Spike kept his head down and his hood up and headed toward the bank of elevators on the far side of the lobby, going against the stream of office workers heading home. He swerved to avoid a knot of Wolfram and Hart employees, who were talking to each other and not paying the slightest attention to where they were going, and crashed into a wall.
Well, not a wall exactly. It was a Gaurog demon, a cylinder of muscle almost as wide around as it was tall.
Spike landed on his arse on the lobby’s polished stone floor.
“Watch it, mate,” he said warningly.
He looked up at the demon silhouetted by the sunlight streaming through the building’s glass walls. Spike went to raise his hood, instinctively cowering before the sun’s rays. It took him a second to realize that he wasn’t burning. The warmth of the late afternoon sun against his skin actually felt quite pleasant.
“I’m not burning,” he said in wonderment. “Why aren’t I on fire?”
The Gaurog didn’t answer. He scooped up the vampire, too stunned to protest, and carried him bodily across the lobby and into one of the elevators. When the elevator stopped, the Gaurog escorted him down a corridor and through an unmarked door, which had to be the back door to Dr. Dhaliwal’s office. He deposited the vampire in one of the examination rooms and shut the door.
Spike looked around the room. It contained an exam table, a chair and a desk. A flimsy paper gown was neatly folded on top of the exam table. There was nothing else, not even the usual ancient copy of People or Cat Fancy.
Dr. Rajinder Dhaliwal had been up all night with an insectoid demon. It had been a waste of his time. His patient had no need for medical assistance in laying her eggs. She had just wanted a doctor there for the “birth” because “that’s how humans do it.” He stifled a yawn as he entered the exam room.
“Keep the door open,” Spike said sharply.
“It’s for your own privacy,” Dr. Dhaliwal said, his hand on the dooknob.
“Don’t care about that. I’m the last patient of the day, so it’s just you and your bodyguard. And Mr. Muscles has seen everything I’ve got already.”
The doctor shrugged and left the door ajar.
His patient’s appearance had changed greatly It wasn’t only the dyed blond hair. He looked healthier and more confident. The vampire had filled out and his wounds had healed, though they had left scarring that would likely be permanent. He noticed a new bandage on the vampire’s right arm.
“May I?” he asked.
There was an ugly bite underneath, which had been clumsily sutured.
“Did Angel do this?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Spike said. “Totally cack-handed, he is. A cross-eyed chimpanzee sews better than he does.”
“I meant did he bite you?”
”Not this bite. That was a hellhound. Actually, it was one of my work mates.”
Was it a hellhound or was it one of your workmates?” Dr. Dhaliwal asked.
“One of my workmates in the form of a hellhound,” Spike explained.
Dr. Dhaliwal nodded as if that made sense.
“Angel does bite me, but not this bite. When he bites, it’s just for pleasure, and he hardly even breaks the skin. His pleasure. I don’t like being bitten, not much anyway, but he likes to bite...”
Spike knew that he was talking too fast and saying too much, but he couldn’t help himself. Being in a small, enclosed space with someone wearing a white coat was making him uncomfortable. All the researchers at the Initiative had worn white coats just like Dr. Dhaliwal’s. He thought for a second of asking the doctor to take his coat off, but then he would know that Spike was afraid.
Dr. Dhaliwal peeled off his gloves and stuffed them into the pocket of his white coat. The exam had gone well. The doctor had been slow and careful and had explained every step before proceeding. Despite his obvious nervousness, his patient had kept himself under control. Spike had not gone into vamp face.
“Everything looks good so far. You seem to be healing well,” the doctor said. “I’ll give you a moment to get dressed and then we’ll talk.”
After Spike dressed, the doctor took him to the solarium at the top of the building. The spot was especially popular among the Wolfram and Hart employees and partners who were undead. The necro-tempered™ glass allowed them to sit in the sunshine in perfect safety.
