Spike was adrift in a sea of darkness.
It was all far behind him now - the rain, the fight, the shouts and cries of rage and pain were already lost to the dark, and now he floated carelessly with the current, sailing toward whatever came next.
What would it be? Hell, perhaps. He didn't know. He didn't care. The "right now" was quiet, and he was at peace.
How odd, he thought. One would have expected the voyage to Hell to be something a bit more, well, hellish. Could it be possible that he'd managed to do just enough good before the end came to be spared Hell and instead was sailing into mere oblivion? Perhaps he was simply fading away, slipping into that great void where there is absolutely nothing - no thought, no action, no intent and no regret. But no memories, either. That would be okay, he supposed. He could accept all that, if only...
No, wait, he could still remember it. All of it.
Spike remembered that night so long ago, when his first life ended and his real life began. Over the odor of the soiled hay and horseshit that kept him company while he sat in a stable and cried himself blind over his broken heart and wasted life, his nose had picked up a new scent, one so delicate and dangerous that it was utterly intoxicating.
"I see what you want," her voice was moist and cool, like the night itself, "Something glowing and glistening. Something... effulgent."
"Effulgent," he whispered back.
"Do you want it?" she asked.
"Oh, yes!" he replied, "God, yes."
She transformed before his eyes, becoming so monstrously beautiful that he was unable to resist as she moved against him and gave him the kiss that changed everything - except, for some reason, this time she was tugging on his arms, pulling, and yanking and God, how it hurt...
"Ow!" he cried out loudly, "OW!"
"Whoa!" the street punk jerked to attention, his fingers flying open as he pulled his whole body back, releasing the duster that he'd been trying to pull off the body beneath him. For a second, he knelt there, breathlessly still, watching, listening for another movement, another sound.
"Yo, Mo," the punk turned his head slowly, just enough to catch a glimpse of his buddy without taking his eyes off the body, "This guy ain't dead."
"Damn it, Curly," Mo replied without interrupting his search of another body, "Stop pissin' your pants and get that coat off."
"But this guy ain't dead!"
"He's dead, all right," Mo replied without bothering to look over, "Touch him, you moron, he's cold as ice."
Curly made a face, then slowly leaned forward and stretched out his arm until his index finger just made contact with the body's neck.
No warmth. No pulse. No life.
Reassured, Curly once again put his hands on the damp leather duster's arms and started to pull them off, but the dead man's arms inside them suddenly pulled back - away from him - and wrapped themselves tightly around the body's chest! This time, the punk threw himself backwards as if launched, landing hard on his butt, not far from his companion.
"Mo", he whispered without looking at his buddy, "If you want that coat, you're gonna have to get it yourself."
Then he climbed to his feet and ran off.
"Come back here, you puss.." Mo's words trailed off as his eyes drifted back to where Curly had just been, and he saw someone sit up. Frozen with fear, he watched as the body put its hands to its head, spread its fingers into a tangle of platinum hair and felt around.
"Oh, Bloody HELL!"
Spike shouted it, as if that would make the pain in his head go away, but it didn't work. It did however, make Mo go away, running as fast as his criminal feet could carry him. Spike tried to follow the movement with his eyes, but the pain in his head was too much to bear, so he let himself drop back into the pile of empty cardboard boxes and trash that surrounded him and stared up at the brightening sky overhead, trying to focus. It was gray-going-blue, which meant daylight was coming, and there was something important about daylight, but Spike couldn't remember what that something was.
The only thing he could remember was last night, in the alley. That's where he'd come when his mission was done, to meet up with Angel and Gunn and Illyria and Wesley, only Gunn showed up bleeding and Wesley never arrived. Then the rain started, and through the downpour, they saw the Horde coming.
"Let's go to work," Angel said.
Spike closed his eyes, trying to shut it out, but the images were still on fire inside his head, burning him. Swinging his axe, Angel threw himself into the fight, cutting and bashing his way deep into the oncoming horde.
Illyria made her stand beside Gunn, trying vainly to protect him from the monstrous army by striking off heads and tearing arms from their sockets as fast as she could. Sword in hand, Spike did his best to stay in between, behind Angel and in front of Illyria, the one place where he could do the most for both, but the fight became a flood of violence, pulling him along with it and away from his friends.
And then there was the dragon.
It swept down from above and used its long, sinuous neck to snake its way through the mob and seize Angel by the leg. Snapping its head back, the dragon pried Angel off the ground and lifted him high overhead, then dropped its head in a motion so powerful and fast, it was almost invisible, slamming Angel into the concrete below and spraying them all with rainwater and blood.
Spike dove into the mob, half-crawling beneath the worst of it, slashing his way to where the dragon stood. Just as the dragon raised its head, lifting Angel for another blow, Spike reached its tail and drove his sword in, all the way to the hilt. Roaring in pain, the dragon opened its mouth, releasing Angel; but its tail jerked up violently at the same time, catching Spike and batting him so hard that he sailed all the way down the alley. He slammed into an over-filled dumpster that shook and spat out trash like an erupting volcano, burying him completely.
He'd been drifting in the darkness ever since.
The sky above him was blue now, and he was vaguely aware that a light had entered the alley and now flowed toward his feet.
So bright. So pretty...
As the light touched his shoes, they burst into flame, and Spike instantly recalled what he'd forgotten about daylight! Scrambling to his feet, he staggered and stumbled down the alley until he spotted a basement window just large enough to fit through. He kicked in the glass, then jumped feet first to the darkness below, landing hard on the basement floor. He slapped at his feet with the rain-soaked duster until he smothered the last of the flames, then stood for a second, but that was all, because the burst of energy he'd just used to escape the daylight was literally all he had left.
"Bugger this..." he mumbled as he fell to his knees, then lay down to rest until the darkness came again, "Bugger..."
The day passed quickly for Spike. He'd crawled into a suitable shadow and let himself rest, falling into a regenerative torpor. Deeper than sleep, the torpor shut down all but minimally essential body functions so that the precious remaining energy in his body could all be devoted to healing. It was almost suspended animation, but not quite, as an unfortunate rat discovered when it ventured too close to the seemingly lifeless body and found itself snatched up and drained in an instant. The taste of rodent blood evoked memories Spike didn't want, but the demands of his body overruled the revulsion he felt, and he sucked the vermin dry, then returned to the torpor.
From time to time, sounds drifted in through the window he'd broken, rousing him just enough to determine if he was in danger and then slide back again. One time, he felt a strong tremor cross the floor, as if heavy equipment, a large truck perhaps, was making its way through the alley above, but it passed without pausing, so he did not awaken to investigate. The rest of the time he was nowhere at all, or sailing through the darkness in memories and dreams.
