Children Of The Beast


By Saber ShadowKitten



Part Four



Giles was shelving books when Spike walked into the library. He glanced down at the title in his hand, double checking it, before he put it in its place. The simple activity was very relaxing and it allowed him to know that each tome was handled with respect.

Never in his wildest dreams did he think he would become a librarian for what very well could be eternity. He didn't think he'd become a vampire, either, but that was always a possibility when one was a Watcher. Technically, he was no longer an "official" Watcher and hadn't been for quite a long time, but he still acted in that capacity. He was the one they turned to for information and communication with other Rebel factions throughout the world. He was also one of the three advanced magick users of the original band of Rebels.

He moved down the row, the ladder silent as he gave it a gentle push, and he shelved another book. His thoughts turned to the other two vampires who made up the Triumvirate for the West Coast Rebel community. Whereas he dealt with the needs of the library, providing information and communication, Angel oversaw the day-to-day things that needed to be dealt with in keeping the community from fracturing. He made sure that everyone, humans and non-humans, were fed, clothed and had shelter; that the small hospital located under the mansion had adequate supplies; and he took special care of the small group of friends from Sunnydale.

Spike, on the other hand, was the real leader of the entire opposition against Alistair. Not a single move was made on the West Coast, the heart of the war-zone, unless he had approved it, whether it be from going undercover, to patrolling the streets, to taking the offensive. He gave out assignments, collected the information, and formed strategies, all with the goal of destroying Alistair once and for all.

He also went out every night, either to patrol the streets or undercover. He helped saved humans when he could, destroyed their killers when he couldn't, and constantly tried to find more non-sterile women in order to help repopulate the earth. He made the decision as to who became a part of the Rebels and who was allowed to reside in the mansion. Finally, when there was a decision to be made that neither Giles nor Angel could answer, they turned to Spike.

Giles climbed down the ladder and looked over at the stone-faced peroxide-blond. His bleached hair was the only personal thing he insisted on, even though Giles and any of the others would give Spike anything he desired. However, it was not because he was their sire nor because he was their friend.

It was because Spike, the soulless vampire, chose to have the fate of all humanity rest on his shoulders.

"Alright, people, tell me what you got," Spike said.

Giles joined the group sitting at one of the tables. Willow sat in front of the computer, of which the technology had not changed since the Hellmouth opened, with an extremely sloppily dressed Buffy beside her. Angel, who had come in a few moments before, sat across from the former Slayer and Giles took the seat beside his teacher and friend. Spike, as usual, stood at the end of the table, a still-unlit cigarette in his hand.

"As I told Giles earlier," Buffy began, putting her foot on the chair so she could rest her chin on her knee. "Gladiators wiped out VampF-15 sometime in the past three nights. That's all I was able to find out."

"Willow, see if the Hackers heard anything about that," Spike instructed immediately. "And I'll need the list of the current daywalkers available for assignment."

"I have that right here," Willow said, rising from her seat and walking quickly over to a desk filled with clipboards. She picked one up and gave it to Spike. Those who could go out during the day were normally humans and, because of their lack of supernatural abilities, they were given the option of volunteering for assignment. A fresh sign-up sheet was posted weekly.

"Angel?" Spike said, giving the list a quick once over.

"A couple Lolas were murdered also within the last few days," Angel said.

"Coincidence or not?" Spike questioned.

"It would depend on if any of their, er, clientele in the past week was from that Vampire faction," Giles said.

"We'll assume that they were, which means the bloody bitch had them killed," Spike said. He set down the clipboard. "Now we just have to figure out why."

Spike lit up his cigarette and took a deep drag. Giles could almost see the wheels turning in the blond's head. Permanent frown lines were etched between his brows and Giles tried to remember the last time he'd seen Spike smile. He couldn't.

"Right, here's what I think," Spike said. "Either the Vampires had something or knew something possibly harmful to Alistair. If it was knowledge, we're tits up. If they had something, I want to know what it was, where it is now, and why it's important."

He glanced down at the list on the clipboard. "Giles, I want Harnach, Seals, Duford, Kirkham and Cates to go under as Scavengers, day only, for the week. They are to be back half-hour before sunset, no later."

"Very well," Giles said.

