All About Spike
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Blood Kin
By Nan Dibble

Sequel to Old Blood

SECTION VI: INTO THE LIGHT



Chapter Twenty: Demon Relations

When Buffy got home, about 4:00, she was surprised to find the front room empty: no Spike. A passing SIT told her to look in the basement. Laying her bag and car keys on the hall table, Buffy went down the cellar stars and found Dawn, Willow, and Giles in conversation. Spike, looking awful but much better, was sitting in a lawn chair unfolded and placed where his cot used to be. Manacles attached to chains bolted in the wall were fastened around both his forearms. His blindfolded face lifted before the others noticed Buffy’s presence.

“Hullo, love,” he said, and the others looked around. “Got a bit of a problem here.”

“It wasn’t his fault!” Dawn said at once.

Buffy folded her arms. “OK, what’s going on here?”

Spike said, “Rupert, would you do the honors? I’m up to listening but that’s about all.”

“Certainly,” Giles replied. “Buffy, this morning Spike attacked Dawn.”

“But it wasn’t his fault!”

“Now, Bit, you hush,” Spike said. “I did. And might again. Red, tell her about the geas.”

Willow nodded, wringing her hands anxiously. Buffy found it odd but reassuring that the apparent prisoner was the one calling the shots. The sight of the manacles had chilled her heart. Willow explained, “Angel has imposed a whole big set of mostly prohibitions on Spike. Commands. Psychologically, they’re binding--Spike doesn’t have any independent choice about it. If they were magical, which they’re not, they’d be called geases: magically set compulsions. But this isn’t magic, and I know that’s confusing, but it’s easier to think of them that way because they’re not just rules, not just commands. They’re things Spike literally can’t go against or cross. It seems to be pretty much hard wired into the submission process. A vamp thing.”

Buffy demanded, “Does Angel have something against Dawn? In that house, he told Spike to get her: is that still going on, then?”

“Gets complicated here, love,” Spike responded. “Short answer is no: I expect he picked Dawn that first time because he knew it was something I’d never do of my own choice.”

“To be yes,” Willow put in, nodding emphatically. Which to Buffy made no sense whatever.

“Think I’m gonna need to sit down for this,” Buffy commented, and pulled up the dryer chair.

As the four of them explained it and as Buffy understood it, anything Angel wouldn’t do, Spike couldn’t do. Like feed direct from a human. Mostly Willow and Giles explained, Dawn defended, and Spike put in a word now and then, looking wiped out and exhausted the rest of the time.

But he was aware. And back. And of course in trouble again. Normalcy, of a sort, had been restored. Buffy was too full of rejoicing over that to take any problem very seriously. She got up and took both Spike’s manacled hands and kissed his mouth. And then was worried she’d hurt him because he hadn’t responded, hadn’t closed his hands around hers, hadn’t kissed her back.

Spike said quietly, “See, love, that’s another thing Angel wouldn’t do.”

“Gotcha,” Buffy said grimly and sat down again. “I’m really interested now. So with all these great guesses in place, how could you attack Dawn? And why would you want to?”

“These geases,” Giles said, emphasizing the pronunciation, “have been imposed upon Spike. And only indirectly upon his demon.”

“And the demon,” Dawn piped up, “is getting really, really sick of all the restraints. It’s just getting madder and madder. And Spike’s mad about it too, even though he can’t do anything about it. And sometimes, when they’re both mad enough, the demon takes over and does what it pleases, not what Spike wants it to do. Something Angel has forbidden.”

“It got past me,” Spike said in a flat mutter, on almost no breath. “An’ it went for Dawn.”

As though by signal, Dawn picked up a half full glass of water from the floor and helped Spike drink a couple of swallows. Looking around at Buffy, Dawn said, “He’s still starving, mostly. And I was handy, all full of tasty blood. So the demon figured I was brunch. Right, Spike?”

“About. Thanks, Bit.” Spike lifted his face toward Buffy. “If Angel don’t lift these geases, by the time I’ve got my strength back, my demon’s gonna be so fed up with me and so furious at being caged in, choked back, it won’t mind me at all. It’ll be looking for every least chance to get out an’ hurt somebody. My own personal version of Angelus.”

“And the principal difficulty,” Giles commented, “is that to Angel, this is the normal state of things. On no account is the demon to be allowed any freedom. He believes it to be utterly evil, utterly destructive. And for him, it is. But apparently not for Spike. At least until now.”

