Title: Dying in the Middle
Genre: Episode Related (Post Wild at Heart)
Relationship(s): Pre-Xander Harris/Angel
Content Rating: PG
Word Count: 8383
Summary: Spike’s return after Oz’s departure sets in motion a series of events that have been forewarned.
Willow walked through the park at a leisurely pace. If anyone were to observe her, they would think she was out for a midnight stroll, without a care in the world. They would be wrong.
Her heart was heavy, her pain tangible. She felt her chest heave with the very effort of breathing. The memory of Oz’s infraction with the she-wolf still fresh in her mind, as was the hole Oz had left in her heart when he had run away. Run away from her, and from himself.
She no longer cared that it was dangerous to be walking around at night, especially in Sunnydale. She didn’t care that it was probable that she would be attacked. She didn’t care that her friends might find her body, drained and discarded in some dirty alley. She didn’t care about any of it. All she wanted was to make the pain go away. To die.
Tonight she would get her wish.
Spike watched the way the witch walked through the park, seemingly without a care in the world. He knew that presumption was inaccurate. He could sense her despair, her pain. He remembered that pain from his own despair. The witch had tried to comfort him, even through her terror. The remembered the fire in her eyes when she was trying to fight him off, as feeble as she was; the power of her blood. She had strength she didn’t knew about. It reminded him of his Dark Princess, separated from him as she was, for now. Spike wasn’t sure why he had returned to Sunnydale after leaving South America, but perhaps this was why.
Spike watched as she sat down on a stone bench, her tears staining her pale cheeks.
“He isn’t worth it, pet.” Spike spoke from behind her. He didn’t want to startle her, but he wasn’t about to let her run either.
Willow rose her head slightly, but otherwise made no movement. It was several moments before she spoke. “Is anything worth it?” Her voice was filled with raw emotion.
“Yes, Luv. Would you like me to show you?”
Willow looked up at him then and stared into his blue eyes. She knew what he was asking, and felt a stab of fear, but then it was drowned in a wave of pain. “Will it hurt?” She paused, rethinking her question. “Will I hurt? After?”
“No. Never again.” Spike promised her with honesty she was surprised to see coming from a killer when speaking about another’s pain.
She smiled slightly and inched closer to him, offering her neck. In the back of her mind, she realized that this was not the answer she sought. Being reborn a killer was not the way to end her pain.
He led her away from the public bench and towards a more private location. She followed him quietly, her mind spinning with the dangers of what she was doing, but she felt a sort of calmness in her decision.
She found herself inside a closed office. From the decor, she guessed it was probably a psychology or psychiatry practice. Spike faced her and looked at her seriously once more. “Are you sure, luv?”
Willow nodded, not sure she could speak. Her throat felt rough from her earlier tears, but she was sure.
Spike nodded once and stepped closer, his face rippling and pulling her to him gently.
All thoughts stopped as she felt his fangs descend to her neck. She felt a slight pinch as he pierced her throat. A wave of images came flooding through her mind as she felt her life slipping away.
Spike drained her life’s blood and marveled at the power in it. There was something different about her blood. Something he couldn’t quite place. He could taste her fire, her innocence, her power, but there was something else as well. It was sweet, and spicy at the same time. There was something sharp in taste, something almost electric in it. He had never tasted anything like it. Not even Slayer’s blood held such power.
He set her gently down against his chest as he felt her heartbeat slow and her lungs near their last breath. He bit into his wrist and offered the oozing liquid to the girl in his arms. She licked the wound at first, but soon, began to suck hungrily at the proffered blood. When she had taken enough, he pulled his wrist away and watched as she took her last breath.
Soon, there was only silence.
“Joe’s” Joe Dawson answered the phone as he wiped down the counter idly.
The man on the other end hesitated. “Joe? We have…a situation.”
Joe’s hands stopped their continuous motion along the counter. He froze at the concern in the younger man’s voice. “What kind of situation, Michael?”
“Well… We’re not exactly sure. It’s…I’m not really sure if I understand exactly what happened…or what we think happened. It’s beyond my comprehension.”
Joe sighed at the nervousness in the man’s voice. “Why don’t you tell me what happened, and I’ll see if I can help.”
He walked around the bar and sat in one of the stools as he listened to the watcher’s story, his mind whirling from what they thought had happened.
Methos climbed out of his car and entered the blues club. He was about to take a seat at the bar when Johnny, one of the bartenders, came out from under the counter.
“Adam, the boss is looking for you.” He nodded his head towards the office. “He seems a little…tense.”
Methos turned towards the office door and shrugged. When he entered he found Joe sitting at his desk, drinking out of one of his special bottles of scotch. That’s when he knew something was definitely wrong. He only brought out the good stuff in an emergency.
“What’s up?” He asked as he sat in the chair on the other side of the desk, “And do I need a drink?”
Joe pulled out another glass and began to pour the immortal a drink. “I need a favor.”
Methos winced visibly at the word. “I don’t do favors.” He reminded the watcher.
Joe nodded. “I know. But these are special circumstances. We need someone with your…unique history.”
Methos’ curiosity was piqued. “Why?”
Joe sighed. “Have you ever heard of Hellmouths?”
Joe smiled slightly. “I’ll take that as a yes.” When Methos nodded, he continued.
