The Soft Insanity of Time
by Sajinn



Title: The Soft Insanity of Time
Author: Sajinn
Pairing: (Eventually) Angel/Spike, Xander/Oz, Wesley/Fred, Cordelia/Gunn
Rating: (Eventually) NC-17
Summary: When Buffy dies, Spike makes a life-altering deal and ends up on Angel's doorstep.
Disclaimer: No, they aren't mind. I just put them in pretty dresses and make them fight each other.
Feedback: Makes a body good! Send lots!
Archive: Lemme know if ya wanna. Can be found at my wee little homepage, www.sajinn.com
A/N: Currently sitting at 45 parts, destined to grow further.

*****

"She's dead."

The survivors stood around Buffy's broken form, staring in disbelief. She couldn't be dead; Buffy was the Slayer, the strongest of all of them. Buffy died doing what she did best-saving the world.

After a few minutes, Spike and Giles bent down and gingerly lifted her up, carrying her to the car. The rest of the gang followed silently, hoping that at any moment they would wake up to find that it had all been a very bad dream.

The funeral was held at dusk, an allowance made for Spike. The vampire had taken Buffy's death very hard; since that night he had not spoken to anyone, nor had he taken part in any of his usual activities of stirring up trouble among the demonic community and staking fledges. Willow and Giles watched him worriedly; his normally angular face was sharpening, as though he had not been feeding.

"Spike," Willow began, reaching out for the blonde vampire. "Do you want to come back to the shop with us?" Spike stared down into the grave for a few minutes before tearing his eyes away. When he looked over at the young witch, she gasped. Spike's eyes were flat and lifeless. The vampire looked at her for a moment, then shook his head slowly and turned away, heading for his side of the cemetery.

Spike wearily entered his crypt, bolting the door before slumping down against the far wall. Closing his eyes, he leaned his head back against the crumbling mortar. The pain that had settled into his chest five days before had not relented; rather, it had stronger and had spread throughout his body. She haunted him. Everywhere he went, he could smell her; hear her clear, ringing voice echoing in his mind. Even the single cup of rancid pig's blood he'd drunk the night after she died had tasted of her. The blonde was sure he was going insane, if he wasn't already that far gone.

"Why?" Spike snorted. Cliché. They always ask that. 'Why' indeed. She was the Slayer. It was her job-no, her purpose. Of course, knowing that, knowing that she was destined to die young, that she had beaten the odds and lived longer than Slayers usually lived, was no comfort to the grieving man. The only consolation he had was that she knew how he felt about her before she died-he would never regret not telling her how he felt. Even that was a double-edged sword, however. Yes, he had been honest with her, but so had she in return. He was left with no fantasies, no dreams. She would never, could never love him and had said as much to his face. It didn't matter and it didn't make the pain any less. She was gone and he was still here.

···...·...·...·...···

The weeks that followed were a blur to Spike. Hours and days smeared into each other. He fed only rarely and only off fledgling vampires and animals he caught in the cemetery. He hadn't left the graveyard since the funeral. He had avoided the Slayer's friends the few times they'd come looking for him, staying in the lower levels of his crypt until they gave up and left. On some level, he knew that they were worried about him, but he couldn't rouse himself to face them. At the funeral, it had been obvious that Willow and Giles were taking care of Dawn, and she had been the only concern Spike had had. With her protected and safe, Spike had no reason to interact with anyone.

The vampire was sitting on the floor in a corner of his crypt, watching out the door as clouds obscured and revealed stars as they floated past. He hadn't left in several days; having not fed in a week he was weak and the effort needed to get up and close the door was more than he could muster. Maybe it's for the best. Sun'll hit me about fiveish. The idea of staying where he was and letting the afternoon sun burn him away had its appeal. He had nothing left to live for; he couldn't feed, couldn't defend himself against humans, and the only one of them worth befriending was dead.

The idea gained merit the more he thought about it. No one would really miss him. It was death on his own terms-no torture at the hands of some demon or staking by a human he couldn't hurt. His mind made up, Spike returned to his sorrows, drowning himself in pain. The vampire watched as the sky lightened and the world outside his crypt woke up to the morning. After several hours, beams of sunlight began creeping through the open doorway, drawing inexorably closer to his corner.

Ah, that's it. Just a little closer. Spike closed his eyes, waiting patiently for oblivion. A thought crossed his mind, eliciting a pained laugh. Hmm.don't people usually pray when they're dying? The thought amused him. He certainly hadn't prayed the first time he'd died, and hadn't done so in the time since then. What the hell, why not? The Powers That Be could get a good laugh or two out of a prayer from a suicidal vampire.

What to pray for? Spike cracked one eye, checking on the progress of the sunbeam. Not going to heaven meself, so no point in praying for that. The vampire sobered at that. Seriously, what would he pray for? No, he wasn't religious-for fuck's sake, he was a vampire-but he also had a grudging respect for the higher powers. No use in pissing them off, even when you're a lost cause.

Spike sorted through his memories quickly, but he kept returning to one thing: Buffy. Giving up any hope of wresting his mind from the girl, he began wording his prayer, silently sending up his first and last offering.

