Angel wrapped Spike up in the blanket he had been using to protect himself from the sun. Then he picked him up and headed down the long network of corridors that eventually led out of the complex. Gunn walked beside him, carrying the cup of pig’s blood that Anya had insisted they take with them. Wesley hung back to talk with the Scoobies.
“The research that the Initiative was doing could be very valuable in our work,” he said. “Were you able to find any papers or documents?”
Xander shook his head.
“We looked around but didn’t find anything. No computers, no filing cabinets. I guess the whole place was wiped clean before they left.”
Anya said, “That’s what I thought, but then Willow and I were exploring and we found this.”
She led Xander and Wesley down another corridor to a closed elevator door. A helpful sign near the door listed the offices found on the lower floor – the Dissection and Autopsy Room, Testing Laboratories, and Records Facility.
Wesley almost salivated at the thought of rummaging through the Records Facility. There would be real, scientifically-gathered data about demons – not myth or supposition – and written in English rather than ancient Sumerian or some unholy demon tongue that had to be carefully deciphered. Eagerly he pressed the button on the elevator. Nothing happened.
“Where are the stairs?”
“There are no stairs,” Anya said, “and we can’t get the elevator to work. There are three different levels of security that would have to be bypassed to get in. There’s a magic lock, and Willow’s working on it but she said it’s fiendishly tricky. But there’s also a biometric lock that links to your fingerprint and your retinal image and things like that, and a mechanical lock too. Willow said you have to be a hacker, and a witch, and a safecracker to get in, and she’s only two out of the three.”
“We could drill through the floor,” Wesley said. “We’ll rent a jackhammer.”
“We could do that, but there’s an alarm system,” Anya said. “It floods the entire facility with caustic gas and sends a whole platoon of army guys to kill the intruders.”
“Then we just have to bypass that alarm.”
Anya shook her head. She was about to explain why they couldn’t bypass the alarm when Xander spoke up.
“Give it up,” he said. “If it could be done, my Anya would have done it.”
“That vampire, Spike, might know what was going on,” Anya said. “That is, if they bothered to tell the prisoners, which they probably didn’t. And if you can get Spike well enough to talk. Assuming, of course, that he’s still sane enough to make sense.”
“What do you mean, assuming he’s still sane?”
Xander said, “Some of the testing they did was pretty brutal. Riley sent Buffy some documents about this facility. It was designed to do resilience and performance testing.”
“Basically,” Anya said, “they were seeing how much they could endure before they broke. The researchers sprayed them with acid, immersed them in boiling water, that sort of thing. Like what cosmetic companies do to bunnies.”
“When their research subjects died, the Initiative’s scientists would dissect them to see how they worked,” Xander said.
“Except for the vampires,” Anya said. “You can’t dissect vampires because a dead vampire is just dust. They had to vivisect them.”
“Like pithed frogs in biology class,” Xander added.
“Did Buffy know that this was going on?” Wesley asked. He looked slightly sick.
Xander shook his head.
“She still doesn’t know anything about it. Riley didn’t tell her, and Buffy didn’t actually read the documents he sent her. Willow and Anya read them.”
“Willow’s going to tell her, but she’s waiting for the right moment. Buffy’s kind of heart-broken right now,” Anya explained. “Willow says it would upset her to find out Riley was running a torture chamber behind her back.”
“But, hey,” Xander said, “at least he was only torturing demons. The Initiative wasn’t doing anything to them that they wouldn’t do to us, or to each other.”
“Would you ask Willow to fax me a set of the documents?” Wesley said, “I’ll gladly reimburse her the cost of the fax.”
He handed Xander an Angel Investigations business card, with their phone and fax numbers.
Angel stopped short at the door of the facility, looking out into the bright California sunshine. He couldn't carry Spike and hold a blanket over his head at the same time.
“Would you carry Spike out to the van for me?” he asked Gunn “He’s not very heavy.”
“It’s not his weight I’m worried about,” Gunn grumbled, taking the vampire into his arms.
“If you so much as move your head in the direction of my neck, I’m going to whip this blanket off you and let the sun fry you like a side-order of bacon,” he whispered in Spike’s ear.
Spike didn’t say anything or nod his agreement – but then he couldn’t talk, and Gunn had just told him not to move his head.
