Title: Accessories Included
Disclaimer: All Joss Whedon’s. I just play with ‘em.
Timeline: AtS “Not Fade Away”
A/N: I don’t have my copy of the AtS S5 DVD set with me right now and can’t exactly remember what happened. So bear with me if you see any inconsistencies with the prior storyline.
“We’ll be ready, but today, I want you guys to go out. Live. Do whatever you want. Live the day like it’s your last…’cause it probably is.”
Leave it to the drama queen to make a broadway musical out of it. And the worst thing was the rest of them bit into it, hook, line and sinker. Idly, Spike wondered what Charlie Boy and Barry Green had to do that sent them packing in such a hurry. Compose wills? Liquidate stocks? Call the funeral parlour in advance? Bid farewell to friends and loved ones? The voice in his head supplied helpfully.
Good thing he’d burned his bridges and said his goodbyes last year. Finally tied up that last stray end a month ago, cut the stalk at the base so it wouldn’t regenerate again. Granted, the whole thing could’ve gone better, but at least it was done. He was getting the hang of this going out in a blaze of glory business. Rule number one and all encompassing: avoid anything that looked like amulets, chains, rings, old loves, past regrets and things left unsaid. Victory went down better without such accessories.
Spike allowed his eyes to roam around the dingy hole he called home. Angel had lapsed into his usual statue impersonation after all that rising music. Slouching over the table, the poofter was frowning into the wooden surface as if his expression was going to send some mystical solution popping out of the grain. In the background, Watcher Boy moved in and out of his bedroom like a busy little bee, tending to Her Blueness.
Somehow, they’d forgotten this was his apartment. He spent the next few minutes kitbitzing around the kitchen, slamming cabinet doors, snatching a beer from the fridge and drinking noisily – anything to trumpet his territory, but no one paid him any attention.
After a while, he gave up. But as he grabbed his duster from behind the door, Angel finally came awake.
“Spike? Wesley? A moment of both your time please.”
Wesley appeared at the bedroom door, his hand open in silent acquiescence. Angel nodded his thanks and turned to Spike who already had his hand on the doorknob.
Rolling his eyes, he strode back to drop into the sofa ungraciously.
“Took you long enough, mate. So what’s brewing in that lofty forehead of yours?”
“I’ll make this short. Spike, I need you to run an intervention for me. I know I promised you time to tie up your personal dealings –“
“Just spill it.” Spike interrupted impatiently. “Where do you need me?”
“I have news that the Fell Brethren has a sacrifice scheduled today.”
“Bloody perfect. Couldn’t they wait till nightfall and give a bloke some downtime?”
Angel smiled grimly. “Something about the noon sun gets them all excited.”
“What? A fraternity tanning date?” Suddenly, something came to the fore of Spike’s mind. “Hang on. What sacrifice? Didn’t Charlie say they weren’t going to off the sprog till he’s thirteen?”
Wesley cleared his throat. “There has been an…accident. The original holy vessel died.”
“Oh?” Scarred eyebrow raised in puerile curiosity. “What did him in?”
“I suspect the Brethren didn’t know that boy had the allergy. Or such a thing even exist. By the time they decided he needed a hospital, it was too late.”
Spike blew out his breath. “Sad. Not to mention stupid. Feeding those nasty things to a month-old bit. So what’s this about a sacrifice then?”
“Actually, it was never meant to be ingested. It was supposed to be mixture of berries and nuts for the purpose of anointment —“
“They found another vessel.” Angel interrupted. “Except this one isn’t as holy. So they’re holding a ritual to purge the taint or something--details would be appropriate now, Wesley?”
“Ah yes.” Wesley quickly retrieved one of his ancient books from his suitcase. “It says here that the ritual involves exposing the child to the noon sun while selected incisions are made on the vessel’s body to drain the umm…demonic taint. It’s not a sacrifice in the traditional sense, but the odds of surviving the ritual…let’s just say there’s no discernable difference with the end result.”
“We believe that the Brethren have lost their best chance and will settle for anything right now.” Angel added quietly.
“Dredging the bottom of the barrel, aren’t they? So you want me to go save this unholy vessel.”
