PART THREE
Exponential


If there was thing Chris hated more than one-eyed Marshals gunning for his blood, land barons who had an elevated sense of importance and psychotic Confederate Colonels, it was weird s things. Weird things were not supposed to happen to him. Chris Larabee was a man accustomed to dealing with most situations. There had not been any crisis that had arisen yet that he was not in some way equipped to deal with. Most of the time, he attacked the problem the best way he knew how, directly and with the aid of his six companions. On that basis, they had been able to protect the small town of Four Corners from quite a lot. Four Corners these days was a thriving frontier community, no different from any struggling to survive in the Territory. It was a far cry from the utter chaos and lawlessness Chris had ridden into when he first arrived. Thanks to his six friends, all exiles like himself, they had found a home in this town and a bond of friendship none had ever known elsewhere and what bound them together was Four Corners. For that precious friendship, each man had taken the duty of its protection to heart.

However, for the first time since being appointed one of Four Corners’ peacekeepers, Chris had no idea what to do.

For starters, he had enough trouble believing what the strangers from the future had told him even if he had seen one of them change from human to what was it they called it again? A vampire? What the hell was a vampire? He heard the Englishman explain it to him (the one who wasn’t a vampire that is) as he now attempted to explain the situation to the rest of his men and it still seemed so unbelievable. Yet, Chris knew what he had seen and one minute the younger man, the one called Spike had appeared to him as a human and the next thing Chris knew, he was staring into a face that shattered all the walls of his very comforting and secure world. Suddenly, Chris came face to face with the supernatural unknown that he had discarded as superstitious nonsense. He had never believed in ghosts and goblins, in demons or monsters. Hell, he had a hard time believing that there was even a God after Sarah and Adam were taken from him.

Now, he was being told that a soul could be taken by one of these monstrous creatures and was left with the sobering realization that he actually had one to lose. Everything that he thought was myth had basis in fact and that meant if there was a Hell, from which such creatures were spawned, then there had to be a heaven. Knowing that infused him with some measure of comfort and it was ironic that it would be because of Sarah and Adam. Even now, his dead family was the one to make the revelations he had experienced this night have some perspective. If there was a heaven then Sarah and Adam were there, waiting for him and it was surprising how good it felt to know for certain that when his life was over, he would be with them again.

"You’re crazy," Buck Wilmington’s voice declared and returned Chris’ attention to the discussion being carried out.

Following Spike’s little display; Chris had thought it best to get the rest of the seven together in order to deal with this situation that had suddenly come upon them. Also present was Ezra who was a little better now that he had some time to rest and recover from his ordeal. The gambler seemed a little uneasy around Spike but that was understandable, considering how close he had come to dying at the hands of someone who looked almost identical to the creature that had tried to take his life. The vampire did not take much offense and had a demeanor that was somewhat odd in comparison to the tales being told by the man called Giles about these creatures. Everything about Spike indicated that he was a vampire, hell Chris had seen it with his own eyes but the younger man’s (?) devotion to the woman he had come to save clearly did not make him like the others.

"I can assure," Ezra said weakly "He is not. These creatures exist. Marsden almost ripped out my throat."

"Don’t make me show you Exhibit A again," Spike retorted from his corner of the room, not looking at Buck.

The vampire was staring out the window, trying to equate his memories of the past with this place. The smells were all the same, dried horse manure, the lack of decent plumbing and the sweat that came of too many people crammed together in one place where air conditioning and ventilation was non-existent. Its potency felt terribly alive for the vampire and he remembered that though the world of his youth had been a little more polished, it was no different then this place.

"Yeah," Vin shuddered, still a little shaken by that. "You don’t want to see that."

"Besides," Josiah Sanchez added. "When I was doing missionary work, the Mexicans had a legend about something called Civateteo."

