Part 17

 

“Angel.” Mede cocked his head and a small smile played around his mouth.

 

Angel’s heart lurched in shock. The man stank of….

 

Somehow his hands moved to Mede’s shoulders. He desperately wanted to shake answers out of the man.

 

“Spike? Will! Where the hell is he? Where has he been?”

 

“Calm down, he’s alright. William is with me.”

 

His first reaction was relief, his hands dropped and he stepped back, eyes alight with joy. His Will was alive! And living with….

 

His second reaction was devastation. All this time of living on nothing more than hope, until even that had deserted him, Spike had been….

 

“Oh…. With you?” He felt a little sick and suddenly wasn’t quite sure what to say. He rubbed his brow as though his head was hurting. “Is he ok? How did he escape this time?”

 

He was retreating down a long tunnel, his words sounded distant to his own ears.

 

“I saved him,” Mede explained.

 

Angel realised he’d lied to himself earlier, he had still been clinging to a shred of hope, but now he could only watch as it evaporated like morning mist. He’d driven Will away and this man had saved him. Who could blame Will for the choice he’d made?

 

“Oh.” He repeated. “Good.”

 

He turned away, his emotions flying in different directions, so he hardly knew what he felt.

 

“Ok, you’re upset. I get that.”

 

“Yeah, I’m… upset.” Angel smiled at the inadequacy of the word. “All these months…. He could have let me know he was alive.”

 

He could hardly speak. Spike had been with this ex-lover all the time, although the ‘ex’ bit was probably superfluous by now. Whilst he’d spent each day dying just a little bit more.

 

“I can explain….”

 

The scent was so strong… Angel jerked his head up, realising that Spike was actually here, just beyond the door. Listening…. Hiding…. He couldn’t even bear to see him? He hated him? His eyes teared up but he blinked them away angrily. What was this? Had he come to say goodbye?

 

He felt hurt, betrayed… it touched a chord and Angel suddenly remembered what had really motivated his rejection of Spike on the battlefield. In the ensuing grief, he had forgotten…

 

It wasn’t his soullessness.  It was the earlier betrayal.

 

Re-souled by Cyvus, his first returning memory had been pouring out his heart to Spike, confiding the length and breadth of his love, and then, mere hours later, cold blue eyes blankly observing as he struggled to retain his soul This memory was closely followed by Spike arrogantly admitting to deliberately using the intense love he had for his childe to banish him and call forth Angelus.  The cruelty of it held him stunned. 

 

These were the thoughts that had been running through his head as he’d turned away from Spike.

 

He’d assumed they’d have time to shout and fight and cry, to express their hurt and offer explanations, before negotiating a truce and falling together in reconciliation, but Spike, as melodramatic as ever, had turned away from him and walked into hell.

 

Now reconciliation was just some forlorn dream because Spike had chosen someone else. This over-pretty immortal.

 

Thus, he put together all the pieces of this puzzle and constructed a complete picture.  Never suspecting he’d slotted it together badly, for he could see no other way for the different pieces to fit.

 

And however unfair it was, Angel couldn’t help it. He blamed Spike. For using his love, for taking his soul, for laying the blame on him, for walking into hell, for choosing Mede….

 

Grief was overcome by pain. He knew life owed him nothing, but it was hard when what was best in his life turned out to be so mean and contemptible, so weak and insubstantial. Worse still, he loved so much he’d accept even this deeply flawed version of love, if it were only offered.

 

He looked into Mede’s shuttered eyes but his primary audience was his eavesdropping childe.

 

“You blame me, don’t you? And I guess I am to blame because I gave my trust, I gave away the weapon and the power, stupid enough to believe they’d never be used against me. I loved y… Spike, I laid myself bare to him and a few hours later he stole my soul and brought the demon back.  Did you find it amusing, something you laughed about together?”

 

He turned towards the door where he knew Spike stood, his hands went to either side of the door, and he leant his head against the wood, letting all his hurt and pain and despair flood out, whispering words that only Spike’s vampiric hearing would catch.

 

“All my dreams have left me, love has been given away and traded for a handful of ash….”

 

Angel strode away from where his childe listened and knew that if Spike had only returned to him, he’d have forgiven everything.

