"Not a good man, no, never was, never was and I'm sorry. I'm sorry." Spike rocked back and forth in his own special corner of the basement. His safe place, with boxes and crates on three sides; they had to come at him straight on here, no flashes of scarlet out of the corner of his eye or soft caresses on his cheek, even the whispers were focused.

It was like watching a play; the slow parade of ghosts across his narrowed vision, the horrors re-enacted for his benefit, enter mutilated young woman stage right, cue headless corpse stage left; every atrocity a dress rehearsal for the one that followed. And he would sit and rock and watch, sometimes even daring to criticize: I took all her fingers, not just three; his throat was torn right out, that's barely a scratch; you've got them screaming but I took their tongues first and it was barely a gurgle.

On and on it went day after day and night after night and mostly Spike rocked and agreed with the voices that he was indeed worthless and only good for one thing although every once and a while the demon would rouse itself and snarl 'piss off' and try to leave the basement but it never lasted, not long enough to truly make an escape and he would find himself, back in his
special place.

"You mustn't say that, no mustn't say that about her. She's a good soul even when she's bad, she's better than you. Besides, she wouldn't understand, no one would." Spike whispered to a mouse staring at him from the shadows. At least he thought it was a mouse, one could never be sure down here, reality was so fluid and he found it ironic that someone who'd taken such
pleasure in breaking the rules and flaunting order now desperately wished for order to reassert itself, at least in his own little corner of the world.

"You're a bad dog my Spike, my William and no one loves bad dogs, no one," Drusilla's voice whispered.

He jerked slightly and refocused his eyes on his Sire in her pretty red dress kneeling before him.

"No one but your mummy. I love you. I always have. Come, come to mummy; we'll take a walk like we used to, remember pet?" Drusilla stood and beckoned. "It'll be like before, my knight in shining armor, my Will."

"You're not my Princess, are you?" Spike lifted ravaged eyes, pleading for reassurance, searching for knowledge.

"I'll always be your Princess and you'll always be my Champion, won't you Will?" Her form twisted, sliding easily into that of a small blonde Slayer. She smiled, a curl of the lips. Her hand held out in readiness.

Spike slowly reached out and grasped not Buffy's small hand but a man's hard palm, which pulled him out of his hidey-hole with a firm, ungentle tug.

He found himself face to face with a well-remembered expression of annoyance. His demon snarled; his soul cringed.

"That romantic streak will be the death of you boy," Angel sighed in exasperation, staring his errant grandchilde up and down. The boy was a mess, dirty and torn, and God above he stank.

Spike's eyes slid from side to side, frantically searching for the Slayer.

"She's not here; it's not here, it left. It doesn't like an audience." Angel said dropping Spike's hand now that the blonde stood upright but quickly grabbing it again as Spike started to sink back towards his hole.

"No, you don't get to hide. It won't do you any good anyway."

"Why are you here? Are you here?" Spike murmured softly, almost too low to be heard, head bowed, eyes down.

In answer, Angel cuffed Spike's head.

"Ow, hey!" Spike snapped, holding his ear.

"What do you think?" Angel shook his head in disgust. "Look at you, you're a mess and that's for sure. It's got you on the run huh?"

"Can you see it too?" Spike's voice dropped to a whisper as his eyes risked a quick look around. There, there, barely discernable, in the corner; a pair of eyes, malicious intent apparent. His tongue whispered across suddenly dry lips, his body frozen by the sight.

Angel followed his gaze and saw nothing but then he didn't expect too; like he said, it didn't like an audience. He knew it was there and that was enough.

"Come on, let's go." He tugged at the smaller vampire's hand.

"Wha? Where are we going? Are you going to kill me?" Spike asked the last with little interest.

"Don't tempt me." Angel said dryly sniffing delicately and grimacing. "First, we're going to get you cleaned up because there's no way I'm spending several hours in a car with you stinking like that."

"Second," he fingered Spike's torn, stained shirt, "Clean clothes."

Spike slapped his hand away with a snarl, "What do you care Angel? Probably come to gloat." He groused, pulling his hand free to smooth his tattered clothing, completely missing the small smile that graced his Grandsire's face.

"You were always trouble William, if it wasn't the bluster it was the bull." Angel sighed.

"You're coming to LA with me because if you stay here you'll end up being a danger to Buffy and the rest of them. She's almost as proprietary as a vampire once she decides you're family and she's got a soft heart to boot. You staying down here in this basement letting it poison your mind won't help anyone and it could end up getting her killed." Angel stepped back and waved Spike forward.

