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The Only Good Vampire

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Cordelia Chase was taking advantage of a rare day off. She lay on a chaise longue on her tiny balcony. A glass of white wine and the latest summer block-buster (both untouched) were set on a tiny plastic table next to her. Cordy was wearing a home-made facial mask concocted from yogurt, oatmeal and avocado. Thin slices of cucumber covered her eyes. The balcony door was open so that she could hear the radio playing from inside her apartment. It was playing Pink’s Get the Party Started. A sheet of paper floated across the room. Cordelia smiled as her ghostly room-mate Dennis made the paper dance to the beat of the music. She dozed in the warmth of the California sun. She could almost imagine herself poolside at the Chateau Marmont.

Cordelia woke up when Dennis tickled her with a feather duster. Annoyed, she sat up, letting the slices of cucumber fall on to her lap. Dennis drifted away from the balcony and across the living room.  He turned up the volume on the radio. The disc jockey and his sidekick were discussing a humorous news item. There were reports of sighting of a strange animal in the Hollywood hills. One of the witnesses had described it as a “huge mutant wolf”, while another thought it was a grizzly bear. They both agreed that the creature had red eyes, sharp yellow teeth, and smelled like rotten eggs.

"Sounds like someone smuggled a chupacabra over the border," the disc jockey joked.

““How much do you want to bet that this mutant wolf is Wesley’s hellhound? “ Cordellia said to Dennis. “Someone must be using that Eye of Whatever-It-Is.”

Cordelia called Wesley on her cellphone to find out whether he had heard the news, but the ex-Watcher wasn’t answering. She tried the office of Angel Investigations, hoping that Angel would pick up, but she just got the answering machine. She tried Angel’s personal cellphone but just got an out-of-service area notice. She wasn’t surprised. Angel was probably in his below-ground apartment, and the reception there was terrible. Charles Gunn was the only person she was able to reach. He agreed to meet her at the Hyperion Hotel.

 

Cordelia arrived first. Angel wasn’t in the office, so she went down the stairs to his apartment. She knocked at his door and then went in without waiting for an answer.

Spike and Angel were entangled on the living room couch. Cordelia was backing out of the room when Spike spotted her. He grinned at her, not in the least discomfited at being caught snogging the boss. Angel turned around, and Cordelia saw that his lips were covered with blood. Their was a red mark on Spike’s neck where he had been bitten.

Smoothly, Cordelia took out the stake that she always carried in her handbag. She was a Sunnydale girl and would no more leave home without a weapon than she would go out in public without lipstick.

“Just stay where you are, Angelus!” she said. “I’ve got a stake!”

“We can see that,” Spike said. He blinked, shook his head in an effort to clear it, and sat up.

“I’m not Angelus,” Angel said. “I’m still Angel.”

Cordelia shook her head. “You can’t fool me. It must have happened just the way Wesley said that it would. One moment of happiness and you’ve lost your soul.”

“I haven’t lost my soul. I couldn’t experience true happiness without Buffy. I miss her every minute of every day. She’s the other half of my heart.”

Angel took a step toward Cordelia, stopping mid-stride when she raised the stake.

“Tell her I’m still Angel,” he said to Spike.

“Wouldn’t know,” Spike said grumpily. “Angel or Angelus - they’re both the same to me.”

Listening to Angel prattle about his perfect love for perfect Buffy had spoiled Spike’s mood. He got up from the couch and headed for the refrigerator where a plastic bag full of pig’s blood was waiting for him.

“I’m nothing like Angelus!” Angel protested.

“Angel wouldn’t bite! “ Cordelia said.

Angel blushed. “I’m still a vampire even though I have a soul. Vampires can get a little ....bitey...when they’re excited. It was entirely consensual.”

“Present for Angel,” Spike confirmed muzzily, as he got a coffee cup from the cupboard. “Body and blood... all for Angel. “

“How much blood did you take from him?” Cordelia glared at Angel accusingly.