Willow chipped in, “Because it’s not magical, just personal, I can’t just wave my hand and make the geases go poof. And because Spike’s demon is an entity in its own right, an animus, I can’t do much magically to affect it--any more than I could with Angelus. Vamps are pretty magic resistant, like we found out when Dawn was withdrawn and nobody but Spike remembered. So there’s not much I can do. Spike’s demon is still more a chaotic collection of impulses, a repository and conduit of spiritual energies, than an actual personality. But the more it’s repressed, the more it will coalesce in trying to resist and rebel. Needing to be stomped down harder, repressed completely. Fighting back harder. Becoming more coherent. I agree: we’re talking about another Angelus, different only by the differences between Spike’s dominant personality and Angel’s.”

“So what it comes down to,” Buffy formulated slowly, “is convincing Angel that Spike’s demon is one of the good guys.”

Giles said, “Yes, I’m afraid so.” His tone made it clear that, like Buffy, Giles knew that had the proverbial snowball’s chance in hell.

“’Tisn’t good,” Spike contradicted. “’Tisn’t specially evil, neither. It just wants a few basic things, and to be let alone, and if you do that, ‘tisn’t too hard to manage. But if it doesn’t get what it needs and what it wants, and if you’re all the time chaining it up and beating it, then yeah, it’s gonna turn savage. And once that happens, not a whole lot of ways of goin’ back.”

“But wait a minute,” said Dawn, waving both hands energetically. “You couldn’t ask for the blood in a mug, and couldn’t drink it yourself. And then you could, and did. Could we, like, wear a geas out?”

“Can’t talk about that, Bit.”

“Got it. Then I’ll take the parts. Am I right that you couldn’t ask for it?”

Willow said, “Right. He had me take it out of his mind.”

Dawn went on, “And you couldn’t drink it, unless I hand fed you. Or was the cup just too heavy?”

Spike said, “Wasn’t too heavy.”

They were, Buffy thought, like a bunch of people playing obscure charades.

Dawn’s turn again. “But then you did hold the cup and drank for yourself. So something changed. What?”

Spike just shook his head.

Willow asked him, “Do you know? Should I look for it?”

Spike’s face, when he turned toward Willow, was fanged.”

“Oops!” Dawn cried. “Time for another feeding. I’ll see to it.” She ran off up the stairs.

Given the discussion, nobody was at ease in the presence of Spike’s demon.

Giles said, “Well, we seem to have arrived at an understanding of the problem. I think we’ve tired Spike quite enough for one day.”

“Yeah, I’ll try to look into….” Willow broke off, staring at Spike, who quite calmly had reached across, held a manacle, and slipped his arm and skeletal hand right out of it. Before he could free the other arm, both Giles and Willow were headed for the stairs.

Buffy had never given Spike’s demon much thought. He’d seldom spoken to her of it. But the current description had made her think of an animal--a big cat, maybe: reasonably good-natured if well cared for but capable of being savage and malevolent if mistreated. Feeble now and angry, but getting stronger by the day, practically by the hour. And she found she wasn’t in the least afraid of it.

Again, she took both Spike’s hands in hers. While Giles and Willow fled up the stairs, Buffy said fondly, “Hey. Dawn’s getting your food. Nobody’s mad at you.”

Spike leaned forward. His cool cheek was against her arm. His fangs were a couple of inches from her skin. His head turned slightly. Without the blindfold, he would have been looking at her.

It was a question, and she knew what the question was. She even knew what the answer had to be.

“It’s OK. Go ahead.” She thought, If Angel can do it, so can I.

But the bite she expected didn’t come. Only breath, fast and effortful, against the skin of her forearm. “Save that,” Spike said. “For sometime.”

It wasn’t at all the occasion she might have imagined. But it was true and it was time. Buffy released his hands to clasp him around his frail, stubborn shoulders. “I love you. And we’re gonna be all right. Lousy timing, huh?”

He was shaking, shuddering. Trying to force past the prohibitions that wouldn’t let him do what he wanted.

Buffy held him carefully tighter. “It’s OK. I know…. No more manacles. I’ll see that nobody gets hurt. And I understand: you can’t ask, can’t take. But you can accept. That can be arranged. I’m not letting go of you. Get stronger. I want to see your eyes.”

