansing thing, washed all the evil away.” Buffy made a whooshing gesture, and her tone was light. She wanted to reassure Dawn, make her feel better. She also knew she needed to talk to Giles. It seemed they should spend some time looking into Dawn’s history a little more deeply. Her sister obviously had a lot of questions and fears about her past. What the Key was, or had been.

“Buffy?”

“Yeah?”

“Maybe the whole Summers cleansing thing worked on Spike too. You know, when he was remade with your blood.”

Buffy stared at her, stunned to hear such a thought come from a fifteen year old girl. She had no idea how to reply to that statement, so she said nothing.

“I’m gonna go start my homework,” Dawn said, standing up. She hitched her schoolbag onto her shoulder. “Um, Buffy?” Dawn waited until her sister looked up at her.

“Yeah?”

“I’m sorry about getting in all that trouble,” she mumbled.

“I know,” Buffy assured her. “Oh, just so you know? The smoking stops now.”

“Good. It’s unbelievably gross. And I wasn’t inhaling anyway, because – Gack! – so the others kids were giving me major crap.”

“Glad to hear it, President Clinton.” Buffy paused, then went on more seriously. “But, Dawn?”

“Yeah?”

“We need to be really careful. I don’t want Social Services to have any more ammunition. I don’t want them to take you away from me.”

“I don’t want that either.”

“Because, Dawn?”

“Yeah?”

“I love you.”

Dawn’s eyes widened, and Buffy could see the pleasure her words had given her.

“I love you, too, Buffy.”

“You’re, um, grounded, you know.”

“I kinda figured.”

Dawn went up the stairs, and Buffy stared after her. She loved her sister, deeply. She’d always felt that Dawn was more than a sister, more than…

She needed to get to know her a lot better.

~*~



perhaps Buffy should talk to Giles here about looking into Dawn’s past a little more. She could be/should be thinking about making things more normal for Dawn.



Has Buffy spoken to Xander???

Perhaps that can be something that Giles imparts through inner observations. Her continuing hostility to everyone.



The little overhead bell jingled happily, and Buffy was glad that Anya had removed the Christmas decorations which had included numerous strands of jingle bells on the door of The Magic Box. Whenever someone came in or left, they seemed to jangle endlessly. Not feeling particularly ho-ho-ho, Buffy had found them really annoying.

She glanced up and froze.

“Hi,” Willow said quietly. Xander stood beside her, his hand resting at the small of her back in a supportive gesture.

Buffy stood up, and took a step closer to Giles, who was standing at one of the bookshelves. He came up behind her, book in hand.

“Hi, Will,” she responded.

Willow never tanned much, but three weeks cruising in the Caribbean had lent her skin a slightly golden sheen. Her hair had been cut to just above shoulder length, and trimmed into a style that suited her. Hair and skin-wise, she looked great, but she didn’t look rested or happy. She looked stressed.

“Is it, um, alright if I come in?” she asked.

“You weren’t studying Voodoo or anything, were you?” Anya asked bluntly.

“No,” Willow replied, keeping her voice even and calm.

“Ahn…” Xander warned.

“What?” Anya demanded, tired of his constant defense of his old friend. “Voodoo is still big in the Caribbean, no matter what some people might try to make you think. And she was seeing a power-dealer. There are hundreds of them in that part of the world. She could have been dealing her little heart out down there. You might trust Miss Big Eyes to the end of the earth, but I don’t.”

Some Willow POV here? What is her mind set at this point? Just sort of biding her time until she’s accepted back into the circle? Still very angry inside?

Willow says something along the lines of “I know you’re not ready for me to move back in, but I do want to.” And how the hell would THAT work? Buffy wondered. TARA lived with her, and there was no way she was going to ask the other girl to move out, nor was Tara in any way ready or willing to take Willow back. Buffy is beginning to realize how much she really likes Tara – her calming, soothing influence is almost – heavenly… Buffy’s lips curved gently.

After being kicked out after the Rack thing, she’s been furious with the lot of them, and she still felt that they just wanted to hold her down, that they didn’t get it, that they were afraid of her growing powers and resentful of her.

Does she actually talk to Buffy about bringing her back and how she was so excited about it? That her growing powers excited her? Maybe this would be better used when she’s feeling repentant…

Her parents weren’t a lot better. They’d started to harp on her about the gang – Giles, that pervert who hung around with kids half his age. Buffy the always in trouble Summers girl, who had led their daughter into trouble herself, and Tara… Well, they were quite accepting of alternative lifestyles, but what exactly had that young lady done to corrupt her? And she was hardly the type that would be any help at all in getting on in the world --- not exactly a social asset, was she?

~*~



If I want Buffy to have a chat with Giles about Spike and stuff, this would be a good place.

