"I don't know," Wesley said running his hands through his hair. What answer could he give, he had no more idea than Giles did how Angelus had managed to get out.
"Well, we're in a right pickle now, aren't we," Giles snapped. "A witch hunter and Angelus on the loose."
"It's not as if we went down there and unlocked the cage ourselves," Wesley pointed out crossly.
"Nobody unlocked it," Xander said sitting back in his chair.
They were all sat around in the library, Wesley behind the desk where Willow had drawn a chair up to his side and Spike leant against the table beside her where she could hold his hand and look up at him as she wished to. Faith leant against the table on the other side close to Wesley.
Xander and Giles sat in chairs opposite them side by side with Dawn and Tara sitting slightly off to the side.
"But he's escaped," Dawn said a frown on her face.
"I know that," Xander said. "But the lock was broken from the outside, it wasn't just unlocked. Somebody busted him out." He shot a suspicious look in Spike's direction.
"What's that look for?" Willow demanded sitting upright in her chair. "Are you pointing the finger at Spike?"
"Nobody is blaming Spike," Giles assured her.
Tara happened to think that nobody in their right mind would blame Spike, especially in front of Willow. Where Spike was concerned Willow's common sense and good reason went right out of the window. Tara knew it was a side effect of the bond but she didn't know how to help fix it and until she did she felt it was best to ignore it and not bring it up to Willow who would most certainly not appreciate it.
"Easy, pet," Spike rubbed at her shoulder with his free hand, the other she held entwined in her fingers.
"They always blame you, it's not fair."
"It's nobody's fault," Wesley said, "We don't know how it happened, only that it has. The first thing we need to do now is find him and bring him back and that sure as hell won't be easy."
Faith glanced over at Spike. "Where will he be?"
"He's escaped so he knows we'll be after him, I expect he'll go to ground, lie low for a few days and rally the demons of Sunnydale around him."
"T…t…then what, Spike?" Tara asked nervously, although she had a feeling they all knew the answer.
"Then he'll declare war and do his best to wipe the lot of you out," Spike said simply. He couldn't say that he would be too upset if Angelus did embark on that course of action when he and Dru returned.
Spike hoped he could keep Faith and the others busy looking for Angelus in Sunnydale and give Angelus and Dru time to find the girl with the key to his freedom. He could hardly wait to see the look on Harris' face when he broke the idiots nose.
"Oh," Wesley groaned, resting his elbows on the table and his head in his hands he massaged his skull. "That's just what we need on top of everything else; a bloody vampire war with Angelus at the helm."
Giles took a steadying breath. "Right, first things first; we need to find him. Faith, you're the slayer that's your department. Take Spike with you and track him down."
"I… I'll go too," Tara volunteered. "You may need a little magic on your side."
"I'll go as well," Wesley said. "We're going to need all hands on deck. Willow, be sure you stay inside."
"'Course she'll stay inside," Spike said squeezing her fingers lightly. "You'll stay where its safe, won't you love?"
"Yes, Spike," she promised smiling at him. She stood suddenly and tugged him after her out of the room. "There's something I want to tell you before you go."
Faith let out a heavy breath and pushed off from the desk. "I guess we'd better head out then, see if we can find him."
"I have a feeling it won't be easy," Giles said worriedly. "Now you be sure not to let him draw you in, Faith. You have to be strong, keep a clear head, don't let him push your buttons."
"I won't," Faith said with a nod.
Xander shrugged his good shoulder. "I don't have any advice expect, well, don't get killed. You're the only slayer we have."
He looked awkward saying it and Faith felt awkward hearing but she forced a reassuring expression to her face. "He's never killed a slayer, I don't intend on being the first."
"Let's get suited up then," Wesley walked around the desk to the weapons chest in the corner.
Xander sighed as he watched the water and the slayer discuss weapons and make suggestions to each other. Giles got up and went to offer his opinion and advice. Xander frowned down at his plastered arm, he was stuck with it for weeks, he was no help to Faith, no help to the people of Sunnydale and breaking a promise he had made to Buffy a long time ago; to help and do whatever it took.
