Setting: Post-"Not Fade Away"

Pairing: Spike/Fred

Summary: The resurrection of Fred, and because I have no skill at describing corporate law offices, a new location.

Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel canon characters belong to Mutant Enemy.

Chapter 1

Awake again. It's still dark.

I miss clocks and calendars.

You big ol' fool, you just thought slavery was the worst. At least there there was color; you could see.

And hear.

And taste.

And touch.

And smell.

Here there's nothing. You can fill the space with equations, and formulas. And when that runs out, with spells memorized for casework and for amusement during periods when you only thought there was nothing to do.

Once, briefly, she thought someone else was there. She had finished reciting all the lyrics to Don Henley's "Boys of Summer" and was in the middle of a retrieval incantation when there'd been a sudden strong surge of emotion, something akin to fear but much more primal: Self-Preservation. As though a missing piece of her was being threatened. Her knee-jerk reaction had been to silently scream - "COME HERE!" - and she'd felt something rush past, but then it was gone.

And now you're alone again with nothing but thoughts, of spells that have no effect and formulas that lead to nothing and loved ones you miss so badly that you'd die of loneliness if only you knew how.

Rain does such interesting things to odors; it sharpens them, alters them, stirs them up. Paloma did her best hunting after a rain.

"You got to listen with your whole body, Hermana," she cautioned Thu, and the younger girl nodded and quickened her pace to keep up. They crossed an almost-empty parking lot harsh with the glare of sodium-arc lamps, and followed the side of a building until they found the unlocked back door and slipped inside.

The scent of sweat and rubber was thick in the air here. Grunts now, too; sounds of a struggle. An inner door crashed open and a man the size of a Sherman tank ("AH-nie," Thu giggled later, in a bad imitation of Governor Schwarzenegger) landed at their feet. With an assenting nod from her companion, the girl pulled a whittled piece of pine from her jacket pocket and slammed it into the man's chest. AHnie vanished in a plume of dust.

Paloma peeked through the destroyed doorway, counted heads in the melee within, and sighed. Phoenix was not as popular with the dead as it used to be, she reflected. But what a bitch that the few who remained had turned the entire membership of a Gold's Gym. Beside her Thu jittered like a cat with raised haunches preparing to pounce, her eyes wide and intense and virtually glittering. She looked like a sprinter about to burst from the starting blocks. It made Paloma smile.

Good hunting, Little Sister.

Tiring. I'm getting really really tired. Little persistent voice in his brain nagged at Angel. These guys were bodybuilders, not martial artists, and most of their punches were wild, but there were so damn MANY of them. They had Spike backed into a corner, hissing and roaring in frustration. Blood ran into Angel's eyes, momentarily blinding him; he tasted dust and the odor of sulphur.

When his vision cleared he lunged up at the oily body looming over him, staked it - and saw that the gymnasium was empty save for Spike and a young woman. Tall and athletic, jeans, boots, leather vest, short black shaggy hair. Joan Jett lookalike, Spike commented afterward. ("You know, Joan JETT! The Blackhearts? The Runaways? ...god, you were out of it in the Eighties, weren't you?") She rose from a crouch and glared at them, her face feral, and held up a stick of wood menacingly.

Suddenly she stopped and sniffed the air between them, and stared at the fanged and wrinkled men in amazement. A tiny Asian girl appeared at her side, also clutching a wooden stake and clearly on the verge of rushing one of the vampires, when 'Joan' put out a hand and stayed her. The woman's voice was low and melodic, with a soft Spanish accent. Her eyes never left Spike and Angel as she spoke.

"Chica, wait...these guys have souls."

There were several seconds of silence; Thu's face scrunched into a "Huh?" as the three adults sized each other up. Then Paloma rocked a finger at Angel.

"I heard about you," she breathed, "You're the dudes that were runnin' that Los Angeles law office." She began to grin. "Shit, man, what'd you DO to that place? They are so fuckin' pissed off!"

Her laughter subsided. "You know there's a price on your heads, right? Don' worry, we're not gonna narc. But I'd keep a low profile if I were you, okay?"

Thu interrupted. "Are they still vampires?" She peered up with a puzzled expression at Spike, who had just shifted out of gameface.

"Yep. What are you, Itty-bitty?"

"The Slayer." She paused. "A slayer. I think there's like a tribe of us now."

"You're a slayer, too?" Angel asked the other young woman.

"No. Chupacabra." A goat-sucking demon. That explained the sulphur smell.

"Nothing personal, but don't you people usually look more..."

"Inhuman?" Paloma smiled. "Protective coloration. Some of us are better at morphing than others. I'm not starting a colony here, though; we're just in the city to visit the kid's grandparents."

"We're from Ass Crack," Thu added. The two men looked at her blankly. Paloma rolled an eyeball.

"Ashcraft," she translated. "It's a community north of here. It's become the devil's watering hole since the hellmouth in California closed down. I think Ashcraft may be on a fissure. There's a group of us there trying to keep the well salted. That reminds me, shit- " She glanced up at a clock hanging above the shattered remains of a Bowflex - "I promised your family I'd bring you home early, Child. Here..."

She fished a card from her vest pocket and handed it to Angel. "If you ever want to get in touch with us, call this number."

Angel looked at the little business card and saw that it bore the name and phone number of a certified public accountant. He opened his mouth to tell the demon woman that they were a little beyond the help of a CPA, then thought better of it. No point in insulting her. He merely nodded as Paloma patted the tiny slayer's head affectionately and steered her toward the exit with a "Vamanos, Baba Looey." The questions popping into his head - How many in your group? Does the girl have a watcher? How do we know you're on our side? - would have to wait. Right now he was bone-tired, and it had been days since either he or Spike had fed. Until the obliging meat processing plant employee they'd found returned from his vacation, they'd be having to make do with sucking raw steaks, and resting.

Author's Note: Chupacabra demons are an actual part of the folklore of Mexico; they're said to have reptilian features and smell of sulphur.