 

Behind the door, Spike stood with tears on his face at hearing the agonies his Angel suffered, he reached for the handle, intent on explaining it all, since Ghan was making such a bloody hash of it.

 

“We didn’t….” Mede began, but was stopped short.

 

“Just go back to the soulless bastard,” Angel said, hiding his despair in anger. “The two of you are well suited. The predictor named him Ghost. Tell him he’s not Ghost, he’s less than a ghost. He’s ash, nothing but ash. He should have died in hell, it would have been better than the soulless thing he’s become.” Angel remembered the words that had pained Spike so much. “He’s beneath me.”

 

The lie burnt in his throat, but he wanted to hurt Spike the way he’d been hurt. Betray him as Spike had betrayed. 

 

Ghan stared in open-mouthed shock.

 

Spike was held immobilised as he listened to this torrent of words and something blacked out and died inside, and he realised he was standing, frozen and alone, so full of grief that thoughts and words gagged before they could be produced. Angel may have been mistaken about his role in bringing Angelus back, but he was right about something. Strange, in all these weeks he had forgotten what he had become, Ghan had never mentioned his soul, and he had never thought about it. But yeah, Angel was right. His soulless status set him apart from the people he’d called friends. He was beneath them once more. Of course Angel wouldn’t want him.

 

Meanwhile, Ghan found his tongue.

 

“I don’t know what the hell he sees in you. Ask Wesley about how you lost your damned soul!”

 

He went to the office door and flung it open to reveal a figure slumped against the door jamb.

 

“As for Spike, his first thought was to come to you, even though he can hardly move. And hey, as usual you let him down when he needs you. Story of your life, isn’t it Angel?”

 

Angel didn’t answer. He was staring at the spidery figure that now clung weakly to Mede. He was disappointed; he’d thought he’d see his childe one more time. Then unmistakeable blue eyes turned briefly to his…

 

Jeez, he’d made such a huge mistake. Spike hadn’t abandoned him, just hadn’t been able to get to him until now! He couldn’t bear to think of the vitriol that had spewed out of his pain.

 

“Spike!”

 

Mede slammed the door shut.

 

Angel flew towards it, but by the time he got there they were gone.

 

“Spike? Will?”

 

A howl of utter anguish echoed through the night.

 

oooo

 

Ghan stared at the sleeping figure, radiating misery even in slumber.

 

He’d always felt he should have been a vampire, the selfishness of take, want, have, could be the code by which he lived his life. Now he found himself saddled with a baby he never asked for and a vampire he had.

 

“Stop staring at me, Ponce.”

 

“You need to get up, Will. You’re almost healed… this isn’t doing any good.”

 

“Bugger off.”

 

“You need to snap out of it.”

 

“Hey, you’re right. Why didn’t I think of that? Just get lost.”

 

He turned over and pulled the blankets over his head.

 

“Listen, we need to talk. Angel’s beliefs are coloured by his experience, and he’s wrong.”

 

“Don’t care what the almighty Poof thinks, and I don’t want to talk about him, right?”

 

Ghan played with his fingers, and noticed his nails had grown back perfectly, which just didn’t seem right. They ought to be stubby bitten things.

 

“Ok, I won’t. Instead let me tell you about souls.”

 

Spike was silent, but Ghan sensed he was listening.

 

“The thing is they’re like flowers….”

 

Spike pfft-ed in annoyance.

 

“Sounds about right. Bloody poofy things.”

 

Undeterred, he ploughed on.

 

“Like flowers they have roots. Some are dandelions and some are daisies.”

 

“This better not be going where I think it’s going! Call me a daisy and I’m sodding well out here.”

 

“Hush. Listen. So they can be torn away from their natural habitat, but Will, they’re only plucked not dug up and removed, they leave behind roots threaded through your awareness, entwined in memory, hidden within the connections you have. Most people who sell their souls have already given up on living a good life, they want something else, and the roots are shrivelled and useless.”

 

He smiled, could almost hear Spike straining towards his words.

 

“That’s not you. You sacrificed it in act of mercy and ultimate selflessness, they plucked the part that blossomed, the best part most might say, but what’s left behind is what’s important. They left the roots, and now you have a choice. Become a demon and kill the plant, or nurture what’s left, feed it make it grow strong again. Prove the prick, I mean, Angel wrong.”

