Also Comes in Strange
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Still Ensouled By Tania

Part I - One Month Later

Angel had driven all night. He wasn't sure he'd make it to Sunnydale before dawn, but he knew he had to try. He had been on autopilot ever since... No, he wouldn't think about it, wouldn't picture it. He would just drive from memory, hugging the turns as he came into town. He found his way to the cemetery easily. It had been a couple of years since he had been here for Joyce's funeral, but he knew this foggy place better than he knew the Hyperion. There were still rooms of the Hyperion he had not looked in, but he knew every headstone of this place. Every stone door, every crypt.

He parked his car outside the high iron gates and made his way slowly through the low fog to Spike's Crypt. His body was bruised on nearly every inch. His neck still sporting a large hole where the beast had gouged the stake in. He tried to focus on the task at hand, but could not get the evening's earlier fight out of his head. The wide entrance to the crypt seemed like home to him, after this night Angel wanted nothing more than to fall asleep in his childe’s arms. He heard quiet sounds inside, the television droning on, a glass being swished, a bowl of chips being crunched. It all sounded very plain. Very normal. It was what he had come back to the Hellmouth for. A big dose of normal.

Angel knocked on the door and heard a crash inside. There was a hurried shuffling towards the entryway. Angel felt his stomach tighten. He had not seen Spike since Cordelia had come back. It seemed another lifetime then. Angel had only had two short weeks with Spike before he had taken off again. Back to Buffy, back to his life. Angel had been left with...

The door swung open, breaking his train of thought. He was met not with the cool blue eyes he had expected, but red ones. Red eyes staring at him from what may have been the most wrinkled face he had ever seen on a demon.

"Can I help you?" The demon asked.

"Um, I'm looking for Spike. Is he home?" Angel asked. The Demon gave a relieved sigh and smiled.

"Oh good, no he's not here. I thought you were gonna, ya know, attack me."

"Why would you think that?"

"Well, prime crypt like this, you vampires seem to think you just get first dibs or whatever. Come in, come in." The demon waved a hideously flabby arm at Angel and motioned him into the dark crypt. An infomercial was playing on the small television and there was a spilt bowl of bugle chips on the floor. "You must be Angel." The demon continued.

"Yeah, Angel. Did Spike?" Angel didn't finish the question; he stared at the nearly empty crypt looking for some sign of Spike, but saw none.

"Nah, I've actually seen pictures of you at the Slayer's house." Angel focused his attention back to the walking drapery of skin.

"You know Buffy?" He said, trying to avoid being rude.

"Oh yeah, we go way back, met her last year. We played kitten poker. Good times." He stuck his arm in Angel's direction again. "Name's Clem."

"Nice to meet you." Angel replied as he shook the offered hand. "I'm really looking for Spike."

"Well, truth is I haven't seen him since he went to Africa. I told him I'd keep an eye on the place, and well, he just hasn't come back." Clem took a seat on the worn recliner that sat in front of the television and motioned to a wooden chair for Angel. The vampire shook his head at the offer.

"I haven't seen him in nearly a month myself, figured he'd come back here first thing." Angel strained to pick up some lingering scent of Spike, but all he smelled was the lint that filled the demon's skin folds.

"I guess you could try the Slayer's place. Chances are she'll know where he is, they have, um, history." Clem pulled away from Angel's stare and looked back to the television.

"Yeah, I know." The two demons shared a quick pained glance. "Guess I'll try Buffy then. Thanks for the heads up." Angel turned back to the door.

"Tell her ‘hi’ for me, her kid sis too, sweet kid." Clem called after him.

"Sure, No problem." He opened the door and headed back to his car. The sky was beginning to lighten, he'd half to hurry to Buffy's if he was going to beat the sun.

*****

It was nearly six-thirty in the morning when Buffy heard a knock at the door. She threw on a robe and headed for the stairs. When she was halfway to the landing she saw Angel's familiar form in the door's glass panes. She hurried her step, seeing the sun coming up fast. She opened the door and pulled him inside. "Angel, what are you doing standing in the sun? Why didn't you just come in?"

"Wasn't sure if there was still an invite." Angel smiled.

"There is always an invite." Buffy reached out to give her former lover a hug, but he winced at the gesture. Only then did she truly look at him. She had never seen him so battered, and they had fought some hellacious battles. Angel couldn't help but notice her stare.

"I know, it looks bad." He slid off his heavy leather coat, relieved to have the extra weight off of his wounds.

"It doesn't just look bad. It is bad. Take your shirt off, I'll get the first aid kit." She forced him into the kitchen and pulled out a stool for him to sit on.

As Angel sat in her kitchen, taking his shirt off, he couldn't help remembering the first time he had sat in this same position. It was nearly seven years earlier, and they had only just begun to fall in love. He knew Buffy was reliving the memory too, he tried to smile again, but he was exhausted. Exhausted from the fight, the drive, and the disappointment of not finding Spike at the crypt. Buffy took out a bottle of peroxide and some cotton balls and began cleaning the slashes that covered the vampire's back and chest.

"Angel, what did this?" She asked as she traced the black form of his tattoo with a moist ball of cotton.

"I don't know. I can't be gone long either, but I had to," he paused as tears filled his eyes, "I had to leave, but I'll have to go back tonight. I just needed to see..." He covered his eyes with his hands, trying to regain his composure.

Buffy stopped wiping the blood from his back and stood in front of him. "You had to see who? Angel, you're scaring me, what is going on?" She pulled his hands down to look into his eyes. "Please, tell me."

"I need to find Spike." Angel looked away, not wanting to show the Slayer how much he needed his childe. "He wasn't at his crypt, and he left in such a hurry, and I didn't know what to say. I let him go without saying anything." Angel wiped more tears away. He then grabbed his torn shirt from the counter and started to put it back on. Buffy's small hand stopped him.

