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Medyria

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It was a quarter past nine when Giles heard an insistent knock at his door. He’d expected Xander, the repetitive knocking more his behaviour, maybe even a neighbour or god forbid, someone from that ridiculous Initiative. Instead, he came face-to-face with a rather drowned-looking Spike.

“Spike.” He raised his eyebrows, taking him in. Despite looking soaked to the skin, he seemed perfectly normal otherwise, other than the fact that he also looked relatively haunted, “Is there – ?” He wasn’t sure what he wanted to ask but he was cut off anyway.

“Can I come in?”

He paused, frowning, “Well if you must,” He said. He already had an invitation and had no need to ask, but even with this grudging welcome, he didn’t move. Rolling his eyes, Giles turned from him and stepped back into the warmth of his living room. “If you’re after food, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. I’ve not had a chance to shop.”

Spike walked in and shut the door after him, hugging himself, “I don’t need food.” He said, staying by the doorway until eventually Giles looked back at him.

“I suppose you want to hide from the Initiative then,” He concluded, “Though I must warn you, Riley often – ”

“Do you have a towel?” Spike interrupted him and it was then that Giles saw how much he was dripping. He was thankful then that he hadn’t come any further in and spoiled the carpet.

“Yes. Here.” He opened the cupboard beside the kitchen and tossed one over, watching as Spike toed his boots off and started to pat himself dry, “I doubt you’re likely to get a cold but you’d probably be best wearing something else.”

“Haven’t got anything else.” Spike muttered, taking his jacket off and hanging it on one of the pegs.

Giles sighed, leaving him downstairs for a moment and getting whatever old thing he could find. It wasn’t his but he’d washed it, which made it either Buffy or Xander’s, though considering its length and size, it was probably the latter’s.

“Here.” He put the jumper and pants on the sofa, heading to the kitchen to give Spike the privacy to change and to pour himself a glass of water to mask that. Spike joined him in the kitchen a moment later, the jumper making him look paler than he was with its dark wool, and his hair was loose and still slightly damp.

“Do you want a cuppa tea?” He asked, his voice raspy, and Giles almost dropped his glass in shock, hiding it in a pause.

“I – yes. Alright. No sugar.”

“Yeah.” Spike stepped around him and put the kettle to boil, getting out two mugs and popping tea-bags into them. His time living here had obviously taught him the layout.

As he bent to get the milk out of the fridge, Giles asked, “Are you going to explain why you’re here Spike? And why you’re soaking wet on one of the driest nights this summer?”

“Fell in a river.” Spike told him, watching the kettle begin to shake once it reached the boiling point.

“And you came here and not home?”

“Crypt’s too cold.”

“Right.” Despite knowing it would take far more than a simple chill to harm a vampire, he supposed Spike had simply not wanted to be uncomfortable. His crypt didn’t have heating or a warm bed and he was likely still in the middle of ‘redecorating’, as he’d put it. “Well – ”

“Oh. Wait.” Spike cut him off once again, “Almost forgot.” He left the kitchen and returned a minute later with a plastic bag. Inside was a wad of cash. “Here.” He handed it over and poured water into the mugs to avoid his gaze.

Giles took it, slightly dazed. He cleared his throat, “Unlike you Spike, I’m not in the habit of asking for payment for doing a simple favour.” He sniped, though he was glad for the money if he was honest.

Spike just shrugged, squeezing the tea-bags and dropping them into the waste-bin, putting Giles’ mug in front of him on the counter and taking his own out to the living room. He sat on the sofa, cupping the mug in his hands.

“Is anyone else here?” He asked.

“No. Though, Buffy is due to come by first thing in the morning.”

“Right.” He sipped at his tea, staring forward at the wall, “Slayer-stuff.” Giles looked at him, startled when he suddenly turned to stare at him instead, “Can I borrow your phone?”

Giles gestured toward it with a wave, sipping at his own tea and returning to his desk and the book that he’d been reading before Spike’s arrival.

“Cheers.” Spike stood and a second later, Giles heard his receiver droning at being removed from the handset. Spike dialled whatever number he was after and then there was silence for a long, few moments. Then the receiver was placed back.

“No one home?” Giles called and Spike returned, coming around to look down at his book.

“What are you looking at?” He asked, avoiding the question. Giles shifted, showing him the rest of the book.

“Buffy came across this demon a few days ago. It had killed a young child and eaten her organs. Left her with nothing but skin and hair.” He frowned in distaste at the reminder, “This morning she found another body and now we are trying to find this creature before it attacks again.”

Spike nodded and here was usually the point where he would lose interest, make a joke, or simply ‘root for the demon’. Instead however, he pulled the second chair around and sat down, looking over the pages.

“Sounds like a P’yshma.” He said.

“Yes,” Giles ignored his surprise at such odd behaviour, more focused on the demon at the moment, “That’s what I’d found. Though this book is only written in Gryvian which is rather hard to decipher.”

“Well I speak Gryvian.” Spike pulled the book closer and took up a spare pencil, scrawling on the paper Giles had beside him, “Here.”

He began to translate but in all honesty, Giles didn’t trust what he wrote. He pulled the book back and plucked the pencil from Spike’s fingers, “Well I’ve been pottering through just fine ‘til now.” He said, waiting for the huff or insult that would come.

Spike looked at him and leant back in the chair, not saying a word. In fact, he stayed silent all through Giles’ own translating, and when he eventually stood to call Buffy with news. He explained what the book had told him regarding the P’yshma, it’s weaknesses and habits, and then told her to watch herself on patrol tonight.

When he returned to the table however, Spike had taken the book again and was writing on the paper.

“Spike – ” His reprimand was drowned by a heavy knock on the door and Spike shot up, the chair tipping over behind him. His eyes were wide and he rounded the table to head for the stairs, taking them two at a time. Giles blinked at the sudden reaction, bewildered, before opening the door.

As he’d suspected, it was Riley. Along with a few of his soldiers.

“Riley,” He greeted, refusing to seem nervous in front of them, though their weapons were certainly intimidating, “Buffy’s not here, if that’s what you’re after?”

“No,” Riley gave him an apologetic smile, “We’re actually hunting a new demon in the area and we got a cold spot in your house. That usually means Vampire, so.” He shrugged, clearly hinting that he’d like permission to search his house.

“Well vampires need invitations,” Giles reminded him, “And I can assure you I have no intention of inviting one in.”

Riley frowned, aware that Spike could enter if he wanted, but one of his men nudged him, “Sir? Cold spot’s gone.”

“Gone?”

“Just flickered off. Could be the map’s malfunctioning.”

Still frowning, Riley took it, clearly thinking that might be the case, “Or something’s interfering.” He shook the device in his hands, turning back to Giles, “Sorry Giles. We didn’t mean to bother you. But be on the lookout anyway, there’s a nasty demon around. Drained a girl of all her organs.”

“Yes, we’re aware.” Giles told him, shutting the door and waiting until he heard them leave. He went upstairs hesitantly afterward then, sure that Spike would have gone through a window to avoid being noticed and hoped he’d had the decency to open one beforehand.

Instead however, he found Spike sitting on the floor in his guestroom, shivering, with his hair much longer and hanging over his eyes. He was soaked again and his hands were trembling as he put them to his face. When he heard the floor creak, he snapped his head up to see Giles stood there.

His face was different, the features similar and yet changed. His nose was rounder, his lips thinner. His eyes were brown and not blue. And he looked terrified.

“I don’t – ” His voice was rough, close to tears, and despite everything in him that held animosity toward the man, Giles knelt beside him and put a hand on his shoulder, “I don’t know what’s happening to me.”

“When did this first happen?” Giles asked and Spike sniffed, his features changing again like a ripple across his face. His eyelashes grew, his skin darkened, his heaving chest pillowed out.

“Two days ago.” Spike answered, his voice softer, thin with fear and new femininity. He visibly noticed the change and put a hand to his mouth, “I couldn’t reach something and then suddenly I was taller than it. And then those soldier boys came knocking and when I hid, I changed again. And it hurt.”

“Hurt?” Giles frowned.

“Not every time,” Spike cleared his throat, his voice returning to normal, “But – it’s like my bones are shifting.”

Giles stood, leaving to go and get another towel. When he went downstairs he noticed that Spike had folded the used one and placed it on the desk beside the front door. He touched it gingerly and found it sodden, lifting it to put into his washing basket and getting a fresh one out from the cupboard.

Spike took it when it was placed beside him and wrapped his shoulders with it, bowed and still on the floor.

“This sounds like magic,” Giles thought aloud, “Possibly of the vengeance sort.”

“I’ve not seen Anya.” Spike argued.

“Well she couldn’t anyway,” Giles told him, “But it could still be a curse. I might have to get Willow on it.”

“No.” Spike’s forceful tone made him blink, “No I don’t want the Slayer knowing. No one.”

Giles scowled, “Then why come to me, if you didn’t want help?”

“I didn’t think you’d help me,” Spike snapped, “I thought you’d just give me shelter for a while, no questions asked with the soldier boys about, and then kick me out.”

Giles stopped. That did sound like him. “Well I am going to help. For all I know, you are not the only victim to this.” Spike glared at him, “But I suppose Buffy doesn’t need to know just yet. We may just need Willow for this, though her spell-casting is still – ”

Spike bent over, groaning with a hand to his stomach, and his form changed again. This time, it returned to normal. He was panting by the time it was done, his teeth clenched, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll figure it out myself.” He got to his feet shakily, feeling for the door and finding his way out.

Giles followed him, “Is there any particular reason you’re not demanding we help you in this?” He asked, genuinely curious, “Are you to blame for it?”

“No.”

“Then what? I must admit, you’re not acting yourself.” Spike scoffed, getting his jacket.

“I’ll bring you the clothes back tomorrow.” He said and then he was gone. Giles sighed, wondering whether he should call Buffy after all but then deciding against it and going through the internet for possible occurrences of what Spike was experiencing.

He found next to nothing and then remembered Spike had tried to call someone earlier with no luck. He tapped the box next to his phone, grimacing at the fairly new technology that he was still getting to grips with, and let the speaker play.

The first number was Buffy’s that he’d called himself but the second was unrecognisable and he noted it down as it played, dialling it in himself a second later.

The phone rang for a long while but then disconnected. He sighed, keeping the number for future reference.

Come morning, he’d decided that if Spike showed up a second time, still shifting, he’d tell Buffy. At the moment however, their priority was the demon. Apparently Buffy had run into it last night but had been interrupted by Riley and the soldiers, and in the confusion it had escaped.

She was still fuming about that and as an apology, Riley had promised to patrol with her tonight without the rest of his team. She’d accepted and concluded her story by asking if Giles was okay with it.

“Of course,” He said, “I don’t disagree that he is useful. I simply disagree with the Initiative still having it’s base here after Adam and Professor Walsh.”

“Yeah me too,” Buffy sighed, “I mean. I’m happier with Riley in charge but – I still find it wrong after Oz and all. Still, if his guys are willing to work with me and not blocking me, then that’s progress.”

“If you insist,” Giles smiled, throwing her a scarf, “Now blindfold yourself. We’re going to train outside today.”

She immediately made a face, “But it’s so hot out.”

“It’s good to work up a sweat,” Giles reminded her, “Especially if you’ll be hunting the P’yshma in these hot nights.”

She scowled but followed him out nonetheless, blindfolding herself as she went.

They trained most of the morning until eventually Joyce called Buffy to come home and Giles returned to the shade of his own. As he did however, he almost had a heart-attack when he spotted a body lying over his sofa. Upon closer and wary inspection, he saw that it was Spike and felt tempted to thump him.

He didn’t in the end and simply let him sleep, sure that he obviously felt the need to ask for help now. He seemed normal as he slept too, not changed or wet, though he was without his duster and boots. They weren’t by the door and he had no socks on either, curled on the sofa barefoot in jeans and Xander’s jumper.

He barely stirred as Giles worked as well, completely out of it, until evening started to come around. Then he yawned, sitting up and wiping at his eyes. He saw Giles sitting at the table and paused, climbing to his feet and very badly, attempting to tip-toe past.

“I expect an apology for scaring me half-to-death,” Giles commented as he did, stopping him in his tracks, “And for using my sofa without permission.”

“Yesterday you were all up for being helpful.” Spike said, for once void of sarcasm.

“That was yesterday,” Giles reminded him, “You shot me down on that and yet here you are again.” For a long moment, Spike didn’t say anything, and Giles was suddenly sure that he’d gone. He turned in his seat to check and saw him standing with his head low and his chest heaving.

He didn’t need to breathe and yet he obviously had a habit of it, possibly by trying to fit in with humans or perhaps something he’d just never stopped doing. Now, he looked close to hyperventilating if he could.

“Spike?” Giles stood, wary that it was an act but concerned as well, “Is it happening again?”

Spike shook his head, looking up, “Don’t kick me out.” He said, “They’re everywhere out there.”

“Who is?”

“Those bloody soldiers,” He hugged himself protectively, “I don’t have anywhere else to go.”

Giles sighed, taking his glasses off to wipe them, “Which is precisely why I told you to move on from Sunnydale,” He said, “It isn’t safe for you here.”

“I can’t.” Spike hunched his shoulders.

“Oh yes. You still expect the Initiative to ‘undo’ what they did to you.”

“No,” Spike winced, “They’d never. I know that now. But I just – I can’t leave. It hurts.”

Giles paused, “What do you mean? You’ve tried to leave?”

“It felt like I was burning,” He explained, “I’d step on the border, by the sign, and everything would hurt. I tried to force it but I probably would have dusted if I’d gone on any longer.”

Looking him at for a while Giles narrowed his eyes, putting a hand to Spike’s shoulder and leading him to the sofa.

“If you want me to help, which you clearly do, I need to know everything. The whole story.”

“I’ve told yo – ”

“Spike.”

After a moment, Spike looked like he wanted to storm out again or even just sit and glare, but he sat back instead and chewed on the inside of his cheeks.

