Bringing Winnie home with me, love. Don’t be naked.
Without explaining why he was laughing, Spike held the door for Winston, then followed him into the apartment, where Buffy greeting Winston warmly, and then punched Spike on the arm. Rubbing his arm and still laughing, Spike went to get two beers from the fridge, leaving Buffy to explain what was going on.
“Spike has confused me with some 1950s housewife who’s been told that greeting her husband wearing nothing but an apron might be good for her marriage,” she said, rolling her eyes. “So he felt he needed to warn me before he brought you in.”
Winston laughed heartily. “I can assure you I am grateful for Spike’s thoughtfulness.” The two men raised their beers in mutual toast. Buffy just shook her head.
“You’d think at least one of you two older-than-dirt guys might be a little more mature.” In spite of her words, she gave a reluctant laugh before joining them in sitting down.
“So, Wesley thinks Angel is on his way here… to what?”
Buffy sighed. “I guess that depends on what the First said to him. Wes is pretty sure it wasn’t really Dru because nobody saw her go in or out of Angel’s office or the building. And it’s got some kind of alarm system for vamps and demons, just because Angel and his people have pissed off so many of them.”
“Got to assume he’s rushing here to rescue Buffy from whatever the First told him I’ve done to her. Wouldn’t be a bad way to get rid of me. Looks like countin’ on Wood hasn’t worked out for him, so now he’s hoping Peaches will do it for him. That’s my guess, anyway.”
“But you’ll be alright?”
“Have been so far. The Gem hasn’t let me down yet.” Spike wiggled his hand at Winston.
“You know, if you were smart, you’d find a way to put that thing somewhere it can’t be taken from you.”
“I’ve given that some thought, to be honest,” Spike said, smiling when Buffy gasped. “But I’m not sure if vamp healing would allow me to keep something inside my body. If I thought it would, I’d just stick it in there somewhere, but I’m not sure it wouldn’t just pop right back out.”
“Too bad,” Winston said, shaking his head. “But you’re probably right.”
“That’s something to think about,” Buffy said, visions of a ringless Spike making her shudder. “We’ve all gotten so used to you being invulnerable to everything, not just the sun, that if you didn’t have it….”
“Not going to happen, love. Not unless my finger goes with it.”
“Just so you know, I’d have been more than willing to do that in our time, if I’d had a knife with me…”
Spike just laughed at her and blew her a kiss. “That’s my bloodthirsty girl!”
“On a less speculative note,” Winston said, “what might we expect from Buffy’s former would-be claimer?”
“I’d wager just tryin’ to get rid of me. He doesn’t know about the Gem, and he’d just assume he could stake me. Or behead me, maybe. Think he knows he’d lose a fight, but if he really wanted me gone, he could get bloody creative.”
“I think, if that’s what it is, we might just as well tell him about us. Even though it’s been three years since we told him we were together, and two years since we got rid of his stupid claim, I can kinda understand why he thinks there has to be something magic going on for us to from hating each other, to being in love, almost overnight from his perspective.”
“Well, if he gives us a chance, we can think about doing that. I’m in favor of just kicking his arse….”
“We’ve had this conversation. His ass is mine to kick.”
“Not if he’s trying to kill me!”
“Especially if he’s trying to kill you!”
Buffy and Spike were on their feet, glaring at each other while Winston looked on in bemusement.
“Or,” he said quietly, “we can just find him first and I’ll make sure he listens to reason.”
“Or that,” Buffy muttered, sitting down again.
Angel arrived in Sunnydale with no idea how to find Spike just then, or how to separate him from Buffy if he found them together. He parked the car and began walking toward the nearest cemetery, thinking they might be out patrolling already. He was visibly taken aback when Robin walked up to him fearlessly, and said, “Haven’t I told you I was working on it?”
Angel blinked at him in surprise.
“You’re working on it? Who are you, and how do you know why I’m here?”
Robin narrowed his eyes and stepped even closer, reaching out one hand to poke Angel in the chest. He recoiled in shock and fear, as Angel’s eyes flared yellow.
“What the hell? And don’t touch me again.”
“You’re real. I mean you’re really Angelus. Here. In Sunnydale.”
