First day of classes after the Summer Holidays that followed the Master's demise.
Father Paddy O'Brien liked his parish. He loved his parishioners. But he was past caring about Church protocol, for he'd already buried too many. He knew he couldn't save everyone in Sunnydale, but he'd be damned if he let his people go without a fight. This way of thinking was what led him to the Sunnydale High School Library and Rupert Giles.
He had been stunned to discover that the ex-curator of the London Museum and the world's foremost authority on rituals and ceremonies was living right in his very town. Paddy believed that God was condoning his plans.
Sweeping his mass of flaming red hair back from his sweating brow, Father O'Brien looked around the room with avid curiosity and wondered why a man with Dr. Rupert Giles' credentials was working in a high school library.
Meanwhile, Rupert Giles was looking at the collar of the man in his main room and wondering what a Catholic priest was doing in his library.
"Hello, may I help you?" Giles smiled pleasantly and with just the right hint of curiosity.
"Well, that would be depending on if you're the man I'm looking for," O'Brien replied with a thick Irish brogue. "Dr. Rupert Giles?"
Giles lifted an eyebrow. It had been a very long time since someone had used his Doctorate as a form of address. "Please, call me Giles."
Paddy gave a relieved sigh. It seemed the end of his search was in sight.
"Giles," the priest responded with a smile. "I really do hope you can help me, I'm lost if you can't."
Giles indicated a chair at the research table, intrigued by the priest's words.
As the two men took their seats, Father O'Brien launched into his tale and the nature of his quest.
"I don't believe all this putting your head in the sand clap-trap that most of the residents of this town seem to follow. Vampires exist." When he received no denial for his statement, the Irishman continued, "I've warned all my people about the ways to stay alive, but I'm still losing them to the devils. I was at my wit's end. That is, until I read your book on little known rituals. All my research shows that the Ritual of the Blessing of the Blood that was performed by the villagers of the Carpathian Mountains was a success. Loss of life from vampire attack was brought way down. I want to perform the ritual for my parishioners, but to do that I need a copy of the ritual. Can you help me?"
Giles smiled at the man with genuine delight. It was very rare that a man of the cloth was so open to ways that were not sanctioned by the Church. "If you'll give me just a moment, I'll copy it out for you."
Angel watched from the stacks as he listened to them talk. He'd heard of the ancient ritual, but he needed to really think about it before he could remember all the facts. With a few moments of deep thought it all came back to him. The ritual involved a small amount of blood letting and then each person that had spilled their blood had their open wound blessed by the priest. Basically meaning that the blood of the individual had the same effect on a vampire as holy water would. To a vampire the ritual meant mass poisoning of their food source.
The ensouled vampire silently cheered the innovative priest and once the clergyman had finally left, Angel stepped forward and congratulated Giles with his ability to help the beleaguered parishioners.
The night before Back to School Night.
Buffy stood at watched from her position on the roof of a nearby building. The park was laid out before her just as her vampire boyfriend was laid out under the writhing brunette that was apparently taking him to happy places.
Silent tears tracked down her face.
A startled gasp from her left alerted her to the fact that she wasn't alone. The white blond hair and chiselled cheekbones stood out in the moonlight, identifying her oblivious companion. His eyes were riveted on the scene below and tears that matched hers glistened on his face.
"Spike," she whispered.
He whipped round to face her, ready to battle, but the sight of the matching pain in her eyes made him pause. Perhaps, just once, he could allow William time to breath.
Their combined grief echoed around them. Spike drifted closer, taking up her lax hand. They both turned back to the scene that was the cause of their pain.
As they watched, they saw Angel gasp, grab his head, and scream while the beautiful brunette clapped her hands gleefully.
In horror, the witnesses saw the change. The beast was now completely in control. Angelus was back.
With a shake of his head, Spike turned to leave, pulling the broken girl with him.
He needed to talk, and he suspected that she did too.
"She was your girlfriend, wasn't she," Buffy stated sadly as she tried to swallow the lump in her throat. The dark corner of the Bronze where they had sequestered themselves hid them from prying eyes.
Spike blinked back his tears and answered her, "Dru and me've been together for over a hundred years. I thought she felt the same as me, you know? That we were forever. Should've known I was only ever second best. That she'd always pick him."