Angelus had killed Anya, his lovely, beloved Anya; Xander wanted revenge and it appeared he wasn't going to get that opportunity. Anger washed over him at his uselessness. Anya deserved vengeance, she deserved to have her death avenged as did Miss Calendar, but even Buffy hadn't wanted to kill Angelus because he shared a face with Angel. She had only killed him because she had no choice if she wanted to stop the world getting sucked into hell. She wouldn't have done it otherwise.
Why did he always get away with what he did? Xander's fingers flexed into a fist; why did Angel always live to see another day, live to take another life, live to destroy another heart?
The sudden shrill ringing of Angel's cell phone sitting on the desk broke Xander out of his thoughts. Automatically he reached for it. "Hello, Xander speaking." He listened to the noise on the other end, a harsh, racking sobbing so deep and devastating that whoever was on the other end couldn't even speak. "Wesley, I …. Someone's really upset." Worriedly Xander held the phone out to Wesley.
"Upset?" Wesley took the phone from him. "Hello? This is Wesley. Who is this? Cordy, is that you?" He exchanged a nervous look with Xander. "Fred? Gunn? Who is this, what's happened?" Wesley was gripping tightly to the phone now aware that Xander had moved in close to his side as concerned as he was by the loud, heart breaking sobs that wouldn't let up. "What is it? What's happened? Who is this?" he was yelling now, outright panic washing over him.
Wesley did not breathe easier knowing it was Gunn. If Gunn was behaving this way then something truly terrible had happened and Wesley was pretty sure he didn't want to know what it was.
"Gunn, take a deep breath, calm down. What's happened?"
"They're…. oh God, Wes… they're dead."
His blood turned to ice in his veins. "Who?" Wesley croaked. "Whose dead, Gunn?"
There was more crying, bitter, angry crying and harsh panting breaths before Gunn could get himself under control enough to answer. "Cordy and Fred."
But he knew, Wesley knew the answer. While they had all been busy arguing and trying not to look as though they were blaming each other for Angelus' escape he had one upped them. He had gone to L.A. where he could strike a blow to the very heart of Angel and all he stood for.
Gripping the phone tightly, pushing it into his ear Wesley was compelled to ask, even though he was certain he didn't want to know if Gunn's reaction was anything to go by. "What happened, Gunn?"
"It wasn't enough to just kill them," Gunn whispered brokenly. "F… Fred, always had a big heart, he took it from her, Wes; tore it right out of her chest."
Wesley swayed, his face draining of colour. "Oh God."
Gunn swallowed repeatedly on the other end of the phone steadying himself for the rest of the story. "Cordy… Cordy, her eyes, her gift….. empty sockets, Wes."
"Jesus Christ!" Wesley's knees gave way. Faith was already beside him and she supported him with her arms setting him down in the chair vacated by Xander.
"Wes?" She squatted beside him looking up at him quizzically.
"He left a message," Gunn sniffed and fell into a coughing fit he was crying so hard. "I think it was in their blood."
"What did he say?"
"Bastard," Wesley hissed gripping the arm of the chair with his free hand. "You'd better come to Sunnydale, Gunn and bring Lorne with you. It'll be safer for you both to be here. He'll come back here when he realises there's no-on left in L.A for him to hurt. He'll want to hurt us all, Gunn, we should all be together. Come to Sunnydale."
"Lorne's here," Gunn said quietly. "I'll deal with Cordy and Fred and then we'll come to Sunnydale."
"Yes," Wesley said softly. "I'll let everyone know what's happened. I'll see you both soon."
"What's up, love?" Spike followed Willow into the living room and shut the door behind them. He smiled when she wrapped her arms around him and pressed herself against him.
"I want you to stay here, with me."
"I won't be long," Spike said, brushing her hair behind her ear. "I doubt we'll find him, he'll be laying low until he can put his plan in action. Angelus will have a plan for the lot of them for locking him up, trust me on that."
"Of course I trust you, Spike," she smiled at him. "If you think Faith won't find Angelus then there's no real need for you to go with her, is there? You can stay here with me," she nipped at his chin. "We could go back to bed."
Spike smirked, tucking his tongue into his cheek. "Nothin' I'd rather do than climb back in bed for a tumble with you, kitten…"
"Then lets go," she swung round her arms still about him tugging him with her to the door. "It'll be much more fun than going with Faith."
"Can't deny that, love," Spike agreed. "But don't you want me to go and patrol the streets, make sure it's safe for women and children and little fluffy puppies?"
