Chapter 4: War

Standing in the arena that night, shirtless, weaponless, and oiled, Spike reflected to himself that insulting the Slayer in such a personal manner might not have been the smartest thing he'd ever done. Magnus, he of the shock baton and the snotty attitude, faced him across the dirt that had been laid over the cement floor, a stake in his hand and a determined expression on his vamped face. Spike grinned at him sardonically. "You think you can take me, fledgling?" he taunted. "Not bloody likely."

"You're my ticket out of here. I kill you, I go free. I have incentive."

Magnus lunged at Spike with the stake. Spike knocked it aside almost casually and kicked him in the face, following up with a massive uppercut that sent him flying halfway across the arena. Magnus clambered to his feet, but Spike was there to meet him. When the other vampire thrust the stake at him again, Spike grabbed his wrist, flipped him around so that his back was against Spike's chest, and forced the stake against his heart. Magnus struggled, but was no match for his older, stronger opponent.

"Sorry, mate. You're about to become part of the place," Spike said in his ear, right before he jammed the stake into Magnus' chest.

Brushing the resulting dust off himself as best he could, Spike smiled grimly...then realized that since Magnus had been holding the stake and Spike hadn't had the presence of mind to pull it out, he still didn't have a weapon. That wouldn't be a problem if he'd just bought his freedom the way Magnus claimed he was trying to buy his. However, that faint hope was crushed when a seriously large Ca'nidia demon strode through the door carrying a sword.

It bared its teeth in its long muzzle at him and charged, sword upraised. Spike waited until it was almost upon him, then slipped to the side and kicked it in the back as it went by. It lost its balance but recovered quickly, turning with a snarl and swinging the sword at his head. He ducked under it, came up inside the stroke, and head-butted it in the jaw. It staggered backwards, but managed to bring the sword up and slice Spike across the ribs.

He growled and came at it with a flurry of kicks and punches, moving so fast that it couldn't keep up. It got him once more with the blade, across the left bicep, but while its arm was extended, he grabbed it by the wrist and elbow. It dropped the weapon with a cry of anguish when he cracked its arm across his knee. He scooped up the sword and ran it through its heart, all in one motion, while it was distracted from the pain.

Straightening, Spike had just enough time to shoot a "What the bloody hell?" look at the Slayer before five Sciurian Demons bounded into the arena on all fours. As they descended on him in a kicking, biting, clawing mass, they drove him backwards, then down into the dirt. He managed to dispatch two of them with one wild swing of the sword, but the other three held him down and chewed mercilessly.

Bucking beneath them, he threw them off balance and managed to get rid of the one on his legs. He slammed his knee into the one on his stomach and backflipped to his feet when it fell off him. They came right back at him again, and he skewered one on the sword, pulled the blade out, and smacked one behind him with the butt of the weapon, which put it down and out.

Only one remained, but Spike was rapidly weakening as the bite and claw marks streamed rivers of blood. The Sciurian ripped its talons across his abdomen and dodged his counterstroke. He followed up with a backswing that took its head off, then turned to the one that he'd knocked out and stabbed it through the chest.

Dizzy, almost ill with the blood loss, he fell to his knees first. As unconsciousness overtook him, he collapsed into the now-red sand of the arena while the crowd cheered and the Slayer pensively stared at him.

"Your vampire fights bravely and well," Cain said to her. "He'll be an asset in the Clan Wars."

"If he stays." Alicia watched a pair of Cain's minions drag Spike's limp body out through the doors.

"Perhaps now he'll be more...amenable to your charms. Go to him. See what you can do. He should recover shortly."

Alicia slipped out of the box as yet another pair of pre-finals demons faced off in the arena. Making sure she wasn't being followed, she sneaked into Cain's office and found the cell phone, wallet, and butterfly knife they'd taken from Spike when he was captured. She owed him that much, anyway.

Down in the cells, she asked one of the guards where they'd put "the vampire," and discovered they'd dumped him carelessly on a cot. Furious, she rounded on the demon and demanded fresh blood and first aid supplies. He was a bit taken aback by her passion, but lumbered off to get what she wanted. He didn't keep her waiting very long.

Gazing at Spike's battered and bloody form, her anger at him evaporated, and she sighed. Twice now, he'd been hurt because of her. She pulled up a chair and began tending his injuries. After a few minutes, he moved his head and moaned, "Bloody hell."

"Here," she said awkwardly. "I've got some blood for you."