He didn't know why he was sharing his misery with the Slayer, of all people, but the echo of her own misery resonated deep within him and he couldn't deny it. He didn't' even know if he wanted to.
"He's not Angel anymore, is he?" she whispered her fear.
Spike snorted. "So that's what he was calling himself...figures. But, no pet, he's not the bloke you knew. Whatever else she did tonight, Dru broke the curse. He's Angelus now."
"He was still Angel when he decided to cheat on me," Buffy declared flatly. Her inner strength lasting about a minute before her bottom lip pouted out in a display of discontent. "It's not fair. I didn't ask for this life. I didn't ask to have to go out every night and fight, praying that I can get home in one piece, just to get a few hours sleep and then face school. I hate it. I hate that I have to hide who I am from my mom. I hate that I never get to enjoy a normal life like every other teenage girl. I have this stupid calling that nobody asked if I wanted, and I don't even get to have a faithful boyfriend as a perk."
Spike tilted his head and studied her. He'd never considered a slayer's life from her side. He had only ever seen them as warriors to fight. She was making herself seem more to him, more than just an object to hate because their natures dictated it. She was no longer a nameless enemy...well, she wouldn't be as soon as he knew what it was. "What's your name, pet?'
And so it began. A friendship to be born out of the ashes of shared betrayal. A bond forged in the fires of fate.
They talked for hours, which surprised them both. When they were forced to leave the Bronze at closing, they wandered through the night, neither really wanting to end their time together.
Spike had never had a friend before and the novelty was exciting him. He wanted to do something to prove his sincerity to her. An idea bloomed. "Hey, Slayer, you want me to take out the anointed one for ya?"
Buffy's eyes grew wide. She couldn't believe it. Angel had a soul and he'd never offered to remove any threats on his own. He'd always just come and warned her cryptically that there was a threat. Here it was only one night and already friendship with Spike was proving more beneficial than all the time she'd known Angel. "Seriously not gonna say no to that," Buffy replied with a grin.
Thoughts of Angel brought forward unwanted images of Angelus. "Got any suggestions for the uber suckiness of the whole Angelus deal?" Buffy asked softly.
Spike sobered with the serious turn of the conversation. "Well, the first thing you need to do is get your watcher to do a disinvite spell on yours and your mates' homes. No sense in makin' it easy for the bastard."
"You can do that?" Buffy asked in shock.
Spike shrugged nonchalantly. "Sure, pet. As far as I know it's a simple spell, should be a piece of cake for someone with watcher trainin'. You might also want to think about not having any more late night meetings in the school. I doubt if ol' granddad will go after you directly, but your mum and little mates will be a target. Angelus'll want to break you, luv, and he'll try to go through your friends and family to do it."
"Thank you," Buffy offered earnestly, gripping his hand as she spoke. "You make me feel like I'm not alone."
Spike gently squeezed the hand that held his. As they reached Buffy's home, Spike had one more subject to broach. "There's one more thing, Buffy, and it's bloody important so write it down as soon as you get inside. Tell your watcher to read Sir Walter Brennan's Theory on Half-breeds and then tell him that I am offering you the Pratt Family Oath of Allegiance. You got that, pet?"
"Sir Walter Brennan's Theory, half-breeds and Pratt family oath of allegiance," she repeated and gave a quick nod of affirmation.
With a grin and a wave, Buffy shimmied up the tree and in through the open window.
Before she began her classes for the day, Buffy made a quick trip to the library and asked her watcher to find and read the Brennan Theory. She explained that he needed to have it read by lunch so that when she came back they would be able to discuss her previous night's adventures.
Giles might have been a little stunned by her request, but he did as she asked, regardless. He had full faith in his slayer.
When Buffy arrived back at the library just moments after the bell had rung, she found Giles deeply engrossed in research. He explained to her that he had found the theory so convincing that he was following up on the subject by reading all the supporting text's that had been listed in the bibliography. The theory flew in the face of many of the Council teachings, but unlike the Council, Brennan had offered a vast amount of supporting data that led far more credence to his theory than that of the Council of Watchers.
"Where on earth did you learn of this, Buffy?"
"Um...yeah...about that..." Buffy paused and took a deep breath. As succinctly as possible, she related the events of the previous evening. All of them.
