Buffy’s palms were scuffed from where she’d hit the ground. Pain radiated from her upper arm in sharp pulses. She screwed her eyes shut as she gathered her courage, then forced herself to look: an iron shaft was sticking out through the fabric of her turtleneck.

As the Slayer, Buffy got hurt a lot, but she was rarely impaled. Her stomach went queasy even as she told herself that it was okay, that the arrow had missed her major organs.

That it had missed Spike.

She turned her focus to the vampire in question. She’d tackled him to the street, no questions asked. He was staring back at her, his blue eyes wide with something she would’ve pegged on anyone else as fear, and she almost laughed—the big, bad vampire scared for the Slayer.

“You okay?” she asked.

“Yeah.” His voice was rough. “I—” He looked in the direction of the shot. The rooftop was empty.

“Faith,” Buffy answered.

Spike’s face took on a gloomy look.

“I know,” she said.

Her instincts screamed to get off the street, somewhere less exposed and safe from future attack. Although, if Faith had wanted to continue the attack, this past minute would’ve been the best time to do it, so the fact that she’d up and vanished seemed to suggest at least some safety.

For now.

Careful to keep her weight on her good arm, Buffy pushed herself up, then extended a hand to Spike. He stared, not at her hand, but at her upper arm and the crossbow bolt still lodged in it.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” he said.

“And let you get shot?” Buffy grinned. “I know. Stupid of me, missing my chance to finally get rid of my number one pain in the butt.”

“I’m bein’ serious.”

“Stop moaning. Faith missed. I’m fine, you’re fine, we’re all…” A wave of dizziness swelled up. The world tilted, and Buffy stumbled. Spike jumped to his feet and steadied her until it faded. “…fine.”

Spike gave her a look.

“It’s just the adrenaline,” Buffy said airly, smacking his hands away to stand on her own. “Nothing to worry ab—”

Another dizzy spell ripped through her. Stronger this time. Everything blurred, and when she came to, Spike was holding her again, his face dark with fury. He stared at the crossbow bolt still embedded in her shoulder. Before she could say a word, he gripped the shaft and ripped it from her arm.

Buffy gasped. She wanted to throw up, wanted to curl into a ball, wanted to—

Spike lifted the blood-coated arrow tip to his lips. His tongue darted out, and then his face screwed in disgust as he spat the liquid right back out.

“What…?” Buffy asked.

“Poison.”

The word cut through her dizzy fog. Buffy straightened as best as she could. “What?”

A flurry of emotions swept over Spike’s face. A muscle in his neck corded. “We’re getting you to the Watcher’s,” he said. “Now.”


They made only one stop: a payphone to call the Watcher in question. Spike spent less than a minute on the phone, just enough to get out the basics—Buffy had been poisoned, very likely a magical poison given how quickly it’d affected her, bring the others—and then he hung up.

Buffy was waiting on the other side of the panelled glass, leaning against it. Sweat beaded from her forehead. Her eyes were closed in obvious exertion.

Spike’s heart clenched.

“Hey,” he said as he slunk out of the booth.

She was breathing in shallow pants, and it took her a second to look up, but when she did, she offered him a weak smile. “Hey.”

He nodded towards the payphone. “Watcher Jr.’s callin’ the others. Gonna meet at Watcher Sr.’s flat. Between his books and Glinda’s skill, we’ll have you back to stakin’ all your fun lil’ nasties by morn.”

“That’s good. Who else is going to beat your lily-white butt when it deserves it?”

Spike snorted. “That’s the second time you’ve mentioned my arse tonight. You want to see it, all you ever had to do was ask.”

Buffy let out a soft laugh. “Noted.”

When she didn’t respond further, Spike swallowed stiffy. “Ready?” he asked, nodding to the street. The Watcher’s place was still a mile away.

“Have to be, don’t I?”

Spike studied the Slayer and her small, pale form. He’d always laughed about the fragility of mortals. It was a fragility he’d risen above, one he never had to worry about. Not anymore. And while he normally didn’t believe in karma (or, when he did, he couldn’t find himself bothering to care), now all his past misadventures seemed to rush back in dooming clarity.

Spike slipped an arm around Buffy’s waist to steady her, and then—when she didn’t resist—he slipped the other beneath her knees and lifted her whole body up.

“Can still walk,” she grumbled against his shoulder.

“This is faster.”