“When I was captured by those gits,” He started, “They had this project. The behaviour-thing, with the chip, you know it. And they’d try to ‘train’ us. Like dogs.” He grit his teeth, “Some of them had more fun with it. Those ones found me the other day in my crypt. They shot me with something and all night, they kept finding me. I realised they’d put something in me and I – I cut it out but then I started changing.”

“After you took the device out?”

“Yeah. It was small, red. Flashing. I stomped on it and they lost my trail but a couple of minutes later I hurt all over and my body changed. I felt hot and they walked right by me with those scanner things. They couldn’t see me.” He sniffed, “It kept happening then, all day, and they came back to the crypt to look for me so I came here. There. Whole story.”

“Not quite,” Giles countered, “Who did you try to call?”

“No one.” Spike rolled his eyes, “Wrong number.”

“Spike.”

No one, okay. I wanted to see if the butcher’s was open but I dialled wrong and then remembered they were closed anyway.” It wasn’t one of his better lies but Giles let it be.

“So. You’re saying this whole issue started happening after the Initiative shot you?” Spike nodded, looking uncomfortable, “Well then I think you know what to do next.”

“Yeah,” He curled in on himself, bitter, “Tell Buffy.”

.

“Okay I’m sorry, but did you say he grew boobs the other day?” Spike lifted his head up to glare at Xander, huddled in a blanket. He’d changed before they’d all arrived again and had ended up soaked. They couldn’t see the connection but in the meantime, a blanket kept him warm.

“Yes,” Giles said, exasperated, “I said his body shifted from male to female for just a moment.”

“And … why is this our problem?” Buffy asked, not for the first time, “So Spike is going through some changes, it happens to everyone, he’ll get used to it.” Xander snorted at her phrasing.

“It’s our problem,” Giles told her, “Because I believe the Initiative may be behind it. The same Initiative you are working with at the moment.”

“Patrolling with,” She corrected, “And that’s just Riley, who wouldn’t just go after any – ”

“Wasn’t him.” Spike cut her off. “They hid it, said not to ‘tell Finn’.”

Taken aback by his admission, Buffy blinked, “Who said?”

“I don’t know names.” He frowned, thinking, “But there’s three of them. Seen them in a group before, though. One’s got a shaved head and – has a burn on his shoulder.”

“His shoulder?” Buffy asked, raising an eyebrow.

“How’d you see his shoulder through all that gear they wear?” Xander added and Spike gave him a long look.

“I smelt it.” He said eventually.

“Okay.” Buffy sighed, turning to Giles, “I’ll talk to Fin – Riley about this tonight. Willow, you stay and see if you can work out why this is happening and how. Xander, check out Spike’s crypt, see if anything’s been left behind that could give us a hint and Giles – uh.” She glanced at Spike, “Keep an eye on him.”

With the final decision made, the group disbanded. Willow stayed only a little longer to browse spell-books and so forth to see if they could find a culprit for the shapeshifting but after a few hours it was clearly a dead-end and Giles sent her to her dorm before dark.

Spike had been pacing all the while, the blanket still wrapped around him and trailing over the floor, but now that they were alone he stopped and shivered on the sofa. Feeling a little sorry for him, Giles made some hot cocoa for them both, giving Spike his mug when he poked his hands out through the blanket to grab it.

“So,” Giles sat back at his desk, “Are you ready to tell the truth now?”

Spike peeked at him through the hood the blanket had made around his head, “I have.” He argued. “Those bastards did something to me.”

“Yes,” Giles sipped his cocoa, “And yet yesterday, you told me you’d changed before they’d come storming into your crypt.” Whilst the ‘scoobies’ had been here, he’d given it some thought, and he’d remembered the contradictions in Spike’s story. “Not to mention the fact that I tried the number you called yesterday and got through.”

At that, Spike twisted around to face him head-on, buying his bluff, “He answered?” He asked, looking hurt for just a moment before scoffing, “Bloody typical.”

Still not entirely sure who they were talking about, Giles tried again, “What made you think he’d know what caused this?” He asked and Spike shrugged.

“Didn’t think he would,” He said, “But he’s still my Sire, whether he likes it or not. Thought he’d at least give some advice.”

His Sire. He’d tried to call Angel?

“A lot has happened to you these last few weeks Spike,” Giles reminded him, “Why now would you call Angel?”

“Because.” Spike snapped and just like that, that line of questioning was cut.

“Alright,” Giles stood slowly, walking around to sit on one of the armchairs, facing Spike, “Why lie then?”

“Hello,” Spike gestured to himself, wincing when he spilled a bit of cocoa on his palm, sucking on it, “Evil.” He said around his hand.

“Yes, yes, you’re evil.” Giles rolled his eyes, “But this is affecting you and we need the information to help you. So why lie about it?”

“I didn’t lie.” Spike huffed, “Those Soldiers must have done it.”

“You said they shot you after you’d first changed. You were trying to reach something and then were suddenly taller?”

“They did.”

“So how could they have – ?” He cut himself off, frowning, “You saw them before that, didn’t you.”

Spike hunched his shoulders, “Told you. Some of them have fun with this all. I can’t defend myself, can I. And you humans love a creature that can’t defend itself.”

Ignoring his offence at that unfortunately rather true statement, Giles leant back with a sigh, “And did they inject anything? Did you feel anything during their – well. Their altercation with you?”

“I was more focused on not blacking out.” Spike told him, “Taser can do that to you. So no.”

Uncomfortable, Giles nodded, “Yes, well. I’ll mention it to Buffy.”

“No.” Spike glared at him, “There was a reason I didn’t mention it to Blondie in the first place. I don’t want anyone knowing.”

“Spike, it’s hardly a slight on you. We’re aware you can’t defend yourself, what these men did is – ”

“I don’t care what you think, Watcher. I don’t. Want. Anyone. Knowing.” He glowered into the mug, downing the rest of the cocoa and burrowing himself back into the blanket. He clearly meant that to end the conversation but Giles was running out of patience and he didn’t particularly have any for Spike as it was.

Standing, he snatched the blanket and threw it aside. Spike jerked when he was pushed forward and unceremoniously wrapped, “Hey!”

“Speak.” Giles ordered him, “Now. You called Angel about this, you know more than you’re letting on, and I will not waste any more of our time unless you start cooperating. I am trying to help you, Spike, for some inane reason. Don’t make me change my mind.”

Staring at him, Spike sat back slowly, chewing on his bottom lip. Whether he was going to answer wasn’t obvious but the door burst open before he could anyway and the both of them glanced up to see just who they’d been speaking about stood in the doorway.

“Well look at that,” Spike drawled, “Speak of the devil.”

It didn’t take long for Giles to fill Angel in on what was happening and likewise for Angel to say he’d only come down because of the missed calls he’d had from Giles’ phone. Not to mention the voice-message that was only a second of someone’s breath but had been enough for him to know that Spike was here and that he needed to make sure no one was in trouble.

Now that he knew it was Spike in trouble, he seemed less interested, and that wasn’t missed by his Childe.

“So you’ve been changing?” He asked and Spike shrugged, the very picture of a bratty teen, “Show me.”

“I can’t do it on demand.” Spike scoffed, “Don’t even know what triggers it.”

“He doesn’t seem to change entirely either,” Giles said, “More features at a time and not a whole body.”

“Has he changed into things you recognise? People you know?”

“Not that I’ve seen. Though it is difficult to know if he has someone’s nose or lips if I’ve not studied them for hours before.”

Angel paused at his sarcasm but didn’t rise to it, instead kneeling until he was at eye-level with Spike, “Been dabbling with magic, Spike?” He asked. All he got was a dark look, “So these same men who put a chip in your head decided they didn’t like how you looked too? I mean, the chip I understand, but the shapeshifting? Unless they wanted to train you to infiltrate groups of vampires, I don’t see – ”

“No one’s training me to do anything,” Spike growled, “I escaped that hole and they came for me afterwards but didn’t take me back. And they could have too.”

“What do you mean?”

“They beat him,” Giles told him and Angel looked taken-aback, frowning.

“Yeah,” Spike fiddled with the sleeves of his jumper, “They could have easily just dragged me back. But they didn’t.”

Angel nodded slowly, thinking, “Which probably means they got exactly what they wanted.” Without warning, he suddenly darted forward and pushed Spike’s sleeve up, grabbing his left arm. Spike lurched back, trying to tug it free.

“Oi! Get off!”

“You’ve been itching this non-stop since I got here,” Angel commented and his grip loosened when he saw why. There were dark cuts on Spike’s arm, healing now which explained the itching, but beneath them was a slightly older mark that seemed thinner and more deliberate.

Spike succeeded in getting his arm back and yanked the sleeve down, looking furious, “Don’t touch me, you – ”

“What did that say?” Angel interrupted, “That said something, before you tried to scratch it out.”

“He did that to himself?” Giles said aloud, the marks fresh in his mind.

“Covering whatever was under it, yeah,” Angel explained, still looking Spike dead in the eye,” What was it Spike?” He didn’t get an answer and after five minutes of staring, he stepped back, “Fine. Be stubborn. But whatever they marked on you could be what’s causing this.”

“Yeah stop with the all-knowing attitude,” Spike muttered, “It’s not a spell or a curse. It’s just a word, okay. It’s got nothing to do with what’s happening.”

“Then tell me what it says.”

“No, it’s not any of your business,” Spike snapped, pushing himself off of the sofa and shoving Angel back.

You called me.” Angel reminded him, gripping his shoulders and forcing him back down. Spike fought against his hold and Giles stepped back, unsure of whether he should stop them or stay clear in case it came to blows.

“Because you Sired Drusilla, that’s – !” Spike cut himself off, grunting and still fighting and when Angel paused in surprise, he turned his head and bit one of the hands holding him down.

Ow, you – !” Angel knocked Spike on the head for that and pushed him back, “Idiot.” He hissed, shaking his hand out. There were twin pricks of blood on it from Spike’s teeth. “What does Drusilla have to with – ?” He stopped, looking down at Spike, and Giles noticed just as he did.

Spike had slumped, his eyes shut, and his features had changed again. This time, the change had taken a larger toll on him, though he wasn’t soaked from it. His hair was black now, curled and fluffy over his forehead, and his shoulders were thinner.

As they watched, his skin secreted a clear liquid. Cursing, Giles ran for a towel and Angel lifted Spike to lie him on it, staring down at him in shock.

“Hair. … shoulders and skin,” He commented.

“Skin?” Giles asked, squinting down to see whatever change Angel had noticed.

“Spike doesn’t have any blemishes.” Angel told him, pointing at a few that had appeared around his nose. “But demons that shapeshift don’t change in bits. And if they do, it’s always just the hair, eyes or nose.”

“He mentioned Drusilla,” Giles reminded him, “Did she ever – ?”

“No.” Angel shook his head, sitting down beside Spike’s legs and putting a hand on one of them, “No. Drusilla – her only additional power was her readings. But she had that before I Sired her. It was one of the reasons I did Sire her.”

“After you made her insane.” Giles recalled and Angel stiffened. “Did Spike go through something similar?”

“No.” Angel sighed, “William was Sired in an alley. Drusilla liked him, I turned him, she played with him. He was just a poet, there wasn’t anything special about him.”

“That you knew of.”

Angel looked at him, “What? Spike has a secondary power as well?” He didn’t sound convinced.

“It’s not common,” Giles admitted, “But clearly it happens. I’ve read reports of vampires with sixth senses, some more attuned to magic than others. Shapeshifting may be another.”

“Yes but most of those vampires showed signs of that when human,” Angel argued.

“Well you just told me Spike was turned in an alley,” Giles said, “Clearly you didn’t spend nearly enough time around him than you did with Drusilla. Perhaps he did show signs and you never saw.”

Angel looked down at Spike, his hand still on his leg, “He never mentioned anything.” He said slowly but in his voice, there was a clear doubt that Spike would have. Victorian as he had been, any abnormalities would have been frowned upon. He would have kept it secret and by the time he’d have known that it wasn’t anything to be shamed of, he and Angel likely would have been estranged.

Still. It begged the question that if Spike could shapeshift, why wait until now to use it? He could have easily have tricked Buffy with this months ago and if he’d been doing so for over a hundred years, surely he’d have better control over it.

“Drusilla.” Giles started, “Her readings. Were they potent when she was human?”

“They became much stronger when she turned, if that’s what you’re asking,” Angel said.

“And is that the case for other secondary powered vampires?”

“I don’t know. I’d say so but – Darla’s Sire, the Master. He was particularly interested in Drusilla at first. Tried to take her from me.”

“Her power may have been rare, then,” Giles went to his library, searching for one of the Council Books that he still had for more information but he wasn’t sure where to start. As he looked, Angel stood to join him.

“I can save you the time and tell you that yes, trauma tends to make vampires stronger,” He said and Giles paused. Truthfully, that hadn’t been in his mind, “My torture on Drusilla is what drove her insane but it’s also what let her see so much. Before, when she was human, she could only read through cards and occasional dreams. As a vampire, she felt power where there was and she saw through everything all the time.”

Giles turned to face him, “Trauma.” He repeated.

“Yeah.” Angel sighed, “It’s why Sires are cruel to their Childer for cruelty’s sake, most of the time. It teaches them strength.”

“But you believe trauma may also awaken secondary powers?”

“No, I never thought that,” Angel admitted, “But Spike clearly did and that’s put the thought in my head. Especially if it means he had this power but couldn’t use it until now.”

“Until he experienced something traumatic.” Giles looked over his shoulder at said vampire, seeing that he was still out cold on the sofa, “But that would mean he’d have to have been through something particularly horrible, recently, in order to trigger – ”

Angel pushed past him and grabbed his coat, shrugging it on, “Let me know when he wakes up.” He said, heading for the door.

Giles blinked, startled, “And where are you going?”

“To find Buffy. And see if she’s up to asking her boyfriend some questions for me.” He slammed the door on his way out and Giles walked around to check that it was still intact, throwing the book in his hands down in frustration. He could have easily have just asked Buffy to come to his house but he supposed Angel still enjoyed theatrics.

“Ang’l?” He turned at the sound of Spike’s voice and saw him sitting up slowly, wincing. His features were normal again but he looked completely confused and exhausted, “Where’d – ?”

