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 25-26

Chapter 25: Poisons

Since the prom, Spike had expected Angel's visit and the foreseeable fight that would follow. The older vamp always had been possessive of what he considered his and Spike had no doubt that, despite breaking up with her, Angel still thought of Buffy as his girl and probably always would. Seeing her in someone else's arms, even for something as innocent as a dance, must have hurt. Seeing her in Spike's arms must have been downright intolerable.

Still, it took Angel three nights to finally come to voice his protest; and when he did, it wasn't at all as Spike had thought it would be. Less violence for one thing, more words for another.

The sun had set a few minutes before and Spike was ready to go out and try to cheer up Buffy, his new goal for these long research and patrol nights before the Ascension. As he was about to step out, however, the door swung open and Angel strode in, gloomier than ever. Under the pretext of looking for his smokes, Spike checked for the presence of the stake in his pocket. If Angel was there to fight, Spike had better be ready.

"Peaches. To what do I owe the annoyance?"

Angel didn't react; instead, he remained between Spike and the door, hands thrust deeply in his jacket's pockets.

"You know she's not for you, so why do you even try?"

Almost coughing on the first pull of his cigarette, Spike looked at Angel incredulously. He had expected many things, but not this resigned tone.

"All I know," he replied guardedly, wondering what game Angel was playing, "is that you gave up on her. And when you did, you also gave up the right to interfere with her life."

The younger vampire didn't believe his elder would agree with him, but that didn't mean he couldn't say it. And he was ready to fight over these few words and the truth they held if needed. He was surprised when Angel chose another angle of attack.

"It's not her life I'm interfering with. It's yours. You think you want her, but it's the same thing as always. You want what's mine, because it's mine, and for no other reason."

Spike snorted, smirking lightly.

"Get over yourself already. It has nothing to do with you. I don't even know why I'm bothering."

"Why you're bothering is what I'm wondering," Angel cut in. "Why did you bother keeping me alive when I came back as Angelus? Why did you bother to have me resouled? Why bother playing at the white hat game instead of killing again?"

Remaining immobile, Spike tried to show nothing in his expression. There were questions better left unanswered, and these were definitely that kind.

"I'll tell you why," Angel said after a few seconds, taking a step closer to him. "Because you wanted me to be there to see you take her from me. Because it wouldn't have been as much fun if I hadn't witnessed it. Well, you've done it. You've taken her; I've seen it. Now you can stop before it goes too far. She's already been hurt enough, Spike; no need to add to it."

Spike didn't quite understand something in that speech. Apparently, Angel assumed his grandchilde had seduced Buffy, but why. Realization came in a sudden flash.

"You still think I slept with her," he said blankly.

Angel didn't reply, which was an answer in itself. Spike shook his head, barely believing what was going through Angel's mind.

"I didn't take her from you. You lost her, all by yourself. If you can't see it, then you're more blind than I ever realized."

A muscle twitched in Angel's jaw, and Spike tensed, certain that violence would surface soon. Once more, Angel proved him wrong as he slowly nodded, his calm denied by the edge in his voice.

"Fine. I lost her. I can admit it. But I still want her happy, and you can't give her that. Come with me when I leave Sunnydale. If you truly care about her, you have to see."

"What I see," Spike interrupted, his anger rising, "is that you weakened her only days before the biggest battle she has ever had to fight. I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to stand next to her and make sure she gets out of it alive; and I'm going to do that until I'm dust, because nothing short than that will stop me. If you have a problem with that, then get over it."

With a hard look at Angel, Spike walked past him and out of the crypt. Buffy was somewhere out there expecting him, and he certainly wasn't going to disappoint her.

Spike's forehead was burning under Buffy's hand, and it made it all surreal. She replaced her hand with a cool rag, but she knew it wouldn't make things any better. Spike was burning from the inside out, dying, because of her, because he had been helping her, because he cared more about her than a reasonable vampire should have.

