Painfully straightening, Spike picked up a chair and broke it, grabbing one of the wooden legs. He went from vampire to vampire, including the escaped Tremere Whip, staking each one with little effort until there was nothing but dust and a forever unhealable vampire body left in the room.
He returned to his coat, sliding it up over his ripped up arms. He winced when the leather hit his bare back, but did not utter a cry. Pocketing the stake and gun, he made his way out of his prison and into the night.
Tears coursed down Spike's face as he stared out the window of the cab. Undoubtably, his Willow was long gone. He wouldn't put it past Antonio to have taken her, the Antediluvian Cult members always being cruel and unscrupulous. Pain radiated from his heart, overwhelming the physical pain from his torture. Part of him wished that he had let Antonio kill him, the other part was glad that he had avenged her by killing the Tremere.
The cab arrived at the mansion and Spike instructed the driver to wait. He stumbled up the fancy steps to the front door and pressed the bell. Taking a deep, unsteady breath, he forced himself to prepare to face those inside.
"Dear Hell, Master William," Maurice gasped upon opening the front door.
"Be a mate and pay the cabbie," Spike said, forcing himself to walk forward into the mansion. He headed straight for the stairs, wanting to get to his suite before he broke down completely, both physically and emotionally. He knew he shouldn't have gotten involved with Willow, the pain he was feeling echoing the pain Drusilla had caused him.
He was halfway down the hall when the first sob overtook him. He fell heavily against the wall, uncaring of his injuries as he clenched his stomach. His Willow, his little Witch...
"NO!" Spike screamed hoarsely, spinning and driving his left fist into the wall, breaking both. Someone ran and caught him as he began to fall to the ground.
"Spike, what happened?" Angel asked, putting his arm around the younger vampire and helping him down the hall.
"Willow," Spike choked out, but couldn't say anymore as his throat closed up.
"What about her?" Angel said, opening the door to Spike's suite. When he saw his childe's pain filled face, he decided to put off questioning for later.
He led Spike to his bedroom, stepping over the piles of clothing until they got to the bed. Then, he carefully removed the blond's duster, wincing when he recognized the marks of torture. Without hesitation, he unsnapped Spike's ragged jeans and pulled them down over his bare and cut up feet.
Carefully, Angel got him into the bed at the same time as Maurice entered the room. "I have brought the first aid kit, Master Angelus," Maurice said, holding a cooler in one hand and a medical bag in the other.
"Thanks," Angel replied, taking the items. He opened the cooler first and took out the container of fresh blood. Gently, he helped Spike to sit up enough to drink, studying him carefully. Someone had done a good job on his childe, and it angered and confused him. Who would want to torture Spike and why?
Spike forced himself to stay conscious, needing to tell Angel about Willow. "Angel," he said, his voice rough. "Willow, she's..."
"Shh," Angel quieted him. "Tell me later, Will." He used the old name with affection and concern, then watched as Spike slipped into unconsciousness.
Spike heard a voice speaking near him as he swam back to consciousness. He concentrated on that voice, allowing it to pull him awake.
"...then Xavier asked exactly what type of bug crawled up Angel's butt and if it itched. I suggested a dung beetle and got boo'd out of the kitchen. I wish you could have been there..."
He opened his eyes slowly, afraid that he was hearing things. When he could focus, he turned his head and saw the most beautiful sight in the world.
"Hey, you're back," Willow said with a large smile. "Xavier said if you didn't wake up soon, we'd use you as a pinata."
"Willow?" Spike questioned. He reached out, not sure if she was real. She took his bandaged hand in hers and he felt tears spring into his eyes. He pulled her abruptly onto the bed, wrapping his arms around her and holding her close. "I thought I'd lost you, little Witch."
"No, I've been here the whole time," Willow started, confused and emotional that he was awake. "You, on the other hand, were gone for days! Where did you go? Why did you go? Was it me? Oh goddess, it was me, wasn't it."
"Willow, shut up," Spike said suddenly. "Just let me hold you for awhile."
Willow's jaw clacked shut, her eyes wide at his abrupt silencing. She had so many questions, so many worries that he needed to assuage. She felt him place a kiss on her head, then rest his cheek on her hair. She decided her concerns could wait.
"Well, isn't this a cozy picture," Xavier commented from next to Angel in the doorway to Spike's room.
