Shouting roused Willow with a start. In the distance, people ran toward her where she’d fallen asleep under Tara’s tree. But the tree was on fire, the ground beneath her charred. It wasn’t a dream.
I was falling. I was falling.
Willow ran from the fiery spot, clutching her heart as if begging it not to betray her. She needed fresh air and distance. Between her running and wracking sobs, a cough caught in her throat. Overwhelmed with emotion, she knew she couldn’t make it home safely in her current condition. Hell, she could barely see through the tears. She needed a place to hide while she calmed down.
Nearby, sat a simple, quiet, non-denominational chapel. Willow dashed inside and found a couple pawing at each other in the back pew.
“I need to speak with God!” she cried, working her agony to her advantage.
They dashed out, tripping over one another as they competed for the door.
Exhausted, she crawled onto one of the pews, prayers pouring out of her. Hecate, protect me. Hecate, protect me. Hecate, protect me.
By the time the Impala squealed into Buffy’s driveway, the vampires were long gone. The house was dark, the windows shattered. Sam and Dean bolted through the door and found the inside of the house in equal shambles. Dawn, bloodied and sniffling, sat surrounded by herbs, spellbooks, and salt.
The girl was nearly catatonic. While they were in the middle of cleaning her cuts, she muttered, “Buffy’s dead.”
Heart pounding, Dean left Sam to sort out the mom’s ghost details. It couldn’t be true. It couldn’t. Spirits lied all the time. But Dean had to find Buffy before his heart would calm down.
It had taken Dean the better part of two hours to search two of Sunnydale’s graveyards, and still no sign of Buffy. They knew their lives were short, the end brutal, but he didn’t want tonight to be that inevitable night. His heart thumped wildly as he crept into crypts and bent down under bushes, hoping to find nothing, but fearing her drained body. Or worse.
No, Buffy was strong, a warrior by birthright. His Supergirly. A simple vampire couldn’t bring her down, but the thought nagged at him that whatever had come for Dawn hadn’t been a simple vampire either. Whatever it was, Dean had seen over and over that it only took one bad night, one distraction, one second delay for a monster to get the upper hand.
He’d lost Jo because of inches.
Not tonight. Please, not tonight.
Though the purple rings under Dawn’s eyes betrayed her tiredness, she refused to go to bed, preferring to sit on the stairs choking a container of salt. After Dean bolted from the house in search of Buffy, Dawn shared little else about her mother’s ghost.
Sam swept up what he hoped was all of the shards of glass, metal and plastic on the floor. The bloody footprints would require scrubbing.
Suddenly, Willow, looking disheveled and scared, burst through the front door. She and Dawn stared at each other a split second before falling into a sobbing embrace.
“I saw Mom!”
“No, honey. It wasn’t your mom.”
“That’s what Dean said, but it was! It was her!”
Willow cradled the teen’s face in her hands. “Dawnie, Tara visited me at the school, only it wasn’t Tara. It was something dressing up like her and saying terrible things. It must be able to look like peo–”
“She said Buffy was dead!” Dawn cried, her shoulders beginning to shake.
“No, no, no,” Willow repeated, squeezing Dawn tight. “It lied.”
“Sh-she wouldn’t answer,” Dawn sobbed into Willow’s shoulder. “I called and–”
“Look at me, Dawnie!” Willow’s bottom lip trembled as tears fell from her eyes. “This thing wasn’t your mom, okay? It’s bad news wrapped in a friendly package, like a, uh, Trojan horse or creepy ice cream man.”
“Do-do you think Buffy’s alive?”
“I know it,” Willow said firmly. “You’re all cut up.”
Dawn hung her head, the tiredness taking over. “Long story.”
“How about you get cleaned up and try to sleep just a little? I can come up in a bit with some nice sleepy tea if you want.”
“The microwave exploded,” Dawn muttered.
“Oh, well, I’ll see if we have a kettle. I mean, Giles spent a lot of time here, so we’re bound to.” Willow helped Dawn to her feet and gently led her up the stairs.
When Willow returned alone a few minutes later, Sam asked, “What did it say?”
Her tired eyes widened a bit when he spoke, as if he were a shade spookier than visits from the dead and a supernaturally wrecked house. “You know, the usual big bad stuff. Blood and pain and ‘oh puny humans’ only this threat came with a bonus urge toward suicide.”
