Part 7

The Light at the End


November 27


He stares up at the crypt’s ceiling, at the invasive roots that have crawled through earth and cracked stones to hang pale and damp overhead; he counts the intervals between the falling drops of condensation. Not sure how long he's been here, whether the sun has risen or set since he crawled into his hole. It's not like it matters.

There is a subtle disturbance of the damp air. It takes a few seconds for him to find the energy to turn his head to see what it is. His mind goes still at the sight of her, standing casually there with that familiar half-smile on her face, as though she'd just come back from an evening's hunt.

"Dru?" His princess, with her skin as white as chalk, lips as red as ripe plums, hair as black as the abyss. He finds his feet, crosses the intervening space in a blur of need, and wraps his arms around her, burying his face in the crook of her neck and inhaling her dusty scent of death and sex.

"Baby, where've you been?" She lifts her arms and embraces him, steel hard body pressed against his, long nails pricking through shirt and skin. She lowers her mouth to his ear.

"Poor Spike," she says.

"Yeah, baby, I've missed you," Spike growls into her dry, cool, skin.

"I have to go now," she whispers.

"What?" His arms tighten around her as he straightens up to look into her face; her eyes are as innocent and empty as one of her dolls. She slips through his arms like water and stands just out of reach.

"And Angel sing you sweetly to your rest," she tells him in a singsong voice. "Bye, bye."

"What are you talking about baby? You just got here." He takes a step toward her, and she shrinks back.

"Goodbye, Spike," and there's sudden sanity in her eyes as she turns and runs toward the huge mirror hanging inexplicably where the door was before.

"Dru! No!" he shouts, lunging after her, but he's too slow. He watches helplessly as she throws herself at the blankly shining surface -- and melts into it as though it was water. Gone. He follows her, but when his fingertips touch the glass a burning chill races through his body and then the mirror explodes, slicing through him in an obliterating rain of glass and blood.

"Dru!" Spike moans as he opens his eyes and sees pastel, not damp stone and pale roots. He isn't in the crypt. He's in a bed. Her bed. Nervously he checks the window, but it's still dark, dawn about an hour away. He hangs his head as the ghosts of pain and loss fade from his mind. "Dru," he says sadly as the shape beside him turns, mumbling something in her sleep.

He turns his head reluctantly to look at Willow. She snores, a soft choking sound that grates on his nerves. Like the smell of patchouli, like the Indian fabrics draped over the windows, like the squeaky sound she makes when she comes, like every sodding thing about her. More than anything at this moment he'd like to tilt her head up, and sink his teeth into her soft white throat; gobble her down and toss her away, like the nasty little happy meal she is…

Fucking tragedy that if he tries it the pain will split his head open in a white flash, boil his brain inside his skull...

Spike shakes his head and gets dressed very quickly and quietly. He lets himself out of the room and hurries away through the predawn grey to the welcoming cemetery, till he's safe in his own dank crypt again. He goes over to an open sarcophagus and rummages around in the mess until he finds a bottle of Jim Beam. Takes it back to his chair and turns on the TV, keeping the sound low. Doesn't really feel like a confrontation with any of the local monsters right now. He takes the first swig and feels the warmth spread through his body. Ahhhh, mother’s milk. Almost as good as blood and his one true friend these days.


The roughhewn cross they've laid across his shoulders weighs him down, it scrapes his skin raw even through the sackcloth garment he's been given to die in. He loses track of how many times they flog him, beat him to his knees, and beat him back to his feet again on his long march to the fires.

He's praying, but he keeps it to himself. As an unconfessed heretic his soul is forfeit, the priests declare that he has no right to pray. Nevertheless he does pray.

He prays that his friends, his lover, are safely away.

He prays that the smoke will suffocate him before the flames reach him.

He prays that there is a God, and that vengeance will be His.

He no longer remembers exactly what crimes he was convicted of. He remembers his friends, at the very real risk of their own lives and freedom, fighting to free him. But it was hopeless, no one once caught up in the net of the Inquisition ever escaped.

He can smell the fires now, the smoke, and the smell of burning pork. Other heretics have already met their fate today, and after him he knows there will be others. He does not fight as they take him to the stake, tie him securely. Stares out through swollen eyes at the raucous crowd as the priests begin to pray, looking for the one face that might save him.

Buffy, he thinks. Where is she? She could rescue him, she'd cut through these unready guards like a hot knife through butter, carry him off…but he hasn't seen or heard from her since his arrest.

There. At the back, his heart races as he recognizes a familiar face half hidden in a dark hood. Buffy, looking up at him. He knew he could count on her he knew she wouldn't abandon him.

