Almost Heaven

The Hero

William brooded darkly, tucked into a corner of the Bronze. His cheeks were pressed against his knuckles, his elbows propped on the table. His eyes took in the crowds sightlessly as he pondered his predicament. Soon he would have to find a place to stay, out of the sun's deadly rays.

He shifted his sore arms, crossing them on the table top, and dropping his chin on top of one forearm. His whole being ached, and he found it nearly impossible to find a comfortable position. He had no money, no memory, and no place to escape the daylight. He did have a drink, though. A woman purchased it for him. He couldn't believe how times had changed since he was alive. The woman practically threw herself at him. He almost left with her, simply to have a place to stay, but despite all, he was determined to remain a gentleman.

Unless you're yelling at Buffy, hmm? An internal voice said. He sighed. I didn't want to, though. It is this vampire… thing. I wouldn't say those awful things.

He cursed, "Scheisse." How did he know that word? Right. More unremembered memories.

"Hey!" a boy whispered loudly, drawing the souled vampire's attention.

"What?" a girl asked irritatedly.

William shook his head. Americans had no manners.

"Wanna go run through Restfield?" the boy asked.

The girl scoffed. "A cemetery? What are you, like, a moron or something?"

William raised his eyebrow. "A cemetery?" he whispered. Why would anyone want to go to the resting place of the dead? Unless they were Buffy, that is.

"C'mon, chicken. It'll be fun."

"Then you go, Ace. I'm dancing. Gawd, you're such a goth."

"Am not! Take it back," Ace whined.

"Nuh-uh. Goth," the girl sneered.

"I'm telling Mom, then. She already told you not to tease me."

"You big baby, don't you dare."

"Then come to the cemetery, Jen, and I won't tell Mom about the kissing either."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Jen rebuffed.

"Really? I wonder if Mister Football dude would like to hear that you've forgotten him already?"

"You rat! Fine, I'll go…. Idiot."

"Yes!" Ace enthused.

William watched the siblings weave through the crowd. They couldn't be older than fifteen. He sighed. He would have to look for a place to spend the day later. He couldn't let children run around a cemetery alone.

"I do believe vampires are supposed to be selfish," he muttered as he swiftly followed the pair. "Why must I always be good?"

"I don't like this," Jen whined as she and her brother entered through the unlocked gates. The city didn't bother keeping citizens out. Too often they had to replace broken chains and padlocks.

"What, scared of ghosts? Or the boogeyman?" Ace laughed. "You're such a girl."

He ran forward, beaming. "Let's go into a crypt!"

"Heck, no. Gross." Jen scrunched her nose.

Ace ran over to the closest stone house of the deceased. "Mommmmm!" he cried, talking to air. "Jen was kissing a boy! And she brought me to a scary cemetery."

"You brat," Jen hissed. "Fine. But after this, we go. Understand?"

William frowned. That is so utterly wrong. They're disrespecting the dead, he thought, shaking his head slowly.

"Hey, there's a there's an old couch and stuff in here," Ace said over his shoulder.

William's eyes widened as memories washed over him. He groaned and dropped his face in his palm. "It's my crypt," he mumbled irritably.

"Did you hear that?" Jen hissed. "Someone's here."

Ace paled as he looked about. "I- It was nothing."

William shook his head, letting his demon come to the fore as he stepped out of the shadows.

"Run home," he said in his best scary voice, "and stay inside at night, or I'll… I'll eat you!"

The two stood stock still for a moment. The smell of urine permeated the air, but Ace didn't seem to notice the wetness staining the front of his pants.

"Go!" William barked.

The sibling nearly tripped over themselves and each other in their race to escape William.

The vampire shook out of his game-face, and entered the crypt. He loathed the idea of staying there, but he had no other place. He blinked at a saggy-skinned demon who peeked at him from a dark corner.

"Spike! Good to see you. Are the humans gone?" Clem asked.

William nodded mutely.

"Oh, I found something of yours, buddy." Clem moved to the sarcophagus, picking up a bag. He pulled a long leather duster out, and handed it to William. "I thought you'd want this. It was in the dumpster near the Bronze. I don't usually go near there, too many humans— yuck, but I'm glad I did."

"Thank you."

"Hey, good ol' Clem always looks out for his friends."

William smiled tiredly. At least he didn't have to ask the demon what his name was.

Clem picked up a bucket of chicken and began talking about the latest gossip at Willy's Bar.

William didn't listen as he held the soft, beaten up leather. Flashes, pictures, scenes ran through his mind. A pretty African-American woman; a big metal contraption filled with seat, speeding through the dark; her neck breaking in his hands. He promptly dropped the jacket with a thump, and stepped back. He tried to close off the memories. He didn't want to know. He loathed himself for the past. He loathed being forced to relive it piece by dreaded piece.

"Are you okay, Spike?"

"I'm not Spike," he snapped.

"Huh? You look like Spike. Who are you?"

"I'm… someone in-between worlds."

"Spike, you're kinda freaking me out. What's going on?"

"Nothing. Never mind." William limped to the ratty couch, suddenly too tired to stand.

"Do you want some blood? I got you some."

William grimaced at the idea, but nodded. "Yes, thank you."

William closed his eyes, and suddenly Clem was shaking him out of his dreamless sleep, and handing him a mug of warmed blood. He smiled through his disgust. He didn't want the blood, but his demon demanded the sustenance.

