Author's Note: None of the characters in the Whedonverse belong to me. I'm not making any money off of this, please don't sue me, I don't have anything you want anyway, you know the drill. The town of Lampasas is real, but the pastor and church there are completely fictional. The Branch Davidian Compound is also a real place, but I've taken liberties with it. It just seemed like such a natural setting for the story. No offense is meant to anyone with any interest in it.

The Hubby gave me a challenge--which I will delineate at the end of the fic. I've been mulling the idea over for quite some time now, thinking of different timeframes and whether I wanted to set sometime before the show, during the show, after the show, or in my comfy little AU where Spike is a Christian and everyone died at the Hellmouth but him.

And I decided that this story would best be set in my AU. So--Spike encounters a Slayer in Texas, after he converts to Christianity. She's a Can he help her? Does she even want help?

Previously, on "Spike, the Series": "Chosen" ended a little differently...huh, what? What's that you say? Okay, okay (she said grudgingly, grumbling about "nitpicky readers"). A lot differently than it did in the actual show. Everyone died but Spike. He never saw Angel again, preferring to go his own way. Twenty years later, he wandered into a little church in Lampasas, TX, and found the Answer to a question. See my "Salvation" fic. Warning: Christianity lurketh here, although I'll try not to smack you over the head with it. If you can't deal with that, then this fic is not for you and you should bail now.

Prologue: Seven Months Ago

Two Odobenus demons glided down the San Antonio alley, stalking the Chosen girl. Pointed ears swiveling back and forth, reptilian green eyes gazing into the shadows, their hulking forms followed her as she ran. The alleyway made a T at the end, the left side ending blindly, the right side continuing on a short distance and then making a turn to the left. Looking behind her, she crashed headlong into a huge body, bounced off, and fell to the ground.

Looking up, her paralyzed stare met the same sort of green eyes that belonged to her demonic pursuers. She started to scream, but an immense hand covered her mouth, cutting her off. "Now, now, Slayer. None of that." The voice was raspy and deep, hardly distorted at all by the two sets of upward-jutting tusks sticking out of the demon's lower jaw. "We're all going to be very good friends. Aren't we?" it said to her trackers, who stopped next to them.

A bleached-blond vampire, who'd been trailing the demons and the girl, heard the truncated scream and broke into a run, his black duster swirling behind him. But when he got to the area, all that remained was the scent of terrified Slayer and automobile exhaust.

Spike's shoulders slumped. He'd missed out on saving another one.

Chapter One: Games

The parishioners of the little church had almost gotten used to the quiet young Englishman dressed in black in the back pew. He seemed shy, and since Pastor Tom hadn't said anything about him, none of them knew quite how to approach him. After a few "Welcome to our church" greetings, they'd left him alone.

And that suited Spike just fine. He was still feeling his way in this brand new world, and the fewer distractions around, the better, as far as he was concerned. The current church secretary failed miserably in hiding her skittishness around him, and had practically squeaked the last time they'd met in the hallway. But he and the pastor had an easy camaraderie, stemming from the time that Spike had saved him from the demons and then Tom had returned the favor, helping Spike with a different kind of Salvation.

Spike had discovered that an underground passage led from his crypt to the church basement, and this allowed him the ability to visit in the daytime. They'd set up a makeshift training room in the basement so Spike could school his Cleric in the finer points of demon-hunting; then they'd go upstairs to a classroom and study. Sometimes they studied the Bible, and other times they studied the...less conventional books that Spike had sent for from Los Angeles. Sometimes Topper, the abandoned Bull Terrier that Spike had befriended, came in with him.

They'd fallen into this routine over the period of the last six months or so. Spike was almost getting comfortable. That changed abruptly for him one night out on patrol.

A flash of recognition in the eyes of the demon he was fighting... "Hey! I know who you are!"

"Yeah?" Spike snap-kicked it in the chest. "Then you'll know who's killing you. Good on you, mate."

