Bloody Soul by Kallysten

ReviewsRating: NC-17

Summary: Story goes AU at the end of Becoming 2. Rewrite of season 3. Buffy/Angel for part of the story, spuffy undertones throughout.

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Chapters 1-4

Chapter 1: Another Becoming

"Painful, isn't it?"

The words seemed to echo throughout the mansion as Spike continued to pound on Angelus with a crowbar. That brief look of surprise when he had turned his face toward Spike had been priceless. Sweet repayment for the weeks of torture Spike had endured. Stuck in a wheelchair, unable to retaliate while Angelus had insulted him or took his Dru to bed, ignored at best, taunted mercilessly at worst, his own minions snickering at him, and finally that insane plan of sending the world to hell. Well, all of that was over now. Soon, he and Drusilla would be gone from this dreadful town, and he was never coming back. Now if the Slayer would only take over the Angelus' bashing, Spike could be on his way out of.

A quick look at what the Slayer was doing exactly and Spike's eyes widened in alarm at the scene playing out a few feet away. Drusilla and the Slayer were fighting, each woman looking at the other with deadly intent, fangs and razor-sharp nails on one side, wooden stake on the other. Angelus forgotten, he rushed toward them, crowbar clattering to the floor. With an angry growl, he grabbed Drusilla's arm from behind and yanked her away from a fast incoming piece of wood before pushing her out of the Slayer's way.

"That's not part of the deal!" he shouted, eyes flashing gold as he stared at the short blonde. "You were supposed to leave her."

An enraged roar interrupted him, and Spike barely had time to curse the stupidity of turning his back on Angelus before the abandoned iron bar struck his back repeatedly, driving him to the floor. Blows poured out of the older vampire followed by venomous words, promising a lot worse than hell was coming Spike's way for daring to stand against his grandsire. Spike could hear other sounds behind him, sounds of flesh hitting flesh and glass shattering. The bitter thought came to him that this all had been for nothing; whatever happened now, he had lost Drusilla. Either the Slayer would stake Dru, or Dru would kill her and condemn them all to hell.

Infuriated at the idea, he managed to roll over and grab hold of the bar the next time it fell on him. A short struggle ensued; and for a brief second Spike was on his feet, before Angelus sent him flying backward to crash into the table. Stunned and body aching in more places than he could count, Spike laid in the splintered wreckage unaware of Angelus pulling the sword out of the statue. He heard his Princess' exultant cry and the Slayer's muttered curse. Heard Angelus tell Dru to stand aside and leave the Slayer to him. Then, it was metal on metal, the sounds of two swords clashing, and the Slayer's breath increasingly ragged as each instant passed.

Shaking his head to clear his mind, Spike made an effort to stand, only to regret it instantly. Drusilla was in front of him, very clearly pissed off. He had not seen this particular look very often over the years, mostly because he usually made sure not to let anything upset her too badly, and never had she directed her fury at him.

"My naughty little boy," she clucked. "I knew the nasty Slayer would worm her way inside, but the stars didn't whisper that you'd burn tonight. Snip, snap, switch, cane. Whatever shall I do with you now?"

He raised a pleading hand toward her, and she stared at it with an icy look that froze his movement.

"Princess, look, I did it all for you," he tried to explain, knowing already that it was useless but desperate to gain time. "So that we could."

Blindingly fast, she struck. Sharp nails sliced his cheek and blood was seeping from four cuts. Ignoring the pain, from both the blow and what it meant, he caught her wrist and tried to pull her down. They could still make it, could still be out of here and on their way to calmer skies if he just managed to restrain her. Once she calmed down, he could explain to her. Make her see how helping the Slayer had been necessary. How hell wasn't exactly a nice place to spend eternity. How the Angelus who had come back to them wasn't the one they had once known, how this one was completely insane, probably from being controlled by the soul for so long, how...

Of course, restraining her might have been a tad easier if he had paid attention to what he was doing.

"I don't want to hurt you, baby," he said in a soothing tone as he struggled with her, only to double in pain when she punched him in the gut.

"I have no such trouble," she replied before he could add that, wanting or not, he would do what was needed. A kick and another punch followed her words, and Spike spat blood from his mouth.

"We don't have time for this," he hissed angrily. Behind Drusilla, he could see that Acathla had opened, and Angelus was advancing toward the unarmed Slayer, taunting her with words Spike didn't care to hear. It was now or never. Wincing internally, he punched her in the face, then a second time, before taking hold of her. Once she was unconscious.

However, she wasn't unconscious yet and instead managed to escape his grip. The force of her own movement sent her stumbling back, straight toward Angel. She crashed into him, hard, making him lose his grip on his raised sword and thus angering him. Even though he had been fighting with her an instant before, Spike roared when her Sire roughly struck his Princess, thoughtlessly punishing her for interrupting his fight with the Slayer. The scream died in his throat as he watched Drusilla stagger before falling backwards, straight through the swirling vortex emanating from Acathla.


The blow was about to come, and Buffy now understood what Whistler had meant when he said she still had something to lose.

Hope.

Until now, she had always believed that she would win eventually, however hard it might be. Now she wasn't so sure. It didn't mean she wasn't going to keep fighting until the last second. Of course, she would take lucky breaks anytime, such as Drusilla throwing Angelus off balance.

Taking advantage of the distraction, she grabbed the sword Angelus had dropped and watched as the insane bitch fell into whatever was hiding inside Acathla. If anything, the unexpected sacrifice seemed to make the vortex grow faster. She had to do it, and she had to do it now. Angelus' blood had awakened the stone. His blood would soon close it, if she managed to get a shot.

If Spike gave her the chance.

Enraged, Spike jumped on the taller vampire's back fists, feet, and oh so inventive words, hitting and cursing him for causing his crazy girlfriend to become hell-fodder. Buffy wanted to intervene and take over the fight - it was her responsibility, her duty and right to deal with Angelus, and her only chance to say goodbye to Angel forever.

However, before she could do take more than a step forward, a strange light struck Angelus, freezing him to the spot. Taking advantage of his grandsire's vulnerability, Spike grabbed the other sword from the floor and ran it straight through Angelus' chest, and began to draw back to strike again. Acathla didn't seem to agree with that plan, because it began to suck Angelus backwards. The moment he touched the vortex, the light leapt from him and into Spike.

