PART ONE
Old Acquaintances


He had no idea what he was doing here.

It was not as if she wanted his help or was deserving of it. After what had taken place between them only a few nights ago, he should have turn his back on her for good, not only on her but also on Sunnydale in general. After all, what was there to bind him to the small town perched on the Hellmouth? He was vampire that could only hunt others of his kind and in doing so had earned the animosity of every creature that lurked in the night. The only human he could hurt was the one person in the world that meant everything to him. Not that she gave a damn about that fact, he thought bitterly. Certainly not after what she had said to him the morning after what he considered to be the most passionate night of his life. He had woken up with her in his arm and understood for the first time in a hundred years, that his reason for being was to ensure her happiness. He was prepared to do it too; he would do anything as long as it meant taking that terrible sadness away from her eyes, even for an ins tant.

Unfortunately, she had not felt the same.

He had been convenient, she said. A night’s distraction to forget the troubles of her life, unaware that she had pierced his heart with a knife more potent that any stake when those words sunk into him. He felt his insides die again and saw her indifference to all of it. He did not think it was possible for something without a soul to feel so much sorrow. He covered it well of course. Hiding his anguish with sarcasm and glib remarks that served to infuriate her. It allowed him to maintain some vestige of dignity until she left him and he was able to allow his battered heart to show its bruises. Yet despite all this, he was at her side that night, lending a hand to retrieve her wayward sibling from her latest misadventure. After that, he avoided her like the plague, firmly deciding that if she wanted him, then it would be up to her to find him.

It was a good plan and one that Spike, also known as William the Bloody had every intention of adhering to. He was done following her around like a lost puppy. It had been a good plan and one he had stuck to for a number of nights but as things often transpired in Sunnydale, the decision was soon out of his hands. He had been returning to his crypt in the Sunnydale Cemetery when he heard the commotion of a vicious fight. This was hardly unsurprising since the Slayer did her best hunting at the Cemetery. He had almost been tempted to keep going; to let her handle whatever it was that she was battling on her own. She had done it long before he entered her life, he was certain she would continue to do so long after he had left it.

However, making that oath and sticking to that were two different things and Spike invariably found himself drawn to the battle because the truth was, he could not imagine it if she were hurt or worse yet killed. He had been forced to watch her die once and it was without doubt the worst experience of his existence. Even now, he recalled how close he had come to waiting for the sunshine to destroy him, just so that he would not have to know the pain of her loss. If not for the promise he had made to her to keep her sister safe, he would have done it. So he could not watch her die again because it would destroy him as much as it would mean the end for her. He had known what it was like to feel her touch him, to know her passion and while it was an open wound in his heart to know that she had used him, he was still in love with his Slayer.

When he found her, she was fighting a demon he recognized immediately. Almost seventy years ago, they could almost be called friends. The demon had worn another host who had probably expired since the markings he saw on the ground next to where Buffy was presently battling it was part of the ritual in its acquiring a new body. Chronozon was one of the most powerful demons in Hell, a malignant force known to the underworld as the Dweller of the Abyss. If he were to acquire human form again, there was no telling the destruction he could cause, not to mention what he would do the Slayer. As he saw Buffy battling the demon, now clad in the body of a young man, no doubt a practitioner of the dark arts who had bit off more than he intended by summoning Chronozon, Spike could see that the demon was still uneasy in his new form.

"Slayer!" Spike emerged from the darkness. "You have to kill him!"

Buffy paused long enough to see his arrival before she was forced to face her opponent once more, blocking a powerful blow that would have connected with her jaw if she had waited one second more. She caught the young man’s arm and held it briefly as she threw a powerful front kick. The demon host stumbled backwards, unaccustomed to fighting in this manner but had not gained power enough to battle in any other way.

"Slayer! Kill him!" Spike ordered once again.

"No!" Buffy shouted as she saw the host struggling to his feet. "He’s not responsible. We have to get what’s inside of him out."

"Bloody hell!" Spike growled as he reached her. "You can’t help him! The minute his body was taken, it was over. You have no idea what’s coming at you! Chronozon is one of the most dangerous demons there is. If you don’t kill him now, you won’t be able to. You have to do it before he gets stronger!"

"I can’t!" Buffy looked at him in confusion. "I can’t kill him! He’s human!"

"He was human pet!" Spike returned. "He’s a demon now!"

"SPIKE!" A new voice cried out in the night and this time it did not belong to either Buffy or Spike.

