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The Only Good Vampire

Chapter Text

The Sunnydale operation was over. It had been a resounding success.  Dozens of demon entities had been identified, studied and dissected, and the knowledge gained was being used by the military to make its fighting men and women better and stronger soldiers.  Riley’s excellent performance throughout the operation had been noted by his superior officers, who had decided he was ready to command his own mission.  He had been sent, with very little notice, on a top secret mission to the Maldives.  This had meant, of course, that he would be on the other side of the world from his girlfriend Buffy, but in any case he had the sense that their relationship had come to a natural end.  He felt great affection for her, but he could not see her as a military wife any more than he could see himself as a Slayer’s husband. They parted as friends, knowing that they would always be able to rely on each other.

A few months after he left town, Riley telephoned Buffy. He had a favour to ask of her.

“I need you to go into the Initiative’s facility in Sunnydale and make sure everything’s okay,” he said. “There was a bureaucratic mix-up and Arkwright, the officer in charge, was transferred before the decommissioning was complete. Someone was supposed to replace him, but those orders never came through.”

 “According to Arkwright all the specimens are secure and all confidential documents have been shredded,” Riley said.  “He took care of that before he left. But it sounds like nobody has been to check up on the specimens since his transfer.”

“By specimens,” Buffy said, “you mean demons?”

Riley was on an encrypted military line but Buffy was not. Riley sighed at his ex-girlfriend’s casual disregard of military protocol.

“Yes.  They’ve been left without food or water for more than a month. Most of the specimens will be dead by now, but there are a few particularly hardy strains that could have survived.  If they are any still alive, they’ll be very hungry and very angry.  Any survivors will be very dangerous, and I need someone with your kind of experience to clean things up properly and dispose of all the specimens.”

“Angry, hungry demons, gotcha,” Buffy replied.

“I’m sending you all the details by secure courier. Obviously, this is top secret – for your eyes only.  I’m trusting you the way I’d trust one of my own men.  I know you won’t let me down.’

 

Being a Slayer, Buffy had found, required some delegation. She couldn’t do everything, so she concentrated on the slaying part and left things like reading reports, performing spells and acquiring demon knowledge to the Scoobies.

“Ooh,” said Anya excitedly, reading classified military secrets over Willow’s shoulder, ”They’ve got a Pyrankha demon. If it’s still alive, we should cut out its liver.  We can sell fresh Pyrankha liver for a hundred dollars an ounce at the magic store.”

“Is there anything there we should be concerned about?” Buffy asked.

“Nothing we can’t handle,” Willow said confidently. “Just the usual vampires and a few minor demons.”

She scanned the pages quickly.

“Oh wait,” she said, “this looks interesting. It’s a description of one of the vampires they picked up – bleached blond hair, blue eyes, London accent.  They’ve got Spike.”

Xander smiled, “Does that mean we get to kill Spike? Say yes, please say yes!”

“According to this,” Willow said, “the Initiative performed an experiment on him. They planted a chip in his head that makes him unable to attack people.”

“So we get to take down Spike, and the vamp can’t fight back,” Xander said.

“I don’t quite understand,” Willow said. “Why go to all the trouble of planting a chip in a vampire when it would be so much easier just to stake them?”

No one had an answer to that one.

“Your government dollars at work,” Xander said shrugging. “The important thing is that we get to kill Spike.”

 

The air in the Initiative’s underground facility was stale; the ventilation system and the lights had been turned off when the last soldier left. Their was a rank odor – the stench of demons (usually sulphuric or sourly acidic depending on species) and rotting flesh on top of the lingering scents of gun oil, boot polish and the manly sweat of soldiers.  Following the map Riley had provided, the Scoobies went it to the command centre where Anya managed to figure out how to turn on the lights and ventilation.  The command centre was scrupulously tidy, a model of functional efficiency, although a thin layer of dust lay over all the room’s surfaces.  The keys to the cells were on a neatly labelled hook.  The only decorative item in the room was a hand-lettered poster thumb tacked to the wall.  It read “The only good demon is a dead demon.”

They waited outside the facility. for the ventilation system to do its work. The poor air quality had made the humans feel sick and dizzy after only a few minutes of exposure, and they needed to be in good physical shape to deal with any of the demons that might still be lurking in the facility’s cells.

After the air had cleared, the Scoobies went back inside. All of them were carrying weapons, except for Anya, who was carrying a cooler loaded with ice.  The demons in the first few cells were already dead.  Anya identified them as a Varoshta and a G’Braith. 

“No market value,” she said, examining the corpse of the Varoshta demon. “If it was in better condition, we could sell its pelt but look at this. There’s these marks. Little round circular holes...”

“Cigarette burns,” Willow said. “Someone was burning it with a cigarette. What kind of experiments did they do here?”

“Hey, let’s not get all soft-hearted about the poor demons,” Xander said.  “I bet this Varoshta thing had it coming.  Remember that it was a demon invading our realm before we all get all mushy.”

“More a refugee than an invader,” Anya said, stroking the dead demon’s fur. “Their realm is being taken over by the Tanakai, and those are guys you really don’t want to meet in a dark alley. The Varoshta usually live in the sewers and eat rats.  Sometimes the odd stray cat or lost puppy.  They’re kind of shy.”

“See, evil puppy-eating demon,” Xander said, sounding slightly less sure of himself.

The Scoobies walked past more than a dozen cells, at least half of which were occupied by dead demons in various states of putrefaction. The smell was appalling, and prevented Anya or Willow from getting close enough to any of the bodies to make a proper species identification.

“Could any of those be Spike?” Buffy asked.

“Don’t think so. None of them are the right size and shape.  Besides when vampires die all that is left is a pile of ashes. Maybe they kept the vampires in their own cellblock.” Willow said. 

Deep in the underground facility, the Scoobies found a live demon. Anya was thrilled to identify it as a Pyrankha.  It was small demon about the size of a collie, with emerald coloured eyes that glowed in the dim confines of it cell.  The dead bodies of rats neatly piled in a corner of the cell showed how the demon had survived.

“Watch out,” Anya warned. “It spits acid.”

The creature, however, was too weak to do anything more than bare its sharp yellow teeth. Anya dispatched it quickly and then gutted it.  She removed the liver and placed it in the cooler.

“It’s not in great condition,” she said, looking at the piece of demon organ meat. “I’ll be lucky if I can sell it at half price.”

Buffy was eager for this disappointing mission to be over. She looked at Riley’s map. 

“Only one more unit of cells,” she said,” and then we can go home.”

The last unit had housed the vampires. A vampire, crazed by thirst and months of isolation, staggered to the bars of its cell and reached for the Slayer.  Buffy put a stake through the mad thing’s heart.

“Buffy,” Willow called from down the corrider. “I think this one is Spike.”

Willow’s doubt was understandable. The occupant of the cell was barely recognizable.  His hair was an unkempt mess of greasy light brown curls and he had the kind of patchy, straggly facial hair possessed by those who were never intended by Nature to have a beard.  He was naked and filthy.  Dried rivulets of caked blood painted his chest and ran down his back and his legs. 

“Is he alive?” Buffy asked.

“Well, he’s not a heap of ashes,” Willow said, “so I assume he’s alive, or at least not dead.”

“I knew he dyed his hair,” Xander said.

“Well, duh,” said Willow.

Buffy unlocked the door and knelt down by the unconscious vampire.

“Riley said to dispose of all the specimens,” Buffy said uncertainly.

“But he’s got that chip, right?” Willow said,” So he’s not dangerous anymore.”

“I can’t leave him here,” Buffy said. “That would be more cruel than killing him.  And I’m not going to take him home and nurse him back to health because he’s already obsessed with me, and playing Florence Nightengale would just make it worse.  Besides, chipped or not, I’m not letting him near Dawn.”

“You’ve got to kill him then,” Xander said sombrely. “There’s no other choice.”

Spike’s eyes opened. He focused on the Slayer. With great difficulty he managed to whisper a word.

“Angel,” he said.

Chapter Text

Charles Gunn slung the bag he was carrying into the back of a white van. The vehicle belonged to a friend of his, and it smelled strongly of ganja, even with both windows wide open. There was a mattress covered in a plastic sheet in the back of the van. He took his place in the driver’s seat.

“I joined up to dust vampires not to chauffeur them around,” Gunn grumbled to his passenger.

Wesley Wyndham-Price nodded his agreement. He also was not looking forward to visiting Sunnydale. The town had been the site of his greatest and most humiliating defeat. He had failed as a Watcher, and nothing that he could do would ever erase that stain from his record. Of course, he hardly needed a road trip to remind himself of his inadequacy. Not when he had a disappointed father who performed that service perfectly well.

Cordelia Chase was the only person employed by Angel Investigations who actually looked forward to a day over the Hellmouth. Cordy had fond memories of her reign as unofficial queen of Sunnydale High. Despite the odd demon attack and the necessity of staving off the occasional Apocalypse, her life had been so much simpler then.

Since leaving Sunnydale, Cordelia had been given the dubious gift of visions. Yes, the visions helped Angel and his crew avert demonic atrocities, but they also gave Cordelia severe headaches that left her feeling weak and nauseated for days. Cordy was currently lying on a couch in the offices of Angel Investigations, with a wet facecloth covering her eyes and a bucket at her side in case she needed to vomit. This was hardly the glamourous L.A. life she had envisioned for herself when she left Sunnydale.

Wesley had been roped in to take her place. Cordy had made him promise to fill her in on all the gossip when they got back. She was especially eager to get his impression of Anya, the former vengeance demon who was now Xander’s girlfriend.

Just as they were leaving, Angel darted out of the doorway of the Hyperion Hotel. He was carrying a blanket over his head to protect against the sun. The vampire ran to the van, pulled open the back door, leaped in, and slammed the door behind him.

“Thought you were sitting this one out,” Gunn said.

“I changed my mind,” the vampire said. ”I decided I should see this demon holding pen for myself.”

“Perhaps you want to see Spike,” Wesley suggested mildly. “That would be natural; you are his sire after all.”

“Dru was his sire,” Angel corrected.

“So you’re like his grandfather?” Gunn asked.

“Only sort of,” Angel said. “Vampire families aren’t quite like human ones. Actually, I wasn’t very happy that Dru turned Spike.”

“Why not?” Gunn asked.

“Spike was Angelus’s punishment for screwing up with Dru.”

“Come again?” Gunn asked. “How did Angelus screw up?”

Angel said, “Before she became a vampire, Drusilla was a nun. She was famous across Europe for her piety and for her visions. Dru was a holy innocent with the gift of prophecy. It was Darla’s idea to make her one of us. Turning a living saint into a vampire was a major coup, but the visions were what she really wanted. Darla was always planning ahead.”

Wesley turned around to look at Angel. He knew the circumstances of Drusilla’s turning. The vampire attack had been horrific enough to appal even the jaded sensibilities of the Watchers, and their account of the event in the annals was unusually detailed. However, Wesley was interested of hearing the story in Angel`s own words.

“Because her childe had always taken particular pleasure in the suffering of innocents, Darla let Angelus have the honour of siring Drusilla. Angelus denounced her God, defiled the convent`s chapel and raped and murdered the other nuns in front of her. He tortured her until she went mad. Then he turned her.”

Angel`s voice broke then, recalling what he had done.

“Drusilla was out of her wits when Angelus sired her, and she never recovered them. She still has the gift of second sight, but now her visions are mixed up with nursery rhymes and childish nonsense. It’s impossible to tell a genuine prophesy from her usual ravings.

Darla was furious, of course. Angelus should have been more patient; he should have waited until after he turned her before sacking the convent. Vampires are resilient; they can survive the kind of traumas that destroy humans.

Vampires never forgive a mistake and they never forget. It was years before Darla found the perfect way to make Angelus pay for his carelessness. William wasn’t a saint, and he’d never taken religious orders, but he was pure in his own way. He was a virgin. A dutiful son. A terrible poet who believed in love.

Darla convinced Dru to sire him. Angelus wasn’t allowed to touch him. That was our punishment. Angelus had to watch his witless childe do what he had not been able to do. He was forced to witness William’s corruption, without being allowed to take part in it.”

“You said ‘our’. ‘Our’ punishment,” Wesley said.

“I meant his. I meant Angelus, of course.”

“Of course,” Wesley echoed.

 

Following the detailed directions Buffy had provided, Angel, Gun and Wesley made their way into the Initiative’s headquarters located underneath UC Sunnydale. Although the ventilation system was going full-blast, the rank smell of dead and decaying demons filled the air. The two humans donned protective white masks. Xander, also wearing a mask, was waiting for them by the door. He lead them through a dimly lit warren of corridors, each leading to a seemingly endless series of cells. It seemed that they had walked for miles before they finally reached the cellblock that housed Spike.

“I tried to clean him up a bit,” Xander explained, “but there isn’t any running water down here so I had to use wet naps. I used a whole box but it didn’t do much good. I got some clothes for him at the thrift shop too.”

Anya was sitting on a lawn chair in front of one of the cells. She too was wearing a mask and she had surrounded herself with a half dozen air fresheners. There was a cup of blood on the floor by her feet.

“We tried feeding him,” Anya said. “I got pig’s blood from the butcher shop. I told him the butcher that I was making blood pudding.

Spike doesn’t seem to keep anything down though. I feed him a spoonful of blood and he just spits it up again. I told Xander that maybe we should try cow’s blood. Maybe Spike’s allergic to pig.”

She stepped aside, giving the three men their first look at Spike.

“Damn,” Gunn said under his breath. “He does not look good.”

Angel knelt down in front of the emaciated vampire. Spike opened his eyes but he didn’t seem to be focusing on anything in particular. Angel wasn’t sure whether Spike even knew he was there.

“Hand me that cup, will you?” he asked Gunn.

Gunn handed him the cup. Angel dipped one of his fingers into the blood and then put his finger into Spike’s mouth.

“Come on, William,” he said, encouraging the other vampire. “Drink up.”

After a moment, Angel got to his feet.

“He can’t swallow,” he said. “He needs a doctor.”

“I’ve never heard of a doctor for a vampire,” Xander said doubtfully. “Don’t vampires just heal themselves?”

“Usually,” Wesley confirmed, “but I think Spike is too far gone at this point.”

“He’s not too far gone!” Angel said. “We’ll take Spike back to L.A. and then will get him a doctor. One who knows about vampires.”

“The Host will know who to call,” Gunn said.

Angel knelt down again to pick up Spike. The other vampire was just a skeleton held together by skin and sinew. The sweatpants and t-shirt Xander had purchased for him were much too big, hanging off his emaciated frame, and they were already stained with dirt and blood.

“Okay, William,” Angel said. “We’re going home.”

Chapter Text

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.”

Spike nodded.

“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.”

Chapter Text

The Host had seen Dr. Rajinder Dhaliwal hanging around Caritas a few times. The doctor, house physician for the law firm of Wolfram and Hart, was invariably accompanied by a Gaurog demon. The doctor was an ordinary-looking human in early middle age. The only odd thing about him was his eyes: they were a beautiful, clear blue, like the eyes of a Siamese cat. Also like a cat’s eyes, they reflected light so that they seemed to glow in the dark. The Gaurog demon was six and a half feet tall and solidly built. The demon was a cylindrical column of muscle who could barely squeeze through the night club’s doors. He hid his vestigial horn plates under a baseball cap and wore a long coat that covered his tail. Strangely, the Gaurog had the same unusual eyes as the doctor.

Dr Dhaliwal had never confided in the Host, but Lorne could see that the physician had problems. He’d sit at the table, knocking back whiskey and casting an aura of gloom and melancholy that was bad for business.

When Wesley had phoned him up asking for a doctor who treated vampires, the Host had immediately thought of Dhaliwal. It was Angel’s business to help the helpless and Dhaliwal looked like he could use some help. Bringing the two together was the Host’s good deed for the day.

 

Though the Hyperion Hotel had many rooms, few of them were fit for habitation. Most of the rooms were empty, and whatever furniture was left was there only because it wasn’t worth anyone’s while to carry it away. Room 212 was better than most. It had a bed, a chest of drawers, a working light fixture complete with 40- Watt bulb, and running water in the bathroom.   A broken air conditioner filled the bottom half of the window; the top half was covered by a threadbare curtain in a shade of orange that had last been popular in the early seventies. There was even a television which, surprisingly, still worked, although it only received three channels.

Spike had lived in a crypt at the cemetery before he had been imprisoned in a dark and dirty cell underneath Sunnydale. For him, Room 212 of the Hotel Hyperion was stylish living.

Angel sat on the side of Spike’s bed, wondering whether he should wake the other vampire or let him sleep. He’d warmed up a cup of pig’s blood in the microwave downstairs. He dipped his fingers in the blood and then used it to wet Spike’s lips, which were dry and cracked.

“Come on, William,” he coaxed. “Try to drink a little. Just a drop.”

Wesley, standing in the doorway, cleared his throat. Angel turned around.

“The Host says that he knows someone who can help Spike,“ Wesley said. ‘‘He`s named Dr. Dhaliwal. The only problem is that the Host thinks that he might not be pure human. He said something about his eyes. He thinks he`s part Gaurog.”

“Gaurog?”

“A demon of humanoid appearance, not especially violent although considered untrustworthy. The species is sexually dimorphic. Males are large, muscular and have thick tails covered by plates of hide which can be used as clubs. Females are much smaller, graceful and willowy, with elegant tails that are covered in a fine soft down. Gaurog females are notorious for seducing human males, after which their outraged male relatives show up to demand compensation.”

“So you’re afraid this doctor is some kind of fraud because he might be part Gaurog?” Angel asked.

Wesley shook his head. “No. His reputation is excellent. I’m concerned, however, that Spike’s chip might not prevent him from harming someone who is not a pure-blooded human.”

“The shape that he’s in right now,” Angel said, “Spike couldn’t hurt a fly, let alone a Gaurog demon.”

“Still...” Wesley said.

“I’ll stay in the room when Dr. Dhaliwal is doing his examination to make sure that Spike doesn’t attack him,” Angel said, turning away from Wesley.

The former Watcher had been dismissed. He stood in the doorway for a moment longer, but Angel’s attention was entirely focussed on trying to get Spike to eat. Frowning, Wesley went downstairs to join the others.

 

Angel had insisted on staying in the room. He had not let the doctor see his patient alone. He’d argued that Spike was too dangerous, which was ridiculous. Dhaliwal’s bodyguard could handle any trouble that came up, but such incidents seldom happened, despite the nature of Dhaliwal’s patients. Even demons did not normally attack those who were tending to their wounds. Angel stood in the doorway, too far away to do any good if Spike suddenly lunged at him. and looked at the wall. The vampire carefully averted his eyes from the examination, as if he were respecting Spike’s privacy.

When he’d finished the examination, Dhaliwal pulled off his gloves. He looked around the dismal room – the bare stained mattress without a sheet or a pillow, the dim light that made a proper examination difficult, and the flimsy curtains that would let in the morning sunshine. He sniffed at the red liquid sitting in a cup on the battered chest of drawers.

“Pig’s blood?” he asked, handing the cup to the Gaurog demon.

The demon took a sniff and nodded.

He looked over at Angel, who was now at Spike’s bedside. As he watched, Angel leaned over Spike, whispering something that only Spike could hear. He placed his hand on top of the other vampire`s. The very picture of solicitude. The vampire with a soul comforting his wounded childe.

“Vampire families are the worst,” Dr. Dhaliwal said to his bodyguard in badly accented Gauroghi.“They combine all the worst traits of humanity and demonkind.”

Dr. Rajinder Dhaliwal usually kept his emotions under strict control. However, he was feeling a surge of anger that was too powerful to be ignored. It wasn’t because the vampire he was treating had been tortured; vampires and demons inflicted all sorts of grisly punishments on each other, and it was Dhaliwal’s unpleasant job to stitch them back together afterwards. He was used to that.

He was angry because Angel had given him hope, and then taken that hope away from him.   He’d planned to come up with some excuse to talk to Angel alone, without his Gaurog bodyguard/jailer present. He’d hoped that the vampire with a soul could solve his problems. However, seeing what Angel had done to Spike had made Dhaliwal change his mind. The doctor would never be able to trust the person who had purposefully inflicted this kind of pain on another. Such a brute could not handle his situation with the delicacy it required.

“Why did you do this?” he asked Angel. “What did he do? Did he cheat on you?”

“Spike and I are not a couple,” Angel protested. He meant to tell the doctor that he was not the one who had tortured Spike but the doctor was in full spate and would not let his speak.

“You pour bleach down his throat, and then you ask me why you can’t get him to swallow. He can’t feed because he’s hurt, and he can’t heal because he’s starving. What’s the solution? We feed him intravenously. Human blood not pig’s blood. ”

“But... ”

“I know. You’re the good vampire. The one with a soul. No human blood passes your lips. Very commendable. However, this vampire is used to human blood and he’ll heal more quickly if you feed him his normal diet.

I know a place where you can get human blood. They supply blood for ritual use. It’s not medical quality, but it’s ethically gathered. They pay the donors the same rate as the Red Cross, but they don’t ask any questions about needle use, hepatitis, or unprotected sex. Caveat emptor. I’ll give you the address.

Do you know how to set up an IV drip?”

Angel shook his head.

“Not difficult. I’ll show you how.”

“Where have you been keeping him? Not here. You know how I can tell? Those curtains are threadbare, and Spike is dehydrated. In his current state he’s highly flammable. When the sun comes up, he’ll go up like a stick of phosphorus. Put him in a room without windows, maybe underground, before he burns the place down. Back in whatever cage you had him in.”

“I didn’t...”

“Finally, no more buggery.”

Angel must have gasped or made some kind of sound, because the doctor turned on him then, unleashing the full force of his anger on the vampire.

“You heard me. No buggery. Not till he heals...if he heals. He may need surgery. I couldn’t examine him properly. Too painful and then his face started to change....what do you vampires call it?....he was vamping out. “

“Spike was...violated.” Angel said.

“That`s what I said. I don’t like this kind of case. Demons killing and wounding their enemies I can understand...sort of...but why do you hurt the ones you care about?”

“I didn’t hurt him,” he said. “It was the Initiative.”

The doctor looked at Angel. He wasn`t angry any more. He just looked sad and defeated.

“I’ve been around your kind too much. I can almost understand. You have a soul, but there’s a demon inside you too, and you have to keep him quiet. “

“If you do it again, I’ll still come, because I’m the only doctor treating demons and vampires in the Los Angeles area who does house calls and I feel a certain responsibility to my patients. But I’ll charge you double, and my fees are already steep. So don’t do it again.”

“Honestly, it wasn’t me,” Angel repeated.

Dr. Dhaliwal nodded, although it was clear that he didn’t believe him.

“I’ll send you your bill by the mail. Pay it promptly. I work for Wolfram and Hart, and you don’t want to have to deal with our collection agency.”

Chapter Text

Angel escorted Dr. Dhaliwal and his Gaurog bodyguard to the door of the hotel. He was mentally rehearsing the procedure for inserting an IV drip. Angel had been too embarrassed to admit that he was a bit squeamish about needles. In Spike’s fraught state, he figured that he only had one chance to do it right before Spike went into full vampire mode.

Gunn and Cordelia had gone home, but Wesley had lingered, waiting for a chance to speak to Angel.

“So what did the doctor say?”

“The Initiative poured bleach down his throat. What sort of valuable scientific data do you think they get from that? Riley Finn better stay out of my sight,” he said. “Buffy’s corn-fed, all-American boyfriend has a lot to answer for.”

“I won’t attempt to justify the Initiative’s methods. They may have been over-zealous, but they are our allies in the fight to protect the innocent from demonkind “

“I’m not sure that fighting demons is all that they were up to,” Angel said. “That facility was too elaborate to just be a prison for demons. It must have been hugely expensive to construct and operate. I think that there was something else going on there.”

He pulled out the address that Dr. Dhaliwal had given him, and then took out his wallet, removing all the cash he had with him. He handed the money and the address to Wesley.

“The place at this address sells human blood for magical rituals. I’d like you to go there tomorrow morning and get some blood. Take Cordy with you. She’s good at haggling; maybe she can get us a discount.”

“You’re feeding Spike human blood?”

“It’s what the doctor says he needs,” Angel said. “He said to feed him intravenously. Have you ever set up an IV drip?”

“My Watcher’s training did include some basic medical training,” Wesley said.

“Good. The doctor left me the equipment and gave me some instructions, but I’ve never done it myself.  You can do it first, and I’ll watch you. Do you think you can stick around for a while? I’m going to get Spike cleaned up a bit first.”

Wesley nodded. Angel was halfway up the stairs when Wesley found the courage to say what was on his mind.

“I understand that you may feel you have an obligation to protect Spike, but having him here does present certain difficulties.”

“What difficulties? Spike’s chipped, so he can’t hurt anyone.”

“It has not escaped my notice that you have a certain....understandable....fondness for him.”

“Get to the point, Wesley. Are you worried that being around Spike is going to be a bad influence on me? You should know me better than that.”

“That is not what I’m worried about. What concerns me is that since you’ve been around Spike, your mood has lightened. You don’t seem to be as brooding and morose. One moment of perfect happiness is all that it takes for Angelus to return.”

Angel laughed.

“I’ve just been too busy looking after him to put in my regular brooding hours.  I guess a moment of perfect happiness with Spike could seem plausible to you, since you don’t know him. I promise you that once Spike gets his voice back, you’ll see what a ridiculous idea that is.”

 

 

Angel returned to Room 212 carrying a large towel, washcloth, soap, shampoo and conditioner. He placed the supplies on the bed next to Spike. HIs examination had exhausted the vampire. He was sleeping and Angel had to shake him to get him to open his eyes.

“We’ll just get you cleaned up and then we’ll move you to another room,” Angel said in a falsely cheery tone.

Spike gave him a sharp glance; he didn’t appreciate being spoken to as if he were a child. Just because he was physically weak didn’t mean he’d regressed to infancy.

The liquid that came out of the hotel room’s tap was more rust than water, and Angel let it run for a while until it cleared.   While the tub filled, he took off his coat and shirt, to prevent them from getting wet.

Spike was incapable of doing much to assist as Angel undressed him. Angel removed his ill-fitting sweatpants (noting that Xander had been too cheap to spring for a pair of underpants) and struggled to get him out of his t-shirt. Then he carried Spike into the other room and put him in the bath tub.

The marks of months of torture were clearly visible on Spike’s milk-white skin. There were scars, and old wounds that had almost healed, and newer wounds on top of them. Then there were the wounds that must had been inflected on him when Spike had been left alone to die in the dark, when all of his energy had gone to staying alive, and those wounds hadn’t healed at all. They were still fresh and painful.

Angel’s touch was delicate. Spike’s skin was stretched paper-thin,  tight over his bones. He didn’t want to open any wounds or cause Spike pain. However, Spike hadn’t bathed in months and grime was embedded under his skin and caked beneath his nails. It would take more than one good, hot bath to get him clean.

Spike seemed to enjoy having his hair washed, so Angel lingered a bit on this task, massaging his scalp and running his fingers though his grand-childe’s hair. He was rewarded with the hint of a smile on Spike’s face.

Then Angel scooped Spike up, getting a fair amount of water down the front of his pants, and wrapped him up in the towel.

“Feels good to be clean,” he said, earning himself another sharp look from Spike.

He didn’t bother dressing him in Xander’s thrift store finds: the sweatpants were the wrong size and the t-shirt was too much bother. Instead, he dressed Spike in his own shirt, which had buttons and was a lot easier to manage. It was almost long enough to serve as a nightshirt.