"Willow, after you check with the Hackers, I want you and the Slayer to go under as Scavengers, too," Spike continued. "Sundown to sunup. Try to get to one of their main pack-houses."

"Got it," Willow said. Buffy nodded.

"Giles, also inform Molnar, Brandy, Dewey, Logan, Janes and Rose they're Scavengers," Spike said. "Same parameters as these two."

Giles nodded, still amazed to the fact that Spike had practically every member of the Rebel community's name memorized and could identify them easily. Then again, that was a sign of an exceptional leader.

"Angel, you take Xander and Cordelia and flesh out the Butchers," Spike instructed. "They may have seen or heard something on one of their hunts. Second team will be Pagels, Deltro and Lavery."

"I'll tell them," Angel said.

"Within a quarter hour of after sundown and again after sunup, I will be here in the library," Spike said. "I don't have to warn everyone to be careful. If that cow ashed an entire soddin' faction, she must have had a bloody important reason."

Then, without a word of goodbye, Spike turned and left the library.

"Is it me, or was the stick shoved up Spike's ass further than usual?" Willow asked.

"Willow!" Buffy exclaimed. "Where did that come from?"

"I was channeling Cordy," Willow replied with a grin.

Angel glared at the redhead. "Speaking rudely of Cordelia, where is she?"

"Lola duty with Xander," Buffy answered.

*****

Cordelia struggled against the yellow-skinned, tusked demon that had her pinned to the brick wall. Xander was around the corner of the building, fighting several of the demon's friends. They were Randoms, stray demons who didn't associate themselves with any particular faction.

There were many dangers associated with playing a Lola and the attack was only one of them, which was why the undercover assignment was done in pairs, the Lola and backup. The demon attacking her wasn't interested in paying for sex. He and his friends had planned on raping her and, more than likely, they planned to kill her.

She stamped on the demon's foot with her stiletto, the sharp tip puncturing his shoe because of her enhanced strength. He snarled in pain and used his grip on her shoulders to slam her against the wall. She growled and grabbed his crotch, glad that this type of demon had similar anatomy to a human male.

The demon shoved himself away from her. Her stiletto came off her foot, the heel still embedded in his shoe. The instant she had been released, she pressed an attack. A rapid snap kick sent him staggering back further. She stepped forward with the action and fluidly followed up the move with a round kick to his face.

She felt her human mask slip away when he hit her. The powerful punch cracked her cheek bone and her head snapped to one side. Fury raced through her system and she drew on it as the Beast, Spike, had taught her.

With a vicious snarl, she spun, using the momentum to swing her arm up to claw his face with her nails. She grabbed his arm with his next punch and ducked under it, coming up behind him. She yanked that arm up behind his back until his shoulder came out of its socket. With her other hand, she snared his single tail of hair, jerked his head to the side and sunk her fangs into his neck.

The demon fell to the ground, drained. Cordelia kicked off her other shoe and ran around the corner in time to see Xander drop another body. The corpses of three others littered the ground around him. He smacked his lips together in an exaggerated manner.

"Nothing like violence to whet your appetite," Xander said with a fang-filled grin.

Cordelia put her human mask back into place and touched her cheek. She winced. "Tell me my cheek looks fine."

"Your cheek looks fine," Xander said. His own human features returned.

"You're lying."

"Yep."

She kicked at one of the corpses with her bare foot. "Stupid Randoms!"

"Um, Cordy, where are your shoes?" Xander asked. She let out a small growl and stormed back around the corner.

Thirty seconds later, her screamed curses made the moon blush.

*****

"Look! Look what those Randoms did to me!"

Angel dropped the book he was reading when his suite door banged open and Cordelia came stalking into the room. She slammed the door shut behind her, turned around and held up her stilettos.

"They ruined my shoes!" Cordelia ranted. She threw them down on the floor. "Do you know how hard it was to find a pair like that?!"

Angel expertly hid his laugh and set the book on the night-stand. He stood and walked over to her, stopping her mid-obscenity by capturing her chin and tilting her face up. "You're hurt."

"Not as much as they are," she replied.

He brushed her injured cheek with the pad of his thumb. "I'm glad," he said quietly, then pressed a soft kiss on her lips.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and returned his kiss, then moaned, breaking away. "Stupid Randoms."

