Things not what they used to be
Missing one inside of me
Deathly lost, this can't be real
Cannot stand this hell I feel
Emptiness is filling me
To the point of agony
Growing darkness taking dawn
I was me, but now he's gone- Fade to Black, Metallica, Ride The Lightning
"Red," Spike called as he walked up behind Willow, startling her. The huge amounts of injured, weary, and dead shocked her. True, she had been helping Buffy fight the forces of evil for over seven years, but nothing had ever prepared her for the vast amounts of misery contained in Dronham Fort.
"Yes, Spike?" Willow stuttered, unsure as to why he had called for her to be here instead of Buffy.
"Come with me," Spike said as he turned and walked down the hallway leading Willow to a small room.
Upon entering the room, Willow gasped, covering her mouth and nose as the stench of death reach her.
Lying on a small cot in the room was the pasty grey-skinned body of Angel. He looked unnatural and eerily still. Even with the image of him as a vampire fresh in her mind, Willow was having a hard time wrapping her mind around how still he was. It wasn't right and Willow had to forcefully stop herself from running out of the room.
As she turned wide eyes towards Spike, silently begging for an explanation, she noticed the slump of his shoulders, and the dark purple rings under dull blue eyes. He looked like he had lost nearly twenty pounds since the last time she had seen him, and this alone stalled any harsh words that had been threatening to burst forth.
"The Senior Partners have decided to enter the fray," Spike said his voice laced with exhaustion. "Bloody Turok-Han got him. Damn thing shoved a sword into Angel's side."
"Damn it!" Spike raised one eyebrow at Willow's uncharacteristic cursing, waiting for her to explain.
"We figured as much when I was able to locate Ktulu's army and Aneirin's mages couldn't."
"Bloody hell! Why I didn't think of that?" Spike said with a groan.
"It's okay," Willow said with a shrug. "We didn't either, until we were trying to figure out how to get to the library first."
"I still should have though of it," Spike growled. Balling his first, Spike hit the wall. It cracked and splintered. Some of the slivers stuck in Spike's bleeding knuckles. He didn't seem to notice. "I might have been able to save more people."
"Spike," Willow said, resting a hand on his shoulder. "You're only one person…"
"But it's my job to stop this bastard!" Spike yelled, though his voice wavered. "And now thousands of people are homeless, countless more are dead, and Angel…I got him killed."
"Well, if all you're going to do is yell, then why did you call me here?" Willow asked, unsure how to comfort Spike. They hadn't exactly been close in Sunnydale, and that hadn't changed.
"I need you to make sure his soul is there when he wakes up."
"Spike! How could you!" Willow shouted, all thoughts of compassion fleeing in the face of what Spike had done.
"I only did what he wanted, Witch," Spike said before turning and leaving Willow with a soon to be re-vamped Angel.
Einarr walked through the halls of Dronham Fort. He had only arrived moments before, but could already see the relief efforts were going to take more than those here could provide.
"General Einarr," a soft voice said from the bend up ahead. Raising his eyes, Einarr nodded a greeting to Gunnarr as the barbarian walked towards him, a bucket of cool water hanging from one hand.
"These people can't stay here," Einarr said his voice firm while his gaze took in the suffering around him, storing it away in his memories.
"I know," Gunnarr said as he sat the bucket on the floor. "We have already started to send a few of the refugees to my homeland. They will be well taken care of."
"I don't doubt that," Einarr said a sigh filling his words. "But thank you. Things have been…hectic, what with Ktulu's march on the temple library."
"There is no need for thanks General Einarr," Gunnarr said as he laid a gentle hand on Einarr's shoulder. "We are all fighting this war together."
Giving the barbarian a weak smile, Einarr crouched before an elderly woman. She was dirty and tired, much like the rest of the refugees. Her bloodied feet stretched out before her. Taking the small cup Gunnarr offered Einarr helped her lift it to her lips. She drank the cool water in greedy gulps, ignoring the bit that trickled down her chin.
