Just FYI, I won't be posting anything over the weekend, mostly because I've got stuff to do and I won't have a lot of time to be on the computer this weekend.
Sorry again for the delay.
Alex Hill is happy.
It seems like everything has changed after his talk with Spike in the diner. Maybe it’s because Spike has told him everything. Maybe it’s because Alex finally feels like he can trust Spike. He doesn’t really know for sure. All he knows is that Spike is treating him more like a friend than like someone he has to protect.
Alex thinks it’s kind of cool. He’s a real sidekick to a real superhero. Okay, he’s not really a sidekick, because he knows that Spike’s real job is to get Alex safely to the other superheres in L.A., but he can pretend just a little bit. Besides, it isn’t hurting anybody if he pretends just a little.
Spike and Alex walk into the motel office together (the first time ever) and get the key to their room together (another first time ever). They even walk into the room together (first time ever that Spike isn’t dragging him or carrying him into a room).
The first thing they do is scrub their clothes in the tub using little bars of soap and the little shampoo bottles. While they clean the clothes (well, it’s mostly Alex doing the cleaning) Spike tells Alex story after story about different places Spike has been. Alex thinks that Spike is making up a lot of it, mostly because Spike talks about things that happened a long, long time ago. Spike is nowhere near old enough to have seen and done the things he says he has, unless immortality is one of Spike’s superpowers, which Alex kind of doubts.
Spike tells Alex stories about the hippies at Woodstoock (Alex knows that happened sometimes in the 1960s because he remembers reading the captions under the pictures). Spike talks about the time he saw The Beatles when they were called Johnny and the Moondogs, which is what The Beatles were called before they were called The Beatles and before someone called Pete Best was their drummer (Alex knows he’s seen The Beatles in black and white on television, so he knows it had to be years and years ago). Spike describes what London was like when the only way to get around the city was in horse-drawn carriages because there were no cars. He talks about “motoring” around post-War Europe (which war, Spike doesn’t say), hitching a ride on a Nazi sub, and seeing all the great castles and little towns he visited when he was touring Eastern Europe with his “dark princess,” Drusilla.
But the stories that Alex really wants to hear about Spike doesn’t tell him. He doesn’t talk at all about Sir Wanksalot and his Round Table. He doesn’t talk at all about Buffy and her Round Table. He doesn’t talk about the other superheroes, nor does he talk about the monsters they fight. Alex wants to ask Spike to tell him more about the stuff Spike talked about in the diner, but Spike doesn’t give him a chance. Spike just goes from one story to the next, like he’s got all these stories filed away in his brain somewhere just so he can take them out and tell them to whoever wants to listen.
Alex actually doesn’t mind, though. The stories Spike tells him are sometimes funny, sometimes scary, and always exciting. Alex figures that he’ll just ask Spike to tell him about his adventures with Sir Wanksalot and Buffy in a day or two.
Besides, Spike is in a really good mood, and Alex doesn’t want to ruin it. Alex decides that it’s just better to listen to Spike and his made-up stories, instead of asking Spike to tell him the real stories. Maybe Spike is still sore at Buffy for thinking he was evil, and Alex has figured out that Spike doesn’t like Sir Wanksalot at all.
Once Alex and Spike are done cleaning their clothes, Spike tells Alex to hang them outside over the walkway railing so they can dry during the day in the sun. Once that’s done, Alex takes a shower. It isn’t much of a shower, really, since all the soap and shampoo was used up on their clothes. All Alex is doing is standing under the spray of water and getting his skin and hair wet. Even though Alex really wishes he had soap, just letting the water run all over him makes him feel cleaner than he has in days (even though the spray does sting his back when it hits him there).
By the time Alex stumbles into bed wearing a pair of still-dirty boxer shorts and a still-dirty t-shirt (he didn’t want to sleep in damp clothes, and he didn’t want to sleep naked either, so he didn’t wash them when he had the chance), he’s tired from all the work he’s done. His back is hurting a little bit (it’s funny how he forgot all about his back, but that’s probably because he had other things to worry about).
As Spike settles in a chair, Alex settles into bed. As Alex drifts off, he thinks he should ask Spike why he’s sitting in a chair instead of going to bed. He doesn’t, though. Mostly because when he thinks of asking Spike, he’s already half-asleep and asking Spike would take too much effort.
Alex Hill is slowly backing away from the vampire standing in front of him. He’s holding a cross in front of the vampire’s face to keep it away. Although it glares at him with yellow eyes, Alex can see that there’s nothing behind it. It’s like the vampire has been completely hollowed out and all that’s left is an empty shell filled with pure hate.
Alex thinks he must be standing in a sewer. It looks like a sewer. It smells like a sewer. Behind him, he can hear someone running around and moving things. He thinks he should turn around and try to help, but he doesn’t dare turn his back on the vampire.
“You’re like a shadow to me now,” the vampire says.
Suddenly, the vampire’s arm sweeps out and knocks the cross out of his hand. Alex can feel a hard shove, and next thing he knows he’s landing on something hard. He can feel his head hit the cement wall just as he hears a girl start yelling at him to help her close a door and then…
He feels another shove that shakes his whole body.
Alex Hill sits upright in his bed. His heart is pounding very fast and he’s breathing very hard. For a moment, he can’t remember where he is.
Alex hears someone say, “’S alright. I’m right here.”
Alex Hill looks wildly around and tries to figure out where he is. When his eye lands on Spike sitting on the edge of his bed, he remembers. He’s in a hotel room somewhere with Spike.
Spike leans forward and looks very hard into his face. “You’re still Alex Hill,” he says.
