Spike had raised his hand yesterday – had it really been only yesterday? – knowing he was as much as volunteering to commit suicide. Now that the moment was at hand, he wasn't quite as keen on the idea as he'd been when it had been more of an abstract notion.

But after his years at the Slayer's side, followed by the past several months with Himself, the whole Champion mentality had managed to rub off on him. Spike wasn't about to welsh now, no matter that the Senior Partners' army put the First's to shame, or that his band of rain-soaked white hats consisted of two vampires, a partially drained Old One, and a mostly dead human.

Pitiful numbers or not, the opening moments of the fight sent Spike's borrowed blood rushing through his veins. When, after cutting down the first foe, Illyria threw back her head and ululated a deafening war cry, he followed suit and dove in with abandon.

Gunn was the first to go. The other three flanked him for as long as possible, until a spiny-headed demon slipped past their defenses and ran him through. Angel and Spike slaughtered the demon with extreme prejudice, not that it made Spike feel any better. He doubted it did Angel either, but it wasn't exactly the moment to be dwelling on their losses.

Some time after they lost Gunn, Illyria took on the dragon despite Angel's having called dibs. They hadn't seen her since, but from the roars and shrieks a few blocks over, it seemed safe to assume she was still venting her feelings with full god-like wrath. Spike and Angel fought side by side until a new influx of demons separated them, but they managed to keep circling back to each other, neither wanting to go down alone.

In spite of the plethora of hits Angel had taken, and the seeming endless supply of foes, Spike wasn't so sure Angel would go down. His grandsire was in fine form, like a Berserker of old. If he hadn't been busy fighting for his own life, Spike might've been tempted to sit back and watch the old man go at it. He was that awe-inspiring.

"How's it going, mate?" Spike asked the next time he found himself back to back with Angel.

Angel grinned, fangs dripping gore, an unholy light in his eyes. Spike figured the look in his own was a match. "Haven't had this much fun in an age, boy. You?"

"It's a nice bit of carnage, all right. Could do with something tastier, though." He spat, still trying to clear his mouth of the vile taste of Fyarl.

"Cheer up, Willie. Maybe the next round they send at us will be lawyers."

"Think those taste even worse."

With a laugh, his grandsire was gone again. Metal clashed on metal. Somewhere up the block, Angel roared. Spike echoed with battle cry of his own, though it wasn't quite as full-throated as the initial one he'd loosed at the beginning of the fight.

The pouring rain had turned to turned to a light drizzle ages ago, and even that was letting up now, but the streets remained slick and dangerous. Blood and gore spattered with every step. He had to consciously make the effort not to breathe, which helped with the stench, but there was nothing he could do to dampen the assault on his ears. Spike liked a good, loud brawl as much as the next demon, but after a few hours of continuous roars, shrieks, and grunts echoing back at you from every side, it got to be a bit much.

He spun and lodged his blade into the chest of a demon. Soon as it fell, he planted his boot on its chest and had to tug with all of his might to dislodge it again. Stumbling backwards, Spike hit up against something wide and solid. Sword ready, he wheeled, only to deflect his blade in the nick of time.

"What is it?" he said, taking in Angel's surprised expression.

Angel only nodded, fangs receding and a slow smile spreading across his face.

Spike turned. "Slayers," he said, spying a small contingent of clearly super-powered girls toppling demons left and right as though they were no more than bowling pins. "Didn't expect that."

"Faith came through."

He raised an eyebrow. "You arrange this?"

"Nope. But I'm not going to complain." Angel decapitated a demon, almost absentmindedly, while Spike parried its companion. "More than enough fighting to go around. Should we go say hi?"

"Get in the way of that bloodthirsty lot? Who's to say they won't take us out next?"

"Good point." Angel turned in the opposite direction. "Plenty of demons this way too."




They'd cleared their block, and the next, working ever southward with fresh determination, when Spike saw him go down.

"Angel!" he cried, shoving his way through to the spot where he'd seen him last. What the hell had gotten him? The big lug had been doing fine, holding his own with some pissant demon that was barely a threat, when he'd suddenly faltered and disappeared. "Angel? Goddammit, you better not be dust –"

"Here," came the reply from somewhere underfoot. A clearly dead Morchega demon jiggled, massive orange torso wobbling as one of Angel's arms protruded from below, but before Spike could kick the demon off he was attacked from behind.

"Bloody. Hell. Can't. You see. I'm busy?" he said, each word punctuated by a slash of the sword he'd taken off Vrjelo after he'd lost his own. "Now fuck off, there's a good lad," he told the dying creature, shoving it away and turning back to the Morchega behind him.

Angel had managed to half-pull himself from under its carcass, but his progress had been impeded by another Morchega trying to rip his head off with its pincer-like hands. He rolled left and right, barely dodging the thing's attacks, until Spike sank his sword into it.

"What's this, then? Getting tired, old man?"

Angel grunted something at him but accepted his hand, and with a mighty heave that came close to dislocating both their shoulders, popped free. He sprang to his feet and muttered a distracted thanks, head craning around Spike to look down a side street.

Spike craned his head too, wondering what had gotten Angel so flustered.

What he saw made him falter in turn. "Oh, shit. Is that – ?"