"Oh yes," Giles immediately chimed in on that note, familiar with the legend being a watcher. "They were vampire-witches who held sabbaticals at cross roads. They were believed to attack young children and sometimes even mated with human men, producing vampire children. They are believed to be linked to the god Tezeatlipoca."

"Well that’s bullocks," Spike retorted. "Vampires can’t reproduce. Besides, it takes all the fun out of gratuitous sex," he grinned.

"I’m with him on that," Buck sent Spike a cocky grin, earning groans of resignation from everyone else.

"Well legends can be distorted but some basis in fact remains," Giles responded.

"The people who told me about Civateteo were pretty convinced they existed and considering what we now know, its no wonder." Josiah concluded. "Although I suppose its good to know that there is a heaven and a hell. Does wonders for your faith."

"I can’t believe that gorgeous filly, Miss Darla is one of them?" Buck stared at the others in the room with astonishment. For the past week, he had been lusting after the woman but had not made any move towards her because her rather formidable looking companion did not appear as if he would have appreciated Buck’s attention.

Spike snorted. "She would have had you for a snack mate."

"Spike," Giles gave him a reproachful look, wishing the vampire would not be quite so blunt with these men. It was a difficult thing to accept what they were being told. It was hard enough to believe in vampires let alone understand how a demon could cause so much destruction in the future by preventing one girl from being born with one of their deaths.

"Look Watcher," Spike glared back at him impatiently. "Angelus is out there and by now, my younger self has probably told him he saw me. Now I can’t take all four of them on my own and I’m sure as hell not expecting these blokes to do the same."

"Why not?" JD demanded. "We can handle anything that comes along."

"Junior," Spike glared at the young boy that reminded so much of Xander Harris that the need to bite him was really overwhelming. "I can’t them take on alone and I’m pretty nasty sort. They’ll eat you alive. Literally."

"Hey back off," Buck stepped in between Spike and JD. "We’ve handled worse than four vampires."

"We have?" Nathan stared at the big man. "When?"

"Look the fact of the matter is, they are here and we have to deal with them." Giles broke into the conversation before things became more heated. "Now, Angelus, Darla, Drusilla and your earlier self are formidable but not indestructible. You men seemed to be able to handle yourselves, there is no reason why we cannot deal with this situation."

"Do they know what you do?" Chris spoke for the first time since Giles had began explaining to the others, directing his question at Spike alone.

"What do you mean?" Spike looked at the grim man in the black duster.

"Do they know that by killing Ezra, they kill the girl?" Chris asked.

"No," Spike replied. "But that won’t stop them for coming. The ‘other Spike’ got a good look at me and if Angelus loves nothing else, he loves a mystery. He’ll want to know what’s going on."

"What about Ezra?" Vin inquired. "Are they likely to come after him?"

"Only to find out how to get to me." Spike returned. "Best place for him right now, is somewhere else."

"I will not run." Ezra retorted. "I have no intention of hiding from this creature. I was momentarily taken back when I saw Marsden but I shall be able to handle myself."

"Shut up Ezra," Chris growled. "If the man says the best place for you to be right now is somewhere else, then that’s where you’re gonna be."

"I protest...." Ezra started to speak but Chris silenced him with a patented Larabee glare.

Spike rose a brow and grinned at Chris, "I like your style mate. Real brassy."

Chris took it as a compliment before he regarded Giles and the others once more. "Is there only four of them we got to deal with?"

Giles, Spike and Tara exchanged glances and it was something that did not escape Chris or any of the seven’s notice.

"There is only four right?" Chris repeated himself, suddenly struck by the feeling that he was about to be given some rather bad news.

"It depends," Giles swallowed thickly, choosing that moment to clean his glasses.

"On what?" The gunslinger demanded.

"They’ve been here for a week or more," Spike interjected. "Chances are they would have gotten hungry in that time. From what you’ve been telling us, they haven’t done any feeding in town so that means they’ve been doing it elsewhere. They may have sired help."