Spike didn't even open his eyes. All he did was raise his hand and give him the finger. Willow, however, was only prevented from bolting upright by the tightening of the blond vampire's arms around her.
"My, my, Porthos. Getting rude in your old age," Xavier said, walking into the room.
Knowing that Xavier wouldn't be leaving anytime soon, Spike opened his eyes and gave the vampire a tired look. "What do you want?"
"Why to play nursemaid, of course," the Prince answered. "I do so love getting into that white uniform and touching my patients in all sorts of places."
"Xavier, you're perverted," Angel said, sitting down on the opposite side of the bed.
"That I am," Xavier conceded. "But a well liked pervert."
"Says who?" Willow ventured quietly. She felt Spike's rumble of laughter beneath her cheek and smiled.
"See what happens when you disappear, Will. Nothing but insolence from your Whip," Xavier said, pretending to be affronted.
"Speaking of disappearing," Angel prompted.
Spike groaned mentally, trying to dig out of his overtaxed and tired brain a good lie. Then, he found one that couldn't be disproved. "Dru got herself in a bit of a pickle and I had to go bail her out," he told them. He felt Willow tense in his arms and he cursed at himself, but continued the lie. "Of course, my actions on her behalf weren't welcomed with open arms."
"You mean that Drusilla did this to you?" Angel asked skeptically.
"No," Spike said, knowing that Angel would see through that lie immediately. "Bunch of Tremere." That was at least the truth.
"So I take it she's fine and dandy?" Xavier said.
"Peachy," he answered. "And happily back with her Nutty Professor. Those two are so bloody cute, it makes me want to heave." He felt Willow relax onto him again and filed that away for later.
"I shall instruct the band to strike up ‘Hail, the Conquering Hero,'" Xavier said.
"Do something useful. Go find a stake to throw yourself on," Spike told him.
Xavier chuckled and stood. "That is my cue to depart. Fare thee well, Porthos. Athos. D'Artagnan." The vampire Prince left the room in his normal proud stride, exiting the suite.
"I'm gonna go, too," Angel said, rising. "Do you need anything?"
"To have my bloody head examined for helping Dru," Spike replied. "But nothing else I can think of."
"Ok. See you later," Angel said, then left as well.
"Looksch like itsch just you an' me, kid," Spike joked in a really bad Bogart impersonation.
Willow groaned at him and sat up, twisting so she faced him. "That was really pathetic, Spike. Are you sure you didn't get hit in the head too many times?"
He tilted his head to one side, studying her. "What's wrong, luv? You don't look like your usual Witchy self."
"You tell me," Willow answered seriously.
"I'm sorry, pet," Spike said after a moment. He sighed and closed his eyes. "There are some things that I just can't tell you about. I wish that I could have stayed there all fucking day with you in bed, but if wishes were nickels..."
"You'd still be poor," she finished. She climbed out of his bed and headed for the door. "I have some work to do. You just rest and get better, ok?"
Spike opened his eyes and watched her leave, a sadness hanging around her shoulders. For the first time since he became a member of the Gehenna Cult, he hated it. Turning on his side, he cursed whatever higher power gave him a conscience and forced himself to go back to sleep.
"Willow," Spike called, heading to her room a few days later. The comradery between them had been strained as he healed. They still joked and worked together, but there was an underlying tension. And he knew it was his fault. He'd give anything to turn back the clock.
"Willow, can you help me with this friggin' mem-" He cut off his sentence when he saw her, the paper in his hands wrinkling as he clenched it.
The redhead was facing him, eyes closed, wearing nothing more than a blue sports bra and running shorts. Her hair was loose, her feet bare as she danced to the music coming over the headphones, the walkman held in one hand. She sang along to the words, moving her body in time with what she could hear.
"I'm a bitch, I'm a lover, I'm a child, I'm a mother, I'm a sinner, I'm a saint, I do not feel ashamed. I'm your hell, I'm your dream, I'm nothing in between. You know you wouldn't want it any other way."
Spike was having trouble swallowing as she wove an intricate pattern with his arms, her pelvis making erotic figure eights as her head moved to the beat.
"I'm a bitch, I'm a tease, I'm a goddess on my knees. When you hurt, when you suffer, I'm your angel undercover. I've been dumped, I'm revived, can't say I'm not alive. You know I wouldn't want it any other way."
