Pain.  Pain everywhere, eating through him.  Glory?  No.  She's gone, long gone by the father's hand.  Father.  Grey eyes, no brown, soft as a puppy's—clear and grey as cold London sky's—no, not that, different, it's all different.

Hurts so much.  Everywhere eating at him, down past epidermis and muscle, borrowed bloody running cold, so cold, ice-formed crystals, all the way to the bones in his center.  Top to bottom they hurt, burn, crack, bleed, and Spike is screaming, thinks he's screaming, wants to scream with a voice of knives, of twisted metal stars, because through the pain, through the killmekillmekillme there's they'redead and alone and failed. Gone echos in his head, him who's always needed, wanted, depended on someone else.  Father, Sister, Lover, Enemy, Friend?  Not friend, not enemy, not nothing, there's nothing, nothing left, nothing to fight for, nothingnothing—

"Hey, it's okay."

Soft voice, light, tenor but rich and smoky like good southern barbeque.  Familiar?  Can't be, alone, nothing left, all gone

"I don't want to have to chain you," the voice warns.  Should be cold and hard.  Isn't.  Nervous, hesitant, iron core hidden under youthful insecurity.  Paradox.  Young old, familiar strange, gentle harsh.  Same but different but familiar.

"Drink this, Spike.  Come on.  You have to, or you won't heal.  Please."

Aching, scared, desperate, resentful, young, so young.  Spike doesn't understand what's going on, where he is, why he is, until heat—spicyrichpure—touches his tongue.  It's an explosion, memories not his own rocketing through his bruised and battered brain, knitting threads he doesn't know were left hanging until the picture forms—

—and Spike opens his eyes.

He remembers the boy, slight and strong, youthful eagerness no longer quite covering the wariness in his eyes.  Movements are quick, bird-like, with a smoothness of someone who knows his body inside out and can make it do anything.  Connor.  Angel's son.  Memories he's pretty sure he's not supposed to know reel before his eyes, stories told with a complexity that fits with the rest of the madcap band Buffy once assembled, eight years ago when the world changed, broke, rebroke, and found new models to—

"Hey!  Don't pass out on me, okay?  I don't have much more to give."

His hands are warm on Spike's face and shoulder.  "Son," he croaks, and there're the ninja's throwing stars, scraping his throat into raw pulp.  "Angel's."

The shy, twisted smile is so purely Angel, so purely dorky that he knows the boy's blood isn't lying.  Quick, sure hands bind a cut on the boy's thigh and then the jeans are pulled down.  "Yeah.  Do you need more blood?  I've got pig.  Angel said it might help."

Angel.  Spike's sitting up, body screaming blue fucking murder, but he ignores it to grab the boy's collar and yank him close.  "Alive?"  His voice grates and blood fills his mouth.  "Angelus?"

The words are slurred, he realizes, since it takes Connor a second or two before light flares in his eyes—blue, Darla's side, British-American genes kicking in and overpowering Irish mutt—and he says, "Yeah.  Yeah, Angel's alive.  That Illyria chick, too.  She says you saved her."

Saved?  Damned, more likely, and Spike has to clamp down the bubble of bloody laughter that's like acid rain in his throat—pittering pattering drops of smoke and etchings.

Connor looks at him oddly but doesn't directly respond.  "Angel says you need rest.  And blood.  I wasn't really supposed to give you mine," he confesses guiltlessly, "but you were looking pretty bad."

Bad?  He looks like a piece of meat, chewed up and spat out by the foulest creature Hades ever spawned, and there's not a single embellishment or exaggeration in that thought anywhere.  He remembers fighting, hurting, screaming, dying, over and over until he's here, lying on a bed, a college kid with Darla's eyes and Angel's bloody stillness watching him.  "Charlie.  Lorne.  Wes."

Connor doesn't blink, though experience reading the unreadable tells Spike the names hurt.  "Lorne's alive, we're pretty sure."  He fusses over Spike then, pushing him back, tending to wounds covered in ichor-stained bandages over a naked, broken body.

He wants to stop him, to shake the boy's too-slight shoulders until they go twig-snap in his hands, scream that he needs answers, not fussing, knowledge-girl, not guilty-wicca, but no, she's gone, long gone, to the greys of England, and—

"Hey!  No more fading out on me, okay?  It's creepy."  Anxious and worried and young, so young, this one is, despite the same kind of age Buffy'd had by seventeen, of death and destruction and knowing the kill.  His nose is snubbed, like hers, and she's there, but not, and why can't he keep them straight?  Scoobies are gone, broken up by a Hellmouth swallowed, before Angel'd decided to open his own in L.A.


The shrug is Angel's, Xander's when that boy had a reason to be modest.  "We aren't really sure.  Illyria's thinks you tag-teamed an escape.  I found you."