"How much help?" Vin asked fearfully, not liking the notion that they would have to deal with more than four of these creatures.

"As many as they want," Spike retorted. "When I was the Big Bad, I used to do two or three a night. It’s not just the feeding, it’s the hunt."

"Hell........." Chris started to groan.

"Their numbers could increase exponentially." Giles admitted. "They may already have minions out there and if Angelus senses a great threat, he may use them against us."

"So what do we do?" Vin looked at Chris.

Chris drew a deep breath and considered their options. He could tell that the situation was just as new to the man called Giles even if the existence of vampires was not. Spike’s only interest appeared to be keeping the woman he loved alive, which fortunately meant the continued survival of Ezra while the others were lost between confusion at any of this being real or fear at whether or not they could survive fighting such creatures. However, a course of action had to be taken immediately because Spike was right, they did not have much time. If everything he knew about this Angelus was any indication of how he would react, the Master Vampire would soon be coming after Ezra.

"Ezra, you’re leaving town." Chris looked at him. "You’ll hole up at the shack for a couple of days, until we sort this mess out."

"Mr. Larabee," Ezra stiffened. "How safe is it going to be for me to be stranded in the middle of nowhere when these creatures come for me?"

"A lot safer than you think," Spike remarked, agreeing with Chris on this point "We can’t go where we haven’t been invited."

"You’re kidding," Vin looked at him. "You mean if no one asks you through the door, you can’t come in?"

"Yes," Giles explained. "A vampire cannot come into a home unless he’s been invited by its owner."

"That is peculiar," Josiah mused, "but useful."

"Tell me about it, causes no end of grief. Almost got the prey and she runs home, it’s bleeding frustrating at times." Spike grumbled.

"So if we leave Ezra at the shack alone, they can’t get him." JD shuddered instead of lingering on thoughts about what assurance they had that the Spike in the room with them would not switch sides. "We could tell people not to invite anyone in they don’t know then these vampires can’t hurt anyone else."

"That won’t stop them from feeding whenever anyone leaves their home," Tara replied. "They could burn down a place if they can’t get in. The result is just the same."

"That instills me with a great deal of confidence," Ezra returned sarcastically. "I cannot abide this! They must be mistaken, I am not even married! In fact, I have no intention of being married for quite some time. Perhaps the lineage is wrong."

"The lineage isn’t wrong mate," Spike insisted. "That damn demon made it so that you were the one bit. Before all this happened, I’d never even heard of Four Corners, none of us did. Angelus, Darla, me and Dru were in Europe at this time. The fact that we’re here and you seemed to be the only one I seem to remember biting makes it the truth. You’re the Slayer’s grandsire."

"I am not the material from whom Slayers are made," Ezra protested further.

"Its not a genetic line," Giles quickly explained. "Slayers are not hereditary. They are merely chosen."

"Why not?" Chris asked, somewhat curious on this whole subject of the slayer.

"They don’t live long enough to have children." Giles said quietly. "Most of them don’t live very long after they are called."

"Hell of a life for a girl," Josiah remarked, unable to imagine a young teenager expected to take on such a responsibility. What must it be like to wake up one day and find that your destiny was to kill creatures that defied all that was holy? Josiah could not even begin to imagine it.

"Buffy managed alright," Spike said, allowing his emotions to filter into his voice despite his best efforts to conceal. It. "Still would have if I hadn’t helped her kill that bastard Chronozon."

"You didn’t know it was going to happen," Tara responded sympathetically.

Spike was having none of that. "I should have stayed out of it. She would have handled him somehow and he wouldn’t have felt it necessary to get his revenge on me by taking it out on her."

"Things happen," Vin added. "Most of time, you don’t know its gonna until you’re half done doing it. Ain’t no one’s fault when its revenge."

Spike went silent, uncertain how to take the efforts to make him feel better but felt appreciative of the attempt nonetheless.