Angel didn’t use the rickety elevator. He carried Spike down the flight of stairs to the lobby. To Wesley’s horrified eyes they looked like the cover of a romance paperback. Angel was, of course, the shirtless hero, while Spike, with his long curly hair and (slightly blood-stained) white nightshirt, played the part of his swooning bride-to-be.

Angel took Spike to his apartment, which was in the basement of the hotel. He laid him down on the couch while he went into the bedroom to change the sheets on his bed. Wesley followed him in.

“He’ll be sleeping in your bed, then?”

“More room for the IV pole here than by the couch.”

“So you’ll be taking the couch then.”

Angel looked at his employee.

“My sleeping arrangements are none of your business.”

“Unfortunately, the prospect of Angelus returning makes your sleeping arrangements my business, as awkward and uncomfortable as that is.”

Angel glowered, but Wesley stood his ground, certain of where his duty lay.

“Aside from the fact that Spike and I have never been interested in each other, he can hardly stay awake for more than thirty seconds at a time. What exactly do you think is going to happen? 

Have you ever heard of dormancy, Wesley? Did you run across that term in one of your Watcher texts?”

Wesley shook his head.

“Dormancy is the living death. It happens when a vampire shuts down, closes in on himself and withdraws from the world entirely. William’s so close, Wesley. I can see how oblivion tempts him. He could go down so deep that I won’t be able to pull him back up again.  Feeling someone’s arms around him while he sleeps could make all the difference. Just knowing that someone cares. So, yes, Wesley, Spike and I will be sharing a bed. Any objections?”

“I’m sorry that raising this matter appears to have upset you,” Wesley said. “That was never my intention.”

Angel took a deep (and unnecessary) breath, forcing himself to calm down.  Getting into an argument with Wesley was the last thing he needed or wanted.

“No harm done,” he said. “Now, I’ll get Spike and you can show me how to set up an IV.”

 

Wesley had been stiff and formal. He’d set up the IV quickly and efficiently, explaining each step to Angel with admirable clarity.  Then he'd left. Angel knew that the ex-Watcher was hiding his hurt feelings beneath all that formality, and that it would be up to him to bridge the awkwardness that now separated them. He’d have to take him out for a pub crawl, get him a houseplant, or bake him a batch of cookies. Something like that.  Bridge-building would have to wait for another day, however. 

Angel turned on the television at the foot of his bed,. Then he put in a videotape of the latest episode of CSI:Miami, turning the sound off and the sub-titles on.  Angel took off his shoes, and slipped under the covers next to Spike. Careful not to jar the arm attached to the IV, he put his arms around the sleeping vampire’s shoulders and pulled him close, until Spike’s head was resting on his shoulders.

“A leanbh,” he whispered.

Then he settled back to watch Horatio Crane solve one of Miami’s most puzzling crimes.

Chapter Text

 

For every move, there was a counter-move. Balance maintained. Symmetry. Yin and yang.

Spike had imagined this moment ever since he first heard the word ‘Slayer”. He couldn’t help smiling. It was not the usual toothy snarl of a cornered vampire or even the sick, twisted grin of a vampire contemplating a kill. The Slayer found it disquieting: that look of joy on the face of vampire.  Taking advantage of her momentary distraction, Spike tried to sweep her off her feet, but she was too quick for him.  The vampire laughed.

“Good move,” Spike said, congratulating her, as if this were only a friendly game of chess.

She couldn’t understand the words, but she caught the tone of voice. Spike could see the anger flash in her dark eyes for a second, but it was mercilessly suppressed. The Slayer didn’t allow herself any emotion. She was fighting for her life.

Spike was fighting for his life, too, but the stakes weren’t as high for him. For vampires, what passes for life always ends violently – and a stake through the heart during battle was one of the happier endings. 

The Slayer moved forward, feinting a blow to Spike’s right so that Spike would have to turn left, exposing his heart. She wasn’t quite fast enough that time, and Spike jumped back just as she raised the stake to strike him.

And then he slipped in a pool of blood and muddy water.

A thought from nowhere filled Spike’s head – Where did that puddle come from? That wasn’t here before – and then he was on his back.

The Slayer was on him in an instant. She kneeled over him, raising the stake high above her head.  Spike was still smiling, still laughing, even as she lifted the stake, ready to drive it downward through his sternum into his cold, dead heart.  Win or lose, live or die, this was glorious.  This was what he lived for.

The whining voice in his head complained – But that isn’t what happened!

Then suddenly he wasn’t in China anymore. China had been a dream. Or perhaps an hallucination. At this point, dreams and hallucinations were hard to tell apart.  If his eyes were shut, he was dreaming; if they were open he was hallucinating.  In total darkness, he couldn’t tell the difference without touching his eyelids to check, and it hurt too much to move.

Spike was in his cell, naked and alone. He was where he has always been, where he always will be, at least until the Big One comes and the whole of UC Sunnydale lands on top of him, squashing him as flat as a pancake.

Bring on the Big One.

 

Two Weeks Later

 

The sheets were smooth against his skin. They must have been freshly washed; he could still smell the detergent.  It had a pleasant, inoffensive smell, not too flowery. The clock radio provided just enough light to see by.  It was nine-thirty a.m., apparently, and that big lump under the covers next to him was presumably Angel.  He could feel where the mattress sloped down, bearing the sleeping vampire’s weight. The silence was almost total.  Angel’s apartment was underground (just like Spike’s cell), so he couldn’t hear any traffic.  And of course, Angel was a vampire so he didn’t snore or even breathe while he’s sleeping.  A sleeping vampire was pretty hard to distinguish from a corpse, actually. The room was this quiet because it was supposed to be quiet.  

Angel’s Los Angeles apartment seemed real, but then Beijing had seemed just as real, and so had Prague and New York and Dublin...until suddenly they weren’t. There was a strong possibility that all of this was a comforting illusion manufactured by his own mind:  the cool sheets, the weight of Angel’s sleeping body next to his own, the red digits now telling him that it was 9:31 a.m. 

He could reach over and wake Angel, ask him if it’s real, and Angel would tell him the truth even in a dream because he was a Champion for justice and goodness and all that. But he’d look at Spike the way he used to look at Dru.

“Are you real?” was a crazy person’s question.

Spike stared at the ceiling. He was spinning his wheels, going nowhere. So what if this was all a dream?  Did it even matter?

He needed some distraction from his thoughts. Grimacing with pain, Spike sat up. He waited a few seconds, steeling himself, before he pulled himself upright, grabbing the IV pole for balance.  It was only four or five steps to the wall, and after that it was easy. With on hand against the wall and the other clutching the IV pole, he made it to the bedroom door.  He rested a few seconds, before opening it and going into Angel’s living room. 

Everything in Angel’s apartment was either black leather or gleaming metal; it was all super manly in a way that Spike considered suspicious. Against the far wall was a big tank of tropical fish, brightly lit, and yes it was full of angelfish, in honour of you know who. (Whether he called himself Angel or Angelus, Spike’s grand-sire had never been humble.)  Only a few more steps before Spike could collapse on to Angel’s couch. There were leather-covered buttons on the couch that dug into his back when he lay down, but Spike was too exhausted to sit up properly.

Another few seconds to rest and then Spike picked up the remote from the coffee table. It was the kind with dozens of buttons labelled with obscure abbreviations, and it took him a moment to find the one labelled PWR.  He couldn’t figure out which combination of buttons would allow him to change the channel, but what was on was fine.  It was an old Bugs Bunny cartoon, and he hadn’t seen the rascally rabbit for years. 

Noise and colour and movement – just what he craved. He watched the images on the screen, not bothering to try to make sense of it, until he finally fell asleep.

 

Wesley looked over the papers that Willow had faxed him. It told him little that he did not already know. The only interesting thing he had noted were a few intriguing mentions of “Adam”, but whether Adam was a person or the code name for some military project he could not tell.  Willow had enlisted the help of several fellow hackers to infiltrate the Initiative’s files, but no one had been able to find any more information about Adam or even confirmation that the project (or person) existed.  It was possible that nothing about Adam had ever been entered into any military database, and the only place where information existed was in the inaccessible lower level of the Sunnydale facility.

Gunn was cleaning their weapons and checking supplies, while Cordy was catching up on the invoices.

“What are throat pastilles?” Cordy asked.

“Cough drops,” Wesley said.

“Okay. Why didn’t he just write cough drops? Nail varnish?”

“Even I know that one,” Gunn said. “That’s nail polish.”

“Okay, smartie. What about Lucozade?”

Gunn was stumped.

“I don’t think you have Lucozade in America. Something like Gatorade would be the nearest equivalent, I expect.” Wesley said.

“Doing a crossword puzzle?” Gunn asked.

“No, I’m reading Spike’s shopping list.”

“You’re doing the vamp’s shopping?”

“I took him some copies of Soap Opera Digest and People so he could catch up on what he missed while he was in prison, and he gave me this list.”

“Because celebrity gossip is the most important thing he missed,” Gunn said.

“He’s sick,” Cordy said, “ People read gossip magazines and watch Oprah when they’re sick. “

“Let me see this list,” Wesley said, rising from his seat and walking over to Cordelia.

“He’s got better handwriting then you’d think,” Cordy said, “and he can spell. I was surprised.”

“When Spike was a young man, there were no computers or typewriters, so a good, legible hand was a marketable asset.”

The list was quite lengthy, and included toiletries (black nail varnish, numerous hair care products), clothing (Doc Martins; shirts and pants specified by brand, style and size; underwear; socks) and even food (ice cream to soothe his sour throat).

“Petty cash won’t cover this,” he said.

“No kidding,” Cordy said. “Petty cash barely covers a bar of soap for the washroom.”

“Give the list to Angel,” Wesley said. “Spike is his houseguest.  He has nothing to do with Angel Investigations.”

Angel walked in, holding a cup of microwaved pig’s blood in his hand.

“Morning, everyone. It is still morning, right?”

“For another fifteen minutes,” Cordy said. “Here, Spike gave me his shopping list.”  She handed Angel Spike’s list.

“This is out of line,” Angel said. “I’m not buying Spike a whole new wardrobe, and I’ve got plenty of hair care products.  He can use mine, as long as he asks me first, and he doesn’t use too much, and he follows the directions.”

“So basically, no touching your hair care products,” Gunn said.

“I’m not buying him peroxide,” Angel said. “I like his real hair. What’s wrong with light brown curls? Makes him look like a hobbit.  That’s good, right?  Hobbits are cool right now.”

“I have a feeling that hobbit is not the look he’s going for,” Cordy said.

“How is Spike?” Wesley asked, his tone carefully neutral.

“He made it all the way to the living room by himself,” Angel said proudly. “Of course, he was tired out after that. I had to carry him back to bed.”

“It’s just that the documents Willow sent me have raised a few questions that Spike might be able to answer.”

“He still can’t talk.”

“But he can write, as this list proves.”

“I won’t have him cross-examined, Wesley. He’s not ready.”

“Perhaps he could just write down an account of what happened and what he knows about the facility. I’m particularly interested in anything he can tell me about something or someone called Adam.”

“I’ll ask him,” Angel said, “but if he says no, I won’t push. He’s...fragile.”

His staff members looked at him incredulously. The idea of a fragile vampire was ridiculous.  Vampires were as tough as old boots, as they all knew from personal experience.  They weren’t traumatized; they inflicted trauma on others.

“Without Dru to look after,” Angel said, “he just seems kind of lost. And he can’t stand the quiet.  Since he can’t talk, he’s always got the tv going or the radio on, usually both at the same time.  Drives me crazy.”

“I can see that ” Cordy said. “Brooding in silence is more your kind of your thing.”

Angel nodded.

“We don’t even like the same tv shows. I was watching CSI Miami, and every time Horatio Crane took off his sunglasses, Spike would just look at me...”

Wesley was uncomfortable with the turn the conversation had taken. It all sounded so cozy, so domestic.

 “To get back to business,” Wesley said, “Gunn was mentioning a possible new client.”

“Yeah, this guy’s got ghosts,” Gunn said. “Exorcisms aren’t our usual stock in trade but these are mean ghosts.  They don’t just hide in the closet making spooky noises; they throw things around.  Kitchen knives, small appliances, that sort of thing. Someone could get hurt.”

Whatever personal life the team members had was put aside. Angel Investigations was in business.

 

Chapter Text

Although the ghost was banished in the end, the exorcism could not be called an unqualified success.

While Wesley chanted the spell that would end the spectre’s existence, Gunn and Cordy did their best to protect him from a barrage of kitchenware.   Angel pressed forward, dodging a flying casserole dish. He carried a cross in front of him, his hand protected from burning by an oven mitt. Wesley ducked as a cleaver embedded itself in the wall behind his head, but his voice did not falter. He only had one more sentence to go.

As Wesley was intoning the final few syllables, the poltergeist chose to leave the mortal realm rather than be destroyed. However, it could not resist one final petulant gesture of defiance. As it departed, it released an explosion of ectoplasm. Angel, who had been closest to the peevish ghost, was the worst hit. He was covered from head to toe. Gunn and Cordy were splattered, while Wesley, furthest back, was almost entirely untouched.

Their client had been furious. Dodging the odd kitchen knife had been an annoyance. A living room knee-deep in ectoplasm was a disaster. The carpet was ruined and so were the drapes. If Angel Investigations had the temerity to send him a bill, he’d sue them.

The investigators, who had bravely faced a rampaging poltergeist, wilted under the force of the homeowner’s righteous fury. Wesley meekly handed him the business card of a cleaning crew that specialized in cleaning up after violent crimes, floods and fires.

“This is why we don’t do exorcisms,” Angel said, as they walked towards Gunn’s truck.

The enraged client hadn’t even let the investigators use his washroom to clean up. Like a snail, Angel left a trail of slime behind him. Gunn was prepared for emergencies. He kept a towel on the front seat of his pick-up He wiped away the spatters of goo from his clothes and skin, and then handed the towel to Cordy.

“Nobody covered in ectoplasm gets into my vehicle,” he said.

He inspected Cordy under the streetlight and pointed out a spot she had missed on the toe of her shoe. After he was sure she was perfectly clean, he unlocked the passenger side door and let her into the cab of the truck. He went around and got in on the driver’s side.

“What about me?” Angel asked.

“Wesley will take you on the back of his motorcycle,” Gunn said.

Wesley shook his head. That was not going to happen.

“How am I supposed to get home then?” Angel asked.

“Through the sewers,” Cordy suggested. “There must be a storm drain around here somewhere.”

“Wait,” Angel pleaded, as Gunn pulled out with Wesley following. He cursed under his breath.

 

It took more than two hours for Angel to make his way back to the Hyperion Hotel. By the time he arrived, he was in a thoroughly bad mood. Spike’s glee at the sight of his grand-sire dripping in noxious goo did nothing to improve it. Angel walked past him without a word, heading straight for the bathroom, where he stripped off his clothes and stood under the shower until the water ran cold.

Still feeling vaguely sticky, Angel dried himself off and put on a bathrobe. He wasn’t sure what to do with his ectoplasm-soaked clothes, so he just threw them into the shower stall. He could deal with that problem later. His clothes had left a pool of goo on the bathroom floor, so he got sponge from under the sink to clean it up.

When Angel opened the bathroom door, Spike was waiting for him. Angel ignored him, but Spike followed him into the bedroom. Spike stood in the doorway smirking, obviously waiting for Angel to tell him how he had come to be covered in ectoplasm. Angel had almost forgotten how irritating Spike could be. Spike took a few more steps into the room, supported by his IV pole, and then collapsed on to the bed. He looked up at Angel expectantly, like a spoiled child demanding a bedtime story.

“The exorcism didn’t go exactly as planned.”

Spike laughed. Then he winced. Laughing hurt.

“I’m getting dressed. How about giving me some privacy?” Angel said, as he grabbed socks and underwear from his dresser drawer. He went to the closet and pulled out a pair of pants and a white shirt.

Spike, Darla, Dru and Angelus had lived together as a family for decades, and vampires are not modest creatures. Spike had seen Angelus naked more times than he could count, so this request amused him. However, he obediently put his hands over his eyes and turned away.

“I didn’t mean shut your eyes,” Angel said. “I meant get out.”

He pulled Spike to his feet and half-dragged, half-carried him out of the room. He deposited Spike, still holding the IV pole tightly, on the other side of the bedroom door and closed it.

 

When Angel emerged, fully dressed, Spike was sitting on the couch watching an infomercial. He was wearing one of Angel’s dress shirts, now hopelessly wrinkled, and the novelty socks (red reindeer against a green background) that Cordy had given Angel as a joke Christmas gift. Spike really needed a shave. To Angel, he still looked like a hobbit, but one with disgraceful habits and no work ethic – Bilbo Baggins’s scapegrace nephew come to cadge a pinch of tobacco and a place to sleep for the night.

Spike didn’t look up when Angel entered. He was sulking.

“Cordy gave me the list you made,” Angel said. “Rescuing you from the Initiative does not mean that I’m responsible for feeding and clothing you. If you want those things, you’re going to have to work for them. “

Spike looked at him in astonishment. Angel owned an entire hotel in downtown Los Angeles. It was a dusty and decrepit place crammed to the rafters with ghosts, but it was Los Angeles real estate, and yet he begrudged Spike the cost of shoes, underwear and soap. Vampires are evil creatures, soaked in sin, but the love of money is a human vice. Angel had obviously been hanging around mortals too much.

While Angel talked about the difficulties of making a living as a small businessman and the value of honest toil, Spike couldn’t say a word. He just had to listen to Dru’s sire mouthing platitudes. Not having a voice was extremely frustrating.

“You can work for Angel Investigations for a while, just until you get back on your feet and pay off your debt. That’s if I can get Wesley on board, of course.”

Spike spotted a pad of notepaper and a pen by the telephone. He pulled himself up out of the sofa and headed towards it. He scribbled a message and then held it up for Angel to read: How am I supposed to fight evil barefoot? I’m not a bleeding ninja!!!!

“Do ninjas fight in their bare feet?” Angel asked. “I think they wear slippers.”

Spike growled at him, which really hurt his damaged throat. Angel pretended he hadn’t heard him.

“I’m sure we can scrape up something for you to wear. You and Wesley are about the same size; maybe he has some hand-me-downs you could wear. If not, I’m willing to advance you enough to buy a few things at Wal-Mart. You can pay me back out of your wages.”

Wal-Mart! Spike might have lived in an abandoned crypt and scavenged back alleys for furniture, but he’d always made a point of presenting himself well. He was a scion of the House of Archaeus, and he had an image to maintain. Lord Percy Percy’s cast-offs and cheap Wal-Mart knock-offs were not who he was.

Spike scribbled furiously on the notepad. Angel looked over his shoulder.

“Disparaging my Irish heritage, my character, and my clothes sense is not going to convince me to shell out my hard-earned money on peroxide and hair gel, William.”

Call me SPIKE.

“I’ll call you whatever I want to, A leanbh,” Angel said.

He sat down next to Spike, picked up the remote, and clicked through the channels until he found an episode of Murder, She Wrote. Their brief argument had exhausted Spike’s limited reserve of energy. Half-way through the episode, Spike fell asleep, so Angel picked him up and carried him to bed, dragging the IV pole behind him.

 

Spike opened his eyes when Angel crawled into bed beside him a few hours later.

“Still angry, Spike?” he asked.

Slightly mollified because Angel had called him Spike, the younger vampire shook his head.

“Good. I’ve got a favour to ask you. Wesley and I would like you to write down everything you remember about the Facility, especially anything to do with someone or something called Adam. If you don’t think you’re up to it yet, just let me know. It can wait a few days until you’re a bit stronger.”

Now or later. Not doing it all was apparently not an option. Seeing Spike’s hesitation, Angel tried to reassure him.

“If there are things that happened to you...things they did to you...that you don’t want Wesley to know about, I can leave those bits out when I show it to him.”

He reached over and gently brushed a stray curl from Spike’s face so that he could look into his eyes. Angel radiated earnestness and sincerity.

Pouring on the old Irish charm, Spike thought cynically. Still he’d promised Angel obedience, and he knew that every act of kindness from his grand-sire always came with a price tag attached. If the cost of being rescued from the Initiative was sharing every detail of his pain and humiliation with Angel and his favorite ex-Watcher, he’d just have to grin and pay up.

Spike nodded his agreement.

“Good boy,” Angel said, as if Spike were his pet poodle.

Then he moved closer. Angel put an arm around Spike’s shoulder and whispered Irish words into his ear. Spike had no idea what he was saying, but it sounded pretty. He fell asleep almost immediately.

Chapter Text

I’d been playing poker with Clem and his mates and I’d won. Clem and his mates play for kittens, so this is where I’d put in some kind of clever pun about winning the kitty, if I weren’t too knackered to bother. I’d won back me stake, a marmalade cat with the heart of a lion, and three other not-as-good kittens.

I’m sure Clem was hoping I`d say “Thanks for the evening, my good chap, and in appreciation for your wonderful hospitality, please have all the kittens I have won.” He knows I’ve never acquired a taste for cat – the fur gets caught in me fangs.   However, I didn’t do that, since I have a mate who would take them in trade. Instead, I borrowed a basket to carry the kittens in and left.

I’d had a bit to drink that night. More than a bit. Could be I play poker better when I’ve had a few.

Even though a basket of kittens looks so cute on the card you send to your gran on her birthday, a basket is not actually a very practical means of transporting kittens. My marmalade kitten escaped early on, and I couldn’t catch him or I’d lose all the others. I’d already decided I was going to keep him and sell the others, so I wasn’t too happy about that. Never had a pet before because Dru would have tortured and killed it when I wasn’t looking. Who says a vampire’s pet has to be a hellhound or a slavering wolf? At least a cat’s better than tropical fish.

I know that Wesley’s rolling his eyes at this point and saying under his breath, “Hurry up and bring on the old ultra-violence! When’s Spike going to get beaten up?” Don’t fret; that bit’s coming up.

Me mate had some of those little bottles of booze they give you on airplanes. I got two little vodkas and a peppermint schnapps for the three kittens I had left. I drank the vodkas on the way home, so by then I was well and truly pissed.

Stopped to watch Angel’s lady love offing a vamp on the way home. I wouldn’t describe Buffy’s fighting style as poetry in motion, but she gets the job done. She’s a concise fighter, not showy.... but she’s got no gift for the snappy one-liner. She should leave that to the Scoobies.

Anyway, it was while I was watching her, and thinking about whether I should have the schnapps now or save it for later, that I was surrounded by uniformed soldier boys. I was ready to fight, but they had a taser and pretty soon I was writhing on the ground, unable to control me muscles.   They dragged me off to the Facility, tasering me a few more times on the way, every time it looked like I might be getting control of me body. Then one of them gave me a shot, and I lost consciousness.

Woke up chained to a hospital trolley with Riley grinning over me. I recognized him because seen him a few times around town with Buffy. Always thought he was too good to be true.

Next to Riley was an older woman. I heard Riley call her Dr Walsh. She wasn’t wearing a uniform like the rest of them. She was in hospital scrubs, and she seemed to be in charge.

“Good,” she said. “He’s coming out of the anaesthesia. We’ll wait a few minutes.”

I was still pretty out of it, but not quite so much as I was pretending.

Then she stood well back and nodded to Riley. He undid the restraints, and in a second I was up and headed for the door. Riley was expecting that, so he tried to sucker punch me, but I was too quick for him. I was going to rip out his bleeding throat, but even before I moved - just as I thought of attacking him - I was on the floor. A thunderbolt in me head, like the worst migraine you’ve ever had. The pain was excruciating. Worse than the taser. Walsh and Riley stood over me. Grinning. Triumphant.

 

I know Wesley is going to want names and dates, and he isn’t going to be satisfied with anything less. Well, too bad, Wesley. I was stuck underground, where I couldn’t tell day from night, and the Initiative guys aren’t regular army. None of them wore dog tags or had their names stitched on their pockets. Any one of them could have been Adam. (Insert your own ‘I wouldn’t know him from Adam’ joke here.)

 

I’m not going to bother describing the cellblock that they took me to, because you’ve seen it. Me and a bunch of lame vamps – the wimpy, stupid kind that flock to the hellmouth and that last about three or four days before Buffy dusts them. The Initiative didn’t waste any chips on them. They were lab rats. So was I, of course, but I was an expensive lab rat, because of the experimental chip in my brain, so they kept me alive when they dissected the others. I heard Walsh talking with one of her assistants. She was wondering whether they’d be able to recover the chip if they killed me, or whether it would turn to dust when I died, like me clothes. They didn’t want to take the chance of destroying that chip.

What sort of tests did they do on us? There was an acid test where they discovered that acid burns vampires. One where they found that you can’t drown a vampire, but you can freeze him in a block of ice and then defrost him. A test where they crushed vampires under heavy weights to see how much they could lift.   However, their specialty was pain. They were very interested in how much pain a vampire could tolerate compared to a human. Even my wimpy cellmates could endure more pain than the toughest of the Initiative’s soldiers. I’m not sure whether it hurts any less for vampires than it does for normal humans, but we don’t have heart attacks or strokes and we take a lot longer to break psychologically. One of the guards told me that his theory was that demons and vampires were built tough to withstand an eternity in the hell dimensions. We aren`t allowed to escape our just punishment by dying or by going crazy. His theory sounds as good as any, though I don’t know how you’d test it scientifically.

Dr. Walsh oversaw all the experiments, though sometimes she had assistants do the actual work. I never saw Riley there.

 

The guards were not supposed to talk to the prisoners, but one of the guards would talk to me. I was chipped so I was safe, and he was bored. Also, I think he had a bit of a crush on me. He told me I had a cute accent, which is not something that one straight bloke says to another.

One day, he told me that some of the Initiative’s soldiers had been caught in an ambush and killed.  There were even rumors that Dr. Walsh was dead. The mood in the Facility was ugly, and who knew what might happen. He told me to look after myself and be careful, and I nodded, even though we both knew that there was absolutely nothing I could do to protect meself.

We could hear them before we saw them. There were gunshots in the other cells – the ones that housed the demons. Humans yelling and demons screaming and howling. Pandemonium getting closer and closer. The guard who had the crush on me was off duty, and the one who was supposed to be watching the cellblock left his post. He did nothing to stop the Initiative soldiers who were running wild through the cells, slaughtering everything that they could see. He probably joined them.

Then the first of them got to the cellblock where the vampires were housed. He had a baseball bat in his hands – I guess he thought beating something to death was more fun than shooting it – and he used it to smash the video camera that hung above the door to the cellblock. His eyes glittered and he grinned in a way I’d only seen before in demons and vampires. I didn’t know that plain ordinary humans could look that way.

Some of the stupid vamps were going up to the front of their cells, trying to reach him, trying to drag him back so they could bite and claw him, but that also put them in reach of his good old baseball bat. The doors in the cellblock were locked, and the Initiative soldier was trying to figure out how to unlock them.

Then the lights were turned off for a second and then on again, to capture everyone’s attention, and the public address system came to life. I recognized the voice over the tannoy as Riley’s. He was telling the rioters to put down their weapons. He told them that failure to comply immediately would result in severe disciplinary action. Isn’t it annoying when you’re saved by an enemy? I hate that.

The soldier took another look around the cellblock, looking at all the vamps he wasn’t going to have a chance to dust. That’s when he spotted me, and our eyes met for a second. He smiled and said “I’ll be back”, quoting that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. (His feeble idea of wit.) Then he left.

No one ever came back to fix the broken video camera.

 

After that, things got worse. The centre could not hold. Anarchy was loosed upon the world, etc, etc. (Quote from a famous Irish poet. Angel can ask Wesley what it means.)