Of course he’s Alex Hill. Who else could he be?
“What happened?” Alex croaks.
“Started thrashing about and mumbling in your sleep,” Spike says. “Thought you might be havin’ one of those nightmares of yours.”
Alex shakily nods.
“Here,” Spike thrusts a cup in his hand. “It’s water. Took the liberty of fetching it as soon as you started jerking about.”
Alex can’t understand why Spike seems to think that water will always make people feel better. Still, he is kind of thirsty, so he drinks it down. When he hands the empty cup back to Spike, he realizes that Spike is still dressed. He doesn’t think that Spike has slept at all.
Alex clears his throat. “You’re still awake?” His voice doesn’t sound as croaky, but even he can hear that he sounds tired.
“Couldn’t sleep,” Spike says with a shrug as he puts the cup on the table next to the bed. “Now you lay yourself back down and go back to sleep. We’ve got a big night ahead of us.”
Alex doesn’t need Spike to tell him to go back to sleep. He’s really, really tired. His bad dream wasn’t as bad as usual, probably because Spike woke him up before it ended. That means he’s not as scared as he usually is when he wakes up from one of his bad dreams.
Alex is already sinking back under the covers when he realizes that Spike didn’t ask him about his bad dream. Since Spike wanted to hear all about them earlier, Spike probably wants to hear this one, too. Spike probably forgot to ask him.
“Spike?” Alex sleepily asks.
“Yeah,” Spike answers as he settles back into his chair.
“D’ya wanna know about my dream?” Alex asks.
Spike seems to sit up a little straighter. “Don’t really need to know, do I? But if it’ll make you feel better—”
“Maybe later,” Alex mumbles. The dream’s already fading away, and Alex is having a hard time remembering details, but that’s okay. He usually remembers his bad dreams when he’s awake, so he’s pretty sure he’ll remember this one, too.
Spike slumps down in his chair. “Right. Now go back to sleep.”
As Alex drifts off, there’s one last part of his dream that just won’t let him go. Every time he’s about to fall asleep, it tugs him back awake. Maybe he needs to ask Spike about it. If he does, maybe he’ll finally fall asleep.
“Spike?” Alex asks.
Spike’s head, which had been tilting sidewise, suddenly jerks up right. “What?”
“You know lots about vampires, right?” Alex sleepily asks.
Spike doesn’t say anything for a long time. “A fair bit,” he finally says.
“Do we look like shadows to vampires? When they look at us, I mean.”
“Now what prompted that question?” Spike asks.
Alex shrugs as best as he can, even though he doesn’t know if Spike can actually see him in the dark.
“The dream, hunh?” Spike asks. “Wonder who told you that. I know I didn’t. Doesn’t sound like somethin’ Angelus, let alone Angel, would say. Can’t imagine Harm bein’ that deep. Could be Dru, I suppose. Something that poetic most likely came from her, but far’s I know you never—”
“The vampire in my dream told me,” Alex interrupts. He hopes Spike will answer the question soon, because he can feel himself falling asleep. He dimly wonders about all those people that Spike mentioned.
Spike blinks. “Right. Right. Of course. Should’ve known, yeah? Sorry. For a minute…wait…back up. What I’m saying is, that I don’t remember telling you that when I explained what vampires were. Guess you just worked it out for yourself.”
“Oh. Okay,” Alex mumbles. “I was just wondering.”
And then the room slow fades away as Alex drifts off to sleep.
Alex Hill is sitting on the edge of the bed and watching Spike pace back and forth.
Spike glares at the alarm clock that’s bolted to the table next to Alex’s bed. “We’re dying of old age, Watcher,” Spike mutters.
Alex absently scratches the knee of his jeans. All of his clothes are stiff and uncomfortable and his skin is getting irritated. He thinks he might be allergic to the soap and shampoo they used to clean his clothes, although he usually isn’t allergic to anything. His back is hurting, probably because he hasn’t taken any pain pills for an entire day, and probably because of the way the spray in the shower kept hitting his back. Despite the fact he hasn’t taken any pain pills, his back isn’t hurting nearly as much as Alex thinks it should.
“This army best be worth it,” Spike growls as he continues to pace.
Despite Spike’s bad mood, and despite his uncomfortable clothes and hurting back, Alex actually feels kind of relaxed. He had the best sleep, ever. He managed to shower twice in a 24-hour period (even though there was no soap or shampoo either time, it was still nice to get under the spray of warm water before he went to bed and again when he woke up, even if the water did sting his back). And his stomach is full because Spike called a Chinese take-out place while Alex was taking a shower.
For the first time in days, Alex feels really happy.
For the first time since he woke up in a shelter, Alex feels alive.
Spike glances at Alex and pauses in pacing. He growls, “And what are you smiling about?”
Alex just shrugs, because he’s not sure that Spike would really understand.
“I’ve got to admit,” Spike says as he starts pacing again, “you’re quite the funny one these days.”
A knock at the door startles Alex so badly that he almost falls off the bed. He glances at the clock as Spike heads for the door. He sees that it’s 9:32 p.m. It’s very late, which explains why Spike is in a bad mood.
Spike peers through the eyehole before looking back at Alex with a grin. “Appears Rupert’s come through in style,” Spike tells him.
Alex nervously gets to his feet. He hopes Spike’s superhero friends like him.
Spike flings open the door and shouts, “’Bout time you got here!”
Alex strains his neck in an effort to see around Spike. He can hear from their voices that the two superheroes at the door are women (he tries not to look surprised because Spike said most superheroes are girls and he doesn’t want to insult them by looking surprised). He can’t see the first woman, except for the top of her blonde head, because Spike’s in the way. The second woman moves so she can look over Spike’s shoulder into the room.