"I'll go tell Caius that these people need to be transported to Andreas Bay," Einarr said as he stood. "Frederic has already been instructed to set up a temporary shelter inside the city."
"And after you have run your errand," Gunnarr said as he passed another cup of water to a young child. "You will go speak to the Father. I believe he needs the ear of a friend right now."
Nodding, Einarr turned and left the fort. He quickly found Caius sitting in front of the fort. Swarms of eager children were running circles around him while he playfully growled at them. Their laughter lifted his spirits.
It was only when the children had successfully 'killed' him did Caius finally chase them off with promises of more games later.
"Your little ones are very resilient," Caius said, his dark gaze trained on the still playing group.
"That they are," Einarr said with a nod, his eyes also tracking the children's movements.
"I have already relaid your request," Caius said before Einarr could speak again. "Cyne is rounding up those who are free."
"You heard that?" Einarr asked, before nodding and answering his own question. "Of course you did. You dragons always were the nosy type."
Seeing Caius' amused look, Einarr shook his head.
"Have you spoken to the Father yet?"
"No, I haven't," Einarr said. "I wanted to speak with you first. Tell me, how he is? Gunnarr implied that something had happened."
"You do not know," Caius replied, more to himself than to Einarr. "The Father's friend, Angel, was mortally wounded in battle."
Sucking in a sharp breath, Einarr nodded his head. It was no wonder Gunnarr felt Spike would need someone to talk to.
"He's not taking his friend's death well is he?" Einarr asked, though he didn't know how anyone could take a loved one's death 'well'.
"At his friend's request," Caius continued, gaze focused on the distant horizon. "The Father turned Angel into the creature he once had been."
"But I thought he had received his humanity as a reward?" Einarr asked, having heard the story of Angel's Shanshu. "Why would he ask to be transformed again?"
"Because it was not his prophecy that did it," Caius answered. "It was a ploy by the Wolf, Ram, and Hart, to rid themselves of the warrior who was prophesied to destroy them."
"How did Spike learn of this treachery?"
"The ones known as the Wolf, Ram, and Hart appeared once more at the end of the battle to gloat over Angel's death. They had hoped to fully anger the Father."
"And throw him off balance."
"So, I take it Angel will be returning to his own world then," Einarr guessed. "Once his transformation has finished."
"And once we are all sure that the Lady Willow has been successful in returning Angel's essence."
"Do we know if this Wolf, Ram, and Hart have figured out what Spike has done?"
"We pray that they have not."
Einarr found Spike sitting in his room. His posture was defeated, and his head was resting in his hands. Both hands were bloody. Looking closely, Einarr could see the subtle tremors running through Spike's slim frame. He had lost weight since Einarr had last seen him, and he looked to be in desperate need of a bath, clean clothes, and a soft place to rest his head.
"Tell me, what troubles you my friend?" Einarr asked as he laid a gentle hand on Spike's shoulder.
The shaking stopped and Spike's shoulders stiffened. Shrugging off Einarr's hand, Spike rose, scrubbing at his face with weary hands.
"Nothing," Spike said, his voice sharp. "I'm fine. Just needed a few moments to clear my head is all."
Pulling on his wrap, Spike quickly left the room, leaving Einarr to his worry.
Dronham Fort wasn't as big as she had imagined. For some reason, when thinking of the military outpost, the image of Helms Deep always sprang forth in Buffy's mind. She had been way off the mark. There was no sheltering valley, no imposing stone structure, just a regular fort that looked like it belonged on the set of a western. The high wooden wall surrounding the fort was topped with vicious looking spikes. Two guards stood sentry at the gate. The surrounding land was covered with a few scattered trees, all fairly short.
The land was also flat, very, very flat. Buffy expected to see a frozen tumbleweed roll across the land at any moment.
"Not quite what you were expecting, huh Buff?" Xander commented from her side. His eye scanned the landscape, taking in the soldiers and civilians, all working to help make the long trek to the Barbarian's homeland easier. Those too wounded, too old, or too young to walk were being flown to Aneirin's castle by the dragons.