“There’s a young immortal at one we’ve been tracking. Well soon to-be-immortal. We think something has happened. Our contacts witnessed something…strange. They’re not really sure what it means. But…”
“Since it’s on a Hellmouth, you can’t be sure of anything.” Methos surmised.
Joe nodded. “Will you go? Check it out? See if what they think they saw actually happened? Maybe he just had one too many Irish whiskeys.” He tried to laugh, but he came out strangled.
“Maybe. I’m not sure what one of us, even someone who hadn’t died their first death would be doing on a Hellmouth. Hellmouth vibes don’t really agree with us. Were they just passing through?”
“No, they’re a local.” Joe admitted.
Methos blinked nonplussed. That was different. He stood up. “I’ll go, but you owe me.”
“Don’t thank me yet.” Methos turned to leave, but then stopped. “This Hellmouth, where is it.”
Willow awoke feeling strange. It was nothing like what she had expected. She didn’t feel like a killer. She still felt like Willow, only stronger. More powerful. Before she could think about the changes anymore, Willow felt this uncontrollable feeling wash over her.
It took her a moment to realize what it was. Hunger. She climbed out of the bed, and went in search of Spike.
Her senses were on overdrive. Her eyesight was amazing. Even through the darkened hallways of the house, she could see clearly. She could also hear things. She sound of the wind as it blew quietly amongst the trees. The faint sounds of birds chirping in the pre-dawn hours. Her heartbeat. She froze. Her heartbeat? That wasn’t right. She shouldn’t have a heartbeat.
She brushed the troubling thought aside, thinking she wasn’t yet accustomed to her new senses.
She inhaled sharply, the smell of blood calling to her. She turned around and found Spike watching her intently, holding out a wineglass filled with a red liquid, she instinctively new was blood.
“You’re awake.” He handed her the glass, which she took, and drank, savoring the taste as it slid down her throat.
She watched as Spike stared at her. After a moment, he raised an eyebrow.
“What is it?” She asked, looking behind her.
“You’re alive.” His voice was tainted with disbelief.
Willow looked at him strangely. “Wasn’t that the point?”
“No, Luv. You’re alive.” He took a step closer, and grabbed her hand, placing it above her own heart.
At feel of her heart beating, Willow’s other hand dropped the wineglass, and it shattered on the floor, by her feet.
Methos let his mind wander as he drove his car into the Sunnydale city limits. It had been a long time since he had been to a Hellmouth. A lifetime ago. He thought back to a time long past. To a Hellmouth, to his friend.
//Somewhere in Europe Early 900’s //
Methos entered the town, his senses highly attuned to the power here. He wondered what it was about this town. It spoke of death, and of things that should not be. He wondered what had brought his old friend here. No matter. Heinrich had asked him to come, so he had.
He felt a strange tingling in the back of his senses as he knocked on the heavy iron door. He waited several moments before the door swung open.
“Methos, old friend. So good of you to come.”
“Heinrich” Methos smiled. There was something different about Heinrich. Something he couldn’t quite place. The feeling was similar to that which the town itself gave off. Something deadly. Something eternal. He watched as his friends’ face shifted into that of a demon. His mind was filled with understanding.
“You’re a vampire.” He stated, only mildly surprised. He didn’t know why he wasn’t more shocked. Perhaps it was the irony of the situation. “When did this happen?”
Heinrich laughed. “A few years. But that’s not why I’ve called you here. I want to share something with you. Something wonderful.”
Methos shook his head, willing the memories away. A lot had happened since then.
Things he could have never foreseen. And now he was back, on a Hellmouth. It was a different Hellmouth, but he could feel the presence of evil all around.
As Methos entered the hotel room, his mind wandered back to the reason of this visit. An immortal vampire. That was something he had never seen, if it was true. Sure, immortals had been embraced, but never as their first death. Never like this. This girl, what would she be like? Would she be a vicious creature of the night like so many vampires he had met? Would she be mad with power like some of his kind? Would she be stronger than both? Could she be the one? The one he had heard spoken about in hushed whispers for countless centuries? The one who would change the rules?
Willow stood still for a minute. The only sound was that of her own heartbeat. She could hear it pounding in her ears. She could feel the rise and fall of her chest. She held her breath for a moment, only to gasp when she realized she still needed to breathe.
Willow walked cautiously to the front door of the office. She placed her hand on the doorknob, hesitating for a moment, unsure of what she was doing. She steeled herself for the burning pain as she opened the door, allowing the sun to touch her flesh. She winced in anticipation of the pain. After a few seconds she opened her eyes and looked up at the blaring sun. A sight she believed she would never witness again. The sun shone from the sky, it’s heat warming her skin but not burning. She slammed the door, blocking out the sight, another reminder of the creature she had become.
She slid to the floor, and collapsed in a heap, sobbing uncontrollably. She felt her tears fall and cried harder at her weakness. She wasn’t supposed to be weak. That should have been banished with her humanity.
It wasn’t until she felt Spike’s strong arms surrounding her and lifting her off of the floor that she remembered she was not alone.
Willow felt him carry her back into the private office, where there was a couch. He lay her gently on the sofa and sat down beside her, rubbing circles soothingly on her back. She leaned into his touch as he tried to comfort her. Her last thought before sleep claimed her was of how very alone she was, even in death.