Then it was over. It hadn't taken more than a couple of seconds.

Shocked, Buffy watched the now inert stone where her former lover had disappeared. He was gone. Angelus was out of her life. And so was Angel. She had thought that she had finished grieving him and their love already; but the knowledge that, this time, it was over made it cruelly clear that she still mourned his loss. Cold grief seeped into her flesh, her bones, her mind, her soul, and she felt numb, too numb even to cry.

Slowly, mindless steps took her forward, closer to the stone, to touch it and make clear to her mind and body that he was gone. The shaking body kneeling between her and her goal stopped her.

Caught up in Angelus' disappearance, she had forgotten about the cause of this disappearance, about the blonde vampire who had robbed her of her prerogative, who had taken away the only closure she could ever have found.

Without thinking, she brought the sword she still clutched - Angelus' sword, the sword he had almost killed her with - to rest on Spike's shoulder. The edge of the blade rested against his neck, and as he continued to shake it nicked his skin; Buffy stared, entranced, as a rivulet of blood glided along the blade before dripping off and onto the stone floor.

Longs seconds passed in a too heavy silence. She just needed to swing the blade, and her unlikely ally would be dust. He just needed to move and he would be safe, at least for a time. Yet, neither of them moved.

"Do it," he finally said, his voice dry and rasping. "Just end it."

A pause, not even long enough for Buffy to wonder why he wanted to die, and he added in a whisper: "Please."

In reaction, she raised the blade, preparing to swing. His whole body tensed in anticipation of the blow. She changed her mind at the last second. She didn't strike and instead threw the sword away. It clattered across the cold stone and Spike started to shake again, the sound of muffled sobs filling the silence. Seeing him cry was enough to break her own barriers and tears filled her eyes, as well as her voice when she spoke.

"You don't get to die. You don't deserve to rest. No more than I do. We get to hurt every day knowing what happened, and how we lost them, and the responsibility we had in it. We hurt enough to die, but we don't."

Her voice broke on the last words. How much of these words were for him, and how much for herself? She forced herself to turn and walk away, each step making it clearer in her mind that this part of her life was finished. All she needed now was to learn how to live again. If she ever could.

She never turned back to look at Acathla, never saw Spike curl up on the floor and weep without restraint.


If you're going to tell the story, you might as well do it right. You make me sound like a complete prat, you realize that, don't you? No, it's not all touching and stuff to have a vamp crying his heart out on cold stone while the Slayer walks away. It's bloody pathetic, that's what it is. At least, the way you tell it, it is. I'm taking the scene, now, if you don't mind. You do? Well, too bad, I couldn't care less.

So. The way you say it, it's as if I was bawling like a baby and begging to be dusted because I had lost Dru. Well, you know that's not it, and so do I, so let's straighten things out, shall we?

I'm not denying seeing Drusilla disappear into Acathla was. Hell, how can I say it? It broke my heart, that's what it did. My heart was already in bad shape from her fooling around with Angelus, like she had done a century before and like I knew she'd do again if he ever came back to us. It's not so much that she did that surprised me, but rather that she never said a thing about him being so different from the Angelus we used to know. Different as in, completely out of his fucking mind.

The Angelus that sired her, the Master that taught me, very much did appreciate the pleasures the human world can bring to our kind. He was ruthless, yes, and a merciless killer, and so many other things, but he wouldn't have sent the whole world - including himself - into hell just because he was pissed at a bloody Slayer. Dru should have seen it, seen he was as insane as she was. But she didn't, and it hurt as much as knowing they shared a bed again; because it meant I was the only one remembering what had once been, the only one still yearning for a past long gone, for a vampire I used to call Sire, even if he wasn't in the facts of blood.

But I'm rambling.

What was I saying again?

Oh, right, Dru. Yes, heartbroken. Still am, but the pain dulled over time. Seeing her again months later helped, I suppose, to really say goodbye to her, to what we were, what we had shared. It allowed me to move on, and love again. But at that moment, of course, I was absolutely incensed at having lost her, especially in that almost accidental way, angry enough to take Angelus one on one and not get my ass kicked in two minutes flat. Enough to win, for the very first time ever. If I hadn't been hurting so much, I might almost have been proud of it. But the hurt from Dru's fate was only the beginning.

When I shoved that damn sword in him, something happened. Or rather, had already started to happen. I didn't know it at the time, but we've pieced it together long since. When I skewered him, Red's little spell was taking effect, and the soul restoration had begun. Then, he touched the vortex, and for whatever reason the spell rebounded; and, instead of Angelus, yours truly was given his bloody soul back.

How would you have described it, if I had let you tell the tale? What words would you have used to explain how it feels suddenly to have a dozen decades of guilt crammed into you where there was nothing but hedonistic gratification before? I've lived through it, so to speak, and I'm not sure I could even find the words. Of course, words have never been my strength, however hard I tried.

Getting my soul back after a century. well, for one thing, it hurt. The physical pain was intense, like sunshine touching me inside, if that makes any sense at all. Or maybe like drinking holy water, except that the fire wasn't just in my throat and in my belly; it ran though all of my body, down to my very toes. Didn't last long, but the memory stayed with me for months. Years. Hell, I can still feel it if I think about it for too long...

In short, it hurt like a bitch. Then, my body stopped hurting. Which was good. But immediately, it was my mind. My poor, not so innocent mind of a killer, suddenly and without warning confronted to God knows how many murders. Let's just say it wasn't pleasant. Far from it. A hundred thousand voices screaming at me, blaming me for their deaths. But at the same time, all these voices were my own, all their words were something William, in another life, might have said to condemn a murderer.

I've thought about it often, since it happened, wondered why it sounded like him at first, why, as weeks went by, the voice and tone changed to sound more like who I am today. Why was it even my soul that was returned to me, since the spell was obviously cast on Angelus, and had started to work on him? I'm not complaining though. I've got to shudder at the idea of getting cursed with Angel's soul. Now if that had happened, I would have staked myself, no doubt about it.