The priests are done cursing his soul to hell. The lead priest nods and a guard steps forward with the burning torch.

He waits for Buffy her to make her move…and she's not there. He searches the crowd desperately for her, where is she? Then he spots her again, face, body, pressed against a familiar hulking figure. Angel. She's kissing him pressing herself up against him, oblivious as the torch is thrust into the tinder at his feet.

"Buffy!" he screams. She never looks up, as the smoke rises with the flames and he feels flame against his skin…

No fire. No smoke. He's on Xander's couch, the sour taste of liquor in his mouth. He's still fully dressed; he must have fallen asleep again in front of the TV. Passed out again. The house is silent. Xander and Alice are upstairs and Joyce is asleep in the spare room they've been staying in for the past few days while they waited for the press to find another object of persecution. It seems to have worked, the furor has largely died down and they'll go back to his apartment tonight. Cool gray light is seeping around the edges of the blinds and the only sounds he can hear are the birds starting to greet the dawn. The dawn chorus as his mother used to call it. Right now every note scrapes at the inside of his hungover skull.

He thinks Joyce will come back with him tonight, but he wonders how much longer Joyce will be willing to put up with him. It isn't as though he's done much to make her want to. He's alternated between ranting and raving about the injustice of the accusation and falling into black despair, drinking himself to sleep. He knows she believes him when he says he doesn't even remember the girl who's making the accusations that have devastated his life. Mariella Evans. He doesn't recall ever meeting her, and neither do any of the Scoobies. He doesn't even know what she looks like. Nonetheless her story was convincing enough to convince the Grand Jury, his employer, the media, etc. that Rupert Giles, librarian was a diabolical pervert who had seduced a 14 year old girl and subjected her to months of abuse, including satanic rituals. Giles knows that the books and other paraphernalia they will have found at his apartment won't help his case.

It's an obvious setup, but by who? If the Council were moving against him they have more direct methods available. His other enemies, their enemies: the Master, the Mayor, Snyder, are safely dead. Spike lacks the connections and the brains to pull this kind of stunt off. Ethan Crane might do this kind of thing…but somehow, it doesn't feel like him.

So who is doing this to him, and why? Not knowing is one of the worst things about it. Because without a target what use are any of his weapons? He can't fight phantoms.


The smell of burning seeps through the open window, and it leaves the taste of ashes at the back of her throat. She coughs and Angel kisses her, his cool lips balm on hers. His eyes on her. His finger trails up her thigh, brush across the thin material of her panties. He smiles, perfect teeth, perfect face. Oh, she's missed this.

There's a sudden increase in the noise of the crowd. Under the roar she's suddenly sure someone's calling her name. She breaks free of him and goes to the window, but Angel blocks her, draws the blinds.

"Don’t look, it’s not your problem," he tells her.

They are back on the bed, absorbed in each other, exploring with hands and mouths territory too long estranged. All she can think about is him, his body sheltering hers, his lips and hands and eyes that love her…

"Buffy!" A despairing shout, and this time she knows it’s Giles. She runs to the window – but it’s gone, bricked up. She scrabbles uselessly at the barrier as Giles begins to scream, a hoarse, horrible sound.

She turns to Angel for help, but when she does he’s fucking another woman, brown legs wrapped tight around his waist. Buffy screams and Angel lifts his face, blood dripping from his mouth "You just don’t learn, do you?" He sneers.

Buffy wakes with tears on her face, and just cries for awhile. There's no one else in the house to hear. She knows it’s wrong, selfish to feel this way, but Mom's gone with Giles, hiding out at Xander's new place. Willow is off somewhere too, she hasn't heard from her since the story broke. Xander has Alice. They've abandoned her.

Like Angel. Goddamn him. Sometimes she wishes he'd never come back from hell.

The light turns from gray to pale yellow as day gains a foothold and she runs out of tears. There are birds singing outside, she hates them too.

The only one who seems to have time to talk to her is Sylvia. God, if anyone had ever told her she’d look forward to student conferences…but Sylvia always has time for her. She’s invited her for dinner tonight, and the thought is about the only thing keeping her going.


Chilly hands holding her down. Sculptured face cold and remorseless as he arranges her for his convenience, then starts to shove himself inside her and he’s too damned big, it hurts. She fights, tries to wriggle away and he jerks hard on the iron chain around her throat to bring her under control. Starved for air she stops fighting for a moment; he smirks and resumes his invasion. Sheer rage blinding her to consequences and her vision goes flat and gray as the iron sears her throat but she has claws and slashes up at him…

Xander is tumbled from his dreams by a sudden flare of heat on his bare skin.

