Title: If I should die before we wake

Disclaimer: I own none of the characters or situations, or concepts, or anything, really.

Summary: After the events described in Deconstructing Hell Spike, Andrew and Dana are menaced by a shadowy threat to Spike's life. You should read DH first.

Rating: Um, gee, I don't know? The new rating system is confusing! Let's just say Teen, to be on the safe side.

Chapter One: Fuzzy Dreams

The landscape was fuzzy, mist rising from a thousand places. Bodies, demon and human, littered the floor.

A lone warrior with a platinum head was fighting on, a sword twirling in his hand. But the midnight black blade was fighting him, and the dark shadows moving through the mist had him surrounded.

Worse, he was too slow, too weak. Even his indomitable spirit couldn't sustain a body riddled with holes and too human to fight on.

Then the Slayers arrived, and he was finished. They attacked him, joining the shadow warriors, cutting him to bits.

Then she woke up.

The worst part wasn't waking up in strange room in a strange place wondering if she was still alive. The worst part was when she actually remembered where she was, oriented herself, opened her eyes, and saw Spike.

For a moment, as she blinked and focused on him, she considered trying to kill him. That seemed better than letting him speak. But then it was too late, and he was talking.

"Good morning," he said, stressing both words carefully. "Sane today?"

She sighed, rubbing her eyes and orienting herself. Andrew was in the other room, sprawled over a couch and snoring blissfully. She could hear Illyria somewhere nearby singing about breaking somebody's heart.

Dana carefully nodded. "I'm fine, thanks for asking," she said mechanically, just the way Andrew had insisted she answer Spike's daily question. What kind of question was it, anyway? If she was having a psychotic episode she couldn't answer it. And if she just felt bad (like today) it just made her angrier.

Spike nodded. He had apparently just bleached his hair again, because his skin was pink and his hair was shinier than usual. He was wearing the wire-rimmed glasses he sometimes wore (but only when they weren't on a mission), and his blue eyes were sparkling with amusement at something. She knew better than to ask what was so funny. He never answered.

After a moment she realized he was still there, and she glanced up at him, annoyed. "What do you want?" she snapped.

He smiled, the real smile, not one his sarcastic ones that always meant somebody else was suffering. "Wanna go do something?" he asked, and she had to spend a few minutes trying to decipher the meaning of that.

Sometimes the ambiguous question meant that he wanted to talk to her about something serious. Sometimes it meant that he was bored. Sometimes it meant that something was seriously wrong (although she couldn't think what it could be right now).

"Sure," she said finally, not having made any sense at all of his statement.

Fifteen minutes later they were in a tiny mall, and he was buying them food. She stared around at the people going by.

"What's the name of this place?" she finally asked him.

"Des Moines. I think." He handed her a cup filled with ice cream.

She still wasn't entirely comfortable with the ex-vampire. Although she was the one who had asked to travel with him, several people had suggested that she keep a close eye on him to watch for signs of evil. Even more had suggested that if she harmed him her life would be forfeit.

But with regular medication, calm discussions, cappuccinos, and the occasional intervention of the Hell Goddess living with them, she was starting to 'level out.' Which were Spike's code words for 'stop being crazy.'

They sat on a little bench and quietly ate. When Spike was done he tossed his garbage in a trash can, grinning sarcastically. "I failed to litter. See that? Proof of goodness, right?"

Sometimes Dana wondered if he even had a moral compass. Had he been given a defective soul? Or maybe he had always been evil. Hadn't the others said that he earned the nickname William the Bloody before becoming a vampire?

"Sometimes that lot back there bores me," confided Spike. "Andrew's okay. Grown up a little. And Illyria's more'n decent. But they both want something epic and noisy. He wants a comic book, she wants the world to make sense. Only person here who can actually just sit down and have an ice cream is you."

Dana wondered if she was supposed to reply to that.

Spike leaned back on the bench, shifting to face her. "Connor tells me that you got upset with him last week when he called."

Dana had wondered how long it would take for that to come back and bite her. Connor and Spike talked endlessly to each other, and she knew that yelling at one was as good as yelling at the other.

"I'm just tired of you two trying your amateur psychology on me," she mumbled self-consciously.

Spike barked a laugh, leaning back with a smug look on his face. "He was getting to you, wasn't he?" Dana flushed. It was true that Connor was quicker than she was, a veritable Socrates at the debating table. And she often got frustrated with him.

It didn't help that he was right all the time. She couldn't stand that.

"A little."

"Well, get used to it. He used to get to me all the time, and I didn't even have powers."

The implication that somehow Dana's mystically strong muscles equalized the mental imbalance was entirely false. Connor was also incredibly strong, at least as strong as her, if not stronger. And Spike was stronger still, these days.

"I had a Slayer dream." She was desperate to change the subject now.

"You're sure?" Spike wasn't taking it seriously, his eyes continuing to scan the sparse mall.

"You died."

That got his entire, undivided attention, along with a scowl. "That would be number four, if you're counting," he said, a sharp edge to his voice. "And it doesn't get any better the more I do it. What did you see?"

