All About Spike - Print Version
When Darkness Falls
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By L.A. Ward, Sanguine
RATING: PG-13 (for now)
DISCLAIMER: Not ours. Never ours. If they *were* ours we'd be a lot nicer to the characters than Mutant Enemy.
SUMMARY: When stars align, fate has a few tricks up its sleeve. Willow's trip to the dark side has unanticipated consequences, Spike
struggles with his past, and Buffy is plagued by unseen forces
working toward Armageddon. An AU Season 7 fic.
FEEDBACK: LAWard@aol.com and email@example.com
"God does not play dice."
- Albert Einstein
"But all evidence indicates that God is an inveterate
gambler, and he throws the dice on every possible
- Stephen Hawking, Black Holes and Baby Universes
It's a funny thing when stars align--no
one actually knows it. There
may be astronomers with their telescopes
and astrologers with their
charts trying to keep track, but they
can't see. . .not really.
The light from one star might take two
hundred years to reach the
earth. The light from another might take
a few thousand. By the
time someone saw the cosmic connection
it would have long since
ceased to be, and, because of the world's
limited vantage point, the
alignment the person *did* see would only
be an illusion.
We never see the real deal. The real deal
happens without our
noticing, and without our even having
the ability to notice. Perhaps
a mathematician of the genius variety,
an Einstein or a Hawking,
could figure it out if they knew what
to look for, but there are so
many stars. . .
With all the bits of light and matter following
their own paths of
motion, no one could be expected to sense
the true moment when the
connection had been made. And, given the
speed of light and the
distances traveled, by the time someone
understood the connection all
that would be left would be the light
and shadow and aftereffects.
Aftereffects like the mist enveloping
the cliff where not too long
ago a witch gathered forces too dark and
too powerful for her to
control. The black magic had been siphoned
off her and channeled
into the earth where, in the fading light
of dusk, a gray tendril of
preternatural brume stretches from the
cliff down the hill to the
graveyard where beings of unearthly power
had violently been turned
Fate may have noticed the alignment. Fate
may have foreseen the
events that produced such consequences,
and, if the Earth had been an
inch to the left or spinning a fraction
of an second faster, the
whole mess would have been avoided. But
Fate was a bitch and
didn't really care. Besides, this was
Sunnydale and stuff happens. . .
Chapter One: All That Matters
=Hell must be like this.=
Willow ran her hand over her face, then
through her matted hair. She glanced around the bar filled with demons
of every size, shape, and description. They drank. They growled.
They cursed. =Who am I kidding? This isn't *like* hell.
This *is* hell.=
And the insane part was, she'd walked through
the door of her own free will.
A seven-foot-tall warlock pushed Willow
away, causing her to land in a heap on the floor. She didn't care. He'd
given her what she wanted. Her own powers might be bound, but now
his effervescent sorcery bubbled in her veins. The catch? This magic came
at a price.
A scaly black-and-gold demon with snake-like
features grabbed her shoulder. He spoke to the warlock in a hissing language
that Willow didn't understand--except that she did understand. She might
not recognize the words, but she knew what was happening. She was being
sold for the price of the magic. She had even agreed to it.
Willow shivered. There was a creepy-crawly
sensation under her skin. Whether it came from fear or magic, she
didn't know. What she did know was that it wouldn't go away.
She had tried everything. Going without magic or overdosing on the
stuff didn't matter. Something awful continued to wiggle inside her,
but at least with the magic she didn't care.
She felt cold-that came from the magic
too. The room around her was stifling, but maybe demons liked it
warm. Maybe it reminded them of whatever hell dimension they came
from, or maybe the heat compensated for the cold that came from inside
them, just as it came from inside her. Most of the time it only seeped
from Willow's veins, but sometimes it would roll out of her in waves, dragging
her under a sea of ice. All too soon, she would resurface, and the memories
would return. That was the worst of it. When she returned to herself and
the reality of--
No. She wouldn't think of that.
She wouldn't think of anything. When Willow thought, she hurt.
Inside her was a gaping sinkhole of hurt. Fate had screwed her.
Life had screwed her. Not long ago, she'd had everything--a 4.0 grade
point average, a perfected sunshine spell, and Tara.
Tara's skin had been soft and warm, and
had always smelled of apricots and cinnamon. More times than she could
count, Willow had lost herself in Tara's arms, in Tara's scent, in Tara's
touch. Tara had always been so calm and loving, and now she was dead
and cold in the ground.
Did Tara feel as cold as Willow?
Did her heart feel like a block of ice?
Willow sighed heavily. She wanted everything
to be over. That was why she had run away. That was why she was here.
The demon, who apart from his black and
gold color looked remarkably like a Cardassian from Xander's Star Trek
DVD collection, grabbed Willow's arm. His talons dug into her flesh
as he dragged her across the floor. No one protested. No one
said a thing. This was a demon bar. What did they care about
one stray witch?
The demon headed toward the door. Where
was it taking her? Would it kill her? Would it do something *worse* than
kill her? Then again, she deserved to die. There weren't enough
cookies and 'I'm sorries' in the world to cover what she had done.
She'd crossed the line, and her friends wouldn't respect her any more.
They would look at her and see something dirty, weak, and low. She was
Willow hated that. She hated disappointing
people. She hated being less than the best. She hated herself.
What did it matter if a demon killed her?
The demon's scaled hand pushed against
the door, shoving it open. Something deep inside Willow told her
to pull away. If she didn't escape something terrible would happen.
But Willow didn't fight back. She didn't pull away. What did
that mean? Had she come to this place seeking death as well as magic?
The ground was wet and it stunk of garbage.
As the demon lifted her against the wall, although Willow knew she should
be terrified, she laughed.
Fueled by magic fizzing in her veins like
Pepsi without the sugar content, Willow was beyond caring what the demon
might do. Everything felt distant and unreal. Nothing could reach
her now, not even that terrible, high-pitched scream filling the air. .
.and it was coming from her.
Without warning, the demon let go of Willow.
Cool air surrounded her as she tumbled to the ground, landing in a foul-smelling
puddle of water. Her cry turned to a sob as she waited for the fatal blow.
It was coming. It had to come.
What was taking so long?
There was a dull thud followed by a grunt
somewhere behind her. Then Willow felt a hand on her bloodied shoulder.
Her long-lost survival instinct kicked in and she violently pulled away,
shrieking like a terrified animal as she cowered against the wall, trying
to harness her borrowed magic.
"Bloody hell. What have you done to yourself,
Red?" The familiar British voice caused Willow to open her eyes.
The vampire knelt in front of her, framing
her face between his cool hands. "Are you even in there?"
Willow flinched away. "Leave me alone."
"Not bloody likely."
Even in the dim light Willow could see
the muscle clench in Spike's jaw as his eyebrows lowered. "How did you
get here, pet? Teleportation spell?"
=Here?= Oh yeah, London. She was in London.
Spike pulled her into a sitting position,
leaning her against the wall. He patted her shoulder. Willow didn't know
what to make of that. Was this his idea of offering comfort?
Spike eased away and Willow noticed the
snakey demon lying behind the dumpster. Was it dead or unconscious? Knowing
Spike, it was probably dead. Spike's frown knitted his brow, making
him look worried -- which was weird because vampires weren't supposed to
worry. "Think you can stand?"
"I can stand."
"Then how about trying to?" He sounded
gentle. How could an evil creature sound so gentle?
Willow pushed his hand away. "Don't want
"I *said* I don't want your help."
Spike laughed bitterly. "No one ever does,
but that's your tough luck. I'm all you've got." He stood, a black-clad
creature with moonlight-colored hair and skin. "Skip the resolve face.
As stubborn as you think you are, I'm a century more stubborn. Now, stand
It sounded like an order. The gentleness
in his voice had been replaced by something stern and uncompromising, something
that once would have made Willow shiver. Now she fought him. "No, and you
can't make me!"
=I sound like I'm ten and he's making me
eat brussels sprouts!= Willow knew she sounded petulant and whiney,
and if she really had been ten, her mother would have sent her to her room
for an attitude adjustment and a nap. But Willow wasn't some irritable
child. She was something worse. She was something unspeakable.
"Why didn't you let the demon kill me?"
she asked insolently. "You're supposed like watching people die."
Spike looked angry or offended or. . .hurt?
=God, Willow, you really have gone nuts.
Either you *think* you've hurt something that can't be hurt or you *have*
hurt something that can't be hurt. And neither of these things paint a
pretty picture of you. And, just so you know, neither does
talking to yourself.=
Willow watched an agitated Spike pace in
front of her like a wounded lion or tiger or something. She really must
have hit a sore spot. But it was a very strange sore spot for a vampire.
"You're bloody fucked on magic, aren't
Yeah, he was pissed.
"Summon any demons this time?" Spike tilted
his head toward the corpse behind the dumpster. "That what he was?"
"Back off!" Willow didn't want to be questioned.
If she had any spare power left, she would have sent Spike flying into
the wall. She would have seen him staked and dusted just for looking at
her. Willow didn't want anyone looking at her--especially someone who had
known her. . .before.
Spike didn't intimidate easily. "Get up."
"Will. . ." Suddenly he cocked his head
to the side in a gesture similar to a puppy hearing something a human couldn't
hear. Of course with vampire hearing, Spike probably *did* hear something
she couldn't. "Someone's coming." And the low way Spike pitched his voice
told Willow it was something bigger and nastier than him.
Spike hauled Willow to her feet, slinging
her over his shoulder in a fireman's carry before she could protest. Willow
thought about screaming for help as he strode out of the alley, but it
required too much energy. Besides, Spike would only go into game face and
scare the shit out of anyone who tried to stop him. . .unless the thing
stopping him was a demon, in which case he would just kill it.
Spike set Willow on her feet when they
reached the street. And unlike the dim bar and the dark alley, the light
here hurt her eyes. Where were they?
"A few blocks north of Leicester Square,"
Spike said, surprising Willow because she hadn't known that she'd asked
the question out loud. "Now, what the hell happened to make you fall off
the sodding magic wagon?"
Willow blinked. Spike didn't know. How
could he not know? Had he missed the part where Warren had
walked into Buffy's back yard and accidentally shot Tara dead? Only
it wasn't so much an accident as bad aim. Warren had been trying
to kill Buffy.
Emotion shadowed Spike's blue eyes. "Buffy.
"Isn't proving third time's the charm.
She's still kicking butt in fashionable high heels."
"And the little white witch?"
Had bled to death on Willow's bedroom floor.
There had been so much blood. It had splattered over Willow's clothes
and had stained the floor where Tara fell. Willow had watched the stain
grow. Millimeter by millimeter it had stretched out across the floor, taking
Tara away from her. Tara's eyes had remained open to the end--still
serene and dark blue until they had gone vacant, lifeless, and dead--and
Willow had been unable to fix it. She was good at fixing things.
Why couldn't she fix this?
"Why, Spike? I fixed the Buffybot.
I brought Buffy back. Why couldn't I fix Tara?"
But Tara was gone. Willow had known
it the moment Tara had hit the floor, and something black and cold had
twisted inside her telling Willow that all that was left was an empty shell.
There would be no more laughter or shy delight in Tara's eyes. There would
be no soft smiles or sweetly stubborn expressions. There would be nothing.
Tara was dead.
How could Fate decide to do this to her?
Didn't the Powers That Be see how wrong this was? Didn't they *care*?
Tara didn't deserve this! Tara was kind and centered and good.
She was a rock. Everyone loved her. And hadn't Willow done
what she was supposed to do? She had stayed away from magic.
It had been hard, but she had done it. Where was her reward? Where
was her fucking reward?
When Tara had been shot, something inside
Willow had died. And when Tara had taken her last breath, something
inside Willow had raged.
"I'm a killer. I killed because I
wanted to." Willow carefully enunciated each syllable. Inside
she felt hysterical, but she knew she sounded calm and cold.
"Anya once summoned a vamp version of
me from another dimension. The other me killed people. She had my
face, and she killed people, tortured them. I said she wasn't me."
Willow looked up at Spike. "Now, I'm her."
"*I* killed Warren. Me--the real
me--killed Warren. . .and Rack. Then, I decided Dawn should be a glowy,
green glob again. I actually started the spell."
Spike looked anxious. "You didn't--"
Willow shook her head. "Buffy stopped me."
She gave a frigid little smile. "I kicked her ass. I kicked Giles's
ass, too. Then I tried to destroy the world."
And it had all been because of Warren.
Hate like Willow had never imagined could exist burned inside her--hate
for Warren, hate for Fate, hate for the world, a world that refused to
do her bidding. It wasn't fair, and it wasn't right. And it would *not*
She had murdered Warren slowly, killing
him inch by inch. Her every action had been deliberate and without
mercy. She had skinned the man alive, turning him into a living, breathing
anatomy lesson--muscle and tendon, blood vessels and nerves all exposed,
all raw and all in pain. He had been her hideous creation, full of ugliness
and hurt, a reflection of what was inside her. Then, Willow had set
him on fire, incinerating him with nothing more than a casual gesture and
callous "Bored now" because she didn't want to face what she had become.
When Buffy had realized what Willow had
done, she had gazed at Willow with horror. Later, at the Magic Box, Giles
had watched her with pity. But the face that Willow remembered most was
Xander loved her. For her, he was big with
the love and forgiveness. He had stood between Willow and the end
of the world, and had pulled her back from the edge.
That was a good thing, right?
It had been so easy to allow herself to
think it was a good thing. She loved Xander, and Xander loved her.
He had saved her. It was enough. . .for about a week. Then
Willow had started to think about the big picture.
Why did she deserve to be saved?
Glory had been willing to destroy the world so she could go home.
Willow had been willing to destroy the world because she was in pain. World
destroying was world destroying. Glory's and Willow's actions had
been essentially the same. Only Glory had been beaten by a troll hammer
and smothered in Ben's body while Xander had spoken to Willow of love and
The more Willow thought about it, the more
she suspected Xander didn't see what she had done--not really. He
couldn't if he still loved her. He must have only seen Willow, his
friend, not Willow, the world destroying witch.
Xander had never been one to accept change.
So much easier to cling to what was comfortable, to think of a red-headed
girl who treasured cookies and Crayolas and not face the woman who
dispassionately flayed the skin off a living man. Who would want
to face such a woman? No wonder Xander kept a vice-like grip on illusions.
Willow glanced at Spike. The vampire
had no illusions and knew exactly what she had done. He didn't cling to
memories of what she used to be. A creature of the moment, unable or unwilling
to dwell on the past, Spike adjusted to change with lightning speed.
"That's a hell of a story, Will."
Willow didn't respond. What was left to
"Tara, she. . ." Spike ducked his head
and shuffled his feet. "I'm sorry about Tara. She was a good sort."
And Willow could see that he *was* sorry,
which should have been impossible--except for a creature supposedly
incapable of emotion, Spike overflowed with the stuff. He was weird that
way. Vampires in general might be immune to sorrow and grief and incapable
of compassion, but when Willow looked at Spike, she swore she saw all three.
"I understand," he said softly.
Willow didn't want him to understand.
"I guess you can't shock something which spent the last hundred years killing
whatever crossed its path because the DMP doesn't serve people burgers."
Even to her own ears, Willow sounded vicious. "For me it's going
to take a while to get used to this 'stone cold killer' thing. Wasn't on
my career plan."
"Planning to make it a career?"
Sick, twisty fear filled Willow's gut.
"No." Her voice sounded tiny.
"Good." At Willow's look of disbelief,
Spike amended. "Well, not 'good' precisely. 'Good' would have been to have
never done it in the first place. But it's too late for that. Can't undo
what's been done. . .though you have to admit vowing never doing it again
is better than the alternative." He glanced at her. "Bugger it, Red! What
do you want me to say? This isn't exactly my forte."
"Then don't say anything."
"Keep my mouth shut?"
"Pretty much. Yeah."
"Never been much good at that. And, to
be honest, don't think it would do you much good. Kept my tongue too long.
Should've gone after you after the resurrection spell." He paused and then
admitted more softly, "I was just too bloody grateful to worry overlong
They walked down the street in silence.
Spike's shoved his hands into his jeans pockets, his shoulders hunched
as he stared straight ahead. "The Council. You mentioned them. They bring
"For detox, but I ran away."
"Why the detox or why did I run away? I'm
thinking the detox part is obvious. Big magic addict gone uber-evil."
Spike shook his head. "Never would have
expected this of you, Red. Knew you were playing with the deep dark, but
I didn't know how deep."
"Or how dark." She eyed him. "At least
you didn't say I'm a 'good person.' That's what Warren said just
before I killed him." She stopped walking. "I'm thinking skinning
someone and setting him on fire knocks me off the 'good' list. What
do you think?"
A passerby looked at Willow with a startled
expression, giving Willow the urge to laugh and ask why he was afraid of
her when there was a vampire standing next to her. And if the vampire didn't
scare the man, maybe he should see what the vampire had just killed in
the alley. But Willow didn't say anything. Standing outside
herself for a moment, she realized the stranger didn't see a vampire or
a witch. He had no idea demons lurked alleys. To the people walking
down Litch Street, Willow wasn't a corrupted sorceress, and Spike wasn't
Dracula's old pal. They were just two people discussing unspeakable things.
Ninety-nine percent of the population didn't
know magic and monsters existed. It felt strange remembering that fact,
remembering a more naïve world. And it struck Willow that if her plan
for mass destruction had succeeded, these people wouldn't have known what
hit them. They would have had no way to understand.
Up until now she had told herself she'd
only murdered Warren--who deserved it. Taking out Rack didn't count.
He may have been human, but he was a warlock. Killing him wasn't much different
from Slaying. But standing on the sidewalk in Soho, Willow realized she'd
almost murdered every person in sight. "I think I'm going to be sick."
"Magic wearing off?"
Willow shook her head. Not saying no, but--
"You should have left me in the alley. You should have let the demon kill
"Another death wish. Don't you think
we've had enough of those?"
Willow glared at Spike. It was *her*
death wish. She could have it if she wanted it.
Spike gave an impatient growl and dragged
her into Leceister Square's Underground station. She watched him plug two
pounds into the ticket machine before gathering his change and handing
Willow the ticket. "Use it." He pulled a three zone pass out of his pocket.
"Where are we going?" Willow followed him
through the turnstile.
"You'll see soon enough."
The station's floor was gray and dirty
and stained with substances Willow would rather not think about as she
wrapped two fingers through Spike's rear belt loop. She didn't want to
lose him in the late-night crowd. The theaters must have just let
Willow rolled her eyes as she realized
what she had done--so much for her bravado and protests of wanting to be
alone. She could have used this opportunity to escape. Instead,
she perversely clung to Spike for no reason other than he was a familiar
form in a crowd of strangers.
As she followed Spike down the tiled passageway,
Willow felt a warm, stale wind caused by arriving and departing trains.
And she found herself watching the graceful, unobtrusive way that Spike
negotiated their path through the crowd--a predator walking unnoticed among
the prey. He stopped at the far end of the platform; appropriately, for
social-pariahs like Spike and herself, they stood alone.
"Never thought you were a coward." Spike
leaned against the wall. "Guess I was wrong."
"Hey! Not a coward. I stood up to you even
before the chip."
"That you did, pet."
"So I'm not a coward." She looked
at her toes. "It's guilt. Newsflash. Some of us can actually feel
Spike pushed away from the wall when train
arrived. "Which is why it's cowardice." He took Willow's arm in an oddly
gentlemanly fashion to lead her onto the train. "That scene I happened
on in the--" He paused for a moment then substituted the word 'pub.' "That
was about numbing pain, wasn't it? You didn't want your conscience any
more." He took the seat next to her. "Makes things a hell of a lot easier
when you don't give a damn."
"You should know."
Spike ignored her mean-spirited remark
and said quietly, "Death is the easy way out. It's harder to face yourself
and what you've done. That's the real bitch. I can see why you don't want
to do it. A get-out-of-guilt-free card must look pretty good."
"You think I'm trying to kill myself?"
"But not because I feel guilty. Because
I'm a chicken."
"Didn't say chicken. I said coward.
Chicken is piss poor imagery. Too comical."
The train came to a halt and the doors
slid open to the tune of a taped voice warning passengers to 'mind the
gap.' Spike and Willow kept their seats and waited for the doors to close
and the subway to move toward the next stop.
Willow wrapped her arms around herself.
"So what if I *am* a chicken. Big fat deal if I take the easy way out.
I'm not important."
Spike leaned back, sprawling in his seat
so that his body language projected both attitude and contemplation. "Why
are you here?"
"I told you."
"No, I mean how did you come to be here?"
"Well, let's see. London. The Council.
I'm thinking Giles would be a good guess."
"Mm-hmm. . ." Spike studied the advertisements
over the seats on the opposite side of the car for a very long time before
turning to face Willow. Then it was her turn to look away. As the train
lurched into motion, she watched the way lights streaked by before they
plunged into the next dark tunnel.
Spike wasn't deterred. "Let me see if I
have this straight. You went Darth Willow, betrayed those near and dear
to you, then got a yen to destroy the world." He made a dismissive gesture
with his hand. "Seen that old story at least a dozen times, and I'm not
even two hundred."
The doors slid open.
Spike tugged Willow to her feet. "Our stop,
When they emerged onto the street he began
talking again. "So what happened? Scoobies come to your rescue, risk life
and limb to pull you back from the brink?"
"You make it sound like a lame X-Files
"Was traumatic. Not saying it wasn't. It
was horrific and wrong, and it changed you. And maybe you *aren't* a good
person any more. Maybe you'll never be that person again." Spike stopped
walking. He bowed his head as he considered something intently. Then
he nodded and looked Willow dead in the eye. "No, you *won't* be that person
again. You can't go back to being who you were five or ten years
ago any more than I can go back to being the man Dru found in an alley.
But that doesn't mean you give up."
"That's different. You *aren't* the
man Dru found. That man died. He lost his soul."
"And does that make you better or worse
Willow wanted to scratch his eyes out.
"Why are you doing this?"
"I'm not doing anything."
"Yes, you are. You pulled me out of that
alley. Why? Do you think it's going to win you Buffy brownie points?"
She circled the vampire who suddenly looked hunted. "Why do you do
keep doing these things? We aren't your friends, and we stopped paying
you a long time ago. Do you think it's going to make a difference?
Do you think if you do enough good things we'll forget what you are? Or
do you think at all? Maybe you just decided if you can't be arch
enemy try being best pals. At least one way or the other someone
would notice you existed." Willow wavered on her feet. "It doesn't
work that way."
"Tell me something I don't know."
"Then why do you keep trying?" Willow
stumbled. "Why are you here? Why-" Her legs felt like rubber
and the world seemed kind of blurry around the edges. "What the--" Heat
shimmered in Willow's head, chest, and arms even though her hands felt
icy cold. Something wasn't right.
"Oh no, not yet," Spike warned. "You
save those magic DTs until we get where we're going."
As if she had any control of it.
Willow collapsed, and the effortless way Spike swept her up in his arms
would have looked romantic if he wasn't an evil vampire and she wasn't
a strung-out witch.
Actually, it probably *still* looked romantic.
Spike was very handsome with his full mouth and sculpted cheekbones. His
only visible flaws were a nose that looked like it belonged on a Roman
statue and a scar bisecting his left eyebrow.
Willow couldn't deny it. Spike was handsome.
She was gay, not blind.
"I'm not a coward."
"'Course you're not." Spike started walking
Willow had no idea where he was going,
but Spike seemed determined to go there. After a long silence he
asked, "How many Big Bads do you think have tried to destroy the world?"
Willow closed her eyes. "I'm guessing
a whole bunch."
"More than you or I would want to count.
And what do you think happens to most of them?"
"Yeah, more often than not. Although sometimes
the scheme just fizzles so the Big Bad is hoisted on his own petard." Spike
paused on the corner trying to read the street signs, looking as if he
was unsure about which direction to go. "Hypothetical question: what would
happen if I got the chip out and decided to take my revenge by destroying
"Buffy would stop you."
"'Course she would, but how? Tearful speeches
wouldn't be included, and there'd be no desperate attempts to pull me back
from the brink. It would all be very simple--big fight, a few well chosen
quips, and a dusty end after which Harris would spring for a few rounds
of celebratory drinks at The Bronze." Spike's words sounded flippant, but
his tone of voice was anything but. He was dead serious. He'd thought about
this, about what people's reactions might be, and Willow opened her eyes
to see his Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed some emotion. "Thus
would be the end of William the Bloody."
Spike turned down a narrow residential
street. Occasionally, he would look at Willow with worry. She must
look like shit. Either that or the shaking unnerved him. She'd
begun shivering uncontrollably ten minutes ago, and now it was becoming
"Hold on, Red. Just a little further."
Willow's head pounded, and even the street
lights hurt her eyes. Thankfully, it was darker on this street than
it had been on the avenue. Streetlamps were few and long stretches
of black lurked between puddles of light.
It was in one of those long stretches
that Spike chose to say, "The point I'm trying to make, Will, is you're
not meaningless. They love you." Willow didn't need to ask who 'they'
were. "They were willing to do anything to save you."
Spike paused in front of a wrought-iron
garden gate. "So even if you can't forgive yourself, even if guilt is tearing
you apart, *let* them save you. Doesn't matter if you don't think
you're worth it. They do. Do it for Buffy and Bit, for Rupert--hell, even
for Harris. You're important to them. You're not alone."
Reginald Claridge had always known vampires
existed. His father was a senior member of the Watcher's Council so Reggie
had been raised knowing the story.
The world was older and far different than
most people knew. It had once been ruled by monsters, but eons ago
the monsters had lost purchase on this reality, which had led to the rise
of mankind. When the last true demon left this world, he fed off a human,
mixing their blood, leaving a man's form infected by a demon's soul, and
that vampire bit another human who bit another and another, killing some,
infecting others to make more of their kind.
That was the story. But vampires
were like sharks. While they were most everywhere, swimming in the sea
of humanity, most of the stories about them originated from the Hellmouth.
The Hellmouth was the supernatural equivalent of chum baited waters of
Florida, and Reggie was stuck swimming in boring old London. In his twenty-three
years on earth--and his six months and three days as a Watcher--Reggie
had never seen a single one. . .until now. And to think, he'd complained
about having to stay late to do research!
The crystal orb on the table in the middle
of the foyer, which was supposed to give warning when something preternatural
and nasty approached the door, began to glow, causing Reggie's boredom
to fly out the window. Looking through the peephole, Reggie saw a black-clad
man, who wasn't a man, carrying a red-headed woman. It was so clichéd
Reggie wanted to laugh. It could have been a scene from a nineteen-seventies
=Except this is real. This is happening!
= a voice inside Reggie whispered excitedly as he wondered whether the
woman was dead. Had the vampire ripped out her throat? Was he about to
leave her bloodied, mangled corpse on the doorstep? Then, to Reggie's horror,
the creature approached the door and rang the bell!
"Vampire!" Skidding across the marble floor,
Reggie accidentally hit his head against the library door before throwing
it open to find Lydia Grant staring at him with wide-eyed shock. "There's
a vampire!" he told the blonde.
Lydia scoffed, "Surely not. No vampire
would be so bold."
Reggie crossed the library to grab the
antique crossbow from the glass display case in the corner and pull a crucifix
off the wall before following Lydia into the foyer. But it was too
late. She had opened the door.
"Oh, my." She removed her glasses, and
Reggie thought she used her hand to smooth her hair.
Reggie desperately tried to load the crossbow.
"I'll protect you!"
The blond vampire standing at the door
looked irritated. "Bloody hell." Gazing at Lydia he said, "Might want to
take the tinker toy from the boy. Could hurt himself."
Giving up on the crossbow, Reggie dropped
the weapon to the floor and held out the crucifix. "Back, you evil fiend!"
The vampire sighed. Could a vampire
sigh? "You know, I can't actually *cross* the threshold unless you invite
me in. You're completely safe."
"Oh." Then Reggie lifted his chin. "I knew
Lydia's voice became soft and breathless.
"William. . ."
"I don't go by that name, luv. Didn't you
have that in your thesis? And just so you know, I didn't come here to bite
"Why are you here?"
The vampire nodded, indicating the shivering,
nearly insensate girl in his arms. "Red here needs some help."
Reggie snarled. "You expect us to believe
you came here for help?"
The vampire stepped back, gently laying
the woman on the doorstep. "You're the white hats, aren't you?
Bloody well, help her." He looked at Lydia. "Give old Rupes
a call. Tell him I found his wayward witch."
Lydia's looked starstruck. "Of course.
But the vampire was gone. It shouldn't
have been a surprise. Vampires had that blurry speed thing going for them,
but, when Reggie knelt to help Lydia pull the woman over the threshold,
out of the corner of his eye he saw the vampire standing across the street.
What was it waiting for? Was it keeping watch?
Reggie anxiously moved to shut the door,
but Lydia stopped him saying she would do it herself. And she did. . .eventually.
It took far too long for Reggie's taste, but Lydia seemed intent on watching
the solitary figure across the road. The vampire nodded to them, turned,
and left the pool of light.
Chapter Two: Blackmail
"Mr. Giles?" Lydia spoke hesitantly
into the mouthpiece of the telephone. She considered the still-unconscious
redhead now awkwardly laid out, limbs akimbo, on the expensive Persian
rug in the foyer. Mr. Travers would not approve. As Reggie
applied a cold compress to the girl's dirt-encrusted forehead, the pungent
smell from the witch's unwashed clothing wafted upwards. The sunken
cheeks, the sallow complexion, the stringy unkempt hair, the trembling
body--the physical marks of addiction. Obviously, the girl was resisting
"Yes?" A puzzled, harried voice replied.
"To whom am I speaking?"
"Oh! Sorry. Dreadfully sorry,
Mr. Giles. This is Lydia Grant. We met in Sunnydale several
years ago. That distasteful Glory business?"
"Ah, yes. You wrote the thesis on
. . ."
"William the Bloody."
Giles's voice acquired an impatient edge.
"Forgive me, Miss . ."
"Grant," Lydia helpfully supplied.
"Miss Grant," Giles continued smoothly,
"I'm waiting for a rather urgent telephone call, and . . ."
"It's about the witch. We have her
here, with us. William found her."
"Spike," Lydia explained, "William the
"Spike? Sunnydale Spike?"
"Blast," Giles cursed.
"He seemed quite willing to help, Mr. Giles.
An extraordinary creature." Lydia nervously adjusted her glasses.
"Seemed very concerned about the girl. Terribly strange, wouldn't
"Um. Yes. Strange." Giles
cleared his throat. "Is Spike still there?"
"No, he left immediately. Of course,
that's only to be expected. Vampires aren't welcome at Watcher Headquarters.
It's disturbing enough that he managed to find our location."
"Indeed it is. Miss Grant, did Spike
say anything when he saw you? Did he tell you where he found Willow?"
"No, just to call you and let you know
she was here. I know you've been looking very hard for her, Mr. Giles.
I'm sorry the Council hasn't been more helpful, but our resources are a
"I know it's not your fault, Miss Grant.
I think we both know where the real blame lies."
Lydia's brow furrowed, "Are you talking
about the girl, Mr. Giles?"
Giles's voice became a controlled growl,
his anger barely contained. "In part. But that pillock Travers
hasn't been helpful. This is the second time Willow has gone missing, and
he's done very little to prevent her escape. It's as if he'd given
up on her before the treatment even began."
Lydia's first impulse was to agree with
Mr. Travers. It was very rare for a witch completely immersed in
the dark arts to be rehabilitated. Mr. Travers placed people in clearly
marked boxes: good or evil, and the witch, considering what she'd done
in Sunnydale, clearly fell into the latter category. In his view,
Miss Rosenberg was a lost cause. He wasn't known for his compassion.
Rules and regulations were his forte.
Mr. Giles, on the other hand, showed a
remarkable understanding of human nature. He may have been a pragmatist,
but Lydia couldn't help but admire his effectiveness, his willingness to
shun tradition to get the job done, and his intensely humane impulse to
help the people he cared about. Mr. Giles had overcome his intense
disrespect for the Watchers' Council to bring the young witch there for
treatment, believing it was the best place for her. And now
the Watchers' Council had proven to be just as ineffectual as Mr. Giles
thought them to be. With determination, Lydia answered, "I agree,
Mr. Giles. The Watchers' Council has failed thus far. But I assure
you that I will do everything in my power to make sure Miss Rosenberg is
given the compassionate treatment she deserves."
Giles sighed heavily, his exhaustion evident.
"I'm just pleased to hear that Willow has been returned safely to you and
that someone was able to locate her. God knows, I bloody well couldn't."
"That wasn't your fault, Mr. Giles."
Lydia considered the disheveled figure in the foyer. "I don't think
she wanted to be found."
"I suppose it's fortunate Spike was there."
Giles chuckled bitterly.
"He's proven to be a surprisingly useful
vampire. Of course, William the Bloody was never a conformist."
"No, I suppose not. Thank you for
your help, Miss Grant. I'll be right over." A sardonic edge
crept into his voice, "Do try and keep her there this time, would you?"
Lydia heard him slam his phone into its
cradle. Sighing, she shook her head and addressed her fellow watcher.
"Well, Reg, I think we're in a spot of trouble."
Reggie silently agreed as he considered
the woman convulsing on Mr. Travers's favorite rug. "What's the matter
with her, Lydia? Is she some sort of street person? Why is
the Council involved in this?"
Lydia drew a deep breath and began to explain.
"I suppose you didn't get the memo. The girl is quite remarkable
really. Willow Rosenberg: magic addict, witch gone mad. She
achieved an unprecedented level of power in a very short time, but, as
is usually the case, it was at a terrible cost."
As Lydia wove the tragic tale of Willow's
dead lover and her unquenchable thirst for revenge, Reggie shook his head.
"Crikey. Sounds like a bad episode of EastEnders, if you ask me."
Lydia smiled. "I didn't."
"In any case, Mr. Giles brought her to
the Watcher's Council for treatment, and this is the second time she's
escaped." Lydia impatiently swiped at a wayward strand of hair. "It's
a black mark on the face of the Council every time this girl goes missing.
We must make sure that she's still here when Mr. Giles . . ."
At that moment, Willow began to stir.
Gradually her eyes gained focus and grew flinty as she considered the blancmange-like
form of Reginald Claridge. "Who are you?"
Reggie's chin wobbled. After all,
this girl almost destroyed the world. Should he answer her?
"Yes, you pathetic excuse for a Watcher.
You should answer me."
Apparently, the witch could read his mind.
Pulling himself together, Reggie cleared his throat and grinned.
"Reginald Claridge is the name. Watching is my game."
It sounded lame, even to him. The
color rose in his well-endowed cheeks. The day had seemed so promising--seeing
his first real vampire! But now he had plummeted to the depths of
Lydia was at his side in a moment, dropping
into a crouch next to the still half-prone redhead. "Miss Rosenberg?
Your . . . friend, Spike, brought you to us."
"Vampire friend," Reggie interjected.
Willow's mouth twisted. "Friend.
Spike. How far I've fallen."
Lydia took the witch's hand. It was
leaden, cold. It almost seemed . . . dead. Shaking off the
tremor that ran up the back of her neck, she composed herself and asked,
"Is there anything I can get you? Tea, perhaps?"
Willow was about to supply a cutting response
to Lydia's query when she heard footsteps approaching. With studied
nonchalance, her gaze floated upwards and with considerable effort, she
pulled herself to her feet. "Gee, Quentin. Nice to see you
again." Willow smiled a parody of her old, chipper Willow smile.
Willow's less-than-pleasant aroma assailed
Quentin Travers's flaring nostrils. Turning swiftly, he addressed
Lydia, enunciating more than usual. "Miss Grant, do make sure she
has a bath. I assume you've contacted Rupert Giles about this . .
." he nodded disdainfully towards the bedraggled girl, "problem."
"Hey, Quentin," Willow interjected with
mock concern, "I'd be happy to get out of your way, since I'm such a nuisance."
She lowered her voice conspiratorially. "I have a tendency to cause
all sorts of trouble."
Travers ignored Willow, and continued to
look at Lydia expectantly, waiting for an answer.
Lydia nodded vigorously in the head Watcher's
direction and grasped Willow's wrist. "Of course, sir. We've
already contacted him. He's on his . . ."
"When he arrives, bring Mr. Giles to the
conference room. We have much to discuss."
Reggie considered Travers' s rapidly retreating
form. "You're right, Lydia. We are in trouble."
Freshly bathed, the dark magic ebbing from
her system, Willow Rosenberg had a pounding headache. Magic hangover.
It was strange that you could get one of those, since technically magic
wasn't supposed to be addictive. Well, regular magic at least.
The black stuff that Willow had a taste for was apparently the mystical
equivalent of black tar heroin, judging from the wicked side effects.
All Willow knew was that she didn't want to stop. Because if she
stopped, then she'd have to think, and if she started to think, then she'd
have to remember. Remember what she'd done. Remember Warren,
an anatomized horror, before he exploded into flames. Remember Tara,
heart stopped by a neatly placed bullet. Remember the tower emerging
from the depths, the power flowing through her, the desire to make it all
She still had that desire. But she
couldn't make it stop, short of killing herself, and she was under constant
surveillance. Unless she could slip away again.
But then Spike would find her. And
that was just weird. Why did he care? Was he stalking her?
Of course, he was good at that. He'd perfected it to a fine art with
Buffy, and now it was apparently her turn. God, he was annoying.
Maybe Giles had asked him to find her. =I'm so concerned about Willow.
I just want to help her.=
The only way anyone could help her was
by letting her die.
Flopping down on her neatly pressed bedspread,
a fragment of memory dislodged. Spike, clad in hideous shorts and
gaudy Hawaiian shirt, trying to impale himself on a stake, attached by
a C-clamp to Xander's coffee table. Spike, useless, chipped, and
pathetic. Spike, craving something he could never have again.
Spike, thinking that he could be one of the gang if he killed enough demons,
"for puppies and Christmas!"
And then he became even more pathetic.
Spike, trying to find meaning by having a hard-on for the Slayer.
But he couldn't love Buffy, not really. Couldn't be the Slayer's
The one thing Spike had going for him was
tenacity. Everyone hated him, but he kept coming back for more.
You almost had to admire his . . . courage.