She continued to grumble incoherent whispers but wrapped both of her arms around his neck in tacit acceptance. As her body bled sweet, sweet warmth into his, Spike wished he could actually enjoy it. Wished the circumstances that had led to this weren’t quite so life-and-death.

Maybe one day they would be. He had to believe that.

Had to hope.

Silently, he set his eyes in the direction of the Watcher’s flat and pressed onwards.


Watcher Jr. was the only one in the flat when they arrived. Spike laid Buffy gently on the couch as the Watcher hovered ineffectually beside him.

“How long has she been like this?” the Watcher asked.

Spike trailed a hand against Buffy’s forehead. Her sweat had blown up into a full-grade fever. She’d always been hot to the touch, him being dead and all, but the last three blocks had felt like hauling a furnace.

“Ten minutes?” Spike answered uncertainly. “Maybe less? You call the others?”

“Yes,” the Watcher said. “Oz said he’d pick up Miss Maclay. We… elected not to tell Mrs. Summers.”

Spike nodded. They were in a race against time, not feeling. The Slayer’s mum blubbering over her daughter’s fever-stricken body wasn’t going to help anything. “What do your books have to say?”

As it turned out, quite a lot, and Spike almost regretted asking. The Watcher was halfway through a blathering explanation on the differences between osmosine toxins and phosphorine venoms when knocking sounded on the door.

“It’s open,” Spike hollered.

Oz rushed in with Tara in tow. The girl was carrying several glass bottles and a backpack that reeked of herbs. “Do you have the thing that poisoned her?” she asked.

Spike took the arrow tip from his duster pocket and passed it over. Tara dropped it into one of her glass bottles and moved to the kitchen. Moments later, Spike heard the sink tap begin to run.

“How is she?” Oz asked, nodding at Buffy still on the couch.

“Alive,” Buffy croaked.

Her voice startled Spike, but in a good way. There was fight in her yet.

He swept to her side and knelt down. Her eyes were still closed. He laid a hand on her burning forehead again as if that’d tell him anything he didn’t know already.

Buffy moaned. Shifted. “‘‘ats good,” she mumbled. “Cold.”

Spike glanced at Oz. “Get an ice pack.”

“On it.”

A chanting noise echoed from the kitchen—Glinda—and the sound of shuffling and a freezer door opening as Oz presumably slid past her. The two returned to the living room at the same time, Oz with ice in a Ziploc bag and Glinda with the arrow tip now suspended in a bright green liquid. Neither spoke.

“So,” Spike asked Tara as he took the ice from Oz and laid it on the Slayer’s forehead. “Verdict?”

“It… It is m-mystical in nature.” She raised the glass. “Some kind of demonic venom layered atop a b-base of hellebore and ar-arsenic.”

The Watcher nodded through her explanation, then dove for a new set of books.

“So, you can cure her?” Spike asked.

“I… M-Maybe?”

“Maybe?” Spike growled. “She’s the Slayer. She needs our help.”

Tara’s face paled. “I kn-know, and I w-want t-to, b-but—”

The front door slammed open.

“Where is she?” Angel demanded.

Spike turned on Wesley. “You invited him?”

Wesley glanced up from the pages of his latest tome with a withering look. “You told me to muster all our resources.” He turned a page with a sharp flick. “I mustered.”

Angel approached the central couch. Spike was still kneeling beside Buffy, who was nearly unconscious. “What did you do?”

Spike flinched as a sliver of impossible guilt pierced his heart—Buffy wouldn’t be in this situation if he’d been paying more attention to his surroundings… if he hadn’t needed to be saved by the Slayer of all creatures. “Nothing,” Spike bit out. Angelus didn’t need the satisfaction of knowing all that.

“I don’t believe you.”

Spike rolled his eyes. “Then don’t believe me. I’m sure it’ll have a great effect on whether Buffy lives or d—”

“Quite!” Wesley snapped. “Both of you!”

Spike threw Angel a sullen glare, who threw one straight back, but they both went silent. The Watcher continued flipping pages until his finger landed on one with a loud smack.

“Aha!” he announced. “Venom of the Camoapa demon… Hellebore… Arsenic…”

“Sounds like our poison,” Oz said.

“Can we make the antidote?” Tara asked.

