Part 2

Just Another Day on the Hellmouth



Angel could feel the sun coming for him. If he closed his eyes he could see it: welling up over the horizon to spill across the sea, turning the trampled beaches white before racing across the miles and miles of flat suburban sprawl, to downtown where it ignites the walls of the old art deco buildings, sets the mirrored walls of the new corporate towers ablaze and reaches down into the narrow streets to blot him out in its destructive glare. Angel opened his eyes and glanced over at the nervous human next to him. Wesley was well aware of the time, and he was driving as fast as was prudent through the pre-dawn streets, caught between the need to hurry and the knowledge of how really inconvenient it would be to be stopped by the police just now.

Angel was covered in blood, human blood. Warm, it had been silky and seductive on his skin, but now it was clotted, sticky, caked in his hair, and starting to crackle where the coating was thinnest. His clothes were probably a total loss, it was nearly impossible to get blood out of leather once it dried. Poor Carstairs. When they'd interrupted the ritual the demon had assumed that it had been betrayed by its partner. It had spoken a Word and the warlock had exploded like a water balloon hit by a 45 slug. Angel had been caught in the backsplash, and drenched. In contrast, when Angel cut off its head the demon had considerately dissolved into a neat pile of bluish sand.

He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The smell of so much blood had brought the demon close to the surface; Angelus loved it, wanted more, teased him with pleasurable memories that had his cock stirring under his stickily damp trousers.

God, he was tired. He leaned against the glass, watching the desolate streets sliding past, the solid dark colors of night fading to grayish pastels. The few people he saw were either just up or fleeing the dawn themselves. It had been a long night. The latest in a long line of long nights. Evil had been unusually busy these past few weeks, and neither Wesley nor the Oracles had been able to tell him why. It might be the start of the War, or not. He sighed again and licked his lips, nice, sweet, he thought; he stopped when he saw Wesley watching him and wincing.

After Wesley dropped him off at the office and fled, Angel went downstairs and locked up the grimoire they'd successfully rescued in the recently installed safe. He dumped his clothes in the tub, got into the shower and turned it on hot. He stood under the scalding water, letting it warm him up before getting down to the hard work of cleaning off the blood. It was difficult to remove from his skin, his hair; and as it liquefied, the blood smell rose around him in a cloud. The hunger that had begun nibbling at him in the car truly began to bite, but he stubbornly kept soaping, scrubbing, and rinsing until the last hint of pink had spiraled down the drain.

With a towel around his waist, still dripping, he went into the kitchen. When he removed the lid of the quart container of pig's blood the odor was stale. He poured it into a soup mug and heated it up in the microwave anyway. He went into his bedroom to drink it, sitting in the dark, using the rank taste to obliterate the sweet taste of Carstairs still lingering in his mouth.

When the cup was empty the thirst was diminished if not entirely banished. The demon had retreated sullenly to the back of his brain. Angel sat quietly in his chair in the dark. He could tell that the sun was up. Cordelia would be in around 10 if she didn't have an audition. He'd ask her about his clothes, she'd know if anyone would. Exhaustion dragged at him. He knew he should sleep. But the phone sat there, tempting him.

He'd been good, he thought. He hadn't called Sunnydale in more than two weeks. He checked the time; it was nearly 8 o'clock. Mrs. Summers -- Joyce -- would be up, and Buffy, unless she'd changed her ways, wouldn't. Never mind that he'd promised himself he wouldn't do this anymore. Would let it go, at last. Let the wound heal.

He lasted a few more minutes before giving in. He listened to the ring hoping that Buffy would answer, that he could at least hear her voice.

"Hello?" Not Buffy.

"Joyce." He waited. There was a moment of silence, an almost inaudible sigh as she recognized his voice.

"Angel." Resignation in her voice.


Joyce hung up the phone 10 minutes later feeling like she'd been on for at least 10 years. Goddamn she hated this. She froze guiltily, thinking she heard something, but no further sounds came from upstairs. Buffy was still safely asleep. If Buffy ever found out she was talking to Angel, reporting on her to him... Joyce plopped herself down at the kitchen table and put her head in her hands. She'd made her deal with the devil, knowing what she was doing. And anything that got Angel away from her daughter, and kept him gone, was a good thing. Right?

He'd been gone less than a week when the calls started -- they came at any time of day, and whoever was calling hung up as soon as Buffy answered. Buffy didn't say anything -- of course -- but Joyce knew she suspected it was Angel. Joyce knew it was him. So she sent Buffy off to visit her father that weekend, and the next time the phone rang, picked up and told him: "Angel, you have to stop this." She'd waited for his answer.

First he'd apologized, then he'd explained, and finally he'd begged: He had to know that Buffy was all right, that she was doing well without him. Please, if Joyce could just reassure him, tell him how she was doing, he couldn't stand not knowing...the underlying threat being that if she didn't, he might be forced to come back and check on her daughter himself. So she agreed. And every couple of weeks he called and she updated him. Reassured him that Buffy was Just Fine, she was Doing Well In Her Studies, Making New Friends, Fighting Evil But Not Too Much. Keeping it positive, shading the truth, lying through her teeth. And so far so good: Angel stayed in LA, and she thought, she hoped, that Buffy was beginning to get over him. But right now, she felt like she needed a nice long soak in Lysol.


