Ways of Life

By

Anessa Ramsey

Rating:  Very strong R.

Spoilers:  Everything through Smashed, Season 6 Buffy.  Things from there get way different.  Spike is not souled…yet.  Willow did not go magic crazy.  Giles never left.  Spike cannot hurt Buffy but she did come back wrong (emotionally). Xander and Anya got hitched.  As for Angel spoilers here's the deal.  Connor does not exist.  Wesley is still working with Angel.  Gunn and Fred are not together.  Groo just sucks and never came for Cordelia who is not a higher being but she is half demon.

Pairings:  Spike/Cordelia/Angel.  Also slightly mentions: Wes/Fred, Gunn/Anne

Feedback:  Absolutely!  Good or bad, let me know what you think…as long as you don't flame.

Distribution:  Want.  Take.  Have.  Just email me to let me know where it's going.

Disclaimer:  I own nothing.  Everything belongs to Joss Whedon.

Summary:  Spike goes to LA after being used and abused by Buffy.  Angel and Cordelia try to help him when they find out he's fallen back into an old way of life.  When they try to help him, he finds out that living with them is taking him back to another way of life that he thought was long over as well. 

Author's Note:  I'm not quite sure what was going through my head when I got the idea to write this.  It just sort of came out.  I went with it because I've never seen just a Spike/Cordelia/Angel pairing.  Usually Willow was in the mix too.  I hope you like it.  Just a very weird idea that ended up being a fairly long, tedious, not to mention wordy, project.

        Spike stared at the mirror, wishing he could see his reflection.  He wanted to know what he'd become.  He'd let the bleach go, that much he knew, so he probably had dark roots beginning to show.  He was thin but he hadn't been feeding much.  Butchers' blood just couldn't compare to the taste of warm, coppery human blood sliding down his throat.  His jeans hung down around his hips, loose and baggy on his legs.  More than anything he wanted to see his eyes.  He knew that he probably wouldn't like what he saw but at least it would be something.

         Sighing, he walked out of the small dirty bathroom of the motel room.  He grabbed his white tank top off the floor and pulled it over his head.  He leafed through the money on the nightstand.  It hadn't been a bad night.  The lumpy shape under the covers shifted slightly, just enough for him to make out a head of spiked brown hair.  The guy had been generous for a change, leaving him a fifty-dollar tip in addition to the standard two hundred.  He slipped his feet into his boots and walked out the door, knowing that 'Rick' would call again to set up next week's meeting.

         Spike grimaced at the filth in the streets as he walked down La Cieniga toward his place on Fairfax.  It wasn't much, but it was a place to sleep.  For two months he'd struggled to find some sort of bartendeing position at a club, but there'd been nothing available.  He'd needed money fast or he wouldn't have been able to feed, let alone pay his rent.  So he sold himself.  He'd been lucky that night.  The first guy that stopped had taken a liking to him…no, not him.  His body.  Now 'Rick' was a regular.  He was one of four men that Spike catered to on a weekly basis when he wasn't working a corner. 

         He hadn't wanted to return to prostitution.  The very thought of the idea had sent shivers running through his body.  Angelus had helped him escape that life so long ago, and now here he was, in the same place as way back then.  People always said everything comes full circle.

         He stuffed his hands into his pockets and climbed the stairs to his third floor apartment.  It was not the nicest place but he'd stayed in far worse.  The floor was covered in a dark brown shag carpet that was stained in a couple of places.  There was a TV and VCR sitting on the floor against the largest wall in the living room.  A small plaid sofa graced the other wall. 

         He plopped down on the couch once he let himself into the apartment, flipping on the television, but didn't really pay attention.  His mind was elsewhere.  He thought of the look on 'Rick's' face the first time he said a condom wasn't necessary.  It wasn't like he could carry a disease to give or could catch one from someone else.  'Rick' had been hesitant until Spike had shown him what exactly he was.  His ability to be used with out protection made him a hot property among those who were looking for a good time.

         He stared at the colorful people smiling and happy on the television screen and tried to remember the last time he'd been truly happy.  He was surprised to realize that it had been not long after he met Angelus.  He hadn't been happy for over eighty years.  He closed his eyes, hoping that sleep would claim him, wondering how he had gotten to this place.

London, 1810

         Will couldn't help but look around the ornate parlor with a sense of awe.  It was the first time he'd ever been in such lavish surroundings.  The walls were painted dark blue and candles hung in ornate sconces on them.  Pillowy chairs were placed carefully about the room and there was a fire roaring in the fireplace.  He noticed two young men, no older than he, watching him discreetly from the corner where they sat playing chess.  It had all happened so suddenly he wasn't quite sure how to take it all in.  He'd only been a prostitute for three weeks and now he was about to work in a brothel.  It wasn't like the ones that were down by the wharf.  The police never came near this place.  They were too afraid to go up against the owner, Jonathon Reynard.  His brothels catered to the members of high society.  They expected quality prostitutes and paid well for their pleasure.  When an associate of Reynard's approached him he'd been suspicious to say the least.  It wasn't everyday that he was offered more money for a week's work of selling his body than he usually made in a month.

         He followed the butler, identified only as Meyers, up the stairs to a large mahogany door.  Meyers opened it and allowed Will to pass.  There was a large man sitting in a chair at the desk.  He stood upon William's entry.  "I am Jonathon Reynard and you must be young William."  His gaze moved over Will's body, taking in every detail.  "You will be a huge success here," he murmured.  "Those eyes will attract much attention.  Your cheekbones and lips will also be marveled at.  Men will be willing to pay quite a bit of money to feel those soft lips wrapped around their cock."  Will blushed, still not used to pleasuring other people for money.  "Look at me, young Will."  Will did as he was told.  "There are only a few rules in this house.  One is that you are not to sell yourself on the side.  Your body now belongs to me.  Two.  The clients are never allowed to brutalize you in any way.  They are made to pay if they do.  You must, however, cater to any other desire that they have.  If you can't agree to that I suggest you leave now.  Three.  There is to be no fraternization among the prostitutes.  Your bodies are for the clients only.  Four.  Should you break any of these rules you will find yourself on the street within a matter of seconds.  Can you live with this?"  William nodded and Jonathon smiled.  "Cheer up child, a whole new life awaits.  Maybe, if you're lucky, someone will take a liking to you and set you up as their own personal whore."  An slightly sadistic grin twisted his features.  "Be downstairs in the parlor promptly at midnight.  Wear only the pants that are laid out for you on that chair.  You will meet the other boys before beginning your duties.  I warn you now, bath after every client because you will be servicing one to three clients a night."

         "Yes, sir," he said, his thoughts whirling.  He'd only been with ten men since he'd started selling himself by the wharf.  This was going to be different and he didn't know if he could handle anything but the rough and brutal way he had started to become accustomed to.  Silently he prayed that his mother would forgive him.  They needed the money and this was the only way for him to be able to provide for her and his sisters. 