“I’m Angel. And yes, I’m here to take care of a little problem.” He glanced at the stake Wood was holding. “I don’t suppose you know where I can find Spike?”
“That would be Spike, the slayer-killing vampire you created,” Robin said. “The one you’re responsible for turning lose on the world.”
Angel sighed. “Probably guilty of that, but I’m here to take care of the problem.”
“And then you get to back to L.A. and go on with your life? I don’t think so!”
Robin stepped back and watched as several Bringers leapt upon Angel and forced him to the ground where Robin could taser him until he stopped twitching and was still. The First, now looking like Robin’s mother, said, “That was wonderful, baby. Now lets get him trussed up.”
The Bringers picked up the unconscious vampire and carried him off, with Robin running behind.
“Wait for me! I’m supposed to be one to kill him!”
There was no reply from the rapidly disappearing group, and he soon gave up the pursuit, panting as he stopped. He noted the direction in which they were going and continued, walking as fast as he could while he got his breath back. He paused as he realized where they were probably going, and shook his head.
“Relax, mate. You got what you wanted, didn’t you?” Suddenly Spike was in front of him, and Robin flinched back before realizing what it was.
“I’m guessing I got what you wanted,” he said with a frown. “What are you going to do with him?”
“Watch and learn, angry man.” Now it was Drusilla spinning around him. “Maybe you should tell the nasty slayer where her lover is? She’ll want to rescue him.” With that, Dru disappeared and Robin was left staring in the direction in which the Bringers had carried off Angel. He bit his lip, then took his phone out and dialed Buffy’s cell.
Winston was just saying his good-nights when Buffy’s phone rang and he waited with Spike to hear who it was calling so late.
“You did what? The Bringers took him where? Oh my God. It’s going to use Angel instead of Spike…. No, I don’t have time to explain that.” There was a pause. “Of course, it’s a trap, you idiot! What did you think you were doing?” She closed the phone and glared at it.
“Bloody hell,” Spike said. “Did I get the gist of that right?”
“If by gist, you mean Robin distracted Angel so the First’s minions could taser him and drag him off to the hellmouth, yep. You got it.”
“It’s probably is a trap, Buffy. The first wants to get you and Spike in there.” Winston frowned, and shook his head. “Maybe you shouldn’t—”
“And he’s going to get us,” Buffy said, picking up her scythe. “Let’s go, Spike.”
“I’ll drive. It’ll be faster,” Winston said with a small sigh.
“Are you sure?”
“Didn’t expect it yet, but I wouldn’t miss it,” he said, a gleam now visible in his eyes.
Winston had them back at the school he and Spike had left only hours ago in a very short amount of time. They jumped from the car, and studied the building.
“Do you think they took him straight to the hellmouth?” Buffy asked.
“I’d guess so. I don’t remember any side trips when those ugly wankers dragged me off. Seems like it was no time at all before I was dangling over the seal and being sliced and diced.”
“Let’s get down there, then. Maybe give Giles a heads up so he knows what’s going on? And that Wes is on the way to the shop.”
“Good idea.” Winston took out his phone and left a terse message for Giles.
After Winston had unlocked the door that he and Spike usually used to access the old basement, they all trooped down the stairs and toward the hellmouth. They made no attempt to be silent, only pausing to remove any Bringers that tried to slow their progress. The light coming from the area surrounding the hellmouth made it very easy to see what was going on.
Robin was facing the First, that once again looked like his mother, from the opposite side of the sealed hellmouth, over which a bleeding Angel had been suspended. The vampire’s blood was dripping steadily onto the seal beneath him, as she praised Robin for doing a good job.
“Oh look. Here comes the cavalry,” the First sneered, switching from Nikki Wood to Spike as he’d looked in the 1970s. He frowned briefly at Winston, but broke into a smile when Angel’s rapidly dripping blood began to open the sealed hellmouth. “And here we go. You can be the first to meet a real vampire, Slayer.”
Buffy shifted her grip on the scythe. “Bring it on,” she said, rolling her shoulders in anticipation.