"I think so," Angel said.

"Oh, god." Spike reached out and grabbed Angel's arm, using the other man's body as a ballast. "God… Buffy."

Oblivious to the danger they were in, Spike stood frozen at Angel's equally immobile side, both of them drinking in the sight of Buffy as she rained destruction on the demons surrounding her, the gracefulness of her movements belying her deadly precision.

"Buffy," he said again, snapping out of his daze. Sword forgotten, he bludgeoned his way down the street with fists and feet, Angel forgotten too.

"Spike, wait," Angel called after him. A moment later, his heavy hand fell on Spike's shoulder. "Stop, Spike. Maybe we should let her be."

"But it's Buffy," he said, as if that was all the explanation necessary.

"I know, but…" Angel shouldered him into a doorway. "Look, I know Andrew's been emailing you. And we both know her... condition… hasn't improved. She might not be so happy to see us."

"Don't care," Spike countered, aware of just how petulant he sounded and unable to stop himself. He shoved Angel aside, saving his grandsire from death – or at least severe damage – by mace. When they'd cleared themselves some breathing room once more, he said, "I just wanna get closer, mate. Make sure she's all right."

Angel was staring Buffy's way with the same longing Spike felt. "I guess…"

"She can't hate us too much if she's here, eh?" Spike dove back into the fray with a fresh surge of energy.

"You're going to be the death of me one of these days," said Angel when he caught up to him a half block later, tossing him a newly acquired axe.

"Be no more'n payback for what your sodding amulet did to me." Spike paused, head raised, and sniffed the air. "Fresh blood." He turned, following the scent, and pointed to a row of townhouses a block ahead. "Human. In there."

Terrified screams followed his proclamation. He aimed himself toward the sound, axe clearing a path, Angel hot on his heels. In the distance, Spike could see Buffy and a handful of other girls doing the same.

The sight that met them inside the first of the townhouses was not a pretty one. Spike had dealt in carnage and mayhem for over a hundred years, but the scattered remnants of the family that had lived there left him gasping and gagging.

Angel turned to him, stricken. "These people…. What have I done?"

Spike swallowed, still dazed. A crash sounded in the next house, and he forced down his gorge and whirled for the door. "Got work to do. We can flog ourselves later."

Outside, they couldn't enter the next house, which boded well for the occupants' health but meant they were stranded frustrated and useless in the open doorway. Spike and Angel settled on clearing the street while the Slayers rushed to aid the humans huddling inside their formerly safe homes. Now and then he would catch a glimpse of Buffy as she dashed from house to house, but the memory of the massacre they'd been unable to prevent – worse, had been the cause of – was more than enough to keep Spike focused on the task at hand.

The first streaks of dawn were painting the east by the time Spike, weary to the bone, collapsed against an overturned SUV next to Angel and said, "Think we've made a dent?"

Angel surveyed the nearly empty street. A scattering of demons ran here and there, but the few who hadn't yet been slaughtered seemed to be searching for cover. The deafening clamor of battle had diminished as well – either that, or Spike had finally gone mercifully deaf.

"Unless the action went elsewhere…" Angel trailed off, and shook his head. "I hate to tempt the fates this way, but I think we did it." Staring at his hands and torso in surprise, he added, "How? How did we survive?"

"Fucked if I know." Spike groaned and stood. "May as well get as many as we can before Mr. Sunshine forces us to hole up with the rest of the unsavories."

A cluster of demons burst from a house, Buffy hot on their heels. Spike joined the battle, surreptitiously taking advantage of his proximity to Buffy to bask in her presence. She was covered with blood and gore, and wounds to match his own, but he thought she'd never been more beautiful.

Beautiful or not, he made sure to keep the pack of demons between them. Even had he forgotten he was vampire non grata with the Slayer of his dreams, her not-quite-right scent was a sharp reminder he didn't know who he was fighting alongside. More importantly, Buffy didn't remember whom she was fighting alongside. There was a good chance she would turn on him and Angel at any moment.

He hadn't survived the apocalypse to be skewered by the love of his unlife in a moment of not-so-friendly fire.

His caution proved judicious. The second the last of the demons fell, Buffy rounded on them, hands on her hips, eyes blazing. Spike stumbled backwards in the face of her fury. Angel, stiff with tension, kept pace beside him, until they'd been backed into a wall and could go no further.

Lips curled in a furious snarl, Buffy said, "They tell me you're redeemed – the both of you. That what Lindsey told me was a pack of half-truths and lies. But I'm not seeing it. This –" She swung her arm out, gesturing shakily to the houses behind them, and Spike flinched. "This. You started this. All this apocalypse, all this death. Those people in there – everywhere –"

She gagged, ashen, remembering the horrors inside anew.

Buffy's gaze had settled on Angel, but Spike felt her disgust as sharply as if she'd focused him. "You did this." She was trembling now, one arm wrapped tight around herself, the other brandishing a blood-soaked stake.

She looked between her stake and the vampires against the wall, contemplating the death sentence in her hand. Spike didn't dare move. Slowly, she half-lowered her arm, as if against her better judgment, and said, "Get out of my face. I'm not too particular which demons I cut down just now."

Before Spike could process just how close he'd come to being dusted, she was gone.


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