I.I just want to ask you up there to watch out for her. She's the best there ever was, never going to be a better Slayer. Fought harder for you than any I've ever seen. Spike began, tears forming at the corner of his eyes. She shouldn't have died, you know. Wasn't her time. You should've been watching out for her, seeing as how that blonde bitch was a god an' all. Where were you? Spike began to rage at The Powers That Be. She's your muscle down here! How could you let her die? The vampire's short supply of anger ran out. Hell, can't even get mad anymore. Well, I've got no reason to be here. Going to hell anyway, might as well get on with it. But tell me one thing. Why her? Hmm? Why not someone else? Why not me? I'd have been glad to go instead. I've got no one to leave behind, no one to leave crying 'cause I'm dust. Why?

The vampire felt warmth crawling up his legs. 'Bout damned time. Spike relaxed his body, waiting for blessed oblivion. The heated sensation grew, encompassing his entire body. He waited for the pain, for his body to explode into flames as the deadly sunlight tore through his demonic flesh.

Nothing happened.

Spike opened his eyes. Something was wrong, had to be wrong. He was a vampire, ergo sunlight killed him. He was in sunlight, so he should be dead. But he wasn't. He looked around. The crypt was, in fact, filled with sunlight. Shit. I am not a ghost. Vampires do not become ghosts. We go to hell. We get to suffer in eternal torture. Movement to his left caught his eye and he instinctively turned toward it.

A tall, thin woman stood by the wall of the crypt, looking down at him with a slight smile on her face. She reminded the vampire of a librarian-one of the ones in the Sunnydale library, all blue jeans and sweaters and friendly no-nonsense attitude.

"Hello there," the woman said.

"Hi," Spike responded automatically. Who the hell are you? He thought.

"Me? Oh, that's not important. Who I work for? Now that's a better question," She said, her smile growing.

"Who do you work for then?" Spike asked, just dazed enough to follow her lead.

"The Powers That Be," The woman responded, her amusement growing at the shocked expression on the vampire's face. "You were partially right, you know. They don't get many prayers from vampires. Most of the time, when demons do bother to pray, they aren't really praying to The Powers-only when your kind specify them do they get the message."

"Oh." Spike really didn't know what to say.

"So anyway, they got the message and figured that since it was such a rarity, they'd send someone down. Were you serious?"

Spike shook off the remaining fog from his mind. "Serious about what?"

"What you said-that you'd rather have died yourself than the Slayer dying."

The vampire did not hesitate. "'Course I was. Wouldn't have said it otherwise." He growled. He hadn't really figured on anyone hearing that prayer.

The woman grinned. "Hmm.You were right on another point as well. It wasn't her time to die. Having a god from another dimension on this plane threw some major kinks into the works."

"So the Slayer dies because your bosses can't keep their ducks in a row?" The vampire said heatedly. He was fully aware now and was regaining some of his usual ill-temperedness.

"Hey, shit happens! Besides, that's why I'm here."

"Yeah? To do what? Say 'sorry, shit happens'?" Spike struggled to stand. He finally compromised, leaning upright against the wall.

"No, I'm here to offer you a deal. A trade, to be specific," The woman shot back.

"A deal? Why?" Spike said suspiciously.

"You said you'd have rather died in her place, right?" At Spike's nod, she continued. "Well, that's not exactly what The Powers go for. However, they are willing to bring back the Slayer, good as new. For a price."

Ah, the rub. "What price?" Spike's mind was racing. Bring back the Slayer? Buffy would be alive! Even if it meant his death.

"No, they don't want you dead. What would be the point? They could have just let you fry yourself like you had planned. No, The Powers want you around for a long time."

"Stop reading my mind!" Spike growled.

"Fine, fine. Here's the deal. You agree to take on a soul, your old soul, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer gets to live again," The woman said.

Spike's jaw dropped. A soul? "As in Angel 'soul'?" He said thoughtlessly.

"Not exactly. Your soul would have no 'happiness' clauses. Otherwise, it would be pretty much the same. You would work for The Powers That Be toward your redemption, a Warrior for Light."

The vampire looked at the woman suspiciously. "So the Slayer lives and I get to go on a massive guilt-trip until your bosses decide I'm a good boy again?"

"That's not how I'd put it, but yeah."

Spike pinched his lips together in concentration. There'd be no going back, no more Big Bad. He'd be just like his damned Sire, a broody, mopey freak of nature. Buffy would be alive. Soul. Buffy. Soul. Buffy.

"Well?" The woman asked.

The question pulled Spike from his thoughts. "What?"

"Yes or no?"

*****
Part 2:

Willow looked up as the tinkling of doorbells rang through the magic shop. She and Tara were pouring over the ancient texts Giles had in the store, trying desperately to improve their magickal abilities. With Buffy gone, there was no one to defend the Hellmouth from the waves of evil that were perpetually attracted to it.

The young witch looked over at Giles, who was helping a customer with some herbs. He'd taken Buffy's death very hardnot surprising, really. He was her Watcher; he had had to write up a report of her death and endure a grilling by the Council. The entire thing had nearly broken the man; at least the Council had agreed to not call him back to England. He would be allowed to fade quietly into the background. Well, sort of. He had agreed to stay on the Hellmouth until the Council decided if it was going to put another Slayer there.

Xander was suffering the most of any of them. Despite their occasional disagreements, he had considered Buffy a close friend. Like the rest of them, he was continually wondering what he could have done that might have saved Buffy's life. Anya wasn't helping much. She, too, was saddened by the loss; but like Tara, Anya wasn't really close to Buffy. The two girls felt the loss of the Slayer more from the perspective of the suffering of their loved ones. Unfortunately for Xander, Anya was not good at consoling the bereaved. The two lovers hardly ever talked anymore. Xander showed up for patrols and diligently assisted the witches in their research. He and Giles had grown closer during the past months; the older man seemed to appreciate having the younger one around, even though neither man was very good company.