         "Good.  I shall see you in the parlor promptly at twelve."  Without another word, he tipped his hat and strode out the door.  Meyers closed it behind Reynard, leaving Will to explore his new quarters. 

         The room was done entirely in reds and black.  His bed was large enough to accommodate three people, maybe four.  It was the largest bed he'd ever seen in his life.  The room was nearly two times the size of the hovel he'd grown up in.  The windows were open and a sweet jasmine scented breeze drifted in, wrapping lazily around his body, inflaming his senses.  He put his things away slowly, watching the time on the ornate grandfather clock that stood in the corner.  When it was thirty minutes until midnight he pulled on the black pants that had been left for him and sat on the bed, trying his best not to let his nerves get to him.  He'd done it before.  It wasn't anything new.  Only the location was different, as were the men.  When five until midnight rolled around he headed down to the main parlor that he'd passed through earlier.  Only now it was filled with half dressed young men, most no older than seven and twenty and the rest were no younger than ten and six.

         A young dark haired boy looked up at him from a chair.  "Yer the new one, aren't ye?" he said, his voice husky for a boy no older than ten and eight.

William nodded, unable to remember how to speak.  The men in the room were gorgeous.  How was he ever going to compete with them?  "Dinna worry.  Ye'll do fine," the boy continued.  "I'm Duncan.  What's yer name?"

         "William."

         "Let me give ye some advice William.  Look out for a mick named Angelus.  He likes the innocent ones.  Those eyes of yers will draw him in.  Pray that yer with a client when he arrives.  Once he fixates on someone he doesna like others touching what he considers his.  If he chooses ye, ye'll belong to him as long as yer here or until he tires of ye.  Mr. Reynard caters to him.  I think he's actually afraid of him.  They say that he's a vampire."

         Duncan turned away abruptly when Mr. Reynard entered the room.  "Line up," he said, waiting patiently as they formed a single file line.  He walked down the line, inspecting each boy closely, making sure that they were ready for the evening.  He stopped in front of William who was at the end of the line.  "You'll not be working the room tonight, boy.  I've arranged for a private session between you and one of my most valued patrons.  Be in your room in ten minutes.  Meyers will be there to assist you with preparations.  Angelus likes things just so."  William's eyes widened and Reynard laughed, striding out of the room.

         "Looks like yer going to be Angelus' pet after all," Duncan whispered before going off to mingle with the finely dressed gentlemen and lords that were beginning to filter into the room.

Los Angeles, 2002

         Cordelia couldn't help but hit the computer screen in frustration.  Ever since Angel hired her she'd been trying to figure out how to work the machine properly.  It was not going well.  It didn't help that Gunn made fun of her for her lack of finesse with anything technological.  Sometimes she just wanted to kill him.  She didn't know how Anne put up with him.

         Completely exhausted from a long day's work, she grabbed her purse and shouted out to Angel that she was leaving.  Wesley offered to drive her home but she declined, wanting to be alone for a little while.  She was almost to her apartment building when she saw the boys on the corner.  She could spot the regulars by now.  Some of them were no older than fifteen and the oldest one looked about twenty-one.  There were several cars pulled up next to them and she knew what was going on.  They were selling themselves.  It made her so sad that they were reduced to that kind of life.  Sometimes she took them something to eat.  They were wary at first…nothing is what it appears to be in the City of Angels, but soon they came to like the fact that she fed them yet didn't try to pressure them into going to a shelter or teen halfway house.

         She was going to make her usual stopover later but she noticed a flash of white blond hair.  It didn't take but a second to realize who was getting out of the black Mercedes that just pulled up.  Spike.  Thank god she kept in touch with Willow occasionally or she'd be running to get to her apartment building.  She watched him shove a wad of bills into his pocket and straighten his shirt.  He was incredibly thin.  He looked like he hadn't fed in a while, not even on bagged blood.  And he was turning tricks.  That was something she certainly never expected. 

         Squaring her shoulders she walked across the street.  "Jimmy," she said, coming up behind a fifteen year old with scruffy black hair.  She gave him a hug then started making her way toward Spike, who was talking to another guy through the window of his car.  She hesitated just a moment before tapping him on the shoulder.

         "I'm busy, go away," he snapped, not even bothering to look behind him.

         "Nope.  I'm staying until I figure out what to tell my boss about his childe being in town and the fact that he's whoring himself."

         Spike turned around slowly and was immediately replaced by an eighteen-year-old boy named Marco.  "Bloody hell woman!  Now I've lost a client.  Are you happy?"

         "The fact that you're in town would ruin anyone's good mood.  What are you doing here Spike?"

         "I could ask you the same thing, luv."

         "I work here in LA, remember?  My boss happens to be your sire.  I also live across the street and know most of the regular kids on this corner.  I know about the chip but if even one of them is harmed by you, you'll beg me to stake you before I'm through with you," she hissed.  She was not going to let him hurt these kids.  They were doing a good enough job of that on their own.  They didn't need any help in that department.  A picture of J ran through her mind.  He used to work the corner regularly.  He had been wary of her at first but soon they'd become friends.  One night she made her usual delivery of food and a few bucks but J hadn't been there.  When she asked if he was with a client Marco told her that J got killed by a client.  She cried all night.  The unfairness of it came out in grief stricken sobbing.

         Spike broke into her thoughts.  "Don't worry, luv.  I'm not feeding.  I don't do that anymore.  Can't, remember?  I know the witch told you that.  All I do here is work.  And you better not say one damn word to Peaches about this.  It's none of his business."  Spike turned away and for a moment she could see in his eyes how much he hated what he was doing.

         "Why are you doing this Spike?"

         He growled lightly.  "I don't have time to stand here and make with the chit chat, cheerleader.  Unlike you I have very few hours to try to make end meat.  If you want to talk, you pay me for my time.  Otherwise, I'm going to walk over to that car and proposition the driver.  It's what I do."  He walked away and Cordelia sighed.  She didn't have the money to pay him to talk.  She didn't even know why she was considering it.  It was probably because she saw something in his eyes that had never been there before.  He seemed…broken.  She watched helplessly as he got into the sedan and it pulled away from the curb.  She wouldn't be seeing him again that night.  She was going to have to talk to Angel.

         It had been two days and every time she thought about telling Angel something came up.  But now there was no putting off the inevitable, so she opened the door and walked into his office.  "We need to talk."

         He barely glanced up from his paperwork.  "About what?"

         She was getting impatient.  He wasn't paying any attention to her.  "About what Spike is doing in town selling himself on street corners at night."

         "He's what?"  His head snapped up and she smirked.  That got his attention.

         "He's selling his body on a street corner several nights a week.  There's a group of kids that work the corner across from my apartment.  I know a couple of them cause I take them food sometimes.  I saw Spike there the other night.  I tried to talk to him but he said if I wanted to talk I had to pay for his time.  He didn't look good Angel.  He was way too thin…even more so than I remember, and he's let the peroxide go.  His brown roots were at least an inch long."

