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'Why are you doing this?' Anya asked her captor. 'I thought you said I was the only one of them you could stand.'
'That's true, love,' Spike agreed, 'but, excluding Buffy, you're also the only one I can hurt, too. You being demon an' all.'
Anya was chained to a pillar. A flying monkey perched above her, toying with her hair with its talons. Anya shook her head to try and get rid of it, but it would not be dissuaded.
'So these flying monkeys were your idea,' she said.
'Found a nest of 'em not too far from here,' Spike explained. 'They're not terribly bright, but they'll follow orders well enough.'
Spike paused in his pacing to light a cigarette.
'Do you mind?' Anya demanded.
Spike blew a cloud of smoke into her face.
'What's the matter?' he asked. 'I didn't think Vengeance Demons got lung cancer.'
'Justice Demon,' Anya corrected automatically.
'Justice Demon?' Spike repeated sarcastically. 'Ooooh. So you think you're one of the white hats now, do you? Don't kid yourself. You're a Vengeance Demon, plain and simple, and there's nothing honourable about vengeance. You're no better than I am.'
'Yes, well I don't go around chaining up people who thought they were friends,' Anya retorted. 'Well, there was that one time with Xander, but '
'Please,' Spike said, looking away. 'If I have to listen to any of your and Xander's lurid sexploits I really will go insane.'
'Why are you doing this?' Anya asked.
'Because I'm a monster,' Spike said, 'and this is what monsters do.'
'Your not ' Anya began.
'Oh yes I am,' Spike interrupted. 'Buffy said so. Sweet, incorruptable, butter-wouldn't-melt-in-her-mouth, Buffy. She wants me to be a monster, I'll give her a bleedin' monster.'
Spike paused and raised his hands to his temples. His eyes rolled back in his head and his mouth opened in a silent scream.
'Are you okay?' Anya asked.
Spike whirled round, his face morphing into vampiric features.
'Do you think this is easy for me?' he demanded. 'I can hear them all up here. All the people I ever hurt. All the people I killed. There are screaming at me, judging me, calling me a monster. Or worse. But none of it matters. Only Buffy matters.'
'I don't understand,' Anya admitted.
'Don't you get it?' Spike snarled. 'I love her. I'd do anything for her. Even kill for her.'
* * *
'Xander, you're driving,' Buffy said as she dished out weapons.
'Fine. Where to?' Xander asked.
'The old factory,' Buffy replied. 'His old home base.'
'I thought that had burned down,' I said. 'Most of it, anyway.'
'I really can't see that bothering him,' Buffy told me. 'Now sit tight. This isn't going to take very long.'
'You don't seriously expect me to wait here,' I complained.
'Yes, Dawn,' Buffy insisted. 'I seriously do.'
'But Buffy '
'Don't. I don't want to hear it. I'm worried enough about Anya, without throwing you into the mix.'
'And don't you think I'm worried about Anya, too?' I asked. 'If you leave me behind, you know I'll only follow on my own. You can't keep me out of this.'
'All right,' she agreed. 'But you'll wait in the car. No arguments.'
'Are we quite finished with the sisterly bonding?' Trix asked. 'Anya's in trouble.'
'For once I'm with Trixabelle here,' Xander added.
Buffy slammed a bolt into her crossbow.
'Then let's roll.'
* * *
'You're crazy, do you know that?' Anya said. 'And not in the cute eccentric way, either. No, you're full on, stark raving bonkers.'
'That's love for you, pumpkin',' Spike said. 'Makes you do crazy things.'
He poured himself a glass of bourbon.
'Want one,' he asked, leering at her. 'Might improve your disposition. You were quite friendly last time we got drunk together I seem to recall.'
'That was a mistake.'
'Didn't hear you complaining at the time,' Spike said, draining his glass.
'I didn't know what I was doing,' Anya explained. 'I was hurt and in pain and I was looking for some form of comfort and you were there and '
'And I was the closest warm body you could shag?' Spike asked. 'Charming.'
'Cold body,' Anya told him. 'And I didn't hear you complaining either.'
'You've got me there, love,' Spike agreed, filling his glass again and toasting her with it.