"Baby?" he says and opens his eyes to find the leopard crouched over him, her colors faded in the gray light of early morning. Her heavy paws planted on his chest, hind legs straddling him, furry belly pressed against his crotch. Her ears are flat, and he can see panic in her golden eyes as her soft growls vibrate through them both. Little Xander, the pervert, kinda likes it. Xander thinks about Giles and Joyce, only a thin wall away.

"Alice," he says. Realizing that this is the first time he’s seen the leopard since the fight with the tentacle guys. He feels sweat start to pool in his armpits as he notices just how long and sharp her teeth are, and how close. *She loves me, she'd never hurt me* he thinks, not moving.

She closes her eyes, takes a deep and very human breath. Opens them again and now he can see Alice in her eyes again. She jumps to the floor, and again there's that sudden soundless flash of heat and the twist in his vision, like reality blinking…and she’s human again. "What's wrong?" He asks, lifts the blanket in invitation. She dives back into bed, wraps herself around him, needy. He feels her heart hammering against his chest, strokes her back soothingly, holds her close.

"What’s wrong?" he asks again, after a minute. She sighs.

"Nothin. Bad dream," she says.

"About what?" he asks, not willing to let it go that easily.

"Angel," she says, wrinkling her nose. Well, he can understand that. Deadboy has featured in quite a few of his nightmares over the years. Less, now that he's in L.A., but he still makes the occasional cameo appearance.

"You don't have to worry about him baby, as long as I'm here," he tells her. Meaning it.

"I know," she says softly.

"And anyway, he's a long way from here."



The girl had been pretty, and painfully young, only 19 according to her driver's license. She's not pretty anymore. She's been beaten badly, (the external exam revealed a broken nose, two black eyes, broken teeth, dislocated jaw, cracked ribs, extensive bruising) before, during, or after being brutally raped (hairline fracture of the pelvis, massive external and internal insult to the genital area). She's also been bitten. A few of the teethmarks look human, but mostly not. There’s hardly any blood left in the body. And no sign at the scene of where it's gone. It's not the first time he's seen this, and he's not going to do any speculating this time either. Just the facts ma'am. The coroner sighs and picks up his saw. He uses the foot switch to turn on the recorder again and resumes dictating his report.

"May 25, 2001, 20:15 hours, continuing with the autopsy of subject Cordelia Chase…"

Wesley wakes, deeply indebted to the alarm that has woken him. It's 7:30. California sunlight pouring through the window. Maybe too early to call Cordelia…but he needs to hear her voice.

The phone rings six times before she answers. Her voice is thick with sleep, and she makes it absolutely clear that yes, it is too early to call.

"Sorry, I just wondered if you've heard from Angel," which is close enough to the truth. Tiny silence before she answers.

"Wasn't he with you?"

"We became…separated." He hurries to explain. "We were in the sewers, the snake-demon disappeared underwater … er, Angel told me he'd take care of it."

"And when he didn't come back?" Wesley winces. Cordelia's tone strikes straight at his guilt.

"I had no way of following him…" he argues defensively. Silence. "Most likely he's just forgotten how to use the cellphone again. Or it may have been damaged. I'm sure he's home by now." Fighting down the treacherous thought that maybe it would be better if he weren't. An easy out for all of them… but he doubts it. Things are never that easy, not for him.


She lets Wesley off the phone with only a token dose of guilt-o-rama. Knows it probably wasn't really his fault. Lies there, worrying, wishing the damned birds would just shut-up so she can think. She hears the coffee maker go on in the kitchen; Dennis being helpful. She really isn't worried that Angel isn't coming back. Not really worried. It's just that this going off to fight the monsters alone and not coming back and not calling thing is a new thing, another new thing. And in the past few weeks there's been lots of new but not much good.

This week's new thing is Angel guzzling blood and skulking downstairs except when it's hunt-down-and-kill-something time. All of them doing a careful dance so she and Angel are never alone with each other, with Wesley nervously chaperoning, and twitching every time Angel moves faster than…well, than very slowly. She gets the feeling he’s on the edge of calling in the Watchers. Or maybe he already has and they told him to fuck off. Not sure how she feels about that, either way. On the one hand: psycho special Ops guys with the very real possibility of her becoming collateral damage; on the other hand, as much as she cares about…oh, the hell with it, as much as she loves Angel, she doesn’t want to die for him, or with him, and she especially doesn’t want to be tortured and eaten by Mr. Leather-Pants Psychoboy. Being impaled on rebar is as far as she's willing to go in the All-For-Love stakes.