"If you think I'm going to let myself get killed," it panted, aiming a punch at his face and missing, "by some pansy-ass Christian vampire with a soul--" Another punch, another miss. "--you've got another think coming."

"Do I?" A flurry of boots and fists, and the demon found itself flat on its back with Spike's knife at its throat.


"Why? So I can prove what a 'pansy-ass' I am?"

"I know where the Slayer is."

That stopped him for a second. "And you think I care about that because...?"

"Oh, come on. Everyone knows you have a thing for Slayers."

"I'm long over that. I've not seen a bloody Slayer for twenty years." The knife moved.

"She's in Waco! At Mount Carmel!"

"You'll have to do better than that."

"The old Branch Davidian compound."

It didn't ring a bell, but Spike grumbled and let the demon up. "Get out of my town and don't come back. And tell all your little friends that it's not safe for them here. I may be a Christian and have a soul, but that doesn't mean I've lost my wrinklies."

As the demon ran off into the night, Spike knew he was going to have to have a talk with Pastor Tom.

"I need to go to Waco," he said without preamble. "Will you watch Topper for me?"

"Whoa, slow down. Why do you need to go to Waco?" Pastor Tom asked. They were sitting in his office.

"The Slayer is there," Spike said, as if it were obvious why he'd need to go.

"And?" Tom regarded him over the rim of his mug of coffee.

"I just want to see if she's all right. With the Watcher's Council gone, she's missing a lot of information she'll need if she wants to live longer than a few weeks."

"How do you know for a fact that she doesn't have a Watcher?"

"Well, I guess I don't. But I want to make sure."

"Look, Spike." Tom put his mug down and leaned forward. "I'm your friend, right?"

"Yeah," he answered warily.

"I just want to be positive you've got the right motives here. You tend to get into train wrecks with Slayers, from what you've told me, and I don't want to see you get hurt. That's all."

"Train wrecks with Slayers?" Spike snorted. "Train wrecks with women, more like. No worries, Cleric. Strictly reconnaissance here. Go in, make sure the bint's all right, and come back. Maybe a conversation about sacred duty and all that rot." He tilted his head. "Why? Are you getting some kind of vibe in your spirit that I shouldn't go?"

Tom frowned. "Not so much that. More of a...I don't know. Something tells me you're not going to find what you expect when you get there, though."

"Huh. You never get what you expect with Slayers. Any idea where this Branch Davidian compound is?"

The pastor went still. "Is that where she is?

"According to my source."

Tom sat back and took a deep breath. "There was a big incident at the place, about thirty years ago. The government wanted to arrest the leader of the religious cult that was headquartered there. By the time the dust cleared, a bunch of people were killed, including a dozen kids. I was twelve when it happened, and I still remember it."

"Lovely. Sounds like a recipe for demon haunting."

"It is. Every time some group or other tries to build something on the site, something happens and they either die or get run off. It has a reputation for being cursed now, and hardly anyone goes to it anymore."

"Except our Slayer. Which, when you stop to think about it, is something you'd expect from her. Be where the action is."

Tom sighed. "Just be careful. Take your phone, and if you need anything at all, call me."

"No worries, mate."

Spike found the Mount Carmel compound about twelve miles outside of Waco on a little-traveled road that probably appeared more deserted than it actually was. He got out of the DeSoto and lit a cigarette, looking the place over and deciding how best to approach it.

Something hailed him from behind. Spike turned his head but didn't react otherwise to it, although he was ready to if need be. "You here for the Glads?" a voice asked.

"Isn't everyone?"

"Well, yeah." The voice belonged to a blue demon in a business suit, with purple eyes and two pairs of short horns sticking out of his forehead. "Ready to bet the big bucks tonight?"

"Sure." Spike had no idea what he was betting on, but he wasn't going to tell anyone that. What in bloody hell were "Glads"?

"Well, let's go then; we don't want to be late for the fun. Tonight's the quarter-final event, unless the Slayer has any surprises for us." He grinned savagely. "And she usually does."