There was an awkward moment where Gunn had to open the door of the van while carrying Spike; then he dumped the vampire on the floor of the van, unwrapped him, and returned to give the blanket to Angel. Angel ran to the back of the van, holding the blanket over his head. Just as Gunn was starting the van, Wesley came out to join them.
“Sorry, “ he said. “ I just wanted a few words with Xander and Anya.”
“Sussing out Anya for Cordy? So is the former vengeance demon good enough for Cordy’s ex?”
“I think rather better than he deserves, actually,” Wesley said, climbing in and shutting the van’s door. “If he’s lucky, he’ll figure that out before she does.”
Spike opened his eyes. He was in a small confined space, and he could hear the sound of some kind of motor and feel its vibrations. Was this another of their tests? Spike wasn’t afraid of anything that he could fight, but he couldn’t fight the Initiative. He couldn’t fight the guards, who regularly came into his cell to “teach him a lesson”, and he couldn’t fight the scientists, who dispassionately recorded his responses to extreme levels of pain and physical distress.
When he saw Angel sitting on the floor next to him, Spike calmed down. Angel might kill him since it was his business to kill vampires, but he wouldn’t torture him. (The opposite had been true of Angelus, who would gladly have tortured him – if Darla had let him – but would never have killed him.)
Angel, however, did not seem in the mood to kill Spike just yet. Angel leaned forward, sweeping away the unwashed, greasy curls covering the younger vampire’s forehead so that he could look into his eyes.
“Good, you’re awake,” he said. “I’m taking you back with me to L.A. I’m going to get a doctor to look you over. We’re going to fatten you up until you’re healthy again.
In return, you have to do exactly what I tell you. No lies. No games. No trying to undermine Angel Investigations from within. Otherwise, I won’t protect you anymore and all your enemies can take turns beating your ass while you're too weak to defend yourself. And I'll be standing in line with them.
I’m not going to ask you to promise to obey me because I know exactly how much a vampire’s promise is worth. Just nod to let me know you understand.”
“Good,” Angel said. He dipped his finger into the cup of pig’s blood and then put his finger into his own mouth.
“Ugh,” he said to Spike. “No wonder they couldn’t get you to drink. Pig’s blood isn’t all that great to begin with, and when it’s cold....”
He put out his hand.
“Here, bite me.”
Spike looked up at him, distrustfully.
“No, this is not a trick,” Angel said. “I talked to Willow on the phone, and I know your chip only stops you from attacking human beings. The Initiative couldn’t care less about what demons and vampires do to each other. I’m a vampire, so you can bite me. Just this once, of course, because I’m giving you permission.”
Spike hesitated for a moment, and then bit down hard. Angel thought he could hear a crunching sound, and thought for a second of all the delicate bones in his hand. Then Spike was coughing, sputtering, spraying Angel’s blood all over his rescuer’s clean white shirt.
“Okay,” Angel said ruefully. “You can still bite like a Rottweiler, but we have to work on the swallowing part.”
He nursed his hand for a moment, and then held it out again.
“Maybe just lick the blood for now. Don’t gulp.”
The sun had set by the time they arrived at the Hyperion. When Gunn and Wesley opened the door to the van, Angel was sitting cross-legged on the floor of the van. Spike was sound asleep, his head on Angel’s lap, with Angel’s hand in his mouth. He was sucking on it the way a sleeping child might suck his thumb.
Wesley frowned at this pretty tableau. Although he denied it, Angel obviously still had a lingering affection for Dru’s childe. Spike, being the soulless vampire that he was, would obviously try to take advantage of that affection. Wesley sighed, recognizing the task ahead of him. His first priority was to get Spike back on his feet and out of Angel’s life as quickly as possible, before he could cause too much trouble.
“I’ll call the Host and see about getting Spike a doctor,” Wesley said, turning away and walking into the building.
Gunn followed him into the hotel, leaving Angel to cope with Spike.
“What do the Watchers have to say about Spike?” he asked.
“Quite a bit,” Wesley said. “He got the nickname Spike from the weapon he used to kill his earliest victims. Others call him William the Bloody. He’s a risk taker with a particular fondness for hunting Slayers. He’s killed at least two, along with several of their Watchers. That activity has, of course, brought him to the attention of the Council. They would dearly like his head. I believe that there even might be some kind of bounty involved.”
“So Angel Investigations is going to be protecting this killer vamp from the Watchers?”
“Presumably, if they find out that he’s here.”
Gunn frowned. “Damn, I am beginning to regret joining this organization.”