Buffy yawned as she walked sluggishly down the stairs. Morning so wasn't her favorite time of the day.
She follow the voice to the dining room where Giles sat bleary eyed over a cup of Earl Gray.
"What's up, Giles? You look like a man who slept not so much." She sat next to her father figure. "You okay?"
Giles sipped the hot liquid. "Buffy, I went to check in on Spike this morning."
"Yeah?" Buffy shifted uncomfortably. She just knew the rat bastard told Giles about the kissing.
"It seems Spike ran away. He took his leather jacket as well. The closet has been rifled through, you can look for yourself."
Buffy stared at Giles, her mouth open slightly as her mind tried to make sense of the startling turn of events.
"Are… are you sure?" Had she pushed him away?
"Yes, I'm afraid so. He's nowhere to be found. The blood from the fridge is also gone. I'm sorry Buffy; I know you wanted him here."
Buffy stood abruptly in a huff of anger. "I don't want him here. I just wanted the extra help for the newest apocalypse, but if he doesn't want to be here, fine. I'll just tell those demons that he ran away, maybe that won't eviscerate me."
Giles smiled slightly and patted her arm. "I'm sure they'll understand. Just don't chop off any more of their hands."
Buffy moaned. "I am so dead. Maybe this is what the stupid prophesy is talking about. The slayer dies because she stupidly defended a frickin' ungrateful vampire."
"Yes, well, I don't believe so. I suggest you have yourself a nice breakfast and forget that Spike ever came back."
"Yeah, I guess you're right."
"Of course I am, aren't I always?"
Buffy laughed softly. "Yeah, you got me there. Okay, I'm on breakfast duty." She saluted and moved to the kitchen. Something didn't sit well with her, but she couldn't pinpoint it.
"Stupid vampire," she muttered as she pulled out the corn flakes. Her eyes flickered to the door to the basement. "Maybe a peek. Just to be sure."
Buffy moved with purpose to the door, but faltered at the knob. Giles said he was gone, why was she even doing this? She shook her head and backed away. It was ridiculous; she knew what she'd see, so why check? Despite her hesitation, something in the edge of her senses pushed her forward. She opened the door and took the stairs two at a time.
The cot was made, nothing looked different or disturbed. A large singe mark on the floor caught her eye. That wasn't there the last time she had checked. Either the Stay Puft giant had put out a hella big cigarette there, or something had been burned. She couldn't come up with a logical situation for either of those, so she let it go.
"I know I've said it, but, stupid vampire."
She sat heavily on the cot. He really left her. She felt something underneath her and scooted. Under the messy bedding was the notebook that William had scribbled his poetry in. It was something he obviously had been writing in since the night he arrived. She thumbed through it. There were pictures, poems, and snippets of his thoughts.
Buffy looked up at the concerned face of Willow. "Yeah?"
"Giles told me that Spike left."
"Yeah, he left this behind, though." She waved the notebook. "I wonder why."
"I don't know, but why don't we go upstairs? We can talk about it."
Buffy nodded and followed her friend up the stairs.
Giles met them at the top of the stairs. "What were you doing down there?" Apprehension laced his words, but Buffy was too busy thinking to notice. Willow on the other hand did notice. She scrunched her brow.
"Are you okay, Giles?"
Giles stuttered, caught off guard. He quickly composed himself and turned towards the kitchen. "Yes, indeed, I'm fine."
Buffy moved to the living room, reading random pages from the notebook. She nearly tripped over a throw rug that was placed haphazardly on the carpet. The same one from the night before. She made a mental note to rid the floor of the ugly thing.
A knock on the front door pulled Buffy's nose out of the book. "Oh hell. Coming!"
She opened the door to an overly exuberant Xander. He threw his arms around her and gave her a bear hug.
She gave his back a couple of pats. "Xander, how many happy pills did you pop on your way over here?"
"Can't I be happy without the help of modern medicine? Willow!" He hurried to his oldest friend and gave her a hug. "Good morning my Willow shaped friend. How you feelin'?"
Buffy watched her friends, amused and bemused by Xander's antics. She went to close the door, but a dark spot on her lawn gave her pause.
"Xander, what's that?"
Xander craned his neck out the door. "Oh, those demons left it behind yesterday. Don't worry, I'll plant some grass for you. Before you know it you'll have a model lawn!"