Alex’s mouth drops open.
The woman flashes him a grin.
“Faith?” Alex asks.
Spike stops talking to the two women and he looks over his shoulder at Alex. Spike seems very surprised. Alex doesn’t blame Spike. He’s very surprised.
Faith pushes her way past Spike into the room. “How ya doin’, sport?” she asks as she gives him a little wave.
Alex hears the woman he can’t see say, “Oh, no.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Spike sounds like he wants to laugh.
“You’re a superhero?” Alex squeaks.
“Superhero?” the other woman echoes. It sounds like she’s squeaking even more than Alex.
The smile disappears from Faith’s face. She glances at Spike.
Alex has no idea how Spike is reacting to that glance, mostly because he can’t take his eye off Faith.
When Faith looks back at him, her smile is even bigger. “Yup. That’s me. Superhero.”
“Spike? What the hell?” the other woman asks.
“I had to tell Alex the whole truth and nothin’ but,” Spike says.
“But superhero?” the other woman asks.
“Wow,” Alex breathes, “I went out on a date with a real, live superhero.”
Faith shakes her head, as her grin gets even bigger. “I’m surprised. Stud like you probably has gone on a lot of dates.” She lifts her hands and looks at her nails. “I mean, it’s just little ol’ me, and it was only one date, so I’m really shocked like you wouldn’t believe that you even remember who I am.”
“Oh. My. God. I’m Going. To be. Sick,” the woman Alex can’t see says.
“I think they’re sweet on each other,” Spike says. “Ow!”
“B, you knew I went out on a date with Alex. I told you all about it, remember.” Faith gives Alex a wink. “Little late for you to get yer panties in a bunch.”
Alex can feel the grin spreading across his face. “You told someone you went out on a date with me?”
“I didn’t think he’d even remember you!” the other woman yells.
Faith makes a funny face. “B’s just jealous,” she tells Alex.
“Now, now. No need to go ruining such a touching reunion,” Spike says. “Ow!”
Alex’s knees give out and he plops back down onto the edge of the bed. He thinks he’s figured out Faith’s superpower. Whenever she’s in the room, everyone has to look at her.
Spike makes a noise like he’s gargling Listerine.
“As for you, if he asks me to show him my sparkly spandex-y costume, you are soooooo Spike-burgers,” the other woman says.
“I kissed a superhero,” Alex squeaks.
Faith crosses her arms. “That you did, tiger.”
Alex looks down at his knees and he can feel his face getting hot. He hopes he’s not blushing. His face always gets blotchy when he blushes.
“What? There was kissing? Kissing kissing? And tiger? Lemme at her!”
There’s a sound of pushing and shoving, like the other woman is trying to climb over Spike to get into the room.
“If you can’t…play nice…then I’m not…going…to let you…play…at all,” Spike grunts.
“Spike! Let me go!” the other woman yells.
Faith scurries over to Alex and plops onto the bed next to him on the side with his good eye. Alex lowers his head to hide his face and hunches his shoulders for good measure. He really wishes that Faith sat on the side with the eye patch. With her sitting on the side with his good eye, he feels like he might as well take off all of his clothes.
“Hope y’don’t mind,” Faith cheerfully says, like she’s watching the funniest movie ever. “I figure she’ll hold off on killing me if I’m sitting right next to you.”
Alex wants to ask why Faith kissing him was so awful that another superhero would want to kill her, but he’s afraid to try. He’s very sure that his voice will sound squeaky instead of normal.
Spike is laughing and laughing as he singsongs, “Can’t we all just get along?”
“No Kumbaya for you! Either one of you!” the other woman shouts.
“Hey!” Spike protests. “I’ve been a perfect gentle— ooof!”
There’s a series of bumps, like Spike and the other superhero are shoving each other around. Alex thinks that maybe he should go help Spike, even though he suspects that he won’t be able to stop the other superhero if she starts hitting Spike.
Alex hops to his feet just as the other superhero manages to get by Spike. As she stumbles into the room, her arms do that funny windmill thing that Alex does when he trips over something. Alex can see that her blonde hair is a mess, like Spike maybe ruffled her hair, and that her coat is already half off, like Spike tried to grab her and pull her back.
Alex swallows hard and he steps in front of Faith. If the other superhero’s as mad as she sounded when she was yelling about Faith kissing him, she’s probably going to try to attack Faith. Alex really hopes that she doesn’t push him out of the way to get at Faith. He’s pretty sure that a superpowered shove into a wall would really hurt.
The blonde superhero huffs and puffs as she pushes her hair out of her face and fixes her coat.
Alex’s eyes get very wide as he slowly backs away.
It’s her! Alex desperately thinks. It’s her! She’s real! And she’s going to feed me to the monsters!
“Ow! Hey! Watch it!” Faith yells. As she hops off the bed, she pushes Alex aside a little. “My feet ain’t made of concrete, you know.”
The blonde superhero just stands there and stares at him. Her chin is trembling like she wants to cry. Her hands are by her sides, but they keep clenching and unclenching like she’s not sure if she wants to turn them into fists. All Alex can do is stare at those hands.
“B? I think you’re freaking him—” Faith begins.
Faith’s words snap Alex out of it. He quickly turns and runs over to Spike. Alex doesn’t understand it. Spike is just leaning against the wall with his arms crossed and big grin across his face. Does Spike know the blonde superhero is evil?
He has to warn Spike, but he can’t seem to get his mouth to work.
Spike quickly straightens up and he frowns at Alex just before Alex reaches him. “Now what?”
