It took some convincing, but Wright eventually allowed his cell phone to be volunteered for the call.
“I don’t want Darla knowing I’m anywhere near LA,” he’d said.
“I’ll make a point not to mention you, then,” Spike had replied, his hand outstretched. “I don’t have a mobile and this lot here’s on Wolfram and Hart’s shit list. You know they’re gonna know if the call comes from them.”
“It’s for Buffy,” Wesley had said. “Getting Buffy out alive is more important than your revenge, Zack. You know this.”
For a moment, Spike had thought Zangy might take a swing at the former Watcher. In the end, though, he’d sighed and handed the phone over without further protest.
Now Spike was staring at the mobile, his mind at a loss.
“Remember,” Wesley said cautiously, “he might have been instructed to lead you on in a certain way. Don’t take anything to heart. We’ll have Detective Lockley phone him immediately following—”
“Yeah, yeah,” Spike said, hoping his tone masked how anxious he was. With as much as he wanted to have this over with, there was a certain measure of safety in the not knowing. As long as he remained ignorant, Buffy could still be rescued. She was still waiting for him. Still there, if only a trip across town from reach.
If he received word that the worst had already happened… He couldn’t imagine it. A world without the Slayer. Without her.
Right now, she was Schrödinger’s Slayer.
Funny. With as often as he had tried to kill her in the past, he had never thought through to conclusion. He would have mourned even then at the passing of such a formidable foe. There had been slayers in the past and, however he wished to deny it, there would be slayers in the future. But there was only one Buffy. Only one worthy of the title mortal enemy. The others had not the chance to come halfway as close as she had to delving beyond the walls he’d put up, even without realizing it. Those established when he’d died. When he’d discovered the trophy of slayer blood. When Drusilla had left him.
Buffy Summers had broken through all of them. She had, in essence, made him human all over again. A terrifying realization. One he resented with every fiber of his being. He hated her for it. He worshiped her for it. He had wished her dead more times than he could count, but he loved her too much to think about what would happen to him in a world without her. His love for her was the most frightening thing that had ever happened to him—he knew it had the power to consume him, break him, destroy him. He had already crossed more boundaries than he’d thought possible. And there were others ahead.
He wouldn’t stop until she was back. Until he had her home.
Spike would have sworn his heart started beating again as the phone rang. While he had not requested it, he almost wished the others had left him in peace for this, but Wesley had pointed out that at least one person needed to be present in case Spike looked like he might lose control. That much made sense, but the whole bloody peanut gallery seemed like overkill.
The phone was answered on the fifth ring. “McDonald.”
And just like that, Spike’s reservations dissolved. He was pacing, but more to keep moving than out of anxiety. “This wouldn’t be the McDonald that belongs to the Darla fan club, would it?”
There was a pause. He could almost smell the air heating with awareness.
Then the man cleared his throat and dropped something that sounded like a pen. “William the Bloody, I presume?”
“It’s Spike, mate. Just Spike. I know I’m a little late to the party, but you see, I have this problem. Last year, a group of government—”
“Yes, the chip. We have the information on you. More than you likely realize.” There was a heavy pause. “Darla, however, told us that you declined her offer and all the benefits that came with it. If you’ve changed your mind, I’m sorry. Wolfram and Hart’s special contracts are often of the one-time-only variety.”
Spike’s eyes narrowed, and he felt his patience begin to ebb. “This contract isn’t with Wolfram and Bloody Hart, you enormous ponce. It’s with—”
There was a loud cough. Cordelia was glaring at him.
“Yeah, all right, fine. You got me. I changed my mind.”
“The contract the standing members of the Order established is connected to the Senior Partners, so yes, this is Wolfram and Hart business.” Another pause. “Either way, I was told you might be in contact. Something about your family being in possession of something you want. The message I am to give you is as follows…” McDonald cleared his throat again. “‘Tell my dearest that Angelus has already given me my treat, and that mummy fixed all that was wrong. It’s over now. We made a banquet of her heart.’ It was done shortly after they arrived, I believe. Truthfully, Mister—oh I’m sorry— Spike, we haven’t had much contact with them for the past few days. But I was instructed to tell you that if it’s the Slayer you seek, it’s too late. She has already been taken care of.”