 

Spike pulled the covers down from his face and frowned.

 

“I can grow a soul?”

 

“You have the potential to grow a soul. It’s not easy. You have to act for good when you have nothing to judge it by.”

 

Spike grasped what he was saying.

 

“Like when I loved the Slayer, I used to judge my actions by what I thought she would have wanted. I’m like that again. I could kill the kid. It would solve a lot of problems, but… I don’t.”

 

“Why not?” Ghan asked softly.

 

“You love it. You shouldn’t you know. They die so quickly.”

 

Ghan was speechless, and could have wept in pity. He couldn’t provide the strength or the guidance that Spike needed, he’d lost his own sense of morality years ago. Maybe it was just as well, if he’d been a less selfish man he might have felt the urge to surrender Spike to someone who could light his way…. Luckily that was never going to happen.

 

“Thank you, Baby. See you can do this. I’ll help you.”

 

oooo

 

They would never forget the sound of his cry. Like a wounded animal howling in the night.

 

The gang had flown down the stairs, fearing they were under attack, grabbing weapons on the way. Willow was all juiced up, ready to play her part.

 

It had been too much for him, the rapid disintegration of joy to despair and guilt, and the knowledge that he brought it on himself by allowing his fears to drive him. 

 

Kaleidoscope emotions had blossomed and retreated with each twist, until the patterns of his thoughts shattered, shown as falsehoods by Spike’s appearance. His precious William, struggling to reach him, drawn to his sire as he had been all his life.

 

Mede was right, he’d let his childe down. Misjudged the situation and driven him away. Again.

 

He didn’t know much about love, just a toddler compared to Spike. With Darla he’d learned about selfish love and despite the polar differences between the two women, with Buffy too, it had always been about her. He’d had to look after himself in relationships because no one else gave much thought to his needs. Until Spike turned up, and took his anger and violence with as much gusto as he took his love.  Putting him first, but so subtly that Angel never even realised.

 

He’d tried his best to show that he cared, but it wasn’t enough. Spike needed someone who was entirely on his side, someone who would love him and believe in him. As Mede had done.

 

This time Angel refused to despair. He had an enormous advantage over Mede…. Despite everything, Spike loved him. 

 

So when Willow approached calling his name, concern rolling of her in waves at the sight of him curled up on the floor, his hand had suddenly shot out and grabbed her wrist. The others had all held stilled, memories of Angelus fresh in their minds.

 

“Find him,” he’d rasped.

 

“Who?”

 

His eyes were sparking gold, he didn’t remember Willow being this dumb.

 

“Spike.”

 

“Angel, he’s dead. Remember?” She replied, her voice sympathetic

 

“No. He was here.”

 

They had all been expecting some sort of blow-out, but this was hard on them all. Lorne had tears of compassion in his eyes. Gunn shifted uncomfortably. Wesley stepped forward.

 

“Let go of her, Angel. Now tell us what you think you saw.”

 

“What I think I saw!” He sat up. “He was here!” he exclaimed vehemently.

 

“Sometimes when you’re on the edge of sleep, it’s easy to glimpse the thing you most want to see,” Wesley suggested gently.

 

Willow sadly nodded her agreement.

 

“Listen. I was not on the edge of sleep. Even if I was, why the hell would I see that man? He’s the last person I ever want to see.”

 

“Spike?” Now Wesley was becoming confused, and Angel ever more frustrated. He used to think his team pretty damned smart.

 

“No! Mede. Mede was with him. He was with Mede…”

 

The others began talking at once, until Willow held up a hand, like a well-behaved student seeking permission to speak.

 

“Excuse me, who is Mede?”

 

“Oh sorry, I should have explained,” Wesley apologised. “He was contracted by Wolfram & Hart to inspect us, but it turned out he had his own agenda. Spike.”

 

 “Spike? He was going to stake him?” she frowned, disliking this man already.

 

“Uh no, not exactly…. I think, well, in his own way, he loved him.”

 

The light dawned in her eyes. “Oh…. How did Spike react?”

 

“Well, admittedly Mede is attractive, but you know Spike, naturally he wasn’t interested.”