Dawn came trotting down the stairs with the first mug. Buffy took it and helped Spike drink, freeing Dawn to go back for more.

Between sips, Spike said hoarsely, “Wish I could tell you--”

“I know,” Buffy said gently, smiling. “Sometime.”

“Again. What you said.”

“About sometime?”

“No.”

“About loving you?”

“Yeah. That.”

“I love you. Buffy hearts Spike. Anyway you come. Anyway at all. Gonna make your demon so happy, it’ll just lie down and purr. You won’t have to ask or take. I know pretty well what you like. All you’ll need to do is stay awake enough to enjoy it.”

“Again.”

**********

Only Dawn had all the pieces and therefore saw it all. But the more she thought about it, the more she knew it shouldn’t come from her but from Giles and the Scoobys, who’d known Angel the longest. Who had history with him--some good, some really hideous.

The last piece was about the dream visions, like the one about the pendant, and that had come out only today, from Giles of all people, down in the basement. And Spike had added the one nudge that set that piece as a capstone, holding all the others together: his idea about why such dreams were coming to him at all. “On account of it was Dru who turned me.” The idea of inheritance through the blood.

So in the meeting before the meeting in the front room, that evening, Dawn laid it all out for them with the clarity only an outsider, kindly disposed toward them all, could bring to bear. She ended tartly, “And if you ever took the trouble just to talk to each other once in awhile, you wouldn’t need me to point out the obvious.”

Giles said, “Yes, quite.”

And Buffy, holding Spike asleep on the couch, said quietly, “Poor Angel.”

“The hell with ‘poor Angel,’” Xander snapped. “Poor Jenny, and poor you, and poor us, and poor everybody else whose life that bastard ever touched.”

“I’ll get the materia,” Willow said, and went off upstairs.

Anya, surprisingly, said nothing. And Spike was asleep. Which was all of them accounted for.

Dawn got on the phone to Casa Spike and Amanda, to set up what would be needed there.

When Angel arrived for the meeting, they were all waiting. Having gone to the door to greet him, Dawn steered him to the big armchair in the corner, that was mostly Spike’s, and perched on the weapons chest beside it. Lowering himself into the seat, Angel was frowning at Buffy and Spike on the couch: obviously not one of his favorite sights in the world.

Before Angel could make any comment, Buffy put an arm--protectively, possessively--around Spike, lying with his head pillowed on her lap. “He’s where I want him. And where he belongs.”

“No,” said Angel, starting to rise again.

“He’s mine, Angel. I claimed him first. And I claim him now. Nobody’s permission signifies except his, and mine.”

“Hear, hear,” said Giles, drawing Angel’s incredulous glance.

“I assume you’ve noticed,” Angel said to Giles coldly, “he’s a vampire.”

“That had come to my attention, yes. Apparently Buffy likes vampires. And the Slayer apparently requires a vampire as consort. This Slayer. This vampire. I’ve resigned myself to it, over time.” Giles composedly drank tea.

They all looked at Angel. And he looked back, taking in the plain fact of their unanimity. After awhile, fixing on what he figured was the weakest link, Angel said, “Xander.”

“Oh, I don’t like any of you fangboys,” Xander responded. “But arguing hasn’t gotten me anyplace except the doghouse. And people can be really peculiar in their choices about who to love.” He looked wistfully at Anya, indicating they still hadn’t officially made up and had probably had an argument about this, going by Anya’s very thin, very tight lips at the moment. “And very stubborn with friends who insist on giving them good advice they don’t want to hear and aren’t gonna take. Spike hasn’t killed a single person I like and hasn’t threatened to murder me in several weeks. By me, that’s good enough. So I’m with the program. What Buffy wants, Buffy gets.”

“Love,” Angel repeated, starting straight at Buffy.

“Yeah.” Buffy bent and kissed Spike’s cheek, then looked up at Angel again. “I guess so. Finally figured it out. Thanks for helping me.” She gave Angel a small and rather tremulous smile. “Anybody who’d go through what he’s gone through for me, well, you got to love that. And any two people it takes practically an act of God to keep apart, I guess they’re supposed to be together.”

“Spike!” Angel was on his feet and shouting. Spike came abruptly awake. Sitting up, he turned his head blindly, trying to figure what was wrong. Angel left him in no doubt: “Get away from her. Now!