"No, it's not," Buffy sighed, her voice barely audible.
Casting a glance in Buffy's direction, Xander noticed the slump of her shoulders, and the dark circles under her eyes. The shadows that had been slowly receding from her eyes over the last year were back. She stood silent, fur lined cloak wrapped tightly around her shivering frame. Buffy was the picture of dejection and misery.
"Hey, Buffy," Xander said as he placed his hand on her shoulder. "Speak to me."
Turning her head briefly, she gave him a wane smile before letting her gaze drift back to the scene before them.
"I just never realized you know?" Buffy answered with a shrug. "We've been fighting the good fight for years, and I thought, 'Hey, I'm the slayer. If there's a Big Bad, point me in their direction and I'll slay it.' I never…I just thought I had seen the worst."
"No Xan," Buffy interrupted. "I thought I could help, that I could beat this Ktulu guy. I was wrong. This is Dawn and Spike's fight. I never should have come."
Leaving Xander, Buffy walked a few yards away from the fort. There was a small cluster of rocks next to a miniature tree. Sitting, Buffy let her gaze wonder over the landscape. It was peaceful, giving her a chance to silence her thoughts.
She didn't know how long she had sat there until she felt a slight nudge, followed by Spike's softly spoken, "Scoot over will ya?"
Silence reigned for a few moments until Spike turned to look in Buffy's direction.
"Feeling a bit blue, luv?"
"Xander found you didn't he?"
"Not quite up for the pep talk, huh?"
"Good, cause I'm not in the mood to hear one."
"Fine by me, luv," Spike murmured.
Glancing out of the side of her eyes, Buffy noted the mud covering his boots and the dirt still encrusted under his nails. Spike's hands had been scrubbed clean, but it was impossible to get the hard black dirt out from each tiny crevice.
He had been helping take care of the dead, and Buffy knew, taking each death as if he had killed the person with his own hands.
Tears began to fill her eyes, and Buffy jerked her head forward. Everything was a mess. Hundreds of people were dead, they had barely made it halfway to the temple library before a few hundred demons showed up.
Right now, Faith and the other slayers were still helping to guard the temple while the soldiers worked to empty the library. Dawn was back in Andreas Bay fussing over Aneirin.
Pressing her lips together, Buffy struggled to keep her emotions in check. This wasn't about her, but about Spike. He was the savior here, and he was now suffering. Buffy knew this feeling, having experienced it during that last year in Sunnydale. She would not be selfish. She would not.
The hand on her shoulder was her undoing and she turned her face into Spike's chest, letting her tears fall. She cried for Angel, for herself, for all of the people she had not been able to save, but most of all, she cried for Spike.
Through it all, he just gently rubbed her back, saying nothing. She didn't know how long they had sat there curled around each other, but when she finally lifted her head, she noted Spike's red-rimmed eyes.
"We make a bloody pathetic pair don't we, luv?" Spike said with a sad chuckle.
"We do," Buffy agreed. Softly, "Can you…I mean…When will he?"
"Just after sunset I reckon," Spike answered as he stood up. Taking her hand, Spike led her over to an area about fifty yards away from the fort. There they could see several people working on building another funeral pyre. The remains of the previous one still smoldered, allowing the breeze to carry the scent of burned bodies and ash along the wind.
"They tell me that in the summer, when the sun is rising, its light hits this area first before spreading across the rest of the land," Spike said with a rough whisper. "He's not far down, so he'll be safe until one of the mini-slayers can get him home. Would have left him in the fort but…"
"You couldn't," Buffy said. "They needed the room. We'll just have to be sure to start digging just before sunset. I don't want him to wake up down there, again."
"Said a prayer while they covered him. Poor buggers didn't know what I was talking about. Don't know if anyone was listening, but I…"
When he couldn't continue, Buffy's small hand found his. Giving Spike's hand a gentle squeeze, Buffy turned her gaze back to the hastily dug grave.
They stood like that, side by side, both mourning a man they had loved and hated, all the while waiting for him to rise once more.