He had been with her, helping in any way he could, as usual, when Faith had struck with a poisoned arrow. The gang was researching what the poison was. Meanwhile, he was burning in front of her, and she suffered for him. She couldn't understand why it hurt so much to see him in misery. Just one more thing that didn't make much sense in her life.

When she thought about everything that had been happening in the past few days, she felt like she had stepped into another dimension. Angel had ended their relationship or what was left of it, only a handful of days before; certainly, she still mourned his love. It had hurt so much, at first, that at times she had felt like she couldn't breathe, that her heart was about to stop beating, that Angelus had taken his revenge and sent her to an eternity in hell. But the pain was slowly dulling; and now it was resentment, more than anything, that she felt toward him.

If he had left her because he didn't love her anymore, she could have understood his actions. As much as she wanted to think that love was eternal and once she'd find the right person it would be forever, a more cynical part of her knew better. People fell in love and sometimes they fell out of love. That was just how it went.

But she was sure that wasn't what had happened with Angel. At no point had he said he didn't love her anymore. All he had said was that he was leaving for her own good, that she'd see some day that he was right, and that she deserved better than what he could offer her. On that last point, she was beginning to agree. She certainly deserved better than someone who thought she wasn't able to make important decisions for herself and that it was better to make them for her.

Through it all, she had been grateful to the people around her. They weren't twisting the knife by bringing up Angel and his decision to leave, and that was a good thing. She had enough things to concentrate her thoughts on, one of them being saving the town from the soon to happen Ascension; it helped not to be reminded of Angel. One more reason she was glad Spike was so different from him.

Spike. He was something else. Soulless, yet still fighting for good. Soulless, yet able to care so much for her. Maybe even. love?

She had realized it in the middle of the truth spell, and almost had asked straight out if he was fighting his own nature for her. She hadn't asked. She had grown to know him, during the months they had patrolled side by side. She dared to hope she knew him enough to see past the hard shell he presented to the world.

What she couldn't understand was how she had managed not to notice until now. Once the question had been on the table, it hadn't taken her long to realize all the little things she had ignored had meaning. Strange smiles, prolonged looks, peculiar words. Spike cared for her, maybe was even in love with her, and she suspected that was why he fought his demon from killing. It was why he was doing something a soulless Angel had never considered for an instant.

If she had had any doubts left, his words and actions since their prom night dance confirmed it. He hadn't said anything about his feelings, hadn't even hinted at them, but he was there for her, fighting with her, trying to cheer her up, and more often than not succeeding. Part of her wondered how long it would take her to get over Angel and fall for Spike. Another part wondered if maybe it wasn't happening already, and that was why Angel's leaving didn't hurt so much anymore. The rest of her was scared half witless at the idea of letting another vampire - another man - into her heart. Or even worse, of taking advantage of him, of his feelings, and using him as a rebound guy. He certainly deserved better than that.

Blue eyes opened, watching her steadily, and she let herself hope his fever had fallen.

"Hey there," she murmured, forcing herself to smile. "Feeling better?"

"You shine like an angel."

She repressed a sigh. He wasn't any better.

"Are you my guardian angel?" he insisted, reaching out to touch her cheek with a wavering finger.

"If you want me to be," she indulged him, taking the wet rag from his forehead and rinsing it in a bowl of cold water before placing it once more on his burning flesh.

"Knew you'd take care of it," he mumbled, turning his face to touch her hand.

"Take care of what?"

"My soul. Isn't that why you took it from me?"

Buffy froze, her heart beating a tad too fast, her thoughts pulsing even harder in her mind. Could she ask him, now, how he had lost it? Would he forgive her for intruding into his weakened mind? She wanted - needed - so much to know, to understand.

There was noise behind her in the crypt, and she turned in time to see Angel step off the ladder. She frowned, wondering what her ex was doing here, but his presence made her decision easier. Returning her attention to Spike, she cupped his sculpted cheek in her hand.