Spike's words as he forcibly plucked her
from the gutter floated back to her: "Death is the easy way out. It's harder
to face yourself and what you've done. That's the real bitch."
"It is a bitch, Spike. How can I
live with myself?" Willow considered her newly-scrubbed face in the
elaborate gilt mirror supplied by the Watchers' Council. What a joke.
As if she could ever really be clean.
Spike's voice echoed in her ears: "Never
thought you were a coward, Will."
Willow picked up a brush and slowly dragged
it through her knotted hair.
Quentin Travers considered the thick file
in front of him: a record of supreme incompetence. Around the impeccably
styled mahogany conference table, the entire London staff of the Watchers'
Council waited expectantly, sipping tea, nibbling on biscuits, waiting
for their leader to speak. Across from Travers sat the man of the
hour: the renegade Watcher, Rupert Giles. His erstwhile colleagues
tried and failed to refrain from staring. Giles, for his part, was
stoic, unreadable, and, perhaps, if one looked very closely, vaguely defiant.
Angrily, Travers flipped through page after
page. Faith, a Slayer now useless to the Council. Buffy Summers,
twice dead and perpetually chafing under the yoke of her sacred duty.
And now, Willow Rosenberg, a witch under Mr. Giles's tutelage who tried
to end the world.
"Mr. Giles, I've read the evidence. Give
me one good reason why I shouldn't toss both you and this girl into the
street. You certainly haven't been of much use to the Council.
In fact, it would appear that you are more trouble than you are worth."
Giles's voice trembled with anger.
"After all I've done, after everything my Slayer has sacrificed, I cannot
believe you would have the unmitigated gall to suggest . . ."
"Excuse me," Lydia raised her voice.
"May I interrupt?"
Mr. Travers considered her with disdain.
"It would appear that you have already interrupted, Miss Grant. You
may as well continue."
Lydia's face flushed with embarrassment,
but she was determined to make her point. "While Mr. Giles may be
unorthodox in his methods, he is hardly ineffectual. His Slayer,
Miss Summers, is the oldest active Slayer on record."
"What about Faith, the other Slayer, Miss
Grant? She may as well be dead," Colin Atkinson, a young, smirking
blond Watcher retorted.
"Alas, Mr. Atkinson," Giles replied, voice
dripping with sarcasm. "I can't take credit for Faith. Wesley
Wyndham-Price was her Watcher. I had absolutely nothing to do with
Twenty pairs of eyes turned towards a distinguished-looking
man with graying hair. Nigel Wyndham-Price cleared his throat and
spoke tightly. "My son has always been morally flawed. I'm
just pleased the Council no longer has to deal with him. We cannot
blame Mr. Giles for my son's failings.
Lydia continued, "And Mr. Giles's pragmatism
sometimes has remarkable results. A vampire even agreed to assist
him with the Glory problem."
Travers smirked. "Ah, yes.
William the Bloody, the same vampire that returned the wayward witch to
our doorstep. What precisely is your connection with this thing,
Giles paused. What was his relationship
to Spike? That was an exceedingly complicated question. "Spike
has sometimes been quite useful to us. He can't be trusted, of course,
but since he's had the chip . . ."
Alex Kingsley interjected, "I've heard
he's in love with the Slayer and that she has a sexual relationship with
the creature--the worst sort of perversity. And you allowed this
to happen. That's why he assists you."
The room hushed in expectation. They'd
all heard the rumors. But were they true?
Giles considered Travers with barely suppressed
rage. "I don't believe my Slayer's personal life is the Council's business.
Furthermore, I didn't think it was the Council's job to spy on the Slayer."
Travers smiled pleasantly. "No, Mr.
Giles. It's yours. But you chose to leave your position.
I note you didn't answer my question."
Giles ground his teeth. "Spike is
incapable of hurting any human. He's neutered, harmless."
"But not castrated, right Giles?" Kingsley
leered. "Is he or isn't he sleeping with your Slayer?"
"He isn't, not that it's any of your bloody
business, Kingsley," Giles replied. "She terminated their relationship
several months ago. If he helps me, it's because he wants to help.
He's formed attachments to several of the people in the Slayer's circle.
Willow Rosenberg is one of those people."
Chaos broke out in the room. Disbelief,
disgust, and revulsion were equally distributed over the Watchers' faces.
This was a horror beyond imagining: a Slayer willingly having relations
with an evil soulless thing.
But Lydia was not horrified. "Please,"
her voice shrilled above the babble. "Listen to me."
No one paid attention.
"Please . . ." Lydia's voice trailed off,
lost in the riotous noise. Suddenly the thick file--the document
of incompetence--was slammed forcefully upon the table and the room fell
"Evidently Miss Grant has something to
say." Travers turned towards the flustered young woman.
"It's obvious that we have a great deal
to learn about our sworn enemy," Lydia began, her voice tentative, shaky.
"As William the Bloody, Spike, has been helpful on more than one occasion,
perhaps he would be willing to share his experiences with us. Think of
the possibilities, think of what we could learn!"
"Yes, Lydia, he helped all right.
He helped himself into the Slayer's bed," Kingsley retorted.
"William has a tendency to form strong
romantic ties." Lydia spoke clearly, forcefully, as she warmed to
her subject. "That in itself is an anomaly. According to what
we've all been taught, soulless vampires cannot love. But, as I argued
in chapter three of my thesis, William the Bloody . . ."
"If I didn't know better, Miss Grant, I'd
think *you* had formed a strong attachment to this creature," Atkinson
"Think of the danger," Kingsley snorted
derisively. "He could tell all his vampire friends where the Council
meets and we'd be attacked. Sounds like a brilliant scheme."
"But Spike already knows where we are,
Alex," a bright-red Reginald Claridge responded to his classmate.
Alex and he had taken exams together, and he was sick of the pompous prat.
"All the more reason why we should eliminate
the threat," Atkinson replied. "Mr. Travers," he turned to the Head
Watcher, "I'd be happy to dispatch our assassins . . ."
"Just a bloody minute," Giles interrupted.
"Spike is the one who brought Willow back. Besides, he's helpless.
He can't hurt humans. Would the Council kill a creature that is incapable
of defending himself?"
Reggie found himself agreeing with Mr.
Giles. He didn't become a Watcher to kill something that couldn't
fight back--even if that something was a vampire. "Instead of eliminating
Spike, wouldn't it be better to give him some reason to be loyal, to give
us information? Maybe we could bribe him, give him some money?"
"Money?" Wesley's father rolled his eyes.
"Dear boy, why would such a creature need money?"
"According to Miss Grant's report from
two years ago, for blood and smokes," Travers deadpanned. "I assume
he'll also need money to maintain a lodging in London?"
Giles nodded in disbelief. "I suppose
Travers closed the file. "Let's make
a deal, Mr. Giles. You bring in your friend, William, and we'll continue
to treat Miss Rosenberg. You give us something, and we'll give you
"What will you do to him, Travers?" Giles
considered the Watcher's deeply-lined face with suspicion.
"I promise you, we won't hurt him.
A wise man once said, know thine enemy. You and Miss Grant will interview
him and report back to me. The vampire will receive nominal compensation."
"What if I can't find him?" Giles asked.
"I don't know where he is."
"If you're not willing to help us with
this project, Mr. Giles, you may as well take Miss Rosenberg with you now.
There's nothing else we can do for her."
Giles's lips tightened. "That's blackmail."
"How astute of you," Travers replied.
Chapter Three: Never Mind the Bollocks
It was five forty-five in the morning and
Buffy was sitting on the back porch. She should have been in bed.
It was Saturday and there was no reason to be up, but she couldn't sleep.
Unwanted thoughts kept coming to her when she surrendered control--control
of herself, her thoughts, her wishes, her fears, and her regrets.
Everything. In the end it was more relaxing to sit on the porch than lay
in bed twisting her sheets.
Well, maybe 'relaxing' wasn't the right
word. It was quiet--eerily quiet these days, quiet in a way made
Buffy look over her shoulder because something *must* be wrong. Only
when Buffy looked, nothing was there. She told herself that everything
was okay, but she didn't believe it. It was too quiet and too lonely.
And why wouldn't it be? Tara was gone. Willow was gone. Giles was
gone. Anya was persona non talkie because saying her name sent Xander
into mouth-frothing fits or brooding that rivaled Angel's.
And of course there was the missing man. . .person. . . *thing* she wasn't
supposed to think about.
All in all, not a lot of people left in
the life of Buffy. Typical, wasn't it? Just when she figured out
that wallowing in misery did nothing but make her miserable, Buffy woke
up to discover the lives of everyone around her had been shot to hell.
"Whatcha doin'?" a sleepy eyed Dawn asked
from the doorway.
"Wha-uh. . .?" =Better not tell her I've
been thinking. = Buffy-thinking had equaled a bad thing for a long time
now . It freaked Dawn out, and Buffy had only recently convinced
her sister that she wasn't half suicidal. "I got up early to watch the
"Uh. . .yeah." Dawn stared doubtfully
at the dense white fog that had fallen over Sunnydale a few days ago. It
obscured anything over three feet away. "You think it's evil?"
"Oh, definitely. It's summer and
it's sabotaging our tan lines. But-" Buffy tossed her stake into
the cotton candy whiteness and heard it clatter against the flagstone pathway
"-it's not big with the fighty. Not sure what I can do about it."
Dawn gathered her pink terry cloth robe
around herself and sat next to Buffy. "Maybe we should call Giles."
"And have him explain 'there's this thing
called El Nino?' I don't think so. Besides, if fog is a sign of the apocalypse,
Giles is in London sitting on ground zero." She gave a wan smile
before looking into the fog. "Still, it's weird."
"Creepy and weird."
The fog was so thick it looked like a solid,
living thing as it moved passively along currents of air. It seeped
through crevices, and fell in vaporous waterfalls down manholes and storm
drains until it filled the sewers and catacombs beneath the city. It moved.
It flowed, traveling ceaselessly, searching as it entered the graveyard.
It filtered into the coffins-both empty and full-and spread through the
tombs and crypts. Then it found what it sought and began to coalesce,
pulling in its tendrils, gathering itself. Changing.
Giles shoved the warlock against the wall.
"Oh, very impressive," Reggie exclaimed.
With his glasses securely tucked in his
pocket, Giles gave the warlock his patented Ripper glare. "If you *ever*
see the witch again, you will send her on her way. Is that understood?"
The warlock laughed. "A Watcher making
threats? Why should I-" The choking sound the warlock made
as Giles tightened nunchucks over his throat gave said Watcher a visceral
"I am not just any Watcher," Giles said.
"I do not make idle threats. If you dose her with magic again, I
will see you dead. Is that understood?" The warlock, still
choking and turning a pale shade of blue, nodded, leading Giles to reluctantly
release his chokehold. "I believe we are done here." He stepped
back. "Miss Grant?"
"Oh, yes, quite." Lydia, dressed
in a gray wool skirt and ivory-colored blouse, looked very prim and proper
standing in the middle of the dramatically lit room.
The floor, ceiling, and walls had all been
painted black, which only threw the colorful patrons and artwork into high
relief. A shockingly impressive Modern art collection hung
on the walls. There were white, blue, red, and yellow block patterns
by Mondrian, frenetic splatter paintings by Pollock, and a blurry-edged
celadon and traffic-cone-orange canvas by Rothko. It looked as though
someone had robbed the Tate Gallery, which might well be the case with
these demons. But Giles admitted the artwork complemented the colorful
occupants of the room.
In one corner sat four green Fyarl demons.
In the opposite corner two blue Lazuli incubi played darts while hot pink,
tangerine, and fuchsia Farquart pixies drank banana daiquiris with little
umbrellas in them. Giles became acutely aware of how absurd the scene
must look to someone unused to the vagaries of demon society, and he wondered
what lapse in sanity had led him to bring two young Watchers to this place.
Of course, Giles knew the lapse in sanity's
name was Quentin Travers. Travers had insisted that Giles not work alone,
and, though there had been many volunteers, Claridge and Grant had seemed
to be the most amenable-and malleable--of his available choices.
Still, it felt wrong to drag two neophytes on this misguided mission.
"We should go," Giles said tersely.
Lydia followed Giles to the door, but they
were missing someone. Giles turned to find the youngest Watcher fascinated
by the discovery that Farquart pixies had three breasts. "We're
Reggie blinked owlishly. "Of course,
of course." He stumbled over his feet a little before following Giles
and Lydia outside. "Was that truly a Troll in there?"
Lydia nodded. "I believe so, Reggie."
"And a Nayr Spirte?"
Feeling tired and frustrated, Giles unlocked
the car. "Yes, Claridge, in London. Will you bloody well climb into
Lydia slid into the passenger's seat. "Sir,
I realize we are no closer to finding William the Bloody-"
"What we are, Miss Grant, is short of time.
That arrogant prat Quentin Travers gave us a week to find Spike.
Forty-eight hours and six demon haunts later, we are running out of places
Reggie leaned forward from the back seat.
"I am sure the Council understands the difficulty of the task assigned
"In my experience the Council 'understands'
precious little." Giles cranked the car. "Although you are probably
right. *Travers* understands."
Reggie's brow furrowed with confusion.
Lydia explained, "Mr. Giles suspects he
has been set up to fail."
Reggie glanced from Giles to Lydia. "Surely
"You must admit, Reggie, it makes a certain
kind of sense." Her gaze darted toward Giles. "Mr. Travers does not
particularly like you, sir. And he's never been supportive of my
"Calls it a bloody waste of time."
"Yes, thank you, Reggie."
Giles almost smiled and attempted to console
his younger companions by saying, "At least tonight's search wasn't a complete
waste. I rather enjoyed striking fear into the magic dealer's soul."
Reggie's spectacled visage brightened.
"That was brilliant! He'll think twice before crossing the Council again."
Reg all but bounced in the backseat with uncontained eagerness. "Could
you show me that move with the nunchucks? It was--"
"Exactly! I envy you, sir.
I truly do. On the front lines, fighting the good fight, every day,
do or die as you face down demons."
Giles moved the small sedan into traffic.
"Well, today is over, and I'm returning you to the Council."
"No tomorrow." Reggie looked so crestfallen
that Giles felt compelled to add, "With Spike being as-" Giles
searched for a word "-domesticated as he is, the places we have searched
have been relatively benign. The places I must now go. . . These are not
places for Watchers without field experience."
"But how do we gain field experience if
we are not allowed into the field?"
"Don't muddle this with logic, Claridge.
It has been a long night." Aware of Lydia's unhappy expression, Giles asked,
"Do you have something to say, Miss Grant?"
"You only have five days left to find William.
You may need our help, sir."
Reggie blinked. "Five days? Are you sure
it isn't three? I was under the impression Mr. Travers was referring
to a work week not a. . ." Faced with Giles' glare, Reggie's argument trailed
into silence. "Yes, of course, five days."
Giles considered his situation and silently
conceded that Lydia might be correct. Still, he hated to lead these
two into danger. "If I agree to this, you must do *everything* I
say without discussion, is that understood?"
Reggie cried, "Brilliant!" Lydia,
"Does something concern you, Miss Grant?"
She bit her lower lip before venturing
to say, "I don't wish to question your methods, sir."
"Except you wish to question my methods."
Her gaze met his. "It's just that I wonder
whether searching demon haunts is the most efficient way to find William."
Giles stopped the car at a traffic light.
"What would you suggest? I confess I haven't the foggiest notion
of where to look. And even if we do find Spike, it's difficult to
imagine him agreeing to play Louis for your version of 'Interview with
the Vampire.' I'm not even sure what purpose such an interview would
Lydia raised her chin. "I realize
you are a man of action, Mr. Giles. But I think you underestimate the need
for in-depth historical research. Do you have any notion of how many of
the Council's records contradict one another? Why, in William's case
alone, I have found two different sires and three different ages attributed
"And this matters in what way?"
Warming to her subject, Lydia's voice rose
in pitch and insistence. "It matters because it is indicative of
how slipshod much our data is. If we cannot provide accurate information
about the most fundamental of facts, what else does the council not know?
You are a field Watcher, and I have enormous respect for that. I
only ask that you offer me equal respect as a historian."
Giles considered Lydia for a long moment.
"Of course. You are right. I apologize."
Mollified, she relaxed into her seat.
"Though if you don't mind my asking, why
Spike? I know he has been useful upon occasion, but, Miss Grant,
if you wish to do significant research, shouldn't you find a more significant
subject? The Master, Angelus, and Dracula have far more storied histories.
Or, if interviewing a vampire is your goal, I'm sure something can be arranged
"I'll be honest, Mr. Giles, I'm not particularly
interested in Angel or Angelus. There have been countless papers
written on the subject and-" She grimaced. "-I admit I find them
rather dull. Other than the Sunnydale incident, Angelus seems to
have had a rather ordinary career-rape, torture, killing-standard vampiric
activity. And his human self seems to have been little more than your typical
eighteenth-century wastrel. If not for the curse, I don't believe
Angelus would have warranted much attention. As for the Master, he
predates all of our records and without a significant archeological find
I have little hope of breaking new ground where he is concerned.
And Dracula? Let us be serious. He's quite passé."
"Leading you to choose Spike of all creatures."
Giles still could not quite believe it.
"Oh yes, William…uh… that is *Spike* has
exhibited a great many anomalous traits. For instance, despite being soulless,
he has helped save the world on more than one occasion."
"For selfish reasons."
"Perhaps, but given that we are taught
all vampires crave chaos and destruction, choosing to avert disaster for
any reason is worthy of note. And, of course, there is his tendency
toward near-human emotions. He is quite fascinating."
"Perhaps. At a distance. Up close
he is usually an irritant, and entirely likely to eat one out of house
Reggie's eyes grew huge.
"Weetabix," Giles explained. "Tea,
chicken wings, salt and vinegar crisps. He has a predilection for
"Another anomaly,' Lydia observed with
"I still cannot believe you are comfortable
in such close quarters with a vampire." Reggie sounded awed.
"It's quite extraordinary."
Sometimes it still shocked Giles.
There were times, even without Willow's mindwipe spell, when he actually
forgot what Spike was. Lydia was right. Spike was an anomalous creature.
Lydia bowed her head. "I realize
most Watchers consider the history of demonology to be outdated and somewhat
pointless. But I believe one day it may prove vital to our survival."
Giles eased the car through traffic.
"I believe you may be right. But that does not help us find Spike."
"If you don't mind me saying so, sir,
perhaps. . . "
Giles glanced Lydia when her voice trailed
off. "Go on."
"Perhaps in William's case, with all of
his anomalies, we shouldn't think 'what would a demon do,' but what would
"You mean think of him as a person?"
"Yes. Think of him as a man. What
would the man do? What are his interests, his likes, his dislikes,
his preferences? Where would this *person* go?"
Giles blinked. Bloody hell, he had
never thought of it like that.
"Bollocks!" Simon Cook scoffed.
"You weren't there."
Antony Lister bristled at having his story
questioned. "Was so. Lesser Free Trade Hall."
"Mmm-hmm." Simon took a swig of his lager.
"Who else was there? Who performed?"
Simon rolled his eyes. "Too easy.
"Liar! Read a few books, but you don't
know a sodding thing. They didn't perform the same night as the Sex Pistols.
Now if you'd said 'Slaughter and the Dogs' I might've believed you.
But Mandala Band-"
"Solstice," a new voice interrupted the
Simon's gaze raked over the newcomer.
"And what would you be knowin' about it?"
"I was there."
Simon and Tony laughed. "Right. 'Cause
six-year-olds were common at Pistols' concerts."
Spike almost smiled as he motioned for
a pint. The female bartender had eyed him since he'd walked through the
door, but she had never approached him, only stared at him suspiciously.
The first time she spoke it was to Simon.
"He's right." She slid a Guinness down
the bar in Spike's direction. "And for the record, I *was* there."
Simon and Tony fell silent. They
clearly viewed the woman as an authority on the subject, and drinking in
the ambience of the cluttered pub, Spike began to suspect she was responsible
for the bright yellow and carmine "Never Mind the Bollocks" Sex Pistols'
poster beside the front door and the "Anarchy in the U.K." poster next
to the entrance to the loo.
Spike watched her wipe down the bar.
She kept glancing at him, looking wary, looking as if she suspected that
something evil had walked through the door. Did she know him?
Should he recognize her?
She was somewhere in her late thirties
to early forties, with long dark hair and tired blue eyes. There was something
almost bird-like in her delicate frame that made Spike want to say, "Good
lord, eat a sandwich, would you?"
Simon nudged Spike's shoulder. "Got
an eye for our girl? Should warn you, she's got issues."
=Show me a woman who doesn't.=
Women with issues were Spike's specialty.
The more screwed up they were, the more attracted to them he was.
But Spike wasn't interested in this woman--not in that way. He just
felt he should recognize her.
His gaze moved to the dark blue poster
of Sid Vicious standing over a coffin with the words "From the Grave" emblazoned
over his head. Spike remembered that tour. He tried to think
He and Dru had spent all of seventy-six
and most of seventy-seven in Belgium, although Spike vaguely remembered
a few lusty weeks in Paris . . . maybe. Years had a tendency
to blur together, and lately, Spike had grown glad of that fact. Anything
but the most recent past had a dreamlike quality. It didn't seem
quite real. Time had blurred the edges of his nightmarish history to make
the memories bearable in his newly souled state--though Spike did his best
not to think about the past at all. It did no good. Nothing
in recent or distant memory held anything like comfort, just pain and distress.
He was a monster. He'd said it long
ago, but now he knew what it meant. For over a century he had been
a murderer, a schemer, and a menace. . . and then there was what he had
almost done to Buffy.
=Don't go there, mate. There lay
dragons.= He leaned back in his chair, and listened to the two middle
aged punks arguing.
"I saw them Boxing Day."
"Tony, if you're goin' to lie, at least
lie well. You didn't see them at the Roxy on Boxing Day."
Tony looked offended. "Didn't I?
And how would you know?"
Spike became irritated. "'Cause they cancelled
the show, you git."
The female bartender looked at Spike with
startled blue eyes. Damnit, why did she look so familiar?
Simon elbowed Tony . "The lad knows
his stuff." Simon faced Spike. "You discover the Pistols with the
'God Save the Queen' re-mix?"
Spike snorted. "The re-mixes are awful.
Should've left the originals alone."
Simon chuckled. "Someone raised you
right. Hey, Emma, another pint for my young friend. "
=Emma?= Spike squinted for a better look
at the woman. He tried to picture her as a girl. Add a few
pounds to her. Subtract some of the world-weary exhaustion from her
eyes. Give her some spark, some fire. =Oh, shit. Emma.=
Spike saw her swallow. He could hear
her heart's rapid beat. The scent of fear was in the air as Emma
slid the glass toward him, looking as cautious as she would approaching
a wild animal. . .or a vampire. Spike caught her hand. "Emma?"
She pulled away. "Oh God!"
And ran for the door.
Simon rolled his eyes. "What did
I say? Issues."
Spike followed Emma into the street.
But she was nowhere in sight. Spike
tried to hold still, to listen for her heartbeat, her footsteps or her
labored breathing, but Simon and Tony were standing at the pub door, drinking
and wanting to know, "You an old friend of Emma's?"
=Friend? No. More like an old
Strange days have found us
Strange days have tracked us down
They're going to destroy our casual joys
We shall go on playing
Or find a new town
Strange days have found us
And through their strange hours we linger
Bodies confused, memories misused
As we run from the day
To a strange night of stone
Jim Morrison, The Doors
Chapter Four: Strange Days
Spike raked his hand through his hair.
=Bloody hell!= He handed Simon a twenty for his bar tab and walked into
the night, not thinking about where he was going, just knowing he had to
In nineteen-seventy-seven Spike and Dru
had been in Paris drinking champagne and hippies over Jim Morrison’s grave.
But something had worried his wicked, ripe plum. With her hand on his crotch
and her lips at his ear, Dru had sung, "Strange days have found us. Strange
days have tracked us down."
Spike had maneuvered her against a gravestone
and hitched up her skirt. "I know the lyrics, love."
But when their graveyard games were over,
Dru had had refused to be deterred. She had pleaded to leave Paris. "The
moon tells us to go. Can’t you hear it whispering?"
Of course he hadn’t, but what his dark
princess had wanted, his dark princess had got. They had hopped the ferry
"What strange thing are you?" She had asked
as they stood on the moonlit deck.
"I’m not a stranger."
"Not stranger but different." Dru had touched
his hair. "It goes all white."
Spike had laughed. "I can’t go gray, love.
No more than you."
Dru’s gaze had narrowed as she stepped
away. "London is calling, and you’ll be different there."
Looking back from the twenty-first century,
Spike could see that Dru had been right. A shag over a dead poet’s grave
in Pere-Lachaise hadn’t been the only thing Jim Morrison had inspired.
In those days Spike had been stuck in his Lizard King phase. His hair had
been longer and still sporting its natural shade. His pants had been leather
and slung low across his hips while his shirts had been loose and often
unbuttoned. However, when he had reached London, things had changed.
Dru had disappeared. That had often been
her way. The first time Dru had done it had been back in 1881, and Spike
had been frantic to find her, worried that she’d been caught in the sun.
Angelus had laughed at Spike’s concern, saying his crazy little girl would
be back when she wanted to come. Spike had eyed the son-of-a-bitch suspiciously,
causing Angelus to backhand him across the jaw.
By the 1970s Spike had grown used to Dru
wandering away and knew that all he could do was wait. Not wanting to stray
far from the place he had seen her last, Spike had used the money he’d
taken from the banker he’d killed on the train to rent a flat in Balham.
The same flat he was walking to now, although these days he was paying
the rent in a slightly different way. He still had a few thousand dollars
left from agreeing to harbor demon eggs in Sunnydale, and a dead Suvolte
wasn’t about to ask for a refund.
Spike stared at the building where—for
lack of a better word—he ‘lived.’ It was identical to every other building
on the block, all weathered red brick and unwashed windows. Nothing distinguished
it from its neighbors except its address. Everything was in an equal state
Spike pushed open the front door and toed
aside a small mouse who scurried into a crack in the wall. He climbed the
stairs by the light of a single, naked bulb to unlock the door to the upstairs
flat. Small, dark, and dilapidated, it wasn’t a place that inspired thoughts
of hominess or comfort. It was just a hole to hide in.
There were only two rooms other than the
bath. The first held a broken down chair and tele with a kitchette situated
along the rear wall. The other had a mattress sagging on an iron bed frame
and blackout blinds. Spike had cleaned the place well enough. It was marginally
less filthy than it had been before, but the floor remained stained, the
wall plaster still crumbled, and when Spike laid down he couldn’t help
counting the water marks on the ceiling. There were seventeen. The night
he had first met Emma, there had been only ten.
He’d been different then--more pissed and
less likely to consider walking out to face the sun--and the floor had
trembled with an erratic bass beat which drowned out his eight-track copy
of Morrison Hotel by The Doors. Spike had considered ignoring it for all
of three seconds before his quicksilver temper demanded he go downstairs
to rip out someone’s lungs.
He had stormed out the door intent on causing
carnage and mayhem only to find Emma sitting at the base of the steps.
She’d been a kid of fifteen or sixteen—the same age as Bit was now—and
she had looked at him with tears in her eyes.
Bugger it all to hell, he’d always been
a sucker for tears. If hers had been the loud, blubbery kind, he would
have killed her without a thought. But Emma had sat silent with her chin
up and tears filling her eyes, and Spike had respected her for that. His
murderous rage had faded, giving him time to notice the bruise on her cheek.
It had been as much green as purple and black. Someone had hit her.
The door to the downstairs flat had opened
revealing a boy not much older than Emma.
"Emma!" The boy had come out into the hall
and knelt in front of her as he gently touched her bruise.
"It’s alright, Pete," Emma had protested.
"’S not alright. That bastard Ned Dix did
this to you, didn’t he? I’ll kill him. Touchin’ my sister like that. I’ll
kill him. "
=Appropriate reaction,= Spike had thought.
Peter had stared at Spike. "Who’re you?"
Emma had pulled herself to her feet. "He’s
the one livin’ upstairs always listening to The Doors."
Pete had rolled his eyes, looking young
and petulant and not nearly as intimidating as his raggedly cut hair, tattooed
knuckles, and black leather jacket implied. "That stuff."
Spike had bristled. "Better than that screeching
you call music."
"’S not the point." He helped Emma inside
the flat, then looked back at Spike. "Well, are you comin’ in then?"
A dangerous invitation to issue to a vampire,
especially dangerous if the vampire had been plotting your death only moments
before. But somehow, that night Spike hadn’t been in the mood for killing
and had enjoyed the novelty of being invited inside. He’d told himself
it wasn’t because he was lonely. It wasn’t because Dru had been gone for
a fortnight, Darla for two and a half decades, and Angelus for nearly a
century. It wasn’t because he was desperate to talk to someone, and be
spoken to in return. He wasn’t lonely. It was just boredom.
As the weeks passed Spike had become a
regular visitor to the downstairs flat. He’d met Emma and Peter’s father
who had once worked for The Underground but who had lost his job and lived
on the dole. He’d accompanied Emma and Pete to concerts by the Sex Pistols
even when they had performed under such names as Tax Exiles and Acne Ramble.
The three of them had seen the great Roundhouse
triple bill of the Ramones, Talking Heads, and The Saints. Pete and Emma
had even tried to make it onto the infamous boat party on the Thames. Spike
hadn’t attempted—daylight issues he hadn’t wanted to explain—but it hadn’t
mattered anyhow. The kids had never made it onto the boat, and Spike had
met them later that night at the side door of the Earls Court Arena where
they had slipped in to see Queen live.
Spike had never told Emma and Pete what
he was, and somehow he had managed to restrain his ways to keep them from
finding out. Oh, he snacked often enough, making meals of everything from
tourists to punks, but always out of sight of his young friends.
Then one night Spike had returned to his
Balham flat to discover Drusilla had come home. He had sensed her the moment
he had entered the building, or at least when he had heard hearts pounding
with a rapid flutter and smelled the scents of sweat and fear.
The door to the downstairs flat had stood
ajar. A streak of yellow-white light had striped the darkened hallway as
Spike laid his hand against the painted wood door. He had silently opened
it to find a familiar sight—pain and death.
Emma’s father had lain in a sloppy sprawl
across the floor, his eyes open but with a glassy stare. Dead, of course.
What else would he have been with that gash in his throat?
Spike had heard a squeaking, terrified
sound and lifted his gaze to meet Pete’s pleading stare. Drusilla had held
the boy in her clutches as she grinned in gameface at Spike. "I followed
the biscuit crumbs home."
Emma had cried, "Spike!" She had probably
believed he would save her, but Spike had casually crossed his arms and
leaned against the frame of the door. He had watched Dru murder Pete.
"No!" Emma had screamed, her sobs becoming
gut wrenching and loud. There had been no stoic dignity in her then, just
grief and fear as she sensed the exact moment her brother died. "No. .
." she whimpered before something caught her eye. "Ned?"
Spike had turned to find Emma’s erstwhile
abusive boyfriend standing behind him, an expression of horror etched on
the teen’s face. Spike hadn’t thought about it. He hadn’t needed to. Instinct
had kicked in and, shifting into gameface, he had reached out and grabbed
the boy around the neck, twisting it with brutal strength until the boy’s
spine snapped and his lifeless husk dropped to the floor. Stepping over
the corpse, Spike had walked across the room, taking Dru’s hand and lifting
it to his lips.
"Did you miss me?" Dru had asked.
"Always, love." He had slipped his hand
around her waist. "Come with me and I’ll show you how."
Dru had held back, looking over her shoulder
at Emma. "But the biscuit tin is still half full."
Spike had nuzzled Dru’s neck, giving soft
kisses before nibbling her ear. "I’m hungry, pet, and not for cookies."
"Mmmm, my tummy *is* full. . ."
And he had led his dark princess from the
room saying, "I think it’s time I change my look, pet. What would you think
if I got a haircut, something new?"
Spike had never looked back. Not once.
Not until tonight. Now, Spike sat up on his sagging bed, and his hand shook
as he reached for a half empty pack of cigarettes. =Bloody hell. I *am*
a monster.= He’d said it before. He'd known it was true, but he had never
understood the enormity of that confession.
Spike stood and anxiously paced the room.
Emma and Pete had trusted him. They had thought he was their friend, and
he had betrayed them.
"Our girl has issues," the barfly had said
=And why shouldn’t she? She saw her entire
family murdered in front of her eyes. God.=
Spike felt sick. He’d done that. It had
been him. Angel had always liked to claim that he and Angelus were two
different beings, but Spike didn’t see that. He didn’t feel that. It was
him. He’d just never cared before now.
Spike stubbed out his cigarette. What was
he supposed to do? He had convinced himself that he was prepared for this.
When he’d sought out Lurky, he’d been so sure he knew what he was doing.
Buffy had demanded change, so he would bloody well show her change. He
just hadn’t known it would be so hard or that it would hurt so much. When
he looked at the last century from his new perspective—
Spike ran to the bathroom and vomited into
the toilet. There had only been pigs’ blood and beer in his stomach, but
there was even less there now. He laid his head against the cool porcelain
and wondered what in the hell he was doing. How had he ever arrived at
a plan as insanely stupid as this?
If he’d felt guilty for what had happened
in Sunnydale, he should have walked out to face the sun. But, no, he’d
gone off on some half-cocked plan, determined to prove Buffy wrong, to
fix his mistakes, to do. . . *something.*
He’d done ‘something’ all right. He’d gone
and gotten himself royally fucked.
Spike now had the conscience of that oversensitive,
idealistic fool Dru had killed in an alley. A century’s worth of sins now
plagued his innocent old soul. What was he supposed to do with that? What
was he supposed to do with any of it? He had committed more murders and
atrocities than he could count, and he couldn’t change a thing. He couldn’t
take it back. He couldn’t fix anything. Nothing could be made right. How
could he possibly go on like this? Was there a reason to go on at all?
He’d told Willow that death was the easy
way out, that facing yourself was the real challenge. =And you were right,
you bloody arrogant fool!= But how was he supposed to pull it off? How
was he supposed to find his way out of this pit he had dug himself into?
=Pull yourself together, mate. You’re barely
two steps away from becoming the poof, and you wouldn’t want that, now
would you?= Brooding didn’t accomplish a damn thing. It was paralyzing
and made it all too easy to become weak and ineffectual.
=So don’t be a wanker. Get up. Get your
arse in gear.=
Spike pulled himself to his feet and splashed
water on his face.
He had to do something. He couldn’t sit
still. He could never sit still. . .or hide. He’d go back and face Emma.
He’d apologize. Yeah, he knew it wouldn’t do a bit of good. Saying ‘I’m
sorry’ didn’t change a thing. She would only hate him, and she had every
reason to. But it was the only thing he could offer. He could stand and
face her anger and hate. Who knows, maybe it would help her in some small
Spike looked up and laughed. "Who do you
think you are to think you can help?" The mirror reflected everything in
the room but him. "That’s what I thought."
The next night he paced for a half hour
before working up the courage to return to the pub. When he walked through
the door Simon elbowed Tony.
"Just the bloke I was lookin’ for." Simon
pushed away from the bar. "What would you say to a ticket to the show."
Spike frowned. "Show?"
"You’ve got to be kiddin’ me! The show.
Carling Live. The Sex Pistols’ jubilee."
Not believing what he was hearing, Spike
shook his head. "Twenty-five years of mocking the old bird, and now they’re
cashing in on her jubilee?"
Tony sipped his lager. "It’s called selling
Spike tried to wrap his mind this new bit
of information. "Sid must be rolling in his grave."
"That’s the truth. All the real ones are
gone." Simon raised his glass. "To Sid."
Tony raised his glass as well. "To Dee
Dee and Joey Ramone."
Simon wiped a tear from his eye. "And our
That caught Spike’s attention. "What?"
Spike glanced from Simon to Tony. "What are you saying?"
Simon sat down. "I’m sorry, mate. It’s
the extra ticket. It was Emma’s. She—"
Tony bowed his head. "Kicked it last night.
It was always gonna get her sooner or later."
"It? What it?" Spike felt like the floor
had fallen from underneath him.
"You noticed the tracks didn’t you? On
Spike’s brows furrowed and there was a
sinking feeling in his gut. "Heroin?" She was an addict. It was obvious
Simon stared intently into his lager. "She
tried getting off the stuff once or twice. Never worked. Like I told you—issues."
"Tragic history," Tony explained.
"Don’t know how she lived with it all.
She was a strong person, but I guess she’d had enough."
"Or her body had."
=Or she saw me again,= Spike realized.
=The sight of me sent her off for a hit—the *last* one. I killed her. Wasn’t
even trying, and I killed her. =
Buffy walked through the graveyard in sunlight.
How weird was that? Most of the time it was the graveyard shift for her
-- ha-ha -- and for the last few days it had been the freaky fog. Now,
the sky was clear and blue and it looked like Southern California again.
She turned left and started down a familiar
path where she ran into a floppy-eared demon carrying a grocery bag.
"Slayer!" Clem, as always, managed to look
both surprised and pleased. "Here for a visit? I just bought blue corn
tortilla chips and peach salsa. Yum!"
"I think you’ve been hanging out with Dawn
The puppy-like demon’s happy face fell.
"But. . .I. . .If you think I shouldn't see her—"
Buffy rushed to say, "Relax. I’m kidding.
Honest. Dawnie lives on junk food too."
"Oh." Slowly his smile and enthusiasm returned.
"Oh! That’s different then. It’s just, you know, you Slayer, me demon.
I can be a bit jumpy sometimes. Wanna be on your good side, not tick you
"I didn’t mean to scare you."
Shifting his brown paper bag, Clem asked,
"What can I do for you? If you’re looking for—"
=No, don’t go there. Don’t mention *him.*=
"I just wanted to check how things were around here. The fog kind of made
"The fog? Yeah, that was weird. Haven’t
seen anything like that since ninety-four."
That surprised her. "It’s happened before?"
The demon nodded. "Anything come from it?" Buffy asked.
"Freaky. Monstery. Apocalypsy?"
"Not that I can think of."
"Well, that’s good." They stared at each
other and the silence stretched. It was getting kind of awkward. "That’s
good. I guess I’ll go." She turned to leave.