 

“I get that. Not gay, huh?” She was unconcerned. Some of her best friends were heterosexuals.

 

They all stared at her in incomprehension, before realising that she didn’t have a clue about Angel and Spike. 

 

“I don’t think such labels really apply to vampires,” Wesley explained tentatively. “If there’s no urge towards procreation, then I suppose it’s about pleasure rather than gender.”

 

“That’s not it,” Angel said softly. “It’s just love, wherever you find it. It’s about having the courage to seize it, regardless of who you find it with. What has gender to do with love?”

 

“Of course.” Wesley agreed equally softly.

 

There were more undertones in this conversation than Willow could catch, but she had to agree. Years ago, she had defiantly defined herself as gay, when all she wanted to say was that she’d found her soul mate, Tara. Let others label it how they wished; she was never anything more or less than a girl deeply in love.

 

Being outside the judgement of society, Angel got this. Whereas Willow had fallen into the niche society had allotted her.  She gazed searchingly at him, her brow screwed up as she tried to make sense of it. No longer the naïve girl she used to be, she recognised the depth of sorrow in Angel’s eyes.

 

“Oh. Oh! You and… Really? Does Buffy…? No, of course… but then he turns up with this Mede who… and… Oh,” she ended sadly.

 

“Why didn’t you just hogtie the brat and make him stay?” Lorne asked.

 

“I would have. Well, probably not hogtie…. I lost him.” He still couldn’t believe it.  “You’ve no idea how fast I can move when I want to. I was a fraction of a second behind. How could I have lost them? Somehow, they disappeared.” He frowned as he remembered how quickly it had all happened.

 

“I’m not even going to ask why he ran again,” Wesley said, “But I’m deeply disappointed in you, Angel.”

 

The dark head hung in shame.

 

“I guess they could be using portals,” Willow hypothesised, “in which case I’d never find him anyway. There’s an infinity of dimensions and I wouldn’t know where to begin.”

 

“But you could try?”

 

Willow was about to say that there was very little point, but his desperation struck a chord deep inside. If it was Tara, she’d have searched every dimension she could find, tearing them apart if she had to.

 

“I guess I could….if you have something of his, sure I can try.”

 

He produced the lighter from his pocket, and reluctantly he gave it into her keeping.

 

“Angel, don’t get your hopes up,” Willow said softly. “The odds are worse than a billion to one.”

 

But even when there had been nothing more than a spectre of hope, Angel had clung to it desperately. This was something so much more substantial. Somehow, some day, he would find his beloved childe.

 

“If it helps, I think time moves a lot slower there. If it had been this long for him he would have healed by now.”

 

“It helps. That rules out about half of the dimensions.”

 

“So we’re only left with half of infinity. Great news,” Lorne said cheerily.

 

oooo

 

Another week passed before he plucked up the courage to leave his sanctuary and step into the world once more. The very first night they walked into trouble. Spike merely watched as a boy got the shit kicked out of him. Ghan felt he should make an effort to fulfil his role as mentor.

 

“Will, go help him.”

 

“Name’s Ghost.”

 

“Ok. Ghost, go help him.”

 

“Are you sure? They’re all human.”

 

“Of course, I’m sure.”

 

Spike shrugged and waded in. It was too easy. He managed to restrain himself from breaking too many bones and helped the kid to his feet. Then got a look at him.

 

“You!” He roared.

 

The nasty little bugger who’d shot his knees out. He flung himself at the injured boy, one punch knocking him clean of his feet. By the time his rage retreated enough to realise that Ghan was screaming at him and trying to hold him back, the boy was lying unmoving on the ground.

 

They both stepped back.

 

“Why did you do that? Have you gone insane!”

 

“He’s the git who tried to bloody well kill me!”

 

“Oh.”

 

It seemed fair enough to Ghan, but he had the feeling that Angel wouldn’t have agreed. He suddenly noticed Spike moving forward.

 

“Is he dead?” Ghan asked.

 

“Not yet.” Spike said, licking the blood from his knuckles, drawn inexorably closer, until he was kneeling over the human, his fangs itching in their sockets.

 

“Hey, don’t bite him!”

 

Spike blinked and the glaze cleared from his eyes. With some disappointment he shook his face back to humanity.

