Title: In Diamond Light

Author: Ivytree

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss Whedon, UPN, Mutant Enemy, etc.

Feedback: Please!

Summary: How will Spike get from "B" to "A"?

Setting: After "Chosen."

In Diamond Light

Part Five

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"Holy smokes!" Fred exclaimed, wide-eyed. A naked man was about the last thing in the world she expected to see at the end of their ritual. Demons, yes; ghosts, yes; even butterflies. But this was obviously a man, and he certainly didn't look at all like a Zoth Demon; in fact, he looked damn good, even with platinum hair. Really. Only now he was starting to sit up, and he didn't have a stitch on… "Yipes!" she gasped, jumping up and turning her back.

"Holy Greek statue, Batman," Lorne murmured.

"Good lord!" Wesley said incredulously. "Isn't that—it looks like—but it can't be!"

"Hey! What's going on around here?" Gunn said, rising to his feet after a glance at Fred. "Who are you, anyway?" He addressed the newcomer with exaggerated clarity. "Where are you from? Do you speak English?"

The stranger looked at him, blue eyes glinting dangerously. "Of course I bloody speak English! And I'm from Hampstead, if you want to know," he snapped. Then, with a peculiarly knowing smirk, he turned to face Angel. "Hello, Peaches! Fancy meeting you here. Wherever here is, exactly."

"You know this guy?" Gunn demanded.

"Hello, Spike." Angel was the only one in the room who didn't seem particularly surprised. Deliberately, he stood and removed his leather coat, handing it to the new arrival. "Here. And don't call me that," he added with a flash of irritation.

"Ooh! Trod on your dignity, have I?" Spike donned the coat, which hung on him like a muu-muu, got up, and brushed assorted leaves, berries, threads, and petals from his legs. "How do you think I feel? One minute I'm in bloody paradise, and the next I'm lying on the none-too-cleanly floor of what I assume is your cellar. It's a bit of a come down, I must say." He bent and picked something up from the floor, and thrust his closed hand into the coat pocket.

Wesley suddenly found his voice. "Can it be that I am addressing William the Bloody?" he inquired.

Spike looked pained. "Not so much of the 'bloody' nowadays, mate, all right? Just 'Spike' will do."

"I thought your kind were proud of that sort of tag," Gunn said, his eyes narrowing. "I mean, you ARE a vampire, right?"

"Well, yeah, but…"

"He's got a soul now," Angel interrupted, his voice expressionless.

Spike swung around to face him. "How did you know that?" he challenged. Then something in Angel's countenance seemed to give him the answer. "Oh… she told you."

"She told me," Angel agreed. "She told me everything."

There was a silence as the two vampires stared at each other.

"Look," Angel said, at last, "There's no point in hanging around here all night. We're all tired from that incredibly boring ritual. Let's all go on back to the office and figure this out. Spike needs clothes, for one thing, and we could all use a break."

"Sounds like a plan," Gunn said, rubbing the back of his neck. "Count me in."

"Me, too," Fred added. "Those fourth century rituals really take it out of you, especially when you're not sure you're doing it right. I mean, you just get so tense, because anything could happen, and it could be your fault. Not that this is bad. At least, it was supposed to happen, so I guess it isn't."

"Me, three," Lorne said. "Personally, I could use a hot tub and a classic martini—stirred, not shaken, with a nice twist of lemon. Then it's brain-wracking time." He turned to Spike. "You don't sing, by any chance, do you, handsome?"

"Well…" Spike seemed disconcerted for the first time since his appearance.

"Never mind, cocoanut cake; I'm sure we'll think of something."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Single file, the Angel Investigations team and their prophecied yet unexpected guest made their way through the Hyperion's narrow lower-level corridors and up winding stairs toward the surface.

"So where are we going again?" Spike asked, padding along behind Angel.

"Our new place," Fred answered. "This is our old place. We don't work here anymore. But I guess this is where she—you know, the Slayer—knew where to find Angel. So we all got sent here. Including you, I guess."

With a crash, a large patch of plaster fell from the ceiling right behind Gunn, who brought up the rear. He didn't even jump.

"So why'd you lot move out?" Spike pursued, "Structural damage from the latest Apocalypse, was it?"

"You don't seem very surprised," Wesley observed.

"I've seen a few Apocalypses," Spike said. "They're destructive to property, I'll say that. You're that Watcher, right?"

"I was," Wes replied shortly.

"Sorry about your mates," Spike said, his tone suddenly sober.

Wesley stopped short, and stared at him. "How did you know about that?"

"I heard."

"It's not widely known." Wesley's voice grew sharp. "Who told you?"