Too late, Giles remembered that Spike had said he hadn’t wanted anyone to know about the soldiers and how they’d beaten him, but he could hardly run after Angel now.

“He’s gone to talk to Buffy.” He said and Spike blinked himself aware and tried to scramble up.

“No – shit – ” He tripped over his own feet and fell to the floor with a loud thud. Giles winced at the sound, coming around to help him up but Spike slapped his hand away, “I told you I didn’t want – ” He grit his teeth, holding his stomach as he screwed his eyes shut from pain.

“He ran out before I could stop him.” Spike scoffed but with a hand still on his stomach, he accepted Giles’ help in getting to his feet.

“Stupid ponce. Can’t keep his nose out can he.”

“You did call him.” Giles reminded him.

“Never said I wasn’t stupid,” Spike muttered, sitting back on the sofa and grimacing when he realised his clothes were wet once again, “God. Why’s this happening to me?”

“Angel has a theory you may have a secondary power,” Giles let him know and Spike squinted up at him, “One you may not have been aware of.”

“Like Dru.” He said, nodding, “I thought – but I wasn’t sure.”

“So you rang Angel to ask. And then changed your mind, which led him straight to my house.” He let his annoyance bleed into his tone and Spike stiffened.

“Well I was upset when I rung, wasn’t I!” He defended himself, only to visibly see that he’d revealed something more and jerk his head aside, glaring at the wall. “Doesn’t matter anyway. Secondary power only happens if you had it when you were human too. And I didn’t shapeshift back in the 1800s.”

“Are you sure?”

“Think I would have noticed that, Rupert,” He sneered, “And so would have other people. I’d’ve been locked in an Asylum at best. Or maybe even accused of witchcraft, I don’t know. But no one would have kept quiet about it. I wasn’t exactly popular.”

“Well nothing changes much does it,” Giles quipped and Spike made a face at him. “Well it was only a theory anyway. And Angel seemed sure that it would have been awoken by trauma, the same as Drusilla’s had been.”

“Drusilla’d had hers even before Angelus had haunted her,” Spike argued, “Trauma didn’t have a thing to do with it. And what would I have gone through for it to happen to me? I’m already Sired.”

“You tell me.” Giles said, his voice low. Spike paused, looking at him, “What could have happened for it to happen to you?”

Spike smiled, the gesture cold and angry, “You know, I do actually remember something. While those pricks were beating me, they broke my favourite Record. I honestly didn’t think I’d survive the heartbreak. That must be it. Problem solved, I’ll be seeing you.” He pushed himself to his feet only to wobble and stop, blinking in surprise at his sudden weakness.

“Perhaps you could storm out tomorrow.” Giles suggested, “My spare room is available if you want to rest.”

Spike gave him a cool look but took the offer, wincing when he walked but determined to anyway. He went upstairs and a moment later, Giles heard one of the bedroom doors shut. He shook his head, both annoyed and concerned.

On one hand, Spike was being purposefully difficult and they didn’t exactly owe him anything. On the other, something had clearly happened to him and he was either ashamed or frightened of telling them.

He poured himself a scotch, mulling it over, before deciding to do a little more research. He pulled free the book he’d used when Spike had first arrived in Sunnydale. The information was vague at best, mostly from survivors, of which there were few. The two Slayers Spike had killed were named, along with the first victims that had been put to his name when he’d first turned.

Considering his long history and his on-and-off relationship with Angelus, there didn’t seem much that could traumatise him and he found his concern depleting bit-by-bit as he read on. Spike was a monster and if he was struggling, maybe they shouldn’t help him.

It wasn’t as though he had a soul.

Belatedly he remembered he’d asked Spike to join them not long ago and wondered now what he’d been thinking. With the chip out of the picture, Spike would certainly return to his killing-ways, and no amount of group-work and so on would stop that.

He shut the book and sighed, taking his glasses off to pinch the bridge of his nose.

“Changed your mind, have you.”

He almost jumped but didn’t, clearing his throat and looking at Spike with a frown, “I’m sorry?”

“About helping me.” He nodded at the book, “Wouldn’t blame you.”

The beaten puppy look would not work on him. He sighed, “As intriguing as your emotional manipulation is Spike, I’m tired and going to bed.”

“It’s not manipulation,” Spike imitated his tone, folded his arms across his chest, “I just want to know when you’ll be kicking me out.”

“Now. If you keep talking,” Giles snapped, walking past him to head for the stairs. Spike didn’t stop him nor speak up again, and for some reason that was more infuriating than him making a comment. Of all the things he’d read about him doing, for him to act docile felt insulting to his victims.

He whirled back around, “Perhaps I should.” He said and Spike looked at him, “After all, it’s the least you deserve.”

“Probably,” He was shrugged at, which only made him angrier, “But then you’d be the guy sending out a harmless and vulnerable creature with no way to protect itself. At least from humans, anyway.”

“Harmless,” Giles repeated, “There are many words for you Spike, but harmless is not one of them. I find it funny how you accept morality only when you can take advantage of it.”

“Taking advantage is what’s gotten me living ‘til this age.” Spike bit back, “You don’t survive if you’ve got a moral compass, you get taken advantage of instead.”

“Even if that were the case, you don’t have a compass of any sort anyway, so it’s not much of an excuse,” Giles reminded him, darkly, “You don’t have a soul Spike. You are a monster made for killing and pain and the only reason, the singular reason, I am helping you is because I do have a conscience. And if the Initiative is making a habit of doing this, then it’s my duty to help stop it.”

Spike just looked at him, his face blank.

“And when this is over, you will leave us all alone.”

“Until you next want me to help, right.” Spike snapped, “Kick me when I’m down but when you need muscle – ”

“Oh don’t flatter yourself,” Giles rolled his eyes, turning to leave him behind and go to bed, “We’ve managed fine without you before.”

He went up the stairs, Spike quiet once again, but when he turned to look back at him he saw that he was back at his desk and making notes like he had yesterday and not glaring up at him like he’d expected.

He frowned but let it go, needing sleep and peace of mind and not in the mood to argue more. He doubted Spike would destroy his books, not if he didn’t want to be kicked out so soon.

By morning, he found that he was right as he came downstairs to see that Spike was asleep over the desk, all the books unharmed and open. He was curious about what he’d been reading but the sun was almost on him from where he sat and Giles had to nudge him awake to avoid anything catching fire.

“Get to a bed,” He ordered, going to make himself some breakfast. Spike grabbed the papers that he’d been working on and did as told, slumping up at the stairs and yawning. His lack of bite at being woken so rudely was unnerving and Giles paused as he watched him go, frowning.

His current behaviour was getting odder and odder but he didn’t have a chance to think on it as he’d barely finished his cereal when the doorbell rang and Buffy and Riley stepped in on their own accord.

“Morning Giles,” Riley greeted him, almost warily, and he glanced around quite obviously in search of Spike.

“He’s probably upstairs,” Buffy let him know, her jaw stiff and clenched with anger. A moment later, Angel barrelled in with his jacket covering his head, smoking slightly though that stopped once he shrugged the leather off and threw it aside.

“Did you really think sunlight was going to stop me?” He snapped and Buffy rolled her eyes.

“Of course not. I knew you’d come,” She walked a little further in, standing by the stairs and looking up at them as though she could see through the floors at Spike, “I just thought I’d at least get a head-start.” She turned to Giles then, frowning, “Why didn’t you say Spike had been attacked?”

Ah. He paused, a little taken-aback, “Well, I didn’t know. Not at first.” He said, honestly, “And then he asked me not to tell you. Though I don’t know if that’s because he was ashamed at being taken advantage of or – some other reason.”

“Well, whichever it is, if it’s true then it’s shitty.”

“It’s not true,” Riley spoke up now, making it clear that this was an on-going argument, “I’m telling you Buffy, if any of my guys found a Hostile, they’d bag it and take it to the labs. Not beat it up and – ”

“I’m getting tired of Spike and I being referred to as ‘it’,” Angel cut him off and Riley turned to face him, glaring.

“What would you call yourselves?”

“He.” Angel said, stepping forward, “Them. Angel. Spike. Our names.”

“Angel – ” Buffy started but then changed her mind and sighed, leaning against the counter, “Okay. Semantics and decency aside, isn’t it possible some of your guys could do this? I mean, none of you were particularly nice to Oz when he was a captive.”

“That was different,” Riley ran a hand through his hair, frustrated, “They were under orders to do that. And I would never order that now, not when I’m in charge. We only attack those that attack first. None of my guys would run around doing this, Buffy. I know they wouldn’t.”

“Unless you’ve got some rogue soldiers,” Angel suggested, “Some that want to release pent-up energy. Ones that want a punching bag no one’ll feel sorry for.”

“Look, you accusing my guys isn’t getting me happier that you’re here.”

“I’ll be here if I want to,” Angel smiled, “My Childe is the victim here. And I don’t need your approval to be in Sunnydale anyway.”

“Well maybe you should, considering your history as a Hostile.”

“Do you have trouble remembering names? Don’t they train you in that?”

“They train me in fighting. You want me to show you that?”

“Is this macho argument going to go on any longer?” A voice spoke from the stairs, sounding both bored and tired.

Buffy sighed, “Tell me about it,” Before visibly startling and turning to see that it was Spike stood just a few feet away from her. She straightened and the rest of them all turned to look at him as well.

“Spike.” Angel stepped toward him only to pause when he was glared at, frowning defensively, “What?”

“What?” Spike repeated, angrily, “You told them. I didn’t want anyone knowing about this, you git. I knew it would stir things up and I could handle it myself.”

Angel frowned harder, “Spike. Whatever happened to you, it’s awoken this – ”

“Yeah Giles filled me in on your theory.” He came down the next few steps and folded his arms across his chest, “And it’s dumb. I never had any shifting when I was human.”

As though he’d expected that, Angel mimicked his pose, “Well I have a source in LA that told me secondary powers can occur regardless of what was shown as human.” Spike looked at him, “And this is the only theory that makes sense.”

“The only theory so far,” Buffy corrected him, “You told me Drusilla’s power became stronger with her turning because of what you did to her. Spike’s already been Sired.”

“That’s what I said,” Spike let her know and Angel sighed.

“That doesn’t matter. He’d have to have been through something that would wake this up. Emotionally. It doesn’t have to have been being Sired.” He laughed without humour, “Hell, it could even be a broken-heart. Just something significant.”

“Well Drusilla dumped him,” Buffy offered, “But that was weeks ago.” She paused, “He did try to stake himself though.”

Spike gave her a dark look at that, especially when Angel walked toward him again, “You tried to stake yourself?”

“Piss off.” He backed away, walking around to put the sofa between them which put him beside Giles; who had been silent this entire time, listening.

 “Yeah, Xander and Willow caught him,” Buffy continued, “But that was apparently more because of the chip than anything else.”

“Could be just the chip then,” Riley said, “He can’t bite, can’t kill. There’s your trauma.”

“And your men beating him up has nothing to do with it, right?” Angel scoffed.

No one beat him up,” Riley argued back, “He’s just saying that to hide how pissed he is about the chip.”

Spike hugged himself and started to turn, to leave the room, but Giles caught him by the wrist, “Let them run out of steam,” He murmured to him and he was stared at in surprise before that was wiped away.

“I don’t like being talked about like I’m not here.”

“No one does,” Giles said, “But they’ll stop soon. And running away isn’t helping.”

Their brief conversation caught Angel’s attention however, and he snapped his head around to face them, “Spike. Let me talk to you alone.” He said. Spike bristled but shockingly, didn’t shut him down, “Just to get the full picture. I won’t – ”

“I haven’t said no, moron,” Spike cut him off and at that, Angel looked to Giles.

“Oh – um. You can talk in the spare room.” He gestured to the stairs and Buffy stepped aside to let them pass.

Spike led the way and Angel followed but once they were gone, Buffy and Riley continued their argument. Riley pointed out that Spike was a liar and that if he was shapeshifting, they should take him down to the lab and see what they could learn.

Buffy told him that if they took Spike there and he escaped, he’d reign hell on them for it, and that she still didn’t agree with the Initiative’s work either. She agreed with attacking hostile demons but not in keeping them as guinea-pigs and experimenting on them, but Riley reminded her of how much information she’d gotten because of the Initiative’s experiments.

“Besides, if it was some of your guys, the last place Spike needs to be is at the Initiative.”

“Except none of my guys did this.”

“Riley,” Giles interrupted them, “While your loyalty and faith in your men is admirable … do you not think it worth checking anyway? You’ve been wrong before.”

“Fine,” He snapped, still looking down at Buffy, “I’ll do a check of cameras and lockers and question them just to prove none of them did anything wrong.” At that, he whirled around and stormed out.

Buffy watched him go with a frown, sitting on the stool by the kitchen and groaning into her hands, “Spike better not be lying.”

“I don’t think he is,” Giles told her, in a small attempt at comfort, “But it does seem likely that Riley’s unaware of any ‘rogue’ soldiers.”

“Ugh,” She looked up at the reminder of Angel, those being his words, “You could have warned me Angel was here, you know. He walked right in when me and Riley were – talking. Closely.”

Giles grimaced, “He just turned up here as well. And then rushed out. I didn’t really have time to call you.”

“How did he know? Some vampire-bond thing?”

“No. Spike called him.”

She blinked, “What?!”

“Well. He called and then changed his mind but Angel said he knew that it was him anyway and came to check. I suppose he thought that I was in trouble. He hadn’t seem particularly interested when he found out that it was Spike who’d needed him though.”

“Well he changed his mind quick,” Buffy drawled, “Chewed me out for something I didn’t even know.”

Upstairs, they heard the brief sound of someone raising their voice, but it was gone before either of them felt the need to check. Around twenty minutes and a cup of tea later, Spike came back downstairs, shortly followed by Angel. Spike had his hand on Angel’s arm, pulling him back slightly, but he let go when they noticed.

“Well?” Buffy asked, “Feel enlightened? Story make sense?” Angel looked at her and whatever expression he had made her take a step back, her eyes widening, “Angel?”