But they need someone's help, and they need it soon. Before everything blows. Only problem, they're flat out of someone's to call. The Oracles have disappeared. Giles is deep in his own problems. She kinda doubts Angel's problem can be helped by having a sword stuck through him, so that lets Buffy out. Willow might be able to help, but she's not answering her phone or email.

Which means they're on their own, again, and she's not seeing a happy ending anywhere.


Angel lets the snake’s head drop to join the rest of the carcass scattered among the pelleted remains of its victims. He belches indelicately, wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and smears the blood across his cheek. He feels bloated. The demon's blood had been sour and tasted of sulfur, but at least it had been fresh, not refrigerated.

Desolately, he thinks that if Cordelia could only see him now, it would cure her of wanting him.

If Buffy could see him now, she’d probably stake him.

He sighs, looking around at his surroundings. It's an old movie palace, closed for years, marquee stripped away, seats scavenged or used for fuel by squatters, which had left a nice open space in front of the stage for the demon-snake to nest in. His eyes caught by something glittering in the midden underfoot, he bends down and picks up a Rolex. The metal is slightly pitted by its trip through the demon’s digestive system but the minute hand is still sweeping smoothly around the dial. Somehow though, he doesn’t think they’ll be using the claim in their ads. He slips it onto his wrist and checks the time.

It's 9 a.m., which confirms what he already knows: it’s well past dawn. He could go back the way he came, through the sewers, find his way back to the office. But his belly is stretched tight, his body is busy healing the damage he took in the fight, and all he wants to do is sleep.

Wearily he closes his eyes and is suddenly overwhelmed by the sense memory of Cordelia pulling open his shirt, rote complaints falling from her lips like blessings as she dabs antiseptic, bandages and stitches, her hands warm on his cold skin… He shakes it off with an effort. Yeah, better to stay here and rest; run over his options.

He finds a secure place backstage and makes himself a bed on a heap of tattered curtains. He folds his coat under his head for a pillow, lies down and stares into the dusty dark. This is familiar. Curled up like a stray cat in a dark corner; his past and maybe a premonition of his future. He's running out of rope. Can't be around humans for more than a few minutes. Especially Cordelia.

Options. He smiles mirthlessly into the dusty dark. Oh, yeah, let's review shall we?

Let's see, he could always walk outside, get that final tan.

Or maybe ask old Wes to help him out. Wesley, who was extremely jumpy these days, and not without cause. One hand always near his pocket and Angel speculates on whether it's a crucifix or holy water he's got in there. Not that either would save either of them in the event. Yeah, Wes would do it for him, and it's a choice that looks better by the moment. If he could only be sure of oblivion, of his complete obliteration, he’d do it, end it. There's just one small thing.

He's already been to Hell, and he's not going back.

Or he could simply leave, L.A., California, the U.S. Take himself far, far, away from the people who matter to him. Go somewhere his victims will be unfamiliar, to somewhere the Slayer isn’t. He could, maybe, try and limit his feeding to the thugs and when they ran out, the unlikely-to-be-missed.

Or he could just give in, surrender. Be the monster he was, is and will always be. Take Cordelia and make her dreams and nightmares flesh. End poor Wesley’s dilemma once and for all. Maybe go back to Sunnydale, look up old friends, settle old scores…

But that way lies the road to a different kind of Hell. He won't do that either.

Tick, tick, tick. What's he gonna do? He watches the dust dancing in the faint light that has seeped into the building through cracks and broken windows and tries to think of a solution.


Xander comes into the house and quietly closes the door after him. He sees Alice through the sliding doors, working in the garden; she looks content, and he decides not to disturb her. He knows it has been pretty hard on her having Giles and Joyce stay with them. She and Giles don't get along at the best of times, and what with Giles doing the angry drunk thing... It's a good thing they're gone.

He tiptoes upstairs to the bathroom and shuts the door. Gingerly removes his shirt and takes a good look at the damage. Long ugly scrape along his arm, courtesy of a broken 2 ´ 4 he hadn't seen coming. It definitely stings, but as far as he can tell he hasn't done himself any major damage. The foreman had tried to get him to go to emergency, but Xander had refused, mostly because he fucking hated going anywhere near the hospital. Also he's seen so much worse fighting the powers of darkness he was kinda embarrassed that he'd even left the job early. This was nothing, he tells himself… ouch!, as the water hits it. And ouch! again as he applies some antibiotic, tries and gives up on covering it with gauze. Leaves off the shirt.

Besides, he's noticed his dings and scrapes heal up real quick these days.