“At least Dawn didn’t have that. Not that telling her her sister’s dead is much better,” Sam said darkly.
“I thought you guys were out of town.”
“We decided to come back early. We were only about an hour out when Dawn called. Dean’s out looking for Buffy now. Been gone a few hours.”
“So Dean’s gone too? It’s just you and me?”
Willow slowly walked around the house surveying the shattered lamps and blown out windows. She toed a bloody footprint and said, “I feel like Tara’s been violated somehow, Joyce too, by this thing using their images, their memories. I want to be right by Buffy’s side when we bring it down. Get in my blows for Tara.”
“I know the feeling,” Sam said, picking up some stray books.
“We need to talk,” she declared. “It seems to be explodey time, so I’d rather deal with this than keep dancing around it.”
“We’re dancing? I didn’t know there was dancing.”
“You know how in those old Westerns, the good guys wear white hats and the bad guys wear the cooler black hats? It makes everything so simple, but I know things aren’t that simple. Buffy’s a white hat for sure, but me? I’d always thought I was a white hat, but I know what this boiling hate in my stomach can do. Call me smudged. Question is, which hat are you wearing, Sam?”
From the stiffness in her shoulders and steel in her eye, Sam knew his next words would determine if Willow, the witch who’d skinned a man in seconds, would be blasting him through a window or not. “I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking me, Willow. I thought it was pretty obvious Dean and I fight evil. It’s what we do.”
“It’s what Dean does, but there’s something about you, Sam, something buried deep inside,” she said in a strong, even voice. “I saw it, you know, when that pathways spell went pear-shaped. A swirling darkness weaving through your insides. The only other place I saw that was in Spike, a vampire with both a demon and a soul. After the night I’ve had, the threats from unexpected places, I’m way too angry to pretend you’re not a potential threat. Tell me what’s inside you.”
For years, Sam and Dean had eschewed nearly all friendships for fear of sucking people into their crazy world. Though more initiated than most, Willow was no different. She didn’t need to know about the war between Heaven and Hell they’d been sucked into, the Boy King and the Sword of Michael.
Sam sat on the coffee table and ran his fingers through his hair. “You remember me telling you about how my mom died, right?”
“She was trying to save you, and a demon killed her.”
“Long version is, she didn’t save me. The demon was feeding me blood, demon blood.”
The disgust softened Willow’s face enough that Sam felt he may get to keep wearing his skin.
“That sounds like some sort of ritual.”
“I don’t know,” he lied. “Who knows why demons do what they do?”
“But that was decades ago. Why can I still see it in you?”
“I don’t exactly have soul laundering instructions for demon stains. It’s not a voice in my head or some crazy urge to do bad things. It’s just a part of me like a scar or a badly set bone. It sits on my heart, and some days I feel like a complete waste, like I’m irredeemable. So I try to be as kind as I can, save as many people as I can, be good to myself. You want to know if I have evil in me? Yeah, I do, but I don’t think my stain is bigger than what many people inflict on themselves.”
Willow sat beside him, squeezing her fingers and staring at her feet. “Maybe we could get better hats? Big white ten-gallon things, then people will say, ‘By golly, there’s a couple a swell fellas!’ only I’m not a fella, but we’d be easier to spot as Team Good Guy.”
“Or people will think we’re from Texas.”
Xander poured himself a third cup of coffee. He’d been up late finishing a proposal he would be pitching in three hours. He could have gotten a semi-decent amount of sleep if Buffy hadn’t come by at four thirty looking for Spike. “Sure you don’t want another cup, Buff? I’m putting on another pot anyway.”
“Nah, I’m still kinda wound up after the fight. When did you become Mr. Caffeine IV?”
“Early this morning. Now back to the vampire. I mean, he’s a vampire. Why would you trust anything that comes out of his fangy mouth?
“He described Spike to me. Why would he make up being sired by him?”
“To mess with you?”
She chewed on her bottom lip, mulling over the possibility. “No, he wasn’t messing with me. Something is wrong. Spike wouldn’t just start feeding again.”
“Maybe the chip is broken, and if so, can we uninvite him from my place?”
