links fiction resource home extra info updates


Second Hand
by
Kita


Rating: R for imagery and sexuality
Summary: "Beware the Jabberwock, my son
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch."
-Lewis Carroll, Jabberwocky
Disclaimer: Mutant Enemy’s et al, not mine. Joss said it was OK to play.
Spoilers: Spike and Connor post 'Not Fade Away'. Contains flashbacks to BtVS beginning with ‘The Gift’, and continuing on through various BtVS eps of S6 & 7, & several AtS eps of S5. Readers who care about such things should consider this story to contain spoilers for the full run of both series.
A/N: This may be part of a triptych that started with Manus. It may have something to do with hands, and fathers and sons. It also may be continued in another fic along the same theme, and told in the same style. Or, you know. Not. It’s not necessary to read Manus to understand this story at all. It’s also probably never really necessary to understand Lewis Carroll.
Thanks: Anna S., Daki, Jess & especially my Fod.


Second Hand


Crackle of sunrise wakes him; stench of burning tar, demon flesh. Face down in an alley with a fistful of bone and bent metal. His hands are bleeding, broken. He tried to brace himself.

He's alone.

He doesn't remember falling.

**

He's falling and it's endless. Electricity and dark majiks under his fingernails; he can taste them on his tongue when he gasps and his hands fly up to cover his face (human instinct, some things never die). Then he hits the concrete forty stories down and all he can taste is his own blood. It tastes like old smoke and grave dust, like useless things that linger on. It tastes like failure.

Blessed dark and silence for a heartbeat, (or two. He can't count them, his heart doesn't beat, and hers is too far away to hear) then the sound of screaming. Little girl voice, high and shrill (sounds like that used to get him off, used to make him hard) and he knows why she's screaming even before he turns his head.

Crunch of bone in his chest when he shifts, but he has to see, has to know - her fall seems faster, somehow. Halfway to him now, he can see that Buffy’s eyes are closed, he can listen to her breathing as it quickens. He can hear exactly when it stops. Ten of her heartbeats (wet and glorious, suspended over all of them; he fell, but she flies). Then silence.

She bounces once when she hits the concrete, leaves her mark in broken wood and shattered glass.

Later, they will pull the splinters out of her chest. They will wash the blood off her face, and brush her hair. Willow will say that she was dead before she hit the ground. Spike will not correct her in front of Dawn.

Now, Spike watches the portal close (blue and gold, it winks and is gone, it waited first for her to die). He watches the dragon as it circles, once, twice, three times. When it opens its mouth Spike feels the sound it makes at the base of his skull, in his tailbone, in his gut. The curve of its wing blots out the stars. Higher than the tower now, fifty stories, sixty, but Spike can still see all of its teeth. (What do monsters fear?)

He swears the fucking thing is laughing at him.

**

Spike shuts the radio off in the Viper, rubs a hand over his face. Artificial silver lights flickering along the highway, last pink shine of the evening crawling toward him from across the world. Brief thought of putting the top down (less than a moment, less than a heartbeat), of letting it swallow him whole.

Because that night wasn't the end (just the end of everything) but daylight is the bitch who always comes back. Because Angel is (was) a godamned fool, and his call to glory was just another pointless battle in a war older than them both. Because all Spike is left with now is more blood and bone staining concrete, the familiar scent of dust on his hands, and the knowledge that he gets to fight the next one alone. The next morning and the next battle will always come, and maybe death won't change any of that, but at least it's *quiet*.

Ten miles from Stanford, he runs his fingers over the dragon tooth in his coat pocket, and turns the radio back on.

**

"Did you see the dragon?" Dawn asks him. Her breath is baby soft by his ear, stirs all the small hairs at the back of his neck.

"Yea," Spike whispers back. Punctured lungs; if he doesn't need to breathe, he still needs the air to speak. A whisper is all he can manage about now. (And if he makes himself small enough, maybe they'll forget he's here, forget how he fucked up. Maybe they'll let him stay. He can't face his crypt, can't imagine spending the day surrounded by a death that isn't hers.)

"What do you think's gonna happen to it?"

Spike shrugs. Winces when the action reminds him that his right shoulder blade is in more pieces than it used to be. "Suspect it'll kill a few people."

Dawn nods. The front of Spike's shirt is soaked. His blood, her tears.

He breathes, and bits of himself re-align inside of him. The rest of the children and Giles are in the other room, discussing where they will keep Buffy's body while they decide on burial arrangements. They can't smell it yet, but she's already decaying. Ten feet away, Spike is holding her sister. And his corpse is healing.