Willow shrugged. "Faith can do that, its her job after all."
Spike eyed her warily. "So, if I decided not to patrol any more, you wouldn't mind?"
Her eyes widened comically. "Why should I? You don't want to patrol, you only do it because you're bored and thought Buffy would finally feel sorry enough for you that she would somehow help get the chip out. She never intended to do that you know." She gave him a squeeze and a kiss to the corner of his mouth. "You shouldn't be patrolling anyway, William the Bloody, Slayer of Slayers, Scourge of Europe, evil creature of the night. You're the Big Bad, Spike you should do whatever you want to do."
She sounded as though she were stood at the head of a receiving line at a Royal Ball announcing his arrival. It was extremely unsettling and that feeling of utter wrongness swamped him.
She pouted up at him. "And I have something in mind that's much more fun than patrolling."
Spike started when she cupped him through his jeans, rubbing, caressing kneading the shape of him as he hardened helplessly beneath her hand. "Willow, love," he groaned quietly.
"Hum," she sighed, her fingers working his zipper down, slipping inside to touch him, to feel him, to hold him in her palm.
He swallowed reflexively knowing there was nothing he could do now but surrender to her. "Gotta go and make sure you're safe love."
Willow kissed him, a soft, slow kiss, her lips a caress against his, leisurely easing his apart with a gentle, coaxing movement; little flicks of her tongue against his lips making him shiver and grip tightly to her waist.
"I'm safe," she whispered against his mouth. "So long as I'm with you I'm safe. Nothing can touch me when I'm with you, Spike."
His heart clenched painfully. Her trust in him was pure, but slightly misplaced; he knew he couldn't protect her from everything, hadn't his run in with the drunken college boys only a few weeks ago told him as much. Faith had been the one to stop him getting his noggin kicked in. Willow didn't know the truth about that and he'd never tell her, never. He'd never live down the shame of it.
He was pinning all his hopes on Dru and Angelus to reverse what had been done to him, what had brought him to his knees, humbled and humiliated him. He only wished the initiative was still around, the three of them together would destroy the so called doctors who thought it was alright to take a demon's life and screw around with it.
"Nothin' will ever hurt you, Willow. Not so long as I'm around." Spike groaned again his eyes closing at the blissful feeling of her hand stroking up and down, up and down, dipping between his legs to cup his balls.
"Tell me when, Spike. I want you to come inside me," she breathed in his ear before returning her mouth to his with more of those feather light sugary kisses that turned him weak all over.
Always a girl who had been uncomfortable in her own skin, always insecure about herself, Willow now loved to see Spike lose himself to her. She loved seeing that tough exterior of his dissolve under her fingers, watch that smooth brow disappear and the ridges of the demon come out. But most of all, she loved seeing him relinquish control just to her, lost in the moment that she gave him; and Willow wanted to give Spike everything.
Suddenly he gripped the back of her thighs, hoisting her off the floor and causing her to lose her grip on him. Willow curled her arms around his neck instead and her legs about his waist as he pressed her against the wall. She wore a floral print gypsy skirt that bunched around her upper thighs, her knickers were shoved aside and he slid inside, her smooth heat encasing him, a low, sultry moan escaping him, her muscles contracting as he filled her in one long, hot stroke.
She had such gentle eyes and they darkened as he thrust into her, the steady motion of his hips building new tension, sending her hurtling towards her climax. Spike couldn't stop watching her, seeing the transformation from hungry to burning as he picked up speed and sent her careening towards the edge. He held on tight as the pressure built to the point of bursting. So close to the edge himself, Spike tried to shut his mind from it to hold on a just a little bit longer. He wanted to feel her explode, to feel the pain of those slim fingers clinging tightly as she came apart for him, and he wasn't about to let this end until that happened.
When the heat between them finally took her over the cry of pleasure against his neck was all Spike needed to tumble after her.
"Stay with me, Spike. Stay right here with me," she panted against his neck.
Spike pressed a soft kiss to her forehead. "Not sure you could take much more today, you've still got bruises from the other night."
His head titled a look of concentration on his face. "Something's happened."
"What?" Willow looked at the door. "What's happened, Spike?"
"I don't know. I can't tell." He set her carefully on the ground glad to have her distracted for a moment. He wanted to talk to Wesley, see if he had any new information on the bond, Spike had a feeling it might be strengthening, or changing, or spinning out of control; Willow definitely wasn't right and he didn't like it.