"William the Bloody offered the Pratt Family Oath of Allegiance?" Giles asked, dazed.
"Yup," Buffy answered guilelessly. "What is the Pratt family oath thingy?"
"My great grandmother was the last surviving member of the Pratt family. The Oath has followed down through the generations, but the last time it was used was to my great grandfather by my great grandmother's brother, who went missing a year later in 1880. His name was William."
"Get out!" Buffy exclaimed in amused shock.
Giles' cheeks coloured slightly but he bravely forged ahead. "Now I understand his insistence that I read Brennan's theory."
Buffy stared blankly at her watcher, waiting for him to enlighten her.
"Mr Brennan theorises that some element of the human remains when they are turned. The level of humanity can vary depending on the individual in question. This is why demons refer to vampires as half-breeds. They can not be generalized as a demon because they possess some degree of humanity, likewise they can not be categorized as human because of the presence of the demon," Giles explained. "Without the knowledge of this theory, I would not be inclined to accept anything said by a vampire with the reputation of William the Bloody. However, as it is, I am far more willing to take his suggestions and whatever oaths he would be willing to make."
Arrangements were made to ensure the disinvite spells had been performed before dark, and Jenny was brought in to lend a hand. When the techno pagan learned why they were doing the spells and would no longer stay in the school after dark, she took the opportunity to spill her own secrets and the focus of their strategy changed. They needed to find a copy of the original curse, and if they could, a way to close the loophole permanently.
Spike watched with satisfaction as Colin went up in flames, then proceeded in getting rid of most of the minions. It wasn't like his wicked ripe plum needed them when she had him and Spike didn't see any use in keeping around a bunch of idiots who had trouble ceding to his authority. Good help was just so hard to find.
A shiver of yearning ran through him as he felt Drusilla enter the room, Spike whispered her name as a prayer as he moved closer to her, her actions with her own sire already forgiven.
Drusilla stamped her dainty foot and hissed at him. "It's daddy's sleepy time and you're being a bad doggy making all this noise. Little children should know their place, my William. Sticks and stones and whips are all bad boys deserve. Begone with you now. Daddy doesn't like to share his baby girl and mummy will be very cranky if you stay. You mustn't come back here, unless daddy calls for you."
Spike stood open mouthed as his dark beauty glided away from him. He could almost feel his heart shattering with his pain.
Joyce's eyes narrowed in suspicion as she got her first glimpse of the bleached blond who had knocked on her door, but one look in his pain filled eyes and her compassionate heart went into overdrive. "Can I help you?" she asked gently, her caring nature on clear display.
"Is, um, Buffy here?"
"Yes, of course, why don't you come..."
"No!" he interrupted quickly. "Thank you, but I'll just wait out here." He gave her a sad smile and moved back to the steps leading up to the front porch where he gracefully sat down to wait.
Joyce felt torn between the need to mother the clearly hurting young man and the desire to get him the help he had requested. She hated leaving him and was completely relieved when her daughter came down the stairs from her room.
"Oh! Buffy." Joyce smiled in relief. "Your friend came to call," she said, indicating their visitor before lowering her voice to a whisper. "He looks really upset, sweetie, and he refused to let me invite him in."
Buffy glanced past her mom to the seated figure and flew to his side. "Spike? What's wrong?"
Spike took an unneeded breath in an effort to control his overwhelming emotions. "Just, um, thought you should know, you don't need to worry about the annoying one and his minions anymore, luv." He tried valiantly to blink back the tears that threatened to overflow by talking about a subject that had nothing to do with his distress.
"Thank you," she whispered softly. "Now tell me what's happened...is it...Dru?"
With her gentle questioning his flood gates opened.
Between Buffy and her mother they managed to gently urge the distraught male into the house. Joyce barely noticed Buffy's whispered invitation, and as soon as they had him seated on the couch, she slipped off to the kitchen to make them all some hot chocolate.
In the living room the Slayer held a weeping vampire in her arms.
From the bits and pieces that Joyce was able to pick up she surmised that Buffy's sweet friend, William, who apparently had the rather fitting nickname of Spike, had not only been dumped by his cheating girlfriend, but he had also been kicked out of his home. She was outraged that anybody would treat the clearly soft hearted young man in such a fashion. "You'll stay here until you get back on your feet, William," Joyce stated in a firm voice that brooked no arguments.