The fact that Clem used her name made Buffy
stop and become a nervous. Using her name meant what he was about to say
Clem tugged nervously at his ear. "I got
an e-mail from him today."
"You’ve got an e-mail account?"
"I’ve got DSL and an IMac and—" Clem took
a deep breath and blurted out "—Spike said he wasn’t coming back."
"He always comes back." Buffy knew she
sounded like a bewildered little girl. She hated that sound. She attempted
a more authoritative tone. "He’ll be back."
"I hope you’re right, Slayer." Clem
looked down at his feet. "He could be good company, you know. I mean, when
he wasn’t pissed or anything, he could be good company. I just. . .I miss
him, and I thought maybe you. . ."
What could she say? That she missed Spike
too? She *so* could not admit to missing Spike. It was wrong and squicky
and for years she’d been insisting he go away. How hypocritical would it
be to now admit she kind of missed him? "Don’t worry about it," Buffy said
crisply. "He’ll be back. He *always* comes back. He’s annoying that way.
Just be glad we got rid of the fog."
Inside the tomb the last of the mist faded
away, revealing the face and form of a man. He was handsome, with aquiline
features and fair hair, and his eyes were a clear, pale blue. He smiled
as he moved to sit and then to stand. He looked at his hands and arms,
admiring them. He touched his face with a degree of amazement, then he
moved toward the door. He paused at the threshold, looking uncertain about
crossing it, but he took a deep breath stepped into the sunlight.
Sunshine bathed his face and shoulders
as he spread his arms wide, embracing the light. He threw back his head
Dawn entered the house. It was big, silent
and empty. "Buffy?"
No answer meant that Buffy wasn’t home.
She would be back soon, though. Buffy had been all super-attentive lately.
It was probably an overreaction for eight months of pretending Dawn almost
didn’t exist. It could also be because just about everyone else in their
lives was gone.
Friend-wise they were pretty much down
to Xander, and Xander had turned into the king of the eternally complaining
bad mood. He complained about talking to Anya. He complained about not
talking to Anya. He complained about not enough work then about too much.
He complained about the X-Files killing off the Lone Gunmen, the new timeslot
for Farscape, and that the Yoda fight was the only decent thing in the
new Star Wars. If he complained much more, Dawn was thinking about smacking
She walked into the kitchen, opened the
refrigerator door, and stared at the contents. Not finding anything appealing,
she opened the freezer. Nothing there either--back to the refrigerator.
Maybe something new had appeared in the last three seconds. No luck. Conceding
defeat, Dawn pulled a glass out of the cabinet and turned on the faucet.
Liquid as red as blood flowed from the
tap, and through the window Dawn saw her sister latch the rear gate. "Buffy!"
Chapter Five: What You Can't Take Back
£32.50 for a Sex Pistols' concert.
It seemed awfully capitalist for former anarchists to charge that much
for their big reunion. Or maybe he was just becoming cheap in his
middle age. Giles considered the three tickets spread before him
on the coffee table and muttered, "Must be one of the signs of the apocalypse."
The doorbell interrupted his thoughts.
Giles swiftly rose from his couch and opened
the door. A very excited Reginald Claridge burst into his apartment.
"Mr. Giles? What do you think?" Reggie had exchanged his tailored
suit for a sleeveless leather jacket that did not enhance his non-existent
pectoral muscles. Ripped jeans, gelled hair, and a wide grin completed
Giles's jaw dropped by way of response.
"Mr. Giles, are you sure this is absolutely
necessary?" Lydia Grant hesitantly crossed the threshold. She
was unrecognizable with her jet-black wig, bright red lips, and tight leather
Giles removed his glasses. If he
couldn't see them, then perhaps he'd manage to suppress his overwhelming
urge to giggle. Of course he shouldn't be laughing at a time like
this. This was serious. Only one day left and he still hadn't
found Spike. The situation was becoming desperate. Pulling
himself together, Giles managed to reply. "Yes, Miss Grant.
It is absolutely necessary. You were the one that suggested that
we consider Spike's interests and hobbies." Giles's mouth twisted
as he recalled the short, unpleasant period in which Spike had been his
unwanted roommate. Permanently affixed to his couch, blasting the
Sex Pistols and the Ramones at all hours, eating Weetabix mixed with blood,
and watching Passions. =Why didn't I just stake him then? It
would have saved me a lot of trouble . . . and humiliation.=
"I suppose it is a necessary evil," Lydia
said, as she daintily adjusted her fishnet stockings. "As I demonstrated
in chapter four of my thesis, William--Spike--has an unusual number of
human interests. In particular, he shows an affinity for music that
promulgated an anti-establishment perspective."
"Indeed." Giles grimaced slightly
as Reggie stretched, exposing an expanse of white belly. "And I suppose
we must look the part."
"Blimey, you'll certainly fit right in!"
Reggie exclaimed, admiring Giles's white t-shirt, black jeans, and earring.
"You must have been to one of these before."
Giles smiled wistfully, shrugging on a
black leather jacket. "That was a long time ago."
"So what'll it be, Buffy? The Matrix
or Coppola's Dracula?" Xander held up two videocassettes.
"Gah!" Buffy buried her head in a couch
cushion. "Save me from Gary Oldman and his kabuki scariness."
"Will do." Xander tossed the rejected cassette
onto the coffee table and slipped The Matrix into the VCR. "Neo it
Buffy chewed contemplatively on a kernel
of microwave popcorn. Movie night with the Xandman. Just like
Except it wasn't.
Willow was somewhere in London, eating
bad English food and doing the twelve-step thing. Dawn was at Janice's
house, spending the night. Of course, Anya wasn't there. Anya
was avoiding all-things-Scooby like the plague. Probably being deserted
at the altar had something to do with it. Plus, there was the issue
of Spike shagging.
Spike. Buffy clutched the couch cushion
more tightly. Spike would have never come to a Scooby movie night.
There was the never-asking-him thing for starters. But that was totally
justified. Spike didn't play well with others. On the other
hand, Spike did like those dumb soap operas. Maybe he liked movies
too. Buffy felt a stab of guilt. She'd never really found out
what Spike liked . . . outside the bedroom.
No point in dwelling. He was gone.
Buffy absentmindedly popped another piece of popcorn in her mouth, shaking
off her melancholia. "Do you want something to drink, Xander?
I've got Coke, I think. No water though, 'cause it's sorta blood
colored at the moment."
"Coke is fine, Buffy. Have you heard
anything about what's causing the H2O weirdness?"
"Nada. Maybe it's just regular old
Xander laughed, crossing his fingers.
Buffy rose from the couch and headed for
the kitchen. "One Coke, coming up."
Xander followed her. "Hellmouth's
been quiet lately, hasn't it?"
"I suppose. Not much slayage since
Willow . . ."
"Yeah," Xander nodded. "I wonder
how Willow's doing? I haven't heard anything from her or Giles."
"Me neither." Buffy opened the refrigerator
and removed the two-liter. "I'm sure they're OK. Probably
Buffy felt Xander's eyes on her as she
poured equal amounts of Coke into two tall glasses. "What?"
"Um," Xander fidgeted, "Speaking of those
who no longer talk to us, have you heard anything about Anya?"
"No," Buffy shook her head. "I've
been working double shifts at the Doublemeat, so I haven't been by the
Magic Box lately." She handed a glass to Xander. "Why don't
you just call her?"
Xander smiled sardonically. "I dunno.
Maybe because she betrayed me by sleeping with a soulless thing?"
Buffy sighed. "She was single, Xander.
You dumped her, remember?"
"But I didn't mean it."
Buffy gazed out the kitchen window at the
empty porch. "Sometimes you do things you can't take back."
Spike took a deep draw on his Guinness.
Guinness, the drink of champions. Guinness, the drink of the truly
drunk. The pub was empty tonight, save Spike and a passed-out bloke
with orange hair. Loud music blared from the speakers for the benefit
of two patrons who didn't care or were too unconscious to listen.
Blurrily, Spike ordered another drink from the barkeeper, Emma's replacement.
"Another round for me, and, well, for me."
The barkeeper considered Spike with sympathy.
"You wanting to get totally pissed, mate?"
"Already there." Spike considered
a torn, faded poster on the wall. "Never Mind the Bollocks" it declared.
His vision blurred. He blinked hard, washing down the lump in his
throat with another drag of Guinness.
Barkeeper shrugged. "Suit yourself.
Loo's in back. Make sure you use it. I don't fancy cleaning
up your mess."
Spike nodded and gulped down another swig
of alcohol. Guinness, the drink of oblivion. Guinness, the
drink of not having to remember another life destroyed. Guinness,
the drink of forgetting Emma.
Soft sheets, lightly scented with apricots
and cinnamon. Tara. Willow traced her finger over her lover's
collarbone, inhaling deeply. "So, baby" Willow began, snuggling into
the comfortable crook of Tara's arm, "what should we do today?"
Tara laughed gently. "I dunno.
Should we be really ambitious and think about leaving the bedroom?"
Willow kissed her softly. "I don't
know about you, but I'm not feeling very ambitious." She deepened
the kiss, her mouth moving gently against Tara's lips, soft, wet . . .
too wet. And they tasted . . .
Panicked, Willow pulled back from the kiss.
There was blood on the sheets, blood on her mouth, blood on her hands.
She looked down. It wasn't Tara.
Warren smiled at her, skinless, horrible, defiling her bed. "Miss
Willow bolted upright, breathing hard.
Nothing. Darkness. Shaken, she checked the pillow next to her.
No one was there. Tara wasn't there. Warren wasn't there.
She was alone.
Pulling on her robe with shaking hands,
she moved to the window of the small room. Outside a street lamp
illuminated posh row houses. No cars passed. Suddenly Willow
felt terribly alone. But perhaps she deserved it.
After all, she couldn't take back what
she'd done. She couldn't bring Warren back to life. Even worse,
part of her didn't want to. He'd killed Tara.
With tear-clouded vision, Willow looked
up at the sky. The stars were mostly obscured by the glare of artificial
city light. =What am I going to do?=
Out the silence, the answer came.
Willow didn't know where it came from--her subconscious, Tara, God, whatever.
But nevertheless, the answer was there. =Live.=
Giles and his companions had endured a
particularly horrible train ride from Victoria to Crystal Palace. The train
was late, crowded, and generally unpleasant, and Lydia and Reggie's costume
choices had earned them snickers and mocking glares from their fellow riders.
With five minutes to spare, they rushed towards the auditorium, Lydia limping
in her three-inch heels and Reggie, flushed and gasping in his leather.
Presenting their tickets to a smirking, heavily-tatooed man at the gate,
they hurried inside.
It was packed, chock-a-block full.
The scent of unwashed bodies, the rainbow of hair colors, the oppressive
heat. The music blared from huge speakers: loud, subversive, offensive,
vibrating through every nerve.
"We're never going to find him in here,"
Reggie yelled, trying to make himself heard over the music.
Giles considered the sea of leather and
multi-colored hair before him. "You're probably right."
Lydia pursed her lips impatiently.
"This is precisely the kind of place that Spike would come. He'd
feel comfortable here. Perhaps we'd increase our chances of finding
him if we each take a different section of the auditorium."
"I'll take the front," Reggie volunteered.
"Very well. I'll look back here,"
Giles assented, nodding towards the rear seats. "Why don't you look
in the middle, Lydia? We can meet outside after the concert to compare
"Brilliant," Reggie exclaimed, straightening
his leather vest. Accidentally, he elbowed a rather beefy-looking
man, who was trying to make his way to his seat. "Oi, you! Watch
where you're goin'"
"Sorry . . . mate. I was just . .
The man cackled. "Never mind, lad.
You just gave me a right good laugh."
Buffy turned off the VCR and gathered up
the spent candy wrappers. Xander was still eating like a horse.
He certainly didn't need the additional calories, but ever since the end-of-the-world
debacle he'd transferred one bad habit--the drinking--into another compulsion--the
eating. Of course, Xander had always eaten under stress and it wasn't
as bad as the drinking and . . .
=I'm making excuses for him again.=
Buffy smiled ruefully and tossed the remnants of Scoobie movie night (the
pathetic edition) into the trashcan. She liked The Matrix OK, but
Neo's black leather duster made her think of another black leather duster,
hidden in her bedroom in the back of her closet, behind some shoe boxes,
and her old toys, and other unimportant . . . stuff. She had put
it there after that--night--assuming that at some point he would come back
to retrieve it.
But months had passed and he had never
come back. Maybe she should get rid of it. After all, she didn't
have very many good memories about that duster, or the man--the thing--that
wore it. Violently, she re-arranged the cushions on the couch.
"Don't know why I kept the stupid coat anyway."
She turned off the living room light and
slowly made her way upstairs. When she had first come back she had
descended those stairs, fragile, broken. He had looked at her with
such caring and compassion. He had been so gentle when he took her
hands and had understood her pain.
What made things go so terribly wrong?
"There's nothing good in you! You're
dead inside." Her own words echoed in her mind as she flopped on
her bed. She wouldn't sleep very well tonight.
I Am An Anti-Christ
I Am An Anarchist,
Don't Know What I Want
But I Know How To Get It.
Johnny Rotten looked older. There
was no doubt about it. But he was defiant and apparently still very
angry. Demonically smiling, he gave the two-fingered salute as he
kicked an over-eager fan who had tried to clamber on stage. Giles
smiled wistfully, listening to the lyrics. Twenty-five years, and the music
still made him remember . . .
"Oi! Ripper!" A leather-clad
man with a safety pin through his nose and semi-bleached hair strode over,
"Ethan!" Ripper embraced his friend, yelling
above the music. "Great party."
"Yeah." Ethan considered him slyly.
"So, you still in for later?"
"Abso-fucking-lutely. Wouldn't miss
it." Ripper smiled dangerously, halfway between a leer and a full-out
"Good, good. Enjoy yourself.
I'll see you at midnight."
Don't Be Told What You Want
Don't Be Told What You Need.
There's No Future
There's No Future
There's No Future For You .
Five 'til midnight. Randall, Ethan,
Deidre, Phillip. The core gang was there along with a neatly-drawn
pentagram. Incense wafted. Candles flared.
This was going to be fun. Ripper
remembered the last time. The power as Eyghon took control of his
body was unbelievable. And the sex . . .
He grasped Deidre's hand and kissed it.
"Almost time, pet."
She kissed him, hard. "Almost time."
Randall laughed. "Patience, Ripper.
It's not your turn this time." He tore Deirde's hand away and spun
her to him. "It's mine." Hungrily, he pressed his lips to hers.
Ethan smirked. "Break it up, children.
It's time for the festivities to begin."
Ripper smiled. Watching was fun.
Randall's face pulsated as the demon possessed
=No future, no future for you.=
Ethan turned up the Sex Pistols album and
spun Deidre around, screaming with debauched abandon.
Randall smirked, full of power, and grabbed
Deidre by the hair. "Bitch." He smacked her.
Blood trickled from a newly-formed cut
above her eyebrow. Randall licked it off slowly, with excruciating
precision. Viciously he bit her lip, drawing more blood.
"Ow," Deidre cried out. "Stop it,
Randall, you're hurting me."
"Isn't that the point?" Randall hit
her harder, and Deidre slammed into the wall, losing consciousness.
"Wait a bloody minute!" Ripper looked
at Ethan, who was busily snorting a line of coke from a rubbish-strewn
coffee table. "Ethan, we've got to do something! He's really
Ethan shrugged. "Just a little foreplay."
Ripper shook his head. "That isn't
foreplay, Ethan. Where's the incantation? I want to send the
Randall, eyes glowing, addressed Ripper
sweetly. "But, my dear, I don't want to go back." With superhuman
speed he grasped Ripper's neck in a vice-like hold.
Ripper felt his life ebbing away.
"Do it, Ethan, do it."
Ethan laughed. "Come on, Ripper.
Can't you do better than that?"
Ripper turned purple, but managed to chant
a few words beneath his breath. "Back to the depths, oh Eyghon, destroyer
and despoiler. I shun thee and thy ways."
The demon laughed.
Suddenly, Ethan brought down a sturdy cherry
wood chair on Randall's head. The demon whirled and staggered, letting
go of Ripper's throat. Sneering, it headed for its new antagonist.
"Ripper, DO SOMETHING." Ethan screamed,
his self-preservation instinct finally kicking in.
Ripper grabbed a long knife from a nearby
table and plunged it into the demon's--into his friend's back.
Randall spun around, wailing in pain.
"How could you, Giles? How could you do this?" Blood began
to drip onto the floor.
"Randall, is that you?" Ripper dropped
the knife. "Are you back?"
Randall slumped to the floor. "Ripper?
Ethan? Oh God, I'm going to die!" Blood-flecked spittle stained
his mouth. Unbelieving, he looked at his friends. Randall slumped
to the floor, eyes wide and unseeing. He was dead. And Ripper
had killed him.
Reggie relished the noise, the excitement,
the sheer madness of it all. It was unlike anything he'd ever experienced
Of course, he hadn't experienced much.
When Spike had deposited Willow Rosenberg
on the steps of the Watcher's Council, Reggie's life had suddenly blossomed
with the excitement and intrigue he'd been craving. He'd seen a real
vampire and a Nayr Sprite and all sorts of trolls and demons.
And now he was experiencing another life
form all together. Scanning this crowd for Spike was like looking
for a needle in a haystack! They all looked alike.
"Watch where you're going, you bastard!"
A surly-looking man with a pierced eyebrow considered him menacingly.
Reggie promptly removed his dress shoe (damn he knew he'd forgotten something!)
from the man's boot-clad foot.
"Dreadfully sorry! I really didn't
The behemoth cracked his knuckles.
"Whaddaya think, Simon? We could take this one."
His companion snorted. "Hardly worth
it, Tony." Derisively he fingered Reggie's leather vest. "This
one looks like easy pickings."
Tony's voice took on a mocking tone.
"If Spike were here, he'd help me."
Reggie's eyes bulged. "Excuse me,
sir. Did you say Spike?"
Tony glared. "Yeah, what of it?"
"I'm looking for a Spike, actually."
Simon grabbed his crouch and gestured lewdly.
"Got one right here, you wanker."
Reggie blushed. "No, not that kind
of spike. My Spike . . ." Reggie paused, considering how to describe
the vampire. "He's got, um, peroxided hair . . . well, at least it
used to be blond . . . his roots are showing now, and he's rather short
and has an acute . . . um . . . sun allergy, and he likes Weetabix and
spicy chicken wings."
"Do you know him? Is he about?"
"No," Simon guffawed, "your friend Spikey
can't come out to play. Now piss off." Roughly he pushed Reggie
"I'm afraid I can't do that." Reggie's
jaw took on a determined cast as he clutched the crucifix that he'd had
the foresight to put in his pocket. One never knew what sort of dangers
one might encounter in the field. These ruffians, if they were friends
of Spike's, could be one of the legions of the undead, determined to kill
and maim, to reign in terror over all of humanity! It really paid
to take precautions.
Tony's eyes narrowed. "What are you?
Reggie shook his head. "No!
Absolutely not! I hate those . . . sort of people." Desperately,
he tried a different tack. "Look, I really need to talk to Spike.
Tony continued to look skeptical and crossed
"He's my . . ." Reggie cast about for a
plausible excuse. "He's my brother!"
Simon considered Reggie. "He's a
bit plump, Tony, but he might just be related."
Tony nodded. "Alright, lad."
He pounded Reggie on the back, a bit too hard for comfort. "Spike
didn't feel like comin' to the concert tonight. As far as I know,
he's at the Dog and Bear."
Reggie's brow furrowed.
"It's a pub, you nitwit! In Soho."
"Right," Reggie smiled brightly.
"I knew that!
Giles neatly avoided a wino as he negotiated
the uneven cobblestones. =Dog and Bear. Dog and Bear.=
Looking up, he noticed the brightly painted sign: a bear with a poodle
in its mouth.
"Must be the place." Giles smiled, the
first time since the concert. The Sex Pistols brought back too many
memories, none of them good. But at least Reggie--Reggie of all people!!--had
managed to discover Spike's location. Giles narrowly avoided a broken
bottle and pushed the door open.
The orange-haired patron glanced up from
his inebriated stupor. The barkeeper stopped polishing a glass.
But the person Giles was looking for seemed oblivious to his presence.
Spike continued to examine his drink, as if all the answers in the world
were contained in his half-empty glass of Guinness. Without looking
up, he addressed Giles. "Do come in," he slurred, gesturing expansively.
"You're just in time to see me pass out."
Giles gazed at the vampire in shock.
Spike looked horrible. His hair was shaggy and unkempt, with brown
roots peeking through. Dark circles rimmed his hooded eyes.
His cheekbones were even more pronounced than usual, and the hand that
grasped his drink was almost skeletal. It looked as if he hadn't
fed for a very long time.
But what was even more disturbing was Spike's
demeanor. It was if he didn't care . . . about anything. When
he was drunk, the vampire usually turned annoyingly loquacious, tearfully
rambling on about love and passion and all manner of nonsense. This
Spike just seemed . . . defeated.
The bartender rolled his eyes. "What
will you have?"
"Scotch, straight." Giles slapped
a crisp ten-pound note on the counter. "And a coffee for my friend."
Spike rose his glass. "Don't listen
to him. Make it another Guinness."
"So one scotch and one coffee." The
bartender poured the drinks as the two men watched in less-than-companionable
Finally Spike turned, considering Giles
with bloodshot eyes. "So, what brings you here, Rupert . . . and
in such an intriguing costume. Leather? An earring?
Mid-life crisis? The witch gone missing again?"
Giles shook his head. "Why are you
in London, Spike?"
"I'm English, you stupid git."
Giles sighed, exasperated. This was
going to be difficult. "Why did you help Willow?"
Spike smirked. "Wouldn't you like
"I would, actually." Giles examined
him closely. "Something is different about you."
Spike laughed. "Everything's exactly
the same. I'm still killing people, Rupert."
"The chip?" Giles fingered the stake in
"No," Spike took a final gulp of Guinness.
"The chip's still perfectly operational, captain."
Spike's mouth twisted. "Sometimes
the past comes back to bite you in the arse."
Giles took a deep drink of his Scotch.
"I know what you mean."
"I could say it's been great seeing you,
Rupes, but I'd be lying." Spike unsteadily rose to his feet.
"If you don't need anything else, I'll be toddling off."
Giles grasped Spike's arm. He could
feel the bone protruding underneath. "Wait, Spike. I do have
something important to ask you."
"You? Needin' the opinion of an evil
vampire? That's rich."
Giles shook his head. "I need you
to *do* something."
Spike's eyebrow twitched. "Does this
something involve money?"
"No," Giles paused, taking another sip
of Scotch, "but it involves blackmail."
"Really, Rupert," Spike dramatically pressed
his hand to his breast, "I didn't think you were capable of such things.
"It's not me," Giles averred. "It's
those punters at the Council. If I don't bring you back to Headquarters
then they'll toss Willow out."
Giles watched for a reaction. Concern
flickered across Spike's face. Spike may not give a toss about the
rest of the human race, but Giles knew the vampire cared about Buffy and
her friends. It was pathetic really, considering how they reviled
him. Giles almost felt sorry for Spike. Almost. Pressing
his advantage, he continued. "I know you care about Willow. You know
how dependent she's become on black magic. Her only hope is with
the Wiccans on staff at Headquarters. They can cleanse the dark magic
from her system and repair her soul."
"Repair it? Interesting word choice,
Rupes. What's the going rate for that?"
"Will you help?"
Spike took a sip of coffee. "What
will those wankers do to me if I come? Poking? Prodding?
A spot of torture?"
Giles shrugged. "Honestly, I don't
know. Lydia Grant--the female watcher who wrote her thesis on you--wants
to interview you. Her motives are pure enough. She just wants
to know more about vampires."
"I might give the poor bird nightmares."
Giles removed his glasses, cleaning them
on his t-shirt. "I'm not sure about Travers, though. He seemed
over-eager to get you in his clutches."
Spike swallowed a gulp of coffee.
"The witch . . . she'll die if I don't help, won't she?"
Giles nodded. ""If the Council discontinues
her treatment, she'll almost certainly kill herself."
"I don't need another dead woman on my
conscience." Spike sighed heavily. "Right, Rupert. I'll
agree on one condition."
Giles gaped. =Conscience? What
was Spike blathering on about? Was he delusional?= Recovering
slightly, he managed to respond. "What do you want?"
"Lurk about when I do the Louis thing."
Spike leered, a pale imitation of his former bravado. "I wouldn't
want Miss Grant to take advantage of me."
Chapter Six: Ouroborus and Macchiavelli
Spike paced up and down the sidewalk.
He was only a block and a half away from the Council, but he couldn’t bring
himself to turn the corner. It wasn’t that he hadn’t made his decision.
He was going to go. He had to go. He’d given his word as a
=Bugger!= Had he just thought that?
Spike stopped pacing and raked his hand
through his newly cropped and bleached hair.
Yes, he had thought that.
Spike rolled his eyes. =Bloody hell.=
That’s what a conscience did for you--made
you ignore your survival instincts, talked you into walking into a lion’s
den because it was the 'right thing to do.' It was bloody stupid.
A vampire trusting the Council was stupid. Traditionally, what the Council
wanted was a vampire’s dusty death. And if the Council wanted something
*other* than his death, Spike suspected it would resemble Captain Cardboard’s
Dr. Mengele medical experiments. He’d have to be insane to
walk into something like that.
Then again, there was nothing the Council
could do to him that he didn’t deserve. A killer with a survival instinct
was an obscenity. After all the lives he had taken, what right did
he have to preserve his own life at another’s expense? And Rupert had been
quite clear about the threats the Council had made in regards to Red.
=Oh bugger it all to hell.= Spike
had been many things in his existence, but he’d never been a coward.
He turned the corner.
"I won’t allow you to harm him."
Quentin Travers looked to find Rupert Giles
standing in his office doorway. Surreptitiously, Travers moved a
stack of papers over the parchment lying unfurled in the center of his
desk. He clasped his hands together and gazed at Giles in a suitably attentive
manner. "Is there something I can do for you, Rupert? Some
fear you wish me to assuage?"
"Don’t be coy. It’s annoying."
Travers indicated the chair in front of
his desk. "Do come in. Sit down."
Giles entered the room but did not sit.
Travers respected the tactics of such a move. His own seat behind the desk
was a power position. By refusing to sit, Giles was refusing a subservient
"Quentin, I am uncertain of your ulterior
motives in this matter, but you clearly have them," Giles stated.
"I do not know why you were so quick to agree to Lydia’s suggestion, but
I will tell you that I will not allow you to harm Spike."
"Are you protecting the vampires now?
Have you changed allegiances?"
Giles’s gaze narrowed behind his glasses.
"Don’t be ridiculous. I simply have good manners. You do not
harm creatures who are trying to help you. It is unpardonably rude."
"Help? Rupert, you do remember we
are discussing a vampire."
"Nevertheless, whatever Spike’s-—" Giles
paused "--deficiencies, he is coming here at our request. He chose
to do so of his own free will. And as long as he poses no threat,
I will not see him abused."
"He has the blood of countless men on his
hands. Does that mean nothing to you?"
"I am neither naive nor a fool.
Stop behaving as though I am. Whatever Spike’s moral status, we do
*not* harm creatures who cannot defend themselves and who are not a menace
to society. We are not bullies, nor are we God. If Spike needs
to be killed because he is a danger those around him, we will kill him.
But we do not ask for his help, request his trust, then harm him.
It is not a matter of his moral status but ours."
Travers scratched his chin. "And
if I agree to this request?"
"This is no request, and there is nothing
to agree to. This is the way things are. Accept it."
Knowing it would do no good to lose his
temper, Travers slowly counted to ten as Giles left the room. First
and foremost, Travers needed to stay in control. The head of the
Council always needed to be in control. Rupert Giles didn’t
fully comprehend that fact.
Travers pushed aside ordinary business
papers to uncover the aged, yellowed parchment he had stretched across
his desk. It wasn’t the original document. It was a twelfth-century
translation of an ancient Philistine scroll that was locked in the Council’s
secret vault. Travers had seen the original manuscript, but as far
as he knew, he was the only living soul who had. It contained the
Council’s most guarded secret. A secret that the head of the Council
was sworn to protect at all costs.
Travers pushed his chair away from his
desk, stood and crossed the room to stare at the garden below. A
copy of Macchiavelli’s 'Il Principe' sat on the table next to the
window. He had been re-reading it recently and had decided the Italian
thinker had been unfairly demonized. Macchiavelli had not been a
villain but a pragmatist. A ruler’s task was to survive in the face
of harsh realities. In order to succeed, rule must be absolute and
ruthless. Any means were justified to maintain authority. This
had been the credo of Travers's career. How could a field Watcher
such as Rupert Giles ever understand?
A field Watcher had the luxury of affection.
He had only one charge—-his Slayer-—and one goal—-to save the world.
The head of the Council had a far more difficult task. He had to
preserve the future and the unity of the organization. He had to
Unwillingly Travers's gaze drifted to the
illuminated parchment. Depicted on the upper left hand corner was a dragon
biting its own tail, devouring itself. It was an ouroborus, a symbol common
to many cultures. Sometimes it was a dragon. Sometimes it was
a snake. In Hindu texts the dragon circled a tortoise which supported
four elephants which formed the foundation of the world. Many meanings
were attributed to the symbol. Some believed it to represent the
gateway between this universe and the absolute. Some interpreted
it as the relentless onslaught of entropy, and others saw it as an island
in the river of time. In this manuscript it meant destruction and
death. It meant the end of the world. . .which was the crux of Travers's
His job was to protect the Council and
its secrets at all costs, but there would be no Council to protect if this
truly was the end of the world. And what if he revealed what was
in the scroll? What if he broke his oath to keep the secret and the
world survived but the Council did not?
There had to be another way. There
had to be a way to bring pertinent information to light without resorting
to the scroll and its secrets.
A knock on the door caused Travers to cover
the parchment again. "Come in."
Alex Kingsley opened the door. "The
vampire is here," the young Watcher announced with a curious mixture of
interest and distaste. "He’s downstairs."
"I will be along in a moment."
Once alone, Travers carefully returned
the parchment to his personal safe. It had been uncannily fortuitous
that Lydia Grant had requested permission to interview this particular
vampire. She had stumbled upon a possible solution to Travers’s problem.
"Ew!" The disgust in Dawn’s voice
only partially reflected the disgust on her face, which was vividly expressed
with a scrunched nose and curled lip. She stared at the dark crimson slime
lining the walls of the sewer.
Buffy aimed her flashlight at her sister
and said impatiently, "Dawnie, if you want to come on patrol you
can’t complain about every little—" Her foot slid in red muck as
the broadsword she carried clattered to the ground. "—ew!"
"See!" Dawn caught up to Buffy and Xander
who had been several yards ahead of her. "I’m am *so* not a
wuss. It’s just icky down here." She waved her hand under her nose.
Xander nodded. "I’m gonna side with the
Dawnster on this one. Icky and rank plus ‘ew,’ ‘gross,’ and
remind me again why we’re doing this?"
Buffy picked up her sword and gazed at
her friend with disbelief. "Uh, hello! Blood red water usually rates on
the ‘gee, what’s that about’ scale."
"Oh, I’m all up on the Biblical ickiness,"
Xander assured her. "But shouldn’t we be looking where the water
comes from not where it goes to?"
Dawn nodded eagerly. "Right, we should
be at a water treatment plant or reservoir or something. I’m voting
for a reservoir. Then we could have swimsuits and sunblock, and work on
those summer tan lines."
Buffy asked, "And when has evil ever come
from a reservoir? Gotta look in the stinky, yucky places for the—"
Something scurried across the beam of light cast by her flashlight.
"What’s what?" The light from Xander’s
flashlight bounced wildly across the walls.
"There, that." She grabbed Xander's
hand and aimed his flashlight. Whatever it was jumped back into the darkness.
"Ugh! Where did it go?"
There was a wet, smacking sound as it ran
across the muck, and Buffy decided she'd willingly to sacrifice her DMP
paycheck to see what it was. She felt a hand twisting the back of
"Buffy?" Dawn said anxiously.
"Wait! There!" Buffy aimed her light down
the pitch-black passageway to illuminate a moist-skinned, foot-and-a-half-high
Xander said, "Looks like a gremlin."
Buffy frowned. "Gremlin like the
Spielberg movie or Gremlin like something Giles would look up in a book?"
"Like Spielberg." His gaze never left the
Buffy tilted her head slightly to one side.
"Really? ‘Cause I’m thinking it looks more like the little dinosaur
that spit on Newman, the Seinfeld guy, in Jurassic Park—-only without the
multi-colored fan thing, the spit. . .or the Seinfeld guy."
Dawn’s jaw dropped. "You’re kidding,
right? You’ve got to be kidding." She swiveled her own flashlight
in the direction of the green-tinged demon standing in a puddle of dark
crimson slime. "He’s an evil Kermit the frog!"
"How do you know it’s evi—-"
Dawn’s screamed as the creature launched
itself into the air. "Kill it!" she cried as it landed near
her feet. "Kill it now!"
Buffy pushed her sister out of the way
as the demon again hurtled itself, spread eagled, toward Dawn.
"Evil," Xander said breathlessly.
Dawn hit the ground and skidded across
the slime. Even Buffy lost her balance, slipping, then regaining
her footing. "But it’s so little," she said. "I could kill
it like--" Buffy sliced off the creature’s head with a single stroke of
her broadsword. "—that." Buffy looked at Dawn and Xander.
"That was sort of easy."
Dawn examined her hands and shirt.
She was completely covered in the blood-colored ooze. "This is never coming
out." She looked at the headless green corpse then at her sister.
"Easy is good, right?
"Of course it is."
Xander frowned. "Um. . .maybe not."
Buffy turned to see the decapitated demon
growing a new head. . .a meaner-looking one.
Xander backed away. "That’s not good."
"Why didn’t cutting off its head kill it?"
"Maybe we should worry about that later."
"Buffy. . ." Dawn said anxiously.
"Think about it when, Xander? We
need to kill it now."
"Buffy. . . "
Xander looked at Buffy. "Okay, we
need to kill it. Any idea how?"
"We could set if on fire. Got a match or
"Yeah, sure. 'Cause I carry those around
for all the cigarettes I don't smoke."
"Buffy!" Dawn cried.
"It brought friends."
Buffy became aware of the thousand iridescent
points of light glittering in the darkness, little green-gold eyes blinking
"Crap!" Xander swore. "They’re
In a way, it was pretty, like twinkling
Christmas lights. It even had a nice glittery effect on the slime.
But the pretty factor was mostly nixed by the spooky 'I think they want
to kill us' vibe.
"Now what?" Dawn asked as the Evil Kermit
with the brand new head started chattering. It was a high-pitched staccato
sound. Dawn clapped her hands over her ears as Buffy longed for ear
plugs. Unfortunately -- damn, Slayer duty!-- she was stuck
holding a dumb sword. When the Evil Kermit moved, Buffy lunged, stabbing
it through the center of its little chest. It gave an unearthly scream
of pain, but when Buffy pulled her sword free the thing stood there unharmed.
It even looked kind of amused.
"Crap," Xander said again as the blinking
creatures in the darkness also started making the deafening sound.
Dawn swallowed. "What are we gonna
The chattering grew louder and closer as
Buffy touched her sister’s shoulder in a vain effort to comfort her.
"I don’t know."
"I know," Xander said as the noise reached
an eardrum bursting decibel. "There’s only one thing to do."
Chattering and hissing, the creatures attacked
as Buffy, Xander, and Dawn careened down the passageway. The little monsters
were everywhere, and the ear-splitting sound was enough to make heads pound,
eyesight go blurry, and inner ears feel like they were being stabbed with
"This is *so* not good. Not good at all,"
Xander chanted as they rounded a corner.
"Where are we going?" Buffy asked.
Dawn warned, "They’re gaining on us."
Xander glanced back. "Look at that.
It’s CGI madness. Looks like the beetle swarm in The Mummy."
"Uh. . .yeah. . .only it’s evil Kermits.
We've got to get out of here."
Buffy stopped running and took several
swipes at the demons with her sword. She decapitated at least a half a
dozen of them. Blood splattered against the wall, mingling indistinguishably
with the sewer slime.
"That only slows them down, Buff," Xander
"You prefer they eat you faster?"
Dawn interrupted, "Here’s a thought. You’re
the Slayer. *Kill* them!"
"I don’t know how!"
"Quick! In here!" Xander ducked into
six-foot-high pipe shooting off the main passageway. Buffy and Dawn
followed, and he closed the grate behind them.
Dawn leaned against the wall and tried
to catch her breath. "How can you not know how to kill them?"
"Decapitating, skewering, poking with a
stick, this I know. Anything more complicated—"
"Was Giles’s job." Xander doubled over
Buffy admitted, "I was never big with the
knowledge and research."
Dawn blinked. "So you’re saying we’re
Buffy hated to confess the awful truth.
"We don’t know how to kill them."
"We’re screwed." Dawn closed her
eyes and sighed. "What we need are smart people."
"I am not Louis," Spike protested as he
looked at the array of faces surrounding him. The bird interviewing
him was nice enough, and Rupes and Will were familiar faces-—although Spike
was a bit surprised the Council allowed Willow to be out and about--but
the half-dozen strangers in the Council’s library stared at him with cold
eyes and treated him like a snake in the reptile house at the zoo.
"Louis was a whining, moaning, brooding wanker. If I have to be compared
to a character in that loony bint’s books then at least make it Lestat."
He crossed his arms and gave a good impression of a pout. "The poofter
can be Louis.
Lydia adjusted her glasses. "So,
you have read the books."
Spike eyed her suspiciously. "Yeah.
What of it? Lot of time to kill during the day. I have sunlight
issues, you know."
"It has been widely speculated that you
"What?!" Spike felt outraged.
He had attended Charterhouse and Cambridge. . .or at least, William had.
But he was William. . .wasn't he? Bloody hell, he wasn't sure who
he was any more.
"Oh, yes." Lydia nodded. "I am afraid
so. In some of our texts it is theorized that as a human you were
a Dickensian Artful Dodger-type-—unschooled except by the streets and very
possibly a killer even before your transfiguration."
