Gathering Loose Ends by pfeifferpack
Summary: Summary: The battle against the Senior Partners brought our heroes to the alley against hordes of demons. This story assumes much more was going on in the back rooms of W & H, things that lead to a group rescue effort that will involve almost all the BtVS and AtS main characters in one epic battle against evil.
Categories: General Characters: None
Genres: Romance, Action, Angst
Warnings: Violence
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 53 Completed: Yes Word count: 159250 Read: 49492 Published: 01/31/2007 Updated: 02/21/2007
Prologue and Chapter 1 by pfeifferpack
~~~~~~~~
Prologue:

Life can change in the blink of an eye. Sometimes you have some warning and other times it takes you by complete surprise. Spike was used to the latter.

It began when his mother’s illness changed the mapped-out course of his life. His long anticipated career in academia changed to an office on the Exchange and tending to his terminally ill mum.

His plan to woo and wed a lovely, respectable woman and build a decent life changed in a dark alley, upon his meeting an even darker being than he’d ever imagined existed.

A gypsy curse was all it took to permanently alter his demonic family dynamic. True, Angelus had stayed with them for a time after his soul had been forced on him, but the change was clear and quick.

For a long while, Spike had traced his more recent changes to that dream where he realized his love for Buffy. Eventually he came to acknowledge that his heart had been ensnared from the first time he saw her, dancing as if she were liquid, music in a human body. Quicksilver she was, whether dancing or fighting, and Spike laid his unbeating heart at her feet from the first.

The chip had been another unexpected change, whereas the soul was of his choosing.
Burning to ash in the Hellmouth had been expected, too. From the moment Buffy declared him her champion and handed him the amulet, Spike had known the price of winning her regard. He knew well he was not coming back from that mission.

Spike truly hadn’t expected to survive this last battle either. The demon horde that spilled into the alley looked impossible for three super-powered beings and one dying human to defeat.

They had all known it was a suicide mission when Angel enlisted them in his private crusade. Spike always said he knew he’d go down fighting and this time he went down using fist and fang rather than a gaudy fashion accessory.

Actually, Spike wasn’t completely sure they HAD been defeated. When he came to, he tried to remember details of the battle only to find it was one of those life changing in an eye blink moments once again.

One minute Angel was charging after a dragon, while Illyria and Spike fought back to back against every demon imaginable. Charlie Boy had taken out only one demon before he collapsed and fell to the pavement, his wounds from the pre-battle battle finally getting the best of him.

Before Spike could return his attention to the battle, it was over. A booming sound like a clap of thunder coupled with a blinding flash of light left the vampire out cold on the wet surface of the now nearly empty alley.

The last thing Spike remembered seeing was Angel on the back of his dragon target, fighting for all he was worth. When Spike woke, only he and Charlie were in the alley. None of the fallen bodies of defeated demons remained for awkward explanations.

Charlie needed a hospital immediately, so Spike had no time to try to puzzle out what had happened to his sire and the ancient god in Fred’s body.

Once Charlie was in the tender care of the staff of Our Lady Of The Angels hospital, Spike returned to the scene of the battle and tried to piece together just what had happened.

It was pointless. The alley was empty. A plethora of demons…Angel and Illyria…all gone in a flash. Literally, in this case.

As Spike searched the alley for some clue as to what had happened, he was approached by the boy. Spike vaguely remembered seeing him with Angel at the office in the weeks before it all went to hell.

"Did my dad make it?" asked the lad.

"Depends on who’s your daddy. You don’t look much like Charlie Gunn, but if he’s the proud papa, he’s at Lady of Angels ICU. Gonna make it, they think. Got a feeling it’s more likely you’re the Watcher’s sprog", Spike ventured a guess.

"No, Angel’s my dad. You know, the ‘vampire with a soul’ superhero. I know he was planning on doing the whole OK Corral scene here after he brought down the office building and Hamilton".

Spike looked dumbstruck at the lad, his mouth open in unspoken surprise.

"You okay? I mean I can see you’re banged up and all, but, dude! I didn’t know a vamp could pale out like that". Connor looked at Spike with concern.

"Just how is it that you’re Angel’s git? That soul of his do somethin’ special to his swimmers I don’t know about? Who’s your mama? Had to have been before Sunnyhell. Thought he was the Lone Ranger before his great eternal love for the Slayer", Spike said, trying to make sense of the information that Angel had offspring of the non-vamp variety.

"Well, actually, I was only born a couple of years ago. It’s a mystical thing. Mom was a vampire named Darla. She staked herself so I could make it".

"Mighty big for a toddler, aren’t ya? Course, with Darla for a mum, must be glad you’re not a reptile or some such", Spike said. "No offense or anything, but your folks aren’t my happiest family memories. Just startin’ to get along with Angel before he decided to declare war on hell and play kamikaze."

"No offense taken. I never knew her. Like I said, she staked herself. Hated Angel too, until a few weeks ago, at least when I remembered him. Grew up in a hell dimension. It’s a long story. Where’s my dad?" Connor asked again.

"Last I saw him, he was playin’ rodeo with a dragon. Big flash of light and when I came to there was just me and Charlie in the alley. Had to get him to the hospital, Charlie being human and all. By the time I got back here, well, haven’t been here long, so you can see the same things I do. Not much to go on. No ash pile either, so I reckon m’ sire hasn’t dusted. Blue’s gone too".

"Dimensional portal, maybe?" suggested Connor.

"Your guess is as good as mine", Spike replied.