Angel scooped her up, with a small squeak of surprise from her, and carried her over to the bed. "Why don't I try to take your mind off the pain," he suggested with a seductive murmur.

"I'll let you know when it works," she said.

He quirked his brow at her, as his fingers manipulated the stays on her strapless corset. "You have doubts?"

"Well, I've been done five times already tonight," she told him. Her lips curled up in a naughty smile. "One of them was a nine."

He pushed apart the material, baring her pale, heavy breasts to him. Gently, he cupped them both with his hands, then slid his fingers together until they met at her dark nipples. He tugged lightly on them, smirking when she gasped slightly in pleasure. "How am I doing?"

"The Random excited me more," she replied loftily.

Angel chuckled and lowered his head. He captured one of the hard peaks with his mouth. He flicked his tongue over it several times before he began suckling her tit. She wiggled her hips a little on the bed under his arm and he grinned as he kissed down into the soft valley then up onto her other breast. He repeated his ministrations until she moved her hips again.

"Anything?" he asked, his hands moving to the fastenings of her zebra-striped shorts.

"You're up to a two," Cordelia answered. "But all five of my lays were at least a four."

"Then I'd better get cracking," he teased. The shorts got tossed over his shoulder, then he ran his hands lightly up both of her legs. When he reached the apex, he brushed his thumbs over her dark curls, but continued upwards. His fingertips danced across her abdomen and he watched as her muscles quivered. Raising his gaze, Cordelia gave him a fake yawn and patted her mouth politely with her hand.

Undaunted, he slid his hands back down and pushed her legs apart. Moving onto the bed, he settled between them on his stomach. He separated her silken folds with his fingers and was pleased to see her clit was hard and extended, begging to be touched. The scent of her arousal hit him, causing him to swell, the material of his pants pulling tight.

He winked at her, then ran his tongue up each pink fold. He circled around her most sensitive spot and descended along her slit, tasting the first bit of her juices. She let out an airless sigh and he took that as his sign to attack her clit, causing her to jerk her hips up into his mouth.

He sucked her nubbin into his mouth, flicking it rapidly with his tongue. He glanced up at her and saw that her head was thrown back, allowing him a view of her slim neck. He moved his hand under his chin and thrust two fingers inside of her. She groaned in pleasure as he stroked the top of her core with those fingers, curling them towards her entry repeatedly.

When she began to move her mound against his mouth in rhythm with his tongue, he knew she was close. He sucked harder on her, pulling her clit into his mouth, his jaw moving as well. Suddenly, she let out a loud cry as she climaxed, her body arching up off the bed, her hands entangling into his hair to hold him against her.

She slumped back down onto the bed and Angel withdrew his fingers only to replace them with his tongue. He lapped up her juices, enjoying her sweet taste. After a few moments, he raised his head and rested his cheek on her thigh, staring up at her. She glanced down at him and gave him a half-smile.

"Not bad," Cordelia said. "You get the silver."

Angel crawled up her body and pressed his hips to hers. "Just the silver, huh? And here I was hoping for the gold."

"Well, you still have a chance," she said coyly. "There's one more event in the Cordy Olympics."

"Be sure to let me know how I do," he said before nipping at her neck.

She gave him a perfect ten.



Part Five



Oz didn't know which he hated worse: the fact that, even though he was a card carrying member of the Soulful Vampire Club, he was still a werewolf; or the fact that because he was a vampire and a werewolf, he was taken out of the fight against Alistair almost completely three nights per month.

Being a werewolf and a vampire was the same as being a werewolf and a human except for one small part. If he got loose, the werewolf wouldn't know that he had to find shelter from the sun. Waking up a flaming pile of dust was not something he wanted to experience.

He headed from the west wing to the east wing, wanting to at least kiss Willow once before she went to bed. The three days of the full moon were very lonely for him, unless he wanted to pal around with the humans or other daywalkers. He knew that Spike was always up and around, but the Beast was almost impossible to find because the number of things the peroxide-blond did to keep the Rebels in action.

It had taken Oz a little while to forgive Spike for turning him. He'd learned something that brief month when he'd been soulless that he never wanted to learn about himself. He'd learned that, without his soul, he was Devon. All he had cared about was blood, music and sex. His first kill had been an entire band when they stopped during their flight from Sunnydale.