There were no more testing sessions, which led me to believe that the rumours of Dr. Walsh’s death were true. The guards weren’t as careful about not talking around the prisoners – probably because they knew we were all going to be killed soon anyway – and it was about this time that I first heard mention of Adam. The story was that Dr. Walsh had been killed by Adam or because of Adam. Still didn’t know what or who Adam was, but I figured that Adam was a secret even from the guards.

Nobody thought to feed the lab rats when there were no more tests. The vampires in me cellblock were attacking each other in their hunger. Once in a while, my favorite guard would sneak me a cup or two of cow’s blood or pig’s blood. There are advantages to being as good-looking as I am.

What happened next is none of Wesley’s business and doesn’t have anything to do with Adam, so Angel cut this part out when you show this to him.

The soldier who broke the video camera came back. He came straight for me. He must have known about the chip, because he wasn’t cautious at all. He knew I was harmless.

He beat me up first. He hit me in the stomach so I doubled up in pain. He kneed me and he hit me across the face, and then after he had hit me a few more times, I sank to the ground, so he could use his boots to soften me up a bit more.

 He pulled down my trousers and my pants and he took me. It hurt like hell. The other vampires were watching, cheering him on. The bastards loved to see a proud son of the house of Archaeus brought down so low.

That was the first time a soldier came for me, but it wasn’t the last. There were at least a dozen, maybe more, who came into my cell - but he was always the worst. He was the one who used the bleach, just before the lights went out. It was a warning – mafia style - to make sure I’d never tell anyone what he had done. He probably got that from a movie too. I guess he thought that if he killed me, he might get in trouble for destroying that expensive chip in my head, so he just tried to silence me instead.

He was a freckled-faced bloke with blue eyes. Always smiling. If I ever see him again, I’ll kill him, even if it makes me head explode.

Wesley can read the rest.

 

What saved me from the frequent attacks of the Initiative’s out-of-control soldiers was someone’s bright idea to hold a kind of gladiatorial games among the surviving vampires and demons. The guards, who had turned a blind eye to their buddies’ visits to me cell, suddenly became vigilant. I was one of the contestants, and any kind of interference would be nobbling the game.

Of course, the games would be a fight to death, but I was happy about that. If I died, I’d be killed in combat, not while being dissected by a mad scientist.

None of them had a very high opinion of me fighting abilities, since they’d only seen me doubled up on the floor with a migraine when I tried to defend meself. The few people who bet on me really cleaned up. I came in top of me weight class; then top among vampires. I had already beaten some of the small and mid-sized demons when the Facility finally closed down. I would have beaten them all. I’m the only one who is still alive, aren’t I? Proves I’m the toughest.

Chapter Text

Angel’s work for the evening was done. He had a productive night tracking down a group of cultists who had been planning a grand and very bloody ceremony to appease Tepeyollotli, the earthquake god. The people intended to be human sacrifices had all been released, and the cultists were now in police custody, complaining loudly to anyone who would listen that their religious liberties had been violated.

Angel was carrying a small carton of orange sherbet, a present for Spike. Over the last few days, the wounded vampire’s condition had improved markedly. Although he still slept a great deal, Angel no longer had the feeling that he emerged from sleep reluctantly and with great effort. Spike’s throat was also healing. He had begun sipping liquids from a straw, and Angel had been thrilled that his grand-childe would no longer need an IV. (He still didn’t like having anything to do with needles.)   Spike could even talk a bit – although it caused him pain and he preferred to use a paper and pen.

Spike was still underweight and he tired easily, but he was not dehydrated any more and he no longer seemed to be at risk for dormancy. There was no need for him to share Angel’s underground apartment. Angel intended to tell his temporary room-mate that he would be moving to his own room upstairs. The sherbet was intended to make it clear to Spike (who had always been too sensitive for his own good) that his eviction did not mean that Angel was rejecting him.

Usually Spike was waiting for him when he got off work, but that night he wasn’t. The television in the bedroom was on, but when he opened the bedroom door, he saw that Spike was asleep. Angel’s buoyant mood deflated slightly; he had wanted to share his success with his grand-childe.

He walked into the bedroom. Spike did not stir. Even asleep, he recognized his grand-sire’s steps and knew that he presented no danger. Angel frowned as he turned off the television. He spent far too much time following Spike around, turning off the noise-making, electricity-consuming devices that his houseguest turned on, which was another good reason for asking Spike to leave.

Angel left the bedroom and went to put the orange sherbet in the empty freezer compartment of his refrigerator. He warmed a cup of pig’s blood in the microwave and sat down in front of the living room television. On the coffee table, he had left a pen and a pad of ruled paper ready for Spike to write down his impressions of the Initiative’s Sunnydale facility. So far, Spike hadn’t even started, and Angel was becoming impatient. Perhaps he had been too lenient with Spike. The Londoner had always needed discipline, but Dru’s attempts to rein him in had been inconsistent at best. With Dru and Spike, it had been hard to tell which one was sire.

The front page of the pad was now covered with doodles. Spike had drawn a number of stick figures – dozens of them – and they were busy climbing up the ruled lines as if they were the monkey bars in a children’s playground. Some of them were doing chin-ups or hanging from the bars by their knees, others rested on their stomachs or their backs, taking a rest from their climb. At the top of the page there was a cartoon figure wearing the typical superhero outfit of boots, long underwear and cape. This figure was neatly labeled Captain Forehead. He was launching lightning bolts at the stick men climbing up towards him. One unlucky stick man had been pierced by a lightning bolt. He was falling, tumbling through the air, his little stick arms and legs remarkably expressive of his terror.

Captain Forehead was, of course, a caricature of Angel himself. Spike had wasted his time on this malicious scribble, when he could have been doing what he had promised – providing Angel Investigations with information on the Facility. Angel tore the sheet from the pad and wadded it up into a ball.

Underneath the doodle was Spike’s neatly written account of his time in the custody of the Initiative.

 

Angel had known that Spike’s time there had been traumatic. He’d seen the scars on his body. He’d known that his grand-childe had been raped; Dr. Dhaliwal had told him so. Still, there was something about seeing the words on the page in Spike’s familiar hand-writing that made his grand-childe’s suffering seem more immediate and real.

Angel went upstairs to use the office photocopier. He made a copy of Spike’s story, and then looked around for a pair of scissors. He neatly cut out the paragraphs that Spike didn’t want Wesley to see. Then he taped the remaining bits together, being careful to align the ruled lines, so it would not be obvious that the document had been altered. He photocopied the bowdlerized version and put it in an envelope. He wrote “Confidential” on the front of the envelope and put it in Wesley’s mail slot.

Focusing on this task had helped numb Angel’s emotions. Deep inside he could feel his rage against those who had hurt Spike, and his desire to make them pay for what he had done. This fierce rage, however, had nothing to do with the Champion he had chosen to become, and he attempted, with only partial success, to smother it.   He told himself that his purpose was to help the helpless, and he had done that – he had rescued William. Revenge and retribution belonged to Angelus.

Angel went back down to his apartment. He sat on the couch and picked up the cup of cooling pig’s blood.

He decided that he could wait a few more days before asking Spike to move to a different room. He’d give him a little more time. Their current cramped arrangement was probably just as uncomfortable for him. Spike might even decide for himself that it was time to find his own place without Angel having to push him away.

He looked up to see Spike standing in the doorway to the bedroom. He was wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt. His feet were bare, and his hair was uncombed. Spike looked nervous.

“Sorry,” he said in a raspy voice. “Dozed off.”

Spike looked down at the coffee table, noticing the balled-up wad of paper and the blank sheet of paper on the top of the pad of paper. Spike eyed grand-sire warily. Angel patted the seat of the couch, and Spike sat down next to him. Angel could see from the set of his shoulders that Spike was tense, anticipating a possible attack.

“So you’ve read it,” Spike said, each word an effort.

Angel nodded. He hesitated, torn between a need to comfort William and a concern that any open expression of sympathy might shatter the other vampire’s fragile self-control. William would hate to appear weak in front of his grand-sire.

“I took out the parts you didn’t want Wesley to read.” Angel kept the tone of his voice even and neutral.

Spike nodded. Angel reached for the television remote, turning the channel to a documentary about orcas. They watched the program in silence for a few moments. Then Angel tentatively reached over to put his arm on Spike’s shoulder. Angel could feel the tension drain from Spike’s body. Spike gave a little sigh of relief and leaned in closer.

“I’m so proud of you. You showed them how strong you are. You beat them all.”

Angel avoided looking at Spike. If there were tears in his eyes, Spike would not want his grand-sire to see them. Angel focused on the television screen, watching the antics of a playful young orca.

“Got you a present,” Angel said lightly, as he ran his fingers through William’s soft curls. “It’s in the freezer.”

Spike jumped up and headed for the apartment’s tiny kitchen.

“It’s not ice cream,” he said, disappointed.

“Ice cream’s too rich for you. It would upset your stomach. Try the sherbet. It’s from a little Italian grocery store that Cordy found. She says it’s the best in the city.”

Spike came back with the carton and two spoons. He gave one of the spoons to Angel. Unlike Spike, Angel seldom ate human food, but he indulged his grand-childe. He took a spoonful. It was delicious, sweet and cold, like frozen sunshine. Angel wondered for a moment why he had for so long avoided the simple pleasure of taste. He had settled for warmed-over pig’s blood when there was so much to savour in the world.

 

Wesley unlocked the front door of the Hyperion Hotel. He bent down to pick up a cardboard box. It carried clothes that he no longer wore. They were the typical tweedy garb of a Watcher. They no longer suited the person he had become. He would be happy to see Spike dressed his old cast-offs, looking like the naïve twit that Wesley had once been.

He dumped the box on the floor of the office and went to his desk. He had come in early go through a pile of auction catalogues. Wesley had heard rumours that a magical gem called the Eye of Koronath would soon be put up for sale. It was possible that whoever currently had possession of the stone was unaware of its properties, so Wesley was checking not only those auction houses which specialized in magical items but also their more conventional rivals.

However, he put aside this task when he saw the envelope in his in tray.

As he started to read, Wesley’s first reaction was impatience. Why all the superfluous details about kittens and poker games? Cynically, he decided that this part of his narrative was Spike’s self-serving attempt to make himself seem more sympathetic. However, the vampire’s ruthlessness could not be fully hidden no matter how hard the tried: while he wrote about his affection for one kitten, he freely admitted that he had sold three others to someone who would slaughter them for food or as a ritual offering.

Wesley could spot no obvious lies in his account of his time at the Facility. However, none of the information he had provided was of any use. He did not describe the experiments performed on him in sufficient detail, and the only people he named were Riley and Dr. Walsh. They already knew of Riley’s involvement, and Dr. Walsh was (conveniently) dead. He wouldn’t have expected a complete roster, but Spike should have been able to supply a few useful names.

At the very least, Spike would have known the name of the guard who had been foolishly infatuated with him. Spike was far too cunning to have missed taking advantage of such an obvious opportunity. The vampire would have uncovered the name of his jailor and then used it frequently.  Addressing the guard by name would help forge a false sense of connection and intimacy between them that the vampire could then exploit. He might even have christened him with one of his clever little nicknames. Spike must have chosen not to supply the guard’s name. What other potentially useful pieces of information had he deliberately omitted?

Wesley paid little attention to the barbs that Spike aimed at him, but he was offended by his insults directed at Angel. Angel had saved his unworthy life, and Spike rewarded him by implying that he was ignorant and unlettered. Expressing gratitude to the person who had saved him would have been more appropriate, but of course that would have gone against his nature as a vampire.

Wesley made copies of Spike’s story and put them in the mail slots for Gunn and Cordy.

It was clear to Wesley that Spike could not be trusted, and that he had nothing useful to offer Angel Investigations.

Chapter Text

Spike opened the door to the second-floor broom closet and found that it was already occupied by a ghost. Spike wondered for a second whether the ghost haunted the broom closet because it had died there or because the Hyperion Hotel was so crammed with otherworldly tenants that this was the only place available.

The ghost was not of the knife-throwing, ectoplasm-splattering kind. It was simply a lingering presence, neither benign nor malevolent. Spike didn’t want any trouble that might alert the people downstairs. He nodded politely to her; he got the sense that the ghost was or had been female.

“Be out of your hair in a minute, pet,” he said.

He lay down on the dusty floor of the broom closet. From here, he could hear everything said in Angel’s office almost as well as if he were in the room. It was better than lurking outside the door – less chance of discovery.

 

“A chip is not the same as having a soul,” Wesley was saying. “It would be more accurate to think of it as a muzzle.”

Thank you, Wesley, for comparing me to a vicious dog, Spike thought.

 

He could feel the ghost coming closer, although she seemed curious rather than hostile. Her curiosity was hardly surprising. After decades in a broom closet, the poor thing had to be bored. He felt a chill as a body even colder than his own pressed against his and yes, this ghost was definitely female.  

“Not the time, love,” Spike said quietly. “I’ll come back another time and we’ll snog like rabbits in the springtime, but for now I want to hear what they’re saying.”

 

“Spike has done everything I’ve asked of him,” Angel said. “He’s promised to follow my orders, and I can say from experience that Spike is very loyal.”

Now I’m a sodding golden retriever, Spike thought, rolling his eyes.

“He also agreed to provide information on the Initiative when we asked,” Angel added.

“None of which was useful,” Wesley pointed out. “It just confirmed what we already knew.”

“That’s hardly his fault,” Cordelia said. “Spike himself said he was basically a lab rat. A scientist doesn’t tell a lab rat what’s going on.”

Spike frowned. Cordy had obviously read his account of his time in the Initiative. He’d never given permission for his account to be passed around the office. It was supposed to be private, read only by Angel and Wesley. Next thing, Angel would be posting the damned thing on his blog.

“If we kick Spike out,” Gunn said, “that doesn’t mean he disappears. What’s he going to do if we don’t take him in? Before he was a vampire, he was ...what? – some kind of poet? I mean he’s still got to live, and he’s got no marketable skills.”

“That’s hardly our concern,” Wesley protested.

“Well, it will be if he becomes the leader of some gang of vampire jewelry thieves or whatever, so he can pay for blood,” Cordy said.

 

Spike lost track of the conversation because the ghost was becoming very insistent. A cold tongue was trying to force itself between his lips. Spike turned his head to get away from the ghost, and then he could feel her icy tongue licking his neck. It wasn’t pleasant. It felt like someone dropping an ice cube down his shirt.

“Later, love. I understand. Long time alone in a dark place; you want to touch someone, feel someone’s skin against your own. Just be patient. They’re almost done.”

He could feel the presence back off a bit, sulking. Hardly his fault if some randy ghost got her feelings hurt.

 

“Spike’s a good fighter and he could be a real asset to our team,” Angel said.

“Or he could sell us all out to Wolfram and Hart,” Gunn said, playing the devil’s advocate.

“Angel Investigations can give him enemies to fight, a place to belong, and people to care about. Wolfram and Hart can’t offer him that. All Wolfram and Hart can give him is money and power, and Spike doesn’t care about those things.”

Cordy spoke up, “We’re supposed to be all about helping the helpless, and what’s more helpless than a vampire who can’t bite? I vote to let him in.”

“Are we voting?” Wesley asked, “I didn’t know we were voting.”

“We’re coming to a consensus,” Angel said.

“Yeah, well, my consensus is that I could definitely use another fighter at my back,” Gunn said. “From what you all say, Spike’s got skills. As long as Angel keeps an eye on him to make sure that he doesn’t get a chance to turn on us, I say we give him a try-out. Put him on probation.”

“Are we agreed then?” Angel asked.

There was a murmur of agreement. Spike did not hear Wesley’s voice among them.

 

Angel was waiting in the apartment when Spike entered.

“So who was with you in the closet?” Angel asked. He had known that Spike was overhead. His keen vampire hearing had caught every word that Spike had said.

“Some lady ghost,” Spike said, shrugging. “She didn’t give me her name. She probably doesn’t remember it.”

“What’s it like having sex with a ghost?” Angel was curious.

“Wouldn’t know,” Spike said nonchalantly.

He sat down next to Angel. Spike reached into his pocket for a cigarette. Oh right, no pockets and no ciggies either. He was wearing sweatpants, a t-shirt and a cheap pair of running shoes from Wal-mart.

“So you let Cordelia read my story. Gunn too, I expect.”

Angel nodded. He could have told him that it was Wesley who had given them copies and that he had been very angry when he found out about it. However, he didn’t want to fuel the animosity growing between Spike and Wesley. It was better if Spike blamed him.

“Angel Investigations is a team,” he said. “We don’t keep secrets from each other.”

“You should have asked me first,” Spike said.

“You’re right, and I’m sorry,” he said. “So do you want to work for Angel Investigations?”

“Got no choice, do I? Not if I want to keep meself in ciggies and hair dye.”

“Don’t bleach your hair, Spike,” Angel said. “I like it the way it is.”

“Doesn’t matter how you like it. It’s how I like it.”

“It’s how Dru liked it,” Angel said.

Spike gave him a sharp look, letting him know that Dru was off limits.

 


  

Spike’s first job with Angel Investigations came that same evening. It sounded simple enough. Something was living in the basement of a convenience store. The owner had never glimpsed whatever might be there because every time he opened the door to the basement he was overcome by a feeling of dread and impending doom.

“A demon with some kind of psychic powers, obviously,” said Wesley, “but I can’t tell which type until we actually get there. So be prepared for anything.”

Gunn handed Spike his weapon, and showed him how to use it. It fired flaming stakes, and was pretty cool, but Spike preferred hand to hand combat. Standing well back and just shooting at a target wasn’t the same as going toe-to-toe.

The convenience store owner stood at the top of the stairs. He used the basement for storage and cautioned them to avoid damaging any of his stock. Angel flicked the light switch at the top of the stairs. Nothing happened. All of them could feel the sense of dread that the store owner had mentioned.

“Whatever’s down there has already started to affect us,” Wesley said. “We have to fight its influence. We must keep hold of what’s real.”

Spike could feel unwelcome thoughts creeping insidiously into his mind. They were not his thoughts, although they mimicked him perfectly.

I’m not really here, the demon said in Spike’s voice. I’m in me cell, dreaming this. I’ll never get out. I’m stuck here forever.

I’m not going to let anything drag me back there, Spike thought. He fired at a dim shape ahead of him. He must have hit it, for the demon let out a cry of rage. The flaming stake had provided enough light for Wesley to get a glimpse of the beast.

“It’s a Tu’avlok demon,” he said. “It sends its psychic messages through sound at a frequency below the normal hearing range of humans or even vampires. If we get some superior noise-blocking headphones...”

“Do we have any of those?” Angel asked.

“No, but I’m sure that I could track some down.” Wesley said.

“I’m not waiting,” Spike said. “I want to kill it now.”

The others nodded.

They advanced toward the beast. Spike could see it clearly now. It looked like...Drusilla. He blinked, and the deceptive vision disappeared. It wasn’t Dru. It was Buffy. How could he have mixed them up? The image flickered in front of his eyes...first Dru, then Buffy. What was he thinking? He was attacking the people he loved. Spike faltered, holding his weapon limp in his hands.

“Be strong,” Angel cried out, rallying his troops. “We are real. Nothing else is.”

Spike shut his eyes for a moment, trying to block out the demon’s cruel magic. Then he opened his eyes and moved forward into the gloom, Angel, Gunn, and Wesley at his side. He snarled, furious at the beast that had tried to take over his mind.

Dru stood before him. She was dressed in one of the long gowns she favoured.

“Is my pretty boy Angel's pup now?” she said. “Are you wearing his collar instead of mine?”

“I’m nobody’s dog,” Spike said aloud.

Gunn looked at him.

“Keep it together, man,” Gunn said. “Don’t let the demon get to you.”

Spike didn’t hear him. All he heard was Dru’s voice.

“Are you a stray then, my love? Belonging to no one at all? All alone, begging for scraps from passing strangers...Poor little stray. Better watch out, my sweet pup, or the dogcatcher will get you.”

Dru laughed merrily. Then she was gone. Now, the Slayer stood before him, proud and strong. Buffy looked at him with the contempt that he deserved.

“How could you think that I could ever care about someone...something... like you? Not after Angel. He’s a true Champion. You think that I’d even look at William the pathetic, the bloody awful ...You disgust me.”

“All together,” Angel called out, raising his weapon.

Spike, blinking back tears, raised his weapon automatically and aimed at Buffy...no, Dru. He wouldn’t let the demon affect him. Holding his aim steadily, he shut his eyes.

“Fire,” Angel said.

Spike fired with the rest.

 

Spike’s hand shook as he lit a cigarette from the pack that the grateful store owner had given him. The other members of Angel Investigations looked as shaky as he felt. He wondered what visions the Tu’avlok demon had sent them. Don’t ask; don’t tell.

“I think that went pretty well,” Angel said.

“So how did you like your first day at work, Spike?” Gunn asked.

“I like it fine so far,” he said, dropping his cigarette butt on the sidewalk and crushing it under his heel.

 

They split up into different vehicles to drive back to the Hotel. Spike was Angel’s passenger. Angel drove a vintage convertible, well-maintained and polished to perfection.

“We should celebrate,” Angel said. “A workplace outing to welcome our newest employee. It will raise office morale.”

Spike turned on the radio and fiddled with the dial, trying to find a station playing a decent tune. He liked eighties music.

“We’ll go to the Host’s club, Caritas. You’ll like it there. The Host welcomes everyone – he doesn’t care if you’re a demon or a demon hunter. It’s neutral ground. And they tell me his bartender makes the best Seabreezes in L.A.”

“I can’t go out. Not wearing this tat,” Spike said.

“Wesley brought in a whole box of clothes. I’m pretty sure you can find something that fits.”

Spike made a face at the idea of wearing the Watcher’s old clothes.

“Besides I’m saving me money,” Spike said. "Got a debt to pay, right?”

“My treat,” Angel said. “Just don’t tell the others. I can’t afford to pick up everyone’s tab.”

 

Chapter Text

Angel and Spike were headed for Cordelia’s apartment, where they would be picking up Cordelia and Gunn. Wesley had made his own arrangements and would meet them at Caritas.

Spike had tried to improve his appearance for the evening out, but his efforts hadn’t paid off.

Spike had shaved, and Cordelia had trimmed his hair with the office scissors.

“I’m trying to keep it even,” Cordelia had said, “but curly hair is kind of tricky. At least this will keep it out of your eyes.”

Spike was wearing the least naff of Wesley’s suits. It didn’t fit – not properly. Decades ago, when Spike had worn suits instead of jeans, he’d never worn clothes off the rack. He’d had his suits hand-tailored, or at the very least altered to fit. And of course, he would never have considered wearing cheap, no-name running shoes with a suit if he hadn’t been in desperate financial straits.

“I look a right Wally,” Spike grumbled.

“Don’t worry; nobody will be looking at you anyway.”

“They’ll all be looking at you,” Spike said sarcastically.

Angel smiled.  “I meant that they’ll be watching the karaoke,” he said, “but hey...I appreciate the compliment.”

“Wasn’t meant to be a compliment,” Spike said, fiddling with his tie. “Do you think this is Wesley’s old school tie? Damned if I’m going to wear a Watcher’s school tie to a night club full of demons. I’ll get lynched.”

“Nobody lynches anyone at Caritas. Like I told you, it’s a place where everyone is safe – humans, demons and vampires. The Host uses the latest, most secure magical protection spells.”

Angel found a parking spot only half a block away from Cordelia’s building. Angel got out of the convertible, and pressed the buzzer for Cordy’s apartment. After a moment, Spike got out of the car and stood beside him.

“Hey, guys. We’ll be right down,” Gunn said through the intercom.

Two minutes later, Cordelia and Gunn came out the door. Cordelia was wearing a wig with long, straight black hair parted in the middle. She wore a suede coat with fringes and beadwork. Gunn wore a fake moustache, a colourful shirt with a wide collar, and a fur vest.

“Guess who we are!” Cordy challenged.

The two vampires exchanged puzzled glances.

“Sonny and Cher!” Cordy said. “Isn’t it obvious? I mean you were around in the sixties, weren’t you?”

“You do realize that Sonny Bono was a short, hairy Italian guy, right?” Angel asked.

“Okay, so Gunn isn’t a dead ringer for Sonny, but they do have one thing in common,” Cordelia said. “Neither of them can sing.”

Gunn nodded, “I couldn’t hit a note if my life depended on it, so we had to pick a song that I couldn’t ruin. We experimented a little. Turns out our choices were “I’ve Got You, Babe” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

“But we’re still going to win because we’ve got the three c’s : costumes, choreography and confidence.” Cordelia said.

 

Wesley had taken a banquette with a good view of the stage. He was holding it off against all comers when they arrived. Angel sat next to Wesley with Cordelia and Gunn next to him on the other side. Spike sat next to Angel.   Wesley and Gunn ordered beer and Cordelia ordered a seabreeze. To everyone’s surprise, Angel also ordered a seabreeze.

“Hey,” he said defensively, “I can try new things once in a while.”

The waiter told Spike that they did not carry human blood, because it aroused bad feelings among the human clientele. Spike ordered a Bloody Mary made with bull’s blood instead of tomato juice.

Cordelia and Gunn were critiquing their competition. On the stage, a bird demon boy and human girl were performing “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic. The demon boy even looked a bit like Leonardo DiCaprio (if Leonardo DiCaprio were covered in feathers). As the song ended, the girl picked up her partner and threw him spinning in the air, catching him just before he hit the ground. The crowd erupted in wild applause and Cordelia and Gunn looked at each other ruefully, recognizing that their chances of winning the evening’s prize had diminished significantly.

While Cordy and Gunn discussed killer dance moves, Wesley and Angel talked about some mystical bauble that Wesley coveted.

“That Eye thing, “Spike said, “is total rubbish.”

Wesley said, “The Eye of Koronath is not rubbish. It’s a very powerful magical artefact that was once owned by Count Dracula himself. The story is that he lost it in a game of faro.”

“Lost it on purpose,” Spike said with a snort of contempt.

Wesley ignored him. “It has the power to transform the wearer into a hellhound. The amulet may be the source of the myth that vampires can transform themselves into wolves or bats. Dracula was said to use the Eye to hunt down his prey.”

“Not bloody likely,” Spike muttered.

“If you have anything constructive to add to this discussion, please do go on,” Wesley said to Spike in his prissiest, most Watcherly voice, which he used expressly to irritate the vampire.

Spike said nothing. He’d let Wesley go ahead, track down the Eye of Koronath and then watch him suffer the consequences. It would be fun.

“I thought not,” Wesley said.

Angel sighed, “Can’t you two at least try to get along?”

“I’d like a real night off from work,” Gunn said, “where nobody even mentions mystical amulets, demon invasions, or approaching apocalypses.”

“Where we all get drunk on seabreezes and have fun,” Cordy said in agreement. “Are any of you heroes brave enough to get on the stage and sing your little hearts out?”

“Come on,” Gunn said, as his co-workers went silent. “I’m doing it and I can’t even sing! I dare you.”

“I double-dog dare you!” Cordy said.

 

Spike sang:

There is nothing fair in this world

There is nothing safe in this world

And there's nothing sure in this world

And there's nothing pure in this world

“Lamb chop can carry a tune,” the Host said, sipping a seabreeze. He had taken the spot recently vacated by Spike.

“What are you picking up from him?” asked Wesley.

“He’s a fool for love, but Angel knows that already, don’t you cupcake?” the Host said. “He’d follow the one he loves to heaven or hell.”

“Anything else?” Gunn asked

“He’s at a crossroads and not sure which direction to go, whether to head for the light or back into the shadows. It depends where the person he loves is headed.”