"Sorry, Bit," he says, squeezing Dawn's hand in his. "Shoulda told you someone was gonna kill it, yeah? It's Sunnydale, after all, bound to be some kinda prince or dragon slayer about."

Dawn leans back, rests her head on the floor next to him. Closes her eyes.

"There's no such thing as fairytales, Spike," she says.

Ain't that the fucking truth.

**

Well lit campus, well manicured pathways, and the dorms are easy to find. Crowd of boys outside, all loud and loose limbed, scent of beer and junk food. Under a tree, a girl in a pink mini skirt tilts her head so that her boyfriend can drop kisses onto her neck. She presses against him on the tips of her toes, then lifts one foot off the floor behind her. She is both coy and poised, a ballerina or a flamingo, something beautiful and breakable and alive. Her bones would snap like hard candy. Under the fluorescent lamps, her skin is paler than Spike's own.

He looks away.

The laughter around him makes him angry, makes his gums itch. Back to being Mr. Step and Fetch It for Angelus, and he didn't ask for a return to this gig, sure as hell never wanted it back after all this time. Still here he is, looking for Angel's latest cast-off, another member of the human race Angel has always been so keen to sacrifice himself for. Second verse: someone's gone and fucked off, and Spike is left to pick up the pieces of their broken toys, when all he really wants is a bellyful of whiskey and a long rest.

All eyes on him, as he climbs the cement steps leading to room 301. But his clothes are clean, and he's pretty certain he washed the blood off of his face yesterday. He lights a smoke and sticks the cigarette between his teeth. Knocks once, loudly, on the wooden door.

A kid in a backwards baseball cap and a t-shirt that proclaims "Hooters!" in big orange letters answers the door.

"Connor?" Spike squints.

The kid doesn't answer him, just turns around and hollers, "Hey, Connor, some old guy's here for you!"

Ain't that the fucking truth.

**

Spike hears the wings over head at her funeral. Slow and loud, unnatural, unreal; a thing too big to fly, defying gravity by sheer force of its will. He raises his head, searches for the dragon in the fog over the hills, but everything is watercolor, dripping muted and salty with grief.

He thinks he hears it roar (no, not roar, laugh, because it knows, it *knows*) but no one else looks up, and he's been hearing that same damn noise in his head for the past three days, anyway. Gets a glimpse of it, finally, just as they put her into the ground. Green tail and black wings, staining the night sky.

**

Spike is stomping the cigarette out under one boot heel when Connor comes to the door. He's tall and lean, and there's a smile on his face. He looks like any other kid Spike passed tonight on campus, young and pink and vital. Maybe a bit drunk.

Until he sees Spike leaning on his doorframe.

Spike watches as something slithers behind his eyes (blue, his eyes are blue. Darla's eyes were blue, Spike thinks). Rattles on tails and bright colors that don't belong: a warning, a mark. There's a tremor in Spike's spine that used to mean *Slayer*. He has to plant his feet hard not to take a step back.

Then Connor blinks, and says, "It's Angel, isn't it?"

And when he opens his eyes again, he's just a boy.

**

"Can we go somewhere tomorrow, maybe?" Dawn asks him. Another night, and they are left alone again; left to their card games and their whispers while the others do- whatever it is they do without the vampire and the Key.

"Sure, bit. Like where?"

Dawn shrugs, looks around. Her lipstick is very pink.

"What are you about?" Spike asks. Lights a cigarette, then two.

"I was looking some things up online, and I think I might know where the dragon went."

When Dawn is actually nervous, her eyes crinkle up in the corners, just like her sister's. Spike takes a puff, looks at her. She's a damn fine actress, he has to credit her that much. It's a wonder she bothers, he hasn't denied her anything since the day. The rest of the Scoobies find out she's got a taste for Marlboro Lights now, they'll stake him in a heartbeat and find another babysitter.

"That so?"

"Yea," Dawn says, inhaling, "next town over, there's been a rash of unexplained deaths. By fire." She wrinkles her nose.

"So you wanna go and… what? Slay the dragon, save the town?"

"I dunno, I thought maybe we could just go and look at it." Dawn sets her cigarette down in the nearly empty bowl of guacamole dip, the shiny white tip is stained with her kiss.

When Spike says nothing, she continues. "It must be weird for it. Being here, I mean. I wonder if it feels sort of... lost."

"The dragon," Spike repeats.

"Yea. It doesn't really belong here, does it? Doesn't really have a reason to-"

"Dawn," he says, "it's offing the populace. Pretty sure all your friends would insist that falls under the category of 'bad'."

"Duh. I know it kills people and all, but it's not you know, *evil*. It's just doing what dragons do."

"There's a difference?" Spike asks.