Spike obeyed. Because he had to. He wavered upright, holding to the end of the couch, and turned there, facing Angel. Waiting for the next command.

Buffy hadn’t tried to hang onto him because that would have only made it harder for him. She hadn’t moved her eyes from Angel. “Is it just jealousy? I could understand it. But really, I thought better of you than that.”

“He’s…a pollution. A desecration. If you’ve all gone insane here, if I have to draw the line, then I will. Do you know what he’s done?

“Not all of it, Peaches,” Spike remarked in a sardonic drawl. “Could give them chapter and verse about some of what we’ve got up to, over the years. Last week or so, even. Don’t think you’d like it much.”

“Shut up!”

Spike obediently offered no further details. His wavering became a sway he tried to brace against. In another minute, he was going down. Dawn went to him fast and helped him sit on the floor, leaned against the side of the couch. She was still under Angel’s radar: he didn’t forbid Spike to accept her help.

Willow said fiercely, “He deserves better from you than this. He made it through the Supplice d’Allégance. He put himself through hell to make things right with you. If you take away his choices, then you have a responsibility toward him!”

Buffy demanded, “Is it the fact that it’s Spike? Or is it the fact that he’s a vampire? That he has a demon inside him?”

Angel said, “That should be reason enough. You of all people should know, Buffy, how cruel such a demon can be!”

Setting down his teacup, Giles said, “Ah, but Spike’s demon is a different demon. I believe both Willow and I have mentioned he’s been having visionary dreams, of late. As an inheritance of sorts from Drusilla, it would seem. Quite accurate ones, too. As concerning the pendant, the Eye of Ra, for example.” He gestured, and Anya poked in her bag and drew it out: a medallion of silver metal with a clear jewel inset.

Anya commented, “The chain’s not original. But that shouldn’t make any effective difference.”

Willow asked Anya, “The dealer in Alexandria?”

“E-Bay,” Anya replied. “Sorry, I outbid you. At least I think it was you.”

“Then you overpaid. But Yea, us! anyway.”

Xander repeated incredulously, “The Eye of Ra?”

Anya shrugged. “Even Steven Spielberg gets things right occasionally, even if it was the wrong artifact. The name’s been banging around for centuries. Just applied to the wrong object.” She slid the medallion back into her bag.

Giles commented, “The available sources are unclear about the exact nature and use of the object. And our researchers are simply superior to Mr. Spielberg’s. We have a bit more at stake. Now, if we may return to the matter at hand. Spike’s finding himself gifted, or afflicted, with prescient dreams, he attributes to the fact that it was Drusilla who turned him. Is this not correct, Spike?” He looked at Spike, who naturally said nothing, and then in sharp annoyance at Angel. “Angel, for heaven’s sake, don’t be petty. Please allow Spike to confirm my summary.”

Scowling, Angel consented to sit down again and lift his forbidding that prevented Spike from saying anything.

Spike’s contribution was a nod, which hardly seemed worth all the trouble. But it was one geas lifted. Dawn approved.

Giles continued, “That suggests something heretofore unsuspected concerning vampires: that the actual inhabiting demon, the same demon, is transferred in the initial transfer of blood; and that the demon in question has been affected by its previous host. Drusilla’s powers predated the demon. And to some degree, Spike has demonstrably inherited them, having shown no abilities along those lines before his turning.”

“So?” said Angel. “Dru is a monster. We’re all monsters. That’s why a Slayer is needed. Why she’s called. And why her only rightful business with us is conducted with a stake!”

“Ah, but now we begin to approach the point,” said Giles, and gestured at Dawn.

Dawn hopped up and went to the phone on the weapons chest. Dialing Casa Spike, she waited three rings and then hung up. Returning to sit by Spike, she and Willow passed each other. Willow sat on the weapons chest, showing Angel a map with two fiery red dots a little distance apart. After Angel had a moment to look at it, Willow pulled out a capped X-acto knife and a tissue out of her pocket.

She asked, “I need a little blood, Angel. For the demonstration.”

“Why.”

Giles said, “It’s something you need to know, Angel. No trickery. I give you my word.”

Angel considered a moment, then uncapped the knife and pressed the blade into his palm below the thumb. Willow blotted the blood with the tissue.

