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 5-8

Chapter 5: A Night Amongst Others

Two more weeks, and it would be time to go back to school. Willow was both thrilled and anxious at the prospect. It was her high school senior year, the thing she had been waiting for since fourth grade that would open to her the doors of university and adulthood. Yet, it wouldn't be the same without her best friend. And it certainly wouldn't be easy if she had to patrol almost every night with the gang. How was she supposed to go to school, do her homework, practice magic, be with Oz, and be out late every night? Or for that matter, how was she going to convince her mother to let her out every night once the summer break was over?

She understood now the constraints of Buffy's life. She even understood how easy it had been for her friend to fall in love with Angel. Not that Willow had any romantic feeling for Spike; Oz was all she wanted and more. But the souled vampire was. fascinating. She was kind of proud too, that she had been the one giving him a soul. Granted, it wasn't what she had intended to do, but the simple fact that she had been able to successfully perform such a difficult spell. well, it gave her a lot of confidence in her magical abilities. Now if Giles would only help her practice and learn more, all would be perfect. As perfect as things could be, when school was only two weeks away and she had so many things on her plate. Like those vampires straight ahead.

She clutched her stake and watched apprehensively as Xander, Giles and Spike took on the three vamps. Oz, Cordelia and herself were backup, and all three of them waited for an opening to jump in and use their stakes. Their little group had gotten well organized over the summer; and with Spike leading them to vampires' hunting grounds, they rarely spent a night without at least staking a couple of them. Their miss rate was lower every week; Willow kept detailed counts of their stats.

Giles was the first to stake his vamp. For an old man, he wasn't so bad. Of course, he would probably have objected to her calling him old. Then it was Xander's, staked by Oz while Xander held him down. Which left Spike's. It felt rather weird to Willow that the one person amongst them who was the strongest was more often than not the last one to end his fight. And it was rare that Spike ended a night without new bruises or cuts visible on his body. Sometimes, she suspected he did it on purpose. She wished she could have talked to him, made sure he was alright - the blond had jumped into fights often enough to help a Scoobie for her not to want to return the favor - but he was keeping them all at bay. Very much like Angel had, she couldn't help thinking to herself. He was there for them, but at the same time he seemed. elsewhere, in a place where talking was done only when necessary, smiling didn't exist, and disappearing without a 'good night' was perfectly fine. Like he was doing right now. Giles had helped him by staking his vamp, before announcing that they were done for the night; and now, Spike was walking away. There was a slight limp to his step. Hurt again.

"You OK?" Oz asked as he slipped his arm around her.

"Fine," she answered with a nod and a faint smile. "Just. a bit worried, I guess."

They started walking, the five of them more aware of their surroundings than they appeared.

"Worried about what?" Cordelia asked. "We got them all, didn't we?"

Willow felt like rolling her eyes at the statement. Cordelia hadn't helped much tonight, although to be honest neither had Willow.

"Don't you think," she began hesitantly, then found confidence in Oz's encouraging smile, "that Spike is fighting below his abilities? I mean, he killed two Slayers, and he managed to kill Angelus when. when we had so much trouble getting rid of him, so why is he barely able to stake one lowly vamp?"

She had been about to mention Buffy, but even now, that particular subject was still too painful. Better to avoid it as much as possible.

"Because if he kills them all in one night we won't need him as often and Giles won't give him any money?" Xander suggested, but his tone was only half joking. "I mean, he's useful, sure, but he's still a vamp. Don't you think he worries that if we don't need him anymore we'll stake him? That was the initial plan."

For a few seconds, no one answered. They had all begun to rely on Spike and hadn't discussed staking him in quite some time. The last time was when they had talked about the curse and its clause with him, warning him about getting too happy. His reaction had been to shake his head, and mutter something about them having no clue about what he was going through. Although, he had said it in a much more colorful way.

Eventually, Giles sighed.

"I suppose I should talk to him."

Like most evenings, as soon as patrol was over, Spike directed his steps toward Revello Drive. After that first night when he had decided, with a little help, that maybe assisting the Slayer's gang might be a good idea, he had hesitated about coming back. Part of him wanted to tell Joyce about his accomplishments, but at the same time, he was afraid that she wouldn't care and all of his efforts would seem futile. For a few nights, he had lurked, always going back to the mansion when the house's lights were turned off. Then one evening she had seen him and offered to share a cup of hot chocolate she had just warmed. It had become an almost nightly ritual.

Forgoing the front door, the vampire slipped into the backyard and took a seat on the porch after knocking on the kitchen window. He didn't have an invite in the house, at his own insistence. He was sane enough to realize that madness sometimes was more of an issue, and he didn't want to be able to get into the house if his sanity ever shattered completely and the demon took over. At his demand too, Joyce was not sitting outside. She pulled a chair to the door, and remained safely inside as they shared hot chocolate and talked. Sometimes, she was the one doing the talking. Sometimes, he was. And sometimes, neither of them could say anything, and they just kept each other company.

Tonight, she was in a chatty mood, which was good because he didn't feel like talking. She told him about her gallery and the shipment of Nigerian artifacts she had ordered. Then she told him about the book she had just finished, and although he had really no interest in the angst-filled story, he nodded at all the right places. When it was finally time for him to leave, he felt warm.

He knew, deep down, that there really was little in common between Joyce and his mother. And yet, each time he sat there and listened to her talk, however uninteresting their chat might be, he was taken back a hundred and twenty years before. The contact soothed his soul, enough for him to have some much needed peace and rest. It was always too soon when the time for goodbyes came.

Hands buried in his jeans pockets, he walked back to the mansion, his eyes on the ground in front of him the entire way. He only looked up when he reached the door and found it open. A now well-known scent in the air made it clear who was there, and he almost left again, unwilling to talk to the human now. But after a short hesitation, he finally entered the mansion. Being uncomfortable around Giles was certainly the least of the possible punishments that could be inflicted on him.