"Spike? Can you tell me how you lost your soul?"

A small smile tugged at his lips.

"You were there. Don't you remember?"

She heard Angel's hiss on the other side of the bed, but ignored it.

"I forgot. Can you remind me?"

Her eyes slowly widened as he complied and told her, in broken sentences and quiet whispers, how something as simple as being accepted and embraced by her and her mother had given him a few moments of true happiness. A few more prodding questions and he confirmed what she had suspected, that he was fighting for her, to please her, and no other reason.

It became too much, then, and she had to leave the room, leave the crypt, leave Spike to Angel and Giles' care. Should she have cared so much that a vampire was dying because he had feelings for her? Her job was to kill vampires, wasn't it?

Unsure what to think or feel, she joined the rest of the gang and listened dispassionately as they told her the poison's cure. She didn't allow herself to think before deciding to bring Spike Faith's blood.

I can't say I remember much of what happened after I collapsed in the library. What I can remember is fuzzy around the edges, more like flashes than real memories, so imprecise that I'm not sure whether they're real or dreams. I think I might have taken Willow for Buffy at some point, and talked too much about how I felt. I probably did, because the next time I saw Willow and was conscious enough to know it was her, she had a look of half wonder, half suspicion. I had the clear impression that if I ever hurt the Slayer she'd make me regret it in the most painful way.

I remember Angel also, though that might have been before the Willow episode. That one I know was real, because it's been a long time since I've dreamed of Angel's blood. Not that I didn't want it - hell, no sane vampire would refuse blood from a sire or grandsire, not when it's the next best thing to Slayer blood, and I'm placed well enough to know that. Dru never minded sharing blood with me, which probably helped me become the Master I am today; but I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times Angelus granted me that privilege. Once when I was hurt and he needed me to get better fast, once when he allowed me a taste from a shallow cut inflicted by Darla's nails, a couple of times when I had done something that had pleased him enough to reward me. When I was stuck in that damn wheelchair, a good drink from him would have put me right in no time; but of course, the bastard didn't offer, just taunted me with the possibility. I never thought that, souled, he'd ever feed me his blood. Seems I was wrong. He gave me more in that one time than he ever had before, probably as much as he could spare. Must have stung that it wasn't enough to cure me. For a little while, I felt better, but it didn't last; and when Buffy came back, I was out there in lalaland.

Her presence by my side was vague, but I think she was there at least twice. I'm not sure what I told her the first time, but from our later discussions, I know I said enough. Too much. Told her I had lost my soul because of her. Told her I was fighting for no other reason than her. From what I recall, Angel was there, too, heard it all, and it's once more a wonder that he didn't stake me. Increasingly, I think he had truly given up on her, more deeply than anyone had supposed, maybe even more than he suspected himself. He stayed there when she left, and that's when he fed me his blood.

The second time she was there.

The second time, she smelled of blood. Not her own, but still blood, fresh blood, human blood, Slayer blood. I was already delirious, and the scent just made things worse. I hadn't fed properly in a long time and Angel's blood earlier, while it had filled me, now made me crave even more. The demon took over, and I lunged for her throat.

She didn't fight me off.

Chapter 26: Free to Love

A/N: And here we are. Already the last chapter. And yet, there's a lot left to tell in this story. So yes, there will be a sequel. Just not immediately because i have a couple of things i want to work on before i tackle my next longish fic. I won't give a definite date, but i'll probably start posting the still untitled part 2 of this series in April. In the meantime, you are welcome to drop by and read my other stories. And of course, feedback is very much appreciated and welcome.

A last few words to give a very grateful and deep thank you to my beta reader Kumi, and to all of you who took the time to support me all through this adventure. I only hope i don't disappoint with this last chapter.