Both of them stared at the host who until now had been silent during most of their battle.

"William the Bloody, how it is you aid the slayer?" The question came from the host and the tone in which it was delivered was not merely confused but rather outraged.

"I’m slumming." Spike retorted and drew a sharp glare from Buffy at that statement.

"A far cry from the murdering you were doing when we last encountered each other." Chronozon pointed out.

"I’m not here to relive our glory days Chron," Spike said with a sigh, having no desire to have his past misdeeds aired in front of Buffy. It was not as if she had not heard enough tales of his pre-Initiative and Sunnydale days.

Chronozon narrowed his eyes and studied Spike as if he was able to see straight through the vampire into what passed for his heart and soul these days. His reaction was nothing less than astonishment. "You love this human." The disgust in his voice was apparent.

"Oh great," Buffy rolled her eyes. "Can you not manage to be so obvious about it? The last thing I want is for demons to start scribbling my phone number on their bathroom walls."

"Its too late," Spike gave her a satisfied smirk. "I did that last night."

"You love this human!" Chronozon repeated himself again. "You would ally yourself against the Chosen? You would defile yourself for her? You have her stink all over your skin! And she doesn’t even want you!" The demon started to laugh.

"That’s it mate," Spike growled, unable to tolerate the indignity of being exposed as a lovesick fool. He glanced at Buffy and said sharply, "I’m going to do you a big favor Slayer and take care of this myself."

"Spike!" Buffy called out, feeling a little guilty for giving Chronozon the means in which to humiliate Spike about his feelings for her. She supposed after how she treated him, he had a right to be angry. However, intervening right now did not seem like a good idea as Spike closed in on the demon inhabiting the body of a human she knew she could not longer save because Spike was right.

Spike saw the leering expression on Chronozon’s new face and felt the rage he could not express to his slayer bubble to the surface. He swung his fist out and caught Chronozon on the face. The demon stumbled backwards, staggered by the force behind that first blow. He did not have much chance to recover because no sooner than he had been struck once, Spike swung again, this time even more forcefully than before. This time he could not stop himself from falling. When tumbled to the soft dirt of his newly exhumed grave, Spike was on top of him, swinging punch after punch, until blood began to seep through the fissure of broken skin.

"Spike stop it!" He heard her screaming. "If you’re going to do it! Make it fast! Don’t make him suffer."

Not on your life, pet. Spike thought savagely as he saw the host’s face bloodied to a pulp. It was at times like this that he wished he had a railroad spike handy. He knew that Chronozon had not really angered him that much but the repressed rage he had felt from being discarded by Buffy like some thing she had scraped off her boot was filling him with a murderous fury and it felt good venting it. He was stronger than Buffy. Something she did not know because he had never cared to show her. In a fight, she could hold her own but Spike could wear her down. He just never had the heart to do it because he loved her even when he did not know it.

"Spike," he heard Chronozon speak again through the haze of his violent rage and this time there was none of the derision that had ignited his anger to begin with. "Spike, I can free you. Accept me into your body and I can make you stronger than you have ever imagined. I can give her to you. Don’t you want that? Don’t you want to be free of your chains and bound to her forever? I can make that happen."

The demon’s voice was soothing and for a moment, almost tempting but Spike knew he could never accept Buffy being given to him. If it were that simple; he would have turned her into a vampire after their heated coupling in that building when she was vulnerable and wanting his touch. No, he wanted Buffy as she was, with all her human frailties and foibles. He loved her warmth and her heart. Her soul was his open book and he wanted to study every page. If she was turned then he would lose all that even though she would be with him for eternity. As inviting as Chronozon’s promise was, he did not want that.

"Sorry Chron," Spike said after a moment. "She’s a bitch but I like her that way."

Without saying anything further, Spike grabbed the demon by the skull and twisted sharply.

Buffy froze when she heard the squelching sound of a neck being broken. A low wail seemed to scream into the night even though she knew the host would have had no time to scream when Spike took his life. Yet that angry scream out of rage seemed to travel on the breath of wind that suddenly appeared. She shuddered underneath her coat as she saw Spike slowly rising to his feet, wondering why it had suddenly become so cold. This was California. It wasn’t supposed to be cold but then she was sure the brochure said nothing about Hellmouths either but here it was.