Giles was ready to leave when Spike finally arrived. Staying in the mansion alone, for more than an hour, was hardly on his list of interesting things to do. Yet he had stayed, waiting for the vampire, partly because he wanted to know where he had been, and partly because he knew that if he didn't talk to him right away, he would conveniently forget to do it at all.

He had waited in the main room, unwilling to view any more of the mansion and reopen painful memories. Acathla was still there, and for a while, he studied the stone. It was closed for good, he knew that, and there was nothing malevolent about it anymore. So why did Giles feel like the demon was watching him, ready to awaken at the first mistake?

"Rupert," the vampire acknowledged his presence as he walked in.

As usual, Spike refused to meet his gaze. It was sometimes hard to believe that the blonde had been - still was actually - a Master vampire. But then, he no longer looked like he used to. His hair was unkempt, the loose shirts he wore did nothing to hide his weight loss, and ever since he had stopped wearing his leather duster, he appeared oddly. frail. Almost as if the coat had been armor and now that it was gone the vampire was exposed.

"Why did you stop wearing that coat of yours?"

That wasn't what Giles had meant to say, far from it, but now that he had noticed it again, it was hard not to ask. Spike seemed startled by the question; it obviously had not been what he had expected.

"Because I got it in New York," he answered cryptically.

For the first time in what was probably months, Spike looked straight at him, the guilt clearly etched on his features.

"New York," Giles repeated blankly when he understood. "I see."

The Watcher was the one who broke eye contact. Sometimes, it seemed frighteningly easy to forget exactly what Spike was.

"We should get rid of that thing," he said as he gestured toward Acathla. "Drop it at the bottom of the ocean, maybe, so that."


The word was uttered quietly, but with a strength that Giles couldn't recall having heard in the vampire's voice since he had been cursed.

"Why not?" he countered. "As far as home decoration goes, I am quite sure you could find better. A sofa would be good, for one thing, so that your guests don't have to stand for hours on end. Where were you, anyway?"

The vampire didn't react at all to the sarcasm. In fact, he almost seemed ashamed.

"Was talking with Joyce," he said slowly, reluctantly. "And I need the stone there."

Both statements upset Giles more than they should have. He took a couple of steps toward the vampire until he stood right in front of him.

"Explain yourself," he demanded coldly.

Giles wasn't sure which was most troubling. That Spike complied, or that he had been sure he would.

"Joyce. she's lonely with the Slayer gone. So I stop by sometimes. She likes the company. I stay outside, though. Never in. And Acathla. I need it. To remember. Can't forget. Don't want to forget. Ever."

The variations of Spike's voice when he talked of Joyce and when he talked of remembering were impossible to miss. Fondness for the first, despair for the second. And that despair allowed Giles to let drop the subject of Mrs. Summers - he'd have to talk to her though, caution her about trusting the vampire too much - to get back to the initial reason of his visit.

"Spike? The children and I have been wondering if you are. alright. You seem a little. off, however inadequate that expression may be."

For the second time in one night, the vampire's eyes sought Giles', and the Watcher shivered at the deadness he saw there.

"I'm a vampire and I have a soul," he said blankly. "What the hell is right with that, Watcher?"

Giles didn't have any answer to that, and he simply watched the vampire retreat to what was presumably his room without another word.

Just a night amongst many others. They all blur in my mind now. Day after day, night after night, the same thing. Wake up with my throat raw from screaming because of nightmares that felt too much like the past. Feed on cold pig's blood when I had some, or go hungry when I didn't. Pace like a caged wolf and wait for the sun to go down. Find the humans and trail after them, showing them where to find vampires since that was what they expected from me. Inflict some pain, receive some back in return. Go spend a quiet hour or few minutes with Joyce. Get a smile or two from the Bit - although she wasn't really there, was she? Damn these monks for messing with my mind. Anyway, whether it was only to see Joyce or to see both Summers ladies, Revello was often on my way. After that, back to the mansion. Follow my nightly penance rituals. Drink booze when I had some. Try to fall asleep, knowing that with sleep the nightmares would eventually come.

I'm not sure what to make of Giles' concern that night. I always assumed he was keeping an eye on me because he was still half-convinced he had made a mistake by releasing me, but maybe it wasn't entirely that. Same thing for the Scoobies. It never occurred to me that they might see how bad I felt and care about it. Shows how much I know, huh?

I wasn't lying when I told him I needed Acathla to remember, but it was more than that. As long as the stone was there, I could pretend to myself that I still hoped it was going to open. Open and swallow me. Open and give me back my Princess. Either one would have been good, or so I thought. In my deluded mind, she had a soul too, and we would have helped each other to be stronger than the pain. Bloody romantic, ain't it?

Sometimes, I even dared hope that Angel would be back. He had survived a hundred years with a soul, and I was certain he would have been able to tell me how he had done it, give me the answers that would make everything easier and simpler and the sunlight less appealing. I never thought until it was pointed out to me that I didn't have to try to be like him. Never thought that his way of dealing with his soul wasn't the only way, and might not be the best either. I got the point, eventually. I guess I have to thank the Slayer for that. Though helping me was certainly the farthest thing from her mind at that time.

Chapter 6: Not Like Him

The first part of coming back home had gone well, and for that Buffy was grateful. Her mother had welcomed her with open arms and put to rest her daughter's fears that their last words still stood between them. She had even been bordering on smothering, but that certainly was to be expected. They had talked and cried, and after months of near constant solitude, it almost felt like too much for Buffy.

