AN: So I'm not posting this fic anywhere, not even livejournal, because I'm not very sure of it at all. It probably won't be more than five chapters, all normal length, and I've already written three of them today, so it should be updated regularly. Please, let me know if you think it's worth continuing any more than I already have!

SETTING: Post "Dead Things" and "Forgiving." BtVS continues pretty much on schedule, AtS is completely AU.

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Maybe it had been the loss of his son that had made him return to Sunnydale. He wasn't quite sure. All he had known was that Connor was gone, stolen away to hell, his best friend had betrayed him, and the woman he was pretty sure he loved was off on vacation with another man. So he'd decided to take a break, to leave Los Angeles and go see his other descendant, who, if the rumors were true, was still fighting for the side of good in the place where he'd come intending evil.

He remembered the funeral, remembered standing awkwardly with Cordy- don't think about Cordy - and Wesley- don't think about Wesley- as the moon shone above and the Scoobies mourned their greatest. Remembered Spike, weeping openly, little Dawn Summers's arms wrapped tightly around him as they'd shared their grief. Back then, he'd made a scene, made some snide remark about how it wasn't appropriate for the man who'd wished the slayer dead to attend her funeral, and Xander- Xander, of all people! - had yelled him down, told him that Spike had helped in the end, and where had he been, anyway? Cordy had defended Angel, but the damage had been done.

He'd gotten the sense that, had it been anyone else who'd attacked Spike, Xander would have agreed with them. But even Spike was apparently lower on Xander Harris's list of hated enemies than Angelus. It had annoyed him then, as did the telling silence of Buffy's friends and family. Spike was one of them, somehow, while he'd always been barely on the fringes, a member of the team by virtue of his relationship with Buffy.

But now, softened by the child he'd lost to Holtz, he saw Spike as a different hope for a legacy, a man he'd created at his worst who was slowly unmaking himself back to the goodness of William, all for the love of a woman. Angel didn't fool himself; he knew that Spike's obsession with Buffy had blossomed into some kind of twisted, one-sided love. And just as he knew that Buffy would never accept love from Spike, he also knew that Spike would never stop trying to become the kind of man Buffy could love.

There was a pompous, superior little voice in him, gloating at having had another thing that Spike could never touch, but he tamped it down now, for just a few hours. He'd see Spike, reassure himself that his legacy was intact and still working on the side of good, maybe trade a few barbs with him or even get into a nostalgic fistfight, and then go home, content that something he'd created hadn't turned to dust. That was the plan.

He was halfway across town to Willy's when he caught the distinctive odor he'd probably never forget. Tears, blood, and arousal, all mixed into that special Spike scent that he'd evoked so many times as Angelus. He allowed himself a smile at the thought of Spike in a battle, and slowed his convertible into park just in front of the Sunnydale Police Department.

Maybe Spike had gotten into trouble. He gritted his teeth, worry and anger combining within him to make him irritable. If his childe had resorted back to his evil ways, he'd…well, he'd probably rough him up a bit, then go back home, even more depressed than he'd started out.

But no, the scent wasn't quite coming from the actual station, but the alley beside it. Suddenly concerned, Angel followed the smell to… "Oh, god."

Spike smiled up at him weakly through the bruises that marred his face. "Sorry, mate, he doesn't help our kind." He squinted up at him through the one eye that could still open. "That you, Angelus? What the hell are you doing in town?"

"Helping you, apparently," Angel said, still gaping down at Spike. "What did this to you?"

The younger vampire laughed hoarsely. "You should see the other guy."

Angel bent down to help him up when the scent hit him. It was strong, more so than even alcohol and cigarettes. It took a lot to wipe out the regular Spike scent, but someone had been so close to him, done so much to him, that… "Buffy," he said blankly.

"Well, she's not here," Spike said sarcastically, pretending to look for her. He couldn't lift his neck, and the snark fell miserably flat.

"What did you do to her?" Angel demanded, grabbing Spike by the scruff of his neck and tugging him upward, heedless of the gasps of pain from the blond. There was no way that she'd do something like this to Spike unprovoked.

"Nothing!" Spike insisted. "Girl thought she'd killed someone, wanted to hand herself in to the cops. I just tried to stop her!"

"How?" Angel asked skeptically, staring down the other vampire. "Did you hurt her? Did you try to-"

"No!" Spike actually sounded offended at that. "I would never hurt her!"

"So she just did all of this to you and you- what? Just lay there?" Angel said disbelievingly.

Spike's eyes answered the question his mouth wouldn't. Angel shook his head, trying to process what he'd just been told. Buffy wouldn't hurt an innocent, especially not one with the inability to defend himself. Not the Buffy he knew. Something was very wrong here.

He lifted Spike with ease, making sure to cradle him gently and not break anything else. The convertible was parked only a few feet away, and Spike could only gaze at him in puzzlement as he laid his childe down in the backseat and started the car. "What are you doing?"

Angel glanced back at him. "I'm getting you out of here."

"I can't," Spike said with certainty. "Buffy needs me."

Angel bit back a curse, the anger directed at his onetime love surprising even himself in its intensity. "Screw Buffy."

"Already do. Constantly."

The car screeched to a halt, and Angel spun around to glare at Spike in horror. "You're lying."

"She needs me," Spike repeated, defiant eyes daring Angel to berate him, or stake him, or beat him even further.

Angel refused to take the bait. "Maybe she needs to wonder how you were going to get out of that alley before sunrise instead," he said coldly. "You're coming with me, and we're getting far away from the Hellmouth."

Spike's eyes closed in assent, and Angel started the car again. There was no way he was leaving his last remaining heir to be destroyed by humans.

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Buffy tossed and turned in bed for almost three hours before she was finally able to break out of her self-absorption and remember Spike. Oh, god, what have I done? She remembered Tara, assuring her that she wasn't wrong, and remembered how she'd asked how she could have let Spike do things to her. As if Spike was the one doing the harm.

She blinked back tears and shot out of bed. It was almost sunrise, and Spike was in danger. Galvanized by sudden fear for him, she dressed quickly and raced for the police department, hoping against hope that she'd be able to get him out in time. Already, the sun was beginning to peek over the horizon, and she quickened her pace until she'd reached the alley.

It was bathed in sunlight, the back facing east and the deadly rays of the sun had already hit the point where Spike had fallen from her blows. She gulped back a sob. He'd gotten to his crypt, he must have! Maybe a friend had found him and helped him, or he'd been able to drag himself home. Anything was possible. Spike was a survivor, nothing could hurt him.

But Willy hadn't seen him all night and the crypt was deserted. There was no sign of Spike.

And after two days had passed and Spike was still nowhere to be found, Buffy was forced to admit the truth.

She'd killed Spike.