"I think so," she says quietly, "yea."

**

"Yea," Spike says.

Connor swallows hard. Spike watches his throat move, watches the pulse jump on the side of his neck as he turns his head and looks back over his shoulder into his room. Then he pulls the door shut behind him soundlessly as he steps outside. The porch light comes on overhead, and Spike stuffs both fists into his coat pockets.

"When I didn't hear from him, I figured, but I wanted to think that maybe..." Connor stops.

He leans on the cement wall, arms covering his chest, hair covering his face. Spike can't see his eyes. Camouflage and cobwebs, things that lay in wait. Connor's fingers wrap around his own upper arms, leave creases in his blue polo shirt.

"M'sorry," Spike says, holding the sealed velum envelope out in front of him. Connor takes the letter without looking at it. His hands are bigger than Spike's.

They stand there for a moment, and Connor looks Spike over from head to heel, just once. Licks his bottom lip and blinks, like he's trying to puzzle out some optical illusion. Like he knows he's seen Spike before, but somehow can't make him fit into the here and now. Out of context, out of time.

"Tell me what happened," he says.

Tell me.

Right, there it is; Spike's fucking mission, his sole purpose as sole survivor. Spike the vampire bard, keeper of handed down tales no one else wants. He's damn sure no one spoke sonnets over his non-existent grave when he saved the world last summer.

But here's this kid with Darla's eyes and Angel's hands, only he smells human. Like pizza, and new soap. Like the beginnings of grief. Because they're dead, but Connor is alive.

And if Spike can't do this now, then he's never going to be able to stand in front of Buffy later and say:

"Dragon."

"An actual dragon?" Connor asks, loosening his grip on his elbows and leaning forward a bit from the wall.

"Yea."

“Did anyone else-"

“No.”

Connor sits down slowly on the top step, and folds his arms over his knees. Stares out over the grass. Spike follows his line of vision to where a group of kids are mock wrestling. They're drunk and clumsy on cheap alcohol and the certainty that they're immortal. They move like prey.

He lights two cigarettes, hands one to Connor, who stares at it for a moment before taking it. He doesn't smoke, just dangles it in his right hand, letting it ash on his shoes. He folds the letter carefully, and puts it into his back pocket, unread.

Spike slides down next to Connor on the step and puts his cigarette between his lips. It's been three years, two lovers and one soul since his last attempt at comforting someone this way. He hasn't gotten any better at it.

**

Spike doesn't actually take Dawn dragon hunting. She's fourteen, she has a new obsession every other day, and he's smart enough not to pander to the one that's gonna get her killed.

He tracks the thing though. Follows Dawn's lead, and follows the trail of mystery fires via news sites online. He prints out the pages, stores them under his bed in a box that contains faded hair ribbons and scraps of silk doll clothes, blonde wigs and satin panties. He is older, his obsessions die harder. And he doesn't find his own death to be quite as frightening to contemplate.

Near summer's end, the reports of dragon sightings and unexplained fires come far less frequently. Two days before they bring Buffy back from the dead, the reports stop altogether.

Spike keeps the papers.

Later, she will burn his crypt down, and he will watch while all of his obsessions are swallowed in a single flame.

**

Orange and blue sparks in a half moon, dying out before they hit the concrete. Connor steps on the cigarette, carefully, methodically, grinding it into the ground.

"Right then," Spike says, rising to his feet. Done his bit for dead Sire and country, time to get back to (empty rooms, dead friends, a past that won't return his calls). "Right," he repeats, tossing his own cigarette down after Connor's.

"No," the kid says, shaking his head. There's a moment when his hand moves, almost touches Spike's arm as he's climbing down the last step. Then the hand is back in his lap, curled into a fist.

"No, what?" Spike says. "Gave you the letter. That's all I got." It's a lie, he knows, he *knows*: The boy wants poetry, wants the song of his father versus the evil dragon. But Spike chokes on rhymes these days, and there's no such thing as fairy tales. And it's time to go.

He's reaching into his pocket for his car keys when Connor's hand is suddenly on his arm. (He moves like a vampire. Of course he does.)

"I'm going back with you to LA."

Spike's eyes narrow as he glances down to the fingers wrapped round his coat. "There *is* no LA." He looks back up at Connor. "When we tried- look, it's pretty much a demon dimension now, or what's left of one. No place for a kid."

Connor drops his hand. Smiles. There are serpents and sea water in that smile. There are nightmares older than that. "Yea?" he asks, "You ever been to a demon dimension? 'Cause it just so happens I actually grew up in one."

"Great. Your Scouting From Hell badge is in the mail," Spike says, brushing the invisible fingerprints off his sleeve. "And I'm not taking you back to LA."