Willow sighed, stretching her arms wide. She needed a break from bending over musty old books. Pushing her chair back, she walked back into the training room, retrieving a bottle of water from the minifridge there. Returning to the table, she shared the water with a grateful Tara. The two girls smiled as Xander walked into the store, carrying a large paper bag.

"Hey Wills. Brought the new stakes." Xander set down the bag of freshly carved wooden stakes. "Let's see. Oak, pine, maple, poplar, myrtle, ash, and even a few gingko."

"Gingko?" Tara asked.

"Ah, they are quite effective against several types of demons," Giles said from behind the counter.

"Oh. Where did you find the wood?" Tara asked.

"Here and therethe cemeteries and parks mostly. There are also a bunch of ornamental trees on campus that were mysteriously trimmed overnight," Xander said, the humor of the statement buried by his lack of enthusiasm. The young man had lost most of his good humor and easy joking nature when his friend had died.

The witches and Xander turned quickly at the sound of shattering glass. Giles was standing behind the counter, where a large jar of dried herbs had slipped unnoticed from his hands. He was staring at the door. The youths turned to see what had so shocked him.

···...·...·...·...···

"Buffy?" Willow was the first to recover. Xander was staring much like Giles was. Tara was as well, her eyes wide and unblinking.

"Hey guys! You all are here awfully early! What's going on?"

Giles finally found his tongue. "Dear God. Who are you?" He said, unable to take his eyes off the young girl.

"Are you all ok? You look kind of funny. Why are you staring at me like that?" Buffy said, concerned by her friends' behavior.

"Y-you're alive!" Xander said, pointing at her.

"Um, yeah?"

"But you died!" Willow screeched. "We saw you die! We carried you home and watched them bury you. You have a grave. Are you a vampire? No, it's sunny outside. Why are you alive? I don't understand. You died. You jumped and died so that Dawn would still be alive. Glory died and then you died to close the portal." Willow's frantic rambling ceased as she began gasping for air.

"What are you talking about? I'm not dead. At least, I don't feel dead," Buffy said, utterly confused.

"Where did you come from?" Giles asked slowly.

"I was just patrolling the cemetery and figured I'd head over here before the meeting," Buffy responded, scrunching her face in confusion. "Why was I patrolling the cemetery during the day?"

"Um, could someone tell me what's going on?" Xander asked. He had moved closer to Buffy, circling her. She turned to follow him, tracking him as he examined her.

"Quit that!" Buffy snapped, unnerved by the young man's odd behavior.

"It's just.you're dead!" Xander whispered.

"I'm not dead!" Buffy repeated, more forcefully this time.

"We must find out what has happened here. Buffy, we buried you more than three months ago," Giles said, leaning heavily on the counter.

"What?" Buffy shouted. "What are you talking about?"

"Buffy, you died in April. It's the end of June now. We saw you die."

"June? Are you kidding? What is this, some kind of joke?" Buffy said weakly.

"Buffy, what is the last thing you remember?" Xander asked.

"Um.We were fighting Glory, and then" Buffy stopped, scrunching up her face. "And then.I." She stopped, unable to continue.

"Then what? What is the next thing you remember?" Giles asked.

Buffy stared at the floor. "Patrolling the cemetery today," She whispered. Her face fell. "What is going on? What happened?" She looked around frantically. "Where's Dawn? What happened to Dawn? Oh, my God! Where's Dawn?" Buffy began shouting.

"Calm down, Dawn's fine. She's at the movies with a friend of hers. They're fine, her friend's mother is dropping her off here when they're through, in an hour or so," Willow said softly, trying to calm the upset Slayer.

"She's ok?" Buffy asked.

"Dawn's ok. She's been staying at home. Willow and Tara are staying there with her for now," Xander added.

"What happened, with Glory I mean?" Buffy asked, again confused.

The group looked at each other. Finally, Willow spoke. "Do you remember Ben and her being the same?" Buffy nodded. "Well, Glory got Dawn, " Buffy again nodded. She remembered this. "Then Glory managed to use Dawn's blood. We killed Glory when she was Ben, but the portal was still open. You figured out that you could stop it if you jumped in. So you did." Buffy stared at her in shock.

"I what?" She asked.

"Dawn and Spike were there. They said that you thought that your blood would work like Dawn's to stop the portal. I guess it did, since when you died the thing closed up."

"Oh. Where's Spike?" Buffy asked distractedly.

Giles answered her. "He, well, he did not take your death lightly. We haven't seen him since the funeral. We believe he is still at the cemetery, but our attempts to contact him have failed. He did make sure that we were protecting Dawn, however." Giles reassured Buffy that the vampire had kept up the promise he'd made.

"This is seriously weird. You all are sure I died?"

"Absolutely. You were dead." Giles said. "I do not understand why you are alive now, unless."

"Unless what, Giles?" Willow asked.

"Unless there is some aspect of how Buffy died that made her come back to life. Hers was not a natural death," He replied, moving to the shelves of books.

"Do you think there's something in there about it?" Xander asked, following the Watcher.

"I do not know, Xander, but we must look. This is highly unusual."

"It's the Hellmouth. I'm just happy she's back," Xander said.

That statement made everyone pause. Up to that point, they had been treating Buffy's return as a supernatural oddity. Buffy was back from the dead. The group moved to her, enveloping the petite girl in a huge hug. After a few seconds, she returned it.