“It’s more than the chip. You didn’t see him the night – the night he told me about his soul.” She rubbed her cross between her fingers and her voice fell to a hush. “He was weeping, trying to scratch his soul out. He remembers every person he’s killed. The weight of the guilt nearly drove him insane. He’s trying so hard to be good. If he bit someone, we have to find out why.”
“Buff, don’t you think you’re being too optimistic here? Wouldn’t Sherlock Holmes say that the simplest solution is right? The simplest answer is that the chip is broken, and Spike’s feeding. You wouldn’t want to argue with history’s greatest detective would you?”
Buffy frowned at him. “I don’t think any of that is right.”
Before he could continue, the phone rang.
“Xander? Dean. You seen Buffy?” Dean sounded winded and strained, not like Dean at all.
“Yeah, buddy. She’s here with me.”
“Oh thank God! Is she okay?”
“Perfect Buffster cocktail of shaken but not stirred.”
“I’ll be right there. Don’t let her leave.” Before he could respond, Dean had hung up.
“What was that?” Buffy asked.
“Your boyfriend is spooked,” he replied.
“True to character, Dean wasn’t much with the sharing. He’s coming over to pick you up though.”
“He’s supposed to be in Arizona,” she said.
“Ah, that’s why you’re at my place in the middle of the night.”
She ignored his sting. “I need you to call me when Spike gets back, and call me if he leaves again.”
“Can’t, Buffy. I’ve got a big non-monster monster of a project due today. Going to be at the office well past sunset.”
“How about Anya?”
Heat rushed to Xander’s face. “An-Anya? WhywouldAnyaknow? I mean, I’d have to invite her over.”
Casting her eyes toward his closed bedroom door, Buffy gave him a pitying smile. “I know about your secret rebound, Xander. I’m not asking her to commit, just surveil.”
A few minutes after they’d settled on their plan, there was an urgent pounding on the door. Once Xander opened it, Dean, dirty and exhausted, beelined to Buffy. He wrapped her in a bear hug, her feet dangling a few inches off the floor, and buried his face in her neck, muttering urgently to her.
“Babe, I’m fine. It was just one vampire. What happened to you? Why are you even here?”
“Dawn called. Somethin’ attacked her in your house.”
“Is she okay?”
“Cuts and bruises. Mostly, she’s scared out of her fucking mind. She said – she said she saw your mom.”
Buffy grabbed her jacket. “Let’s go.”
In the hallway, Buffy patted her pockets. “Damn! I must have lost my phone when I was fighting that vamp.”
“I’ll pick up another one.”
“I feel horrible! Dawn needed me, and I wasn’t …” Her voice trailed off.
Coming up the sidewalk just ahead of the sunrise, was Spike. With this shoulders hunched, hands jammed in his pockets, eyes on the ground, he looked alone. Vulnerable. Nothing like a vampire on a rampage.
“This can’t be good, two of you here at this time,” Spike said.
“Everything’s fine.” Her words were too rushed, too loud. He didn’t appear to have any blood on him, though his black clothes made it difficult to tell. His boots were dirty, but walking in the mud wasn’t the same as eating people.
“Alright then.” Spike’s eyes darted between her, Dean, and spots on the wall. Had he always avoided eye contact like this? “You bag any baddies tonight?”
“One. Old classmate. Jason Chen.”
“You knew him? Must’ve been ‘ard.”
Dean squeezed her hand gently, whispering in her ear, “We need to get back.”
“Nice seeing you!” Spike called after them as the entrance door thudded behind them.
Dean hadn’t even parked before Buffy bolted into the house, crying out for her sister. Dean shuffled over to Sam sitting on the couch with his head in his hands. “Looks like shit in here. That’s an improvement, I guess.”
“Watch where you sit. I’m not sure I got all the glass.”
“We thinking poltergeist?”
“I mean, I know Buffy’s mom died of natural caus–”
“It’s the boss fight. ‘It is watching.’”
“That crap D’Hoffryn was pushin’?”
“It came to Willow at the college in the shape of Tara. Tried to get her to kill herself. Looks like it can take the shape of the dead. Dawn’s having a hard time accepting it wasn’t her mom.”
“Something spooked her, but she ain’t sayin’ what. Found her having coffee at Xander’s.”
Sam poked at the bits of plaster, paper and leaves on the coffee table. “Dean, we’ve got a problem.”