Spike flicked his cigarette away and followed the demon to the compound, frowning to himself. A seven-foot tall, muscular demon, with two tusks sticking out of its upper jaw, stopped him at the door, looking him up and down contemptuously. "Ticket?"

Spike stared back at it, unintimidated. "First timer. How much?"

"Fifty dollars, leech."

He rolled his eyes at the insult and reached for his wallet. Handing the demon a fifty, he took his ticket and walked in.

The interior of the building was set up like a small indoor arena, with bench seating and a concrete-floored bowl in the center. Concession stands selling a variety of demon food and drink were dotted around, with betting cages next to them. A windowed, enclosed luxury box sat at one end, but it was empty for now.

Demons of every species Spike knew, and several he didn't, milled around--talking, eating, drinking, and placing bets. A sense of suppressed excitement filled the air, which was heightened when a recorded fanfare played over the loudspeakers. Doors at the opposite end of the building from the luxury box opened, and three Odobenus demons, escorting a girl, made their way around the perimeter and seated themselves behind the glass. One of the demons was considerably larger than the other two. The girl picked up a microphone and said, "Let the games begin!" as the crowd roared and Spike's guts screamed "Slayer!" at him.

He found a seat near the box, after buying an overpriced, watered-down cup of unidentifiable animal blood from one of the concessions. Doors at either end of the bowl opened, and an Odobenus demon, armed with a battleaxe, stepped through each of them, bellowing, chomping their tusked lower jaws, and raising the ridge of hair that ran from their eyebrows all the way down their backs to make themselves look bigger. As they strode to the center of the arena and began trading blows, Spike was distracted from the contest by the buzzing in his nerves caused by the young woman in the luxury box.

Apparently he'd caught her attention as well. She leaned over to one of her demon attendants and whispered in his ear. He nodded and said something into a microphone in his collar, and a few minutes later a waitress came up to Spike with a cup of blood. "Compliments of the Slayer," she said with a horrible wink from the eye in the middle of her forehead.

"Thanks." He took the cup, tilted his head, and raised the drink in the direction of the Slayer. She lifted her own at him, smiling. He sipped it, noting that it was of considerably better quality than what he'd gotten from the concession stand.

The crowd roared again, and he turned his attention back to the arena to find that the demon with the yellow ridge hair was dismembered on the floor, while the one with the green hair stood above it, shaking a battleaxe above its head and howling in triumph. A cleanup crew came in and cleared the mess away, and the next pair of contestants entered.

Spike set his empty cup down next to his seat and tried to turn his attention to the new battle. However, the annoying tingle in his skin had extended itself to his head, and his vision was getting suspiciously blurry. He had just enough time to think, Oh, bollocks, the blood was drugged, before he fell off the bleacher in a boneless heap.

He came to slowly, sprawled on a concrete floor. Grateful for the small favor of not having a headache from whatever they'd put in his blood, he sat up slowly, getting his bearings and trying to quiet the tingle in his skin caused by the proximity of the Slayer...

Who was squatting on her heels outside his cell and regarding him with dark blue eyes, head cocked to one side. "William the Bloody," she said slowly, with a soft Southern drawl. She seemed to savor the words. "Slayer of Slayers. Vampire with a soul. What in the world brings you to my little old corner of Texas?"

That was just bloody great. His reputation had preceded him. "Heard there was a Slayer about. Come to see if she was all right, and to offer my services, if needed. I see that you're fine, and my services aren't required, so I'll just be toddlin' off home now." Spike stood up and shrugged his duster more comfortably around himself, hunting his pockets for his cigarettes. Those he had, but his cell phone was missing, along with his wallet and his butterfly knife. He lit up, drawing the soothing smoke down into his lungs.

She looked up at him and pouted. "Aw. Don't you want to stay and play? I'm sure I could find--" Her eyes raked him boldly. "--a use for you."

"Sorry, ducks. Been there, done that, got the soddin' t-shirt." He blew a stream of smoke in her direction.