"I'm glad to see you guys too. I just wish I knew what was going on."

"As do we. I believe we should start looking at once," Giles said.

Tara finally found the courage to speak again. "What are we going to tell Dawn?"

"Oh, shit," Xander cried. What were they going to tell Dawn?

Giles looked up. "We can only tell her what we know, which is pitifully little right now."

"Yeah," Xander said. "Hey, I've got an idea! Why don't I order pizza? We're gonna be here a while, and Buffy's back! Kind of a welcome back-Buffy's alive-what the hell is going on party?"

Willow grinned. It was the first flash of old Xander she'd seen in ages. "I'm up for it!" The rest quickly agreed.

The next hour was filled with animated discussion, the research forgotten. Everyone was consumed with telling Buffy what had gone on for the last three months. They all were still in shock that she was back, and no one would let her out of their sight. They were all afraid that she might disappear, that it was all some elaborate dream like the ones they'd had in the past.

All conversation stopped when the door to the shop opened.

"Dawn?"

"Buffy?"

*****
Part 3:

Pain. Indescribable pain. Grief, anguish, regrethe couldn't find words for it. Spike lay on the floor of his crypt, paralyzed by the torrent of feelings suffocating him. The myriad emotions were swirling so fast he couldn't latch onto one to identify it. He just hurt.

What's going on here? That small thought was quickly overwhelmed and lost as he sank into the depths of his suffering once again. He had never, in more than a hundred years, felt anything like this.

Concentrating as hard as he could, he tried to calm the storm raging in his mind. Eventually he succeeded enough to gain some measure of control. What he found sent shivers down his spine.

That was a dream! He hadn't really agreed to take on a soul, his old soul to be precise, had he? The pain nearly made him black out. Maybe not a dream, then. The feelings inside him were alienthings vampires never felt. He felt bad, terrible in fact. He felt like he had betrayed, had hurt, had committed crimes. This is what a soul feels like? Regretting every life I've taken feels like this?

Guilt crashed into him. Memories of everyone he'd tortured, fed on, and killed filled his mind. Unlike before, when such memories were accompanied by a rush of pleasure, he felt nothing but anguish. How could he have done those things? He was a poet, a lawyer, a gentleman!

No! He was a vampire. He fed off of humans. They were his food. He couldn't hurt them. He protected humans. No, he killed them.

Spike was sure he was losing his mind. The guilt, the pain, was crushing him. Then a thought drifted out of the chaos.

Buffy.

Had it worked? Had The Powers brought her back? If she was alive, then the incredible pain he was feeling was worth it, wasn't it? She would be alive!

The desire to confirm that Buffy was alive gave the weak vampire enough control over his suffering to pull himself together. He tried to pick himself up off the floor, eventually succeeding. He stumbled to the door of the crypt. When did I close this? Opening it, he saw that the sun had just set. He was ravenous and could not remember when he had last fed. Exiting the crypt, he realized that he would have to find something to eat before long or he wouldn't make it out of the cemetery. He just didn't have the strength.

Wandering through the headstones, Spike spotted another vampire. Fledge. There were more of those lately; without the Slayer the demonic ctivity around Sunnydale was out of control. Spike sneaked up behind the young vampire and attacked, pinning him and breaking his neck more by surprise and luck than strength. He quickly drained the vampire, both sorrowful and relieved that it had obviously just fed. The rich blood in its veins gave him strength, but someone had died to give him that meal. Holding back a cry of pain, he rushed off toward town. He knew where to go.

···...·...·...·...···

Giles, Xander, Buffy and Dawn jumped as one when Spike stumbled into the shop. They stood speechless as he carefully closed the door behind him before turning to look at the occupants of the store.

"Buffy."

"Hi, Spike. Um.I'm alive, and no one seems to know why," Buffy said, opting for lighthearted.

Spike stared at her. It had worked. She was alive. He leaned up against the door, giving the appearance of boredom. In truth, he was almost unconscious from pain. Seeing Buffy alive, standing there in front of him, brought waves of agony to the vampire. He could barely stay conscious at that point. Her vividness and vitality were painful to see and feel. She was whole, alive and pure. He was not worthy to stand in her presence.

"I see," Spike said finally.

"Um, so, have you been patrolling? The gang says that the place has really gone to Hell in the past three months. Demons everywhere," Buffy asked the vampire. She had been rather upset when Willow and Xander told her that Spike had apparently stopped helping.

"Been busy," Spike choked out.

"That's great! You've been too busy to help Willow and Xander? They've been throwing themselves out there for months and you're too busy?" Buffy shouted, moving quickly into anger.

"Buffy, it's ok. He's fine, you know," Dawn said placatingly. She'd seen how Spike looked at the funeral. He was in no shape to patrol then, and looked even worse now.

"No, don't defend him. Spike, you can't just hang around here like some warped puppy when it's convenient for you. Either help or don't, but don't try to get us to depend on you and then waltz out," Buffy said, still angry at Spike for his absence.

Spike just stared at the floor. He knew that Buffy would feel no differently about him now, but he had still hoped that maybe she would have at least softened a bit. It was obvious from the piles of books and Buffy's offhand comment that they had no idea why she was back amongst the living. He had intended to tell them what happened, but now he wasn't sure. Buffy was obviously angry with him and at this point wouldn't believe him if he told her.

The vampire straightened abruptly. He couldn't stand to be there any longer. He had to get out, get away from her. If he didn't go soon, he was going to pass out again, and from the look of things, Buffy might just stake him while he was out of it.