         Angel sighed.  Spike.  It always came back to his wayward childe.  "There's nothing I can do to help, Cordy.  How he lives his life isn't my concern.  He's been on his own for over a century.  He's not my responsibility anymore."

         "Okay, this is going to sound really strange.  I can't believe I'm actually going to defend Spike, but don't you think that you should at least find out why he's here?  The last time we saw him was the Amara incident.  That didn't go well if I remember correctly."  Now came the hard part.  "I'm worried about him Angel.  You didn't see him.  I don't think he's eating, not even bagged blood.  I looked into his eyes, Angel, and he seemed broken.  Not just sad, but really truly broken.  He covered it well with anger.  Lots of anger.  Maybe you could call someone in Sunnydale and find out what's going on.  He was working with the gang according to Willow."

         He knew there was no way he was going to get out of this so he picked up the phone and dialed the number he knew so well.  Cordelia sat down on the couch that was up against the far wall.  She wanted to know what Willow had to say.

         "Willow, it's Angel."

         "Hey, Angel," Willow said in response.  "It's been a while."

         "I know.  I'm calling to find out about Spike.  I had this feeling that something was wrong with him."  Cordelia shot him a look and he shrugged.  It was the only way to explain why he wanted to know about Spike.

         "You're not wrong.  He took off.  No one knows where."  He heard her sigh loudly on the other end of the line.  "Buffy's been having some…problems…since she came back from her…vacation.  She was taking out all her anger on Spike.  None of us realized it until it was too late.  We caught her holding a stake above his heart in the training room.  The weird thing was he didn't even try to fight her.  It was like it had been going on so long that he didn't care anymore."

         "So she was beating him up?  That's nothing unusual."  Willow paused and he knew that it was something more than a simple beating. 

         "Angel, she was having sex with him at the time.  Apparently they slept together one night, it was mutual then.  I guess, though, that things got progressively worse.  You know Spike was in love with her, right?"

         Angel clenched his fists, but he'd known for some time.  Giles had informed him.  "Yes," he said tightly.

         "Well, it seems that he didn't want to be used and it got to the point where she began beating him and holding a stake over his heart before she would…" Willow trailed off momentarily, but Angel got the idea.  "And he wasn't able to defend himself.  Chip."

         It was a lot to absorb.  "Willow, that's got to be wrong, Buffy would never do that.  Spike must have done something to provoke her."

         "I'm sorry Angel.  We all saw him.  He could barely move.  She broke some ribs and a cheekbone.  His eyes were swollen and bruised.  There wasn't a spot on his chest that wasn't purple or yellow.  It was going on for a while.  Dawn was the first to notice that Spike was walking weird.  He'd been moving real slow because of the pain.  He told us that he kept getting in bar fights.  We took him at his word.  It had happened before."

         "How's Buffy doing?"

         "Not so good.  It's like she knew that what she was doing was wrong but couldn't stop herself.  She's having nightmares about it.  Even now though, she's still got some problems.  She still won't really talk to us about much and she still patrols all night, every night.  I think she's taken up with other vampires, but I don't know for sure.  Dawn won't speak to her.  Even Xander and I are having trouble talking to her.  Spike was never really one of us but what she did was pretty awful."  He couldn't speak.  There was nothing to say.  "He's in LA, isn't he?" she asked when he didn't speak.

         "Yeah."

         "Is he…okay?"

         "No.  I didn't see him.  Cordy did.  Apparently he's not eating much and he's selling himself.  She said he looked broken."

         "Oh, goddess.  You will help him right?  Please don't let him keep doing that.  I can't explain to Dawn that he's doing that."

         Angel sighed.  "I'll do what I can Willow.  He may not want to be helped."

         "All I'm asking is that you try.  Please."

         "I will.  Thanks for talking to me."

         "No problem.  You'll let me know how things go?"

         "Yeah.  Goodbye.

         "Bye, Angel."

         He set the phone down with an audible click.  Cordelia was dying to know what was going on.  "Well?" she snapped.

         He didn't know where to begin.  It was insane.  This was Buffy.  She didn't do things like that.  "Willow said that Buffy was…raping Spike.  She would beat him to the point where he couldn't stop her, then she would hold a stake over his heart while she used him."  Cordelia gasped.

         "That's sick!" she said, the disgust in her voice evident.  Angel didn't respond.  He was too lost in his thoughts.  What was he going to do?  Spike would never listen to anything he had to say.  He could use Cordelia to get to Spike.  He sighed.  It was going to be a long week.

Sunnydale, CA  2002

         Dawn came skipping down the stairs.  She was having a good day, one of few since Spike left.  Willow was just hanging up the phone in the kitchen.  "Who was on the phone?"

         Willow glanced at Dawn uncertainly.  She wasn't ready to deal with this yet.  She hadn't had time to decide what would be appropriate to say to a sixteen-year-old girl.  "It was Angel," she hedged.  She turned away and went to rummage through the fridge.  She was suddenly very thirsty.  Hungry too. 

         Dawn was more perceptive than anyone gave her credit for.  "Spike's in LA," she said.  It wasn't a question.

         Taking out a carton of chocolate milk she poured both of them a glass.  "Yes.  Cordelia saw him the other day."

         The smile on Dawn's face was luminous.  It just reinforced the fact that maybe the only one who really knew Spike was Dawn.  They seemed to have a friendship that none of the others did.  It was strange but it seemed like Dawn and Spike were better friends to each other than any of the gang were to themselves.  It must have destroyed her to find out that her best friend left town.  "He's okay right.  I mean, he called to let me know he got there okay, and I've talked to him a couple of times since…" she clapped her hand over her mouth.  She cringed.  Babbling always got her into trouble.  Something always slipped out.

         "I should have guessed.  He never would have left without saying goodbye to his niblet.  How long have you been talking to him, Dawn?"

         "He calls every couple of weeks.  Other than that we write to each other.  I've been in contact with him since he left.  He didn't want Buffy to know where he was going.  That's why he never puts a return address on any of his letters."

         Willow was about to tell her that Spike was having a few problems when Buffy walked in the door.  She strolled into the kitchen and Dawn stiffened.  She stood unsteadily, grabbed her glass of milk and walked out of the room.  Buffy watched her go.  "Still mad?"  Willow nodded.  "You would think that she would at least be talking to me.  It's been over two months." 

         "He was her best friend, Buffy.  Give her time."

         Buffy sighed.  There were dark circles under her eyes because she hadn't been sleeping well and she was patrolling constantly.  She couldn't seem to stop herself now that Spike was gone.  It was like the only time she felt alive was when she was screwing a vampire into the ground.  She missed him though she'd never admit it aloud.  At least she had been able to talk to him…until she had started hurting him.  Now there was no one to talk to at all. 