'And what was you're excuse?' Anya asked. 'Were you trying to hurt Buffy, because it worked like a charm. For someone who claims to love her you have a very strange way of showing it.'
'The last thing I ever wanted was to hurt Buffy.'
'You've done nothing but hurt her,' Anya told him. 'Like she's ever really going to love you. She's already smitten with a vampire. Your grandsire, wasn't it? These soap opera relationships get everywhere.'
'Just shut up already, will you!' Spike shouted. He rushed out of his chair and clamped a hand over his mouth. His nails dug into her cheeks and Anya was sure she could feel him draw blood.
'Let me go,' Anya said. 'You're hurting me.'
'That's the general idea, you stupid bint,' Spike replied. 'And look, no pain from that damn chip. Guess there's a down side to being a demon after all.'
'That's right,' Anya said hurriedly, 'I'm a demon. And if you don't let me go right now I'll do something suitably demonic to you.'
'Like what?' Spike scoffed. 'You can't even teleport yourself out of here.'
Anya deflated. He was right. She had already tried.
'You can thank my friends here,' Spike said, indicating the monkeys. 'Their each have their own personal dead magic zone. Can't work any spells at all with one of these beauties around. Which means you can't go anywhere and I get plenty of time to play with my new toy.'
Slowly, Spike drew his nail down across her left cheek, opening it up so that a trickle of blood flowed down to her jawline. Spike leaned closer and lapped at the wound. His tongue felt rough against her cheek.
'Please, don't,' Anya whimpered.
'I'll let you into a little secret,' Spike said, taking a step back. 'I like hurting people. I mean, I really like hurting people. It makes me feel all warm inside, you know what I mean.'
'Just get it over with,' Anya said. 'Kill me already. That's what you want, isn't it?'
'That's what I want, all right,' Spike agreed. 'But not yet. Buffy's not here to watch.'
'I'm going to kill you for her. She thinks I'm a monster so I'll show her just how much of a monster I can be. And I'm doing it all for her.'
'And you think that's going to make her love you?' Anya asked.
'Why not?' Spike said. 'I've tried everything else. I've tried to be a man and that doesn't work so I reckon, if she's spending so much time with monsters, maybe that's what it's going to take to reach her.'
Spike turned and stalked back to his table and his drink.
Anya waited for her racing heart to calm down.
'You're crazy, do you know that?' she said.
* * *
'So what's the plan?' Xander asked. His foot was pressed hard on the accelerator and the car rocketed out of town.
'I go in. I kill him,' Buffy replied.
'It has a certain simplicity,' Trix mused.
'Are you nuts?' Xander asked. ' You stay out here. Let me handle him.'
'Have you forgotten about the chip?' Xander said. 'He can't hurt me, remember.'
'Wrong,' Buffy said. 'It hurts him, if he hurts you. Doesn't mean he can't do it. If he's gone off the deep end the way we think he has, do you really think a little pain's gonna bother him? And, given your relationship with him, of all of us here, who do you think he's most likely to want to snap in two.'
'Maybe you ought to wait in the car with Dawn,' Trix suggested.
'Hey, I've been doing this a lot longer than you have, hornhead,' Xander snapped. 'You're the one that ought to watch out.'
'Knock it off, you two,' Buffy said. 'We're going to have enough to worry about without being at each others throats.'
'Sorry,' Xander muttered.
'I want you two to concentrate on finding Anya and getting her out of there,' Buffy continued. 'Spike's mine.'
* * *
Daylight streamed through numerous holes in the factory's ceiling. Spike had settled in a darkened corner of the building, well away from these puddles of light, but the holes providing perfect entrances and exits for his simian friends.
One monkey perched on the edge of the table, wings furled behind its back. It was taking peanuts from Spike's outstretched palm.
'I got these for the witches, mainly,' he was telling Anya. 'Willow and that other one. The lovebirds. Not that I've got anything against them personally. But they're bound to turn up in Buffy's wake and we can't have them making trouble for us, can we?'
'You don't know, do you?' Anya said.
'Don't know what?'
'They're dead,' Anya explained. 'Willow and Tara are both dead.'