Thinking about his former co-musician brought a small smile to his face. Devon had been gone for a very long time, along with everyone who'd been in Sunnydale when the Hellmouth had opened. In fact, Sunnydale didn't exist at all. There was a big crater where the town had been, created when Alistair had closed the Hellmouth herself to "keep out the competition," according to the information they'd pieced together.

Wandering into the library, he saw his redheaded girlfriend where he knew she'd be -- in front of the computer. "Hey," he greeted softly.

Willow looked up from the screen and a large smile crossed her lips. "Hi, you're you."

"I'm me," Oz said. He went over to her and they shared an all-to-brief kiss. When they broke apart, he glanced at the computer. "What's up?"

"Some Gladiators eradicated the entire Vampire faction fifteen," she replied.

He gave her a questioning look. "Think they found what they were sent for?"

"That's what Spike wants to know," Willow said. "I'm surfing the Hackers to see if they heard anything."

"I'll take over," Oz said. "You get some sleep."

Willow gave him a grateful look. "How did you know I was tired?"

"Because I know you," he replied. He gave her a soft smile. "Get lost, Willow."

Willow laughed and rose from her seat. She gave him a tight hug, then left the library. Oz took her chair in front of the computer and quickly scrolled down the screen. He checked where she had already been and read the notes she'd made on a sheet of paper on the table beside the computer. Choosing his favorite chat room for finding reliable information, he logged in and got to work.

[Teenwolf] Greetings

[Roadrunner] Hey man

[Sophie] Hi TW!

[Night] Hey! Haven't seen you in a while

[Teenwolf] RL

[Creep] I hear ya

[Teenwolf] Small group

[Night] It's bedtime for most of us

[Roadrunner] That's because we've been on all night

[Teenwolf] Did I miss anything good?

[Sophie] Avon had a close call with a Gladiator the other night

[Creep] Ya, she was telling us about it...freaky deaky

[Teenwolf] A Gladiator??? Does she have a suicide wish?

[Night] It was one of those off-chance encounters

[Roadrunner] During the day

[Sophie] If it had been at night, I'd be wondering what Av was doing out

[Teenwolf] Where was she?

[Night] 15th street

That was where VampF-15 was located, Oz thought. He'd have to get in touch with Avon and find out what she witnessed. After jotting down the information on the paper beside the computer, he returned his attention back to the chat room conversation.

*****

Xander trudged behind Cordelia and Angel down 15th Street, a sullen expression on his face. He didn't like getting stuck with the two of them, especially after they'd been all lovey-dovey with each other. The vibes of happiness and satisfaction that rolled between them made him want to puke.

"So, what are we doing again?" he asked.

"Finding out if the Butchers saw or heard anything," Angel answered.

"Can't we just call them?" Xander said. He kicked a rusty can and it skittered away noisily.

"And do what?" Cordelia said. "Say 'Hi, I'm a Rebel and I wondered if you knew anything about the Vampire killing the other night.' Get a brain, Xander."

Xander was about to retort when he heard the distinct sound of a pick-up truck. "Incoming," he warned, then blended back into the shadows of the dilapidated building. He saw Angel and Cordelia vanish in much the same way out of the corner of his eye.

The old pick-up drove slowly around the corner. He counted five Butchers, humans and non-humans who hunted the other groups for food and fun. Two of them were in the cab, the other three were in the open truck bed, holding shotguns.

Just after they passed him, Xander darted from the shadows and leapt up into the back of the truck. He snatched the shotgun from a surprised blue humanoid, chambered the round and leveled it between the three Butchers, all within seconds.

"Drop 'em," he ordered the other armed Butchers, one a human female, the other a lizard-like creature. He saw his two companions descend upon the cab of the truck and braced himself for the sudden stop. When it did, the human female fell forward and dropped her shotgun, the humanoid tumbled off the side to hit the pavement, leaving only the lizard still armed.

Xander smiled slowly. "'Do you feel lucky, punk?'"

The Butcher tossed his shotgun to the floor at the same time the female got back to her feet. Xander casually put a booted foot on the edge of the open bed, put his elbow on his knee and rested his chin on a closed fist, the shotgun held easily aimed at them in his other hand.

"I have a question. You have an answer," Xander said in a cool voice. "What did the Gladiators make off with during their attack on VampF-15 the other night?"