Spike took her hand and Willow allowed him to lead her back into the library. She could tell instantly that Spike had been right, whatever he had heard, something had happened.
"Xan?" He was sitting in the chair Giles had been sat in, his head in his hands as he cried quietly. "Xander, what's happened?" Willow hurried to his side, sitting on the arm of the chair and stroking his head as he leant against her searching for comfort.
Giles had tear tracks on his cheeks too she noted and Faith was awkwardly trying to offer Wesley some comfort by kneeling beside his chair and patting his arm. How she knew Willow couldn't quite say, but she did know. "Something has happened in L.A. hasn't it? What is it?"
"The same thing it always is," Xander said angrily getting to his feet and pushing a hand through his hair. "Angelus."
"Angelus?" Willow looked confused. "But he's here in Sunnydale, isn't he?"
"No," Faith shook her head. "He's gone to L.A."
"What's he done?" Willow asked guardedly.
"What's he done?" Xander turned to her his face contorted with grief and fury. "He's killed Cordy, that's what he's done. He tore her eyes from their sockets, that's what he's done."
Willow's hand flew to her mouth her eyes widening in horror. She was so shocked that she lost her balance and slipped off the arm of the chair. "No!" she shook her head longing for denial that just wouldn't come.
"Fred," Xander continued taking a step towards her. "Do you know Fred?"
"Yes." Willow had to force the word passed her clenched teeth.
"She's dead too. He killed her." Xander kept advancing and Willow kept retreating. "He tore her heart from her chest. He couldn't just kill them, couldn't just snap their necks, or slit their throats or drain them dry, no, not Angelus, he had to mutilate them both. You know, I never thought I'd be glad that Anya had been killed, but I am, she was killed and that's it. 'Cos you know what, Wills? Nobody knows what he's done with Cordy's eyes or Fred's heart!"
Helplessly she looked to Spike for guidance, for some words of wisdom or understanding to make sense of what had taken place, of what had been done to her friends.
"The dead don't suffer love, look at it that way. You'll all suffer more than they did living with the knowledge of what happened."
The tension in Willow's shoulders lessened slightly and she nodded, grateful that Spike was there, that he always knew the right thing to say to ease her.
"I suppose you'd know all about that, wouldn't you?" Xander snapped irritably. "William the Bloody over there."
"Spike hasn't done anything," Willow reminded him, her temper beginning to fray at the edges. It was just like Xander to twist and turn any situation to where he could point the finger of blame at Spike.
"Oh he's done plenty," Xander corrected her. "He's left a trail of blood and death across the world for over a century. Believe me, he's done plenty."
"Spike has done nothing," Willow said again, her voice low and firm. "He cannot be held responsible for what Angelus does."
"Willow's right," Giles spoke up wiping the tears from his cheeks. "In this instance Spike has nothing to do with what has happened. Its not fair to bring him into it, Xander. I know you're upset, we're all upset, but Spike is also right, Cordelia and Fred have gone on to a better place, they no longer have to suffer the evils of this world. It is the people left behind who carry the scars."
Suddenly exhausted Xander went and flopped back down in the chair. "I guess you're right, Giles."
"Xander's a little on edge today anyway," Tara said crossing the room to speak to Willow. "He spoke with the undertaker this afternoon. We're burying Anya tomorrow."
This was all he needed, Willow thought, Cordelia's death on top of everything else. She went and sat back on the arm of the chair. "It'll be alright," she promised wiping his face with gentle fingers. "We'll say goodbye tomorrow. I think you need it, Xan, I think you need to let go and put Anya to rest."
Xander didn't reply but he sniffed and nodded. It had been a long time coming with one thing and another, but Xander was, in a strange way looking forward to it. Anya deserved a decent send off, she deserved to have her friends stand around her grave and lay pretty flowers and say nice things about her. And he needed it, he needed to put her body to rest and say his last goodbyes to her. He was still in the land of the living, and if there was one thing Xander had discovered over the years it was that life, no matter how shattered you were by the experience, went on regardless.
"Come on, Wes," Faith stood up and touched his arm. "Lets go and stake some vamps, you'll feel better."