“Xander?” the blonde superhero asks. She sounds like she’s going to start crying.
“Alex,” Spike and Faith snap at her like they’re two speakers attached to the same iPod.
“Right. Alex,” the blonde superhero mumbles.
Alex crowds close to Spike as he fearfully glances at the blonde superhero.
Faith lets out a long, low whistle. “I think this may be a first.”
The blonde superhero looks worried. “Do you think he’s breaking down again? Because if he is, we’re in big—”
“Rubbish. He’d be yelling if he was, not tryin’ to merge with me,” Spike interrupts. He then turns to Alex, “What’s all this, then? I thought I explained that these two superheroes are here to—”
Alex grabs Spike and tries to pull him out of the room.
Alex swears that Spike has somehow added 1,000 pounds without anyone noticing, because Spike just squares his shoulders and doesn’t move at all. “What’s gotten into you?” Spike demands.
Alex again fearfully glances at the blonde superhero. If Spike won’t leave, he’ll have to whisper it to Spike and hope she doesn’t have superhearing. Alex stands as close as he can to Spike while keeping his eye on the blonde superhero. “It’s her,” he hisses through his teeth.
Spike seems confused. He looks at the blonde superhero and then back and Alex. “Her who?” he asks.
“Her! She’s evil,” Alex desperately whispers.
Spike makes a face like he doesn’t believe Alex. “What? Buffy?”
“That’s Buffy!” Alex yells. “Tell her to go away!”
“Spike, what did you tell him about me?” the blonde superhero, Buffy, growls.
“Nothin’ that would get this kind of reaction,” Spike says as his eyes go back and forth between Alex and Buffy.
“’Scuse me, but does anyone got any popcorn?” Faith asks. “’Cause if I’m gonna get a floorshow to go with the midnight ride, I need something salty and crunchy.”
“Shut up, Faith!” Spike and Buffy yell at the same time.
“Yo! Was just askin’,” Faith says. She sounds like she thinks the whole thing is funny, instead of the really dangerous situation that Alex knows it is.
Alex is desperate to get Spike to listen to him. “She thought you were evil, remember? You can’t trust her because…well, I know why you shouldn’t and—”
“Ouch. And, wait! Why did you tell him that?” Buffy asks.
“Had to explain how everyone was mixin’ him up with Harris, didn’t I?” Spike sniffs. He turns to Alex, “An’ as I told you, Buffy had her reasons, yeah? Remember Sir Wanks-A-Lot’s many, many boneheaded moves?”
“Sir who?” Buffy asks.
“Man, even I can guess who that is,” Faith says. She sounds like she’s trying not to laugh.
Alex frowns at Spike. “Yeah, you told me. But— but— She’s the woman from my bad dream.”
Spike rolls his eyes to heaven. “Need I remind you that you’ve had a lot of bad dreams, so it doesn’t help me one bit to just say Buffy’s been walkin’ through your head, now does it? A few more details might be—”
“I think it’s a really bad idea to talk about them,” Buffy interrupts. “You do remember we’re in this mess because of those dreams, right? Well, not totally because of them, but a little bit because of them. So I think reinforcement is probably a bad idea. Epically speaking.”
Alex glares at Buffy. She knows she’s guilty. She even looks guilty. What’s more, she knows that Alex knows that she’s not a nice person.
“B’s got a point,” Faith says.
Alex switches his glare to Faith.
Faith steps back with her hands raised. “Whoa. If looks could kill. Yo! Spike! You sure that’s Alex and not—”
“If we don’t sort this out now, we’re gonna have a devil of a time movin’ Alex out of here,” Spike interrupts. He turns to Alex again. “Now, which dream is this?”
Alex steps closer to Spike so he can whisper his dream. He doesn’t think Buffy has superhearing, but he’s not sure. He hopes that Buffy doesn’t hear him, because if she does, she’ll probably kill him to shut him up. “Remember the one where my hands were tied and this monster was attacking me? She was the one who sat in a corner and just watched while the monster tried to kill me.”
“Nah, you’re wrong there. Most likely you’ve confused Buffy with some common blonde bint. I’d say it sounds like Harm, ’cept that particular to-do you told me about is far and above her ability to think beyond her next pair of shoes.” Spike shakes his head as he turns around to face Buffy. “Honestly. What you lot did to him, I don’t know. He’s so completely twisted arou—” Spike’s mouth snaps shut when he sees the look on Buffy’s face.
Buffy’s mouth is wide open. Her eyes are as big as saucers. And she’s starting right at Alex.
Faith keeps looking back and forth between Buffy and Alex. It’s like she can’t believe what she just heard.
I’m dead, Alex thinks as he crowds even closer to Spike.
Spike rubs his face with hands. “Oh, balls.”
“I…I can explain,” Buffy stutters.
Spike drops his hands down to his sides. “Remember, this is Alex you’re talkin’ to here. He’s new to all this.”
“There’s nothing to know. I had the dream. She’s going to feed us to the monsters. She’s already tried it once,” Alex urgently whispers to Spike.
Buffy opens her mouth but Spike holds up a hand. “Before you start defendin’ yourself, lemme talk to Alex.”
Buffy doesn’t listen. She tries to defend herself anyway. “It was the Gurgling Gah Cashmere and Nick.”
“You’re going to feed us to the monsters because of a sweater and some guy named Nick?” Alex hysterically asks.
“Fantastic.” Spike throws up his hands. “An’ it’s Glarghk Guhl Kashmas’nik. When you said you tried to kill your friends, I didn’t think you tried to feed ’em to the bleedin’ demon!”
“I knew it!” Alex yelps.