Now came the second part, meeting the Scoobies and seeing if they could forgive her for running away and leaving them to deal with the Hellmouth. From what Joyce had said, they had been patrolling, with or without Giles, ever since she had left. Her mother had hinted that someone else was helping them, but she had not been more explicit than that, and Buffy was a little curious. What imported most to her, however, was to know that she still had friends. She wasn't sure how she was going to explain to them why she had left. She hoped they didn't push the issue too much, or at least not too soon.

The summer in LA had been long and very lonely. For the most part, it had been full of regrets and pain over never having found closure in her loss of Angel. She hoped that being back in Sunnydale wouldn't make things even more difficult than they had been so far.

A noise caught her attention, and she silently walked a bit faster. Soon, she could see a man, dressed in black, who appeared to be looking for something. With a familiar knot in her stomach, she followed him. After a few seconds however, she stepped on something and made some noise, and the man spun toward her and attacked. with a stake. She didn't let the oddity stop her and quickly disarmed him, only then noticing the cross hanging from his neck and his familiar features. At the same instant, he recognized her and froze in surprise. After a few seconds and senseless babble, Buffy was relieved to see Xander smile. If he smiled, it meant he wasn't too upset with her, right?

She didn't have time to test that theory, because a vampire erupted from a nearby crate. Lunging at them, he sent them all crashing to the ground. She struck her head on the concrete and was stunned for an instant. When she came back to her senses, she could hear people running toward them, toward where Xander was still fighting the vamp. Before she could do more than get to her feet, another vamp was throwing himself in the mix. A vampire she recognized all too well, one that she very much had hoped never to see again.

First, get Xander out of there, she told herself, then stake the two vampires.

The plan changed when her friend managed to stake the first one. Only one left, then. Taking hold of his arm, she yanked Spike away from Xander, noticing as she effortlessly wrestled him to the ground that more of her friends were there. Without a second thought, she plunged the stake down. Her friends' shouts surprised her and slowed down her movement. But not enough.

"Buffy no!"

"Don't dust him"

"He's on our side!"

Still with a knee to the ground beside the blond, she stopped her arm, the stake having penetrated the vamp's chest only an inch or so, not enough to dust him, but certainly enough to hurt. He wasn't moving though or pushing her away; he was looking at her blankly, as if daring her to finish what she had started.

"What do you mean, he's on our side?" she asked the assembled gang, her hand still wrapped around the stake.

Willow took a step forward, her hand reaching toward Buffy.

"He's been fighting with us all summer," she explained. "Let him go, OK?"

Frowning, Buffy pulled the stake free and took Willow's hand to stand. Keeping a dubious eye on Spike she gave her friends a strained smile.

"Hey guys."

Their gazes fluttered between her and the vamp, who was now standing with a hand pressed to his chest. She was mildly disappointed when their first words were for him.

"You OK?"

"That looks like a nasty wound."

"Need help?"

In turn, the blond - well, not so blond anymore, his roots were definitely proving his hair color was anything but natural - nodded and shook his head at Cordelia's, Xander's, and Oz's statements.

"I'm fine," he grunted and let his hand fall away from his chest as if that would prove it, burying it instead in his jeans' pocket. There was something about him, about the way he was looking down, avoiding everybody's eyes, that simply didn't go with the Spike she remembered.

"So, you've enrolled the enemy in the good fight?" she tried to quip, regretting the words as soon as they passed her lips.

Eyebrows rose and confused looks were exchanged.

"Yeah, well, you made a truce with him first, didn't you?" Xander asked, sounding uncomfortable.

"I did," she admitted, pushing the memory of that night as far away as she could. "But it was a one time thing, and he was supposed to leave town for good. Weren't you?"

She directed her last words at Spike, but he still wouldn't say a word or look straight at her. He merely shrugged.

"Well, he wasn't so well after the soul thing, and."

"Wait! Wait a minute! What soul thing?"

Incredulous and slightly sickened, Buffy heard the tale of Willow trying to perform the gypsy spell again and succeeding, except she had cursed Spike not Angelus. She heard the Scoobies saying how Spike was patrolling with them. She heard, but her mind quickly wandered as she stared with an increasingly colder gaze at the vampire.

The soul meant nothing. She couldn't let it mean anything. She had done that mistake once, trusted a vampire, let him in, and painfully learned her lesson. She wasn't going to do it again. And she couldn't believe that her friends had been blinded by a word. By a soul.

"I was on my way to see Giles," she announced, looking at the four humans and deliberately ignoring the vampire. "Wanna come with me and catch up on the way?"

The five humans walked away, without a glance toward him, and Spike watched until they had disappeared. The Slayer was in the middle, her friends around her as if nothing had happened, as if she hadn't spent three months without sending them news. He suspected her mother had welcomed her warmly too, and that the Watcher would also. He envied her.

He didn't try to delude himself into believing the humans were his friends. He knew that for them he was simply convenient, extra muscle and protection that walkie-talkies, code names, and all the stakes in the world couldn't replace. He had stumbled upon them a couple of nights after his first patrol and had helped them deal with a spot of trouble. They had thanked him, but kept their distance. No one had suggested that he joined their patrol, and he hadn't. Not that night. But when two nights later he had crossed paths with them again, he had tagged along and they hadn't protested. He wasn't blind though, and he knew they were never completely relaxed when he was there. And it was good that they weren't.

Thinking that he probably had time for his nightly cup of chocolate before the Slayer was done with her Watcher, he started to walk toward Revello. It probably would be the last one, he mused sadly. Seeing how Buffy had reacted to his presence, she probably wouldn't appreciate too much knowing he regularly talked with her mother, even if he never actually stepped inside the house. And Joyce wouldn't need to talk so much now that her daughter was back.