Buffy walked into Giles’s living room and looked around. “Where’s Willow?” She asked as she sat in an empty chair.
“Not here,” Anya spoke as she looked up from a large book.
Buffy frowned. “She’s not here? She didn’t come home last night, and she didn’t show up for classes this morning.”
“I’m sure she’s fine.” Giles tried to reassure the slayer.
“Yeah, she probably needed some time alone after the whole Oz thing.” Xander offered. “Did you check her parent’s house?”
Buffy shook her head as she stood up. “No, I’ll stop by there before I meet Riley for Patrol. I’ll check back after.” She told the group as she headed out of the door.”
Xander looked from his book to the closing door and then back again. “Why is it, she gets to go out with her Studly, why we get stuck here sifting through dusty volumes looking for some reference to an obscure prophecy?”
Giles glared, ignoring the youth, while Anya patted his arm lightly. “I know, Sweetie..”
Angel entered the office and noticed Cordelia sitting on the couch, clutching her head.
Wesley entered, bringing some of Cordelia’s bottled water and some aspirin.
“Another vision?” He asked as he stepped closer.
Cordelia groaned as she snatched the water. She glared up at her boss. “What was your first clue?”
Angel ignored her sarcastic tone and sat down next to her. “What did you see?”
Cordelia frowned as she tried to sort through the images. “Strange. I saw Willow. She was with Spike.” She paused, trying to connect all the dots in her head. “But that wasn’t the strangest part. She was fighting someone. With… with a sword.” She looked at Angel questioningly. “Since when did Willow take up fencing?”
Angel stood up and headed into his office. Cordelia’s vision, at least what he’d heard of it didn’t make any sense.
What was Spike doing back in Sunnydale? And what was he doing with Willow? If he didn’t know better, Angel would have thought Cordelia had been wrong. But her visions were always accurate.
Buffy knocked on the Rosenberg’s front door several times. Not getting an answer, she decided to check Willow’s room. She climbed up to her balcony and peered into the window. Not seeing any movement, she tried the French doors. Finding them unlocked, she entered and looked around. The house was dark and didn’t look like anyone had been there in a while.
Just as she made her way into the living room, the telephone rang. After a moment’s hesitation, Buffy decided to answer it.
There was a pause. “Buffy?”
“Angel?” Buffy asked confused. What was Angel doing calling Willow? Did he call her often? She shook her head at the unimportant thoughts.
“Where’s Willow?” Angel asked, pushing away his worried thoughts.
“I don’t know. I haven’t seen her since yesterday, so I came to check her house.” She paused and then decided to ask the question that had been at the back of her mind since she answered the phone. “Why are you calling? Do you often call here? Is something wrong?”
“Buffy,” Angel spoke impatiently. “I don’t have time for this. When did you see her last?”
“Yesterday. She didn’t come home last night and didn’t show up to class this morning.”
She explained, “We thought she might be here. She needed some time to herself.”
“When yesterday?” He asked, as his mind latched onto the last thing Buffy said. “Why would she need time alone?”
Buffy frowned in confusion for a moment. “After the whole Oz-thing. She’s been kind of depressed.”
“Oz thing? Never mind.” Angel hung up before she could confuse him any more. After a moment to think about what he had learned, he returned to the lobby.
“She’s missing.” He told Cordelia and Wesley.
Cordelia stood up. “Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go.”
Buffy stared at the phone and then placed it on the receiver. “That was strange.” She mumbled to herself. She shrugged as she left the house and headed towards Lowell House to meet with Riley.
Methos parked the car and took a look around. He looked down at the address Joe had given him. He appeared to be in the right place, but it was hardly where he expected to meet a member of the Watcher’s Council.
Every contact he had ever had with those imbeciles had instilled the belief that, despite their direct involvement with the Slayer, they were a group of uptight tweed-clad businessmen who wouldn’t know which end of the vampire they were supposed to stick the stake into.
Not that his branch of the council was much better, but at least they had the excuse of not being directly involved in what went on around them. They were only required to watch, not to interfere.
He stood in front of the door, and could hear voices on the other side. Methos decided to take a peek in the window. Maybe he could get an idea of what to expect. He hadn’t planned on the watcher having company.
Inside there were three people. One of which was a man whom he was guessing was the watcher he had come to see. The other two were an oddity. He gathered that if the man was indeed a watcher, the Slayer should be around somewhere, but the one girl in the room was definitely not her, though there was something vaguely familiar about her.
The other occupant of the room, a boy about twenty, looked bored, as if he’d really rather be somewhere else, doing something else. Not that he could blame him. The girl was sitting close to the boy, practically in his lap, though the boy didn’t seem extremely pleased about it.
Methos stepped back and knocked. When the door was opened by the girl, he looked into the room. The girl’s eyes widened slightly and he felt that feeling of familiarity deepen. The boy eyed him suspiciously but didn’t seem particularly surprised. Methos turned and set his gaze on the man.
“I’m looking for a Rupert Giles.”
Giles stood up. “Can I help you with something?”
Methos walked into the house and held out a hand. “I’m Adam Pierson. Joe Dawson sent me.”
Giles eyed Methos carefully before taking his offered hand. “Of course.” He turned around to the others in the room. “We’re finished here.”