 

“Oh, right. Umm. Not even a taste?”

 

“No, Will.”

 

“You never used to be so uptight about it in the old days. You knew I used to hunt.”

 

Suddenly, with that comparison in his head, Ghan realised why it would be wrong.

 

“It was your nature, you were a predator. But now you’re so much more. True, I don’t give a shit if you hunt, but Will? You do.”

 

Spike was struck by this notion. Did he care? He supposed he must, else why was he here trying to save people?

 

“Ok. So what should we do?” Spike asked looking at the injured human. “Call an ambulance?”

 

Ghan had been about to walk away.

 

“Oh, uh… yeah. I guess.”

 

They eventually headed back into Ghan’s world, tired and uncertain. This wasn’t going to work, a child leading a childe; they just ended up getting more lost and confused.

 

The human refused to give up at the first hurdle.

 

“You know? I think from now on, we’ll leave human affairs out of it. We’ll stick to demons, ok?” he announced brightly.

 

“Ok,” Spike agreed, but frowned, wasn’t that what he’d suggested right at the start?

 

 

oooo

 

Angel watched the team, and worried. Sure, they searched for Spike, but did they truly understand what they might be dealing with? Supposing he persuaded Spike to come back… what would happen if Will slipped up? If he began to hunt? If he killed? Would they plot against him? Stake him?

 

Willow hadn’t discovered his whereabouts, which was hardly surprising.

 

What was surprising was Angel’s decision to call off the search.

 

“What’s with you?” Gunn asked, his voice pitched with disbelief.

 

“It’s none of your business.”

 

“Don’t be so bloody patronising, Angel. We owe him something, he’s our friend.”

 

Angel was taken aback by Wesley’s vehemence, but he’d given some considerable thought to this, and decided there were some risks he was unwilling to take, so he ploughed on despite their glowering looks and hostile eyes.

 

“Fine. Will you still consider him a friend when he rips open your neck and drains you dry? He’s evil, Wes. He’d kill you all.”

 

“Oooh, I know! We’ll find him and I could curse him, you know, like I did with you. Getting kind of expert at it.”

 

“Give him an empty, half life. It would drive him insane. I think he’d rather be dead than suffer that. It’s not an option, Willow.”

 

“Ok, we don’t curse him. We give him a chance.”

 

“And then we’re back to ripped necks and the draining of blood,” Lorne replied nervously.

 

“He took my place when he stepped into hell, so I suppose I owe him a death, and for the comfort he gave Fred he can have every damned drop. But I think you already know he’s not going to do that. You saw him with Fr… Illyria. He cares for us, Angel. When did Spike ever kill those he cared for?”

 

“Don’t romanticise him, Wesley. He’s a demon who killed his own mother.”

 

“As I understand it, he thought he was saving her, and his actions traumatised him for the next one hundred years. Do you really think he’ll try something like that again?”

 

“I don’t know. Do you want to risk it?”

 

“Maybe we should at least attempt to find him. It’s not right that we just abandon him by himself….”

 

“He’s not by himself, and I’ve had enough of this conversation. For all our sakes, I forbid you to look for him.”

 

Angel strode out of the room and the crash of the door shook the old building to its foundations.

 

Lorne flinched. “Ok. That’s us told.”

 

Gunn saw the determination in Wesley’s eyes, Willow’s resolve face, Lorne’s concern, and squared his shoulders. They would continue searching despite Angel’s injunction.

 

“We need something more than this futile hunt through dimensions. So whaddya think? Any ideas?” he asked.

 

They shared conspiratorial looks, and it was silently agreed. They would defy Angel.

 

“Hmmm. Back to old fashioned methods. I’ve never met anyone who belongs in this modern world as much as Spike. He’ll be back, and somehow he just can’t help creating a noise.”

 

“So we start asking around. Pick up some of our old demon contacts.”

 

“You’d go against me, for Spike?”

 

Startled, they turned as one towards the voice. There was Angel standing only meters from them. Willow shifted guiltily, Lorne had the doe in the headlights look, but the others stiffened their backs.

 

“We’re going to look for him, Angel, whether you approve or not,” Wesley informed him.

 

“Good.”