Silence for one heartbeat. Two.

Then. "Ok," Connor says, walking out into the parking lot. His shoes are silent against the pavement, but Spike has to sprint a bit to catch up.

"What the hell are you doing?"

"I'm going to LA." Connor's voice is low, and he doesn't bother to turn his head and look at Spike.

"You gonna walk there?"

"If I have to."

Son of a bitch really is Angel's get. "Oh, for fuck's sake, get in the car."

**

"Personally, I kinda wanna slay that dragon," Angel says.

Spike looks up.

It's circling the tallest building, talons extended, looking for a place large enough to land. Spike can see the color of its eyes. They're gold, flat and dull, coins in an old man's pocket. Its mouth is open. Spike hasn't heard that sound in almost three years. It still makes him want to bite his own tongue.

"No way," he says, hefting his sword and looking at Angel, "that son of a bitch is *mine*."

Angel twirls his own sword around in his hand a bit. "Tell you what, we get through the forty-thousand sons of bitches between us and it? We'll fight for it."

"You're on, old man."

So they're both grinning like idiots when they step out side by side into the middle of the rain and the forty thousand, and Spike should have known right then it was all gonna go arse over tit.

**

“There’s nothing here,” Connor says, over-turning another garbage pail in the alleyway, sending more rats scurrying toward the street. All too familiar, this scene; the smell of rising frustration and sweat, hands curled into fists, and disapproving, blue eyes staring at Spike, waiting for answers.

Spike glances down at the pile of dead demons beneath Connor’s feet. He’d snapped their necks with an edgy sort of grace, took out all three of them before Spike could get a hold of one. Then he’d stared at the ridges and slopes of Spike’s own demon face before turning away and wiping his hands on his khakis.

“No.” The rats run across Spike’s boots, heading for higher ground as dirty water sweeps past them in a rush. “Some kind of portal opened, after the dragon died. Took most everything around us, dead or alive.”

“Leaving the demons and the rats?”

“And the fires. Flood. Kinda biblical, I suppose,” Spike says.

“Isn’t that a bit damnation and brimstone, for you know, a vampire?”

“Yea. It’s a pretty recent interest.”

“You have a soul.” Connor says, tilting his head. It sounds like an accusation. “Like my father.”

“I have a soul, yea.”

“So, what, you’re trying to tell me that you’re *not* like Angel?” Connor begins walking toward the hotel.

He looks relaxed, but his eyes never stop scanning the dark. (Predator vision, he’s still tracking, he’s still hunting). There’s a difference between the boy in this alley, and the one who rode back to LA with Spike for four hours in total silence. No armor, no shift of bone or teeth, but still a metamorphosis. The air around Connor quivers, buzzes about like insects, choosing fight or flight. Makes Spike’s demon scratch at him from beneath his skin.

“I’m not *trying* to tell you anything. You’re the one who wanted to come with me.”

“You’re a vampire with a soul, who kills other demons,” Connor says, stopping again to look at Spike. “Only difference I can see is that my father died doing it, and for some reason, you’re still here.”

**

Another day-before-the-end-of-days, but this time Spike holds something golden and precious in his hands.

Buffy still tastes like Angel’s kiss (memories and melancholy, old ghosts too stubborn to die). But her arms are around Spike now; she is curled against his body, trusting and asleep, and the amulet in his palm says she chose *him*.

He tests the weight of it, lighter than love, heavier than faith. Small, shining, unexpected things. He runs his fingers over the smooth circle of glittering stone, over the soft curve of her hand. Beautiful, deadly things. He will sleep a while holding tightly to them both. He’s smart enough to know how this ends.

He dies laughing, with the amulet of a champion around his neck, and her hand strong in his, and the sun brighter than he ever remembered it on his face.

He will come back screaming.

**

No one’s tried to breach the hotel since Spike dragged himself into its lobby four days ago. Spike figures it for some sort of spell, maybe Angel’s doing. Before. The place smells of him. And Wes. Fred. Charlie.

Connor stands in the doorway for a moment, just breathing.

Then he’s up the stairs.

Spike stands in the lobby, listens to doors being flung open and slammed shut. Furniture being upended. Boxes thrown about. Windows being smashed. There are other rituals in the wake of death, but Spike has forgotten most of them.

From upstairs, the distinct shatter of glass bottles.

“Hey! Hey, Junior, hands off my stash.”

Connor’s sitting on a bare mattress, surrounded by what precious little remains of Spike’s possessions.

“Where is it? Where is everything?”

Spike walks into the room slowly. “Which everything is that, mate?”