Dana struggled to get it straight. It was confused, just a little, with images of Spike fighting Buffy, Nikki Wood, Faith, and another, Chinese, Slayer. She knew those were Slayer memories, and tried to mentally put a wall between the vision and the images of him killing Slayers.

"There were demons. You were fighting them, winning. Then Slayers came, and killed you."

Spike swallowed. "Well, if a bloke has to go, what better way to go?"

"And you didn't have any powers."

"Oh, swell."

Dana wondered sometimes if Spike ever explained himself to anyone. She never saw it, if he did. He just wandered around making vague pronouncements and doling out violence, although she suspected he was capable of clarity, if he needed it.

Spike was biting his lip. She stared at the weary lines of his face, the tight smooth cheekbones, and wondered just why he fought so hard. It seemed sometimes that he was trying to get himself killed, except that he fought so hard to live.

Was it guilt driving him? She never saw any other sign of guilt.

A tall brunette strolled over and sat down. It took Dana just a second to realize it was Illyria, in her non-God appearance. She rarely took it, except in public places, which they didn't frequent anyway.

"I sensed your distress," she said, her tone honey, despite the words. She was working on sounding more human, and it really wasn't working. Dana wondered why she even bothered.

"Vague Slayer prophecy says I'll lose my powers and be killed by Slayers."

"And Shadow-men," added Dana helpfully.

Illyria nodded. "Then we must enlist the aid of her Watcher at once, to determine whether this is a lone Slayer dream or whether the others have had the same dream."

"What would that show?" asked Dana, curious.

"Whether Spike's thaumaturgic signature is strong enough to affect an entire world," said Illyria seriously. "If it is, then the events to come are truly terrifying. If you were the only one to see it, then we can conclude that it was your proximity to him that allowed you to see it, and that the intensity of the violence will not be as great."

Spike took a deep breath. "They'll all have seen it."

"On what do you base that claim?" asked Illyria.

"It's just my luck."

And Dana knew it was the truth. It always seemed to be the case that what happened to Spike wasn't anywhere near the middle of the range. It was always the most horrible thing she could imagine—and she had a very horrible imagination.

"The Queen of Hearts used to do nine impossible things before breakfast. Or was it the White Queen? I can never remember."

Insane ramblings were actually quite an improvement over the screams about clay and water. Barclay stopped scribbling in his notes and concentrated his attention on the prisoner, bound hand and foot and blindfolded, strapped down to the rocking chair.

"Is there a power rising?" asked Barclay.

The blindfolded figure giggled. "The dragon wakes." Then he began babbling in gibberish, hard consonants pouring out of his mouth.

Barclay sighed, glancing back at his associate. "Do you think there's any more to be wrung out of him?"

"Between the sodium pentothal and the torture, he's broken entirely." The shadowy angles of the plain face shifted in anger. "He's no use to us."

Barclay sighed. "Release him?"

The other nodded.

As Barclay rose the fourth person in the room cleared her throat. "I could be wrong, but isn't he speaking in a demon dialect?"

For a long minute they all listened quietly. "Good catch, Lucy," said Barclay, amazed. "It's some fashion of tongue, there's too much repetition for it to be babbling. Fascinating. I wonder where he learned that?"

The bound figure giggled. "Learned from the best," he assured them, his Cockney accent drawing out the word best suggestively.

Barclay recognized the warning sign immediately. "He's self-aware!" he shouted, leaping to his feet, drawing his gun as he spoke. He was a moment too late, and the vampire burst free of his restraints, striking Barclay hard across the face.

Barclay fell back, managing to squeeze off a few shots at him. They flew wide, but gave Lucy the second's advantage she needed.

The Slayer flew through the air, slamming a stake into the vampire's chest before he could defend himself. As he exploded into dust she whirled, facing the shadowy figure behind her, raising a hand defensively.

He raised a hand quietly. "No need for that, Lucy. I was merely gathering myself in case he got past you."

Barclay shifted, watching his associate and the Slayer. They were both standing oddly, ready to attack each other. "How did it recover so fast?" he asked quietly.

"I suspect he had fed recently. The rejuvenating power of the blood would give it a quicker recovery." The shadowy figure moved out of the darkness, blinking at the unfamiliar light on his flat eyes, his scales rippling. "I believe, Barclay, you had noticed a change slightly before his full recovery, a gathering of his senses."

"Yes," said Barclay, flushing. He should have recognized that as a sign the vampire was awakening from the hypnotic stupor.

"Nevertheless, the vampire did give away one thing," noted the angular lizard-like demon. "Vampires do not learn other tongues unless they must. I suspect that this means his leader is the one proficient in this language. The list of vampires proficient in other languages is very small. On the other hand, the list of other demons and humans is endless."

"Then they may be following a demon or a human," said Lucy coldly.

Barclay nodded. "Or else one of the vampires on the short list."

"Doubtful," said the tall demon, frowning. "All the vampires left on the list are on her side."

Barclay glanced at Lucy, surprised.

Andrew picked the phone up trepidatiously, dialing slowly. His heart was pounding hard, and he thought it might stop at any moment. As the phone rang his mouth went dry.



"Dawn!" Relief flooded him.