Willow said, “All right, time to reconvene outside.”

Giles took his teacup, Willow collected some more equipment on a tray, and everybody started filing out onto the front porch, Angel trailing along nearly last, except for Dawn helping Spike.

Going out, Spike asked her, “You got your taser, Bit?”

“Yeah. Not gonna use it.”

“You seen him, since?”

“No. It will be all right.”

“He comes at you, you use it.”

Dawn shook her head. “That would spoil the demonstration.”

“Hell with the demonstration. You look out for yourself.”

“Shut up, Spike,” Dawn directed gently, guiding him to a seat on the steps with the end-post of the porch rail to lean against.

She left him there because the demonstration was her part. And Willow’s too, of course. But mostly hers.

Mike, Amanda, and Kim were coming from the break in the hedge, from Casa Spike. The SITs stopped at the corner of the house, letting Mike come on alone. He flicked a glance at everybody watching from the porch, then ignored them and continued to where Dawn was waiting.

“Hi, Mike.”

“Hi, Dawn. What’s this about, then?”

Dawn took his arm and turned with him to face the porch. “Everybody, this is Mike. Spike’s minion, at the moment. Mike, has anybody told you what to do or not do here?”

“Nobody’s told me nothing whatever, Dawn. You know that.”

“Well, this is a kind of a test, but it’s not your test. I just want to show something. And you just do what you think is best, all right?”

“All right.”

“Show me your demon, please, Mike.”

Mike gave the porch another quick glance, maybe looking to Spike for instructions, but of course didn’t get any. He looked at Dawn again, checking that she meant it. Apparently deciding that she did, he went to game face, with a subtle change of balance as other, less obvious things changed within him.

“Mike, do you want to hurt me?” Dawn asked. “Just say what’s so.”

“Not this minute, no.”

“Are we friends, Mike?”

“I surely hope so.”

“You know what my blood tastes like, don’t you.” Mike nodded slowly. Dawn asked, “Would you like more of it? Would you like it all?”

Mike backed a step and changed to a wary balance. “You saying I should? Or you just asking?”

“Asking.”

Mike considered. “Well, that ain’t for me. And it’s not for me to say. And not all, no way to that.”

“Why? Why not all?”

“You know why.”

“Tell me anyway. Please, Mike.”

“’Cause then you’d be dead. Gone forever. And I’d feel real bad about that. No Dawn, never no more. And Spike, he’d do me for sure, was I to do that. And he’d be sad always, missing you. You recall. He said. What’s this all about, Dawn? I don’t like talking about this.”

Walking to the porch, taking the uncapped knife Willow handed her, Dawn asked, “Do you have a soul, Mike?”

“Not that I know of. Now Dawn, don’t you do that--” Mike turned his head hard away, a full-body wince, as Dawn cut a small thin line across where he’d bitten her before: his mark. “Shouldn’t hurt yourself like that.”

“This time, it’s for you,” Dawn said. “For a taste. To show something.”

“Be a pity to waste it,” Mike reflected, and then, vampire fast, he was right beside her and bent his head to her arm. He licked the cut once: sealing it. He released her arm, looking straight down into her eyes. “That what you wanted? To see if I could stop? Well, I can. But don’t you ask me like that twice. Don’t like to be played with.”

Dawn wanted to tell him it wasn’t a game, he wasn’t being played with. But not yet. “Mike, are you mad at me?”

“Yeah, a little.”

“Do you want to hurt me now? With the taste of my blood in your mouth?”

Mike shook his head, shook himself. Shook off game face, frowning down at her with wide, dark eyes. “Maybe like to rattle your bones up a little, thinking it’s a good idea to tease a vamp. But then I never knew you to be a tease before. So I expect I’ll wait until you tell me.”

From the port, Willow said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you--Angelus.”

Even louder, Angel said, “No.”

“He is, though,” Willow shot right back. “Or his demon is, anyway. The same demon, Angel!”

“No!”

Mike muttered to Dawn, “Spike’s there, everybody all around him. OK if I take a try at him now?”

Knowing it was Angel Mike was itching to take a try at, Dawn said, “Let them do it. He has to listen to them. Because of the soul.”

“Glad I ain’t got one, then. Wouldn’t want to have to put up with that. You gonna tell me what this was for?”