This could begin in a Willow chat and morph into a Spike chat. Decide if it should be here, or if it should be after they run all the tests on her.

This spot may be more realistic, because in Spike’s absence, she begins to rebuild her relationship with Giles and she may then share with him.

Perhaps he admits that he knows that she and Spike were lovers, or something…

“Not I. She’s your bird. You tell her.” Oh god, he’d said that right in front of her, and she hadn’t realized the implications. She’s your bird…

“When I was with him, it was the only time I felt…”

“Relaxed? At ease?” Giles suggested. That had certainly been his impression.

“Yeah. But more. Warmth. Peace. Comfort.” Her eyes met his steadily. “And, not that it was like it exactly, but honestly? It was the closest thing…”

“Closest thing to what?” Giles asked, his tone inviting confidences.

“To, um, heaven,” Buffy said very softly. “To being back in heaven. Where I was…”

Giles went still, his eyes revealing his shock. He sat down heavily in his chair, and removed his glasses. He stared into her sad, old eyes, and his heart filled with pain for her.

~*~



Chapter Four

Lorne noticed him as soon as he came in. Of course, the white blond hair was like a beacon, attracting attention, but it was more than that. It was the way he moved, gliding through the crowd, which seemed to part effortlessly for him, like a lean and sleek cat, powerful and silent. Eyes followed him. Mostly female eyes, sensing danger and rampant sexuality. But male eyes followed him, too, with a mixture of hostility, envy, and fear. It would be a mistake to mess with him, and even here, where most of the patrons could be dangerous to know, everyone could sense it.

He made his way to the bar, leaning against it with deceptive casualness as he ordered a beer. His eyes, intensely blue in a face sculptors dreamt of, surveyed the crowd, and after he paid for his drink, he moved to a small table near a side exit.

Lorne hadn’t seen him before, and he wondered if he was new in town, or just new to Caritas. Whichever it was, Lorne hoped he didn’t plan to cause any trouble.

~*~

It was a demon pub, but even so, Spike held himself apart, and kept his back to the wall, keeping his eyes peeled for trouble. Out of long habit, he’d surveyed the room for all exits as soon as he came in. He wouldn’t turn down a fight. In fact, he’d welcome one, but experience had taught him that it was best to know the nearest escape route if things went wrong. That kind of care had saved his hide more times than he liked to count.

He’d only been seated for a few minutes when a female Kalima-Pe-Tref demon approached him. His eyes ran over her. The females were supposed to be amazing sexual partners. And if you could get past the blue tinged skin and the overpowering scent of vanilla, he supposed she was attractive. So why wasn’t he interested? It didn’t matter. He wasn’t, and he eyed her dismissively before she could get too blatant. No need to let her embarrass herself. She took the hint and changed direction.

He’d hardly been to a pub since the Slayer’s death, he realized. Funny that. He hadn’t really thought about it. Been too busy, he supposed. Things to kill. The bit to look after. And since the Slayer’s return...

He hadn’t had much to drink either. That had certainly been a change. When he and Dru had split up, he’d gone on a months long bender. He’d used alcohol to dull a lot of things in the past. For some reason, Buffy’s death hadn’t brought that crutch into play. First, there had been that whole unexplained coma like state the Watcher had described to him, and after that he’d been tied up with spending time with Dawn. Wouldn’t do to be stumbling around drunk when he was supposed to be watching out for his girl, would it?

He had stopped in at the Bronze a few times. It didn’t pay in the summer, without the local frat boys around to beat at pool and graciously accept money from. But once the fall semester started, he made it a point to stop by once or twice a week. He’d have a couple of beers, win enough money to keep him from having to nick all his cigarettes, and keep his ears open for any interesting gossip. There were a couple of frat boys who were always there, seemingly anxious to give up their fathers’ hard earned cash. One guy, Zero, was always good for at least a couple of tenners, often double that. Sure hope the wanker doesn’t graduate anytime soon, he thought.

Spike cast his eyes over the wide variety of demons present. He recognized most of the types, but one or two were unfamiliar. The green guy with the horns and the red eyes dressed like a pimp – hadn’t come across that species before, and the one in the corner, dressed in a white gown – gorgeous, human looking, except for those slowly blinking reptilian eyes – he wasn’t sure what she was either. L.A. was much bigger than Sunnydale, of course. Even without the Hellmouth, it was bound to have demon species he was unfamiliar with.

Vampire hearing could be a bitch sometimes in pubs, but for the most part, he’d learned to filter out the worst of the noise and babble, and pick up on the more interesting bits.