“Why don’t you guys…go and do whatever it is that you do,” Giles told Xander. Had Giles been paying less attention to Xander, and more to Anya he would have noticed her face paling at the sight of his visitor.
Anya stood up and walked to the door. “Come on Xander.” She walked out of the house without hazarding another look at the immortal.
Methos shook his head. He could have sworn he knew her. But that was impossible. He turned back to Giles.
“Would you like some tea?” Giles asked as he walked into his kitchen and put a kettle on.
“No thank you,” Methos answered politely.
When Giles returned to the living room, he sat down on the couch Anya and Xander had previously occupied.
“So, you’re a watcher? What brings you to the Hellmouth?” Giles asked, getting straight to the point.
Willow awoke to the realization that she was alone. She could sense Spike nearby, somewhere, so he hadn’t left the office. She was thankful for that. She was afraid he was going to leave her. She didn’t know what was going on. She was a vampire. Wasn’t she? He had drained her. She had drunk his blood. She had died. She could feel the hunger for blood, the demon that lived within her. But yet, she still breathed, her heart still beat.
When she opened her eyes, she found Spikes standing in the doorway, his blue eyes watching her.
“How do you feel, luv?” He asked, concerned.
“I’m… okay, I guess.” She sat up. “I’m hungry though.” She looked at him, fear in her green eyes. “I don’t think I can kill. Spike, what’s happening to me? Do I still have my soul?”
Spike stepped forward. “I don’t know, luv. Maybe we should go to the watchers?” He suggested, not really liking the idea, but he didn’t understand what had happened. The sooner they figured it out, the sooner they could get on with their unlives. He’d rather go to someone he trusted but things were still unsettled with Angelus.
Willow shook her head. “No, I can’t face them, not like this. They’ll try and kill me.” She looked up at him, tears forming in her eyes. “Maybe that would be for the best.” She said sadly.
“No.” Spike squeezed her tightly. “We’ll go to the watchers. But first…” He held his wrist out to her. “You need to eat.”
Willow looked at his offered wrist hesitantly and then felt her features change. She bit into him and lapped hungrily at her Sire’s blood. Once she was sated, she retracted her fangs and licked at the puncture wounds.
Spike pulled her off of the couch. “There’s a shower in the private bathroom at the end of the hall. Why don’t you take a shower. I’ll be back.”
Willow nodded and watched him leave the room. She knew he was going to feed, and despite the fact that her soul was still apparently intact, the idea didn’t bother her as much as she thought it should have.
She walked into the bathroom and stripped. Once in the shower, she let the scalding temperature wash over her. She felt strong. Stronger than ever before. Stronger than she ever thought she would feel. She supposed it was from Spike’s blood. Angel had told her once that Sire’s blood was strong, and could heal almost anything instantly.
She tried not to think about what was happening to her, or how she would explain it to Giles. She realized, due to her condition that she could probably play off her humanity, and no one would ever know the difference. Her heart still beat, her lungs still worked, and even her body temperature was normal, for a mortal. But she wasn’t was she? Not mortal, and not normal. She wasn’t human anymore, but she wasn’t vampire either, at least not like any vampire she had ever met.
She sighed heavily as she climbed out of the shower and began to get dressed. When she returned to the private office, Spike was back and waiting for her. She must have taken longer than she realized.
The couple left the office and walked silently through the night air. Just as they entered Giles building, Willow collapsed. There was this buzzing in her head. It wasn’t like a headache, but more like a sense, she didn’t know she had was alerting her to some unforeseen danger.
“Red?” Spike asked concerned as he pulled her to her feet.
“I’m fine.” She said as she regained her balance. She looked around, trying to place the source of her discomfort.
Methos was trying to explain the situation to the watcher without giving away too many details. He had only told him that the council believed that a vampire had attacked a pre-immortal and that they were unsure as to what the consequences would be if the vampire had changed his victim instead of merely draining them.
He was just about to continue with his somewhat vague explanation when he felt the familiar sensation, which told him another immortal was nearby. He turned back towards the front door and stifled the urge to draw his sword. He had a feeling that the immortal he was sensing was the one they were now discussing.
Giles turned at the knock at the door. He was staring strangely at his guest. Mr. Pierson had seemed to be alerted to the presence outside the door before the knock even sounded.
“Willow?” He asked when he opened the door. “Where have you been? Buffy was worried.”
Willow smiled slightly at Giles, and then her eyes were drawn to the man standing behind him. She didn’t recognize him, but there was something about him, which drew her attention.
“You know what’s happened to me, don’t you?” She asked him.
Giles looked from Willow to his guest and then back again. He wondered briefly why she was still standing outside. “Come on in.” He waved her inside.
Willow turned around and looked back into the night. She smiled slightly and faced Giles. “I have someone with me. Can he come in too?” She asked.
Giles looked at her for a second. “Yes, come in.”
Willow smiled and stepped over the threshold. Spike followed her in, smirking at the astonished look on Giles’s face. “Watcher.” He turned towards Methos. “Who’s this bloke?”
Willow smiled and turned towards Spike. “He knows what I am.” She turned to face the immortal, “Don’t you?”
Willow stepped out of the motel room and looked around in interest. “So this is where you live?” She turned to look at her fellow immortal.
Methos smiled wryly. “For now.”