“To give Angel a lesson in demonology. To show him all demons aren’t monsters. That sometimes they can choose not to be.”

Dawn looked up and found Mike regarding her very seriously. “I’m a monster, Dawn. It don’t do to forget it.”

“But not all the time. And I don’t forget it. But we’re friends, and you have a choice. And neither you nor your demon wants me dead.”

“That’s true. Also true I’m not hungry right now, neither. Don’t you figure I’m some tame pet you got here.”

Dawn smiled, realizing that like Spike, Mike was proud of being a vampire and the demonstration of his forbearance, right out in front of everybody, had come dangerously close to injuring his pride.

She told him, “I’ll never ask you where you hunt. Or how.”

“Best that way.” Mike looked critically up at the porch. “Looks like they’ll be at that awhile. Could play Frisbee.”

“Good idea. Let’s do that.”

**********

Spike listened some of the time while they bludgeoned Angel with it: came at him from all sides, beating down all his denials and arguments. That Michael was Angel’s get, made during that turn Spike had taken in the wheelchair and Angel had taken as Angelus on account of the curse, and Buffy, provable by the two new dots on the map set off by the dab of Angel’s blood. That was the connection, made plain on the map: Angel’s blood was Michael’s, no difference. Therefore Michael’s demon, that he could control, was the same animus as Angel’s demon, that was the cruelest creature ever to slash a throat. Leading to the conclusion that Angelus was finally what Angel had made of him: by renouncing the demon, by denying it, by a century of hating and punishing and forbidding what already had been pretty savage to begin with. A souled wasted century of eating rats, when he could catch them, and bumming around in alleys, or so the tale went. Even worse than pigs’ blood. Spike knew, having eaten a few rats in his time in the school basement. Rats would do, when there was nothing else. There always were rats.

Which made Spike realize he was hungry again, and that could become a problem. But before it was, Kim had come out with a mug he couldn’t take. And she knew enough to square off against Angel, still arguing with the Scoobys, and demand, “Is it OK if I give him this?”

“It’s human,” Angel said flatly.

“Yeah, partly. So? Does he have your kind permission to drink his food?”

“All right,” Angel said in a resigned, disgusted what does it matter voice.

And that single prohibition was lifted. All of it. Spike was free to go to game face and take Kim, that brave little fire-plug of a girl with his mark already on her, bent close to hand the cup to him, and he almost wanted to because he was starving and just to prove he could. But he didn’t have to, which he figured was pretty much the point at the moment. He drank the blood in about three swallows and passed the mug back for more. Kim was a fine brave child, they all were, and Spike very seldom wanted to do them any harm and even then didn’t. Because it was his choice to make, each time. And except in extremity, Spike’s demon minded pretty well, most of the time.

Angel hated his demon. Which was something Spike had known all along. Never in a way to gain any leverage from it, though. So he supposed this whole production might be worth doing if it got the prohibitions lifted, made Angel agree that doing to Spike’s demon what he’d done to his own might not be all that great an idea.

It was Angel who’d corrupted his demon, not the other way around. Most of the meanness and the cruelty had belonged to whatever man Angel had been before Darla had turned him. The demon had just let it out, let it free, given it power. And then taken all of the blame and a good part of the punishment.

Whether the Scoobys had thought it out that far, or whether Angel ever would admit to it, wasn’t Spike’s concern. Let the Watcher and the witch and the Slayer see to arguing Angel into lifting the geases. Spike, once he’d fed, was too tired to care much or pay any attention.

When Spike woke it was much later. Nobody was left on the porch except himself and Angel. It was all quiet, everywhere around, except for crickets and the shrill, small cries of nighthawks hunting insects over the streetlights.

Spike straightened, feeling himself stronger, maybe even a bit clearer in his head. After each feed and each rest, it was a little better. He got out a cigarette and lit it.

“So how did that all go?” he asked after awhile.

“Do whatever the hell you please.”

Spike thought of a couple of things he might have said and kept them to himself. All the geases, lifted. So that was all right, then.

“How are the eyes coming?” Angel asked presently in a slightly less surly tone.

“Slowly. Be awhile yet.”