He steps out of the bathroom, and jumps a good six inches. Alice looks up at him quizzically. She frowns at his arm.

"You're hurt," not a question.

"Just a little accident," trying to turn so she can't see his arm. Doesn't work, strong little fingers grab his wrist. She looks at his arm, frown deepening. Her face intent, then, big smile.

"I can fix this," she tells him.

"Huh? How?" She just smiles.

"Just let me do everything," she purrs slipping her fingers inside the waistband of his jeans and tugging lightly. And oh yeah, he's good with that.

Happily allows himself to be led into the bedroom where he sprawls on the bed, lies there passively as she carefully removes his jeans and boxers. The bright afternoon sun shining through the sycamore by the window patterns the walls with the shivering shadows of dying leaves. Once he's naked she stands and strips with her usual ruthless casualness, climbs onto the bed, and crouches over him. Xander has an uncomfortable flashback to that morning's scare for a moment before she bends down to kiss him with her softly human mouth.

He melts slowly into a hypersensitized puddle as she licks him all over, from his face, down his neck to his, shoulders, his chest; using neat precise laps that feel like she's writing something on his skin in wet and warm. She does both arms, carefully removes his rough attempt at bandaging himself, but doesn't touch the actual wound. Does his hands, front and back, then switches back to his chest and belly. He's hard and aching by the time she reaches his crotch and takes him into her mouth.

And God, this is always good, his second favorite place to be in the whole world. He arches up, helplessly, tries to warn her that he's not going to be able to hold on if she doesn't stop, but his words don't make sense even to him. Luckily she understands. Takes her mouth away and oh God he's changed his mind, please come back… Loses his ability to think when she straddles him, wet and warm, closing on him like an oiled fist and grins down at him.

"Just let me drive," she purrs. And begins to rock, slow at first, then faster and faster and faster, and he's sure he can't last, sure it'll be over too soon as the weight of sensation builds and build till his cock feels like it weighs tons; till each drop of her sweat dripping on him burns like sweet acid. Till finally she screams, convulses and he comes with her in wonder and blessed relief.

When Xander wakes it’s dark. The smell of cooking in the air tells him that Alice is downstairs making dinner. He goes into the bathroom, takes care of business, catches a glimpse of his face in the mirror and wonders who that very happy guy is. He's washing his hands when he realizes his arm doesn't hurt. He looks at it… and there's nothing. No sign he'd ever been hurt.

The guy in the mirror isn't quite so happy, maybe a little nervous. Thinking that possibly he should have taken the goddess stuff a little more seriously.


Someone's knocking at the door. Angel lifts his head, tries to focus.

Cordelia is growing stiff. He moves her cold body aside, sits up, wiping his mouth. Struggling to feel something, but there's nothing left.

Still knocking. He walks toward the door, irritated. Wesley, bound and bent over the table, seems to be looking at him, but that's an illusion. No heartbeat and no breath and the blood is long dried.

He’s almost there when the door opens, and Lucy comes in. She’s dressed to the nines, in the neat summer dress and chic Parisian hat she'd been wearing that last morning when she'd kissed him goodbye, and never come back. No mistake this time: it's her, familiar heartbeat pushing the smell of her at him. She looks around and grimaces, clearly not impressed by her surroundings. Smiles at him.

"Hey, baby," she says as though she’s been gone for a few hours instead of 70-odd years. Anger flushes hot through his cold heart.

"Long time, no see," he says, hands clenched. "What happened?"

"Things to do, got hung up. Sorry baby," she says with a blithe smile.

"You bitch! You were supposed to save me!" He’s standing over her now, face twisting toward truth, wanting badly to hurt her as badly as she’d hurt him.

She regards him coldly, smile gone but there's no fear on her face, only something like disgust. "You're a goddamned fool Angel," she snaps.


"Done forgot what little you did know," she snapped.

Quick flare of rage as he lunges for her and he almost has his hands on her when she fades away like mist.

He wakes to find the dusty ruin of backstage exactly as before: corpse-free, himself excepted, and the only footprints in the dust are his own. He knows without checking his new watch that the sun has gone down. Can feel the safety of darkness overhead and the familiar hollowness in his belly.

He finds his way to a back door and lets himself out into an alley half-filled with trash. He turns a corner and emerges abruptly into a crowded street, suddenly surrounded by people. Overwhelmingly brown and yellow people and mostly they're noticeably shorter than he is. He feels like a tall tree on the prairie. Trying to find a safe harbor out of the flow, he backs up against a shuttered storefront, and tries to regain some equilibrium. So many people, Asian, Mexican, black, white, and they all smell delicious.