"Right, so when do we shove off?" Spike asked Gunnarr as he roughly shoved his things into his pack.
"Soon Father," Gunnarr said, his concerned eyes following Spike's every move. "Your newly risen friend has already departed for the temple, and it is only a matter of time before we too, leave."
"Where exactly will we be going?" Buffy asked. She was leaning against the wall, her arms wrapped tightly around her chest.
"Vel'Hein," Gunnarr answered.
"Vel'Huh?" Buffy asked, confusion marring her face.
"Capital of the Barbarian's homeland," Spike answered with a weak chuckle. "And it's Vel'Hein, luv."
Nodding, Buffy turned to leave. "I'll go gather the others."
Once Buffy had left, Gunnarr turned his attention back to Spike.
"I have been where you are, Father."
"I don't want to bloody talk about it."
"I know, General Einarr told me."
Finally lifting his head, Spike let his gaze focus on the barbarian. "Then why are you bringing it up?"
"Because I didn't talk about it."
"It eats at you, the grief, the anger," Gunnarr whispered. "I did a lot of things I am not proud of. There is a reason the Alliance thinks of my people as nothing, but savage killers."
"Who was it?" Spike asked after a brief lull in the conversation.
"Oeric," Gunnar answered. "He was my friend, my enemy, and in the end my brother."
"Villagers under the Alliance blamed us for a raid done by the Dark One's minions. They believed we were helping that monster."
Nodding his head, Spike sat down on his bunk. It was odd; he had't noticed his hands were shaking.
"I hated that bugger," Spike whispered. "He got everything I always wanted. Dru, Buffy, friends. I had to fight for everything, and even then, I still wasn't considered good enough. And then he was gone, and I'd have given almost anything to have the annoying Pouf back."
"It is always that way with family."
Sighing, Spike lowered his head and covered his face with his hands. His demon face rippled forth and Spike let out a howl of rage. While his grandsire was not truly gone, for a while he had been, and no matter what happened afterwards, the lose of Angel's humanity was, in Spike's mind, his fault.
It was day three of their trek to the Barbarian's homeland, and aside from that first day, Spike had not said more than three words to her. Buffy was worried. Spike was quiet, defeated, and Buffy didn't like it one bit.
Hastening her pace, she quickly caught up to where Spike was. Reaching out she wrapped her hand around his and held on tight. The look he gave her clearly said, "Bugger off," and when he tried to free his hand, she only held on tighter.
"Spike," Buffy said, her voice low so that he was the only one who would hear her. "Please don't shut me out, not now."
This only earned her a glare, but he stopped trying to free his hand from hers.
They walked for several more hours, the landscape barely changing, adding to the monotony of their journey. When the sun began to sink below the horizon, and the bitterly cold winds of the tundra began to howl and whip past them, Gunnarr called everyone to a stop.
"We shall make camp here," Gunnarr said as he began directing some of his men to start setting up camp.
Xander's "Oh thank God!" was heard throughout the group and caused a few laughs.
That night found Spike sitting by himself, staring into the small fire burning before him. He had purposely set his tent up away from the others. After everything that had happened in Wygar he needed time to think, and if a few others who had survived the battle were doing the same thing, no one remarked on it.
When a shadow fell across his line of sight, Spike didn't even raise his head. He already knew who was standing before him.
"Hello, Harris," Spike said, his voice bland, carrying none of the emotions that were swirling around in side him.
"Spike," Xander said as he sat down across from him. "We need to talk."
"Don't see how we have anything to say to each other."
"You're making Buffy miserable."
"I don't have time for this," Spike growled, standing. He was surprised when Xander's hand halted his movements.
"Well, you better make time," Xander said in hushed tones. He wanted this conversation to remain private.
"The only thing I have to make time for is this bloody war," Spike said, jerking his arm free.
"But…" Xander started only to be interrupted when one of the soldiers in their group walked up to Spike.
"Father," the soldier said with a slight bow of his head. "King Leof wishes to speak with you."
