Chapter 1

The battle was over.

Amazingly. Finally.

Spike couldn't tell how many hours they'd been fighting and killing demons, only that the sun hadn't risen, yet. God, he ached, but otherwise, he wasn't so bad off, thanks to the Slayer Rescue Brigade.

He picked his way through piles of demons and flesh to come see the carcass of the dragon. Unfortunately for a building neighboring the Hyperion, the great beast had crashed to earth on top of it, leaving half the building in rubble. The open side revealed apartments broken in half, plumbing and wires dangling precariously from the various levels. A lot of people had lost their homes. He hoped they'd had the sense to get out before they lost their lives.

His grand-sire was limping heavily. The dragon had seized the git's leg in its jaws, before Angel had plunged his sword into its eye. The beast had reared up in pain, giving the young Slayer army the chance to shoot arrows into its soft underbelly. Must have been armor-piercing arrowheads, to penetrate a dragon's hide.

They'd thought themselves about lost, when he and Angel had suddenly sensed Slayers. Gunn had fought valiantly for the few minutes he'd still been alive, the wound in his abdomen gushing blood as he fought. Illyria had seen his eyes roll back, as he'd collapsed, and moved his body to the back of the alley. There was no way any of them were going to allow a comrade to be trampled and buried under the piles of bodies. Not this night. Angel had exchanged a nervous look with Spike at the sight of the first warrior girl. Will they be able to tell what side we're on?, crossing both of their minds. Luckily, it was good ol' Vi, and Rona, leading the charge, and they quickly realized that the AI team was not their enemy. Spike watched Rona direct a couple of her Slayers to help Angel into the hotel, as he continued to peruse the damage. Illyria came up beside him.

"These are the Slayers you've spoken of?"

"Aye, luv. Part of the new Slayer army created in Sunnydale."

"They fought well, for little girls. I am unsure what to do now. I still crave – vengeance? – though, our foes are all dead. Humans have burial rituals, yes?"

"Yeah, Blue. Wesley and Gunn deserve a proper funeral. You could make sure they're, uh, set aside, until we can make arrangements…contact their families."

"This is an acceptable task. I will honor our fallen warriors," she said imperiously. Illyria strode off to carry out her task. Spike released the breath he always held around her. You never knew what might set her off, after all.

Vi ran over to him. No longer a frightened Potential, eh, pet? She'd changed little in the year since he'd last seen her, except that her hair was a little longer, and she carried herself with confidence now.

"Hey, Spike! Don't get me wrong, but I thought you were supposed to be dead?"

"I am dead, luv. Have been for a long time," he bantered. She rolled her eyes.

"You know what I mean! Dead-dead, not undead-dead. The Hellmouth collapsed on top of you. We all saw the giant crater. So…what gives?"

"Long story, luv, but suffice it to say, that amulet I was wearin' didn't let me stay gone. I popped up in the Poof's office, there, and a lot's happened since, but we set out tonight to strike a serious blow at Wolfram and Hart. Now, I'm sure you have heaps of questions, but I'm tired to the bone, and not just a little saturated in goo. Mind if we pick this up tomorrow?"

"Um, yeah, I guess…it's nice to see you again, Spike. Are you injured? We brought lots of supplies."

"Just nicks and bruises, luv. I'll be alright after some blood and a shower. Someone needs to check on the humans in that building, though."

"Already on it." She tried to hug him without touching the blood and guts, then ran off to check on her teams.

Spike dragged himself into the hotel, checking the freezer for blood (Peaches always had back-ups), then searched for a room after his meal. He took the nearest one he could find that was relatively quiet, had running water, and provided sun protection. The bed was clean, other than some dust on the comforter. He turned on the hot water in the shower and began peeling off his clothes, leaving them on the floor. His precious duster was going to need a bath, too, but that could wait. He could go back to his apartment tomorrow night.

