Spike ground the stub of his cigarette into the wall beside him, the ash leaving a dark smudge, like old blood, on the marble. Threads of pink and rose ran though the cold stone, and he marvelled at how they mimicked the veins of the human body. He traced a finger along a thin capillary. The need for blood, to rend, to kill, was primal and all this waiting around amongst the injured was stretching his thin patience.
He forced the feeling down, resisting the urge to feed and pushed himself off the pillar he’d been leaning against in frustration. Restlessness drove him, to move, to do something. His duster hung in useless tatters from his shoulders, flapping as he searched the ruined pockets for the crumpled cigarette packet.
Spike’s anger flared for an instant. He tore off the remains, taking a moment to gaze at it sorrowfully. 'Another coat down', he thought, what else had he lost?
A movement from inside the doorway turned his attention to the two figures that had just entered. What had Lorne said to Angel?
‘All caught up now?’
Spike looked to his grandsire for an explanation. What he saw in his face was something akin to concern, concern tinged with respect. Spike snapped his head back in surprise. Nothing made any sense. He pulled another cigarette out of the pack, lighting it as he stared at Lorne, who was peering anxiously at him over Buffy’s shoulder.
“Thought you’d quit,” Spike remarked,. “Thought you wanted me dusted,” he exhaled a lungful of smoke in Buffy’s direction. He moved across the lobby to the forlorn man on the stairs. “And I thought you were dead!”
Wesley raised weary eyes to meet Spike’s. “I . . . ,” he faltered, “. . . rather think I was.”
Spike lowered his gaze; unable to endure the pain and sorrow he’d glimpsed in addition to his own fierce sense of loss. A flare of ice blue from Illyria’s hand re-ignited his anger. With a snarl, Spike sprang towards her. “You! What did you do?”
Illyria didn’t flinch. Instead she raised an arm and drew the mark of the sigil from her sarcophagus in the air between them. “By the power of the Illuminata, admitte. By the soul of The Watcher Heimdall, admitte. By the power of all that was Illyria, God-King of the Primordium, admitte.” The diamond she held in her hand glowed, flashing fire of blues and golds and amber in a dancing, spinning spiral throughout the room, freezing the moment for everyone; for everyone except Spike.
The colours darkened, as they threaded their way through his nostrils, into his ears, filling his eyes with blackness.
‘A thousand shades of black
But the same rule always applies
Smile pretty, and watch your back.’
Lorne’s voice crooned somewhere in the distance.
“They’ll grant a favour for the right price.”
“ . . . something important to you.”
The diamond sparkled in space before him, banishing the darkness, replacing it with a purity of light that robbed him of all vision, engulfing him in a white glow that filled him with a sense of peace he’d never known before. He was standing, alone, in a room, or at least he supposed it was, he could feel no breath of wind nor hear any natural sounds. Spike stared, sightless, into the vast white space stretching before him towards infinity. “A thousand shades of white,” he thought.
“We like to maintain a balance,” a disembodied voice sussurated somewhere above him.
“Which is the reason we invited you here.” A second speaker, more masculine in tone, joined the first.
Spike searched for the source of the voices but could see nothing. Sheer, unfathomable cliffs of pure chalk stretched up as far as his eyes could discern. There was no ceiling that he could determine, no doors or windows.
“Yeah? How come?” he asked, feeling his way along the nearest wall, fingers probing for some indication of a way out but finding none. He felt remarkably unconcerned; all emotion seemed to have slipped away with the darkness.
“The Old One was never meant to leave the Deeper Well.”
“Thought it was part of her million-year plan.” Spike squinted into the profound light. It flowed from the origin of the voices like a river, its blue-white waves flickering, effulgent, as they glided onwards.
“The Keeper of the Well was chosen to thwart it.”
“The Wolf, Ram and Hart sought to make use of it for their own purpose.”
“And denied us one of our Warriors.”
“Fred.” Spike’s emotions crashed back with an intensity that threatened to crush him.
“Where is she?” he snarled.
“Where the one who is needed by Illyria had found her.”
“And so we will restore him to guide you.”
“So what now? You want my soul? This going to be a Warrior for a Warrior sort of deal?”