"Unschooled? Illiterate?" Spike
fixated on this point. Either his underlying persona or the translucent
overlay of William’s soul was deeply offended. Spike stood and paced
the length of the library. Watchers scattered out of his way like
pigeons on a sidewalk. "If I am so bloody ignorant, how did I translate
the texts to resurrect the Judge?"
Lydia looked flustered. "I. . .uh.
. .believe you had a minion by the name of-—"
"Dalton?! Debase-the-beef-canoe Dalton?
His Latin wasn’t worth sh-—um... it was lousy." Spike collapsed into
the chair on the opposite side of the library table from Lydia. "Although
it wasn’t truly Latin. It was a demonic derivative."
Giles, who sat at the head of the table,
coughed. "I believe I can verify that Spike is not illiterate, though
he frequently exhibits abysmal taste in reading material." Giles
addressed Lydia and the other observers. "I can testify that Spike
has an impressive knowledge of Shakespeare and Donne and can read Latin."
Giles looked at Spike. "When you sought the general reversal spell
for Willow’s ‘Will Be Done’ mishap, you referenced my Latin texts."
Giles focused on Lydia. "I have also found Spike to be conversant
in Fyarl, French, Italian, and Spanish—-though sadly that last discovery
was due to Spike’s penchant for watching soap operas on Spanish Univision."
Spike nodded. "Right. Not illiterate."
He didn’t add that he could also read Greek and speak conversational German,
Nyar, Farquart, and Trombli.
Lydia looked almost smug as she peeked
up at Alex Kingsley. "I theorized as much in chapter five of my thesis."
Kingsley huffed and walked to the back of the room to stare out the window
as Lydia folded her hands and returned her attention to Spike. "Is
there anything else you can tell us about your human existence?"
"No, there bloody well is not. What
does it matter? I thought Council dogma said I never was human.
I’m what killed this body."
Spike had always thought the Council were
wankers for believing such rubbish. How could he have killed William
when he was William? The only life he remembered was William’s. The
memories hadn’t come with the soul. They were *his,* his thoughts and knowledge,
his weaknesses and desires. What William had felt, he felt. And what was
he if not the sum of his thoughts and emotions?
The only difference that Spike felt was
that prior to the return of his soul, he had lacked William’s conscience.
The only difference William had felt after Dru had turned him had been
surcease of embarrassment and shame. But surely there was more.
There had to be something more. Spike couldn't name what it was, but it
had to exist. . .didn't it? There had to be more to a man than his
regrets and remorse. There had to be more to William and to Spike
than a guilty conscience.
Sitting across the table from Giles, Quentin
Travers looked impatient with the growing silence. "Miss Grant, perhaps
you should return to the approved list of questions."
"Oh yes. Quite." She shuffled through
her papers, then adjusted her glasses and looked at Spike. "Your
"What about it?"
She fiddled nervously with one of the papers.
"There seems to be some controversy."
Spike smiled; it was a deliberate, charmer’s
smile devoid of any real happiness because he had none. But he did
know how to fake it. "What do you have there, pet?"
She handed him the document that looked
like a diagrammed family tree. "There is some confusion about your
"No confusion. It was Drusilla."
"But in some accounts it’s listed as Angelus."
Spike sniffed. "Angelus liked to
consider himself my mentor in the ways of the evil dead. Called him my
Yoda once." Mmm...you will kill this person, you will. Feel
the evil. Feel it flow through you.
~A real kill, a good kill—it takes artistry.~
Spike had hated the bastard even then.
Angelus had counseled targeting innocents and those without protection.
Spike hadn't seen the purpose of it all. If it wasn't about food, the challenge
facing down death, or fun...why bother? Looking back, both Angelus's
and his own tactics sickened the person Spike was now.
"Angelus was never my sire," Spike dismissed.
"Don’t know how that rumor got started." He examined the diagrammed
family tree. "It’s very simple. You have the Master.
Met him once. He was an annoying pillock. The Master sired Darla.
Darla sired Peaches. Peaches tortured and killed Dru, drove her mad
and turned her into a travesty. And Dru chose yours truly.
There’s your bloodline."
"What about the Anointed One?" Lydia asked.
"What about him? He toasted quite nicely
when I hoisted him into the sun."
"And the Master sired him?"
"None other. They’re both dust."
"And no one else?"
Spike frowned. "Excuse me?"
Damn, the prat he used to be kept coming out to play. He lifted his
chin defiantly. "What are you wantin' to know?"
Lydia’s gaze fell to the table. She
looked intimidated by Spike’s glare. He felt bad about that.
He softened his voice. "What do you want to know, luv?"
"Have *you* sired anyone?"
That surprised him. "Me? No."
Giles looked irritated. "If you are
not going to tell the truth, Spike, this is pointless."
Spike’s ill-fitting conscience balked at
being called a liar. He had always been a bad liar, but now he was
actually *bothered* by the thought of lying or being thought a liar.
"And what, pray tell, am I lying about?" Bloody hell, he even *sounded*
Giles sighed. "Buffy’s friend, Ford."
"Oh. Him. No, that was Dru. Pet wanted
him for a treat. Never could deny her anything. Don’t know
what the boy was thinking. Demanding to be turned like that was idiotic.
After double-crossing Buffy, did he actually believe she would allow him
to walk away? He was dust even before his heart stopped beating."
"And your various and sundry minions?"
That was a distant memory. He hadn't
had a minion in years. "Told you. Dru’s treat. Look,
I realize it’s a technicality. I usually brought the unfortunates
to her. Not saying I wasn’t responsible, just that *technically*
I never sired anyone. Only one person I ever offered to turn."
He looked at Willow. "That would be you, Red." =I’m sorry. Truly
sorry.= "But you’re sitting here among the living. I’m no one’s sire."
Spike leaned back in his chair, propping
his feet on the highly polished walnut table as a couple of Watchers stared
at him with dismay and Quentin Travers watched him with disgust.
Spike smirked. "Anything else you want to know?"
Lilah caught him looking in her date book.
Wesley had been spying, curious, invading her privacy. . .all of the above.
Wesley knew he should feel ashamed.
Ten minutes ago they had been sweaty, naked, and intimate. His fingertips
had traced the line of her spine, feeling the warm velvet of her skin.
Her thighs had pressed against his hips, holding him tightly. They
had shuddered and gazed into each other's eyes--then looked away.
He had rolled off her and silent minutes had passed. They hadn't
Lilah had been the first to choose to leave.
Wesley, who once would have expected Lilah to be bold, had watched
her don her discarded blouse before she rose from the bed to walk into
the bathroom. It could have been an action born of modesty, but Wesley
suspected it was a symbolic barrier between them. Their intimacy
was only physical.
Lilah had closed the bathroom door behind
her, and when Wesley had heard the sound of water running, he had grabbed
her briefcase. He had rummaged through her things searching for.
Wesley didn't know what he had hoped to
find. Something. Anything. Perhaps it didn’t matter.
Perhaps all he had wanted to do was violate her privacy, betray her non-existent
trust. He had found her datebook and begun turning the pages only
to look to find Lilah standing in the bathroom doorway, her slender body
clad in an expensive white lace bra and French knickers.
Refusing to be flustered, Wesley adopted
an insolent expression. He showed her the ouroborus symbol. "What’s
She smiled. It was a cool and challenging
expression. "Don’t you know?"
"Ouroborus. Symbol of light and dark,
creation and destruction."
"The end of the world." Lilah walked
into the room, her languorous movements distracting and seductive.
"Wesley, after all these years of looking at dusty scrolls, surely you’ve
seen the prophecy of the End of Days."
"A partial one," he conceded. "I
believe we stole it from your law firm. You remember that, don't
Lilah's expression became remote. "I remember."
"Something of a defeat, wasn't it?"
His hand lightly skimmed up her arm.
"Lost the battle, not the war." She
shrugged. "Doesn't change anything."
"Mmm. . .after all there are so many prophecies
"But only one End of Days," she reminded
him. "Only one day when the calendar runs out."
Wesley looked at the depiction of a snake
swallowing its tail. "A rather morbid symbol to keep around."
"Keeps me sharp. Keeps me on my toes."
Lilah threaded her fingers through his hair. "Reminds me of what’s
"What is important?’
"What I want when I want it." She
knelt on the bed, her right calf pressing against the outside of his left
thigh. "Instant gratification." Her left calf glided against
his right thigh. "Money. Power. Prestige." She
straddled him. "Sex."
"Eat, drink, and merry?"
"Something like that." Lilah pressed
him back against the pillows.
"And what then?" Wesley rested his
hands on her hips. "What of true value have you gained?"
She laughed. "You’re thinking like
the good guys. I’m not a good guy." She nuzzled his neck.
"What will I gain? I told you. Money, power." Her teeth
nipped lightly at his earlobe. "Sex," she whispered.
Wesley glanced at the datebook lying open
on the bed. "You can’t take it with you."
"And what can you take with you?"
She tossed the datebook into her open briefcase then settled on his lap,
her damp silk knickers rubbing against him. "Did I ever tell you
about Wolfram and Hart's retirement plan? It’s quite. . ."
She smiled into Wesley's eyes. "Impressive."
He moved his hands from her hips, to her
waist, to her rib cage.
She shifted her weight. "There is something
to be said about making pacts with the eternal forces of darkness."
Wesley found the clasp of her bra.
The garment fell away as Lilah told him,
"Wolfram and Hart employees have nice golden parachute plans with the darker
"Better to rule in hell, I suppose."
His lips brushed her collar bone. "Mmm-hmm…"
Lilah sat back. "Don’t be judgmental."
"You don’t honestly believe evil things
keep bargains, do you?" Wesley gripped her waist firmly. "They
don’t honor agreements." He tossed her over and moved quickly so
that he was on top of her. "Surely someone like you understands that."
"What I understand is that you can’t trust
anyone. Evil things don’t make good friends or keep promises?"
She laughed. "And the warriors of light do? Look
at yourself, Wesley. Where are your do-good friends? What did
trying to save the world and Angel's son do for you? Did it bring
you happiness? Respect? Friendship? . . .Love? Did they
keep their promises to you?"
He grabbed her hands and dragged them over
her head. "It brought me one thing."
Only what was between them wasn't even
sex. It was something else, a guttural four letter word. A
word he had been taught a gentlemen did not use to describe his activities
with a lady… only Lilah was no lady, and Wesley no longer considered himself
Chapter Seven: In Need and In Deed
Somewhere behind them in the darkness little
Kermit beasts chattered and threw themselves against the steel grate.
"Do you think they'll get through?"
"No," Xander lied.
"Probably." Buffy sighed.
Dawn was quiet for a moment before lifting
her chin. "We'll deal." They continued walking down the
passageway though Dawn occasionally glanced over her shoulder. She
asked Buffy, "Do you know where we're going?"
"Of course she does," Xander answered.
"Not a clue." Buffy stopped walking,
pointed her flashlight in one direction then the exact opposite. "Have
we been here before? I feel like we're walking in circles."
"God, I hope not."
Dawn squinted. "Wait a minute."
She reached up to touch the red X painted on one of the pipes running overhead.
"Hold on." She walked down the passage, paused, then knelt to find
a metal handle on a hatch door. Dawn grinned. "I know where
we are. If we go this way, we're only about a hundred feet from the basement
entrance of the Magic Box."
"How do you know that?" Buffy frowned.
"Have you been in these tunnels? Who have you been hanging out with?"
Dawn's and Buffy's gazes locked.
"Oh," Buffy realized. =He-whose-name-cannot-be-mentioned.=
She opened the hatch door. "I guess we should get going."
Xander held back and looked up at the ceiling.
"Uh...you know, there must be a manhole or something around here."
Buffy could almost feel the little lines
forming on her forehead as she gazed at her friend. "Xander, we know
the way out."
"Yeah, but there must be another way."
Dawn rolled her eyes. "Jeez! Get over it,
Xander. Anya won't bite your head off. She might wish your head or
your. . .erm. . .*whatever* to explode or grow warts and fall off,
but I don't think she can grant her own wishes. You're safe."
"I am not afraid of Anya."
Buffy braced her hands on her hips.
"Just doing an amazing impression?"
"I just think there has to be another way."
"Okay, look, I understand why you're standing
here kicking the gooey-red slime. I understand being less than 'go
team!' about running to Anya. But we have a bazillion creepy critters back
there wanting us for snacks. We don't know how to kill them. We don't
even know what they are. We also have an 1100 year old walking demon
encyclopedia a hundred feet away who, given what she did when Willow went
all apocalypsy, will probably help us. So, to quote Cher, snap out
of it!" She walked through the door, paused and looked back.
"What makes you think she would even help?"
He sounded annoyed and defensive. "We're not super-popular with her."
"Anya helped before. She was angry
and hurt and she helped." Buffy's gaze locked with Xander's.
"That's what friends do."
God, what he wouldn't give for a fag.
Spike hadn't brought any smokes with him. He had figured the Council would
frown on that sort of thing, and he'd lost most of his taste for it anyway.
But a nicotine buzz would be helpful at the moment.
He paced the Council's garden glad to have
escaped the torture session. Who knew that talking about himself
could be torture? It hadn't used to be. He had always loved
to talk. Of course, no one other than Bit had ever bothered to listen.
Talking to Dawn, and one night of quasi-fictional
havering with Buffy had been the extent of his putting his life—-or unlife—-into
words. At least it had been until tonight when he’d had to relate
it all to strangers. Looking at his existence, examining it, was
something of a thankless task. Wish he hadn’t done it. Wish
he hadn’t done a lot of things.
"I thought Lestat didn’t brood?"
Spike looked up to find Willow standing
in the doorway. Her hair was clean and glowed like burnished copper
again. The dark circles under her eyes were gone. She looked
"Not brooding," he protested. "Just
taking a break and stepping out for a smoke."
Willow arched an eyebrow.
"Only without the smoke." He tilted his
head. "Wouldn’t happen to have a fag on you, would you, Red?"
She gave a ghost of her old smile.
"Are you trying to corner me into making a gay joke?"
"Not really, but wouldn’t be a bad thought.
Lighten the gloom around here."
Willow stepped into the garden, her shoes
crunching against the pea gravel path. "Thank you," she said
Spike looked at Willow with shock.
Willow rushed on to say. "I know what the
Council told Giles, and . . . and I know you’re helping me." She
ducked her head. "And I know I said a lot of. . . things. Mean
things." She raked her hand through her hair. "And I know if you hadn’t
found me that night, I wouldn’t have crawled out of that gutter."
Spike shrugged and said with self deprecation,
"You fall in the gutter, you’re bound to land on something undesireable."
Willow caught his sleeve and stopped Spike
from pacing. "I wouldn’t even be alive."
He searched her face as if her expression
could reveal some deeper truth. "You mean that?"
She blinked. "Of course, I mean that.
You dragged me out-—"
Spike waved his hand as if to erase his
last statement. "No. What I mean is, are you okay with being alive?
You want it?"
"No more suicidal Willow?"
Willow didn’t answer immediately.
She thought about it. She took so long Spike began to wonder if she
was going to answer at all. She found a bench near the roses and
sat down. "Pretty much. I think so. Most of the time."
She sighed. "Not much of an answer, huh?"
He understood it though. It was more
or less what he felt as well.
Willow appeared to look inward as she explained,
"I don’t think I want to die. I don’t think I ever *really* did.
I just wanted the pain to stop."
"It hasn’t though, has it?"
It was too soon and the things that had happened were too awful to go away
because they were inconvenient.
"Away? No. But I’m handling
it better now. It takes time, I think."
Spike leaned against a tree, picking at
its bark. "Yeah."
"Thank you for that. For the time."
Willow lifted her gaze to meet his. "You helped me live."
His thoughts swung back Buffy dressed in
lavender as she stood in the wreckage of his crypt. ~I can’t love you.
I’m just being weak and selfish and it’s killing me.~ Spike swallowed
"You helped me," Willow said softly.
He gazed at the young witch, slender and
pale, but better than she had been only a week before. Her skin was
no longer pasty and sallow. Her eyes no longer. . .dead.
Willow was alive and healing. And he had helped her? "Thank
you, Red," he said hoarsely.
"Hey, I’m the one making with the overdue
"Still, thank you." He sincerely
"No, thank *you.*"
Spike almost smiled. "Now, we’re
headin’ into a Vaudville comedy routine, Pet."
"The Chipped Vampire and the Powered-Down
Witch? More fun than a barrel of monkeys."
"They’re not that fun, you know."
He pushed away from the tree.
Willow gave him an odd look as she stood.
Spike confessed, "Dru tried to fill a barrel
with them once. Got ugly. Nasty little buggers bite."
And to both of their surprise, they laughed.
When working for Wolfram and Hart, one
grew used to hearing about the latest plan to destroy the world.
Everyone from the sixth floor janitor to the run-of-the-mill M’Fhashnik
demon had some overly elaborate plot to bring existence to an end.
However, it was also a fact that most of these plans didn’t stand a chance
in any hell dimension of succeeding. That suited Lilah just fine.
She was quite happy to see the world not end as long as the M’Fashnik paid
her retainer fee.
But, as she sat in the middle of a fashionable
L.A. restaurant decorated in a dark palette of eggplant, indigo, and burgundy,
Lilah felt extremely uncomfortable about the plan she was hearing.
"All of our firm’s resources will be at
your disposal," Linwood Murrow, her boss, assured the client.
Gavin, that brownnoser, agreed. "I
will personally assist you in any way that I can."
But, as Lilah reviewed the client’s list
of requests, her concerns grew. How could Linwood promise to do this?
Lilah looked at the client. He was
a handsome man with blond hair, aquiline features and pale blue eyes.
She had read Wolfram and Hart’s file on him, but seeing him in human form
was a shock. He was not what she expected.
The client checked his watch. "I
should be returning to Sunnydale."
Linwood nodded. "Yes, of course.
But, first, a toast."
Lilah raised her glass of Sauvignon
Linwood smiled. It was his scariest expression.
"To the end of the world."
"To the end of the world." And the
client’s crystal flute clinked against her own. He finished his drink and
left the restaurant before Lilah voiced her concerns.
"How can we do this?" she asked.
Gavin smirked. "You wouldn’t be having
an ethical crisis would you?"
"Don’t be absurd." She looked at
Linwood. "Have you read this list?"
"Why, yes, I have." Linwood refilled
She grew impatient. "And some of
his requests are impossible, or have you forgotten that Darla has been
Linwood sipped his wine with a placid expression.
"I haven’t forgotten."
"Then there’s the fact that Angel is in
a steel box under the Pacific."
Gavin started laughing. "I’m sorry,"
he apologized to Linwood. "That never fails to amuse me."
"Yes, you find it amusing, Gavin," Lilah
snapped. "*I* find it amusing. But our client seems to want us to produce
Angel. And short of hiring the man who found the Titanic, how do
we fish a vampire out of the Pacific when we don’t know where he is?"
Linwood signaled the waiter to bring the
bill. "You’re worrying over unnecessary details, Lilah."
"Unnecessary details? The list—"
"Isn’t important. Things will fall
She swirled her wine in her glass and sat
back in her seat. "How? How can things possibly fall into place?
We can’t supply half the things on this list. We can’t resurrect
Darla again. We haven’t seen Drusilla since Angel set her on fire-—"
"It will work out," Linwood said emphatically.
"If one part is missing, another will arrive to fill its place. It’s
all part of the prophecy." He signed the credit card receipt.
"Prophecies can be averted," Lilah insisted.
"Or, as we learned with Sahjhan, faked."
"Perhaps certain prophecies can be averted
or faked, but this is not just any prophecy. Lilah, we’re talking
about the End of Days. The world as we have known it *will* end.
It’s a foregone conclusion." He patted her hand in an infuriatingly
patronizing manner. "Everything will fall into place."
Chapter Eight: We All Fall Down
Anya glared at the three bedraggled figures
emerging from the basement, dripping tunnel goo on her freshly cleaned
floor. She saved a special look of disdain for her former fiancé
who--coward that he was--refused to meet her eye.
"What are you three doing here? The
Magic Box is closed for the night."
Officiously, she flicked a pink feather
duster across a glass-topped display case, carefully directing bits of
detritus in Xander's direction.
Xander coughed, but remained silent.
Obviously uncomfortable, Buffy plunged
in. "Anya, we need your help. There are these demons in the tunnel
that look like little kermits and we can't figure out how to kill them
and they just keep coming. We tried everything!"
Anya looked puzzled. "Kermits?"
Dawn chimed in. "You know, the Muppet
Show? The little green frog puppet? Heigh-ho?"
Anya rolled her eyes in response.
"Kermitis demons. Your Muppet Show wasn't very creative with its
choice of names, was it?"
Xander's eyebrows raised in astonishment.
"You mean Jim Henson named his muppets after demons?" Under his breath
he confessed, "I always thought the muppets were evil."
"Did you try squishing them?" Anya asked
"Huh?" Buffy asked. "Just squishing
them? That's it?"
Sighing heavily, Anya plucked a book from
one of her revolving display racks. "Honestly, you're all completely
helpless without Giles. It's right here, in Demonology for Dummies."
Anya handed the black and yellow paperback to Buffy.
Staccato laughter burst from Xander.
"They have a book for everything in that series."
"Yes, well, it would seem to be appropriate
for you, Xander, being for . . . dummies and given that you happen to be
a person in that . . . category."
Anya flushed. She was angry and
hurt and unable to think of anything to say that would cause him adequate
pain. Sometimes she wished she'd never been human.
Xander ground his teeth. "I don't
know why you hate me so much, Anya. I was willing to give it another
"Oh, maybe it had something to do with
you humiliating me in front of everyone and leaving me at the altar."
"Hey," Buffy interrupted with desperate
cheeriness, as she pointed to a page in the book. "Anya was right!
All we have to do is squish the Kermit demons with a heavy object."
"Gee, they even have a handy diagram for
squishing." Dawn peered over Buffy's shoulder and snickered at the
little stick figure man in Demonology for Dummies. In sequential
cartoon bubbles, he picked up a heavy sledge hammer, swung the sledge hammer,
and brought said sledge hammer soundly down upon a panic-stricken Kermitis
Anya plucked the book from Dawn's hand
and rang it up on the cash register. "That will be $9.95. Will
you be paying with cash, check, or credit?"
Dawn gaped. "We have to buy it?"
"Cash," Buffy interrupted. "We'll
pay for it in cash."
Anya thrust Demonology for Dummies into
a bag. "You and Dawn are welcome to come by any time." Assiduously,
she avoided Xander's eyes as she looked up from her register and gestured
towards a metal shelf behind her. "You may take Olaf's hammer with
you. Just clean it before you bring it back. And don't bring
Xander's mouth opened, but no sound emerged.
Anya noted that his eyes looked suspiciously glassy. That gave her
a twinge of bitter satisfaction.
Buffy grasped his hand and opened the door.
"We're leaving now. Thanks, Anya. We appreciate your help."
Anya nodded and swallowed heavily.
She even managed to hold back her tears until she heard the door close.
Willow emerged from the Council's immaculate
Victorian row house and began to search the mix of idle shoppers and upscale
residents that mingled on Gloucester Road, looking for a glimpse of silvery
blond. She saw him from a distance. He looked small, hunched
over. Muttering to himself he emerged from an upscale tobacco shop,
pack of Marlboros in hand.
This evening's interview session had not
ended well. Lydia had asked some leading questions about Spike and
his relationship to Buffy. After turning unusually quiet, Spike had
tipped over the Council's expensive mahogany table, then stormed off.
Willow had wanted to follow him, and, surprisingly enough, Giles had allowed
her to go. Giles's trust in her steadied her voice as she approached
"Talking to yourself, Spike? Not
a good sign." Willow smiled tentatively, pausing in front of the
tobacconist's artfully designed display window.
Spike grimaced. "Just don't like
dwelling on the past, that's all."
"And that's all you've been doing since
the Council started interviewing you."
"Yeah." Spike nodded, eyes darting
to the side. He seemed restless, jumpy, every fiber of his being
"Sometimes we have to remember to move
on." Willow watched as he fidgeted, picking a piece of lint from
his black sweater. "Why are you so upset, Spike? You used to
love to talk about yourself."
Spike laughed bitterly. "That much
of a bore, was I?"
"No, I . . ." Willow flushed with
embarrassment. "I just meant that you used to talk a lot about Dru
and . . . other things . . . and . . . well, you kind of seemed pretty
nostalgic for the good old days with the killing and maiming."
Spike stepped in between street lamps,
artfully obscuring his face in shadow. When he reached the next pool
of light his face was perfectly composed, trademark smirk in place, newly
lit cigarette between parted lips. He shrugged. "Times change,
Willow brow furrowed with suspicion.
"It's Buffy isn't it? Is this all still for Buffy? Are you
hoping that I'll tell her how great you've been? 'Cause I don't even
talk to her anymore. Not since . . ."
"Really, Red. A whole bloody Continent
and the Atlantic Ocean besides is between me and the Slayer." His
hand shook as he brought the cigarette to his lips.
"Why are you here, Spike?" Willow's
hand brushed the fabric of his sweater. It felt rough and cheap--scratchy
acrylic. "Why are you doing this?"
"Had to leave, Willow. It was time
to move on." He gestured towards the tube station. "I'm going
to Highgate to kill things. Wanna come?"
"I'm assuming that you mean evil, bumpy
things?" Willow grinned.
Spike took a deep breath and patted Willow
on the back. "Come, Red. White hat stuff. Promise.
I've heard there's a vamp nest on the prowl there."
Willow felt in her pocket. She had
a few pound coins in change. "Sure. I won't be much good with
the spells, but I can be pretty mean with a stake."
Spike smiled sardonically. "Just
don't point it in my direction, Red."
Buffy swung Olaf's troll hammer with elan,
neatly crushing the skull of a gibbering Kermitis demon.
Sometimes it was good to be the Slayer.
It kind of reminded her of Whack-a-Mole
actually. The little buggers were easy enough to kill once you knew
=Buggers. I definitely spent too
much time with Spike.= Unbidden, her stomach twinged as she remembered
cuddling with him under his soft oriental rug. =He really tried to
fix his place up, make it a home . . . And then I used explosives.
But that was totally justified! He was hiding demon eggs!=
Spike, thrusting her down on the cold white
tile of the bathroom, porcelain of the bathtub edge hard against her head.
Fighting back, pushing him off. Then his face: confusion, shock,
Buffy squished another Kermitis with a
satisfying splat. =Dwelling, Buffy. Stop with the dwelling.=
"Buffy!" Dawn exclaimed, wiping Kermitis
goo off her face. "Watch where you're splatting!"
"Yeah, Buffy," Xander said, bringing a
baseball bat down on another chattering Kermitis's head. "A little
less violence in your squishing!"
"Sorry," Buffy grinned sheepishly.
"Good thing Anya told us how to kill them, huh?" She swung her troll
hammer again, taking out three advancing demons at once. "It's kinda
fun isn't it?"
"We would have figured it out without Anya's
help. We didn't have to go to her, you know." Xander lip thrust into
a pout as another Kermitis demon fell under his bat.
"Arghh!" Dawn wiped more goo from
her face. "Xander! Now you? I'm definitely doing a facial
when I get home."
"I don't know, Xander. Research and
us aren't mixy. We kinda suck. It WAS in Demonology for Dummies."
"We would have found out how to kill them.
We did just fine when it was just you, me, and Willow."
"But we had Giles. And Willow isn't
much help to anyone right now."
"Hey!" Dawn looked around the empty,
goo-splattered tunnel. "I think we got them all."
"Why doesn't Anya get that I just wasn't
ready to get married, Buffy?"
"Just a wild guess, but I think Anya got
the message when you left her at the altar," Buffy replied.
"I know I left her at the goddamn altar,
Buffy." Xander stomped his foot down in a pool of Kermitis muck.
"Whatever mistakes I made it doesn't excuse her. She betrayed me
in the worst possible way, sleeping with that thing."
Buffy's face flushed as she heard her own
words emanating from Xander's mouth. =You're an evil soulless thing.
There's no good in you!= What must Spike have felt when he heard
her say that? In measured tones Buffy answered, "Sleeping with Spike
wasn't a great decision . . . well, for anyone, but . . . um . . . Anya
was single. Spike was single."
"But Spike? How could she lower herself?"
"Wait just a minute, Xander." Buffy grabbed
Xander's arm, eyes flashing. "*I* slept with Spike. Or have you
"Guys!" Dawn interrupted. "They're
gone. We can go now."
"God!" Xander laughed joylessly.
"How could I forget?"
"Spike may be many things, but . . ."
"But what, Buffy? He's a good fuck?"
Buffy gasped in disbelief. "Xander!"
Dawn's jaw dropped.
"Jesus, Buffy, he's a rapist. He's
evil. Why don't you get that? Why can't you see that you and
Anya were wrong? It makes me sick, thinking about it."
Buffy shook with anger. "Listen to
yourself, Xander! You're being a pig. Maybe that's why Anya slept with Spike.
The company was an improvement. Come on Dawn. We're going home."
"Bye, Xander," Dawn waved tentatively as
Buffy pulled her through the sewer grate.
"Why is it my fault?" Xander asked.
The echoes of the tunnel and the sucking sound of his shoes in Kermitis
muck served as his only reply.
"You let her out? Chasing after a
vampire? Honestly Rupert, if your wayward witch goes off the rails
again the responsibility will rest firmly on your shoulders." Travers
poured himself a stiff scotch and placed it on the mass of papers strewn
across his desk.
Giles removed his glasses and began polishing
them. The repetitive motion helped him keep his temper in check.
And right now he would like nothing better than to tear Travers's head
from his shoulders. It would be a distinct aesthetic improvement.
Alas, it would also be very wrong.
"I understand your concerns, Quentin, but
Willow seems to have formed some kind of special bond with Spike over the
past few weeks. If any one can convince him to complete the interview,
she can. It would behoove you to remember that Willow's the reason
Spike is assisting you in the first place."
"Let's hope Miss Rosenberg proves to be
more persuasive than she looks, Rupert. For your sake." Travers
took a large gulp of scotch.
Giles replaced his glasses and immediately
began to snicker. "Quentin."
"You should know better than to laugh at
my threats, Rupert. You know I'm perfectly capable of . . ."
"Quentin . . . ah, you've got something
stuck to the bottom of your glass."
Quentin looked down. Condensation
from his drink had adhered his notes on the scroll to the bottom of his
glass. As the moisture thinned the paper, the symbol that could destroy
the Council was reflected up at him through rich amber. The Ouroborous.
Giles smirked. "You've got the sacred
symbol of the Order of Aurelius stuck to your glass. A closet vampire,
are you, Quentin? Wanting to join the bloodline?"
"Certainly not." Quentin slammed down his
scotch. "That's the furthest thing from my mind, Rupert."
"Sunnydale's the furthest thing from my
mind," Spike declared adamantly as he and Willow emerged from the subway
and began the hike up the hill towards Highgate. "I'm never going
Willow gasped for breath. The escalator
was broken and they'd had to walk up 150 stairs. Go, London Transport!
"You still haven't answered my question. Why are you here?
And why are you helping me? Isn't it breaking some kind of vampire
Spike snorted. "I've broken a few
million vampire codes." He paused and lit another cigarette.
"Took you long enough to notice," he muttered.
"You must be feeling better. Not
so preoccupied with yourself, eh? Now you're starting to nose around
in old Spike's life. Well, just leave it. I'm bad news. Just ask the Slayer."
Contemplatively he exhaled a cloud of smoke, hiding behind its swirls and
eddies. "Just ask Emma." Quickly, he moved ahead.
"Who's Emma?" Willow struggled to
keep up, feeling a bit woozy after the exertion on the escalator, but determined
to know more. After all, she'd always been the curious Scooby.
=But curiosity killed the cat.=
"Dammit, Red. Leave it."
"Spike." Willow crossed her arms with determination
as she caught up to the blond vampire. "This is my resolve face.
If you didn't want me to know, you wouldn't have brought it up. You
obviously want to talk to me about something and I'm not going to drop
it until you tell me."
"Hey! You didn't let me wallow in
the gutter of despair. I'm not going to let you go all wallow-y either."
"Sometimes I think you and the Scoobies
have invented your own language." Spike laughed gently and extinguished
his cigarette. "Not quite the Queen's English, but it has its charms."
"Still with the resolve face, Spike."
Spike sighed as he forced the lock on the
creaky iron gate to the cemetery. "All right, Red. What do
you want to know?"
"A bird I killed."
Willow's eyes grew as wide as saucers.
Shakily, she took a step back. "The chip?"
"Still chips ahoy, Red. But I killed
her just the same."
"And that upsets you?" Willow considered
his pinched features. Spike was obviously distressed. "Why
should you care? That used to be your fun vampire pastime."
"Out of practice?" As soon as the
question left Willow's lips, she knew it was a mistake. Spike winced
and Willow experienced a reciprocal twinge of guilt. Spike had quite
literally saved her life--whatever he had done to Emma, he'd earned her compassion.
Adopting a gentler tone, she asked, "Who was this Emma?"
Spike took a moment before answering.
"She was a friend when I lived here during the 70s." A smiled played
around Spike's lips. "Great days, those. That was music."
"A human friend?" Willow's tone betrayed
"Yeah, what of it?" Spike's eyebrow
"It just that, well, you thinking of humans
as food and all could really put a crimp in the friendship."
"Emma wasn't food," Spike objected. "She
"Was she different like Buffy? Did
you love her?"
Spike shook his head and dragged his hand
across the ironwork grating of a Victorian-era crypt. "Not like Buffy."
Pain flickered across his face as his flesh caught a sharpened edge.
Looking down, he considered the neat cut on his palm--angry red under the
full moon. His voice grew quiet, almost a whisper. "More like
Niblet. Anyway, doesn't matter what I felt. I killed her family.
Stood and watched as Dru played with them. Then, thirty years on
I have the unmitigated gall to come back, wanting to fix things.
But there are some things you can't fix." Spike kicked a lopsided
tombstone, forcing it further to one side.
=Unmitigated gall? That didn't sound
very Spikean.= Willow nodded sympathetically. "I get that.
I can't bring Tara back. I can't change the fact that I tried to
destroy the world. I can't make that better. Ever."
"I reckon seeing me made her kill herself."
"You can't know that." Willow tried
to clasp Spike's hand, but he ripped it away.
"I can't help it, Red. Everyone I
care about, I hurt." Absentmindedly, he ran a finger over the place
where the cut had been. Already, it was completely healed.
"You'd best keep your distance." He smirked, but his eyes were empty.
"I'm a dangerous man."
"You didn't hurt Dru, though." Willow
panted, trying to keep up, as Spike increased his pace once more.
"I did in the end. Wasn't monster
enough for her. Wasn't Angelus."
Willow nodded. "I remember you mentioning
that when you kidnapped me to do that love spell for you, and . . . "
Willow considered Spike's pain-filled eyes and desperately tried to backtrack.
"Um, water under the bridge."
A lump formed at the back of Spike's throat
as unwelcome memories flooded his mind. "Dru said I'd gone soft because
I wouldn't kill the Slayer for her."
"Did you love Buffy even back then?"
"Probably. Fat lot of good it did
me . . . or her."
Willow blushed. "You mean the whole
sex thing? Yeah, that was kinda ooky."
Spike didn't answer.
Willow rushed on, uncomfortable with the
silence. "I mean, it was sort of strange, you and Buffy, you know,
having the sex." Willow face grew stern. "And then you slept
with Anya. You really hurt Buffy by doing that, you know?"
"I can imagine." Spike's voice wavered,
and he tripped over a worn gravestone, narrowly avoiding a fall.
Willow watched Spike's obvious distress
and slowly it dawned on her. His reaction about returning to Sunnydale.
His tipping over the table at the Council when the questioning turned to
Buffy. The pain he felt when she brought up the whole Anya debacle.
=Spike really, truly loved Buffy. And none of us believed him.
Not even Buffy herself. We couldn't believe it was real . . . but
it was.= "You really did love her, didn't you?"
"Stop it!" Spike whirled around and
grasped Willow's shoulders. "I almost raped her, Willow."
Willow felt the sharpness of his fingers,
digging into her. She tried to pull away, but he was too strong.
Her heart began to race. Was he going to kill her? If he could
do that to Buffy, what would he do to her? "W. . . what?"
"That's right." Spike thrust Willow
into the unforgiving marble of a mausoleum and bared his teeth as he shifted
into game face. "Now you know why I can never go back there.
Now you know what I really am."
=Damn Xander.= Buffy slammed the
front door and angrily began pulling off her goo-laden boots.
Dawn sighed and threw out up her hands
in frustration. "Fine. Don't want to talk about it? I'll
be in my room." With a final huff, Dawn retreated up the stairs.
Buffy threw her right boot against the
wall, leaving a thick black mark.
=Jerk. Talking about Anya that way.
Talking about Spike . . .=
Why the hell was she so mad? It's
not like Spike doesn't deserve the criticism. Hello, vampire!
Violent . . . confused . . . crushed . . .
=Crushed by me.=
"Do you even like me?"
=Bitch much?= Buffy's stomach grumbled
and she wearily made her way to the fridge. The post-slayage hunger
attack was coming on. =As Faith once said, slaying made you hungry
or . . .=
Buffy's unruly train of thought was interrupted
as she opened the refrigerator. Instead of the nice strawberry
cheesecake she was planning to devour, she was greeted by something far
less appetizing: a horde of shiny, black cockroaches. A couple dozen
fled the light, crawling up her arms, going down her shirt, little feet
moving across her skin.
"Ahhhh!" Buffy screamed. Vampires
she could do. Bugs? Not so much.
"What?" Dawn called, still surly.
Slowly, she made her way down the stairs. "What do you want?"
Moving into the kitchen doorway, she was greeted by the sight of Buffy,
sticking her head under the kitchen faucet, desperately trying to drown
the bugs that had begun nesting in her hair.
Over the sound of the running water, Dawn
heard two words:
Willow's upper arms still stung and her
back ached from the impact she had made against the mausoleum. But
she barely noticed her minor physical discomfort. =How did he do
it? If the chip is still working, how could he hurt Buffy?=
Slack-jawed, she watched Spike's hasty retreat as he ran through the cemetery,
ran away from her, ran away from the memory of what he'd almost done.