 

“And there’s no point you…. Uh, what did you say?”

 

“Good. Sorry, but I needed to be sure that you all understood what we would be taking on, and had to be certain that I could trust each one of you not to make any mistakes.”

 

“You were testing us?” Lorne asked, outraged at being hoodwinked.

 

“Yeah. Sorry,” he said again. “And Wes, please don’t encourage him to think that you owe him blood. I’d rather he fought the urge to drain you.”

 

“What would you have done if we’d failed the test?” Gunn asked curiously.

 

“He’s my priority, Gunn. Everything else is irrelevant.”

 

His face told them that he’d have abandoned everything and everyone to be with Spike.

 

 

oooo

 

 

Ghan was almost as distraught as the kid.

 

“We didn’t leave him long!”

 

“It wasn’t long to us. It was most of the night to him. Anyway he’s safe enough. What’s a few tears?” Spike asked, unconcerned by the screaming child.

 

“He’s frightened.”

 

“So he should be. Scary vampire here.”

 

He turned into gameface and growled. The baby stopped crying and stared, mouth open in fascination.

 

Ghan continued comforting the child with reassuring touches and gentle words.

 

“I’m sorry. I can’t go with you any more, Will. We can’t take him with us as long as the Fell exists, and Trouble needs me with him.”

 

“And I need trouble. It’s ok, I can do this. Just demons, yeah?”

 

“Just the bad demons. Ones that hurt humans. You’ll be fine. You have more judgement than you know.”

 

So Spike began his lonely patrols. Slaying vampires, saving humans, and each life he saved he felt less and less connection to these eternal victims. Some of them were so bloody stupid they deserved to be food.

 

He started staying away longer, and then discovered that he still had the lease to his old apartment. Sometimes he would be gone for days at a time. Ghan suspected that he was subliminally willing Angel to find him.

 

That thought never consciously crossed Spike’s mind. He had discovered the victims could be very grateful, and he needed somewhere to take them when they eagerly offered compensation. So he’d escape for a while in the grunt and the huddle of sex, taking whatever comfort presented itself.

 

Until one night, one of them offered him a twist of a package, and to his delight he found yet another way to ease his pain.

 

He would eventually return to Ghan, reeking of sex and crashing to earth, frequently just tumbling to bed and staying there. Spike’s days away were weeks for Ghan, and no longer having the link around his wrist, he had no way of looking out for him.

 

“What am I going to do with you, Will?”

 

Staring at his gaunt face, he realised Spike was no longer the same person who had set out on this difficult journey so full of hope; instead, here was a man intent on losing himself. Ghan could do nothing but watch him on his road to self destruction.

 

He finally acknowledged that he’d been beaten. He didn’t know how to deal with this darkness in Will, and knew he would have to visit the one person he swore he’d never approach again.

 

When Spike came around, he left Trouble in his care and once again found himself inside the Hyperion.

 

 

oooo

 

 

The months had rolled by with the gang growing in confidence as their reputation spread. There wasn’t a demon who didn’t know of their victory against hell. Work was also picking up momentum. They were kept busy with cases, some of which even paid. Their only frustration was the fruitlessness of their search for Spike.

 

Then rumours began to surface of people being saved by a stranger. Angel’s heart leapt in hope.  They tracked every lead, until one day their breakthrough came, someone actually knew of someone who had been rescued by this newcomer. Gunn and Wes went out to interview her. Angel waited through the day on tenterhooks.

 

They dragged their heels coming back, hating to let the vampire down. He was hovering in reception, clearly waiting for them,

 

“Sorry, man,” Gunn said sympathetically. “We tried. The description didn’t match.”

 

He was blown away with disappointment. Then realised that he’d never mentioned to anyone Spike’s changed appearance.

 

“Describe him.” He demanded, keeping his voice as neutral as possible.

 

Wesley nodded.

 

“Angel. It’s not him. He’s not blonde, and he doesn’t wear a black leather coat… In fact he’s either bald or closely shaved, and his clothes are jeans and a dark brown leather jacket. Can you imagine him parting with his coat, or shaving his head?”

 

“His hair was burnt away in the fire. I imagine his coat was too. Did she mention a scar on his eyebrow?”

 

Both Wesley and Gunn looked up in interest.