Buffy woke up when the phone rang. But she heard her mother's voice, talking softly to whoever it was, and went back to sleep. When she woke up again the sun was pouring through the curtains. She could tell from the silence that her mother had already left. She reluctantly turned her head and looked at the clock that she'd forgotten to set last night.

9:01 a.m.

"Oh shit!" She had class at 10:00, no way was she going to make it, even if she got up, which she should, right now. She lay there, trying to gather the resolve. She was tired. She'd been up late again, this time wiping out a nest of vampires with no better sense than to start hunting on campus. All work and no play was making her a cranky Slayer. Giles had noticed, but he was cutting her no slack, sticking strictly to the manual: Duty, Destiny, blah, blah, blah. If she complained too much he went into Deadly Sarcasm mode to which she had no defense.

And no-one ever mentioned Angel. Not even Xander. Never, ever. It was like when he left Sunnydale he ceased to exist.

"Angel, Angel, Angel," Buffy said, just to hear it. She missed Angel. She wanted him back. Right after he'd left, she'd dreamed about him almost every night, it was what got her through the long days and lethal nights; the knowledge that when she finally fell asleep she'd be in Angel's arms, holding him, feeling his lips on hers, resting safe against the strength of his chest, even if it was only a dream.

But the dreams were fading, they came less and less often, and now it looked like they'd stopped altogether. Willow said that was a good thing, that it meant she was moving on. Well, Willow was wrong. Buffy couldn't move on, she was stuck here on the Hellmouth, just her and her Destiny and there was nothing she could do about it. She'd tried running away, but wherever she went, she was still the Slayer. The Chosen One. Alone.

What was the point anyway, it wasn't like she was going to be graduating. Sooner or later, and be real, they were probably talking sooner here, her luck would run out. The next lucky girl would be called. Giles would have to find another gig, and her friends would move on, get lives of their own, leave the Hellmouth if they had any sense at all. She had to go to her academic probation meeting, but Art History could go to hell, she decided. Buffy closed her eyes and pulled the covers over her head.


It was a beautiful morning and the forecast was for a beautiful day, clear and warm. As Sylvia Orexis stepped out onto the balcony with her breakfast, she could hear the birds singing prettily in the walnut tree opposite, threatening violence to trespassers. The yellow sunlight was nicely filtered by the wisteria covered trellis. She set the tray down on the cafe table, sat down and poured herself a cup of coffee from the delicate Limoges pot. She took a sip as she gazed down at Sunnydale; the excellent view of the town was the main reason she'd chosen this house. From here the town was spread out before her, perfect and golden in the morning sun. One day, she thought, it would all be hers. One day quite soon.

She'd labored long and hard over the years to attain her goal, and she was very, very close. The stars were aligned in her favor. Her most dangerous rivals had both been destroyed. Neither the Master, nor the Mayor had ever been aware of her presence or the role she'd played in their destruction. And now she need only pull the last few threads in, weave them into their proper place in the pattern, and the Hellmouth would be hers.

She was looking forward to becoming the Hellmouth's Queen, the absolute ruler of the Hellmouth and everything living in it, and that was just for starters. Once she learned to use the full powers of the Hellmouth, there was no limit to how far she could go. In time, much greater things might be possible. There was a wide world beyond Sunnydale, full of people she would love to get to know better.

On his way to his car her neighbor looked up and waved. She smiled and waved back. Mr. Dickson, such a nice man, he'd put on about 10 pounds during the summer; it made him look quite delectable. And his two children and pretty wife were absolutely scrumptious. She nibbled at her croissant. Today was an important day, many things depended on how this interview went. She didn't foresee any problems, but she'd been around long enough to know the danger of Hubris. But she really had been working very hard. She deserved a treat. As a reward, if things went as planned, and a small solace if not. And she would summon Spike, it had been nearly a week since she'd seen him, she'd hear his report and he could help her celebrate, or not.


Alice sat at the kitchen table, drinking instant coffee at the brand new table, sunlight blessing her through the brand new lace curtains. She was thinking, a little guiltily, of the boy lying sleeping upstairs on the brand new sheets in their brand new bed. She wished she had a cigarette, but she'd given them up, again, just before Ilya.

She shouldn't be here; she had sincerely meant to go. That first morning when she'd woken in his bed and lain there beside him, listening to his soft snore. Thinking that she really ought to leave, now. She knew she had no business here with this kid, sweet as he was. Young and pretty and virile as he was. The color thing wasn't the problem it once was, but she was still far too old for him even if he didn't know it; she had him fooled with her mask of smooth-skinned big-eyed innocence. If she stayed she would inevitably have to disillusion him about that -- and other things. Besides, this town made her shoulder blades itch. Why the hell did people live here, knee-deep in monsters? There was no way it was going to work out. She should go, now. Right now.