"Right." Spike opened the door, disappearing into the night.

"That was amazingly easy," Buffy said, turning back to the research.

"You were awfully hard on him, Buffy," Dawn said.

"No more than he deserved. He's the evil dead. He disappears for three months and just shows up one night? Uh-uh," Buffy replied shortly.

A few minutes later, Willow and Tara returned from the Summers' house, where they had been performing a scrying spell.

"Hey Willow. How'd the spell go?" Dawn queried.

"No luck. Anything here?" She asked the group.

"Nope. Spike stopped by, but Buffy ran him off," Dawn answered.

"Spike? Um.how was he?" Willow asked back.

Dawn looked at her worriedly, then at Buffy. "Um, ok, I guess. Seemed quiet."

"Well, now that Buffy's back, he should perk up, right?" Willow said to Giles. The Watcher hummed distractedly. He was not concerned with the blonde vampire's activities, so long as Spike did not start causing chaos again.

···...·...·...·...···

Spike lay on the marble slab in his crypt, staring at the ceiling. It wasn't comfortable, but he didn't have the energy to do anything else. Holding the pain at bay enough to stay conscious was taking all his effort. He was trying to figure out what to do. He had a soul now. He worked for The Powers That Be. How was that going to go? Were they going to send him some sort of message? How was he supposed to do anything when he could barely move himself about? This soul thing didn't come with an instruction manual.

He thought about it for a while. He could go to Angel; his Sire had been living with this for over a century now; he would know exactly what to do. The idea of asking Angel for help rankled the blonde, although not nearly as much as it used to. Maybe it was the soul, maybe it was just the pain, but the anger and hatred he normally felt for Angel was vague now. He even empathized with the older vampire. If this was what he was enduring, maybe he'd underestimated the dark vampire's strength.

Still, the idea of running to Angel for help was unsettling. His relationship with his Sire was a mix of heaven and hell; in the early days, Angelus was everything to Spike. Later, in Sunnydale, his Sire was consumed by madness from being trapped with a soul, and Spike had suffered as a result. How would Angel react to this new development in his childe's life?

Spike may have had reservations about going to Angel, but he wanted to stay in Sunnydale even less. The idea of seeing Buffy again was terrifying. He still felt for herhe still loved her. But now he couldn't stand the sight of the Slayer. There was too much pain attached to her in his mind.

Got a car, got gas. I can make it before sunrise. Spike looked out the door. Indeed, if he left now, right now, he could make it to Los Angeles and Angel's hotel before sunriseeven if he drove carefully. Carefully? When did I start driving carefully?

*****
Part 4:

"Fred, put down the Sharpie."

The young woman looked nervously at Cordelia Chase, who was sternly wagging a finger at her. She capped the marker quickly and set it down on the counter.

"Good. You can write all over your own walls, but no formulas in the lobby!" Turning toward Angel, Cordelia addressed the vampire next. "Angel, you have to do something. She's driving me insane!"

Angel sighed. Fred was improving dramatically. Yes, she was trying to write all over the lobby walls. At least she was in the lobby. "Cordy, patience?" He tried smiling at her, which got him nothing but a glare. "Ok, ok. Fred?" Fred looked at him hopefully. "Fred, I'm going to give you some notebooks." Fred nodded quickly. "You can write formulas in them, and then tack the papers to the walls. Ok?" Fred nodded again.

"No writing on the walls. Writing on paper, then paper on the walls. Writing a step removed from the walls. Got it," Fred chattered anxiously. Angel gave her a reassuring nod.

Wesley emerged from a back room carrying several large weapons. "Angel, you need to have these sharpened." Angel rolled his eyes. The former Watcher was more obsessive about the care of his weapons than he himself was.

Angel was about to reply when he sensed another vampire very near. He turned toward the main doors only to see a familiar blonde fall through them and collapse into the foyer.

"Spike?"

Angel rushed over to the fallen vampire. He reached down, turning over Spike's body, looking for why the younger man had collapsed. He found nothing. "Spike." He got no response. "Spike, what are you doing here?"

After a moment, Spike's eyes opened. Blue eyes swimming in tears gazed up at Angel. "Sire.I." The blonde vampire lost consciousness mid-sentence.

Angel picked up the vampire, turning back to his colleagues.

"Is that Spike?" Wesley asked, cautiously approaching the figure in his friend's arms.

"Spike, as in tortured Angel for that ring, has a chip in his head Spike?" Cordelia squeaked.

"Who's Spike?" Fred asked tremulously.

Angel looked at them. "Yes, it's Spike. He's my.a vampire I know rather well. I don't know why he's here, but something is wrong with him."

"How do you know?" Cordelia asked. "He could be tricking you, you know, trying to torture you again. Why can't we stake him?"

Angel sighed. "You can't stake him because Spike was helping Buffy before she died, so he's not all bad. How do I know something's wrong with him? Besides the fact that he passed out?" Angel asked the group, walking up the stairs toward the empty hotel rooms.

"Cordelia, stay with Fred," Wesley asked the seer as he followed Angel. He jogged to keep up with the vampire, catching up to him only when Angel stopped to enter a vacant room.

"Are you sure about this, Angel? Cordelia could have a point, you know."

Angel laid Spike on the bed, gently arranging his limbs on the mattress. He looked over his childe for several minutes, thinking. "He called me Sire, Wes. He never calls me that."