The couple at the next table were arguing. She’d been shagging his brother. Yeah, that was bright. Keep it in the family. Stupid bint. The two vertically over endowed Hofacre demons at the bar were hoping to pick up some extra cash doing some contract killing – other demons, humans – it didn’t matter to them. The four at a table in the middle of the room were waiting for the entertainment to start. Karaoke. Bloody hell. Could anything be worse? Apparently the owner of the pub had some special powers – reading auras or some such while people sang. Spike let it all wash over him. Nothing that seemed to merit further interest on his part. Since he didn’t know anyone in L.A. he thought he needed to watch out for, even the Hofacre demons’ plans didn’t arouse any concern.

Thankfully, the paid entertainment was to go before the amateur. A rather beautiful female took the stage, her name, Larilyn Evenstar, booming over the microphones. Oh yeah, there’s a real name. He wondered what kind of demon she was. She had a very pleasant alto voice, though, and Spike listened to a few numbers before his restlessness started to kick in.

He could go a night without looking for trouble. Just relax, let his grandsire take care of his own territory. Spike gave a small snort of amusement. He’d been out the other night, enjoying himself with a half dozen fledglings, taking his time as he dusted them, letting them get in some good licks. He’d sensed him sometime during the fight, but he hadn’t allowed his eyes to seek him out to confirm the feeling until he’d dusted the last one. Turning, he’d met Angelus’ stunned eyes. The souled one had stared at him in shock, at his beaten and bloodied face, at the piles of dust around him. From the expression in his eyes, Spike knew he’d been a witness to the fight from the very beginning. The wanker had seen him take out the first few vamps in a matter of seconds, freeing the three teenage girls from the evil clutches of their captors. He’d seen him telling them to scamper on home to their mums, and let him have a go at the big, bad vampires. Oh yeah, the poof had seen it all – the shock on his face was priceless.

He hadn’t spoken to him. He’d merely lit a crumpled cigarette and moved off into the night.

It was the only encounter the two had had since the night he’d arrived.

Forcing himself to stay seated, Spike tried to relax. He took a swallow of his still half full beer. It seemed to have grown stale. Sighing, he set it aside and left by the side exit.

~*~

Spike paused in the alley, senses alert. Somewhere, very near...

He lit a cigarette, and waited.

She swayed toward him out of the darkest shadows, her eyes glowing.

“There you are, my dashing knight. I felt your presence, knew my boy was near.”

“Drusilla.” His voice was calm. Took a bit of an effort, that.

Her hands flowed over his shoulders as she circled him.

“Hello, my precious darling, my beautiful, wicked boy. Mummy’s missed you.”

“Yeah? ‘ve missed you, too, pet,” he admitted. It was true. He always felt her absence. One of several little holes in his life, but Dru’s was one of the biggest.

His sire. His creator.

He took a long drag on his cigarette, then tossed it away as she moved closer to him, and his hands circled her waist with familiarity. Dru leaned in and licked his neck, her tongue lapping at her marks. Spike felt a jolt of arousal. It was the most sensual caresses a vampire could give another, even more so if the one doing the licking was the one who’d made the marks.

“What’s my boy doing here? In my lovely Angel’s city, my daddy’s town?”

Her lips were moving along his jaw as she spoke, and he felt his hands beginning to move caressingly up her sides, his thumbs brushing against the lower curves of her breasts. Touching her was almost instinctual.

“Nothing much.”

For some reason, he was reluctant to tell her anything about himself, or even admit he was staying with Angelus.

“Were you looking for me? Are you ready to come home?” Her hands glided over his chest, slipping down to his groin, where she caressed him intimately. “Mummy can hunt. My boy won’t go hungry ever again.”

She kissed him, but he pulled away before the kiss could deepen, and stilled her caressing hands, as memories of the dream he’d had of her a few weeks ago returned, making him a little wary of her. Perfectly natural for a bloke to feel a bit edgy when he’d dreamt of not being able to pull his dangly bits out of someone. Dream like that would tend to make most fellas a little uncomfortable – demon or human – and might send some into a right panic.

Dru’s eyes lowered in her well rehearsed mimicry of shyness, and she looked up at him from under her lashes with that little girl look in her eyes, smiling at him innocently. It played oddly with the hands that were still attempting to slide into his pants.

“Mummy can be very naughty for her wicked, wanton boy.”

“I remember,” his voice rumbled.

She lifted a hand and used it to slice a nail across his cheek, drawing blood. Flirtatiously, she leaned up to lick it away, her body rubbing against his in exceedingly pleasant ways. Almost instantly she jerked away from him, spitting, and her dark eyes flashed with fury and betrayal.

“You’ve been drinking from that nasty Slayer,” she accused, bitterly. “Her blood runs all through you. Whooshing and swooshing through your veins.” She began to rock, and her voice had taken on the familiar singsong quality. “ If I drank from you now, my Spike, all I’d taste is her. She’s got you all locked up, but she lets you keep the key. She trusts you with it. You could take it and set yourself free. But you won’t. You won’t put her back in the ground where she belongs.”