Wesley’s face turned grim. It seemed like an answer on its own. Spike clenched his fists, short nails digging into the flesh of his palms as he told himself over and over not to rip Watcher’s head off immediately. Patience was a virtue. He’d learned that during Drusilla’s illness, and he was continuing to learn it now. And, like he had successfully healed Drusilla, he would succesfully heal the Slayer—he glanced at his brooding sire—regardless of whatever sacrifices the cure required.

“Septem Hora Mortem,” Wesley intoned. “The Seven-Hour Death. The grimoire lists no antidote… but that doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist. The Council should have more information. I’ll contact them and see if they have anything that can help.”

“You didn’t think of doing that earlier?” Spike snapped.

“Spike,” Wesley said, his gaze cold. “While I appreciate your… concern for the Slayer, may I remind you that we’re all working as quickly as we can and as best as we can with the information that we acquire.”

“And what if your best isn’t good enough?”

Wesley maintained his cold glare, then headed for the wall phone without bothering to respond.

Spike turned on the others, daring them to speak.

“I- I can make a poultice to help cl-cleanse her aura,” Tara said, already backing away to the kitchen.

“I’ll head to the magic shop,” Oz offered. “Be ready to grab ingredients if you need them.”

The two of them departed, leaving just Spike, Angel, and Buffy in the living room together.

Spike glared at Angel. “‘m not leavin’ her side.”

Angel’s face twisted with disdain. His tall frame loomed over them both. “You might not get that choice.”


“Faith?” It was the Mayor’s voice. It came from the other side of her bedroom door. “Are you alright?”

Faith startled up from her couch. She’d been staring at the ceiling. “Yeah,” she called. “Peachy keen.”

There was silence, and for a naive moment Faith hoped he’d just gone away, but then the doorknob twisted and the Mayor stepped inside. The corners of his mouth tugged symmetrically down as he surveyed her room. It was a mess with weapons strewn about—an ax dropped near the door, a bundle of arrows scattered over the throw rug… Faith knew the Mayor hated mess in all forms and that a clean and tidy room was one of the only things he asked for in exchange for free rent, but when she’d lugged herself inside, she hadn’t had the strength to care.

His frown deepened. “Something go sideways with your mission?” he asked.

“No. That went off without a hitch.” Faith cracked a grin that she couldn’t quite push up to her eyes. “One dangerous old dude—RIP.”

“I see.” His eyes swept over her room. Swept over her. “Nothing else to talk about or report?”

Faith bit her lip. It’d be so fucking easy to say ‘no’ and pretend it hadn’t happened… “I shot her.”

“Who?”

“Buffy. I shot her.”

“Oh.”

Faith clambered off her couch. “That’s all you’ve got to say?” she demanded. “‘Oh?!’”

The Mayor blinked in placid confusion. “What do you want me to say, Faith? I thought you’ve been wanting to eliminate Buffy from the start.”

“No! I mean— She’s gotta be stopped, but I never meant to hurt her, and—” Faith ran a hand raggedly through her hair. She’d used the most powerful poison in her bag, thinking she’d be killing the vampire, and now…

Seven hours.

Faith glanced at the nearby window. It was dark outside. Nighttime. Chances were Buffy wouldn’t live to see morning.

“Faith, my lovely girl…” the Mayor said. “She’s a Slayer. And there’s only one way to stop a Slayer.” He stepped close and patted Faith on the shoulder. “You did what you had to do.”

Faith looked at his hand. Looked up in his eyes. “You really think so?” She searched his face for a glimmer of a lie, but, as always, found nothing. Hurting Buffy still didn’t feel right in her gut, but her gut had been wrong before…

“I know so.” The Mayor smiled. He withdrew his hand. “Now. We have an Ascension to prepare for.”


Spike switched the latest ice pack and dabbed moisture from the previous one off Buffy’s head. Even with Glinda’s potions, Buffy continued to radiate heat. She melted through a pack every ten minutes. The rattle of her lungs mixed with the distant mumble of the Watcher’s voice as he continued to interface with his bloody useless Council.

Spike wanted to snatch the phone from his grip. Wanted to threaten the nobs on the other side with dismemberment if they didn’t get off their besuited arses and help. But they’d never listen to a vampire and would probably let Buffy die faster just to spite him, so Spike was stuck by the couch playing nursemaid, a terrible pastiche of the time he’d spent caring for Dru after Prague.

That particular illness had lingered for years.

Buffy didn’t have years.

“Spike?” Buffy said weakly.

