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New Chapter Of Hell Is In the Details - All the World's a Stage

Happy Mother's Day! My prezzie to you all is the newest chapter of Hell - All the World's a Stage.

Many, many **smooches** go out to willa_writes for her exquisite beta skills. Without her encouragement, this story would not exist.

Cross posted to sickchicks and my regular journal.

Hell Is In the Details – Chapter 19 – All the World’s a Stage

I will!”

Loud and strident, with all the defiance of an angry teenager well remembered by those who had watched her grow up – Dawn Summers burst upon the scene… with Rupert Giles, Xander Harris and Willow Rosenberg trailing behind her.

While the others gathered around Buffy, Dawn took her place at Spike’s side in front of the Tribunal, and looking up at the imposing figures, she squared her shoulders.

“I’ll stand for him. What do you need from me?”

“Who are you, young mortal, that you presume to speak on the behalf of this once powerful vampire?”

“I am Dawn Summers, formerly pure mystical energy older than the ages and a key to dimensional portals, now a younger sister to the Slayer, Buffy Summers.” She turned to Spike, blue eyes level with his own, and stroked his cheek in wonder – amazed that he was actually back amongst them. Taking a deep breath, she continued. “And adoring brat sister to Spike.”

As the three robed figures conferred with each other, Spike reached out, holding onto his Niblet’s shoulders and staring wordlessly into her eyes. Finding the love he never thought he’d see there again, he pulled her tightly to him, whispering, “We’ll talk later, pet… if I’m still here. I promise.”

“You leave us again, and I swear I’ll hunt you down and kill you myself. I’m so sorry for…”

Silence. We have decided to allow you to speak on behalf of the vampire you have called brother. Proceed.

“Okay, so… obviously you’re looking for character witnesses, so I’ll keep talking and you just tell me if I’m going in the right direction, okay? The first time I met Spike was about 7 years ago. He was making a deal with Buffy, to take out Angelus… who was trying to suck the world into Hell by awakening Acathla.”

A soulless demon preventing the demise of humans – going against the wishes of his Sire?

“Yes, your Honor.” Dawn paused, and looked expectantly at the seated figures. When no further response was forthcoming, she continued.

“Then there was the summer that Buffy died. She jumped off a tower to seal a rift in dimensions that my ‘keyness’ opened when my blood was spilled. She saved my life, and the world, but left me with no family – just her friends. And Spike. Who had fallen in love with her.”

A vampire in love with a Slayer? The same Slayer his Sire had professed to love? What did he do upon her death?

Dawn’s body shook. Recalling this time in her life was never easy, and Spike had to hold her steady, whispering ‘It’s okay, pet’ and ‘Do the best you can, Niblet’ in her ear, attempting to control his own emotions as well.

“He stayed with me… moved into my house and watched over me when everyone else had to go back to work and school. He cooked for me, and made sure I went to school, and stayed up and held me when I cried for hours. Everyone else tried to move on, but Spike let me cry and usually cried with me. We missed her so much. He had promised her he would take care of me...”

Angel snorted in derision, contempt obvious on his face. “This is beyond ridiculous. You’re making him out to be Mary fuckin’ Poppins.”

Be quiet, Angelus! The Judge thundered. Your time for judgment will come. If you cannot keep quiet, we will have you gagged.

It paused. Go on, child. Did the vampire stay or leave after the death of the Slayer?

“That’s just it. Everyone expected him to leave... they wanted him to leave. They told him he wasn’t needed anymore and that I’d be better off without him. But he wouldn’t leave. He fought against them for months until it was just us, mostly. Then he patrolled at night with them and alone after everyone went to bed, he…”

Once more, the judges whispered amongst themselves before addressing Dawn.

To keep the facts straight, please confirm the following: William the Bloody, vampire of some renown, voluntarily kept company with humans, based solely on a promise made to a dead woman he cared for. Were his attentions returned?

Dawn snorted. “Hardly. Most of the time Buffy couldn’t stand to be around him. None of the people here could.”

The vampire stayed amongst humans – his natural food source – who hated him, and yet not only did he not attempt to kill them, but worked with them, killing his own kind? And when the object of his affections ceased to exist, he honored a verbal promise to take care of her remaining family?