Uncomfortably reminded of how Angelus would occasionally decide he wanted a change from his staple diet of Anglo-Saxons. Remembers night expeditions down to Limehouse for Chinese, St. Giles for a Blackbird, the docks for a Lazar or an Indian. His mouth watering as he recalls savoring the slight differences in the taste of the blood caused by diet and heredity.

And he's so hungry. Shaking with the need and the air seems thick with human warmth, with the subtle hints of blood, blood, blood…

He realizes that he's being looked at, that passerbies are skirting him and the storefront with expressions ranging between vague anxiety and terror. When he steps away from the storefront people draw back and give him plenty of room.

"Hey, you want to tone it down?" Someone says. Without warning Angel is grabbed and jerked into an alley. Snarling, he tears himself free and rounds on his attacker, finding himself face to face with another vampire. Who promptly sheds his gameface and backs away, hands raised in appeasement.

"Sorry, no offense man? But you're about to cause a stampede?" Angel suddenly realizes he's in gameface himself, that he's slipped into it unconsciously, again. He shakes it off. The other vampire's features are Asian, but next to Angel he's the tallest person in sight, and his voice and attitude mark him as a 100% Undead American.

His new friend gives him a big grin "New in town? I'm Jason? Come on, I'll show you how it's done." He turns and heads deeper into the dim alleyway.

Angel follows, unsure of his motives, but with the hunger buzzing in his brain, it's easier, safer to follow this Jason away from the crowds. He's a friendly kind of monster this Jason. Talks nonstop as they travel through alleyways and then move up onto the roofs. Angel, fingering his wrist sheaths, wishes he would stop talking for a minute. It's easier for him to dust them when they don't talk? And also?, he finds Jason's habit of intoning most statements as questions? Really annoying.

His guide suddenly goes silent and motions Angel to be still as he peers over the edge of the roof they're on. Below them, standing around a flight of steps that lead down to a lighted basement, is a small group of women smoking and gossiping softly in Mandarin. Factory workers, from the look of them; they smell of sweat and cotton lint. Angel glances over at Jason, and sees that he's lost his human face in his focus on prey. He isn't paying any attention to Angel, now would be a good time to end this… Instead he watches with him as one by one the women extinguish their cigarettes in a coffee can and go back inside, leaving just one puffing hurriedly, trying to finish her smoke.

Jason drops from the roof like a spider, grabs the woman and is gone up the fire escape opposite with her while her cigarette is still rolling to a stop. Angel has to leap the gap between the buildings and put out some real effort to keep up with him. Pain from his half-healed wounds and strained ligaments lets him know what a bad idea this is as he chases after the other vampire.

Jason leads Angel to a burnt out building a few blocks away from the factory. He dumps the dazed woman carelessly onto the scorched floor. She stares up at the two of them. Not young, there are lines of fatigue spreading from eyes and mouth and nothing like hope in her eyes. Jason ignores her, looking at Angel, and preening.

"Cool, huh? Like shooting fish in a barrel." Angel nods.

"Nice technique."

"Thanks man. And, since you’re my guest? You can have first feed. You look like you need it, and there's enough here for both of us, yeah?"

"Thanks," Angel says, and stakes him. Perfect shot, straight to the heart. When Jason dissolves into dust the woman opens her mouth to scream and Angel automatically moves to stop her. Hand over her mouth to keep her from drawing attention that's all he means to do, nothing more.

But as soon as he touches her, he knows he's made a mistake. Her skin is so warm, it burns his hands. She trembles, and he wishes she'd stop that, it makes it hard for him to concentrate. He knows he should let her go now, but his hands won't relax their grip. The shock he'd seen earlier in her tired eyes has been replaced by resignation; this is not a woman who's seen much good luck in her life, come to the land of opportunity only to slave away in a sweatshop. He can spare her that. He can make it quick, and painless. And in return she can end the buzzing in his brain. She doesn't struggle as he pulls her closer. Not beautiful, by anyone's standards, but she's soft, and warm.

"Run," he whispers, shoving her towards the door, and whether or not she understood the English, she clearly got the general idea. Angel stands in Jason's remains listening to her scrambling, clumsy flight through the building, resisting the urge to go after her, praying for the hunger to go.


Orexis checks on the roast, it's coming along fine. Another hour and it will be perfect. The salad's made, the potatoes and vegetables are already done. The rolls are ready to go into the oven, homemade ice cream in the freezer. The table's set, flowers arranged. Everything's ready. Nothing too fancy, she doesn't want to intimidate the girl after all, needs her relaxed, comfortable.