“Everything that’s *mine*,” Connor says, tossing another bottle of 200 year old scotch at the wall. Spike winces. “This is- this was *my* room. I remember it.”

“Right, then you went off to college and Uncle Spike got his ass kicked and had to move in for a while. There was nothing in this room when I got here.”

“Then where is it?” Connor demands again, throwing the mattress onto the floor. His fists are clenched.

“I don’t know,” Spike says, dropping his voice. Connor smells like tears.

“That’s not good enough, it’s not enough, it’s not-"

The plaster shatters around Connor’s fist, old, weak, impermanent. He smashes the wall four five six times, and now all Spike can smell is the blood:

It’s malice sweeter than church incense (There’s no belonging or deserving anymore. You can take what you want but nothing is yours) and madness thicker than communion wine (Oh, I see you. I see what you want. Do you want it?)

It’s his ruin and his renaissance, and if Spike closes his eyes, it’s all right here.

And-

Buffy. Which is impossible, but enough, finally, to make Spike blink.

Connor hits the wall again, brings down more bits of hotel around them both.

“Damnit, quit." Spike tugs on Connor’s wrist and can’t quite figure out how that breaks his nose.

“Son of a bitch,” he mutters. Connor’s brain bounces inside his skull, wet and thick, when Spike hits him back.

Connor growls like a demon, but he looks like an orphan from a folk tale. Lost in some snowy woods without his porridge, and trying to understand why someone else has been sleeping in his bed.

“Listen,” Spike starts, quiet voice, quiet steps to the side (years of cosseting Dru after Angelus left them in Romania, months of waiting for someone to do the same for him after he left Africa. No one came for Spike.)

Connor drops his fist, but he’s still shaking.

They stare at one another. Then Spike holds his hands up, palms out. “You want a drink?”

Connor blinks, looks down at his own knuckles. His laugh is panic; tremors and afershocks, the ground shifting beneath them both. He looks back up at Spike, then tucks his hands behind his back.

“Oh God, yea,” he says, sinking onto the mattress.

**

Tinkling of bottles- bells, her laugh.

Tied to the bedboard, arms over his head while she rides him. Red fingernails in his chest, sunshine crucifix on a chain in her other fist. She runs it in slow circles over her breasts, down her belly. Leaves pink marks she will want him to follow later with his tongue. It will still burn.

She leans over him, presses her fingertips to his forehead. “Father,” she says.

He bucks his hips, but she is stronger, she pins him with words and teeth and cunt. “Son,” she says, tapping his ribs.

“Drusilla-"

“Shhhhhhh, no talking in church.”

A wriggle of her hips and he is still, as her fingers land on his left shoulder. “And the Holy-"

“He’s gone, Dru,” Spike says. “He’s gone and he’s not coming back this time.”

“Ghost,” she finishes, tapping his right shoulder. He shudders, superstition and borrowed fear dancing inside his bones, and she leans in, bites his cheek hard enough to draw blood.

She licks her lips as she grinds down harder on his cock. He groans.

“Don’t be such a silly, Spike,” she says. Her smile is indulgent, a princess to her knight. “Angels are always watching.”

**

He wakes to a heaviness in his chest. To the taste of whiskey, bitter in his lungs, and the ache in his skull that tells him it’s been a very long drunk. He doesn’t remember falling asleep.

He opens his eyes to Connor kneeling over his waist, palms bearing Spike down into the mattress hard enough that Spike can feel the diamond shaped grooves digging into his back. Connor’s face is flushed and pink, his breath is sweet. Alcohol and innocence.

“You smell like him,” Connor says.

“It’s the hotel,” Spike says, trying to focus.

“No,” Connor insists, leaning closer, bending Spike beneath him with the weight of expectation. “It’s you. Did he kill you too?”

“What?”

“My father. Did he make you? Sire you, whatever.”

“No,” Spike says. “Yes…No. It’s complicated.”

Connor shakes his head. “None of you can ever give me a straight answer.”

“What exactly was the question?” Spike asks.

“You are,” Connor says. “You, and him. All of them, and you’re the only one that’s left now. There’s nothing else. So how do I know any of this was ever even real?”

Spike blinks again. He wants to rub the film of sleep and misery out of his eyes, but his arms are pinned to the bed. Connor doesn’t appear to be exerting much of an effort to keep it that way. He’s silent and still, staring down at Spike, watching the pulse on his neck that doesn’t beat.

“Still haven’t told me what it is you want from *me*.”

“I just wanna understand.” Connor says. His hair is long enough to brush Spike’s cheeks when he leans forward.

