Disclaimer: All characters owned by Joss Whedon and company.

Thanks to: Kathy, for beta-reading.


I. There weren't many long term homeless people in Sunnydale, for reasons that had nothing to do with the Mayor's social programmes. Tony Bolton had been living on the streets for almost a month, though, ever since his wife had kicked him out. They had lost their son the previous spring, a stupid accident in the swimming pool. Sandra had withdrawn into herself, and Tony had hit the bottle. When she found him passed out in front of their own door surrounded by his own vomit, she said she couldn't take it anymore.

"You'll die, too, Tony," she had declared. "But I won't watch that. No. I just can't."

Tony thought she was probably right. Except that after someone took his papers and all the money he had left, there wasn't any way to buy alcohol anymore. And he started to realize he was hungry. He begged, and the first money he got actually went down for food. Then he felt strong enough to take some booze from some other guy, take it away by force, but when the other guy started to cry and beg, it registered with Tony that this was just a kid. A teenager. An age his son would never reach.

He didn't return the bottle. He didn't drink it, either. He just sat and stared at it. The next few days, he begged again, got some money, bought more food, and kept pulling out a half filled bottle he never drank. Sometimes he got close, so close. He had the dirty glass on his lips and his hands were shaking.

The first night his hands were stable and he could put down the bottle again without trembling, he sat down on a bench in quiet celebration. He still stank, and his stubble wasn't a stubble anymore, it was a half-assed beard. Sandra probably wouldn't recognize him at first sight. But he wanted to go back to her now. Wanted to beg her to give him another chance. He'd tell her that she wouldn't see him die. Maybe he couldn't promise her they'd grow old together. Things would never be the same. Maybe they'd never be able to deal with Bart's death, and there would be a divorce after all. But they could try. That was what he was going to promise her. That he'd try, and that she wouldn't see him die anymore. Because he wanted to live.

There was a young couple moving towards him, arms around each other's hips. A lucky omen if there ever was one. They even smiled at him. Tony lifted the bottle towards them in a toast, and then he threw it away.

It wasn't until their faces changed that he realized something was very wrong.

Spike: We killed a homeless man on this bench. Me and Dru. Those were good times. chuckles You know, he begged for mercy, and you know, that only made us bite harder. (Lover's Walk, season 3)

II. She had finally done it. Made it to Rio, for the Carnival. Ynez couldn't believe it. It had taken years of training to qualify for one of the big dancing schools, and then she was just one of the thousands of participants. There were others much better than her, she knew it. And her figure was good but not spectacular; nothing like Anita's, with her big breasts, or Dolores with her long, long legs. But there she was, in the Sambadrome, one of the dancers shaking her hips to the beat when her school participated in the procession of Beija-Flor. Beija-Flor was one of the fourteen Samba schools allowed to do this. They hadn't won last year, their arch-rival had, but this year would be different. Ynez was sure of it. Anything was possible this year.

Her costume was heavy, mostly the elaborate headdress. She didn't mind. She smiled and sang and let the cheering and singing from the crowd go to her head. The most perfect thing, though, was that Maria was at her side throughout.

Falling in love with another dancer, a rival, was probably a stupid thing to do. Ynez didn't care. She and Maria had made a pact, sharing their tiny, tiny flat in Rio and saving the money so they could pay for the costumes, which weren't given for free by the school. They'd make it to the big parade. They'd be spectacular. And afterwards, with maybe a contract or two from some luxury hotel which needed really good dancers, they'd come out to their families. Maria was a city girl and said her parents wouldn't mind, but Ynez knew quite well her father would. He was always talking of grandchildren, and so was her mother. Still, he was proud of his daughter the Beija-Flor dancer, and maybe that would be enough. On this night, she was sure it would be.

Once they had danced through the exit, Maria laughed and threw her arms around Ynez' neck, and Ynez kissed her and kissed her. This was the best night of her life.

When she heard the English accent, she was sure it was a talent scout.

Spike: I gave her everything: beautiful jewels, beautiful dresses with beautiful girls in them…. (Lover's Walk, season 3)

III. Papa got home early, so Katya begged him to tell her the tale of Baba Yaga again, but Mama frowned and said it was too gruesome.

"She didn't sleep the entire night the last time," Mama said, and Papa laughed and told Katya that Mama had spoken. It wasn't fair. Katya had slept that night. A little. She pouted through dinner, but then Papa tickled her and told her a funny story, and Mama served her sweets, which only happened once or twice a year because Grandmother who could make them from honey had died last spring, and now they had to buy them.

"One day," Papa said, "when things are right in this country, we'll be able to give you all the sweets we want."

"No politics, Vanya," Mama said. "Besides, it'll be bad for her teeth."

Somebody knocked. Mama was holding little Alexei and Katya still had sticky hands from the sweet, so Papa went. Katya was on her way to wash her hands because Mama had told her to when she heard Mama cry out "please, please don't hurt him!"

Katya turned around. There was a man standing in front of her doorstep. Only it wasn't a man. It was a thing with a horrible face, its hands around Papa's throat, and it said: "Invite me in, then, and I won't hurt him, love."

Papa made gurgling noises, and Mama said, with a choked voice: "Come in, Sir."