Wesley managed a watery smile. "I'm not so sure, but I'm willing to give it a go. Gunn will be here later, we'll be in a much better position fighter wise when he gets here."
"He has to pay," Xander muttered darkly. "Angelus has to pay."
Tara sat down when Wesley got up and placed a warm, comforting hand on Xander's knee. She patted him lightly. "You're right, it's not fair that he doesn't pay for what he does."
"That's hardly fair," Wesley said. "Angel suffers a great deal living with the guilt and the memories of the evil he has inflicted on the world."
"But that's just it," Tara said. "Angel suffers for what Angelus does. The curse makes no sense to me, Angel and Angelus are essentially two different beings. Angelus feels nothing while Angel suffers and does everything in his power to make amends. It's Angelus who should be made to suffer, not Angel."
"I've often thought along the same lines, as has Fred," Wesley agreed.
Spike stifled a groan, he really didn't fancy getting into a conversation about the rights and wrongs and pro's and con's of the soul, Angel and Angelus; they would be there all night and still not find a solution.
"Are we going or what?" Faith's fingers flexed over the handle of the axe she held.
"Yes," Wesley sniffed and swung the cross bow over his shoulder. "Just because Angelus isn't here doesn't mean that there aren't vampires rising and causing trouble."
Spike was first out of the door, he didn't want Willow suddenly demanding that he say with her, it was important that he talk to Wesley. Faith strode ahead with Tara trotting along beside her and Spike finally had his moment with Wesley.
"Need to ask you something about the bond," he said digging about for his cigarettes.
"Oh?" Wesley sighed inwardly, there was always one horrible reality or another to deal with. "Actually let me speak first, Fred…" he paused and swallowed. "Fred had found some information, it might answer your questions."
"Ok, fine, you go first."
"First of all, the bond isn't a true bond. A true bond, an unbreakable bond has to be created by a high being."
"So it can be broken?" Spike felt his heart sink, he didn't want to break it he just wanted to find a way to control it better. Would Willow want to break the bond as soon as she found out it was a possibility? Would she want to be rid of him that way?
"It can," Wesley confirmed, "It can…" he paused, so far as he understood matters Spike was still unaware of how the bond really came into being, it wasn't down to him to tell Spike that love was behind the bond, that was something he should hear from Willow and probably something she wanted to tell him when she was ready to do so. "It can go on its own," he continued. "Also, it doesn't prevent Willow's death. Fred also determined that as Willow made the bond to you then you can break it, but when I spoke to her last she hadn't translated the ways for you to do that."
Spike was silent for a minute digesting all Wesley had told him. Fear gripped his heart, Willow could have died last night, the bond wouldn't have saved her. He stopped walking his cigarette halfway to his lips. Was that the reason she had wanted him to stay behind tonight, to ensure he didn't put himself in a situation where she could get hurt? Spike cursed quietly. He should have thought of that, it should have been his first concern, keeping her safe from him and the bond, but he had been so distracted by how different she had been lately that his concerns had shifted.
"She's different," he said at last.
"Yes," Wesley agreed. "I've noticed that too and I don't know her that well."
"Twice she's asked me to stay behind with her and not patrol. I could see for myself tonight how quick she is to anger when it comes to me. I've got a short fuse but even my temper isn't that quick to flare up."
"I think it's getting stronger," Wesley said. "Although you don't need me to tell you that. She's very willing to be guided by you, isn't she?"
"Do as I say you mean? Yeah she is." Spike sighed softly. "It's not right, I've felt it for a while, that something is wrong with her."
"It's the bond," Wesley said.
"Is there something else?"
Spike thought back to L.A, to Willow's climatic reaction to him when he had barely touched her. It still nagged at him but she hadn't created the bond then, he couldn't see that the two things had any relevance to each other, but he knew deep down that something wasn't quite right.
He couldn't tell old Percy that though, Willow would be mortified for a start and what was he going to say, see Percy old boy, I brought my girl to orgasm without hardly touching her before the bond and it really bothers me that she wanted me so much. Ever happened to you?
"No," Spike shook his head. "Just that she's different. Not on a day to day basis, but she's different. It's hard to explain. It's more than when she yelled at the moron and punched him in the face; when you explained that to me I could understand it, I could see what you were saying, but," he paused and kicked at a stone sending it rolling off the curb and into the road. "Sometimes, she's different, she says things, does things that I know Willow wouldn't say or do."
