A/N: As always, a thousand thanks to my beta, OrinForeverCrimson! I'm going to attempt to be a bit more consistent with this story in the Redemption series. Expect an update once every two weeks or sooner. So, please R&R, but most importantly, enjoy!
The Scoobies entered the Summers home with Giles carrying Spike's limp form in his arms. He put the vampire down on the couch and stepped back so that Dawn could sit with him. Despite previous tensions, the Scoobies sought out the comfort of their loved ones. Tara and Willow held each other close while Anya clung tightly to Xander. With Dawn's arms wrapped around the motionless Spike, only Giles was without someone to hold. Perhaps mercifully, he did not dwell on that fact. Instead, Giles turned to Willow.
"Willow," he said softly, "see if you can use your, er, computer to find any information about cases like Spike's within the vampire community. Reliable information," Giles hastened to add, knowing that the world was rife with false information about vampires. "My personal library should finally be arriving from England tomorrow. When it gets here I'll see if it contains anything about things like... this," Giles waved his hand towards Spike's direction. Willow nodded her understanding.
"Maybe Tara and Anya can go through some mystical channels while we do that." While Anya was happy to be included in the planning, a confused look crossed Tara's face. It wasn't that she was opposed to Willow's idea, it was that Tara thought that Willow would also be the better choice at covering any mystical angle that Tara could come up with. Anya would of course know several demonic routes to obtain information, so that part made sense, at least. Tara hoped that it was simply that Willow knew that she wouldn't be able to do two things at once and had enough faith in Tara that her love could pick up her slack.
"What do you want me to do?" Dawn's face was tear streaked and her voice cracked as she spoke. Giles had no idea that the girl cared so much for Spike.
"Exactly what you're doing now. If Spike is in the vampire equivalent of a coma, then perhaps the nearness of friends will help draw him out of it." Dawn smiled at Giles and held Spike even tighter. Giles returned the smile with one that did not reach his eyes. He turned away, making sure that everyone understood what they needed to do. As he walked towards the kitchen, Xander slipped away from Anya and walked after him.
"Giles, I'm just gonna' say what I'm thinking." Giles was fairly certain that, whatever it was, it wasn't going to be useful. Still, he nodded anyway, giving Xander the go ahead to continue. "I don't know if anyone else saw it, but there was more than just blood coming out of Spike's ears. I don't think he's coming out of this." There was no hate or malice in Xander's voice. Gone was the enmity he had felt for Spike earlier in the day. The vampire had quite possibly sacrificed himself to save Dawn. Whatever else Xander may have thought about him, he would never forget Spike's actions that night.
"I know," was Giles' quiet, defeated response. "But not only does he mean a great deal to several of the people in this house, but he has come to be our greatest line of defence against the outpourings of the hellmouth. Without him..." Giles left his sentence unfinished. He didn't know what they would do without Spike. From the look on his face, neither did Xander. Both turned and looked back into the living room, looking over the friends and loved ones arranged therein. If Spike really was down for the permanent count, who would pick up the enormous task of defending Sunnydale and the people they cared for? Who could?
Angel walked through the Hyperion doors, finding Cordelia at the reception desk. A quick glance around told him that she was the only other person in the immediate area.
"Where's everybody at?" Angel was a little agitated until Cordelia pointed to the clock. "Oh. I, uh, didn't realize it was that late." Cordelia looked him over, taking in his bedevilled hair and distressed clothing, before smiling.
"So," Cordelia said coyly. Angel just stared at her, then looked down at himself before looking back at her.
"So, did you repay your debt to the Furies?" Cordelia was certain that, if a vampire could blush, Angel's face would be bright red. He searched for a witty rejoinder before finally giving up, exasperated.
"So why are you still up?"
"The PTP sent me a message. Don't worry," Cordelia interrupted herself, putting to rest Angel's fears, "nobody is dying. You're to go down to the old Oracle room. Someone will be waiting for you there."
"Who is it supposed to be?" The wide smile that spread across Cordelia's face told him that she knew exactly who it was. It also told him that she wasn't going to share that information with him. "Right. Okay, tell everyone where I went. If I'm not back by daylight, send in the cavalry."
"Right-o, boss!" Cordelia's voice was extra chipper. Angel wracked his brain, trying to think of who could make the socialite that happy. He walked a little towards the doors before whirling back around towards Cordelia again.
"Look, will you just tell me wh-"
"Get moving, big guy," Cordelia interrupted him with a smile and made a shooing motion towards the door. Angel's shoulders slumped in defeat. However, he couldn't help tossing a caring smile back her way before he walked back outside towards his destination.
After a half hour of travelling, Angel stood before the sewer portal leading to the room of the Oracles. He hadn't been there in over a year, not since his battle with Vocah. He was fairly certain that the Oracles themselves were still dead, leaving him to wonder just who was on the other side of the glowing portal before him.
"Here goes nothing," Angel said before entering the portal. He found himself in the room that the Oracles had once held court in. While it had been cleaned, the room was more or less the same as it had always been. Angel turned around, looking for his mystery host. After a few short moments, he was already irritated with the wait.
"Don't you people have something better to do?" Angel queried the empty space around him angrily. "I know I've got better things to do."
"Better? Maybe, but I need you for something important." The voice was a voice that Angel knew well, a voice that was certain that he would never hear again. When he turned around to face the person speaking, Angel's heart lodged itself in his throat.
Spike opened his eyes to find himself in an unfamiliar place. He stood, taking note of the fact that he no longer ached in every muscle. He looked in every direction, trying to find a familiar landmark, something to identify where he was. Spike had travelled to just about every continent on Earth in his time, but he could not place where he was at. The land was barren and dark, the sky a dingy grey with neither sun nor stars to be seen.
"Anybody home?" Despite his words, the volume he used suggested that he wasn't trying very hard to discover the answer to his question. Spike noticed a large hill in the distance and began walking towards it in no particular hurry.
Along the way, the events of the past few hours came back to him. He remembered the fight at Willy's Place, the explosion in the nerds' basement, and the fiery bomb of pain that went off in his brain. He touched a hand to his head, recalling exactly just how much pain he had been in. As he walked, Spike mulled over those events and combined that with the area he found himself in currently. After a small amount of time, he came to the distinct conclusion that he was dead.
When he crested the hill, he gazed out to the horizon. What he saw solidified for him exactly where he was and it what state. Spike's legs turned to rubber, causing him to spill onto his rear.
"Bloody 'ell. So this is where demons go when they die."
"No, just the lucky ones," said a familiar female voice from behind him. Spike's eyes went wide before he whipped himself around and sprang to his feet. He blinked several times before he was certain the woman in front of him was real.