He went as far as the driveway and then changed his mind. As he touched absently at the hole in his chest that had come so close to being the last wound he'd ever receive, he realized the fronts of his shirt and t-shirt were bloodied. And, although red on red or on black wasn't so noticeable in a dark street, he had no doubt that Joyce would notice if he took his usual seat on her back porch. Knowing her, she would ask questions and offer to help him. He couldn't afford to accept it. Couldn't let her see.

He stopped by the liquors store on his way to the mansion. In exchange for his help, Giles provided him with a few dollars each week, enough to buy blood from the butcher, enough to get a cheap bottle of booze if he skipped a few meals every now and then.

Back home, he paid his nightly respects to the stone in the middle of the main room. After that first night, it had become a ritual to stand in front of the statue for a few moments and remember Dru falling through, soon followed by Angelus. It was right here that his unlife had changed dramatically. He couldn't forget it, but he had learned to live with it and managed to help the humans. For that, he had to shove down the never-ending buzz of voices that echoed in his mind and force himself not to listen to them when they told him it was useless. That he was useless. However, once a day, he would let himself hear the voices, let them remind him that he was nothing but a pathetic demon and a murderer. He very much deserved the mental punishment.

When he had endured as much as he could, he retreated to his room. It was as bare as it had been that first night, kept uncomfortable on purpose. He shed his bloodied shirt and t-shirt, and took a few swigs of alcohol before daring to look down at the mess that was his chest. Gingerly, he touched the edges of the stake wound, wincing at the pain, welcoming it. One thing was sure, even after three months the Slayer still had good aim. Then his fingers slid to the other marks around the wound. The oldest cuts were barely noticeable, while the most recent were still an angry red on his pale skin, crisscrossing all over his heart.

Not gonna talk about that. And I wish you wouldn't either. Nobody's business but mine. No, I'm not going to explain anything. If you can't figure it out, it's your problem. And you'd better stop insisting before I.


The first hours of the Slayer's return were all pink champagne glasses and cake, but after that, it became rather sour. See, Joyce had that mask thing that turned out to be full of not so pretty magic. Turned people into zombies and wasn't that a barrel of fun. Plus, from what I hear, the show started even before all that. Apparently, the initial warm welcome quickly reached freezing point, and the Scoobies and Joyce got their word in about what they thought of the Slayer's attitude. I wish I could have been there to see that.

I didn't, though, and only heard about it much later. I was patrolling by myself that night because I hadn't been invited to the welcome back party. At least they had thought of telling me they wouldn't be patrolling.

Without warning, all these people started getting out of the ground. Very creepy, let me tell you. I'll take a vamp or most demons any day over a zombie. It didn't take long for me to notice they were all going the same way, so I tagged along. And when the streets became a little too familiar for comfort, I ran ahead toward the Summers' home. I arrived there, got a few dead things out of my way, and was stopped by that damn invite barrier when I opened the door. I could see the gang and the Slayer fighting, but more importantly, I could see the Bit on the stairs, scared as hell by a zombie walking toward her. I shouted for her to invite me in, something both her mother and me had repeatedly told her not to do, and she had enough presence of mind to realize that this was a good time to break the rules. I got rid of the thing, and took her away from the stairs since that seemed to be the rallying point of everything that moved. We hid in the dining room, and she clung to me with all the strength of a frightened twelve years old. It was nice that the monks gave me someone who trusted me so much. Better than nice. I wonder who invited me in, in the no-Dawn world. Whom I came in to help.

It turned not so nice when everything was over; we came out, and the Slayer saw that I was in her house and her kid sister's hand wasn't letting go of mine. Her smile disappeared rather quickly.

"What the hell are you doing here?" she snapped at me, before turning her attention to Dawn. "Get away from him. Now."

As discreetly as I could, I freed my hand from the kid's; and when she looked at me, I silently pleaded for her to do as her sister had said. She wasn't happy, but she did what I wanted, stepping into her mother's embrace.

I tried to explain why I was there, that I had tried to help and keep Dawn out of harm's way, but of course, the Slayer wasn't buying it. She rambled about my soul having changed nothing and that I was still a killer. Said that if I had really tried to help, I would have been outside where the action was, not hiding in the house. Accused me of playing an act with the Scoobies and now her family, all of it to get closer to them. Warned all of them about trusting me, and reminded them that a vamp with a soul was not safe in any way, or had they forgotten already?

In short, she was mixing me up with another souled vamp. Can we say issues?

I didn't say a word and neither did anyone else. No one defended me. Not even my Bit, although she was upset. And I can't say it was much of a surprise that they didn't. Of course they all saw me as another Angel. What had I done to dispel that notion? I hardly ever talked to them, not trying to make conversation beyond the most basic exchange of information. I was there when they needed help, but never hung around to socialize. Never argued with any of them either, or joked, or anything. The only person I talked to was Joyce. One thing I didn't do however was brood. You'll never get me to admit to that.

I didn't argue that time either. I left, and probably proved to all of them that she was right and I was just a clone of the big poof.

I didn't realize that until I was halfway to the mansion. It made me madder than I had been in a long, long time. I wasn't Angel. I had never wanted to be Angel. Even souled, I still couldn't understand why he had left us, why he hadn't allowed us to try and help him. Why he had never said a thing, and let Darla tell us what had happened to him. Even souled, I still hated him as much as I. right, then. That's not the point.

Point is, I got angry. Very, very angry. Spent the rest of the night expressing my rage by finding and killing as many demons as I could. Quite a change from my routine of dusting a vamp or two every night. And I felt a lot better from it. I had a soul, yes, but I still had a demon inside of me, too, and it was the first time since the curse that I allowed it to come out and play. I think that's when I realized that there was more than one way to be a souled vamp, and that I didn't have to take the self-flagellation, woe is me, let me brood in peace route.

The Slayer thought I was like Angel? I was determined to prove her wrong. And I did show her, in more ways than one, that I was absolutely nothing like him. Except for the not so small detail of my feelings for her.