"Tell me you love me," Buffy said.
"I love you," he answered, "You know I do."
She moved closer, so close now that the warmth of her body enveloped him, bathing him in her scent and familiar little sounds, her heartbeat, her breath, that excited him beyond reason.
"Tell me you want me," she said.
She was always saying things like that, usually just before or just after, and always when it was obvious. Spike had to admit he treasured these little moments of insecurity when Buffy the woman would step out from behind Buffy the Slayer and permit him to be the one to reassure, to comfort, to protect.
"I always want you," he told her "In point of fact..."
Buffy the Slayer was back in control.
As Spike let himself be pulled down onto her, and began the ritual undressing, a little voice in his head whispered 'not like this, please, not like this', but he couldn't stop himself.
He was helpless and he knew it. Worse yet, so did she.
In a way, this quiet little memory summed up their tumultuous relationship quite well - Buffy the woman and Buffy the Slayer, with Spike trapped in-between, a victim of his own passion. Up to that night, it wasn't what he wished it to be, what he tried again and again to make it; and after that night, it was nothing but pain. He tried to tell her, but she didn't want to hear it because he just didn't fit into her black-and-white world, and he was deliriously desperate when he went to her house and tried to force her. That was the darkest, lowest moment of his entire existence, but looking back, it was also the germinal moment, for it was the singular event that drove him to seek out and regain his soul.
Now, that same soul which he sought for her sake was urging him to judge her for her cruelty and selfishness, and that last, lame effort to comfort a doomed man.
The ear-splitting wail of police sirens blasted through the window, slicing through him like a buzz saw. It seized his mind roughly and hauled it back to consciousness. The noise grew louder, then swirling red and blue lights slipped quickly across the basement, and then the sirens trailed off as the vehicle passed the alley entrance and sped down the street beyond.
Spike sat up slowly, then did a quick assessment of his situation. He still had his head, his hands, his feet, and the cuts and scratches were already healing. Through the window, he could see the faint glow of sunset high on the building wall across the alley, which meant in a few moments, he could venture outside and answer the only question he had.
What the hell happened to the others?
Before he had even stuck his head through the basement window to climb out, Spike could tell something was wrong in the alley above. Instead of the expected onslaught of odors, his nose was greeted by almost nothing. He depended so much on scent to inform him of what he was climbing into, that its absence was disturbing, and he paused midway through the window to give the alley a quick visual once-over, and was stunned by what he saw.
The alley was clean. No, not clean - sterile!
As he expected, there were no bodies to be found in the alley, as the Senior Partners weren't likely to leave evidence of Evil Incarnate lying around for all to see; but he was totally unprepared to see the alley rendered so pristine by their efforts. Sure, bodies would have been carried away and walls splattered by demon blood washed down - but there was not so much as a stain on the concrete or scrape left on a brick wall where a weapon missed its mark. Even the dumpster that he'd crashed into was gone. Brand new and spotless, another one stood in its place now, and the trash and the boxes that became his salvation were nowhere to be seen.
Spike pulled himself through the window and got to his feet, then walked over to the dumpster to investigate. It was sparkling clean inside, as if never used, and there was not so much as a speck of dirt on it anywhere. The spot where he'd landed was also scrubbed clean and dry, and he couldn't even pick up his own scent from it, much less anyone else's. He stood at the spot and turned, scanning the alley, trying to remember as much as he could of the events from last night and this morning.
He remembered the two punks who had unintentionally saved his life by rousing him before the Senior Partners' clean up crew came, and he recalled seeing a body close by, but in his haste to escape the sunlight, he'd only given it a passing glance, and now couldn't remember any details about it. Illyria? Gunn? He just didn't know, and there was no trace of anything left to give him a clue now. For all he knew, it was some poor wino who'd made an unlucky choice on where to sleep it off last night.
He was getting nowhere with this, so he decided he would walk the perimeter of the alleyway just in case they'd missed something. He walked it once, then twice, but found nothing.
But on the third time, something happened.
He must've gotten bored with the walking, because his mind started to wander to other thoughts. What to do next? Where to go? Who to call? Should he tell Buffy, and how could he tell her what he, himself...
Here, the demon inside him suddenly whispered, It Happened Here.
Spike froze in his tracks and looked down. Nothing. Neither a drop of blood, nor a speck of dust to indicate that anything had ever happened here. And yet...
Here, Spike's demon insisted, It Happened Here.
Spike closed his eyes and tried to recall what happened after he stabbed the dragon. He went flying through the air, then hit something and tumbled into darkness; then he heard a deafening roar, then a shriek, then a thunderous crash so loud that it penetrated the agonizing fog that filled his head, and he'd opened his eyes.
He'd seen it.
Angel had slain his dragon.
He'd crawled out from beneath the great beast's wing, and was struggling to get to his feet when the Fyarls fell on him. They swarmed over him like angry ants on a wasp, literally tearing him apart. Then they took his head, and Angel was dust.
As the terrible image replayed itself over and over inside his head, a storm surge of anger engulfed Spike, and he released it in a torrent of words.
"Damn you, Angel!" Tears burned fiercely in his eyes as he shouted, venting his rage at the spot where Angel had died. "Sodding fool! What good's all that talk about redemption and being heroes and fighting the good fight now? Did it save you? Did it save anyone? You're dead! Bloody burning in Hell now, I hope, and I'm... I'm... what about me, you son of a bitch!"
Drained for the moment, he paused, and then wrapped his arms about himself tightly, seeking the only comfort available. Then the anger became sorrow, and he whispered the question again.
"What about me?"
There was, of course, no answer, for Spike was alone, and the knowledge of that fact now cut through his heart like a thousand dull razors. It was simply too much to bear right here, right now, so, in an act of defiance against his own heart, Spike sniffed up the moisture in his nose, then shrugged, then walked to the far end of the alley and stepped into the street beyond.
It was there that he discovered that the Senior Partners' interest in cleaning up their mess began and ended with the alley behind him. The battle in the alley must have spilled out into the street, because it looked like a war zone. Shattered glass from broken windows covered the street, a sparkling carpet on which smashed and burned out cars sat like discarded toys. Even in the dark, Spike could see huge chunks of wall and windows missing from the buildings.
And it was dark. Very dark. And quiet, too.
Suddenly Spike realized that he hadn't seen nor heard a single thing since he'd climbed out of the basement. Except for the carnage, the street was silent and empty. Nothing was moving; no lights were on inside the buildings. It was as if...