“So who’s the person he loves?” Cordelia asked.

“This is where it gets complicated, sweetpea. His emotions are confused and I can’t get a clear reading. “

“Can he be trusted?” Wesley asked, getting to the heart of the matter.

“The person he loves can trust him completely,” the Host said. “Anyone else...” He shrugged his shoulders eloquently.

“And now, since I’ve done you a favour, it’s time for you to repay me in kind. I want you to talk to Dr. Dhaliwal. Get him to tell you about whatever is bothering him. I’ve tried; Carlos has tried, and we’ve gotten nowhere. Seeing that glum face night after night really spoils the party atmosphere.”

Angel glanced at the doctor, who was sitting at a table near the front, accompanied as usual by his bodyguard. For once, his glittering eyes were focused on the stage instead of his glass of whisky.

“He won’t talk to me,” Angel admitted. “He thinks I tortured Spike. However, he did mention that Spike might need a follow-up visit, just to check that he’s healing properly.”

“Do you think he might open up to Spike?” Gunn asked.

“It’s worth a try, anyway,” Angel said.

Spike returned to the table in a buoyant mood. His performance of Billy Idol’s White Wedding had gone over well. Angel introduced Spike to the Host.

“Alas, my little dumplings, duty calls,” the Host said, getting to his feet. “A host must mingle.”

 

A double-dog dare is a challenge that cannot be refused. Angel and Wesley teamed up to perform 'N Sync’s Bye, bye, bye. Neither one of them put much life into the performance; their intent was simply to get it over with while avoiding humiliation. The audience response was equally tepid, but at least no one booed.

At last, it was time for Cordelia and Gunn. Though their singing was barely adequate, their dance moves made up for that. They were close to winning; Cordelia could feel it. All they needed was one last, big, audience-pleasing push. Cordelia decided to go all out and launched into one of her old cheerleader routines, leaving Gunn to improvise as best he could. Her body remembered all the old moves, even though she hadn’t done them in years.

Gunn and Cordy won the evening’s grand prize – a gift certificate for a massage at a local day spa. Cordelia was sure that a massage would be coming in handy soon; her muscles were already protesting the split she had done as her grand finale.

 

Angel had planned to drive everyone home, but he’d had a few too many seabreezes for that. He and Spike shared a taxi back to the Hyperion Hotel. The evening had been a success. Spike was relaxed, in a good mood, and more than a little drunk. Spike snuggled up against Angel. He wanted Angel to hold him in his arms; he wanted him to whisper pretty Irish words in his ear. And he wanted those signs of affection without having to be beaten nearly to death to get them. Emboldened by a few too many Bloody Marys, Spike put his arm around Angel’s neck. He kissed him on the cheek, a soft touch, light as a feather.

Angel edged away.

“I’m in love with Buffy,” he said.

“What’s that got to do with anything?” Spike asked. He kissed him again.

“She’s the only one I ever could love.”

“I don’t care. Dru never really loved me either.” Spike said with drunken honesty.

“You deserve someone who really loves you,” Angel said. It was a trite and meaningless phrase, intended only to let Spike down gently.

“No, I don’t,” Spike said. “I’m a vampire. I deserve a stake through the heart.”

Spike pressed his cold lips against Angel’s. There was a moment of heartbreaking stillness, in which the whole world seemed to be holding its breath, and then Angel kissed him back.

“A leanbh,” Angel said, pulling away from Spike’s embrace. “What am I going to do with you?”

 

Chapter Text

Angel paid the cab driver while Spike waited impatiently on the curb. Spike kept his head lowered, looking up at Angel through his lashes, playing shy. He followed Angel through the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel and down the stairs into Angel’s apartment. Angel stopped in the doorway and leaned down to kiss Spike lightly, barely brushing against his lips. A remote kiss, almost fatherly. Angel was keeping his options open, promising nothing.

“I’m going to take a shower,” Angel said.

Only the half-open door to the bathroom let Spike know that it was an invitation.

Spike was still playing demure – pretending that he was William not Spike - so he only peeked at Angel through half-closed eyes. The vampire was beautiful, muscular, perfect in every detail, like a statue by Michelangelo brought to life.

Spike felt queasy. Spike was scarred, mutilated. Though his face was mercifully untouched, there was scarcely an inch of his body that hasn’t been marked by the Initiative’s cruel experiments. He wanted to see lust in Angel’s eyes, not pity. He already had his pity. Pity wasn’t doing him any good at all.

Spike waited until Angel stepped into the shower and closed the frosted glass behind him before he hastily undressed, leaving Wesley’s fine suit crumpled on the floor.

“Close your eyes,” Spike said desperately. hoping that this one time Angel would do as he asked.

Fortunately, Angel chose to humour him. His eyes were shut. Spike kissed him, almost limp with relief and gratitude. His next kiss was warmer, more passionate, with a bit of bite to it, but the angle was awkward. The water from the shower was beating down on him, getting into his eyes and mouth. Angel was so damned tall. How had the Slayer - a tiny, little thing - ever managed it? Maybe she stood on a footstool, or maybe they never kissed standing up?

“Keep your eyes shut,” Spike said, managing to keep his voice light and teasing, “and I’ll give you a nice surprise.”

He kissed Angel on the collarbone, and then sent a trail of kisses down the length of his torso. He glanced up, making sure that Angel’s eyes were still closed, before he dropped to his knees. If Angel opened his eyes and looked down, he’d see the length of Spike’s back, still covered in livid scars. He was striped like a zebra.

Angel was already a little hard, just in anticipation. Not surprising, he’d been doing without sex for a long time. Spike knew exactly what to do, though it had been a very long time for him as well. The last time he’d performed this particular act had been in another century, when he’d been a pupil in a minor public school, small for his age and too damned pretty for his own good.

He touched Angel, looking at his manhood warily. His grand-sire was a lot bigger than any of the boys at school. Reminding himself that he couldn’t choke – since he didn’t breathe – Spike took him in his mouth. Angel growned. His eyelids fluttered but stayed closed. Spike’s tension eased. Once Spike was a bit more relaxed, he found that his old skills were still in place. It was easy for him to find a rhythm that pleased his grand-sire.

Spike had never liked the taste of come, so he leaned back on his heels when Angel climaxed. He was spattered on his chest and face, but the water beating down on him washed it away. Angel’s eyes were open now but unfocused, inward-looking. Spike got to his feet, kissed him quickly – always leave them wanting more – and stepped out of the shower. His grand-sire reached out for him but he was already gone.

 

Angel – still Angel, not Angelus – leaned back against the bathroom wall and let the shower spray beat against him. It was a criminal waste of water in drought-prone California but for once he didn’t care.

He was still ensouled, of course. Whatever he felt for Spike was not the perfect soul-stealing happiness he felt with Buffy. Perfect can mean flawless. But, as Angel remembered from long-ago Latin lessons, perfect also describes an action that is already completed. Something done with. Over. Finished.

Buffy had been his destiny; Spike would be his choice.

 

Spike had found out about Angel’s plans for him the night before. He’d seen Gunn heading up the staircase to the second floor It occurred to him that Gunn, who had no discernible love life, might be paying a visit to the sex-starved ghost in the broom closet, since he couldn’t think of any other reason for going up there. Curious, he’d followed him, but Gunn had headed straight for Room 212. It turned out that Gunn had just gone upstairs to use the bathroom, since the office facilities were temporarily out of order. (All of the plumbing in the Hyperion Hotel was very temperamental.) Spike had stood in the doorway and stared.

The room had been transformed. All the old battered furniture was still there, and the ancient television and broken air conditioner. However, all the surfaces were now dust-free and the carpet had been vacuumed. Instead of a bare mattress, there were pillows and sheets and even a bedspread, and they all matched. The ugly orange curtains were gone. The new curtains were just as ugly, but they were thick enough to effectively block out the sun’s rays.

Gunn came out of the bathroom and spotted Spike.

“Oops, “ he said, “you weren’t supposed to see this until after the party. It was meant to be a surprise. So how do you like your new room?”

Spike looked at the four bare walls. No refrigerator stocked with fresh pig’s blood. No microwave. No stereo. No tropical fish to keep him company. No pictures to look at. No books or magazines.

He turned on the television. The screen took forever to warm up but there was, eventually, a wobbly picture on the screen, so snow-covered that it was hard to tell exactly what he was watching. And then the television’s old cathode ray tube died, and the screen went blank.

“Bloody hell,” Spike whispered.

A room of his own, without distractions, in which there was nothing to do but think and reflect and be himself.

He wanted to throw the dead television across the room. He wanted to trash the hotel room in proper rock and roll style.

He didn’t. He smiled.

“I like it fine,” he said.

Inside his own head, Spike was screaming, tossing the bloody place, smashing all the crap furniture into kindling. After he’d spent an entire month alone in darkness, with nothing but his own twisted imaginings to keep him company....after total isolation had come close to driving him mad.... Angel had chosen this for him. This blankness! Even in his rage, Spike conceded that Angel probably had no idea how cruel he was being. His grand-sire just didn’t have the imagination.

 

Spike knew that Angel planned to surprise him with his own room after the party. So he’d had to hurry things along much faster than he wanted. He would come to Angel practically gift-wrapped - mind and body and long-lost soul all for Angel - and Angel would not be able to resist such a fine present. After he’d given himself to him totally, even Angel, emotionally clueless as he was, wouldn’t have the heart to exile him to Room 212. He’d be Angel’s acknowledged consort; his place in Angel’s life would be secure.

 

Soaking wet, Spike waited for Angel, who seemed to be taking his bloody time. Spike still felt mildly nauseous, but his nausea had nothing to do with the half dozen bloody Marys that he had knocked back. He was suppressing the voice in his head which was telling him – no, shouting at him – that this was all much too soon and that he was nowhere near ready for what was going to happen next.

He reminded himself that this was his choice, that everything was going exactly according to plan, and forced a smile onto his face when Angel made his grand entrance.

 

Angel dried himself off thoroughly, taking his time, and then followed the trail of Spike’s wet footprints into the bedroom. The other vampire was already in bed. He’d gone to bed soaking wet, so the sheets clung to his body.

At this point, despite the enticing picture his grand-childe made, Angel would have liked nothing better than to go straight to sleep, but Angel knew that some kind of reciprocity was required. Just taking his pleasure and ignoring his bedmate’s needs was something that he might have done when he was mortal, back when his name had been Liam, but Angel was better than Liam.

Angel got into bed and took Spike in his arms. He knew that the vampire liked being cuddled and held.  He kissed him gently. Then he buried his head into Spike’s neck and, morphing into vamp face, he bit him, but not too hard, just enough to break the skin. He lapped up the blood – relishing its taste – and kissed Spike again, this time smearing his lips with his own blood.  

Angel could feel the demon within him stir, but Angel yanked down hard on the chains that kept him bound. The vampire reminded himself that Spike had been hurt and though he was bouncing back, he was not healed yet. Not entirely. When Spike was strong enough, he’d loosen those chains a little and let his demon play ....but not yet. He had to be careful.

His hands found the other vampire’s cock under the sheets and Spike’s eyes opened wide. Angel stroked him, still kissing him. He crooned Irish words that sounded sweet but could mean anything at all.

“I want to have you, my sweet William, my beautiful childe,” Angel said in English. “Of course, I do, but not tonight. I wasn’t expecting....I’m not prepared.”

He was lying. It was true that he wanted Spike, but he restrained himself because he was afraid of hurting him. He had remembered Dr. Dhaliwal’s instructions.

Spike knew that he was lying. He knew for a fact that there was a full bottle of lube in the bedside drawer.

Part of Spike was relieved – very relieved – but he was worried as well.  Didn’t Angel want him? He doubted that one quick blow job would be enough to earn him a place in Angel’s bed.

“However,” Angel said, “I can do for you what you were kind enough to do for me.”

Angel was ready to dive under the covers, but Spike kissed him fiercely to stop him. He couldn’t let Angel see his scars; they’d remind him that Spike was damaged. He wasn’t innocent like William nor heroic like Buffy. Spike pulled Angel down on top of him.

“No,’ he said. “I want to look into your eyes when I come.”

Angel was happy to indulge the vampire who adored him, who would follow him to heaven or to hell.

 

 

Chapter Text

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."

Chapter Text

Angel’s words hurt. Spike had been trying to please him, but nothing he did ever seemed to satisfy his grand-sire. Covertly, he looked at Angel through lowered lashes.   The vampire was smiling away, nodding his head in time to the music of the car radio.

Spike should have known better by now. How many times did he have to learn the same lesson before it would finally sink in? Never give your heart away.

Spike vowed that he would be strong this time. He knew that he needed Angel. Some underlying instinct for self-preservation told him that it would be very bad for him if he tried to make it on his own right now. Solitude could destroy him. However, Spike promised himself that he’d take from Angel what he needed. Then, as soon as someone or something better came along, he’d leave his grand-sire without a word. Just walk away. The way Angelus had once walked away from his family, more than a century ago.

When the car stopped, Spike opened the car door and almost sprinted into the hotel. Angel followed at a more leisurely pace. He noticed a trail of bloodstains on the hotel’s faded carpet.

“Spike!” he called out.

No answer. The vampire followed the trail of blood through the lobby.

 

Spike was rummaging through the first aid kit that Angel kept in the cabinet beneath the bathroom sink. Bandages, scissors, tape, antiseptic ointment – what need did a vampire have for antiseptic ointment? – but no needle and thread.

“Bloody hell,” he muttered.

Where would Angel keep a needle and thread? Spike’s arm throbbed, making it difficult for him to concentrate. Blood had soaked through his shirt sleeve and was beginning to seep through his hand-me-down tweed coat.

Angel opened the door of the bathroom, which Spike had forgotten to lock. Spike was on his knees, putting everything back in the first aid kit. Angel loomed over him. Maybe he was hoping for a repeat of the previous night’s shower scene, Spike thought. Well, that wasn’t going to happen.

“What are you looking for?” Angel asked.

“Needle and thread.”

“Here,” Angel said, going to the medicine cabinet and pulling out one of the little kits that the some hotels sometimes provide for their guests. (Needless to say, the Hyperion Hotel wasn’t one of those hotels.)

Spike got up to his feet and turned his back to Angel, which ought to have been Angel’s signal to leave, but Angel just stood there.

“Let me see your wound,” Angel said.

“It’s nothing. Just needs a few stitches. I can take care of it myself.”

“No, you can’t. It’s on your right arm. You can’t sew left-handed.”

 

Out of necessity, most vampires learn a little basic medicine. They can set a simple fracture or suture a wound. After all, a vampire can hardly go to the nearest e.r. when he is injured. Even the most sleep-deprived resident is likely to notice that his patient isn’t breathing and doesn’t have a heartbeat. On very rare occasions, Angel had sutured wounds in the past. He knew that he could do it; he just didn’t like doing it. The idea of a needle entering flesh – whether his own or someone else’s - made him feel sick and dizzy. There wasn’t any traumatic childhood incident to explain why he felt that way. He just did.

Spike sat at the kitchen table. He’d rolled up the sleeve of his blood-stained shirt to expose the wound. He looked up at Angel with a dubious expression, sensing his grand-sire’s unease.

“Stay still,” Angel said, leaning over him.

“I am still,” Spike said. “It’s your hand that’s shaking.”

“I don’t like doing this,” Angel confessed. “I hate anything to do with needles.”

“Why?” Spike asked. “Poking holes into vampires is what you do. Usually you’re using a stake instead of a needle, but it’s the same thing really. Just a difference in scale. If you think of a needle as a really tiny metal stake...”

“Spike, would you please shut up?”

“I’m trying to distract you, “ Spike said, “because needles make you nervous, right? But when you’re annoyed with me, you don’t feel nervous any more. Doing us both a favour. Your hand’s shaking less already.”

“Maybe I’m worried about hurting you,” Angel said.

“Can’t be that,” Spike said, “because you bit me a few hours ago, and that hurt, and you quite enjoyed it.”

Angel said, “I wish I had some off that topical analgesic spray that doctors use. Maybe we could use an ice cube to numb the skin first?”

“Don’t bother. I’m tough. I can handle pain.”

“I know that, a leanbh,” Angel said gently.

He went to the freezer section of his refrigerator. There wasn’t any ice, but there was a half-empty carton of orange sherbet.

“Here,” he said, giving the carton to Spike. “Hold this against your arm for a minute.”

Angel shut his eyes for an instant just as the needle entered Spike’s flesh. After the first suture, his queasiness abated and he was able to do the rest of the stitches without a problem. It wasn’t terrific-looking stitchery, but it would do the job.

“I think I could have done it better left-handed,” Spike said.

 

While Spike finished up the last of the sherbet, Angel went to the refrigerator, pulled out a bag of pig’s blood, and poured some into a coffee cup. He microwaved the blood and then carried the cup to the kitchen table. He sat down opposite Spike.

“Tomorrow’s payday,” he said. “I deducted some money for the clothing I bought you and some other expenses, but I didn’t take all of it off at once. I figured that you would want some walking-around money now. Gunn and Cordy have their wages directly deposited into their bank accounts, but I’ll pay you in cash since you don’t have a bank account. We can set the same thing up for you later after you get some fake i.d.”

“So I’m still working here?” Spike asked.

“I didn’t say you were fired, did I? You just have to try harder. I know that it will be difficult without a soul to point you in the right direction. The demon in you is going to try to drag you down, and you don’t have a soul to lift you back up. The number one thing to remember is that Angel Investigations is a team and we all work together.”

“But Wesley...”

Angel interrupted him, “I know that Wesley has his doubts about a soulless vampire being part of Angel Investigations. But you just prove his point, when you conceal valuable information from him. Don’t let him get to you.”

Spike nodded glumly. Angel sounded like the headmaster of his public school. He’d told William that he was too sensitive. Just take their teasing and pranks in good humour and the other boys will tire of it. They’ll soon find other ways to amuse themselves and leave you alone. It hadn’t worked – or at least hadn’t worked the way the headmaster intended. The other boys had indeed found other ways to amuse themselves, but those ways hadn’t involved leaving William alone.

“I’ve talked to you,” Angel said. “When I get a chance, I’m going to have a private talk with Wesley. Let me deal with it.

We’ve caused so much innocent suffering over the years, we have to earn the right to atone for our sins. Wesley, Gunn and Cordelia are being incredibly generous just giving us a chance to try. I know you don’t understand about having to pay for your sins. I know you can’t understand.”

“So that’s it then,” Spike said, unable to hide his resentment. “You only care about the innocents. You don’t care about me. You only care about people with freshly-laundered, pure-white souls.”

“I care about you,” his grand-sire said.

He clasped Spike’s hand and brought it up to his lips for a kiss. He smiled and for a moment dour, tormented Angel was gone, replaced by the rakish, devil-may-care Irishman he had once been centuries ago.

“I probably shouldn’t but I do. You’re my guilty pleasure.”

 

“I’m going to give you a special assignment,” Angel said. “One where you can show everyone what an asset you are to Angel Investigations. You remember Dr. Dhaliwal, the doctor who examined you? He suggested that you might want to come in for a check-up, just to make sure that you’re healing properly.”

“I’m fine,” Spike said. “I don’t need to see a doctor.”

“Spike, he said there could be rectal tearing or internal injuries from when they ...from what they did it you.”

Angel glanced at his grand-childe to see how he was taking this. Spike’s expression was closed off, giving away nothing.

They had never talked about Spike’s time with the Initiative. Angel was, in many respects, a modern Californian who believed that talking about traumatic events could be therapeutic. But he was also familiar with an older set of values that said that the best way to deal with trauma was to kill those responsible. And their husbands and wives, their children and household pets. And also any other people you happened to meet on the way to your enemy’s house. Closure for vampires only came when everyone who had taken part in or witnessed their pain and humiliation had been slaughtered.

“Dhaliwal’s office is right in the Wolfram and Hart building, which gives us a great opportunity to get a look at their base of operations.

The Host said that he’s been really glum and depressed lately. It could be girlfriend troubles or something else totally unrelated to Wolfram and Hart, but it could also be that he’s unhappy working there. Dr. Dhaliwal might want to defect from the side of evil and join the good guys. You could get him to talk about what’s bothering him. Convince him to let us help him.”

“So how’s that going to work?” Spike asked. “While he’s got his hand up my arse, I’m supposed to strike up a conversation with him? ‘By the way, if you’re looking for someone to fight the big bad, here’s our business card.’”

Angel nodded, missing Spike's sarcasm. “Exactly! It’s called networking. Anya says it’s the key to business success. I’ll call Dr. Dhaliwal’s office tomorrow and make an appointment.

In the meantime, you can take tomorrow off. Go shopping. Spend some of your pay. You can ask Cordy to come with you if you like. She knows where all the good stores are.”

Chapter Text

Angel looked down on Spike. His grand-childe was asleep on Angel’s uncomfortable couch in front of the television, which was set to a Spanish-language cable channel. It was showing a football match between Honduras and Belize. Angel knew that the younger vampire suffered from insomnia and was plagued by bad dreams.  When Spike couldn’t sleep or when he woke up from a nightmare, he would get out of bed and turn on the television for company.  Some days he never got any sleep at all.

Angel went into the bedroom and pulled a blanket off the bed to cover up the sleeping vampire.  Then Angel showered, shaved, dressed, and microwaved two cups of pig’s blood.  Leaving one on the coffee table for Spike, he headed upstairs. He left the television on, knowing that Spike would be upset if he woke to silence.

 

Spike walked in the office door late, just as the regular Monday staff meeting was ending. With studied casualness, he sauntered up to Angel, put his arms around him, and kissed him with rather more enthusiasm than the occasion warranted.

“Morning, love,” he said to Angel. He turned around to face the rest of the group.  He smirked at Wesley.

Angel knew that Spike was being deliberately provocative. His kiss was clearly meant to show everyone his new place in Angel’s life.  And, although Spike's behaviour was unprofessional, Angel felt relieved rather than angry. In a small, close-knit office, a relationship (or an affair or a one-night stand or whatever it was) could not be kept secret.  Spike’s little demonstration had just saved Angel from having to make a hideously awkward public announcement.

Angel looked around to see how his team members were reacting. Cordelia was digging around in her purse for her car keys. She did not look up. Gunn avoided his gaze. Angel couldn’t tell whether he disapproved or whether he just found public displays of affection embarrassing. Wesley stared at Angel blankly.  The worst had happened, and the ex-Watcher had no idea what to do next.

 

His week’s wages in his pocket, Spike slumped down in the seat of Cordelia’s car, avoiding the sun’s burning rays. He was wearing an over-sized hoodie proudly emblazoned with UCLA’s crest.  The hoodie had probably been stolen or scavenged since no one at Angel Investigations had ever attended that institution of learning. 

Cordy said, “So are you and Angel a couple now? I mean, if it’s just ...you know...office party spillover, I’m not going to get all judgemental. It’s not as if I haven’t made some dating decisions I regret.  Not that I’m saying you should regret hooking up with Angel.  Angel’s a great guy, if you’re interested in tall, dark and brooding.”

“The brooding can be a bit much,” Spike said.

Cordelia nodded.” Would it kill him to smile a little more? Who says that you can’t atone for your sins cheerfully?”

“It’s the soulful sighing that annoys me,” Spike said, “especially when I’m trying to watch the telly.”

“And all that endless pining after Buffy!" Cordy said, only realizing after the words were out of her mouth that she might have been a bit tactless.

She signalled a left-hand turn into the parking lot of the mall, waiting for a gap in traffic.

“If it makes you feel any better,” Cordy said, “I’ve been in your situation. Not that Xander ever actually told me that he’s obsessed with the Slayer. I had to find that out for myself.”

“Xander Harris had a secret obsession! The boy has hidden depths. Here I was thinking that he was about as deep as a mud puddle.”

“He was in love with Buffy the entire time we were dating, and I was too blind to see it. Sometimes I look back at the person I was in high school, and I just cringe.”

“There was nothing wrong with high school Cordelia,” Spike said. 

He glanced at Cordelia, noticing the changes in her since she had left Sunnydale. It wasn’t just that she was older. Her experiences in the past few years had humbled her. She had become a more sensitive and compassionate person, but Spike didn’t think the change was entirely for the better. 

Something had been taken from her in exchange for what she had gained.  The world had proved to be a colder and harder place than she thought, and she was no longer certain that she would find success and happiness.  Some bright spark in her had been extinguished.

 

“An eternity of celibacy is a lot to ask of anyone, even a Champion. It’s not that I can’t understand the allure of someone like Spike,” said Wesley. “I have, on occasion, succumbed to temptation myself.”

“Do we have to talk about this? Can’t we keep our sex lives out of the office?  I don’t want to know about what you and the hobbit get up to,” Gunn said, looking at Angel, “and I don’t want to hear about all the times you succumbed to temptation,” he said to Wesley.

Gunn shook his head violently, as if he were trying to dislodge the image of Spike and Angel kissing.

“I’m still myself,” Angel said to Wesley earnestly, “I haven’t lost my soul. That’s what you were worried about.”

“Yes, that’s true,” Wesley conceded.

The Watcher Academy did not only teach demon recognition and simple spell-making. It also taught its students how to see situations analytically. Watchers learn to see patterns, to take a long a long-range view, and to assess strengths and weaknesses dispassionately. An admiring American observer had once described the Academy as “combining all the best aspects of Harvard Law School and West Point.”  Another observer, less well-disposed towards the Academy, had described it as a school for budding Machiavellis.

His Watchers’ training allowed Wesley to disregard his own feelings and analyze the situation objectively.

“It appears that I was unduly pessimistic,” Wesley acknowledged after a long moment’s thought. “I can see certain advantages. As long as Angel continues to command Spike’s loyalty, we can use his fighting skills.  The key, of course, is for Angel to keep Spike’s love while avoiding any...undue emotional attachment on his part.”

“You mean that Angel should string Spike along,” Gunn said bluntly. “That’s cold, man.”

“I’m not stringing him along,” Angel protested. “I’ve been honest with Spike. He knows exactly where he stands with me.

I didn’t plan it.  It just happened.  We were both a little drunk, and Spike came on to me. He offered and I didn’t turn him down.   I was curious. I mean, there has to be a reason why Dru always comes back to him, right?  I know from experience that she isn’t easy to satisfy...”

“This is exactly the kind of stuff I don’t want to know about! ” Gunn said.

When Gunn thought of Angel and Spike together he felt queasy, and it wasn’t just because they were both men or even because Angel had chosen to be with a stone-cold killer without a soul. Those factors added to his unease, but what really unsettled him was that Angel and Spike were family. Despite Spike’s occasional snarky comments directed at Angel, it was clear that the younger vampire looked up to grand-sire and desperately wanted his approval.

Angelus with Darla and Drusilla (his sire and his childe) and now Angel with Spike (his grand-childe).  All entangled in a way that made Gunn think of toothless, twelve-fingered hillbillies playing the banjo.

“I’m going out to hunt vamps,” Gunn said, slamming the office door behind him.

 

Spike was too impatient to wait until he got back to Angel’s apartment.  He dyed his hair in the men’s room at the mall.  He stripped to the waist to avoid getting dye on his new clothes and tied his hoodie around his waist as an apron.  The unpleasant odor of hair-dye permeated the men’s room.

Ignoring the hostile looks of a shopper waiting to use the sink, Spike ran his fingers through his hair, which was now white-blond.  He tied back his curls into a ponytail with a black elastic band.  A decent haircut would have to wait until he found a stylist who wouldn’t be disturbed by his client’s lack of a reflection.