She’d been having good moments and not-as-good moments. Spike hoped this was about to be one of the former. “Here, love.”

“Mmm…” Her eyes blinked faintly open. They were glazed and didn’t seem to focus on anything in particular. “Don’t kill the next one.”

“Kill the next what?”

“Soulmate.” Her eyes fluttered shut, and she seemed to speak to the ceiling. “After me.”

The walls of the Watcher’s flat seemed to stretch around Spike as her words sank in. He gripped her hand, hard, wrenching her attention back to him.

“Now see here, you bitch,” he snarled—softly, since Angel was still lurking by the hallway. “There’s not gonna be another soulmate after you. It’s just you, you hear? So, you better get better, or I’ll— or I’ll bloody kill you all over again!”

Buffy snorted. She gripped his hand back, her skin flushed with heat, and then her grip slackened.

“Slayer?”

She didn’t respond. Nothing in her body did—no quickening of her heartbeat or thrum of adrenaline. She’d slipped back into unconsciousness.

Wesley walked in.

He was no longer on the phone.

“Spill, Watcher,” Spike said. “They’ve got a cure?”

“That’s…” Wesley tugged at his collar. His gaze flitted between Spike and Buffy at the couch; Angel, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed; and Tara, who was already in the middle of whipping up another poultice. “It’s not not a cure.”

Angel uncrossed his arms. “What does that mean?”

“There was a single mentioned antidote in their files. It involves… Umm…” He flipped a small notebook out from his jacket pocket. “Ah, yes. The freshly spilled blood of a Sesaltul demon.”

“A Sesaltul demon?” Spike said. “But they’re only native to—”

“Belize,” Angel answered.

“Yes,” Wesley said. “So, umm… they said.”

“So, what?” Spike said. “Your Council authorizing a transportation spell and kill squad to collect the ingredients?”

“Not as such.”

“Why the fuck not?”

“Well… you see, authorizing such a mission is…” He pushed his glasses further up his nose. “Well, they have to evaluate costs and benefits, and—”

“She’s the bloody Slayer!” Spike yelled, jabbing his hands at the woman in question. “What more benefit do they need?”

“The Slayer is expendable,” Angel muttered. As Spike glared at him, Angel glared back. “To them.”

“It’s not just that,” Wesley protested. “It’s that… well, unfortunately, even with all ingredients, the antidote is reportedly just fifteen percent effective. So, given the low chances…”

“They’re just leaving the Slayer to die,” Spike said dully. His tongue felt thick in his mouth.

No one spoke.

“Perhaps we can modify the spell,” Tara piped up. “Use different… bl-blood. From another demon. One in the same genus, but native to Sunnydale?”

“That… could work,” the Watcher said. He hurried to Giles’ bookshelf, grabbed three thick tomes, handed one to Tara, and began flipping through the others himself. “See if that has a page on Sesaltul demons and cross-reference from there.”

Tara nodded.

Spike stared at them in horror as reality crunched in.

It was a bloody waste of time. All of it.

Spike was no warlock, but even he knew substituting ingredients never made a spell more powerful. The Slayer was dying, and her precious Scoobies were sticking their heads in the bloody Californian sand, ignoring the obvious and pressing on with this hell-forsaken goose chase.

“Aha!” Wesley cried. “The Yojovi demons. They seem to be third cousins, so to speak, of the Sesaltul, transmogrified into a different evolutionary line during an apocalypse in the year 1900.”

Spike perked up despite himself. “A hundred years ago?” That wasn’t so long ago at all. Perhaps the substitution wouldn’t be so hopeless after all…

“BC.”

Spike’s gut sank all over again.

Wesley continued to read. “They like dark and damp spaces.”

“The sewers,” Angel said. He pushed off from his lurking spot against the wall and headed towards the front door.

“What,” Spike demanded. “You’re just going along with this mummers’ play?”

Angel rounded back. “You have any better ideas?”

Spike frowned. His mind spun, crashing into dead end after dead end… and then slowly began to coalesce over a thought. He looked down. Caressed Buffy’s cheek. Heat lingered on his fingertips like a blood stain.

“I’ll go with him,” Spike said, standing. “Two vampires are better than one, right?”

Wesley looked skeptical.

As Spike neared the door, Tara stopped him. “S-Spike?” She gently tugged on his duster until he turned around, then held out a glass vial. “For the blood.”

“Ta, love.” He slipped it into his pocket and followed his sire out into the night.