His thoughts were interrupted by the rumbling approach of what appeared to be a large truck. Instinctively, Spike moved to the shelter of a darkened doorway, then watched as the vehicle made its way slowly up the street toward him. It reeked of man and explosives - a scent combination that Spike recognized immediately as "military", so he pressed further back into the shadows and remained there. Spike had no idea who they were, or why they were here, or what they could tell him about last night, but he knew he didn't want to find out, either, since his last military experience didn't go so well.
The truck rumbled by without incident, and as soon as Spike felt it was safe to move again, he slipped back into the street and headed quickly to a building he knew would grant him access to the storm sewer system.
He was going underground.
Anne was almost at her wits' end.
The Shelter was bursting at the seams; since last night, the number of visitors had doubled, then tripled, as more and more people found themselves forced to leave their homes in the aftermath of whatever had happened overnight in their neighborhood.
Nobody knew, but everybody had an idea about it. Some claimed it was gang warfare. Some said lightning struck and set off fires. Some claimed it was something else entirely, but they weren't sure what that something was. Somebody claimed it was the "Beginning of the End", but that turned out to be Preacher Joe, and he was always claiming that it was the Beginning of the End, so that didn't count.
Anne didn't know or much care about that, because she had all she could handle just accommodating the crowd. Things that were in short supply were rapidly being used up, and if she didn't get some outside help, the shelter would be without bread, paper cups and toilet paper before the evening news was finished.
So she called her contact at city hall.
"I understand," the voice on the other end of the phone was sympathetic, "I know you've got your hands full there..."
"And if you don't get those items here ASAP," Anne's voice was sharp with annoyance, because she needed supplies, not sympathy, "You're gonna know what my hands are full of!"
"I'll see what I can do."
Anne was staring at the phone, considering whether she should call him back, when she heard one of the kids in the TV room shout.
"Hey, look! That's my block!"
The evening news had been blasting from the shelter television, which sat high overhead, perched on a shelf, snugly secured by steel straps so it didn't take a walk when Anne wasn't looking. Anne hadn't been paying attention to it, but now she looked up and saw the face of a young woman she'd met earlier that day when the TV news team stopped by the shelter and asked for some water. The woman was very excited about the story they were working on, since word was the networks planned to pick up the feed, and she would be speaking to the nation tonight. Anne wished that the shelter could generate that kind of excitement in the media, especially now when the toilet paper situation was so critical.
Now the reporter was looking down on her from the TV, and Anne hoped she was about to say something useful.
"I'm standing," the reporter began, "in front of police barriers that have been placed here to close off this Los Angeles neighborhood that is unnaturally quiet tonight, after suffering an outbreak of violence last night that can only be described as bizarre..."
The image onscreen flashed to a videotaped drive-through of the area made earlier that day.
"... The streets today were filled with wrecked cars, broken glass and rubble, the only evidence of what witnesses have described as an unholy war... "
The video cut to a view of the Hyperion Hotel, its windows shattered and a huge, gaping hole in one of its walls.
"... that has left these vintage buildings in ruin."
The video cut back to the live report.
"Authorities have ruled out a gas explosion - or a drug war, despite numerous witnesses who say they saw fighting in the streets. Many witnesses also claim they saw monsters, even a fire-breathing dragon, moving through the darkness and rain. Authorities are now investigating the possibility that a toxin or nerve gas was released into the air or water, causing mass hallucinations... "
A large truck rumbled up behind her, and uniformed men began to climb out.
"... which may indicate that this was an act of terrorism. A sixteen-square block section of L. A. has been evacuated, and remains under quarantine tonight, meaning the people who live in this neighborhood will have to spend at least one night away from their homes, wondering if what happened last night could happen again..."
She paused a moment for effect, while the camera looked past her, following the troops that were moving off into the darkness beyond.
"... for Action News, this is Connie Sawyer in Los Angeles."
The reporter's face vanished as the video feed cut back to the newsroom, and the next report began. For a second, the room was silent as the kids there considered the news, then somebody shouted "Put on the game!" and the news disappeared from the screen.
As Anne stood there watching the kids resume their routine, she wondered if there was some way that Charles Gunn's surprise visit was connected to what had happened in the streets nearby. Some of the things he'd said had a definite air of impending doom about them, and his mood was sad and subdued, almost like he was in mourning, as if he knew he'd never be coming back...
The muffled wail of a girl who'd been trapped in the bathroom with no TP interrupted Anne's thoughts, bringing her back to the present situation.
No time for this now, she told herself, maybe she'd call him when things settled down.
Grabbing up a box of tissues, she went to rescue the girl.
The alley had been upsetting, and now the journey through the sewer tunnel was making Spike even more disturbed. There must have been some runoff from the Senior Partners' cleansing above, because the sewer was devoid of life. Nothing scurried away at his approach, and he couldn't smell anything but the chlorine that was making his eyes burn now. It reminded him of those dreadful days after he emerged from the amulet to discover that the rumors of his death had been greatly exaggerated. He was alone - unable to touch, to feel, to anything - separated from the world, helpless and hopeless, being dragged towards Hell while Fred worked desperately to save him.
He was ashamed to admit that he'd hardly thought about her these past few weeks. It wasn't that he didn't miss her, because he truly did. It was just that things happened so quickly; first Fred's death, then Illyria's arrival, and then Angel's insane decision to take on the Big Bads, and his own equally insane decision to go along with it.
Fred would've known better.
She was the smart one. She thought things through, sometimes to obsession, but always came up with a solution that worked. She'd done that for him, found a way to make him corporeal again, only he'd had to pass it up in order to save her.
"I'm sorry," Fred said.
"Don't be, love," he sat down on the desk, close to her. "Made my choice. Wouldn't change it for the world."
"There are other things we could try. They're a little riskier, but..."
"No," he cut her off gently, "I'm not gonna end up like Pavayne, cheating Hell any way he could, no matter who it hurt."
"Just proves," there was an air of self-satisfaction in her voice as she spoke, "what I've been telling everybody."
"That I'm a handsome devil who brightens the place up?"
She looked over at him and smiled.
"That you're worth saving."
Even now, it meant so much to him that she believed in him. He'd saved her - done a brave and noble thing for the sake of this woman he barely knew but already adored, a woman who was willing to give him a chance - only to see her die a slow, agonizing death not long afterwards.
The Powers That Be must've gotten a good laugh out of that one, he thought bitterly.
Spike arrived at a junction in the sewer tunnel, and the powerful odors rising from the crossing tunnel were reassuring. The stench of death and decay and the combined odors of all the life that sprang from it - bacteria, insects and vermin - blended together into a vile bouquet that greeted his nose, welcoming him back to the real world.