“Me. Remember when Willow did that spell last month that made her eyes all blue and she could see in people? She could see in me. She could see the darkness. The demon blood. She asked me if I was really a good person.”
“Don’t pay any attention to her, Sammy. Your actions speak for themselves,” he said firmly.
Buffy came down the stairs, wringing her fingers like she was interrogating them for answers. Dark circles had taken up residence under her dull eyes.
“Feel any better?” Dean asked doubtfully.
“Not at all. I’m going to call the school, tell them Dawn had an accident. I have to go to work in a few hours, and Will has class. Could one –”
“Sure,” said Sam. “We have today off anyway.”
“And someone has to fix your windows,” added Dean, pointing at the empty space in the front of the house.
Buffy stopped twisting her hands, but she still looked like she was waiting for something to jump out at her. “Dean, babe, I need to tell you something.”
“That’s my cue to make coffee,” said Sam.
When they were alone, Buffy sat on the couch, her body stiff, knuckles white, and stared at a bloody spot on the floor.
“Dawn was barefoot,” Dean explained.
“Thought you had something to say.”
“Promise me you won’t get mad,” she said quietly. “Promise me you’ll work with me on this instead of handling it yourself. With everything going on right now, I need to know you’re in my corner.”
Dean hated being in the dark. Hated fighting blind. But how out of sync could they be? “I promise.”
“I killed a vampire last night who said he’d been sired by Spike.”
Dean’s mind flooded with images of Dawn drained and pale at Spike’s feet, Buffy transformed by his side. He counted his breath to stay calm, hide the rage and fear she’d asked him to suppress. His heart steadied into a strong rhythm: Kill Spike. Kill Spike. Kill Spike.
“I know what you’re thinking right now, but I need to know for sure first. Anya is going to call me when Spike leaves Xander’s. I want to follow him tonight. He’s put himself through too much trying to be good to go off the rails now.”
Taking a breath to push his rage down, Dean asked, “So you don’t think he’s feeding?”
“If he is, I – I think something else is a play here. There’s something we’re not seeing.”
“And if he’s back to thrill kills?”
“Then I’ll do my job.”
By the time Buffy arrived at work, there was already a student waiting for her. She chatted with the girl, agreeing boys are both the worst and the best at the same time before sending her back to study hall. She offered to make copies for the secretary in order to keep from dozing off. When a tall, pimply junior wanted to discuss his anxiety over spending the upcoming Christmas holiday with all of his extended family, Buffy had to resort to poking her finger with a pin to stay alert.
Her fingertips couldn’t take anymore, so she decided to move. Under the guise of milling about with students, she grabbed her weapons-heavy purse and headed for the basement. The basement had nearly driven Spike insane. Something other than ghosts had to be down there.
She moved cautiously in the dim light, wondering whose visage the new threat would use if it spoke to her. Hearing a scrape and footsteps around the corner, Buffy pulled out a silver dagger and flattened herself against the wall. Rounding the corner wasn’t a ghost or a vampire or any other beast the Hellmouth usually threw at her.
It’s was Principal Wood, handsome in his suit, yet looking tired and carrying a shovel. He almost walked past her dark hiding spot, but noticed her at the last minute and jumped.
“Miss Summers! Do you make a habit of hiding in the dark?”
“When my head is pounding. I thought maybe a break in the dark, quiet basement would help,” she smile, hoping to assuage his fears. “Do you make a habit of…shovels?”
“Oh, maintenance left this outside. Thought I’d put it away,” he said, leaning it against the wall and shoving his hands in his pockets. “If you need a break from migraine-inducing teenagers, it’s almost lunch. How about we take our chicken nuggets and pudding cups to my office? I’ve been meaning to speak with you about a few things.”
Upstairs, Principal Wood closed his blinds. “Does this help?”
“Huh? Oh! Yes, big heaping piles of help. Thank you.”
“Guess you were up all night.”
“How did you–”
“I saw on the absence list that Dawn was in some sort of accident? Is she okay?”
“Oh, yeah. A few cuts and bruises, but mostly pride. See, she was dancing on the couch doing her best ‘Bye, Bye, Bye’ and fell through the glass coffee table. Her middle name isn’t Grace…or Balance.”
“Wow, that does sound…embarrassing,” he said, trying to hold back a grin.
