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Previous Chapter: Chapter 2
Next Chapter: Chapter 4

Even before his barmy idea to get himself a soul, Spike had always been able to empathize with those he gave a crap about. Not that Wes was one of his favorites when it came to Angel’s crew, mind, but his horizons had been broadened a bit, now hadn’t they? Almost like becoming a vampire had made him nearsighted when it came to people, and the soul was a pair of corrective lenses.

Still and all, he might have felt for the poor sod even without the soul or giving a crap. That happened sometimes when someone reminded him of himself. Spike had always been too much of a starry-eyed dreamer to ever be head boy, but Wesley had that air of someone who had spent a good portion of his life desperately wanting to be part of a group, only to find himself included as the butt of the joke.

And then this business with his father…. Spike’s own father had passed when he was just a child, but he could still relate. He knew what it was like to strive for the approval of the family patriarch only to constantly fall short. He’d never been quite evil enough for Angelus and was never good enough for Angel. Couldn’t win for losing with that one, just like with Wes and his old man.

As for killing a parent…. He didn’t think he’d ever be up to talking about that with Wesley – not without a massive dose of the alcohol he couldn’t actually drink now that he was a ghostie – but he knew that pain, too. He could at least let him know he wasn’t alone without telling him the disturbing details.

When Wesley came out of Angel’s office, Spike intended to suggest he go out and get smashed all right and proper. He even planned to offer himself as someone to listen if he needed. That wasn’t what came out when he opened his mouth.

“Heard what happened up top, offing your dad and all. Don’t know if you know this, but uh… I killed my mum.” Oh god, what was he saying? He couldn’t stop. The words poured out of him like some kind of vile poison. There was no way Wesley could have known that, because it was private – he hadn’t even told Buffy all of the horrid details – and definitely not any of his sodding business. “Actually, I’d already killed her, and then she tried to shag me, so I had to….”

Wesley held up a hand in a stopping motion, and whatever sick impulse had made him say all of that decided to follow the unspoken command. He felt sick and somehow violated, his most shameful secret tossed out like it meant nothing. He’d come to terms with it – he knew it hadn’t really been his mum in any way, that she’d been one of those vampires who came through the change with very little of their humanity intact – but it was too private and still too raw to be tossed about like that.

Wesley said something before walking away, but Spike wasn’t paying attention. He felt naked and exposed. Worse, he felt like he’d been forced to strip his mother naked and flaunt her before all and sundry. God, what the hell was wrong with him?

I’m losing myself, he thought numbly, wrapping his arms around himself in a pointless hug that he couldn’t even feel.

 

 

“… staking your mother while she’s coming on to you!”

Buffy could recognize the sheer misery in Spike’s eyes as he shouted that out to Angel, but she was pretty sure no one in the hellscape could see it. Willow’s projections imposed their own time on what was going on, but days or even weeks – once a whole month – could pass when she had to take a break. It was all recorded, though, and when watching the recording about the robot dad, Wesley hadn’t seemed to notice the shocked horror on Spike’s face when he’d talked about his mom.

That had torn Spike up even before the soul. He hadn’t even been able to tell her about the coming on to him part – she’d kind of guessed, based on how he hadn’t said what he hadn’t said – and now he was yelling it out at the top of his lungs in a crowded office building.

Buffy went over to the bed and gently took one of Spike’s pale, lifeless hands in her own. Did he actually have any connection to his body at all? Could he feel her? Did he know she was here, waiting for him, trying to help? Probably not. He was trapped in his own personal hell while the people around him became aspects of himself that could diminish or enhance his own inherent traits in whatever way would hurt him the most.

She took a deep breath to steady herself and reluctantly let go of Spike’s hand before turning back towards Willow and the projection. Harmony had just announced that Spike had mail, which was step one in the latest attempt to rescue him.

Buffy blinked and shot a disbelieving look at Willow. “A box of flash? Really?”

“Hey, you try being creative while weaving together a bunch of spells to try outsmarting a hell amulet commissioned by a bunch of evil lawyers,” the redhead grumped.

Well, okay, she had a point there, but still…. Before Buffy could say anything else, the door opened and Giles came in, looking distressed and holding a folder. He started to say something, but she couldn’t focus on him right then. Her entire world had suddenly narrowed down to Willow’s projection, where a newly solid Spike had just charmed Harmony into going off to have sex with him.

 

 

No, no, no. He was supposed to be getting the hell out of L.A., not laying bloody Harmony down on a desk. He had to leave. He had to find Buffy. He couldn’t…. No, no, no. He unbuckled his belt and started to unzip his jeans. Oh god, what was he doing? This was wrong. So wrong on so many levels.

Spike had always been honest with her about his feelings when they’d been “dating.” He was pretty sure she’d never actually listened to a sodding thing he’d said, but he’d been honest. Except for when he’d been desperate right after the chip, he’d never encouraged her delusion that she was more than a tumble to him. This, though… this was leading the silly chit on, it was. Had to seem like he’d picked her over Buffy.

He hadn’t, though. He didn’t want this. He didn’t want Harmony, and he didn’t want this. Why was he doing it? He wanted to feel, to touch everything and breathe in the scent of the world. Was that why he was doing this? It was awful and mechanical, no more than flesh. But… she smelled good, and she felt good. And it wasn’t like Buffy would want him back, anyway, would she? He was beneath her.