Before going in for her bath she stops by her cabinet and pulls out the drawer containing the fetish of Angel to check on the progress of her curse. She's pleased to see that the tiny face is the only part of the doll not submerged in the stinking black fluid. He's lasted longer than she ever expected, but not for much longer. As she shuts it away again, she wonders idly how many he'll kill when his control finally snaps. She hopes he doesn't come back to Sunnydale, at least before the Solstice, which would be awkward. But que sera, sera; if he does, she'll deal with it.

She decides to check on her other current project, as long as she's there. Smiles at the sight of the Mariella Evan's poppet lying blindfolded, bound tightly in a web of spidersilk and nettles, green poison slowly oozing from the tiny mouth. Excellent, she thinks as she shuts the drawer and locks everything safely away.

She takes particular care with her toilet for that evening. She wants everything perfect. Tonight is critical. She looks at herself in the mirror, her eyes sparkle, her hair is looking particularly fine this evening. Sighs, she’s growing tired of this face. She can't wait to assume her true form. To feel open air on her carapace. To be free. She shuts her eyes for a moment, and summons a favorite fantasy:

The sky is orange with flame, the drifting ash makes the air wonderfully tactile as she breathes in the delicious smell of roasting flesh. Below her the former citizens of Sunnydale bow down and chant her name. She feels the power of the Hellmouth surging through her body as she rises on her hind legs and stretches to her full height, wanting them to appreciate the full beauty of their Queen. Her tail aches and throbs, eager to bestow its blessing on her deserving worshippers…

She's brought back to the mundane here and now by the doorbell. Then smiles, as she senses who it is. She hurries to the door, pulls it open with a smile. Orexis can barely suppress the shudder of delight when the girl looks up at her, as if uncertain of her welcome. So needy, so alone.

"Buffy, dear, come in." She's going to enjoy having her own Slayer.


A feather-light touch on her forehead wakes Cordelia. She opens her eyes to find Angel looking down at her, and her heart, so fucking clichéd but true, dammit, takes a little hop-skip-and-a-jump though it's not entirely from love. He's looking more than usually pale and unliving at the moment.

"Where the hell have you been?" she says, anxiety spilling into anger. "Did you forget about that newfangled invention, the telephone?" she snaps focusing on her annoyance to avoid focusing on other things. He blinks, less expression on his face than usual.

"Sorry. Lost track of time. The demon’s dead. I better go wash up."

Thank you Masked Man, she thinks. "Good idea," she says. His clothes look like he fed them through a shredder and then used them to mop up at a butcher's shop. She can smell fresh blood, so he’s been in the kitchen already. As though he can hear her thoughts, his tongue flicks out to clean the corner of his mouth.

Cordelia realizes that this is the first time they've been alone for at least a week. Wesley doesn't know she's here, or he'd have thought of some lame excuse to keep her company. And now Angel's staring at her like he's waiting for something else. When she doesn't say anything else he shrugs and she can't help noticing the wince. Or the limp and stiffness as he heads for the stairs. "Are you OK?" she asks, hand reaching for him without thinking. He flinches away. Oh.

"I'll heal," he says. So much for Nurse Cordy and the hunky patient…, which is just as well, she thinks, shrugging. "Why don't you go home?" he adds.

"Yeah, good idea." She busies herself collecting her stuff from the desk, aware of him watching her, the goddamned big lump of brood, why the hell doesn't he go downstairs? She has keys; she can lock up just fine on her own. In grim silence she switches off the lamp, and heads for the door, ignoring him.

He speaks just as she reaches the door. "Cordelia?"

"Yeah," she turns, to find him not on the other side of the room, but right there, stinky and huge, glooming down at her and she's about to tell him that she's too tired for this shit, when he leans down and kisses her. Mouth open, leaning into it and there's no possible chance of mistaking this kiss for anything but what it is and her dreams aren’t up to snuff, no comparison, his tongue…she could spend a week just tasting it. His lips are so cold, they numb hers when they kiss. It feels like they're fusing, mouth to mouth, tongue to tongue, and she's never known a kiss could be like this.

She staggers when he lets her go, he withdraws into the shadows as she stares at him in shock.

"I just wanted you to know," he says, and then he's gone, leaving her heart hammering in her chest with fear and wanting.

"Oh, shit," she says.


Spike slams open the door to the lab and heads down the staircase. There's something wrong with the fucking stairs, they keep moving unexpectedly, and he nearly falls a couple of times, has to hold on to the railing to reach the bottom in one piece. Safe at the foot of the stairs he blinks hazily at the gleaming white and chrome, wondering what the fuck, was wrong with him…oh yeah, could be it’s because he’s pissed as a newt, completely legless. He's been hitting the bottle a little harder than usual lately. Maybe him and Giles could be AA pals.