Spike and Angel’s boy searched the alley for any clue that might lead them to the answers they sought. The alley was as clueless as they were, however. Whatever had happened in that flash of light, the end result was that both Angel and Illyria were gone without a trace.

As the sunrise neared, Spike offered his couch to the worried youth for a rest before they could decide where to turn for possible answers.

It was just as well that sleep eluded the two searchers, as there were many questions they had about one another that needed answering if they had any hope of working together to locate the missing.

~*~
Chapter 1
~*~

(6 months later)

November was chilly for Southern California and Connor was wrapped like an Eskimo as he shuffled into the diner to meet Spike and Gunn.

Charles had taken several months to get back into any condition to help in trying to resolve the missing persons dilemma. He had asked Spike and Connor to meet him so he could tell them of his plan to move on. Anne needed his help with shelter business and Gunn had decided to use his legal knowledge and degree for good purposes from now on. His credentials and expertise in the law had cost Fred her life and Charles felt he owed it to her to not waste any of it. Okay, perhaps he might not use the encyclopedic familiarity with Gilbert and Sullivan any day soon, but the legal services he could freely give would help a lot of needy people.

Connor surprised his two companions by announcing his own intention of giving up the search. "Dad wanted me to have a life separate from him. He risked everything to give a good life to me. I don’t think he’d want me to throw away my college degree. He was very proud of my going to Stanford. I honestly don’t think we’ll ever find out what happened to him, so I’m going to work on getting readmitted next semester and try to catch up between now and then. I’ll check in every once in a while and you’ll know where to find me if anything changes", Connor explained.

"Well, seems it’s up to me then", said Spike. "I’m thinking of getting in touch with an old…well not exactly a friend, but acquaintance, to see if we can magik up an answer or two. I think you met Red once, Charlie. Powerful witch, best chance we’ve got at this point."

The three ate their meal in uncomfortable silence, each lost to his own thoughts. No one really wanted to just write off Angel or Illyria, but, as time passed, it was less and less likely any hope of finding either of them remained.

Three weary warriors parted company that night, each going his own way in a world vastly more complicated than the average person could imagine. Their private battles were still ahead of them, but the need to be a cohesive team no longer existed.

Wolfram & Hart had left them alone and had not reestablished an office in LA. None of the survivors had any deep desire to pursue the suicide mission begun by Angel either. It seemed they were at an impasse.

The only pleasant surprise had been to discover that Angel had made provisions for each member of his team in the event they survived. This meant that neither Gunn nor Spike need worry about money or legal documents. Connor had a trust fund guaranteeing a bright future for himself as well.

Gunn was still licensed to practice law and got a fine letter of referral from W & H as well as a sizeable IRA account and packet of untraceable fast cash.

Spike was now a legally registered alien with resident status, green card and all necessary documents to flesh out his new identity. Spike had to laugh at Angel’s unexpected humor in giving him the surname of Rice-Stoker. So far no one had commented on it or seemed to get the connection.

Spike even had documents crediting him with the education he had received over a century ago. Angel had changed the dates and other particulars to match Spike’s new identity, but somehow had all the correctly completed studies accounted for.
What sort of career Mr. William Rice-Stoker could reasonably expect with a degree in the classics was a mystery. Fortunately, the cash Angel had squirreled away in Spike’s name made it a non-issue.

Spike even held title to the Viper with the miracle glass and a deed to the old Hyperion hotel.

Maybe it was time to do some redecorating and open that place as well as re-open Angel Investigations, Spike thought. First though, he’d contact Willow and give finding his sire one last chance before he moved on. Spike was never one to give up easily and the words "move on" left a distinctly bad taste in his mouth after his last trip to Italy.

The old hotel held the promise of a steady income and the unfamiliar security of a real home as well. The investigations business would permit Spike to indulge his instincts for conflict and violence while continuing to fight the good fight.

Angel had provided perfectly for his needs to be met; all Spike had to do was grab on.

Spike wasn’t too eager to put in a call to London. That prat Giles would likely insist on screening any calls Spike might make to any of the people there. Giles’ unwillingness to help Angel had led to the series of tragedies that eventually caused Fred to die needlessly.

Spike had long forgiven Giles for the plot with Wood on his own life--understood it even--but Fred had been an innocent. She deserved the protection of the white hats and it had been withheld from her based on her friendship with two beings the Watcher despised. Spike wasn’t as quick to forgive that.

Spike figured he owed Angel one last chance and Willow was the best option to give it to him.

Angel’s boy Connor might come off as a tough cookie, but Spike knew the lad needed some closure where his dad was concerned. The memories that had been returned to him so soon before losing Angel were leaving questions for the boy that only Angel had answers for. If Connor were to have any real peace, all avenues needed to be explored before Angel was consigned to being just another memory.

Blue was another matter. Spike wasn’t sure if it was even in Illyria’s best interests to return her to the human world that had so disappointed her. Talk about a step down the food chain! Going from an ancient god with millions of worshipers to a sidekick to a pair of souled vampires had been a leap off the species cliff. She might well be better off wherever she was.

Gunn was still weighed down with guilt over his unknowing part in Fred’s transformation into Illyria. Fred was lost to them, but somehow having Illyria about had been both a sorrow and a comfort to the handsome lawyer. Spike knew Charlie would want a reason to think that there was peace at last for the being that had been reborn into this world at such a high cost.

Just as when Angelus left his vampire family over a century ago, Spike was left to assume responsibility for the emotional well-being of those left behind. Good thing being a caretaker came naturally to him.
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