The instrumental part must have come on, because she stopped singing but not dancing. He needed to move, to do something besides stare at her. But he was glued to the spot as she started turning in a circle. Now, her back was to him and the paper in his hands ripped in half as she wiggled her butt. "Fuck," he whispered, his eyes trailing down to her feet and slowly back up again.
Then, he saw something on her lower back that made the world drop out from beneath his feet. Prompted into action, he was at her side in two long strides, stopping her with his hands. She let out a loud yelp and tried to spin, but he held her still as he looked at the mark.
"Spike, what are you do-" Willow started to say, but the vampire released her as suddenly as he grabbed her, tearing from her bedroom and out the door. She followed him just as rapidly, wondering what had gotten him worked up. She hit the top of the sweeping staircase as he ran across the great hall towards the front doors. "Spike! It's daytime! Wait!"
Spike threw open the doors and ran outside, protected from the sun by a cement overhang that covered the drive. He got as close to the edge of the sunlight as he could and looked up into the clear, blue sky.
Willow dashed out the door, a frantic look on her face. "Spike, what are you doing, trying to get yourself fried?!" She grabbed his arm and dragged him towards the door. "Get inside you stupid, idiotic jackass!"
He looked down at her, an odd expression on his face. "Willow, I need to know. That mark on your back, what is it from?"
"Mark? You mean that funny looking birthmark? I was born with it," she replied, closing the front door firmly behind them. "Now, what's this all about. You ran outside, in the day. I think I've aged fifty years in less than a second. I should stake you, that's how mad I am and where are you running to now?" Spike was sprinting towards the stairs again and she had no choice but to follow. "Glad I wore this outfit," she muttered as she traversed the stairs.
When she got back to the suite, he was at the kitchen table, writing something on a piece of paper. "Spike, enough with the running," she panted, walking over to him.
"I need you to follow this exactly, no questions," Spike told her. She opened her mouth and his head shot up. "No questions."
Willow nodded, then accepted the paper from him. There was a phone number at the top with G1 under it. The rest of the instructions were simple once she translated from Spike. It only read ‘pay phone.' She raised her eyes to him and he handed her a pocketful of change. Suddenly, certain things he'd said came back to her like pieces to a puzzle. He couldn't tell her some things, his two mysterious disappearances, the bizarre email message that prompted the first one, the wine glass. **Is Spike a spy?**
Putting off her questions, she quickly went into her room and put her socks and shoes on, then was out the door without a word.
"Um, hi," Willow said into the receiver of the pay phone. "I was told to call this number and, er, tell you G1?"
"Hold please," the female voice on the other end told her.
"O-ok," she replied, looking out the windows to the booth nervously. She was very confused and a little scared. It was a good possibility that Spike was a spy. Her Spike, the vampire that made her laugh and her toes curl. The same man who had become her lover nine days ago, then disappeared. And when he finally returned, he was beaten and bruised.
"Yes, who is this?" a new, male voice came over the line, breaking into her thoughs. "And how did you get this number?"
"Uh, Willow," she answered. "And Spike told m-me to call and tell you G1, although I don't know what it means. And I had to go to a pay phone and it's daytime, or I bet Spike would have, er, come out and called you himself."
"Spike? You mean William Longstreet?"
"Yes," she replied.
"Listen closely," the man said. "Tell William station G; circular route; no harm, no foul. Got it?"
"Station G; circular route; no harm, no foul," Willow repeated. "Any-anything else?" But the tone coming over the line meant that the man had already disconnected. She hung up the receiver and tucked Spike's note in her pocket, then made the long trek back up to the mansion.
The smoke was heavy in the air when Willow entered the suite. Before she could say a word, Spike grabbed her arm and dragged her into the bathroom, shutting both doors. Then, he turned on the faucet full blast and faced her with an expression that she couldn't decipher. "Well?" he said.
"I'm suppose to tell you station G; circular route; no harm, no foul," Willow repeated the message.
Spike ran his hand through his short hair. "Ok, I need you to pack your backpack with a few days worth of stuff. Clothes and what not."
"I'll explain later," he put her off. "Once you're packed, come back in here and turn on the faucet." With that, he shut off the water and went through the door into his bedroom. He didn't wait to see if Willow did as he told her, knowing that she would.