He put on a t-shirt and headed out to the food court. Cordelia had already finished her shopping and was drinking a skinny latte. A single shoe box, containing a pair of practical flats, was sitting on the table beside her.  Cordelia’s clothing budget had shrunk dramatically since her glory days in Sunnydale. 

Spike had ditched Wesley’s hand-me-downs and was wearing his new clothes. Black boots, pants and a skin-tight t-shirt that revealed the scars on his arms and wrists. There was a bandage on his right arm where Wesley (in the form of a hellhound) had bitten him.

Cordelia said,   “All black. Don’t vampires’ eyes see colours the way that ours’ do?”

“Not all black,” Spike protested. “The shirt is charcoal grey.  Vampires wear dark colours to blend into the shadows.”

“Yeah,” Cordelia said, “then what’s the glow-in-the-dark hair for?”

“That’s pure style,” Spike said, sitting at the table next to her. “I miss me duster.  I loved that old thing.   Now it’s somebody else’s trophy.  One of those blokes at the Initiative has it hanging in his closet.  Or maybe he’s got it displayed under glass so he can show it to people. ‘See everybody, I took this from Spike, who used to be dangerous before we put a chip in his head.’

At least I won it fairly.  The Slayer I took it from was sober and I didn’t use a taser.”

Cordelia didn’t know what to say to a vampire who was bitter because he couldn’t kill people any more.

Cordelia’s cellphone went off, sparing her from having to reply. The cellphone played “The Monster Mash” instead of her usual ringtone. Dennis, her ghostly room-mate, must have set it up as a joke.  He was surprisingly adept with technology for someone who had been dead for decades.

Cordelia took the call.

“That was Angel,” she said, after the brief conversation had ended. “He said that Dr. Dhaliwal had a cancellation and can fit you in today.  It’s his last appointment of the day.  If we leave now, I should be able to get you there in plenty of time.”

 

Cordelia pulled up in front of the Wolfram and Hart building. Honestly, she had expected to feel something as she neared the building – like a dread shadow cast over her soul – but she didn’t.  It was just another office tower.

“Sure you don’t want me to come with you?” Cordelia asked.

“Just going in for a check-up. I don’t need a babysitter.”

Watching Spike sprint to the building, Cordelia suddenly felt uneasy. Spike was learning how to be good, trying mightily but not always succeeding. Sending him into the dark epicentre of evil for the Los Angeles area was like sending a recovering alcoholic into a bar.  It was asking for trouble.

“Wait,” she called out, “I’m coming with you!”

Spike was already in the building and didn’t hear her.

Cursing, Cordelia parked her car in Wolfram and Hart’s underground parking lot. The elevator to the lobby was broken, so she had to go outside to use the front entrance.  The doors were locked.  She pressed an intercom button, but no one answered.  She banged on one of the glass doors.  A security guard turned his head to frown at her but made no attempt to find out what she wanted.

Spike had gone alone and unprotected into the fortress of their enemies, and there was nothing Cordelia could do to help him.

 

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

Angel greeted Spike outside the Hyperion Hotel. Angel took stock of the younger vampire’s change in appearance. His new look seemed to give Spike confidence, but Angel was sorry to see the last traces of William Pratt erased.

“Back in my day,” Angel said, “men would tie up their long hair with a piece of string or a black ribbon. I’ll get you some ribbons.”

He pulled out the elastic band holding Spike’s ponytail, frowning at the stray and broken hairs that had come out along with the elastic.

“Until then, wear your hair loose,” he said, lifting up the curls to kiss him on the neck, his sharp teeth grating against the sensitive skin.

“You don’t mind that I dyed me hair?” Spike asked.

“I don’t hate it as much as I thought I would, “ Angel said diplomatically. ”Flaxen curls. It makes you look like a picture of Cupid on a Valentine’s Day card.”

Spike frowned. He didn’t want to be Cupid any more than he wanted to be a hobbit.

“Angel and Cupid,” Angel teased, “fighting evil together. Like Batman and Robin. The cursed crusaders. The demonic duo.”

Angel pulled Spike into the shadows. Heedless of whoever might be watching, Angel morphed into vamp face to nip the back of his lover’s neck.

“The doctor said that I’m healing, right, healing just fine, but I’m not... ready yet. I will be soon. I want to...” Spike said, nervousness rendering him practically incoherent.

“There are plenty of other things we can do, a leanbh,” Angel said. “I can wait.”

Spike smiled and leaned back into Angel’s arms.

 

Spike had given Angel a debriefing of what little he had learned. The Gaurog bodyguard had been very diligent in making sure that he had not seen anything that Wolfram and Hart did not want him to see. The vast glass and stone lobby, the carpeted hallways and (above all) the solarium with its Necro-tempered™ windows had given him an impression of the law firm’s great wealth and resources. Spike had gone on at quite tedious length about sunsets over the Pacific, reminding Angel that he had once been a poet, albeit a very poor one.

Spike told Angel that Dr. Dhaliwal had tried to recruit him, but he didn’t say anything about what the doctor had offered him.   He kept that piece of information to himself.

 

Later Spike and Angel settled in for a quiet domestic evening.   They sat side by side on the couch, watching television. It was Angel’s evening to pick, and he had chosen back to back episodes of Antiques Roadshow, first the British version and then the American. Spike laughed at the English toff who got all excited over a tea set. The Americans weren’t any more sensible though; they were willing to pay astronomical sums for anything with a Coca Cola logo on it.

“There could be some collectibles right here in the hotel,” Spike said. “Some of that ‘Americana.’ ”

Angel said. “This place is full of dust and ghosts. Nothing valuable.”

“I bet you haven’t even looked,” Spike said.

“These shows make it look like everyone’s attic is full of priceless paintings and letters from Lincoln,” Angel said, “when they’re actually full of broken chairs and old issues of National Geographic. I’m not going to agitate all the unquiet spirits in this Hotel just to look for hidden treasure that isn’t there.”

“Ha,” Spike said triumphantly. “That’s why you haven’t looked. You’re afraid of ghosts.”

“I am not.”

“Yes, you are. You Celts are all supposed to be mystics, fey, half-fairy...”

“Watch it, Spike.”

“when all the time you’re about as attuned to the supernatural world as a great Irish plow horse!”

“I’m just as attuned as you are!”

“I may not be a sensitive like Dru, but at least I know the difference between a draft and a lingering spirit! You walk right through a ghost instead of stepping around, and you never even nod to a ghost when it enters the room. If you just learned how to mind your manners, you’d get along with them much better. They don’t like being ignored.”

“Spike, you are the very last person I’d take lessons in etiquette from.”

Spike pretended to be insulted, but actually he was rather pleased. Spike was a yob by choice, not by birth or (lack of) education. It was nice to know that he played the role so well that even his own grand-sire occasionally forgot that he had ever been anything else.

 

Spike woke up from a bad dream and looked at the clock radio. Six a.m. was a miserable hour. The sun was up so Spike couldn’t go outside for a walk, nothing good was ever on the telly, and his co-workers weren’t due at work for hours. He found his clothes in a pile next to the bed and dressed in darkness, careful not to wake Angel. He slipped out the apartment and up the stairs to the lobby, leaving the door to the apartment slightly ajar.

Spike’s wages had gone out as fast as they had come in and he was looking for some cash in hand. Scavenging the Hyperion Hotel for collectibles seemed as good an idea as any. He imagined some long-ago child carelessly leaving behind his copy of Spiderman no. 1 in a dresser drawer. Or maybe a lonely commercial traveller had tacked up a calendar with a picture of Marilyn Monroe holding up a bottle of Coca Cola, and it was still there, just waiting for Spike to find it and make a fortune.

Spike decided to start on the top floor of the hotel and work his way down.

 

So far, Spike’s scavenging expedition had yielded very little. He’d found an old issue of Popular Mechanics in mint condition and a working bedside lamp of quite extraordinary ugliness. Hardly enough to keep him in pocket money. Spike tried the light switch on the fourth floor of the hotel. Only one light still worked and it was at the farthest end of the hallway.   He placed his hand on the first door to check for the telltale chill that meant the room was occupied by ghosts.

Spike turned quickly. He’d seen something out of the corner of his eye – a flicker of movement in the shadows. He kept perfectly still for a moment, allowing his eyes to adjust to the dim light. He thought he saw something – shadows merging, darkness coalescing – but it was vague and semi-transparent. He couldn’t focus on it. He blinked, and then he saw it.

It was a cat, but a creature of glittering dust motes and shadow rather than a living thing. The cat must have been a scrapper, because he was missing part of an ear and his tail had a bend in it where it must have been broken and had healed by itself. It looked at Spike without fear – one supernatural being regarding another. It clearly thought of itself as Spike’s equal.

Spike took a step forward. The ghost cat stood its ground. Spike squatted on the floor and then slowly held out his hand. The cat took a disdainful sniff and then walked away from the vampire, with each graceful step becoming a less solid, a little less there, until it merged into the darkness.

 

When Angel walked into the living room, already dressed and showered and ready to start work, he found Spike engrossed in what looked to be some kind of arts and crafts project involving newspapers, scissors and string. Angel poured himself a cup of pig’s blood, put it in the microwave, and sat down next to Spike while he waited for the blood to warm.

“What are you making?” he asked.

“A cat toy,” said Spike. “Watch this.”

He’d made a kind of feathery ball of newspaper attached to a string. As Angel wached, he pulled the string making the ball quiver nervously and then hop; then suddenly the little ball of newspaper was scurrying across the room.

“You’re good at that,” Angel said. “Makes me want to chase it, and I’m not even a cat.”

“You’ve still got the instincts of a predator,” Spike said.

“But why are you making cat toys when we don’t have a cat?”

“We do. There’s a cat on the fourth floor – a ghost cat – and I want to lure him out. If it was a living cat, I could use a bowl full of milk or a dish of cat food, but it’s a ghost so it doesn’t eat.”

“Spike, there’s no such thing as a ghost cat.”

“Tell that to Stanley.”

“You’ve already named your imaginary cat,” Angel said.

The microwave pinged and he got up to get his cup of blood.

“It’s not imaginary.”

“Ghosts are the essence of human beings caught between realms. They can’t ascend to a higher plane because they're lost and confused or they are still tied to the earth by ties of anger or fear. Cats don’t have souls; therefore, they can’t ascend to a higher plane or be trapped between planes; therefore, they cannot be ghosts.”

“You’re always on about souls,” Spike complained. “Anyway, how do you know cats don’t have souls?”

“They just don’t,” Angel said. “I don’t know what you saw – maybe it was a stray cat – a real, living stray cat – or maybe it was just a trick of the light....”

“Want to bet? If I win you have to take one hundred dollars off me debt.”

“And if you lose?”

“I’ll dye me hair back to its natural colour.”

 

Angel followed Spike up the stairs to the fourth floor. Spike told him to wait in the stairwell.

“You’ll scare him away, clomping around like Frankenstein’s monster, “ Spike said, which was unfair, since Angel had climbed the stairs as silently as any other vampire.

Spike sat cross-legged on the floor and waited. After a few minutes, he could feel Stanley’s presence, though he did not look in the cat’s direction. Instead, he carelessly tossed the ball of newspaper down the hall and then drew it back in towards him. The ball of newspaper seemed almost alive, the way that it moved.  It would pause, like a nervous mouse waiting to see whether the coast was clear. Then, it would dart forward a few more feet, pause again, then another mad scurry down the hall.

Out of the corner of his eye, Spike could see the cat. Its eyes followed the ball of newspaper.

Spike threw the ball again. This time it landed quite close to the cat, just out of reach. The cat was in a crouch now, its hindquarters quivering. Spike made the little ball dance. The cat pounced. Stanley was quick but Spike  was quicker. The newspaper mouse raced down the hall. Stanley chased after it.

Angel, tired of waiting, stood in the doorway behind Spike.

“You win,” he said.

Spike looked up. He was smiling, as happy as in that moment as Angel had ever seen him.

For a second, Angel felt a pang of totally unreasonable jealousy. He wanted to be the one who had put the joyous, uninhibited smile on his grand-childe’s face, not some ragged, long-dead moggy. Then Angel turned and silently went down the stairs.

 

Forty-five minutes later, Spike came into the office carrying Stanley. His office mates gathered around. Stanley looked at them with a cat’s natural hauteur, as if they were courtiers and he was their king.

“There no such thing as a ghost cat,” Wesley said. “It’s impossible.”

His voice trailed off. It was hard to deny Stanley’s existence when he could plainly see him and even hear him purring.

“I know, right?” Angel said. “That’s what I told Spike. I guess we were wrong.”

Wesley didn’t seem to hear him. He reached out to touch the cat, which hissed at him, its fur on end. Obviously, no one except Spike was allowed to pet him.

“But if it isn’t a ghost cat, what is it?” Wesley asked himself.

The cat looked at Wesley and blinked, giving nothing away.

Chapter Text

Cordelia felt the vision coming on as she was driving down the highway, headed towards the office. She had just enough time to get to the nearest turn-off and park on an unfamiliar residential street before the assault on her senses began in earnest. Scenes of bloody carnage were interspersed with more mundane images – a non-descript office building, a road lined with dusty trees.

When the visions finally subsided and the world stopped spinning, Cordelia dug her cellphone out of purse and phoned the office. She was too dizzy and nauseous to drive safely, so Wesley and Gunn came to pick her up.

Cordelia was jubilant. This time, they wouldn’t have to waste time trying to figure out what the higher powers were trying to tell her. She had recognized the building in her vision. It was the office of a studio that produced low-budget horror films. Cordelia had auditioned there once and had been offered a part. She had turned it down on the advice of her agent. The production company, which was called Two Monkeys and a Wrench, had a bad reputation for paying its actors very slowly and only after being threatened with litigation.

The three living associates in Angel Investigations drove to the production company’s building. Everything seemed normal. The receptionist at the front desk mistook them for actors showing up for a cattle call, and Cordelia didn’t correct her. It gave them a perfect excuse to look around the building.

Gunn and Wesley were turned away; the only parts available were for high school students and they were too old. In any case, neither of them had union cards.

Cordelia, who had a union card, re-applied her make-up in the studio’s washroom. Her bout of nausea had left her looking drawn and pale. She drew her hair back in a ponytail to make herself look younger, and applied a fresh coat of pretty pink lipstick. She opened her eyes wide and tried to look bubbly and naive. She modelled herself on Harmony with a touch of Willow and the tiniest smidgeon of Buffy in her freshman year.

Cordelia got the part. It wasn’t the role of a lifetime. Her lines were “What’s that?”, “Did you hear something?” and “Look out!”, which hardly challenged her acting skills. Cordelia was playing the girl who runs away from danger in high heels, except that this time, the damsel in distress was supposed to be in high school, so she wore a cheerleader’s uniform and running shoes. In Cordelia’s opinion, this departure from the norm was a slight but noticeable improvement. Running in heels on a soundstage’s hard concrete floor is brutal on the feet.

 

While Cordelia was busy pursuing her investigation on set, the rest of the team continued with work as usual. The men chased away a banshee whose constant wailing was making the lives of residents on a cul de sac utterly miserable, and they uncovered a new nest of vampires in Charles Gunn’s old neighbourhood. Gunn’s old outfit hadn’t appreciated their efforts. They warned Angel and Spike that if they came back, they’d be staked like any other vampire.

“I know you’re up to something,” the new leader of the group said. “There’s no such thing as a good vampire. You’ve got some kind of plan to put out the sun or take over the world.”

 

After a routine evening of staking vampires and fighting evil, Angel was relaxing at home. For once, the television had been turned off, and the radio was playing at a reasonable volume. Spike was sitting on Angel’s black leather coach. Stanley, the ghost cat he’d adopted, was sprawled out beside him, taking the other half of the couch. Spike leaned forward to stroke Stanley under the chin. The cat lifted his head and arched his back in pleasure.

“No vet bills. No tins of smelly cat food. No litter boxes,” Spike said, listing some of the advantages of spectral cats over their living counterparts.

“No privacy,” Angel said.

“You’re not still upset because Stanley saw you naked? You do realize that Stanley’s a cat, right? And you’re not? So it’s not like you gave him a thrill or anything.”

“I wasn’t upset because the cat saw me naked!”

“The way you were shrieking, it sounded like you were upset.”

“I was startled. Anyone would be startled when they’re trying to step out of the shower and a ghost cat suddenly materializes under their feet. I gasped in surprise.”

“Didn’t sound like a gasp,” Spike said. “Too high-pitched and squeaky. No, it was definitely a shriek.”

Angel strung another chain of protective charms around his aquarium. Recently, he’d noticed Stanley eying his angelfish. The fish tank was sturdy and had a secure cover, which would have been enough to keep them safe from an ordinary cat, but Stanley was not an ordinary cat. Stanley could walk through a locked door, and any cat who could walk through a solid wood door would also be able to pass through the glass walls of an aquarium. Fortunately, the ghost cat hadn’t quite figured that out yet, but Angel knew that he would. He was taking precautions against that dark day.

The vampire frowned. The charms were cheap and gaudy, and they looked out of place in his austerely masculine, almost monkish, apartment.

Stanley gave Angel a disdainful look. He jumped down from the couch, walked across the room and batted at one of the charms with his paw.

“It’s not going to be enough,” Angel said. “I’ll have to ask Wesley to come up with some kind of ghost-repellant spell to keep them safe.”

“No, no ‘ghost-be-gone’ spells! I won’t let you and Wesley scare him away. You’re not getting rid of him,” Spike said.

Spike had sworn obedience to Angel, so he normally avoided disagreements or direct confrontations with his grand-sire, preferring to get his way by more subtle means. Angel looked at the other vampire, surprised at this passionate outburst.

“I’m not trying to get rid of him, William,” Angel said calmly. “I just want to keep him away from the aquarium. A small localized spell.”

“I want Stanley to feel welcome here. How will he feel if there are spells all over the place that stop him from jumping up onto the table or scratching at the door or looking at the fish? You've got to let a cat be a cat.

I like little Angelo, Angelica and Angelina. I won’t let Stanley get at them,” Spike promised.

“Fine,” Angel said, “but if Stanley mangles any of my tropical fish, you’re responsible.”

Spike nodded.

“Maybe add one more string of charms,” he said to Angel. “I think there are a couple of gaps where he could get his paw in.”

 

Early the next morning, Angel woke when a weight landed on his chest. Luminous green eyes stared into his own.

Angel yelped and sat up, upsetting Stanley, who hid under the bed. Angel turned to see if Spike was awake. If Spike had heard him making that undignified yelp, he’d tease him about it forever. He’d never let him live it down. Spike would amuse people at parties for centuries to come with his imitation of the sounds Angel made when terrified by kittens.

Fortunately for Angel, Spike was still asleep. The vampire was moaning in his sleep. He’d kicked off his blankets. Spike was covered in sweat; the white shirt that he wore to bed was damply transparent and clung to his skin. He was shivering.

“Spike,” Angel said. “You’re having a bad dream. Wake up.”

He put his hand on the vampire’s shoulder and Spike recoiled violently at his touch, almost falling out of bed. Still sound asleep, he went into vamp face and growled.

“Wake up, my darling. You’re okay. You’re safe with me,” Angel said soothingly, this time careful not to touch the sleeping vampire.

Spike opened his eyes. He looked at Angel as if he could not see him, or as if he could see someone else in Angel’s place. He looked hostile and he looked afraid.

Angel had never seen Spike look scared before. He had thought the other vampire incapable of fear. In fact, he had seen his grand-childe’s lack of fear as a flaw in his character, since it led him to do reckless things (like fighting Slayers) that other vampires were sensible enough to avoid.

It took Spike almost a full minute to come out of the dream. He phased out of vamp face and sat up in bed, knees drawn up against his chest.

“Didn’t mean to wake you,” Spike said in apology.

“Are all your nightmares this bad?”

Spike shook his head. “They’ve been pretty nasty this past week or so. But this one, this was the worst.”

“What were you dreaming about?”

“The usual. The dark. This time I could hear footsteps. His footsteps, “ he said. “Guy Smiley’s. The Initiative soldier I wrote about.”

“The soldier who raped you?”

“One of them,” Spike said, hugging his knees. “It doesn’t sound bad – just the sound of footsteps in the dark – but it was bloody awful.

I really wish I had me ciggies right now. I could do with a fag.”

Cautiously, Stanley poked his head out from under the bed. The ghost cat was still semi-transparent.

“I scared Stanley,” Spike said. “Sorry, Stanley.”

He reached down with one hand, and Stanley took a step towards him, becoming slightly more solid. He brushed against Spike’s hand. After a moment’s hesitation, the cat jumped up on to the bed. He allowed Spike to pet him.

Angel said, “I’ve had bad dreams myself. After I got my soul back, I’d see the people that I’d killed and tortured in my dreams. See their families. I had to witness all the suffering I’d caused.”

Spike laughed. “You’re a Champion even when you’re asleep. You’re nobler than I am, Angel. You dream about the suffering of others, and I dream about me own.”

“Maybe if you talked about what happened, your nightmares would go away,” Angel said. “If you don’t feel comfortable talking to me, maybe to Cordelia or Gunn?”

Spike shook his head.

“Don’t want to talk,” he said.

“Okay,” Angel said. He put his hand carefully, gently, on Spike’s shoulder, and this time the younger vampire did not draw away. “You’re shivering. You need to get out of those wet clothes and into a nice, hot shower. Warm you up a bit. Relax you so you can go back to sleep.”

He got out of bed and came around to Spike’s side of the bed. He pulled Spike to his feet. He led him towards the bathroom with Stanley trailing behind them.

“A nice hot shower will do you a world of good,” Angel said.

 

Angel was changing the sheets on the bed when he heard someone knocking at the door to his apartment. Wesley was at the door.

“Cordelia didn’t have any filming to do this morning, so she dropped in to keep us informed of events. I know it’s a bit early in the day for you, but I thought you’d probably want to hear what she has to say.”

“You were right,” Angel said. “I’ll just get dressed and be right up.”

“And Spike?”

“No need to bother him,” Angel said. “Let him sleep and I’ll tell him all about it later.”

Wesley shut the door and headed up the stairs. In the background, the ex-Watcher had heard the shower running. Angel never let the shower run; he was very conscientious about water conservation. Which meant that Spike was in the shower, not asleep in bed.

Why was Angel lying to him about something so trivial, and why didn’t he want Spike at the meeting? Angel’s personal life wasn’t any of his business, but Wesley couldn’t help being a little curious.

Chapter Text

William stood outside the rear entrance to the cathedral.   When the clock struck one, he would run in and kill whoever needed killing. Simple.

Except that it was raining and his new hat and coat were already ruined. The miserable November rain was dripping down his collar and filling his shoes. Then an eavestrough above his head gave way, soaking him to the bone.

William could not see how it mattered in the least whether his victims died at a quarter to one or at one o’clock.

“Sod this for a game of soldiers,” he said, kicking down the door.  

 

“You could have ruined everything,” Angelus raged.

“Didn’t though,” William said, adopting the cheeky Cockney accent that amused Drusilla but irritated Angelus.

“There was a plan,” Angelus said.

“Yeah, but it wasn’t much of one, was it?”

Angelus had him backed into a corner. William was a quick and clever fighter, but he needed room to improvise, to manoeuvre and to surprise. His grandsire was bigger and stronger than he was. With his longer reach, Angelus could just stand back and pummel William into unconsciousness. William wouldn’t be able to land a single solid punch.  Angelus went into vamp face, growling and snapping. William tried not to flinch.

“You promised me that you would not lay a hand on him,” Darla reminded Angelus.

“He needs to learn to obey orders,” Angelus said, turning his head slightly to address the vampire who had sired him.

Spike used this moment of distraction to try to move away, but Angelus shoved him back against the wall.

“And you are the one to correct him?” Darla asked.

“Someone has to!” Angelus said. “Dru’s bloody hopeless!”

Darla nodded, though it occurred to her that Spike was not the only one who needed to learn obedience.

Darla had always played the role of Angelus’s dutiful wife or mistress in mortal society, since it offended human sensibilities to see a member of the “frailer sex” in a position of authority.   Perhaps Angelus had forgotten that she was only pretending to be weak? She had left him in charge while she gone to the Continent for a few weeks on the Master’s business. It seemed to her that in her absence, Angelus had grown a little too fond of being in command.

“William is impulsive and undisciplined, but I can hardly see how beating him senseless will improve his character,” Darla said.

Drusilla frowned. She had been looking forward to seeing the two men in her life in battle.

“He’s soft,” Angelus said.

“I’m not soft,” William protested. “I’m a killer. I was in the newspapers. They call me the Spike. I’m almost as famous as Jack the Ripper!”

Darla glanced at William, and he shut up.

“I’m pleased to see that you are finally taking an interest in William,” she said to Angelus. “He may not be the paragon that Penn was, but I can see promise in him. He already has a taste for vengeance, which counts for much. You should take William with you next time you hunt. Teach him our ways.”

She turned towards William, “And you, Spike, will obey Angelus in every particular or you will answer to me.”

William nodded. Darla had the voice of a little girl and sweet blond curls. She looked like one of Drusilla’s dolls brought to life. Most people, even other vampires, underestimated her. William did not.

Darla and William were temperamental opposites. Darla was a planner by nature, cool and calculating. William was impulsive and too often led by his emotions. The two vampires fought like cats and dogs and might well have torn each other apart if it were not for Dru and Angelus, but there was loyalty there as well. It helped that William, unlike most of the men of his era, had no problem with a woman being in charge.

 

From that day forward, Angelus regularly took William with him on the hunt. Before Angelus took him in hand, William’s victims had been chosen almost at random. He’d favoured careless men with a bit of money in their pockets, too drunk or too foolish to avoid dark alleys.

Angelus’s appetite was more focused He had a taste for the clergy – Roman Catholic priests when he could get them – and he liked to torture them before he killed them. He wanted them to spend their last minutes on earth cursing a God that could allow creatures like Angelus to exist.

William’s chief joy was in seeing that instant of horrified recognition in his victims’ eyes when they understood that they were going to die. The demon in him relished that moment of power over another living creature – and that moment was all that he needed or wanted. His victims’ deaths had been bloody and horrifying but quick. Their pain bored him, and whether their souls went to heaven or hell was none of William’s concern.

To please Angelus, William learned how to be cruel.

 

Many years later

 

Spike stepped out of the bathroom. He was wrapped in one of Angel’s terry cloth robes and was drying his hair vigourously with a towel.

He headed to the bedroom. The bed had been stripped and the sweat-soaked sheets carelessly left in a pile on the floor. A neatly folded pair of freshly laundered sheets was waiting at the foot of the bed.

“Angel,” he called out, heading for the living room.

No one was there either. Angel and Stanley were both gone.

Then Spike spotted a lime green sticky on the door to the apartment. At least Angel had left him a note.

    Went up to the office to talk to Cordy.

    Go back to bed and get some sleep.

    Talk to you later.

It was signed with the letter ‘A’.

 Spike took the note out off the door, crumpled it, and put it in the pocket of Angel’s robe. Then he went to the bedroom to get dressed. If there was an office meeting, he should be there. Spike pulled on his black jeans and sat down on the unmade bed to put on his socks.  Then he stopped.  He pulled the note out of the pocket of Angel’s robe and read it again.

The lime green sticky had fooled him. Angel’s note wasn’t a polite expression of concern for his well-being; there was no “why don’t you”, no “maybe you should”, no “please.” Go to bed and sleep. It was an order. And Spike had promised to follow Angel’s orders.

Spike was excluded from the meeting. Sent to bed like a naughty child. So much for Angel’s fine words about everyone in the office being equal and sharing information with each other.

Spike let loose a tirade of obscenities.