Head low, Buffy returned to Spike's graveyard, knowing she had failed and would soon witness his death. Faith was dead, her body carried away by a passing truck and her blood, which could have saved Spike, no longer an option. As she walked, Buffy could still hear the hate-filled words the brunette had flung at her, calling her a slut for sleeping with two vampires, and promising Spike would be in a lot more pain before he finally crumbled to ashes. Unbearable words that had angered Buffy even more, until she had made the mistake of letting Faith escape her in death. A mistake that would cost Spike his life.

She arrived at last at the crypt, and with as few words as possible, she sent Willow and Oz, who had replaced Giles, back home to sleep and rest. They left with a quiet warning that Angel was in the lower level with Spike, and she sighed at the idea of confronting her ex once again. She didn't hurt as much as when he had broken up with her, but it still was painful to have him around when she was trying to forget him. Why was he even there?

"Because Spike helped me," Angel answered surly when she questioned him. "I'm returning the favor."

She bit back the comment that Spike's help hadn't seemed to matter to him so far. She was too tired for Angel's mind games, too tired to try to understand what was going on in his head. And when he said that he was going upstairs because he needed to replace the blood he had offered his grandchilde, she managed not to ask him what had happened. If he wanted to tell her, he could do so without playing cryptic games first.

As Angel retreated to the upper level, she sat down on the edge of the bed, wondering if Spike was asleep, unconscious, or simply had his eyes closed. She received an answer when the planes of his face shifted to the ridges of the demon and he lunged at her, so fast that she only had a glimpse of amber-filled eyes before he buried his face in the crook of her neck.

Surprised beyond words or actions, she didn't react immediately as her back hit the bed and was even more confused when the bite she expected didn't come. Lips and tongue caressed her skin, and a small noise rose from the vampire, wordless but imploring. He could have torn her throat already, killing her easily, but instead he was pleading, begging for her blood and an end to his suffering.

For a brief instant, everything seemed limpid, and she rested a hand at the back of Spike's head, pressing him lightly to her throat, giving him permission. Later, she would plead temporary insanity, suggesting Spike had put her under a thrall or knocked her out. But the second his fangs entered her skin, painful but at the same time controlled, her only thought was that this felt right. There was no other word for it.

The first pull on her blood brought her back to her senses, reminding her of the Master, and she mindlessly began to move under him, ready to push him away. She stopped moving as he drew again. The pain was gone, a mere memory, now replaced by a warmth suffusing her whole body. Another pull and a moan escaped her lips, followed by more. Warmth, calm, soft noises, even some kind of tenderness, instead of the endless agitation and fear of getting ready for the Ascension. Some rest, at last.

Her final thought before she glided into blissful darkness was that there were worse ways to die.

It was those sounds that roused Angel's suspicions, all too clear even tough he was in the upper level of the crypt instead of down there with them. Had he not been helping himself to Spike's blood supply, he would probably have noticed the scent, too, because it was the rich smell that hit him when he jumped down the ladder hole. Buffy's blood. And then, the sight threatened to freeze him in fear - Spike's face buried in Buffy's neck, her body slack underneath him. With a roar, he threw himself at his grandchilde, pulled him away from Buffy and threw him across the room where he hit the wall hard.

Muttering curses and promises of dusting him after a round of torture, Angel turned back to Buffy, tearing the sheet off the bed and pressing the fabric to her neck to stop the bleeding. The wounds were small and neat, unlike Spike's usual messy feeding; for that Angel was grateful. Had the blond torn into Buffy's neck, she would have been dead already. And she wasn't. Not yet. Not if he could help it.

With a death glare at Spike, who was now sitting on the floor seemingly horrified at what he had done, Angel picked up Buffy, his gestures careful but hurried. He carried her to the ladder, growling when Spike stood and took a wavering step toward them.

"If you have any sense left in you, you'll be gone before I come back, Spike."

The younger vampire said something, but Angel ignored him, all his attention concentrating on Buffy's faint but still stubborn heartbeat.