He went over to his dresser and opened the top drawer, reaching up under it to pull a quarter inch thick, black book out of its hidden spot. Then, he retrieved the metal box with the .45 and reloaded it with a fresh clip. All the while he was doing this, he tried not to think of what the mark meant for both himself and the world.
He heard the faucet go on and he brought the items into the bathroom with him. Willow was sitting on the toilet seat, hugging the backpack to her with a scared expression. She stared up at him with her luminous green eyes and he swallowed heavily. **Remember the Alamo,** he thought for no reason as he took her bag from her. "You can read this when you get there," he told her, sticking the black book in it.
"Where am I going?" Willow asked, tucking her hair behind her ears and looking at the gun on the sink with trepidation.
"You're going to take a cab, which I've already called for, to the convenience store on Marshall," he replied. He picked up the gun and looked at her. "When your facing away from the store, go right and keep walking until you get to MacArthur's Park Cafe. Go inside and find a waitress named Janice. Tell her that you're waiting for the last train to Clarksville, then follow her."
"Um, Spike, you're making me really scared," she confessed.
"I'm sorry, little Witch," Spike said, crouching down in front of her. He held up the gun. "Do you know how to use one of these?"
"No, and I don't want to know," Willow replied. "They're bad, I could hurt someone, I could get hurt."
"I need you to take this, Willow," he said seriously, pressing the cool metal into her hands. "All you have to do is move this safety button and pull the trigger."
"But I don't need it," she protested. "I'm just Willow. Why would I need it? Spike, what is going on? I'm past the scared point and am now entering terror. Terror is not good. Gives me hives."
Spike took the gun back from her and set it down next to him, then took both her hands in his. "This is important, ducks. I promise I'll explain when I get there after dark, but you need to go now, ok?" Willow nodded. He scooped up the .45 and stood, shoving it into her backpack and zipping it up. Then, he handed the bag to her and turned off the faucet, leading the way out of the bathroom to the door.
"I'll see you later, right?" Willow asked at the door, backpack firmly on her shoulders. She couldn't help feeling that something awful was going to happen and they'd never had a chance to resolve things.
In response, Spike traced her jaw with his finger, then pushed his hand into her hair and bent his head to capture her mouth. The kiss was hard, with the feelings they'd both been bottling up and that of the unknown danger approaching making it all the more intense. When he released her, he forced himself to step back and open the door. "Be careful, little Witch," he whispered.
Willow nodded again and left the suite, walking quickly down the hallway for the waiting cab outside. He continued to stand there, one hand gripping the door as he watched her walk out of sight. Then quietly, he said to the empty hall, "I love you, Willow."
Willow looked around the empty room that was part of the series of small apartments above the cafe. She'd done exactly as instructed, walking from the convenience store for what seemed like forever in the late August Los Angeles heat until she reached MacArthur's Park Cafe. Then, she'd found Janice, gave her the cryptic song lyric and was escorted to this room where she was suppose to wait goddess knew how long with nothing but her backpack and a straight backed chair for company.
It didn't help that every little noise made her jump, her head spinning as she tried to discern where it had come from. "Oh goddess, Spike, please hurry," she whispered as her eyes darted to the only door, then to the sunlit window that led to a rickety fire escape. She held the backpack in her lap and could feel the outline of the .45 under the material, which did not give her reassurance.
"Ok, Willow, you need to calm down," she told herself after a loud crash of dishes falling downstairs made her heart leap. She closed her eyes and willed her body to relax, focusing on the red room that began the an Alpha meditation. Soon, she had gone through all seven ‘doors' of the meditation and she felt clearer and more in control.
Opening her eyes, the empty room seemed less threatening, the fact that she was alone less worrisome. Spike would be joining her as soon as the sun went down, so all she had to do was wait. Thinking of waiting, she remembered the book the blond vampire had put into the backpack. She decided to move to the window and sat on the open sill before digging the book out of her bag. Then, with her legs crossed Indian style, backpack in her lap, she began to study it.
Embossed on the cover, black on black, was the title which she had almost missed. "The Book of Nod," she read aloud. She flipped through the pages, noting that it wasn't a published book and that it contained three separate sections: The Chronicle of Caine, the Chronicle of Shadows and the Chronicle of Secrets. She glanced out into the sunny day, then began to read.
