* * * *

* * * *
Chapter Four

* * * *

“We will begin our initial descent. Please return your seats and food trays to the upright position and turn off all electronic devices.”

Buffy snapped out of her reverie as the flight attendant came on over the intercom. She sat up straight and looked to the seat beside her, where Dawn was rousing from sleeping.

“Um,” she said groggily, wiping a little bit of drool from the corner of her lips. “How long was I asleep?”

“Just the past ten minutes,” Buffy told her.

“You didn’t sleep at all?” she asked with concern.

Buffy shook her head. “No.”

Xander, Willow and Kennedy sat two rows behind them. Kennedy wouldn’t speak to either of them, feeling betrayed like the others did because they hadn’t told her the truth about Xander’s vision. Everyone had trouble sleeping on the flight except for Xander, who hadn’t slept much since the night he’d been awakened.

He didn’t want to be the man who sees all anymore, especially in this capacity. But if what he saw aided them in fighting against another apocalypse, then he’d have to deal with the uncomfortable-to-reveal information that was handed to him. He just didn’t want to start freaking out on the airplane. He preferred to do that on the ground.

The girls followed Dawn into the ladies bathroom once they arrived at LAX. Dawn and Kennedy were in charge of making sure no one came in while Willow performed a locator spell, human variety.

“OK, I got him,” said Willow. “He’s still within the city limits, or the map limits, so here’s hoping Illyria’s still with him.”

“I thought you said this woman’s name was Fred?” Dawn queried. “Oh, sorry,” she said as she and Kennedy stopped a woman from entering the bathroom. “There’s a really big spill in here. Plus vomit. Janitor’s on his way.”

The woman grunted in annoyance and walked away.

“It is...” Willow replied, then her certainty faltered. “I think.”

“Where are they?” Buffy asked, jumping straight to business.

“Here, heading south.”

“Let’s go.”


* * * *

Angel remained in the shadows of the alley as he watched the city officials take away Gunn’s body.

“What is this, an axe?” said one of the examiners, lifting Gunn’s axe off of the ground.

“It looks like it’s made out of a hubcap,” said another, shaking his head. “This town…”

“Wonder what happened to whoever did this to him?”

Angel’s eyes brimmed with tears as he watched the gurney carrying his fallen comrade disappear from view.

“Pity, isn’t it?” A figure emerged from the shadows behind him. “You fight the good fight so that life will get better, yet all it does is kill the ones you love.”

“You having trouble staying dead, Lilah?” he asked menacingly. “I could fix that.”

She grinned confidently. “Don’t worry – still dead. Just here for a visit.”

“And here I was thinking Wolfram & Hart sent you to kill me.”

Lilah laughed. “Can’t get anything past you, can I? Well, maybe some things.”

Angel turned to her and fixed her with a stare. “Wesley’s dead.”

Her confident façade melted away and her eyes turned downward. “I know.”

“Does that even matter to you?” he asked. “What with all that hellfire putting a spin on your world views…”

“I’m glad.” Angel glared at her. “Not because he’s dead. I know he’s in a better place, Angel. He’s not where I am.”

He sighed in frustration. “What is it they want you to do, Lilah? Talk me to death?”

Her grin returned. “I’m not going to kill you, Angel. Although that is why I’m here.”

“The senior partners want me dead. I survive a horde of demons and they send you to finish the job?”

“They knew how I got under your skin,” she replied, walking closer to him. “But here’s the thing. If I kill you, you get off easy. You know I don’t like that.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

Lilah laughed wickedly as she backed away. “You’ll see.”


Angel looked over his shoulder to see Connor running towards him. “Connor,” he exhaled in relief. Angel turned back around to see that Lilah was gone. I just stopped by for a visit ... you'll see.

“Dad! You’re alive.”

Angel was taken aback when the boy hugged him tightly, but smiled and patted him on the back in response. Connor stepped back and laughed slightly. “Well, more or less.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I had to see if you made it. I came by the hotel, thinking you might be there. I tracked you here. What happened?”