In all honesty, Spike wasn’t sure how he kept his legs from collapsing. How his brain continued to function. How his motor skills didn’t abandon him. Instead, he forced himself to rely on the script Wesley had given him, along with the inner mantra that told him this was a rouse. That McDonald was acting under orders. That he had been told to say this if Spike called. That Buffy was dead. But he found no comfort in empty promises. From here, from where he stood, all was lost. He couldn’t see her. Couldn’t feel or taste her.
If it were true, if she was dead, blood would run in the streets. There would be anger, then vengeance, then maybe he’d have time to scream his grief.
That was not now.
“Well, then it’s a bloody good thing I’m not calling about the sodding Slayer, isn’t it?” he heard himself shout. As though watching himself at a distance. “Tell that wanker Angelus that I have a piece to speak with him and to be at Caritas tomorrow. Sunset. You got me?”
“I will relay the message,” Lindsey replied, sounding anything but intimidated. “My apologies for the misunderstanding. I’m sure he will be most interested to hear what you have to say.”
“You’re bloody right he will be,” Spike snarled, then lowered the phone and disconnected the call.
Then he dropped the phone altogether because he suddenly couldn’t feel his hands.
Spike kept his gaze on the ground. He was not going to break down in front of these wankers. He was not going to let them know how the very thought of her death affected him. How he felt like dying a thousand times over. Like going for a morning stroll so he didn’t have to feel this anymore.
The first voice that disturbed the air was Cordelia’s. “Spike…” she said softly. “Maybe you should…sit down or something. You’re…well, you’re pale. Well, obviously you’re pale. You’re dead. But you’re even…paler than usual. And I think it’d be a good idea if—”
He held up a hand. “There are rooms upstairs? Empty ones?”
She nodded. “Totally. I mean, it’s a hotel, right? And there’s only Angel here…mostly…but he’s gone, so you can take his—”
He was not going to Angel’s room.
And, to her credit, Cordelia seemed to catch on to that immediately. “Or there’s another room. There are…well, hundreds…literally. I think there’s one with an old bed…I haven’t gone up there all that much, but Angel had some telekinetic chick staying with him a while back. Try room 308. Okay?”
Spike nodded and moved for the staircase wordlessly.
He needed to be away from them before he broke down.
Cordelia kept her gaze on Spike until he was out of sight. A few seconds passed, then the definitive click of a door locking sounded through the air.
“Gotta love old buildings,” Wright said. “Sound really carries.”
“He gonna be all right?” Gunn asked, following Cordelia’s gaze.
“As long as she is,” Wesley replied. He had remained quiet throughout the exchange, watching Spike the way he sometimes watched Angel when Angel wasn’t looking. Only Cordelia figured Wes’s fascination with Spike was a different kind altogether—she sure as hell knew hers was.
This was not the Brit who had tried to kill Angel last year, or Buffy any of the years before it. Yet it was, and that wigged her out.
At once, Wesley turned to Kate and with a short, sharp nod. “You better phone Lindsey,” he said. “Tell him everything you can, save, of course, that Spike is here with us. Find out what happened to Buffy.”
She blinked. “Why would I care what happened to Buffy?” she replied.
“’Cause you’re a cop?” Gunn offered. “And she’s—”
“What I mean is, I’m not even supposed to know she’s there,” Kate said, aiming a glare at Gunn. “As far as Lindsey knows, I have no idea that this Buffy person exists at all. Why would I call and ask about her?”
Wesley nodded. “Tell him that a man named Rupert Giles rang the Hyperion and told us everything.”
“Why would McDonald disclose any of that information to me? He’d only be digging himself in deeper.”
Gunn stared at her blankly. “Never thought I’d see the day when you’d be hesitant to uphold the law.”
“I’m not here as an officer. I’m here—”
“So? Big whup. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t one.”
Wesley sighed. “You’re here. Period. That is all that matters. You’re here because he called you. Right now, Detective, that makes you one of us. That makes you the enemy. He chose to speak through you once.” There was another heavy pause. “In any case, the girl is an innocent. She’s being tortured and worse by the very vampire you despise. Not Angel. Not the nice version. She’s in the hands of the creature that deserves your hatred. We need to know what happened to her.” He looked to the empty corridor where Spike had vanished. “Spike deserves to know. He’s come this far.”
“Did you see the look on his face?” Cordelia demanded. “He’s completely in love with her!”
“So it would seem,” Wright muttered. “I tell you, Wes. I’ve seen vamps in love before. Never like this, and never with a human. It’s…well, I don’t like it. It doesn’t make sense.”