“Be careful what you ask for, little girl,” Spike/First growled, seeming confident that she would be frightened by what emerged. She wondered briefly if the First wasn’t aware that the scythe had been guarded by a Turok-Han that she’d slain.
In spite of knowing what was coming, even Spike and Buffy recoiled briefly at the sight of the creature now crawling from the opening. Robin, having had no idea what to expect, blanched and retreated from the edge.
“What is that?” he gasped.
“That’s your future,” the First said.
Winston narrowed his eyes and flicked a ball of fire at the First/Spike, causing it to disappear with a laugh.
A bleary-eyed Angel seemed equally confused by the creature now climbing out and staring around as if to pick his first victim. His gaze slid over Spike, paused at Buffy, and then settled on Robin, still trying to retreat. He snarled and covered the few feet between them before anyone had moved. Spike was the closest, and he leapt upon the Turok-Han’s back, pulling him away from Robin before he got anything worse than a ripped shirt and a scratched arm.
Buffy hovered over the snarling tangle that was Spike and the Turok-Han, afraid to swing the scythe and hit the wrong vampire. Winston seemed to be having the same issue with being reluctant to set the ancient vampire on fire while it was rolling around with Spike. When it sat up on Spike’s chest with a triumphant roar, Buffy immediately took its head off with the Scythe. She smiled in relief when Spike sat up, shaking his head to clear it and snorting the dust away.
“Ta, love. I don’t think I was winning that round.”
“Are you all right?” Winston stepped forward and offered Spike a hand to get to his feet.
“Not really,” Spike said, wincing as he tried to raise his left arm. “But I will be shortly.” He switched arms and allowed Winston to pull him to his feet. He swayed for a second, then shook himself and smiled. “All good, now,” he said.
They all turned to stare at the now-open hellmouth.
“We should look in, just in case that isn’t the only one,” Buffy said, without making any move to do so. Spike and Winston nodded in agreement, but remained behind her.
“Get me down from here, and I’ll tell you what I can see,” Angel growled, his blood still dripping into the dark hole.
“Oops,” Buffy said. “We forgot about you. What can you see?”
“I can see that you need to get me out of this contraption so we can get the hell out of here,” he snarled. “What’s wrong with all of you? First some guy I’ve never met accuses me of setting Spike loose on the world, and tasers me so his minions can carry me off. Then I wake up hanging over the hellmouth and bleeding like a stuck pig. And now you want to have a conversation before anybody gets me out of here?”
“What do you think, guys?” Buffy looked at Spike and Winston, who both pretended to be in deep thought.
“He can probably talk just as well if he’s standing up,” Spike said reluctantly.
“True. But we don’t know why he’s here yet, or what it might have to do with you….” Winston cast a glance at Angel who was glaring at them as if he’d like to tear them apart.
Spike glanced at Robin, who was nursing his scratched arm and staring at them from a safe distance from the hellmouth.
“What did you want with the poof?” Spike asked. “Thought it was me you were carrying a grudge against.”
“He made you,” Robin mumbled, sparing a glance at Angel who had transferred his glare to him.
“He made Dru. She made me.”
“He taught you to be evil, and sent you out to kill slayers.”
Spike rolled his eyes. “The First played you again, you git. I’ve got a demon. I am a bloody demon. I was evil as soon as I opened my eyes. And Angelus hated that I sought out slayers. He and the whore that made him didn’t like drawing that kind of attention to us.”
Robin frowned, looking back and forth between Spike, Winston, Buffy, and then at a still-snarling Angel.
“But my mother said—” He stopped himself when he was met with equally incredulous looks from them all, even Angel. He sighed and shook his head. “I’m sorry. I know it wasn’t my mother, or Spike, or Angel or anybody else… but… so much of it is true….”
“Probably none of it was true,” Spike snorted. “Any more than whatever it told Peaches when it was talking to him as Dru.” He shot a quick glance at Angel, smirking when he saw the flinch as the light dawned. “But it got what it wanted. Got the great poof to come riding in to the rescue, and got you to help get him to take my place over the hellmouth.”
“Spent my share of time dangling over that door to hell,” Spike snapped out without thinking.
“It did that to you? When?” Robin stared at Spike.