Spike frowned at Dru’s words. She was usually spot on when she went off on one of her tangents, but she was way off the mark this time. The Slayer had made it pretty bleedin’ clear she didn’t trust him with the key at all.

His mind reached for hers, but she quickly rejected him, pushing his probing mind away. The rejection sent pain searing through him. She was his bleedin’ sire, for fuck’s sake. And she was pushing him away. Again.

Even in that brief moment, though, he was shocked by the jumbled mess he found. She had deteriorated badly, even since he’d last seen her in Sunnydale. Her madness had deepened, and he could barely recognize anything in her thoughts.

“I told you before that even I can’t help you now. When I felt you tonight, I thought my boy had come back to me.” She sounded as though she was about to cry, sadness, and betrayal in her voice. “But you aren’t even in there. You’re just a shell, my love, with slayer blood, slayer blood, pounding in your veins. You’ve contaminated yourself with her, Spike. I can never be a part of you again. Can never be your mummy, or hunt for you, or live with you. Not while she lives.”

She leaned close to him again, her eyes burning into his, and despite the mess of her mind, she sounded perfectly lucid. “Kill her, Spike. Kill her and come back to me. Leave her alive, and I’ll never be able to see my Spike again.” Her eyes were sad now, too, and achingly lonely. “Because you won’t be there.”

Moments later, she had melted back into the shadows.

Gone.

~*~

He’d slipped out a side exit of Caritas as soon as he’d seen the distinctive blond hair. He would have loved to have forced a confrontation, would have taken pleasure in destroying the vampire once and for all. For no other reason than that he existed, and had been present on that infamous night.

But now was not the time.

He’d always believed that slow and steady really did ultimately win the race, and tonight, as it had so often in the past, his care and patience had been rewarded.

The vampire hadn’t presented many problems for him before, but he remained a part of the equation, and he had learned well that ignoring even the smallest part of an equation could lead to unacceptable results.

Even failure.

He’d been wondering what the blond was doing here, in L.A. He knew he was the sworn protector of the key. Not so very long ago he’d seemed to be taking that responsibility very seriously. A certain amount of glee danced through his veins. Perhaps the slayer had pushed him out of her life, and he would no longer have to account for him in his plans. It was always so satisfying to see others act with rash emotion, and help to clear his way as they did so. He wondered...

He’d sensed the other presence in the alley before the vampire came out the same side door he himself had used less than half an hour earlier. The dark and deliciously mad mind had held his interest, and had kept him lingering in the alley rather than making his way back to his rooms. He’d watched as the beautiful dark vampiress had confronted the blond. He’d listened in on their conversation.

He sighed in disappointment. It seemed he could not afford to discount the vampire yet after all. But it really didn’t matter. The blond didn’t worry him overmuch.

REMEMBER: Doc acknowledges that spike was instrumental in saving the world the last time by delaying the cutting of dawn just enough.

The vampiress, now. She was intriguing. All kinds of possibilities went through his mind. His sire. And his (OFFSPRING, BLOOD CHILD, WHATEVER WORD I’M GOING TO USE FOR ‘CHILDE’). Insane, too. Deeply insane, and further, blessed with the gift of the sight.

How very, very interesting.

Perhaps, just perhaps, she could be of help. Perhaps she could turn the blond’s presence into an asset rather than an annoyance. And the other, her sire…Another pathway to explore, another avenue of possibilities.

He sighed with satisfaction. Patience, he reminded himself once again, really is a virtue. It was always so rewarding to be proven correct once again.

The corners of his mouth turned up in a perfect little bow.

~*~

“How long are you planning on staying, Spike?”

Spike lit a cigarette, and inhaled casually. ”Got a convention coming? Need the room?”

Angel gritted his teeth. “I’m just asking.” He could be civil. He could. He’d been practicing.

“Dunno. A few more weeks, maybe. That a problem?”

“You’re always a problem, Spike.”

“Yeah.” His chin lifted. “Always made it a point to work hard at that.”

“Hard work pays off.”

“Thanks.”

Spike headed toward the stairs. When he’d gotten back to the hotel, it was near dawn, and he’d planned to go straight up to his room as usual. Aside from that chance meeting on a street corner the other night, he and Angelus had been very successful at avoiding each other so far on this visit, and he sure as hell wasn’t in the mood for a confrontation with Drusilla’s sire right now. Not after the brief but, as always, memorable meeting with his sire in a deserted alley. But tall, dark, and brooding had been laying in wait for him. Stay cool, stay cool, he told himself. He could be civil. He could, damn it. He’d been/ practicing.