"Okay, first, I'm not done. Second, when did you see Spike? And last, what did this to you?" Buffy held his gaze, willing him to tell her what she needed. Angel let her take the shirt from his hand and begin wiping his chest down with the peroxide. His skin bubbled as the liquid met the torrents of blood that had spilled from his neck earlier in the night.

"Alright," Angel began in a hushed voice. "You can finish, I'm already healing, I'm just a little weak still. You know, my summer vacation was a hoot." He didn't smile now. "Spike came to me after he got back from Africa. He was so ashamed at what he'd done to you, Buffy. He was so sorry, he didn't know how to start. Guess he figured I'm the master when it comes to needing forgiveness for unspeakable evils committed by my alter-ego." They shared a forced smile at the painful memory of Angelus. Angel continued. "We did a spell to bring Cordy back, I couldn't do it, but he did. He brought her back, but then he left. I couldn't follow him, I didn't know what to say. As for this," He traced a finger over the still gaping hole in his neck, "I have no idea what it was. Cordy had a vision, and Lorne read her." He stopped.

"Go on." Buffy urged.

"I can't. Buffy, I can't." He stopped trying to hold back the tears as the image of his son on top of Cordelia filled his mind. That had hurt worse than anything the beast did to him. "I need Spike." He whispered over and over as Buffy pulled him into her embrace. He tried to be soothed by her gentle words of comfort, but he could find no peace.

"Angel, Spike's here." Buffy said softly. "He's upstairs." Angel pulled away, not sure what to think. He let her wipe his tears away with her smooth, warm hands.

"He's here?" Angel could barely get the words out.

"He is." Buffy continued, "But, Angel, he's not okay. There is something messing with all of us, and it has been going after Spike worst of all. Playing with his mind. He's been feeding."

"Feeding, on humans? How? The chip was working when he was in LA."

"It was working here too, but whatever this thing is, it found a way to get into Spike's mind. I still don't know how much permanent damage it's done." She wiped the last of the blood from Angel's shoulder, placing a bandage over what looked like an arrow hole, and helped him off the stool. "Come on. I'll take you up to him."

They made their way up the stairs to the spare bedroom. Angel could hear Spike's mumbling in his sleep before the door was opened. He could only make out about every other word. "Devour. Go Away. Beneath. I remember." Buffy opened the door slowly, but she did not enter. "I'll be in my room if you need me."

"Thank you, Buffy." Angel said, in earnest. She closed the door, then leaned her back to it as her own tears began to fall from her eyes.

Inside Angel sat on the edge of the bed and kicked his shoes off. He then undid his pants and stood so they would fall to the floor. He had found Spike, but he shivered at the sight of him. He was fighting something, even in his dreams. Angel pulled back the blankets, careful to not uncover the sleeping vampire as he slid in next to him. Once he was sure he had not awakened him, Angel let his hand move over the bony hip of his childe. He pulled himself closer to Spike's small frame. At last Angel let the familiar scent he had been searching for all night fill his nostrils. A smell that only belonged to Spike. To his William.

Angel had only just laid his head on the pillow, when he felt Spike shudder. He watched as Spike's blond head turned over to look into Angel's luscious brown eyes, still wet with tears. The younger vampire's gaze lasted only a moment before he flew out of the bed, only stopping when he hit the far wall of the room.

"You are not here! You aren't real!" Spike screamed. "Buffy, Buffy!" He banged his head backwards against the wall as he continued to scream. Angel climbed out of the bed slowly, not wanting to make Spike's panic worse, but every inch that he moved closer to Spike only resulted in a renewed volley of screams.

Buffy ran into the room, nearly ripping the hinges off the door as she came. She hardly noticed that Angel was wearing nothing but boxers and Spike was completely naked, flailing against the wall. "Buffy, it's back. It's here. It wants me to hurt people."  Spike cried. "Buffy, kill it please, kill it. It makes me see what  I want to see. It's not real." Buffy took Spike's hand and pulled him close.

"Spike, it's not here. It's really Angel." She caressed his hair and talked softly amid his continued screams. "William, listen to me. Angel was worried about you, that's why he's here. Look at him please. Angel's hurt, he wanted to be sure you were okay." Buffy repeated herself several more times. The same soothing words over and over, until Spike finally stopped screaming and looked at Angel again.

"He's not here." He whispered again. "He loves Cordelia, not William. He's not coming back." He continued to stare at Angel as he said the words.

"Spike, I'm here, it's really me. Will, can't you tell it's me?" Angel took a tentative step forward and tried to reach out his hand for Spike to take. He held his hand extended for several moments before Spike took a hold of it, running his small fingers over the numerous wounds that covered Angel's hands.

"Angel?" Spike asked, finally believing that it was not a dream.

"It's me. I'm here." Spike released himself from Buffy's hold and dove into the arms of his sire. Angel clutched at Spike's bare back, not feeling it possible to hold him tight enough. Spike returned the strong grasp, trying to find a place that was not ravaged with torn tissue. Angel leaned his face down to that of his childe’s and was met with hungry lips, searching for a remembered home. Angel found a mouth of cool softness, just waiting to kiss that which had been missing for weeks. Both vampires let out a sea of ‘I love yous’ into the room, and the kiss seemed to swallow them both, wiping away weeks of anguish. Together they found strength they had lost when they parted. In a room with a woman they both loved, they lost themselves in each other, as the Slayer's jaw hit the floor.

Part Two


People were so Happy Angel remembered how to drive Andale.
Copyright 2002 - Tania
Violators will be beaten to death with a shovel
(A vague disclaimer is nobody's friend)