Willow watched Buffy carefully, seeing no emotion cross her friend's face.  Her eyes held hundreds of feelings though and she knew that it was only a matter of time before all of them came spilling out.  She just hoped Buffy would be ready when they did.  Changing her train of thought she knew it was time to break the news.  "I just got off the phone with Angel."

         Buffy's head shot up and Willow grimaced.  She assumed it was because Buffy still had feelings for the souled vampire, but it was because she was hoping that he might know something about where Spike was.  "How was he?"

         "Good.  He called because Cordelia ran into someone familiar the other night."

         "Who?"

         "I think we both know who I'm talking about.  She saw Spike."

         Everything inside her tightened at the mention of his name.  She was starting to feel things again but they weren't the feelings that she wanted.  She wanted to find that peace she'd had before being ripped out of Heaven.  "How was he?"  She could hear how breathy her voice sounded and she fought to control her reaction.

         "He wasn't great," Willow said.  "Not even good really.  They think he isn't eating much."  She paused.  Now it was time for the hard part.  "Cordelia saw him…selling his body on the corner across from her apartment.  Angel said she tried to talk to him but that he seemed broken and angry."

         Selling himself?  Her stomach churned in revulsion.  She knew it was her fault but let nothing show.  Even as her whole body screamed in denial, she could tell by the look on Willow's face that it was true.  She could still see his face as Giles and Xander pulled her off of him.  Willow and Tara had been forced to perform a spell for his pain.  Giles had berated her for her cruelty while Xander and Anya just stared at her in horror.  She'd taken it just fine until Dawn walked in.  It was as if her sister had known instinctively that Spike was hurt.  Dawn had run toward the training room only to see her sister's handiwork.  She'd lost Dawn that night.  Spike too.  She'd never let herself believe until that moment that Spike was anything more than a thing.  She'd convinced herself that he couldn't feel.  But then she'd watched as Willow and Tara tried to fix him.  Dawn cried and held his hand.  Xander, Anya, and Giles fixed up the small bed in the backroom for him to sleep on.  Everyone seemed to care about Spike in a way that had let her know that they saw him as more than just a thing.

         For just a moment their eyes had met and in those few seconds she'd understood that it was all over.  Gone was the look of love that had once filled his eyes.  There'd been nothing left of it.  There had been nothing at all.  Those blue eyes were dim and held no insight to his feelings.  And that's when she knew that she'd been wrong.  He just looked at her blankly, not even really seeing her. 

         Her heart broke that night.  She may not have loved him, but he never deserved what she did to him.  She'd listened as Dawn screamed at her and Giles and Willow asked her questions about how long it had been going on.  Several hours and long talks later everyone left to go home.  Willow and Tara had waited for her outside with Dawn.  Giles drove Xander and Anya home.  She'd been left alone with a sleeping vampire and a key to lock the door behind her.  For ten minutes she'd watched him sleep.  She'd watched him toss and turn and listened to him beg her to stop in his dreams.  She left and for several days she avoided everyone.  By the time she felt comfortable going back to the Magic Box, Spike had already healed enough to move back to his crypt.  He left town two days later.  And yet even now, knowing what she'd done to him, she couldn't stop herself from finding a willing, or even unwilling, vampire every night to numb her body and mind to the memories of both Heaven and Spike.

         "They're going to try and help him, right?" she asked sadly.

         "Angel said he would.  I got the feeling though that he wasn't looking forward to trying."

         Buffy just nodded.

         "I'm sorry Buffy," Willow said, hoping that her friend was feeling something over this revelation.  If she was she wasn't letting it show.

         Again all she got in response was another nod.  Buffy moved past her and poured a glass of orange juice before walking out the back door to sit on the porch, leaving Willow to wonder if her friend would ever be right again.  She was filled with the guilt of knowing that if Buffy stayed this way it was mostly her fault for having pulled her friend from Heaven.  Silently she went about putting her empty glass in the dishwasher and wiping down the counter, unaware of the fact that Dawn had heard the entire conversation from where she sat at the dining room table, her homework long forgotten.

Los Angeles, 2002

         Cordelia shivered in the cool night breeze.  She stood on the corner talking to Jimmy and Marco, hoping that Spike would show up.  They said that he was usually there on Thursday nights.  She just hoped that he didn't decide to be somewhere else the one night she was going to try to talk to him.  Angel was hidden in the shadows of a nearby alley.  He was there to make sure that Spike didn't try anything.

         She was about to give up and signal to Angel that she was going in, but a black Mercedes, the same as last time, pulled up and Spike got out.  She was unaware of the vampire that was growling in the alley.  Angel was pissed.  His boy was letting others touch him.  Didn't Spike remember whom he belonged to?  He was so busy dwelling on his jealousy that he almost missed how thin Spike was.  Almost.  He took in the hair that was gradually becoming brown again and the way his ribs seemed to jut out beneath the black t-shirt he was wearing.  Something was seriously wrong with his childe.

         Cordelia practically pounced on Spike the second he was out of the car.  "Bloody hell, you stupid bint," he sneered.  "What do you want?"  She didn't say a word.  Instead she reached into her pocket and pulled out three one hundred dollar bills.  He tried to snatch them out of her hand.  She pulled back before he could.

         "If you want the money, you have to come with me.  We need to talk."'

         "For that much cheerleader, you just lead the way."

         He was surprised when she crossed the street and went into a small apartment building.  He followed her anyway and soon they were standing in front of her apartment.  She opened the door and invited him in.  "Be nice.  Dennis doesn't really like strangers."

         "Dennis?" he asked, looking around for any sign of a male presence.

         "My roommate is a ghost."

         Spike snorted but was stunned when a glass of water floated through the room and was set down on the table in front of him.  "Thanks, Dennis," Cordelia said as she sat next to Spike.  "So, you want to tell me what the hell is up with you?  Normally I wouldn't invite a person who tried to kill my friends and me on numerous occasions into my home, but you looked like you needed to talk.  And I'm really good at that."

         Sod it all, the bint was going to get all touchy feely.  "I'm not going to sit here like my ponce of a sire and discuss my feelings."

         "Fine then."  She stood up.  "You can see yourself out."  She began to walk away, the money still in her pocket.  He stopped her by grabbing her wrist.

         "You can't tell my sire any of this."  His voice was soft and he reminded her of a lost little boy.  His eyelashes were long and gave him an innocence that made him even more attractive than he already was.  No!  Bad!  She wasn't supposed to be thinking like that.  She sat down and pulled her wrist out of his embrace.

         "I won't."  He already knows most of it.

         For three hours they talked, unaware of the vampire pacing on the street below.  He was growing angrier by the second.  Finally he couldn't take it anymore.  He stalked up to Cordelia's apartment and before he even realized what he planned to do, he kicked the door open and was grabbing Spike off the couch by his shirt.  Angel's large hands fisted in the soft material.  "Spike," he hissed.  His childe didn't look at him. 

         "Angel, what are you doing?" Cordelia snapped.  "Put him down this second!"  Queen C reared her head and Angel listened.  He set Spike on his feet. 