“Buffy called.” Angel’s words fell into the room like lead weights.

Spike felt himself freeze, then deliberately tried to relax his body.

“Yeah?”

“It was a couple of days ago.”

Spike turned back to his grandsire, his weight balanced lightly on the balls of his feet, poised for whatever was to come, and waited.

“I haven’t seen you to tell you,” he explained, but they both knew Angel knew where to find him. Hyperion Hotel. Fifth floor. Room 533. “She’s looking for you.”

“What’d ya tell her?”

“Said I hadn’t seen you,” Angel confessed, and Spike’s face registered his surprise. “You claimed Sanctuary. That usually involves some degree of secrecy. Of privacy,” he amended.

“Thanks, mate.”

“I’m not your mate.”

“No,” Spike agreed. He never had been. Not really.

“Why’d you come here, Spike? Why here?”

For a second, Spike was tempted to tell him, but he controlled the impulse. “Needed a place to stay. Quiet. Where I’d be left alone; where my habits wouldn’t be questioned, or eyebrows raised over blood deliveries. Your place fit the bill.”

“I don’t want you here.”

“No. I don’t suppose you do.” He paused, and his lips curled in a half-hearted smirk. “Chin up, Angelus. I’ll be gone soon enough. I told you I’d stay out of your way, and I have.”

That was true. Angel hadn’t even glimpsed Spike in the hotel since he’d appeared in the lobby that first night, but he was always extremely aware of the other vampire’s presence. This close to him, the call of his grand(OFFSPRING, BLOOD CHILD, WHATEVER WORD I’M GOING TO USE FOR ‘CHILDE’)’s blood was almost constant.

Aurelius.

“I don’t like lying to her.”

“S’not the first time, though, is it?”

Angel’s brows drew together. “Stay out of it, boy. You don’t know the first thing about Buffy and me.”

Spike gave a disbelieving snort. “Are you daft? I know everything ‘bout you two.”

“You couldn’t possibly. And even what you know you could never understand.”

“Why’s that, mate?” Spike sneered. “Think I can’t understand love without a soul?”



would Spike be so quick to use the word love when talking about Buffy and Angel??





Angel wanted to scream out “Yes!” but he realized he couldn’t. He could never say that Spike didn’t understand love. Not and mean it. Love was what Spike understood more than anything else.

“No, I don’t think that,” he admitted. “But sacrifice; doing what’s right; giving up something, someone, even though it kills you – that you can never understand.”

“Making decisions for her, treating her like she’s incapable of making them for herself, like she’s some china doll instead of a strong woman, a warrior. Leaving her alone, leaving her when she needed you. Not being there for her when her mother was ill, her sister in danger. Not being there to fight beside her and try to keep her from ... keep her from…” Spike swallowed, forcing himself to continue. “Can I understand any of that? Or do I need a soul to see that you’re so wrapped up in yourself you couldn’t even see that you were breaking her?”

“You sonofabitch. You have no idea, no –” Angel wanted to kill him. Tear his head from his shoulders and watch him crumble to dust. He reigned himself in. He couldn’t give in to the blackness; the darkness. He couldn’t. Far too many mistakes had already been made in the recent past.

“When Willow came to tell me that Buffy had died, she mentioned that you had been helping them out. I don’t know why you were, what your motives were, but I don’t want you hanging out in her life.”

Spike felt an unreasoned fury rise in him at hearing Angelus speak so calmly of the Slayer’s death. He could barely think about it without wanting to die. The need to hurt Angelus, to cause him even a small amount of pain rose in him, pushing away good sense.

“I’m already there.”

“No. You’re not.” Angel stated it as if it were an undeniable fact.

“You –” Spike broke off, shaking his head at Angelus’ capacity for self delusion. “Why else do you think she’s calling you, asking about me? I’m a part of her life.”

“You can’t be. She can’t think she can count on you?”

“I’m counting on you, to protect her.”

He’d failed her. Failed. She couldn’t count on him. Spike forced the guilt and despair away, and concentrated on his anger.

“You claim I don’t know anything about you and B-the Slayer. Well, you really don’t know anything at all about her and me. Not. A. Thing. You weren’t there. Haven’t been there. So don’t presume to think you do.”

“I don’t want you in her life.”

“I’m already there,” he said again. “And I won’t leave. Won’t. Can’t. Dawn – she’s a part of me. Always will be. That girl saved my life, and I swore to protect her with mine. Gave my word. Nothing will change that. And, even you, Angelus, cannot make me break it.”

Angel’s shock showed. Dawn had saved his life? When? And what… “Gave your word to who?” he demanded.

“To the Sla-yer,” he said, dragging the word out. “Who else?”