"We don't know what your talking about," the human female said rudely.

"Eeehh." Xander made a sound like a buzzer. "Wrong answer."

In an instant, he turned, blew the head off the humanoid who was trying to creep up behind him and returned to his original position. He arched his brow. "Want to try two out of three?"

The female laughed nervously. "You know, now that I think about it, we may have seen something. Right, Skin?"

"Yesss," the lizard-like creature replied.

"And that would be?" Xander asked.

"Something small," the female said. She held up her fist. "About this size."

"And...?"

"And that's about it," she replied.

Xander shot the lizard-like creature in the leg without warning. It let out a loud hiss of pain and collapsed to the truck bed.

"Shit! It was clear, ok?!" she yelled. "Like a piece of glass or something. That's it, I swear!"

"Thanks," Xander said with a smile. He jumped out of the back of the truck and walked backwards into the shadows of the building, the shotgun still aimed at the Butchers. Once he was in the clear, he turned and ran down the nearby alley and out onto the next street. Cordelia and Angel joined him a few moments later.

"Damn it, Xander, you could at least warn us before you do something stupid," Cordelia snapped at him. "That way we'll know to stake you before hand."

Xander tossed the shotgun to Angel. "It worked, didn't it?"

"Barely," Angel said. "Half a second off and we would have been picking up your pieces."

"Just call me Humpty Dumpty," Xander said. He turned and started walking back towards the mansion.

*****

Willow scurried between shadows, her shoulders hunched over, holding her tattered layers of clothing to her. She gazed furtively around, keeping her head down, acting like a nervous Scavenger. She'd been trailing a certain small pack of them for most of the night, hoping they'd lead her back to one of their pack-houses.

Scavengers were just as their group title described. Mostly made up of the weak or the sick, they searched through the rubble and fallout of the destroyed city for anything usable. They were quite numerous, despite the fact that they were easy prey. She and the others primarily fed from the Scavengers because they were so easy to catch, which gave them more time to concentrate on the fight against Alistair.

The demoness, who had escaped through the opening of the Hellmouth, was the hardest adversary anyone had ever faced, as evident with the fact that they had yet to destroy her. It was not for lack of trying on their part, but so far she'd turned out to be as invincible as the old Mayor from Sunnydale before he tried to ascend. Xander had even stuffed a live grenade down her throat once when they'd mounted an all-out offensive against her. They'd watched as she swallowed it whole and heard it explode inside of her. She had giggled, put her hand over her mouth and said: "Pardon me." They hadn't been able to get close to her since.

The worst of Alistair's reign of terror was centered on the West Coast. Demons, vampires and other creatures descended on what once was Los Angeles, clamoring for a place under her rule. The human population was decimated, those not killed on the streets were captured and kept as cattle, the women not-sterilized by the residual energy of the Hellmouth's opening, which still created adverse affects even after all the years that passed, were forced to breed.

The fight seemed never-ending. Night after night, the small group of friends went out in various disguises to find out any information they could. Knowledge was power, not just brute force, as Spike had taught them. When he had first said it, each of the five he was teaching had wondered if he was sick. The Spike they had known was kill first, ask questions later. He had never explained his change of tune and no one had the guts to ask him after the first time. Willow's bones still hurt from the torture the Beast had put them through after Cordelia had mentioned it.

Willow crept carefully through the doorway the Scavengers had gone into and looked around. She spotted a hole somewhat hidden by a broken down shelving unit. Her enhanced sight made it easy for her to see as she crawled through, allowing her to act as though she belonged.

The hole opened up into a large storeroom and she had to hide her excitement when she saw the amount of things piled everywhere. She'd found a pack-house. Scavengers climbed up and down the small mountains of rubbish, adding more or retrieving things. They scurried between the heaps like mice building nests. The conversation was hushed, a low hum in the vast room.

She made her way into the room, trying to find rhyme or reason to the piles. She was happy to see several human children running around, playing tag or some other game. Although the demon part of her thought "appetizers," her soul was uplifted by the sight. One day, Alistair would be gone, humans would be free of fear and happiness would find its place in the world again. Hopefully, she'd still be around to see it.

"You're one of them, ain't ya?"