“Well, for years Spike had an electrical chip in his head that hurt him when he tried to hurt humans, and he used to hang around, hoping for a handout and bagged blood. Buffy wouldn’t stake him because she said he was harmless and just annoying… but he was strong. The money sitch didn’t last long – the gang stopped paying him after only a few months. Then he found out he could kill demons, but he still stayed and helped. Nobody liked him but me. Buffy came to appreciate his strength, and the fact that he would always watch her back. She could trust that, if nothing else. And she did… trust that. And trusted him with me and Mom, before she died – Mom died, I mean, and then just me. Oooh, and he’d been tortured by a HellGod, and he never gave up the information that would have given me away as the Key.”

The cessation of killing humans was not due of his own volition, then, but caused by a man-made device. The vampire was forced to quit killing his natural food source, and chose to channel his desires into killing demons, instead – at first for remuneration and then for… pleasure.

Dawn was frustrated. When stated like that, it put Spike in a really bad light. “Look, your Honor… Spike made so many choices for the good and right reasons even before he got his soul. And that was when nobody would give him the time of day. In the end, he saved the…”

We have heard enough from you, child. All of your words will receive equal weight in our judgment.

Crestfallen, the teen tried to apologize as she turned to walk away. She hadn’t even been able to talk about how Spike had saved the world. Dawn hoped the others would fare better.

“S’all right, Niblet. Nothing said that wasn’t true. S’all been long done.” Spike sighed. “Time to pay the piper, I s’pose.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead, and swatted her behind. “Go on, now – off to big sis.”

Lorne clapped Spike gently on the shoulder before turning to face the Tribunal. “I am Krevlorneswath of the Deathwok clan, of Pylea. I haven’t known Spike for long, since he’s only been conscious for the past 3 days, but I do have several things to say.”

Speak your piece, Pylean

“I’ve only known Spike for less than a week, but I was there when he popped out of the amulet in Angel’s office. He was frightened and disoriented; apparently having died some weeks before in Sunnydale.

“Angel was furious from the moment he first saw him. For two days they did nothing but argue – about Spike’s being there, with an occasional fist-fight thrown in for good measure. They fought about money, a place to stay, the right to exist; family helping family and all that.

“The next day things were so quiet and Angel was so peaceful, we asked what had happened. Angel told us all that Spike had decided to ‘do the smart thing’ and leave, since they weren’t getting along.”

For two days, the vampire was argumentative and demanding and then gone from the premises. Do you have anything that bears bringing to light about your interaction with him?

The Anagogic demon was nonplussed. “Don’t you want to hear about what we found out? What happened to Spike? How he was treated?

The only thing we are interested in is your interaction with the vampire in question. What has happened to him is of no concern.

A chorus of indignant cries from Buffy, Dawn and Gunn turned the attention of the judges in their direction..

If there are further disruptions, we will simply dust the vampire in question, thereby negating the need for trial and judgment. As you wished for Justice, it would be wise to adhere to our procedures. His disposition is of no consequence to us.

Thoroughly chastened and deeply frustrated, Spike’s supporters bit back their outrage. This was not the way they envisioned the trial going. This was almost a condemnation of the very person they were trying to help. Angel smirking down from his high horse was not helpful. Buffy wanted nothing more than to take him down a peg or twenty. All she could do was pray he’d get his when and if the time came.

Last chance, Pylean. If you have nothing further to add…

“No, no… I’m not done. You want character? I’ll show you character. I’ve been in this dimension for the past ten years, and have been around demons of all shapes and sizes. There is one universal truth – corner an injured demon, and he’ll lash out at you. The younger the demon, the less control, but even the old ones tend to lose it in the face of overwhelming pain and uncertainty. I’ve seen Angel tend the worst of his injuries alone, to avoid the temptations of flesh and blood so near his injured demon.

“But Spike… a whole different enchilada. He’d been in and out of consciousness for the better part of a year. He opened his eyes to me, not knowing me from Adam… or the army of assorted demons he’d been forced to face. In helping, I caused him more pain. Setting broken bones and cleansing wounds isn’t a walk in the park for anyone, but to a vampire with no controls in place, there’s usually no thought involved in ripping out the throat of the person inflicting pain. Sort of drain now, don’t bother with asking questions later, you know?.