And I did think of staking myself. As I lay on stone that felt colder than my own heart, and eventually. what is it you said? "wept without restraint", as all these nights of feeding were submitted in judgment and found to be sins, I wanted to die. That's why I just stayed there when the Slayer put her sword to my neck. That's why I begged her to do it. But when she didn't, when she left me alone with my aching soul, I didn't reach for a stake or random piece of wood. I didn't move, except for retreating from the menacing statue that was the only presence with me apart from my too numerous victims. I simply couldn't do anything more than that. Could only stay there, and cry, and endure the pain. Try to endure it. Try not to lose my mind.

I failed.

When they came, I barely recognized them. Their faces were blurring with countless others, and. Well, I'll let you get to that part, I suppose. If you'd be kind enough not to make me look like a complete git? Thank you.



Chapter 2: A Way Out

Sunrise was still two or three hours away when Giles' car pulled up in the mansion's driveway. He had waited as long as he dared, hoping that Buffy would come back to them even if it meant she'd return with a newly resouled Angel. He wasn't sure he wanted to consider his feelings for the vamp quite yet, but he would probably need to eventually. He needed to either accept that Angel and Angelus were truly two different persons or find it in himself to pretend he believed they were.

For Buffy's sake.

Willow had told him about the spell they had attempted again and about being possessed, there was no other word for it, as she finished chanting the incantation. She seemed convinced it had worked, and some part of him wanted to believe her. Another part, the part that still hurt so much from Jenny's death or maybe it was the one that had suffered under Angelus' ministrations, simply hoped the vampire was dust and gone from their lives for good.

If he had been alone, Giles might have remained in the car for a few seconds in order to collect his thoughts, but Xander bolted for the mansion as soon as the engine stopped leaving him with no choice but to follow. His heart beat faster than it should have, anticipation mixed with the residual fear of his earlier torture; but he refused to show either to the young man. Xander had insisted on coming along, and Giles had hesitated, wavering between being thankful and annoyed. Thankful, in the end, because his bandaged hand could barely do more than hold a cross. But then, he was almost completely certain that neither the cross, nor the small bottles of holy water lining his jacket's pockets, the stake in his left hand, or the crossbow in Xander's possession would need to be used. The world had not been sucked into hell, which meant that they had won, either by ensouling or by dusting. They were only here to know how it had ended. And to make sure Buffy was alright.

Side by side, they walked toward the mansion they had left in such a hurry only a few hours before. The door was wide open, and no sound was coming from inside. Except for. a faint, very faint murmur. No, not a murmur. Moans. Painful moans. A sudden pang of guilt ran through Giles as he abandoned all caution and hurried inside. Was Buffy hurt? Had he hidden in safety while she laid here in pain, waiting for help to find her?

"Buffy?" he called out as he stepped in the mansion foyer, his voice holding more anxiety than he would have wished.

No answer, except for devastating silence as the moaning stopped.

For a second, the massive statue in the center of the room distracted him. There was no sword trapped in it anymore, so Angelus must have awakened Acathla. With the directions he had managed to extract from Giles. Once again, more guilt clawed at the Watcher. Yet, now the statue was dormant and no hell was threatening to swallow this world. So, how had Buffy reversed the process?

And where was she?

Clutching the cross so hard it dug into his injured hand, he looked around. For a body. For ashes. For blood. For any clue of what might have happened. He was aware, vaguely, of Xander doing the same, but couldn't summon the force to advise him to be cautious. Not when he had found a sword that was stained with blood. Whose blood was it?

Hand trembling, he tucked the stake in his pocket and picked up the sword. It felt heavy in his hand, the thought that the dried blood could be Buffy's weighing profoundly on him.

"Giles!"

Xander's call pulled the Watcher from his increasingly worrisome thoughts; and he quickly turned to look at the youngster. The boy was on the other side of the room, the darker side, standing rigidly as he peered into the shadows. Giles' heart clenched painfully as he wondered what was hiding in that recess of darkness.

Please, please, let her be safe.

With leaden steps, he joined the young man, the same plea running repeatedly through his mind. When he joined Xander and his eyes adjusted to the lack of light, he could only let out a relieved sigh. It wasn't Buffy's corpse that held Xander's attention. Not Buffy at all.

Huddled against the wall, was a vampire Giles had last seen sitting in a wheelchair. Now, he was crouched on the floor, arms wrapped tightly around his torso, frantically rocking back and forth without interruption.

His hold on the sword became firmer, and Giles lifted it to place it under the vampire's chin. It took a fair amount of pressure for the blonde to lift his head; and when he did, Giles felt a cold shiver run down his spine. The vampire's eyes were bloodshot, completely expressionless, and there were tear tracks down his cheeks. What the hell had happened to put him in this state? Once more, fear for Buffy's safety settled in her Watcher's bones.

"Where is Buffy?" he asked coldly, the sharp blade of the sword suddenly pressed a little more insistently for emphasis. The vampire did not seem to notice either the words or the death threat.

"Spike!" Giles shouted and the vampire's head jerked up. "Where. Is. Buffy?"

The barest hint of recognition flickered in his eyes, though if at the name or Giles' face, it wasn't clear.

"Hurt," he mumbled, turning his head away and not reacting in the slightest when the blade nicked his throat. "Hurt enough to die. Her. Me. He hurt too. But he didn't die, I didn't let him die. Had promised her. But hurt, couldn't be helped. Couldn't. Really couldn't. Shut up, I'm telling you I couldn't! Her dirty angel would have known. I couldn't."

The ramblings continued, too low now to understand. Giles stared at the blonde, trying to decipher what he had heard. Had he meant Buffy was hurt? Hurt enough to die? Was she laying somewhere, bleeding to death while they wasted time with this incoherent demon? This demon who was their only witness?

With some difficulty due to the cracked ribs that were suddenly reminding him of their need for attention, he put a knee to the ground and again used the sword to bring Spike's attention back to him.

"Listen to me carefully," he enunciated slowly, an edge of Ripper tainting his voice. "If you do not tell me where Buffy is, I swear I'll leave you wishing you were in Angelus' hands, not mine."