Buffy poured herself a cup of coffee. She held it beneath her face while it cooled, letting the steam tickle her nose, hoping the mere smell would wake her up. After telling Dean about their newest problem, he’d taken her upstairs, held her, and stroked her hair until she’d fallen asleep. It had only been a brief nap, but one she desperately needed. Likewise, being held. Something about Dean always calmed her, as if his proximity meant everything would be okay.
“I’ve been meaning to ask you, Buffy, are you dating Mr. Winchester?”
Principal Wood looked calm but interested. “Sam Winchester, the librarian. I’ve notice you two have lunch together most days. I see you arrive together sometimes and leave together. It’s school policy that if two staff members are dating–”
“What? Oh, no, God no. Sam and I aren’t together.” The idea sent a smile to her face, a smile that quickly faded upon noticing a brownish-red stain on Wood’s cuff. The principal who spent his day being blasted by Hellmouth vibes, who she’d just caught in the basement with a shovel, had blood on his sleeve.
Wood burst into a wide grin. “Glad I don’t have to do any paperwork then. You know the winter formal is on Saturday, and I’m short on volunteers. Do you think that maybe–?”
She quickly put down her coffee and smiled nervously. “Considering the recent rise in dance-related injuries, I think I’ll stay safe at home. In fact, I should be headed there now. Migraines, you know?”
Like he did every night, Spike stood in the foyer of Xander’s building spinning his lighter between his fingers and waiting for the sun to finish setting. A middle aged woman with a bug-eyed chihuahua walked in. Stopping to check her mailbox, she smiled at Spike nervously. “Are you waiting for someone, dear?”
“Yeah, they’ll be ‘round soon. Thanks.”
He ignored her as she scurried to her apartment. Living in a converted closet at Xander’s wasn’t an ideal arrangement for anyone, but it was better than the school basement.
It was Buffy’s arrangement. She believed he could get better, but didn’t want to play nurse. She believed he was more than a killing machine, but treated him like gum on her shoe.
Deep navy overtook the sun’s final hurrah of orange. The stars blinked into place. A thin woman with ghostly pale skin and flowing blood-red dress stood at the end of the sidewalk. “Are you ready to take on the night, my love?” She wasn’t there; Spike knew that, but a friendly hallucination was more pleasant than the cold, distant reality of Buffy.
They headed toward the shops downtown so Drusilla could see the Christmas lights. “Like souls ripped out an’ put on a pretty display.” The promenade was crowded with shoppers, families, and a few Santas.
“Look at all the people, Spike. So small and dull. Why do they ‘ustle about like this mat’ers?”
“It’s one foot in front of the other pretending to live until you do,” Spike replied. “If nothing matters, people just sort of stop.”
She grinned at him, knowing as she always knew what turmoil spun in him. “You couldn’t pretend with your lit’le friends anymore. Why won’t you let me in, Spike? Part of you wants me, cries out to me. Together, we’re all that mat’ers.”
Spike shook his head as he’d done every time she’d brought it up. “Just need a friend is all.”
The illusion of Drusilla plunged her hand inside Spike’s chest, her unreal fingers zapping and tingling his body, his heart a burning core.
In line for a trendy bar stood a curvy girl shivering in her crop top and bell bottoms. When Spike smiled at her, she smiled back. It was nice to make a woman smile. “What are you lookin’ for tonight, love?”
“Anyone interesting. Hot accents are a bonus.” She ran her tongue over her lip and her hand up his chest.
They ducked into a nearby alley. She smelled like cheap perfume and trouble. “You’re kind of a bad boy, aren’t you? I like ‘em bad.” His jacket in her fists, she pulled him in, kissing him forcefully, exploring him with her tongue. She tasted of menthols. She wasn’t Buffy, but she’d do.
“Do you want to show ‘er ‘ow bad you are?” Drusilla whispered in his ear. “Give ‘er a right good show.”
Spike squeezed the soft, bare flesh of her hip. She was warm. Pliable. In response, she pressed her palm to the growing erection beneath his jeans. “Want to go back to your place?”
“I can ‘ear ‘er ‘eart pump pump pumpin’ in ‘er chest. She wants you. Give ‘er what she wants, Spike. Show ‘er your such a naughty boy.”