In the shared courtyard between the various flats, a figure rushed towards them—the dark-haired Harris boy that always trailed behind the others. “I came here as fast as I could,” he said, his eyes wide and voice breathless. A stiff collar was pressed against his throat. He’d put on a ghastly Hawaiian shirt. Backwards. “Where is she?”

Normally, Spike would’ve said something sneering. He never knew why the other Slayerettes tolerated the boy in their amateur crime-fighting group. Everyone else had at least some modicum of useful talent, but not this one. He was like a barnacle clinging to the hull of a warship, cracking jokes to hide just how pathetically useless he was… But they were all useless tonight, so Spike simply nodded at the Watchers’ door, then pressed on after his grandsire before he could be distracted further.

He caught up to the older vampire at the first street intersection.

“Where you off to?” Spike called, sticking his hands into his pockets.

Angel glanced back with irritation. “You know where,” he called back. “If we don’t get any Yojovi blood, Buffy is dead. I know you don’t always have the seriousness to care, but I do.”

Muscles corded in Spike’s jaw. He swallowed his automatic retorts. Angel had hardly missed any of the seriousness of the past hours, which meant he was intentionally trying to rile Spike up, and to hell if Spike was going to give him that satisfaction. “Yojovi demons won’t save her, and you know that.”

Angel stopped. Turned fully. “Then what, Spike?”

Spike reached in his pocket—past the glass vial that Tara had just given him, past the elm twig that Buffy had insisted he carry should Angel ever lose his soul—for a packet of fags and his silver lighter. He lit one with trembling hands, then drew in a deep lungful of smoke. He didn’t speak until he felt the first cooling tendrils of nicotine wind through him. “Watchers don’t have a full knowledge set. Never have. Never will.”

“What are you saying?”

“They’re clinging to white magic to save her.” He took another draw. “We both know that won’t be enough. Lacks the punch.”

A frown slowly creased its way over Angel’s face. “Black magic is wrong.”

“Oh? Gonna let your little nancy-boy soul dictate what you can and can’t do? Gonna let the Slayer die cause it’s too scared to get its hands smudged with a bit of dirt?”

“It’s your soul.”

Spike’s eyes narrowed. “That’s why I know how goddamn wretched the thing is.”

Angel’s throat moved as he swallowed. He looked back at the complex that held Giles’ flat. Porch lamps dotted it up like fireflies. Most of the windows were black though, their residents asleep, oblivious to the fact that their town’s protector, their savior, was lying on a scuffed-up couch fighting for her life. A fight she might very well lose if Spike didn’t do what needed to be done.

“What did you have in mind?” Angel asked.


The entrance to Rack’s place changed every night, a time-wasting fact that Angel balked at but Spike took only as a minor inconvenience. There wasn’t much acreage to downtown Sunnydale, so it didn’t take long to track down a demon on the hexier half of the spectrum and secure the night’s temporary coordinates.

As Spike rippled through the invisible entranceway, he prided himself on not stumbling. The waiting room on its other side looked like a dingy motel parlor. Couches were lined up against the walls. Their mostly-human occupants looked up at Spike with caged and sunken glares. Spike met them with his own disdainful one.

“Where’s the witch?” Angel muttered, rippling into the room beside him.

“Warlock,” Spike corrected.

As if summoned—which, given the place’s magical nature, might’ve been the case—a door opened and a man stepped out. He looked like an ex-hippie aged wrong. His tan face was cracked with age, and his hair lay in greasy strings over his face. It was Rack, the warlock they’d come to see. Several of the strung-out men and women who’d been waiting cried out Rack’s name, but he ignored them and approached Spike and Angel.

“Vampires,” Rack said. The man’s eyes had a hazy gold light to them, and, as they roved over Spike and Angel in slow study, Spike had the unsettling feeling of being scanned by an x-ray. “Old vampires. And each possessing half of the same being…” His gaze slid to Spike’s face. “You want something.”

Angel stepped forward. “Our friend is—”

“Seven-Hour Death,” Spike said before Angel could reveal Buffy’s identity and have Rack demand a higher price. “Have you heard of it?”

“Poison,” Rack said. He grinned. “And you’ve come to me for a cure.”

“If you have one.”

“Oh, I’m sure I can whip something up.” He glanced at the other people in the waiting room. One of them had begun to cry. “Though, perhaps we should move this transaction somewhere more… private?”