"Okay first things first," Chris stated, breaking the tender moment because it appeared the vampire was at a loss to respond and they needed some form of plan to proceed. "Vin, I want you and Buck to take Ezra out to the shack at first light."

"No way," Spike shook his head. "I’m going where he is."

"Look," Chris bristled, not used to having his orders and not about to tolerate it in any shape or form even the protest came from a vampire. "You brought this mess to town and you’re gonna help us deal with it. You said that they can’t come in if you don’t invite him so if we stash Ezra at the shack he should be safe. Besides, you said this Angelus is going to want to know why Ezra’s so important so he’ll want to take Ezra alive, meaning no house burning."

"Okay," Spike had to concede that the grim bastard’s point of view was valid even though he did not like the idea very much. "I’ll stick around town."

"I can go with him," Tara spoke up.

"That’s nice of you little lady," Buck said gently, never one to put a lady in danger. "But its probably safer if you stay in town."

"I can take care of myself," Tara pouted in a way that Buck found utterly endearing. "I got us here, didn’t I?"

"Really," Giles added in her defense. "Tara is very capable of assisting your companions with Mr. Standish. Besides, if anything does happen, you need someone with you who knows how to deal with vampires."

"He’s got a point," Chris replied, having dealt with enough females in his time to know never to underestimate them. He did not look at Tara the way Buck did. To the ladies man, she was just a girl, needing protection. However, Tara must be something if she was able to count time travel as one of her abilities. "Vin, you and Buck will take Tara with you and Buck, keep your mind on the job?"

"Hey!" Buck cried out in mock hurt. "Why is it every time I try to be nice to a lady, you boys think I’m on the prowl?"

"Because you almost always are?" Vin remarked with a smirk.

"Like I said," Chris repeated himself an octave higher in order to catch their attention again. "On the job or Tara has my permission to turn you into a bullfrog or something."

Tara’s cheeks flushed with embarrassment while Spike merely sniggered as if there was some great joke about Buck’s interest in the young woman. Whatever it was, the vampire was not about to reveal it to the others just yet and turned away before he was forced to explain.

"What about the rest of us?" Nathan inquired ignoring Buck’s protestations of innocence.

Chris glanced at Giles. "It would be a good idea if we could find them before they came after us. Any ideas on that?"

Giles considered what he had been told about the quartet’s patterns since arriving in Four Corners. No doubt their actions were carried out so as to ensure no one knew what they were, so that they could feed without the difficulty that came with an entire town knowing there were vampire loose in the night. Now that the secret was out, Giles was convinced that Angelus immediate concern would be to move his ‘family’ out of town before any one came hunting for them. It would make things a great deal simpler if the family chose to move on but Giles knew from the records about Angelus, which he had studied in detail after Angel had come to Sunnydale, was fascinated by the bizarre. The appearance of another Spike would definitely fall into that category. He would pursue the matter until he unraveled the mystery and killed everyone in the process.

"Chances are, they would have left town the minute William," he saw Spike opening his mouth to say something and quickly answered the question the vampire was going to ask regarding the name Giles had called his previous self. "Let’s call him William for the sake of avoiding confusion, shall we?"

"Whatever," Spike scowled and turned back to his observation beyond the window.

"William would have no doubt reported what happened to Angelus and it’s my guess they’ll leave town to find a hiding place before dawn." Giles continued. "Do we know how far they can get before sunrise?"

"Quite a ways," Chris retorted, not liking this at all. "There’s at least three major towns around here, not to mention a lot of homesteads scattered around the area. If they wanted to hide, they could choose any one of those."

"We’ll have to search them all," Giles announced.

"That’s a lot of ground to cover," Vin pointed out. "Can we narrow it down any more than that?"

"Not really," Giles shook his head in response. "I’m afraid any where with sufficient space for a basement could be made into a nest."

"We’re not bloody cockroaches," Spike declared hotly. "We call it a lair."