But it felt so good here, lying snug and warm with his arm over her. So peaceful, so sweet to feel skin against skin, the slight jump of his penis in the hollow of her back as his hand traced along her arm.

Finally, he spoke. "Alice. Are you awake?"

"Yes," her back to him.

"You want breakfast? I can make eggs, and toast, and probably bacon." There was a tremulous desire in his voice that was terribly seductive.

He moved his hand to her shoulder, idly tracing circles on the smooth skin. My, that felt nice. She rolled over to face him and saw the look in his eyes, the wanting, overlaid by the certainty of disappointment. Not the eyes of someone who was used to getting what he wanted, ever. He looked so sweet, and so sad, that she just had to kiss him.

And of course one kiss led to another, and kisses led to touching, and so on until they lay shattered, sweatily entangled, the hour closer to lunch than breakfast and Alice realized that despite her good intentions, she wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.

So she'd called her mother. Endured the lecture, the deep pained sighs, made the ritual acknowledgement of her own stupidity, and arranged to have money, and ID FedEx'd to her. Went back upstairs and asked Xander if it was OK if she stayed for awhile.

So, here she was, playing house. She'd had a good time over the past week enjoying the game of furnishing their new nest. Xander was surprised by the money she'd spent, but so far seemed to be enjoying the novelty of not having to worry about what things cost.

Did he love her? He wanted her, that was for certain sure, and so far she hadn't caught him lying to her.

"Be careful, hon. Don't let your heart get ahead of your head this time," her mother had warned, just before they hung up.

"O.K. mama," She'd agreed, wondering then and now how that worked exactly.



"Wesley, we've got to do something about Angel." Cordelia hit him with this announcement as he walked in the door carrying the paper and a box of donuts.

"What?" Wesley frowned, confused, then nervous remembering Angel unconscious smile, as he licked his lips. On the other hand, if something happened Cordelia would hardly be polishing her nails.

"Angel, you know, big broody guy." Cordelia prompted when he didn't respond immediately.

"Yes, I know. Is there something wrong with him?" Cordelia sighed in exasperation.

"Hello? Mr. Observant, no wonder you washed out of the Watcher corps. He's lost weight, he's not eating. And he's getting sloppy. I've done so much outpatient surgery on him lately you guys ought to call me Dr. Chase, and pay me more money."

Wesley thought back over the past few weeks, and had to admit she had a point. There had been a certain recklessness in Angel's behavior lately.

And it's not like he was ever Chatty Cathy but when was the last time he said anything to either of us besides: Any visions Cordelia? Got that translation yet Wesley?"

Wesley nodded. "Yes, now that you mention it, he has been a bit distant lately..."

"Like Mars. He needs Prozac. Or whatever works on vampires."

"Cordelia, don't you think you may be overreacting, just a tad. We've been very..."

"And Buffy's just as bad. Willow's really worried about her. I mean, the whole idea was: too much stress them being so close but can't touch, so Angel does the noble, leaves...and now, Willow says Buffy's gone from unhappy to majorly depressed. She's really worried about her."

Wesley's amazement at the news that Cordelia talked to Willow was overwhelmed by the chill he felt at the implication of her words. "You aren't suggesting that they get back together? I don't think you really understand the danger of that..."

"Sorry? I don't understand the psychoterror that is Angelus?" She stared at him in disbelief. "As I recall, Wes, you were a couple thousand miles away when Angelus was mindfucking us back in good old Sunnydale. Believe me, I do "understand the danger." Wesley refused to back down.

"So you understand why the two of them can never be allowed to...risk... Why they must be kept apart." Wesley persisted. Cordelia nodded in unhappy agreement, and she turned away, her voice dropping.

"Yes. But if something doesn't change soon, the powers that be are going to have to find themselves a new Slayer not to mention a new protector of the weak helper of the helpless."

Undetected, Angel quietly backed away from the door, and retreated downstairs, back into the quiet dark.


The glass mountain rose against the night, impossible and alone on a desert plain. Even in the moonlight it glittered, by day it was blinding, everything in its quarter of the sky washed out by its searing brilliance. He had to wait through the long day until the sun set and the heat and light faded before he was able to emerge and begin his ascent.

The glass was slick and cool under his hands, cloudy gray with tiny imperfections. It splintered into deadly shards as he slowly climbed, chipping handholds with his knife. At the beginning he wore heavy gauntlets but the leather was sliced, abraded, destroyed by the sharp edges. He wrapped his hands in strips torn from his fine linen shirt, but the broken glass shredded the cloth in turn. Leaving his hands bare. The glass flensed away skin and flesh, till he was hauling himself up with hands that were little more than bloody bones; smearing the slick surface as he crawled up and up. He ignored the pain, concentrating on his goal, the slight shadow at the top that marked the way into the mountain.

He pulled himself onto the narrow lintel, and had to rest on his knees for a long moment utterly exhausted. Before him the way in stood dark, waiting. He stood finally, his hands throbbing with agony. He spared a quick glance for the sky overhead, the barren desert far below. None of it mattered to him. He could hear her calling him as he walked into the mountain.