The journey to the hospital and the following moments were a blur. He almost threatened a doctor, placed a few phone calls, and chased the Mayor away from Buffy, all of them senseless actions when the only thing that mattered was whether Buffy would live or die. If she died now, then leaving her, breaking her heart would have been for nothing; he began to understand Spike's talk of being by her side to the end. Understanding him, however, didn't mean that his anger was fading in any way. As soon as the doctors told him and the Scoobies that she'd be ok, he left.

He had a stake in his hand when he entered Spike's crypt. To his mild surprise, it was not deserted.

One second the world was pure bliss, warm, strong blood flowing into Spike's mouth, down his throat, healing his body, making him hard. Not just any blood, but Buffy's, and that made the experience even more powerful to him. The next, he was bereft of his sweet Slayer's throat and life, and being thrown against a wall.

As he sat up, he shook off the demon visage and tried to clear his mind. What in the hell had happened? How had he come to the point of having his fangs in.

All thoughts disappeared as his widening eyes fell on Angel. And Buffy. An immobile Buffy. Dead Buffy..? No, not dead, she wasn't dead; he could hear her heart faintly, almost too faintly, but it still was beating. He hadn't killed her. He only had come incredibly close to killing her. Had Angel not intervened.

Swallowing his fear, Spike stood shakily until he steadied himself with a hand on the wall. He started to walk toward the ladder, following Angel, wanting to remain with Buffy, but a barked order stilled him. Angel was going to stake him. Right now if he kept moving, later if he stopped. If he staked him now, it meant Buffy would receive help just a little later. Maybe too late. So Spike stopped, watched vampire and Slayer disappear up the ladder, and fell to his knees.

Hands against the cold stone of the floor, head bowed, he waited. An internal war was raging in him. If Angel found him here when he returned - and he had all but promised to return - Spike would be ashes. But if he left, ran away like the guilty man he was, he wouldn't know what had happened to Buffy, wouldn't know if she was still alive or. or not. He didn't want to contemplate the alternative, refused to even think for a minute that he had killed the woman he loved. Yet, that was all he could think of.

When the door upstairs was thrown open, Spike still hadn't moved one inch. He merely raised his head when Angel came down, and managed to ask:

"Is she alive?"

Angel's gaze burned amber. "She'll live," he spat. "But you won't."

His grandsire approached, stake raised and ready to strike, yet Spike remained still. He'd come too close to killing her. It was too dangerous for him to remain close to her, but he couldn't stand the thought of being away from her. He might as well be dust.

"You're going to let me stake you?"

He raised his eyes to meet Angel's again, and allowed himself a small shrug.

"Why did you even do it?" the brunette asked, and suddenly all the tension seemed to have left his body, replaced by wariness.

"How would I know?" Spike muttered as he slowly stood. "I don't even remember doing it."

Even as he said this, a tactile memory came back to him. The feel of Buffy's hand at the back of his head, pulling him closer, holding him in place once he had bitten. He blinked several times, raising a hand to brush where she had been touching, and wondered if it had been real.

"Why didn't she push me off her?" he mumbled more to himself than as a question to Angel, and Angel's answering growl startled him.

"You just said you don't remember, and now."

"I don't! It's just. like a flash. An impression. I was delirious and I'm not sure."

Once again, Spike's train of thoughts took a hard stop. He had been delirious. Out of his mind. Not his fault. Even then, she could have stopped him and hadn't. Not his fault. Not entirely.

"She really let you do it?" Angel asked, his voice a worried murmur, and Spike didn't know what to answer.

As she ran for her life, for all of her friends' lives, through Sunnydale High with the ascended Mayor slithering and hissing on her heels, Buffy's thoughts were racing faster than her heartbeat, going back and forth between dreams and reality, past and future.

It was because of a dream that she had realized to win she would need to enrage the Mayor beyond the point of being able to think. She couldn't help wondering if Faith had really been there, or if she had only been a manifestation of Buffy's subconscious. She wanted to believe it had been Faith. And she was glad, oh so glad, that she hadn't killed her.