“And you live alone?” She asked eyeing him carefully.
“For now.” Methos’ lips quirked slightly. “I thought we were here to find out about you, not dissect my life.”
“Where’s this friend of yours?” Spike’s gruff tones interrupted whatever Willow was about to say.
Methos handed Willow a piece of paper with an address. “Joe Dawson. He owns this club.”
Willow took the piece of paper and studied it carefully; suddenly unsure of what it was she was doing. Methos must have noticed her indecision because he smiled slightly at her.
“It’s up to you, but if you don’t go, you may never know.” He turned and started walking away.
“Will you be there?” She called after him.
Methos stopped and turned around. “I’ll be around.”
Once Methos had disappeared from her enhanced vision she turned and faced her Sire. “He’s hiding something.”
Spike’s eyes narrowed. “What?”
Willow shook her head. “I don’t know.” She grinned as she stepped closer to Spike. “But he intrigues me. We’ll go and meet this friend of his.”
Spike nodded, not liking this idea, but knowing she needed answers. “Are you hungry?”
Willow grinned liking the idea, but then she frowned as she realized what a meal would contain. “I can’t.” She took a deep shuddering breath. “I can’t…live like this, Spike. I don’t know who or what I am. Am I a vampire, or something else?”
Spike placed a kiss on her forehead. “You’re Willow. My Childe.” He pet the side of her head softly. “We will find out what has happened, go to Seacouver if we must. You will get your answers.”
Methos pulled into the parking lot of Joe’s place. He knew he should have just gone home; maybe get a few hour’s sleep. He didn’t think his new friends would be showing up until later.
He had a feeling that they were probably out, right now, looking for dinner. He had no delusions about what that entailed, and while he didn’t wish death on anyone, well almost anyone, he knew that Willow and Spike would do what they needed to do to survive, just as he had, for countless centuries.
Methos shook his head from thoughts of the two vampires, as he entered the bar, his eyes automatically searching for the reason he knew it was stupid for him to be here.
He felt the presence before he saw him. It was like a tickling of his senses, so unlike the presence of others of his kind.
“Hey, Old Man. You’re back.”
Methos turned around and smiled slightly at the grinning face, which had come up behind him. He followed the immortal to a table in the corner, taking the offered beer, and sitting down.
The two immortals turned their attention to the band that was playing, neither saying anything, just enjoying the silent company. The band’s first set was nearly finished when Joe walked over.
“How’d it go?” Joe asked quietly as he pulled up a chair and sat down.
Methos looked up at the watcher and frowned. “You were right.”
Joe thought about what it was Methos was saying. “She’s Immortal? Or a vampire?”
The feel of another immortal approaching caused both Richie and Methos to turn their heads towards the door.
Richie took in the sight of the two people who had walked in. The man wasn’t immortal, but dangerous nonetheless. He could tell that about him. He had bleached hair and the cold expression of a killer in his eyes as he searched the room. The woman was beautiful. Her hair was like fire, and her skin was slightly pale. She was also searching the room. Eventually, her eyes found their table and they started walking towards them. Richie smiled.
Methos chuckled slightly as he turned back to Joe. “She’s both.”
Angel arrived in Sunnydale only two-and-a-half hours after Cordelia’s vision. He had convinced them to stay in Los Angeles to keep an eye on things since he wasn’t sure what was going on.
Cordelia had been difficult to convince. But Wesley saw the logic in staying in LA. Angel told them that he could handle his Childe, and left town before they could protest further.
On the drive to Sunnydale, he thought about Cordelia’s vision, and what it could mean. She had said she saw Willow fighting, with a sword. He thought about all the different reasons for that, and he didn’t like the conclusion he was drawing.
He tried to think of a dozen other reasons than the one he could come up with, but he knew, as much as he hated to admit it, that the first one he had reached, was the correct answer.
He parked his car a few blocks from Giles building and walked. He didn’t want to run into Buffy if it was at all possible to avoid her. About half a block from the condo, Angel’s enhanced hearing picked up the sound of familiar voices.
“I don’t care what you say. There was something wrong with that guy.” Xander’s voice reached Angel. He sounded worried.
“It’s nothing, honey.” Anya tried placating Xander.
Angel cringed inwardly at the endearment, and then pushed the thought away as he continued to listen.
“Anya, There is something weird about him. Maybe he was a vamp, or a demon or something.”
Angel stepped closer to the couple as he continued to listen.
Anya patted Xander on the shoulder. “Sweetie, it’s fine. He’s nobody. Now, come on, let’s go have sex. I’m missing orgasms.”
Angel cringed inwardly again. He watched as Anya started walking away. It took him a minute before he realized Xander hadn’t moved. In fact, the boy seemed to be rooted in place. His face was bathed in yellow light from the street lamp, and Angel could see an odd expression on Xander’s face. His jaw was clenching and unclenching.
“Anya.” Xander’s voice had a tense note to it the vampire recognized.
The former vengeance demon stopped and turned around. “What?”
“What do you know?” Xander asked, each word being pronounced carefully, telling anyone who cared to listen that he would not accept anything but the truth in answer.
Angel stepped forward into the light. “That’s what I’d like to know.”
Xander swirled around, clutching his chest as his heart rate began to skyrocket.