"Much as I appreciate the sentiment, Joyce, I won't hold you to it, what with you not knowin' I'm a vampire and all."
"A vampire?" Joyce questioned with a disbelieving chuckle.
With his eyes fixed firmly on Joyce, Spike failed to see Buffy's features pale and her eyes widen in alarm. Pointing to his face he morphed into game face and then back again. "See...vampire, not that I'd ever hurt you lot, but I'll understand if you don't want me sharin' your roof."
Memories flashed before Joyce's eyes, the accusations, screaming arguments, sterile white clinic walls, and stern faced psychologists. "Oh, my sweet Buffy, what did we do to you?" Joyce cried out in anguish, her guilt almost too much to bear.
"Mom...Mom, it's okay," Buffy assured her devastated mother as she rushed to her side. "You didn't know. If I didn't know, I would have thought I was crazy too."
"Bloody hell! I'm sorry, pet, I forgot that your mum didn't know," Spike rushed to apologize for his accidental gaff.
Buffy chuckled. "Can we give the guilt a rest and get on to the sharing part of the evening?"
Joyce wiped her eyes and regained her composure. "Why don't you start by telling me everything that you tried to tell me last time, sweetheart?"
Between them Buffy and Spike filled Joyce in on everything there was to know about slayers and the creatures they fought. Buffy was surprised by some of the knowledge that Spike had been able to add, information that Giles had never told her, and if the blond was right about the Cruciamentum, then it was safe to say that Buffy and her watcher were going to be having words...and none of them would be pretty.
Buffy then went on to explain her relationship with Angel and what had happened that had allowed the friendship between her and Spike to blossom.
Joyce turned to Spike. "The invitation not only stands, but I insist that you accept. I may not know much about all this soul business, but I trust my ability to judge an individual's character accurately, and I think there is a lot more to you, William, than even you realise. You and Buffy are going through something and I plan on supporting you both as best I can. I failed Buffy once, I will NOT do that again."
Spike blinked back his tears. ‘Bloody hell, they're gonna turn me back into the ponce!' He grinned in acceptance.
Angelus was pissed.
Drusilla had started twittering around the factory, whimpering about ‘weasels in the hen house' and ‘a magical pagan that liked to play with little bits of wire and plastic that write in naughts and ones'. If he had been any other person, Angelus would have been pulling his hair out in frustration. But he wasn't anyone else.
"Dru, if you don't shut up, it will be another century before I touch you." He knew damn well that any and all threats of torture would just encourage her. If she would just stop spouting her rubbish about stars and pixies and dolls and gypsies, he might be able to think, to plan. He had important decisions to make and the non-stop ramblings of the insane vampiress weren't conducive to rational thought.
Drusilla was beside herself. She couldn't make her daddy understand no matter how hard she tried. He'd forbidden her to go out without him and refused to listen to any of her warnings. She couldn't understand why he wasn't racing to the school to take care of the horrid gypsy and why he didn't seem to understand the importance of her message. Spike would have understood; why didn't daddy?
Angelus rolled his eyes at the whimpers and mewls that continued to come from his childe. It was all Spike's fault, he decided. If the bleached moron hadn't run out on them - Angelus conveniently managed to forget that he'd ordered Drusilla to get rid of her pet - then Spike could take care of the whining brunette and Angelus could focus on more important matters. For the unlife of him, he couldn't imagine why he had ever kept the useless pair around.
In a fit of irritation fuelled by the incessant noise, Angelus came up with an idea that would not only grant him the silence he needed in order to formulate his plans, but it would also teach his grandchilde what happened when you pissed Angelus off.
The large brunette smiled evilly. He dismissed Drusilla, ordering her to stay in while he ventured out to set things in motion.
By sunset the next day everything was in place. As soon as he knew the time was right, Angelus instructed Drusilla to help herself to the meal he'd brought back with him in the early hours of the morning.
Drusilla hastened to follow her daddy's bidding. He'd not allowed her to feed the day before and she was hungry.
Spike hesitantly reached for the handle of the factory door, he couldn't work out what Angelus' game was. The message that his grandsire had left for him at Willy's hadn't given any reason for the summoning. He'd discussed the matter with Buffy and her watcher and they'd all agreed, if they could keep Angelus distracted until the gypsy could re-do the curse then more people would live.