 

“The initial description sounded so little like him, that you know? We didn’t ask.”

 

By the end of the day they had one confirmed sighting of Spike! Willow attempted a scan, but the news they’d received was over a week old and he was gone again. Still they considered it a major breakthrough. He was out on the streets saving people, which was amazing for a soulless demon. They felt buoyed; their faith in him had proved justified.

 

That night they celebrated.

 

And just a month or so later it seemed their celebration was justified when Ghan appeared in the reception of the old hotel.

 

The first person he saw he didn’t recognise, but her eyes widened, and she flushed pink.

 

“Wow… I guess you must be Mede. Uh, I’m Willow, and I’m telling you, Mister, we will get Spike back, and….”

 

Her heart wasn’t in it. He was so pretty and sad looking, she wanted to hug him. As though he could read her thoughts, he smiled at her, and her entire speech dribbled out of her brain.

 

“It’s ok, Willow. I’ve got this,” Angel’s voice sounded behind her.

 

“Oh, thank goddess,” she sighed in relief.

 

The two men walked into Angel’s office.

 

“Well?” Angel asked as he watched Mede wander around his office, picking up the odd relic and trailing fingers over furniture.

 

He eventually finished his examination of the room, came to his final decision and turned to face Angel.

 

“I want to explain to you about souls….”

 

Twenty minutes later Angel was wondering what this meant for him.

 

Mede explained. “Yours is floating, kind of rootless. Being forced to have a soul is like putting a flower into a vase. It lives, it looks no different to those growing in earth, but when it’s pulled out it leaves nothing behind. It’s different for Spike.”

 

“This is just a theory, isn’t it? You don’t know….”

 

“I want you to see something.”

 

Ghan cut a finger through the air and a small slash opened into his world.

 

“Look.”

 

Angel did and caught his breath. There was Spike on his back, asleep. He was in gameface, and nestled against his cheek was a baby, no more than a couple of months old. The babe sprawled across the sleeping vampire, with one little fist wrapped tightly around a long, protruding fang….

 

“Mede! Ghan… we have to rescue the baby. He won’t be able to resist, he’ll….”

 

The window into this other world closed over.

 

“You still have so little faith in him that I wonder if I do right,” the man sighed. “Relax, Angel. Spike was tired and going into his vampire face settles the kid. They often fall asleep like this. So tell me, does he look like a soulless monster to you?”

 

Angel shook his head. He really was beginning to believe that this would all work out ok for Spike, and his heart twanged with the pride that he felt for his childe. Mede looked at him, and his gaze contained a hint of approval, for the first time, Angel had actually considered Spike before himself.

 

“So why are you telling me this? Showing me this?”

 

“Here’s the thing, Will is going out in the world, rescuing people. I can’t leave Trub, so Will is there alone. He’s saving lives, but he’s losing himself. He’s angry at you, but in a way, this all to prove himself to you. I think he’s proved enough and now he needs help.”

 

“Can I go to him?” Angel asked hopefully

 

“No. It’s my world, and anyway I’m not risking my kid. No one goes there but me and Will. But if you wait a while, he will be recovered enough to venture back. You know where his apartment is? Just keep an eye open for him.”

 

Angel could hardly believe this man would willingly give Spike up. He finally understood why he hated Ghan so much. He wasjealousof the genuine attachment between the two of men.

 

“And Angel. Do it right this time.”

 

Angel looked almost grim.

 

“I will,” he promised.

 

oooo

 

 

The girl stumbled out still thanking him for saving her life. Minutes after she pulled it to, the door opened again.

 

Spike was glad he was stoned. It made it easier.

 

“Get lost,” he requested, without even opening his eyes.

 

“What?”

 

Angel wasn’t wholly surprised by the greeting, after all, it was no more than he deserved.

.

“You heard me. You ain’t welcome here.”

 

“I came….”

 

“Couldn’t give a flying fuck why you came. Just want you to haul your arse outta of here, yeah?”

 

He knew he wasn’t handling this right, but he was tired and sad and confused. So he did as always had, and hid it all behind anger and attitude.

 

Angel squinted through the smoky atmosphere.

 

“Supposing I said I’m sorry?”

 

“Supposing I said piss off?”