“He thanked me. I sat there, hurting him, and he thanked me for being kind. He’s shown me nothing but gratitude – and loyalty and devotion towards those he cared for. His only request was not for revenge, but for the woman he’d fought beside for years… Buffy Summers, the Slayer.”

We have heard enough. You are dismissed.

A slight nod towards Spike, and Lorne was off to rejoin Buffy, waiting for him with open arms.

“Thanks, Lorne,” the petite blonde whispered. “At least you got a few words out in his defense. They certainly aren’t making it easy.”

“They sure aren’t.” Gunn straightened his shoulders, heading towards the fence and his position next to Spike. “Might as well put my two cents in.”

“Your honors.” he addressed the Tribunal, bowing his head in a show of respect. “My name is Charles Gunn, and I was with Lorne when we found out about Spike being sold into slavery, and when we rescued him from that demon den of iniquity known as Dante’s.”

We warn you once, human. Confine your comments to your interaction with the vampire. Anything else has the potential to bring these proceedings to an irreversible conclusion.

Got it said out loud, anyway. What’s been heard can’t be unheard. Sorry, your honor. I’ll make my statement brief. The fact that Spike managed to survive a year of captivity and mistreatment is a testament to his inner strength. The fact that his mind still functions amazes me. The capacity to reach out for help and to seek and offer comfort shows me a spirit that won’t be denied.” Gunn paused to catch his breath. “That more in line with what you were askin’ for?”

It is what we were asking for… barely. You are now dismissed.

“Stay strong, dude.” Gunn shook Spike’s hand. “Wish I could have done more.”

Willow looked around nervously. “Guess it’s my turn. I mean, someone who knows Spike for years should speak, so it might as well be me.” She gave one last look into Buffy’s imploring eyes, and hoped her testimony would do some good.

“Hey, Spike,” she said, taking his hand in hers for a moment. “Here goes everything.” Willow turned and addressed the Tribunal:

“Your honor, sirs, my name is Willow Rosenberg and I’ve known Spike for more than seven years now.”

We know of you, witch. You are responsible for the over abundance of Slayers in this realm. There have been quite a few calls for justice against you – for changing the balance of power between humans and demons. We choose to ignore them… for now. Continue with your testimony

Willow gulped. This wasn’t the way to set her at ease, no siree nuh uh. She barely resisted the urge to sink to her knees and gush apologies for releasing all the new Slayers’ powers. But somehow, she managed to say:

“Um, when I met Spike, he was trying to kill Buffy – the only Slayer back then. It was what he did, as I’m sure you’re aware of. Slayer of Slayers, and all that. A while later, he’d also kidnapped me, wanting me to make a love spell to get his old girlfriend back.”

She turned to Spike and mouthed ‘sorry.’ He simply shrugged his shoulders. As he’d said before, what was, was.

“Angel once told me – us – that Spike was worse than any other creature we’d ever faced. That once he starts something he doesn’t stop until everything in his path is dead. Obviously me and Giles and Xander and Buffy all put the lie to that tale, what with still being here all these years later and all.

“But Angel was right in a way, too. Spike was one determined person, for sure. I mean, yes… vampire – all scary and creepy to a bunch of kids like we were. All that life, or unlife experience made us feel rather foolish… until he got chipped. And then he needed us. He couldn’t hunt and feed and we took him in.”

You mean he was crippled and sought shelter amongst his mortal enemies, and you treated him like a vicious dog. Kept him chained and half starved – only letting him off the leash when you needed some extra muscle. You see, Ms. Rosenberg – we see all sides, equally. I gather there was a point you were trying to make, however?

Willow looked thoroughly embarrassed. She’d known they hadn’t been very humane to Spike, and that some of them had been crueler than others… but the world had been a far more black and white place when they were younger.

All righty then – back to business. “Yeah, point – big one. Angel was very right in that Spike was one determined little vampire. In spite of how we treated him – which I admit was really shameful at times – he stayed, even getting a place nearby. He helped even after we stopped giving him money or blood. He was always there for Buffy, no matter how much she tried to make him leave.

“And then he decided he had fallen in love with her. Ouchie!” Willow looked around. Something ~or someone~ had pinched her.

Is there a problem, witch?