"Thank you," he murmured, taking the mug in both of his hands and sipping the blood. His demon buzzed happily. Something was different about the blood. It didn't taste like the pig blood Dawn and Buffy had supplied him with. It was better. He drained the contents within a matter of seconds and Clem promptly put a new mug in his hands.

"I hear you helped kill the Master and his childe and minions," Clem said conversationally. "Impressive. You must be pretty banged up."

William laughed humorlessly against the lip of the cup. "Yes. I had a hand inside me. I was sliced up, oh, and I was staked."

"I think you may need more blood," Clem muttered, taking the empty glasses and preparing more.

William was amazed by the floppy-skinned demon. He was remarkably kind. William hadn't seen much kindness since Heaven, and here it was in the form of a demon.

He cleared his throat. "Um, w-what type of blood is that?" he asked timidly. "I mean, i-it tastes good. I'm just… curious."

Clem smiled proudly, heating up more. "It's O-neg. Willy's best stuff."

William pushed down the guilt he felt about drinking human blood. "Oh…. Th- Thank you for purchasing it."

"No problem, Spike. Anything for a pal. Besides, I won it."

"Hmm?"William accepted the new mug, sipping slowly.

"I won it in a bet," Clem explained. "Willy said the Master would kill you or the slayer, and I said he wouldn't. He said he'd give you the premo stuff free for a month if neither of you died."

William shook his head, chuckling. "Thank you for having such confidence in me."

"Don't take this the wrong way. But…you're a hero at heart. Heroes always win."

William contemplated that as he finished his blood and slipped into sleep.

XxXxXxXxXxXxXxXx

Buffy felt the air rush out of her lungs, and she whispered, "What?"

"I'm so sorry. I- I can't f- find her," Willow said, stumbling over her words.

"Are you sure? Did you call her friends? Did you look everywhere?"

"Of course I called her friends, Buffy. She's nowhere in the house. She was here. I saw her no more than five minutes before you came home, but now…"

Buffy held her chin defiantly. "Then we'll find her."

"She's with me, Slayer."

The group turned their collective gaze up at the ceiling.

"Who the hell are you?" Buffy asked the empty air.

"We've met. I'm Rufus. I'm the one that your little prophesy speaks of."

"No," she shook her head. "That was the Master. He's gone. Prophesy over."

Willow squeaked, "The prophesy never said that the Master was the big bad."

"But Giles-"

"—Was guessing, Buffy. And he seems to be a little… um, crazy. I've been translating it—"

Buffy interrupted her. "It's in English!"

"It's coded, Buffy. And in old styled English too."

"Oh god, you people are so annoying. I'll be doing the world a favor when I kill you," Rufus moaned in frustration.

Buffy snapped, "Give me back my sister, you bastard!"

"How about no? I'll give her back as soon as I have the hero."

"Why?"

"I need the blood. Opens the hellmouth, you know. I need the prophesied hero delivered to me, hands bound and weaponless."

Buffy clenched her jaw. She resigned herself to dying for her sister again. "Where? When?"

"The construction site of the new high school. In the basement, tomorrow, one hour after the sun sets."

"No, I want my sister sooner," Buffy argued.

"I could kill her now if you'd rather?"

Buffy made a series of offensive hand gestures, figuring he probably couldn't see her anyway.

"Fine," she finally answered. "Tomorrow."

"No wise stuff either, or your sister gets a one way ticket back to being a green blob of light."

Buffy gasped. "You know?"

"I know more than any being on this plane of reality. I'm no mortal, slayer. Now hurry and prepare. All must work tomorrow, or the sun sets on Dawn's life."

Xander asked, "Why can't you use Dawn's blood?"

Buffy glowered at him, and he shrunk away from the murder in her eyes.

"I need the blood of a pure soul. The Key barely even has something considered a soul. It's man made. I need the blood of a pure hero. A martyr."

Buffy furrowed her brow. "My soul is pure? Good to know, I guess."

"What? You…wait, child, you thought you were the hero? Oh that's rich."

Disembodied laughter surrounded Buffy, flushing her cheeks with both anger and embarrassment.

"Hero, not heroine. Women's liberation wasn't around when that prophesy was scrawled."

"Not me?"

"No. I need the blood of a pure souled hero. And no offense, but not only are you missing male parts, but you're far from pure, little girl. How many vampires have you slept with? How many men in general? How many lies have you told? How many have you hated? How many times have you lashed out in fury? Especially against those who show love towards you? These things weigh heavy on the soul after time."

"Fine," Buffy growled. "Then who is the hero?"

"God, you're like children. Must I lead you by the hand to everything!"

"Listen, fuck-face-"

"Oh hell's bells," Rufus' ghostly voice proclaimed. "Fine. The vampire is the hero."

"Angel? Is that why you want him tomorrow? Because he's in L.A.?"

"Not that vampire!"he boomed. "William the bloody, Slayer. Stars and stone… you're an idiot, blonde bimbo, aren't you? The truth shined so brightly in front of you, yet you miss every piece of information!"

Buffy's blood boiled as the voice mocked her, but she stayed silent.

Rufus sighed. "Just bring me the vampire, and bring him tomorrow, or your sister dies."

There was a palpable difference in the air as Rufus' presence left. The scoobies eased, looking at their fearless leader for guidance.

Buffy closed her eyes and whispered, "We need to find William."

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