"Angelus?" the vampire repeated, sounding confused. "Gone. To hell too. Swallowed by stone."

Now that, at least, made some kind of sense. It seemed Angelus had been sent through Acathla. Good riddance. However, that didn't explain where Buffy was. Unless she had been sucked in too?

"We don't care about Angelus," Xander said harshly when the blonde appeared to be drifting back to his own world. "Where is she? Where is Buffy?"

A brief look at Xander, and the vampire's gaze was once again unfocused, looking at things that weren't there.

"Gone. All gone. Left me alone. Alone with all of them, but then not really alone am I?"

An unexpected giggle passed the vampire's lips, chilling in its high pitch and ending as abruptly as it had started. Slowly, Giles pulled the sword away from Spike's throat and straightened.

"Is it just my impression or is he very slightly loony?" Xander asked with a trace of sarcasm. "Should we put him out of his misery and get moving?"

Giles pondered the suggestion, but finally shook his head. What the vampire was saying hinted that he knew what had become of Buffy, but it wasn't enough to understand what her fate had been, what exactly had happened in this place. They couldn't stake the vampire before he regained some kind of coherence.

"I think he may be in shock," he told the young man, without ever taking his gaze off the blonde. He was rocking back and forth again, muttering nonsense. "When he snaps out of it, he'll probably be able to tell us what happened. We need him alive, or at least undead."

With as few words as possible, Giles directed Xander to go get rope in the trunk of the car; and while he waited, he kept an eye on the vampire at his feet. The idea on inviting yet another vamp into his flat wasn't appealing, but he couldn't think of any other solution. After all, it was only temporary. They would keep him secured - Giles was sure he could find a way to magically strengthen some chains - for as long as they needed to get a clear answer, and then. well, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Surprisingly, the vampire could stand and walk. Just as surprisingly, he allowed them to tie him up without protest, as he continued lost in his broken monologue. Giles searched each room of the mansion once he was sure Spike wouldn't be a problem, but there was no trace of Buffy. No clue to what had become of her, except for the answers held by the still rambling vampire in Xander's custody.


Sunnydale was still sleeping, ignorant that it had been on the edge of being the entrée to Acathla's super sized dinner. Ignorance was bliss, wasn't it? It was so much easier for the town's citizens to sleep at night if they didn't have to worry about vampires and demons, soul losing boyfriends, and a hell dimension being only a breath away. Buffy wished she too could have pretended that nothing went bump in the night. That the town didn't have a plethora of people dying in freak accidents. That it was safe to walk the streets as she was doing now. Alas, she knew better than that.

In her mind, the scene kept replaying, over and over, an endless loop she couldn't escape. Angelus sucked into hell. Her relief that the nightmare was over. Grief that all of this had happened because of her, because of her attachment to Angel, because she was the Slayer. And over the images in slow motion, the soundtrack was her mother's voice.

Have you tried not being a Slayer?

You walk out of this house, don't even think about coming back!

Maybe her mother was right after all. Maybe all Buffy had to do was try. Try hard enough. If she pretended there was nothing abnormal about her life, if she made herself forget that demons existed and that her job was to kill them, maybe she would be able to live - really live - like any other girl her age.

Before the sun rose, she snuck into her house - no, not her house, not anymore - into her mother's house. She took the little money she kept in the top dresser drawer, gathered a few clothes, wrote a quick note, and was out without a backward glance. It was easier that way.

She went to the bus station and bought a ticket, but the bus wasn't leaving before the middle of the morning. Once more, her feet took her through the town, until she was near Sunnydale High, close enough to see, but not enough to be seen. She felt calmer as she saw her friends and Watcher in front of the school, together, present for each other. She couldn't hear them, but seeing them was enough. Reassured that they were alright, and certain that they would be better if she wasn't there to mess up their lives anymore, she turned her back on them and walked away.


Am I sensing a pattern here or what? First, she turns her back on me, then on her mum and friends. That's my Slayer, alright. Ready for the worse if the world's safety is menaced, but choosing the path of least resistance for herself. So strong and so bloody fragile all at once.

Although in this case, I probably shouldn't criticize her. If she had stayed, the Watcher would have staked me right away. All he needed me for was information, and I have no doubt my execution would have been swift if she had come back to him that morning.

So, Giles and the whelp took me to the Watcher's flat. I could have freed myself at any time; I just had no desire to do so. No desire for anything at all, actually. All I wanted was for the voices to stop, to be quiet for an instant, but of course, it didn't work like that. Actually, being close to Giles made things worse. Much worse. He was the last person, who had been hurt, although not directly by me, by my lack of doing anything to prevent it. I did nothing while Angelus tortured him; merely prevented his death in exchange for Drusilla's life and no other reason. Every time he looked at me, every time, I saw his bandaged hand and bruises, I felt renewed guilt.

I am quite sure I talked too much, in these moments. Let things slip about my fucking soul, about feeling bad for letting him get hurt, about being sorry, and all of that useless rot. I'm not sure whether I should be thankful that he didn't understand right away. My words were probably too jumbled to make much sense, and from what he says I was talking too quietly most of the time for him to make out what I was saying. He also says he tried to talk to me, to snap me out of the little hellish world I had been caged - or caged myself - in, but he didn't manage to reach me, and honestly I don't remember him trying. I know I was chained in his bathtub and sometimes to a chair, but I don't actually remember much of it. I remember mostly that he was there, always there even when he was gone, and that the voices inside were loudest when he came closer. I remember knowing that he wanted something from me, something I had and could give him, if I just managed to figure out what it was exactly.

It's this knowledge that slowly, as a few days went by, gave me the strength to learn how to control the voices, how to make them quiet long enough to be able to hear, understand questions, and give somewhat coherent answers. Many people had been hurt or had died because of me, but Giles was still there, still alive, and I could do something for him. Not much, but something. The beginning of my atonement.

As if atonement meant anything.

Still, I don't know what would have happened to me if I hadn't had this reason to fight my insanity. I suspect I would have retreated farther and farther into myself, until I had no connection left to the world, until I was reduced to little more than an animal. Until I had followed Angel's footsteps from a century before.