He turned away, “Where’s Finn?”

“… gone. He’s going to question his guys, see if any of them really did anything.”

“Good.” At that, he pushed past her, grabbed his jacket, and walked out with it over his head. Buffy stared after him but once he was gone she rounded on Spike.

“What the hell did you say to him?” She demanded, looking both furious and panicked, and he glared at her.

“Nothing.” He snapped, only to suddenly recoil and glance down, “Though, you might want to stop him.”

“Why?”

“He’s pissed off.” He shrugged and though that wasn’t enough of an answer, Buffy understood and cursed. She ran for the door too, chasing after what would probably be a smoking-Angel. Unless he’d driven here.

Spike made to head upstairs again but Giles stood in his way, “No, no. I told you, running away isn’t helping.”

“I’m not running,” Spike sniffed, “I didn’t sleep all day or night yesterday and I’m tired.”

“What did you tell Angel?”

He was given a weary look, “What he wanted to know.”

“Which was?” Giles pressed, frowning, and Spike met his gaze.

“… what started this all off.” With that, he stepped aside and went upstairs. Giles let him go, thinking that over. In other words, he’d been honest with Angel about what had happened to him these last few days, and whatever it was had angered the other vampire enough that Buffy may now have to physically stop him from harming someone.

He knew Angel wouldn’t kill anyone, at least not with his soul anyway and not unjustly, but he was probably not above hurting someone in revenge. He wasn’t sure what that would consist of however but around an hour later, he got his answer.

Buffy walked back in, panting, and when she saw Giles watching her expectantly, she made a face, “He found a nest. Killed them all.”

So he’d gone after vampires then, despite the fact that they were very likely not responsible. Still, at least he’d left humans alone.

“Spike tell you what he said?” Giles shook his head and she sighed, “Angel wouldn’t tell me either. But he’s mad. Really mad.”

“Do you think it was wise to leave him alone?”

“He won’t do anything,” She said, sounding sure, “I know he could and I know he wants to. But I also know how he acts when he can’t do something he wants, and I didn’t stop him, so … ”

“Spike asked him not to.” Giles finished for her and she nodded.

“Guess so.” Pushing herself off of the stool, she went for the door herself, “I’m going to go study. If he tells you anything else, or if something happens, give me a call.”

“Of course.” He locked the door after her, not expecting any more guests and hoping that it deterred anyone else who wanted to simply walk in.

The house was silent after that however so he decided to put a Record on, sitting down with a glass of scotch and getting his guitar out. He played a few tunes absently, humming to them, only to remember his house-guest and stop. He’d rather not be mocked if he could help it.

Once he had however, slowly putting the guitar down, he heard something soft and quiet, a sound coming from upstairs. A sound he recognised.

He left his chair and went up toward the spare-room, the sound unmistakable the closer he got. Someone was crying, very quietly, but the door was open which let the sound carry once he reached it. He was careful nonetheless, used to crying being used as a trick so often in the Hellmouth, but when he saw Spike lying on the bed he relaxed a little and let himself worry instead.

Spike was lying on his side, his head covered in his arms, and he curled into a smaller ball when Giles neared him.

“Get out.” He choked, his voice wet with tears, but Giles sat on the bed beside his legs, “I mean it, Giles. Get out.”

Unfortunately for him, Giles refused to listen. His mind worked as he tried to understand all that had happened and what could possibly have made a vampire sob like this.

Spike had arrived at his house, looking haunted despite having apparently been shapeshifting for days before. So it had clearly not been because of that.

He’d been quiet, upset, uncharacteristically withdrawn, and now he’d told Angel the truth which had led to his Sire storming out into broad daylight to kill anything he could find. His Sire that hadn’t particularly cared about this situation until then, which meant that whatever had happened was awful enough to spur on that rage.

He’d not wanted anyone to know about the Soldiers’ attack but he’d obviously been able to swallow his pride to ask them for help when he’d first gotten the chip, so was shame a part of it? Or was he still upset about what had happened?

He said they’d tased him. Beaten him. Had that been all? He frowned as he thought, trying to piece it all together, and in his silence Spike lifted his head to look at him.

His face was pink, the pattern of his jumper imprinted on his cheeks, “… he told you. Didn’t he.” He croaked and though Angel hadn’t, Giles nodded. Spike pressed his lips together, visibly pushing a sob back, “Fuck.”

“Tell me.” Giles offered, his voice low. Spike turned his head away, shaking it, “Why not?”

“Because,” He looked annoyed at himself, “You hate me. And I don’t want to be told I deserved it.”

Still not quite sure what they were talking about, Giles took a leap of faith, “No one deserves it.” He said and Spike scoffed.

“That’s what you say to people with souls.” He said, “I don’t have one. Remember.” Giles glanced down, “It’s ironic though. I never – to anyone. You’d think if the Universe wanted me to feel karma, they’d do something to me that I’d done before.”

“I don’t think the Universe works with irony,” Giles let him know and on some instinct, he put a hand on Spike’s back, “And whatever it is, wouldn’t you feel better saying it? Aloud?”

Spike looked at him, “I can’t.” A fresh tear slid down his face but it barely made it past his nose before it was swiped away, “Look, I just want to be left alone okay.”

“To cry yourself to sleep?” Spike shrugged off his grip at that and he sighed, “I’m sorry. I really am only trying to help you.”

“I never wanted help with this,” He snapped, “I thought no one would ever have to know. I thought – ” He wiped at his face, rolling onto his back and staring up at the ceiling, “I thought Angel wouldn’t have cared so much, when I told him the truth. It isn’t like he’s never raped me before, even if it was as Angelus. I just wanted to know if it caused all this.”

A chill ran through Giles at those words and he froze, looking down at him. Raped?

His heartbeat must have stuttered at that revelation however because Spike snapped his head around to look at him in shock.

They stared at each other and then –

“You didn’t know,” He realised, his eyes wide, “Angel didn’t tell you, you – ” He sat up, pushing himself away, “You – bastard.”

Giles put a hand out to stop him and but it was knocked back. He tried again anyway, avoiding blows and putting his hands on Spike’s shoulders, “Spike, Spike! Yes, I didn’t know, I’m sorry. I had no idea you – ”

“Let go of me, let go you fucking – ”

“I had no idea this was what those men did,” He held on as best he could, knowing that Spike couldn’t successfully dislodge him without hurting him and activating the chip, “I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry,” Spike scoffed, his hands on Giles’ chest as he tried to push him back, “Sorry someone finally decided to teach the vampire a lesson?”

“Spike – ”

“Sorry someone raped a monster?” His face crumpled, with both the memory and with anger, “That they – they said it didn’t count. They – I don’t have a soul so I don’t count as anything. So what they did doesn’t count. I don’t count – ”

Giles pulled him forward, helped by how Spike’s struggles began to slow, “It’s alright.”

“Get fucked, Rupert.” Spike choked into the collar of his shirt, and then he was sobbing. Giles held him as he did, letting him cry as much as he needed, “I couldn’t fight them. The – bleeding chip fired every time.”

He curled a hand into Giles’ shirt, shaking, and in this moment he wasn’t a vampire and he wasn’t 100+ years old. He was just a young man in Giles’ arms, crying in pain, and that was what he told himself as he let Spike sob himself to exhaustion.

He’d been raped, then. No wonder Angel had been furious. No wonder he’d stormed out wanting to kill something, anything, because he couldn’t kill the men responsible. It explained the trauma they’d been trying to find as well, though if what he’d said was true and this had happened to him before, he wondered what had been so different so as to awaken this power in him.

Angel would know more, no doubt, and now that they both knew they could share theories. He held Spike closer, feeling regret for how he’d treated him these last few days and unsure of how to react to that. Spike had said he’d never raped anyone himself and yet even if he had, would a demon deserve this? It wasn’t as though it was his fault he didn’t have a soul, after all.

God this was complicated, he wondered how Buffy had maintained her relationship with Angel, despite the soul actually being in the equation. He had still once committed atrocities and had murdered Jenny as well. And yet, Angelus and Angel were two different people.

Perhaps here, he was seeing William Pratt and not Spike, which made the entire thing a little less confusing.

After a while, Spike went still in his arms and he lay him back, standing and putting a hand over his head, smoothing the hair down, “Get some rest.” He murmured, leaving the room. Spike was silent, lying on his side and wiping at his face as he did.

He seemed oddly young with that and that only made Giles’ heart hurt a little more with regret.

As soon as he was downstairs however, Angel was there and he froze, realising that it would be obvious he knew something now because of his reaction. He’d planned to say something anyway but it was still annoying to be easily read, especially when he saw Angel shift his stance in surprise at whatever he’d detected.

“How is he?” He asked, watching as Giles passed him by to boil the kettle, “Giles?”

“Is it true?” He asked, wanting to check one last time.

“Is what true?” Angel sighed, sitting on the stool and leaning on the counter, “That Angelus raped him once? Or that these men did?”

Giles turned to face him, “Both.”

Angel looked at him for a long moment. “… right,” Looking down, he chewed on his bottom lip, sighing again, “Then yes. I – to both.” He ran a hand through his hair, his eyes dark, “Spike and Drusilla, they – after I Sired them I believed they were mine. To do with whatever I wanted to. I trained them, I taught them to kill, I took them hunting and I – well.”

It was hard to be disgusted by a man who clearly did not do the crime, and though he tried he knew deep down that it was the demon in him that had done this, which left his anger with nowhere to go, “And these soldiers?”

“Spike said there were three,” Angel told him, slowly, “They had a taser and holy water. He was targeted.”

“It wasn’t coincidental?” Giles asked, raising an eyebrow, “That they found him?”

“They found one of their only escaped and chipped vampires by chance, luckily armed with holy water and condoms. Yeah. Big coincidence.”

“Condoms.” Giles repeated, the word feeling bizarre on his tongue. “They – ? The rape was planned?”

Angel glanced up at him, “What did Spike tell you?”

“Nothing besides what was done to him. Which was just the word, really.”

“Then maybe I shouldn’t say anymore. He’s not exactly happy with me as it is.”

“And that matters to you?” Giles turned when the kettle stopped shaking and poured the water into his mug.

“Yes.” The answer was short and blunt and it was obvious he wasn’t going to get anymore from it, “Has he eaten?” He then asked, nodding at the mug.

“Not while he’s been here.” Giles remarked, realising. “He wouldn’t be able to buy any either, and his crypt – ”

“He’s not been back there since,” Angel muttered, “He must be starving. I’ll go and get something.”

“Going out in daylight twice isn’t advisable.” Giles pointed out but he was gone within the next moment anyway. He let him go, sitting down on the sofa and nursing his tea.

What a mess. Many things made sense now, however. Spike’s uncharacteristic behaviour, his quiet moments, lack of honesty regarding the soldiers and the attack on his person.

He remembered that Xander had wondered how he’d known that one of his assailants had had a burn on his shoulder and Spike had said that he’d ‘smelt it’. He clearly hadn’t, he must have seen it when they –

He took his glasses off, pinching the bridge of his nose.

Angel had also said that they’d been armed with holy water but he didn’t have any noticeable burns on him, though he did wince occasionally. Giles had assumed that that had been because of the pain of his shifting but perhaps he had wounds he’d kept hidden.

He frowned, knowing that that was more than likely and going to his kitchen to get the first-aid. He took it upstairs with him and knocked this time, waiting for a few moments, and stepping in.

Spike was asleep now, still curled into a ball, and the implication of lifting his shirt up to check for wounds without his permission didn’t sit well so he left the kit on a chair and went back downstairs.

Whilst he waited for Angel to return then, he decided to do a little more research on ‘souls’ and their meaning. He wanted to know what caused a person to be evil, as there were obviously those with and without souls capable of it. And there were also those without souls that were capable of good too.

Spike was capable of love, of sorrow, even without a soul. And Ethan was capable of destruction and trickery with his.

Was it truly so black-and-white?

And if it wasn’t, did that mean that Angel may be responsible for Angelus’ actions, ensouled or not?

He read a little more, his theorising giving him a headache, and the more he read, the more it became clear that he’d been subconsciously right. A soul was a person’s conscience. And it was dependent on each person.

A vampire could be ensouled and continue to do evil because their conscience wouldn’t oppose it, whereas someone that had been moral and good as a human may change their ways once souled.

Angel had once been a man called Liam, a man who clearly had a conscience and was burned by Angelus’ actions. He wondered what William Pratt had been like – many books told tales about famous vampires and their human-selves but Spike’s human past was vague at best and ridiculously fictional at most.

He opened another book only to jump out of his skin when someone suddenly barged in through his door and he stood, grabbing the nearest object as a weapon, before realising that it was Angel running from the sun. He put the lamp down then and crossed the floor to meet him.

“Sorry,” Angel apologised, clearly hearing his heart hammer from the shock. He had a plastic bag full of blood from the butchers.

“You could have gone up in flames at that store,” Giles commented.

“I asked someone to order for me. Paid extra.” He shook off his jacket and took one of the bags out, ripping it open and pouring the blood into one of Giles’ spare mugs. He then took it and put it in the microwave, warming it up quickly.

Giles watched him, putting the rest of the bags down on the counter, “Angel?” He waited until he was looked at to continue, “Do you remember what William Pratt was like? Before you turned him?”

Angel stared at him for a moment, turning away to look at the microwave when it beeped instead and not answering. Giles waited patiently as he took the mug out and went upstairs. He heard him knock, heard Spike wake and talk to him, and then Angel came back down empty-handed.

Thinking that he wasn’t going to answer at all, Giles made to stand only to stop when Angel finally did speak.

“He was soft.” He said, looking like the words were both painful and euphoric, “He was a poet. A bullied one. And he believed in true love and all things good and – idealisms. He was a Victorian with his head in the clouds and an aristocrat. He was also a bit of a mama’s boy, in all honesty. Adored her. Even turned her so she could be with him.”

“He turned her?” Giles frowned, “What happened?”