“Hardly a drop,” Angel protested. “He’s just tired and hung-over.”

Spike turned towards Cordelia and smiled wickedly. “Insatiable, he is. Wouldn’t let me get a wink of sleep.”

 

By the time Gunn arrived, Cordelia had put away her weapon.

“It said on the news that there’s a giant wolf that was sighted in the Hollywood Hills area,” Cordelia explained. “Going by witnesses’ descriptions, it sounds like the hellhound Wesley was talking about.”

Gunn said, “There have already been a couple of close calls. We need to get to it before it mauls somebody.”

“I tried to call Wesley but he didn’t answer his phone,” Cordelia added. “Maybe he’s gone hunting for it by himself.”

Spike laughed. “Lord Percy Percy isn’t off hunting the hellhound. He is the hellhound.”

Gunn said, “It can’t be Wesley. Wesley wouldn’t attack people.”

Spike said, ’While he’s wearing the amulet, Wesley isn’t himself. He’s a hellhound, thinking hellhound thoughts and doing hellhound things. If Mother Teresa put on the Eye of Koronath, she’d try to rip your heart out.”

“How do you know so much about it?” Angel asked Spike.

“A bloke in a pub told me about it. He was an ex-Watcher like Wesley. He’d been drummed out for ‘unsavory activities’ which must have been pretty nasty since the average Watcher gets up to things that would make a Fia’vala demon blush.

Anyway, this bloke told me that the Eye of Koronath was a kind of sorcerer’s intelligence test. If you’re foolish enough to put the damned thing on, then you deserve what happens to you. There’s even a warning right on it. There’s an inscription on the back that says Cave Canem, Latin for beware of the dog.

He planned to track down the Eye and then send it to Watchers’ headquarters. He said the folks in charge were arrogant and stupid, and that one of them would be bound to try it out. He was looking forward to the carnage.

Don’t know if he ever actually did it.”

“We have to reverse the transformation before Wesley hurts someone,” Angel said.

“Or he gets picked up by the dogcatcher,” Spike added. His flippant comment earned him a stern look from his grand-sire.

“How do we do that?” Cordelia asked.

“Easy,” Spike said. “Just remove the amulet from around his neck.”

“That sounds like it could be dangerous,” Cordelia said.

“Well, yeah,” Spike said, “but that’s what makes it fun.”

 

Angel had a contact in the Los Angeles police who told him where the beast had last been sighted. Gunn and Cordelia headed out first to try to track down the hellhound. Spike and Angel would follow as soon as the sun went down.

The team met up in a ravine in the Hollywood Hills. The ravine served as a corridor for wildlife. The residents considered the coyotes living there a nuisance and a menace to their pets, but they were unaware of the other shyer animals who also shared their living space. From the bottom of the ravine, none of the surrounding houses could be seen. It was a bit of untamed wilderness a five-minute walk away from a bustling residential neighbourhood.

“The hellhound is in those bushes over there,” Gunn whispered, pointing at a spot near the stream.

“Okay,” Angel said quietly. “I’m going to circle around so I’m upwind of it. When I’m in position, you three start coming forward slowly.”

Angel moved through the uneven terrain as swiftly and silently as a thought. The others made no particular effort to be quiet. Their intent was to distract the beast while Angel was sneaking up on it from behind.

The hellhound emerged from the bushes. The creature was powerfully built and far larger than any earthly dog. It was easily the size of a carthorse, tall enough to look Gunn in the eye. The beast growled - a powerful, low vibration that aroused a deep instinctual fear in all those who heard it. Angel’s team resisted the urge to run away. Turning ones back on this creature would be suicidal.

Gunn and Cordy were armed only with mop handles to ward off the hellhound. They did not want to use any weapons that might hurt or even kill Wesley. Spike had no weapon at all.

The three of them stood still before the beast. Then Gunn stepped forward brandishing the mop handle in front of him. The hellhound watched him warily. It bit into the mop handle, its strong jaws splintering the wood. Spike and Cordelia took a step forward to stand at Gunn’s side.