"If Marsden was you in this time, can’t you remember where you’ve been?" JD asked after a moment. The young man’s words escaped him with some measure of hesitation as if he was trying to word his sentence in a manner that could be understood even if the concept was beyond him a little.

"Unfortunately not," Ezra answered before Spike could. "Spike’s recollections of this time would be consistent if Marsden had actually killed me. Since he managed to avert the outcome, the past he remembers is no longer viable because the time line has diverged somewhat."

"Couldn’t have said better myself," Spike commented. "I guess she does get a little bit of the smarts from you other than just height."

"You mean she’s real little too?" Buck teased Ezra who gave him a dark look.

"Well she is kind of small," Spike remarked, always enjoying provoking others. "Got his hair and his colored eyes though."

"She’s sounds like someone I wouldn’t mind meeting," JD joked.

"I do not suppose you have any idea who I am supposed to sire her with?" Ezra inquired, still unable to deal with the fact that one of his descendants was going to be a ‘vampire’ slayer. It certainly did not fit in with the solitary lifestyle he thought he would lead.

"Not really," Giles shrugged. "The records on hand did not have any information about you beyond the fact that you died. It was mere assumption that allowed us to come to the conclusion that you were indeed Buffy’s ancestor."

"Wonderful," Ezra sighed, seeing that there was no way he could think his way out of this situation. "I just hope she is rich."

+ + + + + + +

A scream tore through the night as the last member of the Landers family met their demise in a single moment of blood and tearing. Her final cry faded away in an instant and there was only silence in the wake of abrupt demise. It had all been very quick; from the moment her husband had seen the strangers carriage approaching the house to the instant when the tall, dark man with flowing dark hand beckoned her with a mesmerizing stare before he tore out her throat. She died with the memory of the screams uttered by her frightened children forever branded onto the remaining seconds of her life. There was another moment of clarity, when she felt teeth digging into her skin and that was all she knew.

Angelus dropped the body of Margaret Landers onto the floor of her pristine kitchen after he had drained her, feeling somewhat renewed after their hasty departure from Four Corners. He wiped the smattering of blood from his lips and studied his new surroundings with passing interest. The home was rustic but supplied with the conveniences. Darla would not be too impressed with their new accommodations but he knew that she would tolerate it for him. He made a mental note to take her to San Francisco once their business in the Territory was concluded. It would be an adequate salve for the indignities she would have to endure while he tried to unravel what had happened with Spike tonight.

Just thinking about his minion once removed from Drusilla filled the vampire with annoyance. They had things so perfect in Four Corners, using it as a base while they fed off the surrounding towns. He had so many plans for the lovely young widow who ran the local newspaper and now they would have to take second place in light of the current situation. Spike had been a thorn in his side ever since Drusilla had sired him. Angelus had to marvel at the fountain of rage that had been repressed within the human Spike had been before his death. Upon turning, all that fury burst forth into a violent mix of aggression that must have surely made the demon inside of him delighted with glee. For someone who appeared to have no spine before turning into the creature he was, Spike as a vampire had fear of nothing. He did not fear Angelus, merely respected him and there was no situation in which he would not run head long into. While that could be an advantage at times, at other times, like this one for instance, it could be damned inconvenient.

Angelus left the kitchen and stormed into the main parlor of the house where Darla had finished with the senior member of the Landers household. Paul Landers was on the floor, the blood on his neck and exposed flesh was an indication of his death. Angelus spotted a slash of blood across Darla’s breast and noted the blood on the man’s lips. He did not appear particularly impressive but then the purpose of the exercise was not to create a minion that would last for any length of time, just for their immediate needs. He would rise in a day or two so it was best to keep him out of the light for the time being.

"I chose not to use the woman," Angelus announced to Darla upon his approach. "I didn’t think she had what it takes."

"We’re going to need more than just one minion then," Darla raised her eyes towards him from her latest conquest. "Drusilla and William are finished with the children." Her face shifted to its human visage once more and she wiped the blood from her lips as she came towards him.