He’d given his word. What…? Why…? Had Buffy asked him to protect Dawn? What the hell was going on? He’d been wondering about the whole situation since Willow had told him Spike was helping them, but his curiosity was growing into a demanding need to know.

“You. Are. A. Killer.” Angel said furiously. “You cannot be trusted. Ever.

“You’ve never known a thing about me,” Spike said, and he realized as he said it how completely true it was. And how much it hurt. All the years he’d striven for Angelus’ approval, his acceptance, and, aside from a few stolen moments in a twenty year span, the older vampire had never even seen him.

“I can make your life miserable, Spike.”

“More miserable than you’ve made it in the past? And how’re you gonna do that, Angelus? Kill me? Beat me? Rape me? Too late, mate. Been there, done that.”

Angel’s eyes sparked with golden lights.

“Watch it, boy,” he warned. “You’ve never been able to take me, and I’m willing to bet you still can’t.”

“Don’t call me that!” Spike ground out, livid. “I’m not your sodding ‘boy’. I never was.”

Angel’s eyes glinted. “Oh, yes you were, Will. You were mine.”

Spike squeezed his eyes shut. Trust Angelus to bring up the past in a way that would always put him in the seat of power. “It was more than a hundred years ago, Angelus.”

“Doesn’t change what’s mine.”



Work on this transition in Spike's thoughts a bit more…



“Yeah, mate, it does.” His shoulders slumped a little and with an effort he squared them. He knew he must sound as unutterably weary as he felt. Sometimes he wondered if he’d ever sleep again. “You left us.”

“I had a soul, Spike.”

“You left us. All of us. You were ours, and you left us.”

“I had to learn how to deal with it.” How could Spike sound like that? Angel wondered. Abandoned. It made something twist painfully inside him.

Spike’s fury rose again. “Yeah, while I dealt with Dru and Darla. Have you got any bleedin’ idea what that was like? Darla already hated my guts. It was easy for her to blame me. Easier still to take it out on me for months, years. She always was a vicious, sadistic bitch. And Dru spent years and years and goddamn fucking years cryin’ for her sire. She needed you. Couldn’t understand how her own sire could leave her. You know how she can be. How difficult. Do you have any idea what that was fucking like, you sonofabitch? How many times I had to stop her from dusting herself?”

“I couldn’t keep killing.” Angel’s voice had risen, and he was almost shouting now, defending himself. “And Darla knew. She was my sire, and she couldn’t accept. She’d never have let me... You don’t understand what it’s like. To live like we did, and then to be given a soul. To have a conscience.”

“No.” Spike stared at him. “You’re right. I can’t understand. I don’t. You know what else I don’t understand, Angelus?”

The two vampires stared at each other. Hatred, pain, misery, anger, love. So many emotions swirled in their eyes, all mixed up and confused. All they both knew for sure was that, right now, at this moment, they were hurting.

“I don’t understand how, in all these years, you’ve never let your bloody conscience bother you for what you did to Dru. Not only has your soul never brought you to feel regret for driving her mad and turning her, but it’s never even made you try to help her, see that she’s taken care of. And on top of all that, you fucking used her. Last year. All soul having Angel used her to kill your sodding lawyers for you. And then you tried to kill her. What would it matter, anyway? She was just a soulless demon, a killer, wasn’t she? A thing, not worthy of your fucking concern. And apparently, you couldn’t think of another way to use her at the time. Now what kind of conscience, what kind of soul would do that? Huh, mate? What bloody kind of soul is it that does that?”

Angel swallowed, his eyes locked on Spike’s.  They could hear the clock ticking at the front desk.

Angel didn’t answer. He went into his office and shut the door. The soft click as it closed floated across the lobby to Spike.

~*~

Sonofabitch. That fucking sonofabitch. I hate him. Hate him.

Spike wanted to break things, crush things, kill things. He wanted to rip Angelus apart. Slowly, painstakingly. Feed him, piece by piece, to whatever would actually eat his reviled flesh.

He hated that fucking sonofabitch.

~*~

Sonofabitch. That fucking sonofabitch. I hate him. Hate him.

Angel wanted to break things, crush things, kill things. He wanted to rip Spike apart. Slowly, painstakingly. Feed him, piece by piece, to whatever would actually eat his reviled flesh.

He hated that fucking sonofabitch.

~*~

Why? Why do I let him tear me apart like this? Why do I care?

Spike slammed his fist into the wall viciously. Plaster dust swirled around his head. He wanted to kick in the walls, tear them down, destroy everything around him. He indulged the urge, swinging a booted foot into the wall, increasing the amount of dust in the air.

Why, why, why?

Anger, defeat. His shoulders slumped and he lowered his head.

And why do I still fucking love him?

~*~

Why? Why do I let him tear me apart like this? Why do I care?

