Connor tapped the neon-colored plastic Jesus with the tip of his finger and watched as the deformed head bobbed up and down to the motion of the car.
"Don't normally pick up hitchhikers, but you looked like you were freezing, poor boy." The woman took her eyes off the road and gave Connor a friendly smile. Her face was almost as garishly painted as the toy Jesus - blood red lips, and a cloud of emerald green on her eyelids - and her voice was low and husky.
"You off to see your family, then, are you?" She asked, rolling open the window to shake off the ash from the tip of her cigarette.
"Family," Connor repeated, and gave the Jesus another tap.
The woman dropped him off on the main street of a small town called Sunnydale. He had picked it randomly from the map, simply because the name reminded him of Sunshine.
He waited for the car disappear into the night and then headed down the street.
It was after dark, and the streets were mostly empty, but every now and then he could see small groups of people huddling together as they quickly made their way towards their destinations. They were humans, all of them, he could tell, but he could also sense demons nearby, their presence a beacon at the back of his mind.
He selected one group and followed them until he saw them enter a door underneath a hissing and flickering neon sign. Low rhythmic noise like the pounding of drums spilled into the streets from the open doors. His father used to tell him that demons roamed in places like these, in houses of flesh and filth where they preyed on the lost and the innocent, the sinners and the deviants.
A tall burly man tried to stop Connor as he entered, but he punched him, slipping inside as the man crumpled to the ground. He followed the vibrations of the music, making his way through the labyrinthine corridors until he found himself in the doorway of a cavernous hall.
The room was filled with people from wall to wall, a sea of flesh that undulated to the rhythm of the music as the men and women writhed in ecstasy.
It didn't take Connor long to spot the first vampire in the crowd, the lack of reflection on the overhead mirrors betraying the creature. It was sitting at one of the tables at the back of the room - a young man with white hair and black clothes, almost passing for a human as it talked to another man.
Connor watched them from across the room, his fingers wrapping around the stake in his jacket pocket. Suddenly the vampire turned turned around, its eyes searching the crowds until they locked with Connor's. Even over the music blaring, Connor could hear its voice as it hummed a few bars of a song that reminded Connor of the hymns his father used to sing to him.
"Is it now," the vampire said, tilting his head as he looked at Connor. The man he was with frowned, turning his head this way and that.
"Who are you talking to?"
The vampire smiled, a flash of white teeth that glowed brightly in the strange blue lights of the room, and then crooked its finger, gesturing for Connor to join them. He accepted the invitation and crossed the room, his eyes never leaving the vampire's.
When Connor reached the table, the other man looked from Connor to the vampire and back, his brow still knitted in confusion. "Do you want to introduce me to your friend?"
The vampire waved his hand dismissively.
"I'll get back to you..."
"Holden," the man said. "Holden Webster," he smiled nervously, holding his hand at the vampire, but the demon ignored him. Without a second look at his companion, the vampire stood up and walked away, inviting Connor to follow with the slightest nod of his head.
"Do you have a name?" Connor asked, asked as they slipped into an empty backroom.
"Spike," the vampire replied and closed the door after them.
"I know what you are," Connor said defiantly, but Spike just laughed and sauntered across the room until he was standing right in front of Connor.
"And I know what you want," Spike said, leering. "Can smell it on you."
He leaned closer still, bracing his arms on the wall behind Connor, trapping him.
There had been no blue in Quar'toth, just red and black and grey - fire and dust and ashes - and Spike's eyes were the deepest blue Connor had ever seen. Blue like the Pacific Ocean. Blue like family and coming home.
"Bite me," Connor said, the words tumbling clumsily off his tongue.
Spike laughed again, the sound as sharp as his teeth. "Is that an invitation, or are you giving me the brush-off?"
"Bite me," Connor repeated, his voice stronger this time, as he grabbed Spike's shirt and pulled the vampire closer. "Bite. Me."
"Isn't there something you should say," Spike whispered into his ear, closing the distance between them, his thigh pressing between Connor's legs. "My, grandmother, what big teeth you have."
The vampire's words touched a at the back of Connor's mind, something almost forgotten, a fragment of a memory that should have been too old to remember.
"I just think it's too violent for a child his age, Cordy. I mean, the wolf eats the grandmother."
"For crying out loud, Angel, it's just a story! His father is a souled vampire, he's going have enough issues as it is. He not gonna be traumatized by a freaking fairytale."
Connor could feel the caress of Spike's cold breath on his neck, needlesharp teeth grazing the surface of his skin.
"Are you afraid of the big bad wolf?"
"No," Connor whispered, and the teeth pressed into his skin.
Connor pushed his way back through the crowds, stumbling on unsteady feet as he tried to find his way back outside. When he finally slipped out the building, the street in front of it was empty but for a blonde woman maybe few years older than him. She grabbed his sleeve as he passed her.
"Hi, sorry, did you come from there?"
When he nodded absently, she gave him a nervous smile. "I'm looking for a friend of mine, I was wondering if you saw him?" She made a vague gesture with her hand. "He's about this tall, kinda looks like Billy Idol?"
Connor leaned to the wall, feeling light-headed. He rubbed his neck, trying to ease the pain that still burned across his throat, and then looked at his hand, staring at the blood and ashes mixed on his palm.
"I didn't see your friend," he muttered as he wiped his hands on his leg and pushed off the wall, leaving the woman standing in the doorway.