         "Well, isn't this just fun."  He grabbed his cigarettes off the table.  "If it isn't Peaches.  Last time I saw you, you were all strung up."  Cordelia pinched his arm. 

         "Be nice."

         "I'm guessing you talked to the slayer or one of her sidekicks.  What'd they say?  That big bad Spike hurt the slayer?"  He laughed scornfully and Angel looked into his eyes, surprised to see nothing.  Spike's eyes always revealed how he felt, but there was no longer anything there.  Buffy really did a number on him.  Angel remembered a time when those eyes had been filled with love for him.

London, 1811

         William stretched luxuriously.  He felt the cool arm thrown casually over his waist tighten.  Angelus liked keeping him close.  For over a year they'd been lovers.  Sure, William was originally meant to be a pleasure for Angelus, but despite the fact that he was a kept man, they were drawn to each other in other ways too.  They both were bright, intelligent men who enjoyed literary pursuits, the arts, and occasionally…women.  William knew that Angelus had other mistresses of the female variety but he didn't care.  He knew that he was favored. 

         He felt Angelus stir behind him.  Turning slightly he looked over at his lover.  He still couldn't believe that this gorgeous man was not really alive.  Everything about him was perfect. 

Angelus' chocolate brown orbs snapped open and looked into the cerulean pools of his lover.  William was the perfect lover.  Mr. Reynard had chosen wisely and had been generously rewarded for his choice.  They were insatiable together.  Sometimes they would sequester themselves in a room, making love for days on end.  Darla thought he'd gone round the bend.  He was constantly with his human pet.  It made her extremely angry that William was able to take him from her.  Angelus knew that one day soon he would turn William.  He wanted to keep his lover forever, but he refused to tell the young man that he loved him.  Darla would destroy both of them if she heard that Angelus, the Scourge of Europe, had fallen in love.  He could see the love shining in William's eyes and knew that soon they would belong to each other for eternity.

Los Angeles, 2002

         Angel shook himself out of the memory and continued talking.  "I spoke with Willow," he said, ignoring the strange look Spike was giving him.  It was as if his childe knew where his mind had wandered.  He was always too damn perceptive.  "She told me what happened.  Are you alright?"

         Spike snorted.  "And you actually believe the dozy bint?  That would mean that your infallible slayer did something wrong.  How hard was it for you to hear that the love of your life was nothing more than a bitch in heat?  Did you know that I wasn't the only one she used?  Slutty was screwing other vamps too.  I watched once as she fucked a guy straight out of the grave.  He was covered in dirt but she didn't care.  She just wanted to get off.  She staked him as she came."

         Angel tried his hardest to ignore the words, to believe that Spike was lying, but the anger and hurt and betrayal in his voice spoke of the truth.  "No.  I didn't know.  Willow only knew about you.  That's why you're here.  Cordelia was concerned and now that I've seen you, I am too."

         "You don't have the right to be concerned.  You lost that privilege when you walked away."

         "I may not have that right anymore, but you can't keep doing this.  I didn't get you out of this life in London only to have you start it up again here."  He stopped for a moment, wondering how to get Spike to admit that he hated what he was doing to himself.  "Or maybe you don't want to stop.  I think that you like sucking off strangers in their cars.  I think you like getting reamed by a nice hard cock.  Do you like being fucked by someone you don't know?  Do you like having cock shoved down your throat?  Do you like swallowing salty cum?  Do you like feeling it run out of your ass minutes after you've been fucked?  Do you Spike?  If that's what you wanted, you should have come to me.  I would have been more than willing to fuck you seven ways to Sunday.  Unless it's the fact that you don't know these men that gets you off?"

         Cordelia sort of collapsed back onto the couch as the words spewed out of Angel's mouth.  She'd never heard him speak like that.  She knew that he was trying to get a rise out of Spike but she didn't know why.  She was still trying to understand when Spike slugged Angel.  "You stupid ponce.  You asshole.  I have never liked it.  Unlike some vampires, I don't have many choices on how to get money.  I had to do it.  There was nothing else." 

         "Oh, come on Spike.  You mean to say that you never got off on it?  They never made you enjoy it?  You're ready to go right now.  You want to be fucked.  You never were man enough to admit that you liked taking it more than giving it."

         Angel received another punch to the jaw.  Spike needed to let everything out.  Angel needed to get him to break.  It was the only way Spike would ever begin to heal.  He could see the toll that Buffy's use of his body and feelings had had on Spike.  He willed himself to keep going.  "Is that all you've got?  You punch like a girl.  You always liked taking it that way too.  Do you still liked to be fucked missionary?  I remember that well.  You loved to watch me screw you into the bed.  Pathetic little William who loved big bad Angelus so much he took it like a girl."  He could see anger flaring bright in Spike's eyes.  It wouldn't take much more.  "Are you still love's bitch, Spike?  Are you still falling in love with people who could care less about you?  Are you still beneath everyone you ever cared about?"  That was it.  Angel could see the moment the dam broke.  Tears began to fall from Spike's eyes as he launched himself at Angel.  They fell to the floor with a thud and Spike tried fighting his sire, but the tears were blinding his eyes.  Angel soon had the upper hand and was straddling Spike's waist, pining his childe to the floor.  Spike's struggles for freedom stopped moments later.  Angel could feel Spike's ribs jutting out and he sliced open his wrist with his fangs and held it to Spike's mouth.  For several moments Spike refused the offer, but the smell of blood called to him.  He latched on to Angel's wrist and began to suck greedily.

         Angel turned to look at Cordy who was watching the whole scene wide eyed.  "Do you mind if I use your couch tonight?"

         "Take my room, I don't mind.  There's actually a bed in there and it's large enough for both of you."  She paused, concerned.  "Is he going to be okay?"

         "Yeah.  He'll be mad as hell, but he'll be fine.  I'm sorry you had to listen to that, I just had to get him to break.  If he kept that all bottled up inside it would have killed him or driven him crazy.  There's still a lot of anger in him…and hurt, but maybe now he'll be more open to the idea of us helping him."

         Spike had stopped drinking from Angel's wrist and fallen unconscious.  Angel picked him up and took him to Cordelia's room.  She followed behind them to get a blanket and some pillows since she was going to be sleeping on the couch.  She pulled back the sheets and Angel laid Spike in the middle of the bed.  She went to grab one of the many pillows that littered the bed but Angel stopped her.  "There's plenty of room," he said softly, indicating space on Spike's left side. 

         She blushed.  "I don't know, Angel…"

         "We won't bite.  And we certainly won't do anything inappropriate…or at least we'll try not to.  Chances are Spike won't even wake up."  He chuckled when her blush deepened.  She didn't look it but Cordy was still pretty innocent when it came to some things.  She never let it show, though, and that's why he admired her.  She snagged a pair of flannel pants and a tank top from the closet and went into the bathroom to change.  Angel slipped out of his jacket and stretched out on the bed, spooning himself against Spike's back.  It'd been so long since they'd been so close without physically hurting each other.  He was amazed at how right it felt.  Closing his eyes, he drifted off into sleep, the events of the night having taken their toll.