He didn’t notice Harmony’s eyes flash as she became an aspect of him, taking on his insecurities and his inability to stop others from using and discarding him.

 

 

Buffy stared numbly at the projection. All Spike had had to do was make a real, honest effort to get to her, and he would have been free. Instead, he’d grabbed Harmony and….

“Buffy,” Willow said, gently squeezing her shoulder. “This is his version of hell, remember?”

That… actually made sense. She remembered how upset he’d been when she’d implied he’d wanted more than to talk to those women the First had made him turn. Spike loved women, loved company, and loved talking. He was also incredibly faithful, even if the woman he loved couldn’t admit how she felt.

“And we’re about to get him out,” Willow continued, excitement in her voice. “Look.”

Buffy focused on the projector again. Spike was heading towards the elevator, getting ready to go to “Europe” to find her. They were going to get him back.

“Buffy… I don’t believe it’s going to be this simple,” Giles said.

She ignored him. It was happening. It was really happening. Spike was coming back. Buffy felt tears prickling at the back of her eyes. She was going to hug him. She’d hug him, and then she’d punch him right in the nose for not believing her and making her worry so much. Then she’d hug him again.

They were talking about some kind of apocalypse in the projection. It didn’t matter. It wasn’t real, just the amulet wigging out over Spike being solid again. None of that was important. All that mattered was that Spike was standing in front of the elevator, getting ready to get on.

“Come on,” she whispered. Oh god, it was happening. What… what if he didn’t want her anymore? No. She wasn’t going to think about that. It wasn’t important either. This was about Spike and getting him out of hell. “Get on the elevator, Spike. Come on, honey, come home.”

No, don’t linger to hear about the howling abyss. No one gives a shit about the sound of a howling abyss. Well, okay, a howling abyss actually should be something people cared about, but it wasn’t real. Spike just needed to ignore it all and get on the elevator.

“Just us and a big, gaping tear in the balance of the universe,” said some woman Buffy hadn’t really been paying attention to. Eve she thought her name was.

Oh no, no, no. Buffy’s heart sank. The universe was at stake and Spike didn’t know it wasn’t real. He was going to try to be a hero. It… was just who he was. He was just standing there, holding the elevator doors open.

“Spike….” Angel said, and Buffy prayed he’d tell Spike to go away. She knew Spike. If this had been real, he’d storm off, then return to help. But the storming off would be enough. It would bring him home. “Stay. Please. Europe’ll still be there after we’ve worked this out.”

No. No, no, no. They’d been so damn close. “No, no, Spike. No! Don’t listen to him!” He couldn’t hear her. He turned away from the elevator, away from freedom, away from her. “Damn it!” She turned and strode towards the wall, punching it with all of the force she wished she could use on the hotel’s owner. “Damn you, Angel!” She punched it again, over and over, leaving half a dozen holes. “Damn you.”

“Buffy….”

She took a deep breath to steady herself and looked at Giles. “I know,” she said quietly. “It’s not Angel’s fault, but….” She trailed off at the odd look on her watcher’s face.

“We need to talk,” he said, opening the file. “These are files that were… ‘forgotten’ and very nearly didn’t make it to us. The amulet was very specifically calibrated to both the purity of Angel’s soul and his innate goodness. It was meant only to weaken the First Evil and temporarily render the Hellmouth dormant.”

Buffy stared at him for a moment, unable to process right away. Weaken the FE and make the Hellmouth temporarily dormant…. Spike’s soul and his innate goodness…. The FE had been severely weakened and the Hellmouth utterly destroyed. Innate goodness sounded like it was something different from the soul. It was just… Spike. Even before the soul, he’d been something special. Something extraordinary, and they’d refused to see it.

“The calibration and the fact that it was meant to capture Angel means that it’s tied to his psyche. Everything the Angel in the amulet does is because that is what Angel would have done in that situation. All of the actions of his people are based either on Angel’s idea of them or the aspect of Spike they represent.”

What did any of that even mean? Tied to Angel’s psyche? That couldn’t mean what she thought it meant. Angel was a hero. A champion. A… jealous asshole who was always butting into her life and had a history with Spike.

All of the jabs against Spike and his intelligence from Angel and his crew in that hellscape. All of the times he was treated like a pest that didn’t matter, that was less than nothing. That was… beneath them. All of that was because of how the real Angel felt about Spike. They hated each other… and yet, the Angel in the amulet – supposedly directly influenced by the real one – had asked him to stay. Why?

Because he wasn’t just leaving, Buffy realized. It was all about that damn jealousy and possessiveness. Spike had been planning to find her, and Angel couldn’t stand the thought of her being with anyone who wasn’t him. Spike was still in that damn amulet because Angel refused to let her go, even though he was the one who had forced them apart.

“There… there’s still hope, Buffy,” Willow said reassuringly. “I’ve still got some of my spells woven in. It’s not over yet.”

Buffy breathed in and out a few times to get in control of herself. “Right. Okay, Willow, keep trying. I’ve got my cell phone. Call me if you get him out.”

“Call you…?” Willow frowned. “Where are you going to be?”

“At Wolfram & Hart. Mr. CEO and me need to have a long talk. Involving my fists and his face.”

 


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Previous Chapter: Chapter 2
Next Chapter: Chapter 4

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