The reality was that they were in the middle of a fight. Outside, the students and a pair of vampires were fighting the Mayor troops. She knew there had been casualties already amongst the humans. She hoped that, when she would come out of the building in a moment, with any luck in one piece and the Mayor a bad memory, all of her friends would still be standing. She also hoped two vampires would still be there too.

The past, right now, was a mesh of images, words and feelings. The feel of her life flowing from her to Spike. Angel's voice when he had told her he would leave after the fight, without even a goodbye that would be too painful for both of them. Spike's eyes when he had entered the library the night before, his obvious relief at seeing she was there and fine, his guilt, too, that she had tried to soothe away with a smile. They had never been alone, the gang making a point of keeping an eye on him even though she had told them he wasn't responsible for what had happened. She would need to talk to him, once everything was over, and that was the future she was thinking of. She wasn't sure what she felt for him, but she knew one thing - she wouldn't have let just any vamp feed from her to save his life. So why hadn't she stopped Spike?

She would find out soon.

If they both survived, she would.

After all these months of knowing the Ascension would come, the fight itself was strangely anticlimactic for me. Maybe because all I had to do was fight a bunch of lousy vamps. Or maybe because all I wanted was to see Buffy safe again, to talk to her, one on one, tell her how sorry I was I had almost killed her, tell her I'd leave town if she wanted me to, or anything else. And all the while, hope for her forgiveness, hope she'd tell me to stay, and maybe, just maybe.

She had smiled when I first saw her after the whole 'drinking her dry' bit. It had to mean something. I was living on the hope that it meant something. But to know that, to be sure, we both needed to survive, and find a moment to talk, just the two of us. Survive, when she was playing bait to that humongous demon, and I couldn't do a thing to help.

At the instant the school exploded, the unscheduled eclipse began to end, and all of us standing vampires made a mad rush to the sewers' entrance. I fought back to back with Angel down there, and we finished off the remainder of the Mayor's soldiers together. More things to marvel at. We hadn't staked each other despite numerous occasions, and now we were actually fighting together. Unlife is full of wonders, huh?

I think he understood I hadn't bitten her with the intent to harm her, but rather had just acted on instinct, too out of it to realize what I was doing. The real surprise, however, came when he asked me to come to Los Angeles with him, trying to convince me it was for Buffy's safety. If he had said that he had wanted me to work with him, I might have gone; the pull of our blood, of our family, is still strong for me, soul or no soul. As I now know it is for him, however hard he tries to deny it. Strong enough I might have considered leaving Buffy, at least for a while, if I had discovered she was angry about the bite incident. But this? Making it sound as if he was deciding what was best for her once again? I said no and that was the end of it.

We remained there an hour or so, until night fell, him brooding, me smoking. I wish we could have talked. Not friends, no, I don't think we were ready for that yet. Family yes, but not friends. But it would have been nice to talk. I don't know. Easy to say in hindsight, I guess.

When we came out, there were fire trucks all around us, and ambulances. We separated without a word, both of us looking for her, but neither wanting to remain together. He found her before me. When I say found her, I mean, she saw him, he saw her, they shared one of these meaningful looks, then he was gone. All the while, I watched them from where I was sitting on a nearby bench, and told myself that it was truly over between them if they couldn't even stand to give each other a proper goodbye. The Scoobies reappeared around her, and a smile tugged at her lips as she talked to them. She seemed to be fine and as gorgeous as ever.

And now she was free of Angel.

They all walked in my direction, all of them grinning at each other now that the fight was over, and I began to hope. Really hope. If they came to me, if they talked to me, smiled at me, then maybe they could see past the absence of that bloody soul, past the demon, and see what I could be. Maybe they could accept me as I was. Maybe.

Buffy smiled, and the rest of the world disappeared.

It wasn't going to be all fluff and roses for us in the months to come - hell, even in the years to come. But I was going to try my best to win her heart. And eventually.

The End.


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