Chapter 7: First Impressions

As she sipped on her drink and observed the new Slayer in town make nice with her friends, Buffy tried very hard not to compare her to Kendra. Thinking of Kendra would only bring back painful memories, and she wished she could have a nice evening for once. Or as nice as possible.

Buffy also tried to smile. She really was trying. But it was getting harder and harder as Faith drew all the attention and made Buffy feel like a loser. No, she didn't have stories about wrestling alligators naked to save a busload of monks from vampires, or whatever it was that Faith was explaining in graphic details. All she had was how the Master had killed her, and how a vampire had saved the world in her place by sending her lover to hell.

No. Not her lover. Not Angel. Angelus. Why was it so hard to remember that? Why was it so difficult, when she saw that scene play in her mind again, to think of the Angel as her enemy? Was it because she hadn't been the one holding the sword? Would it have been easier if she had done it, if she had cut that last link herself? Now that she was back, it sometimes felt even more difficult, because she knew the soul curse had worked; knew they could have avoided all of that mess if they had only.

"Hot vamp at the bar. You're taking him, B, or you want me to do him?"

There was something in the way Faith said these last words that Buffy didn't like at all. It sounded too much like she had something very different from slaying in mind. After seeing the way she had flirted on the dance floor earlier with that vamp before going out to stake him and hearing her remarks about slaying making her horny, it was all too clear what the subtext was.

However, before she could voice her opinion, Willow jumped in.

"Oh, that's Spike. You can't dust Spike. I mean, you could I suppose, because he's a vampire, but we don't stake him. He kinda helps us. He has a soul. I gave him a soul."

All of it was delivered in one long rush that left Willow slightly breathless but grinning proudly and Faith obviously curious. Saying more however would raise questions about the other souled vampire the gang had known, and Buffy wasn't up to that quite yet.

"I'll see what he's doing here," Buffy said quickly, more glad than she would have admitted at having an excuse to get away from Faith for a little while. It was nice to have help on the slaying front, but Faith was a bit. overwhelming.

As she approached the bar, Buffy watched Spike's back tensing; no doubt, he knew she was there. He didn't turn to look at her, nor did he spare a glance in her direction when she leaned against the bar next to him.

"What are you doing here, Spike?" she asked without preamble.

"Having a drink," he replied with a sneer as he tapped his fingernails on the beer bottle in front of him. "Thought that was obvious."

"And I thought it was obvious this is a place for humans," she hissed, low enough that no one but him would hear her. "Why don't you go to Willy's or wherever your kind meets? And if you dust a few of them while you're there, even better."

She still wasn't comfortable with the idea that he had patrolled all summer long with her friends and was glad that he hadn't turned up to patrol with her since she had come back. Didn't mean, however, that she would forbid him to stake a few of his kind.

"M not so welcome at Willy's anymore," he retorted dryly after emptying half his bottle. "Might have something to do with the fact that I'm doing a better job of ridding this town of demons than you are. Lost your touch while you were gone, Slayer. Such a pity."

The taunting in his voice was clear, and her fingers itched to grab the stake tucked into her pants' waistband and prove him that her 'touch' was perfectly fine, thanks for asking. Something else was clear. She had been completely right for warning the Scoobies that the soul didn't make a difference. He had been pretending all summer; and now that she was back, he had given up on the game. Of course, that meant Angel had been pretending all along too, and somehow that made things a little easier to bear. It was easier to imagine he had never really loved her than to believe she had had his love and then been the reason why he had changed so much.

"Hey B, you gonna introduce me?"

Swallowing the nasty come back she wanted to snarl, she half turned to Faith.

"Introduce you? Sure. Faith, this is Spike. Also known as William the Bloody, the Slayer of Slayers. Be sure not to get too close to him and become his third one, OK?"

If Faith heard the warning, she showed no trace of taking it seriously. As Spike turned to look at her, her gaze traveled over him appreciatively.

"Spike, is it?" she said with a too bright smile. "Mind telling me how you got that name?"

For a few seconds, Spike simply observed her, and Buffy felt very much like warning them both about curses and happiness loopholes. Eventually, he looked back at Buffy, completely ignoring the brunette Slayer.

"Where are you patrolling tonight?" he asked pointblank.

The question took her by surprise, and she frowned.

"Why do you want to know? I don't need a lapdog trailing."

"I want to know so I'll be sure not to cross path with you," he interrupted abruptly. "I'd rather stake myself than patrol with you."

"Oh, but that can be arranged very easily."

She was seconds from doing it, and she was certain it had to show on her face. All he did, however, was shake his head.

"Promises, promises, luv. If you finally decide to do it, I'm at the mansion. I'm sure you remember where that is."

Pushing his way between Faith and Buffy, he left; and only then did Buffy realize he was wearing his black duster. The gang had mentioned that he wasn't wearing it anymore as one of the many signs of how he had changed. For her, it was just one more proof that he was the same Spike he had been before the soul.

From the kitchen, Buffy was throwing nasty glances at their guest in the dining room, and Joyce suppressed a sigh. It might have been a good thing that her daughter had never had any sibling, because the rivalry would have aged their mom prematurely.

Joyce was quite happy that a new Slayer was in town. It meant that Buffy wouldn't carry that burden alone, and would have more time for school and things girls her age did. Faith seemed to enjoy being the Slayer, so it was all for the good. Or rather, it would be if Buffy didn't rip the girl to shreds for eating her fries. A distraction was needed.

"Oh, honey, have you seen Spike lately?"

The reaction was instantaneous. Buffy's gaze left Faith and swung back on Joyce.

"Spike? Why do you ask?"

Joyce tried to be casual in her answer. She suspected that this might not have been the best diversion after all.

"Well, he used to come and keep me company while you were gone. But he hasn't been back since the zombie night. So I was wondering if he was alright."