Memories of running, carrying, being carried make his leg muscles cramp and his abs protest.  Hiding.  Frightened when creatures that could track the wind did not track them.  "Where?"

"A safe-house.  A real one—Angel had me contact the witch, Willow, to ask where I should take you."

Secrets whisper in Spike's mind.  Not lies, but evasions and he fixes the boy with as much of a glare as swollen eyes can manage.  "And?"

Connor sighs and slumps and Spike barely has time to brace himself.  "Illyria's hurt, but competent.  She's tending Angel.  He's hurt, too, but his mind is. . ."

Evasions, not lies, not secrets, and Spike remembers now.  Even great men crack and shatter under the strain and Angel's not so great a man as all that, anyway.  Pieces of him broke off and crumbled, tiny messes of Angel's strength and stubborn potato-headed-ness lay in trails from Willow's safe-house back to the battle field where Angel lost friend, lost enemy, lost fight, lost will.  Love, life, pursuit of happiness, gone with the Black Thorn's demise.

"She's not sure he'll get better," Connor continues, iron creeping into his voice.  "I know he will.  He's too stubborn to stay insane."

He sounds like Spike does, all of a sudden, exasperation not quite enough to hide the fondness and affection and all the things Spike's not supposed to feel, let alone feel for Angel.  Dawn's dismissal of an older sister, too cool, too familiar, and too beloved to be treated with respect.  "Runs in the family, insanity."

"I know.  He's telling anyone within earshot about you and Drusilla.  He can answer questions, if you phrase them right.  That's why I tried my blood."

Mulling that over takes him through the nasty parts of the cleaning and rebandaging rituals, and another dose of blood, so fresh it's nearly humming with former piggish life.  Spike doesn't bother asking how that's done, because it hurts, and he's realizing that for all Connor's presence, Angel's survival, and Illyria's, it doesn't change his first impressions, doesn't alleviate the weight of things had and lost to dust.


Illyria isn't the type to stay for a cause.  It's Wesley she's followed, and Spike knows with a certainty that it's Wesley she'll continue to follow once Angel's well enough.  And Angel. . . never had any use for him, Angel, and never will.  He's got the same nothing, the same no one, but that's not stopped Angel and it won't now.  He'll go and find himself a new place to brood, a new fight to fight, if he doesn't, one usually finds him, if the great sullen mass of him doesn't decide to take one last look at his old lady love and disappear into the morning sun.

And then it'll be complete, it will.  Nothing and no one and he knows, and he knows this is just because he's hurting—failing, losing, grieving—but at that moment, it's the only future available and Spike could never abide being alone, never, hates it more than pain or torture because alone is pain and torture and the emptiness he can't survive.

The noise is so horrible it startles him for a moment.  It grates, vibrating sensitive eardrums, and sounds like someone's dying.  And it's not until arms wrap around his body, pulling him close to a boy that smells of vampires and humans and blood and death that Spike realizes that he is the one who's making that noise.  Because he's sobbing, now onto Connor's shoulder.

Crying hurts as much as everything else does.  Having arms around him only serves to humiliate him until he loses himself into the misery so completely that the arms become the only anchor he has.  Loneliness has been his bane since his earliest memories and now, a century plus more, it's still the fear that haunts him most, the constant companion he can never shake off.

He's not aware of Connor's words except as sound for a long time.  He's cried out by then, leaning weakly against Connor's body, and completely unable to care for himself.  He can just be held, unfamiliar with this familiar stranger who's telling him that it's all right.  The phrases are awkward, but the emotion behind them is real.

And then Connor says an amazing thing, one that leaves Spike's bruised mind groping for something to hold onto. Family this boy, this hybrid, tells him.  Because Angel is his father, so Spike is nephew and brother, and Connor's learned things from both families, about how love is what you make of it and blood often counts for nothing at all.

Blood is life Spike remembers saying, right before his world broke and tumbled for the however-manieth time.  But blood only creates the tie, it does not place a finger on crossed strings, holding them steady for the bow.  That takes more than blood.  A lot more.

He's no energy, but when he bats like a wet kitten against Connor's hold, he's assisted into a more upright position, studying this un-child-like child and realizes why he can't keep the scoobies far from his mind.  He's got pieces of them—designed life, grand destiny, knowledge and determination and skill—of the unique brand of affection they shared, even granting Spike grudging parts of it.  And now, without out the half-measures and hidden disgust, he's offering it to Spike.

Actually, he thinks.  It was already offered, Spike just hadn't been in any shape to recognize it.

He doesn't do anything as silly as nick his wrists, offering it to Connor.  He needs the blood, and that ritual's useless anyway.  He just holds out his hand, ignoring the flush of warmth when Connor takes it.