She stuttered, “N-n-no, I think I just got bitten by a mosquito. A really big, nasty, mean mosquito, but I’m okay. Um, back to Spike, right. He fell in love with Buffy, and no matter what we tried to do to keep him away from her, he stayed. We bespelled the house with a disinvite, and he still stayed. He trailed her during patrols, helping out when she needed him. He took abuse from all of us, but he stayed.

“When she died, we were sure that he’d just fade away – we were so sure he was just vampirely obsessed. No soul means no love, right? It’s what we were taught. Vampires had no feelings, and we believed it. I mean, when Angel lost his soul he was the most hateful creature… all wanting to torture and frighten and kill.

“Spike with no soul stayed to keep watch over Dawnie, as he’d promised. He loved that little girl as if she were his own sister. Even if Buffy had never had anything to do with him, he would have stayed. He patrolled with us humans to keep us safe, and he patrolled alone so we could take an occasional night off and have a real life. Truthfully, I think he was seeking out some of the more nasty demons – sorta a suicide by inches kind of situation. Patching him up became almost a full time job.”

Are you telling us you reached a grudging respect for the vampire after the Slayer’s demise?

“It was selfish, mostly. He made things easier for everyone, and we sorta stopped screaming at him to go away. It’s not like we ever said thank you.” Willow favored Spike with a little lop-sided smile and another apology shimmering in her green eyes.

“And then we brought Buffy back, and things went bad again. Oh, and I mean it was just us humans who did the resurrection spell. Me, mostly, being the witch and all – really arrogant, irresponsible, selfish witch at the time, who has long since learnt her lesson about messing with the forces of nature so I don’t need to be reminded of it again, as I’ll never forget.

“When Spike found out about the spell, and that we’d brought her back – he yelled at us all. Said there were always consequences to magicks that powerful. It’s not that he wasn’t happy about Buffy being alive again… it’s just that if something went wrong… well, it just wouldn’t have been good.”

Most curious. A soulless demon babysits and cares for a group of humans, none of whom treated him with a modicum of respect. An unnatural creature respected the laws of nature, and the humans did not. A fascinating scenario, Ms. Rosenberg – one we will take into consideration. You are dismissed.

Willow ran back to the group; her heart pounding rapidly in her chest. She was so glad to be out of the spotlight. Buffy hugged her best friend tightly, whispering into her ear how she’d done a wonderful job bringing out some of Spike’s better character traits.

Watcher! The three judges practically hissed as one as Giles made his way to testify.

Giles cleared his throat and straightened his tie. “Yes, I am Rupert Giles, head of the new Watcher’s Council. My testimony is neither swift nor pretty. As a watcher, I have been trained to believe in the inherent evil of demons. Meeting Angel colored my perceptions and did nothing to make me believe other than what I had been taught. A vampire without a soul is evil, and incapable of feeling love and other higher emotions. No inherent goodness remained in an animated corpse.

“As an ensouled vampire, I found Angel to be fascinating, and we’d become close as companions in the nightly fight against evil in the Hellmouth. When he fell in love with Buffy, it wasn’t questioned – his soul meant he had the capacity to love and act accordingly.”

And this relates to William the Bloody how, exactly? I did not think I would have to warn you that we are not interested in Angelus as this time.

Giles removed his glasses, cleaning them as was his habit in times of stress. “That’s just it. Everything filters through Angel in relation to Spike. It is not something I am proud of, but I cannot change my past. None of us can.

“When Angel lost his soul, he reverted to Angelus. He terrorized the children, and he murdered the woman who might have become my wife. If you think I was willing to think kindly about another vampire again, you’d be sadly mistaken.

“Spike bore the brunt of this. Not that he didn’t deserve it in the beginning, what with constantly trying to kill us all. But he was different from Angelus. He actually struck a bargain with my Slayer to defeat Angelus, who was trying to loose Acathla into this dimension. Angelus had kidnapped and tortured me for hours, and Spike was partially responsible for both my rescue and the world not being swallowed into hell.

“There are many more incidents of which neither Spike nor I are proud of. Suffice it to say I’d not been willing to accept the changes in him without the soul, and unwilling to look past his history with it, for which I am deeply apologetic.”

That is sufficient, Watcher. You are dismissed.

Giles extended his hand to the stunned vampire. “Spike, I cannot say we’ll ever be the closest of companions, but if things work out well here, please get in touch with me. There are a lot of things I’d be most curious about discussing with you.”