Spike stood up and stepped away from the dead form of Chronozon’s latest host. That had been a little too close to home, perhaps it was time he started thinking about moving on. He did not want the entire demon world knowing that he was the Slayer’s pet vamp, one that was foolish enough to fall in love with her, a feeling she would probably die before admitting to feel for him. He turned towards her but did not raise his eyes to meet hers. Chronozon’s words had left him stinging and he wanted nothing but to go back to his crypt where he could get properly drunk and forget all about what was said, at least for a few hours.

"She’s a bitch but I like her that way?" Buffy glared at him in annoyance as he walked towards her.

"It seemed the best way to explain things to him." Spike retorted and continued past her.

"You knew him?" She asked, somewhat curious as to why he was not lingering to talk to her like he always did. She knew that he was still angry over how she had treated him but he usually got over it.

"Yeah I knew him." He responded curtly.

Neither noticed the dark force that had chosen to leave the dead body behind them.

"I could have taken care of him myself," she said quickly, not wishing him to think that she was incapable of doing what was necessary to save the world from another demon. She had killed Angel to stop Acathala. After that, a human stupid enough to invite a demon into his body was rather easy. She had no wish to beholding to Spike for anything.

"Fine," Spike replied, not looking at her. "You can deal with him the next time."

"I will." She said firmly.

"Whatever," his voice returned with indifference and Buffy found she did not like that very much. She was accustomed to being the one who walked out on their conversations. He was not supposed to be the one doing the walking How dare he usurp her walking out privileges!

"SPIKE!"

Any thoughts about walking out or ignoring each other was shunted aside as both of them swung around and saw the dark cloud that suspended over the body. What might have been a faced swirled in the dark mist but neither could make it out clearly, even though they knew who it was with absolute certainty. Chronozon could not exist for long in this plane of existence without a body but he was still hear and judging by the fury in his voice, he was properly angry.

"What does it take to kill you?" Spike demanded. "I must be going soft hanging around you and the Scooby bunch," he cast an accusatory look at Buffy.

"Oh bite me." Buffy retorted.

"I’d probably choke on you." He snapped back. "Besides, old Chron can’t hang around for long can you mate? Without a warm body, you’re just another displaced excuse of a London fog."

"Oh Spike," Chronozon’s voice started to laugh. It was deep and throaty, filled with malevolence. "You should have taken my offer. I would have given you the world. Now I am going to take it away."

Before Spike could do anything else, there was a surge of excruciating pain where every nerve in his body screamed with agony. A blackness even darker then the night crowded in on his consciousness and somewhere in the distance as he began to succumb to its power, he heard Buffy calling out for him. He opened his mouth to answer her but no sound came and after a second, nothing registered at all.

And the world he knew ceased to be.

+ + + + + + +

He did not know how long he had been lying in the spot where he had fallen but Spike certainly knew it when it was time to wake up. The first ray of sunshine on the new day awakened him with a sharp searing pain and the smell of burning flesh that that made his return to consciousness a less than pleasant exercise

"Bollocks!" He shouted in pain and sat up abruptly to find himself staring into the fast approaching sunrise. His hand stung with pain as he scrambled out of its light, taking sanctuary in the shade of a nearby tree. Spike squinted as the brightness of the day and immediately searched for a more permanent refuge before his immortal life was cut short rather suddenly. Fortunately, his crypt was not far from where he had been taking his impromptu repose and there was still enough shade to ensure that he could make it home without risking further injury.

Nursing his injured hand, Spike hurried past the gravestones and noted despite his haste to return to safety that something about the cemetery felt wrong. He paused long enough to take a sweeping view of the cemetery and realised that somehow it seemed bigger, vaster. There were gravestones as far as the eye could see and he could not longer tell where its boundaries ended. For a moment, he wondered how that could be until the stinging pain in his hand forced him to shunt the question aside for the moment, since he had more pressing concerns. He took the path back to his crypt and found that it too was laced with peculiarities. After calling it his home for almost two years, Spike had come to know the route back almost intimately. He knew the grooves in the dirt and the bare patches where traffic either by human or demon had worn away the grass.

Now as he took that supposedly familiar path, he found that nothing about it was familiar. It was almost instinct that made him aware of which twists and turns he had to take because the features in the terrain was simply not there. For starters, the grass was overgrown for most of the journey. In some areas, the foliage had almost completely overtaken the gravestones and many of them were covered in lichens and moss. There were no signs of flowers or wreaths left behind by loved ones. If anything, the cemetery seemed rather neglected. He had no time to think about this further because the need to find safety was paramount but he did know it had not looked like this the night before. Perhaps he was still lying on that patch of earth he had just left, dreaming this craziness. He knew the Slayer did not think much of him but she was not that cold to leave him on the ground to burn up in the sunlight.