Willow turned to the hoarse, male voice and found herself looking down at an old human man, dressed in the tattered clothing of a Scavenger. "One of who?" she asked, keeping her voice pitched low and timid.

"Those Rebels," he said, peering up at her with wise, blue eyes.

"No, I-"

He laughed, a small, humor-filled sound that ended with a harsh cough. Willow reached out and patted his back, earning her a huge smile. He gestured with the cane in his hand after he'd stopped coughing. "Come, come. I've been waiting for you."

As he waddled away, she frowned at the back of him and went on guard for a trap. She followed him carefully through the maze of stuff and found herself in the area the Scavengers slept. Blankets, old mattresses and pillows littered the floor, with barely a foot to walk between them. The old man led her to the back corner and knocked a few times on a steel door. The door opened and he gestured with her to follow again.

There were about a dozen elderly men and women in the room, mostly humans with a few demons she readily identified and knew the weaknesses of. They stopped talking when she entered and stared at her. She felt like she was on Lola duty, dressed in her tightest, skimpiest clothing, rather than the layers of rags she wore.

The door closed behind her and she immediately tensed. She straightened to her full height and released her hold on her clothing to free her hands. The old man motioned to her to join them in the middle of the room.

"I have brought her," he said to the group.

One woman raised a broken pair of spectacles and peered through them at Willow. "She doesn't look like a Rebel."

"I though they were taller," another commented.

"With big teeth."

"Horns!"

"Eyes in the back of their head."

"And large muscles so that she can rip a Gladiator in two."

"She is not only a Rebel," one strong, female voice rang out above the others. They all quieted and turned to a small, stoop-shouldered, human woman, with long gray hair that reached the floor. Her eyes were milky white, indicating blindness, yet she looked right at Willow. "She is one of the Children."

The others gasped and turned to Willow. She definitely felt as though she was on display now. "Listen, I think you've got me mistaken with someone else, someone who's not me. So, I'll be going..."

"We are honored by your presence, Child of the Beast," she continued, as if Willow hadn't spoken. "You and your compatriots have done great things in trying to dispel the evil one."

"Um, yeah," Willow said. "About my going..."

"I am Minix, Elderwoman of the Council of Scavengers," she said, gesturing to the others. "We pledge our loyalty to the Beast and the Rebels. What we have is yours."

"Thanks. That's really nice of you," Willow said. "Any help is always...helpful."

"Give her the thing," one of the members whispered loudly.

"Well, where is it?"

"Didn't you have it?"

"No, I gave it to Hortense."

"Don't look at me."

"Well, someone has to have it."

"Unless it grew feet and walked away."

"That is a possibility."

"No, I'm sure someone has it."

"Squire hid it away."

"I'll get it, I'll get it, hold your old bones."

The half-demon identified as Squire hustled to the far end of the room. Willow watched as he opened a hidden cache in the wall and pulled out a cloth bundle. He closed the cache and hurried back to her side. "Here, Child of the great, mighty, superior, intelligent, daring, powerful, never seen yet all knowing, leader of the Rebels, known only as the Beast."

Willow bit her cheek to keep from laughing at the long description of Spike. She accepted the bundle with a polite thank you and opened it carefully. Nestled inside was what looked like a shard of clear glass, slightly square in shape, with rough edges.

"That's a part of what those Gladiators took from the Vampires," Minix told her.

Willow's eyes widened and she felt the thrill of excitement bubble inside her. "Vampire faction fifteen?" she asked for clarification.

"Yes," Minix answered.

"This is great!" Willow gushed. "Thank you so much! You don't know what this means-"

"Yes we do, Child," Minix interrupted. "Every little thing we collect is examined for use against Alistair." She chuckled. "Of course, that shard is the first thing that has possible value."

Minix nodded to the old man who escorted Willow and he opened the door. "Good luck, Child," she said. "And tell the one known as the Beast that the Council of Scavengers will do anything to help."



Part Six



Spike dove forward, his hand going to his right boot, and as he rolled to a standing position, he chucked the knife he pulled out of its sheath at the demi-human Random he was fighting. It flew end over end before embedding in the creature's eye-socket. Without stopping, he immediately spun, his left fist lashing out to catch the second demi-human behind him across the jaw. As he punched, he brought his right arm close across his chest, pulling another knife from the sheath strapped to his waist. On the back-swing, his right hand rose as if to punch the creature again, but instead, the knife slashed across its throat. Blood spurted from the fatal injury, splashing across Spike's bare arm.