Now, he thought, this is more like it.
He paused at the opening to check out the cross-tunnel. The shallow waterfall at his feet splashed into the crosscurrent below, which was moving left, so Spike decided he'd just 'go with the flow'. He started to step down and left, but halted mid-step when he picked up a scent carried along on the air current above the flow of the water.
Vampires were nearby.
Spike sniffed again, and detected yet another scent mixed with that of vampire. It was faint, barely there, a delicious aroma that was so familiar, it practically leaped up and slapped him across the face.
Human. Fresh. No, wait...
Spike turned right instead of left, then made his way upstream, following the scents until he arrived at an overhead access shaft. He moved quickly and silently to the ladder, then listened. Muffled conversation and laughter drifted down through the opening, and beneath that, Spike could hear the tiniest of whimpers. He crept away from the ladder, and then backtracked the tunnel until he found the remains of an old wooden crate. He pulled off one of the slats and broke it in pieces, then selected one splinter to be a crude stake.
He returned to the access shaft, passing it this time, walking just far enough beyond it to be downwind, then waited there a few minutes while his scent drifted up to the vampires above. Then he went to the ladder, took hold of it and shouted up.
"Hello!" he called, "Anybody home?"
Stuffing the stake inside his duster, Spike stepped onto the ladder, took one rung, then two.
"Hello?" he called again, taking two more rungs, and two after that.
Spike was now almost at the top, and through the glow of a candle that the vamps were using to light their den, he could see shadows on the ceiling above and follow their movements. There were two bodies moving, taking positions on either side of the shaft.
"Who wants to know?" the shadow to the left called down.
"One of your own," Spike took the final rungs and was now halfway into the chamber, "Looking for someplace to..." His eyes caught sight of a chain hooked to the ceiling and followed it down to a cage made of rusty iron bars. Inside the cage, huddled a small human, a boy.
"... Oh, is this a private party, then? I could just... "
"No," the vamp on the right extended a hand to pull Spike into the room, "We've already eaten - that's just a snack we picked up for later."
"Yeah," the other vamp laughed. "We made him an orphan, so it just didn't seem right to leave him behind after that."
"Good thinking, mate," Spike walked to the cage and inspected the boy, who seemed to be numb with terror, but uninjured. "Might be awhile 'til you can go topside again."
"If you mean the G.I. Joes," the vamp on the left rolled its eyes and sat down, "they're no big deal; go two more blocks and you're clear of them. We'd go with you, but after last night, we're just too tired."
"You haven't heard?" the vamp on the right stepped up to Spike and put an icy hand on his shoulder. "Where have you been? All Hell broke loose around here last night, and I do mean 'Hell'. Murder and mayhem in the streets; it was freakin' fabulous."
"Fabulous," the sitting vamp agreed. "We dined 'til we dropped."
"So, tonight," the standing vamp grinned and pointed to the boy, "we're eatin' in!"
"Right, then," Spike looked into the cage, catching the child's eyes, "Don't look there's enough to go 'round, so I guess I ought to be..."
He used the stake, driving it deep, almost through, the heart of the vamp standing beside him.
"... killing you now... "
He spun and threw the stake into the sitting vamp's chest.
"... 'stead of later."
Brushing dust from his duster, Spike turned back to the hanging iron cage, gave its lock a yank and broke it off, then he pulled the cage door open and peered inside at the boy, who saw only a dark and shadowed face, and pulled back from it in terror.
"Well," he growled impatiently, "What do you need, an invitation?"
Widened eyes and a trembling lip on the boy's face suggested to Spike that perhaps this might not be the best way to handle the situation, so he tried again.
"Hi, there," he forced a smile, "What's your name?"
The boy's eyes narrowed, then widened again, and his face brightened at the familiar question.
"Well, Col-in," Spike extended a hand, "You're safe now. I think you should come on out of that cage."
Colin reached out, hesitated, then took hold of Spike's hand and allowed Spike to pull him out of the cage, but wriggled free of Spike's grasp and dropped to the floor as soon as he was clear of it. He looked up at Spike, and this time saw the vampire's face illuminated by the candlelight. He saw the luminous eyes, the glowing platinum hair, and suddenly it all made sense.
"Are you," Colin asked, "my Guardian Angel?"
"Oh," Colin made a puzzled face, then studied Spike fiercely, "Who are you?"
Not knowing what to say to that, Spike stared down at the expectant child for a second and then shrugged.
"Good question," he told him.
To a child, this was the beginning of an answer, not the answer itself, so Colin was silent, looking up at Spike with big eyes, waiting patiently for him to explain, because that's what adults did. Several long, uncomfortable seconds later, Spike realized that, but he still had no answer, so he just reached down and mussed the boy's hair a bit instead.
"Uh... well... right, then..." He went to the access hole, grabbed the ladder and swung himself into the shaft, then motioned to the boy to follow. "Let's get out of here."
Colin didn't move until he saw the very last wisps of Spike's hair vanish into the hole, but then he scrambled down the ladder after him. When he reached the bottom, Spike was there, waiting.
"Which way now?" Spike asked.
Colin shrugged, then pointed left, and off they went.
Spike and Colin continued moving quietly and cautiously through the tunnels. Suddenly, Colin stepped on something particularly slimy, and his feet began to slip out from under him. He grabbed hold of the sleeve of Spike's duster to keep from falling and did not let loose once he steadied himself. Instead, he tightened his grip on the sleeve, appearing to have no plans to let go.
"It's all right, tadpole, you can hang on," Spike offered as he glanced down at the apprehensive little boy walking silently beside him. "All sorts of slippery stuff down here. I'm used to slogging through it."
"Thanks," Colin replied and much to Spike's surprise, the boy slid his hand from the sleeve downward until he reached Spike's hand and tightly clasped it. Spike found the small, warm hand in his grasp rather comforting, himself, and felt his protective nature rise to a level he had not experienced since his days with Dawn. That was certainly unexpected.
Spike had always thought that he cared about only Buffy, Dawn and those they loved. More recently, he'd discovered that he might also care about people with whom he'd spent a great deal of time and consequently had gotten to know well enough to recognize their worth -- like sweet and winsome Fred who had offered him understanding and friendship. Since he was feeling right mournful at the loss of Wesley and Charlie-boy, he supposed they also had come to mean more to him than just battle comrades and occasional drinking companions.
But was he starting to actually care about strangers, that is, beyond just saving their arses from demons? Spike shook his head and smiled bemusedly as he contemplated what he considered to be an unusual and quite daft idea. Only a few years ago, he'd never have believed it to be possible. Had he changed this dramatically?