Spike and Dhaliwal sat at a table facing west. The Gaurog bodyguard had a table of his own where he could watch them. Spike sipped real human blood (so much better than pig’s blood) while Dhaliwal had his usual whiskey. The doctor said nothing for a while, as Spike watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.
“We vamps all say we hate the sun,” Spike said, “but that’s just sour grapes. We’d walk in sunlight if we could.” There were tears in the vampire’s eyes.
Dhaliwal nodded and took another sip of his whiskey. He allowed Spike to enjoy the sunset in silence. When the last streak of light had faded from the sky, he spoke.
“The other vampire, Angel, said the Initiative was responsible for your injuries,” Dhaliwal said. “Is that true?”
Spike nodded. “Bastards tasered me and locked me up. Left me to starve in the dark. If the Slayer hadn’t come by to clean up, I’d still be there. I’d be mad as a hatter by now.”
“So you will be seeking vengeance against them,” Dhaliwal said. He knew the ways of demonkind.
“Well, there’s a couple of problems with that. The first problem is that I don’t know who they are. The Sunnydale operation ended and all the soldiers there were reassigned. Finding them will be difficult since I don’t know their names.
And then, when I do find them....” Spike took a long sip of his drink before he continued. “they put a chip in me brain, so I can’t hurt humans. I can’t attack people; I can’t even defend meself when they attack me. A bloody five-year old could take me down! I’m pathetic.”
The mention of a computer chip caught the doctor’s interest. He looked up from his drink and focused his dazzling blue eyes on Spike.
“You could track them down and then let Angel do the rest.”
Spike shook his head. “I want to kill them myself, not have Angel do it for me! He wouldn’t do it anyway. He doesn’t believe in vengeance any more. Angelus would have killed for me - would have killed for any of us - but Angel won’t. Doesn’t want to tarnish his halo.”
There was a long moment of silence, before Dhaliwal spoke again. His tone was deceptively casual.
“Perhaps the chip could be removed surgically. That would depend on exactly where it is situated in the brain.”
“Buried deep, so they said. In any case, it’s got defences. It’s booby trapped.”
“What the Initiative does, Wolfram and Hart can undo,” Dr. Dhaliwal said confidently. “Of course, such a procedure would be risky. It would also require a special surgical team. It would not be cheap.”
“I’m skint,” Spike said. “Don’t even have the dosh for a ride home.”
“Wolfram and Hart offer a variety of payment options. For a vampire with a reputation like yours, they would be willing to make a deal. Your services in return for the surgery.”
“What would you know about my reputation?” Spike asked.
“I may have mentioned your name to one of my colleagues,” Dhaliwal smiled. His eyes twinkled. “I had no idea that the patient I was treating was so famous.”
“I was wondering why you invited me here; why you were buying me expensive drinks. I thought you wanted to seduce me,” Spike said. “I wasn’t far wrong.”
“Think of it. You could be yourself again. Drinking blood from the throats of your enemies instead of from a glass...”
“And all I'd have to do in return is spend eternity working for Wolfram and Hart,” Spike said, shaking his head. “I don’t know how Wolfram and Hart ever gets anybody to sign one of their contracts. Does having a soul make people stupid?”
“Some of us didn’t have much choice,” Dhaliwal muttered, drinking up the last of his whisky. He got to his feet. “Don’t dismiss the offer immediately. Think about it“
Spike nodded cordially. “Ta for the drink,” he said.
Spike could have called Angel to pick him up, but instead he walked home. The streets were quiet and a long walk gave him time to think. He had been tempted by Wolfram and Hart’s offer. The idea of revenge was so very sweet. If the offer had been made by anyone other than those notoriously tricky lawyers he might have accepted it.
Spike could see the hotel’s neon sign from a block away – Hyper Hotel it said. (The “ion” part had died a long time ago.) Angel was standing in front of the hotel, looking up and down the street. He spotted Spike and waved. Spike quickened his pace, eager for home and his lover’s arms.