He was grabbed from behind. Two strong, large hands clamped around his neck, lifting him off the ground. He dropped the knife, latched onto the wrists of his attacker, and shot his feet upwards. With flexibility that came from years of fighting, his legs flew up over his head, the toes of his steel-tipped boots slamming into his attacker's face.

He was released abruptly with the crunch of bones, and he twisted his body as he fell heavily to the ground, landing on his side rather than on his head. A third knife was drawn from his right thigh-sheath and he rolled several times to get out of the path of his scarlet, vampire-like attacker planting his boot in Spike's face. He shot to his feet, whipped around, and threw the third knife down the alleyway. It landed, blade first, in the back of a fourth attacker's neck and the black-skinned Random dropped the Scavenger child he was carrying away.

Spike saw the child scamper away as the Random fell to the ground, causing him to receive a blow to his lower back. His heel came up sharply behind him, catching whomever the attacker was between the legs. He reached over his shoulder, grabbed a fistful of hair and tossed his orange-scaled opponent over his shoulder.

He yanked a wire garrote from the belt loops around his waist, sprinted forward and snaked it around the throat of yet another Random trying to make off with different Scavenger child. The Random's head came partway off with a sickening rip and the child screeched as he was coated in blood before running away.

He let go and the body fell to the ground to join his other three dead comrades. Two more remained standing, the scarlet one he'd kicked in the face and the one he'd thrown over his shoulder. Not pausing, he shot forward over the body, meeting his opponents half-way. Another knife flashed in the moonlight, this time, however, it was wielded by the orange-scaled creature.

Spike let out no sound as the blade cut across his face from his temple to his lip, barely missing his right eye. His human mask flickered briefly, but the chiseled, strong planes stayed prevalent, as his hand shot out. He grabbed the knife by the blade, clenching it tightly in his fist, and threw a right cross at the creature's jaw. The sharp edges of the knife slit his palm as the creature tried to yank it from his grasp, but he only tightened his grip on it.

The scarlet, vampire-like Random circled around behind him. Spike waited for less than a beat, then clamped his right hand around the knife-wielder's wrist and spun into him. He released his hold on the blade and shoved the creature's arm forward, effectively impaling the other attacker in the chest. He brought his knee up and cracked the orange-scaled creature's arm on it. The knife stayed embedded in the vampire-like creature and he fell to the ground, as Spike drove his elbow back.

Releasing his foe quickly, he spun around, grabbed the orange-scaled creature's head and twisted. A loud snap echoed in the alleyway. The last of the Randoms dropped slowly to the ground, dead.

Spike surveyed the scene around him, his lips compressed into a thin line. Blood ran down the side of his face from the knife wound and from a second gash across his right bicep. His forearms were also splattered with blood, both from the small cuts on them and from those he'd killed. Moving with measured steps, he retrieved his garrotte and each of his knives.

As he dropped to one knee to pull the last blade out of the back of the black-skinned Random's neck, a small voice spoke to him from the shadows.

"You're him, aren't you?"

Spike glanced to his left and saw one of the children he'd rescued. He pulled the knife free and wiped the blade on his calf. "Who am I suppose to be?" he asked in a low tone.

"The hero," the boy answered.

He chuckled hollowly. "I'm no hero."

The dark-haired, dirty child's blue eyes pierced his own cool, blue gaze. "The elderwoman said you would be the one to save us all."

"I think this elderwoman has been telling you tall tales," Spike said. He rose to his feet and slid the knife into the thigh-sheath.

"She doesn't lie," the boy told him. "She said you were valiant, which she said meant you were the greatest man in the whole world."

"The greatest man, eh?" he said sardonically. "Right, well, you tell your elderwoman that I'm nothing more than a soddin' vampire who doesn't have enough bloody sense to know he's been defeated."

Without another word, he turned and walked away.

Minix appeared out of the shadows and put her hand on the boy's shoulder, her sightless eyes on Spike's retreating back. "That is why you are the hero."