There were endless steps, coiling into the mountain's heart. The night and stars were still visible at first but as he descended, they slowly faded, as the cumulative effect of the flaws and impurities in the glass blotted them out, till he was moving through almost total darkness. Stepping blindly down and down. Wondering if there is an end or if the next step will pitch him into the abyss. Then he sees a faint greenish glow, gently pulsing.

He runs recklessly down the last few steps, and follows the light to the chamber at the mountain's heart. She is there, displayed in a case, a sarcophagus made of crystal. He runs to the glass coffin, looks down through the thick translucence of the lid.

"Dru," he moans seeing her at last. Her eyes are closed, her hands folded on her chest, at peace; her pale face floats serenely on the black pool of her hair. Miss Edith lies beside her, equally composed.

He tries to open it, but lid and coffin are made in one piece his efforts useless. When he pounds on the lid with his bare hands, the healing flesh tears away, speckling the vitreous surface with his flesh. The glass is thick, but it shatters under his attack, taking its revenge by carving away chunks of regenerated flesh as it shatters, his thick dark blood trickles through the fractured lid and drips into her mouth. He sees her eyelids flickering, ready to open and see him...

"Spike," Orexis' voice whispered in his ear.

Spike's eyes flew open, he rolled off the stone slab he'd been sleeping on and landed on his ass on the dusty floor. He lay there, trembling, as the ghost of her voice rang in the dusty tomb. Realizing slowly that she wasn't here, that he was alone, safe...except for the gentle tug of the leash woven into his flesh and bone. He'd been summoned.

For now her call was nothing more than a suggestion, it was still daylight after all. But he knew the compulsion would grow the longer he let it go unanswered, the pain would eat away at him until he gave in, crawled to her to face whatever she wanted him for. He intended to resist as long as possible. He didn't fancy facing her empty-handed, and he had nothing new for her: no secret key to the Slayer's destruction, no profound insights into how to weaken her. Nada. He didn't think she'd be very happy with him. He picked up the ratty quilt he'd stolen from Giles and lay back down, closed his eyes and tried to find his princess again.



"Ever wonder why there's so much, or for that matter any, night life in Sunnydale? Considering all the demons and vampires?" Willow wondered out loud.

"Does kinda seem to defy Darwin," Oz admitted, glancing around at the lively scene. It was finally starting to feel like Fall in Sunnydale, but surprisingly large numbers of people were still wandering the streets downtown, even on a weeknight. Willow and Oz were headed for McGinty's Ice Cream Emporium before going over to Giles' for the meeting.

Probably it had something to do with the Mayor, Willow thought. She wondered what would happen now that he was gone. With Wilkins no longer covering up the unpleasant facts of life in Sunnydale, would people finally start to get a clue? Would real estate values start to drop? Or would people prefer to remain happily her and all her friends up until Buffy came to town?

"Hey, isn't that Xander?" Oz said, pointing across the street at Bucci's a pricey Italian place, where a few couples protected from the chill by overhead heat lamps were dining on the outdoor 'palazzo'. Willow looked, and froze; it was Xander, in a jacket, having dinner with a woman. A black woman in a dress that she would never have had the nerve to wear out in public.

The food at Bucci's was really good. Xander had never been there before because it was also really expensive and also, they had a dress code. But he'd known the name when Alice said she wanted to go out, 'somewhere nice'. He'd even put on a jacket. Alice was wearing a red dress that made her look like a million dollars and Xander feel like lottery winner #536.

Alice was definitely enjoying herself. Most girls out on a date would pick at their dinner... well, anyway that's what he'd heard. He didn't actually having a lot of real-life experience. Clearly, Alice hadn't gotten the memo. She was very neat, kept her elbows off the table and her mouth closed while chewing but she didn't pick at her food, she annihilated it. He almost couldn't keep up.

"I still can't believe nobody reported it. Shouldn't there have been headlines like, you know, "Escaped Leopard." Xander said.

Alice looked up from the tattered remains of her pasta puttanesca and shrugged. "Um. No big surprise. We're talking crooked and not too bright. I'm pretty sure the managers were Russian Mafia types. They probably broke down the cage, burned the sign, and hoped no-one would find out before they were 500 miles away."

"Lucky, I guess."

"Now and again." He felt her bare foot shamelessly rubbing against his instep. She grinned at him and Xander felt a blush spread over his face. "So, do you like the apartment?"

"Sure. Yeah. It's just..." Xander hesitated.

"You think we're moving too fast?" Looking at him with what looked a lot like actual concern. Like she wasn't just sticking around to be nice. Xander shook his head, really not wanting to blow this, but needing to say it.

"No, it's great, living with you, but it feels weird you paying for everything. The apartment, dinner, you even bought me clothes. It makes me feel like Richard Gere. We could get someplace cheaper. I don't want to take advantage of you..." He caught the sudden look of embarrassment or was it guilt, that crossed her face, not for the first time. One of these days, when he was feeling a little more secure, say 5 or 10 years from now, he'd have to ask her about it.

"You're not. I've got the money, and when you get a job you can pay me back," she smiled reassuringly.