“Wolfram & Hart sent an army of demons to kill us.”

“Did you kill them all?” Connor asked, impressed.

“Most of them. They disappeared when the sun rose.”

“What about the others. Wes, Gunn…”

“They’re dead.”

Connor bowed his head. “Will they be sending more after you?”

Angel nodded.

“Well, then we’ll have to get you out of here. Somewhere safe, where they can’t find you!” He grabbed Angel by the arm and started steering him out of the alley.

“Whoa.” Angel removed himself from Connor’s grasp and stepped back. “Somewhere safe? I can’t be safe. If the senior partners want me dead, then I’m dead.”

“So that’s it? You just give up? Why don’t I stake you right now if you’re going to be that way!”


“Don’t do that! You finally start acting like a real dad and now you’re abandoning me? Again?”

“It’s not like there’s anything I can do to stop it.”

“You could at least try. You said their big game was to bring about the apocalypse. Do you really think they’ll waste all their efforts on you now that you’ve wiped out the catalysts?”

Angel’s eyebrow shot upward. “Catalysts?”

“Hey, in college here. Plus I’ve got eighteen years of fake memories in which I’m smart.”

Angel smiled. “You are smart.”

“And you’re an idiot.”

His smile faded. “Hey!”

“You’re not going to sit around and die, OK? You’re going to come with me and we’re going to figure something out.”

“What if they come after you? You did help me in the fight against Hamilton.”

“Then I guess I’ll need you to come and protect me, won’t I?”

Angel narrowed his eyes as he thought it over. He wasn’t going to win, Connor was extremely stubborn. He must’ve gotten that from his mother. “OK, let’s go.”


* * * *

“This is really creepy,” muttered Dawn as she surveyed Willow’s limp figure in the seat behind her. She and Xander sat in the front of the rental car with Giles at the wheel, while Buffy, Willow, Andrew and Kennedy sat scrunched in the back. “I’m guessing she can’t hear us when she’s like this? Or maybe she can, and she’s thinking, ‘Hey, people. Get out of my head?’”

Buffy shot her sister an impatient look that quickly silenced her.

Meanwhile, Willow was traveling through the planes, trying to pinpoint the best spot to land in. She’d never astralled herself into a moving car before. Luckily for her, it wasn’t moving when she arrived.

The Taurus was parked on the side of a barren road, wearing more scratches and dents on it than Willow remembered. The hood was slightly bent in the middle, and the engine was still running when she approached.


“Willow,” she greeted, moving from behind the car. “He started making moaning noises and I stopped the transport, but I can get it to stop rumbling.”

Willow panicked and ran to the back door on the passenger’s side. Spike was still sprawled across the back seat, and while he was extremely still, he was still breathing. “Thank god.” She looked to the dash and saw that the gas gauge was closing in on empty. “Great, you’re almost out of gas.”

“I’m what?” said Illyria.

“Get in on the other side,” she instructed. “I’m gonna drive this time.”

Willow managed to find a motel before the car ran out of gas. It was called the Star Breeze Inn, located just west of the middle of nowhere.

“OK, the plan,” she said once she parked in the parking lot. “You wait here and take care of Spike. The rest of us should be here in about half an hour, and we’ll bring money so that we can get a room. You two won’t fit in the car we’ve got and there’s not a gas station around for miles, so… what?” she asked, shriveling under Illyria’s inquisitive stare.

“Money? Like this?” She pulled a wad of twenty dollar bills from… did that thing she was wearing have pockets?

“Where did you get that?”

“It was in the car.”

“Yeah. Where did you get the car?”

Illyria’s lips curled into an impish grin. Willow shrugged it off. “Whatever, just stay here. I’ve got to tell the others how to get here.”

Willow muttered an incantation in a language Illyria was not familiar with before disappearing, as if sucked through an invisible wall.

She gasped as she returned to her body.

“Where are they?” Buffy asked.

Willow took a moment to adjust. “The Star Breeze Inn. Keep going along this road, you won’t miss it.”

