Title: Spinning in the Dark

Summary: The threads of fate weave ever-tighter…

"At first I thought it was just coincidence—I should have known better."

His voice is harsh, so British, so low-class, completely driven. You could drive nails with the sarcasm dripping from every word, making it so hard to take his meaning. Is he being serious? I can never tell, not when he talks in that voice. But that's Spike—ninety percent put-on. In fact, it's the amount of put-on that makes him so dangerous.

Anybody else I could gauge. The Powers That Be could gauge. Somebody might have noticed that little edge in him. But, no, of course not. He's just a second stringer, right? Following me around loyally?

But this is Spike.

He leans in over my face, spitting on me. There's stolen blood in his spittle, and I remember how often we've done this dance of anger and pain. How long can two people go on like this? How long can we hurt and hurt in return?

"So many hundreds of years I've stood by you in this dark fight!" he snarls, and there's real anger there now. "I've followed you to other worlds. When man went to Mars and found demons there, I followed you there to fight on a red world. I've followed you across time itself—and still they pursue us. I thought at first that these Senior Partners must be just plain evil—I thought it coincidence."

Now he's repeating himself—not a good sign, not from Spike.

I shift myself slightly, trying to find a more comfortable position. It's hard to be comfortable impaled on a metal spear, stuck to the side of our space-craft. "Spike…" I whisper.

"No, none of that!" he snarls. "I thought it was fate that we'd fight the Wolf, Ram and Hart forever. But just now, staring over the abyss, I see the hands spinning our faith out."

I haven't seen him this angry since we had to abandon the planet Earth to the destruction of Hell. "Spike…"

"You had your chance to talk! You knew, didn't you?"

"I guessed," I reply.

"From the very beginning, you knew! It was a personal fight for you—against the very darkest parts of yourself! Me, I was fighting for all the right reasons—for these people. To give them a chance. You, you just threw yourself against this unholy Alliance because you knew who was in charge!"

"You and I both know…"

"I know at some point you'll rebuild your stupid timemachine, using magic you shouldn't have!" he growls, his eyes flashing yellow. "I know that you'll go back, and take your place as President-for-life, and never die! I know you'll begin mucking around with things you shouldn't, and destroy the earth! I know in your quest to destroy all demons, to pacify them, to turn them human, you'll discover a way to take all violence from the people—and that they'll pay! And you know it too… so how could you do it? Knowing what you know? Worse, what if I kill you? Can't I stop the paradox now?"

I cough wetly. "Paradox… is the other way round, Spike."

He glares at me, still not getting it. "Explain it to me, Angel. Make me see."

"It's not me that'll do it, Spike. Never me. Not even Angelus could…"

He growls, pointing at the picture on the wall, the hunched over old man who is most definitely me. I nod, trying to speak some more, trying to draw air into punctured lungs. It's never taken me this long to heal… but I've never hung suspended over a pit of acid, waiting for Spike to decide if I live or die before.

"Spike… I'm not that man, not any more. I was, maybe. For a short time." I can't explain to him the paradoxes involved at this point, the terrible consequences of our short time with the time machine. The four minutes we spent in the very distant past; the doppelganger who must have existed since antiquity, who must have helped build the Slayer line, who must have been pulling my strings as only I could for all of eternity.

"Why?" he asks me, as if I could answer.

"I think we did the damage before, with the time machine; I don't think there's a second one," I say, trying to put all the truth I have before him as quickly as possible.

But that only makes him angrier. He wants to undo this; for all his vaunted cynicism, for all his anger, he always does the right thing. And it makes me want to scream now, because I know the damage is absolute.

He sighs, grabbing me and pulling me off the spear. I lose several minutes to the pain, and when I recover he's got me strapped to a wheelchair and is pushing me out of there. "We're relics, you and I," he says, trying to steer the wheelchair through a complex maze of doorways without meeting any more scientists we would need to kill. "I mean, if it were up to me, we would just be dead. Just like that. But it's never up to me."

There's so much pain in this place—pain that all traces its ways back to me. "Spike…"

"Stop saying my name!" He's freaked out now, the ramifications of our actions finally coming home to him. "There's no vampires in this nightmare world you made, you know. You wiped us all out… all but you and me, the original and best, still fighting the good fight."

Finally he found what he was looking for and stopped. We both watched as the events we'd set into motion started. The boy who'd paid us all that money got to rescue his sister. What few guards were left after our earlier rampage gave a little chase, but he made it to the roof easily.

From our vantage point watching the cameras it all looked flat and unexciting. Spike chuckled. "No psychic assassins for you gents."

"Would have been better to kill her," I whispered.

"She may die, yet," replied Spike. "There's precious few safe places left, and I doubt he knows where any of them are. He'll botch it, you wait and see. And then we'll have to track her down and kill her. But it wouldn't be right for an innocent girl to die for what somebody else did for her; whatever else we may become in the future, right now we're the good guys, right?"

He still didn't believe me that. I was surprised I wasn't dead; why not, if I was going to become evil in the future? Whatever was happening, whatever would happen, I knew I would never rebuild the time machine. And I couldn't remember doing all this, being that evil man.

He sat down opposite me, tugging an old lighter out of his pocket and flipping it in one hand absently, thinking. "You always were the brains of this operation," he said. "What do you do when you can't trust your brains any more? I've always been just the muscle—the second stringer, the guy you send out to kill people. What now?"

"You can trust me, Spike."

"Stop calling me that!" he exploded again. "I can't trust any words out of your mouth—I can't trust anything you say! Ever! I'm going to try to set up some resistance, but what kind of resistance can there be? You always were the perfect evil mastermind."

I laugh, then, content to be his evil mastermind, if that's what he really wants. In truth, I could never be the evil he thinks I am, not again. Not after all I've gone through with this boy.

Then he tries to use the lighter, only t find out it's empty. It's been empty for a very long time, and every time he wants to smoke he flicks it, watches the sparks die out in his hand, and remembers the day he finally quit smoking, a baby girl held in each arm. Remembers raising them as our own. Remembers watching them die.

No father—even an adopted father who's really a vampire—should ever have to bury a child.

"I think…" he whispers, still afraid. "I think you and I, we could do some good here. Even now, having lost everything. And now that we know what we're up against—what we've always been up against—I think we might even have a chance to win."

He's just taking blind shots in the dark, but this is Spike, after all. He's comfortable doing that. He's always been comfortable doing that. I reach out and pat his hand in a fatherly affectation, one that makes him very angry. I enjoy his anger, something that's usually much harder to provoke. "We never win, Spike. Some days the bad guys don't win either, and that's always been enough for you."

He grins sourly at me. "Don't start with me. Centuries later, and you're still the same gutless wonder you always were. All right, let's do this; let's destroy a whole government, one built on the backs of the people. Cry havoc, and let loose the dogs of war again, even if this old dog won't hunt!"

I laugh right back at him. "Insolent little pup," I accuse.

And I know the camaraderie won't last long. All too soon we'll be breaking things. Breaking people.

But just for this one moment, I revel in the instant. I wonder what it would be like if I were the evil mastermind, holding the world in my fist, and the immense unease I feel at the idea reassures me. If it ever begins to sound like a good idea I'll tell Spike, and I know he'll kill me.

Because he's family, when all's said and done.