"We’ll deal with that in a day or two," Angelus responded pulling up a chair. "Right now, I’m more interested in why we had to run."

"He’s impetuous," Darla smiled, knowing that his anger at William had yet to abate. She circled him and began massaging his shoulders. Angelus released a deep sigh, leaning into her fingers as she kneaded the knots out of his muscle.

"He’s hot headed and dangerous," Angelus grumbled as he closed his eyes and enjoyed the sensation of her touch on his skin, even through shirt.

"No more than you were," Darla lowered her lips to his ear and whispered. "He’s young and he’s finding his way. Remember how you were?"

Angelus did remember. Darla had brought him to meet the Master and being the fool he was, he had allowed his mouth to run away with him again, provoking the wrath of the King Vampire who would have surely killed him if it was not for Darla’s interference. She had left the Master for him and Angelus adored her for that. He supposed that William who was less than a handful of years old would grow some sense with experience. For Drusilla’s sake, he hoped this was the truth since the girl was quite taken with her William. And if he did get himself killed, well then the situation would take care of itself all on its own.

"I suppose you are right as always," Angelus raised his eyes to Darla and their lips met in an icy kiss that did nothing to diminish their passion for one another. After a moment, Angelus pulled away, deciding it was time they discussed in depth what had happened to force their abrupt departure from Four Corners.

"The situation in Four Corners still needs to be addressed." He stated firmly.

"We could just move on," she suggested.

"Ah we could darling," Angelus smiled. "But I would like to know what exactly it was that William ran into. He doesn’t run easily and I have never seen him go after a human and fail to kill."

"He said that he saw another vampire, one that looked like him." Darla remarked.

"Yes," Angelus took that into consideration. "William!" He called out, sitting up straight in the chair, waiting for the younger vampire like he was a reproachful father. The thought of his being authoritarian to William brought the unpleasant memory of his own father back to him and even though the man seventy years dead in the past, his power over Angelus was no less than it had been when Angelus had been his son Liam. The notion that he was acting just like his hypocritical father did not please him much and Angelus reminded himself of what Darla had said, that in his early years as a vampire, he was almost as foolish and hot headed as William.

William emerged from the adjoining room where the Landers children had met their grisly faith with Drusilla following closely behind as always. The younger vampire swaggered in as usual, arrogance exuding from each step that he took. A premonition there and then told Angelus that experience would not temper that warring spirit, it would only intensify it, make it more lethal. In that instant as he saw Spike approach, Angelus was struck with the realization that no one could really control William because he loved too much what he was and he relished the power of his demon more than he missed the human he had been. In truth, they all felt some way the yearnings of their human existence; the ability to walk in the sunlight, to feel the warmth of living on their skin and a sense of completion knowing that they were finite.

William did not feel the regret. Whatever he had been in life must have been so terrible that he absolutely relished the demon that had taken him and in allowing it free reign with complete willingness, he had managed to emerge without any fear of anything, not even the Slayers. He had been actively pestering the family to seek out the Slayer but Angelus had no taste for travelling to Rhodesia. It was hardly civilized and even he had his limits. Besides, inwardly, he was not entirely sure he wanted to face the infamous Slayers because there was always a chance that she might hurt the family and Angelus was not about to risk that for anything.

"My name is Spike," William retorted as he came to a pause in front of Angelus.

"Fine then," Angelus stiffened in annoyance. "Spike it is. Now do you care to tell me why I had take my ladies from their comforts, running away like vermin in the night?"

"I told you," William growled. "There was a vampire there and he looked like me."

"An imposter?" Darla asked curiously.

"I don’t think so," William showed his uncertainty for the first time. "He told me to take a good look at him and I did but he didn’t look like an imposter. He was me." His voice drifted away, his confusion plain to see. "I don’t understand it."

"Tell me everything he said," Angelus ordered, finding himself somewhat intrigued by William’s tale.