Buffy didn't hear anything after demons. The cogs in her brain whined and squeaked as they started to turn. Her eyes widened.
"Demon!" Buffy cried.
Xander yelped and twisted around in search of the fiend. "Where? Where!?"
Buffy waved him off and went out to examine the burned grass. "The demons took William."
Xander laughed nervously. "Naw, Buff, I'm sure you're wrong."
"No, it's what happened. This burn mark, they leave it when they do the flame-y fire-y thing, right? Well there's one in the basement."
"I'm sure there's an explanation. Maybe he faked it so no one would go looking for him. I mean, why would a demon steal Spike's coat?."
Willow eyed Xander. "How'd you know that Spike's coat was taken?"
Xander struggled for an explanation, his face turning red with the effort.
"I'm sure Giles told him," Buffy said absently as she studied the grass.
"Exactly!" Xander said. "Giles called me this morning. Told me everything."
"Uh-huh. Okay," Willow said skeptically.
Buffy moved past her friends, intent on bringing the news to Giles. Xander jumped in front of her.
"Does it really matter? I'd call this a win win. Spike's gone and we don't have to worry about the evil hell spawn."
Buffy shook her head and walked pass Xander. "I need him for the big fight."
"Or maybe you still got the hots for him."
Buffy spun on Xander, incredulous shock painted on her face. "How…? Xander, I don't. He tried to rape me, why would I want him?" she answered far too quickly.
Xander shrugged noncommittally, but there was anger in his eyes. "Why would you sleep with a murderer in the first place? You like pain, maybe. Or knowing that a relationship will hurt you is better than having to put your trust in a man. I don't know."
"I'm never going to touch him again." Buffy's voice was firm and resolute.
"Then why are you so gung ho about saving him?"
"Because he got his soul for me. He deserves better."
Xander sneered in disgust. "Fine. I don't care, but don't ask for my help." He stomped away.
Willow patted Buffy's back. "It's okay, he'll chill. You have to do what you have to whether Xander likes it or not."
The two girls walked together into the kitchen. They stood in front of Giles, Buffy with a look of determination, Willow with suspicion.
"William was taken by the three demons," Buffy said matter-of-factly.
Giles took off his glasses and cleaned them with a cloth from his pocket. "How did you come to this conclusion?"
"There's a burn mark in the basement, exactly like the one in the front yard. We need to get him back, Giles."
Giles cursed in his mind. He should have thought of cleaning that. He couldn't allow Buffy to go looking for her vampire, but he couldn't out and out say no. He placed his glasses back on and looked up at the two girls. He had to protect them, even if it was from themselves.
"Yes, well I shall research it, but remember, Buffy, we have an apocalypse to worry about."
"Giles, he's in hell, we need to save him."
"And how do you suppose we do that exactly? We can't just waltz into hell and demand that they give us a vampire."Buffy took a deep breath. "I'm going to Willy's, maybe he'll know something about all this."
Buffy didn't wait for Giles' permission. She had to save William. She just didn't want to think too hard about why.
William's ragged scream pierced the air. He didn't know how long he'd been in the hell dimension, but it felt like a million years. Every second was laced with pain a he hung limp from a black stone wall, clad only in his jeans. His tormentor finished slicing skin from his chest.
Hurtz stepped back and admired his work. "Tell me, Spike, did my baby brother cry? Did my father plead for his son's life? I bet you regret killing my family members now." He didn't expect an answer, not anymore. After all, William had been there for many hours, they'd been over the questions before. He always answered the same.
"I told you, I don't remember. I'm not Spike. I'm not the same man. I don't remember," William hissed at the overwhelming pain. He could barely think.
Hurtz watched his work of art turn back into the flawless white skin William had when he arrived.
"Oh, goodie, it's time to start over again. I suppose I should give Molly another turn."
William whimpered. He was going to lose his mind, of that he was sure. Each of the three had had more than one turn, but beyond that he couldn't suss out how many, or for how long. Everything mixed and became a blur. All he knew was that with each turn his body magically mended. All the cuts, burns and open wounds he received during his last tormentors turn would heal as the next started to make their own.
Hurtz came up close, the stench of death rolled off him in waves. It was distinctive, something that William had smelled before.
"You shouldn't have killed my kin."
"I told you, I don't remem—Oh."
Hurtz grabbed William's throat with his rough, scalding grip. "What?"
William leveled his gaze to Hurtz's sneering face. He rolled his jaw.