Buffy blinked twice, as she looked incredulously at Joyce.

"You do realize he's a vampire, right?" she said slowly.

"Of course I realize that. I never invited him in until the other night. But with the soul."

"Mom, please, don't make the same mistake I did."

There was something behind the pleading that surprised Joyce. Could Buffy really believe.

"Oh, it's not like that at all!" she said with a soft smile and reached to take her daughter's hand. "We're just friends, nothing more. I needed to talk while you were. away, and so did he, and that's all, really. Besides, he's way too young for me anyway."

Even as she let out the last words, she realized that it would sound to Buffy as if she had thought about the possibility, which she truthfully hadn't. Buffy, however, didn't pick up on it.

"That only proves that appearances are deceiving," she said very seriously. "Mom, he's decades older than you. Not younger."

Joyce frowned, before finally nodding. "It's strange, I know that, but I keep thinking of him as being no older than you. He's so lost and he needs friends to help him believe he's doing the right thing despite what happened before."

She stopped herself before adding that he reminded her of Buffy. Her daughter however seemed to follow her train of thought, and looked confused.

"Well, if you see him, can you tell him he's still welcome to come by and talk if he wants to?"

Patrol had been uneventful, and Spike headed home. The posturing with Buffy had exhausted him. Why was it so difficult to act out as if he was fine when she was around? Why did he feel like she could see straight through the act while the others didn't? Was it because she had been the one pointing out how much like Angel he had been acting? Was it because the soul made no difference to her? He was still determined to prove to her - prove to all of them - that he was himself, not a carbon copy of the brooding wonder. But it was hard. Harder than he would have thought.

Something else that was hard was to let go of his daily self-mortification sessions in front of Acathla. Angel would have done that, so he wouldn't do it anymore. In any case, it didn't help in the slightest to repress the voices in his head continuously only to let them surface once a day. He was on his way to finding a balance, and Acathla was not a part of it. Maybe he ought to ask Giles to rid him of the thing. Or do it himself.

Despite his intentions, he couldn't help looking at the stone as he walked in. He immediately froze.

At the foot of the statue, laying on the floor and shivering, was his grandsire.

After staring at him for what felt like decades, Spike cautiously approached the brunet. Scurrying away and snarling was the only answer Spike received when calling out his grandsire's name. Too many questions filling his mind, Spike sank down on the floor a few feet from the crouching vampire, seeing only himself, as he had been a few months back. Was the older vampire souled too? Was it why he was acting like this?

The question was answered the first time their gazes met. It was Angelus, not Angel.

Of course, it's easy to say in hindsight, but there was something about Faith that made me itch the first time I saw her. She felt different from the Slayer, like night and day. Although she is a slayer too, isn't she? My theory is that she'd have made a better job of it if she had been the only Slayer, but who cares about the whys? She arrived in Sunnydale and made an impression on all of us; a better impression on some than on others. For me, it was. well, I'm not sure. She made me uncomfortable. If I hadn't had a soul, I would have killed her before Buffy, just so I wouldn't have had to deal with her. Maybe I saw too much of myself in her. Too many masks, too much insecurity hiding behind bravado.

The night after our first meet-up, I saw both of them fight. I didn't jump in, because I didn't feel like my intervention was needed or wanted, but the show was. interesting. With the blonde, it was all business. Stake to the heart as soon as possible. The brunette however. She pummeled her vamp until he was probably unconscious, and even then it didn't seem to be enough. I know Buffy didn't like it. They. we should have guessed that it would lead to problems eventually. The not so fun little meeting with Trick and that other vamp who wanted Faith dead more than anything should have been enough of a warning. None of us saw it however, not until it was too late. But, you'll get to that later, won't you?

Right then. You can go on with the story.

No. I don't have anything to say about Angelus. Why would I?

Fuck. Can't you let it drop?

I took him in, alright? Is that what you want to hear me say? I knew it was Angelus and not his souled twin from the instant I saw him, and I still took him in. Hell, he was so broken. Maybe killing him would have been a kindness at that point. Definitely would have made things a lot easier later on, for Buffy, for me, for us. Still, I didn't stake him. Not sure why to this day. I like to believe it was the soul. After all, a few months before I had had no problem at the idea of helping the Slayer get rid of him. So, it had to be the soul deciding not to stake him. Easier to think it was.

I guess part of me was hoping it would be a sane version of the Angelus I knew this time. Boy, was I ever wrong.Or maybe. Maybe even then, in these first instants when I saw him on the floor, I was already thinking that the little witch could restore his soul. Maybe I was hoping that having someone like me would make things easier. Maybe I had questions for him, or needed to finally yell at him for running off with his soul without telling Dru and me what had happened. Maybe. Who knows?

I cleaned him, aching at the cuts and bruises that covered him. I fed him pig's blood, and even though he grimaced, he drank it all. He must have been famished. Then, I hesitated. Angelus, not Angel. Still not looking so strong on the side of sanity. Staring at me as if he wasn't too sure I was really there, really helping him. I guess it's understandable, seeing how the last time we had met, I had run him through with a sword and sent him to hell. In the end, I chained him. I had to get into his old bedroom to get the chains, and wasn't that fun; but I didn't see another solution. I couldn't simply let him roam free, and I couldn't even consider staking him.

I chained him in the main room, where I would see him every fucking time I walked by. Where he could see me, follow me with his eyes, a bit stronger each day, snarling and growling at first, biting words later on. I should have put him somewhere else, maybe. I should have staked him, probably. I should have. hell, I don't know. I didn't, and that's it, no reason to dwell on it.