Wesley took a deep breath. He knew that Angel and Spike's relationship was strained, to say the least. The blonde vampire did not accept Angel with his soul, and generally had nothing to do with him. "What do we do?"

The vampire turned to the human. "He needs blood. He hasn't fed well, that much is obvious. Spike can't feed off of humans, so he's been drinking animal blood. It's fine when he's healthy, but vampires need human blood to heal quickly."

"Right. Um, the sun's going to be up soon. I suppose you want me to fetch a pint or two for the blonde menace?" Wesley asked warily.

Angel winced. He hated asking Wesley to do this. He could take the sewer, but. "It's either that or I go get it, and leave you all here with Spike."

Wesley grimaced. "I'll be back in a jiffy then." Angel pulled out some money, thrusting it at the man.

"Get at least five pints, maybe more. Whatever that'll buy." Wesley just raised an eyebrow.

"Any particular vintage?" He asked sarcastically.

"A-negative." Angel replied deadpan.

"Right on it." Wesley headed back down the stairs. Angel heard the screeching as the ex-Watcher explained just where he was going to Cordelia. The only thing keeping the girl downstairs was Spike's presence up here.

Angel pulled a chair to the edge of the bed and sat down to study Spike. The younger vampire was gaunt, his hair limp and unkempt. His clothes were dusty and in need of washing, his duster filthy. Willow had told him that Spike had.feelings for Buffy, something that no one really took seriously until the Slayer died. The blonde had taken her death badly, according to the witch. Still, Spike's condition was worse than Angel would have expected. There was also the issue of the pain he'd seen in Spike's eyes. Angel had never seen Spike show pain like that, even when he was being tortured. It made no sense.

The brunette remained in thought until Wesley returned a few hours later, carrying up a tray.

"Red Cross!" Wesley chirped. He set down a tray containing several bags of human blood, already heated. "So." He started. "Cordelia has gone home. She took Fred with her. She is not comfortable with Spike here, and would like me to tell you that you can call her when he has left. Permanently."

Angel cocked an eyebrow but did not respond to Cordelia's statement. "You may want to leave, Wes. This might not be pretty."

"Are you sure? This is Spike"

"I can handle this."

Wesley turned to leave. "I'll be downstairs. Call if you need anything."

"You can go home. You need sleep," Angel said. He looked over at the man. "Please. I can handle Spike."

The demon hunter considered the situation. "I'm staying. I'll be downstairs researching."

Angel sighed and relented. "Fine." He turned back to Spike, leaving Wesley to return to the lobby.

The vampire reached over the bed, grasping Spike firmly by the shoulders. He shook the younger vampire gently, calling his name firmly. After a few minutes, Spike began to stir.

Angel watched the vampire's blue eyes swim in confusion for a moment before clearing. The pain he'd seen earlier was still there, glassy and sharp. He reached over and picked up a packet of blood, wordlessly offering it to Spike. The blonde looked at it for a moment before recognition set in and he tentatively reached for the bag. Angel watched as Spike slowly lifted the bag to his mouth, his face shifting slowly. The younger vampire carefully drained the bag, wincing slightly.

"Human," Spike said, watching Angel.

"Blood bank. You're weak," Angel replied, replacing the empty bag with another. He knew the other vampire was ravenous and did not understand why Spike was not ripping into the blood with gleeful abandon. "What happened?"

Spike finished off the second pint of blood and glanced at the tray. Angel gave him a third container, watching carefully as the flush of fresh blood rose on Spike's face. After several silent moments, Spike finished the last of the blood and lay back on the bed.

"Spike, what happened? Why are you here?" Angel asked patiently, more patiently than he felt. He wanted to know what Spike was up to. He was also more than a little concerned.

The younger vampire stared up at the ceiling. Where to begin? He felt better here than in Sunnydale and could actually think fairly clearly. Being around his Sire did that for him in the past; apparently it still worked.

"Spike"

"Long story."

"I'm not getting any older." Spike snorted softly at the remark. He looked over at Angel, seeing for the first time the sadness in his Sire's eyes and on his face. It was what Spike used to think of as another sign of Angel's weakness. Now he knew better.

"Like I said, it's a long story. I'd rather tell it straight through." Spike looked over at Angel, hoping he'd agree to just listen.

Angel's concern grew. Spike had yet to exhibit his trademark cockiness and brash rudeness. He nodded, indicating that he would listen to what Spike had to say before commenting.

After a few minutes, Spike began to speak. "You know Buffy died, right?" Angel nodded, pain flashing on his face. "You know I loved her?" Again, Angel acknowledged Spike, but this time anger accompanied it. Spike grimaced. "I know it wasn't like you, all 'perfect soul-love,' but I did love her. You loved her; you know what its like." Angel had the good grace to agree. "Anyway, after she died, I couldn't.I couldn't live anymore. Didn't have anything to live for." Spike stopped for a moment, lost in memories.

Angel's eyes widened in surprise. He thought back to just a few weeks ago, to when he and Cordelia had been attacked by an old acquaintance of Angelus' whose mate he'd just killed. The vampire had gone mad at the loss of his lover, accusing Angel of not loving Buffy enough, since he could obviously go on living when she was dead. How had Spike loved her more than he had, that the younger vampire could lose the will to live?

"So I'm lying in my crypt. I've not been feeding, really weak. The door's open and I know that the sun will shine in the next day and if I don't do something, I'll fry. So I just sit there in the corner and decide that's not a bad thing." Spike paused. "I'm watching the sunbeams get closer to my feet, and for some reason I decided to pray." He stopped again, lost once more in the past.