Spike looked up, his cold blue eyes meeting her own.
'Dead? Are you sure?' he asked. 'No, of course you're bleedin' sure. How'd it happen?'
'Tara died first,' Anya said, 'soon after you disappeared. Warren shot her.'
'Warren?' Spike repeated. 'That ponce?'
'He was gunning for Buffy,' Anya said. 'Hit her too, though she survived. But one bullet went wild and it hit Tara and '
'I'm sorry,' Spike said. 'She never did any harm to anyone, that girl. She didn't deserve that.'
'After Tara died, Willow went kind of crazy,' Anya continued. 'She got into really dark magics and went after Warren. And she killed him.'
'Good for her.'
'No, not good. Not good at all,' Anya insisted. 'The magic was evil and it corrupted her, turned her into something she wasn't. She tried to destroy the world.'
'Might have been better if she had,' Spike mused, 'but I'm going to go out on a limb and say she didn't succeed.'
'No, there was still something of her left, right up until the end,' Anya said. 'She chose to destroy herself rather than the rest of us. Love for Tara drove her to it and love for Xander held her back.'
'What can I say. Love makes people do crazy things.'
'And what would you know about love?' Buffy asked.
* * *
Spike got up slowly, dropping his cigarette to the ground and grinding it beneath the heel of his boot.
'I know more than you might think,' he said. 'You stay around as long as me, you see a fair few things. You see love in all its varied, frightening colours. Love at first sight, the kind that drives a man to raise a pauper to the rank of princess. Timid love, the love of two people so shy they spend their lives dancing round one another, each too frightened to be the first to open their heart. Mad, passionate love, glorious in its fiery abandon. I've watched a man give up his kingdom for love, another his muse.
'Yet for all that love, I've never known anything so powerful, so wonderful as what you and I have here.'
'We don't have anything, Spike,' Buffy sneered.
'Who are you trying to kid, Buffy?' Spike asked. 'When we're together they could write songs about us.'
'Funeral chants, mainly,' Buffy remarked.
'What do you want of me?' Spike asked. 'I'll do anything for you.'
'You don't get it, do you, Spike?' Buffy said. 'I don't want you. Period.'
But Spike wasn't listening.
'I tried being human for you,' he said. 'Thought maybe you'd love me more as a man. That's what I went all the way to Africa for. You know, like in the song. Just because I'm presumin' that I could be kind of human, if I only had a heart.'
'You have a heart, Spike,' Buffy said. 'It's that cold, dead thing taking up space inside your chest.'
'But it wasn't a man you wanted, was it?' Spike said. 'That's never been what's turned you on. You like a little excitement, a little danger. You like a bit of monster in your life. And if being a man is something that I have trouble with, being a monster is second nature.'
He stepped forward, clamping both hands around Anya's neck and turning it so that her throat was exposed. Then the vampire swept over his face.
'No!' Anya and Xander screamed simultaneously.
'Let her go,' Buffy said, levelling her crossbow. 'I promised you, if you ever crossed the line then I would kill you.'
'But I'm doing this for you,' Spike protested.
Buffy shook her head.
'I don't know why you're doing this, but it has nothing to do with me.'
'How can you say that?'
'You think I want this?' Buffy asked. 'Do you think I want to be some vampire's lust object. You disgust me, Spike. But if you want me so much, come and get me.'
And she threw her crossbow to the floor.
* * *
I stepped out of the car as soon as I heard the violence erupt inside. Xander came running out of the factory towards me, Anya cradled in his arms, a cloud of flying monkeys in hot pursuit.
Trix was in the midst of the cloud, swinging a double-bladed axe with abandoned. Blood misted the air as he severed limbs and I shivered at the death cries of dozens of little demons.
'Is she okay?' I asked Xander as they reached the car.
'I'll live,' Anya told me.
Xander lowered her into the passenger seat, then turned and took a loaded crossbow from where it hung on his back. He aimed and fired, catching a monkey between the eyes.
'Where's Buffy?' I asked.
'Still inside,' Xander said, reloading as fast as he could. 'With Spike.'
'And you just left her there?'