 

“Spike, you’re making a big mistake.”

 

Angel had known it wouldn’t be easy but he’d at least expected Spike to be involved. This detached rejection gave Angel nothing to work with.

 

“I don’t need you, don’t need your pity or your…”

 

“Why the hell would you have my pity?”

 

“’Xactly. Don’t want it, don’t need it. I’m fucking happy, me.”

 

“Uh huh. So who were you with tonight? Do you even remember her name?”

 

“Not your bizz, I’m thinking.”

 

“And what’s that shit you’re smoking?”

 

“Who d’you think you are? My bloody Mum?”

 

“No. You killed her.”

 

His eyes flew open. Well that wasn’t cool. In fact it was damned off.

 

“Oh thank you. Thank you very much!”

 

Angel was happy just to get a rise out of him. He continued to punch away with words.

 

“So what do you do with yourself, Spike? Go out at night, wander the streets, fight the monsters and then what? Come back here and spend the days off your face and out of your head? Yeah, I can see you’re real happy.”

 

“The name’s Ghost, Spike’s dead, remember? Ash ain’t he?”

 

Angel recalled his bitter words with a frisson of shame.

 

“Shall I tell you what I do, Poof? I go out and save people and it’s hard. It’s hard cus I don’t want to do it. You know what I want to do? I want to forget what I was, wish I could give it up and let the world go to hell, and everyday I’m that little bit closer. Each victim I save, the blood, on their skin calls to me. But I can’t get my kicks like that anymore, can I? Gotta be a good little vampire. “

 

Spike pulled in another drag of heady smoke and held it, allowing its effects to rapidly diffuse through his body.

 

“Yeah, here I am, getting my highs any way I can, so that tomorrow I can go through the same old shit. And it ain’t living, but that’s ok, ain’t it?  Cus I’m just a sodding dead thing. So you go back to your life and leave me to whatever I have left.” He breathed out smoke with each word, like a dragon in human form.

 

“I’m not alive either.”

 

“What?”

 

He stared at Angel so hard that the figure swirled in patterns before his eyes. Spike let his smouldering roll-up fall to one side, watching the deconstruction in fascination. The last hit must have been good. And then colours coalesced back into the shape of his sire; changeless, despite the fact that everything had changed. It brought tears to his eyes.

 

“You told me to go back to my life. I’m dead too, Spike. I’m fucking dead.”

 

“Huh. Two deaths don’t make a rite,” he announced sadly.

 

“Shit, you’re as high as a kite!”

 

Despite his melancholy, Spike let out a small giggle. He was mellowed out, floating above the room. Angel was so funny.

 

“And it rhymes. Together we make really crap poetry.  But I don’t need you cus I can make crap poetry all by meself. So, what yer gonna do, Angel? Be my white knight, come charging in to save me?” Spike started to giggle again. “The Master always called you the Irish Stallion. You’re not the white knight; are you? You’re just the bleedin’ horse.”

 

Angel turned away.

 

“Save your fucking self, Ghost. You’re right. Spike is long dead. You’re not even a pale imitation of him. You know why not? My Will, was a fighter.”

 

He slammed the door as he left.

 

The floor was rapidly coming up to meet Spike and it was a bumpy landing. He no longer felt mellow. That was the trouble with a vampire constitution, his body fought off foreign substances and he recovered too quickly.  He knew he’d done the right thing. Until he got his soul back he refused to be with Angel, to be treated as something inferior, knowing brown eyes would be watching, wishing for the old Spike…. Except he was beginning to think it would never happen. He hadn’t lied. Every day he was closer to slipping.

 

“What’s left to fight for, Angel! What in friggin’ hell is left to fight for…?”

 

He slumped back wearily, and then looked up in surprise, as the door burst open.

 

This was new, Angel had never returned before. It was always up to Spike to go chasing after him. He thought maybe it was a hallucination, some bad shit maybe. But being buried underneath 180lbs of solid vampire drilled the reality into him.

 

“Peaches….”

 

“Will…,” Angel replied, and kissed him.

 

Things went to hell as soon as they tried words, so Angel let his kiss say everything that was in his heart. It spoke of love, passion, desire, affection, laughter and life’s every need.

 

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