“I don’t know. He never said. I always supposed that she’d turned on him afterward and he’d staked her but I don’t know the truth. Could be she just hadn’t survived the turn. She’d been sick, apparently. TB.”

“Ah.” Giles nodded, in awe of this new information, “So she would have died soon anyway.”

“Hence his turning her,” Angel said, “Drusilla wasn’t too happy about it, I’ll tell you that,” He sat down, smiling a little, “She’d complained to me about it a few days later, saying it was lucky his ‘mum was gone’ or she might have been ‘mean’.” He shook his head, “Spike went as William for years though, and kept his accent. I thought it was stupid. I kept telling him to get a new name, one that would strike fear, but I think he wanted to hold onto his aristocracy a little longer. He fed alright, but he never killed until five years in.”

“He didn’t kill straight away?” That was new, he’d always seen vampires kill as soon as they rose from their graves. “How is that possible?”

“Drusilla was there when he climbed out and she took him dancing,” Angel told him, “Then they visited his house, he turned his mother, which I suppose counts as a kill, then came to visit me. He was both scared and – curious about me. He listened when I ordered him, remembered me turning him, and I ordered him indoors mostly. Drusilla had killed regardless and she’d fed on her old church even with my order not to. William though … he listened.”

“So he didn’t kill until 5 years.” Giles shook his head, disbelieving.

“It happens Giles,” Angel smiled without humour, “Some vampires live off their Sires and are happy to. Especially if their human-selves hadn’t been particularly dependent. William had been one of those. He’d only killed when we’d gone to France and I’d told him I wouldn’t be feeding him anymore.”

“So he hadn’t had a choice.”

“Look, I already know that I’m the one that made him the monster he is. I forced him to kill until he enjoyed it. I was cruel to him until he rejected me and wanted to make his own image, becoming William the Bloody and then Spike. I kicked him out of the group when he went after Slayers and when I got my soul, I was even crueller. I hated what I’d made and when I looked at him – I remembered all the things I’d done.”

They were quiet for a moment, the only sound the creak of his house around them. “Your soul changed your perspective of him.” He tilted his voice though it wasn’t a question.

Angel sighed, leaning back, “Angelus loved William. He could have killed him if he’d wanted to, he would hurt him and torture him, but he loved him. But when I got my soul? Became Angel? I couldn’t stand the sight of him.” He shut his eyes, his jaw clenched. Giles waited until he recovered from whatever mood he’d gotten in and then he was looked at, “Why’d you ask, anyway?”

“I wondered whether we should do some research into ensoulment.” Giles told him, “Perhaps ensoul Spike. Bring William’s conscience back and – ”

“No.” Angel shook his head.

Stung at being shut down so quickly, he frowned, “He could be a huge ally if we – ”

“No.” Angel stood, suddenly angry, “The hell those soldiers have put him through and then you want to put over 100 years of remorse onto him? It’d kill him.”

“We don’t know he’d feel remorse.” Giles said, “I’ve been doing some reading – ”

“You wanted to know whether Spike’s soul would be good or not,” Angel cut him off, “And you wouldn’t suggest it unless you were sure. He’d feel remorse, maybe more than me, and it’d kill him.”

“Well I’m not saying we do it straight away. We let him recover from this and then see – ”

“Darla.” Angel stood, his eyes wide and his face paling, and he stared at the stairs in shock. Giles turned to follow his gaze and saw Darla stood there, her hair untied and in her face, her hands shaking. She looked lost, afraid even, nothing like she had when she’d been with the Master years ago, and when Angel stepped toward her she flinched, “Darla. How did you get there, what the hell is – ?”

She staggered back, pressing a hand to her face and Giles raised his eyebrows in surprise, “… that’s not Darla,” He realised, standing and putting a hand out to stop Angel, “Angel, wait. It’s Spike.”

Darla, Spike, looked at him at that and lowered his hands from his face, “I look – Darla?” He asked, his voice exactly hers.

 Angel was rigid beside him, “Spike?” He tried and Spike glanced away, his new long hair swaying, “You’ve – all of you’s changed. Not just bits. How did you – ?”

“I woke up hurting,” Spike mumbled, pressing a hand to his stomach, “I didn’t know I’d changed, I just – I felt sick.”

Angel walked toward him, “Sick?” He put his hands around Spike’s face, lifting it to meet his, before letting it go in surprise, “You’re hot.” He remarked.

Spike managed a weak smile, “Yeah? Thought you hated her n – ”

“No Spike,” Angel frowned, “You’re burning up.”

“I know, you git,” He sighed, “I was joking.” He wobbled, dipping forward, and Angel caught him and lifted him into his arms. He lay him down on the sofa, looking both disturbed and worried.

“His clothes have changed too.” Giles remarked, joining him. Instead of the jumper and jeans Spike had been in, he was now in a white dress, tattered and stained with mud.

“This is – ” Angel darted his eyes over it, his shock and confusion building, “When we were in Scotland, years back, our group was attacked,” He murmured, “Darla – she’d been wearing a new white dress when we’d had to sleep in the barn. After we’d escaped.”

“She tore me a new one for getting us caught.” Spike remembered, sighing, “So I look like her from then? All of me?”

“All of you.” Angel put a hand to his forehead, “And you’re still hot.” He took his hand away, shaking it, “And you’re sweating.”

“I don’t sweat,” Spike told him, his words tumbling together.

“We need to get this fever down,” Giles said, “He’s slurring.”

“He can’t even have a fever,” Angel cracked, “He’s – dead. We can’t get sick.”

“Well clearly he is, and we can’t discuss it while he gets hotter.” Pushing past him, Giles went to get a flannel, wetting it and ensuring it wasn’t too cold before bringing it back and placing it gently over Spike’s forehead.

Angel went to get a glass of water, lifting Spike’s head up to drink it and giving him a stern look when he moaned and turned to refuse it, “Drink.” He ordered but when he poured, Spike choked and spluttered it out, “Okay, hang on.” He put the glass down, using his sleeve to wipe the water off of Spike’s chin.

He was panicking, Giles realised, and with a small lurch of shock he realised that he was too.

“I’ll call a doctor.” He decided, only to hear what he’d said and shake his head at the stupidity, “I mean – the clinic. For advice on fevers.”

“Good idea.” Angel nodded, distracted, hovering over Spike’s body, “I’m – I need to call someone too.” He looked at the landline, “I’ll go first, keep an eye on him. Please.”

Giles pulled a seat closer and sat beside Spike, waiting for the phone to be free. He overheard the names ‘Cordelia’ and ‘Wesley’ and wondered how exactly they would help the situation, though he supposed Wesley might have more access to Council books despite being fired as well.

When Angel was back, he left to call the nearest clinic and noted down all the advice, making up a pulse-beat when asked as he couldn’t measure Spike’s heartrate. Angel took his temperature at 105 degrees and rising which was apparently ‘very concerning’ according to the lady on the phone.

She recommended that if they couldn’t get the fever down that they would need to take him to ER urgently but only if her previous advice proved useless or if the fever spiked past 120.

Between them however, after at least four hours, Spike’s fever stayed steady and then gradually began to break. He started shivering and Angel wrapped him in a blanket, stroking his hair back, and with the diminishing of the fever, his features began to shift as well.

His body changed first, Darla’s dress shimmering into black and then splitting into a jumper and jeans. His face changed when the fever broke entirely and he sighed, his eyes shut with exhaustion. Angel continued stroking his hair, relieved and worried all at the same time.

His concern was touching but Giles couldn’t help but wonder if most of it was fed from guilt.

“Would he have died?” He asked, “Would he have dusted if that fever had risen?”

“He may have reached a temperature that would have resulted in that, yes,” Giles guessed, “But I really don’t know. It’s unprecedented, as far as I’m aware. Though Wesley may be able to find more from his books.”

Angel didn’t react to his admission at eavesdropping, nodding thoughtfully, “I don’t think this is a secondary power.” He said, “I think we were wrong.” He looked up, “I think this was done to him.”

“By who?” Giles raised an eyebrow, shaking his head, “The Initiative? Why would they want – ?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I was right before. Maybe they wanted Spike to infiltrate other demons, pretend to be their friends, shapeshift his way around until he could lead the soldiers in to kill them. It’s a strategic plan. It fits.”

“So does trauma and secondary powers,” Giles reminded him, “Especially considering what happened to him.”

“He’s been raped before,” Angel shook his head, “I wouldn’t count it as trauma.”

“He was raped by his Sire, a demon, Giles shot back, “These were humans. Humans that intended to hurt him and did. I believe they may have burned him too, with the holy water you mentioned.”

“He’s been through more than that.”

Oh for – “How would the Initiative have done this? They don’t have the means. Their chip is the most advanced thing they’ve made and that’s based on science, not magic.”

“What about Adam? Buffy told me about him.”

“Fine. Adam was advanced as well but he was built from demon parts, not changed or imbued with magic.”

“Then maybe they found a way to – ” Angel stopped, his head whipping toward the front door and when Giles looked he saw that Riley was stood there. He was wounded, badly, holding a hand to his hip and looking like it took all his effort just to stand.

“They did.” He managed, answering Angel’s unfinished question, “Find a way.” He collapsed a moment later, passing out onto the floor.

Buffy came as soon as she heard, angry that an ambulance hadn’t been called until she’d seen the wound and knew that they couldn’t have. Giles and Angel had tended to him on the sofa anyway, after Angel had taken Spike back up to the spare room to rest a little more, and now that the blood and so forth was wiped away they could see that the wound wasn’t fatal.

Just a hell of a mark and clearly painful. It was a bullet hole but the bullet had disintegrated and had been marked with Boxal Demon acid. A hospital would have had no idea how to treat it but Giles knew what would help and told Willow to fetch some on her way here. Riley had been beaten as well and his fainting had only been from pain thankfully; he’d not lost a lot of blood.

Buffy paced around as Giles mashed the ingredients that Willow had brought together, chewing on her lip, “Why is he on the sofa?” She asked, “Shouldn’t he be on a bed?”

“Spike’s on the bed.” Angel told her and she turned to storm up the stairs.

“Well he can get off the bed.” She snapped only to pause when Giles spoke.

“Leave him there, he needs to rest,” He didn’t explain anymore and right now, she wasn’t curious enough to know more either. She left it and continued pacing.

“He must have been attacked by the same guys that got Spike,” She thought aloud, “Rogue Soldiers.”

“Just like I said.” Angel said and she gave him a look, “Sorry.”

“But why attack Riley? Why not just lie? He’s their leader, he – ”

“Maybe they don’t want him leading them anymore.” Willow offered, “I mean he – they don’t operate the way they used to. Right? Maybe they don’t like that.”

“So they did the same thing to Riley that they did to Spike?” Buffy scoffed, “Why not just vote?”

Angel and Giles looked at each other, both clearly thinking the same thing, but Angel shook his head. Riley hadn’t been subject to the same attack, thankfully.

Xander and Anya arrived then, the former looking ready to both comfort or fight if need be, “What happened? Demon?”

“We don’t know,” Willow told him.

“He went to talk to his guys about Spike,” Buffy said and Xander paused.

“Spike? What about Spike?”

Buffy blinked, only to visibly remember that Xander didn’t know. She’d obviously told Willow in their dorm room, previously. “Oh apparently some guys from the Initiative attacked Spike before he started shifting.” She said and Giles stood, his mashing of ingredients over.

“And he did state that he didn’t want anyone knowing,” He reminded her but she was far more focused on the potion he’d now made. With her supporting Riley’s head, he poured it through his mouth, ensuring that it was swallowed.

“Is that it? That’ll stop it infecting him?”

“Yes. That should stop it. He’ll just need to rest and not pull the wounds.”

Xander stepped around, Anya still hovering in the background looking unsure, “Ouch. That looks nasty.”

“It’s an acid mark,” Giles explained, pulling Riley’s shirt down to cover the rather bumpy and ridged burn.

“So what happened?” Xander asked and they all looked at him, annoyed, “No I mean before this. I get we don’t know about Riley until he wakes up but, what? Spike got mouthy, he got attacked and Riley goes to talk to his guys only for the same thing to happen to him? What’s that about?”

“We don’t know why Spike was attacked.” Angel said, “But from what I saw from his wounds, it looked planned. They had holy water, they’d been looking for a vampire.”

“And technically, Spike’s harmless with the chip,” Buffy added, folding her arms across her chest, “They took advantage of someone who couldn’t fight back. And even if he is super annoying and a pain in my ass … I protect those that can’t protect themselves. Right now, Spike counts.”

They told me I didn’t count.

Giles blinked, turning away to hide his reaction to her words, almost tuning Xander out as he spoke, “Okay. So why go after Spike then? Riley said they stopped trying to get him since he took over.”

“We think some of his guys went rogue.” Buffy told him, “Didn’t agree with Riley’s way of leading, or something.”

“And what, they couldn’t vote?”

“That’s what I said!”

“Buffy,” Riley shifted, waking, his voice barely above a whisper but she heard. She was at his side immediately, putting a hand on his arm.

“Hey,” She greeted, “How do you feel?”

“Like I drank tar,” He said, coughing.

Giles made a face, “Yes, well. You had Boxal acid in your bloodstream and that was one of the ingredients to treat it.”

“You mean I actually did drink tar?” Riley groaned, trying to sit up and wincing when he hit his wound with his arm, “Ow.”

“Stay still,” Buffy chided him gently, “You’ve got a pretty bad bullet hole.”

“Yeah I know,” He grit his teeth, “Jacobs shot me. They knew I was coming – didn’t even let me talk.” He shook his head, “They did something, I don’t know what, but they’ve been working on some of Walsh’s old projects. They knew Spike was here, in your house,” He looked at Giles, “That day we came and the scanner malfunctioned? They’d been interfering with the signal.”

“Why? Because Spike would reveal them?” Giles asked.

“I don’t know. I think so. But if that was the case, then they could’ve just killed him. Which means they probably wanted him alive.”

“Or they couldn’t get to him with Giles and Angel around,” Xander said.

“Maybe.”

Angel stepped toward him, “What projects were they working on? What did they do to Spike? You said before that they’d found a way to use magic and science. How?”