“Deadboy! Don’t sneak up on a guy like that!” Xander relaxed when he realized who had spoken.
Angel smiled wryly. “Sorry.” Though he wasn’t really. He was enjoying the flushed look on Xander’s cheeks from the small scare.
Xander turned back around to face his girlfriend who was looking at the two of them, with a strange look on her face.
“Well, Anya?” Xander asked, and it was clear he hadn’t forgotten what they were discussing before Angel appeared out of the shadows. “What do you know about that guy?”
Anya looked up into Xander’s face but avoided his eyes. “It’s nothing, really. I knew him…once.”
Angel stepped forward and grabbed her arm slightly. “Knew him? Him who?
“There was a guy at Giles’ earlier. Watcher type.” Xander offered.
Angel released Anya and glanced at Xander, noting the tone difference when Xander spoke to him compared to when he was talking to the former demon.
“You knew him,” Angel repeated. “When?”
“When you were a demon?” Xander demanded.
Anya nodded and looked from Angel’s face to Xander’s. “Yes, when I was a demon.” Her voice was quiet, but both men heard her.
“When?” Angel asked again.
“Seven-hundred and sixty-three years ago.”
“What?” Xander turned to his girlfriend. “Is he a demon?”
Anya looked away from Xander and down to her own feet. “Not exactly.”
“Not exactly?” Xander repeated. He stepped closer. “Then what exactly is he?”
Anya didn’t answer and Xander was losing patience. “Anya.” He growled out.
Angel’s eyes widened at the sound and the irritation he felt coming from the mortal. He placed a hand on his shoulder. “Immortal.” He spoke softly.
Xander turned his dark eyes to the vampire, silently questioning.
“He’s immortal,” Angel told him then turned to the former demon. “Isn’t that right?”
Anya looked up, slightly surprised. “You know about immortals?” She paused a second. “Who are you? You look familiar. Do I know you?”
Xander groaned. “Anya, Angel. Angel, Anya, now can we please move on?”
Anya opened her mouth as if to speak, then shut it again. Finally, she turned to Angel. “You know about immortals?” She repeated her first question.
“I’ve met a few.” Angel offered cryptically.
Anya started to back away. “Well then, you two can go, do…whatever, and I’ll just go home.” Anya turned around and started to leave when Xander’s voice stopped her.
“Anya.” The one word spoken with such intensity Anya couldn’t do anything but stop and face the mortal. “What are you afraid of?”
Anya raised her eyes to Xander. “He’s…death.” The whispered word was full of some kind of fear. “I can’t afford to get involved, Xander. Not now, while I’m mortal. I could get hurt.”
Anya moved away from the two men, a sad expression in her eyes.
Xander watched her walk away, not sure what he could say to stop her from leaving. He wasn’t even sure if there was anything to say, or if he even wanted to make the effort.
He and Anya had a nice thing going, they did. She was a nice girl, well demon-turned-girl, but it wasn’t anything substantial. It wasn’t anything he could really see lasting a lifetime.
As it was now, he had too much to worry about to add Anya’s imminent departure to the long list of life’s failures. He still didn’t know exactly what had happened to Willow or who that guy…immortal…whatever was who came to see Giles, and now Deadboy, the poster-boy for what not to be when you grow up, was here. Like he needed the added stress.
“Is she always like that?” Angel broke the silence. “So…”
“Don’t start, Deadboy!” Xander warned.
“…Flaky?” Angel continued, heedless of the warning.
Xander turned dark eyes to the vampire. There were a lot of things he wanted to say. Biting witticisms which would have left soul-boy gratifyingly speechless, but in the end, he set his irritation aside and settled for a request for the information he was now certain the vampire possessed.
“Okay, Deadboy, what do you know?”
“Excuse me?” Angel asked, surprised. He was certain this was where the insults began, and if he were being honest with himself, he would admit that he was almost looking forward to them.
“I said,” Xander began, his voice tense, “What do you know?”
“What makes you think I know anything?” Angel asked curiously.
Xander rolled his eyes. “You’re here aren’t you? Or do you usually skulk around in Sunnydale after people you don’t like and haven’t seen in months?”
“I don’t skulk.” Angel sounded almost petulant.
“Whatever.” Xander shook his head and began walking towards his house.
“And I like you,” Angel whispered, confident the mortal was too far away to hear.
Angel followed Xander and after nearly ten minutes, they reached the door to Xander’s basement. He opened it and stepped inside, the door ajar. Almost as an afterthought, Xander popped his head back outside.
“Don’t just stand there. Come in, Deadboy.”
Angel blinked in something akin to shock. “You don’t think I’m going to come and kill you in your sleep?”
Xander grinned slightly. “I don’t sleep…much, at least not lately.” He sobered. “Now what’s this about immortals?”
Joe Dawson looked up at the couple moving towards them. “That’s her?” He asked quietly. “She’s immortal…and a vampire? How is that possible?”
“That’s what we came to find out, mate.” The blond vampire spoke as he and the redhead pulled up a couple of chairs from a nearby table.
The table the group was seated at was getting kind of crowded and Richie had the sudden urge to flee but his curiosity was piqued.
“Willow, Spike,” Methos started the introductions. “This is Richie Ryan,” He nodded towards his friend then turned to Joe. “And this, is Joe Dawson, the man I told you about.”