His kiss is clumsy, desperate, and without breath. His fingers dig into Spike’s biceps, his teeth into Spike’s shoulder, leaving marks that will fade before the next light. It’s a pitiful attempt to hold his head above water.

Connor’s mouth is soft as a girl’s.

His skin is softer still, bare and rubbing against Spike’s chest, while he fumbles with buttons and belts. “Show me,” he says, again and again, eyes pressed shut, praying Spike naked and compliant.

Slip of thigh between his legs, and Spike grabs the back of Connor’s head. Tugs. Gets a blue-eyed stare, shadows and scowls, the curve of a lip Spike recognizes from the inside. Connor never drops his gaze.

“Show me,” he says. His dick is hard against Spike’s side. Spike pulls him back down, and sinks his teeth into Connor’s bottom lip. Groans around the taste of inevitability and boysweat when Connor bites back.

And none of this is really Spike’s, he knows that. It’s all second hand; someone else’s need, someone else’s bed, and someone else’s son. But he’s long been used to owning nothing, and this is far from the first time he’s traded sex for sanity. Strong hand curving around his neck, around his cock, so he doesn’t have to think about could haves and might have beens. About necklaces that should have killed Angel and dragons that Spike should have killed. Doesn’t have to think about a godamn thing at all.

When he drops his hand between Connor’s legs, Connor throws his head back like a whore. He bends too easy and he spreads too wide, Spike sliding inside of him on just spit and sweat, but Connor cants his hips up, and makes a noise that is not pain. Licks the blood off his own bottom lip, and swallows. (Tribal masks, true faces worn under the animal, power handed down from fathers to sons ever after.)

“Show me,” he says again, fingers closing hard around Spike’s throat. “Show it to me.”

Arching under Spike, fucking like anger and tasting like hurt, Slayerdemonlittleboy, full of venom and sweets. Spike lets his fangs drop, lets the blood haze settle over his vision, looks down at Connor with yellow eyes. Connor thrashes beneath him, slams his head back into the headboard. Spills all over Spike’s hand.

“Damn you,” Connor’s voice shudders, nearly breaks, but the fist connecting with Spike’s chest is precise. Closed, and empty, and right above Spike’s heart. “God damn you.”

Then he closes his eyes and bares his neck, and Spike comes so hard his ears ring.

**

“Spend the day like it’s gonna be your last, because it probably will be.”

There’s poetry and drink, and just as he’s falling unclothed into bed, there’s Angel. Dark and imposing, scribbled out of the shadows, stinking like need.

Spike sits up. Sarcasm is thicker than the whiskey he can still taste in his throat, but Angel cuts him off before he can make his quip about carnal last rites.

“I have a son,” he says. And he holds out a fully addressed envelope. “You’re the only one I can- if I die tomorrow, you’ll get this to him.”

Angel is out the door before Spike can reply.

So he will lay awake for hours, staring at the familiar handwriting on the envelope, thinking about family and blood, trust and respect, circles and turns. Lost in the epic of it, wistful and stupid.

He won’t actually *get* it until he’s face down in this same damn alleyway. Later, when he’s crawling back into the shadows of the hotel, some silent movie blood sucker escaping the first rays of the black and white dawn.

That Angel didn’t trust him, he just trusted him not to die. That there can be only one, or some such rot; prophecy-boy, real boy (Buffy's boy), only one of them was ever going to walk away with the actual grail this time. Only one of them was ever really the Champion.

Of course, that’s just as much bullshit. The way Spike sees it, (the way Buffy will see it) the hero is the guy who dies in battle. And the one left standing, well, he’s just the guy that's left.

**

Somewhere there’s a child crying.

Spike stumbles out of bed, finds Connor huddled in the doorway, cheeks stained and wet, Angel’s letter bunched in his fist.

“Hey,” Spike says quietly, dropping down next to him, “you all right?”

Connor shakes his head. “Yea, it’s just,” He waves the letter. “My dad, you know?”

Spike nods. “Yea.”

“He was such an idiot,” Connor says, wiping his nose on his arm.

Spike smiles. “Yea.”

Connor looks away. “Oh god, what if he didn’t know? I wanted to stay and fight, but he sent me away, and I never got to tell him, and what if I could have-"

The rest is muffled as Connor buries his head in his arms, and Spike murmurs, “Shhh, shhh it’s ok.” It’s a lie, of course it’s a lie, nothing is ok, and they both know it. But it’s what people say, Spike remembers that much because he said the same to Dawn once. When he held her and she leaked tears and snot all over his chest, and the stench of her pain made him ache. Made him hard for her. He had no soul then, and he couldn’t help but think: I could take all this pain away, I could take away all her grief and she could be happy forever. Her blood would taste like family, like home, and neither of them would ever have to be alone again.