“They didn’t,” Riley told him, “They found someone who could. A witch, I think. They mentioned someone called ‘Abigail’ but it could be a demon or human, I don’t know. But whoever it is, they’re responsible. They said – ” He hissed behind his teeth, pressing his hand to his wound, “They said they’d needed a candidate.”

“And they chose Spike?” Xander frowned.

“Why?” Angel pressed but Buffy put a hand on his chest to push him back.

“How about we don’t crowd the freshly wounded soldier?”

“I’m fine, Buffy,” Riley gave her a smile, sitting up a little straighter, “I need to say it now anyway, just in case they – ”

There was a bang at the door and it flew open, a cannister rolling in a second later. They all stared down at it in confusion until Willow asked.

“Isn’t that a smoke-grenade?”

The cannister popped open and Xander reacted instinctively, kicking it away, but by then it had already begun to spray the room with smoke, watering their eyes and making them choke. Angel didn’t need to breathe but his vision was still blurred, dark shapes pouring into the room with masks on and guns out. Riley staggered to his feet, blindly reaching out to stop them, and Buffy shoved one of them back.

“Everyone out!” She yelled, still attacking through reflex alone. Angel joined her, stopping the two that went for the stairs, whilst everyone else ran for the door. They were coughing and gagging, Riley held between Giles and Xander, but the door was shut before they could reach it and another soldier barred their way.

A second cannister was thrown and this one let a blinding beam out into the room. Buffy cursed, falling backward in both surprise at the light and from the kick that she’d been unable to dodge. Angel was dazed as well and one of the soldiers managed to get past him and stomp up the stairs.

He roused himself to go after him but the second got in his way and shot him in the shoulder, missing his heart only because he’d turned in time. He half-growled, half-yelled at the pain, grabbing his wound and backhanding the soldier away.

He went up the stairs then, panic in him, only to hear a gun cock and turn.

Willow was held against the last soldier, her hands at the arm that was wrapped around her neck, and there was a gun pressed to her head. Buffy was close, braced and ready, but holding herself back now that her friend was in danger.

“All of you. Behind the sofa.” The guy ordered. Anya listened immediately, giving him a wary look as she moved around slowly, and then Xander followed.

“Let her go.” Buffy ordered herself but Willow was yanked back in response, making her whimper.

“I said go behind the sofa.” The guy repeated, and this time they all listened. Angel went last, growling under his breath, “Growl at me some more and this chick’ll get a bullet in her brain.”

“Don’t.” Xander pleaded, shaking his head, and Riley tried to pull himself upright.

“Hank?” The guy paused, “It is you, isn’t it?” He didn’t get an answer, “Look. Whatever’s happened, whatever these guys are doing, I know you’re not a part of it. It’s not your style.”

“Shut up Finn,” Hank snapped but there was hesitation in his tone, “Just stay there. We’re just here for the vampire. We won’t do anything after.”

“What do you need with Spike?” Buffy asked, her eyes glued to Willow.

“Spike?” Hank looked at Riley, “Hostile 17’s name is Spike?” He scoffed, looking toward the stairs, “Isn’t that a dog’s name?”

“Hank,” Riley tried to appeal to him again, “Listen, man. What are you doing here? These people are civilians. That girl in your arms is a student at our College. I mean – come on.”

“I told you,” Hank shifted back, still holding Willow, “We’re just here for the vamp. Not our fault you guys were keeping him here.”

“What do you want with him?” Angel asked, struggling to keep calm if only to keep Willow safe.

“Keep out of it.”

Angel ignored him, his voice lowering into something dark and primal, “You were there, huh. Did you have fun?”

“What?” Hank looked at Riley, “I – ”

“You must have. Just like your buddies here. Seemed like they enjoyed themselves.”

“Angel.” Giles tried to stop him from revealing more but Hank shook his head.

“No. No, look, whatever you heard, it wasn’t like that.” He said, “It wasn’t – they said we needed to cause him pain. I didn’t – I mean it wasn’t personal.”

“Personal.” Angel repeated, taking a step toward him, “Everything about what you did to him was personal.”

“Angel that’s enough,” Giles snapped but by now, everyone was focused on what was being said, each of them frowning.

“He needed pain to wake the – ” Hank tried again but something thudded hard from behind him and he stopped, turning toward it. Angel reacted immediately and pulled Willow free, pushing her aside and grabbing Hank himself, holding him hostage instead.

Spike pushed himself up from where he’d landed, having been the thing that had thudded down the stairs, or more likely thrown, but he was grabbed himself and a needle was pressed to his neck.

“Let him go,” The soldier holding him barked, staring Angel down. The smoke was finally dissipating but not nearly enough to see their faces through the masks, “I mean it. I inject this, Hostile 17’s gonna have his blood full of holy water.”

“You do that and there’s nothing stopping me from snapping your buddy’s neck,” Angel told him, “And I already know from him that you don’t want Spike dead. So let him go and I let you leave alive.”

“Bullshit you let us leave alive.” The soldier fumbled in his pockets, Spike almost limp against him, which was concerning on it’s own but then another cannister was chucked to the floor. This time, however, Xander was a little more prepared and instead of kicking it he lunged forward and threw it through the window.

It exploded on impact, pouring smoke out into the street.

“Shit.” Hank twisted in Angel’s grip, “Sir, just go. Take Mackley and get out of here, people are gonna start crowding this place.”

“I don’t think so.” Angel yanked him back, shutting him up, and scanning the floor for ‘Mackley’. He must have been the one he’d hit before and was probably lying somewhere in this mist. “None of you are leaving.”

“Angel, we can’t keep them here,” Buffy spoke up, stepping around as well after having ensured that Willow was alright, “And if you want them to drop Spike, you need to leave the threats.”

She looked through the white, frowning when she saw that Spike was completely out of it now, his hair shorter and a dark brown with dyed streaks of red. There was a tattoo on his face as well, an intricate design all in black that curled around his cheeks to his neck.

That explained why he was unresponsive then. He’d shifted.

“Listen to your girl,” The soldier said, hoisting Spike upright when he began to slip, “Dammit. He’s out.”

“Then leave him. Unless you want to carry him out of here and keep us back.” Buffy said, seeing an opportunity, but another of them rose from the shadows and joined him.

Mackley, and he only seemed mildly injured because he took charge immediately, “Here.” He said, taking his gun out and aiming it toward them, “Carry him to the van. I’ll hold them back.”

The first soldier didn’t hesitate, just bent and lifted Spike into his arms, heading for the door. Angel tried to get in the way but the gun reminded him that lives were at stake and Buffy’s tension beside him let him know that she felt the same.

In the end however, they didn’t need to do anything. Spike suddenly bucked in the soldier’s arms and in the surprise that followed, he rolled out of them and hit him in the face with a high kick, clearly having feigned his unconsciousness. The move fired his chip but it got him out of harm’s way and Buffy reacted almost immediately.

She took advantage of the distraction and knocked the gun from Mackley’s hand, slamming him into the wall and throwing it toward Xander to keep safe.

Willow stayed back to keep Riley upright, his face a sickly pale from the pain that he was currently in but he still remained standing nonetheless, if only to see if he was needed.

Angel threw Hank to one side and launched himself for the first soldier, taking the needle and syringe and crushing it. Holy water burned through his hand and the fact that the threat hadn’t been a bluff made him all the more enraged, and he shifted his face to attack.

Unfortunately, Buffy got in the way and pushed him back, “Angel, no! He’s human!”

“He doesn’t count as human.” He tried to get to him again, darting forward but Buffy stood her ground.

“Try to kill him and I’ll have to stop you,” She lifted her chin, “Please don’t give me that choice.”

He stared at her for a long while before eventually letting his vampire face recede, turning away to look for Spike. Giles was already there, helping him to his feet and he still had a hand to his head from the chip’s reaction but as he stood, his features retreated back to normal.

Xander held the gun to Mackley and Hank, ensuring that they didn’t run, whilst Buffy turned to the only other soldier.

“Jacobs.” She said, coldly, “I’m guessing.” Jacobs didn’t move. “Want to explain what the hell is going on here?” She paused, waiting, but wasn’t answered, “No? You were pretty talkative before.”

“I only talk if I want to,” He spat and she raised an eyebrow, looking at Angel.

“Well okay then. I may not like Angel killing you,” She said, slowly, “But I’m really not opposed to torture to get information. Especially on people who obviously use torture themselves too.”

Angel smiled at that, the gesture not meeting his eyes, and stepped forward, “And if you’ve done research, which I know you have, you’ll know that torture’s something I used to be an artist in.”

“Pretty famous for it, too.” Buffy added.

“Yeah. We know,” Jacobs scoffed, “Practiced on your boy there first, didn’t you.” He nodded toward Spike and instantly, like a trigger had been switched, Angel’s anger returned.

“Shut your mouth.” He snapped and Jacobs scoffed again.

“What? Don’t like the reminder?”

“What are you – ?” Buffy started but Angel growled over her, shifted and feral, and would have sunk his teeth into Jacobs in a second had Spike not reacted faster. He moved directly in the way, putting both his hands on Angel’s chest to keep him back and keeping his eyes fixed firmly on his.

Buffy stumbled, her own instinct having reacted but now that there was no need to, she simply gawked at what might have just happened, watching as Angel still tried to get to Jacobs like a rabid animal let out of its cage.

“Angel,” Spike held him in place, Angel’s growls almost animalistic now with pure rage, “Angel, stop. Stop.”

“Yeah hold him back,” Jacobs taunted, “He’ll get over the guard dog routine when he remembers he was too late for it.”

Angel roared and Spike actually slid over the floor with the force of his need to kill. They were both using their full strength to force the other in the opposite direction, leading to them just being stuck in place but struggling against it, “Angel – Angelus! Angelus stop it, calm down!”

Spike held his own, though his arms started to shake but when Buffy moved in to help he shook his head, meeting Angel’s furious gaze.

“Sire,” He whispered, his voice low, “Leave it.” Angel glared down at him, his teeth bared, “Please.” At that, he seemed to freeze, his eyes turning brown from their demon-yellow and the fight left him like a breeze leaving a sail. He sagged, putting a hand on Spike’s shoulder to ground himself.

“Spike.”

“Yeah,” Spike swallowed, “You calm?”

“I – ” Angel looked utterly remorseful now but then Jacobs laughed and he snapped his eyes toward him. He didn’t get a chance to reawaken his anger however because Anya grabbed the nearest lamp and used it to knock the man out.

“Shut up.” She told his unconscious body and just like that, the tension seemed to leave the room.

.

An hour later, Hank and Mackley were bound to each other upstairs and Jacobs was bound to the same chair that Buffy had once tied Spike to. Without their masks and gear, they’d been able to see that Mackley was close-shaven and had an ugly looking burn on his shoulder, which confirmed that he was one of Spike’s attackers.

Hank was young, appearing teenage-like beside the larger and stoic Mackley, but there was a scar on his chin that reminded them that he was also a trained soldier and hadn’t had any qualms about hurting someone defenceless.

Jacobs was still unconscious and his dirty blonde hair fell over his eyes, the rest of it pinned flat from the mask he’d been wearing. He was also wearing a necklace with the symbol of an upside down horn on it, its broken underside full of flowers that sprouted from inside; it was made of silver, about the size of an old English Shilling.

Giles had taken one look at it and had gone for his books whilst the rest of them had hovered around, waiting. Riley was on the sofa now though, having accepted pain-killers and the bitter realisation that he’d been betrayed by three of his men while Buffy paced and waited for Jacobs to wake up.

“Maybe you should leave,” She said to Angel as she did, not for the first time, “Calm down a little?”

“I am calm,” He told her, sounding it but not looking it, “And I’m not going anywhere.”

“Has he always been this dramatic?” She asked Spike, very clearly trying to lighten the mood and Spike shrugged.

“Long as I’ve known him.” He mumbled, sitting on a stool beside Giles and looking like he wanted the floor to swallow him up.

To his credit, he hadn’t run, though Giles felt it was only a matter of time and assumed he was only still here because he wanted information too. Probably more so than the rest of them did.

Angel’s reaction to what these men had done had made it clear that something more than a beating had taken place and now everyone was curious and was visibly trying to guess what it had been without asking Spike himself. Unfortunately, he clearly knew that they wanted to and blamed Angel for it by way of glaring at him whenever their eyes met.

After a while, Giles shut the book he had and sighed. He couldn’t find the symbol anywhere.

“So is it just me,” Xander spoke then, “Or is anyone else super confused by all this?”

“It’s not just you,” Anya agreed, and Willow nodded.

All three of them not-so-subtly looked at Spike and he sighed, pointing toward Riley, “Ask Soldier-boy there. He knows more than me. I’m just the guy that got beat-up and started shapeshifting.”

They turned to Riley and Xander added, “Yeah, uh. You were saying about a project, before?”

“One of Walsh’s,” He nodded, “Before she put all her effort into making Adam. I don’t know what it is exactly, but she wanted to test it out on Hostiles first.”

“So – she was going to move on to humans after?” Buffy asked, frowning.

“I don’t know. It might have been for us. Maybe. I mean, we had chips and we didn’t know it, so … who knows what else she wanted to put in her soldiers.”

“Candy?” Willow offered, weakly, and they all fell into a brief silence.

“Well while we wait for this one to wake up,” Angel broke it, nodding his head toward Jacobs, “Why don’t we question the two that can answer?”

“Already tried,” Buffy reminded him, “Tight-lipped.”

“You tried. Now I try.” He countered and she opened her mouth to protest but Spike got there first.

“No.” He hopped off the stool and stood in front of Angel, folding his arms across his chest, “You stay out of this.”

Angel blinked, taken-aback, “What? I’m not – ”

“You kill them, we’re back to square-one,” Spike snapped over him, “You’ve interfered enough. Now you back off. Your pals back in L.A. could probably use you instead.”

Angel straightened, “I’m not leaving until I know you’re okay.” He said and Spike narrowed his eyes.

“If I’m okay?” He repeated and Angel folded his arms across his chest.

“Yeah.”