“Spike’s always been weird,” Cordelia replied. “And he had a total slayer fixation, too. I dunno. As wigged as I was when he first showed up here, him being all gaga for Buffy kinda makes sense to me.” She paused. “God, Buffy. She seems to be a vamp magnet.”
“Well, she is the Slayer,” Wesley replied.
“I’m just saying… Angel and now Spike?” Cordelia made a face. “If I weren’t worried I’ll never see her again, I might kinda hate the bitch.”
Wright stared at her. “You have a thing for Spike?”
“Ugh, please, no!” She shuddered at the thought. “I could never date anyone with that fashion sense. It’s more that Buffy just seems to line ‘em up. The most action I get is from Dennis.”
“Her ghost roommate,” Gunn stage-whispered.
Wright shook his head as though trying to clear it. “You’re involved with a ghost?”
“Uh, no.” She turned to Wes. “Does he not understand the art of hyperbole?”
Wesley didn’t answer. He didn’t seem to be following. His gaze was still locked on the floor above. “Spike is not like Angel. He might be in love with Buffy, but he doesn’t have a soul. We must find out what truly happened. The last thing we need is an enraged, heartbroken vampire on our hands.”
“He can’t hurt us, though,” Gunn observed. “We’ve all seen it.”
“I haven’t,” Kate said, reaching for her phone all the same.
“Well, take my word for it.”
“Odd as it may sound, I’m not worried about us,” Wesley said.
He would not elaborate.
Spike sat on the edge of a barren mattress, staring at the blank wall as though he expected it to speak.
Somewhere deep within himself, he had already made peace with the understanding that whatever Lindsey told him was a lie. There was no way Angelus would be done with the Slayer already. He’d barely had her a day.
But hearing it from someone who was there, who had the potential to be there for her—see her, touch her, feel her every day—it was enough to make the false truth ring real.
But the actual truth was more terrifying than that. Because the day would ultimately come when it would not be a lie. When she’d snuff it, being the mortal being she was. When some creature like him came around and put her in the ground. If not today, then someday, and Spike knew he wouldn’t ever be ready for her death. Whether she lived one year or a thousand.
His face was wet and his eyes were raw. Bloody wanker.
The voice came from the door.
Spike sighed and wiped his face free of tears. “I know.”
Evidently, that was all the invitation Wright felt he needed. He stepped into the room and moved quietly toward the mattress.
Spike made no further move to acknowledge him, though as all good prey, he knew to keep alert. The man was one who killed his kind for sport, and even with their unlikely truce, he’d known enough humans not to trust that he wouldn’t be attacked anyway.
Once more, he was surprised.
“‘I know’?” Wright asked. The mattress dipped with his weight as he situated himself next to Spike, perhaps a good foot between them. “I half expected you to get up and dance.”
“I don’t dance.”
“Yeah, and you don’t sing. It seems you’ve made all kinds of exceptions tonight.”
There was an appreciative snicker. “I’ve been making exceptions for the past year.”
Wright nodded. “I’d say falling in love with your mortal enemy checks as a big one.”
“So you’re gonna admit that that’s what it is, then?”
“Figured a big vamp-hating demon hunter like you’d be one of the first to say that vampires can’t feel anything at all.” Spike turned to look at him. “That love where we’re concerned is possible.”
He shrugged. “I was skeptical at first.”
“I’ve known you for two hours. You’ve had enough time to change your mind?”
“You’ve given me enough to change it on.” Wright sighed heavily and turned to mimic the vampire’s pose. “I don’t think in all the years that I’ve been hunting demons that I’ve ever seen one react to bad news the way you did downstairs.”
“I don’t reckon you’ve met many demons with implants in their noggins.”
“It’s more than that.”
But he did not explain how.
There was a brief, oddly comfortable silence. As comfortable as it could get, at least, between two blokes sworn to do the other in. In any other context, Spike would have second-guessed himself and his motives; it was hardly as though this was the first time he had sided with the enemy.
The voice that was becoming not-so-little whispered that he could hardly call himself the enemy anymore. He was the only vampire in the vicinity, unsouled and very blood-happy…yet in a hotel managed by people who went out of their way to do good, preparing to battle his own kind to save the Slayer. Selflessly. Without motive or cause. While Spike had entertained fantasies involving Buffy, a tall tower, and a stylishly wankerish version of himself saving her heroically without help, he knew it could never be so. Because she was far above him. She was the light that could never be touched, lest he crumble to dust.