Really, Spike knew that Willow hadn't asked him to stay in order to protect herself, she was the most unselfish person he knew and wouldn't think twice about putting her life on the line to save the stupid and unsuspecting citizens of Sunnydale.
He was different, he was selfish and he sure as hell wasn't willing to gamble with her life. "I'm not coming with you."
Wesley gave him a long searching look, he wasn't judging, he was looking for something that he apparently found because he nodded a look of understanding crossing his face. "That's fine, Gunn will be here later there's no need for you to come out with us anymore."
"I'll head back then." Spike spun on his heel and turned back down the street. "See if I can do a bit of research myself."
Wesley jogged off to catch up with Faith and Tara, he couldn't help but wonder if Spike would be willing to break the bond when he found out that Willow was in love with him; he was clearly in love with her too and vampires were possessive creatures, Spike might not be willing to give her up now that he had her.
Whatever they decided to do it wasn't his business. Wesley was a firm believer in not sticking his nose where it wasn't wanted, especially where other people's relationships were concerned, there was never a right answer.
Faith glanced up when he appeared at her side. "Where's Spike?"
"He's gone back."
"What?" Faith looked confused. "Why?"
"Whatever happens to him happens to Willow. We don't want a repeat of last night, do we?"
"No," Tara said determinedly. "We really don't."
"You're handling it well," Faith commented. "The whole Spike, Willow, bond, relationship thing."
Tara's simply shrugged. "People have no control over the way they feel. If you love someone then you love them whether it's a man, a woman or a vampire."
"I guess so." Faith really wished that wasn't true.
They had barely left the streets, barely made it near town before they knew something was wrong. The air was filled with people screaming, with the sirens of police cars their red and blue lights flashing wildly their colours bright and out of place in the darkness of the evening.
"What now?" Faith muttered pushing off on the ball of her foot and hurtling down the road.
Wesley and Tara followed her, she out stripped them easily with her slayer power and they were both panting by the time they caught up with her. They stood there and simply stared at the chaos that was unfolding in front of them, it was mayhem, bedlam. There were people everywhere, screaming, crying, running, scrambling over each other, pushing, shoving, fighting and the police didn't seem to be able to keep any sort of order, in fact, they were joining in, one officer was crouched down by his squad car his head tucked against his chest and his arms covering his head protectively as he screamed pitifully.
"Wes, translate," Faith demanded.
"Hold that thought." She sprang forward, a vampire had hold of a young woman, not much older than Faith was, he had her trapped in his arms his fangs buried in her neck oblivious to the fact that a slayer was behind him. Faith took the stake from her waist band and sank it into his back, piercing his heart. He exploded as all vampires did, and the woman sank to the ground tugging at her hair and just continued to scream. "It's ok," Faith said squatting down next to her.
"Faith!" Wesley came up behind her and yanked her backwards.
Unable to catch her balance Faith found herself flat on her back. She glared up at Wesley. "What was that for?"
"Don't touch her." Wesley offered her his hand and dragged her back to her feet.
"Why not?" Faith eyed the woman warily. "Is she contagious or something?"
"Possibly," Wesley took hold of her arm and dragged her away from the crowd. He managed to make it back to Tara who still stood on the edge of the chaos, without touching anybody. "My father told me about this, he saw it once in Budapest about thirty years ago. If I'm right, the last thing we want to do is touch anyone, we'll get infect too so to speak."
"Infected with what?" Faith looked around her helplessly. If she couldn't touch any of these people how was she meant to help them? How was anyone supposed to help them?
"Magic," Tara said her eyes scanning the terrified faces around her. She could feel the magic as clearly as she would feel the warmth of the sun or the chill of the rain. It was strong, it rippled in the air around her and she knew without a doubt that the witch hunter had retaliated following the destruction of the altar and the ghouls.
"Magic?" Faith glanced at Tara.
She scowled. "Witch hunter magic?"
"Yes," Tara agreed. "But I don't know what exactly is happening, that's a little out of my area of expertise."
"Come on, Wes, translate," Faith said poking him in the arm.
Looking around at the horror, at the overturned trash cans, the broken shop windows, the blood spilled across the road, the screaming, the shouting, the fear that even he could feel in the air; it spelt only one thing to him. "The Evocation of Madness."