The search for Karla Brewer was a bust. After nearly two hours of searching room to room in the basement level to the out buildings and the grounds there was no sign of the girl. They had split up for the search, but gathered together again along the charred crumbling wall of the fire-damaged west wing.
When the younger Watcher asked, “Spike are you certain that you haven’t picked up a hint of her trail?” it made him want to yank out his spleen. The bloke would not or could not trust him with anything, constantly checking to see if he was hiding something.
“Thought I had a lead a few times, caught it, lost it,” he shrugged away his own uncertainty. Tracking a girl through a house would normally be a cinch. Stalking was definitely his thing.
Reaching into his back pocket, he popped a cigarette from a half empty pack and caught it with the corner of his mouth as he raised it up. He stuffed the rest back in his pocket, and then dug in for the lighter. “Something strange about it.” Pausing, he flicked the lighter, letting the flame flicker in front of the cigarette as he made them wait. After lighting up, he took a long drag, and only after slowly exhaling a pungent cloud of smoke into their expectant faces did he say, “Smells like nature out here.”
“We’re outside,” Xander reminded even as he slapped at a leafy vine that kept brushing against his ear. He could hear Cordelia’s voice echoing in his head at the obvious reason. ‘Helloooo!’
“Nah! We’re in a town. Even with the extensive grounds and the old stables, there are different scents here compared to the open countryside or seaside.” Spike knew their pitiful human senses could not detect the differences. Still, he suggested they take in a deep whiff.
Giles, Wesley, and Xander all sniffed the air filling their nostrils, even as Spike tried not to laugh at the trio for looking like a bunch of gobs. He was trying to make them listen, and making fun of them was not going to help. “Anything?”
“Smells clean, earthy, like newly overturned soil.” Giles was the first to comment. Still, he did not appear to be overly impressed with his findings.
Spike quirked his eyebrows at the description. “That’s right. Sunnyhell doesn’t smell like that. This is the Hellmouth. Death is everywhere, especially in the ground. Centuries of it layered with bones, and dust. What else?”
He saw that Wesley simply crossed his arms staring thoughtfully as if trying to decide if Spike was making a point that was worthy of a conversation. It was the boy who spoke next, raising his hand for permission to speak as though he were back in his classroom providing teacher with the answer to a pop quiz. “Ooh! The rain. It smells like rain. Or, ah, actually like lightning, um, what’s the word?”
Wesley knew what he was getting at. “Ionization. Static in the air.”
Considering the recent lightning storm that had caused that helicopter to crash into the hospital, and the accompanying rain, which had thankfully aided the firefighters to douse the flames, this was another scent that seemed easily explained. Spike took a deep drag off his cigarette, and this time blew the smoke down toward the ground. Making a quick move toward Xander, he reached up and rubbed his open palm across the boy’s thick head of hair.
After their startled reactions and initial shouts of complaint that Spike would dare lay a hand on one of them, bloody idiots, they realized he was just making a point. “Wh-what are you staring at?” asked Xander when the two Watchers looked googly-eyed as the boy’s hair stood on end.
“Storm ended a while ago,” Spike pointed out. “Scents are all a bit exaggerated. Don’t know why. Don’t have a clue if it has aught to do with Karla Bloody Brewer, but we’re not gonna find the chit here.”
Even before Giles spoke, Spike heard his heart begin to race, beating faster, his pulse a rushing, fear infusing his veins. Looking grim, he shared the reason for it. “Kalesh was here.”
Spike recognized the name from the Watcher’s conversation about Nicolau’s bloodscript letter, a sense of shock hitting him square in the chest, but the boy needed a reminder. Busy smoothing down his unruly, static-charged hair, Xander asked, “Who?”
“The high priestess of Amolon,” Wesley explained even while managing to look annoyed that the name did not set off immediate red flags. “One should at least know the name of one’s enemies, Xander. Names are powerful things.”
Xander did not seem put off, which sparked Spike’s amusement. The boy was oblivious, but was not at all cowed by the company present. Buffy liked the kid for some reason, as did Drusilla, strangely enough. Even Angel’s pet had spent some time locking lips with the boy. Spike could not see anything that would appeal to them, presuming he possessed some sympathetic note that charmed the female heart, and whatever that was did not translate.
“I thought Willow’s spells could keep everyone out. How did Kalesh get through without setting them off?”
The Watchers shared another meaningful glance. “If our conclusions are correct, Kalesh is a demon goddess in her own right, which makes her a powerful enemy. Although an underling of Amolon, she reportedly possesses an ability to manipulate the elements.”
Wesley added, “The spells are designed to keep vampires and the lower demons at bay. Apparently, they cannot effect a goddess,” he ended with a bit of a strangled note.
Xander gulped. “Right. Just checking. So. . .why didn’t she take Cordelia, too?”
Listening to them speculate made Spike feel even more certain that Sunnydale was the wrong place to be. True, he did not want this Amolon bastard to destroy the Earth. He liked a bit of chaos now and then, especially if he was the one to bring it about, but out and out Armageddon meant something else entirely. His personal feelings about Angelus being a rutting bastard whom he would just as soon see rot in hell—again—he was still family, and that meant sticking around. Dru was never going to let him forget it, and deep down he might have to admit to a twinge of longing for the sense of belonging and camaraderie as their foursome cut a bloody swath through Europe back in the day.
With that soul on board, Angel wasn’t exactly Angelus, something that Spike was getting used to even if he did not entirely approve. Not that he would want Angelus to be in the here and now. Not at all. Getting ordered about by the Master of Aurelius would be one thing, but Angel reviled everything it meant. Accepting that role meant he acknowledged the vampires he had sired, that he owed them his protection, and claimed each one as family. Doing so meant it was his duty to ensure their survival, and prosperity.
Providing open hunting grounds and well-fed vampires were not Angel’s priority these days. Things were different here on the Hellmouth. Old standards hardly applied when the former Scourge of Europe was besotted with a cheerleader. Spike hoped that tonight would settle things between Angel and Cordelia. If only the big idiot would pay attention to his vampire instincts and just claim the chit, he would be able to focus on taking out the enemy.
Spike could not really blame him for his little obsession. Cordelia’s beauty was obvious to anyone with eyes, but it was more than that roping him in. There was a spirit inside, a fire that sparked something inside Angel, too, something Spike had never seen before. There might be no official mark on her throat, but Cordelia Chase was already deeply imbedded in Angel’s heart, his mate in all but name. Claiming her and his bloodrights would cement her station within their little clan, but while it would be meaningful to Nicolau and Isobel, such a status would mean little to a demon goddess like Kalesh.
The notion made him growl, a protective vibe strumming along his spine. Didn’t matter if Angel’s claim was official or not, Drusilla already treated her like family, saving her, delighting over Angel playing hide the sausage with Cordelia when she would normally be jealous, even tying her up for some fun. Acceptance was what it was with Dru. Maybe him, too. Didn’t matter why, Spike realized, but he wasn’t going to let anyone get to her if he could stop ‘em.