Spike took a deep breath. Comfortable or not, he hated silences. “So…” he began, cautious but conversational. Despite whatever their understanding, he would never allow himself to forget that this was the same bloke that had greeted him with many a-crossbow arrows. “What’s the story?”
Wright spared him a glance but complied. “Kate called that Lindsey person.”
“In a nutshell, he told her that the Slayer was alive. Not fine, but alive.” There was a sigh. “Neither mentioned you. She told him that someone named Giles had contacted Wes because Buffy was missing, and they thought Angelus might have something to do with it. Lindsey said she’s at Wolfram and Hart.”
Spike nodded. “Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“But that wasn’t the story I was asking about.” Spike arched his eyebrows when the other man frowned. “Oh, come on, Zangy. How do you expect us to become the very best of friends if you don’t share a tale or two?”
Wright blinked. Once. Twice. “The very best of what?”
Spike snickered and waved a hand.
But Wright wasn’t willing to dismiss his words as easily. Instead, a dark scowl fell across his face and any uneasy friendliness that had been there before dissipated. “Let’s get one thing very straight,” he snapped. “We’re never going to be friends. Ever. I’m here to kill a bitch who should already be dead. I’m not here to help you, and I fucking pity this Slayer—whoever she is—if you’re what she has waiting for her. Jesus Christ…”
There were times when Spike reckoned he was older fashioned than he cared to admit. While his temper was hardly difficult to trigger, it took more a casual insult to get him boiling. Sure, say a word against him, and he’d get irritated. But go after someone he loved and his fury had no bounds.
But he couldn’t do anything beyond anger. He couldn’t resort to the violence he craved. All he could do was watch from the sidelines.
“Look, mate,” he growled. “You’re the one who came up here to chat. Leave the bird—”
“I came up here to tell you that your girlfriend is all right.”
“She’s not my…” He couldn’t finish that because he didn’t want it to be true, so he didn’t bother. Instead, he shook his head and changed tactics. “Why even bother if it’s such a bloody inconvenience? You hate me, remember? Say what you want—do whatever you sodding please—but leave her outta this. She’s done nothing but save the world and hate all the same things you do. She’s a bloody hero, is what she is. And I’m just trying to get her back before they rip her to shreds. Am I a vampire? Well, yeah, last I checked. Am I evil? Bloody right. I’m not trying to score points here, you git. I just want to get her home.”
At that, Zack was quieted. There was nothing for several beats.
Then Spike exhaled a long sigh and reached for his cigarettes.
“Come on,” he urged. “If you’re gonna be up here enjoying the dark with a beastie, you might as well tell a tale or two. I know it was Darla. Wasn’t difficult to piece that together. What’d she do?”
Another lengthy silence—the same that spoke for everything that Wright refused to say himself. Whatever had happened had been one of those defining moments. Darla was good at creating those. More than just taking someone before their time—Darla had fundamentally molded this man into someone else entirely. While she carved apart many a happy family, there were only a few souls in this world who were changed beyond recognition after crossing paths with her.
Spike had the nagging feeling that she had done more than simply kill someone that Zachary Wright had cared for. And in that regard, despite their mutual aversion, he could understand. Even relate.
The heart of his final corruption. He was within a breath of being one of them.
“Was it your honey?” Spike asked as he lit his fag.
A sigh at that. One of concession. He knew well that sound.
“It happened…” Wright began softly, his voice hoarse. “It happened so long ago. I don’t even… Most people, they remember every last detail of what happened to them. I can’t tell you how many men I’ve talked to who lost wives or children. Sisters, brothers…that sort of thing. I guess you could call me a profiteer, but I don’t like to think about it like that. I’ve never been in this for the pay. Not once. I’ve done too many freebies and the like… No. To me, it’s all about the leads. It’s always been the kill.”
Spike gave him a very long look. “Good to know.”
“The people, though, the others…they remember every detail.” Wright exhaled and shook his head. “I don’t. Seven years have passed and I’ve spent every day trying to forget. Trying to get… I’ve heard too many stories. Eventually, the details start to mesh. But never with me. I always knew what story was mine. Forty-seven states and god knows how many kills, and it’s still there. It won’t ever go away.”