Connor smells that familiar, he’s kin and he’s blood, the only one left, and Spike would like to say that the soul prevents him from having those kinds of thoughts right now. He would like to say that very much.

Instead, he sits watching Connor’s shoulders shake, rubbing the back of his neck while he cries. Helps him up off the floor when he’s finished, and leads him back to the bed.

“Did you have a grave?” Connor asks him, as Spike pulls the covers over them both.

“Uh…the first time, yeah.”

“I don’t think I ever did,” Connor says.

Spike frowns, looks over at him, but Connor’s face is still turned away. And he realizes that’s why Connor smells like Buffy- because they’ve both died and come back. Like Angel. Like Darla. Like himself.

He reaches his hand out, and Connor rolls over, curls into him just a bit.

“Do you think maybe he’ll come back? He did before, right? Maybe he could again."

(We were all innocents once upon a time)

“I don’t think he’d want that, Connor.”

Connor doesn’t answer. He falls asleep sprawled out wide, as if he's the only one in the bed. He twists and he flips, his right hand flung over his head, his fingers twitching on an invisible bow or broadsword.

Spike climbs out from under the blankets, sits in the armchair under the window, and lights another cigarette. The curtains are flimsy, he'll have to put a sheet over the glass before morning. But now, through the smoke and the fog, he can just make out the faintest shimmer of stars.

**

"I hate flying," Angel says. Four little bottles of Jack Daniels at his feet, and his voice is mellowed even if he hasn't. Spike can taste his fury in the air; it followed them onto the plane, and it sits, heavy and rank inside the small cabin. Makes Spike's gums itch with the need to show his fangs.

"Course you do," he says, "you've never gotten out of the eighteenth century. You can't even figure how to work your fucking pager."

Angel turns to look at him, shoulders straight, eyes narrow, anger raw and sour. The posture, the scent, it could almost be Angelus sitting across from him.

"I'm stuck in the past?" Angel says, "Look at yourself, boy, the hell was the last time that hair was in style anyway?"

"Fuck you, mate. Punk look's served me well. Gets me laid more regularly than you, that's for damn sure."

And Spike is standing, close up in Angel's face, mouth open, fists closed. Even though it's not really Angel that's pissed him off right now, it's as good an excuse as any. Their rivalry is old and simple, more a part of them both than worn boots or leather coats. They’re both stuck, frozen in the here, in the now. Clichés of themselves, ancient things who should have died decades before Fred was even born. Of course they couldn't save her, Spike thinks. They shouldn't even be walking the earth.

"Spike, don't fucking start with me, not now." The growl is Angelus' in any case.

"Me? How the hell is this about me? You're the stupid motherfucker who-"

"Christ, you never could just. shut. up."

Angel's hand closing around Spike's throat, a shark grin slipsliding over Spike's face, and it's deja vu, it's fucking destiny, it's a script they no longer need to look at, because they wrote it a century ago and neither of them have ever really forgotten it. Neither of them ever really forget anything.

"You never could make me," Spike says.

This was always gonna end one of two ways, and they both always knew that, too.

Angel's mouth is hard and wet like sex. Spike hears himself moan as they slide down to the floor.

He's never liked Angel, but hell, he never much liked Angelus either, and the last time he was under the man this way they were in a horse drawn carriage being chased by some demon hunter or other. Nothing changes. He thinks he said as much to Angel, once.

Spike kisses back with all his teeth.

It's frantic, basic, just cocks and the holes they fit in, cruel as memory. Animals rutting, monsters mourning. Angel still sighs when he comes. They tear and they drink; Spike's neck, Angel's thigh, and the blood is familiar too, but there's no forgiveness in it, no comfort. It's just blood. It's old and bitter, it tastes like someone else's death and their own regret.

They're both too fucking old to carry this much grief and this much hope. Too old to drink and shag themselves into forgetfulness. Too old, finally, to learn how to fly.

They will get off the plane in LA in an hour, and they will never mention this again.

But for now, Angel rests with his head on Spike's shoulder, and Spike lights a cigarette and watches him fall asleep. Watches the stars outside the window. Watches Angel's sword hand twitch against his thigh.

**

Crackle of sunrise wakes him, slow burn beneath his bones. Grit of sex and nostalgia. A hand on his shoulder.

“It’s morning.”

Spike opens his eyes, jerks his arm away from the small shaft of sunlight. Dancing dust and pink shine against his skin. It won’t last.

He runs a hand over his face, blinks up at Connor who’s shrugging into a shirt.

“It’s quieter out there,” Connor says. “No more sirens. People are in the streets again.”