A moment later, Spike abruptly turned his head over his left shoulder and peered into the darkness behind them, sensing that he and Colin were being followed.
"When we turn this next corner, stay quiet, walk a few steps further away from me, then put your back flat up against the wall," Spike whispered to Colin urgently. "Don't move or say a word till I say so. Can you do that?"
Although renewed fear shone in his eyes, Colin nodded his assent. Soon after they turned the corner and plastered themselves to the wall, they both heard quiet footsteps coming their way. As a shadowy figure rounded the corner, Spike sprang forward, slammed the body into the wall and pulled back his fist ready to land a punch.
"Eek! Spike, it's me!" screamed Eve.
Spike lowered his fist, but kept Eve pinned tightly to the wall. "Yeah? So knowing that's supposed to stop me from killing you? Why are you following us?"
"I don't know where to go," Eve wailed. "There's nowhere safe to hide. I thought you might protect me."
"Can't say that it matters to me where you go, Eve, or what happens to you."
Panicking at the thought that she'd be all alone again, Eve hurriedly began to bargain. "But I could be useful to you. I could...I could give you information about the Senior Partners. You must realize they're still going to be after you, Spike."
Spike slowly released his hold on Eve, and she rubbed gently at the bruise that she was certain she'd find tomorrow.
"Figured as much. But what information could you have that'd be useful to me? You're not exactly on their 'need to know' list anymore," countered Spike.
"Take me wherever you're going, and I'll tell you anything you want to know. Besides, looks like you're still into helping the helpless," she gestured toward Colin. "I'm helpless, too."
"Ri-i-ight," Spike responded with his patented, well-honed sarcasm. "You're helpless, all right. And, of course, you've proven yourself to be such a bleeding bastion of truth," he snorted. "D'you really think I'd believe one sodding word out of your lying mouth?"
"Got any other 'bloody' options? Any other 'sodding' sources of information?" Eve retorted gamely.
"Don't get shirty with me, you cheeky chit! Not if you're expecting me to be your bloody knight in shining armor!"
"Come on, Spike," Eve pleaded. "I swear I'll tell you the truth. I'll share everything I know. Afterall, it's in my own best interest to do so. I need some protection, and I'm desperate for your help, all right?"
"S'pose that much is true. Not promising anything past getting you to where we're going, though."
"Where's that?" At this point, Eve was willing to accept any help she could get. She'd had a very difficult day, afraid that every human and every demon she'd seen was sent by the Senior Partners to find her. She had no idea what to do. She certainly couldn't hide in these tunnels forever and was afraid to be alone.
"Taking this half-pint over to that shelter where Gunn used to help out. Might find at least temporary refuge there. We'll have ourselves an informative little chat after we get him safely inside, yeah? And you'd better tell me something worth knowing, Eve. In no mood for any more of your bull."
"Thanks, Spike. So who's your friend?"
"This here's Colin." Spike looked over at the boy who, true to his word, had not made a sound. "Okay by you if we take Eve along with us? Not good for much of anything, but she could use a couple of blokes to protect her skinny, worthless...er...hide." Spike winked at Colin and raised a questioning eyebrow.
"Sure," Colin agreed, raising his left hand to Eve as his right clasped hands again with Spike. "You can hold my hand, Eve. We'll take care of you." And the three unlikely companions continued on their way to the shelter.
An hour after Anne's complaint to the City Hall official, the shelter's supply issue was at least temporarily solved when she received a return phone call informing her that a $300 purchase order was awaiting her use at the nearby discount supermarket. A quick trip to the store resulted in tending to the shelter's most immediate needs, and a few of the more helpful teens assisted Anne in carrying the bags inside.
"I'll get the last two bags, then. You guys start putting things away in the kitchen," Anne called over her shoulder as she exited the front door of the shelter and made her way to the van. She grabbed both bags and managed to shut the van door by pressing her back to it and walking sideways -- a crablike technique that appeared to be a practiced tactic. As she headed for the shelter, Connor ran up behind her.
"Here, Anne, let me help you with those." He relieved her of one bag, bounded up the walk and held open the shelter's door.
"Connor, it's so good to see you. Where've you been all this time? I've missed you." Anne smiled at Connor as she walked toward him.
"I missed you, too, Anne."
"You know, I really appreciated all your help that summer when you volunteered here along with Charles and Fred. Charles is the only one who comes over anymore, and I hadn't seen him for quite a while until he stopped by yesterday. Is he with you now?"
Anne looked around for Gunn, but when she didn't see him, she just continued talking. "We can sure use a hand today. Lots of frightened people have been showing up looking for a haven from whatever's been happening. Do you know what's been going on?"
They had entered the busy shelter by then and moved on to the kitchen to pass off the groceries to the volunteers working there.
"Sorry I haven't been around to help out lately," Connor apologized. "I've been going to school at Stanford all this year. And, no, Gunn isn't with me. Actually, I was kinda hoping to find him and maybe even my father here."
"They aren't at the office?" asked Anne, as they walked to a larger room where people were huddled on chairs and sofas, drinking coffee or cocoa and comforting each other. A thin, rather odd looking man with nervous hands and darting eyes was actively trying to be of service. The "street preacher" had been a fixture in the neighborhood for years and was nicknamed Preacher Joe, although Anne always referred to him as Joseph in an attempt to show him both respect and kindness. No one knew for sure if he had actually been ordained or simply decided to become a man of God once he found himself living on the streets, just one more lost soul among the many L.A. homeless people.
Preacher Joe moved from person to person, patting shoulders and intoning, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are those in need, for they shall be given sustenance." Most of the teens gave him little, if any, attention, and a few of them did their best to avoid any direct contact with him.
Connor glanced once at Preacher Joe, then turned again to Anne. "No one's at the office. There is no office. In fact, there really isn't much at all left of that whole building other than rubble." Connor's worry was evident in his eyes and voice.
"Oh, my God! Guess that means they were involved in all that fighting last night." Anne reacted to the level of apprehension Connor displayed by offering some immediate reassurance. "I'm sure they're okay, and you're probably right. If Wolfram & Hart was totalled, Charles might very well show up here just to make sure that we're safe."
"Yeah, that's what I thought," said Connor, revealing a glimpse of hope amidst his concern.
"And Angel dropped something off here early yesterday evening that makes me think they'll all be coming here," added Anne.
"What was it?"
"Let's just wait till they arrive. Angel may prefer to tell you, himself. In the meantime, how about giving us a hand in the kitchen? I know that was always your least favorite job when you helped out here before, but it's where we need you the most right now."