"Hey Xander," Oz said as he and Willow leaned over the wall separating the dining area from the sidewalk.

"Hey, Hi guys," Xander said a little surprised. Willow and Oz. Willow not looking happy he noticed.

"Hi, Xan...who's this?" Willow's smile was brittle as she stared at Alice. Oz was staring too, Xander realized, but it was a different kind of stare. Still there seemed to be a whole lotta staring going on here. Alice smiled back at both of them, perfectly friendly. Xander leapt into the silence.

"Guys, this is Alice, Uh, she's my she, uh, girl, we together are," Me speakie English good, he groaned silently.

"Smooth," Oz murmured, never taking his eyes off Alice. That was one hell of a dress, he wished Willow would wear something like that once in a while; at home, behind closed doors. She looked at him calmly, waiting for him to make a decision.

"Xander?" Willow's voice was as strained as her smile. "When did this happen?"

"It's kinda recent. Uh, Alice, this is Willow, my best friend."

"Pleased to meet you," Alice offered her hand. Willow ignored it, though she mumbled something that was probably "Hi." Oh, Alice thought, it's like that, is it.

"And Oz, also a friend." Xander said, frowning at Willow's odd behavior.

"Oz." Alice offered her hand again and felt deep relief when the werewolf took her hand, they were going to be civilized, good.

"New in town?" he asked. Pale eyes. Hard to read. She nodded.

"Xander persuaded me to stick around for a little while." She read approval in his eyes.

"Xander, you're coming to the meeting tonight, right?" Willow asked in what seemed to be her new voice. Xander preferred the old one.

"Yeah, sure." Shit, he'd forgotten about the meeting. He turned in sudden panic to Alice. "Uhh.. That's O.K., right? It's like a regular thing, this meeting." Alice nodded.

"'Sure. I'll finish unpacking."

"Thanks." He turned back to his friends. "I'll see you there guys, O.K.?"

"Yeah, we've got hot fudge sundaes waiting for us." Oz took gentle hold of Willow's hand. She looked at him, nodded, chocolate would be a good thing right about now.

"Bye," she said forlornly, to Xander. Seeing the genuinely puzzled look on his face as he watched them go, Alice bit her tongue on what she was going to say.

"She seems nice," Oz commented as they walked away. Willow glanced at him.

"I don't like her," she said flatly. "She seems...sneaky."

"Probably the whole being a cat thing," Oz said holding the door to McGinty's Ice Cream Emporium open for her.

"What?!" Willow's mouth fell open and belatedly, Oz wished he'd kept his mouth shut.




"You know, I was really worried about this meeting, but she's really nice. Even though I was late. And she's cute -- for an old person, I wish I could get my hair to curl up like that. She told me to call her Sylvia. I wish I hadn't blown off so many of her classes now but it's right after lunch and full stomach + night's slaying + dark room = drooling Buffy. Also flunking Buffy, hence the whole conference thing." As Giles came through with the book he'd needed, he thought that Buffy sounded unusually energized tonight, almost like the old pre-Angel Buffy.

"I heard her classes are really popular." Buffy thought that Willow seemed a little distracted tonight.

"Yeah, she didn't lay any guilt trips on me. Said she understood the transition was sometimes difficult and I could do a special project. My choice, anything during the period. I'm supposed to meet with Sylvia next week with my proposal...uh, you'll help me, right?"

"Uh, sure." Definitely distracted Willow. She wondered if she and Oz were having trouble...naw, never happen.

"Saturday?" Willow nodded.

"Excuse me," Giles said standing at the head of the table. "I'm ready."

Spike came late and sat outside the open screen door, smoking and trying to pay attention as the Wanker droned on about corpses being found sucked dry of everything, not just blood. The Capteniel, some kind of bad-ass demon clan in town, slimy, poisonous tentacles: sounded nasty. The bone-deep ache of Orexis call was rapidly becoming unbearable and he knew he wouldn't be able to hold out much longer. But he hung on, hoping for something useful, anything. Of course none of the humans had noticed anything different about him.

The Capteniel were probably here to open the Hellmouth. They Must be Stopped, blah, blah, blah. Nothing here that Orexis didn't already know. He imagined their reaction if he told them who was in charge now.

"So what's the plan?" Buffy asked.

"Well, at this point, all I can do is try and find out how exactly they mean to open the Hellmouth and frustrate them."

"Research, I'm up for that," Willow said brightly.

"Count me in," Oz said. Willow glanced over at Xander who smiled at her, but didn't volunteer to join them. She frowned and looked away.

"Xander, I'd like to have a word with you," Giles said just as Xander was about to leave. Spike's ears pricked up at the sound of strain in his voice, this sounded interesting. He slid back deeper into the shadows as the Watcher drew Xander aside.

"Uh, sure. What's up?" Xander checked his watch, almost 9, he could be home in half an hour. Alice had bought Titanic on DVD, but wanted to watch it with him; he figured tonight was a good one to make the sacrifice.