“Okay.” Spike gestured at himself, “When? When the Largo locked me in a car and drove it in the ocean? When Darla took her anger out on us for you getting souled? When that Rzepa git threw me into another dimension? And you walked away?” He shook his head, “You’ve not cared before so don’t pretend to now. Leave.”

“Spike. That was different, it – ”

“Leave.” Spike repeated, his voice hard, and it was as though the entire room stopped breathing with the way they looked at each other.

“I didn’t have a soul for most of those, Spike,” Angel said, behind gritted teeth, “Why would I have cared?”

“You cared about Darla. And Dru.” Spike said, tilting his head, “But you know what, whatever. I don’t care whether you cared or not. I just don’t want you to pretend and stick around because you feel guilty. You can piss off if that’s why you’re here.”

“Why would Angel feel guilty?” Buffy asked, “If he doesn’t care now, it’s probably only because you’ve tried to kill his friends. And him.” Spike didn’t even look at her but the words clearly struck and was the clear cue he’d been waiting for.

“You know what? Fine. You want to stay, stay.” He pushed past and went for the door, “I’ll go.” He slammed the door after him and Angel immediately made to follow but Giles stopped him.

“Uh perhaps, I should go,” He offered, “I doubt he’ll listen to you right now.”

“Leave him,” Buffy said, “If these are the guys that attacked him, he’s not in any danger right now. If he wants to be alone, let him go.”

Giles looked at her and then at Angel, before glancing back again and sighing, “I won’t be long.” Buffy’s frown deepened but she stayed quiet as he left them as well.

Spike was still in the garden when he got there anyway, sitting on the wall, and he startled when he heard the door shut and jumped off of it, “I told you to piss – oh.” He paused, “It’s you. … what do you want?”

“Expecting Angel?” Giles asked.

“Who else would come out?” Spike scoffed, patting his pockets and making a face when he realised he didn’t have any cigarettes on him, “Dammit.” He rolled his eyes, giving Giles a look, “Look I’ve not run off have I, so you can go back in. I just didn’t want to stay in there with everyone giving me the Owl eyes.” He chewed on a nail, “Bloody nosy lot.”

“They are rather, aren’t they,” Giles agreed, walking a little closer, “And I suppose you think Angel didn’t help matters.”

Spike glanced at him, wearily, “What do you want Watcher? I might have cried on you before but that doesn’t mean we’re in therapy now. I’m fine. I just want to be left alone.”

“Yes well. I needed the air as well,” Giles sighed, “And you made the perfect excuse.” Spike scowled at him, “But actually, while we’re here, I do want to ask.”

“Of course you d – ”

“The Largo? And Rzepa? I don’t recognise those names from your history.”

The bitter sarcasm that Spike had been about to snap vanished in his surprise, and he blinked, recovering only a second later, “Humans aren’t always around, Watcher,” He reminded him, “Who’s going to write down all your memos if no one’s seen anything? Most of you get it wrong half the time, anyway.”

“I thought we might.”

“Don’t know why you bother. My age is never right either, which is just insulting. Do I look like I was turned in my thirties? I don’t think so.”

“Well why haven’t you ever written a book about yourself? Corrected misconceptions?” Spike laughed, “Laugh if you want, but if they get it wrong forever, that’s how you’ll be remembered.”

“Good thing I don’t care that much.”

“You might regret that one day,” He was shrugged at, “What about your victims? Are they ever correct?”

“Well … yeah. Mostly.” Spike rolled his shoulders back, “I did kill two slayers. But your books say I got my name from killing aristocrats with railroad spikes.”

“And you didn’t?”

“I didn’t even kill them in the first place,” He rolled his eyes now and Giles remembered what Angel had said. That Spike hadn’t killed in the first five years he’d turned, “I made a wish the same night Angelus turned me. I thought it was just to some beggar-woman. Turned out she was a vengeance demon. She killed them, with their own words, not me.”

“Their own words?”

“One of them said they’d rather have a railroad spike through their head than to listen to my writings. Guess she thought it was ironic to kill them like that.” He sighed, “I just wanted them to have a bad day.” He made a face, “Suppose you think I should have been more specific.”

“Well Vengeance demons see opportunity to kill in most wishes,” Giles said, “You could have wished for them to be nicer and she would have had them walk across the road to apologise to you and get hit by a truck.”

Spike snorted, “Carriage would have been more likely, Rupert. Unless we were in one of the richer areas.”

“And were you?” More than curious now, Giles continued his questioning, “Our books have you as a middle-class citizen, but – ”

“Upper,” Spike corrected him, “Aristocrat, born and bred.” He pat his pockets for a cigarette again, as though he’d forgotten he’d already checked, and sighed, “My father’d been in the House of Lords ‘til his 50s, and then he was fired for being in debt. Left me and my mum behind and left the country. We were still Upper-class but – we weren’t respected after that. And I wasn’t exactly spewing out gold with my poetry either.”

There was something in his tone that made Giles ask, “Do you miss it?”

“Hell no,” Spike scoffed, “Too many rules back then, too much stuff out of your control.”

They fell into silence then and Giles considered suggesting they go back inside, now that Spike had clearly calmed down, to see if Jacobs had woken. But when he opened his mouth to speak, he saw that Spike was staring off into the distance, looking as haunted as he had the first night he’d come here.

Giles followed his gaze and saw a black SUV parked just down the road. It looked so out of place he wondered how he hadn’t noticed it before and knew then that it was probably what these Initiative soldiers had driven here in.

Spike clenched his hands into fists and looked seconds from marching over to smash it to bits but that would cause unwanted attention, not to mention more of the scoobies’ curiosity, so Giles tried to think of something to say to cut that line of thought but Spike spoke instead.

“They knew,” He murmured, “Your books get it wrong but they knew. About Angelus and me.” He turned to look at him, “How?”

It was a good question. “I’m not sure. They might have something a little more updated than ours, giving them information.”

“No. They knew personal things,” Spike continued, shaking his head, “He said – that guy. Jacobs. He knew what Angelus used to do, he said it to him but – how?”

Another good point, “… Riley said they might have a witch in their fold,” Giles suggested, slowly, “It’s possible she’s shown them memories.”

“But why? Why me? They obviously put a lot of effort into this so what made them pick me?”

“We’re planning on asking Jacobs that when he – ”

The door opened and cut him off, Willow stepping out to see them both stood there, “Um. You might want to get in here.”

Now that the door was open, they could hear why. Buffy and Angel were arguing, loudly and aggressively.

“For fuck’s sake,” Spike pushed away from the wall and jogged inside, Giles following him. Anya was behind the counter, looking small as Angel and Buffy stood just before her, shouting harshly at each other. Everyone else was keeping well back.

“You were the one who told me we should keep our lives separate!”

“Yeah and you kicked me out of L.A. for ‘interfering’!” Buffy was red in the face at that, “This happened in Sunnydale so I deal with it!”

“Spike is my Childe, that makes this my responsibility!”

“Since when does your Sire-crap mean anything, Angel? What changed? Hm? Why are you suddenly all on team-Spike?”

“I’m not, I just – this is complicated. He was defenceless!”

“So were his victims!” She jabbed a finger at him, “Yeah it’s bad what they did but Spike is a vampire. He basically slaughtered half of Europe, he doesn’t get cuddles when one bad thing happens to him!”

“This is why I don’t want you handling this, you don’t have sympathy for anyone that doesn’t fit your – I mean, this is just like with – “ He stopped himself, huffing and turning aside.

“Just like with what?” Buffy snapped, “Like with Faith?” She scoffed, rolling her eyes, “Fine, okay. Faith and I grew up differently. She had stuff on her shoulders I didn’t. But she still chose to do those things she did. She chose to do evil. And so did Spike.”

“Spike doesn’t have a soul.”

“Which means he’s not saveable.” Buffy reminded him, “Isn’t that why you wanted to help Faith? Because she still had one? Well Spike doesn’t and he’s not your – ” She must have then seen Spike in the corner of her eye because she stopped, looking at him. Angel did as well, his anger having clouded most of his senses, but now he just looked shocked.

“Spike.” He opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out and in the end, he just sighed, “Where did you go?”

“To get some air.” Spike shrugged, his back rigidly straight, the only gesture he had that showed he’d been affected by this argument, “The Watcher and I were talking and – we think it’s strange how they knew personal things about me and you. Things not even books have written.”

Angel paused, his surprise at not being chewed out showing, “Oh. Uh. Yeah. I guess that is – that’s weird.”

“It’s more than weird,” Spike continued, “It means they chose me specifically. They put effort into it.” He had a hand behind his back, casually tucked into his back pocket, which meant that only Giles could see it shake.

He was angry or upset and hiding it.

“Could be I’m not the only one. That raises the stakes a little, doesn’t it.” Buffy looked at him, nodding, “Especially if the others aren’t chipped, or even demons in the first place. This shifting stuff hurts, bad. Could kill a human.”

“Do you have a point?” Buffy asked.

“Yeah.” He lifted his chin, “Well more of an idea, actually. Giles mentioned their witch might be using memories to give them information. Well we have a witch. And I’ve got lots of memories.”

“Oh, uh, if you’re talking about me,” Willow raised a hand to point at herself, “I – uh, I’m not really a witch, per say. I just. I can do spells, and everything, but this sounds pretty advanced and – ”

“You won’t be alone,” Spike told her, “Giles can do magic too, right?” He looked at him for confirmation and Giles nodded.

“Spike,” Angel stepped toward him, “Are you sure? I mean, if it can be done, you’d be revisiting memories of what happened.”

Spike narrowed his eyes at him, “Better than it being said aloud when he wakes up,” He jerked his head in Jacobs direction, “Don’t think he won’t, especially seeing as he knows it riles you up.”

Angel frowned, “I won’t apologise for caring.”

“Oh shove off, you git,” Spike snapped, “This has nothing to do with your fucking ho – ” He stopped, pressing a hand to his throat and looking wide-eyed for a moment. “Your – “ He frowned, visibly trying to swallow and struggling.

Angel immediately put a hand on his shoulder in concern but Spike ducked away from it and stumbled back. His body rippled, the effect almost dizzying, and his features began to change once again.

It happened in larger pieces now, not one-by-one, and just like when he’d been Darla his entire figure transformed.

In a single moment, Spike was gone and in his place was Buffy.

“Ow.” His body shook from the sudden change, still rippling before it stabilised, and then Spike, for it was still obviously Spike, swallowed and looked up at them all. His hair was darker, bangs over his forehead, and there were mascara-filled tear-stains under his eyes.

He was in black, a leather jacket, and had a necklace with a cross on.

“Oh my God.” Giles slowly stepped back, staring. This was Buffy when she’d first discovered the Master would kill her. When she’d been sixteen.

“This is – ” Angel reacted as well and Buffy gaped.

“Oh wow.”

Spike backed away from them, his eyes wide, “Don’t touch me!” He yelled when Giles made to reach for him, and the tone and voice was exactly that of Buffy’s all those years ago, “Just – what – ?” He grabbed at his hair, “Am I Darla again?”

“No.” Buffy approached him warily, “You’re … me. But like, me from ages back. When I – um.”

“When you found out that there was a prophecy for your death.” Angel finished for her, and she hugged herself, nodding, “Spike. Are you – is this a reaction to me?”

“What?” Spike glared at him, the effort lessened by the fact that he was now a vulnerable looking-Buffy, “Not everything is about you Peaches, I can’t even control this stuff!” He wiped at what have must been Buffy’s old tears from his face.

“Maybe not,” Angel forced himself past the strangeness of what he was seeing, “But this might be subconscious. You turned into Darla before. A memory of Darla that I knew about. And now this.”

“It does seem connected,” Giles added and Spike whirled toward him, “More importantly, however. There’s a cross on your neck right now and it isn’t burning you.”

Spike paused, glancing down to see the necklace he had on, “Huh.” He reached up tentatively, touching it. Nothing happened, “Doesn’t hurt.”

“Is this just like the fever?” Angel asked Giles, walking toward Spike and reaching out to touch him, as though he was afraid it was an illusion. He put a hand on his head but Spike flinched, knocking it off, “He got sick as Darla.”

“I don’t – ” Giles blinked, not sure why he was suddenly forced to know all the answers, “Perhaps. I don’t know. This isn’t exactly precedented. I have absolutely no idea what this is. I doubt even the Initiative wanted this to happen.”

“Unless they wanted someone super strong,” Buffy said, “He’s me. Does he have my strength?”

Spike looked at her and then immediately punched her in the nose. Both of them yelled at the act, Spike from his chip and Buffy from being hit. Considering that Spike looked like a younger Buffy at the moment too, the image was ridiculously funny looking.

“Chip still works.” He groaned, holding his head, “And I don’t think that punch hit harder than it usually would.”

“Yeah,” Buffy rubbed her nose, glaring at him, “It’s still pretty weak.”

“Oh sod off, slayer.”

“Do I really sound like that?” She  asked them all, “Because no wonder intimidation doesn’t work until they see me fight.”

“Your voice has kinda mellowed a little,” Angel told her, “Matured.”

“Yeah but it’s still that high,” Xander said.

“And whiny,” Spike added, clearing his throat and trying to deepen it, rolling his eyes.

“And sometimes you sound like you have a cold,” Anya threw in as well.

“Alright, we are missing the point here,” Giles stopped them, “That cross isn’t burning him but he doesn’t have Slayer-strength.” He looked at Spike, “Spike. Do you – are you warm?”

“What?” Spike blinked at him but Angel made an impatient sound and grabbed his wrist, spinning him around and putting his fingers against it to check for a pulse. Spike tugged his arm back but Angel’s grip was firm, “Let go you idiot, I don’t have a heartbeat, I’d feel it!”

“You’re not looking to feel it,” Angel said, “And you said this process hurts. You might not notice something – ” He stopped, his eyes dark as he stared down at Spike’s wrist like it held the secrets of the universe, “New.” He finished, his voice barely a whisper now.