 

When he had calmed down, Spike undressed. He pulled out one of Angel’s white shirts from the laundry hamper and put it on. It still bore Angel’s smell – the faint odour of his clean, healthy body, mingled with the scent of his aftershave, soap, and shampoo.

Once, when Angel had complained about his dwindling shirt supply, Spike had told him, “Maybe I’m a daft romantic, but I love to wake up with the scent of you on my skin.”

It had been the right thing to say. Angel had been flattered. He’d believed him. The truth was just a little bit more complicated.

In his dreams, Spike had never escaped the Facility. He was still there, naked and thirsty, in the dark. When he woke up, he was never quite sure which world was real. Was he still in his prison cell, only dreaming that he was safe in Angel’s bed?  He needed proof. The sound of the radio wasn’t enough evidence to convince him. Neither was the dim outline of Angel lying in the dark next to him, or the glowing red numbers of his clock radio. Such things could be part of the dream. However, his imagination was not powerful to conjure up Angel’s particular and unique scent or to duplicate the feel of a rough cotton shirt against sensitive skin. Something that specific had to be real. 

Spike finished making the bed. He turned out the lamp by the bed but left the light in the hall turned on. A line of light entered the room through the narrow gap between the door and the floor. He turned on the radio to a station that played classic hits. Though he felt more resentful than tired, he obediently shut his eyes and tried to summon a deep, dreamless sleep.

Spike opened his eyes, sat up in bed, and leaned over to turn up the volume of the radio.

‘Due to the unusually warm weather, electricity usage has been high. Utility companies are warning that they cannot meet the increased demand and are warning of the possibility of rolling black-outs. So good people out there, do us all a favour and turn down your air conditioners and turn off your electric devices. Except for your radio, of course.

Next up, Fleetwood Mac with ‘Gypsy’.”

Rolling blackouts. For a moment, Spike felt close to panic. Then he remembered that Angel kept a flashlight in a drawer in the kitchen. He got up, grabbed it, and went back to bed. It was heavy, made of sturdy rubberized plastic, and its weight in his hands comforted him. Spike fell asleep clutching the flashlight as if it were a beloved teddy bear.

 

Upstairs, Cordelia was sharing the results of her investigations with her co-workers.

“Two Monkeys and a Wrench is pretty shady and not just because they don’t pay their bills on time. Instead of using make-up and special effects to create their monsters, they’ve using real, actual demons. The actors and crew don’t know that they’re working alongside demons. They think that they’re just people underneath some really good make-up and prosthetics.”

“So everyone working there is in danger of a demon attack,” Angel said.

“I don’t think so,” Cordy said, shaking her head thoughtfully.

“There’s always a demon wrangler on set, keeping the actors and the demons apart, but I managed to evade him long enough to talk to one of the ‘monsters’. I recognized him right away. He’s that bird demon that we saw doing karaoke at Caritas. I can’t pronounce his real name – it’s all trills and whistles – but he said I could call him Steve. He’s studying computer science over the Internet, and he’s got a girlfriend that he’s crazy about. He’s just a sweet kid really.

The other demon has a thick hide like a rhinoceros and all these spiky, horn-type things. He looks sort of like a two-legged triceratops. He sleeps all the time, whenever he’s not actually on camera. Steve told me his species hibernates, and it’s getting close to bedtime for him. He looks scary, but he just doesn’t seem awake enough to be a real threat.”

“So far, what you’ve seen doesn’t sound like enough to get the Higher Powers involved. They only get interested when something big is going down,” Gunn said. “I don’t think they’d care all that much if it was only about a couple of no-name actors being gored by a triceratops.”

“Hey, actors are important!” Cordelia said.

“I agree with Gunn,” said Wesley. “There has to be something more.”

Angel nodded. “Keep digging. I don’t think we know what the real story is yet.”

“But keep yourself safe,” Gunn added. “Don’t tease the triceratops and maybe avoid wearing a red cape.”

“Funny,” Cordy said dryly. She looked at her watch. “I’ve got to go. They’re shooting my big scene this afternoon. I’ll let you guys know how it goes.”

 

After the meeting, Angel went down to his apartment. He turned off the hall light that Spike had carelessly left on. Angel opened the bedroom door.  He looked at the other vampire, sleeping peacefully, He walked over to Spike and leaned over to give his beautiful boy a kiss on the forehead. Spike woke up, blinking at him sleepily.

“What’s this?” Angel asked, gesturing at the object in Spike’s hands.

“A torch, what do you think?” Spike replied irritably.

“How long have you been sleeping with a flashlight?”

“I haven’t...”

“I know you don’t like the dark, but actually going to bed with a flashlight seems a bit...neurotic.”

“The bloke on the radio said there might be power outages, so I wanted to be prepared. You know, like a boy scout.”

Angel still looked worried. Spike hastened to reassure him.

“I’m fine. Putting the past behind me. Got a new life now working for you in Angel Investigations.”

“Maybe I made a mistake, hiring you so soon after your release,” Angel said uncertainly. “I should have asked you if you needed more time. I pushed you too hard.  I'm not sure whether you're ready...”

Spike realized that he was still clutching the flashlight. He handed it to Angel.

“You take it. Who needs a torch with you around? Your sunny disposition lights up a room.”

Spike laughed at his own terrible joke.

Angel frowned. He was about to say something that Spike did not want to hear. Spike needed to work.  He'd go crazy sitting around Angel's apartment with nothing to do.

Spike had to distract him.  He gave him an artful look between half-closed lids. “Sweet William” gazed up at his grand-sire shyly, worshipfully. Then he closed his eyes. His lips parted, inviting a kiss. Angel loved it when Spike played the innocent. He loved “sweet William” more than he loved Spike, almost as much as he loved Buffy.

Angel was a bit rougher than Spike liked, his fangs cutting into Spike’s lower lip. Spike could taste his own blood on his tongue. Eyes still shut, Spike reached out to touch Angel’s stubbled cheek. His hand trembled slightly. Nerves rather than lust, but Angel wouldn’t know the difference. 

Spike was taking a risk. Angel had been patient, but he wouldn’t wait forever. Once aroused, the vampire with a soul might not be satisfied with just Spike’s hands or his mouth. Spike would give him whatever he wanted; he just hoped that he wouldn’t want too much.

Angel’s body pressed against Spike’s.  Spike moaned, feigning passion.  Angel's cool fingers explored his rough, scarred skin.  Spike moved to avoid his touch, but he wasn't quite quick enough.  Angel almost growled in frustration and thwarted lust. 

 "I can understand if you're kind of screwed up about sex right now.  If what happened between us was a one-off, never-to-be-repeated event, I can deal with that too.  But I don't like being treated like an idiot.  Why the hell are you pretending to be interested when you're not?" Angel didn't wait for an answer.  He left the room, slamming the door behind him.

 

Chapter Text

It had begun as a simple landlord-tenant dispute. The tenant, owner/operator of the Twisted Knot Academy of Magic, had complained about a leaky roof that needed repairs. The landlords, a couple in their early fifites, argued that it hardly ever rained in southern California and that when it did, a few strategically placed buckets solved the problem. Heated words had been exchanged. The dispute had spiralled out of control, and the tenant had transformed his landlady into something small and furry, with sharp teeth and crazy red eyes – a ferret or maybe a weasel or even a mink. He refused to turn her back until the roof was fixed. When the police had refused to help, the landlord had turned to Angel Investigations.

Spike had made a joke about another man giving his wife a mink coat, which their new client had not appreciated. Spike was off the case, not because of the joke, but because the rogue sorcerer and his students were all human.

Angel had said. “You’re going to have to sit this one out, a leanbh.   You can’t fight him – not with the chip in your head.”

“So you get the night off,” Gunn said. “Lucky guy.”

Spike had made a token protest just to show everyone how keen he was on working for Angel Investigations, but he’d known that Angel was right. He’d be no use to anyone curled up on the floor in a fetal position, moaning about the ungodly pain in his head.

At first it had been all right: an evening watching the telly with Stanley. Then Stanley had heard something: a squeak or a furtive rustle that was different than all the other squeaks and rustles produced by an aging hotel full of ghosts. A sound that meant prey was nearby. Stanley was on the hunt, and Spike was alone with Jessica Fletcher on the telly, taking forever to figure out that the banker did it.

Spike didn’t hang around long enough for Jessica to see the bleeding obvious. He raided Angel’s emergency fund, which he kept in an envelope taped to the bottom of his sock drawer, and replaced the money with an i.o.u. He headed out for a night on the town.

 

It was not exactly the most thrilling evening Spike had ever spent. Just sitting at the bar at Caritas, having a few pints and trading war stories with a retired Sgt-Major of the K’llaxian Demonic Army. However, a few hours in the company of his own kind – the damned and demonic - was exactly what the blond vampire needed.

“Then I cut off his head with my sabre while he was bending down to tie up his bootlace. That was the last time he ever showed up on parade looking like a slob,” said the Sgt.-Major.

“Did you ever consider that your army might do better if you weren’t constantly killing your own soldiers?” Spike asked. “For every one soldier lost in battle, you must lose at least a half a dozen in disciplinary exercises.”

The K’llaxian shook his head, “You vampires don’t understand the importance of maintaining discipline. That’s why there’s never been a successful vampire army.”

“We do all right,” Spike said, raising a pint of lager to his lips.

“Creeping around in dark alleys, biting people,” the K’llaxian muttered. “Where’s the glory in that?”

 

At a table only a few yards away, a bachelor party was in progress. Mike had organized the party for his best friend, Owen. Caritas wasn’t what Mike expected from a demon bar. He’d been expecting something like the Titty Twister in From Dusk till Dawn, which offered red-hot demon strippers, tequila shots in dirty glasses and eternal damnation. At Caritas, the wait staff served candy-coloured cocktails in fancy glasses, while Frank Sinatra sang “Fly Me to the Moon” over the sound system.

Choosing Caritas had been a mistake, and Owen wasn’t the kind of guy to forgive a mistake.

“I bet you half the demons and vampires here aren’t real anyway. They’re just freaks in costume pretending to be demons,” Owen said.

“That green guy, the Host, he looked real,” Mike said.

Owen ignored him. He’d been ignoring him all night.

“Look at blondie boy over there. The one with his hair tied back with a pretty ribbon. The one wearing nail polish,” Owen said. “He’s a poser, for sure, a Goth wannabe.”

“Yeah, he’s probably hoping some near-sighted vampire chick will mistake him for the real thing,” said Owen’s brother.

“He’s not waiting for a vampire chick; he wants a vampire dude,” Owen corrected.

Mike almost rolled his eyes then, because once Owen got on to the subject of ‘the gays’, he never shut up.

“He’s a fake and I’ll prove it. I’m going to take him down,” Owen said.

“Jeez, Owen, not another fight,” Mike protested. “It’s your wedding day tomorrow. You want to show up with a black eye or a fat lip? You’ll ruin all the wedding photos.”

“Blondie boy won’t lay a finger on me,” he said confidently.

 

Dr. Dhaliwal was nursing the second of the three glasses of whiskey he allowed himself.  He glanced up and nodded to Spike as the vampire walked past, heading for the door.

Spike was preoccupied and didn’t notice him. Creature of impulse that he was, Spike had taken the money from Angel without thinking of the consequences. Now he was wondering whether it would be better to confess his theft and face his grand-sire’s wrath, or to say nothing and hope that he would be able to replace the money before Angel discovered that it was missing.

As the door shut behind Spike, a group of partiers got to their feet and followed him to the door.

The doctor hesitated for a moment, then threw down a few bills on the table – enough to pay for his drinks plus a substantial tip – and headed out the door himself. His Gaurog bodyguard followed a few steps behind.

The group of humans had already surrounded Spike. The vampire was unable to defend himself against so many; his chip would only allow him one blow (if he was lucky), before it incapacitated him. Even if he took one of them down, the others would swarm him. His eyes darted from man to man, looking for weakness, looking for an escape route.

“Hello there,” Dr. Dhaliwal said in a loud, carrying voice.

Spike’s attackers turned around, registering the presence of the doctor and, more importantly, of the plus-sized demon standing right behind him.

“This is none of your business,” Owen said.  "Back off.”

The others looked at Owen and then at the Gaurog demon. The Gaurog bared its teeth. Suddenly, they all felt very sober.

“Stand your ground,” Owen ordered.

“But that’s a demon. A real demon,” Mike said.

“Come on, Owen. Let’s go. Do you want to spend your honeymoon in intensive care?” his brother asked.

“Or dead,” Mike added.

Mike grabbed Owen’s arm. The groom, still protesting and cursing, allowed his friends to lead him away.

 

“Thanks,” Spike said. “That could have been ugly.”

“No problem,” said Dr. Dhaliwal.

He looked at his former patient. Spike’s hand shook slightly as he took a cigarette out of the packet.

The vampire told himself that he hadn’t been in real danger – four or five drunken humans were no match for a skilled vampire, even one with a chip in his head - but the encounter had unnerved him. It was too similar to his capture in Sunnydale. He hadn’t kept his guard up; he’d allowed himself to relax; he’d forgotten how vulnerable he was...

“Can I offer you a lift back to the Hotel?”

“Thanks, but I don’t think I’m quite up to facing Angel right now,” Spike said.

“You were out without his permission?” Dhaliwal asked.

“I don’t need his permission to go out!” Spike said.

"Then what's the problem?"

"I'm not looking forward to telling Angel that I had a few too many, got careless and had to be rescued by someone from Wolfram and Hart," Spike said.

“If you don’t want to go back to the Hotel, is there another place for you to go? A friend’s house?”

Spike shook his head.

“Fine,” Dr. Dhaliwal said, sighing heavily. “You can come home with me and sleep on my chesterfield. One day only. Tomorrow you have to go back to the Hotel or find someplace else to stay.”

The Gaurog bodyguard turned to look at his boss.

“I think you are making a mistake,” the bodyguard said to him in Gauroghi.

“I probably am,” Dhaliwal admitted (also in Gauroghi), “but it’s my mistake to make.”

 

Elsewhere in the City

 

Trevor Nordsen and his cousin Paul were the “two monkeys” who headed Two Monkeys and a Wrench Productions. They’d made their first picture together, Cannibal Island, when they were in their teens. Thirty years later, they were still working together, still making pictures. The Nordsens were small-timers, forever teetering on the brink of financial ruin. Their latest movie, Invasion of the Alien Overlords, was supposed to be the one that would finally put them in the black.

“Look at that shot,” Trevor said enthusiastically, “the way the early morning sun turns Steve’s feathers that rosy colour. Just a beautiful shot.”

“Not quite in focus,” Paul said.

“I had to shoot it myself to keep it secret. Couldn’t trust one of the cameramen not to blab. I shot it out at my father-in-law’s cabin at Looking Glass Lake. We had to get up at three a.m. to drive there. I wanted to shoot it really early in the morning, before anyone was around to see us.”

On the screen, Steve was running along the lake shore. As he ran, his wings, usually tucked neatly against his back, unfolded and opened up like a piece of complicated origami. His run seemed clumsy, even comical. Then Steve simply lifted up his legs and he was in the air.

“The majesty of flight,” Trevor said. “Steve’s just an ordinary guy, good-looking but kind of awkward, but once he’s in the air, he’s something else.”

Steve did several graceful turns over the lake. Then as they had previously arranged, he turned toward the camera and swooped. For a moment, Trevor had felt like a small furry creature on the forest floor spotting the shadow of a hawk overhead. Steve’s eyes had glittered, cold and predatory, and although Trevor knew the young demon was only acting, his knees had felt weak and it had taken every ounce of his self-control to keep the camera steady.  

“The majesty of flight is great if you’re making a nature documentary,” Paul said. “We want scary. And this is not scary. God-damn it, he’s pink! Like a flamingo.“

“It’s the light.”

“He’s scary the way that Jar Jar Binks is funny.”

“I was thinking that he could be the messenger who talks to the Earth on behalf of the Alliance of Evil Alien Overlords. We could even make him sort of sympathetic, show him gradually coming to like the people of Earth.  Then, when the evil aliens kill him, the audience gets all stirred up.”

“Hmmm,” Paul said, not convinced. “Let me see the footage of the other one, the one with the horns.”

“He’s got a kind of sleepy-eyed menace to him,” Trevor said hopefully. “Sort of Brandoesque.”

Paul shook his head decisively.

“Not scary.”

“But he’s huge!”

“He look like some God-damned half-asleep walrus! Do you think Fangoria is going to be impressed by walruses and flamingos?  Anyway, who heard of an alien invasion with just two aliens?   We need more aliens. Scarier aliens. Nightmare creatures that will make the fan boys wet their pants! Monsters that spit acid or breathe fire.”

Trevor looked miserable, but he knew that his cousin’s judgement was impeccable. Paul always knew what worked and what didn’t.

“I’ll talk to the demon wrangler first thing tomorrow,” he promised.

Chapter Text

When Dr. Dhaliwal had been employed by Wolfram and Hart, the firm had given him what they called a signing bonus. They’d paid off his student loans for medical school and had presented him with a condominium apartment. Rajinder Dhaliwal had already experienced the stick; this generous bonus was the carrot that was supposed to reconcile him to his servitude.

Spike looked around him with interest, noting the tasteful furniture, the luxurious carpeting and the quiet, almost inaudible, hum of a top-of-the-line air conditioning unit.  The condominium complex was on a hill, and the view out of the glass doors of the balcony was spectacular. The lights of Los Angeles were spread out beneath them, their brilliance making the stars above seem dim and insignificant.

“The windows aren’t Necro-tempered,” Dhaliwal said, “and the curtains are sheer. We’ll have to cover them up somehow.”

He went into the kitchen to look for old newspapers and Scotch tape.

When he came back, Spike was looking at a collection of photographs hanging on the living room wall. There was the usual mixture of family portraits, snapshots taken on vacations or at birthday parties, school pictures...and in every photograph, Rajinder Dhaliwal was always easy to spot. His exotic blue eyes set him apart.

“My parents told me that I inherited my blue eyes from a distant European ancestor – some long-ago soldier of the Raj or Dutch trader. I believed them, “ he said, chuckling at his own naiveté. “You’re an Englishman. Tell me, how many of your countrymen have eyes that glow in the dark?”

“You didn’t know you were part Gaurog?” Spike asked.

Dhaliwal shook his head. He headed toward the window, carrying a stack of old newspapers. He began taping the newspapers over the glass. At this point, Spike thought, a good bodyguard would have stepped in, since Dr. Dhaliwal was silhouetted against the window, an easy target for anyone who meant him harm.   The Gaurog didn’t try to stop him, and he certainly didn’t help.   He just glowered at Spike, grunted something in his own tongue, and then left the room. The bodyguard was apparently off-duty.

Dhaliwal seemed to relax a bit once his constant companion had left. Spike helped him cover up the glass doors to the balcony.

“I customarily end my evening with a glass of whiskey. Would you care to join me?”

When Spike nodded, the doctor went to an old-fashioned globe in the corner of the living room, which turned out to be a neatly-disguised liquor cabinet. He poured two glasses and handed one to Spike.

“I prefer mine neat, but if you want yours on the rocks or with soda...”

“This is fine,” Spike said, taking a sip and letting it sit on his tongue for a moment. “Good stuff.”

Dhaliwal assessed Spike for a moment.

“I’m not sure whether or not Angel Investigations will be able to help me, but I can’t keep quiet any longer. I have to talk to someone,” he said. “It might as well be you.”

“Not the strongest vote of confidence that I’ve ever heard,” Spike said. “Is it safe to talk? Mr. Muscles won’t be listening in?”

“I don’t care if he is,” Dhaliwal said, although he spoke in a near whisper that belied his brave words.

Dhaliwal took another sip of his whiskey and began his tale.

“On my father’s side, I am pure-blooded human. However, my mother’s family, many generations back, was part Gaurog. They lived near a passageway between the two worlds and some of them considered themselves Gaurogs, even though they were entirely human in appearance, because they had Gaurog parents or grandparents. Others, even those who had the bright eyes, the horn plates, or the tail of a Gaurog, lived among humans and considered themselves human. There was much to-ing and fro-ing, and the clan chiefs of the Gaurog were not happy with the situation. They liked to be able to say with certainty ‘this one belongs to my clan; this other does not.’

So the clan chiefs came together and made a law: those who bear the sign of their Gaurog ancestry are Gaurogs. Those who do not have those signs are human, regardless of how many Gaurog cousins and aunts and uncles they may have.

Of course, this happened long ago. My mother’s branch of the family has only married other humans for many generations. My closest Gaurog ancestor is a great-great grandmother. So it was a horrible surprise for my mother when I was born with the reflective blue eyes of my distant Gaurog ancestors.

My parents moved us across the ocean to the United States, hoping that the Gaurog demons would never learn of my existence. But they did not hide their tracks well enough, and on my eighteenth birthday, a Gaurog showed on my doorstep to claim me for his clan. “

“It must have been a shock for you, seeing one of those big ugly brutes on your doorstep,” Spike said.

The doctor said. “I was terrified. I thought I would be sent as a slave to some hellish dimension and would never see my parents or my brothers and sisters again.

It didn’t work out like that. My clan leader – I belong to the Clan of the Three Hills - welcomed me like a long-lost son. He agreed that I could continue my medical studies on the condition that I would spend part of my summer vacation working for the clan. So I’d spend a couple of months over the summer in their world, as a kind of health worker. I’d talk to the clan about nutrition and proper hygiene, and the demons would nod their heads as if they understood and then they’d ignore what I said entirely.

Then the old clan chief died, and a new one took over. He was ambitious. He wanted to modernize his people. The new clan chief listened to an advisor from Wolfram and Hart who told him that his people were ‘human resources.’ He was wasting his resources, letting his people sit idle instead of using them to bring riches and glory to the Clan of the Three Hills.

The advisor convinced the new clan leader to contract my services out to Wolfram and Hart, who would give them money and weapons in return. I objected, but the clan leader told me that he could ‘assign his workforce as he saw fit.’

The advisor was quite pleasant about it actually. I would be paid very generously, and he assured me that I would not be involved in any of Wolfram and Hart’s less savory activities. I would not have to violate my Hippocratic Oath.

I knew that Wolfram and Hart is evil, and that its ultimate goal is to subjugate mankind and bring about an age of darkness. However, they’ve been working towards those goals for many centuries and the sun is still shining, and the world still belongs to mankind. I will admit that my generous salary helped still my conscience.

Then I met Sandhya. I fell in love. She’s a pediatrician.”

Dhaliwal pointed to a photograph of a young woman in a graduate’s cap and gown. She was not conventionally beautiful, being a little chubbier and shorter than current standards of beauty allowed, but she had a radiant smile and kind eyes.

“Sandhya was my fiancée,” he said, ‘until she found out that I work for Wolfram and Hart. She is a very moral person. She told me that she could not marry or raise a family with someone who is working to bring about the downfall of the human race.”

“So quit,” Spike said.

“I can’t just quit,” Dhaliwal said. “There’s a penalty clause. If the contract is broken, my clan will owe Wolfram and Hart more than they will ever be able to pay. They’ll be working off the debt for generations.”

“So what? They betrayed you. They sold you to Wolfram and Hart.”

“The clan chief betrayed me, not the clan,” Dhaliwal said. “I hoped that I might be able to buy out my contract. I could give them someone or something that they would want more than they want me. I thought....I hoped...that I could use the chip in your head to buy my freedom.”

“And if I died on the operating table while you were trying to extract the chip, it wouldn’t matter. Just one less vampire in the world. Most people would say that’s a good thing,” Spike said, with a touch of bitterness.

He finished up his drink and poured himself another.

“I still think there’s a good chance you could survive the surgery,” Dhaliwal said. “I wasn’t lying about that.”

“No,” Spike said firmly. “That plan is off the table.”

“But you’ll help me?”

“Don’t know yet. It’s not my decision. It’s Angel Investigations, not Spike Investigations.”

“But you’ll ask...”

“I’ll tell Angel what you’ve told me and he’ll decide. His mission is to help the helpless, so he might decide in your favour. Then again, you were going to kill me to get the chip out of my head, and Angel’s quite fond of me, so he might just tell you to go to hell.”

 

For the last few nights, Spike had been sleeping on Angel’s couch. The doctor’s chesterfield was a lot more comfortable, but Spike couldn’t sleep. He got up and turned on the light. He pulled on his boots and then went to the kitchen to call a cab.   He went down to the building lobby to wait for it to arrive. Spike estimated that the money he had in his pocket would be just enough to pay for a ride back to the Hyperion Hotel.

He’d dozed off in the back seat of the cab. When they arrived at his destination, the fare was a lot more than he expected. He suspected that the driver had driven around the block a dozen times while he was asleep, just to rack up the bill. In the old days, before the chip, the taxi driver would have paid for his dishonesty with his life, but now all that Spike could do was glare at him.

“Here,” he said, handing the driver all he had.

“It’s not enough. You owe me another ten bucks!” the driver said.

Spike shrugged his shoulders and headed for the door to the Hotel.

“Hey, I’m not leaving till you pay up,” the taxi driver said, leaning on his horn.

Spike cursed. He turned around, morphing into vamp face. “Then you had better wait quietly while I fetch you your money!” he snarled.

The cab's tires squealed as the driver pulled away from the curb. He drove off, running a red light in the process. He didn’t look back. If he had, he would have seen Spike crumpled up on the sidewalk, clutching his pounding head.

“Bloody chip!” Spike howled. “I didn’t even touch him!”

 

All the noise had woken Angel. He’d pulled on a pair of pants and went out to see what the racket was. Barefoot and shirtless, he stood over his vampire grand-childe watching him writhe in pain. He’d never seen the chip in action before.

“Get up, Spike. The sun’s going to be up in a few minutes. You have to get inside.”

The pain was even worse than usual because Spike was starting to feel hung-over. He didn’t answer. He was too busy trying to keep his skull from exploding.

Angel bent down to scoop Spike up into his arms. He carried him into the hotel, across the lobby and down into his underground apartment. Shifting Spike’s weight awkwardly in his arms, he managed to open the bedroom door.   He dropped him on to the bed. He pulled off Spike’s boots and would have started on his jeans, except the other vampire waved him off.

“I’m not feeble,” he grumbled, “I can undress myself.”

“Fine,” Angel said. He turned out the light and got into bed, turning his back to the other vampire.

“So that rogue sorcerer didn’t turn you into a guinea pig. Did he turn Wesley into a guinea pig?” Spike asked hopefully.

“No one was turned into a rodent of any kind,” Angel said. “We can talk about it tomorrow when you’ve sobered up.”

“I’m not drunk. I’ve had a few, but I’m not actually drunk.”

“Go to sleep, Spike.”

“It was all in the service of Angel Investigations, anyway. Proven investigative technique. Soften up the suspect with a couple of glasses of whiskey. Jessica Fletcher does it all the time.”

“Jessica Fletcher does not...” Angel said. “Spike, do you want to spend another evening sleeping on the couch?”

“ ‘course not. Your bed is more comfortable. The couch has buttons on it. Why did you get a couch with buttons?”

“Or you can go sleep in Room 212. Nice comfortable bed there.”

“Second floor’s full of ghosts, i’n’t it? Don’t want to be ravished by that randy closet ghost while I sleep.”

“Okay, then,” Angel said. “If you want to sleep here, you have to be quiet  As if sleeping beside you weren’t difficult enough...”

“Difficult?”

“Yes, it’s difficult. Sleeping next to someone you want who doesn’t want you back. I’ve always wanted you,” Angel confessed. “From the first time I saw you. Little fledgling vampire who didn’t know up from down. I knew right away you were going to be trouble.”