“Thanks, Spike,” Buffy sourly says. “This is why I never tell you anything.”
Faith rolls her shoulders like she’s getting ready to hit something. “I still win.”
Everyone stops and looks at her.
Faith shrugs. “Ain’t no one topped me tryin’ to feed an entire town to the Boss. Yet.”
“Hunh?” Alex asks
“That makes you a winner?” Buffy sarcastically asks. “So, winners are what we call losers now?”
“Hey, I ain’t the one freakin’ out Alex,” Faith says as she crosses her arms. “So join me in the loser’s pool where the water sucks chainsaws.”
“Enough!” Spike yells.
Once more everyone falls silent and looks at Spike.
“Right.” Spike squares his shoulders as he turns to Alex. “Now, ’member how I told you that for some long, boring, and complicated reason you were tuning in to Harris’s brain and picking up his dreams?”
“You told him that?” Buffy asks. “Why?”
“Had to explain how it was possible that Alex was havin’ dreams that weren’t his,” Spike says.
“Oh, yeah. Right. Got it.” Buffy nods quickly.
“Talk about your tangled webs,” Faith grumbles.
Spike turns back to Alex. “Now, you do remember what I told you, right?”
“Of course I do,” Alex says with a firm nod. “That’s how I know that she tried to feed people to the monsters before. You said the dreams were real.”
Spike winces. “That I did.”
“Spike—” Buffy begins.
Spike spins around and glares at Buffy. “Let me handle this. I know how, you don’t. Understand?”
Buffy just crosses her arms and glares.
Spike turns around and is once more looking at Alex. “Now, as it so happened, Buffy here was attacked by a dem— I mean a monster,” Spike says.
“A monster?” Faith asks.
Buffy sighs. “We’re superheroes, remember?”
“Right. So Alex is in the know. Guess I forgot,” Faith says as she plops back down onto the edge of the bed.
“Now, this particular monster had poison in its, unh, claws.” Spike makes a claw with one of his hands to show Alex. “An’ when it scratches you, you, unh, you see things that aren’t real. Like, oh, fer instance, that all your friends are really monsters tryin’ t’ kill you, and how all the monsters are really your friends tryin’ t’ help you.”
“Well, that’s not exactly…” Buffy’s voice trails off as Spike and Alex turn to look at her. She suddenly nods. “Know what? Close enough.”
“Remember when the monster attacked you and made a bloody mess of your back?” Spike asks.
Alex nods. He most certainly remembers the really scary voice in his head, even if he doesn’t remember what the voice actually said. Just some weird things about how he should attack Spike. He thinks. He’s not sure. But he does remember how sick he was and how he had a hard time keeping track of everything.
“Same thing, really, only Buffy saw things that weren’t there,” Spike says.
Faith and Buffy are staring at them. Alex isn’t sure if they’re staring more at him or more at Spike.
“Now, since you know those dreams were just Harris’s memories kicking up a fuss in your head, we also know how it all ended, yeah?” Spike says.
“We do?” Alex asks.
“Well, at the last minute, Buffy here realized somethin’ was wrong an’ she stopped it, didn’t she?” Spike says. “She saved the day. Again. And kittens could once more go about their business, unless Clem happened on ’em when he was— Well, never you mind that last bit. All that’s important is when the monster was about to strike, Buffy stepped in and saved all her friends.”
Alex knows he looks doubtful.
“Well, she had to, didn’t she?” Spike insists. “Harris is alive and he’s still workin’ with Buffy here—”
Spike’s voice gets louder, “And he’s safe and sound in L.A., just like I told you.” He glares at both Buffy and Faith, who are staring back with their mouths open. “So no harm no foul, yeah?”
Alex glances at Buffy. She’s finally shut her mouth and she’s trying very hard to look innocent.
“Is it true?” Alex asks Buffy. He doesn’t expect the truth, but he’ll be able to watch her face when she answers him. Maybe he’ll be able to figure out what kind of lie it is by seeing the expression on her face.
Buffy nods really fast. “Unh, yeah. That’s exactly what happened.”
Alex knows she’s lying, but he doesn’t know what she’s lying about. What Spike told him makes sense, but he thinks that maybe Buffy lied to Spike about what really happened in that basement. Until he finds out the truth, he doesn’t want to go anywhere with Buffy. But, there are monsters chasing them, and Spike says he has to go to L.A. if he wants to be safe from the monsters, so he doesn’t really have a choice.
He’ll just have to keep his eye on Buffy. If she does something funny, he’ll just tell Spike and hope that Spike will believe him.
“So, we’ve settled accounts, now,” Spike claps his hands. “We’re all set to finish this mad adventure to L.A.”
“Okay,” Alex grudgingly says.
Faith and Buffy both look very relieved. That’s when Alex knows that he might not be able to trust Faith, either.
“Right.” Spike turns around and faces both Buffy and Faith with a grin. “Now, when is the rest of your lot getting here? Time’s a-wasting.”
“Rest of us?” Buffy asks.
Faith stands up and bows. “We’re it.”
“What?” Spike quickly walks over to Buffy like he’s going to hit her. “Is the Watcher completely daft?”
“We’re all they could spare!” Buffy yells back.
Spike makes a series of noises, like all the words are getting crowded in his throat and he can’t get them out. He just keeps pointing at Alex, and the door, and at himself, and at Buffy over and over as if that should explain everything.
Faith finally steps in between Spike and Buffy. “Thing is, L.A.’s hosting an Evil Anonymous convention and the civvies are the all-you-can-eat buffet. You’re just lucky there’s two of us. For awhile there, it was going to be just B.” Faith glances at Alex before adding, “Which as it turns out, would’ve been an even bigger mess than the pile of shit we got now.”