Angel slammed his fist into the wall viciously. Plaster dust swirled around his head. He wanted to kick in the walls, tear them down, destroy everything around him. He resisted the urge. For now.

Why, why, why?

Anger, defeat. His shoulders slumped and he lowered his head.

And why do I still fucking love him?

~*~

Spike threw himself onto the bed. He reached over to the nightstand for his cigarettes and lit one, inhaling deeply. Sometimes he wondered vaguely if he wished the cancer sticks could actually kill him. He picked up the ashtray that sat there and brought it with him as he lay back, settling it onto his stomach. He could care less if he burned holes in the bedspread, or burned down the whole bloody building, for that matter. Angelus’ predilection for living in some heaping pile of bricks reminded him of Dracula’s mansions and castles.

Wankers.

Wouldn’t do to send the place up in flames while he was layin’ all comfy in his bed on the top floor though, would it?

He hadn’t wanted a confrontation with Angelus. Hadn’t sought it. Had tried to avoid it. Been pretty successful, too, until tonight.

It had been bad enough just seeing Dru. Any meeting with his sire tended to send him into a tailspin of conflicting emotions. After running into her, tonight was probably the worst night Angelus could have picked to speak to him. He was so angry at the man who had acted as, and had been, his de facto sire, so furious with his self righteous, soulful posturing, that he just wanted to...

Well, he guessed he’d already been over that in his mind. In lovely, gory detail.

Couldn’t do anything about it anyway. The Slayer would certainly never forgive that. Killing Angelus. His lips twisted. Oh yeah. That’d go over well.

He could dream about it, though, couldn’t he? Damned pleasant it was, too.

~*~

bloodbred

bloodborn



Angel sat back in his desk chair, nursing his bleeding knuckles.

Damn Spike.

Why did his de facto (OFFSPRING, BLOOD CHILD, WHATEVER WORD I’M GOING TO USE FOR ‘CHILDE’) always have the ability to make him lose control like that?

Because he matters to you.

No.

Because you care about him.

No.

Because he’s yours .Your family. Your blood.

No.

Because you love him.

No. No. No.

Damn it all to hell.

Angel opened the bottom drawer of his desk and pulled out a bottle of Irish whiskey. He filled a shot glass, and downed it, then poured another.

For most of the last one hundred years, Angel had struggled to forget Darla, Dru, Spike. His family. To forget that life. The creature he had been.

Angelus.

Of course, the events of the last year had certainly reminded him forcibly of Darla and everything they had been to each other. Everything they had done together. But Darla was easier. Darla had made him. Thinking of Darla didn’t eat him up with guilt.

Drusilla and Spike were another story. The more difficult part of the story. The part he tried never to think of. They were the part of his past, that when it rose up to haunt him, he tried desperately to block out.

For 120 years it had been just him and Darla. Oh, occasionally they had hooked up with someone else for a year or two. And Darla always had to make those annoying little trips home to her sire, her precious Master. But it hadn’t been until he’d become obsessed with Dru sometime around 1860 that he and his sire had allowed anyone else to become a real part of their lives. And when Spike joined them twenty years later, it had been perfect. The four of them.

Family.

Dru. So beautiful. So wild. So devoted to him. So willing to do anything to please him. So insane because of him. So needful. So endlessly needful.

Better, yes, that she had chosen Spike to bring into the family. Her own creation who would love her and be eternally devoted to her, unlike her sire, who was growing weary, not so much of her, but of her constant, clinging need of him.

Spike. So wayward, so willful. His restless, reckless, beautiful boy. Not his, really, but he’d felt an almost overpowering possessiveness toward him and had usually considered him his own. Spike always had to be the wildest, the most vicious. It hadn’t been that way at first. When he was first turned, he’d been a quiet, but still somewhat witty, companion with a thirst to learn, and fit in. But his loving devotion to Dru and even the loyalty and caring he showed for Angelus and Darla had revolted Darla, who had had nothing but contempt for the youngest member of their group. She’d ridiculed and reviled everything he said and did, any and every emotion he showed. And he had joined right in. He and Darla had belittled every tender gesture Spike made to Dru. They’d told him that love was not a demon’s way. He would never belong, they insisted, could never be a part of them, a true vampire, a demon, with love and devotion in his heart. And they’d spent months, years, trying to beat that love out of him.

They never had.

More than anything, Dru had wanted them to be a family. The four of them. And because she wanted it so badly, Spike had wanted her to have it. He had stayed with them, had tried to change himself to fit in. Because he loved Dru. He’d have been so much better off if he’d taken Dru away as soon as he was old enough to care for them both. Far away. From him and from Darla. But he’d stayed. He’d put up with their abuse and their ridicule, and he’d shaped and fashioned himself into what they wanted him to be. Cold, cruel and calculating. A true demon. They’d tried so hard to crush the gentleness out of him, to kill the love. They’d never been able to do that. But they’d certainly succeeded in warping him.