The Chronicle of Caine was about the creation of the first vampire, Caine. She remembered the passages about him and his brother, Abel, from her early study when she went to Temple. Caine had been jealous of his brother and had killed him, thus causing his father to exile him. The chronicle went on, detailing his transformation to a vampire, of how he came to make more Kindred and Jyhad that followed. It also showed how the different clans came to be and of why the need for the Masquerade.
The second chronicle, or The Chronicle of Shadows, reminded her of Nicolas' work. It explained the different clans as well as a few laws and commandments. The main difference was, however, that all that she had read thus far had been written in verse. The last page of the section was a list of proverbs and a she had to laugh at a few of them. "‘To rid yourself of an enemy, outlive him.' Not too hard if you're a vampire and the enemy is not."
Shifting, she got a little more comfortable and turned to the last section, The Chronicle of Secrets. As she turned the page, the words seemed to jump out at her. "The signs of Gehenna," she read. She knew that Gehenna meant the end of the world, the destruction of all beings on the face of the earth. As she continued to read, she realized that this part was like one of Giles' books of prophecy.
"‘And the Dark Mother herself will be brought forth and there, in the valley of Enoch, will there be a battle a duel of Dark Father and Dark Mother. The Demon Queen will bite deep. The Damned King will bite deeper. We will not know the thing which will happen, but the sky will tear apart, and the earth below and the forces of Hell will pour up out of the ground,'" she read, then shuddered. "That almost sounds like the Hellmouth opening. Or with Acathala."
Turning the page, she continued, "‘On the Third Day, there will be silence. The crows will feed on the carrion, plague will dance amongst the ruins. The last of the Wild Ones will leave this place. The last of the Moon-Beasts will fight and fall and the Antediluvians will make for themselves an Empire of Blood. They will rule with iron talons. They will wrench the hearts of all still alive and the full sum of the earth's living will come and live in the Last City, called Gehenna. And there will be a reign of one thousand years, and there will be no love, or life, or pity. The mighty will be as slaves. The virtuous will be made foul. Every good gift, and every perfect gift will be tainted by the Father of Darkness, whose power will come from the nether realms.'"
The sun began to dip in the sky, slowly descending as day bled into night. "‘When the snows consume the earth and the sun gutters like a candle in the wind, then, and only then will there be born a woman, the last Daughter of Eve, and in her there will be decided the fate of all,'" Willow read, mentally noting that the last Daughter of Eve would be the last human being to be born and that this chronicle was predicting nuclear winter.
She started to read the next verse, then paused, her eyes widening before she read it again. "‘And you will not know this woman, except by the mark of the Moon on her, and she will face treachery, hatred, and pain. But in her is the last hope.'"
Willow looked up as the final bit of daylight disappeared into the horizon, the realization of Spike's actions settling heavily upon her. "Oh goddess."
She didn't know what alerted her to the danger. She had been sitting on the window sill, waiting for Spike to arrive, studying The Book of Nod in the street light coming from outside. Perhaps the goddess had been watching out for her, or perhaps living with the dangers of the Hellmouth day in and day out over the past three years had honed her senses, but either way she knew that the person on the other side of the door was not a friend.
Quietly, Willow slipped the book into her backpack and pulled out the gun. Just as silently, she levered herself out the window onto the fire escape and slid the bag over her shoulders before leveling the .45 at the door. Her breaths were coming in short pants as her heart raced. She wanted to bolt, to tear down the rickety stairs and run until she collapsed, but the need to see her foe seemed to be more important. Why, she did not know.
The door to the empty room opened slowly and she pushed up the safety as Spike had shown her. The man who entered the room was unfamiliar to her, but did not make him any less dangerous, especially since she could see he held a gun, as well. His eyes darted around the room and he spotted her, his expression feral in the street light.
Willow squealed as he raised his gun and she closed her eyes and squeezed the trigger at the same time he did. His shot clipped the window sill next to her head, chips of wood flying outwards as she fell backwards from the recoil of her action. She felt as if she'd gone deaf from the loudness of her firing and she was lucky she held onto the gun as she scrambled to her knees. Another shot rang out, hitting the metal of the fire escape and she screamed.