"Actually," laughed Connor, "I've been doing a little cooking lately. I may even be useful in there now. I can't possibly be as clueless as I was before."
As he started off for the kitchen, he added, "And since I'm not sure where else to look for my father, waiting for a while to see if he shows up here sounds like as good a plan as any for the time being."
"I'll let them know where you are as soon as I see them come in the door," Anne assured him.
As soon as Connor disappeared into the recesses of the kitchen, Anne allowed her internal worry and fear to show on her face. She had been very surprised when Angel appeared at the shelter just before dinner the previous night. He hadn't specifically informed her that there was anything unusually dangerous to be concerned about, but he had warned her to keep the teens inside for the night. He had definitely looked preoccupied, and it was just so unlike him to come to the shelter at all. As for asking her to safeguard something for all of them -- that was really a shock. Taken all together, his behavior convinced her to do everything she could to keep the teens inside the shelter for the evening. And as the night progressed, more and more people had showed up at the shelter door.
Suddenly, her attention was grabbed by an obviously uncomfortable teen trying to politely get away from Preacher Joe's attentions.
"Joseph," Anne called. "I could use your assistance. Would you please check to see if the coffee maker needs refilling?"
She steered Preacher Joe over to the coffee maker, much to the relief of the unwilling recipients of his sermonizing. While the preacher focused on his task, Anne gazed out the window into the night and shivered as a sense of unease engulfed her.
A half hour later, Spike, Eve and Colin entered the shelter to find it overflowing with people. Spike approached two teenaged girls who were sitting in the chairs nearest the door. They inspected him suspiciously until they realized they were looking at a strikingly attractive guy, dressed all in black with a bitchin' leather coat, slicked back, platinum hair, cheekbones to die for and the most intense blue eyes they'd ever seen. He looked like a rock star! The girls' demeanor changed faster than a remote control could switch channels. They both jumped up, eager to be the one with whom he chose to speak. "Can I help you?" asked the redhead. "My name's Erin."
"And I'm Melissa," chimed in the brunette, not to be outdone. "I've been staying here longer than she has, so I can probably answer any questions you might have."
Spike recognized the girls' obvious interest and played it to his advantage, laying on the charm. It was a time-tested tactic that always served him well.
"Why, thank you, ladies," he smiled at both of them. "This young fellow's name is Colin. He could do with something to eat and drink while his social worker," he indicated Eve, "and I discuss some rather urgent matters. Would the two of you be so kind as to find him something tasty and nutritious and then keep him company till we're finished with our business?"
Spike tilted his head as he gazed earnestly and winningly at them. The girls practically fell over themselves in their eagerness to be of service to the major hottie with the sexy British accent.
"Of course. We'd be glad to. Don't you worry about a thing. They're re-stocking the kitchen with groceries right now. Come with me, honey." They spoke so rapidly it was hard to tell which one of them said which words.
Torn between hunger and uncertainty, Colin looked up at Spike. "You won't leave, will you?"
"Don't worry. I'll stay till we've got you all sorted out, Colin. These are good blokes here at the shelter. Told you my pal, Charlie, used to work here sometimes, right? You're safe now. See you after you've eaten a good meal, yeah?"
"Okay, Spike. I guess I am kinda hungry."
Colin turned to follow the girls who immediately latched on to him and began pumping him for information. "His name is Spike? Who is he? Where did you meet him? Is that woman his girlfriend?" Their voices faded as they hurried Colin off to the kitchen.
As they seated themselves in the chairs the girls had deserted, Eve shook her head at Spike, saying, "You know, once they get a little older, they'll grow out of their attraction to bad boys."
Spike snorted. "Can't help being devilishly good looking, can I? 'Sides, you should talk. Been giving it up to bad boy Lindsey, haven't you?"
Eve's eyes welled with tears. "I loved Lindsey, and now he's dead. Angel told me."
"You talked with Angel?" Spike inquired eagerly as he leaned forward in the chair.
"Last night. After he killed Hamilton and just before the whole Wolfram & Hart building collapsed. I barely got out of there in time," she whined.
"But not since then?"
"You don't know, do you? Angel's dead."
Spike slumped back into the chair, having had his fears confirmed. Of course, anything 'confirmed' by Eve should still be considered suspect.
"Do you know this as fact, Eve? Better not be running another one of your manipulative little spiels on me. How do you know this?"
"I saw the whole battle. At least, as well as I could through the rain and the dust and all the bodies. I followed Angel to that alley north of the Hyperion, and when I saw what was coming toward you guys, I went into the hotel and watched from one of the upstairs windows."
"Hope you found a nice room with a view. No obstructions in the way, keeping you from enjoying the entertainment," Spike said with no small amount of bitter resentment.
"I could see quite well, thank you. Didn't see Wesley or Lorne, though. Did Lorne die along with Lindsey? Lindsey told me that he was teamed up with Lorne in that totally reckless, half-assed plan you boys came up with."
"Not sure about Lorne. He told Angel that he wouldn't be meeting us in the alley. His last act as a member of our team was his mission with Lindsey. After that, he planned to get lost for good. Blue told us Wesley bought it while fighting Vail, but that Vail was dead, along with the others that were on her list. And Charlie Boy wiped out the Senator and her vampire campaign staff."
"You guys really killed all of them -- the entire Circle of the Black Thorn?" Eve asked incredulously.
"Yeah. Not too shoddy for a 'totally reckless, half-arsed plan', was it? The Circle is dead and enjoying the discomforts of Hell -- least till a new Circle gets formed. That's enough news from my side, Eve. Tell me about Angel and whatever you saw of the battle."
Preacher Joe had been hovering in Spike and Eve's vicinity ever since they first started talking and pricked his ears at the names Angel and Eve. He perched on the arm of a nearby sofa and strained to hear more of the conversation.
"Like I said, my view was murky, but I saw Charles go down and never get up again. While he was down, a Polgara demon stabbed him in the chest several times; must have gotten his heart. I also saw that dragon toss your sorry butt against a dumpster, and then you disappeared. I assumed you were dead, too."
"He managed to finish slaying the dragon before being tackled by a group of Fyarls. Then from beneath the pile-up, a sudden cloud of dust burst upwards. When the Fyarls stood up, there was no sign of Angel at all."
"Damn bunch of buggering bastards!" Spike realized that Eve's story matched what he had managed to see for himself. Maybe she could be trusted now that she had no one else to rely on. Then again, maybe not. Someone like Eve always kept you wondering unless you were a blithering idiot. He certainly didn't consider himself an idiot, but then again, he didn't really have anyone else to ask. So he asked.