“Were you in love with me? Not as much as Buffy, of course, but maybe just a little bit?”

“Now, I know you’re drunk,” Angel said.

He turned around and reached over to Spike, pulling him closer. He undid the ribbon holding back his hair and buried his face in his grand-childe’s curls.

“You’re trying to distract me,” Spike complained. “Answer the question.”

“A leanbh, if I didn’t love you, why on earth would I put up with you?”

 

Chapter Text

Angel, naked and sticky and thoroughly sated, lay on his back next to Spike (who was just sticky).

“Did you like that?” Spike asked.

Angel said, “That was...great...really great.”

Angel’s command of the English language had momentarily deserted him. He stared at the ceiling, stunned by bliss. Then he reached for Spike, who had retreated to the other side of the bed, and pulled him closer until the blond vampire was lying on top of him.

“Still feeling unwanted?” Spike teased.

Angel shook his head and kissed the blond vampire. Spike relaxed, laying his head on Angel’s chest. Spike closed his eyes. The blond vampire seemed prepared to doze the rest of the day away in Angel’s arms.

Spike bit his own lip, drawing blood. He kissed Angel on the mouth.

“So delicious, so sweet,” Angel whispered.

He licked the blood off Spike’s lips. Morphing into vamp face, he nuzzled Spike and then bit him on the neck. Spike didn’t flinch when Angel’s fangs pierced his skin. It would leave a mark, plain for all to see, a sign of his grand-sire’s affection and his favour.

Desire began to rise again in Angel, and his sleepy caresses became more urgent. He reached under the other vampire’s rumpled nightshirt, his touch gentle and questing. Spike shifted restlessly as his grand-sire’s fingers explored his scarred back.

Angel felt his childe’s muscles tense.

“We’ll take things slow and easy,” Angel said reassuringly. “Just relax. We won’t do anything you’re not ready for. Okay?”

“Okay,” Spike said.

Angel’s hands moved in slow easy circles. He kissed Spike lightly, whispering words of affection and encouragement.

“A leanbh, my beautiful William....”

His hands moved lower, cupping Spike’s buttocks. Their bodies pressed together, skin against skin.

“My darling boy, my sweetheart...”

In his head, Spike heard the voice of an Initiative soldier. “You’re just making things worse for yourself,” the smiling one said. “You can’t fight me so you might as well relax and enjoy it.”

Spike wriggled out of Angel’s grasp. He rolled over to his own side of the bed and sat up, pulling the rumpled sheets to cover himself. He was shivering and covered in sweat.

 

Angel had tried. He had been as gentle and careful and understanding as he knew how to be, and still....nothing worked. Spike was broken, just as Dru had been broken, and he didn’t know how or if he could be fixed.

Angel sighed heavily. Then he sat up. Finally, he put his arm around Spike’s shoulders. He knew he had to comfort Spike, offer him soothing words, but the effort involved just seemed overwhelming. All he could give his wounded childe were platitudes picked up from morning talk shows and all of it was geared towards humans. There were no self-help books for the undead - no Learning to Love your Inner Demon or Seven Secrets of Successful Vampires. His words wouldn’t be enough and Angel knew it, but he had nothing else to offer. He was out of his depth.

“I can be patient,” Angel said, kissing Spike on the forehead. ” I waited years for Buffy, until she was old enough, until we were both convinced that it was right.

Buffy is very strong-minded. She knows what she wants. But you, my sweet William, I don’t think you have a clue about what you want or where you’re going. Sometimes I think you’re just hanging on to me because you’re afraid of being alone.”

“That’s not true. I do want you,” Spike said, “and I really thought I could...but anyway, you said we could take it slow...do other things...”

Angel nodded, although he didn’t seem to be listening.

“After the gypsies gave me back my soul, I felt just as lost as you do now. I wandered around for years, seeking redemption but not knowing where to find it.”

“And then you met Buffy,” Spike said, trying to hurry the story along. He hated Angel’s habit of bringing up wonderful, perfect Buffy whenever Spike disappointed him.

“No,” Angel said, “I found my purpose first and then I found Buffy. I would never have met her if I hadn’t already chosen my path as a Champion. That’s what you have to do, Spike. You have to find your true path. Then everything else will fall into place.”

 

Spike turned the water in the shower to as hot as he could stand, wasting Angel’s electricity. He squeezed out a sizeable dollop of the other vampire’s precious shampoo (available only through select salons) and applied it liberally to his bleached blond locks. He could hear Angel try the door handle, but Spike had locked the door. He could hear his grand sire’s voice on the other side of the door - probably saying something very wise and very patient – but Spike was singing at the top of his voice so he couldn’t make out the words.

 

Angel was dressed and sipping his morning cup of pig’s blood when Spike walked into the living room. Spike was in a foul mood and would have walked straight past him and up to the office, except Stanley was in the way.

The ghost cat had a still-living mouse in its mouth. He dropped the animal at Spike’s feet. It did not move, too shocked or too wounded to try to escape.

“Thanks very much for the present,” Spike said, kneeling down to pet the ghost cat. He picked up the mouse. As Stanley and Angel watched, he brought the little beast to his mouth and bit into it, killing it instantly.

“Spike...” Angel said.

“What!” Spike said angrily, “are you going to tell me that drinking the blood of a mouse isn’t something a good vampire would do? Because you’re drinking animal blood right now, and I know you’ve got mousetraps all over the building.”

“I wasn’t going to say any of that, but maybe you shouldn’t eat vermin when anyone else is around. Non-vampires can be squeamish.”

Spike nodded curtly and turned away.

“I just wanted you to know that I’m trying. If I said the wrong thing, I apologize. At least give me some credit for having good intentions,” Angel said awkwardly.

“You took me in when the Slayer would have put a stake through my heart. I’m not going to forget that,” Spike said, surprised that his grand-sire had apologized. In all the years he had known him, Angelus had never said that he was sorry nor admitted to a mistake.

 

Angel had warmed up a cup of pig’s blood for Spike. Deciding that a mouse was really more of a snack than a proper breakfast, Spike sat down across from Angel and took a sip of pig’s blood. He made a face and then went to the cupboard.

“Maybe a little paprika,” he said to himself.

While they had breakfast, Angel told Spike about his evening.

“We convinced the rogue sorcerer to return the client’s wife to her human form, but then the sorcerer and the client got into a fist fight and Gunn and I had to pull them apart. The client hinted that he had mob connections, and the sorcerer threatened to turn him into a white mouse and feed him to his pet boa constrictor. It was a nightmare!

Finally, we got them both to agree to go to binding arbitration, so now it’s the arbitrator’s problem.”

“At least this time we're getting paid," Spike said.

“I have his cheque in my pocket,” Angel said.

“Cheque? Don't tell me you took a cheque!"

“What’s the matter with taking a cheque?”

“The client’s too cheap to fix his own roof and you let him give you a cheque! At least get it to the bank right away before he has a chance to cancel it,” Spike counselled.

Then Spike told Angel about his success in uncovering Dr. Dhaliwal’s secret. He left out a few insignificant details in his account – the theft of Angel’s emergency fund, his carelessness in allowing himself to be ambushed - but if Angel noticed any gaps in his story, he didn’t say anything.

“It sounds like your evening went a lot better than ours did,” Angel said.

“I told Dr. Dhaliwal that he should just walk away,” Spike said. “Let his clan take its lumps.”

“Maybe not so easy with that Gaurog bodyguard watching over him all the time,” Angel said.

“So are we going to help him?”

“I want to,” Angel said, “It isn’t fair that he should be forced to work for Wolfram and Hart against his will. I’ll talk to Lindsay. He can be reasonable at times. See if we can come up with some kind of exit deal. It might be difficult. Wolfram and Hart are tough negotiators.

I'll let Wesley, Gunn and Cordy in on this. They might come up with some ideas.”

 Angel got to his feet. He took the empty cups to the sink.

“Great job, Spike! You’ve shown that you’re more than just a good fighter. You’re a good investigator too. People trust you and confide in you. Anya says that people skills are essential in maintaining a good working relationship with your client base.”

Spike didn’t understand Angel’s last sentence at all, but he did understand that his grand-sire was pleased with him, which was all that really mattered.

Chapter Text

Jason Green had come to Miss Tansy’s Salon to lose his soul. The place was just he had imagined it would be – a maze of red velvet couches seen through a haze of scented, violet vapour that made him feel dizzy. Slow, ethereal, almost hypnotic music played quietly as exquisitely beautiful vampires drank the blood of their willing victims. He longed for a “belle dame sans merci” whose gaze would stop his beating heart, whose kiss would damn him for all eternity. Jason caught his breath as one of the beautiful vampires turned to look at him. What he had dreamed of was finally going to happen! An elegant figure glided towards him through the purple mist.

It was true that Harmony Kendall was not the dark mistress that he had imagined. She looked like a typical California prom queen, young, blonde and pretty. Jason was reminded of his sister’s friends – the cliquey, superficial girls who had ignored him in high school - but the young man swallowed his disappointment. So what if she didn’t have eyes as black as endless night? She was a vampire: that was the important thing. She had touched the heart of things in a way that only those who have died and been reborn to darkness could ever understand. She was numinous, mystical…

Harmony chattered away to Miss Tansy’s guest. Alive or undead, she had never been able to abide silence, so she filled the space between then words, hardly noticing that Jason wasn’t contributing anything to the conversation. She talked about the latest episode of Survivor (she was rooting for Boston Rob), and about Miss Tansy, who had come to California during the gold rush and had never left, and about her plans for revenge against Annabelle, the vampire who had stolen her bubble-gum pink lipstick.

Bubble-gum pink lipstick! Jason gave up. He couldn’t delude himself any longer. This vampire was about as deep as a mud puddle and as mystical as a rubber duck. Thoroughly disillusioned, the college student left Miss Tansy’s without being bitten.  

 

Still Jason thought of Harmony when he overheard two frat boys talking about a raid on Miss Tansy’s Salon. He went to Miss Tansy’s to warn her. The place looked a lot shabbier without the cloud of purple smoke softening the edges and obscuring the signs of wear. Harmony was wearing pyjamas and fuzzy slippers. She hadn’t even put on her makeup yet.

“You have to leave Sunnydale,” Jason said in a low, urgent tone.

“Why should I leave? I like it here,” Harmony said.

“There are people who are hunting your kind.”

“You mean, like the Slayer? We don’t have to worry about her. As long as we don’t kill people or bite anyone who doesn’t want to be bitten, she leaves us alone.”

“I’m not talking about the Slayer. Look, there’s this frat at school…”

“I’m not afraid of frat boys!”

“but it’s not really a frat. There some kind of secret army, CIA maybe, and they’re just pretending to be a fraternity. They hate vampire and demons, even the harmless ones. They’re rounding them up and no one knows where they go or what happens to them. You have to leave Sunnydale, all of you. You have to get away.”

Harmony looked at him, puzzled and still half-asleep, and Jason thought that he should have gone directly to Miss Tansy, even though the imposing head vampire scared him. At least she would have understood that they were all in danger. He grabbed Harmony by the arm and tried to drag her towards the front door, but Harmony was stronger than he was and she didn’t allow herself to be dragged.

“If they’re such a big secret, how come you know about them? Are you some sort of secret CIA guy too?”

“Everybody at UC Sunnydale knows about them, but nobody talks about them. We all shut our eyes and pretend not to see them, the way we pretend that we’re not sitting on top of the Hellmouth, the way we pretend there’s no such thing as vampires.”

Then Jason heard the sound of the front door being kicked down, and knew that he had wasted too much time in explanations. The soldiers had arrived. The vampires – those that were awake - reacted immediately. They morphed into vamp face and rushed into the main room, ready to fight off the invaders. The Initiative responded with gunfire and smoke canisters. All was noise and chaos.

“We’ve got to go,” Jason shouted into Harmony’s ear. “Is there a back door?”

Harmony nodded. Taking Jason’s hand, she led him through a maze of tiny rooms. She opened the door that led to a narrow back alley.

Four men waited in the alley, ready to pick off any vampires cowardly enough to flee instead of fight. They were wearing street clothes, and a couple of them had tied bandanas over their faces to hide their identities. The armed men hesitated. In her pyjamas and fuzzy slippers, Harmony did not fit their idea of a vampire. Was she one of them or was she one of their victims?

“Well, hello there, pretty lady,” said one of the men, who seemed to be the leader.

He wasn’t wearing a bandana because he didn’t see any need to hide his face. He wasn’t doing anything to be ashamed of. He treated Harmony to a dazzling smile. And then he raised his weapon to fire.

Acting on instinct, Harmony launched herself at him, aiming low to knock him off his feet. A bullet grazed her shoulder, but she was in full vampire mode and hardly noticed the pain. Jason cried out behind her, but she did not hear him.

The gunman wrestled with the vampire, trying to club her with his weapon while keeping out of range off her fangs. His buddies had their weapons pointed at Harmony but did not fire, afraid they might hit him by accident.  

“Shoot, shoot!” their leader yelled, but by then Harmony was on her feet and running down the shadowy alley. The others fired a few shots after her, but did not have time to chase after her. More vampires were already in the doorway, trying to escape from the chaos inside.

The gunman cursed, got to his feet and started shooting. Shoot them enough and the vampires would go down, and then it was easy to finish them off with a stake.

 

The leader of the raiders was a Private in the Initiative named Peter Livingston. It had irked him that Miss Tansy’s was still operating unmolested. Its vampire whores were free to ply their trade; its clientele free to indulge their vile, perverted tastes. He had talked to his squad leader about acting against the vampire brothel, but Riley Finn had not been willing to commit any of their resources to taking down Miss Tansy’s.

“They’re low priority. We know where they are and we can pick them off anytime we want to. Trust me, Private, when we’re done, there won’t be a single vampire left in Sunnydale.”

But Livingston hadn’t been willing to wait. He’d spoken to a few of his friends in the squad and they’d agreed to visit Miss Tansy’s on their own time. They went in civvies, since this wasn’t an official Initiative operation. They were just concerned private citizens exercising their constitutional right to protect the town from demonic invaders.

Despite Harmony’s escape, Livingston judged the raid a success. Unfortunately, his squad leader did not agree.

Riley Finn looked at the soldier sternly. Livingston was a trouble-maker and Finn wanted him off the squad. The problem was that Livingston was too good at his job. He had an uncanny knack for thinking like a demon. He spotted all their little tricks and surprises. He could track them down as if he were part bloodhound   Finn couldn’t get rid of him yet – not until he found someone just as good to replace him – but at least he could wipe that ever-present smirk off his face.

“What the hell were you thinking, Livingston,” Finn asked, “launching a raid in broad daylight in the middle of town?”

“Sir, I was thinking that we would catch the vamps sleeping at their posts,” Livingston said, “and we did. We took down more than a dozen.”

“You went rogue, soldier, and you endangered the entire operation.”

“With all due respect, sir, what exactly is the operation? I can’t make hands or tails of what we’re doing here.

I joined the Initiative because my recruiter told me I’d be killing vamps. He didn’t say anything about ‘catch, chip and release.’ I signed up to be a soldier not a game warden!”

“That’s more than enough backtalk, Private. You’re already on report. Are you trying to get yourself court-martialed?”

“Sir, no sir.”

“You’re dismissed. Now I’ve got to go to the hospital and convince the civilian that you shot not to go to the media.”

In Livingston’s opinion, the man he had shot was a vampire sympathizer and a pervert, and he had deserved what had happened to him. He was lucky that he hadn’t been staked as well as shot. Prudently, he did not share his thoughts with the squad leader.

 

Livingston left the squad room with a smile on his face, so that anyone who saw him would have thought that Finn had been praising him instead of dressing him down. He met a couple of his squad mates as he made his way through the maze of corridors.

“Hey,” one of the soldiers said. “we’re taking the new recruits up to the observation room. The white coats are going to be working on the vamp with the chip, so it should be a good show. Want to tag along?”

“I guess I can spare a few minutes.”

Watching the scientists experiment on and dissect demons and vampire had become a traditional rite of passage for new recruits. Most of the new recruits turned pale and greenish after a few minutes, some of them threw up, and a couple of them had fainted. The hazing ritual was more effective when the specimen was a vampire, because vampires looked human and suffered just as humans do. Both of the fainters had been watching the doctors work on vamps.

Dr. Maggie Walsh and her assistants preferred to perform their experiments on the chipped vampire whenever they could. He was a particularly hardy specimen, being over a hundred years old, and unlike the other vampires, Spike didn’t have to be dragged in by half a dozen soldiers. The chip also meant that they didn’t have to worry about being attacked. However, the assistants still used restraints to prevent him from running away and to make sure that he didn’t remove the monitors that measured his response to pain and stress.

This particular experiment involved subjecting the vampire to the kinds of torture that a captured soldier might experience. Spike was silent through most of the tests, only letting loose a string of obscenities when the pain became unbearable.

Livingston, watching from above, noticed that the vampire’s eyes were always watching Walsh and her assistants, always looking for a moment of weakness or a way out. More than anything, Livingston wanted to see that stubborn vampire cry and beg for mercy, watch it crack, break into a thousand jagged little pieces, but it never did. Livingston could almost admire the cursed thing.

Dr Walsh and Riley Finn, her equally deluded protege, thought that a computer chip could solve Sunnydale’s vampire problem. The hatred in Spike’s eyes told Livingston how wrong they were. True enough, this particular vampire wouldn’t be biting anyone – the chip took care of that – but there were other ways of hurting people that didn’t involve dark alleys, teeth and fangs. Vampires could be just as inventive in their cruelty as humans. Even chipped, Spike wasn’t harmless. No vampire ever could be.

 

Secrets within secrets. Livingston had heard all the rumours about the Adam project, of course, but he didn’t find out the truth of it until the project was in shambles and Dr. Maggie “Frankenstein” Walsh was dead – killed by her own misbegotten creation – along with half a dozen good soldiers who hadn’t deserved their fate. The truth was more bizarre than any of the rumours.

If any of the brass had ever asked Pvt. Peter Livingston his opinion, he could have told them from the start that the Adam project was doomed. A mad scientist using demonic body parts to create bio-mechanical super-soldiers – how could a plan like that possibly go right?

Chaos had followed Walsh’s death, and Livingston had taken full advantage of the situation. He’d headed straight through the maze of corridors to the cellblocks where the vampires were imprisoned, ignoring the other Initiative soldiers who were running wild, shooting up the cells, killing anything not wearing a uniform. He had tracked him down - the vampire that endured torture that would have broken any living being.

Spike wasn’t much to look at, clothes tattered, dirty and stained with blood, marked with wounds and scars from the dozens of experiments he’d been subjected to. There were other vampires who were more physically impressive, more beautiful, but this was the one Livingston wanted. He wanted the vampire down on its knees, whimpering, crying, begging for mercy, all dignity lost. He wanted to see fear and despair in its eyes.

Livingston believed that the scientists were on the wrong track. Pain wouldn’t break a vampire. He knew instinctively that the key to breaking a vampire was to attack the part of it that was still human.

 

It took months of effort, but Livingston was tantalizingly close to his goal – closer than any of those clever white coats had come – when his squad leader called him in for a talk. Riley Finn had somehow managed to escape his fair share of the blame for the Adam project. He’d come out smelling like a rose.  

“The Sunnydale operation is closing down. Soon we’ll all be receiving new assignments. I know you and I haven’t always seen eye to eye,” Finn said, “but you’re a valuable part of the squad. I’m being sent to the Maldives to sort out some trouble they’re having there, and I’d like you to be there with me.”

Riley looked him straight in the eye in that honest, manly way he had. The squad leader smiled. Livingston smiled back, and then punched him hard in the face. Sucker-punched him, the tribunal said, though Livingston thought that was unfair. Was he supposed to warn Riley that a punch was coming his way? Wasn’t using the element of surprise to your advantage something that they actually taught at West Point?

That was it for Livingston’s career in the Initiative.

 

Like many good-looking young men before him, Peter Livingston went to Los Angeles to make his fortune in the movie industry. He tried his hand at acting, but the competition was fierce. Then he had a brilliant idea. Using the skills he’d picked up at the Initiative, he set up shop as L.A.’s first (and only) demon wrangler.

Never one to dwell on lost opportunities, Livingston forgot all about the vampire he had violated, abused and left to starve in the dark.

But Spike had not forgotten him.

Chapter Text

Peter Livingston strode out of Trevor Nordsen’s office, slamming the door behind him. He’d managed – barely – to hold his temper in the face of severe provocation.

“Is something wrong? You look upset.”

The speaker was that nosy actress who had been entirely too interested in Steve. Hiding his irritation, Livingston treated her to a brilliant smile.

“Nothing important. Minor creative differences with Trev,” he said. “For the sake of my own sanity, I have to keep reminding myself that in a year’s time Invasion of the Alien Overlords will be in the bargain bin at Wal-Mart, and I’ll be on to bigger and better things.”

“It sounds like you don’t think much of this production.”

“It’s crap,” Livingston said, “Maybe the rest of the cast and crew think that they’re working on the next Blair Witch Project, but I don’t think that you’re that stupid. Makes me wonder why you stick around.”

His tone of voice was mild and his smile hadn’t dimmed in the least, but Livingston’s eyes were cold and threatening. The brunette took a step backwards, and Livingston brushed past her, heading for the exit.

 


 

All the experts on the art of negotiation said that meeting on the other side’s turf was a bad idea – a sign either of weakness or of over-confidence. Lindsay MacDonald knew that, but he had agreed to meet Angel at the Hyperion Hotel anyway.  He found that visiting Angel Investigations always made him feel better whenever the lethal office politics at Wolfram and Hart soured his mood. Looking at Angel’s pitiful organization, operating on a shoestring in a building that should have been condemned years ago, made him more sure of his own choices. He’d picked the right side – the side with the power and resources to prevail.

Lindsay arrived at Angel’s office a few minutes early. Gunn looked up from the blade he was sharpening and nodded at the lawyer.

“Angel’s in the hotel ballroom, practicing,” he said. “You know where that is?”

He pointed the sword in the general location of the ballroom.

Angel practicing ballroom dancing! Lindsay couldn’t imagine the dour vampire doing a quickstep or a foxtrot, although maybe a tango… Tango dancers always looked so serious, as if dancing were a penance instead of a pleasure.

Lindsay stood in the doorway of the ballroom. The room still possessed a faded grandeur. Its sprung floor, which had once made the Hotel Hyperion the ‘in spot’ for Lindy hoppers and jive dancers, was covered by a layer of dust. The ballroom’s chandelier had shed half of its prisms and was festooned in cobwebs. Only a couple of the light bulbs were still working. (Angel had never replaced the duds because the ballroom had a twenty-foot ceiling, and he didn’t have a tall enough ladder.) The dim light cast by the chandelier was supplemented by candles placed in saucers on the floor. Dust motes sparkled.

Angel wasn’t dancing. He was battling another vampire. Angel was bigger and stronger with a greater reach, but his opponent was quick and inventive. Both were in vamp face, and they attacked each other with furious intensity.

“For the last time, Spike, I’m not going to buy you a video game console,” Angel said, blocking an attack. “If you want one, you can get it yourself.”

“No, I can’t,” Spike said, “because I don’t have any money and you won’t let me steal one.”

He came in low, attempting unsuccessfully to knock his grand-sire off his feet.

“It’s not like it would be just for me,” Spike argued. “You could play as well. The two of us holding the line against the big bad!”

“I fight evil in real life,” Angel said, shaking his head. “That’s enough.”

He lunged towards Spike, who evaded him, bouncing on his heels just out of the taller vampire’s reach.

“Not all video games are about fighting! There’s this one with Muppets driving go-carts. I used to play it with Dru. Sometimes Harm would come over, and they’d fight over who’d get to be Miss Piggy,” he smiled wickedly. “I got to watch.”

Spike dodged a clumsy but powerful blow which would have sent him flying across the room if it had landed. He grinned. His plan – to annoy Angel and put him off his game – was definitely working.

“Angel,” Lindsay said.

The vampire turned his head in Lindsay’s direction, morphing out of vamp face. This moment of distraction was all that Spike needed. In an instant he pounced on Angel, knocking him to the floor. He advanced on Angel, who grabbed his ankle as Spike tried to kick him. Spike lost his balance, sending him to the floor as well. Then they were wrestling, grappling in the dust, each trying to pin the other.

Angel was grunting with exertion, face and body smeared with grime. Lindsay had never seen him look so happy.

“Angel,” he said. “Meeting, remember?”

 

Lindsay and Angel were in his office. Gunn went to lock the sword in their armory, and Spike, showing a discretion that surprised Angel, had left the two alone to negotiate.

“Dhaliwal wants out of his contract?” Lindsay said. “That’s hardly a surprise.”

“Can you get him out of it?”

Lindsay shrugged. He was considering the big picture. He liked Dr. Dhaliwal and secretly appreciated the ethics that his superiors found so inconvenient. It was comforting to know that your physician could not be bribed to experiment on you or do you harm.

“The whole Gaurog enterprise has never lived up to corporate expectations. The Gaurog clan leader we hand-picked to carry our banner is a jackass. He was just smart enough to do something really stupid. He tried to blackmail one of the junior partners to get himself a better deal. Got him in a compromising situation with a female Gaurog and threatened to reveal all to his wife.

Seriously, have you ever seen a Gaurog? Like oversized fireplugs with legs.”

“Wesley tells me that the females of the species are quite attractive.”

“Or maybe this particular junior partner just has strange tastes.

Anyway, Dr Dhaliwal is the only thing we got out of the deal that actually worked out. The guy in charge of Gaurog operations is going to be seriously pissed off if we lose him.”

“If the Gaurog enterprise is the failure that you say it is, then he probably won’t be around long enough for him to be a problem for you,” Angel argued.

“Who says the good guys can’t be ruthless?” Lindsay said. “No, I want him in place at the moment. If he’s out, then someone else gets sent in to oversee our operations there, and I really, really don’t want to spend the next three or four years in a hell dimension.”

The lawyer looked up at the ceiling, noting that the light fixture could use a good dusting.

“How willing would would Dr. Dhaliwal be to gets his hands a little dirty?

Wolfram and Hart want to get rid of the clan leader and replace him with some a little more reasonable. Dhaliwal can’t be any too fond of the guy, and the doctor’s actually pretty popular in the Clan of the Three Hills. If he used his influence to organize some kind of coup, I think I could arrange to get him released from his contract. Hell, if he wanted to, Dhaliwal could take over as clan leader himself.

Of course, Dhaliwal might be too pure for demon politics.”

“I’ll put your proposition to him and see what he says,” Angel said.

“It’s the best I can do for him,” Lindsay said. “Talk to Dhaliwal. I’ll want an answer by the end of the week.”

He got to his feet and headed for the door.

“So you and that Limey vamp…”

“Spike”

“how long has that been going on?”

“Is it that obvious?” Angel asked. If a vampire could blush, he would have blushed. “Not long. For now, we’re just taking things slow, enjoying each other’s company.”

“You’ve got that honeymoon glow,” Lindsay said, grinning, his tone only mildly sarcastic.

 


 

Livingston drove fast but with no particular destination in mind. He was just trying to put some distance between himself and the object of his fury. Trevor Nordsen knew nothing about demons.

“Get more demons. Get scarier demons,” he’d said, as if that were the easiest thing in the world.

Did the man have any idea how difficult it was to find a demon who would agree to work for a human?   Demons had too much pride; they thought that humankind were their natural inferiors. It would be easier to find a human being who’d work for a chimpanzee.

When Livingston had at last found a couple of demons desperate enough for cash that they’d actually work for it, his job wasn’t over. He still had to watch them every second of the day.