         Cordelia came out of the bathroom and couldn't help but smile at the two sleeping vampires in her bed.  They probably had no idea how strikingly handsome they both were.  Light and Dark.  They were perfect and would be forever.  Sighing lightly, she crawled into bed and pulled the covers up over all of them.  She was sharing a bed with two vampires.  No…her life wasn't even remotely strange.  Within minutes she was deep in slumber, unconsciously snuggling deeper into the embrace of a peroxide blond vampire who was watching her with icy blue eyes.

         When Cordelia awoke she found herself plastered against Spike, her head resting on his chest and her right leg thrown over his.  She nearly screamed when she realized the position she was in.  Then she remembered the events of the night before and sighed with relief.  Nothing bad had happened.  She noticed Angel curled against Spike's back and was relieved that his clothes were still on.  There would be no appearances being made by Angelus.  Focusing on Angel's eyes, she was surprised to see them locked on her.   "This is interesting," he said.  He wasn't acting like himself.  Ever since last night he'd been making remarks that were too much like his demon.  She felt a little uncomfortable until he reassured her that Angelus was still tightly reined in by the soul.  "I'm still dressed Cordy.  Nothing happened."

         "Sorry, it's just kind of strange."

         "Not for me.  I've been wanting to get you into bed for ages."  He laughed when her eyes widened and she was so intent on scrambling away that she fell off the bed.  The thud had Angel laughing and the bed was shaking so hard that Spike woke up. 

         The second he opened his eyes he knew something was wrong.  He wasn't in his apartment.  That's when images of the night before came flooding back.  Bloody hell!  He was in the cheerleader's apartment.  In her bed.  What the hell happened?  Not that he wouldn't do the girl…she was very shaggable, he just wanted to remember if he was good or not.  Then he noticed the feeling of someone pressed against his back.  Someone who wasn't soft, but very, very muscular with a familiar scent that belonged to his sire.  He froze.  He was in bed with his sire who was laughing at something.  Oh shit!  He was laughing.  Peaches never laughed…but Angelus did.  He shot up and out of the bed before anyone could move. 

         "I see you're awake," Angel said, taking in Spike's disheveled hair.  It looked so much better when he didn't slick it back.  Angel could smell the fear on Spike.  He was really terrified at the prospect of Angelus' return.  Not that Angel blamed him.  Angelus had done horrible things to Spike when he'd been confined to that wheelchair.  "I'm not Angelus, boy.  If I was, she'd be dead already."  He pointed to Cordelia who Spike finally saw sitting on the floor next to the bed. 

         "Right then.  I'll just be going now."  He walked from the room not realizing that Angel and Cordelia were right behind him.  Cordy managed to run to the door and block his departure.  There was no way they were going to let him go so that he could turn around and sell himself again that night. 

         "You can't go now.  It's all sunny out and there's no sewer access," she said, desperate to keep him in her apartment. 

         "Oh bollocks!  You're determined to ruin my unlife, aren't you?" he yelled, turning on his sire.  "It's none of your bloody business who I sleep with, when or how much they pay me to do it.  Just because Slutty tells you some tale about hurting me doesn't mean that you can make me one of your bleedin' charity cases.  I don't want your help.  I don't need it."

         "Sure you don't Spike.  That's why your body isn't even yours anymore.  It belongs to whoever can afford it.  You wouldn't have gone back to that life if there weren't something wrong.  Give us a chance to help you."

         Spike shook his head.  He didn't want this.  All he wanted to do was make money and let himself be used.  The slayer had screwed him up good.  He laughed, a short self-deprecating laugh.  The only time he ever felt worth anything was when he was with a client.  At least he knew what was expected of him then.  They wanted to be fucked or wanted to fuck something.  He gave them that.  It was easy to pretend that it was a worthy existence, but it wasn't.  He looked at the cheerleader who stepped away from the door, making it clear that if he wanted he could leave.  Peaches was watching him intently and he hated that Angel's stare still had the ability to make him tremble inside.  'I don't want the bastard,' he repeated over and over in his head.  Maybe if he said it enough it would be true. 

         "Give it a chance Spike.  You can help us out.  I know that you were helping in Sunnydale.  You can do the same thing here.  We've been looking to get some more help anyway," Cordy said, looking to Angel to back her up.

         "She's right.  Stay.  The hotel has plenty of rooms that you can stay in.  I know that where you are probably isn't that great.  The hotel is big and there are more than enough places to hide if you want to be alone.  I know you like that sometimes."

         It was tempting.  They were offering him a nice place to stay without having to worry about paying bills or selling himself.  He could earn back some of the dignity that he'd lost.  Even more tempting were the two people standing in front of him.  They wanted him to do this.  They cared enough to try and help him.  The only other person he could say that about was the nibblet and she was in Sunnyhell.  'Here you go Spike.  This is your chance to get out…again.  You'd be stupid not to take them up on their offer."  He growled lightly, trying to shut up that annoying voice in his head.  "Fine," he snapped.  He was surprised when the chit gave him a big hug.  It sort of felt like he was being welcomed to the family.  He glanced at Angel and for just a moment he wished that things between them could have been different.  Maybe this was his chance to set things right.

         The next several days passed uneventfully.  Spike was introduced to the gang.  He and Wes became friends once Wesley got over his fear of the bleach blonde vampire.  Both of them liked talking about England and places they'd both been.  Gunn was impressed with Spike's fighting abilities while Fred just thought he was cute.  He treated her like a kid sister, kind of like Dawn.  Cordy and Spike were becoming closer each day, sometimes to Angel's chagrin.  He hated how close they seemed.  He wanted that closeness with Spike and surprisingly he found himself envious of Spike as well.  He wanted Cordelia too.  It was driving him crazy and he was taking that rage out on every evil demon they came across. 

         Three weeks after Spike moved into the hotel she arrived.  She just sort of snuck quietly in the door and stood in the entry until someone noticed her.  Cordelia was the first to see her.  Dawn stared at Cordelia a moment before saying, "Hey Cordelia.  I'm looking for Spike."

         "Oh my god!  Dawn!" Cordy screamed and came around the counter.  She enfolded the girl in a hug.  Spike was upstairs when he heard Cordelia's shout.  Dawn…there was no way.  He ran out of the room and down the stairs, skidding to a halt when he saw the nibblet being fussed over by a very excited ex-cheerleader. 

         The second Dawn saw Spike she rushed past Cordelia and launched herself at the vampire, her arms wrapping around his neck tightly.  It was a good thing he didn't need to breathe otherwise she would have cut off the flow of oxygen.  Angel had come out of his office and was watching the bittersweet reunion with a smile on his face.