“I go anywhere. Everywhere. Still, I remember when I first saw her. I was at a bar after work. I didn’t want to go home. My wife and I had had a fight that morning. I was worried about money and she… Well, she was worried about things that actually mattered. Darla was there. She came up to me. Flirted with me. I enjoyed it, ‘cause god knows it’d been a long time since…” He broke, his face hardening. “I should’ve killed her on the spot, but I didn’t know then. What I know now.” Another lengthy break. “She made a pass at me that I let go farther than it should. I was tipsy, but not so tipsy that I forgot I was a married man very much in love with his wife. I told her to fuck off and went home.” Wright’s jaw hardened. “But that was just the beginning. After I read up on her, I figured that she was looking for a replacement-Angelus. Guess I was the best candidate.”
Spike snickered at that. “She wanted you to fill in King Forehead’s space? Bloody hell. Either she’s raised her standards or stopped caring.”
“There was a problem, of course. A complication.”
Spike nodded and exhaled a pillar of smoke. “That’d be the missus.”
It was amazing, watching the seasons of human emotion change. From cold to warm in two seconds flat. The soft glow that warmed the ice behind Wright’s eyes. Spike wondered briefly if he looked like that whenever Buffy was mentioned, and sincerely hoped not. If his eyes revealed half as much, it was a wonder the entire Scooby clan hadn’t made his chest a bloody pincushion.
“Amber,” Wright replied, his voice thick. “We got married when we were freshmen in college. Very young and stupid. We thought it was all so romantic. It felt right and that was all that mattered. I had loved her since the moment I saw her. I went through…everything just to earn a look from her. A smile. A laugh. She had the most amazing laugh. And her eyes…” He broke then, as though realizing he had been rambling. “I don’t even know why I’m telling you this.”
Spike quirked an eyebrow. “’Cause I’m listening?”
“I don’t see why you care.”
“I don’t, to be truthful. Just the same as I reckon you don’t really care either way if I get Buffy back safe and sound. But you’re here, aren’t you? Might as well take you up on it.” He paused and pursed his lips. “And I asked. You’re an odd fellow, Zangy. Bit more like myself than I wager you’d wanna admit.”
At that, Wright instantly drew into himself, his eyes going stony. “I’m nothing like you.”
Spike snickered again. “Right. ‘Course. You’re too good for it.”
“I sure as hell am.”
“That’s why you went outta your way to come up here and make sure I knew the Slayer was all right, even though you don’t bloody care.” He rumbled a humorless chuckle, shaking his head. “You’re a piece of work. You know that, right?”
“Whoever Buffy is, she doesn’t deserve this. So yeah, I care.”
“Right. But that doesn’t mean you had to come share the good news with me. If you hate my kind so much, why not just let me stew in my misery?” He tilted his fag toward Zangy. “Gonna guess it’s because you know what this is like and you were feeling sorry for the big bad vamp.”
“You have a wicked grudge. I get that. The story probably goes that Darla reasoned you were out of the running as her next-best mate when she discovered you already had a honey warming your bed. She decides to narrow out the competition.” Spike sighed and tapped cigarette ash onto the floor before wedging the fag back between his lips. “You’d think four bloody centuries’d be enough to inspire a little originality.”
If possible, the air surrounding Wright chilled even further. And he was silent.
As if this confirmed everything, Spike nodded. Then he grew somber. There were many things he knew about Darla, but none struck quite as true as her love of bloodshed. It didn’t matter at whose expense—she was a vampire, after all, and didn’t care a lick for who she was hurt. Never had. If rejection had sent her on a warpath against Wright’s wife, there were several things he already knew. It had been bloody, prolonged, and about as painful as three consecutive Pauly Shore movies.
Like what she was doing to Buffy. Somewhere out there. Right now.
Without realizing it, Spike fisted his hands and tightened his jaw.
And he felt a sudden rush of empathy for the demon hunter. Something he definitely did not need.
“You ruined lives just like mine,” Wright said at last, breaking the silence.
“And you don’t care.”
“I am what I am, mate. I was made this way.”
Wright inhaled deeply. “I oughta rip you to pieces,” he decided. “Simply for being here when others aren’t. For being…for ruining what you’ve ruined. For—”
Spike huffed, knowing that he wasn’t in any real danger. If the hunter wanted to kill him, he’d had more than enough chances. “Vamps kill, Zangy. It’s what we do. What we’re made to do, and we’ve been here and doing it a lot longer than you humanly types have been wandering the horizon in search of truth and meaning and all that other bloody rot.”