Chapter 8: Beasts

The full moon was high in the sky, and Buffy felt like it was mocking her. Someone was dead, and a wolfed Oz was the main suspect. Her friends were investigating the body, Faith was on wolf duty at the library, and Buffy was out looking for other potential murderers. She sincerely hoped that, one way or another, they would be able to prove that Oz wasn't to blame. She didn't want to face that kind of dilemma again. And she didn't want Willow to ever go through anything like what she had lived through with Angel.

She hadn't mentioned the possibility to the others, but she had another suspect in mind. Spike seemed to have wicked mood shifts these days, for the little that she saw of him. Giles had mentioned that for a while after getting his soul back he had been pretty much crazy. She had a nagging suspicion that he might not be completely sane even now. And if he wasn't, it was possible that he had slaughtered the teenager. That he was a beast.

She had gone through the woods already and found nothing. She had tried the Bronze and a couple of cemeteries where she had crossed path with Spike in the past week, but she had not found him. Now, she was on her way to the mansion. She hated the idea of returning there, but she didn't see any other way. She needed to talk to Spike and ask him a few questions, just to be sure.

As she was about to push the door open, a shout behind her stopped her.

"Slayer! What a pleasant surprise."

When she turned to him, the annoyed look in the vampire's eyes denied that the surprise was anything but pleasant. And just below his left eye.

"Got yourself into trouble?" she asked, gesturing to the large bruise that marred is cheek.

He shrugged. "Nothing I couldn't handle. Did you want something?"

Her suspicions increased tenfold. Since her return, he had been rude to her, ignored her, taunted her, refused to talk to her, but he had never asked if she wanted anything from him or offered his help.

"There seems to be a beast in the woods," she said, observing closely his reaction. "It killed someone last night. Mauled would be more exact. Have you seen anything?"

His face remained completely blank.

"Can't say that I have, but I'll be sure to let you know if I do. Is that all?"

Was his impatience at having her gone suspicious? Or was it no stronger than usual?

"My mother says hi," she said calmly.

Her mother had been more than annoyed when Buffy had refused to extend her invitation to Spike, but the vampire didn't need to know that. Especially when his face softened ever so slightly for a second, before returning to his usual emotionless mask.

"Right. You'll give her my regards."

"We disinvited you from the house," she added, trying to get another reaction from him. All she got was a nod.

"Good thing. Was actually going to suggest it."

Her eyes widened at his admission. Could he actually be aware that he wasn't completely safe? Was this what he was saying?

"Why?" she questioned his statement, and again he shrugged.

"I'm a vamp, shouldn't have anything to do with the Slayer's home. I don't want you running to stake me if you lose your favorite pair of knickers and decide I've stolen them."

The hint of a smirk on his face annoyed her. He was making fun of her. Damn vamp. Scowling at him, she walked past him without a parting word. The bruise was suspect, as was his answer to the desinvite spell, but that didn't make him guilty. She pondered her options for a moment before deciding to keep an eye on the mansion to see if he would leave again. It was going to be a long night.

Spike waited until Buffy had disappeared down the driveway before he walked inside the mansion. He had been lucky to catch her before she entered. It might have been a little difficult to explain to her the how and why of the vampire chained to the wall. Especially since after more than a week, Spike still didn't have the beginning of an answer to either question.

Ignoring the growls and attempted leaps at him, Spike took a container of pig's blood out of the brown bag he was carrying. Angelus' violent movements only increased, but Spike was confident that the chains would hold. He had thoroughly checked the strength of the securing hooks.

"If you don't calm down," he said evenly, "you're not getting any food. Your choice."

As if to prove his point, he took a couple of mouthfuls and tried not to grimace at the unpleasant taste. It was bad enough to drink animal blood, but to drink it cold was particularly revolting. He truly needed to find a way to heat it. In the meantime, he had no other choice and neither did Angelus. The brunet was calmer now, still growling but not as agitated anymore. Spike wasn't taking any chance though. He had gotten too close the day before, and still had the bruises to show for it.

"Move back," he instructed.

He hadn't been sure in the first few days if the other vampire had understood what he was saying, but experimenting had proved that he did. Spike was sure that it was only a matter of time before his guest started talking again. It promised to be a lot of fun.

Angelus retreated toward the wall, and Spike nodded as he placed the container on the floor. As soon as it was down, Angelus jumped forward; but Spike had anticipated the move and had already stepped back. From what he could tell, his grand-sire was currently ruled by the baser instincts of the demon. But the fact that he understood when Spike talked to him meant that he hadn't completely lost his mind.

Taking a second container from the bag, Spike went to sit with his back to the wall facing Angelus. He hadn't even started feeding before the chained vampire had already finished. Judging by the way that he flung the empty container across the room, it hadn't been enough to satisfy his hunger. There was more in Spike's bag, but they would need it for the next night. On the other hand, a hungry Angelus probably wouldn't let Spike get any rest at all. With a sigh, he threw the still closed container to his grand-sire, who easily caught it and emptied it as quickly as he had the first one. The brunet then cast a scowling look at Spike, before curling up on the floor. He wrapped himself in his blanket, and before long, he was asleep.

Long into the night, Spike remained there, watching the broken vampire moan and shiver. What nightmares haunted Angelus' nights? Would they still affect Angel once they restored his soul? What did Spike even hope would come out of this? Would it be worth it?

He finally retreated to his room a little before sunrise. Despite being unable to find sleep, he didn't hear the Slayer enter the mansion at dawn. But when he came out of his room to check on Angelus in the middle of the afternoon, her scent still lingered in the main room.

Her peer-turned-beast struck back, punching her hard in the face, and Buffy had the fleeting thought that this day was getting worse and worse. Hard to believe it was even possible after the calamitous events she had lived through in the past eighteen hours or so.