"Oz told me something disturbing. About, er, your new, ah, friend." Spike's eyebrows rose, Xander had a 'friend'? How? Must be a pity fuck.

"Her name's Alice." Xander said tightly. Spike could smell the tension, he stubbed out his cigarette, this was getting interesting. "What about her?"

"He says she's ah, not human." Whoops, Spike thought, and leaned closer to the screen, wanting to see their expressions.

"Yeah. That's right."

"So you knew?" Disapproval and surprise sharpened Giles' voice.

"Yeah, I knew. We don't have any secrets. What did you think? 'Oh dear, poor Xander, demon bait-boy, we have to rescue him again?'" Definitely pissed off, Spike thought.

"Xander, I'm simply concerned, we're simply concerned that you may be in a situation that...""

"We? Who else did Willow tell?" Xander's voice rose.

"She was concerned for your welfare, when Oz told her. So she came to me."

"Yeah, well, don't bother. I'm fine. She's not evil, O.K.? I kinda know what to look for by now. And she at least as human as Oz is. Just cause she can change into a leopard, doesn't make her a bad person. At least she has a heartbeat."

Fuck me, Spike thought, the pain temporarily erased by surprise.

"How can you be sure? You don't think the timing is a little...suspicious, her showing up at the same time as the Capteniel?"

"I'm as sure about Alice as Willow is about Oz." Giles didn't remember ever seeing Xander's face looking this hard, so undeniably adult. "She ain't evil. And when the hell isn't there some kinda supernatural evil in town?"

"Xander, my only concern is that..."

"You know what Giles, I don't care about your concern. This isn't any of your, or anyone else's business. And I've got to go." And he went, brushing past an excessively innocent Spike without really noticing. Giles looked after him, shaking his head.

Spike grinned to himself, even as another blade of pain knifed through his guts. This ought to be worth something to her. Maybe enough to keep the skin on his back for another night.

"Gotta go too," he told Giles and followed Xander into the darkness.


"A new factor; a shapechanger. That is interesting," Orexis said. She tapped her chin prettily with one finger, thinking. She was wearing jeans and a pale blue smock tonight, it set off her eyes. Spike watched her warily. "You saw her before?"

"At the circus," he said shortly. "Didn't know what she was then."

"I don't suppose you saw her human shape?" Her eyes were distant, and she had a half smile on her face. Spike really didn't want to know.

"No, but she's bound to come around the group, now that Xander's doing her regular."

"True. Hmmm. There's a great deal of power in shapechangers." Her expression was distinctly hungry. Spike took an involuntary step back. "This will take careful handling, still, I'm grateful for the information. Do you have any other news?"

"Naw," he admitted uneasily. "The witch and the wolf are just hunky-dory. Watcher's the same as always, if a little at loose ends. Buffy's still all sad because the pouf's gone; though she seemed a bit cheered up tonight; maybe the field trip and all the handholding everyone does for her is working."

"Hmmm. Well things will be changing there soon." Spike waited in vain for an explanation, but instead, she changed tack. "You know, Spike dear, I was quite prepared to be angry with you for taking so long to answer." Spike felt cold fear sliding down his spine. "But I'm quite pleased with your work after all. I think you deserve a treat."

She had to struggle not to laugh at the look of disbelief and deep suspicion he gave her. 125 years old, and he was just so cute.

"A treat?" Not sure he'd heard her right.

"Come along." Fulfilling Spike's worst fears she led him down into the basement, to her 'playroom'. His home for long months of pain. Maybe he'd be lucky, this time, maybe she'd finish him quickly, he thought as she opened the door and waved him in before her.

Nothing had changed.

"I'd planned this for myself, but you deserve it for that little bit of news." she told him and gestured towards the table/chair. There was a body lying on it. Spike froze as the scent of unwashed human hit his nostrils. He looked at Orexis questioningly. She smiled, his reaction was everything she had anticipated. "Go on," she urged.

Spike went to the table, and looked down at the boy lying where he'd spent so much time. No need to chain him, he'd obviously been given something to knock him out, the gag and taping his wrists together was overkill. He reaches out for the boy, not truly believing in him until he actually touches warm skin; he smells of stale beer and not enough showers. Young, about 18, Spike guesses, more or less. Slightly thinner than his bone structure would have him be if he got enough to eat. He sighs in his sleep at Spike's touch, his heartbeat quickens making the smell of his blood rise, and Spike's his true face surfaces in reaction, his teeth growing sharp in anticipation. It had been so long since he'd had it fresh and hot from the source. He jerked the boy up by his t-shirt and rips open the collar revealing the defenseless throat, just begging him to sink his fangs into the defenseless throat... He leans down, and freezes, suddenly aware of Orexis watching him with that smirk on her face. Looks at the meal hanging limply from his hands and realizes that no matter how many drugs they'd given him, having one's throat torn out was liable to hurt. He frowns and lowers the boy carefully back onto the table. And thought.

"Something wrong dear?" Orexis said. Spike shook his head, grinned.

"Not a thing," he said and went to work.