Nodding Spike cast a quick look at Xander before shaking his hand off.
"Alright, mate," Spike replied, his voice low. "Lead the way."
Walking off, he left Xander standing at his campsite, wondering when the vampire who had worshiped his friend had been replaced with this cold, hard being.
"Sorry, Buff," Xander said as he sat back down next to the slayer. Willow was seated on Buffy's other side, the two sharing a thick wool blanket. "I tried talking to him, but that Leof guy needed him."
"And he didn't let you get very far before that did he?" Buffy asked, a weak smile on her face.
"No," Xander said with a shake of his head. "He didn't."
"Oh, Buffy," Willow said, wrapping an arm around her friend. "I'm sorry he's being difficult."
"He's got his reasons," Buffy replied with a shrug. "Though, I guess I now know how he felt in Sunnydale."
"What do you mean?" Willow asked, frowning.
"Well I wasn't exactly all touchy feeling those last few years, was I?"
"But you had a lot to deal with," Willow protested. "What with Dawn and slayage, and…oh."
"Yeah." Buffy nodded.
"So, the Bleached One is pulling a Buffy, huh?" Xander said with a crooked grin.
"Not funny, Xander," Buffy replied as she jabbed her elbow into Xander's side. Her grin belied her words.
"So, what are you going to do about it?" Willow asked.
"Nothing, at the moment," Buffy answered. "I figured I can corner him once we reach that Vel'Hail place."
"Sounds like a plan," Xander said with a nod.
"So what do you need us to do?" Willow asked. Soon the three were speaking softly, though Buffy's eyes kept straying towards the tent where she knew Spike was residing.
"You wanted to speak to me," Spike asked as he entered King Leof's tent.
"Please, Father," Leof said. "Have a seat."
Taking the offered seat, Spike waited until a steaming cup was placed before him. Reaching forward, Spike wrapped his unusually cold hands around the warmed ceramic, letting some of the heat leach into his skin. Bringing the cup towards his lips, Spike blew softly before taking a sip. The warm liquid slid down his throat and warmed his insides.
Ever since he had tasted the warm ale favored by the people of this world, Spike had taken every opportunity to partake of the smooth drink. Plus, it was really good at getting him really drunk, and fast. And tonight, Spike felt like he would need an entire cask to quiet his raging thoughts.
"So, what is it you wanted to discuss?" Spike asked as he held his cup against his knee.
"Actually," King Leof said as he placed his cup on the table sitting between them. "I was hoping for a bit of respite, and simply thought you'd like to share in it."
"And you asked me here and not the other's why?"
"King Gunnarr is a new ally, one I am still learning about," Leof said. "And General Einarr and I have only two things in common."
"What are those?"
"This war, and King Aneirin."
"I see." Spike nodded. "Though, I think you're selling the other two short."
"Perhaps," Leof said. "But that is the way of things."
Falling silent, Spike simply sipped at his drink, and listened to the night winds howling their misery.
The night was clear and bitterly cold, the kind of cold that settled into bones and muscles and refused to leave. Fires burned brightly in a circle around the temple, illuminating the work area. It made it harder to see if any demons or minions of the Dark One's were approaching, but the soldiers and priest needed to be able to see if they were to remove the contents of the library. Luckily, the group had a few slayers and a couple of dragons to help keep watch.
As for Faith, she was tired. Her breath formed misty clouds before her. Her fingers were aching despite the gloves she wore and she regularly spun the slayer scythe just to keep her blood moving.
A commotion to her left had Faith's grip tightening on the scythe. Jogging forward, she saw Caius lowering his bulk, making it easier for Angel to slide off his back. Angel spoke a few soft words before Caius nodded. Then he took off, leaving Angel standing in the glow of a nearby bonfire.
As she drew closer, her slayer senses started going off. Looking around, Faith thought that she must have missed seeing Spike, but saw that he was not around. Eyeing Angel, she slowed her jog. His skin was pale once more, and Faith could see that he wasn't breathing.