Willow eyed the older man carefully. “Can you tell me what I am?”
Joe stared at the young woman for a long second before responding. “I think so. Why don’t you tell me what happened?”
Methos looked around the bar briefly, aware of how crowded it was at that hour. Richie, noticing the Old Man’s preoccupation, made a suggestion.
“Maybe we should move this somewhere else?”
Joe nodded, suddenly aware of exactly how busy his club had become. He stood up and moved towards a private office in the back of the club. It was filled with assorted bookshelves lining two separate walls. A third wall was covered in a wide shelf which held various artifacts from times long past.
Once everyone was inside, Joe locked the door and moved over to take a seat at the lone table in the room. There were four chairs surrounding the oval table. Richie and Methos took a seat, followed shortly by Willow. Spike remained standing, leaning against the one bare wall.
“Three days ago, I died. I think.” Willow began. She tilted her head up and caught Spike’s gaze with her own. Spike nodded almost imperceptibly and Willow turned back to the one mortal man in the room.
“I was turned into a vampire, or so I thought.”
Joe looked from Willow to Spike and then back again, wanting to ask questions but all too aware how dangerous these two really were.
“She died,” Spike spoke. “I drained her and fed her my blood. I made her like me.”
“But when I woke up,” Willow continued, “something was wrong. I’m still alive, still breathing. My heart still beats.” Her voice had risen in a slight panic and the ridges on her face had begun to form.
“Whoa.” Richie’s startled gasp summed up Joe’s reaction.
Joe Dawson had known vampires existed. He had heard about them, read about them, both in books of myth and legend and in the chronicles of watchers, both new and old.
Vampires had existed almost since the beginning of time, since long before the first known immortal was written about.
Still, knowing they existed was a far cry from seeing one, up close and personal.
Joe cleared his throat before speaking. “Was there anything unusual in the…turning?” He turned to the blond vampire. “I assume you’ve done this before?”
Spike snorted. “You could say that.”
Joe nodded and then stood up and made his way over to one of the bookshelves. After a few minutes of searching, he returned with a dusty old tomb. It reminded Willow of Giles and some of the books they had studied over the years.
“There’s a legend,” Joe began as he sat down and opened the book to a page towards the back.
Richie’s eyes widened slightly. He had recognized the symbol on the cover. It was almost identical to one on the cover of a book that Methos owned. His eyes moved to the oldest among them. Methos locked eyes with him, telling him more than he needed to know in that one look.
Richie turned back to Joe as the watcher began speaking, wondering exactly what it was they had gotten involved in this time. And if they would survive it.
“Immortals.” Angel began as he sat down on the edge of Xander’s bed, “are complicated.”
“Isn’t everything?” Xander asked as he hastily cleaned up his basement. He wasn’t exactly expecting company, least of all Angel.
Angel smiled ruefully. “Definitely.”
“So…” Xander ventured, finally sitting down on the other edge of the bed. “I assume from the name that like vampires, death isn’t really an issue…relatively speaking.”
Angel smiled again and Xander found the expression changed the vampire’s face.
“The only way they can be killed is by decapitation.”
“Lovely.” Xander shook his head. “What is it with you guys and heads?” He vaguely remembered a conversation he’d had with Buffy once where she had told him, in excruciating detail about slicing the head off of a vampire.
“Surefire way to kill anything that moves.” Angel shrugged.
“Okay, so immortals are, well…immortal. Unless decapitated. How do they get that way?”
“What way? Decapitated? That usually happens when someone cuts off your head.” Angel said seriously.
Xander turned to glare at the vampire. “Are you being intentionally obnoxious?” He asked in irritation until he saw the humor in Angel’s dark eyes and laughed. “Okay, okay, I asked for that.” He shook his head. “I didn’t know you had a sense of humor, Deadboy.”
“There’s a lot about me you don’t know, Harris,” Angel said softly.
They locked eyes for a minute until Xander blinked and broke their connection.
“Immortals have existed for a long, long time. No one really knows where they came from, or how old the oldest really is, only that they fight an ancient battle, amongst themselves, to obtain some elusive prize.”
Xander knew he was going to be sorry he asked, but he did it anyway. “Ancient battle?”
“Legend has it there is some sort of…prize…bestowed upon the last remaining immortal.”
“Ah. So they go around decapitating each other. What a happy bunch.”
Angel shrugged. “At least they don’t feed on innocent people to survive.”
Xander raised an eyebrow. “There is that.” He lay down, his back flat against the mattress and sighed. “What does this have to do with Giles…or Willow?”
“I’ll call Wes and see what he can find out about Rupert’s connection to Immortals if there is one.”
“I have an idea about that.”
Xander sat up a little. “Well… come on, Deadboy, share.”
“Cordelia had a vision…it’s what brought me here. In it, Willow was fighting someone…with a sword.”
“Let me guess…swords are weapons of choice for our immortal friends? They can slice and dice and not get dirty.”
“Something like that. There‘s something else. Cordy said Spike was with Willow.”
Xander sighed and lay back down. “Great.”
“You don’t seem surprised,” Angel observed.
“Not much surprises me these days.” Xander stared up at his ceiling.
“Like you don’t sleep much these days?” Angel asked quietly.