"What about Big Blue?"
"Illyria scooped up Charles' corpse and vanished into the rain and gloom."
"Nothing else to tell?" Spike asked.
"Nope. I thought about trying to make it back to my apartment, but it's not like there were any taxis or cops around with a demon battle going on in the area. Which also meant that the streets became easy pickings for your fellow vampires. So I eventually fell asleep there at the Hyperion. Since I hadn't slept much at all the last few days, I didn't wake for hours. Unfortunately, it was dark again by the time I woke up."
"What brought you down into the tunnels? Not exactly a safe choice for a damsel in distress."
"After I saw a group of vampires chase down some people outside the hotel, I decided to try underground. Believe me, I wouldn't have gone down into those damn tunnels if I'd had any other choice. You're a vampire. Wouldn't you find a tender throat like mine too enticing to pass up -- if you were drinking again, that is?"
Preacher Joe leaned over so far that he almost fell off the arm of the sofa and scrambled to right himself.
Noticing the eavesdropper, Spike rose to his feet. "Hey, mate. Do ya mind? This is a private conversation." Spike took a couple of menacing steps toward the wild-eyed preacher who scurried off and bumped into Anne.
Anne took Preacher Joe by the arm to lead him away, calling out, "He's harmless. I'll take him with me. We're serving dinner soon." She glanced apologetically over at Eve just as Spike passed by the window on the way back to his chair. Anne's eyes widened as she took in the fact that Spike cast no reflection in the window glass.
"Come on, Joseph. I'll bet you're hungry." Anne hurried Preacher Joe out of the room as Eve began speaking again.
"You know, Spike, as far as the Senior Partners are concerned, Angel went over the line when he organized the murders of The Black Thorn. That's why they told Hamilton to kill him even though they're still concerned about the Shanshu prophecy -- there MUST be a vampire with a soul to play a key role in the final Apocalypse because, you know, 'it has been written'." Eve spoke that last phrase in a pseudo-mysterious tone while making air quotes. Then she capped it off with, "Can't ever elude a prophecy."
"Then why didn't the buggers figure out some other way to deal with Angel rather than dusting him?" Spike growled.
"Hey! They tried their best for years to just keep Angel in their sights, while doing everything they could, of course, to manipulate him, hoping that he might end up fighting on their side in the final Apocalypse. That's the only reason they never had Angel killed before. But now that they've written him off, they're going to focus all their energies on you, Spike."
"They think I'm the golden boy now?"
"Sure. That's why they fixed it so the amulet could be used to bring you back -- just in case Angel was ever out of the picture. Lindsey and I tried to get you to believe we were the ones that brought you back, but we didn't have that kind of power. The Senior Partners orchestrated your resurrection. At first, they wanted you to remain a ghost, bound to the Wolfram & Hart building -- to keep you in reserve, so to speak."
"Those bloody pillocks! Those were the worst months of my unlife."
"But some of them really had doubts about their ability to manipulate Angel over to their side. Some of them thought you were the better candidate for their purposes."
"Bugger that! Not gonna be anybody's boy."
"So they sent the magic package to re-corporealize you and had me set up that Cup of Perpetual Torment competition."
"I knew it! I knew you were up to something evil, you malicious bint. That whole thing about two vampires with souls tearing apart the bonds of reality?"
"Just a load of crap," Eve grinned. "Sorry about that. Lindsey and I were rooting for you to win, by the way. Lindsey even hoped you'd kill Angel."
"Almost did. But there's always been a family bond thing between us -- much as we did our bleeding best to deny it. 'Sides, Buffy'd never've forgiven me. Felt right good to beat him, though. Who'd have figured we'd sort things out between us and end up, more or less, as friends? Surprised the hell out of both of us, that did."
"So anyway, the Senior Partners aren't going to want you dead since you're the only souled vampire left, and there has to be at least one to fulfill the prophecy. But they will do everything they can to manipulate you. Don't let them catch you, Spike."
"Always been right good at keeping on the move, staying out of sight when necessary."
"If you want, I can tell you how to get those mystical runes that Lindsey and I used in order to keep under their radar. Go to Ravi Srenka at the Buddhist monastery on the east side of Bombay. Tell him Lindsey and I sent you."
"Not a chance in Hell, sister. Hate magic. Magic always has consequences."
Just then, Spike spotted Connor as he stuck his head through the kitchen doorway, calling one of the workers back into the kitchen.
"Hey! Isn't that Connor?" Spike peered across the room.
"You know who Connor is?" Oh, right. Vail would've modified that memory wipe after Wesley smashed the Orlon Box. Hiding Connor's past didn't really serve any purpose anymore, once both Wesley and Connor knew the truth. And there weren't that many others left who had memories of Connor to regain," reasoned Eve.
"Right. From what I heard, he really wasn't what you'd call a social butterfly in those days," Spike agreed. "Pretty much kept to himself when he wasn't killing demons. Almost as big a brooder as his old man; that kid had no interest in making friends or acquaintances."
"Yeah, the only others left alive who used to know Connor were Lorne, Gunn, you and maybe a handful of others. Vail probably wanted Angel to have to deal with you guys being pissed at him for manipulating your memories, so he must have eliminated that part of the mind wipe. But since Connor, as Angel's son, hadn't really known very many people, keeping his other life separate shouldn't be that hard for him now. A lot of people keep their work lives separate from their family lives; he ought to be able to do the same kind of thing. So anyway, how angry were all of you with Angel when you found out he'd bargained with Wolfram & Hart to erase all your memories of Connor?"
"I wasn't part of that sodding memory wipe deal," Spike growled. "Didn't even know Connor existed till he showed up that day I was taking notes on the Bluebird's fighting skills."
"So Angel just introduced him to you that day as if Connor was a stranger?"
"Yeah. Smelled something odd about the boy, but wasn't sure what it was. Never would've imagined the truth of it, though. Darla coming back human and getting preggers with Angel's seed? 'Bout blew my mind, it did, when Angel finally told me the whole sad story once the rest of them got their memories back."
"So? What about the other guys then? Bet they jumped all over Angel." Eve seemed unwilling to let the matter drop till she gleaned a bit of perverse pleasure out of Angel's friends being angry with him.
"Well, Charlie and Lorne were both brassed off at first, but then they ended up more like Wes. More melancholy-like. 'Course, Wesley'd been guilt-ridden ever since he shot that robot he thought was his Dad, and Angel's been the king of guilt for years. Right broody mixed bag of emotions, the lot of them. Connor seems like a good lad, though. Better go tell him what went down last night."
Spike got up to head for the kitchen, but Eve reached out and grabbed his arm.
