A Child Will Lead Them
A/N: I thought I was done with this a long while back. After all, the epilogue in the last chapter was, I thought, about as chilling and unreal as you could go. Then this thought hit me… BTW, even if the canonical comic series based on the show didn't go exactly as I had it in my head, it certainly did feature Spike showing up pretending to be evil for some higher purpose. I enjoyed that so very much…
It was, as deathbeds go, surreal.
Spike had been dying for years, a slow death the doctors couldn't hold off any more. Too much abuse to his body; between the cancer and the gunshot wounds, he just couldn't go on any more.
He wasn't sure how old he was physically, anyway. He worked it out to about sixty-three, adding the years before he was a vampire to the years afterwards.
Still, he looked older.
He lay there, trying to talk with all the strength of before, even as the light was fading in his eyes. "I told you… I told you where I want to be buried, right? Dee?"
Destiny nodded, keeping a firm grip on his hand. "Right next to Dana, right? Don't talk like that now. You'll be fine."
He wheezed a chuckle. He looked so weak with all his hair gone; with every little muscle and wrinkle in his neck standing out so harshly. He had lost a lot of weight in the last month, so he looked like a skeleton. "I see the end coming, kid. I always see… like your father."
Her parents had both been dead for years, but she didn't say anything. She was crying, and she didn't even try to hide it from him; not now.
He coughed. "I told… I told Blue everything you need to know… a long time ago. Blue?"
Illyria's hair looked grayer now, but she was still the strong, fierce warrior she had been. She was mortal now, more or less; her continued link with Faith and Xander's daughter was something stronger than she had shared with Spike or Dana. She leaned close to him, trying tentatively to smile. "We'll fight the good fight with a sea of confusion for our enemies, and nothing but violence for our enemies. We'll obfuscate and conquer; we'll pretend to be evil when we're not, and pretend to be good only when we must."
He grinned carelessly, glancing to the third woman present. "And Harm… oh, you liar, you… stop crying…"
She didn't, but she did try to smile for him. "Yeah, blondie bear?"
"Did I tell you that I never… I never loved you?"
She sighed. "I kind of knew that."
"And you stuck around anyway. I promised… I promised I'd help you, didn't I? And now I can't any more. I'm sorry. Even… Even if I never did love you like you deserved, don't give up love; it took me centuries to get it right, you know. Centuries, and three women..."
"I know," she said, sighing.
"You'll outlast us all," he predicted. "Even the kid."
The kid, who was now nearly twenty-five, didn't say anything. Spike had taught her to face apocalypse's, had held her when her parents died, and had stood by her against every foe they had found to face. He had helped shape the powers she had into a force that had changed the world for good; mostly.
She almost couldn't bear losing him.
Harmony's smile slipped away, and she tried to wipe the tears from her cheeks. "You're stronger than all of us," she whispered. "Even now."
He groaned, closing his eyes. "I lived a long time, you know, and I did a lot of evil; some good, but mostly evil. I'm not afraid to die; I've done that before. But what comes next? I am afraid, Harm. I am."
Illyria bowed her head lower, laying it on his chest. "You taught me about love and life; and all the things you humans do. You taught me to cherish it, to protect it; whatever awaits you on the other side, they must know what kind of man you have been."
He tried to laugh, but didn't have the strength left any more.
Destiny looked away, at the glass door where the doctors stood. They had taken him here, to the Slayers, at the last hour. Here, where he could receive the finest medical care. Here, where Buffy had died.
Destiny didn't pretend to understand how he could have loved Dana so fully and yet still care for Buffy; but she knew that Dana had never been jealous. Still, it seemed so odd to stare out and see other Slayers, the ones she had fought in the past when necessary, the ones she had protected whenever possible, staring back with awe at Spike, even though he was dying. Staring at the man they occasionally called enemy, sometimes called ally, never trusted, always feared. Staring at the man who had saved them all so many times.
The world could not be the same without him.
"Promise me one thing," whispered Spike. "Whatever comes, don't ever lose hope, Dee."
It took him hours after that to die, fading away slowly. They could have kept him alive longer with machines, but he had already lost so much dignity and control; and although Dee had wanted to force him to take all the life the doctors could force into his failing body, Illyria would not hear of contradicting his orders.
He died shortly after midnight, his heart stopping. He was asleep when he died, and Dee cried for hours, held in the arms of a vampire with a soul and the former God-King of the universe.