Angel and Spike glanced at each other. Spike shrugged, to which Angel threw a disapproving glower. Ultimately, they both followed the warlock through the door he’d entered from. On the other side was a small room with no furniture save for a single couch and central fire pit. The concrete walls had been covered with pretentious Renaissance paintings and mood lighting. There were no windows.

“Now,” Rack said, relaxing onto the couch and spreading his arms out across the top. “A cure for the Seven-Hour Death… Won’t come cheap, you know.”

“What do you want?” Angel demanded.

Rack’s gaze flicked to him. “Something of equal value. After all… we all gotta give a little to take a little.”

Spike ran his tongue across the back of his teeth in thought. There weren’t many things equal to the life of a Slayer, except… perhaps another Slayer’s. Which they did have. And while he hadn’t exactly been pulling at the bit to go and notch his third mark, if killing the Faith bird was what it took to save Buffy, Spike wouldn’t say no. True, there was a good chance he’d die, but there were worse deaths, and it wouldn’t be any less risky than the Watcher’s current plan.

“I can get you a life,” Spike said. “You want it delivered dead or alive?”

“No,” Angel growled. “No murder.”

“It wouldn’t be murder,” Spike protested. “Just the other Slayer, and Buffy’s been wantin’ to kill that bird for ages.”

Angel went all surly and brooding.

Needin’ to kill her,” Spike corrected, “at any rate.”

Angel turned to Rack. “We’re not killing anyone, so how about I propose another deal?” He lunged forward and grabbed Rack by the collar as his demon’s face slid forward. “You perform the spell for us, and we don’t kill you.”

Rack shrugged. Despite Angel’s hands at his throat, he seemed to sink even more casually into the couch. “I’m not the one who sets the prices. Threaten me all you want. I can’t perform anything without the right… balance.”

A snarl ripped through Angel’s throat, and he tightened his grip around Rack’s collar… then he threw the warlock back against the couch. “This was a waste of time!” Angel crossed back to Spike. “We could’ve tracked down a Yojovi demon by now,” he hissed.

“Then go,” Spike hissed back. He’d only brought Angel to serve as extra muscle in a pinch, and his usefulness seemed to be rapidly declining.

Angel didn’t leave. As his face gained that stoically constipated look of his, he shifted and then spun to address Rack again. “Is there anything else you’ll accept?” At Rack’s blinking look, he amended, “That the magic will accept? Besides a life?”

Rack closed his eyes and let out a ragged chuckle. “Only one,” he said. “But it comes at an even higher cost.”

Angel shivered.

Spike didn’t. “What?” he asked.

Rack’s eyes shifted to Spike. They were cold and hollow as he grinned. “A soul.”

The crackling of the fire pit echoed through the stillness.

A soul for Buffy’s life. It seemed like an even trade, a simple trade, when laid out like that. As simple as it was impossible. Spike couldn’t readily kidnap any ol’ Joe and their soul off the street. Not with Angel attached to his hip, insisting on keeping things high above the straight and narrow. Angel and his pesky, holier-than-thou attitude.

Angel and his… soul.

Spike stared at Angel. Then kept staring.

Angel’s eyes widened as he seemed to arrive at the same realization as Spike. His body tensed. “No.”

“It’s my soul,” Spike said.

“You can’t. Buffy will hate you.”

The words cut straight to Spike’s heart. It was true. Buffy would hate him. Despise him. Never forgive him. All the hopes she’d pinned on him and their future with a soul… For him to knowingly throw that away…

There would be no going back.

Ever.

Spike’s jaw set. “At least she’ll be alive to hate me.”

His fingers dipped into his pocket and closed around the rough bark of Anya’s elm twig. Angel tracked the movement. He started forward, but Spike snapped the twig in half. Angel’s eyes rolled up, and he crashed to the floor. Spike stared at his unconscious body for a long moment, and then stepped back.

His hand shook.

It wasn’t too late. Spike hadn’t signed any contracts yet… hadn’t shaken any bespelled hands… hadn’t spilt any blood… He could haul his grandsire up over his shoulders, flip off the warlock, and pretend none of this had happened. He could easily step back into the white-hatted world, hunt down some Yojovi demons, watch Glinda make an ineffectual potion… and spend the next four hours watching the woman he loved ultimately succumb to a painful death.

Spike turned to Rack. “What next?”





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