Now, he would probably get all flustered and start a new round of glasses polishing if I ever told him, and it would be just as bloody embarrassing for me, but part of me is grateful that the Watcher took me in. By doing that, he gave me a link to humans that was impossible to ignore. Started the process of giving me a purpose, a way out of my madness. And he did all that without even knowing it, or knowing what was going on in my head. So yeah, grateful.

You realize that if you tell him I'll not only deny it but the consequences will be very unpleasant for you, don't you? Good. Glad that we understand each other.



Chapter 3: Spark

With a sigh, Buffy locked the door behind her before stepping out of her shoes and collapsing on the bed. It was a good thing that her new home was so small, that way she didn't have to go far to get into bed.

Her second day at her new job was finally over. Second day in hell.

She cut off that train of thoughts right away. She wasn't going to think of hell, wasn't going to think of Acathla, and certainly wasn't going to think of Angel. It was useless to dwell on those things. She tried to turn her thoughts back to her friends and mom, wondering how they were, if they were angry and disappointed with her. Probably. Thinking of them didn't help much either.

Trying to distract herself, she got ready for the night, making a mental inventory of all the things she needed to buy to make her place more hospitable. It would take time, but eventually she'd be fine. She had to be.

Sleep was long in coming. It always was, now. She couldn't rest before mentally reviewing all her mistakes that had let to the most recent fiasco in her life. All the mistakes she was determined never to make again. When she finally drifted off, her face and pillow once more held the evidence of her tears./

 


It had been five days since Joyce had told her daughter not to come back. Five days of staring at the note she had found on Buffy's bed. Five days of making breakfast and dinner for two and hoping any little noise outside was Buffy coming back. Five days of glancing at the phone and hoping it would ring and Buffy would ask whether she could come home yet. Five days of hell. On the afternoon of the sixth, she decided that she had waited enough and needed to do something. Anything.

In an attempt to understand what had been going on exactly in Buffy's life, what it mean to be the 'Slayer', and maybe to find a clue of where she had fled, she hunted down Buffy's diary. Between the mattress and bed frame, she found a slim, girlish journal. She barely read the first few pages before realizing that this couldn't be it, it was just too plain and boring. A decoy. A more intensive search and she finally discovered an unadorned diary, hidden under a loose board in the closet. This was the one. She read it from the cover to the last entry. Until today, she had always refused to violate her daughter's privacy, but there was simply no other way for her to get answers.

She didn't particularly like the answers she found.

She didn't like the repeated entries about late-night patrols and strolls in cemeteries hand in hand with Angel. The short notes, dates and names that she finally understood were death notices for people Buffy had known. The heart-crushing, tear-stained rendition of the day Angel had become Angelus. The despair and self-loathing hidden in the following pages, until that final entry where she stated that she was ready now to kill Angelus. And through it all, the constant references to Willow and Xander, who were apparently helping her slay, and to a 'Watcher', whose name Joyce recognized instantly.

As she closed the diary and absently ran her fingers over the smooth cover, tears began trickling down her cheeks. How could she have been so blind? How had she managed to delude herself into thinking that everything was perfectly fine and normal in their little family? By having a few drinks too many? By not asking enough questions about bloodstained clothing? By being oblivious to Buffy slipping in and out at all hours of the night? By simply being a bad mother?

When she had regained some control, she went to the phone. Willow had called twice since that fateful night, inquiring about Buffy, asking Mrs. Summers to call as soon as she came back. Joyce called her and demanded Giles' phone number or address. She received both.

The sun was quickly descending toward the horizon, and she knew, now, the dangers of being out at night in Sunnydale; but that did not stop her. She hopped into her car, and five minutes later was knocking on the door of Sunnydale High' librarian. Of her daughter's Watcher. Of the man who was apparently a father figure to Buffy, a mentor. Because of this relationship, Joyce hoped that he might have an idea of where she was. Because of it, she also wanted to rip him to shreds for taking her daughter away from her, for encouraging her to be involved in such dangerous activities. When the door opened and he appeared, she wasn't sure anymore whether to plead or accuse. Apparently, he was just as flustered by her presence, because he didn't say a word, simply nodded and allowed her to come inside. They sat in his living room, both of them silent for a few minutes, until he finally asked:

"Would you care for some tea?"

The incongruity of the question allowed her to finally speak.

"No, but I would like my daughter back," she replied blankly.

Rupert Giles sighed, and somehow suddenly he seemed ten years older.

"I wish I could tell you where she is," he replied softly, "but the truth is, I don't know any more than you do."

With that, her biggest hope crumbled.

"I have been looking for her," he continued, "and so are my colleagues. We haven't found anything yet. Did she."

He paused; long enough for him to remove his glasses and start polishing them. Long enough for Joyce to notice, of all things, that he had beautiful eyes.

"Did she leave any clue?" he continued after putting his glasses back on. "Do you know if she came back to your house after."

Carefully, Joyce pulled the note from her purse and offered it to the man. He took it, read it, shook his head lightly, and gave it back.

"Yes, it doesn't help much," he conceded. "At least now we know she was well enough to get to your place and leave."

The world froze. Six days and never once, not even for one second, had Joyce thought that Buffy could be anything other than fine, wherever she was. She was the Slayer, wasn't she? Didn't that mean super strong?

"Why. What do you mean, well enough?" she asked, half choking on the words. "What is it exactly she did that night? She didn't."

Buffy had not explained. But then, Joyce had not been ready to hear. She was, now, but it was too late for her daughter to tell the story, so her Watcher did. And quite a story it was. A demon made of stone, another demon wanting to send the world to hell, and her daughter caught in the middle.

"So, you don't even really know what happened?"

Her voice was trembling, as were her hands. She tried to control both, but couldn't.

"Not yet. I hope to know soon, though."

Probably because he didn't know what else to say, he told her about his 'guest', a rambling vampire chained in his bathroom. About having hope he would allow them to understand what had happened and where Buffy was. Even dazed as she was, she recognized the demon's name, and told the man about Buffy's truce with him before she disappeared that night.

That surprised him. The surprise however was much greater when she insisted on talking to Spike.


It was a night full of surprises, Giles reflected as he leaned against the wall and observed the scene in front of him.