It had started out with a long night without sleep. She had been so sure Spike would leave again that by morning she had decided to reassure herself he hadn't slipped out through another exit. As silently as she could, she had walked into the mansion. She had found a vampire there, but it wasn't the one she had been expecting. For a few too fast heartbeats, she had stared at the man curled on the floor by the fireplace, chains pooling around him. Torn between going to him and touching him to be assured of his presence or running away, she had finally done the latter. He had stirred in his sleep, startling her, and she had fled, unable to confront whatever was going on there. Afraid to know whether it was Angel or Angelus.

She had run all the way back to her home, slipped into her bed, and muffled her sobs against her pillow. Just when she had thought she was getting better, opening herself to the counselor at school, beginning to build something with Scott, the simple glimpse of a man she had once loved brought everything crashing down around her again.

School time had come fast, and she had gone despite the exhaustion of a too long night and her nerves-wrecking discovery. Trying not to appear suspicious, she had looked for a book about Acathla and demon dimensions, struggling to find an excuse when Giles had asked what she was doing. She had lied to him, and wasn't proud of it, but she needed answers before she was ready to share with anyone that Spike had a guest.

She had been distracted during lunchtime and thought she might have been rude to Scott. She had not meant to, but everything was so difficult. even more so when she went to talk to the school counselor again. Discovering him dead at least had cleared Oz, Spike, and Angel from the murder, since it had happened during the day.

After that, she had been too numb to do much more than follow the flow. Questioning Debbie, finding Pete, rushing to Oz's help and securing the werewolf had been mindless duties when all she could think of was the vampire lying on the mansion's floor. Even now, as she fought with Pete, or rather his Mr. Hyde side, her mind still wasn't in it, which might be why she had so much trouble stopping him. Why, also, she didn't notice the vampire approaching until he was right there.

"Slayer, we need to talk," Spike said, completely ignoring the fact that she was fighting for her life.

"I'm a bit busy," she pointed out sarcastically between ducking Pete's fist and replying with a blow of her own.

"It's important," the vampire insisted.

This time, she was going to dust him. He needed to be dusted for sheer stupidity. No more delaying. Or at least, no more delaying after she managed to subdue her attacker and that would be easier to do once she pried his hands off her neck.

"That wanker's human," Spike commented thoughtfully a few steps behind Pete. "You gonna stake me if I lay a finger on him?"

"Just don't kill him and I won't kill you," she replied breathlessly as she finally freed herself and pushed Pete away from her - directly toward Spike. She didn't know what she had expected the vampire to do, but it certainly wasn't wrapping an arm around Pete's neck and squeezing until the human stopped thrashing and passed out from lack of oxygen. The most surprising thing came when the vampire carefully eased the unconscious boy to the ground and gingerly checked his pulse point, all the while muttering something that sounded like 'not dead, not dead, didn't kill, no more killing'.

p>It felt strange to hurt a human again when the memories of so many humans I had killed haunted me constantly. The soul almost wouldn't let me do it. But I fought it off, pointing out to myself that the Slayer was there and she was OK with it; so there really was no reason not to help her out as long as there was no lasting harm. Yeah, I was at the point where I was having conversations with myself. Not sure that's considered a sane thing to do, but it helped. Somewhat.

At that moment, his humanity only mattered as far as my reluctance or inability to hurt him. But when her gang caught up with us and started talking about it all, it dawned on me. The kid was human; there was no demon inside him. Only what he had done to himself. He was human, he had a soul, and he still had killed two people savagely. It was simply proof that having a soul wasn't a guarantee of goodness. At the time, it didn't mean much, but the revelation came in handy later on.

As long as the Scoobies were around, the Slayer didn't say a word to me nor did I speak to her. But the dark looks she was giving me were not exactly reassuring. She knew about Angelus and wasn't happy about it. I had no clue why she hadn't dusted him or me, but I intended to beg my way out of both stakings. When she finally announced to her gang that she was going to do a final sweep with me, I wondered what she had in mind. Especially when Faith said she'd tag along, and Buffy talked her out of it. It became clearer when she directed our steps toward the mansion.

"You wanted to talk to me about something important," she said, emotionless.

That was why I had hunted her down as soon as the sun had set, but my carefully planned explanation had disappeared in the middle of too much agitation. I didn't know where to start. She finally did.

"How did Angel come back?"

Her voice was full of hope. Mine was bleak.

"It's not Angel."

Instantly, she stopped walking, and I'll always remember the pain and shock on her face. Her eyes remained closed for a few seconds while she took a few deep breaths, and then she asked:

"Why didn't you stake him yet?"

Why. It's still a question even today. I never found the answer. I don't think I ever will, beyond blaming it on the soul.

I pleaded with her, spoke of souls and curses, suggested having Red do her witchy spell on him. I carefully avoided saying anything about needing someone who knew what I was going through. She didn't react to any of it. Not right then. Just started walking once more and we returned to the mansion together to face the vampire that held such an important role in both our pasts. He struggled against the chains when we came in, trying to lunge at us. She wasn't afraid, that much was clear. She should have been. For the first time, he spoke, hissing the word 'Slayer' when she tried to get closer. I pulled her back, warned her again that it wasn't her Angel.

Then she surprised me. Said she wasn't sure a soul would do anything for him, that he was too far gone. Asked me not to tell anyone else about him, to give her time to think. She didn't say what she needed time to think about, but I thought I understood. She wanted to get back to the emotional state where she would be able to stake him herself. She has admitted to me since then that I was right, and that she wanted closure by killing him herself rather than asking someone from her gang or me to do it. At the time she wasn't ready, and I'm not sure whether that's a good or bad thing.

I followed her wishes and didn't tell her gang. But I did ask Willow if she might be able to modify the curse and get rid of the loophole, making it sound like I wanted her to re-curse me. She seemed excited by the idea. Of course, anything that had to do with magic excited her. Too much. But it would be a long time before we knew we should have been worried about it.



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