Giles stepped on the accelerator and everyone went silent as they sped down the highway.

“Will,” said Buffy quietly as the drove along. “Did you see him?”

Willow nodded in reply.

“Was he…?”

“I won’t lie to you,” she replied. “He’s in pretty bad shape.”


* * * *

Buffy was the first out of the car when they arrived at the motel. She walked in long strides until she reached the lobby, where she stopped abruptly in front of the main desk.

“May I help you?”

“A woman rented a room from you earlier. She had a man with her. Tall, bleached hair…”

The old man behind the desk chuckled. “No need to continue with the description, miss. Only had one tenant check in today. Room 203.”

Xander and Andrew arrived in the lobby just as Buffy was leaving. They looped around and followed behind her as she climbed the steps leading to the outdoor walk of the second floor rooms. She stopped in front of 203.

Should she knock? Should she kick in the door? Should she stand in front of the door for the rest of the night thinking about how she should enter? That wouldn’t do. She knocked and stood there impatiently, her heart pounding in her chest.

The door opened and a thin woman with blue hair greeted her.

“What do you want?”

“Fre… Illyria, this is Buffy,” said Willow, popping up behind her friend.

Illyria appraised her momentarily before stepping aside. “You’re the only ones who’ve come,” she said as Willow and Xander entered. Buffy remained in the doorway.

“Were you expecting more?” Xander asked, cautiously moving closer to the bed where Spike was lying. He didn’t look good.

“Two agents have made attempts on our lives,” Illyria informed him. “More will come.”

“Oh my god, Spike,” Dawn breathed as she and Kennedy entered the room. Buffy remained in the doorway.

“This is so weird,” said Kennedy softly to Willow. “So he’s like… really human, all pulse-having and stuff?”

Willow nodded. “And we don’t know how.”

Giles appeared at the doorway and stopped when he saw Buffy. She merely stood there, her lips pressed together as she took deep breaths, unable to take another step. Giles moved close behind her. “Are you alright?” he asked delicately.

Buffy stepped backward a fraction of an inch, her only response.

“Listen, Buffy, I know this may be difficult for you, but…”

“No you don’t,” she replied seriously. “You can’t have any idea how this feels.”

Xander sat down in the ratty armchair by the window. “What are we going to do now?”

Everyone turned to Buffy. This was her decision; she was the one who was closest with Spike. Plus, she was the leader.

She panicked. Something inside of her couldn’t bear the sight of him lying on the bed, thrashed and beaten and bleeding and…

Breathing. His chest was rising and falling – slowly, but it was there. She could see it. He was still ungodly pale, but his face… he looked so…

“Alive,” she panted as she ran down the steps that led to the lobby. She turned around a corner and found herself in an alcove with an empty vending machine and ice dispenser. She bent over and placed her hands on her knees as she caught her breath.

Spike was alive. Spike was human. He was lying on a bed covered in bandages and breathing and dying and… oh god, his face…

Buffy raised her eyes to the vending machine.

This wasn’t fair. Nothing was fair. Despite the fact that she wasn’t the Slayer anymore, her life was still being sucked into hell.


* * * *

“Giles,” said Willow, causing him to turn his attention away from his fleeing Slayer. “We should try to take him to a hospital, right? I mean, we could get attacked anywhere. Why not somewhere where he’ll stand a better chance?”

“Or we could stay here where there are less people who might get caught in the crossfire, and we can actually sleep?” said Kennedy. Willow shot her a look. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t help Spike, but c’mon…”

“We’re all tired,” said Giles. “But we came here to help Spike, and the best thing for him now is to…”

“Oh god!” Xander shot awake, his hands gripping the arms of the chair he had fallen asleep in. Everyone crowded around him and noticed his eye had gone completely white.

“What is it? What do you see?” asked Giles.

Dawn sat on the bed next to Spike while the others fussed over Xander. She tuned out their concerned voices as she took Spike’s hand in her own. It was warm. She dropped it to the bed. This was wrong.

“You saw Angel?”

“Yeah,” Xander replied. “Kinda still seeing him, so… whoa.”