First, Buffy's mother showing up on his doorstep. He had no idea before this that she knew what his role was in her daughter's life; yet, her simple presence here meant that she was aware of it. Then, the letter she had showed him. Only a few words, but written after Buffy's fight at the mansion, so at least they knew she was alright, despite Spike repeated mentions of her being hurt. The revelation that Buffy had made a truce with this same vampire. Mrs. Summers insisting until he allowed her to see the vamp. Finally, yet most importantly, said vamp being somewhat calm for the first time in days as the woman approached him.

"Don't get too close," he advised as she stepped next to the tub. "He's still dangerous."

A fact that had been increasingly difficult to remember, lately. Giles had no doubt - and it didn't make for restful nights - that if the vampire had wanted to free himself, he would have found a way. Yet, so far, he had never tried. This didn't mean he never would.

"Spike?" the woman said very softly, and the vampire's eyes settled on her. "Do you know where Buffy is?"

Very unlikely, Giles thought. If Buffy had gone back to her home after leaving the mansion, how could Spike know where she was? Moreover, it meant that it was now useless to keep him around. Too dangerous also. Better to take care of it while he was still too confused to fight back, even if it felt like cheating. He kept his doubts and resolution silent though, curious to see if the vampire, suddenly so quiet after days of near constant muttering, was going to answer. Once again, the Watcher was surprised when he did, and with more coherence than ever so far.

"Gone," he said in a raspy voice, repeating his answer from the first night. "Didn't kill me and then she left. Why didn't she kill me?"

"I don't know," Mrs. Summers answered. "Did she tell you where she was going?"

The vampire's head tilted slightly, as if he was listening to someone, but no one was talking.

"She said she hurt," he announced abruptly. "Hurt enough to die, she said, just like me. She was right. Do you think she knew about the spark?"

The woman shook her head, and Giles took a step forward to offer his support when she started shaking. For a few seconds, she accepted the hand on her arm, before eventually pulling free. She continued to question Spike despite the imminent tears all too clear in her voice.

"How was she hurt, Spike? Was she bleeding? Did she break."

"No, no, no, no blood this time, only blood is on my hands, in my head. She just hurts, you know."

Chained hands pulled at the sides of his shirt, exposing the shredded t-shirt underneath; and, over the vampire's chest, where he was now pointing, were lacerations that Giles had never noticed. How could he have not noticed them? What had the vampire been trying to do, dig out his own heart?

Because of the sight or even possibly Spike's words, Mrs. Summers covered her mouth with a shaking hand. This time she didn't, or couldn't, swallow her sobs.

"There. Inside. Where the spark is. That's where she hurts. Like me, but different. She cried, too. But you shouldn't cry for me."

Under other circumstances, it might have been humorous to have the insane vampire trying to comfort the Slayer's mother, but Giles couldn't see the humor in it. However, he finally could see the light. For days, the pieces of the puzzle had refused to click in place and he had been unable to understand what had happened to the vampire to put him in such a mental state. Until now. Mumbled words of sorry, torture, hurting, guilt, and now this, blood on his hand, hurting inside, a spark. The idea was ridiculous, and yet it made too much sense not to consider it.

The question fell from his lips before he could think it through.

"Spike? Do you have your soul back?"

Icy blue eyes turned to him, considered him for a moment, before Spike finally gave him an answer of sorts.

"They put the spark in me and now all it does is burn."

As he observed the vampire, trying to read him for any kind of duplicity, Giles wasn't sure what to think. On one hand, it certainly explained the madness that had seemingly taken Spike. On the other, it was extraordinary. Willow had cast a spell on Angelus, not Spike, so how could this have happened? Was it because they were from the same vampire line? But if so, why hadn't Spike been souled when Angelus had been cursed the first time? What had been different this time? Unless. If Buffy had already sent Angelus through Acathla and closed the stone when the spell had been cast, it could have affected the closest vampire instead. That was the only explanation he could think of. It raised too many questions for Giles' peace of mind. What was he going to do with the vamp now? Could he still stake him as he had planned to? If Angel's example was any clue, he ought to. And still. was it why Buffy had let him live?

"A soul?" Joyce asked after a couple of minutes when neither of them spoke. "I don't understand."

"I'm not sure I understand either," Giles muttered. He needed a drink. Or two. And not to be given choices like this one anymore./

 


Joyce crying is one of the things I remember most vividly from these first few days after it happened. At the time, I know I thought she was crying because of me, for me, because she pitied me and was showing compassion. I know better, now, of course. Back then, she didn't know me enough to have this kind of feelings toward my poor self. She was also completely broken from the slayer being MIA. However, to my deluded mind, she was crying for my sins, and that this lady may find me worthy of her tears somehow added to my desire for atonement. I had no clue yet how to atone, but it was becoming a recurring theme.

I remember broken parts of a conversation, too. Giles talking about staking me because I obviously knew nothing more about Buffy. Joyce protesting loudly that Buffy had trusted me, not killed me when she could have, so what business had Giles to want to do it? There was more to it, but again, there were tears. It seems that Joyce couldn't bear the idea of killing the last person who had seen her daughter. Lucky me.

Somehow, she made Giles promise not to dust me - at least not yet. He wasn't happy about it, which was clear when he came back to see me after she left; but he didn't stake me. He sipped a glass of scotch, and for a while, I just watched him watch me. In the end, before he left, he said:

"I won't let you become a new Angel. If it means staking you, I won't hesitate."

His comment left my souled self rather confused. Of course I wasn't like Angel, couldn't the Watcher see it? I hadn't run away, had I? It might have been a little hard to do seeing how I was chained to a bloody bathtub, but I hadn't run away.

Even today, after all that happened, that's still the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Angel. OK, the second. First is, fucking bastard. Second, ran away and left us. All he ever did was run, and try to escape the soul without understanding he couldn't, or at least not like that.

And me, on the other hand, I.

What do you mean, I'm going too fast? It's my story, I bloody well will tell it as I. Oh, fine, fine, go ahead, be my guest.