“Here’s the address.” Angel passed him a slip of paper. “There’s a sewer outlet at the corner of the block. After you’re done, drop the kid off at Anne’s. She’ll put a trace on the parents and see that it gets home safely.”
He glanced at the address before stuffing the paper into his duster pocket.
“Got an even better idea.”
“Bugger if I’m going to trudge through the sewers when I can get there in the cushy comfort of the Viper.”
“Forget it. I’m not handing the keys over to you.”
“Not asking you, mate.” Smirking, Spike held up the jangling bunch he snitched during the paper exchange. “Don’t wait up, ladies. Might squeeze in a couple of shots at the local watering hole after I’m done.”
“Spike...” Angel walked over as he opened the door. “There’s something else.” He looked over at Wesley. “For your ears only.”
The former watcher looked at the both of them steely before entering the bedroom and closing the door behind him.
“They hate me now, I can feel it.” Angel sighed.
Spike cocked his head, considering.
“Not that one. He’s been holding his grudge longer than this.”
A tic appeared in Angel’s jaw and Spike swallowed with difficulty as Fred’s smiling face swam into view.
Angel cleared his throat loudly.
“They don’t know what we’re getting into.”
Spike snorted. “And you think I do?”
“You’ve had practice last year.” His grandsire pointed out.
A sigh. “Guess I do.”
“Not to mention a hundred years of getting to know my moods and shortcomings.”
Somewhere at the back of Spike’s head, the danger light started blinking.
“We’ve seen the best and the worst of each other, Spike. We know what we’re capable of. They’re judging me,” he gestured in the direction of the bedroom. “And I can’t say I blame them.”
“What makes you think I’m not doing the same?”
“I know you are. You’ve never stopped. And I can live with it.”
The danger light at the back of Spike’s head finally coalesced into something that went click.
“Oh no you don’t, you soddin’ ponce. Not giving you a shoulder to cry on just because you’ve found out this leadership role isn’t what you signed up for. You made the bed, and you’ll bloody well lie in it.”
A “why do I even bother?” expression flitted across Angel’s face. “Do I even want to know what you’re thinking? On second thoughts - no, I don’t. But for the record, this isn’t what you think, Spike.”
Spike looked at him warily in the eye. “What is it then?”
“I won’t deny it. I made a mess of things. But it didn’t start out like this. There was a reason behind all this.” Another vague gesture in the direction of the bedroom. “Except now I don’t think any of them will be willing to listen to me. Not when they realise that I’ve messed up with their memories.”
“Losing me here, Peaches.”
Angel looked down at him, as if appraising him. A spark of anger that Spike thought was long gone after the mountain dew incident ignited itself again. So am I worthy, grandsire?
“Connor was the reason why I ended up working with Wolfram and Hart in the first place.” The poofter finally revealed.
“So you’re saying you were instigated by this Connor fella?”
“No.” Angel took a deep breath. “I needed him safe, so I struck a bargain with the Senior Partners.”
“Got to be clearer with your story,” Spike couldn’t help himself at the snipe. ”Don’t want blame to land on the wrong party here.”
Touche said the grimace on Angel’s face. “Connor is my son. With Darla. I know it’s impossible for two vampires to have a child, but just go along with me on this, all right?”
“Hey, I didn’t say anything!”
Although Spike had to confess the idea that Angel had a son with super-bitch Darla was, there was no way to put it, mind-boggling. Such things just didn’t happen. There had to be a prophecy involved. But he kept those thoughts to himself.
“So this boy of yours…?”
“Connor. He was raised by an enemy of mine, Holtz in dimension where time moved differently. He came back two years ago, all grown up and hating me. Tried to kill me several times in fact. Then one year back, Cordy got possessed. Ran us in a loop and Connor got pulled in. Let’s just say some…very bad things happened and Wolfram and Hart approached me with an offer I couldn’t resist.”
Sensing that he needed to say something here before his grandsire got into a funk again, Spike prompted carefully, “Got the sell your soul to the evil corporation part. So what was the reward?”
“Connor gets a new lease at life. Without me in the picture.”
“Oh.” What else could he say?