Spike looked at him and then down at his own wrist, looking terrified, “No.” He shook his head, “No no. That – it’s not – ”

“Spike – ”

“Let go of me!” He suddenly yelled, pulling his arm hysterically now, “Let go of me, let go, get off!” Angel looked startled and likely would have let go anyway but before he could, Spike tugged extremely hard and there was a crack.

He cried out and when Angel released him, he held his wrist to his chest, “Fuck.”

“Th – I felt that break,” Angel looked at Giles, overwhelmed, “I – I wasn’t holding him too hard but it – ” He looked back at Spike, “Spike I’m sorry, I didn’t – ” He stepped forward but Spike stumbled away from him, his chest heaving, and then suddenly Buffy was in front of him.

“Okay, let’s pause for a bit.” She put a hand out to stop Angel from getting too close and turned to Spike, gently taking his injured wrist and inspecting it. He let her, his face reddening with either fear or anger, “Okay. … It feels … broken.”

“Yeah, thanks for your expertise.” Spike snapped, his face shimmering again until he was back to normal. Buffy looked at him, frowning, “What?”

“You look like you again,” She said, and he blinked, glancing down at his body, “But you still have a pulse.” She let go of his wrist, scrunching her lips together thoughtfully, “Is he human?” She turned to Giles, then Angel, “Has this – whatever they’ve done. Has it made him human?”

“It does look that way,” Giles said slowly, walking forward, “But he hasn’t always been, when he shifted.”

“Maybe that was just a warm up,” Xander said, “Before he turned completely?”

“Or his shifting is making us think he’s human,” Anya said, “Like a chameleon.”

“It couldn’t fake a pulse, could it?”

“I don’t think so,” Buffy put her hands on her hips, “But – ”

“This is still broken,” Spike reminded them angrily, holding his wrist and glaring at them.

Giles started, “Right. Of course.” He walked past to open the fridge-freezer, taking out a packet of frozen corn and handing it over. Spike gingerly pressed it to his currently reddening-hand. “We might need to take you to a hospital.”

“I don’t have ID.” Spike reminded him but Giles shook his head.

“There’s a 24-hour clinic here that doesn’t require one. It’s a ten minute drive away,” Giles said, “I’ll take you.”

“We might not need to,” Buffy said, “If he changes again and returns to normal, he’ll heal.”

“He might not change again.” Angel said, “This might be exactly what the Initiative wanted.”

“Before Adam, most of Walsh’s work was to neuter demons. Make them harmless.” Riley added, “We would never have been able to make them human but I don’t doubt she had the idea. These guys probably found what she might have been missing with that witch of theirs.”

“Then Spike might be right. He isn’t the only one – ”

There was a gunshot and both Buffy and Angel snapped their heads toward the stairs, seeing Hank stood there with his revolver in hand. He was bleeding, probably from whatever method he’d used to escape his bonds – which had weakened him and allowed Angel to launch up the stairs toward him and take the gun away.

He punched Hank hard, sending him crumpling to the floor and Buffy ran past to check that Mackley was still bound only to collide into him. He didn’t have a gun thankfully and after a brief fight, she had him unconscious.

Angel grabbed Hank and dragged him downstairs, throwing him into a chair to tie him up again, only to smell blood that he recognised and freeze.

He turned and saw Spike standing behind the group, looking ashy and shocked. There was rapidly growing spot of red in his side and he had his one good hand pressed to it.

“Shit – ” Xander swore when he noticed, diving forward to catch him when he tipped backward.

“Careful.” Angel barked but Buffy stormed past him before he could try to take Spike himself.

“Get him on the table.” She ordered, pushing every object and book off of it to make room. Xander lifted Spike up, ignoring how he bucked in his arms in protest and with pain, and put him down.

Spike writhed, trying to lift his shirt up to see his wound for himself, but Giles pushed his hands away, “I need the first-aid.”

“Shouldn’t we call an ambulance?” Willow asked and Buffy considered it, only to run a hand through her hair.

“And explain all this how?”

Angel left Hank for Xander to tie up, his eyes dark once he calmed down and realised that the wound wasn’t as serious as he’d thought; it probably still hurt like hell for a human, though.

“No, no, don’t – don’t touch it,” Spike bat at Giles’ hands, trying to wriggle away, “Leave it.”

Giles ignored him, lifting his shirt up and grimacing as it stuck to the blood.

Angel hovered over his shoulder, looking down at it, “It’s alright, it missed you,” He said, soothingly. The bullet hadn’t hit him directly so the bleeding was just caused by fragments of it that had embedded into his skin.

“It hit this.” Anya commented, putting a hand to the wall. There was a crack in it and the bullet was lodged in the plaster, dust all over the floor. Spike must have been stood just beside it.

“I’ll need tweezers.” Giles said and Spike kicked him. He dodged it and refrained from getting angry, knowing that it was just an instinct to the pain he was in. He hadn’t been human for so long; this sensation must feel incredibly sharp in comparison to how he usually felt.

Riley limped toward him and nudged Giles out the way, “Here.” He took an antiseptic wipe and started dabbing it around the dotted holes in the side of Spike’s stomach, “I’ve treated this before.”

“I’ll do it.” Angel said, looking ready to take over, “I’ve had it done to myself plenty of times.”

Riley gave him a look, “I’ve done it on humans.” He emphasised and Buffy slapped a tweezer into his open hand when she found one in the box.

Spike looked at them both, his chest heaving, but when Angel visibly decided to let Riley continue, he relaxed and thumped his head back over the table.

“What do we do with this guy?” Xander asked, pointing toward Mackley who was starting to stir. Angel joined Buffy in carrying him downstairs as well, tying him up and waiting until they were both aware enough to ask why they’d just tried to shoot Spike.

Riley worked as they did, injecting Spike with a mild anaesthetic, and moving his hands when they tried to push him away like he had with Giles.

After a few minutes, he started taking the bullet fragments out of Spike’s skin and releasing them from the tweezer into the trash-can. Spike twitched with every touch, grabbing Riley’s wrist but as that didn’t hinder him in any way, he let him keep a hold.

Halfway through the job however, he felt Spike’s gaze start to drill into him and looked up, “What?”

Spike looked away and up at the ceiling instead of answering but when Riley was done and had pulled his shirt down over the bandage he’d pressed there, he murmured, “Thanks.”

“Yeah, no problem.” Riley winced as he straightened, his own wound still aching, and he helped Spike to his feet, “You’ll be okay.”

“I’ve been shot before,” Spike scoffed, annoyed at being patronised, but Riley just smiled.

“Before you were turned?”

Spike just looked away with a roll of his eyes, making a face when his hip hurt as he walked. Hank was blinking at the group now, looking fuzzy-headed from the blow Angel had given him, but when he saw Riley standing over him he flinched back.

“Easy Soldier,” Riley raised an eyebrow, “We’re not going to hurt you.”

“Yet.” Buffy added, lightly, “Though you might want to explain why you just shot someone. Now.” Hank looked at her for a long second before spitting in her face.

She gasped, putting a hand to where he’d hit and wiping it off on instinct, “Ew!”

Angel jerked forward and hit Hank across the face with his fist, scraping the skin off of the side of his nose with it, “Do that again,” He said, darkly, “I dare you.”

Willow handed Buffy a tissue to get rid of what she’d missed and to wipe her hands on, whilst Spike stepped a little closer as well, looking remarkably calm.

“Why did you shoot me?” He asked and Hank glared at him, “It’s not like I know any your secrets, there’s nothing I could tell.”

“You got plenty to tell.” Hank snapped.

“Like what?”

But Hank was panicked now, his anger feeding into it, “Look, just shut up, okay! I’m not going to jail for this! I’m not.”

“I hate to break it to you pal,” Xander said, “But shooting people tends to get you there.”

“He’s not people.” Hank spat and Buffy threw her balled up tissue at him.

“He is now,” She said, “And if the police did come over, he’d be human to them too. And you would go to jail. So why shoot him?”

Hank just pressed his lips together, lifting his chin and looking stubborn. And he probably would have kept it up too, but before any of them could get angry at his arrogance, someone else started to laugh.

They turned to see Jacobs sitting up a little straighter in his chair, laughing deep in his throat, “Man you people are so fucking full of yourselves.” He rolled his shoulders, “We did you a favour and here you are, acting like we killed a puppy.”

“A favour.” Buffy repeated, narrowing her eyes, “You mean … making Spike human.”

Jacobs snorted, “He’s not human,” He said, “Never will be.”

“You better start making sense right now,” Angel growled but Jacobs looked completely unfazed.

“Sorry, am I speaking too fast for you?” He asked only to blink when Anya lifted the lamp she’d hit him with before again, “Hey, hey! Back off!”

“Anya wait!” Xander intercepted her, “We need him awake.”

“He’s a pig.” She argued, matter-of-factly, “I’ve cursed guys like him for years, I know how to tell them apart. We should kill him.”

“No one’s killing anyone.” Buffy said.

“I don’t know. I think he deserves it.” Angel tilted his head, ignoring how she glared at him at that. Spike pushed past them both to face Jacobs head-on however, crouching to his level. He shut his eyes for a moment when that clearly hurt his wound but ignored it and glared.

“What did you do to me?” He asked, his face hard and set, “Why do I keep changing into different people? How the hell is that doing anyone any favours?”

Jacobs looked at him like he was dirt, “We changed your DNA, Hostile. You did the shifting shit yourself.” Spike narrowed his eyes, “We made a vampire that can go out in the daytime, can pass as human, but still needs blood. And can still dust.”

“What’s the point of that?” Riley asked, “He’s still a threat, what favour is that doing anyone?”

Jacobs sighed, put-upon, “The chip already stops him killing but the blood-lust reminds him that he’s not human. That he’s less-than,” Spike growled low in his throat, “Oh you know you are, sweetheart.”

Spike bristled, clenching his hands into fists, “Don’t call me that.” He snapped.

Jacobs smiled slowly, looking away from him back to Riley, “We used a witch to find vampires with untapped secondary powers and the nearest one to us was Hostile 17. Walsh had bits of a method to stop demons that could go out in the sun, make them nocturnal only like vampires. We just perfected and reversed it.”

“Why?” Riley asked, folding his arms across his chest, “You’re still not saying why.”

Jacobs scoffed, “You have any idea how useful a vampire could be to the Army? To us? Without sunlight and shit killing ‘em, and with a chip and some training, they’d be perfect soldiers. Hell, they’re killing machines anyway, give them a cause and we’d win every war.”

Spike looked up, staring at Angel for a moment like he’d just realised something, “Submarine.” He murmured and Angel frowned, nodding.

Jacobs looked between them, “What’s that?” He asked and Angel glared at him.

“Oh nothing. Just comparing you to the Nazis.” Jacobs opened his mouth to protest that but he was cut off, “Don’t bother arguing against it. You aren’t the first people to have this idea and the Nazis were pretty close to doing it back in the day.”

“Why give him a heartbeat?” Riley asked before Jacobs could argue anyway, “What does that do? You want to remind him he’s a demon, but you restart his heart?”

Jacobs paused, “He’s not supposed to have a heartbeat.” He said.

Spike narrowed his eyes, folding his arms across his chest, “Well I do. Right this second.”

Looking at him, his blasé exterior gone now, Jacobs shifted in his bonds, “Well. That’s interesting.” He said slowly, “Guess that’s why you thought we turned him human.”

“So what, this wasn’t you? You just wanted to turn me into a soldier?” Spike asked, “No shapeshifting or humanising. Just putting me into daylight and training me?”

“No.” Jacobs smiled, “We wanted to know if we could turn vampires into soldiers. You? You were going to be guinea pig first, then a bitch second.”

Spike stared at him, looking shocked for a moment, before hitting Jacobs hard. “Fuck you.” He hissed and Jacobs barked out a laugh.

“We tested sunlight and shit on you and you still kept burning up. The witch to told us to ‘activate’ it. Cause you enough pain that the powers and the serum woke up in you.” He leant forward, “Guess I liked causing that pain. I know you did.”

Spike hit him again, “Fuck. You.”

“What? You going to deny it, sweetheart?”

“Fuck you!” He was shaking now, his hand raised to hit Jacobs once more but Buffy caught it and pulled it down to his side. He turned to glare at her but paused when he saw the look on her face. She lifted a foot and slammed it into Jacob’s face, breaking his nose and sending him unconscious a second time.

Her face cold and set, she let Spike go and turned to Hank, watching as he stared up at her wide-eyed, “Jail?” She asked, “You’re scared of jail?”

“Please – wait. It wasn’t me, it was Jacob’s – ”

“You should be scared of us.” She kicked him as well then, sending him crashing down to the floor, chair and all.

They all stared at her as she turned to face them and Anya folded her arms across her chest, “I told you they were pigs.”

Buffy ignored her, “Spike,” She stepped toward him, her anger mingling with concern but she didn’t look sure of what to say, “Are you – ? I mean – ”

Spike looked at her and then at the rest of them, saw how they watched him, and his chest rose with panic. He stepped back, away, and then turned and ran for the door.

Angel went to go after him but he stopped, not entirely sure if he should. Buffy lowered her eyes for a moment, then looked at him.

“Why didn’t you say?” She asked softly and he shook his head, wordlessly reminding her how Spike had just fled the scene, “Right.”

Xander looked between them, “Well hey, hang on. I mean we don’t know. He could have meant anything. And Spike’s run off twice already, it could be – ”

“Xander,” Giles stopped him and Xander gaped for a moment, swallowing loudly.

“Shit.” He whispered, looking away with clear disgust and discomfort. Anya put a hand on his back but didn’t stop glaring at the three unconscious men before them.

“Riley.” Buffy suddenly called and the guy froze, his hand on the door.

“He’s got a broken wrist and a bullet-wound, Buffy,” He said, “And my guys did this.” He looked at Angel then, “I’m so sorry.”

Angel just nodded slowly, looking at Jacobs, “He’s lying about the soldier-thing,” He said, “That’s not what they wanted. Probably what he told the other two but …”

Riley clenched his jaw, “We’ll get to the bottom of it.”

Angel gave him a long look, nodding again, “Just make sure he’s okay.”

“I will.”

.