Dean opened his eyes. The demon stood behind the bar almost shaking, it had gone from a vibrant tree frog green to a pale puke puce. It grabbed the forgotten Mimosa and downed it like a drunk at last call. Then it focused its bright red eyes on Dean.
"Oh, crumbles, Spike's not going to be happy. It's only Monday. This kinda trouble? We save for Tuesdays."
Angel paced across the length of Spike’s suite. It was his tenth pass and as with the previous nine passes as he crossed in front of Xander there was the sound of hissing in stereo. One was louder than the other. It originated from the lean tabby with silver stripes and a long tail was curled up in Xander’s lap. The other, quieter one, came from Spike. Angel rolled his eyes as the other vampire and the feline glanced at each other. The cat flipped the tip of its tail and the blonde gave an almost imperceptible nod of his head.
“For...I’m not going to hurt Xander!” Angel growled in exasperation.
“Claimant Xander,” Spike corrected as the cat made an elaborate stretch with his paw displaying all his claws. “And will ya cop a squat! Don’t fancy ya wearin’ a hole in my carpet.”
Xander made a muffled sound as if stifling a giggle from his spot at Spike’s feet.
“What’s taking so long?” Angel snapped as he stomped over to a couch and flopped down. “Thought you said the Pocklas had taken care of him.”
“Flounce much, ya ponce?” Spike said shaking his head while gently rubbing the back of Xander’s neck.
Angel glared at his the younger vampire.
“Oi! The healer demons stitched the hunter up good and proper. Tucked him in and even read him a bedtime story. He’s fine.” Spike glared back.
“Maybe he's taking a long morning du-”
Xander let out a loud cough interrupting Spike. “Master!”
“Oh what, l have ta live with yer human functions but I can’t talk about them?” Spike glanced at Xander.
Xander shook his head. “I know the bleaching process puts a strain on your brain cells, but remember that talk we had about crude language?”
“Pet!” Spike’s popped his mouth open and narrowed his eyes. He leaned forward for a moment then burst out laughing. “Yer tryin’ too hard. I ain’t always gonna punish ya like I did last night.”
“Can’t blame a guy for trying,” Xander winked at Spike.
“Do you two need a moment alone?” Angel groaned.
“How about a decade?” Spike pointed toward the other side of the suite. “There’s the door.”
“And what about Dean?” Angel asked.
Spike shrugged. “You can take him with ya.”
Xander leaned back against the blond vampire’s legs and tilted his head back to stare up at him. “Master, we promised.”
“Don’t remember making it a promise, pet.” Spike leaned down pressing a light kiss to Xander’s lips. “But if it’s what you want.”
Angel stood up and started to pace again. It wasn’t that he feared for Dean’s safety in Vegas, he knew the hunter was under Spike’s protection and no one would dare cross him. It was just that the longer it took for Dean to get to the suite and the longer it took to begin to find answers to why Crowley was after the Winchester brothers.
Worse, the longer it meant he was alone in the company of Spike and Xander. The things he had done to them as Angelus made that nearly impossible. His soul was wracked with guilt, and the demon trapped inside of him was replaying the memories like a private film festival in his brain. Despite the show they are putting on, it can’t be easy for them either.
As Angel made his eleventh pass, heard the hisses again, he glanced at the couple. In his mind he saw Spike using Xander in a cruel pantomime, a show meant to fool and entertain Angelus. He saw Xander, naked and kneeling in front of him, as he taunted the human with stories of how he’d killed his friends. Even more heartbreaking to the elder vampire, he remembered using Spike brutally as punishment for not letting Angelus have Xander. Sadly, it wasn’t the first time Angelus had raped and beaten his one time protege.
I made him what he is! The demon practically glowed with pride. NO! You made him a monster, Spike made himself what he is: a hero. He didn’t have to be cursed to get his soul back, he fought for it, and with it he beat you!
Angel paused and took a moment to relish the demon’s howl of disappointment and rage. While Angel had no part in what Spike had done for himself and the world, he was proud of the other vampire. Better yet, he loved that he could torment Angelus with his Spike's accomplishments.
Lost in his inner turmoil, Angel almost missed the sound of steps approaching the suite door. He looked up just before a knock.