“Stop calling me that.”
A broad grin crossed Spike’s lips. “Well, now you’ve gone and done it. If it annoys you, it sticks. One of my many charms.” When all he earned was an irritated glance in turn, he sighed and looked down once more. “Would it make you feel any better if I told you I’m losing it?”
“Whatever made me the way I am,” Spike grumbled and snubbed out his cigarette against the floor. “I’m not proud of it. Hell, I bloody well hate what this fucking chip has done to me. Made me more like you. Made me feel.” A pause at that. “Can’t blame everything on it, though. Even if I’d never realized it, I’ve had a yen for the Slayer for longer than I’d like to admit. And it’s bloody ruined me.”
“Oh yes,” Wright snapped. “That must’ve been terrible.”
Spike narrowed his eyes. “Just about as terrible as it’d be for you to fall head over for one of us. Your enemy. I’m a vampire. She’s a slayer. She’s everything I’m supposed to be against. It’s sick and wrong, and if I could rid myself of these feelings, I’d gladly do it. But I can’t.” He paused and shook his head, waving dismissively. “Never mind. Understanding’s not in your sodding vocab, is it? What I am…what she’s made me… It’s something perverse. But she’s…” His eyes softened. “She’s Buffy.”
The air that settled between them didn’t feel as thick as it had a moment earlier. As though some peace could be discovered through all the animosity. It was frightening, the way the smallest thing could alter one’s entire universe.
Wright drew in a deep breath and raked his fingers through his hair. “You really love her?”
“With everything that I am. She’s a bloody disease. A disease and its cure. She poisons me and brings me back all with one breath. All in one glorious package.”
Another beat. Then Wright spoke.
“Amber was different than anyone I’d ever met,” he stated softly, eyes glossing over. “She was… God, I don’t even know where to begin. Intelligent, beautiful, funny…she probably had more boyfriends in high school than I had zits.”
Spike cracked a smile but didn’t comment.
“She was an over-achiever. One of those rare people who make it to the top without becoming so full of themselves that they turn into only a shadow of the person they were. I was…I guess I was as enchanted with her as everyone else. It shocked the hell out of me when she finally agreed to give me a chance. I never got over that, I don’t think. Never got over her. And when she said she’d marry me…”
He broke then the unspoken offer for commentary. Spike made none. Just sat in silence and waited for the man to continue.
Wright swallowed thickly. “We were poor but happy. My job was…well, it was for shit, to be blunt. Money was tight and Amber was up to her eyeballs in student debt, and then we got news…and it got worse. For nearly a year, everything was just…tense. That morning I was stressed about work and money and I took it out on Amber. Then I went to work angry and avoided going home. And then Darla happened. I had no idea who she was. I had no idea that vampires existed, and certainly didn’t think they’d live around me were that the case. Darla…she was…I don’t have a word for it.” He paused. “It felt good, that’s the sick thing. To be wanted like that. I knew she wanted me, and it felt good. It felt… But I loved Amber. With everything I was. I thought Darla was a cute girl with a crush and I told her to fuck off. Then I got worried when she kept turning up. I told Amber about Darla—about the night at the bar. I thought that was the worst I could ever feel, Amber thinking I wanted anyone else. I thought that was the worst. And then the next day happened.”
Then Wright’s voice cracked. “Of everything I’ve forgotten, there are two things that I can’t make go away. The smell. I’d gotten a whiff of blood before but never like that. So thick. So… everywhere. It was everywhere. Practically running down the walls. And she…she was… Oh god…” Wright drew an arm across his eyes as his body trembled. “She was…hanging. She had—she had been nailed… That monstrous bitch had nailed her to the wall. To look like Jesus, I guess. Just there…waiting for me. Her arms…she…and her stomach. Her sweet stomach…she…” He held up a hand, shielding his face and shaking his head. “Darla had taken a…I don’t even know what she used…but she had carved my Amber’s stomach open to kill my child. Amber was pregnant and the closer we got to the due date, the more I freaked about money because we were already so far in the hole I could barely see anything, but he was my son. My son. Darla put him in the bassinette and suffocated him.”
Spike was stunned. There was no other word for it. Of everything he had ever heard, of everything he knew of Darla, he had never known her to do anything like this. She killed, yes, but she didn’t stage. She didn’t leave presents.