Spike starts to make growling noises. He stomps around the room and waves his arms, like he wants to start punching holes in the walls.
Alex keeps as quiet as he can. He hopes that Spike is starting to realize that Buffy (and maybe Faith) can’t be trusted even a little. Spike said they were supposed to get an army of superheroes to help, and all they got were two. He knows that Spike expected more. Now that Spike didn’t get what he wanted, maybe Spike will be willing to listen to Alex if Alex sees Buffy doing something bad.
Spike finally stops stomping around. His back is to everyone. “Why I thought anything would go right, I’ve no idea. Just a little false hope. It’s nothing, really. Should’ve known better.” He turns to face everyone. “Well, not much can be done about it, but I’ll be giving your bleedin’ Watcher a proper beating when I next see him, you can mark me on that.”
“Spike, Giles is doing the best he can,” Buffy sighs.
Spike points at Alex. “If he doesn’t make it to L.A., we’re all fertilizing the daisies. You understand that bit, right?”
Alex crunches his eyebrows low. He thought it was important for Zander to get to L.A., not him. “Why do I have to go to L.A.?”
Everyone stops and looks at him.
Alex hunches his shoulders. “What I mean is, I’m not the one who has to be there. Zander is, because he’s the one who memorized the spell that’ll save the world and everything and he’s already there. I thought I had to go because everyone felt bad about me being confused with Zander. I’m only going to L.A. so that the superheroes there can protect me from the monsters. Even though I think that maybe we should go somewhere else because you just said it’s really dangerous.”
There’s a long beat of silence.
“Did anyone else hear a very distinct-y Z in Xander’s name? Or is that just me?” Buffy asks.
“Oh! I know!” Faith says.
Everyone looks at her.
Faith grins and hooks her thumbs on her belt loops. “See, Xander was so pissed that everyone thought you were him, that…unh…that…see, he won’t cast any spell until you’re all safe and sound. And the only way he’s going to know if you’re safe and sound is if he sees you with his own baby blues. I mean, baby browns. Or just the one baby brown. Anyway, the thing is, if you don’t get to L.A., he won’t do the spell. No spell, no saving the world.”
“What she said,” Buffy nods.
Spike snaps his fingers and points at Faith with a grin.
Faith’s smile gets so big that Alex thinks her face is going to split in two.
Alex frowns at Spike. He knows he doesn’t understand something, but he can’t figure out what it is. Maybe he doesn’t understand why Zander won’t save the world unless Alex is in L.A., too. It doesn’t make sense. Saving the world should come first.
“Now, if we don’t have an army, please tell me you two at least have a plan,” Spike says to Faith and Buffy. “Not that I’m expecting anything great, mind you, but my standards aren’t partic’ly high at the moment, so any rubbish will do.”
Buffy reaches into her coat pocket.
Alex tenses. If she pulls out a weapon, he’ll have to attack her.
Instead of a weapon, Buffy pulls out an envelope. “We’re going right back to the original plan,” Buffy says. “Plane tickets and a direct flight.”
Alex is so relieved that Buffy pulled out an envelope instead of a weapon that his knees give out. He has to lean against the wall to stop himself from falling down.
“Please tell me you’re not afraid to fly,” Spike says. He sounds like he wants to sigh, even though he doesn’t sigh at all.
“No-no-no.” Alex shakes his head as he quickly thinks of a lie. “I’m just glad we don’t have to drive any more.”
Spike walks over to him, reaches up, and ruffles Alex’s hair. “Yes! Our luck’s changin’. I can feel it.”
“I just don’t understand why we didn’t get on a plane before,” Alex says.
“Xander and his, unh, escort had the tickets. And I didn’t have the dosh to buy us any,” Spike says. “Besides, I didn’t want to use anythin’ that might tip off…hang on.” He turns to face Buffy. “We’re gonna need ID to board, and seein’ as how I just spent nearly a week avoiding situations where an ID or a credit card might be required—”
“We got it covered,” Faith says as she waves a hand.
“Yup,” Buffy adds. “As long as all of us have a piece of these tickets on us, no one is going to be asking for our IDs. They’re just going to wave us right on through. We’ll be sailing through all security checkpoints like they’re not even there.”
“Rosenberg’s mad skillz are workin’ it for us,” Faith says.
“Spike, what are they talking about?” Alex asks.
“What that means is thanks to Red, the friendly skies are ours for the taking,” Spike whoops. “At last. Some solid fundamentals. Pinch me. I was beginning to despair that any of your lot had brains.”
“Hey!” Buffy protests.
“Don’t get too excited just yet,” Faith says. “We gotta go to Long Beach. LAX is closed down.”
“Let’s just say there was a nasty incident involving 10 Fyarls and 5 Sl— I mean superheroes in the control room,” Buffy says.
“What are fie-are-elles?” Alex asks.
Everyone ignores him.
“Riley’s crew opening fire didn’t help,” Faith grumbles.
“Will you just drop it?” Buffy asks.
Faith crosses her arms. “No, I won’t. Those were my girls in there, and they nearly got flattened.”
“They weren’t aiming for your guys. They were aiming for the Javelins,” Buffy says.
Spike’s shoulders droop. “You mean Jarvelin Flesh Eaters?”
Buffy and Faith nod.
“If that lot’s skulking about out in the open, that tells me just everything I need to know,” Spike says.
Alex shudders. That monster’s name told him more than he ever wanted to know.
Spike shakes his head. “Still, could be worse. Long Beach isn’t that far, if memory serves. No more than an hour, two if traffic’s poor.”