         Pulling Dawn away from him, he dragged her to the sofa in the lobby.  "What are you doing here, Bit?  Does anyone know where you are?  How did you get here?"

         "Jeez, Spike.  One question at a time.  I came to see you.  I left a note telling them that I needed to get away for a few days.  I didn't tell them that I was going anywhere specific, but Willow's smart, she'll figure it out.  And I got here on a bus."

         Spike began lecturing Dawn on the stupidity of taking a bus to LA, even during the day.  Crazy people weren't just confined to the night.  He kept going even as the phone rang.  Angel answered it and wasn't surprised to hear Buffy on the other end.  He assured her that Dawn was fine.  He said that they would keep her for a few days, but Buffy said no and insisted on coming down to get her.  Angel tried to dissuade her, knowing the real reason she was coming to LA, but in the end he wasn't able to get her to stay away.  He only hoped that Spike could handle seeing the slayer after everything that happened.  He was surprised by the protective feelings that he was having toward Spike.  It wasn't right.  Not after everything they had done to each other.  But he couldn't deny that they were there.

         It was nearly nine o'clock when the door opened to Angel Invesigations and Buffy Summers walked through it.  Cordelia sat behind the desk ignoring her.  She had never really liked Buffy and now she had a reason to hate her.  "Where's Angel?" Buffy asked, trying to be civil.  Cordelia wasn't one of her favorite people either. 

         Cordelia didn't answer.  Instead she yelled, "Angel!  She's here!" then got up and left the room.  For several minutes Buffy was left standing alone and awkward in the lobby.  She nearly sighed with relief when Angel came down the stairs.  "Hey, Angel," she said softly.  She couldn't look him in the eye.  He knew what she'd done. 

         "Buffy," he said coolly.  She'd never heard his voice so cold before.  It worried her.

         "Where's Dawn?"  She wanted to get this over with.  Angel wasn't exactly making her feel very welcome.  She knew that she probably wasn't.  As much as she wanted to believe that Angel still loved her, she also knew that she had violated one of his childer.  Giles once told her all about vampire clans and sire and childe bonds.  No matter how much he might love her, his bond with Spike surpassed it, something that had made her very angry once upon a time.

         "She's with Spike.  They went to get a bite to eat.  They'll be back later.  I wanted to talk to you…alone."

         Buffy swallowed hard.  She didn't want to talk, she just wanted to get Dawn and go.  "I really don't need to hear it from you too, Angel.  I've gotten enough lectures and evil looks over the past few months to last a lifetime." 

         "Well, you're damn well going to listen to me.  I don't give a damn how guilty you feel or what your excuses might be.  I don't care that you couldn't feel anything.  You didn't bother to look to hurt the ones who brought you back instead you hurt the one person other than Dawn who thought you deserved peace.  What were you thinking?  Or was it just about having control over someone who couldn't fight back?  I know about the others too.  Did you honestly think that Spike wouldn't tell me?"

         "What do you want me to say?  That I'm sorry?  I've said it.  Over and over I've said it.  What else is there for me to do?"  She stared at her former love.  They were so far apart now that she couldn't even see where they'd ever had enough in common to be so in love in the first place.  "I'm well aware of what I did and I have to live with it.  Dawn won't speak to me and the rest of the gang can't look me in the eye.  I don't need any lectures from you."

         "You've apologized to everyone but the one person who needs to hear it the most."  He sighed.  This was difficult, confronting her like this.  "I'm sorry that your friends are acting different, but you can't expect them to be all normal.  They witnessed you doing something horrible.  In Xander's case that was probably a big blow to him.  He's always worshipped you in a way."  He tilted his head, watching her closely.  He could sense her still and he knew she was trying valiantly to hide something.  It took just a moment but he was pretty sure he knew what she was hiding.  "You miss him.  You love him."

         "No," she answered honestly.  "I don't love him Angel.  But I do miss him.  He was the only one I could talk to and he probably still would be if I hadn't done what I did."  She had just revealed more of her feelings to him than she had to anyone since Spike left.

         Before he had a chance to respond the door opened behind Buffy.  Spike and Dawn walked in laughing like hyenas.  'Some things never change,' Buffy thought, glad that Dawn's friendship with Spike hadn't changed, despite her words in Sunnydale that Dawn wasn't to go near him.  "Dawn," she said softly.  The brunette's head shot up and she glared daggers at her sister.  Spike said nothing.  Buffy tried to make eye contact with him, but he refused to even glance her way.

         "What are you doing here?  I thought Angel told you I could stay a few days."

         "I told him no.  You're coming home with me tonight."

         "No I'm not, Buffy.  I'm staying right where I am."  Buffy's eyes widened at Dawn's tone of voice.  She'd never heard her sister sound so determined…or grown up.  "I've asked Angel to find out how to go about getting myself declared an emancipated minor.  I'm tired of living with you and your poor me-I got ripped out of Heaven-mood swings.  Deal with it."

         Buffy was stunned into silence.  She hadn't realized how much her actions of the past year had affected Dawn.  She was actually going to do it.  She could see the determination in Dawn's eyes.  And she was relieved.  She wouldn't have to worry about providing for Dawn or saving the house.  She would be able to sell the house and get an apartment…maybe even go back to school part time.  She could get a better job…things would be so much simpler.  Even as the thought crossed her mind, guilt over thinking those thoughts settled in her heart. 

         Spike watched as Buffy thought about how easy things would be if Dawn was emancipated.  'Slayer always was a selfish bitch,' he thought angrily, upset that Buffy could think about giving Dawn up so easily, especially after all that had happened between them when Glory was around.  He wasn't really surprised though, not after everything."

         Buffy glanced at Spike and could practically feel the anger radiating off him.  He would take such good care of Dawn, better than she was.  And Angel would no doubt help him.  It would be so easy to just let her go.  She thought about Giles, Willow, and Xander.  They would be disappointed but they would realize that in the end it would be better for everyone.  "Is that what you really want?  You'd be on your own.  You'd have to find your own place to live and a way to pay for food."

         "No she wouldn't," Angel said from behind her.  "Dawn is always welcome here.  She can live here, go to school, and eventually she can work with Cordelia.  She can even go to college here in LA."

         "I don't want to do this to you Buffy.  I love you.  You're my sister, but I need to be around people who don't see me as a burden."

         Buffy's face remained emotionless and Spike snarled, angry that she was even considering it, even though he'd like to have Dawn living with them more than anything.  She'd died for Dawn once and now she was just going to let her go easily so she wouldn't have to deal with the responsibility.  It pissed him off.  "Yeah, Slayer.  You should be used to givin' things up by now; Angel, Riley, your mum, your calling, your life, your dignity, why not add Dawn to that list.  I'm fairly sure she'd be much happier here than with her whore of a sister."  The words came spewing out of Spike's mouth completely unchecked.  Angel did nothing to stop him.  Dawn just looked at him, finally understanding how deep he'd buried his anger at Buffy.  Now it was pouring out of him.  He needed to do this.  "That's what you are isn't it?  Nothing but a two-bit tramp who'll spread her legs for any vamp willing to hurt her just a little bit.  You always did need some monster in your man.  That's why Captain Cardboard left, you know?  He knew just what you were.  Told me so himself when he came to my crypt to have a chat."