I pushed past him and sprinted in the direction of the factory. I heard Xander calling my name, but I just lowered my head and ran faster. Buffy was in danger and I was damned if I was going to sit this one out on the bench.
* * *
'You're getting slow, Slayer,' Spike said. 'You oughta watch that or some demon'll take advantage one of these days.'
He stepped out of reach of a thrusting stake, then caught Buffy's arm by the wrist and twisted it round behind her back.
Buffy struck out blindly with her left foot and caught Spike in the shin. He staggered back, releasing her and she spun round, a stake in each hand.
'We've danced this dance before, Slayer,' Spike said. 'And yet I still seem to be here.'
Buffy lunged forward, but Spike side-stepped and she only succeeded in staking his leather coat.
'Yeah, well, this time only one of us is walking away,' Buffy promised.
Spike clasped his hands together and swung them, club-like, into the side of Buffy's head. She fell to one knee, ears ringing.
'What is this, the famed Slayer death wish?' he asked.
'Maybe,' Buffy replied. 'Maybe not.'
She sprung upwards, leading the way with a stake.
Spike leaped away, but not quite fast enough and the stake buried itself in his left side.
'Damn, that smarts,' Spike said, pulling out the shaft of wood. 'A guy might almost get the impression that you don't love me.'
'I don't love you,' Buffy insisted, punctuating each word with a kick to the vampire's abdomen.
'You really know how to hurt a guy,' Spike said, dancing back out of reach.
'Hold still and you'll find out just how much.'
Buffy drew a narrow sword from a scabbard at her waist and slipped into a fencing stance.
'Give it your best shot,' Spike taunted.
Buffy feinted once. Twice.
Spike didn't even move.
With superhuman speed, Spike struck out with his right arm and batted the sword from Buffy's hand. It clattered away into the distance.
Spike took a step forward and Buffy scuttled back.
'Do you really think I've survived this long by being an easy mark,' he snarled. 'I'm William the Bloody. I'm a legend. I've already killed two Slayers, Buffy, and they were both twice the woman you'll even be.'
He continued advancing and Buffy continued to retreat.
'I loved you, Buffy,' he said. 'The biggest baddest of the vampires falling for the Slayer. Have you any idea how lucky you were?'
'How lucky I was?' Buffy replied. But she was still back-pedalling.
'I would have given you anything,' Spike insisted. 'Everything. But that wasn't enough for you. What does it take to satisfy you, Slayer?'
'And the fact you still have to ask shows how little you really know about me,' Buffy said with a smile.
And she finally made her move, lashing out like a cobra. Her empty right hand knocked Spike's arm out of the way while her left hand plucked a stake from her jacket pocket and swung it in a lazy arc in the direction of Spike's heart.
Spike's hand grabbed her wrist like a pincer. The tip of the stake scraped across his shirt, but could proceed no further.
'It's time to end this,' he said.
He swept her legs out from under her and, as Buffy fell backwards, plucked the stake from her fingers. He sat straddling her, his leather-clad legs pinning Buffy's arms to her sides.
He leaned forward and planted a quick kiss on her lips.
'One last taste,' he said. 'For luck.'
Then he held the stake over her heart.
'Ever wondered what this feels like, Buffy?' he asked.
I wanted to scream, but my throat was dry. I wanted to run to the rescue, but my legs were like led. I wanted to turn away, but I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame.
Spike raised his arm, ready to drive the stake down.
'I ' he began.
Maybe I imagined it. Maybe I just wanted to believe. But to this day, I swear that at that last second I saw Spike hesitate.
She swung her legs up, catching and lifting Spike and hurling him up into the air and over her head. He tumbled through the air, across the factory and through the beams of light cascading down through the shattered roof.
It seemed to happen in slow motion. First he started to smoulder, smoke drifting out from beneath his clothes. Then his hair caught fire. Then his skin. And then there was a fireball arcing through the air, trailing ash in its wake. By the time his coat fluttered to the ground, flame licking at its edges, it was empty.
What was left of Spike was picked up by the wind and carried away.
'Buffy,' I said, running across the room as fast as my legs would carry me. 'Buff, are you okay?'
Buffy didn't say anything. She just lay on her back, staring up at the sun.
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