Point of fact…
“Angelus,” he murmured. “It was Angelus.”
“No, it most definitely was not Angelus,” Wright snapped, wiping his eyes irately. “She had transcribed ‘with love’ on the wall next to my…my son. In blood. It wasn’t—”
“That’s not what I meant. She was recreating something Angelus did back in the day.” He shook his head. “I wasn’t around for it—bit before my time—but I remember them laughing about it. Reminiscing and the like. Guess after a bloody century of being without her boy, she began to lose it. When was this?”
Wright closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. “Like I said, seven years ago.”
“Be right before she came to SunnyD, then.”
“Where she was supposed to have been killed.”
“She was.” Spike’s brows flickered. “Just not permanently. Angel staked her to save the Slayer, way I hear it. And god, does that prat ever go on? Aside from him shagging Dru, I don’t think I heard more garbage than his woes about slaying his sire.” He caught himself before he could get too carried away, cleared his throat, and returned to the present. “So I’m guessing after, you became a lean, mean, demon-hunting machine?”
“It wasn’t just demons,” Wright said. “It was vampires. I wanted Darla dead. I wanted all vampires dead. There were a thousand leads to follow…most of them stayed within the family. I contacted an old friend from high school who came from a military household. He taught me things I’d… He taught me things that I’d never have even dreamt of knowing. I practiced. I killed. I’ve killed so many vampires I’ve lost count, but it was never enough. It was never her. I read so many books that my eyes started to bleed. Memorized every single detail about her. Her past. Her associates. Those she’d sired. Those most noted in her Order. Angelus. Drusilla. You. Some random vampire named Penn, who I lost track of—”
“One of Angel’s,” Spike said. “Think he kicked it.”
“And then word came that she was dead. She was dead, I hadn’t killed her, but that was enough. It was more than enough for me. But by that time, I was too far into what I was doing to stop. It had only been months and I had lost myself. Never staying in the same place. Always following some lead. Then I met Wes. Nice enough guy, but didn’t understand the meaning of the word rogue.” A shadow of a grin. “He told me who he was and that he was more acquainted with otherworldly phenomena than he cared to disclose. I helped him a bit, I guess. He came on a couple kills with me before he proved to be a liability.” He turned to Spike with a sigh. “Then Darla was alive again. Back. That was… When I heard, I was out the door. I had to get to where she was. Had to kill her. It was… God, it was as though…”
Spike nodded. “I get it, mate.”
Wright snickered, eyes wide. “Do you? Do you really? How could you? You’re just like them, right? A fucking vampire who’d just as soon—”
“Look, as much as it might pain me to admit, I was never in that the same league as Darla and Angelus. All right? If you’ve read up on me, you’d know it.” Spike chuckled humorlessly and shook his head. “I get why you’re here. What she did…I guess I’ll never understand it completely. I can’t. I don’ have the wiring for it. But as far as I’m concerned, you’re welcome to her.” He scoffed. “Never did care for the old bat, anyway.”
Wright smiled without feeling. “You talk like she’s your racist grandma or something.”
“From where I’m sitting, she is.” Spike rose to his feet at that and made for the door. He paused before he could leave the room completely, turned back to the man who would never be his friend, but could be his ally. “I’m not making light,” he said seriously. “Not a one of ‘em. I loved Dru. Loved her for a long time. But that won’t stop me from killing her if she stands between me and the Slayer. It’ll hurt like hell, but if that’s what it takes, I’m up to it. What’s worse, she knows it. The lot of ‘em do. Guess that’s why you’re here, then, mate. The bloody Powers needed someone who had a cause worth dying for.”
“I have a cause,” Wright said without turning, voice soft. “Guess you do, too.”
“Bloody right, I do.”
There was a moment’s pause. Wright’s head dropped. “Your girl, she’s worth this? To you?”
The question was getting redundant, but Spike figured the reassurance was needed amongst enemies. He knew he would be doing the same if the tables were turned. “She’s worth everything. And not just to me. She’s not for me. She’s for the world.” He stopped and cocked his head. “Wasn’t yours?”
A long, unwavering beat at that. “Then,” Wright said quietly, “we’ll get her back.”
Spike smiled. Perhaps he had been wrong. After all, as was becoming the motto for this town, stranger things had happened. “You know what, Zangy?” he asked. “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful—”
Or maybe not. Better not to push it.
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