Spike had been quiet for so long, he couldn’t help himself. “Even if I’m back at your Slayer’s side, Rupert? No longer an issue for you?”

Giles coughed a little, but said: “I’ll do my best not to pass out from a fit of the vapors if you two show up on my doorstep together. Good enough?”

“It’ll do for a start, mate.” Spike nodded in grudging respect. “Thanks.”

Xander strode over to the two men, intent on having his say. “Break it up, boys. Time for my close up.” Herding the older man back towards his friends, Xander addressed the Tribunal.

“My name is Xander Harris, and I can’t believe I’m here pretty much voluntarily to speak on behalf of Fangless, here.”

Willow let out a cry when she was lightly punched in the arm by one very upset Slayer. “Xander, that’s not helping!” exploded into his brain, as Willow’s mindspeak had lost none of it’s power.

“Sorry, your honors. It’s just an old habit. I’ll be as straight to the point as I can – I don’t like Spike, plain and simple. I was scared to pieces when Angel offered me up to him as a midnight snack, and he didn’t change my impression by kidnapping me and Willow and nearly killing me with blows to my head.” Xander paused, as if realizing that just sounded ‘off’ even to his own ears.

“Anyway, the point is I’m not impressed by his well muscled compact little body, nor his good looks, or even by the softer side of Babysitter!Spike. I’m fairly sure we’d hate each other even if he were human. So if I tell you that even I admit to the changes he’s gone through, it means something.

“I’ve seen him go from overly cocky predator to someone who gave himself up to a HellGoddess to protect the little sis of a woman who hated him. I’ve seen him bruised and bloodied time and time again defending me and my friends against other vampires and demons. He even stood up to all of us when we sorta mutinied against our fearless Slayer in Sunnydale’s last hours against the First and brought her back to us.

“And though I didn’t see it, myself, I’ve heard it many, many times – how Spike sacrificed his existence to make sure everyone left the Hellmouth and burned to ash, making the world safe for puppies and Christmas once more.

“Sorta puts us both on the same playing field, seeing as I once saved the world, even though it was being destroyed by my best friend at the time. And since we’re all so equal, I’ll say this here and now, in front of witnesses I’ll never be able lie to: I’m done. Done with the hatred and the past bringing up-age. From here on out, we start fresh. You cool with that, Junior?”

Spike nodded mutely. He didn’t remember being this shocked when Buffy and he brought down the house. After all, he knew she had been attracted to him – he could smell it half a mile away. But Harris? The sky was blue and the sun deadly, the earth spun, and Harris hated him.

Or not, as the larger man pulled him into a bear hug.

“I meant what I said, Spike. You make it out of this, and we’ll start clean. If you want. AA steps eight and nine: ‘Make a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all, and make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.’ See, even I can change.”

You are dismissed, human. You have given us much to ponder.

Spike had been so blown away by Xander’s testimony and about face attitude that he’d almost forgotten about the Tribunal. He was about to turn back to them, when he felt it. Felt… her. His stomach clenched, knowing that things were about to go ass over teakettle.

Buffy was preparing to step into place, thinking she’d be the last to speak on his behalf, when there was a soft rush of wind, startling them all, and she was brushed back by… Drusilla, who wafted forward with snake-graceful hands moving all the while.

“My stars told me of the fair Knight’s trials. I knew I picked the wisest and bravest knight in all the land – but he’s no longer mine. His heart and soul belong to others now, and he walks in worlds they’re just beginning to imagine.”

The insane vampiress kissed Spike on the cheek. “Goodbye, my once forever love. You have changed enough that I recognize you once again from London’s dirty streets. Be happy with your new family.”

Standing in front of the horse that Angel sat astride, the vampiress looked upwards, her mouth set in a tiny moue of disgust. “Bad Daddy,” she spat. “You’ve brought down all the cards on your head.” Not another word was spoken as she walked off into the shadows and vanished.

As the shock of seeing Spike’s ex-lover appear wore off, Buffy rushed to his side, ready to start her testimony, when the middle of the judges raised his hand and said:

These proceedings are at an end. We have heard enough to base our decision upon. The trial for Justice wished for William the Bloody has been granted. The trial against Angelus of Aurelius has begun!

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