Buffy crosses her arms and raises an eyebrow. “You know where Long Beach is? Color me crazy, but I can’t see you going for the fun and sun.”
Spike grins and opens his mouth.
“Stop. Don’t say anything.” Buffy holds up a hand. “I really don’t want to know.”
Alex Hill is sitting in the backseat of the car with his hand on the door handle.
He knows he’s being a baby, but he’s really mad that he’s not in the front seat with Spike. But Faith called shotgun, so she’s in the front seat with Spike instead of him. Spike explained that Faith had to sit in the front seat so she could be on the lookout for monsters. Alex said that he could do it, but Spike explained that the closer they got to L.A., the more monsters there’d be wandering around and that it’s better that a superhero with supereyesight was in the front seat so she could be the lookout. Since Zander won’t do the spell unless Alex is in L.A., Spike has to make sure that they all get to L.A. safe and sound, even if it means that Faith has to sit in the front seat.
Alex knows that what Spike says makes sense, but he doesn’t like it, especially since he’s stuck in the backseat with Buffy. When they got in the car, he made sure that he was sitting so that his good eye was on Buffy and the eye patch was towards the window. He still doesn’t trust Buffy, no matter what Spike says.
Alex has to keep telling himself that he has to sit in the backseat just until they get to the airport. Once they get there, he can get away from Buffy. Spike even said that he’d let Alex have the window seat on the plane and that he would sit next to Alex, just in case Alex got nervous (Spike promised this after Alex told Spike that he’d never been on an airplane before and that he was a little worried about flying).
Thanks to Spike’s promise, Alex figures that he could’ve handled being in the backseat with Buffy, except that Buffy keeps trying to talk to him. She keeps asking him if he’s happy. She also keeps asking about his job, and his apartment, and the gym, and the kind of television shows he likes, and comic books he likes to read, and his date with Faith (this last thing really annoys Alex because he doesn’t think that it’s really any of Buffy’s business).
Worst of all, Buffy keeps talking to Alex like she knows he’s not as smart as she is. When the workaholics at Mutual Life & Fire used to talk him like that, Alex didn’t mind it (usually), but for some reason Buffy talking to him like that gets him angrier and angrier. If she talks like this to him all the way to the airport, Alex knows he’s going to start yelling at her.
Although Alex wants to tell Buffy to stop talking to him before he gets really mad and starts yelling at her, he doesn’t. Spike and Faith would probably get upset if he told Buffy to stop talking to him, since they think that she’s their friend and they probably want Alex to like her too. They also think she’s a good person, and not the bad person that Alex knows she is. So, instead of telling Buffy to stop talking to him, he answers her questions with as few words as possible.
Alex is starting to think that keeping his answers really short is a big mistake. It seems like every answer he gives Buffy makes her ask even more questions.
Faith finally undoes her seatbelt and she turns around in her seat. “B? At what point are you gonna drink that big cup of shut-the-fuck-up?”
“I’m just talking to…to…to Alex,” Buffy says.
“Yeah, well, you’re talkin’ to him like he’s a retard,” Faith says.
Alex cringes. He hates that word. He’s been called a retard a few times. It hurts to hear Faith say it about him.
“I’m not,” Buffy says. “And don’t use that word.”
“The tone of your voice is off,” Spike says.
“No it isn’t,” Buffy says.
“Don’t tell me,” Faith says. “People used to talk to me like I was a retard all the time and it used to piss me the hell off.”
Alex opens his eye wide as he stares at Faith. Faith is a superhero. Why would anyone talk to her like that? He just can’t imagine something like that happening to her.
“Ummm, Alex? Am I talking to you like a…like a…like that?” Buffy asks.
Alex feels like he should be glad that Faith told Buffy to stop treating him like he’s stupid, but he’s not. If anything, he feels really embarrassed. He just hunches his shoulders and mumbles, “I’m not stupid.”
Buffy’s face suddenly looks sad, like someone has hurt her feelings. “Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean…I mean I know you’re not. Stupid, I mean. It’s just that…” She looks out the windows and mutters, “Sorry.”
As Faith settles back into her seat, Alex turns his head so his eye is back on Buffy.
Buffy stares out the window and doesn’t say anything until they reach the airport.
Alex Hill wakes up from his nap when he feels someone elbowing him in the ribs. He startles a little bit, but he’s still half-asleep when his hand hits something. He jerks upright and into fully awake, just as he realizes that he must’ve fallen asleep right after the plane took off. The last thing he remembers is drinking the bottle of water Spike bought him (Spike even gave Alex an already opened the bottle with the seal broken and everything so Alex wouldn’t have to open it), but he doesn’t remember too much after that.
Spike is leaning across him and staring out the window. Spike is frowning very hard. Whatever Spike sees outside the window, he doesn’t seem to like it at all.
“Spike?” Alex asks with a yawn as he rubs his good eye.
Spike doesn’t say anything. Instead, Spike’s frown gets even bigger as he moves his head first to one side and then the other, as if he’s straining his neck so he can see even more of what he doesn’t like seeing.
“Spike?” Alex nervously asks. He can’t look out the window because Spike’s in the way.
“That’s not right,” Spike mutters as he settles back into his seat.
Alex frowns at Spike before he leans forward and turns his head so he can look out the window with his good eye.
When he sees what’s out there, his heart starts thumping very hard and very fast.
Someone grabs Alex’s arm and Alex almost jumps out of his seat. He would have, except his seatbelt is still fastened
The hand doesn’t move. “Heart’s just gone from 0 to 60. So, let’s hear it,” Spike says.
“The sky,” Alex begins.