William told Angelus everything about the evening’s encounter, from his game of poker with the gambler Ezra Standish, to his sudden desire to take the man’s life culminating with the encounter wit his double. Angelus listened carefully for a few minutes, saying nothing as William stated his case and unlike the usual sneer the younger vampire usually wore when describing his exploits, on this occasion there was only anxiety and hesitation. William was telling the truth, Angelus was certain of it, despite how insane it sounded. However, insanity was in the eye of the beholder when one lived in a world where one was a vampire and demons ran the earth freely. In comparison, a double was not that abnormal.

"The girl who was with him," William added. "She called him Spike."

"And he kept saying that you did not want to harm Standish for your own good?" Darla asked.

"Yeah, he kept bloody well saying that I’d regret it." William returned confused. "I know its crazy but he was me. I’m sure of it."

"I don’t doubt you lad," Angelus returned. "It’s damn strange though. I’d like to know what so important about one human that a vampire, even one that might be you would go to all the trouble of protecting."

"It is Spike daddy," Drusilla responded, having been quite all this time. "But not our Spike. I can feel him in my head. It’s like an echo in two."

"What does that mean?" Darla declared quizzically. She did not put as much faith as Angelus did in Drusilla’s seeing abilities.

"Tell me darling," Angelus rose to his feet and went to Drusilla. He slid his arm around her neck and immediately drew a dark look from William who was apart from being unreasonably aggressive was also insanely jealous when it came to his black princess.

Drusilla smiled as Angelus lowered his lips to her ear and whispered softly. "Tell me what you see."

"Spike wasn’t alone in his head, there was something else there," Drusilla responded, transfixed by something she could not see. The others were accustomed to the visions that Drusilla was prone to having and while Darla thought them to be ambiguous as times, Angelus and William relied upon them on many occasions.

"You keep saying that luv," William took her arm and gently pulled her to him, not wishing her to remain in Angelus’ grasp. "There wasn’t."

"Only for a little bit Spike," she smiled adoringly at him as her hand caressed the side of his face with love. "It buzzed inside your head for a while, telling you to kill that man."

"Well Spike?" Angelus looked at him hard. "Are you sure that you wanted to kill that man? I haven’t known you to kill anyone you gamble with. You always told me that a game is lost fair and square."

"Yes but....." William’s voice trailed off.

"Did he cheat?" Darla asked him pointedly.

William looked at her for a minute, about to say yes when he really considered the question. Had Standish cheated? William did not think he did. He was an excellent player but then the man was a professional gambler. He had been angry to lose but only because he had been bested by a human. He had been beaten before at the gaming tables but there was never a desire in him to go out and kill someone for that. As a vampire, he did not have many scruples but he did recognize a good fight when he saw it and was reluctant to the a poor loser by taking it out on someone just because they defeated him fair and square.

"No," William shook his head finally. "I don’t think he did. I just wanted to kill him."

"It wanted you to kill him Spike," Drusilla corrected him. "It wants him dead."

"I’d like to know what it is." Darla retorted impatiently, not liking the idea that a dark force was capable of influencing their thoughts and make them bend to its will.

"It’s from a very bad place daddy," Drusilla looked over her shoulder at Angelus. "I can hear the screaming behind it but its not here, it just speaks loudly in Spike’s head and it hates him so much."

"Hates me?" William’s eyes widened. "Why because I’m a vampire?"

"No," she shook her head. "Just you. He hates you, wants to make you suffer."

"I don’t see how killing this Standish fellow is going to do that. He plays good cards but that’s about all. Hardly enough for me to give a wrack about."

"I want to know what’s so special about this gambler that dark forces are hell bent on you killing him." Angelus stated.

"Maybe we should find out." Darla met his gaze.

"Aye," Angelus nodded slowly. "I think we will at that."

Continue

Comments to: scribe32oz@optusnet.com.au