“That’s it, beastie,” Gunn said. “Keep your eyes on me.”

Angel’s white shirt and pale visage was dimly visible in the moonlight. He was closing in on the beast. They only had to keep the hellhound distracted for a few more seconds.

When Angel was only a few steps away, almost close enough to touch the beast, the hellhound made its move. It lunged at Gunn. Spike pushed Gunn aside so that the hellhound landed on him instead. The impact knocked Spike off his feet. He took the hellhound down with him. The vampire grappled with the furious animal. Deprived of its intended prey, the hellhound snarled in fury.

Then the dog opened its mouth, displaying sharp yellow teeth dripping with sulphurous saliva. Spike protected his face and neck with his arms. He kicked at the hound, wishing he was wearing his usual Doc Martins instead of flimsy Wal-mart sneakers. The hellhound bit into his forearm all the way down to the bone, while Cordy and Gunn tried to drive it away. The hellhound, focused on the kill, ignored their frantic blows.

With a grunt of effort, Spike managed to kick the hellhound away. He rolled up on to his knees and opened his arms wide, as if he were about to give the animal a hug. When the beast came at him, Spike reached around the animal’s thick neck, trying to find the amulet hidden by its thick fur. The beast snapped at Spike, who leaned back to avoid its teeth.

“Damn it, Spike!” Angel yelled, as he attacked the hellhound from behind, “This is not what we planned!”

Avoiding the hound’s lashing tail, Angel pulled the animal’s head back, away from Spike. The beast growled, ready to take on both vampires at once.

Just then Spike’s questing fingers found the necklace. Breaking the chain was impossible since its links had been magically forged. Spike had to undo the clasp, an annoyingly fiddly mechanism, while Angel wrestled with the hellhound. At last Spike managed to release the clasp. He removed the amulet and held it over his head triumphantly.

The hellhound disappeared, replaced by Wesley Wyndham-Price. The ex-Watcher was bruised but otherwise uninjured. When he learned what had happened, he was apologetic.

“At the Watchers’ Academy we were taught always to have spotters around whenever we worked on a new spell or experimented with an unknown magical item,” he said, “but when I held the Eye in my hands, I just couldn’t resist trying it on.

I don’t remember anything after that. Did I hurt anyone?”

“Not really. Just a few cuts and scrapes, nothing too serious,” Spike said.

The bite on his forearm could probably do with a few stitches, but he could still move his fingers, so that was all right. Vampires don’t fuss about minor injuries.

“Where is the amulet?” Wesley asked.

Spike handed it over to him. The Eye of Koronath was a muddy brown stone in a crudely-worked and rather tarnished setting.

“You were right,” Wesley said, looking Spike in the eye. “It’s cheap junk magic.”

He dropped the amulet onto the ground and stepped on it, grinding the stone under his heel. There was a flash of light and a strong whiff of sulphur as the magic held in the stone was released.

“That’s it?” Cordelia asked. “You don’t have to throw it into a volcano or anything?”

“That’s it,” Wesley confirmed.

 

“All this could have been avoided if you had told Wesley what you knew about the Eye," Angel said, as he got into the driver's seat of his convertible.

"I did. I told him it was rubbish. Not my fault if he didn't listen to me," Spike protested.

"I warned you that I wouldn't let you undermine Angel Investigations."

"I haven't...I wouldn't... "

*You already have. You put people in danger so you could score points in your ridiculous feud with Wesley."

"I'm sorry," Spike said miserably.

"You're not. Vampires are incapable of feeling regret. You're just saying what you think I want to hear.

You're an excellent fighter, but I want you to be more. I want you to be a good person too. Maybe I'm asking too much. It's not even your fault. It's what you are."

"I can learn how to be good," Spike said.

Angel laughed mirthlessly, "I doubt it, my sweet William. Not without a soul. The most we can hope for is that you'll learn how to fake it so well that no one will be able to tell the difference."