“Shhhh,” Spike hisses. “Voice down. Just tell me what you see. Calmly.”
Alex wants to look away from the window, but he can’t seem to physically turn his head so he can look away. It’s like his neck is stuck. “It...it…it’s all black.”
Spike’s grip loosens. “Not surprising, given the time.”
“But…but…there are red cracks in the sky,” Alex hopes his voice is still calm, because right now he doesn’t feel calm at all. “It’s like lightning, only…only…they’re not moving at all. It’s like the lightning is stuck.”
Spike says a bad word as he moves to get out of his seat. “Right. Stay put.”
The threat of Spike leaving finally gets Alex to look away from the window. He grabs Spike’s arm. “Where are you going?”
“To chat with our boon companions, where else?” Spike shakes Alex off. “Got to make sure they see what we see.”
Alex’s hand drops away and he swallows hard. Spike has to crawl over a sleeping man to reach the aisle, which wakes the sleeping man up. Spike is already gone when the sleeping man, or maybe that’s the no-longer-sleeping man, starts looking around. His angry glare stops on Alex.
“Spike had to go to the bathroom,” Alex lies.
The man snorts and moves around in his seat, like he plans to fall asleep before Spike gets back, even though Spike will probably just wake him up again when Spike has to crawl over the man to get back to his seat.
Alex gets an idea. “Hey, mister?”
“What?” the man asks in this really angry way.
“Ummmm, do you see red lightning outside?” Alex asks.
The man’s eyes get big as he leans forward so he can look out the window. He stares at the window for a little bit before leans back into his seat with a snort. “That’s just one of the lights on the wing flashing. There’s no lightning.”
Alex clutches the armrests. The man didn’t see what he and Spike saw. Why? It doesn’t make any sense. Then again, maybe both he and Spike were wrong. Maybe he should look out the window again, just to make sure.
“Never been on an airplane before?” the man asks.
Alex turns to look at the man. He doesn’t look angry now. Instead, he looks like he might be a nice guy.
Alex just shakes his head.
The man nods. “I didn’t think so. It’s nothing to worry about. The red light is for…ummm…I think it’s navigation. Or maybe it’s so other planes can see us. I’m not sure, but it’s for something important.”
Alex knows what he saw, and it’s definitely not what the man saw. He doesn’t want the man to think he’s crazy, so he doesn’t correct him. “Oh. Okay. I was getting a little worried.”
Spike suddenly appears next to the man. “’Scuse me,” Spike mutters.
“Nah. It’s all right. Gotta go take a piss anyway.” The man stretches and yawns. “Your buddy’s a little nervous about flying, so you’ll probably want to talk to him without an audience.”
“Ta very much,” Spike says.
There’s a little bit of shuffling, and a little bit of dancing, while Spike moves out of the way so the man can leave. As soon as the man is gone, Spike slides right back into his seat.
“Now, I need you to do me a favor,” Spike says in a low voice. “I need you to look out the window again.”
“Do I have to?” Alex asks.
“’Fraid so, mate,” Spike says.
Alex hunches his shoulders, leans forward, and turns his head so his good eye can look out the window. The sky looks exactly the same. Black with red cracks. It looks like something with claws tore apart the sky and let it bleed.
Alex starts to shiver and fights the urge to scream.
“Now, I’m gonna point to one of those red cracks, an’ I want you to describe the crack right next to it,” Spike says in his ear.
“Okay,” Alex whispers
Spike’s pointed finger appears and presses against the glass. “That one,” he says.
Alex squints. “The crack right next to the big, fat one?”
“Right. Question asked and answered. Settle back,” Spike says.
Alex is really glad to turn his head so the window is completely on his blind side. The sky scares him more than anything. More than Spike when he thought Spike wanted to kill him; more than Buffy; even more than the monsters, although he can’t say why. It isn’t like the sky can hurt him. It’s just there, and it just looks ugly.
But it scares him just the same.
“We’re buggered,” Spike says in a low voice.
Alex looks at Spike. “Hunh?”
“That juicy red slice you saw? ’S pointin’ right at L.A.,” Spike says.
Alex’s shivering becomes the shakes. “Spike, you don’t think—”
“No,” Spike quickly interrupts. “Sky’d look different if the worst happened. But I think the clock’s run down more ’n we thought. We’re gonna have to leg it soon’s we land.”
“’Fraid I’ve got more bad news,” Spike says.
Alex doesn’t know how things can get any worse. Actually, he can. It can get worse if the monsters from the evil universe invade before they reach L.A. But Spike just said that it wasn’t too late and that they were still safe, so that’s not it.
“The girls…they don’t see what we see at all,” Spike says. “Far as they can see, sky’s normal.”
Alex swallows hard. If superheroes can’t see what Alex sees (well, except for Spike who does see what Alex sees), then something must be really wrong. “They believe us, right?” Alex asks.
Spike nods. “Let’s just say they’ve no cause to believe we’re seein’ things.”
The answer doesn’t make Alex happy. It’s not the ‘yes’ he needs to hear, but then again, Faith and Buffy don’t think he and Spike are lying. “Is there anything we can do? To help them see the cracks, I mean,” Alex says.
Spike shakes his head. “Not sure there is. All we can do is hang on and not do anything that’ll attract attention from the wrong sorts of people. So, just sit there and be quiet. Don’t say anything. And be ready to run soon’s we land. Faith says there’s a runabout waiting for us in the carpark, so we’ll just head there straightaway. Don’t bother fetching the baggage from the overhead. We need to travel light from here on out.”
Alex nods and grips the arms of his seat. After all, there’s not a whole lot more he can do.