Spike can hear it: Cars and heartbeats. Resiliency.

“Guess the terrorist attack is over,” Connor says, leaning down to tie his shoes.

“That what they’re calling it?”

Spike can’t bring himself to ask what Connor might have heard about another city in Southern California, last summer.

Connor nods, stands up, and hands Spike his pants. “I have to go home.”

Spike looks at him; dressed and clean, and once again the fraternity boy Spike met in Palo Alto two days ago. Probably not yet twenty years old, but somehow more comfortable with his skin and his secrets than Spike has managed to become in six times as long.

"You find what you were looking for, then?" Spike asks.

"Not really," Connor says. "Still, I’m done.” He winces. “And hey, I’m really sorry I hit you.”

Spike grins, pulls his jeans on, looks around for his shirt. "S’all right,” he says, “So, that’s it for you? Going back to university, no more monster hunting?"

“I’m gonna leave all my monsters here,” Connor says.

“That’s…probably a good choice.”

“Yea, well I knew before I came back here this wasn’t my place anymore. Angel took all the bad memories away for me, but I guess…I don’t know, I just hoped there would be something left of the good parts that I could take back home.”

Spike buttons his shirt. “M’ sorry it didn’t work out.”

Connor shrugs. “Coming back here again will have to be enough.”

They walk down the stairs as Connor pulls on his coat. It's denim and worn, unmarked, unremarkable. Spike notices for the first time that his tennis shoes match his shirt.

“Daylight,” Spike says, nodding toward the front door. “I can’t get you home.”

"It’s all right. I can find my own way," Connor says, hand already on the latch. "Can I ask you just one more thing?"

"Yea, sure."

"My dad. Did he kill that dragon?"

**

He's falling and it's endless. He hadn't realized how high the fucking thing could fly until it dropped him, and now, he can open his mouth and swallow the clouds. They taste like dirt and old gods. Illyria is dead too.

They were all just a distraction anyway, just an afterthought; Hell had come for Angel, and the rest of them had just gotten in its way. Not quickly enough. (Fire, sunlight, stake through the heart, and beheadings, boy, say it. All in that stupid brogue, and you'd think Angel would have remembered that lesson, seeing as he was the one who taught it to Spike).

Angel gets in one good hit, before the fire. Death blow, first blood, straight through the heart. But it’s still breathing and it breathes fire (sunlight, William repeats).

Spike watches Angel die, the same way he died himself a year ago. Fire to flesh to dust. Here, the rain washes all of it away.

He launches himself onto the dragon’s back, and slices at it's head with his sword. (Beheadings, William repeats). It howls as it dies, falling, graceless from the sky.

Then Spike is falling from the sky along with it (Lucifer and dead angels). And he wants to laugh, only the ground is coming for him.

**

Once upon a time, Spike thought the soul would make everything better. Turns out it just makes the ground harder every time he finally lands.

(Because he's fallen off an enchanted tower trying to save the princess, and he's been baptized in holy wine and holier fire, and six nights ago he slayed a dragon, but he can still hear the laughing.

Because Buffy died and he died and AngelFredWesleyGunn died, and how can a man be a hero if every time he tries, he falls? What's the good in saving the world if he can't ever seem to save his fucking family?

If he can't ever seem to save himself.)

Because now Connor is standing in front of him, staring at Spike with eyes too wide and mouth too soft, another born again innocent, somebody else's second chance. And he's asking, "Did he?"

Tell me Angel slayed the dragon.
Tell me my Daddy's a hero.
Tell me the story.

Spike nods. "Yea," he says. Clears his throat. "Yea, he did."

Connor smiles. A half smile that curls the corners of his eyes and makes him look achingly young. Angel never smiled like that. No one Spike has known for long has ever looked young.

Spike reaches into his pocket, rubs his fingers over ivory and bone. Pulls the dragon tooth out and tosses it across the room. Connor's fist snatches it out of the air. Snake strikes and lightening and quick deadly beautiful things.

Connor stares at it for a minute, then closes his fist around it.

"Thank you," he says, looking up at Spike. "For everything."

Spike nods.

Another smile, straight and wide, human, as Connor slips out the hotel door. Spike listens until he can no longer pick out Connor’s heartbeat, until it’s just one more sound under the traffic, hum buzz of city, footsteps fading.

He's alone.

(But Dawn is alive and Buffy is alive and he is. Alive. And maybe. Maybe.)

Spike stuffs his hands into his empty pockets, hunches forward. Stares hard at the sunlight making its way toward him across the floor. Thinks about the oceans and continents between choices and destiny. Waits for the laughter.

But the morning is just silence.


-End