“The Senior Partners gave him a new identity and a new family. Wiped away all memories of his association with me from everybody’s mind. In return, we work for them.” Angel shrugged. “It seemed like a good deal then. I thought we could do work from the inside out, convert the firm into a force for the good.”
Inwardly, Spike sighed. If he had known what he knew now, he’d be the first to tell Angel that it was impossible to go against the flow, hell, the whole bloody river. After all, he’s had experience trying to do the opposite: convince the Sunnydale white hats that he’d changed. And all it earned him was a Slayer who dared not be seen in daylight with him, murder attempts raining from the back, and a ‘save the world’ deathwish that did or did not change their opinion of him.
He realised now that the last bit was something he no longer gave a rat’s ass worth to find out. What grated was how he’d thought he was done dancing to somebody else’s tune. Fred had become the first casualty and god knows who else would join her tonight because his poobah of a grandsire effectively made it so.
She was right. It all sounded so…casual.
“Play missionary in hell, and Bob’s your uncle. ’Cept it didn’t go according to planned, did it?” Spike bit out. “Tell me something, Angel. Did you ever called Rupert about Fred?”
“Yes.” His grandsire hissed.
“And what did you say to him?” Silence. “Was there yelling involved?”
More silence, then finally…
“There was some yelling involved. And some name-calling…”
“Does the phrase “I fucked up badly” sound remotely familiar to you?”
A quiet “Yes.” this time.
“And what?” Angel bristled. “So I fucked up. I got the message.”
“I’ll tell you what I’ve learned about this soul-business. So it makes for great waterworks, tormenting you about things you’ve done in your soddin’ existence. Boohoo, cry me a river. Then what?”
“You tell me, Spike.” Angel growled. “You seem to be the expert here.”
“Not going to take that attitude from you, Peaches.” He warned. “Not if you’re coming to me for understanding here.”
A deep breath. “Fine. Go on.”
“Deal is it’s supposed to stop you from doing things you’d regret later, innit? That was why I got my soul back. ‘Cause I don’t want to spend the rest of eternity flaying myself alive for things I shouldn’t have done in the first place. What’s your excuse?”
Angel stared at him before admitting, “You’re right. I’ve none.”
Spike sighed. In the old days, he’d have gloated for months on end to have Angel confess that he was wrong. But now the admission did nothing for him. There was something about facing an apocalypse that shifted priorities. Which was why he knew what came out of his mouth next would be accompanied by his entire foot going in.
“So does the boy know what you’ve done for him?” He asked nonchalantly as he shrugged on his duster.
Angel shoved his hands into his pockets and looked up at the ceiling. “Not really.”
“Do yourself a favour and tell him, mate.”
Angel’s hopeful eyes turned on him. “You think I should?”
“Know you don’t want me to say this, but I can see it’s eating you alive, so yeah.” Spike shrugged uncomfortably. “You can always plead insanity if we survive tonight. If we don’t…”
“Doesn’t matter if we do or don’t, the point is I should still mean what I say.” Angel interjected quietly.
Oh ho, who was the expert here now?
“Point taken.” Spike conceded, his inner voice yelling at him to get the hell out of here before everything degenerated to hugs and puppies.
“Time’s a running. Got me a sprog to save.” He grunted and reached for the door knob.
“And Spike?” He swore if Angel said thank you, he’d punch him in the face.
“You’ll like to know I did better this time.”
“I called Buffy. She’s coming over with reinforcements.”
Spike froze in mid-step.
“Thought you might want to know in advance.”
He rolled his eyes. Whaddya know? Once a poofter, always a poofter.
“You know what, Peaches? Don’t do me anymore favours. Had enough of them to last a lifetime.”
* * *
How the hell did he get himself into these things? Spike wondered as he navigated his way deep into the Fell Brethren’s stronghold, effectively dispatching the occasional demon that crossed his path.
Apocalypses had a funny way of changing people’s priorities, he reminded himself. Besides, he’d done his emotional spring cleaning. The empty space that was his internal landscape now suited him fine. No need for those extra bits and pieces that were just going to clog up his resolve and concentration during the final fight.