"Angel," Faith said, tension filling her words.
"Last I saw you, you were a card carrying member of the warm blooded crowd. What happened?"
"The Senior Partners happened," Angel growled, giving no further explanation. "Lets get these scrolls and books moved. I've got to get back to L.A soon."
Nodding, Faith followed Angel over to the temple. "Guess its back to fun in the land of smog for me."
"Faith," Angel said as they came to the temple's doors. "Thanks."
"No prob. Now let's get this show on the road. We've got a law firm to take down."
They stood, silently watching as people came and went from the now fully restored Wolfram and Hart building.
"It all looks so, normal," one of the soldiers said. "How is it that people don't realize…"
Kennedy and Riley shared a look as the soldier's voice trailed off at the sight of an orange skinned demon walking casually through the front doors of Wolfram and Hart. What Kennedy and Riley found amusing was that the demon was also wearing a powder blue leisure suit.
"You were never in Sunnydale, were you?" Kennedy asked, eyebrow raised.
"And what's that supposed to mean?" the soldier asked, standing up straighter and holding his gun a little tighter.
"It means, soldier," Riley said. "That had you been in Sunnydale, you would know exactly how far people will go to not see what is right in front of them."
"Sunnydale Denial Syndrome," Kennedy said with a nod. "It's easier to ignore the strange than it is to acknowledge it."
"Head's up," Riley said breaking into the conversation. Everyone focused in the direction he was pointing. "We've got incoming."
Carefully they made their way over to the alley parallel to the Wolfram and Hart building. They could see shadowy movements along the walls. Getting closer, Riley was stunned to find Faith, Angel, and a group of girls he didn't know. He was also shocked to find that Angel was a vampire, again.
"I thought you were human," Riley said, his voice echoing his surprise.
Angel lifted his head and leveled a glare in Riley's direction. His voice was cold and emotionless when he replied, "I was. It didn't stick."
"Let me get this straight," Giles said as he rubbed his forehead. "Spike is this Father we've heard about, and he and Dawn are destined to save Ærworuld?"
"Yeah," Angel said with a nod. "He's got half the world thinking he's the next messiah, and the other half looking at him like he a novelty act."
"I would imagine that this reaction is a bit disconcerting for Spike," Giles said.
"Disconcerting? Please," Faith snorted. "Every time these people get all, 'Oh Father', Spike gets this look on his face like he wishes the Powers had left his ass down in the Hellmouth. Little D's getting it too. Of course she just hides behind B, or her new boy toy."
"Excuse me?" Giles said, his eyes snapping up to lock onto Faith. "Boy toy?"
"Yeah," Faith said with a chuckle. "Little Dawnie is all grown up and making googly eyes with a real life king."
"Aneirin's only a few years older than her, and he damn near got himself killed trying to protect her," Faith said as she cut off Giles' questions. "He's a good guy."
"It's true," Angel said, adding in his option.
"Huh," Riley said, a frown on his face. "I wonder how Buffy feels about all of this."
"She's scared and hoping Spike will agree that Dawn is too young for a boyfriend," Faith replied. "But since the guy's a friend of Spike's, I doubt he'll care much beyond the whole making sure he knows to treat Dawn right."
"So, when are they coming back?" Kennedy asked, finally speaking up.
"We don't know," Angel said after sharing a long look with Faith. "They've just found a huge library full of information that may help them stop this Ktulu guy, and they now know the Senior Partners are helping."
"Plus, there's the raids on the other cities," Faith added in. "Those have been keeping Spike and the others pretty busy."
"And Buffy isn't leaving Spike or Dawn," Giles said. "And that means that Willow and Xander are staying for the meantime as well."
"Right," Giles said. "At least we now have more concrete information than we previously did. If we can take out the Senior Partners, we might be able to help the people of Ærworuld destroy their own enemy."
"Then lets get started," Riley said. Soon everyone was gathered around the coffee table, throwing out ideas, and leafing through notes and books. The general idea being the sooner they took out the enemy the sooner their loved ones could come home.