"Wait, Spike. What about me? What am I gonna do?" Eve implored, her wide eyes filled with trepidation.
Spike looked fixedly at his arm and then up at Eve's face. She quickly released him, and he smirked before he began to answer her.
"Frankly, my dear, I don't -- " Spike broke into raucous laughter. "Bollocks. Always wanted to use that line, then couldn't deliver it with a straight face. But I'm sure you get the point."
Eve's shoulders sagged in defeat as she sank back into the chair, contemplating her next move. Spike was still snickering as he walked toward the kitchen.
Anne had been keeping an eye on the vampire who was having a serious conversation with an attractive young woman she had never seen before. She hadn't noticed either of them come into the shelter, so she wasn't sure if they arrived together or not. But their conversation seemed very intense, and they were entirely focused on each other, completely oblivious to anyone else around them except for the one moment when the vampire had frightened Joseph away from them. The young woman didn't seem to fear the vampire yet didn't appear to be wholly at ease either.
Anne had enough street experience to know that vampires often interacted pleasantly enough with humans to lure them into a false sense of security just long enough to find a private moment to kill them and drink their blood. Some vampires even seemed to enjoy the interplay, perhaps because it provided a bigger shock when the humans discovered the monster behind the human mask.
And, yes, they absolutely were monsters.
Anne had once been silly enough to call vampires "the lonely ones" and had longed to become one, herself, to share their immortal existence. Boy, had she ever had a rude awakening! If she was not mistaken, this striking vampire with the platinum hair and black leather duster was the same one who had once had his fangs in her throat -- until Buffy Summers stepped in to save her and the other deluded teenagers who had been foolishly adulating the vampire world.
Well, Anne was certainly not going to let this vampire insinuate himself into her shelter until he found the right moment to kill that young woman or any of the teens who looked to Anne and the shelter for protection. That was for damn sure!
Anne had figured out a plan to isolate the vampire from the people in her care. She'd try to stake him, herself, if it became necessary. But if she could manage to safely contain him until Angel and the rest of his team arrived, then they could take care of the actual slaying. When the vampire rose from the chair and began to walk through the shelter, Anne felt for the stake she had hidden in the waistband of her jeans to make sure she could grab it easily if needed and then leapt into action.
"Excuse me, but would you please help me carry these items down to the basement?" Anne indicated some of the newly purchased supplies stacked outside the basement door.
"Just on my way to talk with someone", replied Spike, somewhat surprised to be approached for assistance.
"Oh, but this will take only a moment of your time. Everyone here at the shelter pitches in, you know. I can carry these gigantic bundles of toilet paper but would appreciate a man's help with those boxes of institution-sized canned goods. They're quite heavy, but you appear to be a strong, well-built guy." Anne smiled at Spike, hoping she hadn't laid it on too thick, then hurriedly opened the basement door, flicked on the light and picked up the two enormous bundles of toilet paper.
"Guess I could spare a minute to handle that for you," agreed Spike. What was it about pretty blondes that made it so easy for them to manipulate him? He sighed to himself as he lifted the two heavy boxes and headed down the basement stairs. He wasn't really in any rush to deliver the bad news to Connor. Telling him was going to be difficult for both of them. A few minutes' delay wasn't going to hurt anyone.
Anne followed quickly behind Spike, asking, "Do you see that storage locker against the wall? If you can hold on for a second, I'll unlock it so that you can stack those boxes in there."
As soon as she reached the bottom step, she moved quickly to the storage locker, set down the toilet paper bundles and unlocked the padlock on the sturdy metal and fencing wire door. Anne forced another smile as she opened the door, stepping aside so that Spike could enter. Spike walked into the locker and began to stack the boxes against the far wall. Anne slammed shut the locker door and speedily closed the padlock, exhaling a loud sigh of relief when she got it secured.
"What's this then?" asked Spike as he straightened up and turned to look at Anne. He made an effort to keep his voice calm in hopes that maintaining an easy-going demeanor and choosing the right words might convince her to re-open the door. Her next words, however, squashed the liklihood of that scenario's success.
"You may not remember me, but I recognize you. You almost killed me one night in Sunnydale about six years ago. Not the kind of thing one forgets," said Anne as she fingered the faded scar made by the bite mark on her neck.
"Wasn't like me to take a bite and stop before I had my fill", countered Spike, as he wondered for the millionth time if he would ever be able to live down his past. He walked up to the fencing and grasped it, his fingers passing through the openings in the wire as his palms pressed up against the enclosure. His blue eyes peered intently at the blonde woman who had so surprisingly locked him into this cage.
"Oh, I'm sure you would have completed the kill if the Slayer hadn't rescued me and the rest of my friends. I was once a very naive young girl who thought you would be sharing a gift with me rather than simply leaving me dead and stupid," Anne snorted. "We admired vampires and wanted to join your world. What fools you must have thought we were."
"You know Buffy?" asked Spike as his mind flashed on a long ago scene in a warehouse basement filled with daft humans wanting to become vampires. And of Buffy holding hostage a weakened Drusilla, demanding that he and his minions let the humans leave. A half smile formed on Spike's face as he remembered the audacity of the young Slayer who would one day, against all that was logical and sane, become the love of his life.
"Yes, I know Buffy," said Anne. "She saved my life once again here in L.A. She's also someone I'm not likely ever to forget."
"Me either, pet. No matter how hard I may try. Name's Spike. If you've kept tabs on Buffy, you'll know that I was helping her in Sunnydale. Fought on her side for the last few years and was there when Sunnydale became the big hole in the ground it is now."
"Uh, huh. I may have been stupid before, but I'm not stupid now. No vampire is going to fight on the side of the Slayer -- well, except for one. But he's different. He has a soul."
"You know Angel, too? I've been working with his team here in L.A. since last summer. And he's not the only vampire with a bloody soul, by the way."
Spike could hardly believe the absurdity of his current situation -- locked in a wire cage by a young woman who knew both Buffy and Angel. And neither one of them was available to corroborate his story.
Anne laughed out loud. "My God. You have got to be the biggest liar I've ever met." She began climbing up the stairs. "Someone will be here soon who may enjoy a laugh, too, before they end your lying, pathetic existence."
"Wait. I swear that I'm telling you the truth. There's even someone upstairs who can ..." Spike stopped talking as he heard the basement door shut. Bollocks. Why didn't he think of that right away? Connor and Eve were both up there -- either one of whom could validate his story -- but he couldn't convince the bint to stay and listen to him because she's one of his many past victims. Karma sucks.
End of Never Give Up Part I
anyone rescue Spike?
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