Orexis leaned back against the wall, watching as Spike undressed the boy, as carefully as if he was the loser's very own crack whore mommy. Stripped him bare. The boy stirred a little as he was fully exposed to the air, but didn't wake. Spike hesitated a moment before steeling himself to climb up next to him, he pulled the human into his lap. His victim sagged against him, legs apart, uncomfortably warm against Spike. He didn't much like touching humans, but it was like eating lobster: you just had to get past the fact that you were eating a big aquatic bug and concentrate on the taste. He didn't normally fancy blokes, but Angelus wasn't nearly so particular, and when he tired of fucking Dru, Spike had found himself regularly appointed as the nearest tight hole. Right then, to work.

He reached down to the boy's crotch and took gentle hold of his cock. Awake, the boy probably would have complained about the chill of his hand, but on its own his penis wasn't inclined to be so picky. All it knew was that friction, expertly applied was a good thing; it sprang to life in Spike's hand, swelled. Very carefully, Spike put his face close to the runaway's throat, blew softly on the beating vein, then licked it. No problem. He put his mouth over the maddening pulse and suckled gently. The boy's cock jumped in his hand. Very slowly, he slid his fangs into the skin, through the thin wall of the vein, into the flow. He winced as he felt a razor slash in the side of his throat; it hurt, but it was nothing he couldn't stand when for the first time in months he had living human blood filling his mouth. He could taste the drugs in the blood, and feel their effects blurring his pain as he drank. He kept on sucking gently, while keeping up the motion of his hand, finding that the closer the boy came to orgasm, the harder he could suck without the pain becoming incapacitating, but it was still frustratingly slow. He was nowhere near full when he the boy gasped and came in Spike's hand. He grimaced and wiped the mess off on the boy's chest. The boy lay back against him, smiling in his sleep, he was pale and his breathing was a little labored, but he was still alive. Spike frowned, he doubted he'd gotten more than half of what was there. He glanced over at Orexis. She raised an eyebrow.

"Done? Already?" She sounded disappointed. Not nearly as disappointed as he was. Spike was still hungry, and damned if he'd leave his first decent feed in months half-finished. Had to think. Experimentally, he wet his finger and gently probed the boy's ass. Bingo. His invasion at the back caused a definite reaction in front. He never would have thought he'd be grateful for Angelus' painfully thorough lessons, but it just goes to show. He carefully disentangled himself and slid off the table.

"Need something to..." Orexis smiled and indicated the tray next to the chair. There was a small container of Crisco...along with a frying pan, various knives and other utensils, and a hot plate. It occurred to him as he picked up the can, that he was probably doing the kid a favor. Not that he gave a toss. He pulled the boy forward, until his ass was on the very edge of the table, took a big dollop of shortening onto his finger, and went to work.

Gently, gently, he thought circling the tight little rosebud with his finger, relaxing the muscle before slowly pushing his finger inside. The boy sighed and moved forward, greedy for more penetration. Spike carefully added another finger, stretching him, watching with clinical approval as the boy's cock began to rise again. He deliberately blocked his awareness of Orexis' avid gaze, the smell of her arousal. The tang of vinegar in the air... Spike unzipped his pants and pulled out his cock. He was barely half-hard, but he closed his eyes and concentrated on the thought of blood, sweet, warm blood, sliding down his throat, filling his belly...of his Princess, spreading herself for him, painting a trail of blood from her throat to her labia, wet and red and ready for him... He moaned and opened his eyes, he was fully erect, ready to do the job.

He spread the boy's legs made damn sure he'd slicked himself, and the boy's ass thoroughly before putting his cock against the boy's entrance and pushing carefully inside. It felt better than he expected, a little too tight, and warm instead of Dru's lovely slippery cool; but still, not bad. The body under him moaned in pleasure, and pushed back, his penis rubbing against his shirt. He should have taken off the shirt he realized. Ah well, he began to move, thrusting deeply but slowly, making sure the boy's body had time to adjust. The drugs he'd ingested were beginning to fade and he felt a familiar pressure in his own ass, but it faded quickly as the boy's body stopped feeling it as pain. Spike pulled him up, pressing him close and found the vein again, never breaking his rhythm as he slipped his fangs into him again. This time there was hardly any pain as the blood flowed into his mouth. Spike growled in satisfaction and hugged the boy tighter.

Orexis watched raptly as the boy jerked and came, spurting his last against Spikes belly a few seconds before he slipped into the total relaxation of death. Spike kept fucking him, continuing to feed until he was sure he'd drained every drop. Only then did he grunt, and let himself spend into the slowly cooling corpse. Orexis applauded as Spike pulled out. He grinned, feeling really good for the first time in a long time, replete.

"Nicely done," she said, "Really, quite a performance."

Spike felt fear wash away his complacency. He could tell that the little show had excited her. He forced himself to look at her, but she kept her human form. He hastily tucked himself away. He could feel her gaze on him, and panic started to fill his bones with icewater. He'd thought he was done with fear the night he died, and for a long time it had been true, but Orexis made him feel mortal.