And Spike had eventually succeeded, for the most part, in hiding his tender impulses away. They still came through often enough that there was no doubt they still existed, but Spike worked hard to bury them, to conceal them. And both he and Darla knew he was doing it.

He’d always known that demons could love. Always. But he’d denied it and lied about it and pretended it wasn’t so.

Because Angelus couldn’t love.

Couldn’t love? Or wouldn’t?

Wouldn’t allow it? Or wouldn’t admit it?

After the gypsies had cursed him, and he’d left the others, he’d started to see things differently. Perhaps it was because of the soul. He’d never really been sure. But within weeks, days almost, of leaving them, he’d known he had to return. After two years he’d been desperate to rejoin them. He’d been willing to do almost anything just to be with them again. Aurelius. Family. He’d felt like he was dying without them. All of them. He’d wanted them so much. All three of them. He’d needed them. Their absence had left a gaping, raw wound in him, an unbearable pain.

So he’d found them. It hadn’t been hard. Their blood called to him. And he’d tried to make it work. He’d killed again. Drained the blood of humans, relishing it, and hating himself for relishing it. But Darla hadn’t been fooled. She’d seen what he was doing, the types of men he had been killing. Thieves, murderers, rapists.

All the things Angelus had been.

And it would never be enough for Darla. She had gloried in the killing of innocents, of children, of virgins, of the most pure beings they were able to find. Angelus had gloried in it, too. They had been the perfect pair, he and Darla. She had made him, and they were made for each other.

Spike and Dru had been different. For Spike, it had always been the brawl. He craved the fight, the challenge. Thrived on it. His kills were always the strongest, most vicious opponents he could find. And Dru had merely stood aside with a smile, clasping her hands in excitement as her dark knight did battle for her.

Darla had looked on Spike with contempt.

The way she looked on him when he tried to join up with them again in China. He’d been back with them for only a very short time when he knew he couldn’t stay. Darla would never allow it. She would have killed him for his inability to kill innocents.

When he’d left them that last time, he had known. Known how much he loved them – all three of them. Darla, Dru. Spike. His family. His blood.

God, he’d missed them so much. He’d needed them all. His heartless and beautiful sire, his mad and beautiful Drusilla, and his willful and beautiful boy. He’d ached to kill with them, to be buried in their bodies, cock and fangs, to share existence with them, to be vampires together. Their blood bonds had been so strong. To tear himself away from that had been a desperate agony, the loss unspeakably destructive.

Aurelius. Sometimes the word had pounded so hard in his brain he’d been unable to sleep for days, weeks.

Aside from the few times he’d tried to straighten himself up, he’d been, for almost a century, a useless drunk, wandering in the gutters. Just like he’d been in life, he thought sometimes. He’d been a worthless man, and he’d become a worthless monster. He’d raged at the inconvenience of having a soul and a conscience. Hated how they made him feel. He was torn between regretting his kills, and regretting his inability to return to his killing ways.

And every single one of those days, he’d missed his family. His blood screamed for theirs.

Then Whistler, and Buffy, a purpose, a chance at redemption.

We help the helpless.

Spike’s taunting words tonight were haunting him.

In many ways, Dru would never be helpless. She was vicious, a demon, a killer. There was nothing good or pure in her. But in many ways, she was the most helpless creature he had ever known.

And he had made her that way.

He’d used her, abused her in every way he could. And he’d taken delight in it. With Darla goading him on, the more vicious he could be with Dru, the more heartless, the better. Dru had come to love it, to take satisfaction in the abuse and cruelty, and he had garnered more favor with his own sire for each new torture he could devise, mental or physical.

She’d shared affection with Spike, but her (OFFSPRING, BLOOD CHILD, WHATEVER WORD I’M GOING TO USE FOR ‘CHILDE’)’s protectiveness would always come in second to her sire’s abuse.

And then he’d abandoned her. He’d left her with Darla and Spike, true. But he’d known he was her world, her universe. Her sire. He’d known his leaving would destroy her. He’d still gone.

Dru was a demon. She had no soul.

Was that a reason not to help her? Or an excuse?

We help the helpless.

Was she his responsibility?

We help the helpless.

He’d made her, created her. He’d shaped and fashioned her.

We help the helpless.

He’d used her and tried to kill her without a qualm.

All soul having Angel.

Now what kind of conscience, what kind of soul would do that? Huh, mate? What bloody kind of soul is it that does that?”

Yeah, mate, he asked himself. What bloody kind of a soul is it that does that?

He set aside the shot glass, and picked up a full sized tumbler. He filled it.