"Rupert told the Slayer, Slayer told me."

"Rupert Giles? Giles is still alive?"

"Well, he was all right last time I saw him. Escaped the big watcher-demise with a load of useful gen, too."

"Did he really?" Wes said, suddenly thoughtful.

Spike hesitated. "Thing is, I'm not sure how long ago it was, the last time I saw him, I mean."

Angel looked back over his shoulder, his face enigmatic. "Sunnydale was destroyed about a week ago. It's gone, and the Hellmouth with it."

"Stone me!" Now Spike stopped short. "What about—"

"She said they all got away. Except Anya, and Wanda, and a couple of other names I didn't know."

"Anya." Spike shoved his hands deep in the pockets of the leather coat he wore, and hunched his shoulders.

"Was she a friend of yours?" Fred asked, her voice sympathetic.

"Yeah. A friend."

"I'm sorry."

"Well." Spike let out a long breath. "I bet she went down fighting the good fight. So, they all got away, the Slayerettes?" His lips twisted in an unwilling smile. "Even Xander, eh?"

"Yep," Angel replied, his eyes meeting Spike's almost involuntarily. "Even Xander."

"Oh, well," Spike said, with resignation.

"We're almost at the lobby," Fred chirped, interrupting the two vampires' moment of Xander-inspired unity. "But you guys are okay—it's after sunset."

"So how do we get to this new doss of yours, keeping in mind I've got no togs on?"

"That's okay," Angel said casually. "The limo's waiting."

Spike stopped again, and stared at Angel with narrowing eyes. "'Limo'?"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Spike, Angel, Wesley, Fred, Lorne, and Gunn stood on the sidewalk as the uniformed chauffeur closed the glossy black door of the stretch limousine behind them, touched his cap to Angel, climbed into the front seat, and drove off.

"This is your new place? Did you lot win the sweepstakes, or something?" Spike said, gazing upward at the steel and smoked glass entrance of the Wolfram & Hart building.

Angel: "You could put it that way…"

Fred: "In a manner of speaking…"

Gunn: "We had some good luck…"

Wesley: "More like a legacy…"

Lorne: "Sort of a windfall…"

They all spoke at once, and then halted, exchanging self-conscious looks.

"Well, that explains everything," Spike said dryly.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Buffy curled up on a luxurious bed in the guest room of Kennedy's family mansion, clutching a ruffled pillow to her midriff, and squeezed her eyes shut. All she asked was a few moments of peace and quiet.

Xander, Andrew (who considered himself one of them now, apparently), Robin Wood, and Faith (wearing a curious glow of happiness) had arrived with about fifteen young slayers in tow. Some of the surviving girls had gone home to their families, super-powers or no super-powers; and others had drifted off on errands of their own. And after all, who had a right to stop them? Buffy was just a Senior Girl now, as Faith liked to put it, not a general. But, after discussions with Giles, Willow, Kennedy, Xander, Robin, and even Andrew, a plan for the future seemed to be taking shape. And it was nothing like she had expected.

Buffy had to admit that she surprised herself. Sure, she wasn't exactly introspection-girl, but she thought she knew what was important to her. Once, she had longed with all her heart for freedom from the burden fate had placed on her. Once she passionately believed that being a "normal" girl was the closest thing to heaven she could even dream of. But now that it was possible—now that the responsibility of her nature was hers to accept or deny, with utterly free will, secure in the knowledge that others could indeed take her place—now she had chosen, unreservedly, to embrace it.

And at this moment she asked herself why. Was she that shallow? Did the prospect of NOT being "the One Girl" displease her so much, after all? Was she so self-centered that she couldn't bear to see anyone else in the spotlight?

But maybe that was too harsh—at least, she hoped so. It could be that she just needed to give something back to the world she'd finally come to love again (the world Spike had loved so much, though he'd been robbed of the chance to enjoy it). And what else did she have to give but her experience? No one, not even Faith, knew as much about the pitfalls and hazards of being a slayer than she did. No one else could warn these new heroes—or train them. She couldn't let them go out there alone. She just couldn't.

For that was the plan. They were going to pack up and head for the nearest Hellmouth (Cincinnati, wasn't it? she'd have to find an atlas somewhere), and start a school for slayers. Giles was in contact with a few remaining watchers, and he had apparently preserved a quantity of books and references and things, too. All of the Sunnydale survivors had something to offer—even Andrew, she supposed—and, amazingly, of them were eager to offer whatever they had.