It was a blinding light that shook Spike awake, and he knew instantly he was dead. He had died before, a few times; three, to be precise, which he rarely was.
He groaned, stretching his arms. "Right, let's get this judgment thing over with, shall we?"
The light resolved into a tall, dark vampire he had last seen so many years before. "Oh, is that way, little Willy?" asked Angel, grinning at him.
Spike rolled his eyes. "Bugger all, I should have known you'd be my spirit guide into the beyond. Come to destroy me? Usher me to hell?"
"Yes… and no. I'm not really your spirit guide," admitted Angel sheepishly. "I pulled a few strings to get to meet you here when you died. You have no idea how long I've been waiting for you to die, Spike! Ugh! You would live to a ripe old age!"
Spike shrugged. "Ripe enough, I suppose. What're you waiting for me for?"
"This place… is hell!" snarled Angel. "Cordy and Lindsey are working together to pull strings and they keep offering me a job. It's enough to make me wish I was Angelus again!"
"Oh?" Spike asked carelessly, glancing about now in confusion. "So, what're you doing now?"
"Nothing. I mostly float around aimlessly, a restless spirit…" Angel stopped talking and stared into space for a second. "Huh. Cordy figured out I've got you here awful fast; sounds like she's bringing the cavalry."
"Well, yeah. What do you want, Liam?"
He shook his head. "Darla's here, working for the side of good. Redeemed, thanks to yours truly. Buffy is here. Faith is here. Even Xander is here, somewhere. They made it. The good people."
"And?" prompted Spike.
"Drusilla went to Hell, Spike," said Angel bluntly. "And you sent her there."
Spike sighed. "Yeah, I know."
"I have a plan," said Angel grandly, drawing himself up to his full height.
Spike shook his head. "Ugh! You never learn!"
"What?" said Angel, surprised.
"Your plan is to storm the gates of hell, demand her back, and do battle, right?" asked Spike.
"Yeah, pretty much," admitted Angel.
"Same plan you used against Wolfram and Hart, the Circle of the Thorn, the Fellowship of Eternity… etcetera, etcetera?" asked Spike, now truly peeved.
"Uh, yeah," said Angel. "As I recall, you were in with me on at least one of those."
"Yeah, one! And, in case you missed it, we both bought it, Angel! That's why you're here. You never… ever… learn!"
Then Spike did something truly surprising. He grinned. It was a lean predatory grin, something that should have only belonged on somebody who didn't make it to heaven. "Oh, the things I've learned, Angel. You want to save Drusilla? Redeem her?"
"She only went to hell in the first place because of me," replied Angel. "My mistakes. My … sins."
"Well, then. I have a plan," said Spike. It was one of his revelations, his finest moments. A moment when everything he had worked for came together in one moment, when he turned the tables on his foes.
"You have a plan," said Angel, deadpan. "Is yours better than mine?"
Spike scoffed. "Better? Worlds! I mean, for starters I've already got pieces in place for this, people I've been massaging into… you knew that, didn't you?"
Angel laughed. "I'm sorry, Will! You know how hard it is…"
"You've been watching me all this time, and using me as your chess piece! Cocky son of a b—"
"Well, I was stuck up here and couldn't do anything. You mad at me?"
Spike grinned, tilting his head just barely to one side. "You know, I've never been so proud of you, Peaches. So, are we off to play hero now?"
Angel nodded, waving both hands outward. A sword appeared in each, and he threw one to Spike. "When the good guys get here, just try not to hurt them too badly."
The world around them shimmered, and Spike let out a shaky laugh. "I should have known death would be just an excuse for even more responsibility thrust onto me!"
"Yeah, Cordy calls that your God complex," said Angel, still keeping a straight face.
"And what does she call yours?"
"Just a martyr complex, but then again, she didn't realize I was planning this."
Later, in the aftermath, Lindsey and Cordelia found their minions shaken, but not dead, waiting for them in the place where Spike had come through from the other side.
"I wish you would stop underestimating Spike," grumbled Lindsey.
"Firstly, I didn't. I had a whole army waiting to usher him to his eternal rest," said Cordelia, trying to keep her anger out of her voice but failing miserably. "I didn't count on him getting pulled out here by Angel."
"Right. Well, what now?"
Cordelia sighed. "We pretend that whatever they're doing is part of our plan…"
"Because we can't stop them, contain them, or even slow them down, apparently. We might as well try to take credit for them!"