Not bothering to aim, she started firing wildly into the room with her two hands clutching the gun tightly, her hands barely above the window sill. Each shot made the .45 jerk in her hand, but she did not fall backwards. She continued to fire until another bullet from her attacker whizzed by her ear, a sharp stinging sensation causing her to turn and crawl down the stairs head first until she got to the next landing. Then, she stood and ran, her footsteps banging loudly on each metal step until she got to the street.
Gun still in her hand, she tore around the corner of the alley and onto the crowded Marshall Street. Her only thought as she pushed her way through the throng of people was of Spike. Not because he would protect her, but because she might die without getting a chance to tell him that she was in love with him.
Spike was halfway to MacArthur's Park Cafe when he saw her running straight for him. Eyes widening at the panic and fear that was written on her face, he sprinted towards her. "Willow," he called, getting her attention.
Willow threw herself into Spike's arms when they met, tears streaming down her face. "He tried to shoot me. Oh goddess, Spike, he tried to kill me and I shot at him. Lots of times," she babbled, holding onto the vampire tightly.
"Come on," he said, flagging down a cab. They got inside and he gave the driver an address, then pulled the hacker into his arms, holding her close as she stifled her sobs. Ten minutes later, he threw some money at the cabbie and escorted her into a parking garage. He picked a car at random and broke the window.
"What are you doing?" Willow said as he unlocked the door.
"We're getting out of here," Spike replied, pushing her slightly. She quickly climbed across the front seat to the passenger side. He followed her and hot wired the car, then drove calmly out of the garage.
Half an hour later, they were on the Pacific Coast Highway heading north. "Where are we going?"she finally asked after she'd calmed down.
"To a cabin I keep in case I want to get away," he answered, checking the rearview mirror often for a tail or the police. "I usually go there to hide out because I want to, not because I bloody have to."
"I'm sorry," she said, looking down at the gun still clutched in her hand.
"No, luv, I'm sorry," Spike told her. He reached over and put his hand on her leg, giving it a brief squeeze. "I should have come with you, or better yet, not let you leave at all."
"Then why did you?"
He took an unneeded breath and let it out slowly. "Because those were my orders," he said, glancing over at her pale and tear stained face.
"The phone call," she said with semi-understanding. "Does this mean that you are a spy?"
Spike chuckled humorlessly. "Of sorts," he replied. "Did you have a chance to look at The Book of Nod?"
"Yeah," Willow answered. "I read the part about the mark. Do you really think that I am the last Daughter of Eve?
"No," he said. "But it is possible that she will be a descendant of you."
"Oh," she replied, leaning her head on the window and staring out blindly. After a few minutes of silence, she asked, "If you're not a spy, what are you?"
"I am a member of the Gehenna Cult," Spike answered, maneuvering off the highway. He could be killed for telling her, but he no longer cared, especially with the attempt on her life. She had become his first priority and anything she wanted to know he would tell her. "The Cult is a secret organization of vampires and some humans and other creatures who are dedicated to saving the world."
Willow turned her head and looked at him. "But I thought you tried to destroy humanity with the Judge?"
"No, that was Drusilla and Angel," he corrected. "Dalton had found a manuscript one day detailing the locations of the pieces of that bloody smurf and started to gather them. I had to go along with it because my cover at the time was as a big bad master in the Sabbat Sect. Remember, pet, that my involvement with the Cult is a secret."
"Because there are those out there who would like nothing better than having hell on earth," he answered. "They're usually members of the friggin' Antediluvian Cult. Antonio and his Whip were both members of that."
"Were?" Willow said.
"I killed them," Spike replied. "Well, I killed the Whip. Antonio I left with half his brain blown out that night I came back to the mansion, thinking you were gone."
"Oh...oh!" Willow exclaimed. "No wonder he didn't meet me." After a moment, something else dawned on her. "He's the one who hurt you. But why?"
"To find out the other members of the Gehenna Cult were," he answered.
"Bastard. May he rot in hell like the pillock he was."
"Willow," he gasped. "What language. I see that I've taught you well."
Willow giggled despite the situation. "I bet you say that to all your pupils."
"Nope," Spike replied. "Only sexy, redheaded ones who can make an undead man's heart pound in his chest."
"And how many of those do you have?"
"Oh, about a dozen."