He was terrified, Orexis thought. Lovely emotion, it made his white skin gleam with cold sweat, and the hard angles of his face, his body went beautifully rigid. She was tempted...but if she took him now, she might well break him. So, no. Not tonight. Besides, she had work to do.

"I'm glad you liked your present," she paused and made a decision. "Don't worry about the leftovers, I'll see to them. Goodnight." She left Spike there shivering with released tension in the cold white room.


Alone at last, Giles thought as he put out the light and climbed into bed, his last refuge from a life that had become entirely too complicated. Three years ago, he thought staring up at the familiar cracks in the ceiling, things had been so simple: he was the Watcher, the guardian and guide of the Chosen One, the Slayer. He'd spent most of his life training for the position and he'd known exactly what his duties were, exactly what was expected of him. He'd been fully prepared to die if necessary, helping her fight the powers of darkness. He hadn't been prepared for Buffy.

Buffy was not interested in the rules. She broke them blithely, and somehow he found himself dragged along, tolerating and then supporting her iconoclasm. Failing to maintain the necessary distance. Abandoning the basic principles governing Watcher/Slayer relations.. Refusing to let her be sacrificed to the medieval nonsense of the Cruciamentum. And got himself tossed out on his ass.

But while the Council no longer considers him a Watcher, he still carries the responsibility. To the Slayer, to her friends, his friends. Not to mention Sunnydale and the rest of the world, happily oblivious to the darkness waiting to devour it all.

Xander. Giles fumed silently. The horny little idiot, how the hell could he do something so stupid, so dangerous; especially considering his history...but still, that interview could certainly have gone better. It was so difficult to strike the right note. Because they weren't children, not legally and not in fact, not after all they'd seen, suffered, and achieved. But they still came to him, for his knowledge, his experience. Adult, but they still looked to him as their mentor, as a, well, father figure. (Their own father's being absent, or in Xander's case, actually abusive.) And they resented him for it sometimes, quite frequently in fact. And he wondered how he'll adjust when they finish growing up, and no longer need him. What will he do then?

He'll have to speak with Xander again, once he has more information on shapechangers, wereleopard, whatever she was. Get the matter resolved. And since he wasn't getting any sleep he might as well start researching now.


Orexis stepped into her parlor and began her preparations, opening the drapes to the night, pushing the furniture to the walls, rolling the carpet out of the way. She yawned, she was absolutely stuffed and very tired but there were things she needed to do before she could rest. The moon was down, and dawn was fast approaching, bringing with it the instability when night gave way to day, when chaos was easiest to loose into the world.

Orexis smiled as she brought out two of the twists of hair Spike had brought her: brown with a few gray hairs; light brown, long and curled, and two photographs, one stolen, the other secretly taken by her blond boy. Their blood would have been even better, but that was almost never possible, and it wasn't really necessary. She carefully laid the tokens in the center of the floor, then she dipped her athame in the little bowl of fresh bile and began to trace out the symbols on the polished wood, reviewing the conversation she'd had with Spike a little over a week ago.

"So, the Watcher had some sort of liaison with the Slayer's mother?"

"Yeah, they apparently did the horizontal tango courtesy of some spell and she hates his guts because of it." Spike sniggered. "She wouldn't give him the time of day if he and Buffy didn't have that whole surrogate parent/child thing going on." He'd glanced over at Orexis and seen an expression of deep satisfaction cross her face.

Spike really had been quite useful, Orexis thought as she set out the candles. She was glad she'd been able to reward him with a treat; and he had put on a pretty show. When she ruled the Hellmouth she would see that he was rewarded suitably. She stepped back from her work and looked at the sky, just beginning to lighten. It was time. She walked over to the shrouded birdcage and took out a small green parrot. She held it pinioned in one hand, docile and confused by the dark as she began the incantation.

"Sentirlo me pontenzi, dato che sono la regina dei cuori. Sono lei che conosce il più bene l' amore." She took a step counterclockwise, beginning her circuit of the pattern. "Sentirlo uomo, Signore Rupert Giles, io li legano così: Amare, essere il vostro maestro," she bent and lit the first candle. "Amore che sopraffa riempirà il vostro cuore; l' amore li consumerà, farà il vostro cuore battere troppo veloce, li congelerà e li brucerà," as the second candle flared to light she felt the power beginning to build. "Nessuna volontà che avete, nessun surcease di resto; se li gira, non farete attenzione a, se li ignora," the third candle, the sky was growing pale as the night died. "Voi non vi sentirete, fra le sue coscie siete la vostra soltanto pace!" As the final candle was lit the Hellmouth's power roared to life. Orexis luxuriated in the glorious sensation as it moved into her, through her, augmenting her own powers. She could feel the bird's heart hammering through the soft feathers.

"Dalla mia volontà e dal hell, lasciarla essere così!" She gripped the lovebird's head in one hand and its body in the other and tore it apart, splattering the blood over the photographs and pattern. A greenish fog appeared, and hovered over the lines for a moment, then dissipated as the first ray of sun crept over the horizon. Orexis smiled. That ought to do it. And it looked like being another beautiful morning.

END part 2

Next: Part 3, Is This Love That I Feel?



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