If that was true, then where was she?

Another surprise met him when he returned to his crypt. For one thing; it was sealed. He had not sealed it since he had first taken up residence in the place. There was no need to seal it since much of the time he needed to make a quick entry and also there were very few people who would invade a crypt. Knowing someone had been in his private sanctuary, infuriated him but once again, the time constraints forced him to quell his anger for the moment. The stray bolts of sunlight were becoming more and more frequent and soon he would not be able to avoid them all. Bracing himself, he gave the marble door a forceful shove and forced it past the doorway. The slab of marble appeared to have been in place for quite some time and required another push before it finally gave way and allowed him entrance.

Spike entered the room swiftly and stopped short as soon as he was safely inside the cool darkness of the vault. The air was not fresh but dank from being sealed for so long and the mustiness made his heightened senses flinch. There was none of the belongings that made this place his home, nothing but dust and the sealed coffin of the crypt’s original resident.

"What the bloody hell is going on!" Spike demanded with growing anxiety.

It was not just the fact that his things were gone. Far from it actually, it was the fact that the years of dust accumulated over everything was undisturbed as if he had never been here at all. His mind started whirling as he struggled to recall what had happened after he had killed Chornozon. His mind was a little foggy on the details but his memory was intact. He had killed Chronozon’s host just before the darkness had overwhelmed him and left him where he had awakened. What had happened to Buffy? Had Chronozon hurt her? Spike’s stomach knotted in fear as he thought about that possibility. Chronozon could not have lingered in this plane of existence for long without a host body. However, that was fleeting comfort because even disembodied the demon was a powerful and malignant force capable of much damage.

Chronozon had spoken about making Spike pay. Did that mean harming Buffy? The possibility terrified him and he prayed to whatever he still believed in that she was safe. He convinced himself that the Slayer was strong enough to deal with someone like Chronozon. She had survived all manner of evil since she had been called. The girl had killed the Master, the king Vampire that had reigned so long in Sunnydale before her arrival. She had sacrificed the man she loved to save the world from the demon Acathala and defeated the hell god Glory, not to mention the insidious Mayor of Sunnydale in his bid to become a demon. Surely, she would be able to deal with one sinister disembodied creature from Hell? Then against his will, he remembered that she had died fighting Glory and only a spell had given her new life. If Chronozon defeated her this time, there would be no miraculous resurrection. He would take her into hell and Spike would never get her back again.

Damn it to hell, he needed to know if his Slayer was still alive!

Unfortunately, there was little he could do for the moment. His injury was considerable and it was becoming hard to ignore the pain. Even though he healed rapidly, it would not be fast enough for his liking and he knew that he needed to rest. Reaching into his duster, he sat down on one of the stone ledges and removed a steel flask from his coat pocket. Holding it awkwardly in between his knees, he managed to unscrew the lid before taking a swig of the alcohol within it. The whiskey tasted as good as it smelled and he took several more hearty swallows in order to numb the pain.

She could take care of herself as he felt the effects of the liquor. She was the Slayer after all. She had proven to be more than a match for him and he was certain that when he found her, she would waste no time in treating him like dirt while telling him what an absolute pansy he was for passing out on her when she was fighting Chronozon. Spike kept telling himself that as he continued to drink, feeling the pain dull and with its his senses as he drifted into a restless sleep.

+ + + + + + +

When he woke up again, his hand was no longer aching but the same could not be said for his head. The contents of his flask had left a rather unpleasant reminder of why it was never wise to imbibe too much of the stuff at any given time. Nevertheless it did allow him to endure the healing process his body was required to go through in order for his hand to mend itself. Fortunately, he was not in danger of emulation as he was the last time he awoke and through the open door of the crypt, he could see the moon staring back at him rather indifferently. The night awakened his senses the way the day stilled them and the need to bask in it became overwhelming. He was after all a creature of the night, chip or not. When the moon was at its fullest, it was his time but he would not be hunting for anything but answers.

Examining his hand as he emerged from the crypt, the only signs of the burn he had received was a rapidly diminishing scab of scar tissue over the skin. He flexed his hand experimentally and other than a bit of tightness across the skin, he more or less had full use of it. It was just as well because if Chronozon had hurt Buffy he would perform the incantation to draw out the demon from Hell just so that Spike could kill him all over again. Upon making his way out of the cemetery, Spike realised his initial observation about the cemetery being larger was right. It was bigger. In fact the headstones went so far that he was almost wishing that he had his motorcycle with him. Unfortunately, the bike like the rest of his belongings had disappeared and he had to make the journey on foot. Finally, after what felt like five miles of walking past nothing but headstones and fresh graves (and there seemed to be a lot of those), Spike reached Sunnydale.