He was still obviously distraught . . . which was just weird. Why
should he care about hurting Buffy? That's what vampires did--hurt
But Spike had always been different, especially
where Buffy was concerned. And even without Buffy, he'd been an honorary
Scooby and full-time Dawn babysitter. Willow still had no explanation
as to why he'd agreed to help that summer.
Slowing down, Spike tripped over a stone,
veered towards a grave marker about a hundred yards away, and heavily slid
down its smooth surface, placing his head in his hands. Moonlight
glinted off the reflective surface of his hair, turning it into an inappropriately
angelic silver halo. Then his shoulders began to shake.
Spike was crying.
"My God," Willow whispered. "What
is going on?" Tentatively she made her way over to the vampire, feeling
a curious mixture of revulsion and sympathy. He'd tried to rape her
friend. She couldn't ignore that. But he didn't go through
with it. Why? Did the chip stop him? Did Buffy stop him?
Watching his silent sobbing, Willow realized that regardless of what had
happened between Spike and Buffy, one thing was certain. He was broken.
Just like her.
"Spike?" Gingerly, she extended her
hand and touched Spike's shoulder. She was in no position to judge
Spike's actions, no matter how horrible the crime. Underneath the
itchy acrylic wool and the trembling she could feel the cold. Animated
dead flesh. As dead as the body that lay beneath the tombstone.
Softly, she asked, "What happened?"
Spike impatiently swatted Willow's hand
away. His face, now human, was tight with pain. His clouded
blue eyes bore into hers with a frightening intensity. "Leave me
"No, I want to know. Tell me what
Spike laughed bitterly. "I thought
she loved me. Big mistake."
"I know there's more to it than that.
Spike, I know first hand that love can make us do terrible things."
Spike took a deep breath and the words
came out in a confessional rush.
"Dawn had come by, to tell me how hurt
Buffy was by me sleeping with Anya. I'd been drinking pretty heavy.
Do you know how painful it is to love someone with your whole being, and
you think she loves you too, and then she tells you it's over, because
of what you are?"
Willow nodded. "Yeah, I do.
Remember, Tara dumped me because of the magic."
Spike did not respond, lost in his own
private torment. "So I decided to apologize. Try to make things
better. After all, I still had to see her. It's a small town and all, and us working
on the same team . . . So I went to her house. Unlocked the
door with my key." He smiled gently. "Meant so much when you lot gave me
the key to her house. Said I needed it to take care of Dawn.
Made me feel like family."
Willow cringed, remembering how she and
Xander had decided to bring Spike into their fold that summer. They'd
used him because they'd had no other choice. They'd never considered
Spike shook his head, expunging the happy
memory from his brain. "Hung my duster on the staircase, just like
I used to do when I was looking after Bit last summer. I heard a
noise upstairs, so I figured one of my girls was up there. I'd just
go up, say my piece, then leave."
"But it didn't happen that way?"
Willow said anxiously.
"No. Saw Buffy as I passed the bathroom.
She was going to take a bath. She looked so beautiful. Pure white
robe. Told her I was sorry. She said she could never love me,
because of me being a vampire and all. She said our kind of love
was destructive and would never last. Told her that safe love was
for old marrieds. God," Spike tore at his hair, "I was a fucking
idiot. Didn't understand. I never understood. She'd say
'no' and 'never' and tell me to leave, then she'd show up at my door, same
as always. Didn't think this time was any different. Despite
what she said I thought she loved me." He looked at Willow, searching
for some kind of absolution.
"She was ashamed of me. But she came
back, just the same. And I didn't mind what she did to me, as long
as she kept coming back. But then she stopped coming back, and I
thought . . . I hoped she'd change her mind again, just like she always
did. Thought if I could just make love to her, then everything would
be the same as it had been."
Willow considered him, confused, shaken.
She had no idea what to say.
"So then I pushed her down and kissed her
and I didn't see . . . didn't hear her. She didn't want me, Will.
She pushed me away." He looked at Willow and there was stark pain
in his eyes. "I am a bad man. I am a monster. I hurt
people. I have for lifetimes, but not what I loved. I never
thought I'd hurt someone I loved. But I did. I didn't mean
to, but I did. I couldn't stop. She had to push me
away, and I saw . . ." he bowed his head, his hands clasped over his neck,
" . . . what I'd done. I felt sick. She said she could never
love me. I understood why." He lifted his head and stared into
the black night. "I'm a monster."
Willow was silent for a moment, the gravity
of Spike's confession sinking in. Finally she asked, "How could you
hurt her at all, if the chip was still working?"
A pain-filled laugh erupted from Spike's
lips. "Another one of Buffy's dirty little secrets. I've been
able to hit her ever since she came back. Something changed when you did your spell.
Tricked my chip into thinking Buffy was something other than human."
Willow looked shocked. "Is Buffy
a . . . demon?"
His mouth twisted into a parody of a smile.
"No, Will. Buffy's unsullied . . . at least in that way." Spike
lit another cigarette and stared ahead blankly.
Willow slumped beside him, not knowing
what to think. What Spike had done to Buffy was reprehensible.
But Willow knew better than most that life was not black and white.
She'd tried to kill Buffy herself.
Her musings were interrupted by a cackling,
derisive laugh. A group of about ten vampires emerged from one of
the nearby mausoleums. "Well, well, well. What do we have here?"
The lead vampire, sporting a rather out-of-date mullet addressed the two
sorry-looking figures slumped against a gravestone. Looks like we
have dinner." His glowing yellow eyes pierced Willow's. Then
he gestured in Spike's direction with complete disgust. "Although
I can't imagine why you haven't killed her yourself. What kind of
vampire are you?"
Spike rose from the ground, pulling himself
together enough to radiate cocky bravado. Casually, he extinguished
his cigarette beneath his boot-clad heel. Drawing a stake from his
pocket, he maneuvered himself in front of Willow. "The kind that's
going to kick your eighties fashion victim arse."
The vampire tried unsuccessfully to suppress
his laughter. "Like you have room to talk, Billy Idol wannabe."
As he drew nearer, he saw Spike's angry face. "William the Bloody.
How far you've fallen. Protecting humans. You're a disgrace
to your kind."
Spike staked the verbose vampire.
He wasn't really in the mood to banter.
Xander ran a hand through his carefully
combed, wet-from-the-shower hair. The streets of Sunnydale were completely
empty . . . which was kinda strange because usually all the creepy crawlies
came out to play on nights with a full moon. =Maybe they heard about
our obliteration of the Kermitis and have gone into hiding? Or maybe
there's something big coming--something that even the baddies are afraid
of.= Xander laughed softly, willfully expelling that last, unpleasant
thought as he passed by the Magic Box. The light was still on.
Xander extended a hand and jiggled the door handle. =Locked.=
Loudly, he knocked. After a few minutes, he saw Anya appear from
the back. Upon seeing who it was, her face twisted with anger.
"We're closed." Anya began to retreat
behind a bookshelf.
"Wait!" Xander cried. "Anya, I'm
so sorry! I need to talk to you."
Anya paused, her resolve softening.
Slowly, she moved towards the door and unlocked it. Blocking the
doorframe, she considered Xander. "Very well. Talk."
"I wanted to apologize . . . for tonight.
I really am sorry about the way things turned out and I wanted to make
it up to you. I wanted to walk you home." Xander gestured towards
the empty street behind him. "There are monsters out there."
Anya shook her head, eyes filled with pain.
"By your criteria, Xander, there are monsters in here. Or have you
forgotten?" Anya's face morphed into the veiny visage of Anyanka.
Xander gulped, swallowing his knee-jerk
response of revulsion. "You could give up the whole vengeance thing.
Then maybe we could be together again."
Anya shook her head, her human features
falling back into place. "You really don't understand, do you?
Even when I was human, you never accepted me, Xander. You were always
worried that I'd say the wrong thing, that someone would know I had been
a demon." She regarded him sadly. "You were embarrassed by
me. That's why you couldn't marry me."
"That's not . . ." Xander's voice
trailed off as the truth of what Anya was saying sank in. "I mean
. . ."
Sadly, Anya began to close the door to
the Magic Box. "We're closed Xander. This between us is closed
too. You hurt me in the worst possible way and you can't make that
Xander watched in disbelief as the door
swung shut. It wasn't until he was halfway home that he realized
he was crying.
Ring around the rosey
A pocket full of posey
We all fall down.
Dancing and chanting, giggling, laughing.
Blond, shimmering hair. But not the
Legs, thousands and thousands of legs,
scurrying over her body, devouring.
Escape. But the hands grasped her
too tightly. Must dance. Must keep dancing.
Blond, smiling, gorgeous, familiar, stroking
her palm. "Ashes, ashes," he intoned.
Spike, kissing her. Pushing her.
"We all fall down, pet."
"We all fall down." Fangs in her
neck. Blissful oblivion.
Xander, a pocket full of posey. "Look
at me, Buffy. I seriously need a dermotologist." Pus oozing from
his cracked face.
"He's dying." Anyanka shrugged. "But
there might be something on Ebay."
Willow, clasping a hand. "Ashes,
ashes." Willow's hands, stretched out, blood dripping. She
shook her head. "I didn't know, Buffy. Didn't know."
Buffy woke up, panting, sweating, shivering.
Blinking several times, she grabbed her alarm clock. "Ewww!"
Stomach churning, she flicked a cockroach off the clock's face. 3:17
am. She hid her head underneath her pillow and groaned. "What
the hell kind of dream was that?"
Spike cleared his throat, surveying the
damage around him. Broken tombstones scattered the landscape.
Vamp dust hung heavy in the air. And Willow's elfin face was split
by the most genuine smile he'd seen from her in weeks.
"Not bad for two pathetic losers like us,
huh?" Willow twirled her stake happily. It seemed like a long
time since she had done anything good.
Spike shrugged. "Yeah, I was hoping
they'd put up a bit more of a fight. They give vampires a bad name."
Willow laughed. "Oh, like vampires
don't have a bad name already."
Spike grew quiet, any trace of levity extinguished.
He bent over a nearby grave and rearranged the flowers that had been disrupted
by the fight. "I understand that you probably won't want to see much
of me after tonight. I'll come back to the Council, finish my interview.
But I want you to promise me something--and this goes for Rupert too."
Spike's voice became earnest. "When you see Buffy--and you will eventually--don't
tell her you saw me. I don't want her to be reminded of my continued
existence. I want her to forget I ever came to Sunnydale. After
the interview," Spike rose unsteadily from his crouch, wiping the dirt
from his hands, "that's the last you'll see of me: William, the Bloody
Awful Waste of Space."
Swiftly, he turned and headed for the cemetery's
gates. Willow, still in shock, stared emptily at the tombstone Spike
had left behind.
Disbelieving, Willow extended her hand
and looked at one of the flowers on the grave. =Daisies. Just
like the ones Spike had brought for Joyce. Joyce. Jocelyn.
This couldn't be . . .=
Willow's eyes found the grave next to Jocelyn
Atherton's, the gravestone she and Spike had slumped against.
Beloved son, beloved brother.
=William. William the Bloody!=
"Spike!" Willow called to him, running forward to catch up.
"The tombstone. Is it . . ."
Spike paused, his taut features squelching
Willow's curiosity. Sighing, he scuffed his boots against the gravel
pathway. "Come on, Red. I'll walk you back. There could
be more nasties out there. Can't have you getting killed, now can
Buffy poured a large bowl of Cheerios,
then carefully picked through the little life preservers for cockroaches.
The Orkin man said he couldn't come until tomorrow. Apparently lots
of Sunnydale residents were having the same problem. Sighing, Buffy
extracted a wiggling cockroach from her cereal and dumped the bowl into
the garbage. Rummaging around in the fridge she located a sealed
cherry yogurt and flopped onto the couch. She grabbed the remote,
trying to find cartoons in the midst of endless weekend infomercials.
She just wanted to numb her overactive brain. Sleep had been a stranger
last night. First there was that bizarro dream: dancing, singing
nursery rhymes, Xander with serious facial problems, and an Evil Spike
chomping on her neck. But there was a Good Spike too. =Ughh!
It was just too confusing.= Obviously, her mind was on Spike overload
after her fight with Xander. She wished she knew how to feel
about him. She knew she should hate him. He'd almost raped
her. But she kept seeing his face, after she pushed him away.
The pain, the confusion. He seemed so human at that moment.
Settling on Batman Beyond, she peeled back
the tinfoil lid to her yogurt. The spoon was almost to her mouth, when
the neo-Goth images of Batman Beyond were suddenly replaced by a news announcer.
"This just in. Two residents have
checked into Sunnydale Memorial Hospital with symptoms of the bubonic plague.
The mayor will be making a televised statement in a few moments."
"Bring out your dead," Buffy snorted.
=I thought that disease went out with the Dark Ages.= Spooning yogurt
into her open mouth, she watched as the mayor appeared onscreen.
A blond man to his right whispered in his ear and the mayor nodded.
Earnestly, the mayor addressed the camera.
"Good morning. As you may know, the bubonic plague has been detected
in our town. If you are experiencing high fever, nausea, or boils,
check yourself into the hospital immediately. If you think you've
been exposed to the plague, you may receive doses of antibiotic at Sunnydale
Memorial Hospital between the hours of nine and five." With a forced
smile, he concluded. "Together, we'll get through this. God
Buffy stopped, spoon halfway to her mouth.
"Did he say boils?"
Willow and Spike approached the door at
the Council just as the first rays of sunlight were appearing on the horizon.
The sky was hazy pink and Willow was glad that Spike would be coming inside
with her. In his current state of mind she couldn't be entirely sure
that he wouldn't take the easy road out--self-immolation. After his
night of confession, his sins weighing heavily on his head, who knew what
he might do?
Spike swallowed in a futile attempt to
collect himself. "We're here, Red. Probably should ring the bell."
"Nah," Willow produced a key, "Giles gave
me this." Squinting in the half-light, she inserted the key into
the lock. As it turned, the lock mechanism gave a satisfying click
and the door swung open. "Come on, Spike. I'll make you some tea."
Spike shook his head. "Hot chocolate
if you've got it."
"Right. Joyce always made you that,
Spike ran a hand through his hair.
"Always made me feel better."
"Did she remind you of your mother?
Did she remind you of Jocelyn?"
Spike sighed heavily. "Not now, Red.
Please?" His eyes, glazed with unshed tears, beseeched her to stop.
"OK." Willow took his hand.
"I'll let it go." She paused. "I know we, the Scoobies, didn't
always treat you very well. I just want to say I'm sorry."
Spike's Adam's apple bobbed up and down.
His eyes bore into the floor, refusing to meet Willow's.
"I'd like to be your friend, Spike.
You saved my life. Let me help you."
Spike nodded, but said nothing. Willow
watched as his jaw began to grind.
At that moment, Lydia rushed down the stairs
into the foyer, Reggie in tow. "Thank goodness! We've been
so worried about both of you. Rupert assured us you'd come back,
but I thought I'd offended you terribly and perhaps . . ."
"Crikey." Reggie adjusted his glasses
and lumbered forward. "You both look horrible."
"Vamp nest," Willow explained. "We
got them all, but it was kinda messy."
Lydia considered Spike, eyes burning with
curiosity. "Shall we continue? Do you feel up to it?"
"Yeah, do your worst." Spike's eyes
met hers. "I'll finish your interview."
"Rupert is waiting in his office." Lydia
gestured to the staircase.
"Can we get some hot chocolate?" Willow
asked. "It's been a hard night."
Buffy dialed Giles's number at the Watcher's
Council. This plague thing was the last straw. Just too bizarre.
That and the freaky Slayer dream. It was time to get Giles on the
Spike sat at Giles's desk, sipping hot
chocolate with little marshmallows. Lydia sat across from him, tape recorder
humming and pencil scratching. Giles and Willow dozed in a corner, exhausted.
And Reggie snored loudly on a nearby settee, sleeping the sleep of the
"When you say the Slayer and you had a
complicated relationship, what precisely do you mean?" Lydia waited
for a response, pencil poised.
"I . . . um." Spike took another
sip of his chocolate. "We were . . ."
Suddenly, the phone on the desk rang.
Giles and Willow started from their sleep. On impulse, Spike picked
up the receiver.
Buffy waited impatiently, folding her yogurt
lid into ever-smaller pieces. One ring. Two. Three. "Come
on, Giles. Pick up."
"Council of Watchers."
"Hello, this is Buffy Summers. Is
Mr. Giles available?"
The voice on the other end became muffled.
An ashen-faced Spike handed the phone to
Giles. "It's for you."
The song used in the Bronze is "Nothing Can
Stand Between Us" by Theory of a Deadman
Chapter Nine: Prodigal
Some days were horrible from beginning to end. This was one those days.
First, Lilah woke to find that Wesley had escaped during the night, leaving
nothing behind him but twisted sheets. Then she arrived at work to
discover her assistant had been replaced with a Gonets demon whose azure
skin prevented it from going downstairs to Starbucks for Lilah's double
espresso. Next came a meeting with Linwood and Gavin to review their
client's list of wants, needs, and desires and, yet again, Lilah was the
only one with the balls to ask the logical question--how?
Gavin suggested seeking the assistance of Dr. Fetvanovich.
"That's problematic," Lilah said dryly. "Fetvanovich was murdered in the
lobby of the Hyperion, or have you forgotten our failed attempt to grab
Darla and her bad seed?"
Gavin's discomfort showed before he regrouped and suggested, "Dr. Melman,
Lilah arched an eyebrow. "The man who attached Lindsay's evil hand?"
"Do you have a better suggestion?"
"Has the natural way gone out of style?"
Gavin laughed cynically. "Natural? That's an interesting word choice."
"Enough." Linwood rose from his seat at the head of the conference table
and eyed Gavin and herself. "I don't care how you choose to do it, just
take care of this situation. Be proactive."
Easier said than done. After reviewing her limited options, Lilah agreed
to contact Dr. Melman and his demonic medical assistants. Her conversation
with the physician/alchemist was brief, but the doctor agreed to meet her
client and discuss possible solutions for the. . .situation.
If pressed (with hot pokers and threats of painful death) Lilah would admit
to having doubts about whether the doctor could prove useful. But in her
business, appearances meant everything, so she agreed to deliver Dr. Melman
to her client's door for a meeting. If nothing else, her client would be
reassured that Wolfram and Hart was dutifully attempting to fulfill their
part of the bargain. Gavin, of course, insisted on tagging along.
Now, Lilah sat in a limousine, gazing out the window in order to avoid
looking at the demon, Dr. Melman's medical assistant, who sat opposite her.
The black-robed creature had no face. Beneath its hood there was only a
gaping black void, causing Lilah to remember Nietzsche's aphorism about
looking into an abyss to discover the abyss looks into you.
The silence grew oppressive so she glanced at her other companions. Dr.
Melman concentrated on working on his laptop computer and appeared
irritated when she tried to strike up a conversation. Lilah gave the
doctor a coolly, vacuous smile and glared at Gavin before returning her
attention to the slowly darkening landscape outside the window. She read
the road sign as they sped by it-WELCOME TO SUNNYDALE.
Music vibrated through Buffy and through the metal catwalk where she stood
overlooking the dance floor. Strobe lights and writhing teenagers added to
the throbbing atmosphere of the Bronze. It was all very hedonistic and
seductive. Thoughts, images, and memories of sensations teased Buffy,
hovered around the edges of her consciousness, refusing to go away no
matter how hard she tried to force them out. They were part of her. He
=Bad thought. Evil thought. Evil thought about an evil. . .thing. =
Buffy pulled away from the railing. She shouldn't call Spike that. She
knew she shouldn't. It was the easy way out--easy to call Spike 'it' and
'thing,' easy because it allowed her not to think or feel. She could
concern herself only about herself. Want him. Take him. Have him. Walk
away when she was done. What did it matter? He wasn't real. He was just a
The problem was, he wasn't. He was more.
Buffy moved through the crowd and toward the stairs.
Becoming involved with Spike had been all too easy and, looking back, all
too disturbing. She had allowed need to overcome good sense. She had
allowed desire to overcome judgment, and she had allowed shame to overcome.
. .everything. It had been a confusing time, she told herself. But it
was over--over and done--if only she could forget.
She should focus on something else. She was in the Bronze to patrol, not
to contemplate her belly button. . .or other things. Insects and Kermits
weren't the only creatures running around Sunnydale in hordes. Vampires
were out in force.
In the last few years, evil undead threats had been pretty minimal. A
little staking in the graveyards had kept things tame, but in the last week
Buffy had seen more vamp action than she had in years. It hadn't been like
this since the Master, Angelus or Spike had been the Big Bads in town.
Buffy shivered and reminded herself that the Master was dead, and Spike and
Angel had left town under more painful conditions. But, as she peered
into the shadowed corners of the Bronze, Buffy couldn't escape the fact
that there were still vampires here. She could sense their presence. She
could feel them--a brush across her senses, familiar and still somehow
strange. She felt their energy vibrate in the air, and it inspired anxious
butterflies to kickbox in her stomach. Bad things were close.
Buffy strained her eyes to stare into the darkness, thinking if she stared
long enough she could see something other than dancers frozen in eerie
tableaus during momentary flashes of light as strobes kept time to the
music. She could see what she was up against. She could see them waiting.
Hyperawareness tingled across Buffy's nerve endings as the band sang,
~Wishing you were here.~
And something caught Buffy's attention-a flash of moonlight colored hair.
~...Guess I should watch what I wish for...~
It couldn't be him. Clem had said Spike wasn't coming back. Ever. Three
months wasn't 'ever,' not even close. It couldn't be Spike.
She should think about something else, *someone* else, someone
like...Dawn. Where was Dawn?
Buffy had left Dawn downstairs while she searched the balcony for vampires,
but with the mega wattage vamp vibes that Buffy was getting, she was
kicking herself for having left her sister alone. Leaning over the rail,
Buffy searched the crowd for Dawn and felt an eerie sensation moving across
her skin. Someone was watching her, waiting, and again, Buffy saw the
flash of familiar platinum white.
~. . .Right on time, so invite me in. . .~
Okay, no joke, that had to be Spike. It *had* to be. Buffy pushed her way
through the crowd on the stairs and plunged into the chaotic mass of
humanity on the dance floor.
~. . .This is where your trouble begins. . .~
Buffy stopped, a small, still form in the midst of bodies in motion.
Everyone was moving, but Buffy felt paralyzed. What she was doing? Was
she trying to find Spike or hide from him? If she came face to face with
him, what would she say? What would she do? Would she pound him into the
floor for having hurt her, or lift her chin and apologize for the myriad
ways she had hurt him?
Buffy stood on her toes but saw nothing but shoulders and backs. She hated
being short. In crowds like this, she didn't have a chance of finding
Spike. Or course, there was the 'Slayer sense' thing, but her senses
were short circuited by the multiple vamps in the room.
~I like you better than the other ones.~
Most vampires made Buffy feel itchy, like wearing wool on a hot day, but
Spike was different. He was supernatural cashmere. Of course, cashmere
cost more than Buffy could afford, but she couldn't deny sometimes wanting
it, even lusting for it. She knew how wonderful it felt to wrap herself up
in it, to feel it caress her skin. It felt. . .good.
~You say I'm right when I know I'm wrong~
See, this was where she had gotten herself into trouble. It felt right.
Spike felt right, but he couldn't be. He was Spike. Spike, the Slayer
Killer. Spike, the Menace of Europe. Spike, the soulless thing.
~We could never just get along~
Sure Spike had changed. Circumstances had changed him, but could anyone
change so much that they became the opposite of what they had been before?
~You're so damn relentless.~
Buffy caught the arm of a young girl she thought she recognized. "Liz?"
The girl shook her head. "Leslie."
Buffy frowned. Had she known that? "Um... But I *do* know you, don't I? I
mean you know my sister, right?"
"Have you seen her?"
"She's by the stage--"
Buffy was already turning away, moving relentlessly toward the stage, but
she remained aware of Spike's elusive presence near her. . .so near her.
She could almost smell his aftershave, sharp with the scent of limes and
mellowed by the fragrance of sage. She remembered it so clearly. She
remembered wondering how a vampire shaved without a mirror.
~And you will find ~
~The two of us are like two of a kind~
Buffy could recognize Spike in the dark. She could find his particular
vibration even in the midst of all this noise and chaos. That should
frighten her, shouldn't it? Nothing inside her should be so attuned to
~This hits you harder than the other ones~
Buffy grabbed the arm of a young, beefy looking kid who had been nuzzling a
girl on the dance floor. "Hold it, Buddy. That's a no-no."
He was no kid. He was a vampire. The stray kind that wandered Sunnydale
for no rational reason Buffy could think of other than to make her life
The vampire blinked. "What the-"
"Outside. Now. Let's get this over with." Buffy was bored and impatient.
She didn't have time for this.
The vampire scowled. "Back off or when I'm done with her, I'll look for
Buffy crossed her arms and tapped her foot. "Not exactly shivering in my
boots." She stopped and stared. "Damn. I've scuffed the toe."
The vampire tried to pull away. Stupid vampire. Buffy twisted its arm
until it cried out in pain. "Stop wasting my time," she bit out. "Let's
Buffy dragged the vampire through the crowd, glancing over her shoulder to
search one last time for a different creature of the night, for the one she
had been hoping and dreading to find.
Why had Spike come back?
~'Cause home is where the hurt is~ the band sang as the Bronze's back door
slammed shut behind her with a solid, metallic clank.
With the steel door closed, the difference in noise level from the club to
the alley was startling and eerie. Inside, the music had been deafening,
loud enough to drown out thought and conversation. Here in the damp narrow
space between the Bronze and the abandoned neighboring building, it was
quiet. Not even cars could be heard in the distance. There was only a
low, nearly inaudible bass beat throbbing in the dark.
Buffy let go of the vampire. It cautiously stepped away from her. "Who
are you?" It asked.
Buffy reached into her back pocket and pulled out a stake. She twirled it
in her hand. "Who do you think?"
The vamp looked nervous. "I wasn't doing anything," it protested.
Buffy rolled her eyes. "Oh yeah, sure."
"No. Honest, I-"
She dusted him. Why waste time with banter when she was in a hurry and in
a bad mood?
Buffy walked to the door. The metal was cold against her palm as she slid
her hand around the handle. It didn't budge. =What the...? Damn!= It
must be some emergency door. It had locked behind her. Buffy would have
to walk around the building to get back in. She kicked the door, (What did
it matter? She'd already scuffed her boot) and turned to find-
Vampires surrounded her. One. Two. Three. A quick count came to a total
of ten. Well, wasn't that nifty? Ten to one. Not the best odds Buffy had
ever faced but do-able. Might be tough though. Perhaps even dangerous.
If she messed up even a little bit, Buffy could find herself in big
trouble. Then she saw a familiar angular face and athletic form half
shrouded in shadows-the man...demon she had searched find.
Buffy smiled. Ten to *two* odds. Now, *that* sounded right.
With her hands on her hips, Buffy looked at her circle of opponents. "Who
died and left you guys an army of vamps?" She dusted Vamp #1 and grinned.
"Oops. Guess you did."
Buffy kicked Vamp #2 and spun on her heel to punch Vamp #3 before staking
Vamp #4. It exploded in a cloud of dust that settled onto the damp ground
at Buffy's feet. She ducked to avoid the blow of pissed Vamp #2 then stood
and backhanded vamp whatever number. Buffy lost count as one of the
monsters jumped onto her back. Losing her balance, she stumbled backward
but used her momentum to slam into the wall. The vampire on her back
grunted before she suddenly dove forward, tucking and rolling in an
acrobatic move before rising smoothly to stand and staking Vamp #3.
Still facing eight hostile vamps, Buffy looked at Spike. "You're supposed
to help, you know!"
Spike arched a scarred brow. "I am?"
His richly timbred voice set off tremors in Buffy's stomach--which she
ignored as she straightened her shoulders. "Duh. Sort of out numbered
here, or haven't you noticed?"
He shoved his hands into his pockets and slouched casually against the
wall. "I noticed."
Vamp #5 attacked as Buffy moved deftly to the right. It missed her, but
Buffy didn't miss it. Another cloud of dust settled to the pavement. She
glared at Spike.
Pushing away from the wall, Spike slowly circled her. "I'm supposed to
help." He spoke the words as if they were foreign to him. He cocked his
head to one side. "Why?"
Buffy opened her mouth and searched for an answer but came up with a big
fat nothing. Why had Spike *ever* helped her? For fun? For violence?
For sex or money? . . .For love?
Buffy's gaze locked with Spike's. He smiled, but it was a cold, empty
expression. He could be really scary when he smiled.
"No answer?" When Spike approached Buffy Vampire #6 rushed him. Spike
ducked, and the vampire tumbled to the ground, landing in an indignant heap
on the pavement. Spike planted his Doc Marten firmly in the center of its
chest though his attention remained tightly focused on Buffy. "Don't
worry, luv." Spike ripped off the vampire's head. "Haven't got an answer
myself. Haven't had one for a very long time."
Vampire #7 looked from Spike to Buffy to Spike again. It blinked. "Wait! I
get it." It pointed at Spike. "I know you. You're the Slayer's pet.
Buffy could see a muscle tense in Spike's chiseled jaw.
The vampire rolled its eyes. "Whatever."
Spike drew closer using a graceful stride that seemed to be exclusive to
Spike. "That what I am? " he asked Buffy and there was a sharp edge under
Spike's even tone. "Your pet? Trained to sit and beg?"
Vampire #7 began to back away, but Spike caught its collar and dragged it
with him as he strode toward Buffy. "Am I your dog? Something to keep
chained outside your door? Guard the little sis, watch your back, but
don't allow it inside the house. Never forget it's a mongrel unworthy of
attention. That it, pet?"
"Going a little far with the. . . uh. . ." Buffy looked at Spike. "Is it
a metaphor, simile, or allusion?"
"Don't you know?"
Buffy avoided answering the question by dusting Vampire #8.
Spike chuckled and shook his head. "'Course you don't know." He released
the vampire he'd been holding and sidled even closer to Buffy. He placed
his hand on the wall above her shoulder. "It's none of those things."
Spike leaned close and whispered in her ear. "It's my *life.*"
"Oh, right," Spike bit out sarcastically. "I don't have a life. Not real.
Just a thing." In contrast to the suppressed anger in his voice, Spike's
touch was tender. His fingers were cool and gentle as they brushed her
cheek. "I'm nothing."
Spike pulled away, leaving Buffy slumped against the wall. His gaze
narrowed and there was the hint of a sneer in the curl of his lip. "But
you, luv, are a ball busting *bitch.*"
There was a scuffling sound in the alley. Spike and Buffy turned their
heads to see the two remaining vampires run for their unlives. "Cowardly
buggers," Spike muttered. "Piss poor fighters too."
But the creatures were forgotten even before they disappeared. Spike's
contemptuous gaze settled on Buffy. "Little girl with little rules," he
mocked. "Simple. Nothing to stress her heart or mind. Keep it easy.
Don't shed light on the dark corners of your world. Might have to face the
truth and that's not allowed."
Spike started to walk away. Like *hell* would she let him walk away.
Buffy tackled Spike, throwing herself against him, wanting to drive him
into the ground, but Spike anticipated her attack. He moved with
lightning speed and preternatural strength, pushing her off him. He sent
her flying across the alley and watched her flail helplessly before landing
ignominiously on her butt. Spike stalked over to her, emotion flowing off
him in raging waves. He glared at Buffy as she stared back from the ground.
"It's not Saturday," he snarled.
The steel door of the Bronze swung open and from behind it, Dawn called,
Spike disappeared in the blink of an eye.
Dawn walked around the door and frowned when she found Buffy sprawled on
the pavement. "What happened to you?"
"Vampire," Buffy said somewhat unsteadily as she rose to her feet and
brushed the dust off her pants.
Dawn looked surprised. "One got the best of you?"
Buffy took three steps toward the mouth of the alley. She stopped and
stared into darkness in Spike's wake. "Not even close."
It's not Saturday. What the hell did that mean? But a memory teased Buffy-
the memory of the very first time she had laid eyes on Spike.
"What happens Saturday?" she had asked on that night long ago.
Spike had told her, "I kill you."
Buffy grabbed her sister's hand. "Dawn, let's go."
It was after 11:00 pm when Giles stepped out of the taxi to stand on the
sidewalk outside the Magic Box. His legs ached. His back ached. And he
was convinced that coach air travel was a method of torture more sadistic
than anything the Spanish Inquisition had dreamed of. Ignoring his deep-
seated longing for a shower and hot cup of tea, Giles approached the front
door and smiled when he saw the light on. Trust Anya to keep late hours.
He could almost hear her explanation about the vast number of under-
serviced magic patrons who preferred to shop after dark.
Giles opened the door to find Anya sitting alone. She wore a pale floral
dress whose primary color was almost-but-not-quite yellow and her hair
color of the week was a flattering mid-brown with hints of auburn. She
lifted her head at the ringing of the bell and a blindingly bright smile
lit her beautifully refined features.
"Giles!" she cried. "You're home!" And Anya rushed to greet him with an
~Two Days Earlier...~
Spike looked poleaxed by the sound of Buffy's voice, and it wasn't
difficult to understand why. It was far easier to let something go, to
leave well-or bad-enough alone when there was no call from home begging for
Spike handed Giles the phone and crossed the room to stare out the window.
Lydia and Reggie goggled with shock and fascination as Spike stared down at
the sunlit street. Willow was far more accustomed to Spike's reckless
disregard for personal safety so she wasn't surprised. She did wonder what
made him do such potentially self destructive things. It was almost like
he enjoyed playing chicken with the sun. Or maybe he simply refused to
accept the limitations of his state.
Spike's expression was grim, and Willow resisted the urge to tell him that
he was brooding. She was sure he'd comically protest, "I do *not* brood!"
But, given the circumstances, Willow kept her mouth shut, watched and
waited as Giles hung up the phone and described recent events in Sunnydale.
"Plagues!" Reggie cried, his pudgy face filling with excitement bordering
Giles looked grim. "Yes, quite."
"Something bad is brewing in Sunnydale and it's not May?" Willow almost
winced at her own attempt at gallows humor. No one answered her question.
Lydia murmured to herself, "Frogs and insects."
Spike, who still stood near the window, looked over his shoulder. "Come
"Plagues," Lydia repeated. "Frogs, insects. Doesn't that sound the least
bit familiar? "
Spike moved away from the glass and asked with disbelief. "Are you
suggesting these are *Biblical* plagues?"
Reggie's attention snapped to Spike.
"What?" Spike demanded defensively. "There *was* a William the Bloody
before a Spike the vampire, you prat."
Yes, Willow acknowledged. There had been a William the Bloody, and more
and more Willow was coming to realize that she and the gang had gone years
without having a clue as to who that man was.
=Beloved Brother. Beloved Son.= That had been written on his grave.
William's grave. *Spike's* grave.
Beloved. Spike. Spike was a *person.* It shouldn't have been a
revelation, but it was. How had they missed something so obvious? The
answer wasn't flattering to herself or her friends. Willow couldn't help
remembering the upset and concern Xander and Buffy had expressed when faced
with a vampire version of herself. She couldn't help remembering Buffy's
desperation to save Angel when his soul had been lost. She couldn't help
remembering and contrasting it with their treatment of Spike.
Would Spike's mother or sibling have given him a crayon speech? Judging
from the things Willow had learned by sitting in on Spike's interviews, the
things she had witnessed herself, and the inscription on William's grave,
Willow would bet that, yes, there had once been people who would have
wanted Spike to be saved. And a question that had been niggling at Willow
since the night Spike had rescued her in the alley sprung to full blown
life in her head. Exactly how good must a person be for any hint of that
goodness to remain inside a vampire?
For Willow, it was no longer a question of whether or not William had been
a good man. He had been. It was only a question of how good. . .and what
exactly made herself or Angel more worthy of saving than him?
The damning answer, of course, was nothing. More damning still, was the
fact that both Angel and herself had needed to be forcibly prevented from
their world-destroying rampages. The only reason they hadn't succeeded was
because someone had intervened. Someone *else* had prevented the
destruction and removed responsibility from their shoulders. . .and they
had been granted fresh starts. Spike on the other hand, had made decisions
on his own to help save the world not once but twice. And as for taking
responsibility for moving toward change, Spike had done nearly all the
heavy lifting on his own.
While everyone pondered Lydia's observation about the plagues, Giles
removed his glasses and polished the lenses. "I hesitate to place Biblical
significance to these events. At least insofar as Judeo-Christian religion
"As the Judeo among the Christians, thanks for that," Willow quipped.
Reggie glanced hesitantly in her direction. "Actually, I'm a Buddhist."
Giles blinked. "Truly? I never would have guessed." He donned his
glasses and assumed an authoritative tone. "As I was saying, I hesitate to
assign religious significance to this, though naturally Biblical text may
be a useful place to begin research. It would be advisable to examine texts
of correlating cultures-"
Spike began pacing. "Spit it out, Rupes. You don't know what this means
so you want to go into research mode."
Giles eyed Spike. "Yes, Spike, I believe I said that."
Spike muttered under his breath, "Poncy bugger could have said it in four
words, but did he? No."
And that's when all hell broke loose. It was like when a car wreck
happened; time seemed to stretch into something just a bit short of
infinity. It gave a person time to observe events in exacting detail but
there never seemed to be time to react.
Willow saw the library door open behind Spike, and Quentin Travers step
into the room carrying a loaded crossbow aimed at Spike's back. Travers let
the arrow fly even before Willow could draw a breath to scream and gory
memories of Tara's murder flooded her mind.
Reggie, standing closest to Spike, dived toward the vampire, shoving Spike
far enough to the side so that instead of the arrow plowing fatally into
his heart, it lodged high in Spike's shoulder. Giles charged Travers as the
vampire and the young Watcher landed on the floor with audible grunts.
Giles then slugged the head of the council, knocking the Travers's crossbow
to the ground.
Spike didn't stop moving after hitting the floor. His landing drove the
arrow through his shoulder causing Spike to yelp in pain as he rolled to
his feet with the acrobatic grace of a performer in Cirque de Soleil.
Reggie squeaked and backed into the table as Spike's eyes flickered from
blue to gold and his handsome visage transformed into something unnatural
Giles backhanded Travers, a brutal blow that Willow cheered. Then he shoved
Travers into the wall with such force that books fell from the shelves.