"Well, then." She stretched to her feet, graceful as a puma. "I guess we'll just have to have a bonus round of the Glads. A nice little treat for the paying customers."

"Hey!" Spike was annoyed. "I'm a bloody paying customer!"

She grinned ferally at him. "I suppose you could ask for a refund. If you live, that is. Magnus!"

"Yes, Slayer?" A vampire appeared from around the corner.

"Prepare William the Bloody here for battle, and get him a suitable opponent. One that matches his...unique talents."

"Yes, Slayer."

She gave Spike a smile, stood up, and left. His eyes followed her until she was out of sight, then flicked to Magnus. Spike curled his lip, crossed his arms, and leaned back against the wall, tapping the ash from his cigarette contemptuously. "Prepare me for battle? I'd like to see you bloody try it, junior."

Magnus sneered back at him. "There's an easy way, and a hard way." He pulled a stun baton out from under his jacket and pushed the trigger a couple of times, making it crackle. "The easy way, you take off your shirt and let me oil you down. The hard way, I put you down, tear off your shirt, and oil you down while you're unconscious."

He wasn't going to get out of this. Might as well cooperate. "How about we do it my way? I take off my own shirt and oil myself down? Not that you wouldn't be a nummy treat, but, honestly, I don't swing that way, and I don't fancy having another man's hands all over me. If it's all the same to you."

The other vampire considered it for a moment, and acquiesced. Spike removed his duster and his shirt and folded them neatly, after flipping the cigarette away, and rubbed himself over with the oil that Magnus provided. He was still somewhat mystified by the goings-on. "So, mate, what's the Slayer's story, anyway? Last time I checked, Slayers were supposed to be killing the likes of us, not overseeing our fights."

"Sorry. That's not for me to say. Maybe you'll get to ask her." He unlocked Spike's cell. "Follow me. If you try anything funny..." He tapped his stun baton significantly.

Spike rolled his eyes. "I get the bloody message." Frustrated with more questions than answers, he was almost looking forward to killing something. Magnus led him to a holding cell that apparently opened into the arena and closed the door behind him.

"Your door will open when your opponent is ready. Hope you can live up to your reputation."

"I'm not worried."

Magnus bared his teeth at him. "You should be."

Spike only had a moment to think about that before the door to the arena opened and the clamor of the crowd assaulted his ears. He walked into the stadium, and the shouts grew louder, drowning out the battle whistle of the Chaos Demon across the dirt floor from him. Spike knew the sound, though--it sounded like a bull elk in rut, only louder and lower pitched. The creature was also shirtless, the slime from its antlers streaking the fur on its chest and shoulders. It lowered its head and charged.

Spike stepped forward to give himself more room to maneuver. As the Chaos Demon reached him, he slid deftly to one side and grabbed an antler. He used the demon's own momentum to sling it around, releasing it into the wall. It leaped back up immediately, not even stunned, and came at him again, slower this time, gauging his reaction. It swung a cloven fist at him, which he ducked and countered. It blocked his punch and drove its antlers at him again, and this time a tine pierced his shoulder, drawing first blood.

Spike grunted in pain. "That all you got, Bambi?" He grasped an antler in each hand, bracing between the tines to keep from slipping, and fell backwards, his foot in the demon's stomach. It flipped over him and landed with a "whump" on its back, while he rolled upright and slammed his boot into its jaw.

It rotated with the kick and rose to its feet, spitting blood and grinning mirthlessly at him. "No. I seem to recall that I had your girlfriend."

"You!" Spike aimed a wild punch at its face, which it sidestepped. A foot whistled by his ear, missing by a fraction of an inch, and he again grabbed an antler and flung the Chaos Demon into the wall. Before it could recover, he was on its back, an antler in each hand. A loud "crack" sounded, and the demon lay still, its neck broken.

Spike stood up and wiped his slime-covered hands off on his jeans. The Slayer met his stare appraisingly across the arena, then he felt a light blow as an anesthetic dart hit him in the back.

"Take him to my rooms," the Slayer instructed while he slumped to the floor.