“Enter!” Spike said no doubt catching the same scents Angel had; Lorne and Dean.
The door swung open. Dean stepped inside his hands deceptively at rest by his side, but his eyes swiftly scanned the room taking stock of the occupants, exits, and any potential threats. Lorne followed and Angel pushed back the demon’s memories and his soul’s guilt. The empath demon was not smiling. Something was very wrong.
SPIKE TOOK ONE look at Lorne and was ready to grab Xander, the cat, the DeSoto keys, and make a strategic exit back to the old ghost town in the desert that the resistance had used during The Fall. He and his pet had done their part playing the white hats, taking on the big bads, and nearly losing their lives and souls in the process. Let some other knobber save the world!
Then he felt the slight brush of a hand against his ankle. He looked down at his feet, Xander was staring at him with those big brown eyes. In them shown not only all the courage he associated with his pet, but all the love and trust Spike had some how managed to earn.
The vampire brushed a finger down Xander’s cheek. His Claimaint didn’t have to be at his feet or call Spike, “Master,” not here in their private rooms. Not anymore and especially not in front of Angel! The elder vampire didn’t deserve the respect Xander shown by observing demon rules in front of the sodding bastard. Yet, Spike knew why his human did it. Xander wasn’t showing Angel deference, he was broadcasting loud and clear to the old wanker that Spike had earned what Angelus never could; Xander’s obedience and loyalty.
“At least hear what Lorne has to say, before you start making plans to throw me over your shoulder and lock me away somewhere in an some overly romantic, but totally unnecessary attempt to keep me safe,“ Xander said softly and flashing a crooked smile.
Spike returned the smile. “Ya know me too well, luv.”
“What can I say?” Xander replied ushering Ante, the cat out his lap, and slowly getting to his feet. He perched his butt on the side of Spike’s chair. “I’m an expert when it comes to bad boy blond vampires who run demon cities.”
“Right? So am I here to see Spike the Master of Las Vegas or did I just wander into some sort of reboot of Dark Shadows, cuz this shit could not get any more like a bad soap opera.”
“Oi! It ain’t too late to throw you in the arenas for a few bouts! Could make some decent dosh and have some fun watchin’ demons punch that mouth of yers shut for a spell.” Spike growled at the hunter standing just inside the doorway.
The hunter smiled, it was slow, easy, and deceptive. It was meant to charm, but it was all predatory and full of promise the human could back up. “They could try.”
“Spike,” Angel said stepping quickly in between the two. “Not helping. Remember, that’s what we came here for? Your help?”
“Lookin’ at Lorne, not sure I want to give it anymore,” Spike grumbled casting a glance at his floor manager who was making his way over to Spike bar.
“Oh trust me, lemon drop, you are gonna wanna help because I don’t think there’s anyplace you can hide from this,” Lorne said pulling out a bottle of cranberry juice.
“Lemon drop?” Angel and Dean said at the same time.
Spike glared at them.
“Lorne?” Xander asked., “What’s going on buddy?”
Lorne pulled out a bottle of vodka and a tumbler. “I don’t have details but it’s big, like cosmically big, like...Powers That Be big.”
“Right, grab the cat and I’ll bring the car round back,” Spike said to Xander as he stood up and started patting his coat down looking for his keys.
“Spike-” Xander began to protest.
The blond vampire turned and looked at Xander. “Did you hear him, pet? Powers That Be! Do you even know what that means?”
“I don’t,” the hunter interrupted before Xander could answer.
Angel turned toward Dean. “It means...well forces that wield more than just magic. They’re-”
“Powers That Be,” Spike growled. “Things that can grant visions of the future. Hell, they can make the future. If there’s a counterbalance to hell, then they’re it.”
“You mean like...heaven?” Dean asked
Lorne plunked a few ice cubes into his glass and poured two fingers worth of vodka. “You tell us, crumbles, you’re the one bound to one.”
“What?” the hunter and both vampires yelled in unison.
Lorne added a splash of cranberry to his drink. “And that’s only part of the story.”
“Wait, whoa!” Dean said holding up his hand. “What do you mean I’m bound to something? And how the hell do you think you know this?”