With her encouragement, Spike bared his fangs and clamped his mouth on the girl’s neck until she stopped screaming.
Dean leaned against the Impala’s hood watching children gather around a charity bell ringer dressed as Santa Claus. Most of the children were beaming smiles and happy feet. One impossibly small girl ran to give the volunteer a hug, her head only up to his knee. The embarrassed parents dropped some change in the bucket before picking her up and moving on. The volunteer, for his part, was more than happy to ho-ho-ho and talk toys with the kids while keeping up the steady pace of his bell. For a moment, Dean forgot they lived on a Hellmouth.
“I said wait in the car!” Buffy’s cheeks were flushed and her jaw clenched. Following Spike must not have gone well.
“You said to come to Cherry Street and wait with the car. Here I am. You’re welcome.”
“In the car. I said in.”
“Are we arguing grammar? Point is, I’m not gankin’ your ex. Looks like you aren’t either.”
Buffy rubbed her eyes and groaned. “He picked up a girl, but I lost them in the crowd. Too many freaking people!”
“Do you have the holiday blues? You could ask Santa over there to make you taller for Christmas.”
Buffy threw up her hands in frustration and climbed into the Impala’s passenger seat.
Dean kicked himself internally and slid into the driver’s seat. “I’m sorry I’m an ass. It’s how I deal.”
She was crammed against the door, arms crossed. “You understand that girl is probably going to die tonight, right?” She sounded more tired than angry, like she was teetering on the edge of apathy.
“Guys pick up chicks for all kinds a not-murderous reasons. God, I can’t believe I’m defending that poofy,” he muttered. “Point is, you want proof he’s killing again, and that may take more than a day. Let’s get you home. You’ve barely slept the last twenty-four hours.”
“You know I barely sleep anymore even when Dawn’s not being attacked.” While Dean’s nightmares had subsided the longer they were in Sunnydale, her nightmare visions of murdered girls were becoming a nightly occasion.
The festive lights disappeared as they pulled away. “I can’t believe Christmas is coming,” Buffy grumbled.
“Not big on the peace on earth and goodwill toward men crap?”
“This will be our second Christmas without Mom.”
Dean leaned across the seat to grab her hand.
“Don’t get me anything, okay? I can’t spare the money or the time for shopping,” she said.
“No shopping. Done. Now what can I do to help you unwind tonight?“
“You can’t.” She leaned against the door, exhaustion seeping into her body. “You can’t fix this.”
She had just put the kettle on for tea when three figures broke down her apartment door. They wore robes and hoods, all the better to hide their rune-branded eyes and long, curved knives. They were the Harbingers of Death, and they sought hers. Grabbing a wakizashi from a nearby display, she deflected the first blow. She couldn’t take them, but maybe she could delay them until help arrived, until her Watcher returned. Slash. Block. Duck. Stab. The pair started to back off. Before she could delight in pushing them back, a blade slipped between her ribs puncturing a lung. The two in front of her advanced to join the stabbing. She fell to her knees, hardly feeling the pain anymore as she slipped in a pool of her own blood.
Coo-coo! Coo-coo! The bird in the clock told him it was eleven. With a mild sense of dread, Spike opened his eyes; he didn’t know anyone with a coo-coo clock. Floral wallpaper, deep blue in the moonlight; a doily on every surface; a wood-framed, floor-model TV. An old person’s house. An old person who let him in. But why did he want in?
This wasn’t the first time he’d woken up somewhere strange, but it was becoming more frequent. Weekly. Then daily. Assuming it was still Friday, this was the second time he’d black out.
Spike stood up and listened, but for the ticking of endless clocks, the house was silent. Not even a heartbeat.
Not even a heartbeat.
Silently, Spike crept through the house looking for other vampires, but he only found two empty bedrooms. A familiar door hung ajar in the kitchen. As soon as Spike opened it, a waft of dry earth hit him, the smell taking him back, the blood on his chin, the shovel in his hands, the bodies at his feet.
Drusilla stood beside him, running her finger hot like a sparkler over his skin. “You should call Buffy.”
Half an hour later, Buffy and Dean rolled up in his great black car. Spike was waiting on the house’s front steps. “You ‘ere to kill me?”
Dean shrugged. “Lady called dibs.”
Spike nodded. At least he would end on the right note.