Came here to give Fearless Leader the news, but she's not in though the doors are all wide open. Good joke that, come into my parlor… He'd been at a loss then, what to do, what to do… Definitely didn't want to go back to the crypt in case Red came looking for him. Can't hunt. No money for blood. Then he remembered there is someone home.

He stands up and makes his way to Oz’s cage. The boy doesn’t say anything when Spike fetches up against the cage, not even when he tosses the crumpled bit of pastel cotton in through the bars to land in front of his face.

"Just a little souvenir," he sneers. Nothing, but he'd seen the boy's nostrils twitch, knows he caught the scent.

"Not much of a challenge, got to admit. She tracks me down Last night right around sunset. Comes in, all weepy with a newspaper clutched to her tiny bosom. And it’s "Oh Spike! It’s so awful!"

"Seems like she’d been out of town, and just heard about Giles little problem with the DA. Nice headline that: " Instructor Accused of Improper Relations with Sunnydale Students ". Classic. An’ poor thing, she couldn’t find any of her pals. Seems like they've all gone to ground and, whoops, forgot to leave her a forwarding address. Tsk, tsk."

Still nothing, Oz lies there on his side, bruised and battered, eyes closed. Spike wonders if maybe he's finally checked out. No bloody surprise if he has. Amazes him that he's lasted this long.

"So I’m all sympathetic, while she starts cryin’ on my shoulder moaning on about how everything is going wrong, what with you leavin' her and Angel leavin' Buffy and blah-bloody-blah. So, finally, to shut her up I offer to walk her home and it's a bit cold like, so like a gentleman I loan her my jacket. She looks up at me gratefully, all dewy-eyed…she snuggles closer…" leers, but it's strictly for his own benefit cause the wolf's still not opening his eyes.

"The rest was a bit y’know, anticlimactic. I had to do most of the work. Not really what you’d call experienced is she? And what’s with that fucking noise she makes when she comes? Sounds like Minnie Mouse. " And still nothing. "But hey, no accounting for taste is there?"

He takes another drink, a nice long one, eyes closed. Opens his eyes to find Oz's eyes are open, watching Spike. Pale, pale eyes brimming with hate. Spike knows he's heard every word. Grins. Waits for the explosion.

Oz closes his eyes. If he had anything left then Spike's words, the scent of Willow on the vampire's skin, would hurt, but there's not enough left of him to care. He’s lost it all, his love, his freedom, his pride; he's begged and crawled under Orexis' tender ministrations, fed her blood and tears and cum, and all he wants now is for it to end. He can feel the moon swelling and he welcomes it and the transformation that will end it. Glad, in a distant way that in a few more days it will all be over. Because once Orexis has this one last thing, the wolf, the monster that lives inside him, it will be over.

He wishes he could kill her, but he knows it won’t happen. Not even the wolf is that strong.

"Kill her? Yeah mate, dream on," Spike tells him softly, taking another drink. Oz's eyes widen a fraction, he hadn’t realized he’d said it out loud. He clenches his body into a tighter roll.

Disappointed, Spike realizes that there's not going to be a show, and drains the last of the bottle, drops it carelessly on the floor. He pulls out another and twists off the top.

"Join me?" he asks, sliding down to sit on the floor leaning against the bars.


Red Rock Cemetery had been swallowed whole by Ever-Rest Gardens years ago, but Angel has no trouble finding the place. The gate is locked but unguarded. Angel peers in at the caretaker, sitting with a beer in front of his TV. Eyes fixed on the flickering screen, oblivious to the night in back of him. If he heard the chain snap he's clearly not interested in investigating.

As he walks through the graveyard Angel senses that he's completely alone here. No other vampires, just the peaceful dead. No temptation, no conflict. Just him, the night, and the lingering taste of Cordelia on his lips.

The tree is taller now, the stones a bit more weathered, but the box is still there, buried under the marker for Jane Merriwether 1874 - 1945, Beloved Wife and Mother. The iron exterior is corroded and the lock is rusted shut but when he breaks it open the contents inside seem to have survived the 50-some years since he put them there with little damage. The ‘recipe’ inside its cellophane envelope is a little yellowed but still perfectly legible and the non-organic ingredients look just fine. He’ll need to replace some of the herbs, and a few other things. He wonders if the shop on Hollywood Blvd. is still in business.

END part 7

Next: Part 8, Desperate Acts




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