Xander didn’t respond to that so Angel continued. “When I talked to Buffy earlier she said something about a problem with Oz.”
“You talked to Buff?” Xander asked warily.
“She answered Willow’s phone when I called after Cordelia’s vision. I didn’t tell her I was coming.”
Angel explained, uncertain why he felt the need to tell the boy that or why Xander seemed relieved at the news.
“Didn’t you get into trouble the last time you showed up here and didn’t tell the Buffster?”
“I’m always in trouble with Buffy. These days.” Angel said honestly. “Oz?” He prompted, not really wanting to talk about his ex-girlfriend.
“Oh, that.” Xander set up and rubbed his face with his palms. “Oz got mixed up with a she-wolf. It got ugly, fast. Afterward, Oz left town.”
Angel thought about that for a second. “If offered, would she agree to be turned?”
Xander looked up sharply. “You think Spike would offer? Why not just take what he wants?”
Angel hesitated for a second, wondering why that was Xander’s question. No doubt that it was Spike they were talking about, not rage at the mere suggestion of Willow being turned; just a simple question.
“Well?” Xander pressed, shoving Angel slightly to get him talking again.
Angel blinked. “He wouldn’t force her.” He said honestly after a minute. “Would she agree?”
Xander thought about everything Willow had been through recently, what they all had. “Yeah, I think she would.” He sighed. “But if she’s a vampire, what’s with the Immortal one-man committee at Giles place? You don’t seem like you run in the same circles.”
Angel sighed. “Is Willow adopted?”
Xander crinkled his brow at the apparent non sequitur. “Yeah.” He said slowly, not sure what that had to do with anything. “She was luckier than I was, actually.”
Now it was Angel’s turn to frown and Xander’s to sigh.
“I’m not exactly sure who Willow’s birth parents were, only that she was adopted as a baby by the Rosenberg’s. I, on the other hand, scored this lovely family.” He gestured expansively around the basement.
“You’re adopted?” Angel asked, surprised.
“Not technically.” Xander smiled sadly and stood up. “I was abandoned in a shopping cart in a town fifty miles away.” He began pacing around the small room. “The Harris’ were my foster parents. They moved to Sunnydale when I was three. I think social services pretty much forgot about me.” He shrugged, stating his belief that most people found him forgettable.
“Buffy never said anything,” Angel said finally, recovering from his shock and pushing away his desire to tell Xander he was very memorable.
“She doesn’t know,” Xander admitted quietly. “Neither does Giles.”
Xander sat back down next to the vampire on the edge of his bed, their shoulders barely brushing. “Willow’s parents told her about the adoption when she was eleven. I was the only one she told.” He shrugged. “It doesn’t much matter now. Her parents, despite being frequently absent, they do love her. That’s more than I can…well, that’s more than I can say.”
Angel stared at him for a long time before speaking softly. “What about your parents?”
Xander looked away, his back tense. “What does any of this have to do with vampires or immortals?”
“Immortals are said to be a race of foundlings,” Angel stated quietly, placing one hand between Xander’s tense shoulder blades.
“A legend…about Immortal vampires,” Joe said, opening the heavy book.
“Vampire’s…plural?” Richie asked, unable to stop himself.
“Yes. Two of them.” Joe answered, staring at Willow.
“That’s what you think I am?” Willow questioned, gazing around the room. She had felt the other two Immortals before they entered the club. The one who had come to Sunnydale, Adam, was a lot older than the other. There was something secretive in his eyes. And the young one, there was more to him than met the eye as well. The third man, Joe, was mortal, but like Giles had probably seen more than most people. He appeared to be some sort of watcher.
“We don’t know much about them. Only that they are neither completely vampire nor Immortal, but a combination of the two.” Joe paused, watching Richie and Methos, knowing that what he was about to say next would affect them the most. “And that they will reject the Prize.”
Richie gasped looking carefully at his immortal friend. “Is that even possible?”
“They?” Methos interrupted. “Only one Immortal can win the Prize.”
“What the bloody hell are you yapping about?” Spike snarled, his eyes glowing gold.
Joe started to explain the nature of Immortality and Methos excused himself, shortly followed by Richie, both of whom well knew what being Immortal meant.
Methos stepped out a side door into an alley next to the club.
Methos chuckled wryly when he turned to look at Richie. “Immortal vampires.”
Richie leaned against the brick side of the building. “That book. It’s the same one you have.”
“This isn’t good.” Methos sighed.
Richie nodded his agreement. “So…what are we going to do?”
Methos looked at his friend, a slight smile gracing his lips. “Find the other one.”
“The other Immortal? Richie raised an eyebrow. How?”
Methos nodded his head in the direction of the room Joe was even now explaining things. “That book isn’t the only one that tells about the prophecy.”
“Prophecy?” Richie stared hard at the older immortal. “You knew about this.” He realized.
“Yes, and now so do you.” He stepped forward, placing both of his hands on Richie’s shoulders. “C’mon, we have a pre-immortal to find.” He gripped the shoulders under his hands tightly before pulling away and walking down the alley toward the street.
Richie stood there, stunned, for a minute. He stared after Methos for a minute before calling after him. “You know where?”
“The Hellmouth, of course,” Methos called back as Richie ran up to catch up with him.
“Of course,” Richie muttered. “What the hell is a Hellmouth?”