“You wanted to show me something?” Buffy asked unhurried, but with steel in her eyes.
Spike led them inside. “I’m remembering things.” He opened the basement door. “Terrible things.”
Drusilla stood at the bottom of the stairs. “‘Ello, what ‘ave we ‘ere?” She moved by Dean looking him up and down with giddy disbelief in her doll-like eyes. She bounced and clapped, squealing like a child on Christmas morning. “Change of plan, Spike. We kill this one first, then the Slayer.”
“Things are comin’ back to me,” Spike said, ignoring her, “but it’s like watching myself on the telly. I don’t remember actually doing any of it, but I think I killed the old lady who lived here and a girl I met yesterday. I – I think I buried them here.”
“God, Spike, why?” Buffy asked as Dean grabbed a nearby shovel and started to dig for bodies.
Before he could come up with an answer for the unanswerable, Drusilla jammed her hand into his chest; it felt like his heart turned into a lightning storm. With that, Spike grabbed Buffy by the shoulders and threw her into the wall.
“Hey!” yelled Dean, whipping around to knock Spike in the head with the shovel. The vampire fell to the ground groaning, and Buffy kicked him in the face. Hands started to explode from the ground. “Shit!” Dean tried stabbing the first vampire with the shovel, but it yanked it from his hands. “Fine,” he said, pulling his gun and shooting it in the knee to slow it down, but he’d only squeezed off one shot by the time two vampires pinned him to the ground. Buffy, who’d managed to give Spike a black eye and waste one of the monsters, was also subdued.
Drusilla clapped again. “Now, Spike! Kill Dean, and you can have your girl.”
Spike sauntered up to Dean still struggling to free his arms and stomped on his balls. The hunter bit his tongue to keep from crying out. Spike turned to Buffy, beautiful with the fire of hatred in her eyes and bleeding from a cut on her shoulder.
“What are you doing? Kill Dean first!” the apparition cried.
“Shut up!” Spike screamed with white knuckled fists. He tugged on the band in Buffy’s hair setting it free on her shoulders. Fingers entwined in her hair, he pulled her head back exposing her neck, her struggles only making her heart pound harder. He inhaled her scent – vanilla, lilacs, and sex. Following her throbbing vein, he licked a trail from beneath her ear to the bottom of her neck. Leaning over to her bleeding shoulder, he lapped up a large drop of blood. Suddenly, Spike fell to his knees, wide-eyed with horror and screaming at the room, “No! No! NOOO! I don’t want to kill them. I won’t ! I won’t! Please, save me!”
Buffy twisted enough to throw one vampire off, freeing her to kick the dropped shovel into her hand and dust the other vampires holding her. She killed the two vamps on Dean. He was bleeding; they’d started to feed. “Are you okay?”
Another hand burst from the ground by Dean’s head. He rolled away, and Buffy yanked up the elderly vampire, most likely the former owner of the house. “Sorry, ma'am,” she said, staking the woman in the heart. “It’s my job.”
“Speakin’ of,” Dean said, pointing at Spike curled in a ball in the corner.
They crept toward him, wary of any more surprises the basement may hold. He was rocking back and forth, sobbing, “Please, no. Please, stop! Please!” When he saw them approaching, he wiped away his tears with dirty hands and pulled open his jacket. “Make it quick,” he muttered.
Buffy looked around the basement. “Dean, why would a vampire bury all of their victims together?”
“Building a nest?”
“You’ve read the histories. Does that sound like Spike? Seems more like an army. I’ve never seen vamps rise like that, like something was commanding them.”
“C’mon!” Spike snapped. “I deserve it for what I done. She said you’d do it. Do it!”
“‘She?’ Who’s she?” asked Dean.
“Spike, was Drusilla down here talking to you?” Buffy asked. “Is that who you were yelling at?”
“She visits me.”
“Did she visit you in the basement at the school?”
Keeping her eyes on Spike, she whispered, “Dean, we can’t kill him.”
“I agree.” This startled her into looking at him. “This thing just started talking to some of us, but it sounds like it’s been talking to Spike for a while, playing games with him like it was with Dawn and Willow, only, with his soul making him all crazy anyway, he fell for them.”
“Please, kill me. Please, end this,” Spike begged.
“No,” said Buffy, throwing the shovel down. “We’re taking you with us.”