The first voice ignored Spike’s question. “Anyanka was correct. You should not have been allowed to do it. But we were curious to see what would happen, why such a creature as you would seek a soul.“
“And so we did not interfere.” The second voice added.
“Afraid to get your lily white’s dirty?” Spike sneered.
A wave of absolute coldness blasted him from his feet. So intense was its fiery ferocity, it burned where it touched him.
“Angels are terrible things, my Spike. Demons of the light they are, with steel tipped pinions.”
A sudden fear grabbed Spike as he recalled Drusilla’s words. “Like you could have stopped me!” he growled into the void above his head.
“Defiance. We know this. We understand this.” The feminine voice replied evenly.
“But the love that drives you. That we cannot comprehend. Nor would wish to.” The masculine one added.
“What do you want, you clapped out pair of stereo speakers? demanded Spike. “Need me to tweak your woofers to restore your balance?”
“You rightly fear us. Just as Illyria’s subjects once feared her.”
“What we seek as the price is more precious to you than even your soul.”
“It is the key to unlocking that which should not be opened but shall be.”
Something inside Spike fractured and flew into hundreds of pieces, each one tearing him in a different direction, allowing the turmoil that had been threatening since Buffy kissed him, to finally overwhelm him. And, as it did so, the light splintered, prisms erupting in multiple rainbows of colour; and time returned.
“Key – what key? I’m not a sodding key.” Spike was swept along on the floodtide of memories released by the word; lying bruised and bloodied in his crypt; Buffy turning to leave; “what you did, for Dawn and me, that was real. I won’t forget it”; standing on a bridge with Angel staring into a hole in the world. Spike reeled backwards and fell to his knees, clutching his head in both hands. “Too much. Too much!” he cried, thrashing against the stairwell in an attempt to drive the images from his brain.
Buffy’s strong hands gripped his, gently pulling them away from his face and replacing them with her own. She cupped his cheek and stroked it. “Spike, stop it,” she said gently. “What do you remember?”
Spike leaned into her hand, feeling its warmth, savouring the tenderness of the caress. He felt a soft beat pulsing against his skin, heard the sound of blood pumping through Buffy’s wrist. He licked his lips. God he was so hungry. Just a taste, that’s all he needed. It wouldn’t hurt.
He shook his head violently and tried to pull away. “I don’t hurt you.”
Buffy took his hands in hers again. “Spike, Look at me. I can help you.”
Spike wouldn’t meet her eyes. “I could never ask. Not after . . . I’m a bad man.”
“No! Spike, I’ll help get you through this,” she reassured him. She released his hands and got to her feet, gazing down at him in admiration. “I know what you did. Lorne told me everything.”
Buffy gestured to Angel. “. “I’m through with working blind. We need to get cleaned up, and bring everyone up to speed,” she said suddenly business-like again. “You!” she rounded on Illyria. “Why are you here? Aside from getting in my way, what is it you do?”
“I have chosen to observe.”
“’You observe? What kind of answer is that?”
“You have power. You would give your advantage away. Yet you choose to fight. I wish to understand this contradiction.”
“Understand this. I am not your experiment.”
“You are arrogant. My pet chooses well.”
“Your ‘pet’? Wesley?” Buffy laughed.
“My Wesley is my guide to humanity’s stinking chaos. I chose the white haired one to be my pet.”
“Spike is not yours to choose.”
“He has made his choice.”
Buffy bit back a rejoinder. Illyria was right. Spike had made his choice. It was up to the rest of them to make sure that it hadn’t been in vain. “Lorne,” she called down the stairwell. “Take Wesley where you can watch him and this . . . “ she waved a hand at Illyria, “new blue breed of Watcher.“ Buffy took Spike by the elbow and encouraged him to stand. “Need to find you something to eat,” she said softly.
Angel took Spike’s weight on his shoulder and together he and Buffy helped him down the staircase. “So, he said, “you going to let me in on your next move?”
“Please, Angel. Don’t start with the ‘it’s my town’ crap. This is too big. It’s gone global.”
Angel grimaced at her, shamefaced. “I wasn’t gonna . . .”
Buffy shrugged her acceptance of the unspoken apology “I think it’s time we joined forces and shared what we have. You have Willow to thank for anyone on your team coming out of that alley alive. You can do that by agreeing to listen to whatever she and Giles come up with when they get back from their planning meeting.”
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