Willow heard Spike roaring like an angry, wounded lion, and she turned to
see Reggie sag with against the table leg when Spike's attention shifted
from himself to Travers. Spike charged toward the head of the Council.
"Spike!" Giles barked.
Spike stopped in his tracks, his game face fading to be replaced by his
angry human features. Spike sucked in his cheeks and lifted his chin in a
frustrated gesture Willow recognized from the countless times she had seen
it before as Spike grabbed the crossbow off the floor and broke it.
Giles pulled Travers away from the wall and forced him into one of the
"Why?" Giles demanded in a sharp, clipped voice. "The games are over,
Quentin. Now, tell us why!"
Travers glared at Giles. Fury darkened his ruddy features as Travers
announced with implacable arrogance, "Because it is what should be done.
It is what must be done."
"Spike is no danger to anyone."
Travers laughed. "You think not?"
"What do you mean?"
"Do you truly believe the potential for destruction in that unnatural
thing can be contained by a microchip? When is it ever that simple?"
"Simple or complicated. It doesn't matter." Giles slammed his hand
against the table. "Tell us *why.* Why spend all this time interviewing
Spike? Why kill him?"
"It's not about him," Travers snapped. "That *thing* is nothing. Vampires
"But it wasn't just any vampire you wanted brought here. It was Spike."
"Spike *is* slightly different," Lydia observed as she helped Reggie off
the floor. "Otherwise you never would have wanted the interview."
Travers sneered. "Not so very different, Lydia. You only believe so
because his anti-hero traits appeal to your overly romanticized
sensibilities. He is what they all are-"
"Then why is Spike the one demanding your attention." Giles eyed the
broken crossbow laying on the table. "And your rusty assassination
"Because time has run out. Your phone call from the Slayer means that time
has run out."
Giles gazed at Travers suspiciously. "What do you know about the phone
call from Buffy?"
"Bastard probably has the phone bugged," Spike growled.
"Nothing so elaborate." Travers's voice dripped with condescension.
"Which still leaves the whole 'why' thing flapping in the breeze," Willow
Travers laughed. "What is always the answer for us? A prophecy."
"Spike is part of a prophecy?" Lydia looked surprised, intrigued, and
"Brilliant!" Reggie exclaimed.
Spike shook his head and looked trapped somewhere between disgust and
despair. "Bugger it all to hell."
Giles was not as easily distracted. "Which prophecy in particular,
"The End of Days."
That grabbed everyone's attention.
"What do I do?" Spike asked in shock.
Willow observed, "I'm guessing from the assassination thingie that it must
not be good."
Travers crossed his arms in an impatient gesture. "I don't know what he
does or if he does anything at all."
By that point even Giles looked confused. "At the risk of becoming
tedious, again I ask why? Why assassinate Spike?"
Travers leaned forward. "It doesn't matter *who* he is, only that he is
part of the Order of Aurelius. The order must be complete for the prophecy
to be fulfilled."
Spike cocked his head to one side. "Complete? What the bloody hell is
"Seven," Travers said. "There must be seven representatives of the Order."
Reggie frowned. "But. . ." He glanced at the other occupants of the room
then grabbed Lydia's notes. He offered them to Travers as if they were
evidence. "There aren't seven members of the order *now.* There's no
reason to kill Spike."
"Bloody right!" Spike exclaimed. "Most of the so-called order has been
dusted, or have you forgotten?"
Giles nodded. "True. The Master, the Anointed One, and Darla have been
removed from the equation."
"So that leaves only Dru, the Poof, and me. Three, not seven."
"Your prophecy has been averted, Quentin," Giles said with irritation.
"The Order has been broken. This has been an exercise in futility."
"You bloody fool, when is there ever a dearth of vampires?" Travers's tone
dripped with contempt. "They are replaceable creatures. All that is
needed is for one of them to make more."
Reggie shook his head. "I still don't understand. Spike's chip prevents
him from siring anyone. Angel's soul would most likely prevent him. That
only leaves Drusilla. Why murder Spike? Drusilla could simply-" Looking
embarrassed, Reggie averted his gaze from Spike. "Make a replacement."
Traver's dark, bushy brows lowered. "She doesn't know that there *needs*
to be a replacement, now does she? It might slow things down." He
gestured to Spike. "If that. . . that *thing's* execution buys the world
one more hour, one more day, then it is worth it."
"You bloody, arrogant *fool!* Giles yelled. "You assassinate what may
prove to be a valuable ally so that he can be replaced by the minion of a
"It's a chess game, Rupert."
"So you thought you would leave an opening for the evil side to cry
Traver's face became a mottled red. "Think, Rupert! Who is the Slayer
more likely to defeat, her ex-lover, a creature who has built its
reputation on defeating Slayers or a nameless, faceless minion?"
"You aren't giving the Slayer proper credit," Spike said quietly. "She
would kill me." He avoided looking at Willow.
"Would she? Then why hasn't she?" Travers turned to Giles. "All it would
take is the Slayer hesitating one moment too long, Rupert. Another
incident such as the one with Angelus and, we will *all* suffer the fate of
your Miss Calendar."
Giles stood absolutely still, his breathing somehow both controlled and
labored. With agonizing slowness he faced Spike. Spike squared his
shoulders and lifted his chin, his defiant brand of raw courage prominently
"We can't kill Spike," Willow said softly. No one seemed to hear her so
she repeated her statement more sternly. "We can't kill Spike. Spike isn't
Angelus. He. . ." She paused and searched for the right words. "Even
back then, even with Acathla, even before. . .all the stuff we've gone
through, Spike helped us. Buffy couldn't have fought both Angel and Dru
and won. She had Spike's help. And. . . uh. . .Giles, if Spike hadn't
stopped Angel from torturing you. . . "
Giles relaxed his stiff stance. His shoulder's relaxed. "For he today who
sheds blood with me shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile. . ."
Willow frowned as the words teased her. She knew they were Henry the V,
but. . . She remembered. It had been the night they had faced Glory.
Spike and Giles had been gathering weapons and, uncharacteristically, the
two Brits had spoken in turn, "We few, we happy few, we band of. .
Giles had sighed and sat on the corner of the table. "We shan't kill
Spike." He focused on Travers. "Now, exactly what are the specifics of
the prophecy we are speaking of?"
Travers reached into his pocket. Spike growled, a low, unnerving sound.
"Slowly," Giles instructed.
Travers produced a torn piece of parchment with an elaborately ornamented
ouroborus prominently displayed on the upper left hand corner. It was the
emblem of the Order of Aurelius. Giles took the paper and spread it out on
the table. Lydia, Reggie, Spike and Willow gathered around him and peered
over his shoulder. Quickly scanning the text had made it clear that the
Order's fate was tied to the fate of the world and the plagues disturbing
the Hellmouth. Though the parchment was incomplete and the lower portion
had been ripped away, there was no room to doubt that the End of Days was
"I shall return to Sunnydale immediately," Giles announced. "The rest of
"The rest what?" Spike tone and stance were belligerent. "Sit on our
duffs being useless? That's fine for Watcher wankers but not me. Where
you go, I go."
Giles shook his head. "I don't think that's wise. The Order of Aurelius--"
"You don't tell me what to do, Watcher."
Giles stood toe to toe with Spike. "Quentin may be an arrogant arse, but
Spike shoved the bloodied arrow he had earlier pulled from his chest into
Giles's hand. "Want to finish the job?"
Giles threw the arrow away. "You do not need to be near Sunnydale. I
will take care of this. If the Order of Aurelius--"
Spike circled the Watcher. "You know, Rupes, I remember Dru having you in
thrall in under five minutes."
"And who is the man she seduced into becoming a monst-"
"Guys!" Willow interrupted. "Speaking for the rest of us, can we drop the
Dru thing? The thrall and seduction stuff is kind of ookie."
"I'm going to Sunnydale," Spike insisted.
"I won't allow that."
"You don't *own* me!" Spike spat. "Where did you-*any* of you-come by that
idea? Because you pay me pin money for blood and smokes? Do you truly
believe I can be bought so cheaply?"
Willow opened her mouth in a small 'O' as she realized that every now and
then Spike slipped up and sounded like the erstwhile Victorian he was.
"For educated men and women, you are a stupid lot." Spike stopped pacing
and looked at them with a mixture of irritation and scornful disbelief.
"Do you think I couldn't go to that bar in Soho where I found Red and not
find a demon or fledgling or *three* to do my dirty work?" He looked at
Giles. "What's happened to that prodigious brain of yours, Rupes? I
commanded a gang of vampires when I first came to Sunnydale. Do you
believe I forgot *how*? I do what I do because *I* choose to do it. Not
you. Not the Council. Not even the Slayer."
Spike tossed Lydia's notes into the air and watched them flutter to the
floor. "Every time I answer your bloody stupid questions it is because I
*choose* to answer them. Every time I sit in a room filled with people who
hate me, who mock me to my face or behind my back, it is my choice. Mine.
I choose these things. So don't think you have any say in what I do-"
"Spike!" Giles said commandingly.
"This ends now. Clearly you have resentments that have festered for some
time." Giles checked his glasses for non-existent lint. "And, I must
admit, not all of your complaints are without merit. But before you rush
to impulsive action, sit down and think."
The two men stared at one another, judging each others merit. . . .and
Spike did as he was told. He sat. Giles circled the table, laid his hand
on the vampire's shoulder. "*We* will figure out what we must do."
And maybe, for the first time ever, Spike was included in the "we."
Spike stood in the shadows and watched Buffy and Dawn hurry down
mainstreet. He had an advantage over other potential Slayer stalkers. He
didn't need to follow her, which she might sense. There were only a few
places Buffy would go at a time like this. Spike could afford to wait.
Buffy had chosen the Magic Box. It made little sense, but habits were
sometimes difficult to break. Spike watched her open the door and pull
The window of the shop glowed a warm, incandescent yellow in stark contrast
to the deep indigo night, and in its light Spike could see the joyful
expression on Buffy's face when she first saw Giles. She threw her arms
around the Watcher, hugging him close, and Bit was only a step behind.
Both of Spike's girls -- he still thought of them as his girls-- were
safe and happy in Giles's comforting arms.
"Welcome home, Rupes," Spike murmured quietly to the darkness.
How very different was Rupert's welcome compared to his own. In the alley
behind the Bronze Spike had looked into Buffy's eyes and seen confusion,
anger and what had to be hate. . .and it hurt. It wasn't that he didn't
deserve it, and it wasn't that he hadn't seen hate in her eyes before.
Spike had always seen it. He had tried to deny it. He had tried to live
with it, but over the years it had caused an aching emptiness inside him
that had grown to a gaping abyss.
When Spike had left Sunnydale last spring he had done so with a sense of
purpose and determination he had rarely felt in his long existence. There
had been a fire inside him to *prove* to Buffy that he was real, that he
could change, that he was more than 'nothing.' He had dreamed of arriving
at her door, presenting his hard won soul and saying, "Here. This is what
I've done. It's the right thing. I did the right thing. You said I
couldn't, but I did. That's something, right? That's important. That's
Damn it! He really was a pet begging for the approval of its master, just
a pat on the head. . .only it really wasn't that simple. It was all so
Spike sighed as he considered his sad little dream of a prodigal's return.
Dreams were painful things, painful because they so rarely resembled
reality. And his dream was no less painful because it had been small.
Spike's grand soul quest had resulted in a guilty conscience, dreams turned
to nightmares, and a disgust of his very existence. He had wanted to walk
up to Buffy and tell her what he had done. What he-not Angel but he,
William the Bloody Useless--had done. Spike had never wanted anything
quite so badly. . . and there was nothing in the world that he feared more.
What if she didn't care? What if it meant nothing? He feared it meant
nothing and he *knew* it wasn't enough.
Spike had to laugh. The cosmic joke was on him. All that he had really
accomplished was screwing himself over more than ever. For everything that
had changed, for every way that *he* had changed, it still wasn't enough.
It would never be enough. He still loved her. He still hated her. He
was in hell.
But he would help her. That was the plan. He and Rupert agreed that
Travers had a point about Buffy not having a moment of hesitation should
things go wrong. For Spike to remain in Sunnydale, he needed to break any
tie between himself and the Slayer. There shouldn't have been a tie left-
not after everything that had happened-but Spike needed to be sure. He
needed to make the division between himself and Buffy clear to all the
creatures haunting the ugly underbelly of the city. He needed the demon
world to know Spike was back, and he was a bloody animal. If he was to
attract Dru's attention he-
Spike turned to see Vampire #9 smack him in the face with a two-by-four.
Chapter Ten: Masters and Minions
Buffy moved out of Giles's arms and said, "Spike's back."
Dawn pulled away from the group hug. "What?!" Her eyes were wide and she
looked shocked and angry. "Talk about nerve."
"Dawnie, we still don't -"
"Why didn't you tell me?!"
Buffy blinked. "Why didn't I. . .? Dawnie!"
Dawn crossed her arms and glared in a way that all teens -- but especially
female teens with the last name of Summers-could do amazingly well. "I
thought we'd worked this out. No more secrets. No treating me like a
"I don't treat you like you're brain damaged."
"Why didn't tell me Spike was back?"
Buffy sighed. "I'm telling you now. Besides, until a half hour ago, I
didn't know myself."
Buffy glanced away from Dawn and looked to Giles. "And I think things
could be bad. *Spike* could be bad. Again."
Giles didn't say anything, but he looked grim.
Dawn rolled her eyes. "Like Spike wasn't bad before?"
Buffy squirmed. Her insides clenched. Had Spike been bad? Had he really?
Buffy remembered the shock she had felt when Spike had been unwilling to
help her in the alley, the stunned disbelief that had coursed through her
as she had considered his saying, "It's not Saturday." Was that a threat?
Would Spike threaten her? Even last spring--even after...everything--Spike
hadn't threatened her. He had been out of his mind, dangerous, and out of
control, but there had been no malice in his intent. Even in her hurt and
rage Buffy had known Spike hadn't *meant* to hurt her. . .but tonight?
This was different.
When exactly had she come to believe that Spike-flaws, amoral value system
and all-was on *her* side, that he would always be on her side no matter
what? He was the thing that would not leave--stubborn, implacable,
unshakable. He'd loved a madwoman for over a hundred years. He'd loved
Dru even after she had pushed him away, insulted him, humiliated him, and
dropped him, because to Spike. . .love wasn't a fly-by-night thing. Was
that it? Was that the way Buffy had become convinced that even if things
had gone nuclear in a spectacular way, Spike would still be waiting in the
shadows ready to offer whatever help she needed whenever she needed it even
if. . .even if. . .
"Things are different now," Buffy said softly.
"Has he gone evil?" Anya was always one to cut straight to the heart of
the matter even if she only had a blunt butter knife to do it. "He's been
gone a long time. He may have found someone to take out the chip."
Buffy dropped her arms to her side when she realized she was hugging
herself. "I don't know."
"I wouldn't be surprised if he came back to kill all of you. You know what
"No, what do we say?"
"Payback is a bitch. Of course the phrase was originally a reference to me.
I *am* the-" Suddenly aware of three pairs of eyes trained on her, Anya
amended her statement. "In this case payback is a pissed off vampire. You
can't blame him. "
"I can't?" Part curious and part furious, Buffy asked, "And why is that?"
"You turned him into your minion, and you weren't even nice about it. "
"I did *not* turn Spike into a minion."
"Then what was he? He wasn't your partner. He wasn't your employee. And
don't say he was your friend. You let Xander bully him while you were
having sex with him."
Dawn looked outraged. "That is *so* none of your business!"
"I wouldn't blame Spike if he tortured each and every one of you," Anya
said defiantly. "You deserve it."
Dawn's face flushed red. "How can you say that? Is this some 'demons
stick together' thing?"
Anya lifted her chin. "Maybe. Why shouldn't I stick up for him? Not like
anyone else will stick up for us."
"You're Buffy's friend, that's why not! And. . .and. . .you slept with
Giles glanced at Anya, surprise evident on his face.
Dawn continued to sputter. "You slept with him, and you're Buffy's friend
and. . .and that's just *wrong.* And gross. Evil, wrong and gross and-"
"I'm Buffy's friend?" Anya asked in surprise. "Since when? Since when
has she been *my* friend?" She faced Buffy. "Name one time you've been my
friend. When have you helped me with anything?"
Buffy appeared non-plussed. She looked around the room as if she could
find a memory or an answer. "There was that Olaf the Troll thing."
"Slaying doesn't count."
Buffy stepped back. "It does so count. Why doesn't it count?"
"It's Slaying. You would have tried to kill Olaf anyway. I'm talking
about me. When have you ever talked to me or even thought about me other
than how I could help you?"
"Well. . . I. . .uh-"
Anya looked down at Buffy-really looked down-exploiting every inch of her
natural height advantage plus her three inch heels. "Never. that's when,"
Anya said flatly. "Xander left me on my wedding day."
Buffy rolled her eyes. "This story is getting old, Anya. You're going to
have to let it go sometime."
"This isn't about Xander!" Anya protested. It was weird seeing her angry-
really angry. "Xander left, and there I stood in room full of people I had
to face alone. I had to make all the explanations. I had to talk to the
caterer and pay for the limousine that we didn't even use. I had to
arrange for the flowers to be thrown away and the decorations taken down
and the hall cleaned. I had to pack my dress and sell it on E-bay. I had
to do all of it. Alone. Where was my 'good friend' Buffy? Or my friend
Dawn or Willow or *anyone*?"
"We offered to help."
"I must have missed that part. Guess I was distracted by the eye rolling
and irritated sighs." Anya's lips thinned and her brows drew together as
she frowned. "Want to know what emotion I got off you when I my vengeance
powers came back? I got that you felt bad because my wedding disaster put
a damper on *your* happy day."
Buffy had to grace to blush.
Anya continued in righteous rant mode. "The only person, the *only* one
who listened to me, who took my side was Spike."
Buffy opened her mouth.
"Shut up, I'm not finished." Anya sounded exactly like the vengeance demon
that she was-powerful and pissed off.
Buffy crossed her arms and waited.
"You stood there, just *stood* there while Xander attacked Spike and said
the horrible things to me. Why did you do that, Buffy? Because you were
my friend or because you didn't want Xander's sexist, patriarchal, annoying-
even-if-I once-thought-it-was-cute self-righteous temper turned on you?"
Dawn protested, "You're not being fair about any of this."
"Fair? Was it 'fair' that Willow destroyed the capital enterprise where I
barter goods and services?" There was confusion and a hint of pain in
Anya's voice. "I helped you guys. More than once. It was against
vengeance code. I shouldn't have done it. D'Hoffryn put it in my yearly
report, and now I'm on demon probation. But I helped anyway." She angrily
brushed away a tear. "When Willow's world destroying rage was over, when
she was gone, I *still* had a mess to clean up. Alone. Again." She
looked at Dawn. "Did any of you help? Did you pick up a broom or try to
glue together the crystal Zorrbesky sphere? Did you lend a hand to put the
chicken feet back in their jars? Did you do anything? Ever?"
"Except Giles," Anya corrected. She turned her tear-stained face toward
him and said sincerely, "Thank you for the help with the insurance company.
I don't know what I would have done without you."
Giles looked a little embarrassed but his gaze steadily held hers. "It was
the least I could do."
"And more than anyone else did." Anya's shoulders slumped and her head
hung low as she walked toward the front of the shop.
Buffy stood in the middle of the room for a long moment. Her expression
remained inscrutable before she turned to walk into the Danger Room.
Giles's expression was conflicted. It was clear that he wanted to follow
Buffy, but then he glanced at Anya who sat alone weeping. Dawn followed
Buffy to the back room.
A few things Spike had learned in his years in Sunnydale. First, if you
think you're ahead of the game, you're not. Second, if you think things
cannot possibly get worse, they will. And third, being hit in the face
hurt--especially if the pummeling was done by a Slayer or a two-by-four.
The two-by-four in question had been used to beat him unconscious.
Spike groaned and tried to move. He had no idea how long he had been out
but suspected it had been more than a few minutes, because the alley vamp
had found time to throw Spike in the boot of a car like he was a corpse on
the Sopranos. Did they throw dead bodies in the boot on the Sopranos? It
seemed like a mobster thing to do, but Spike wasn't sure whether it was a
passé for the Sopranos. The crypt had never had cable.
Spike shifted his weight , trying to find a comfortable position in the
cramped space. This wasn't the first time he'd spent time in a boot.
Being a vampire and having sunlight issues, camping out in his car had been
a necessity on more than one occasion. Of course, that had been the
spacious DeSoto and this -- Spike squinted and read the tag on the
underside of the boot lid - was a 2001 Volkswagon Beetle.
He'd been kidnapped and thrown into the boot of a bloody *Beetle*?! How
humiliating. He'd bow his head in shame if he had room to move.
Spike looked around. There was no way to get to the tire iron; it was
stored with the spare tire beneath the floor board. But Spike knew there
would be no problem pushing down the back seat and bursting into the
driving compartment to show minions what a pissed 120+ year old vampire
could do. However, even as Spike contemplated doing just that, he
dismissed the idea. It would be the quick and easy way to shoot to hell
everything he had done tonight.
The whole point of arguing with Buffy in front of witnesses had been to
attract the attention of the evil influences currently causing trouble in
Sunnydale. He'd done that. Now he needed to lay back and wait. . .which
would have been easier if the barmy vampires in the front of the car would
shut up and stop arguing over the radio!
The vamp called Jake wanted the alternative rock station while Dexter
insisted on easy listening. Bloody hell, they were playing Air Supply.
How fucking evil was that?
After a half hour of eardrum torture involving Barry Manilow's "Copa
Cabana" and Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life," the car came to a halt
and the radio was mercifully turned off. Spike heard the minions talking
as they walked around the care. There was a long pause.
"What's that?" Jake asked.
"What's it look like?" asked Dexter. "It's a gun. Cool, huh? I figure if
he rushes at us when we open the trunk, we shoot him."
"He's a vampire, you dipwad."
"Well, it would hurt! Slow him down long enough that he couldn't rip our
heads off. Did you see him rip Larry's head off?"
"Larry was a dick."
"That's beside the point, isn't it? I'm sayin' he's dangerous. Even the
Slayer looked scared."
"The slayer looked pissed," Jake protested.
The car's rear lights flashed as the boot was electronically unlatched and
Jake opened the lid. Spike didn't open his eyes or move.
"See," Jake said. "He's still out cold. Haul him out."
The minions pulled Spike's apparently unconscious body out of the car,
banging his head against the boot's lid.
=Clumsy bastards are gonna pay for that,= Spike thought as his arms were
thrown over the minions' shoulders and he was dragged through the parking
Spike hoped this wasn't some monumental waste of time. If he wound up
dumped at Sharkey's flat because the demon was running short of yellow
tabbies, Spike didn't think he could hold his temper - souled or not - in
Once inside the building, Jake and Dexter hauled him into the elevator
where Muzak played and Dexter began singing, "Up and away in my beautiful
balloon." Spike contemplated the satisfaction he would feel when ripping
Dexter's tongue out at the first opportunity that presented itself. Then
his mind drifted to Dru.
Was the Watcher Wanker right and Dru was behind all of this? Spike
couldn't see how. For 142 years Dru had hit upon one scheme or another to
destroy the world, but not one had to pass (as evidenced by the world still
existing). She had also always needed help. There had been himself -
though with hindsight Spike saw that he'd never truly been on board with
world endage. Consciously or subconsciously he had always seemed to
sabotage Dru's efforts. A little anarchy had seemed like a grand old time
to him, but as Spike had told Buffy years ago, he liked the world. Then
there had been the time Dru had Angelus's help.
Trapped in a wheelchair and dependent on the dubious mercies of Angelus and
Dru, Spike had experienced the first bit of true self awareness in nearly
one hundred years.
"I want to save the world," he had told Buffy, and the irony of the
situation had not been lost on him. Whatever his reasons and
rationalizations-no matter how properly selfish and self-motivated-he had
been aware that he was doing what he should not do. He had gone against
his own kind to fight by the side of a Slayer who loathed him.
The bell rang as the elevator reached their chosen floor. So much time and
distance traveled, Spike realized, only to find himself in the same place
as before...still going against his own kind to fight on the side of a Slayer
who loathed him.
Dexter and Jake carried Spike from the elevator but not down a hall or
through any doors. Spike didn't have to open his eyes to figure out that
whoever they were dealing with must have taken over the entire floor of a
Deciding it was time to fake coming out of a stupor, Spike groaned and
opened his eyes. The first thing he noticed was a pair of exceptionally
well-shaped legs attached to perfectly pedicured feet in strappy stiletto
sandals. A multi-year association with Buffy and over a century of
showering Dru with gifts told Spike those shoes cost a small fortune.
Spike raised his head and focused on the woman's lovely, angular features.
She vaguely reminded him of the model Paulina Poraskova. She definitely was
Dexter said, "Look who we found."
The dark haired woman gave a chilling smile. "William the Bloody."
Spike frowned and his gaze narrowed. "I know you, luv?" He thought he
would remember a creature such as her.
"No reason you should." She offered her hand. "I'm Lilah Morgan."
Spike arched a brow then looked first at Dexter then at Jake who still had
his arms draped over their shoulders. Spike returned his attention to
Lilah. "In a bit of a bind here, luv."
"I can see." Lilah dropped her hand and looked at the minions. "You can
let him go."
Dexter shook his head. "I don't think so. You should have seen what he
did to Larry."
Lilah didn't look curious. In fact, she looked bored. "I'm sure it was
quite spectacular. And, given that Larry isn't here, I'll assume his
absence is permanent. Now, let our guest go."
Dexter and Jake reluctantly complied as a slender man of Asian heritage
shouldered his way by Lilah. "Mr. Bloody, our firm has authorized me to
make you an offer-"
"Who authorized you to do what?" Lilah demanded, her brows drawing together
as she frowned. "Gavin, you have no authority here."
"Linwood gave me authority."
Spike smirked and slouched in the bad ass way he had perfected well over a
century ago as he scanned the room's contents. He was in a penthouse of a
highrise overlooking Sunnydale. He could see the familiar city lights
through the wide expanse of glass. He wondered if he could see Buffy's
home from here.
This wasn't Glory's penthouse. He recognized that right off. It wasn't as
gaudy. This was sleek and in some ways reminded Spike of Deco décor in New
York in the nineteen thirties and forties. Had he just been dumped into a
modern vampire-filled Film Noir?
There were two minions in addition to Dexter and Jake. They stood near the
elevator doors. A hooded demon of some sort stood by a table in the corner
of the room while an ordinary human man stared into a gas fueled fireplace.
Then there was Lilah and her squabble partner, Gavin, and finally, there
was the figure shrouded in the shadows in the far corner of the room. A
man whose back was turned to the others as he stared down at the city
Spike remained highly aware of the silent figure on the far side of the
room even as he spoke to Lilah and Gavin. "When you two kiddies are
through kicking sand, you might like to actually make your offer."
Lilah shot Gavin a dismissive glare before returning her attention to
Spike. "*I* have been given the authority to offer you the chance to play a
pivotal role in-"
"Ending history as we know it," Gavin hurriedly finished Lilah's sentence.
Spike arched a brow and longed for a cigarette. Nothing was better at
stalling for time while looking coolly dangerous than lighting a fag. He
strove to sound bored. "Ending the world? That what this is about?" He
smiled in his most seductive manner as he approached Lilah. "Couldn't be
more original than that?"
"Originality is overrated," said the figure in the shadows. "Tradition is
something we should be proud to uphold, William. But then, you would know
little about that. You always wanted to break the rules."
Spike took a step toward the darkness. "And who might you be?"
"Who I am is of no importance," the figure answered. "What is important is
who I was and who I will become."
"And?" Spike pressed with impatience.
Still no answer. Bastard didn't even turn around to face him. Becoming
pissed, Spike took another step into the shadows. "What's this got to do
with me? Who the bloody hell are you?"
"Why, William, don't you know?" The man turned around and. . .
Spike had no idea who the man was. Not one bloody clue. Blond hair, sharp
features, blue eyes, but Spike didn't know him, had never set eyes on the
The stranger stepped into the light and smiled coldly. "Admittedly, our
acquaintance was brief...and unpleasant. You really are lacking in manners,
"So I've been told. Now who the fuck are you?"
The man ignored Spike and spoke in a preoccupied manner as though he was
only speaking to himself. "Darla was always aware of tradition. It always
called to her. She always returned to it, to me, despite the centuries she
wasted on that Irish dog Angelus. She was purebred and wasted time with
mongrels such as yourself. But she always remembered to drag her puppies
home to meet their master."
The stranger nodded at the minions, who rushed Spike. Derek, Jake, the two
minions by the door, all came at him at once. Spike turned and - damn it!
All the furniture in the room was chrome, steel, glass and leather, nothing
stake worthy anywhere in sight. He fought bare handed. Catching one of the
nameless minions off guard, Spike's roundhouse kick propelled the younger
vampire into the spandrel glass. There was a horrified look on the
minion's face as the glass cracked and came crashing down as the vampire
fell out the window. Spike could hear the minion scream as it plummeted to
the ground twenty stories below. Spike caught Jake, and with a quick
twist, ripped his kidnapper's head off.
Dust scattered across the black and white marble floor as a sharp pain dug
into Spike's back. He looked over his shoulder in confusion and stared
into a face that was no face. The demon he had noticed earlier had nothing
but a black void beneath its hood. . .at least Spike thought so. It was
hard to tell. His vision was becoming blurry and his extremities numb.
As Spike fell paralyzed to the floor, he saw the demon holding a large,
ugly looking hypodermic needle in its gnarled hand. Drugs? He'd been
Spike lay on the floor staring up at the blond man.
"You are of my Order," the man said. "You are of my line. I wasn't
particularly impressed with you a hundred and twenty years ago but my
options are limited." His self satisfied smile was ghastly. "William,
once again you've met your Master."
Reggie lay with his arms folded under his head as he napped at the
library table. Willow ignored the drool that made a stretchy string from
his lip to the highly polished mahogany. Lydia sat at the other end of the
table quietly reviewing her notes while Willow sat on the floor in the
corner with books scattered around her as she stared at the prophecy for
...like... the *millionth* time.
There had to be an answer. There had to be *something.* But no matter how
many times she had read the parchment Willow could find nothing new. It
was just the same words over and over again. She traced the ragged edge of
the paper and wished she knew where the rest of it was. When had it been
lost? A hundred years ago? Longer than that? If she had the rest of the
paper would she find some way to avert disaster?
A thought teased her. More than a thought, actually. It was a memory.
She remembered walking into the Magic Box and throwing open texts. She
remembered absorbing the words, *feeling* them and the histories behind
them. It had been exhilarating and terrifying. In her grief and rage, her
power had driven her over the edge. She knew now that the power inside her
could lead her to horrible things. It could overtake her conscience... her
But this was different. This wasn't rage. This wasn't grief and torment.
This wasn't vengeance. *This* was desperation. She had to do *something*
or the world would end, so Willow lightly, hesitantly touched the paper
while reaching out with her senses-with *all* of her senses. She could
feel the darkness behind them. It hovered just around the edge of her
consciousness. She turned her minds eye away from it. She would not go
there. She would never go there again... Please, never let her go there
again because if she did, Willow knew she would never make it back.
She tried to stay controlled and calm. She tried to remain at peace as
Tara had always tried to teach her to be, as the Council had coached her to
be. She could do this without losing herself. She had to.
She felt the words and she felt. . .
Damn it! That son of a bitch Quentin Travers!
Willow realized she had said the words aloud when Lydia suddenly looked at
Willow, and Reggie fell out of his chair. He wiped drool off his chin as
Willow waved the parchment. "Mr. Travers tore off the rest of the
prophecy!" she told them.
Lydia asked, "Are you certain?"
"Pretty darn certain."
"Bastard," Reggie growled then looked embarrassed that he had said the
word. "Uh... that is..." Reggie climbed to his feet. "Mr. Travers must be
concealing something important."
"Oh, I bet it's important alright." Willow mustered her resolve face. "And
we're going to find out what it is."
The room was no operating room. It hadn't been designed as a place for
medical procedures ... though Lilah had to admit there was something cold,
stark, and antiseptic about the room with its dead white walls, black
leather chaise, and chrome tables. The minions had dragged a paralyzed but
mostly conscious William from the living room to the room Dr. Melman had
appropriated earlier in the evening. Now, a bare-chested William the
Bloody lay strapped to the black leather van der Rohe Barcelona chaise, and
perhaps she should feel sympathy at seeing such a proud, wild creature in
restraints...but her mind kept wandering to kinkier places.
Lilah's pleasant musings were interrupted by Gavin asking, "Isn't being
vamped a bit like being pregnant? Either you are or you aren't."
Lilah stepped away from the chaise and returned her attention to the odd
menagerie of occupants in the room. Dr. Melman and his demonic medical
assistant were handling several vials of blood extracted from the vampire
laying on the chaise while Gavin pestered them with questions. Standing
silently to one side was Gabriel, who in a previous life had been known as
She was still confused by the specifics of the Master's situation. Having
witnessed Darla's resurrection a few years earlier, Lilah could only assume
that when magic was used to resurrect a vampire, they returned not as the
vampire but as a human. That was what had happened to Darla and that was
what had happened to the Master as well. He was human. At least she was
relatively certain he was human. Lilah found it strange that both Darla
and the Master had returned from their dusty graves with their memories of
their vampire lives intact.
Dr. Melman nodded in response to Gavin's question. "You are correct.
Infected with the demon *is* infected with the demon. But there are
varying degrees within the condition. After all, two months pregnant and
nine months pregnant do not completely resemble one another."
Lilah cast a doubtful look at the physician. "There are different stages of
infection?" This did not resemble the way that vampirism had been
explained to her.
"Not precisely," Dr. Melman amended. "But just as there are differences in
hormone levels and genetics unique to individual human progeny, vampires
have different bloodlines and different degrees of demonic presence related
to infection levels."
"But both are forms of reproduction..." Gavin ventured, desperately trying to
sound assured though Lilah heard the hesitancy in his voice.
The doctor nodded. "Oh yes. Of course, human reproduction and vampire
reproduction are very different things. Vampirism is more than science or
biology. It's magic." He indicated the faceless demon who was constantly at
his side. "This is the reason for my unique medical assistant. There are
many factors unique to nosferatu. For instance, in the case of vampires,
the first offspring are the strongest."
Lilah nodded. This she did know. "The first are masters."
The doctor shrugged. "If you wish to use such a superstitious and
antiquated classification system." His pinched features looked
infuriatingly pompous. Lilah hoped the doctor messed up in some way so
that the senior partners would okay her having him killed when this was
done. "It's a rather trite term."
She would definitely have him killed.
"If you say so," Lilah told him before falling silent and adopting a
secretive smile as she contemplated whether his death should be at the
hands of Lilliard demons or Zorads.
The doctor appeared to be oblivious to anything but the sound of his own
voice. "A vampire's first offspring is superior in every way to any later
offspring. For reasons unknown, a sire's first progeny bonds more readily
and more intimately with its human host. It functions at the highest
mental capacity, and is more capable of passing unnoticed among human
Gavin nodded as if he had in someway known all of this. He was an
inveterate poseur. "You mean they resort to game face less often."
"Usually, yes. Later offspring--" the doctor indicated the thuggish
vampire named Dexter standing near the door "-are more demon than human."
Melman looked at Lilah and asked in a patronizing tone. "Have you ever
seen the demonic species from which our earth-bound vampires originate?
Those demons are dumb as rocks."
"So being first offspring is important?" Gavin asked.
"To fully utilize the gifts of the human host? Yes, it is very important."
Melman laid the vile of blood down on the table and indicated Spike. "And
not a problem in this case. This vampire has never sired." He looked into
the microscope he had set up on this table. "He is also quite definitely
of the Line of Aurelius. There is no problem there, either."
Gavin drew close to the doctor. "You say that as though you believe there
is a problem *somewhere.*"
"Problem? No. Complication? Maybe." Dr. Melman hit a button on his
laptop computer and the microscope image of blood cells filled the LCD
screen. "Our blood donor is of the correct bloodline and therefore has the
particular strain of demonic infection that we seek. It's-" he laughed.
"Well, for vampires it is the equivalent of a very robust strain. But
remember what I said about concentration levels?"
"Varying degrees within the condition?" Lilah inquired.
"Yes. Our donor has the evil equivalent of a low sperm count."
"That is, if demonic infection were sperm," Lilah drawled. "Which it
"True, but, as a rough analogy it works fairly well. Of course, the
implications of William the Bloody's condition are far more startling than
a low sperm count. "
"And by that you mean...?"
"This is his blood. It is what is in him." The doctor pointed to the
computer screen image. "Note the lack of the darker, demonic molecules.
This creature would barely test positive for vampiric activity. He is
more man than monster."
Lilah glanced over at Gabriel. She could tell by the expression on his
face that he disliked what he was hearing. Straightening her shoulders and
narrowing her eyes, she asked in a stern, authoritative voice. "And how do
you propose to fix this?"
It was best to sound as commanding as possible.
The doctor's latex gloves snapped as he pulled them on. "Most sirings take
only a minimal amount of blood from the sire. In this case, I suggest we
drain the vampire entirely and centrifuge the blood for an artificial
Gavin grinned. "We're making vampire concentrate."
Lilah glanced at the blond figure the doctor had pronounced more man than
monster and admitted a truth to herself that she would admit to no one
else. They were proposing to bring this creature great pain, to drain the
life from him. There were violating him in an intimate and horrible way.
They were forcing William to sire against his will. Lilah knew she should
be disgusted. A normal person would horrified, but for her it was just
another day at the office. She worked for Wolfram and Hart.
Lilah watched Dr. Melman approach William with medical instruments that
appeared to have been used during the Spanish Inquisition. In contrast,
the immaculately appointed room also boasted a very technical looking
device. It appeared to be a heart/lung machine. Only from what the doctor
had described, Lilah was fairly certain no blood was going to be fed back
into the vampire donor. He was being drained to turn Gabriel into the
Master of Aurelius once again.
Lilah followed Gabriel, Gavin, Dr. Melman and his demonic medical assistant
across the room. She stood over the Barcelona chaise and looked down into
the paralyzed William's clear blue eyes. She saw many things written in
that cerulean gaze-anger, contempt, and resignation. She also saw
incipient fear which made her wonder...what must it be like to face having
life drained from you drop by drop for the *second* time...?