“Nothing you need to know about,” Spike said quickly, shooting a plea at Winston. He sighed, but nodded his willingness to make a save.
Before he could speak, however, Buffy said, “I had a slayer dream last night. We were just talking about it when you called, so we kinda have an idea what’s going on. Except in my dream it was Spike that needed rescuing, and now it looks like it’s Angel who needs it.”
You have hidden depths of deceit, love. I think I like it.
Good thing for you and your big mouth that I do.
“Speaking of rescuing him….” Spike gestured to where Angel had stopped snarling and was just waiting with ill-disguised impatience for them to decide to let him down.
Buffy started examining the crude mechanism that was holding Angel in place, but Winston stopped her before she could decide what to untie or move.
“Let’s do it the easy way,” he said, then paused. “If you’re sure you want to get him down….”
“He’s here to stake Spike,” Robin spoke up, surprising everyone. “That’s what he told me.”
“Don’t doubt it,” Spike said. “Whatever Dru told him was whatever he needed to hear to make him sure I’m holding Buffy in some kind thrall. He’s come to get rid of me. He can’t do it, for a number of reasons, including how weak he probably is just now, and after we talk to him, he won’t have any reason to.”
Angel made a sound somewhere between a growl and a whimper. Winston raised an eyebrow at Buffy, and she nodded. With a flick of Winston’s hand, Angel found himself untied and standing somewhat unsteadily near Robin.
“Spike killed your mother?”
“My mother was Nikki Wood,” Robin said. “She was a slayer.”
Angel nodded. “I remember it. Word travels fast when a well-known slayer gets killed. She made Spike’s reputation.”
Robin didn’t seem to know whether he should be proud or angry, so he settled for, “You’re still the bigger monster, aren’t you?”
Angel shrugged. “Angelus is or was.” His tone changed to a snarl. “You should be very grateful I’m not him right now,” he said, gesturing to his still oozing wounds.
He stared at Robin with amber-tinged eyes until he saw that his message had been received, then turned his attention to Buffy and Spike, now standing close together.
“Is this when I finally get a truthful explanation?” he asked.
“Well, not right this second. And definitely not here where the First has minions with ears, but yes, I guess we have to. Let’s get to the Magic Box and patch you up. Wes should be here by then.”
Before Angel could ask what Wesley had to do with anything, there was a sound from the hellmouth that had Buffy spinning around, scythe poised to strike. A clawed hand appeared over the rim just as the apparatus toppled forward and fell on to the hole, effectively blocking it temporarily.
“Let’s go,” Winston said. “I’m going to try to contain it, but we it won’t be a permanent fix until we know what we’re facing.”
When they had all retreated to the stairs, including Robin who was doing his best to keep Buffy between him and the two vampires who snarled at him from time to time, Winston began a low chant that concluded with a two-handed gesture. Flames surrounding the hellmouth rose to form a wall around it, but without continuing to the roof.
“Let’s go,” he repeated. “That won’t last forever, but it should give us some breathing room.”
The little group hustled up the stairs, through the old part of the school basement, and out the door, where they stood around staring at each other as Robin checked the door lock. He turned around and addressed his question to Buffy, although he glanced at Spike briefly.
“I’m assuming I’m not included in the group being asked to accompany you for an explanation of whatever it is that needs explaining,” he said, flinching when Buffy exchanged looks with Spike and Winston before answering.
I’m thinking we still can’t trust him.
Right there with you, love.
As if he’d been party to the silent conversation, Winston nodded in agreement.
“I’m sorry, Robin. It’s pretty obvious that the First is playing you. Maybe this was your wake-up call, maybe it wasn’t, but until we’re sure that you aren’t playing on the wrong side, the less you know about us and our plans, the better.” Buffy’s expression was sympathetic, but firm.
“But I warned you!” he protested.
“You did as it asked and got us to come to the hellmouth where it was releasing a Turok-Han. Knowing, as you said when you told me about it, that it was probably a trap.”
“And now it knows more about us and what we can do than it did before,” Spike growled when it looked like Robin was going to argue.
Without another word, they left him standing in front of his school, mulling over the events of the evening and trying to fit the actions of the two souled vampires into his firmly held opinions about them.