The water felt heavenly on his aching muscles. Unfortunately, there was no soap, so he just used the friction of his hands to clean up as best as possible. His jeans, shirt, and socks then got rinsed out, too. Once the water started to cool, Spike draped his clothes over the curtain rod, and dried off with the old towel he found. He stumbled into bed, pulling the covers over his head, and drifted off into a dreamless sleep.

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"So, you really were trying to do good inside Wolfram and Hart? Boy, is Giles going to have to eat crow," Vi said to Angel, after getting his overview of the past months. The Slayers had helped move him up to a room once his wounds had been bandaged.

"Man, that was one ballsy move, taking on a dragon solo. Are you suicidal, or just crazy?" Rona said.

"Depends on whom you ask," he tiredly quipped. "My friend – he died in the alley. Has his body been retrieved?"

"The tall woman with blue hair brought him in, and another man's body, too. We were all wondering, uh, what she is?" Vi replied.

"Illyria is an Old One, a god or goddess, though he/she resides in the body of one of my team members, now. Her powers have been reduced, but she's still…volatile. As long as she's not killing anybody, just give her some space. Spike is the only one who seems not to piss her off, now that Wesley's gone. Down in the office – there's an address book on the desk. Could you have someone bring it to me, please? I need to make some calls," Angel answered. He needed to let Anne know what happened, and Wes' parents.

His entire team was dead, except for Lorne, and he was probably long gone by now. He understood that, of course. Killing someone changed you forever, and a part of Lorne's bubbly spirit was most likely gone forever. Angel had gone into the fight tonight wanting to do the most damage he could before they killed him. Living to see the end of the battle had not even been a consideration, until Connor had showed up to help. His son was the only person he had, now…and Spike. The bleached menace had grown on him recently, not that he'd ever admit it. They'd never be friends, but they had an…understanding now…and like it or not, they were family.

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"Status of the building next door?" Vi asked one of her Slayers.

"It appears that most of the occupants were able to get out in time, and we helped the rest out of the part still standing. The fire department's going through the rubble, now that it's morning. Seems nobody wanted to touch the neighborhood overnight."

"Smart move, if you ask me. Thank goodness most demon bodies disintegrate after death. People in the neighborhood seem to be buying that it was either an earthquake, or some type of explosion," Rona added.

"Good. I want patrols of the surrounding blocks while we're in town, just in case any demons escaped. I'll make my report to Mr. Giles later today, and then, we'll find out when we can go home."

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Spike roused in the late afternoon feeling much better, and very hungry. His jeans were still a little damp in spots, but his socks and t-shirt were dry. He warmed up a couple mugs full of blood, then searched through the cleaning supplies for something he could use on his duster. Peaches had to have some leather soap around here somewhere. Spike finally found some behind the front desk and spent the rest of the afternoon tending to his coat and boots. It didn't matter that he had copies of the coat at his apartment.

Angel wasn't up, yet, when he finished, so Spike left by the sewers towards his home to gather his things. He didn't have any attachment to the place, and hadn't even bothered to make it homey, besides finding the gaming system. He stuck his clothes and the books he'd pilfered from the library in a duffle bag, and left. The sun was technically down, now, so he took the streets to where he'd stashed the Viper, and decided to drive around for a while.

He was a free man – er, vampire – so, he could go anywhere he wanted. Where did he want to go? Stick around with Peaches? Nah! They'd be ready to kill each other within a week without an apocalypse to focus on, and he didn't want to end the git's existence nowadays, unless he turned evil again. He could travel. There were still places he hadn't seen, yet, and with modern aviation, it was possible to move great distances without frying in the sun, or being holed up with the rats in the bottom of a ship. He could even see Buffy and Dawn – and that was a frightening thought. Nah, the Slayer was living la dolce vida with the Immortal…he could find out where his Niblet was, though.