The thing entered, and the first thing it did was to sink its teeth into Papa's neck.

"But," Mama whispered, "but you said…"

"You stupid bint," the thing interrupted, and threw Papa away like a rag doll. Katya wanted to run to him, but she remembered the tales, the fairy tales. Of Baba Yaga and the other monsters. There was one chance, only one, if you were small and hid yourself away, and then, when they had left, you could rescue your family.

The winter was really cold this year, so much of the coal was already gone. She climbed in the coal bin while Mama cried and begged and the thing laughed and laughed, and then she didn't hear anything any more. Not for a good long while. Not even little Alexei who was always gurgling or crying or making burping noises when Mama fed him.

Finally, she did hear something.

It wasn't until the monster had pulled her out of the coal that she realized it had been her own breath.

Dawn: And the lady just invited you in?
Spike: Well, I had hubby by the throat, didn't I? Promised her he'd live when she gave me the invite. (…) And I kill 'em. The whole lot. But… (grinning) There is someone missing. Supposed to be…this little girl. So I get real quiet, and I hear this tiny noise…
(Crush, season 5)

IV. Time had stopped a long while ago. She barely knew her name anymore – which was Renate – and though she tried, she couldn't pronounce the names of her parents, could not whisper them in the dark anymore to keep her company.

Her parents were gone at any rate. Far away. They had sent her to England so she'd be safe, with something called Kindertransport. Bad things were happening at home, Renate still remembered that much, and the image of having to leave her old school, having to leave her swim club even though she was the best swimmer of her year, even the image of the brown uniforms shouting "Drecksjude" at her father, all that came back, but not the names of her parents.

England was supposed to be safe.

She had liked the family who had taken her in. Had tried to learn the new language as quickly as possible, though one of the first things she asked in English was when her parents would come to join her, and one of the first things she understood in English was being told they would not, not yet. No visa. That was the first phrase. It was with her, so she whispered it out loud.

"No visa."

"And what would you do with one, pet?" said an amused voice, and she knew he was back again. Maybe he'd find a new part of her body to drink blood from. He always did. Neck, legs, arms, breasts, she had stopped counting. Maybe he'd finally listen to her pleas and kill her. Maybe her English was finally good enough for that.

"Lass mich sterben," she said, and cursed herself, for it was German again.

"Sorry, love, I don't speak Nazi."

The names of her parents wouldn't come to her, but she would never stop being grateful that at least they had not come to this country with her.

Spike: Do you know how much blood you can drink from a girl before she'll die? I do. You see, the trick is to drink just enough to know how to damage them just enough so that they'll still cry when you… 'cause it's not worth it if they don't cry. (Never Leave Me, season 7. Spike's "I don't speak Nazi" quote is from AtS, season 5, Why We Fight.)

V. It was the moment every Watcher should be prepared for. Bernard Crowley thought he was, but when he entered the morgue, he still felt as helpless as a bloody beginner in his first academy year.

The first thing he felt when looking at Nikki's body was relief. There wasn't a mark on her. No bite wounds. This was all a misunderstanding, clearly. The vampire hadn't drained her, and so she couldn't be dead. She'd rise and mock him for his English gullibility any second now.

"There is no wound," he said out loud, and the policeman next to him shook his head.

"Nah. That sick fuck who killed her broke her neck. Stripped her, too. Trophy killer, is my guess. Look, I'm sorry, but you have to tell me. Is this the girl?"

"Yes," said Crowley, staring at Nikki's silent, dead form. "This is Nikki Wood."

He filled out the necessary papers, and then went to retrieve Robin from Nikki's friend Vanessa who had agreed to babysit. On his way, he stopped and turned a couple of times. It was ridiculous, but he still expected Nikki to come after him, alive. To tell him it had all been a great joke.

Vanessa, when he told her, cried and cursed, then pressed her hand on her mouth. She didn't know Nikki was a Slayer; Crowley had had enough authority over Nikki to ensure that much at least, even though Nikki had gone her own way in many other things. Robin sat in front of the tv, watching cartoons, unaware he was an orphan yet, and they both looked at him.

"Kid told me there was some stalker after his mother," Vanessa whispered. "Made me promise I wouldn't tell her he told, but he was so scared. Some white guy, he said. That the one who got her?"

Crowley, whose parents had emigrated to the UK from Kenya and who sometimes suspected he owed his position to a rare attempt at patronizing racial tactfulness on the part of the Watcher's Council, just nodded.

"I guess that's it then," Vanessa said bitterly. "Police isn't going to do anything. One more dead black woman killed by some white bastard, what's she to them? He'll get away with it."

Her voice had gotten louder than she had intended, and Robin turned away from the tv. When the child saw Crowley, his eyes widened. He didn't cry. He just grew utterly still. It was then and there that Crowley decided to resign from the Watchers. He had done his duty and guided Nikki to her death, but he'd be damned if he let her son grow into the same fate.

"What kind of God is this?" Vanessa asked. "What kind of God lets someone murder a woman just for fun and get away with it?"

Spike: I don't give a piss about your mum. She was a slayer. I was a vampire. That's the way the game is played. (Lies My Parents Told Me, season 7)