“So what was it all for, Will? The damn supplice, and all of it? Was it all some kind of a damn game you and the Scoobys cooked up--”

“Didn’t lose my eyes for a game. You know what it was. What you always wanted: for me to admit you were stronger, and my sire. Even though it was Dru who turned me. For me to submit. So you got it. You have the power to forbid and command. That still stands. Regardless of all this….” Spike waved vaguely, meaning the whole raft of arguments they’d all assembled to hammer at Angel with, to make him let go. “I’m here because I wanted to be here. Because I thought I could be some use to the Slayer. And you’re here, the same. An’ you call it, and this time, I’ll do it. Soon as I can. Soon as I’m healed. What the fuck, Angel. We’re still what we were. Just a bit clearer about what that is, is all. Without a century of grudges to get in the way.”

“Without Dru,” said Angel.

“Yeah. And that, too. How’s she doing, by the way?”

“Up in Washington state, the last I heard. At least the massacres sound like Dru…. Darla’s gone.”

“Yeah. Heard about that. But not how.”

“It was strange,” Angel said in a quiet, distant voice. “A couple of months back. She dusted herself, Will. So…so her child could be born. In an alley. All our important transactions seem to take place in alleys….”

Spike thought for awhile, because Angel was never one to come at a thing straight on. Always make you guess for it, reach for it. And then, half the time, slam you down for guessing or for asking, either one. But maybe they weren’t gonna do that anymore. Cautiously neutral, Spike said, “Unusual for a vamp to have a child.”

“Even more unusual for two. My child, Will. My son. Connor. It was prophesied. He’s gone now. You remember Holtz?”

“Certain sure. Right bastard, that one.”

“Took him. Took Connor. Into Quar’toth. No way to get to him. Get him back. So when Buffy called, I figured I had nothing better to do.”

Spike let that alone for now. Thinking about Quar’toth, the doorless dimension. And about Dawn, who maybe knew everything there was to know about doors. Or, if she didn’t, maybe could find out. He wouldn’t say anything until he was sure. Didn’t want Angel going after Dawn, the way he sometimes did.

“Holtz,” Spike said eventually. “He’d be what: hundred and sixty some? Lively, for that age, sounds like. Or did he get himself turned?” Given Holtz’s rabid hatred of vampires in general and Angelus in particular, Spike considered that highly unlikely.

“No, he jumped through time, some way. I do hate magic!”

“Not too fond of it myself. But I figure it’ll have to be that, if we’re to close the Hellmouth. If the witch finds a way. Sounds like they got the pendent. The one I saw….”

“Yeah. How does that come into it?”

“Not a clue. I expect she’ll find out. Or I will. Been getting some heavy hints that’s to be mine. All bright, everywhere. Dreamed that a few times now.”

“The hell you did.”

Spike shrugged. “Next thing, I expect the stars will start talking to me. But not so far.”

“You really believe that? That you caught visions from Dru?”

Again, Spike shrugged. “Dunno where else they’d have come from. Writing wretched bad poetry to whatever bint wouldn’t have me wouldn’t account for it. Which is about my only claim, along those lines.”

That was awkward, because it brought up Buffy by implication. It produced a silence long enough that Spike pitched the butt of the cigarette into the yard.

Angel asked, “What do you intend to tell Buffy. About private matters. Between us.”

Spike smiled quietly. “Don’t worry, Peaches. Believe it or not, when Buffy and I are together, your name hardly ever comes up. She’s not real interested in ancient history and I wouldn’t want to bore her.”

Angel considered that and apparently was satisfied because he asked, “You need help getting back inside?”

“I can manage that far. Be awhile before I can take on the stairs, though.”

Let Angel take whatever satisfaction he could from the implications of that. As in the wheelchair, so with the blindness: Spike had some discretion about what fights he picked and which he let alone for a better time. Especially fights he’d already won.

Angel said heavily, “All right. Good night, then.”

“’Night.”

When the sounds of Angel’s departing car had completely gone, Spike stood up and checked the angle of the step to know the direction of the door. He found the latch and let himself in. He’d figured to go to the chair in the front room but stopped, hearing feet descending the stairs. He smiled because it was Buffy.

“Won’t be much good to you, love. Might as well leave me to the chair.”

She came and kissed him. “I can be all kinds of good to you, even if all we do is sleep. Unless you’d rather.”

“Not hardly.”

“Come on, then.”

Slowly, and with some difficulty, they went up the stairs together.


Continued in Chapter Twenty One: Slights, Sights, and the Fate of Cleveland

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