Chapter 4: Choices

It was the last day of class, and most students had already started their vacation, leaving Sunnydale High very empty. The library, however, was currently hosting more students than Giles sometimes saw in a full day. They weren't there for books, nor were they there to say goodbye before summer break. It was a full Scoobies meeting, and he was still slightly astonished that he was willing to ask them their opinion in the matter. They were children even if he managed to forget that fact when he assigned patrols. He should have been able to make the decision alone; and he should have made it long ago.

"I still think we should stake him," Xander reiterated, an opinion that he hadn't changed after half an hour of debate.

Again, Willow countered him.

"But he has a soul! He's not going to hurt anyone. Plus, he helped Buffy. That ought to count for something."

There was a pause. The 'B' word had been uttered. So far, they had managed to dance around the subject without actually pronouncing her name. Difficult, but feasible. It seemed that Willow thought that it was time to pull the big guns out. The Slayer had made a truce with William the Bloody; and as a result, he had been ensouled. From what they could determine from Spike's succinct but somehow clearer and now saner explanation, she had had the chance to dust him, but had refused to do it.

"How do we know he's not going to hurt anyone?" Cordelia asked, her tone not accusing merely concerned. "And for his soul. Angel had one too, and we know how that ended."

Pain flooded Giles, but he managed to hide his feelings. Concentrating very hard on the thought that Angelus was in hell - sent there by his grand-childe and not Buffy as they had originally thought - he tried to bring his mind to the matter at hand. This was Spike, not Angel. The killer of two Slayers. It shouldn't have taken such a debate.

"How do you know I'm not going to hurt anyone?"

It was the first time Oz had voiced his opinion, and the rare words made an impact on the assembled youth. Giles gazed at the boy, slightly worried that the young man had thoughts of this nature.

"It's different," Xander began, but Oz interrupted him right away.

"Is it?"

A genuine question, and for someone who didn't know Oz as they did, it might have been difficult to know what Oz's point was exactly. The fact that he had spoken at all, however, made it clear to all present.

Stalemate. Two in favor of dusting Spike, two against, and Giles still wasn't any closer to making up his mind about it.

"Alright, I have taken enough of your time," he said with a sigh. "Go home and enjoy the beginning of your vacation. I'll see you tonight."

There were unhappy murmurs. Giles wasn't sure if they were about the prospect of patrol or the fact that he might decide without them, and he didn't want to know either. He shouldn't have tried to involve them in this matter or have accepted their help for patrols. Buffy was his Slayer, he was more than able to step in for her and should have. More able, certainly, than these children were. They had insisted, however, pledging their friendship to their absent peer in the only way they knew how. Giles was scared for them each time he patrolled with them and even more so when he suspected they did it without him. He admired them, in some way, but still thought they were naive. Yet, there was little he could do to prevent them from patrolling.

He managed to keep his thoughts on them and off Spike as he gathered some personal items and left the library. He would come back the next day, along with the rest of the staff, and properly clean out the building, although for the past week he had been taking home a few of the more dangerous items each night. Weapons hidden in a sport bag, ancient books carried in a cardboard box, anything to appear less suspicious. Still, he knew Snyder was keeping an eye on him, dropping hints that some staff members might not be back after the summer vacation. Giles ignored him, knowing quite well that the Council had ways to keep him employed at Sunnydale High. Hopefully, when it would be time to go back to school, Buffy would be back amongst them and his presence in the building would have some meaning again.

Once he reached his home, he couldn't avoid the subject anymore. He couldn't stand the idea of being in the flat with the vampire all day long now that school had ended. He needed to either stake him or let him go. It shouldn't have been so hard to make the choice. A soul shouldn't have made such a difference, or made him pause in his duty. It was more than pause, actually. Giles was actually considering letting the vampire go. Even after what had happened and he couldn't understand why. Was it because of Buffy? Because Spike had helped her, and she had not killed him? It was still difficult to believe that the vampire had agreed to a truce with her, almost as difficult as to believe that she had agreed also. He had Joyce Summers' word on it though, so it had to be true.

With a sigh, he put water on the stove to brew tea. It was usually a stronger beverage he preferred when pondering Spike's fate, but he needed to have a clear mind this time. As he grabbed a cup, his grip faltered and he dropped it. The porcelain shards all over the kitchen floor were a sudden and grim reminder that his hand wasn't working as well as it used to and probably never would again. There was no mark on it, though, as he reassured himself by bringing his hand up in front of his face. The damage was inside, never to be seen by anyone, and yet he felt it very clearly.

Just as clearly as he remembered that day - the torture at Angelus' hands, Spike's complacent gaze. He had his answer. He had been an accomplice of Angelus and the soul didn't change what or who he was. The porcelain crunched under his heels as he hastily walked through the kitchen and toward the bathroom, grabbing a stake on the way. As he walked in, Spike's head was thrown back against the edge of the tub, and he was staring at the ceiling with the air of someone who was seeing more than what was there. He turned toward Giles, barely enough to look at him, and for the first time in weeks a smile touched his lips.

"Finally going to do it?" he commented, emotionless. "It's about time."

It was the same voice all over again. The same 'I couldn't care less' tone Spike had used when he had advised Angelus not to kill Giles that fateful night. Yet, this time, Giles could suddenly understand better than he had ever wanted. The vampire cared now, just as he had cared back then. There was a reason why he had talked Angelus out of killing him, that reason being Buffy and the deal he had made with her. And despite the affectation, despite what he was pretending, despite the fact that he would probably not try to protect himself if Giles approached and struck, he didn't want to be dusted now.

"Tell me one thing, vampire," the Watcher said coldly as he considered his unlikely guest. "What would you do if I were to decide to let you go?"

Surprise did not even begin to describe Spike.

"Let me go?" he repeated. "Why would you?"

Why, indeed, was the question.

"Didn't you ever think that you've been cursed for a purpose?" he replied. "Maybe you have a role to play in the grand plan of things. Maybe you can do enough good to balance whatever."

A burst of laughing interrupted him. A very sad, depressing kind of laugh.

"Do enough good to balance the scales? Do you have any idea how deeply the scales are leaning right now? Do you have any fucking clue who I am? What I've done? What I am capable of?"