Spike pulled open the door and entered, his eyes unconsciously drawn to his sire. His heart ached at the sight of her. She shone to him, like a beacon on a foggy night.
Drusilla felt her childe's presence just as the strange warming sensation that the blood had given her started to heat further. A scream was wrenched from her body as the heat became unbearable.
Spike watched in horror as his screaming sire began smoking and writhing in agony.
As Drusilla dusted Spike turned his haunted gaze to his hysterically laughing grandsire. He shook his head in denial and started backing away.
"Don't take it too hard, Spikey, I didn't want her anymore and she would never have been happy with you."
Spike turned and ran, the echo of his grandsire's laughter followed, taunting him. He needed his friend. He needed Buffy.
Angelus watched and smiled in delight, he loved it when he could break someone's spirit. It started his day off just right.
The tuneful whistle that echoed through the factory was cut off with an agonized scream.
Angel collapsed with the pain of his returning soul. Throughout the night he wept for himself and his childe. He thanked the Powers that his relationship with Buffy hadn't been harmed, since Angelus had not managed to get that far in his plans. There was no way for his love to even know Angelus had made an appearance.
He vowed to go and visit Buffy as soon as the sun set, and with a sense of relief, Angel slept for the final time in Drusilla's bed.
"How is he?" Giles asked solicitously. The Watcher's acceptance of the blond vampire had been far easier than his initial reaction to Angel. In his mind, Spike had been straightforward and forthcoming with help as well as important information, while Angel had hidden his true nature and offered them cryptic warnings at best. The fact that in life, William had been a distant relative didn't hurt either. His concern for the emotionally wounded vampire was genuine.
Buffy shrugged slightly. "It's gonna take time, Giles. He's devastated. I just wish there was more I could do for him. At least tell me Miss Calender was successful?" she asked hopefully.
"Jenny has assured me the spell worked, my dear. She also managed to change the wording slightly so that the curse can never be broken again without Angelus automatically dusting."
Buffy gave a relieved sigh at her watcher's words.
Buffy looked up towards the stacks when her slayer senses went off. She froze when Angel stepped into the light. The sight of the vampire that had caused her new friend so much anguish had her seething. The pain he had brought to Spike owned more of her rage than any betrayal by infidelity that could be considered against her.
"You don't need to worry about Drusilla any more Buffy. I dusted her." Angel offered with a smile while he anticipated her gleeful reaction.
"Yes, I believe you utilized the knowledge of Father O'Brien's Ritual of the Blessing of the Blood to feed Drusilla poisoned blood. Might I suggest that, as part of your atonement, you be the one to inform the Reverend exactly how you allowed your demon to murder one of his beloved flock," Giles responded, his voice dripping with disdain.
"I had no control over that, Giles. If you know that, you should also know that it wasn't me, it was Angelus," Angel was quick to protest.
"The soul only aids you in your ability to control your demon, Angel. The fact that you are unable to retain control without the soul begs the question...is your demon that strong, or are you that weak?"
Angel shifted his gaze to the tiny blonde when she snorted derisively at her watcher's question. "I'm gonna go with he's that weak, ‘cause he managed to cheat on me before the soul went walkies. Didn't ya, Angel?"
The large brunette's eyes widened comically when he realised that they seemed to know everything. He didn't know what to say, how to fix things, or who to blame.
Buffy lifted her hand to stop him from speaking at all.
"Not really looking for a response there, Angel. Seriously. There is nothing you could say to me that I want to hear. Not even goodbye." Buffy turned her back on the man she had thought she loved, said goodnight to Giles, and left the library.
"For the sake of your longevity, I would suggest that you leave Sunnydale, Angel," Giles offered mildly before turning his back on the vampire and returning to his research in his office.
Angel felt like he was drowning in his guilt. He needed forgiveness. He tried to think of someone that could offer it to him as he, too, left the library.
Father Paddy O'Brien watched the dust settle on his rectory floor. "Now, I forgive you," he said with a satisfied air.
With the help of Buffy, Joyce, and Giles, Spike eventually got over his grief and discovered that there was love after Drusilla.
But that's a tale for another time.