At this point, Angel was glad he was sitting down; if he'd been standing up, he'd have fallen over. He was fairly sure Spike was telling the truth, but if he wasn't, this was the best con he'd ever pulled.

"An' I'm there, praying to the bleeding Powers That Be, asking them why they let her die, why they didn't take me instead, when this woman shows up in my crypt, right when I should have turned into dust," Spike continued. "She says she's from The Powers. Says that since they don't get many prayers from us evil demon types, they took an interest in me. I'm lying there, wondering why I'm not on fire, and she's reading my mind, telling me that they're sorry Buffy died, that no, it wasn't her time to die." Angel jumped slightly at that comment. Not her time to die?

Spike forged on, surprised that he'd been able to get this far. He didn't really want to continue, but if he stopped now, he'd probably not be able to go on. "So she offers me this deal. Says that The Powers don't want my life for Buffy's, they want me to work for them. If I do that, they'll bring her back," He said softly. "Said if I was willing to take back my soul, Buffy would be alive again. And I said yes." He stopped, looking over at Angel, who looked like he'd been hit over the head.

"You know what? It worked. I got up last night, feeling like I'd been dragged through seven hells, and made it to that magic shop they hang out at, and Buffy's there, all alive and glowing and perfect, and they have no bleeding idea why she's there, and she doesn't know she's been dead, and they don't know I've got this soul in me," Spike said quickly, as though if he stopped talking he'd never start again. "And I saw here there, and she hates me, hates me because I couldn't live without her, and I couldn't stay there, it hurt too much, it hurt to see her there hating me, and I didn't know what to do, I had to get away from there." Spike finally ran out of things to say and curled up on the mattress, hiding the red tears falling from his eyes.

*****
Part 5:

Angel stared at him in shock. He had to be lying. He absolutely had to be lying. Buffy was dead. Spike did not have a soul. Buffy was dead. Buffy could not be alive. He looked down at Spike, who was practically wrapped around himself, shaking like a leaf. Angel stood and walked out of the room, heading for his own quarters. When he got there, he reached for the telephone.

"Willow? This is Angel. Did I interrupt you?" Angel asked quietly.

"No! No, not at all! Um, we're.we're all around the house. So.Um.Angel? I.goddess.how do I say this? Um.something really weird happened yesterday." Angel sat down on the bed. Spike was telling the truth? He listened to the torrent of words flowing over the phone line. Buffy was alive. Alive in Sunnydale, and no one knew how or why. Well, he knew, and Spike knew.

"Willow," Angel interrupted gently. "Willow, Buffy's alive? That's great! That's.amazing. Unbelievable. Are you sure?" He listened to several more minutes of chatter. "Look, Willow.I'm not sure that Buffy needs to know I called then. I was just checking up on you all, to see how everything was going. Um, call if you need anything."

"Um, Angel? Could you, I don't know, ask around or something, you know? I mean, we're all really happy she's back, but we seriously don't get it."

"I'll ask around."

Finishing up the phone call, Angel sat on the bed, staring at the carpet. Buffy was alive. He was happy, of course. He felt really odd, though. He'd just spent months getting over her death, then realized that as much as he loved her he may have not loved her as much as he thought, and now she's back among the living. And then there was Spike. Spike! He'd left the vampire alone in the other room.

Running back to where he'd left the blonde, Angel ran back through his memories of what he'd been through when he first got his soul. If Spike really had a soul, then he was in incredible pain.

The sight that greeted Angel was terrible. Spike had curled up even tighter than before and a low keening sound accompanied his shuddering. Angel reached over and took the smaller man into his arms, rocking the vampire against him. He purred softly, knowing that the subvocal sounds were soothing for Spike. After a long while, the blonde relaxed slightly, leaning against Angel's chest.

"Pain?" Angel asked. Spike nodded silently. Angel ran a hand through Spike's hair, holding him close. "You came here for help."

"I don't know what to do. It hurts," Spike cried. Angel was worried; Spike never cried. "I'm supposed to be like you."

Angel started at the comment. "Like me?" He looked down at Spike.

"Warrior for Light and all that. Least that's what the woman from The Powers said." Spike went back to shivering and Angel tightened his hold on the vampire. Spike was obviously deeply distressed. Angel knew what he was going through. At least Spike had someone to help him; Angel had wandered about alone with nothing to help him when he'd been cursed.

But Spike hadn't been cursed. He'd willingly taken on the soul, willingly entered into the service of The Powers. Why was he suffering? Was it just a side effect of the soul, to suffer for all the pain he'd caused? Spike had certainly caused a lot of pain in his long life. Another thought occurred to him. Did Spike's soul come with that 'happiness' clause?

"Spike," Angel began, unsure of how to approach the topic. "Your soul is like mine?"

Spike looked up. "Not exactly. No clauses or anything. Just a soul and that whole work for us until you've gained redemption thing." Angel relaxed. It was one thing he didn't have to worry about.

Spike had resumed rocking again, still moaning softly. "Shh.it's alright, Spike." He felt Spike tense up. "What is it?" He asked anxiously.

"I.I hate that name," Spike said suddenly. He had just realized it. He did hate the name. It stood for all the pain, the guilt and the hate he felt.

Angel closed his eyes, leaning back against the wall. He understood what Spike meant. He had ceased being Angelus when he got his soul; he was no longer Angelus, the Scourge of Europe. The name was painful for him. Spike's own nickname must be no less painful now.