He opened his eyes and gave her a half-grin through the pain. "This is gettin' to be a habit, pet. Did I win?" Gritting his teeth a little, he got up on one elbow and took the cup from her.

"Well." She bit her lip, looking him up and down. "You're alive, and they're not. But you got pretty shredded."

Spike sat the rest of the way up. After draining the blood, he felt a bit better. "Mostly surface cuts, I think." He lifted an eyebrow at her. "Not that I'm not touched and all by your concern, luv...but last time I saw you, you were leaving your apartment in an almighty huff."

She looked away from him. "Yeah, well. You weren't exactly nice to me."

"What?" he scoffed. "You thought getting tarted up and coming on to me like that would make me fall into your arms and we'd get a happily-ever-after? Here? You needed a reality check."

"Meanie," she said, without heat. She started to say something else, but a deafening roar came from the direction of the arena, and they exchanged a look. "Guess the Glads are over."

In Alicia's apartment, Spike took a hot bath to soothe his sore muscles. Leaning his head back against the wall, he shook it back and forth tiredly. Tomorrow night it would all be over, one way or another. Either she'd come with him, or he'd leave by himself. The choice was the Slayer's; he wasn't going to force her.

Dressing carefully, he walked back out to the living room. Alicia had apparently gone to bed, but his phone, wallet, and knife were on the coffee table. He tilted his head in silent thanks to her door and debated calling Pastor Tom. On the one hand, he hadn't been able to contact him for two weeks, and the Cleric was undoubtedly a little worried. On the other hand, the situation wasn't resolved yet, and the only thing he'd be able to tell him was that he still inhabited the land of the a manner of speaking.

Spike lit a cigarette and decided to call later. Right now, he thought, a little prayer might be in order.

Alicia tossed and turned in her bed, wrestling with the quandary of whether she was going to go with Spike when he left or not. She was under no illusions that he would stay, and she figured he'd probably slip away in the heat of the battle. He'd put the decision squarely on her shoulders. Sometimes she wished he'd just bash her on the head and take her away with him. Life was easier when other people made choices for her.

She sat up and rested her head on her bent knees. It was going to be a long night.

The next day was filled with Odobenus demons cleaning up and clearing things out, making preparations for the battle ahead. Alicia and Spike rattled around at loose ends, not really talking. One or the other of them would start to say something, and then stop, uncomfortable.

Shortly after sunset, Cain gathered everyone in the main hall. He gave a stirring speech that had all the demons cheering, but neither Spike nor Alicia paid much attention. Lost in their own thoughts, they were almost startled when the exodus began. Cain shouldered them apart and slung a heavy arm over Spike's shoulders, giving him a grin. "Let's you and I take your car. Wouldn't want you running off with our Slayer now."

Spike shot him a look filled with wounded innocence. "Really. Would I do that?"

Cain laughed and clapped him on the back. "I like you, vampire. I hope you survive."

Spike watched Alicia being ushered away. "I hope we all do."

He pulled into the caravan, and they all headed out. After driving awhile and watching Cain apparently prepare himself by meditating, Spike noticed that the group was parking and demons were exiting vehicles. He and Cain got out too...and then he saw where they were and lifted his eyebrow.

"They built a trailer park on your sacred ground?"

The rhythm of battle became a predictable cycle after awhile. Spike and Alicia stood back to back, armed with battleaxes, and fought the Odobenus demons that came at them. Spike was slowly moving them towards the outskirts of the trailer park, which most of the inhabitants had abandoned when the war started in their backyards. It was slow slogging, however, and he was getting tired.

Smoke from trailers that had caught fire obscured the moon, and he felt badly for the Slayer, who needed to breathe. He could hear her coughing every once in awhile, as she battled valiantly on.

"Spike?" Swing. Dodge.

"Yeah, pet?" Feint. Hack.

"I've decided to go with--Ungh!"

Bad sound. He spun around to see her bleeding, falling. Axe went right into her side, between her ribs. Deep. Bright red blood on her lips. Mortal wound. He tried to catch her, to lower her gently to the ground, but suddenly all he could see was stars, then blackness, as the demon he had been fighting took the opportunity of his distraction to smash him in the head with its mace.

"William..." Alicia whispered. Blood from his scalp mingled with hers, and she slid her hand into his as the dark claimed her.