“You’re tied to something. Like a bond. It’s a strong one, and you don’t have to be an empath demon like me to feel it. Though it does help,” Lorne said taking a sip out of his glass and swallowing. “It’s like a pulse and I’m reading that...well there’s something more behind it. Some...plan.”
Angel looked at Dean and back at Lorne. “What kind of plan?”
“Oh, the usual, end of the world...apocalyptic kind of plan,” Lorne said before downing the rest of his drink.
“You got all of that from a song?” Dean scoffed.
Spike stalked over toward Dean. Hunter boy was wearing out his welcome. “Lorne’s never wrong with his readings, now start talking.”
“About what?” Dean asked taking a step back, his hands curling lightly into fists.
Angel put his hand out toward Spike’s chest, but not touching the other vampire. “Let him explain”
Dean shook his head. “I don’t know what Kermit over there is talking about.”
“Don’t you?” Angel asked.
“No I do-” Dean started to say when Lorne slammed his empty glass down on the counter.
“Roll up your sleeve and show them, crumbles.” Lorne pointed at Dean’s shoulder.
Spike looked back at Lorne. If the vampire was anxious before, he was positively ready to crawl out of skin now. He was the one with low impulse control, not Lorne.
“Dean?” Xander said softly from behind Spike.
When had his pet moved?
The hunter glanced around. He was flanked by two vampires and one human. He narrowed his eyes and swore under his breath as he started tugging at his sleeve.
Spike put out a hand behind him, pushing Xander back as he watched Dean roll up his sleeve. He wasn’t sure if the hunter was going to sprout a tentacle, burst into flames, or even just turn a lovely shade lavender, but whatever was going to happen he didn’t want Xander to have front row seats for the show.
“There isn’t anything here but a scar. We gonna start comparing ‘em?” Dean asked as he gave a final jerk to his sleeve and revealing raised pink fleshy tissue in the shape of a handprint on his shoulder.
Immediately the demon inside of Spike began to twist and squirm. It wasn’t as if it were in pain as much as if it were near something unpleasant. It was like some sort of supernatural itch or allergic reaction.
“Fuck!” the hunter yelled throwing up his fists and backing towards the door.
“Spike! No need for fang face!” Xander cried slipping in front of the vampire and between Dean. “Angel!”
Spike looked at Xander then glanced at his grandsire. Angel’s fangs were out, his eyes were beastly yellow, and his forehead ridged. As Spike studied Angel only then did he realize he too was in his vampire visage.
“What is that?” Spike asked looking at Dean.
Dean shook his head. “What? No, I ain’t answering any questions while you two are going Lost Boys on me.”
“It’s ok,” Angel said taking a couple of steps back away from the hunter. He gave a couple of shakes of his head, and his face changed back to looking human.
Spike’s demon was still twitchy, but he’d be damned all over again if he let it look like Angel had more self-control. The younger vampire also took a few steps back, then focused on shifting his facial features.
“Dean,” Xander said softly turning to face the hunter. “What...where did you get that?”
Once again the hunter cast eyes around the room. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I honestly don’t know.”
Spike looked at Lorne. The green demon held out his hand palm down and rocked it side to side. Yeah, hunter boy might not know how, but he ain’t tellin’ everything he knows.
“You have to have some idea,” Xander said. “I mean you didn’t just wake up one day with it.”
Dean laughed. It was more of a croaking sound, and it certainly didn’t seem he was amused. “Actually, that’s exactly what I did.”
“What happened before you woke up?” Angel asked. “Where were you?”
“No!” the hunter barked out swiftly. “Look, this whole topic is irrelevant. All I want to do is find my brother Sam. Are you going to help me or not? Cuz, if not, I’m outta here.”
Lorne fished for something out of the refrigerator under the bar. “Crumbles, this is us helping you find your brother. It’s all tied together.”
“How?” Dean asked watching as Lorne began to line up beer bottle on the counter.
The green demon shrugged. “I..we don’t know yet. Not until you start giving us some answers.”
“So quit playing like it’s a first date and talk,” Spike said. “Where were ya when someone slapped you on the shoulder and marked you their’s so hard it makes my fangs twitch?”