Chapter Eleven: Telling Secrets
Loudly, Anya blew her nose into Giles's
handkerchief. "Thanks," she said, wiping her eyes with the back of
her hand. She solemnly offered the soggy cloth back to him.
Giles held up a hand, his mouth twitching
with silent amusement. "No, you keep it."
"I appreciate you listening to me."
Anya snuffled. "No one ever really bothers to ask how I'm feeling."
She nodded towards the training room where, judging from the loud thuds,
Buffy was pummeling a punching bag. "I'm just this big demonic nuisance
to them, except when they need my help with research. Imagine," her
voice rose indignantly, "they didn't even know what a Kermitis demon was."
"Really?" Giles felt sympathy for the poor
girl. He had an unfortunate weakness for crying women, a weakness
that had gotten him into trouble on more than one occasion. In this
case, it would behoove him to remember the identity of the weeping female:
Anya, once betrothed to Xander, former vengeance demon, terribly afraid
of bunnies. Quite an irrational girl, really. Anya awkwardly
adjusted her dress, then dried her eyes rather violently with the back
of her hand. Giles half smiled. That was the charming thing about
Anya. She didn't weigh every word, evaluate every action, think about
propriety. She was completely natural. She simply did things.
Giles envied that.
"I don't think you taught them anything
about doing research, Rupert. Your former charges are completely
incompetent. Or perhaps they're just stupid."
Giles was jolted back to earth. The
familiar irritation rose within him, the irritation that always manifested
itself in Anya's presence.
"But I told them." Anya said proudly. "I
told them what to do. It's simple really, if you have a troll hammer."
"Buffy managed to kill them all?"
Giles asked anxiously.
"As many as she could. But then the
plague came. If there's any justice at all Xander will become horribly
infected with an antibiotic resistant strain. Pustules everywhere.
Now that's what I call vengeance." Anya smiled brightly at the thought.
"Why haven't you just cursed him yourself,
Anya?" Giles cleared his throat uncomfortably. "You are a vengeance
demon, after all."
Anya shook her head. "I can't do
it myself. You should know that, Rupert. Vengeance demon code.
Besides," she lowered her voice conspiratorially, "I've lost the passion
for wreaking havoc." Absentmindedly, she took a chicken foot from
the counter and made it hop a legless arrhythmic dance on the counter.
"I'm a pathetic excuse for a vengeance demon. Soon D'Hoffryn won't
want me either." Her eyes filled with tears.
Giles's irritation faded. He was
back to wanting to protect her, to comfort her, to . . . What was it about
=Do vampires dream?=
A little metaphysical speculation was good
for the soul, Lilah thought, even if your soul had been promised years
ago to the senior partners. With vague enjoyment, she watched as
the needles sucked the lifeblood from the ever-paler vampire. Poetic
justice, if you asked her. A thing of beauty. This creature
who violated, who killed, was now having the same thing done to him.
What she wouldn't give to see Angel in the same position.
Now, that would be yummy. She got
all tingly at the thought. Maybe she'd try it someday.
The vampire began to struggle, but he was
so doped up, Lilah was fairly sure he couldn't feel a thing. A shame,
Hard iron bands encircled William's wrists.
Writhing, trying desperately to move. Cold steel on his back.
Soft hand over his mouth. "Shhh. It will all be over soon."
Smiling widely, the demon woman, the succubus,
licked his face. "We've almost finished with you."
A blond man caressed him. Lewd.
Defiling. Obscene. "That's right, sweet William. You've been very
useful to me."
William Atherton awoke, panting.
It was the dream again. Or nightmare. Rubbing his wrists, he
noticed they were slightly bruised.
Yawning, he considered the clock on his
bedside table. 8:30 a.m. He could afford to sleep just a few
more minutes. Sinking down, he snuggled into bed and found a warm
body next to him, inhaling, exhaling, making little noises in her sleep.
The rational part of his mind--the part that was awake--knew something
wasn't right. But feeling the warm cotton shift against his cheek,
he found that he didn't particularly care. Gently he kissed her shoulder
and inhaled her scent. Spicy, with a hint of vanilla.
Still half asleep, she turned and opened
her green eyes. "Is it morning?"
She speaks! William smiled.
He liked this fantasy. "Yes, love. Time to get up."
Luxuriously, she stretched. "Do we
have to go?"
"I'm afraid so, love. I've got responsibilities,
Her bottom lip extended in a charming pout.
"Why does Matins have to be in the morning?"
"'Twas thus ever so, love."
"Thus endeth the lesson."
William closed the gilt-edged Bible.
The congregation looked at him expectantly. A small group, but attentive.
With his connections a modest parish was all he could secure.
"Good morning, Mrs. Jameson." William
stood at the door of the church, shaking his parishioners' hands.
So many hands. Grasping. Prodding.
"Good morning . . . Mother! So pleased
you could make it." Enthusiastically he took his mother's hands in
his and warmly kissed her cheek. He could feel the bones beneath.
She hadn't been well.
"I wouldn't miss this, my dear. Your
first service. You did a wonderful job, son."
"Dearest, could you take care of Mother?"
William beamed at the woman, the strange and beautiful woman who was somehow
The golden-haired goddess smiled gently.
"It would be my pleasure." Her expression hardened and her smile
turned malicious as she withdrew a stake from her sleeve and plunged it
into his heart. "I like taking care of things."
"Give him some blood."
"Why don't we just kill him?"
"Do as I say."
The voices picked at the edges of Spike's
Excruciating pain shot through him as they
removed the needles and unbound his arms. His body was dry, dusty.
His tongue felt swollen in his mouth. And the hunger was unbearable.
Looking up, he saw the blond man, Gabriel. Muzzily, through the drug-induced
fog, he watched Gabriel's face change as the demon emerged. Spike
knew that somehow this was his fault. Vaguely he remembered--his
blood, the doctor, some scientific mumbo-jumbo about a low evil sperm count.
Obviously, they'd fixed that problem. Gabriel looked plenty evil.
Lilah languidly sauntered to Spike's side
and smiled sardonically, applying a band-aid to one of the fresh wounds
on his arms, giving his marred flesh a playful kiss. "All better,"
she sing-songed. Unbidden, Spike's fangs extended. Lilah laughed
and thrust a blood packet against his waiting mouth. "My, aren't
we a hungry boy?" She'd never understand why they needed to keep this pathetic
excuse for a vampire around. But she had her orders.
Spike ripped the packet open desperately,
wanting only one thing--the feeling of blood running down his parched throat.
"Sorry we had to take such drastic measures,
Spike. But, you know, ancient prophecies--we couldn't take the chance
that you'd say no, especially as you used to work for the Slayer."
Lilah continued to smile, sphinx-like, unreadable as she watched him feed.
Spike tried to collect his scattered thoughts,
as he licked a trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth. =Why
was he still alive? It made no sense. They'd planned to kill
him. But he was still something other than dead and if was going
to save the world, he needed to stay that way.= Finishing his blood
packet, he managed to squeak out a response. "That bitch fucked me
five ways till Sunday, then left me. I'd like to see her dead."
"Still lovesick, William?" Gabriel
considered his sire with interest, his blue eyes piercing, skeptical, patient.
"I was the Slayer's pet. Gave her
everything and she threw it in my face."
"So you truly hate the Slayer?" Gabriel
looked suspicious. "Why don't I believe you?"
"Love and hate, two sides of the same coin."
Spike's jaw muscle clenched before he continued, his eyes blazing with
suppressed rage. He flashed a predatory smile. "Time to show
the little bitch what the big bad can really do."
"What can you do, William, besides being
the Slayer's lapdog?" Gabriel asked.
"Look, I don't have much to live for these
days," Spike spat, his anger at the Master's words giving him the energy
to sit up and swing his legs over the side of the gurney. "Bringing
about the End of Days seems as good a death as any." He shrugged
nonchalantly, but his eyes were fierce. "Used to like the world.
Gabriel shifted into gameface and stalked
towards him. Almost seductively he stroked Spike's cheek. "Are
you sure that won't trouble your soul?"
"I. Am. Not. A. Bitch." Buffy punctuated
her rage with her fists. Violence always made her feel better . .
. at least for a little while.
"I'm glad to hear that." Giles carefully
closed the door behind him. Anya had stopped crying (thankfully)
and now he could turn to his other problem: salving the bruised ego of
his Slayer. Why did saving the world require so much diplomacy?
"She took off." Buffy shrugged.
Giles nodded. "Yes, I remember.
Buffy continued to slam her fists into
the punching bag.
"Would you like to talk about it?"
"It seems that Anya has hit a nerve."
"I used Spike, I admit it. But he
wanted to be used."
"Used in what way?"
"In every way. The sex part, that
was for fun." Buffy hit the bag a little more viciously. "Let's face it,
Spike is easy on the eyes."
Giles recoiled inwardly. He didn't
want to know this. He didn't want to hear about Buffy's sordid liaison
with Spike. He sat down heavily on a nearby bench and observed his
Slayer fruitlessly punching the bag, an opponent she would never defeat.
This was much, much worse than he'd thought.
Buffy half smiled. "Guess I was in
sucky place after you left, huh?"
Giles sighed. "Sleeping with Spike
would certainly qualify as being in a 'sucky place', as you so eloquently
"Yeah, I know. Evil, soulless thing,"
Buffy retorted. "I kill his kind."
"But not him," Giles observed.
"No," Buffy stopped punching. "Not him.
He was . . . different." Buffy sank down on the bench next to Giles.
"He really did love me. Does the Council have that in their books?
That soulless vampires can really love? He would have done anything
I asked, you know."
Giles studied her face. It was pinched
and hard. He remembered when it had been soft and open. But
that was before she'd known what it was to die. What it was to kill
what she loved. "What did you ask of him, Buffy?"
Buffy's eyes darted to the side, avoiding
Giles's gaze. "To hurt me."
"Not as much as I hurt him."
"How did you hurt him?"
Buffy nervously picked at a ragged cuticle.
"Do you really want to know?"
"Will you still love me if I tell you?"
Giles shook his head. "Of course,
Buffy. We all make mistakes."
Buffy laughed, and the joyless sound echoed,
brittle and harsh against the polished wood of the training room.
"Spike was a big mistake from the get go. I should have known that
Buffy and vampires are non-mixy. It should never have started in
the first place. But he was there. And he challenged me.
And he made me forget," her voice broke, "forget how hard and violent my
life is. The pain made me forget. Giving pain and receiving
it." Angrily, she swiped at an errant tear. "True confessions
time, huh Giles? Am I the kind of girl who should be saving the world?"
Giles smiled wanly. "I wouldn't trust
it to anyone else."
"I beat him Giles. Viciously beat
him. He wanted to help me, in his own twisted way, and I beat him
so hard that he couldn't get up. I beat him until he almost choked
on his own blood and then I left him there for the sun. Stupid Spike.
He was trying to save me. 'That's my girl,' he said and I just kept
hitting and hitting until there was no face left. And I kept telling
him that he was evil, that there was nothing good in him, that I would
never be his girl. I kept telling him that it was over, that I didn't
want him. But I kept coming back. I couldn't stop."
"I gave him no reason to be better, to
try to be good. And still he loved me, worshipped me. All he
wanted in his pathetic life was me." Buffy wiped a tear from her eye, remembering.
"Usually when he tried to tell me he loved me, I'd just yell at him to
shut up. But one time, I asked him to tell me. I needed to
hear it. He knew he'd never hear it in return, but it made him happy
to say it. It made him happy, Giles." Buffy stopped punching for
a moment. "And then I dumped him." Her expression turned hard,
remote. "Why? Because I could. I had power over him and
I liked it. Part of me liked destroying him."
Giles cringed. What had happened
to her, his Slayer? What had made her so . . . hard?
Buffy's words came out in a rush.
"But that power, all those games I played ,came with a big old price tag.
I'd screwed with him so much that when it was really over, he didn't believe
me. You see, I'd told him it was over before--like every time I saw
him. I'd said no and hadn't meant it." Buffy met Giles's gaze.
Giles knew. The tremble in her voice,
the pain in her eyes. He knew. "What did he do?"
When the reply finally came, it was barely
a whisper. "He was confused. Lost. He wanted to have
that connection again. He couldn't hear me say no."
"Why am I still alive?" the words rasped
through his dry throat, ragged, disbelieving.
"Because I wanted to have a chat with you,
William." Gabriel smiled benignly at the others in the room. "Would
you mind giving us some privacy? We have much to discuss."
Lilah rolled her eyes. "Do you think
that's wise, Gabriel? Spike's still playing for Team Slayer.
He might try something."
Gabriel continued to smile, supremely confident,
watching Spike's emaciated features. Suddenly, he turned his powerful
gaze on the group. "That's rather doubtful."
Gavin was the first to acquiesce, victim
to Gabriel's mind tricks. "We'll go. I'm sure you can handle
Gabriel nodded cordially towards their
retreating backs. "Thank you."
"Ah, finally alone." Turning his attention
towards Spike, Gabriel extended a hand to the trembling vampire. "Can you
"Just a mo'." Spike drew a useless breath,
then, through sheer determination managed to stand up of his own volition,
eschewing Gabriel's help. His legs wobbled treacherously beneath
him, threatening to give out at any moment. Leaning against a wall for
support, he considered the creature in front of him, the evil thing he
had created, the Master. "You used to look like Bat Boy. You
have some work done?"
Soundly, Gabriel's palm--white, cold, and
unforgiving--met Spike's cheek. "Insolent fool. Don't you realize
the Sword of Damocles is hanging over your head? One more misstep,
my dear, and I shall release that sword."
Spike shrugged. "Do what you want."
"You have no desire to live? No concern
for your own pathetic life?" Gabriel's eyebrow arched with interest.
"Is the weight of that abomination, that soul, so heavy?"
=Yes,= Spike silently replied. =Yes, God
help me, it is.=
Spike drew a deep breath. "The soul
is heavy. In fact, the only thing that keeps me alive is the thought
of ending all this pain, all this," he gestured around him dismissively,
"suffering. Ending the world would be a blessing." Spike smiled murderously.
"Just because I'm all soul-having doesn't mean I'm a champion like Angel.
In fact, I think a little apocalypse can be cleansing, particularly if
that bitch Buffy buys it in the process."
Gabriel returned Spike's smile, the very
image of benevolence, his golden hair glowing like a halo around his perfectly
shaped face. "I hoped you'd see things my way." Languidly,
with inhuman grace, he approached Spike, pinning his sire to the wall with
his icy gaze. "I've done some reading about you, sweet William."
"Yeah?" Spike arched an eyebrow suspiciously.
"Good for you. I've always been a fan of literacy."
"So I've heard. You were quite the
poet in your day."
Spike's eyes widened slightly with surprise,
but he quickly recovered. "Pathetic, I was."
"I would have to agree, William.
Really dreadful stuff, from all accounts. Of course, you didn't leave
many witnesses to your incompetence after you were turned, did you?"
Gabriel studied Spike's face carefully.
A small muscle by his eye twitched, but
otherwise Spike displayed no sign of emotion. "That's what vampires
do," Spike replied, his voice perfectly steady. "We kill."
"Yes," Gabriel said, tracing his finger
along the brickwork of the wall that supported Spike, almost touching the
other vampire's angular face, "it's our nature. We're predators.
But you weren't always a predator, were you, William? You didn't
come by killing naturally. In fact, your God specifically forbade
Spike couldn't disguise his surprise any
longer. "What are you talking about?"
"I know about you, William. The Cambridge
education, studying theology and the classics. The position in a
Spike opened his mouth and softly asked,
Gabriel shrugged. "Wolfram and Hart
have a spectacular research library. A man of your education would
enjoy it." Gabriel smiled wolfishly. "Now I've got your attention,
don't I? But enough chit-chat, William. Here's the bottom line.
I know you. I know your skills." A cold finger finally met
Spike's flesh. Spike recoiled involuntarily from its cold probing.
"And I know you are the perfect man," Gabriel emphasized the last word,
"to help me."
"Bastard!" Giles spat. "I can't believe
he did that to you. How could he, with the chip?"
Buffy bent down to tie her shoe, carefully
avoiding Giles's eyes. "The chip hasn't worked on me since I came
"You mean you were intimate with that creature
and he could have killed you at any time? Buffy," Giles considered
her with a mixture of concern and disappointment, "I thought you were wiser
"He loved me, Giles."
Giles stood up. "Rather destructive
love. Twisted, corrupt . . ."
"Buffy, he tried to rape you." Giles wearily
sat down again, taking one of her hands in his. "Buffy . . ."
"No, Giles, let me explain. Spike
left Sunnydale because of what happened. You should have seen him
when he realized what he'd almost done."
"That's no excuse. It doesn't exonerate
him just because he regretted his actions."
Buffy shook her head. "Of course
it doesn't. I don't know why he's all evil-ed up now but he wasn't like
Giles suddenly felt terribly guilty.
What must Spike's current behavior be doing to Buffy? Perhaps he
should tell her the truth, tell her everything. But if he did reveal
the plan then Buffy might rekindle her alliance with Spike . . . or worse.
Perhaps it was better if they were antagonists. Perhaps it was better
if their relationship played out to its natural conclusion. She was
the Slayer; he was a vampire. Natural enemies. Mortal enemies.
"Buffy, if you see him again, you do realize you may have to . . ."
"Kill him?" Buffy suddenly looked
much older than her twenty-one years. "I know, Giles." Her mouth
drew tight with resolve. "I'll do my duty."
Spike staggered into his old crypt--the
designated meeting point. The two packets of blood Lilah and Gabriel
had given him had done little to assuage the overwhelming hunger and weakness.
His head was spinning. He found his thoughts drifting towards images and
sensations his soul found distasteful, but his demon found tremendously
appealing. Pulsating arteries. The feeling of his fangs plunging
into a tender neck and drinking . . .
In response to these profoundly naughty
thoughts, Spike felt his fangs extend. If he didn't get some blood
soon, he might eat Rupes instead of having a nice chit-chat.
And Spike didn't relish their upcoming
tete-a-tete. "Yeah, Rupert." Spike lit a cigarette and mockingly
addressed the old mannequin head, the one who'd stood in for Buffy in more
imagined conversations than he cared to admit. "I have a knack for evil
and a big yen to end it all." He inhaled the smoke deeply into his
lungs and then exhaled in an angry burst.
"You want death? Let me help."
Giles stood in the doorway of the crypt,
stake in hand, dangerous glint in his eye.
"Rupert, welcome to my very humble abode."
Spike gestured expansively, using precious strength. "Hope you checked
for spies. Don't want to blow my Big Bad cover."
Giles considered him coldly. "If
they were watching, I'm sure they'd see that I'm not your friend.
Nor will I ever be your friend."
Spike lowered his eyes, stung by Giles's
words. "Right. It's business. I know that."
"I've just learned some very interesting
things, Spike. I had a little discussion with Buffy." Giles
gripped his stake a little harder. "Care to tell me the real reason
you left Sunnydale?"
Spike shrugged in defeat. "I'm sure
Buffy told you. I'm a monster. That's why I left town."
He met Giles's eyes. "I would never hurt her. Not now."
"How can I be sure?"
"Nothing's sure, Rupert, but here's one
thing I know: the end of the world is coming, and apparently I'm the right
'man' to help it along."
"What a surprise," Giles replied warily.
"Yeah, you weren't the only one to learn
interesting things tonight. It was all fun and games for old Spike.
Got up close and personal with victimhood." Spike half-smiled. "Violated
so many over the years--old men, girls in coal-bins, those who were just
too scared to run away. But I hadn't felt it--not since Dru. Since
she took something from me that wasn't hers." Spike sat down in his
battered green chair. "Tonight they took my blood. They brought
back the Master. It's gonna be a bloody carnival."
"What?" Giles's brow furrowed in
confusion. "The Master? That can't be. Buffy killed him
"Wasn't really the Master, not at first.
It was Gabriel. Human bloke. Good looking in a Ralph Fiennes
sort of way. And no fruit-punch mouth."
"Spike, you're babbling."
"Am I, Rupes? Blood and science.
That's all it took to bring him back." Spike's hand shook as he brought
the cigarette to his mouth. Slowly, painfully, he removed his jacket,
revealing the numerous puncture wounds and bruises on his bare arms.
"Been a long night."
"Bloody hell. What did they do to
you?" Giles removed his glasses, avoiding the sight of Spike's mangled
"Told you. Took my blood, resurrected
a monster. The Master's back, and he's eager for apocalypse.
Always was a grandiose wanker."
"So the Master thinks he can help it along?
With his re-vamping we are one step closer to the magic number seven."
"Apparently, the Master has a hard-on for
ancient mystical artifacts. Thinks I can help him find them, seeing
as I know a few dead languages."
Giles considered Spike with suspicion.
Something wasn't ringing true. "Is that all? Why would the Master
trust you with this task, the known lover of the Slayer . . ."
"Former lover, Rupes," Spike shuffled his
"Former lover," Giles gladly corrected
his statement. "But it still doesn't make sense."
Spike inhaled deeply on the last bit of
his cigarette, then extinguished it beneath a heavy black heel. "I
guess I play despair pretty well. Convinced him that I was ready for the
end. This is the end, my only friend." Spike half-smiled, remembering
Jim, remembering Emma, remembering those he hadn't saved. Maybe this
time would be different.
Giles looked at Spike closely. "Besides
your knowledge of Greek and Latin and your witty repartee, what else qualifies
you for this apocalyptic task? Care to enlighten me?" Giles pressed
forward with his interrogation, scrutinizing the vampire's features.
Spike rose unsteadily from his chair, turning
his back on Giles. Absentmindedly, he began toying with the mannequin head.
"Has to do with that ponce--the man I was before Dru changed me.
He had certain skills. The Master did his homework, gotta give him
"What skills? Were you an amateur
"Look, is this twenty questions?" Spike
spat defiantly, still avoiding Giles's gaze. "I told you what you
need to know. Let me finish this. Trust me, just a little."
"Why should we trust you, Spike? You've
promised to change on more than one occasion and each attempt ends in recidivism.
The incident with Buffy is only the latest in a long string of moral failures."
Spike pulled himself up to his full height
and swaggered towards Giles, every inch the Big Bad, crystal blue eyes
bearing down on the renegade Watcher. "I may not be a righteous man, but
I'm all you've got, Rupert. I'm your only chance to stop this."
"Not bloody good enough." Giles's steely
gaze was unrelenting. "What are you hiding, Spike? What does
the Master know about you?"
Spike sank heavily to the floor of the
crypt, his strength finally giving out. "You want to know the awful
truth, Rupert? You want to know who I was? Will it give you
your jollies to know my deep, dark, secret?"
Giles crouched down beside him. "I
need to know, Spike," he said gravely.
The last flicker of defiance extinguished
from Spike's eyes. Sighing deeply, he finally spoke. "William
was a vicar. And the Master is back among the Order of Aurelius.
And it's all my fault." A note of desperation entered Spike's voice.
"Let me make it right."
Author’s note: Sorry,
this has taken so freaking long. Real
life has kept me busy. On the bright
side, I did pass my boards.
Chapter Twelve: Magical Mystery Tour
Willow’s boots made
a metallic clank against the metal deck of the Millennium
Bridge as she crossed over the mud
“Could we. . .”
Reggie gasped. “Stop for a moment?”
Reggie’s panting breath made a frosty cloud in the air as he doubled
over and braced his hands against his knees.
looked mildly impatient as Willow
paused to wait for Reggie. For a moment Willow
wondered whether Lydia
would fiddle with her glasses the way that Giles did when he was upset. She didn’t.
adjusted her black leather gloves.
Reggie’s face remained a flushed, mottled red. “I don’t understand why we didn’t take the
tube to Southwark.”
“We would have had to change trains,” Lydia
He took another gulp of air. “Could have taken the boat from
sighed and drew her gray wool coat more tightly around herself as the chilly
morning wind whipped off the river.
“Honestly, Reggie, it isn’t *that* far to walk and the boats
don’t run until nine.”
“It’s okay. We can wait while you catch your breath,” Willow
“I’m fine.” Reggie
manfully squared his shoulders. “Lead the way, Willow.”
Willow paled. “I
don’t. . .” She laid her hands on the
cold stainless steel railing of the pedestrian bridge and looked at the
cityscape of London. Most of what was in front of her was low and
vaguely modern in varying shades of brick, steel, and glass. It was half a world from Sunnydale
and nothing like the Big Ben and Parliament view that had always been the icon
of ‘view from the Thames’ of the American’s
imagination. For the most part what was in front of Willow
was ordinary, sometimes gray and sometimes brown with the occasional apartment
building having reflective tinted glazing. Although standing at the end of the
bridge, slightly askew of being on axis, stood the impressive the
black-smudged, white-domed, Neo-Classical-to-Baroque edifice of St.
“I’m sort of just following my instincts here, guys. Last summer I—“ Willow
stopped, not wanting to think of the mess she had been before Spike had found
her in the alley. “I heard stories, but
I’ve never actually been to this place.”
“We could take another go at Travers,” Reggie suggested.
frowned. “I am afraid if Mr. Giles and Spike could not extract the truth from
Mr. Travers, we have little hope of doing so.”
tightened on the rail. “Yeah. Without
going Darth Willow I’m not very intimidatey.” And no
magic meant no truth spells.
Reggie rubbed his hands together. “The Mystic it is, then. Shall we go?”
They continued across the bridge toward the looming, stark
edifice of an old power plant that had been transformed into an art museum. It
stood next to the gleaming white exterior of the reconstructed Globe Theater
with its anachronistic thatch roof.
Something caught Reggie’s eye. “Ooh! Starbucks!”
He picked up speed and started toward the coffee shop.
glanced at Willow. “This Mystic, do you trust her?”
and followed Reggie. “She’s supposed to
be very powerful. Maybe she can get a
vibe off the text that I can’t. I’ve
tried, but. . .” =I’m scared.= The text was powerful and accessing it meant
marshalling forces which had overwhelmed her not so long ago. Those forces had made Willow
lose control, had caused havoc and death.
She had stood in the middle of a storm of emotion, need, thrills, pain,
and power. Everything had been in her
control, yet everything had been beyond her.
She couldn’t make it make sense. She had seen, up close and personal, a
world composed of chaos upon which she could not impose order. It terrified her. The thought of ever losing control like that
again had become the stuff of her nightmares.
Reggie walked out of the coffee shop and met them on the
sidewalk. A foamy milk mustache marred
his upper lip. “So, where are we going?”
Willow looked at
their surroundings. Having traveled beyond the Globe Theater and the Tate
Modern, the three of them were now in a very non-descript area of the
city. Most of the buildings looked like little
more than old brick warehouses.
“I. . .uh. . .have to sense it,” Willow
confessed. “It’s a bit like trying to
find Platform Nine and Three-Quarters.” =Or
Rack’s= Willow added silently.
frowned. “Nine and Three Quarters?”
“Harry Potter.” Reggie looked excitedly at Willow. “You can really do that? Walk through walls?”
“M-maybe.” Could she? “But this isn’t exactly like
that. It’s not a real wall. It’s an illusion. It takes power to create it and that power
can be felt.” And that power would
sizzle and hum across Willow’s skin
like the power Rack had given her, like the power she had sold herself to a
demon to gain. “It’s sort of like a portal. “
walking, stretching her senses into the void in an effort to feel the portal’s
energy and hoping that this time she wouldn’t find something awful. Reggie and Lydia
were silent while she searched and that unnerved Willow
more. Everything about the narrow,
cobbled streets, which stood deserted and shadowed even in the morning hours,
left Willow feeling uneasy. Then she touched something. It wasn’t strong at first. It felt distant and small. Instead of a supernatural power plant it was
more along the lines of the charge felt when wearing wool socks and skidding
your feet across carpet. Still, even
then, there came a point where you realized that if you touched the doorknob you’d receive a hell of a shock,
and the more she walked the more Willow
felt the charge build.
She stopped moving.
and Reggie faced what looked like a large expanse of blank brick wall. Reggie and Lydia
glanced at Willow with “are you
sure?” expressions causing Willow
to nod then lift her chin. With the
appearance of more confidence than she actually felt, Willow
stepped through the illusory wall.
Behind her she heard Reggie say, “It *is* just like Harry Potter.”
“In hell,” Willow
whispered as she peered into charcoal gray shadows which surrounded her.
Buffy’s roundhouse kick sent a
minion careening off the pier and into the harbor.
“Nice kick, pet.” Spike observed from his ship deck perch.
He loomed over Buffy as he watched her battle the remaining minions. “But you’re a mite slow.”
Buffy grabbed her stake and shoved it into the heart of the
vampire she was fighting.
“See,” Spike taunted.
“Could’ve taken that minion out five minutes ago.”
Buffy glared up at him.
“Would you shut up?”
Spike laughed. “You
know better than that, luv.” He smirked.
From her position behind a packing crate, Dawn was struck by
the absurd notion that Spike looked like a pirate. Not like a *real* pirate, but like a character in of those old, cheesy movies
that her mom had used to watch on the movie classics channel. In real life, pirates had been dangerous men,
but in those old Technicolor movies they were all bluster, handsome faces, and
dramatic poses. They were swashbuckling
actors putting on a show.
Spike stood precariously balanced on the ship’s rail as he
paced along the narrow beam to remain
abreast of Buffy’s struggle.
“Just going to watch? Why not come down and be part of the
show?” Buffy challenged just before the vampire she was fighting clocked
her. Buffy came back swinging, knocking
the vampire to his knees then executing him.
She looked back at Spike. “What
are you doing here?”
Spike squatted and struck a match against the rail. After searching his pocket for a pack of
cigarettes and coming up empty, he blew out the match, shrugged and said,
“You’re too late, you
know. I got here first.”
“Did you now, and what did you find?”
“Like I’d tell you.”
He gave a bitter smile.
“That’s my girl. Always keepin’ secrets.”
“My girl. Yes, I
remember you saying that once. Care to remind me when?”
Buffy flushed and turned away, attacking a minion with
brutal force. Dawn heard the vampire
scream in pain as Buffy broke its arm then its leg so that it was on the ground
before she dusted it. Some expression
Dawn couldn’t quite define crossed Spike’s face before he stood and leaped from
the ship’s rail. If he’d still had the
duster it would have fluttered around him like Batman’s cape and –oh yeah –
that move just was *cool.* Spike landed with the grace and agility of a
cat. Every now and then he’d do
something that would suddenly bring home the fact that he really wasn’t human.
Dawn looked over at Buffy, who was still in full high-heeled
dominatrix/executioner mode with the minions, while a little further down the
pier Xander’s ass was being thoroughly kicked. Spike circled the outer edge of the two
fights, watching but not participating in either. He stood with his back to Dawn.
Dawn’s hand tightened around her stake. Buffy had told her to stay down and stay
hidden. She was supposed to keep watch
and scream a warning if it was needed.
After all, Dawn was good at screaming.
Spike had once teased that it was her not-so-secret superpower.
His back was to her, and Dawn could take him out. She could dust him. In the month he’d been back, Spike had caused
nothing but trouble. Buffy’s
good mood had disappeared. She had gone
into cold bitch Slayer mode the night Spike had returned and made himself Arch-enemy Number One.
Giles was a pod person too.
Dawn remembered Giles as the amusing fuddy-duddy who was essentially
kind. He didn’t seem very kind
lately. He was distant and he
frowned. He had always frowned but it
used to be possible to tease him into smiles.
Now he *just* frowned. He had become as hard and coldly determined
“Ripper,” Xander had said. “He’s in Ripper mode.”
And Spike was the cause of it all.
Buffy ripped a pipe from the pier railing, flipped it,
twirled it in her hand, and skewered her combatant. Spike cocked his head to the side. “Stole
that move from me, didn’t you, pet?”
Buffy glared. “No!”
She looked ready to charge Spike, but a harried Xander
cried for help.
Buffy ran to save her friend as Dawn struggled to gather her
own courage. She could do this. She could kill Spike. She had a clear
shot. He was only a couple yards
away. All she had to do was remind
herself that Spike was the guy who had harbored demon eggs that would have
hatched critters that would have devoured her and her friends in their beds. He was the guy who had disappeared from her
life the moment Buffy had come back from the dead.
Dawn tightened her hand around her stake and rose to her
Spike was the guy who had slept with Anya. He was the guy who had hurt Buffy. He was the guy…who had been Dawn’s first real
Spike turned and
Dawn’s blood ran cold. For so
long he had just been Spike. Frustrated
Spike. Angry Spike. Heartbroken Spike. But always just Spike. Dawn had never looked into his eyes and seen
hate. Not her. Never her.
She might know that Spike was
dangerous, but where she was concerned Spike had always been a big
fluffy puppy with bad teeth. Dawn had never looked at him and seen death. Now she did, and she was terrified.
Spike’s blue eyes flickered gold, a flat acid yellow devoid
of human warmth or expression. His
muscles tensed a fraction of a second before he charged in her direction. Dawn’s heart leaped into her throat, and she
remembered the story Spike had once told her of a little girl in a coal bin.
=Oh, God. Oh, God.=
She was about to die. She was
about to have her throat ripped out by a vampire. Dawn knew she should run, but her feet felt
glued in place. Spike could run faster
than she could anyway. She was going to
die. Spike reached out and as Dawn
opened her mouth to scream, he caught. . .
Dawn gasped as Spike roughly hauled a vampire from behind
The vampire struggled in Spike’s grip. It protested, “Hey man, I had her dead to—“
Spike ripped the minion’s head off sending a spray of dust
into Dawn’s eyes.
“God. Oh! That
stings!” Dawn rubbed her eyes with the
back of her wrist. But she felt safe,
and when she could see again, she found Spike watching her with concern.
Spike was an open book again, every thought, every emotion
written on his expressive face. There
was fear, then relief, when he found her unharmed. He lifted his hand, reaching for her as if he
meant to touch her, comfort her.
“Dawn!” Buffy yelled
from somewhere beyond Dawn’s field of vision.
Spike’s hand fell and the moment of connection between him
and Dawn was broken. He stepped back,
drawing himself up so that he appeared larger than he truly was. His features hardened before he disappeared
into the darkness.
“Dawnie.” Buffy marched toward her. “I told you to stay hidden. That means *hide.*”
“It’s okay, Buffy.
Buffy’s frown knitted her brow but
after a moment she seemed willing to let the ice bitch routine go. She brushed a strand of Dawn’s hair behind
her ear, and Dawn could *almost*
swear there was a look of approval in Buffy’s eyes.
Xander was breathless when he
reached them. He looked tired and
stressed. “Bastard got away, didn’t
he?” They all knew Xander
was talking about Spike.
“Doesn’t matter,” Buffy said.
Xander shook his head and looked
unhappy. “What do you mean, it doesn’t
Buffy casually tossed a two inch square silver box in the
air and caught it. “I got what I came
for.” She started walking. After a moment, and a disgruntled sigh, Xander followed
Dawn still felt rooted to the spot. She stared at the pile of dust at her
feet. Spike had done that. Spike had saved her. He had *wanted*
to save her. She had looked into his
eyes and seen love.
“Dawnie?” Buffy called.
Something was going on, and Dawn wanted to know what.
Spike negotiated his way through the dimly lit alley between
two warehouses as he left the docks. The
shadows around him were long and deep, deep enough to hide in and almost
disappear. He leaned against a weathered brick wall and pulled a dry, pained breath into his lungs. If his heart could beat, he knew it would be
pounding, not from exertion but from fear.
Dawn had been a hair’s breadth away from becoming O-positive lunch for
one of the Master’s flunkies. Buffy and
Harris had been caught in their own battles.
If Spike hadn’t glanced in Dawn’s direction, Niblet
would have been killed and left lying on the dock with a dead, glassy-eyed
=Bollocks, bugger, and
balls.= What had Buffy been thinking
bringing Bit down to the docks like that?
Reckless was what it was, damned reckless.
Spike paused and leaned against the warehouse, settling for
a deep breath to calm himself rather than the cigarette he’d sell his soul to
The corner of Spike’s mouth lifted in bitter amusement. He’d have to watch thinking things like that
now that he had a soul to sell, now that he knew what a soul meant. It meant he remembered a thousand little
girls just like Bit, girls that he had done in without a second thought. He was no better than the minion he had just
A few weeks ago, when he had revealed his human past to Rupes, the Watcher had wanted to know what the Master could
possibly want with an undead vicar. Rupes’ mocking tone had made his incredulity clear and
caused Spike to laugh. “Nothing,” Spike
had said gruffly. “Not about God or
religion anyways--which is good ‘cause I was never much interested in either.”
Rupert’s glare had been disapproving, but then Rupert’s
glare was always disapproving. Spike had ignored it and answered the Watcher’s
“William was a good boy.”
Spike was keenly aware of his accent changing to rounder and more
precise speech. “Always doing what was
right, what was expected. Taking the cloth was a gentleman’s profession, one
appropriate to my family’s situation. I
believed it all, I suppose, but I had no passion for it. If you’re looking for a fallen saint, you
would do better to look in Dru’s direction.”
The Watcher’s expression had become a scowl. “I knew she had taken vows before Angelus. .
Spike had arched a brow.
“Don’t go squeamish, Rupes. He raped her, tortured her, drove her insane,
and murdered her. “
Giles had grimaced and looked away, causing Spike to wonder
at the innate repression that made Giles reluctant to hear or say what he
already knew to be true.
Spike had made a dismissive gesture with his hand. “But this isn’t about Dru. And I told you, it’s not about God. It’s about knowledge.”
“And you have it?” Giles had asked derisively. “Why do I find that hard to believe?”
“Bloody well don’t care what you believe. You try findin’ a
graduate of the modern American educational system who can read Greek and
Latin. Local vampire ranks aren’t filled
with Rhodes Scholars, y’know.”
Spike had shrugged. “It amused Angelus to corrupt
innocents. He called it ‘education.’”
“I find it difficult to imagine you as innocent.”
“And I find it difficult to imagine you as anything other
than a sanctimonious git swathed in tweed. We all have pasts.”
“Your point, Spike?”
“My point is the Master needs a right-hand man familiar with
subjects a good Anglican boy with a pre-Raphaelite’s obsession for all things
chivalric would know a thing or three about.