*****

Sixteen pairs of eyes stared at the peroxide-blond vampire when he entered the library fifteen minutes late of his appointed time to meet after sunup, holding a towel pressed to his face, the other wounds still prevalent on his arms. He walked to the end of the largest table where the seven original Rebels sat and began immediately.

"Giles, report," Spike ordered.

"Something was indeed taken from the Vampire faction by the Gladiators," Giles said. He opened the bundle on the table in front of him and pushed it to Spike. "This is a shard of what they took. From the various reports given, the original object was possibly spherical in shape, roughly four inches in diameter. Oz, Molnar, Janes and Rose have found information indicating that, when the object is in direct sunlight, it casts a-a, er, rainbow, which leads to the conclusion that it is a prism of some sort. The material of the shard is either glass or a precious stone, which I will find out as-as soon as I can."

"Anything else?" Spike asked. No one replied. "Right, then. Giles, keep or find whoever you want to research this prism. I want to know what it is and what it does as soon as bloody possible. The rest of you, get some sleep."

Then, just as quickly as he started the meeting, he ended it and left the library.

Giles stood. "I would like the, er, Children to please stay. The rest of you, have a good rest."

"Ooh, a research party," Xander said, rubbing his hands together. "I'll start the round robin."

Buffy and Willow laughed, Cordelia rolled her eyes and Oz gave him a small nod, as the others left the room.

Angel stood. "I'm going to go check on Spike. He looked a little worse for wear."

"Good," Buffy said, a worried look in her eyes. "If you need me, I'll be here."

He nodded and headed out of the library. He knew his eyes held the same amount of worry as Buffy's had for the blond vampire. Angel loved Spike as both a childe and a best friend, and he was afraid, one day, Spike would be too exhausted to fight because of the enormous pressure he put on himself and wouldn't make it home.

"Yeah?" Spike called out when Angel knocked on the suite door.

Angel entered the room and shut the door behind him. "It's just me."

Spike exited the bathroom with a first aid kit in his hand, the towel still pressed to his cheek. "How did I know it would be you?"

"Let's see," Angel said, walking over to him and taking the first aid kit. He grimaced when he saw the gash across Spike's face. "Damn, Spike, what did you do?"

Spike shrugged and pulled his t-shirt off, letting it drop to where the towel had fallen. "What I always do," he replied. His boots and pants joined the pile on the floor.

After he sat down on the edge of his bed, Angel began doctoring up his wounds. Spike winced several times, but never uttered a single sound. The dark-haired vampire studied him and noted the fatigue in his eyes. "You look tired," he commented quietly.

"Understatement, mate." Spike chuckled. "I'm so tired, I want to grab Buffy, use her tits as pillows and sleep for the next fifty years."

"Why don't you?" Angel asked.

"Right and lose the best fighter I got?" Spike said.

Angel waited, knowing that Spike would continue. The trust and honesty that had developed between them over the years was one of the best things that happened for Angel. He knew he could tell Spike anything, and vice versa.

He closed the first aid kit and set it on the night-stand. Spike laid back on the bed and closed his eyes. Angel walked around to the other side of the bed and sat down, positioning himself so the blond's head could rest on his thigh. Gently, he began giving Spike a facial massage, being careful to avoid aggravating the knife wound.

"Cor, I bloody hate sending her out there." Spike finally broke the silence. "I'm afraid she won't come back to me."

"Have you ever told her how you feel?" Angel asked.

"Yeah, right," Spike scoffed.

"Spike, Dru's been gone for a very long time now," he said.

"I know that, you tosser. I was there when she fucking died."

"I know you were," Angel said. "But it's okay to love someone else."

"What am I suppose to do? Go up to her and say 'Hey, Slayer, I've loved you since you were still a bloody human, now I'm going to send you to your possible death?'" Spike snapped. "I don't think there's a soddin' card for that sort of thing."

"I bet Willow could make you one," Angel joked lightly.

"Sod off," Spike growled. "It's better that she doesn't know, anyway. She'll concentrate more on staying alive and less on hearts and flowers and all that stupid female crap."

Angel sighed and let the conversation die. His fingertips gently massaged Spike's forehead and scalp, and he felt the younger vampire slowly begin to relax. After a few minutes, Angel knew Spike had fallen asleep. As carefully as he could, he maneuvered himself from the bed, pulled the comforter over the blond and crept silently out of the room.





Continued

1