Spike allowed himself to admit that he missed the teen. Her insistence to never speak to him unless she had to that last year in Sunnydale had hurt, but he hadn't pressed the issue, feeling that he deserved her scorn for what he'd done to Buffy. Getting the soul didn't erase his mistakes. It just kept him from making the same ones. Buffy might feel that having a soul makes it all better, but his Bit was smarter than that. Hence the scorn. If there was one thing he wanted to do in his unlife, it was make things up to Dawn. He and Buffy had done horrible things to each other, but her sister had been an innocent caught in the crossfire. In focusing on one sister during their affair, he'd neglected the other, the one who had been his true friend. He didn't deserve to have her friendship back, but he did owe Dawn an apology. He just had to get up the courage to do it face to face.

Spike picked up some supplies along the way – blood, smokes, some snacks, beer, and a pre-paid cellphone. He didn't know if the phones were turned on in the hotel, and he'd have some calls to make once he decided where to go. He stashed the car in the hotel's garage and went inside, intent on heading straight for his room after a stop in the kitchen.

"Hey, Spike," Vi greeted, when he entered the lobby. "Where ya been?"

"Just picking up a few things. You and the Slayerettes clearing out soon?"

"Not quite. Waiting to get new orders. Most of us are going out on patrol, if you wanna come."

"Some other time, luv." He continued up the stairs to his room.

Vi pouted for a minute, then got up to make some microwave popcorn.

Spike put his belongings away, then decided to stop in on Angel, before going out again. Feeling so many Slayers in the building made him antsy.

"Hey, Gramps. How're you feelin'?"

"Like there's a chunk missing out of my leg, how do you think I feel? What do you want, Spike?" Angel was sitting on the bed, his leg immobilized in a splint.

"Well, someone sure woke up grumpy today. Maybe one of the girls could rustle up a wheelchair for you and take you out for some ice cream." Spike stood before the bed, rocking on his heels.

"Stop being so hyper. Did you have coffee? How many times have I told you to stay away from the espresso? Will you just go and leave me alone?" Angel groused.

"We just won against Wolfram and Hart, Peaches. I'd think you'd be a little more grateful to be alive." Spike took a seat on the corner of the bed, taking the conversation more seriously.

"That victory came at great cost, Spike, and we can't even be sure we hit them that hard. It's only a matter of time before they're back to business as usual in L.A. Meanwhile, practically everyone I cared about is dead. Sorry if I'm not in the mood for a party."

"You think you're the only one that cared for Fred? Or Wes and Charlie? I didn't know them like you did, but I care, and Fred was my friend. But, you can either brood here in this dark room indefinitely, or you can go see your son, and Nina, and continue living. The ones we lost all knew what they were getting into, and they died doing something they thought was right. Who do you think asked Illyria to bring in the bodies, you git?"

"I…called Wesley's parents. They want his body shipped to England to be buried in the family plot. Gunn didn't have any family left, but he stayed in touch with friends from his old neighborhood, and Anne at the shelter. I thought we could find a nice place somewhere local. Fred's parents still think she's alive, thanks to Illyria pretending to be here, so I don't even know what to tell them…"

"Maybe nothing. Perhaps Blue will want to keep in touch with them. She was already starting to show some emotion for Wesley. Frankly, I don't know if we can trust her to go off on her own, yet, so if she gains some ties to the human world, maybe she won't destroy everything she sees when something pisses her off."

"You can talk to her. You are her pet, after all," Angel taunted.

"Watch it, Peaches. I could probably persuade her to finish what that dragon started. You're such an asshole when you're wounded," Spike retorted.

"And you're the model patient? The doctors couldn't wait to get rid of you when you lost your hands…dick."

Spike placed his hand over his heart. "Oh, you wound me," he mocked. "Seriously, is that the best you can come with?

"Spike? Go. Away."

He blew Angel a kiss. "Love you, too, Brood Boy." Spike stood up and sauntered towards the door, flipping Angel off before he left.

Angel wondered again why he'd never staked the idiot as a fledge.

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Spike slipped out the back to avoid the flock of teen Slayers. He preferred to patrol alone, unless a certain blonde was by his side. He walked down the alley and around the collapsed building. Any local vampires were probably avoiding the immediate area for a few days, still, so he wandered farther across the city.