He couldn’t do anything about how he still felt about Buffy. That had long since become the ornate frame of the missing centrepiece in his whitewashed room, but at least it was something that’d been there so long he’d ceased to notice it.
And that was the problem. The moment she walked into the picture...
With effort, he put the whole thing from his mind. He’d sleep in that bed when it got made. Spike cursed as he tripped over the robes the umpteenth time. They cramped his style, but he couldn’t deny they did the job. Managed to get him into the inner sanctuary without too many demons wiser. He was grateful for that much. Things only started to get harder once he entered the room.
The objective was in plain sight all right. Except it was lying in a bassinet positioned under a particularly brilliant shaft of sunlight from a skylight above.
He circled the crib several times, taking in the tiny figure within. Despite being dressed in birthday suit, the baby was busy making himself at home, stuffing toes into his mouth and exposing his dangly bits in full glory.
“Hello, Junior. The name's Spike. Got any allergies I should know of?”
Junior turned to the sound of his voice and exposed his pink gums in a greeting yowl.
“Yar-yar-yar back at you, too.” Spike supplied as he retrieved his rolled up duster from beneath the robes.
This was going to hurt, and there was a chance that if he wasn’t fast enough, he’d set Junior on fire too. But there was no other choice. Quickly, he pulled down the robe sleeves to their greatest length and proceeded to wrap the length of the coat around his arms, taking care to cover the back of his hands. The shaft of sunlight spilled over the bassinet by a few inches on each side with the length providing easiest access and unfortunately, maximum flaming action as well.
Gritting his teeth, he decided to hell with it and jumped into the circle of light from the front. Smoke rose immediately. Grabbing Junior and tucking him close, Spike vaulted over the crib and rolled over into the blessed shade on the other side. His back hit the wall and there he laid, the hard marble surfaces spreading welcomed coolness through the smoking robes.
Gingerly, he lifted the boy up on two outstretched hands like an ablution basin and ran a cursory examination. Everything looked normal. Healthy pink skin, big blue eyes, a thatch of dark blond hair as fine as a baby chick’s down. Shifting his precarious hold, Spike took a peek at the boy’s nether regions. Nope, no forked tails nor ritualised incisions, thankfully.
“Gotta say I figured there might be horns and such, being an unholy vessel and all.” He muttered in faint disappointment. “But it looks like you’re one-hundred percent pure and unadulterated human.”
A tiny frown creased Junior’s smooth brow and he kicked out with surprising strength, landing a square blow on Spike’s nose.
“Hey!” He roared. “The schnozzle’s off limits!”
But the baby was already ignoring him; a couple of gurgles that sounded suspiciously like chortles were followed by a return to the all-absorbing toe-swallowing exercise.
”Lucky for you, I'm on a strict diet.” Spike grumbled as he unwound his duster from around his arms. Laying the boy on top of the singed leather, he wrapped the fabric securely and climbed to his feet.
”Place the holy vessel back in the bassinet.”
So much for the walk in the park. With a roll of his eyes, he turned around to face the three brothers of the Fell Brethren brandishing weapons at the doorway.
“What say you, moppet?”
He looked down at Junior who was staring at him through wide blue eyes. His question was answered by an almost imperceptible shake of the head and raised eyebrows. His internal voice supplied the translation readily enough. Are you daft?
Tearing away the robe in a swift motion, he threw the heavy fabric at the nearest brother and made use of the distraction to land a kick in the midriff. The demon fell back into the door, splintering wood with a crash. Too bad they aren’t the dusty sort. Spinning around to avoid a sharp blade, he elbowed another demon while delivering a roundhouse kick that disarmed the third brother.
Kneeling down to pick up the fallen weapon, he hitched Junior closer to his side before launching an all out dance of kicks and jabs against his opponents. His mouth kept running counterpoint, conversing with the baby who seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.
“Bet improvised gymnastics wasn’t what you had in mind, huh?”
More toe-chewing action.
“Sure wasn’t mine when I signed up for sprog-recovery. Thought I could just flit in, grab the goods and pirouette out again like a good ballerina. Sans tutu of course.”