"Wil."

Spike looked up at Angel. "What?"

"Wil. You aren't Spike anymore, are you? Wil is your name, after all. No one has to call you Spike ever again." Angel smiled hopefully at the younger vampire.

Spike thought about it. No one had called him by his given name in a very long time. It felt good; it reminded him of when he was human. He'd been a fairly weak human, but not a bad one. "You're right."

The events of the past night were quickly catching up to the blonde. Even with the human blood now in his system, he was exhausted beyond belief.

Angel recognized his childe's state. "Sleep, Wil. I'll be here when you wake." He gently placed Wil on the bed. He reached around, untying boots and pulling off clothes. The younger vampire had already succumbed to slumber. Angel carefully covered the sleeping form with blankets and quietly left the room, pulling the door shut.

The sun had risen several hours ago and Angel himself was quite tired. Still, he had to talk to Wesley. It was probably best that the man had stayed behind. Walking downstairs, Angel went in search of the ex-Watcher.

He found Wesley engrossed in a demonology text, oblivious to Angel's entrance.

"Wes." The human jumped up in surprise.

"Oh. Angel. I didn't hear you come in." Wesley looked around. "So, how did it go?"

Angel smirked and sat down. "Well, you aren't going to believe me."

"Try me."

···...·...·...·...···

"I don't believe you."

"Told you," Angel sighed. Wesley was right; it was a pretty incredible story. "But I called Sunnydale. Willow said Buffy was alive. She has no reason to lie to me."

Wesley considered the situation. The very idea of Spike doing something.selfless was inconceivable. "If it were anyone but Spike"

"Wil."

The human corrected himself. "If it were anyone but Wil, I might believe it. But him? He's evil!"

Angel looked over at the man. "So was Angelus. What is hard for you to believe is that he would do it willingly for someone else, for no personal gain."

Wesley glared for a moment, and then conceded. "I know. But, isn't there some way to check out his story? I mean, some way to look for the soul?"

"I thought about that. There are some spells, here and there, but.why don't we ask Lorne?"

"The Host?" Wesley squeaked.

"He helped with Cordy and he can tell things like that," Angel replied calmly. "I'd like to get some of this settled before the others come back in. If Wil really has a soul, he's going to be staying here and working with us, at least for the time being. I'd rather not spend my time keeping Cordy and Gunn from staking him."

Angel was right, Wesley knew that much. Without some other assurance, the others would be after him as soon as they saw him. "I'll call Caritas. We'll need to do this fairly soon."

Wesley ushered Lorne into the hotel where Angel was waiting well away from the doors. "Angel! Long time, well, not so long time, no see!"

"Lorne. Thanks for coming."

"Well, apparently I've started doing house calls. I'd love to just stay and make myself at home in this lovely hotel, but I've got to make this quick. Where's the patient?"

"Did Wesley tell you anything?" Angel asked as he led the green demon up the stairs.

"The basics, your childe, very evil vampire, got soul to bring girl back from dead, here to get help. Did I miss anything?"

"He has a very bad attitude," Wesley added. At a glare from Angel, he relented. "Well, used to. Maybe the soul mellowed him some."

The demon and the human cautiously entered the room behind Angel. Spike was still curled up under the blankets Angel had placed over him. He looked young and innocent and very alone in the bed. Angel sat beside him, gently awakening the younger vampire.

"Wil?" Wil opened his eyes, looking up drowsily at his Sire.

"Mm?" He mumbled. He was never good at waking up during the day.

"Wil, there is someone I need you to meet." Angel gestured toward Lorne. The younger vampire looked over, his eyes widening at the sight of the bright green demon. "Lorne is going to help you, ok?" Wil looked searchingly at Angel. After a minute, he nodded.

"Ok, Lorne." Angel motioned for him to come forward.

Lorne gently clasped his hands around Wil's face, searching for what The Powers would show him. He stayed motionless for several minutes, and then sat back with a sigh. Wil sank back into the bed, falling asleep immediately.

Angel and Wesley looked at Lorne expectantly. "He definitely has a soul, and he's really suffering for it," Lorne said. Wesley visibly relaxed.

"Is that all?" Angel asked.

"Nope. He's supposed to be here," Lorne added.

"What do you mean?"

"Just what I saidhe's supposed to be here. The Powers want him to work with you. He needs your help to figure out what to do," Lorne said. Wesley snorted. Lorne rounded on him.

"Don't start with that. That man," he pointed down at Wil, "gave up everything he was, accepted a fate his kind finds worse than death, to bring back someone who turned on him the first chance she got. He needs Angel's help. Angel has had a century to figure out how to live with a soul. Besides that, The Powers want Wil to work with Angel."

"What do you mean, turned on him?" Angel asked.

"Apparently that girl he traded his life for put him through the ringer, and recently."

"Buffy. He saw her yesterday. She must have said something to him," Angel thought out loud. "Something to make him come here."

"Perhaps," Wesley said, considering the situation.

"Well, I'd love to stay and chat, but business calls," Lorne said, heading for the door. "Look, when you get blondie here up and running, bring him by the club. Seriously, good luck, Angel." With that, Lorne left to return to his karaoke bar.

"Cordelia is never going to believe this."

"I know."

Angel looked down at his sleeping childe. "What do I do?"

Wesley pondered the situation for a moment. "Tell them the truth." He glanced at Angel, who nodded in assent.

"Could you call them in?"

*****

Parts 6, 7 & 8

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