Incredulity was tinted by bitterness and anger. It sounded a lot like Spike had indeed thought of all that, but had reached the conclusion it would be too hard.

"No, not really," Giles replied calmly. "I do not know what you are capable of today. Yes, I know what you did, what you were. But right now, all I see is a demon who is being given a chance to redeem his soul, and seems too scared to even try."

"'M not scared," the vampire muttered sulkily and started a new round of brooding.

Giles sighed, and after a small shake of his head, he returned to his tea. He would call Mrs. Summers and offer a desinvite spell on her house and tell the children on patrol. Then, he'd let Spike go.


I wasn't sulky. And I very certainly wasn't brooding. Get your facts straight, would you? Just because Giles thought I was doesn't mean it was true. Got it? Good.

I was bloody scared, I can admit to that. Although you'd better not tell anyone I said as much.

As long as I was Giles' not so unwilling prisoner, I didn't have to make decisions about my life, didn't have to make choices between what the soul asked and what the demon demanded, didn't have to do anything at all except learn to take ownership of my guilt, and control it instead of letting it control me. When he decided to let me go, I wasn't ready yet. I don't think I would ever have been. So, scared. I'm man enough to admit it.

That evening, he went out, as he usually did, for patrol I suppose although he left early. He had called Joyce, asked her to let him desinvite me from her house, and she had accepted. When he came back, he smelled of blood. His blood, and I realized he had been hurt. Not too badly, probably just a scratch, but still hurt. After weeks of him feeding me pig's blood, it should have made me want to feed. It didn't though. I think if I had been able to throw up, I might have. He didn't say anything about that, didn't say much of anything until the end, actually. He untied me, handed me my duster, and showed me to the door. Said something along the lines of hoping he wasn't making a terrible mistake, and that I would pay very dearly if he were. Warned me that he was going to do the spell as soon as I gone, so coming back was not in the cards. Finally told me that they could use the help on patrol, if I had nothing better to do. All of it in as few words as possible.

Confused doesn't even begin to describe my state of mind.

Until then, I had been sure he'd eventually stake me, and it was only a matter of time. And I was OK with that. Really. If he had dusted me, I would have been free of my soul and that unnatural guilt, and an eternity of torment seemed rather attractive when compared to constant madness.

His little speech about redemption and doing good deeds was what confused me the most. I had entertained the idea of atonement, but not to the point of thinking what I did could really make a difference. It was more along the lines of, if I help him, the one person still left from that night, maybe I won't feel as guilty about letting him be hurt. Which turned out to be wrong, by the way, because when I was finally able to answer his questions he appeared profoundly disappointed in my answers. No relief that way.

But the way he was saying it, it was more about making things even. Paying for the bad by playing for good. Balancing the scales. Completely different. Made it sound like I could make up for having slaughtered someone by saving someone else a hundred years later. Or several someones, I suppose, with the interest. The concept felt strange. Even today, I'm not convinced that's how it works. It seemed too easy.

So, what does a souled vamp do when he regains his freedom? Not much, actually. I spent the night walking through Sunnydale, avoiding areas where people were, not sure of where to go and what to do. When sunrise became an issue, I honestly thought about waiting for it. And then, I realized I was close to the mansion. Went there without a second thought.

Acathla was still there, of course, and I spent a while simply standing in front of the stone, watching it as if, by staring long enough, I could make it open again for me. Safe enough to say it didn't. Eventually, getting some rest began to seem like a good idea. I couldn't get a foot in the master bedroom, intuitively knowing it smelled of both Angelus and Dru; and I couldn't face that. The room I had taken for my own after Angelus moved in was also a no go - I had killed in there, a few times, when Dru had remembered to bring me takeout from her nights out. Takeout. Nice euphemism for humans, isn't it?

Down the hall was a small room that we had never used. No bed, but after weeks of sleeping in a bathtub, it wasn't really a problem. I scavenged the house for blankets, tackled one over the window, and wrapped myself in the others to sleep. Within an hour, I was back in the main room. Back to Acathla. I spent the day sitting in front of it, finally falling asleep at its feet.

Then it was night again, and, following a decades old habit, I went out. Again, without knowing where I was going. I was hungry, but the thought of feeding was nauseating. I ended up on Revello drive. I don't really know why.

Joyce saw me. I've realized since that she was waiting for the Slayer, and looking through the window toward the street was something she did unconsciously. I wasn't sure whether to run or get closer; but when she opened the door, I did the latter. I noticed she remained safely inside, out of harm's way. Giles must have been adamant in his warnings.

She asked me how I was, and I didn't have an answer. I was still getting used to it, to all of it. I told her I was sorry I couldn't help her find her daughter, and she nodded. That was it. Nothing more to say. I was ready to get on my way, when a slip of a girl peeked at me from behind her mother and asked me if I was a good guy now, and if I was killing vampires.

That's what I remember. I wonder how it really happened since Dawn wasn't there. Did Joyce say something that the monks later changed to Dawn saying? Something that gave me the weird idea that it would be easier to face up to the guilt if I knew at least one person believed in me? I often wondered why the monks gave the Bit and I such a history. Starting when Angelus decided to kidnap her and I faced him down and pointed out that it was the best way to piss off the Slayer until he gave up that silly notion, then meeting her when I came to offer a truce to her sister, and these few words that evening that changed my view on things.

I started lying to her that night, and then realized I couldn't, and changed back to the truth. No, I wasn't patrolling. Not yet. But I was planning to. I had decided five seconds before to do it, but it was planning, wasn't it? She gave me a lopsided grin. I think she already had a bit of a crush on me.

Not to lie to her, I went patrolling after that, and discovered that staking vampires felt good for the soul. It was my intention to stay away from the Scoobies. I'm not sure why, maybe because they had known me evil, and I didn't want to see them look at me like I was still something they ought to be wary of.

Of course, my plans never work, and this one didn't either. It wasn't long before I let myself be caught in their games. Not really reluctant, but still on my guard around them, just like they were. Slowly, they began to rely on me a little more. Not trust me, I don't think it ever went that far, but. it felt good that they were at least giving me the benefit of doubt. Because when the Slayer came back, three months later, she didn't.

Next


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