“Just don’t decorate my costume, k?”
“Flailing parts out of the way if you want to keep ‘em!”
“Christ, you’ll be the death of me.”
As the last demon collapsed, Spike gazed across the threshold, half-expecting more demons to come charging through. But the vestibule was suspiciously empty.
There was a muffled percussive shockwave behind him, followed by the strong smell of brimstone. He whipped around in alarm. Someone had appeared out of thin air, coughing and waving frantic hands to clear away the mandatory puff of smoke that accompanied such an entrance.
Spike dropped his bloodied weapon with a clang. And she enters the picture.
The girl in question looked up at the sound of her name. Her eyes widened and her hands flew automatically to her mouth.
She looked good. The additional pounds she’d put on filled her out nicely, giving her rounder hips and fuller breasts than he’d remember. Her face had lost that pinched look, but at the sight of him in front of her, that haunted look from the last days in Sunnydale came back in full force.
She drank in the sight of him for what seemed like forever. Then she took a few small steps forward, lifted her hand to hover falteringly over his face.
Her voice was fearful. With a growl of impatience, he grabbed her hand, tightened his grip to confirm for himself that she was real and right here with him.
“You’re real.” She breathed.
“You’re here.” She repeated, dumbfounded.
“That I am.” He told her gravely, the beginnings of a stupid smile tickling the corner of his lips.
She threw her arms around his neck and gripped him in a ferocious hug. Surreptitiously, he shuffled hapless Junior out of the way and threw his remaining free arm around her.
“Nice entrance there, love.” He murmured into her hair, relishing the way his sense memory engaged and locked on her scent as if they hadn’t been separated for a year. A shudder shook her body and he could feel the hitch in her breathing. She had buried her head against his neck, and he could feel her tears seeping into his collar. Finally, she disengaged herself from him tremulously, still wearing the look of disbelief on her face.
“Long story.” He sighed. “Not sure you want to hear it under these conditions.”
She blinked as if waking up from a reverie.
“Shit! The baby, where’s the baby!?”
“This one?” He unwrapped his duster to reveal Junior who was blowing a spit-bubble of gigantic proportions.
Relief flooded her face when she saw the baby. She reached her hands out wordlessly and Spike handed him over to her, mystified.
He bit his lip as she walked towards the sun-drenched bassinet and placed Junior back in it. The boy chortled and reached out his hand to tug at her hair as if he was genuinely pleased to see her.
“They didn’t get to him. I checked.” He supplied, feeling like a fifth wheel as she unwrapped his duster and ran through the same examination he did earlier, albeit with much more finesse.
Satisfied, she wrapped Junior up again and hefted him up in one arm.
“You’re right. This is so not the place to talk.”
“Don’t know what tricks you got up your sleeve, love.” He gestured at the splintered doorway. “It’s been quiet on the front, but we may have to fight our way out.”
A toss of that lovely mane of blonde hair grown to her waist. “Willow cast a stasis spell over the rest of the building before magicking me in here.”
He raised his eyebrow.
“Plus twenty-three other witches from the coven. They’re opening up portals and bringing the slayers in.”
He sucked in his cheeks as he followed her through the empty hallway.
“So you heard.”
She turned around to look at him with an indeterminate expression in her eyes. “About Angel, yes. I didn’t figure you’d be with him on this.”
He opened his hands in silent acknowledgement. Heartfelt words would have to wait for later.
They stepped out onto the sheltered porch of a nondescript brick exterior and stopped short as one before the sun-flooded threshold.
“This way.” He gestured awkwardly in the direction of the shaded alley where the Viper was parked. “We could – guess my place isn’t the best option — Where are you staying at?”
She bit her lip in indecision.
“A hotel downtown. But it’s Slayer Central. Or will be soon.”
“Right.” Spike dug his hands into his jean pockets and considered. “I know a hotel nearby. Discreet and all. Not in a hurry to report back, are you?”
She shook her head and idly brushed a finger across the baby’s head. “Willow knows the mission’s a success the moment I walk out of the building. I’ll fill her in on the details later.” She took a deep breath as if she made up her mind about something.
“Lead the way, Spike.”