"Sodding. Bloody. Hell." Spike came to slowly and painfully, gradually becoming aware of the relative silence around him. The roar of combat had been replaced by the sound of crackling flames and little else, and by this he assumed that the Clan War was over and he'd been left on the battleground. Fine with him.

Something under his palm? He took a moment to figure out what it was, because it had been awhile since he'd held a dead hand. Heaving an unneeded sigh, he raised up on his elbows and saw Alicia's body lying there. "Dammit." He rested his forehead on the bloody ground for a moment, then gently disengaged his hand from hers and staggered to his feet.

The trailer park was a complete disaster, he saw. The mobile homes that weren't on fire were flattened. Teach them to build on demon holy ground. He supposed that there weren't any zoning restrictions...and realized that he must still be feeling the effects of the bash in the head if his thoughts were as disconnected as all that. Right. Time to find the DeSoto and go home to his dog.

The trip back to Lampasas took far longer than the hour and a half it had taken to get there; because of residual dizziness, he had to keep pulling over. Ravenous with hunger, he'd been tempted a couple of times to grab some lone traveler at a rest stop and make a quick snack, but his conscience pricked him enough that he didn't follow through. Just a little while longer, he kept telling himself. Fresh blood in the fridge. Okay, two-week-old blood in the fridge, but he'd settle.

The sun was brightening the horizon behind him when he pulled into the welcoming parking lot of the church. A few minutes more, and he'd have to spend the day in the car. Swearing a little, he dragged himself out from behind the wheel and stumbled to his mausoleum. Home sweet crypt.

It was good to be back.

"...and that's how I failed to save another Slayer," Spike concluded, stubbing out his cigarette in Tom's office and sitting back with a grimace. He idly played with Topper's ears. The Bull Terrier hadn't left his side since he'd returned.

"That's a little harsh," Pastor Tom said. "You have to let people make their own decisions, Spike. You're not responsible for what she chose."

"What's really depressing is that she was going to come with me when I made a break for it. She was telling me that when the demon got her."

"You know, I'm sure Adam and Eve wanted to reconsider eating the Fruit of Knowledge too. And I'm betting Esau regretted trading his inheritance after he had time to reflect. We can't always escape the consequences of our choices."

Spike grunted, and Tom turned the television on so they could watch the news. The lead story was a freak tornado that had ripped through a trailer park overnight and killed six people. Spike snorted into his mug of blood. "Is that what they're calling it?"

Tom's head swivelled around. "Was that where you were? Six people died?"

"Guess some of the residents didn't get out before the festivities started. Bloody hell. Chalk up another thing for me to feel bad about."

"It's not your fault, Spike. You couldn't have done anything to prevent anything that happened last night. You tried. That's all anyone asks of you."

"It's not all I ask of myself though. If I'd--"

The door splintered open and an Odobenus demon with a purple hair ridge, carrying a battleaxe, strode in. It bared its teeth at Spike as he leaped to his feet and stood protectively in front of Tom. Topper growled and started towards it. "Back, Topper! Bugger it, haven't you soddin' wankers bothered me enough?" Spike snarled.

"You, vampire, are a loose end. Cain was soft-hearted enough to let you live. not."

Spike's hand dove into his duster pocket for his butterfly knife. It seemed a pitifully inadequate weapon against a demon twice his size armed with an axe, but it was what he had. He'd lost a Slayer to these bloody demons; he wasn't going to lose his Cleric too.

A deafening boom sounded behind him, and a load of triple-ought buckshot made a pretty pattern on the demon's chest and throat. It had time to look surprised as it fell backwards and died before it hit the floor.

Ears ringing, Spike turned around and found Pastor Tom holding a shotgun with practiced ease. "You keep a gun in your office?" he asked unbelievingly.

"Comes in handy sometimes." He ejected the shell. "Think any more of those things'll come after you?"

"I bloody hope not."

"Then it's over?"

"For now." Spike grinned at him. "Until a new Slayer comes along."


Author's Note: Thanks to everyone for coming along with me on this ride. The challenge was this: Work an illustration of what happened in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate of the Fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil--into the Buffyverse. And for some reason, writing this was like pulling impacted wisdom teeth. It's taken me nearly six months just for me to say "Finally! Done!" And that was before I went back over it and refined it.

I don't know if it's a good illustration or not. But it's what came out. Adam and Eve sold their birthright (and the rest of mankind's as well), and so did Alicia. Innocent people got hurt in both instances. And I guess that's about as far as I want to take it.

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