At least he thought it was Sunnydale.

The town that he had come to know as a paragon of sunny California living had become a dark parody of itself. Most businesses in the main street were closed and those that were opened were barred with cloves of garlic and crosses hanging for all to see. It appeared as if the good citizens of Sunnydale had finally realised that they were living on a Hellmouth and were taking the proper precautions. Litter covered the streets and the boulevards where people loitered in the evenings were deserted. Spike could not imagine what had happened that would turn Sunnydale into this. Buffy would lose her fucking mind if she saw this, he thought to himself and wondered once again where she was. Involuntarily, he was reminded of what the town had looked like when the vampire population had learnt that the Slayer was dead. The parallels to where he found himself now was so strong that he could barely stand it.

He started hastening his pace as he walked up the empty sidewalk, almost breaking into a run in order to reach the familiar tree lined street where she lived. He had to know that she was alright because everything he saw right now told him she was not. He could not even allow himself to face the possibility that she might be dead because it was too much for him. If he acknowledged that she might be gone then he would simply slink to the floor and wait for the sun to come out again and end his existence. This time he would have the courage to go through with it.

He had not gotten very far when suddenly he heard someone call his name.

"Spike," the voice behind him was familiar but not. He turned around slowly and found himself staring at Xander Harris.

Xander was clad in dark leather and a white T-shirt, looking like someone who stepped out of an old biker movie. Spike could only stare at him for a moment because the young man looked nothing like the whiney whelp the Slayer considered one of her best friends. He looked predatory, wearing a gleam in his eyes that Spike knew all too well.

Oh hell.........

"Xander." Spike returned unable to say anything else because the realization was too impossible. Xander had the scent of a vampire.

"Where have you been?" Xander asked coolly. "The Boss has been looking for you."

"The Boss?" Spike cocked his brow in bewildered. "Who the hell is the Boss?"

"You’re not supposed to call him that Xander," a new voice entered the mix and Spike decided then and there that the world had gone completely insane when he saw Willow emerging out of shadows, dressed in black leather and looking so much like Dru that it was scary. She wore the same pout on her lips, the same faraway expression and the same lack of humanity. "Spike knows that, don’t you Spike?"

Willow came to him and ran a finger seductively down his chest, her eyes twinkling in dark passion and Spike knew that she would tear his throat out with the same seductive smile if he gave her the chance. "You won’t tell the Master would you?" She asked, her pout becoming most childlike. "I don’t want him to get mad at my honey."

Spike could feel the raw lust oozing off every pore of her and found it intoxicating. Red had always been attractive to him but in a sweet, girl next door kind of way. He had never imagined her a vamp, symbolically or literally but she carried it off beautifully and judging by the way that Xander was looking at her, Spike realised that these two were mates as he and Dru had once been. How could Buffy had allowed this to happen? Spike asked himself. How could she fail these two of all people so terribly? He did not like Xander much but he respected their friendship with the Slayer, knowing it could not be easy to be there for someone whom by association alone could risk their lives on so many occasions and often did.

"Who turned you?" Spike managed to ask.

Xander stared back at him and laughed. It was not that nervous chuckle that Spike had become accustomed to hearing from the whelp but sinister and cold. It unnerved him hearing it coming form Xander.

"You’re kidding right?"

"Of course he is," Willow laughed winking at Spike and then at Xander. "Spike’s just playing with us. Spike knows that he’s my sire and then I was your sire, Xander."

"I did this to you?" He almost choked at the horror of it. "When did I do this to you and how am I still bloody walking around if I did? The slayer would have had my guts for garters by now.’

"The slayer?" Xander started to laugh harder. "Are you alright Spike? You killed the last slayer. What was her name again?" He asked Willow, unable to remember.

"Kendra," Willow replied. "Pretty Kendra. We left her all for you Spike. You like to do the Slayers. You do them best."

This was getting worse by the minute and Spike wondered if he had walked into a bad dream because this had to be a dream. It could not possibly be real. And who the bloody hell was Kendra? "Kendra?" He managed to say. "What about Buffy?"

Xander stared at him. "Who?"

Continue

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