"Oh, hi." It could have been just his imagination, but she didn't sound thrilled to hear from him. He winced.

"We have a situation here," he said, trying to get this conversation on the right track. So that she wouldn't think he was making another needy personal phone call. "Dana had a Slayer dream about Spike's death."

Dawn was silent for a minute. "Old news," she said finally, sighing. "I've known for almost four hours. Have you figured out yet who the shadowmen are?"

"Shadow men? No, I haven't. Dana was vague about them."

"Whoever they are, they may be the trigger for the event," said Dawn, and her voice was filled with mourning and misery. "Stay right there. I can be there within four hours."

Andrew could hear Giles arguing in the background, trying to dissuade the Head Watcher from her mission. He knew it was futile. Once her mind was made up there was no turning her aside.

Andrew examined the other occupants of the room. Dana was quieter than usual, staring at Spike. Although there was as much friction between her and Spike as between the former vampire and everyone else Andrew could see that he had gotten through to her, had really started breaking down her defenses.

He wondered if Spike would really teach her to do better.

"Tell her not to bring any Slayers," said Illyria. She was in full battle armor, as usual, and was perched in the window, watching the front of the hotel they were staying in. "If it is the Slayers who are to kill him we could inadvertently trigger the prophecy by gathering them."

Spike chuckled. "I think the Bit will have thought of that," he said, glancing away. "Anybody else have a hankering for some food?"

"You don't know who the shadow-men are?" said Andrew, feeling a bit foolish.

"Spike probably knows already," said Dawn, and her voice cracked just a bit. "If he doesn't, we'll have to figure it out."

"I know who the shadowmen are," said Spike, staring at Andrew. Andrew wondered if Spike could hear Dawn, or was just working from Andrew's question to Dawn. "Bloody obvious, if you ask me."

Illyria snorted. "You refer to the demons that formerly ran Wolfram and Hart, the ones you have all but exterminated. You are illogical. They are weak, and the Slayers would not aid them."

Andrew tried to ignore them. "Hurry," he said quietly to Dawn, then hung up.

He felt a curious numbness inside. He knew that it should kill him that she was drifting away, freezing him out. But all he really felt was a little glad that she was taking the threat to Spike seriously.

"It's Spike!" snapped Dawn, leaning back against a marble column.

Giles quietly mumbled something to the Watcher-in-training nearest him, sending the young woman scurrying away in search of something. Then he looked up at Dawn from his position sitting behind her desk.

He said nothing, waiting patiently.

Buffy broke the silence. "You know, it's more than possible Giles is right and he's turned evil again. More than possible. We have to be logical about this, right? Who knows him better than Angel? And, better, it doesn't bring more than one more Slayer into the mix."

"One Slayer too many!" snapped Dawn. "In fact, I want to get Dana away from him. It's too dangerous."

"Again, you're not considering the possibility that he might actually be evil," said Giles quietly.

"No, I'm not," said Dawn. "This vision they all had wasn't about him hurting us, or anybody. It was about him dying. That's a warning from some higher power, one we can't ignore."

Giles sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "We're going into a highly explosive situation blind. And knowing Spike… well, he's probably going to ignite any situation, no matter what it is. Go to him, then. But be careful."

In the middle of the deserted parking lot the dark figure stood alone, his hands wrapped around a bloody sword. He could hear the hissing scrapes of metal dragging across the asphalt, and he tensed expectantly.

A vampire burst through the ranks, flying at him with a scream.

Lithe muscles reacted quickly, tearing the head off the shoulders of the vampire in one quick burst of action. As the body exploded into dust, cutting off his vision, he twirled in another motion, managing to strike another of the demons.

As they attacked in a group he let out a guttural howl, his body flowing through the motions of combat while his mind was a thousand miles away.

His Latin homework was easy. Just a retread from last semester. But the calculus was killing him—although fencing was a few easy credits—and the blasted English coursework was definitely not his favorite.

But his mind stayed on Sarah, his sister. And her new boyfriend.

He became aware that he'd finished the nest of vampires and he slowly relaxed, sliding the sword back into the sheath on his back. "Blast," he muttered.

Spike made it all look so easy. Protect your loved ones. Destroy evil. Go crazy if you have to, just never stop trying. Never stop fighting for what you want so badly.

But somehow it was all more complicated than that. Secret identities, families, little sisters who hooked up with guys that were all wrong for them, dangerous demons that hid out everywhere but in the places they belonged.

Connor crouched over the floor, wishing he could make sense of it all.

Then the cell phone rang.

He flipped it open. "Connor."

The quiet, whispered voice sent shivers up his spine. "Spike's dying."

Connor forced himself not to answer, choked back the words that sprang to his throat. "Who is this?" he whispered back.

There was a chuckle. "It's me. It's us. It's…"

There was a soft sound, and then the phone changed hands. Connor strained to listen.

"This is Daegstron. Who is this? How did you get this number?"

And everything made sense all at once to Connor. He remembered the name, remembered the oily-faced man. He closed the phone quickly, his heart pounding, and tried to remember exactly what the girl had whispered.

"Spike's dying," he repeated, incredulously.

He could feel his stomach roiling as those words ate at him.