         "You're just as much of a whore as I am Spike.  You've spent the past few months getting fucked for money.  I never knew you went both ways.  If I had I would have invited others to play.  We could have had a whole orgy of fun.  For me it was about control.  My whole life was out of it and that was the only place I felt in control.  I got a hell of a lot of pleasure out of it too.  For you, it was a job."  She didn't mention that she was still searching out vampires every night.

"I'm a vampire, pet, most of us go both ways.  We generally don't care about the sex of our partners.  Hell, even your precious Angel likes buggery.  He always did have a thing for blondes.  Why do you think he made me?  I was adored by him for nearly twenty years.  He picked me when I was human.  And we loved each other every way possible.  Bet he didn't tell you that."  He walked toward her, anger pouring off him in waves.  Buffy backed up until she was flush against the counter her body aroused by how angry Spike was.  "I once thought you were worthy of that kind of all consuming love.  How wrong was I?  Dru is more worthy than you, and she's a few cards short of a deck."  He ignored the way her breathing got a little faster and the flush that rose to her cheeks.  Damn chit was getting off on this.  He wanted to kill her for it.  Instead he snapped at her, trying to push her buttons and make her angry instead.  "I've got to hand it to you, as a slayer you're more than adequate.  Just like that Faith-bird I heard about.  You've finally learned what a slayer is.  You're made for three things; fighting, shagging, and being completely alone.  How's it feel?"  He didn't wait for her to respond.  Didn't wait for anyone to move.  He stalked out of the room leaving silence in his wake.

         "Buffy…" Dawn began, watching her sister closely.  She hated seeing Spike do that, but it needed to be done.  This was one thing she couldn't stand up to him about.  Buffy did something horrible.  She had to deal with the consequences on her own.  The only thing Dawn hadn't known about was the other vamps.  It was kind of disgusting to think about so she pushed it to the back of her mind, focusing on making sure Buffy was okay.

         As he walked away she tried to tamp down the arousal coursing through her.  She'd forgotten how his anger had always done this to her.  And they were all seeing it.  It was kind of embarrassing.

         Angel didn't say anything.  Instead he'd just watched as Buffy nearly had an orgasm while Spike had been berating her.  It was odd to see his former love so affected by his childe.  It was also disturbing that it seemed the only thing that she responded to anymore was the stimuli of anger and sex.  She slowly walked over to the couch and sat down.  Angel remained by the counter but Dawn joined her sister.

         "Do you really want to be emancipated, Dawn?"

         Dawn nodded.  She wanted to stay with Buffy, but she couldn't handle how Buffy was anymore.  She'd just witnessed the same scene as Angel and knew what had happened.  "I just can't deal with the way you've been.  I'm going to go crazy if I go back to Sunnydale.  I don't want to do it, but right now it's what I need."  She sighed, her decision made.  Buffy needed professional help and until she got it Dawn needed to be away from her. 

         Buffy nodded once, remaining silent.  She understood and she knew that to regain Dawn's trust she'd have to get help.  After what just happened to her with Spike, she knew it was time to go to Giles to get him to recommend someone to help her.

         Cordelia came down from upstairs concerned by the raised voices she'd heard.  "Jeez, what'd you guys do?  Spike's upstairs listening to really loud music and you three look like you've been swept up, whirled around, and deposited back on the ground by a tornado."

         "More like Hurricane Spike.  He came through and pretty much decimated everything."

         She saw the looks that Dawn and Angel had on their faces.  "What happened?"

         Angel just shook his head and she knew not to push it any further.  He'd tell her later.  "Dawn's going to be staying with us.  We're going to help her become emancipated.  Could you take her to choose which room she wants as hers?"  Cordelia nodded and he turned to Buffy.  "You're welcome to stay the night Buffy.  Longer even, if you'd like," Angel said, hospitably. 

         She looked at all of them.  She knew that she wasn't welcome by Cordelia or Spike but she didn't care.  She was tired.  She just nodded and Angel scooped her up in his arms.  She was exhausted and wouldn't have made it two steps on her own legs.  Cordelia bristled slightly, but knew that Angel was just being polite…she hoped.  She couldn't figure out what was going on with her.  She kept having dreams about both vampires.  Dreaming about Angel was nothing new.  She'd done that even in Sunnydale.  But the addition of Spike to those dreams was unnerving.  Especially since it was all three of them in bed together.  She'd never had dreams like those.  It was kind of weirding her out.  Kink had never been her thing.  That was Buffy's domain, apparently.  But the dreams still came.  Each night they became more vivid.  More real.  There were times she didn't know if she was awake or asleep.  As it was, she could hardly talk to either vampire anymore without blushing horribly.  It was embarrassing.  She was Queen C.  She didn't get flustered.

         She followed Angel up the stairs and showed Dawn several rooms letting her pick the one she liked best.  She checked to make sure everything was okay and turned to leave.  Dawn stopped her with a question.  "How long have you been lusting after them?"

         When asked later she'd swear at that moment her heart stopped.  It didn't of course, but she froze anyway.  "What do you mean?"  She tried sounding imperious.  How the hell had Dawn…sweet, little Dawn…figured it out?

         "You want them both.  It's fairly obvious."

         She spun around, losing her cool.  "It is?"  Realizing what she said, she clapped a hand over her mouth.

         "Well, yeah.  Every time one of them comes near you, you practically jump or hyperventilate.  I'm pretty sure they know, too.  They just don't have any idea what to do about it.  Spike's still healing, so he's wary of you, and Angel is worried about wanting you so much he'll lose his soul."

         "How do you know all this?  You've only been here a day?"

         "I watch everything.  Plus I've spent enough time around all of you…well, technically I have memories of spending time around you…anyways, I know you.  People never noticed when I was in the room.  I could just watch for hours as you guys talked.  It's amazing what you learn doing that."

         "Well, since you know what you're talking about why don't you tell me what to do about it."  She spun around ready to walk away.  "This is just too strange.  I should not be asking a sixteen year old for advice on my love life."

         "Don't think of me as sixteen then.  Think of me as the Key.  I'm ageless.  As for what to do about Angel and Spike, I can't tell you that.  Only you can figure out what you want.  But talk to them.  They'll understand more than you realize.  They've been around a while.  There isn't much they haven't heard or done."

         "How do you know that?"

         "I read Giles' Watcher diaries.  He keeps them locked in a file cabinet.  I found the key and read them.  He doesn't know, though.  I'm very careful about stuff like that."

         "You are way too sneaky and knowledgeable to be sixteen.  Sometimes I think people don't give you enough credit."

         "Spike does.  And now you do too."