Suddenly her throat grew tight. Really, she never knew they all had such—such guts. Such devotion. For all these years, she'd underestimated everybody, even herself. It was one thing to be forced to protect humanity, by fate, or nature, or chance, or just proximity; but volunteering to do so, knowing what it meant, was something else again. That was something to be proud of.

That was what Spike had saved them for.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Here," Angel said, offering an orange-labeled bottle.

They stood together near the huge glass wall of Angel's office. Spike held out his champagne flute. "Thanks, Peaches."

"Will you quit calling me that?" Angel looked pained, but poured the foaming pale gold wine into Spike's glass all the same.

"Hey, you remembered—'The imprisoned laughter of the maidens of France'! My favorite!" Spike took a swallow. "This is a bit sentimental, isn't it, granddad?"

"And you are NOT calling me that, either!" Angel said, ignoring the accusation of sentimentality and downing the contents of his own glass.

Spike just grinned. "Thanks for all the hi-class gear, and all," he said. He wore new black designer jeans, a black silk shirt, and a remarkably expensive looking black suede jacket, which all fit perfectly. "Nice flat, too."

"Well, it's a company apartment. You might as well stay, since I guess you're supposed to be here."

Spike ran a hand over his hair. "I guess I am. Though it's the last thing I expected, to tell you the truth."

"We weren't exactly expecting it, either; everything just fell into place. Wes says it's fate."

Spike examined the bottom of his glass. "She—well, she brought me here?"

"Well, she brought your remains, such as they were." Angel downed another glassful of champagne. "And she said if we should ever find a way, we should try to—to bring you back. Then the minute she left, we found a way."

"So it's fate."

"So it seems. Do you think you were really in paradise?" Angel asked almost diffidently. "What was it like?"

"Sort of like Green Park," Spike mused. "In fact, it was exactly like Green Park. When she was well enough, I used to take Mother there Sundays after church. She liked to sit on a bench and feed the birds, and that. It was just the same, right down to the hungry swans."

"Really? No bright white lights and heavenly choirs?"

"Well, that wouldn't be paradise to me, would it?" Spike retorted. "I'd be bored rigid. Looks like it'll be a while before I find out anything more, anyway. I guess I'm supposed to help the hopeless, or give hope to the helpless, or whichever it is you do hereabouts."

"It's kind of both, actually," Angel said. "Most of the time, anyway."

They stood without speaking for a while, looking out at the darkening city.

"So how's the soul working out for you?" Angel inquired politely, after a few minutes.

"Stings a bit." Spike shrugged. "Guess I'll get used to it eventually."

"It probably helps to start right out by saving the world," Angel said, his tone rather bitter.

"It was a trip. You should have seen the colors!" Spike smiled. "No place to go but down after that, though, is there?"

There was another silence.

"She's gone off, then?" Spike said, finally. "Bag and baggage?"

"Right." Angel gazed at the bubbles rising from the bottom of his glass.

"Well, good for the Slayer." Spike stared straight ahead, unseeing, while the last rays of a dramatic, blood red sunset painted his face. "Let her go."

Angel's voice grew hard. "And you're not going to follow her."

"'Course not." Spike looked at him sharply. "And you're not either. Let her be normal. Let her be a girl. She can settle down somewhere with her sis, and do all the things she always wanted. No vamps, no demons, no bleeding Hellmouth to worry about. Live her life."

"Agreed."

"It's what she deserves," Spike whispered into his glass.

Outside, lights began to wink on across the vast Los Angeles cityscape of glass towers and skyscrapers. Most buildings were intact, but Spike could see that some, scorched and scarred, still bore the marks of the recent near-apocalypse.

The illuminated windows seemed as tiny and fragile as fireflies against the measureless night. And, Spike recognized suddenly, each light represented at least one human life, struggling against the odds for some kind of peace and happiness.

For the first time in over a century, he felt a strange unease swell under his breastbone. He knew what the feeling was, too, bugger it all. It was compassion.

Spike knew why he was here, all right. He might not be the Chosen One, or a champion, or the darling of the Powers that Be, like the Old Man, but he was strong, resourceful, and experienced. (And he did still have the great mystical stone, which he fingered in his pocket.) Plain and simple, what it boiled down to was, he could help. And all at once there was nothing he wanted more.

That was what Buffy had saved him for.

END

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"And ah! my bright companion, you and I must go

Our ways, unfolding lonely glories, not our own,

Nor from each other gathered, but an inward glow

Breathed by the Lone One on the seeker lone.

If for the heart's own sake we break the heart, we may

When the last ruby drop dissolves in diamond light

Meet in a deeper vesture in another day.

Until that dawn, dear heart, good-night, good-night."

George ("A. E.") Russell