Crusades, illuminated manuscripts, holy hand grenade of Antioch. That sort of thing.”
Rupert hadn’t been pleased, but the Watcher was a pragmatic
man. “As unlikely as it may be, you
appear to be of value.”
“Knots your knickers, doesn’t it?” Spike’s bravado had fallen away, and he had
sighed. “I can do this.” He had lifted his head. “Besides, I’m all you’ve got.”
Three weeks and a few-odd days had passed since then, weeks
of lies and pretended subservience to the Master. Now, the weight of a
two-and-a-half-inch square silver box in his pocket reminded Spike that things
were as buggered as always.
It was nothing like Platform Nine and Three Quarters. It was nothing like Diagon
Alley. There was nothing whimsical or
cute to be found here. It was ominous
and dark, and reminded Willow of the gutter where Spike had found her.
“This is the right place?” Lydia
nervously. “I’m pretty sure it is. It was described to me. . .sort of. . .in way
less scary terms.” Willow swallowed
convulsively. “It’s a shadowland. It’s
always here, just. . .”
“Hidden in the shadows.
I’ve read about those.” Reggie’s
voice was as enthusiastic as ever as he examined their surroundings. “Look at these markings. They were left by a Krallock
demon.” It was graffiti which probably
only said “Numfar was here,” but the phosphorescent green scrawl on the cement-parged walls glowed in the shadows. It felt like a warning, and although the
alley walls protected them from the wind off the river, the air seemed colder
why she should be surprised that this hidden place of magic seemed to be like
Rack’s. The air was pregnant with the
same kind of energy. It was just as
unearthly still, and it had the same hostile vibe.
=What did you
expect? Oz and the Emerald City?=
For a moment Willow comforted herself with the memory of an entirely different
Oz and what his deadpan reaction would be to this dark alley. But Oz wasn’t here, and this wasn’t the Emerald
City. There was no harmless doorman or a horse of a
different color. There was no benevolent
Dumbledore. . .and was she mixing her metaphors and
literary references much?
Gathering her courage, Willow
approached the door next to the glowing demon scrawl. The door flew open, revealing an aged woman
whose wild mane that looked like it belonged to Gloria Steinem
on a bad hair day. . . if the bad hair day involved her sticking her finger in
a light socket. Her hair was steel-wool
gray, as were her eyes. In fact,
everything about her was a bit gray.
“Come in and stop wasting time,”
the woman commanded.
“But I. . .uh. . .”
“She hadn’t even tried the door,” Reggie exclaimed. “How did you know we were here?”
The woman arched a brow.
“You come to a seer and expect her not to see?”
“Well, no, but—“
The woman had already walked away, leaving the door open
behind her. Willow
looked at each other, then followed the seer inside. The mystic stood over an old gas stove, where
she put a tea kettle on to boil. “Could
have saved my time by not coming at all,” the seer grumbled. “Could have let me
sleep in. It’s hellishly early.” She pulled a tin of tea from the
and the Watchers were left standing in awkward silence watching step by step as
the seer prepared to make tea.
Finally, Reggie broke the silence to ask, “Are you a mystic or an oracle?”
The woman frowned as she filled a strainer with fragrant
black Darjeeling leaves. “What’s
primly clasped her hands. “A mystic is a practitioner of mysticism which is defined as the belief that
it is possible to experience communion with the ultimate reality through
subjective means such as intuition or insight. An Oracle is someone through
whom gods, goddesses, and fates may speak directly.”
The Seer tilted her head slightly to one side. “Reallly? Hmm. I
will keep that in mind.” She then
shrugged, clearly reluctant to define herself, and returned to making tea.
Reggie continued to press.
“Are you a witch?”
The woman eyed him as she set a celadon Japanese teapot on
the counter. “Awfully anxious to find a
pigeon hole for me, aren’t you, Watcher?”
“How do you know we’re Watchers?”
“You smell like it.
Musty, stuffy--” She sniffed the
No. 5.” She smiled at Lydia. “Very nice, by the way.” The Seer turned, caught sight of herself in
the mirror and yelped. Leaning closer to
the glass, she touched her lined face as if it was unfamiliar to her. “Why have you come at this ungodly hour of
“It’s eight fifteen,”
The woman hrrumphed. “Feels
earlier. I haven’t had a chance to put
my face on yet.”
forward. “We…uh… came for information.
We wanted to know. . .” She searched for the appropriate word. “Stuff
about this…um…prophecy. . . thing.” Willow
silently groaned. She hadn’t sounded
very dignified or commandy.
Still staring into the mirror, the woman said, “If you’re
looking for someone to tell fortunes, try Talia. She’s three blocks to the east and
nauseatingly chipper this time of day.“ Another disgruntled hrrmphf. “Morning person.”
her resolve face. “We aren’t here for
The woman turned her attention from the mirror to Willow. Her gaze traveled from the top of the young
witch’s red head to the toes of her almost-new boots which were ankle high and
laced from bottom to top. “It’s going
to cost you,” the Seer warned.
was the first to answer. “We are willing to pay your price.”
“Oh, really?” The woman arched her brow, then reached out
and snatched Lydia’s
shell-pink Hermes scarf from around the Watcher’s neck.
“That’s a Regina!”
protested, then instantly composed herself and clasped her hands primly. With her chin lifted and her voice full of
forced calm she added, “And it’s
”Pretty.” The seer fluttered the scarf in the air and began humming an artless
tune as she pulled back her wild hair and tied it with the scarf. Another wave of her hand and when the seer
faced her visitors, the lines on her face had been magically, erased leaving
her skin smooth, taut, and curiously ageless.
“I say, Lydia,
a scarf is a small price to pay for a—hey!” Reggie cried out as the Seer stole
his latte. “You’re making tea, why do
you need my coffee?”
The woman licked milk foam from her upper lip. “There’s no such thing as enough caffeine.
“And my price?” Willow
asked, fully aware that the seer was taking a token from each of her visitors.
A flash of light and the amethyst crystal that hung around Willow’s
neck on a leather thong disappeared and reappeared in the Seer’s hand. Willow’s
hand went to her now bare throat. “No,
please. That was given to me by someone
very special. . .someone I lost.”
The Seer gazed into the crystal that now lay in her
hand. It began to giving off a soft, iridescent lavender glow. “I can see that.” She returned the crystal to Willow’s
neck. “She loved you a great deal.”
winced as the older woman tore out several strands of her red hair.
The Seer smiled and wound her trophy around one finger
before sliding it into a small silk pouch that she placed in a cupboard drawer. “Account paid in full. Now, what do you wish
the illuminated parchment out flat on the kitchen counter.
“What is it?” Buffy
asked as Giles examined the box she had taken from the ship at the Sunnydale Docks.
“It’s like the most expensive Rubik’s cube on the planet,” Xander observed.
“And the freakiest.”
The surface of the cube was intricately worked silver,
inlaid with onyx and polished ivory. The
workings of the mechanism were so precise and fine that the black and white
pieces could be moved along delicate silver tracks until they made patterns.
“So?” Buffy’s arms were crossed
and she looked impatient.
Giles frowned. “I’m
not precisely sure what you wish me to tell you, Buffy.”
“Um, sort of looking for ‘what is it?’”
Giles picked up the box for closer inspection as he traced
the symbols etched into each piece of ivory and stone. “It’s a puzzle of some sort. I cannot be more precise until I’ve had time
to do further research.”
“Why does Spike want it?
He had five minions with him and he beat us to the docks. What does that thing do?”
Xander took the box from Giles’s
hand. “Probably something very Wes Craven.” He set it on the table. “And it’s freaking me out watching you mess
with it, Giles.”
Buffy started to pace across the floor of the Magic
Box. “This is *so* not good.” She stopped
moving. “Remember the Judge? Big puzzle pieces stolen from the dock. Put them all together and—presto--Blue Man
Xander shook his head. “Remind me again why we kept Spike around so
long? Should have killed him when he
showed up at Giles’s door. Would have saved us all a lot of trouble.”
A knot formed in the pit of Dawn’s stomach as she slid from
the counter where she had been sitting, and quietly made her way into the back
room. Behind her she could hear Xander going into Spike rant number three million, six
hundred thousand and five. For months
now she’s been all with the Spike hate, but the incident at the dock made Dawn
wonder. Spike had protected her. It couldn’t have been to impress Buffy,
because he was busy pissing Buffy off in a very big way. The only explanation for why he had saved her
was because he had wanted to. Sure, Spike could be a monumentally sentimental
sap – in a cool, rebellious sort of way – but when trying to destroy the world,
rescuing the people working against you was sort of counterproductive.
Sitting at a desk in the far corner of the Magic Box’s rear
office, Anya sighed and muttered to herself as she
reviewed invoices. “I sincerely hope he
is a very good Watcher because he is a very inefficient business man.”
Dawn asked, “Who? Mr.
“Look at this.” Anya waved a packing slip in Dawn’s general direction. “This is the third invoice I’ve found for an Er’Gefrey box, and we don’t have a single one in stock.”
The demon turned and looked at Dawn with a disapproving and
confused gaze. “How am I to make a
profit if Giles keeps paying for merchandise we don’t have?”
Dawn caught the paper that Anya
was waving. “What’s an Er’Gefrey box look like?”
Anya shrugged. “Varies.
But Giles keeps paying for the expensive ones--silver, onyx, and ivory.”
Dawn gasped. She
pushed aside the bead curtain and looked into the main room of the shop where
Buffy and Xander were still talking with Mr.
Giles. “This box thingie,
what does it do?”
asked. “Nothing. It’s like magical gift wrapping. A fancy outer wrapper that contains
“It’s a small package that holds really big things.”
Dawn frowned. “So these little boxes act like Mary Poppins’s suitcase?”
“Who is Mary Poppins?”
Dawn ignored Anya’s question. “If Mr.
Giles is ordering these boxes, he has to know what they are. He’s lying.”
embezzling? Why I—“
Dawn’s hand covered Anya’s
mouth. “Shh!” Anya bit her. “Ow!”
But Anya did keep her voice down
to a whisper when she spoke again. “I am
a vengeance demon, you know. I could
turn you into a stink beetle.”
“Not unless someone I scorned wished for me to be a stink
beetle, and since I’m not big into scorning and never had anyone to scorn
anyhow, you’re out of luck.”
Anya peeked through the beaded
curtain to look at the trio inside the shop examining the Er’Gefrey
box. “Human men are evil. Say what you
will about demons, men are worse.”
“You like men.”
“Well, yes, but I have very bad taste in men.”
“So men aren’t evil, just the ones you like.” Dawn frowned.
“And I thought we were talking about Mr. Giles not Xander.”
Anya flushed. “Yes, well, Giles is the one stealing from
“If it’s any help, I don’t think Mr. Giles is stealing. He’s just keeping secrets.”
“Secrets about stealing.”
“No, I’m pretty sure
it’s about something else.”
Spike shoved the Er’Gefrey box
into the inner pocket of his jacket as he approached the Volkswagon
that waited for him. The street was still
wet from an early evening rain and
light reflected off the asphalt. As a gentle breeze blew, Spike stopped
walking. There was the scent of blood in
the air. With a sudden burst of speed he turned, slamming a minion into the
wall as its human victim fell to the ground.
“Dexter, is it?”
The vamp could only make a gagging sound as it nodded.
“What did I say about snacking?” Spike eased off the
minion’s wind pipe so it could answer.
“Man, just because you can’t bite—“
“That’s right. Got a
chip in my head that means I can’t bite people, which means as long as I’m
around *you* can’t bite people.” Spike smirked. “‘Cause I’m just a selfish bastard that
way. If I don’t have fun, no one does.”
“Man, just because you’re a cripple…”
Spike pushed his forearm harder into Dexter’s throat. “I’m thinkin’ I’m just a nudge away from crushing your windpipe,
Dexter. And while you may not need to
breathe, a smashed windpipe makes it a bitch to talk or sing along with your
Abba 8 tracks. So, one more time. Stop
pissing me off. ” He let the minion go.
Dexter straightened his jacket. “Be cool, man.”
Spike looked heavenward.
“And the seventies are *over!*”
“This coming from Mr. Punk Rock Atti—“
Dexter threw his hands up. “All right, already. You win.” He
looked over Spike’s shoulder. “Where’re
Most of Spike’s energy was focused on trying to hear whether
Dexter’s victim still had a heartbeat.
She did. The rest of his energy
was aimed at reminding himself not to appear as though he cared. “They met dusty ends.”
“That bitch Slayer?”
“Yeah. That. . .
“Damn, the Master isn’t going to like hearing this. Did you at least get what we came for?”
Acutely aware of the weight of the Er’Gefrey
box in his pocket, Spike lied. “Not yet,
but soon. Go back and tell the Master
I’ll have what he wants later tonight.”
“Only reason to have a flat in the warehouse district is the
excess space,” the Seer explained, as she led Willow,
Reggie, and Lydia
out of her kitchen and into expansive, nearly-empty loft with blacked out
windows. She took the parchment they had
brought with them from the Council and laid it on the floor in the center of
the room. Reaching into her pocket, the
Seer withdrew a hand full of sand, which she drizzled into a circle around the
Willow and Lydia
watched the Seer’s movements with great interest as she dragged her fingers
through the sand, drawing exotic symbols, while Reggie occupied himself with
looking around the cavernous room.
Dusting her hands against her thighs, the Seer stood and
took several steps away from the circle and the parchment. She glanced at her clients, then, with a
subtle motion of her hands, she summoned ghostly images which rose like mist from the circle. The images grew life-sized, then larger,
stretching wall to wall, and ceiling to floor.
The Seer’s eyes closed and the ghostly figures began to solidify and
The Seer could not only sense and absorb text like Willow
could herself, but she could also project it. Willow,
Reggie, and Lydia
moved closer to each other and to the pictures. In an odd way, it felt like standing in an
IMAX theater as images loomed large around them. In another way, it looked
eerily similar to the transparent computer thing that Tom Cruise had in
“Minority Report.” The woman, her wild
hair beginning to escape the confines of Lydia’s Hermes scarf, stood in the
middle of a chaotic swirl of images, directing them, ordering them, bringing
one forward while pushing others back.
The imaged that shimmered and then became clearest, was Willow
sitting in the Council Library touching the torn parchment.
“That was yesterday,” Willow
The Seer glanced at Will.
“You have power.”
The squirmy, tentacled monster of
discomfort that, since Willow’s
rampage last spring, had taken residence
beneath her skin, constricted her chest and made it difficult to breathe. “Yes.”
The Seer’s gaze narrowed.
“You can sense the magic and the text.”
“And yet you came to me?”
“I. . .” Willow
gulped. “It wasn’t that easy.”
The Seer’s voice was calm, which made it all the more
disturbing when she said, “It never is.”
And Willow noticed that
though the woman’s appearance was ageless, her eyes looked old. Willow
blinked and returned her attention to the image of herself in the Council’s
library. Pushing that image aside, the
Seer revealed one of Travers in his office staring at the parchment. It was earlier than the image of Willow,
because in this one the parchment was whole.
They barely had time to note that fact before witnessing Travers tear
the manuscript and place the torn removed portion in the flame of a black
candle. In seconds it was ashes.
“That’s an antique manuscript!” Lydia
protested with all the outrage of a historian.
“And it wasn’t his. It belonged
to the Council.”
anxiously at the Seer. “What was on the
paper he burned? Can you go back?”
“This isn’t a DVD, dear. See the candle? It’s wormwood and blackened amber. He knew what he was doing. He erased it.”
Reggie frowned. “What
do you mean ‘erased’? He set it on
“He erased it from time.”
The Seer glanced at Willow. “Knew you were a witch, didn’t he? He did a
“That’s why I couldn’t sense what’s missing,” Will
realized. “He hid it.”
Reggie glanced from the Seer to Willow
to the Seer again. “So how do we find it?”
sighed. “That’s just it. We don’t.
It’s like the missing piece never existed. The part of the manuscript
that we’ve got is all there is.”
“And that’s it?
That’s all? That’s – “ Reggie
looked confused “—my grandfather.”
Willow turned to
see that the image had changed. Now,
Travers was much younger and an older man stood showing Travers the parchment.
“Mr. Claridge was the head of the
council before Mr. Travers,” Lydia
explained. “He must have shown Mr.
Travers the manuscript before he. . .”
“Died,” Reggie finished softly just as the image shimmered
and readjusted. The years seemed to
dissolve as Mr. Claridge changed from old man to
young, and another Watcher-type, probably the Council head before him, stood by
his side. They were no longer in the
Council’s office, or if they were, it was hard to tell. They stood in a bombed-out room which was
open to the sky and Mr. Claridge was wearing a
uniform. “Infantry,” Reggie said. “Grandfather served in the infantry during
Another shimmer, and the image was of another room and another
place. “The Council’s Rome
explained. “I visited when doing
research for my thesis.”
Still in uniform, Reggie’s grandfather stood in the
Council’s Rome office speaking with
another man; there was something earnest and urgent in his gestures and in his
face. The older man followed Mr. Claridge through the streets of post-war Rome
until they found a ruin of a church. Claridge led the Council member down a flight of stone
stairs, going deep into the shadowed confines of the ancient catacombs that run
beneath the city until they reached a room full of red and black clay vases.
The scene dissolved, and it had to be earlier because now
there was fighting, a war--*the* war.
There were Nazis and Brown Shirts.
It was World War II, and British soldiers were pinned against a field
stone wall, held in place by a barrage of fire.
Italian soldiers were advancing and
Reggie’s grandfather busily looked for a path of retreat. He tried a heavy wood door. Pushing his shoulder against it, the door
gave way. He gestured to his buddies and
they rushed into the abandoned church whose windows had been bombed out. There was no sound to go with the images, no
way to hear what fueled the urgency of the soldiers’ retreat, but fear could be
read on their young faces. One of the soldiers found another door that lead to
a flight of stairs.
stepped forward. “They must have found the parchment in the catacombs.”
As the soldiers ran through the ancient manmade caverns, Claridge stumbled,
falling face first into a stack of clay amphorae, shattering them. His buddy
skidded to a halt. Visibly breathing
hard, Claridge’s companion turned and searched the
darkness. Perhaps concluding that they were safe, he slid down against the
wall. Sitting in the dust, he pulled out
cigarettes and, with difficulty, struck a match off the semi-damp floor.
As his friend smoked, Claridge sat
up and kicked away damaged vases to create a clear place to sit. After he had closed his eyes and taken
several deep breaths he opened them to notice a rolled piece of paper half
sticking out of one of the jars. He
reached for it, unrolled it, and began to read.
“My grandfather was the one who found it. He was the one who brought it to the
Council,” Reggie whispered with a bit of awe.
Darkness stretched after that, and for a moment they thought
that this was all the Seer had to show them.
Then firelight flickered and Willow
Master. That’s the Master.”
The Master’s unnatural, Nosferatu-like
visage loomed over a monk who looked just like the stereotype, complete with
brown wool robes and funny haircut. The
holy man, unaware of the vampire behind him, pushed his chair back move to
stand from his seated position behind a desk.
asked as she stepped closer to the floating images, “This must be prior to the 1920s, then. The Master became trapped in the Hellmouth in the twenties.”
With fascination and dread, Willow
watched the Master approach the monk. It
was like one of those slasher movies where there was
an almost overwhelming urge to scream to the imminent victim, “He’s right
behind you!” But it would do no good.
This victim was long dead. The
Master grabbed the monk , who tried to struggle; but it was too late, the
vampire’s fangs were already in his neck. One last gasp and the monk fell dead
at the killer’s feet, leaving the Master to step over the corpse to search
through a sheaf of papers until he found what he was looking for. The vampire smiled, a gruesome image with his
demonic gameface and fangs, and he rolled the
parchment, placing it in a clay amphora.
looked at Willow. “Would you have guessed the Master had the prophecy in his
possession before the Council?”
“It was about the Order of Aurelius,” Willow murmured. “But, wow, it’s scary that the the Order actually knows of the prophecy’s existence.”
The vision flickered as time rolled further back and the
monk sat patiently painting calligraphy on the parchment.
“He’s copying it!” Exuberance almost rolled off Reggie in waves as he looked at Lydia
and Willow, then back at the
floating image. “The information we want
still exists. The monk is copying it
from an earlier scroll.” His dark-eyed gaze
settled on the Seer. “It does still
exist, does it not? Can you access
it? This is what we need.”
The Seer closed her eyes, taking a deep breath as she did
so. After a moment of silence she shook
her head. “I cannot see the older
“Has it also been destroyed?” Lydia
destroyed. Protected.” She opened her tired gray eyes. “There is a hex or spell masking the text
from my sight.”
“Bugger,” Reggie complained and Willow silently agreed as
the images continued going further and further back in time. Before the monk who had inked the translation,
there was another monk who had kept the original scroll, and a monk before
that. There were nine or ten of them in
turn. Then there was a knight, not in
shining armor, but in a mail shirt and leggings. He carried the scroll to the monastery,
handing it to the monks. Before that he
was riding a horse and carrying a banner.
“German,” Reggie said.
“How do you know that?”
“The colors on his banner.
He’s a Crusader.” Reggie’s gaze
narrowed as he stared at the flag the knight carried. “Definitely German.” Silence stretched and Reggie turned to find Willow
staring at him. “What? Medieval weaponry
was the subject of *my* thesis. I’m not a total git,
started, “We never meant to imply—“
“There. That.” Reggie
pointed to the Crusader’s flag. “I’m
willing to wager this knight is part of Frederick
the Second’s campaign, the Sixth Crusade.
That would place him in the early 1200s.
Frederick captured Jerusalem
in 1229.” He frowned, “Though there were
rumors that King Frederick never actually died.”
around Reggie. “I’m sort of out my
element here. I mean, first , Jewish so not all up with the whole Crusading
subject. If it’s more than Robin Hood,
Ivanhoe, or Monty Python, I’m on the clueless side. Although, I did see Katharine Hepburn in a “Lion in Winter” and Anthony Hopkins played. .
. Never mind. Off the subject. What are we talking about?”
“I don’t know. I mean, Anthony Hopkins played Richard the
Lion Hearted in “Lion in Winter”—“
The Seer looked heavenward.
“I believe the witch was asking your point about the Crusade.”
Reggie blinked. “Oh.
. .uh. . .I don’t have one really. I
mean other than dating what we’re seeing.
It was after Richard the Lion Hearted left the Holy Land. It was after Saladin.“
the only one still watching the images as they continued to flicker by,
whispered, “The knight is in Qumran.”
“I love how you guys are like history gurus,” Willow
said. “How can you tell?”
“That was the Dead Sea he passed on
his way to the plateau. Qumran
is the village where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.”
Buffy asked, “Can you
stay here, Dawnie?
Xander and I need to go out.”
The teen crossed her arms and looked petulant. “Go out
where? Giles is already gone. You have to go too?”
“It’s important,” Buffy protested.
“Always is.” At Buffy’s stare, Dawn said, “Fine. Go.
Buffy looked confused by Dawn’s attitude, but after a moment,
she grabbed an ax and left with Xander.
Dawn smiled and yelled to Anya,
Anya came out of the Magic Box’s
rear room carrying an armfull of bottles. “I’m not Willow. I’m no witch.”
Dawn rushed forward and relieved Anya
of some of the bottles before she dropped them.
“But you can do a locator spell, right?”
Anya looked offended. “Of course I can. It’s not that difficult. I turned Olaf into
a troll even before I was a demon. Hand
me the lungwort and the valerian.”
use that stuff.”
spread out a map of Sunnydale and sprinkled it with
the herbs. Then she took a crystal and
suspended it over the map. “Even if he
is very handsome and erudite, Rupert is not allowed to take merchandise from
the store simply because he feels like it.”
“You just called Mr. Giles ‘Rupert.’
The swinging crystal came to an abrupt halt over the play
ground a few blocks to the east of the Magic Box. “There he is. Let’s go.”
Dawn followed Anya out the
door. “You did so call him Rupert.”
“I do not see why that would be so surprising. It is his name. And perhaps you should be quiet now. Stealth is helped by quiet.”
“You’re just trying to shut me up.”
“That would be an attractive side benefit.” Anya’s odd,
toddling gait, which was courtesy of the
three inch high heels she was wearing, slowed their progress toward the park.
“You could just pull those ridiculous things off,” Dawn
Anya sniffed. “They are not ridiculous. They are very expensive, and they make my
legs look quite attractive.”
“But men are evil, right?
So why do your legs need to be attractive?”
“Men may be evil, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to
attract them. They have very nice arms,
they smell good, and they have—“
“Stop before you get to the sex stuff. I don’t need to hear about Xander’s --”
Anya gave a Mona Lisa-like smile.
“Yes, Xander’s penis is very nice, but other men have
“Oh god, no. Not
Spike’s either. Can we just drop
this? Not every conversation has to
revolve around sex or money.”
Anya looked offended. “Well, of
course it doesn’t. There’s also food.”
When she realized that Dawn was no longer beside her, Anya paused and looked back at the teen. “I did live with Xander, you know.”
“Get down!” Dawn hissed in a stage whisper.
Now. They might see us.”
“Who might see what?”
Dawn caught Anya’s arm and pulled
her down behind a bench. “Over there by
the swings. Can’t you see them? It’s Mr. Giles.” She allowed a pregnant pause before adding,
“And Spike, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that Mr. Giles is
surprised to see Spike.”
“They aren’t fighting,” Anya
“In fact, they are talking.”
Anya’s gaze narrowed as she looked
at Dawn. “Do you think Spike is helping
Rupert steal from me?”
“It’s your fault, really,”
Spike’s gaze swiveled toward the Watcher. “What?”
“Things are in disarray.
Your mistake may cost us dearly.”
Semi-shrouded in darkness, Spike struggled with something
out of Giles’s line of sight. “My only
mistake was listening to you. It’s your
bloody overcomplicated plan. “
“Nothing was wrong with the plan. It was the execution that was faulty.”
“I ‘executed’ just fine.
On a scale of one to ten, it was an eleven. I broke into the hold of the ship and
swapped the original little box with your fake and returned with the Master’s
idiot henchmen to give a good show of raiding the ship for a good, old
fashioned ancient artifact. Problem is someone—“ he glared at Giles “—didn’t
bother telling me the Slayer would be there. “
“She took it, you know, carted off the fake like it was some
big prize, no doubt delivered it to you, and left me holding the real
thing.” Spike lifted his hand revealing
the onyx and ivory inlaid Er’Gefrey box he had been
struggling to open. “Not planning on me
delivering that to the Master, now are you?”
Giles eyed the box.
Spike continued his efforts to pry open the magical puzzle.
“Right then, to avoid bollixing things up in the future, keep me in the bloody
loop.” With a growl of frustration he
handed over the box. “Open this damned
“There’s no reason to open it.”
“Yes, there is. I
want to know what I’m risking my neck for.”
Giles asked archly, “Truth, justice, and the good of mankind
not reason enough for you?”
“Sod off. “ Spike
snapped. “Where’s the truth in all the
lies I’m telling? And never have seen much in the way of justice.”
“And the good of mankind?”
“Remains to be seen.”
“Ah, here we go.”
Giles slid a piece of onyx into to a niche framed by silver. A high-pitched whirring sound filled the air
as the box levitated from Giles’s hand and began to spin. The panels forming the cube began to unfold.
Once, then twice, going from a two-inch by two-inch cube to flat plane that,
once it stopped spinning, remained suspended in mid air.
For a moment, Spike’s hand hovered above what remained of
the box, then he reached inside--although there should have been no ‘inside’
since the Er’Gefrey puzzle had turned into a
half-inch-deep slab. Still, Spike’s arm
disappeared all the way up to his elbow as he retrieved what the box had held.
“Nothing had better snap off my hand,” Spike muttered.
“We should be so lucky.”
Again, Spike glared at the Watcher, but after a moment he
pulled a long, curved sword from the pandimensional
space. Light glinted off the intricately
etched blade as Spike tested the weight of the weapon in his hand. “Neat.”
Giles frowned. “It is
not ‘neat,’ and don’t treat it like a toy.”
“But it is one. Has
been ever since some bloke invented gun powder.” Giving a delighted laugh, Spike executed a
move that would have made Highlander’s Duncan MacLeod proud. He twirled the sword in a deadly imitation of
a tennis serve, then, turning on his heel, he leaped onto the center point of
the playground’s see-saw and landed with uncannily perfect balance. The sword made a near-silent whoshing sound as it sliced through the air before Spike
raised it to admire its engraved patterns once more. “Shiny.”
Disapproval lined Giles’s face. “Animals are often
fascinated by shiny objects.”
A muscle clenched in Spike’s jaw. It was his only visible reaction as he stared
straight ahead and took not one
breath. Silence yawned.
Giles gave an exasperated sigh. “This is an artifact of genuine historical
significance.” He took the sword from
Spike. “It belonged to Saladin. Legend says he used it to drive the Crusaders from
Affecting a bored mien, Spike stepped off the see-saw and
took a seat on one of the playground
swings. “So it’s a nifty toy that gives
librarian-types a hard-on. That doesn’t
explain why the Master wants it.”
Giles used a corner of his tweed coat to polish the blade.
“That is unclear. I have found little
connection between the objects we have retrieved thus far.“ He paused before adding, “Although the shield
we found last week and this sword are both relics of the Crusades”
“Sounds like a connection to me.”
“Possibly,” Giles admitted. “But, you see, they are
connected in totally opposing ways. The sword belonged to Saladin,
and the shield to Richard Coeur de Lion.”
“Opposite sides of the same coin.
“Indeed. However, the
talisman you received in the first shipment belonged to Morgan Le Fey.”
Spike arched a brow.
“King Arthur’s sister? The bint into kinky,
“The pagan priestess who was probably a witch, and perhaps a
goddess or fairy.”
“So there’s no direct connection to the Crusades. There’s still that Holy Grail thing. That’s a Crusade of sorts.”
“Of sorts, but not exactly the same thing.”
Spike pushed off and began swinging. “Even if there is some crusading connection,
I don’t see the point of any of it. The
Le Fey bird may have filled her talisman with hocus pocus from Avon,
but the rest of them? Pfft.”
“Fairly dismissive of King Richard for a former British
subject, aren’t you? What happened to
the Pre-Raphaelite obsession?” Giles said in a tone just shy of mocking.
“Pre-Raphaelite movement died and so did the Pre-Raphaelite.
“ Spike flew off the swing, landing
softly in the dirt. “The Master may
prattle about tradition and history but it’s bollocks. He’s more interested in curses, chaos, and
black magic. A sword wielded by the
Sultan of Egypt and a shield from of an absentee British monarch wouldn’t be of
interest to old batface. It’s not a matter of what the artifacts
are. It’s what they do.”
“Which, apparently, is nothing. As far as I can tell, whatever magic the
talisman held dissipated long ago, and the sword and shield are exactly what
they appear to be—a sword and shield.”
“So what now?
Continue as curator of the Master’s private museum collection? Seems
“You have a better plan?”
“Well, yeah. What
about killing him? Can’t very well start an apocalypse if he’s dead, now can he?”
“You would choose that option,” Giles derided.
“’Cause it makes sense and would end things quickly. Got a problem with efficiency?”
“And it would gain us nothing, or have you forgotten that
Wolfram and Hart are involved? From what
I understand they brought back Darla. What would prevent them from doing the
same with the Master?”
“Isn’t there some mojo that would
make it impossible to resurrect him again?”
“Perhaps, but chances are they would only seek out a
substitute. No one is irreplaceable.”
Spike muttered, “A Watcher would believe that.” He kicked the dirt. “So I continue as the Master’s head
flunky. Are we done now?”
“I believe so.” Giles
turned to leave.
Spike looked antsy.
He scratched the back of his neck and clenched his jaw before saying,
“Hey, Rupes, could you do something?”
Giles didn’t look back. “I can do many things. Are you asking whether I can do something for
*you*? That is rather more doubtful.”
Spike snorted. “Hope your arse
hurts from sitting on that high horse.” Shoving
his hands into his pockets, Spike ducked his head and shifted his weight from
foot to foot. “Call the hospital, see if
they picked up a girl on Archer Street
who had neck wounds. Never did hear any
Giles turned and glared. “You allowed someone to feed from a
“I got there a little late to do much.”
“So you did nothing?”
didn’t I? What did you expect? Had to keep the cover you’re so bloody
insistent on.” Spike stormed toward
Giles. “Speaking of, hand over the fake
box and sword. Got to deliver *something* to the Master tonight to make
him forget about all those minions that got dusted. Sooner or later old bat brains is gonna figure out I keep getting newbies
killed. Need to at least look like I
accomplished something for it.”
Giles handed over the faux Er’Gefrey
box. Spike held the small cube and said,
“I’ll convince the Master it’s the real thing.”
“Right, then. And I. . .”
Giles coughed and grimaced. “I
will make an effort to keep you ’in the loop’ in the future.”
Spike stood silently, his pale face and hair separating him
from the darkness that surrounded them as they just beyond the reach of the
park lights. He opened his mouth to say
something, then changed his mind, nodded, and left.
sat at the Seer’s kitchen table finishing up her notes. As soon as the visions had stopped, the
Watcher had pulled a pad of paper from her oversized handbag and begun an
exacting transcription of what they had seen.
“Reggie, do you think you can sketch the banner we saw the knight
“I don’t need to sketch it.
I can remember it. Plus, I have a
copy of it in my thesis notes.”
“Yes, but what if it’s slightly different? You should sketch it first so that you can
then compare the two.”
Reggie looked uncomfortable.
“I draw like a five year old, Lydia.”
“That is still better than nothing.”
Willow felt a
light tap on her shoulder and turned to see the Seer silently motioning for Willow
to follow her into the sitting room. The
swinging door closed behind Willow
muffling Reggie and Lydia’s
The Seer said, “You understand that just because the vision
ended in Qumran, that wasn’t the beginning of our little
“Do you think the rest of it was blocked? You know, like
what Travers did with the stuff he ripped from the parchment?”
The Seer shook her head.
“I don’t think it was mystically blocked. I think it was simply as far
as I could reach. Power is never
infinite, dear. There are some things we
can’t do.” She paused before adding
meaningfully, “And some things we shouldn’t.”
the lump in her throat and nodded.
“You aren’t going to tell them are you?” It wasn’t really a
question. The shrewd look in the Seer’s
eyes more than implied that she knew the answer.
Willow felt cold
and her stomach tied itself in knots.
“Tell who what?”
“Your friends. In
there. You aren’t going to tell them
that what is happening is because of you.”
“No, I. . .No. It. . .can’t be because of me. There’s the
parchment, the prophecy. This. . .
apocalypse. . .thing. It was meant to
be. It had to happen.
The Seer shook her head.
“Nothing *has* to happen.”
“But. . .”
“Don’t fall into the trap of
believing in the inevitability of fate. Nothing is ever inevitable. There’s cause and effect. Throw a ball in the air and it is going to
come back down. Pour a frightful scad of black magic into the earth and watch it spit out
something terrifying.” She walked over
to her desk and started sorting through a stack of papers as she continued
talking in an urgent but somewhat distracted manner. “But cause and effect is no more
predetermination than a total of four when you are adding two plus two.”
“But how could things be different?” Willow
asked somewhat desperately. “I mean, two
plus two is always four.”
“Then add a one or a three instead.” The Seer pulled open a drawer and started
rifling through it. “The future is always
only a possibility while the present. . .?”
She glanced at Willow. “Our present is the sum of our pasts. Every
thing we do adds to the equation. Every
choice we make is factored in. There are
choices. There are *always* choices which effect the outcome. Remember that.” She turned her attention back to the papers
in the drawer. “Now, you and your
friends should go. Just in case the
world really does end, I’m going to enjoy myself for the time that’s
The Seer pulled two brochures out of the drawer, “What do
you think? The Greek Isles or the Seychelles?”
The moment the elevator doors opened to the penthouse, Spike
could smell it. He could almost taste
it—blood. Human blood and it was fresh.
He stepped onto the black and white marble tiled floor and
looked around himself. The place was in
a shambles. Tables had been toppled,
vases broken. Even the limestone fireplace mantle had been damaged. No normal human could put up this kind of
fight against a group of vampires, but Spike was certain that what he smelled
Spike rushed through the doors on the far side of the room
to find Buffy kneeling on the floor over a prone Xander
who was bleeding and starting to moan.
Buffy was bleeding as well, but at a quick glance Spike could see that
it was only a minor scratch along her arm.
Xander, however, was bleeding more profusely.
The Master, in game face, stood looking down at the pair of
humans. He didn’t visibly acknowledge
Spike’s arrival but he spoke to him.
“The Slayer arrived to. . .What did you call it, Slayer? Clean out the vamp nest?”
Buffy glared. “I
think I said something like ‘muck out the slime,’ but whatever.”
“Hmm, yes. I believe
I heard you have been mucking about in slime for quite some time now. I could see where a penthouse would be a
welcome relief after the sewers.”
“Slime is slime no matter where it is.”
Ignoring the riot of emotions nearly overwhelming him, Spike
kept his voice steady and cold as he said, “Looks like I missed a party. What happened?”
“The Slayer has been blinded.”
Spike would have launched himself at the bastard if for one
moment he had thought that was true, but, beyond the scratch on her arm, Buffy
appeared unharmed and even Xander’s wound appeared
non-life-threatening. Although the boy
did sound remarkably like a stuck pig.
“I see just fine,” Buffy snapped. “Like right now I see three empty, soulless
things that are *so* going down.”
The Master laughed.
“See, I said she was blinded, blinded by her arrogance and her
rules. She finds it impossible to see
anything besides her own point of view.
She comes here with a stake, a crossbow, and a useless boy and believes
she can take us down. It’s all that she
knows, all that is useful to her so she forgets we play by different rules.”
“Yeah.” Spike arched
a brow. “What rules would those be?”
The Master looked to something behind Spike. Knowing that whatever it was he wasn’t going
to like it, Spike still glanced over his shoulder. He found the minion Dexter holding a gun
aimed at the Slayer.
“Bullets are no defense against vampires,” the Master said
smoothly. “So she doesn’t carry a gun,
but the same isn’t true of Slayers. “ He
circled the room. “All those fist
fights, all those pointless competitions of woman against beast when, actually,
it is so very easy to kill one little girl.”