Everyone jumped. “What is it?” Willow asked.

“Shh, shh! Having a vision, here!”

Dawn turned and glared at them. Spike was dying and they were more concerned about a stupid vision. And where was Buffy, anyway? She glanced momentarily in Xander’s direction before walking out the door. Once she made it to the stairs she heard a loud crash and screaming. She flew down the steps and followed the sound.

“Buffy!” she cried in alarm, running towards her sister. “Buffy, stop!” She grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her away from the vending machine. “Stop!”

Buffy gasped for breath as Dawn steadied her on her feet. “I…” she took a deep breath. “I killed the vending machine.”

Dawn glanced over at the crushed bags of stale Fritos and covered in broken glass. She then looked down at her sister’s hands, which were covered in blood. Her knuckles were raw and Dawn couldn’t help but think about the last time they were like that.

“Her hands.”

“Yeah, I was going to fix them. I don’t know how they got like that.”

“I do. Clawed her way out of a coffin, that’s how. Isn’t that right?”

“Yeah, that’s… what I had to do.”

“Done it myself.”

“Dawn,” said Buffy, pulling her away from her flashback. “What is… is he…?”

Dawn nodded, not knowing exactly what her sister was asking or which answer she wanted, but felt it best to be a positive one. She felt she might’ve been wrong when Buffy’s shoulders started shaking as she cried.

“Buffy,” she said comfortingly, placing her sister’s head on her shoulder.


* * * *

“Come in,” said Connor. Angel stepped over the threshold.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea that I come to your parents’ house.”

“It’s OK, they’re out of town.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

Connor turned to his father and gave him an impatient scowl. “You have a better idea?”

Angel sighed. “No.”

“Good. Then you stay here. No more complaining.”

“I wasn’t complaining,” Angel pouted, managing to sound dark and brooding all the same.

“We don’t have any blood,” Connor informed him as if they’d just ran out. “But I think we’ve got some beer.”

“Beer? You drink?”

Connor puffed up his chest. “Occasionally.”

“Don’t you have to be 21 to drink?”

Connor smirked, causing him to bear a striking resemblance to his mother. “Legally.”

“What kind?” asked Angel, following his son into the kitchen.


Angel scowled but smiled slightly. “Well, at least you’re parents are good people.”


* * * *

Dawn followed behind Buffy as she slowly made her way towards 203. Again, she froze in the doorway. Something inside told her bad things would happen if she took another step. Xander, Kennedy and Giles stood by the window, speaking intensely and unaware of Buffy’s arrival. Willow stood beside Spike’s bed, looking down at him uncertainly.

“What’s going on?” Buffy asked, her eyes not leaving his prostrate form.

Everyone turned to face her. “Buffy,” said Giles. “Xander’s had another vision.”

Buffy sighed. Visions. What was about former Sunnydale students and visions? “What did you see?” she asked distractedly.

“It was Angel.”

He had her attention. “What about him. Is he OK?”

“For now,” Xander replied. “Buffy, it’s his son, Connor.”

“What about him?”

“He’s dead,” Andrew replied. Xander shot him a look. “I mean, like, he’s gonna be. That’s not much better, is it?”

“He’s in trouble,” Xander corrected, returning his gaze to Buffy. “Angel’s with him, but I don’t think he’ll be able to save Connor by himself.”

“Right,” she said, nodding her head sadly. “More fighting.” She dropped her face into her hands and stood in the doorway with her shoulders slumped. Everyone looked to each other, wondering what to do or say.

“Could I…” Buffy asked through her hands, her voice muffled. “Could I have a moment alone with him?” She pulled her hands away, wiping away traces of tears as she did so.

“Well,” Xander replied slowly. “We’d have to find him first.” He followed Buffy’s gaze. “Oh, not Angel. Right, yeah.”

Willow was the last to leave the room. “Don’t worry,” she told Buffy before closing the door behind her. “We’ll figure this Angel thing out. We’ll let you know if we need you.”

And then they were alone.

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