"You know what it is," Spike's narrowed gaze, saner than it had been in weeks, fixed on Angel's face. "You've been where I am now."

"Got it in one, been here, done that, got my ass kicked."

"And Buffy saved you?"

"Sorta and the Power's conjured a miracle." Angel grinned wryly, "You on the other hand, get me. We don't have a lot of time, and you don't have eighty years to come to terms with that soul inside you. You've got maybe a couple of weeks at most to pull your head out of your ass and get up to speed."

"And if I can't?" Spike stepped forward slowly.

"I'll stake you before I'll let the First have you Spike, before I let you hurt her more than you all ready have." Angel held up a hand as Spike started to speak.

"You want to help her? Be the champion, the knight Drusilla always said you were. Your demon made a choice, one I never would have made, maybe that makes you the better man although it sticks in my throat to admit it." Angel stared at him deeply and Spike felt a crawl along his skin.

"So quit feeling sorry for yourself and start doing your job. I'll help you, show you how to keep it all at bay; you'll get the benefit of my mistakes over the years and become stronger for it." Angel gave a twisted laugh at his inside joke, "You'll be just like a son to me."

Spike recoiled slightly from the dark look on his grandsire's face before shrugging and returning Angel's dark laugh with one of his own. "It'll be like old times, you and me and Buffy makes three."

"Yeah, that's right only this time you get to be the insane one." Angel pulled his car keys from his pocket and started towards the stairs. Spike snorted in reply.

"Why did you really come Angel?" Spike ventured as he followed along behind.

Angel didn't stop moving, simply throwing the words over his shoulder, "I told you why, you'll be needed in the coming battle, can't have you leaving before than."

"Liam, why?" Spike frowned and laid a hesitant hand on the bigger man's shoulder and asked again.

This time Angel halted briefly, turning his head and staring at the smaller man.

"I'm not a good man Will, sometimes I do good things but I'm not a good man. I never was. You know that." Spike stayed silent.

"It seems like everything I really want slips out of my grasp. I used to think it was fate and then I realized, no, it was just me; but sometimes good comes from the things I do in spite of myself."

Angel turned completely, reaching out and brushing a hand briefly along Spike's cheek, almost a caress before dropping his hand. "You're one of those things William, one of those good things that have come from me in spite of myself and I'm going to make sure nothing ruins that without a fight."

Angel's lips twisted in an Angelus-like smirk, "Besides, the irony of the situation appeals to me."

They made there way to the outside door, standing side by side as they scented the early fall air, Spike unconsciously straightening to match Angel's stance before casting an uncomfortable glance at the taller man.

"The things it whispered to me," Spike began uncomfortably.

"They were true?" Angel finished for him. "Willow told me that one of the last things Buffy said before she died last year was that the hardest thing in the world was to live in it. You and I don't have that problem anymore. Our task is harder. We have to learn to live with the truth, accept it and move on."

Angel sighed soundlessly, "I've never been able to do that and it trips me up time and time again."

"I'm not a strong man Angel if I was I wouldn't be a vampire." Spike laughed shortly.

"Welcome to the club." Angel shook his head.

"Yeah, you've lost your soul twice because you couldn't keep it in your pants." Spike winced as he realized what he'd said. He steeled himself for a blow that never came and risked a glance at the taller vampire.

Angel was giving him the Look, the one Angelus used to give him when he couldn't decide whether he wanted to hit him or laugh.

Angel laughed and threw a companionable arm across the younger vampire's shoulders politely ignoring the surprised flinch. "You don't know the half of it William, you don't know the half of it."

Spike felt a tug somewhere in the region of his heart, a long forgotten feeling of family that he got from his broody grandsire and some of the loneliness he'd been feeling since Dru left him, since the chip, since he woke up in love with the Slayer abated a little.

"Thanks Angel. Thanks for coming to get me, no matter what your reasons were."

"You're welcome Will and if you touch any of my hair care products I'll stake you."

"You realize of course that any vampire that has 'hair care products' should probably be staked on general principle."

"Yeah I'll remember that when my hair gel starts disappearing," Angel tousled the unruly curls on Spike's head.

"Oi!"

Angel laughed softly.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Buffy watched two of the most important men in her life argue and insult each other on their way across the parking lot. She hoped Angel could help Spike where she couldn't, that's why she'd called him. Smiling wistfully she turned and made her way back home.

The End