Lion tamers had it easy. A five hundred pound lion could be convinced by the crack of the whip and an authoritative voice that some scrawny human armed only with a kitchen chair was its natural superior and had to be obeyed. Demons weren’t so easy to fool. They were always assessing you, looking for weaknesses, and all it took was one moment of inattention…

Livingston noticed a police car in his rear view mirror and eased up on the gas. He pulled off the freeway at the first opportunity and parked in the vast lot of a Toys R Us. He took a deep breath to calm himself. He needed to come up with a plan or else his new career would be over before it had even started.

Chapter Text

Angel looked at the screen in front of him.  The figures told a grim story.  Angel Investigations was in trouble.  Money was going out faster than it was coming in.  Clients were slow in paying, and in the meantime, expenses had to be met.  It was a struggle every time to scrape up enough money to meet payroll.  Angel didn’t know how to solve the problem without either hiring a collection agency or letting people go – neither of which he considered an acceptable option.

Things had only gotten worse since he had hired Spike.  He was a good fighter and an asset to the business, but Angel just couldn’t afford another salary.  He knew that Spike would probably work for room and board if he asked him to, but he loathed the idea of taking advantage of his grand-childe.

Lost in thought, he didn’t notice that Spike was standing in the doorway until the other vampire spoke.

“Time for bed, love,” Spike said.

Angel didn’t turn around.  “I’ll just be a few minutes, ” he said. 

“That’s what you told me when I came to get you half an hour ago. What are you working on anyway?” Spike asked, taking a few steps closer.

 He leaned over the back of Angel’s chair and looked over his shoulder. He saw row upon row of little boxes with numbers inside each box.  Business stuff.  Boring.

“It’s called a spreadsheet,” Angel explained.  “I’m trying to figure out how to make it print out invoices.”

“Can’t Cordy do it when she comes back?”

“If she comes back,” Angel said. ”What if this part leads to other acting jobs?  Being office manager for Angel Investigations isn’t exactly her dream career.”

“Then Gunn or Wesley…”

“I can do this. It’s just bookkeeping. This spreadsheet is just a more sophisticated version of the ledgers my father used to keep.  He had two: one for business and one for the housekeeping accounts.  Mrs O’Hara, the housekeeper, was responsible for the housekeeping accounts, and God help the poor woman if she was even a halfpenny out.  My father could squeeze a penny until it cried out for mercy.”

Spike laughed uneasily.

“I don’t think it’s the numbers or the spreadsheet program.  It’s the computer. I think there’s something wrong with it. Maybe I should just call Cordy and ask her,” Angel said.

“Don’t call Cordy.  It’s four in the morning.”

“But movie people have to get up very early, don’t they?”

Nobody’s up at four in the morning.  Even the roosters are sleeping,” grumbled Spike.

“Maybe if I press this key,” Angel said, speaking to himself rather than to Spike.  “Oops, that wasn’t right…”

“Please, Angel, can’t this wait?  I don’t want to sleep alone,” Spike said, trying to make his words sound seductive rather than desperate. 

“I’m sure that that worked the last time,” Angel muttered. “Maybe control alt delete…”

Spike backed away.  He stood in the doorway watching Angel.  Then he turned and headed back to the apartment. 

“Good night,” he said.

“Good night, a leanbh,” Angel said distractedly. “I’ll be down just as soon …Damn, that wasn’t right either.”

 

While he waited for Angel, Spike was slumped down on the couch watching an old episode of Star Trek. Stanley rubbed his head against Spike’s legs, marking the vampire as his own, and then jumped on to the couch beside him.

“Come to keep me company?” Spike said, rubbing behind the ghost cat’s ears the way that he liked.

Stanley blinked once and then shut his eyes, purring with pleasure.  The cat yawned mightily, and so did Spike. On the t.v. screen, Captain Kirk had just accidentally teleported into another dimension where Spock had a beard, and everyone on the Enterprise was really, really into leather.

 

Spike woke up feeling disoriented and afraid.

 It felt to him less like waking up and more like jumping from one reality to another, because there was nothing in his dreams that was remotely dream-like.  No sudden illogical leaps from one place or situation to another.  No talking animals. No unexplained ability to fly. Everything was very concrete, very specific.  The hard floor of his cell was just as real in every particular as Angel’s uncomfortable couch. 

Was he still in his prison cell, dreaming of a better place, or was he reliving in dreams the horrors of his recent past?  Honestly, Spike couldn’t tell. Both possibilities seemed equally valid.

“I’m not going crazy,” muttered Spike, trying to reassure himself.   

The episode of Star Trek he’d been watching inspired him with a new and much more palatable explanation for his situation.

“There’s no reason why they both can’t be real.  Who says there’s only one reality? There could be all sorts of alternate dimensions, “ he said musingly to Stanley, who blinked at him sleepily.

 “In one reality, Buffy finds me; in the other, she doesn’t,” he said, warming to the idea. “That’s the difference between them. I’m teetering between two states. It’s like Schrodinger’s cat – the one that’s alive and dead at the same time.  Somewhere in between living and dead is normal for vampires. I'm not crazy, no matter what Angel thinks.  ”

He rubbed Stanley just behind his ears and the ghost cat purred contentedly. 

“Now, I just have to figure out a way to save meself,” he said, getting to his feet, “but first, I have to rescue Angel.”

 

 “It’s seven a.m.  The sun is up; the birds are chirping, and we should both be sound asleep, like all the other good vampires!”

“There are no other good vampires,” Angel said.

“No more excuses.  You’re getting some sleep, even if I have to drag you to bed meself!”

Spike took Angel’s hand.  Amused by Spike’s sudden forcefulness, Angel allowed the other vampire to lead him away.

“You’re exhausted,” Spike said.  “You have dark circles under your eyes.”

“I do?” Angel asked, alarmed.

“You do.  Very unattractive looking dark circles! You're taking the day off. Do you have any client meetings scheduled?”

“There’s one at eleven a.m. with Fr. Castile,” he said. 

“I’ll handle it. It’s probably about an exorcism,” Spike said, as they went down the flight of stairs leading to Angel’s apartment.  “I’ll just tell him we don’t do exorcisms.”

“Not normally, but for the Church…” Angel said.  “I owe them.  After what Angelus did…”

 Spike nodded his agreement.

“We’ll help with an exorcism if he asks, but he has to pay to like everyone else.  Nothing for free just because he’s friends with the Pope!”

“Maybe I should take the meeting…”

“You told me that I have good people skills, remember?  I can be tactful.  I won’t even mention that his Church owns half of Rome and they can afford to pay their bills on time.”

“Spike, you are not convincing me that you can be tactful!”

“Get some sleep.  I’ll take care of everything.”

 

Still holding Angel’s hand, Spike led him to the bedroom, helped him undress, and tucked him into bed.  Then Spike set the clock radio for 10:30 a.m., changed into his nightshirt, and slipped into the sheets beside him. 

“It’s nice,” Angel said sleepily.  “You looking after me for a change. It feels good. But I’m still the boss, right?”

“’Course, you are,” Spike said.  “You’re the Angel in Angel Investigations.”

The blond vampire moved a little closer to Angel, who put his arms around him. Angel held him tight, keeping him safe, making him feel loved.  Spike fell asleep almost instantly.

“Sweet dreams, a leanbh,”  Angel whispered, and he closed his eyes and went to sleep.

 

Chapter Text

Sunnydale, 1997

 

They had told the new girl stories about vampires and werewolves and nameless horrors that lurked in the dark.  They’d warned her never to go out at night alone.  The new girl had nodded her head, but she hadn’t believed a word of it.  This wasn’t the first time Shelby Martin had been the new girl. 

That evening, Shelby stayed a little later than she had intended, helping to decorate the gym for the Sadie Hawkin’s Day dance.  Mrs. Walton, the science teacher, had asked her if her parents were coming to pick her up.  When Shelby said no, she offered to drive her home, but Shelby turned her down.

“Dear, “ Mrs. Walton said. “you don’t want to be out alone after dark.”

Shelby thought her persistence was a little creepy, and decided to stay away from Mrs. Walton in the future.

She was only a couple of blocks away from home when she saw a woman with dark hair and a pale complexion.  She was singing a song in a language Shelby didn’t recognize – Italian or French, maybe – and dancing, her long skirts twirling.  Shelby thought she was either crazy or high and decided to cross the street to avoid her.

Too late! The dancer had already seen her.   She came up to her – so close that Shelby could see a smear of blood at the corner of her pale bluish lips.  Shelby knew then what she was. The new girl tried to run away, but another vampire had come up behind her.  He gripped her arms, holding her in place.

“She’s so sweet, “the female vampire said. “Would you like to see her dance, my dearest - a pretty ballerina pirouetting on a music box, red hair swirling around her like a flame?”

 “You’re the only one I want to see dance, love,” the other vampire said.

The female vampire reached out to touch Shelby’s red-gold hair. 

 “A flame to set the world on fire, turn us all to ash.  Such a lovely burning…”

Her pale hand brushed against Shelby’s cheek.  She leaned closer to kiss her. The vampire’s lips were ice-cold.

“Come on, Dru.  Stop playing with the food and let’s go home.”

“Not until she dances.  Make her dance with me, Spike.”

The male vampire sighed.  “Fine, one dance and then we go home. ”

Dru nodded.  Spike gave Shelby a little push, sending her into Dru’s arms.  

Then Shelby was spinning, whirling, caught up in Dru’s crazed dance.  She gasped for breath.  The vampire was laughing, and Shelby shut her eyes, blocking out the vampire’s laughing face, her sharp teeth still stained with the blood of her last victim.  At last the vampire abruptly released her, and Shelby fell back, landing on someone’s lawn.  The world spun around her.  She was too dizzy and too breathless to run away.  She was at the mercy of a creature that had no mercy.  She screwed her eyes up tight, expecting sharp fangs at her throat, expecting death.

“Did you see us, Spike?”

“I saw you.  You danced beautifully.  Like a couple of dancing princesses in a fairy tale.”

“Maybe we should keep her.  A daughter for me, a little sister for you…”

“No, she’s too young.”

“We could be a family again.”

“We are a family.  Just ‘cause he left us doesn’t make us any less a family.”

“But you still miss him.  I don’t want you to miss him!”

“I don’t. You’re all that I want.  You and me will be together forever. We don’t need anyone else.”

Silence.  By the time Shelby scraped up the courage to open her eyes, the vampires were long gone.

 

Los Angeles, present day


Angel was in bed, enjoying the almost forgotten luxury of sleeping in, when he heard voices from the living room.  He pulled on a pair of pants and went to see what was going on.  Spike had obviously just showered.  He was wearing only a couple of towels – one tied around his waist, the other draped over his dripping-wet hair.  The other speaker was a man in a suit with a clerical collar, who had to be Fr. Castile.  He was staring at the scars on Spike’s nearly naked body with a kind of detached, anthropological interest.  He reached out his hand to touch a particularly vivid scar on the vampire’s chest; then withdrew his hand as he realized how inappropriate that would be.

“What are these marks? Some kind of vampire initiation ritual?  Self-mutilation?”  

Spike hated his scars and didn’t like being reminded of them.  He glared at Fr. Castile, who was oblivious to his hostility.

Angel spoke quickly before Spike had a chance to reply.  “You’re a bit early, Fr. Castile.  We weren’t expecting you until eleven o’clock.”

“And we were expecting you in the office of Angel Investigations,” Spike added, “which is upstairs.  Hard to miss, since there’s a bloody sign on the door!”

“No one was there, so I came to find you,” he said. 

Father Castile glanced up at Angel and then turned towards Spike again.  He had noticed the scars that circled Spike’s wrists, where the Initiative’s leather restraints had cut deeply into his flesh. 

“A suicide attempt?” he asked.

 Angel put a calming hand on Spike’s bare shoulder.  He could feel Spike vibrating with imperfectly suppressed emotion.

 “I’m Angel and this is my colleague Spike,” Angel said.  He shook the priest’s hand.  “Pleased to meet you. If you wait up in the office, I’ll be up in a few moments.”

He hurried the priest out the door.

“Bastard,” Spike said under his breath as the priest left. “Barging into someone’s flat uninvited and making personal comments about his appearance…”

“I think I’d better handle this one,” Angel said.

Spike nodded.  “Charge him double!”

 

Thirty minutes later, Angel returned to the apartment.  He half-expected Spike to have trashed the place in a fit of rage, but everything was intact as far as he could tell.  Spike had dressed and was sitting in front of the television, He was frowning and his arms were crossed in front of him, and even Angel, ordinarily clueless at reading body language, could tell that he was still upset.

“Fr. Castile’s not a bad guy really,” Angel said.  “He’s just really curious about vampires.  He’s a bit tactless…which is probably why the Church has him doing real estate deals instead of working as a parish priest.”

“So what did he want?”

“There’s a convent in a desert town halfway between here and Vegas.  The convent has been empty for years. The Church plans to sell it to a real estate developer who wants to turn it into a resort. They can’t sell it yet because a nest of vampires has taken up residence.  Our job will be to get rid of the vampires.”

“So we’re taking the job.”

“Of course, we are.  We fight evil.”

“And you’re not charging him double.”

“No,” Angel said, “but I didn’t give him a discount either, and I’m going to charge him for the travel time there and back.”

“And petrol,” Spike added.

“That too. So much for my day off,” Angel said resignedly.  “Oh well, it was a nice idea anyway.”

He leaned down to  kiss Spike’s cheek. Then he walked over to the refrigerator to get his morning cup of pig’s blood.

“Spike, this is going to come up again.  People are going to notice the scars, and some of them will stare and some of them will ask questions.  You have to figure out a way to deal with them.  What to say.  So next time, you’ll be prepared.”

“I just want to forget it ever happened,” Spike muttered.

“We’ll head out to the convent as soon as Gunn and Wesley get here.  Where are they anyway?”

“Cordelia had another vision.  They went to meet her to get the details.”

 

 

Cordelia, Gunn and Wesley were sitting at a Starbucks a couple of blocks away from the production offices of Two Monkeys and a Wrench.  Cordy had ordered her usual skinny latte; Gunn had an Americano; and Wesley was sipping a chai tea.

“The demon wrangler’s at the centre of it all; I know he is,” Cordelia insisted.  “I asked him politely how he was doing, and he blew up at me and practically accused me of being a spy.” 

“But you are spying on him,” Gunn said.

“He doesn’t know that! He stormed right past me, and I was going to go after him, but the Higher Powers chose that exact moment to send me a vision.  By the time I recovered, he was long gone.  If the Higher Powers have something to tell us, why can’t they just send us an e-mail like normal people?” she grumbled.

“What did you see?” Wesley asked.

“Blood and fire and a bright flash, and there was smoke – I could taste it, burning the back of my throat, and a strange smell…sort of electrical… and people screaming, and a crackling sound. Vision isn’t really the right word for it, because it’s not just sight; it’s all the senses at once…even some I’m pretty sure human beings aren’t supposed to have!  It’s overwhelming and confusing and painful.  I hate the Higher Powers!”

“Anything that tells us when all this is going to go down?” Gunn asked.

Cordy said, shaking her head.  “Soon. That’s all I know.

I’ve asked around and no one seems to know very much about our prime suspect.  His first name is Peter and he’s ex-marine or ex-army. Payroll must have more info, so they can send him his paycheques, but the woman in charge of the office never leaves.  She must have an iron bladder.  We’ll have to break into the office after the studio closes for the night.  Do either of you know how to pick a lock?”

“Whoa,” Gunn said.  “Let’s look at other options before we go committing any felonies!”

“But this is to save the world, right guys? It’s worth the risk.

Anyway, we’ll talk again later. I have to get to work.  We’re working on a fight scene today.  The fight co-ordinator is going to show me how to stand on the sidelines and look helpless.”

 

After their meeting, Gunn carefully manoeuvred his big pick-up truck out of its small parking space, while Wesley headed across the street to Rarities and Oddities.  It was the shop where he and Cordelia had gone to buy human blood for Spike, and he’d been meaning to check it out ever since.  The store sold items used in potion-making and ritual magic – alembics, athames, eyes of newt, toes of frog, and herbs picked under the light of the full moon by sky-clad virgins.  Potion-making wasn’t a branch of magic held in high regard by Watchers – one of Wesley’s teachers had derisively referred to it as “cookery book magic” – but there was always a chance that something useful might turn up.

The red-headed girl behind the counter looked vaguely familiar to Wesley. She wasn't the person who served him the last time he had been there; that had been an older woman.  Wesley looked at her name tag, which said that her name was Shelby, but the name didn’t jog his memory.

Wesley nodded politely to her, but she didn’t notice him.  She was wrapped up in what seemed to be a rather intense conversation with a young man, presumably another customer.  Although the clerk looked upset, the young man was smiling widely as he brushed past Wesley on his way out the door.

A short while later, Wesley left the store carrying an advanced spell book and a bag of human blood. (Spike’s birthday was coming up and he particularly liked Type A.)  Wesley had no idea that he had just met their prime suspect.

Chapter Text

Wesley and Gunn went  in Gunn’s pickup to scout out the former convent.  The two vampires followed in Angel’s car as soon as the sun set.  The team met up at an establishment called the Lucky Dollar in the closest town to the convent.  The Lucky Dollar was an all-purpose business – a combination bar, restaurant, convenience store and gas station.  The four took a table in the bar section.

“Even with the key Fr. Castile gave you,” Gunn warned, “it’s not going to be easy.”

Wesley nodded his agreement. “The convent is set back from the road. The entire property is surrounded by a barbed wire fence, but the gate is unlocked and doesn’t present any kind of difficulty. The problem is that we’ll have to pass through a stretch of dry scrubland to get to the convent itself.  With the drought, there’s no ground cover to hide our approach.”

“The convent,” he continued, “ is surrounded on all four sides by a high wall.  Entrance is through two doors – the main door and a back entrance.  There’s a bell tower that rises above the wall, giving those within a perfect vantage point to see us coming.  If we somehow manage to get to the door unscathed, and if the vampires haven’t changed or broken the lock and Fr. Castile’s key still works, we can expect that the vampires will be waiting for us en masse on the other side of the door.”

“The alternative is a siege,” Gunn said.

Angel shook his head.  “We don’t have time for a siege.  Not with the Higher Powers warning us that some kind of disaster is coming.  We have to do this job quickly and get back to L.A.”

“There’s a third option,” Spike said.

All three heads turned to look at the blond vampire. 

“Her,” Spike said, glancing towards a young woman sitting at the bar. She had thick, shining black hair cut in a striking asymmetrical style, and dark, expressive eyes.  Her olive complexion made her unnatural pallor less obvious, but Spike knew another vampire when he saw one.

 

The female vampire was suspicious of Angel when he approached, but Angel’s good looks and sincere smile melted away her defenses.  Soon he was sitting next to her at the bar, buying her a drink, and talking to her as if they were long-lost friends. 

Spike had seen his grand-sire’s skill with women before and had no particular interest in witnessing another conquest.

 “Going for a breath of fresh air,” the blond vampire said, tapping the cigarette packet in his pocket with his forefinger. 

Wesley and Gunn nodded distractedly.  They were surreptitiously watching Angel and the female vampire while pretending to be engrossed in the bar’s greasy, ketchup-stained menu.

 

Half an hour later, Spike was in the parking lot, leaning against a beaten-up Chevy, smoking a cigarette and looking up at the stars.  The distant bass thumping of country music was enough to keep the night’s unwelcome silence at bay.  The volume of the music suddenly increased as the door to the Lucky Dollar opened.  Spike turned his head. Angel and the young female vampire walked out of the bar, heading for Angel’s car.  Spike ground his cigarette under his heel and stepped back into the shadows.  He watched as Angel escorted the vamp to his car, and then took the driver’s seat and drove off.

Spike headed back into the Lucky Dollar.  Gunn and Wesley had each ordered a beer and were picking at a plate of greasy chili fries without much enthusiasm.  Spike picked up a fry, gave it a dubious glance, and returned it to the plate.

“Angel is going to meet us outside the gate just before dawn,” Gunn said.

 “He’ll get us in,” Spike said. “Darla used to say Angelus had a smile that could unlock the gates of Heaven...if only St. Peter were a pretty girl.”

“He’s not Angelus anymore,” Wesley reminded him.

“Two sides of the same coin,” Spike said, shrugging.

 

The horizon was just beginning to lighten when Angel walked up to the gate where his team members were waiting. 

“Holly – the vampire from the bar – told me about another way in,” he said.  “Follow me.”

He led them down the road and on to the adjacent property.  A faded ‘for sale’ sign was posted on the barbed wire fence,  which had not been tended for some time, and was falling down in places.  He led them past an abandoned farmhouse to a covered well.  Angel removed the cover and lowered himself into the well.  There were steel handholds leading down.  The metal handholds were shiny and new.

The others followed Angel down, finding themselves in a cave which must once have been an underground stream (and probably would be again, if it ever rained enough.)   The vampires had strung Christmas lights along the roof of the cave.  The Christmas lights were just enough for Angel and Spike to be able to see ahead, but not enough for the two humans, whose night vision was considerably less keen.  Angel and Spike had to guide them.

Angel stopped.  They had come to a turning point. In one direction the dried-up creek bed disappeared down a hole.  In the other, a crude tunnel had been excavated, propped up by old, half-rotted timbers.  The ceiling was low – so low that a grown man could not quite stand upright – and the tunnel was narrow, so that Angel’s team would have to proceed single file.

“No worse than the sewers under L.A.,” Angel said, trying to sound cheerful.

There were half-hearted murmurs of assent, no one wanting to be the first to suggest turning back.

If he concentrated on the Christmas lights, ignoring everything else, Spike could go forward.  Not gracefully, mind.  Stumbling, one foot in front of the other, like a cheaply-made wind-up toy.  The tunnel wasn’t long – couldn’t be long – and if he just looked at the pretty lights and tried not to think about the darkness beyond or the weight of earth pressing in on all sides …

“Stop,” Angel whispered. 

They came to a halt, Spike almost walking into Gunn.

“Do you hear that?” Angel asked. “They’re coming at us from both directions. “ 

Wesley and Gunn could not hear anything, but they trusted in Angel’s superior senses.

“Ambush,” Wesley said.

“Hold your positions,” Angel said.  “Spike and I are the first line of defense.  If anyone gets past us or if we fall…”

Then the Christmas lights went out, leaving them in total darkness.

Spike couldn’t help the faint whimpering sound that escaped his lips.  He reached for his flashlight and turned it on.  Gunn grabbed it out of his hands.

“You’ll give away our position,” he whispered, turning it off.

Spike growled and went into vamp face. In that desperate moment, he might have attacked Gunn, if it had not been for the chip in his head. The chip – or perhaps an incipient panic attack – made him feel sick and dizzy. He trembled with a toxic mixture of unreasoning terror and misplaced rage.   Spike shook his head like a dog, trying to gather his scattered wits. He turned to face the darkness, a sharpened stake in his hand.

 

The two-pronged attack was brief but brutal and conducted almost entirely in silence, save for the occasional grunt of exertion or cry of pain or surprise, cut short as another vampire crumbled to dust.

The vampires attacking the rear had made a mistake, putting their biggest and toughest fighter, a former football player, in the vanguard.  This vampire was too tightly wedged in the narrow tunnel to do more than grapple with Spike.   Spike took advantage of the football player’s helplessness, using the mammoth vamp as a shield, while striking at the vampires lined up behind him. 

Angel was holding up his end.  With his long reach, he could strike at other vampires before they could get at him.  He pushed one vampire back hard, propelling him back into the others, sending them all tumbling to the ground like ten pins.  Angel leaped on top of the pile, stabbing furiously at the mass of flailing limbs and struggling bodies, until there was nothing but a heap of dust and ashes beneath him.

Angel dispatched the last of his attackers. He stood at the ready, prepared for another onslaught, but no attack came.  He had prevailed.

 “Everyone okay?” Angel called out.

“I’m okay,” Wesley and Gunn chorused.

“Spike?”  There was a barely perceptible tremor in Angel’s voice. 

Gunn turned on Spike’s flashlight and  directed its beam down the tunnel, back the way they had come.  Spike was slumped against the wall of the tunnel.  He was filthy, covered from head to toe in dust and ashes.  There was a scrape on his forehead, which was bleeding profusely.

“You okay, man?” Gunn asked, taking a step towards the vampire.

“I will be once you stop shining that light in me eyes,” Spike said. 

Spike held out his hand and Gunn gave him his flashlight.   Spike held it for a moment, its weight in his hands comforting him.  He made no move to get up.

“You’re bleeding,” Angel said.

“I am?”

“Your forehead.”

Spike used the hem of his t-shirt to wipe the blood off his face. 

Gunn looked quizzically at the blond vampire.  Something seemed off with Spike.  Usually Spike was eager to go into battle, but he seemed subdued, even hesitant.  Gunn took a step forward, holding out his hand to help his colleague up.  To his dismay, Spike seemed to shrink back further against the wall.

“Do you think that you are capable of capable of continuing the mission?” Wesley asked.  “If not, you can stay here, and we’ll come back for you later.”

The idea of being left alone in the tunnel was enough to get Spike to his feet.

“Said I was fine, didn’t I?” Spike grumbled. 

He shone the flashlight down the tunnel.  Because of the upward slope of the tunnel, it was impossible to see to the end.  Some ugly, treacherous part of his mind pictured them trudging on and on through the tunnel forever, caught in a time loop or some other gruesome magical trap.

 

The tunnel led to the convent’s basement. Once inside, the team’s task was straightforward.  The vampires’ best fighters had perished when their ambush failed, but those remaining had to be cleared out.  The convent had a multitude of small rooms, each of which had once been the tiny cell of a nun, just big enough to hold a narrow bed and a small dresser for a holy sister’s few possessions.  Every cell had to be searched.

Spike stood in the doorway to one of the cells, holding off two male vampires.  They were vicious but unskilled fighters, presenting him with no real difficulty.  He noticed a movement in the corridor behind him.  Spike gave a wide angled swipe that forced the two vampires to step back and turned towards the movement, expecting another ambush.  The vampire he had seen in the bar was running away.  He quickly staked the other two vampires and headed after her. 

Holly went down the stairs to the main floor. The front door was barricaded, so she continued past it, heading down another flight of stairs into the basement.  Spike’s pace quickened.  Abandoning stealth, he took out his flashlight and directed its beam into the dark basement. Holly was almost at the entrance to the tunnel.

“Sorry, pet, “ Spike said, his tone gentle, almost apologetic.  “I can’t let you leave.”

“I’m alone and unarmed.  Helpless.  Why don’t you just strike me down the way that you did my poor brothers and sisters?”

She looked him in the eye, challenging him. Holly smiled when he looked away, uncertain of what to do.  Which was worse, Spike wondered, killing someone who was unarmed and defenseless or letting a vampire loose upon the world, free to kill again?  What would Angel do?

 Taking advantage of his indecision, Holly entered the tunnel.

 “The sun’s up and there’s no shade for miles,” Spike warned.  “You’ll be burnt to cinders. You’re better off taking your chances with me.”

Holly laughed and disappeared into the darkness. Spike let her go. He wouldn’t go back into the tunnel – not for her, not for anyone.

 

“Done and dusted,” Angel said, when at last all the rooms had been cleared.

“Not quite,” Wesley said.  “There’s still the matter of the tunnel.  We can clear the vampires out, but they’ll just come back as long as the tunnel is there.”

 “Collapsing the tunnel isn’t our job,” Gunn argued.  “That takes someone skilled with explosives and that’s not us.”

Angel nodded his agreement.  “This job has already taken us longer than I expected.  Time to head back to L.A.”

 

After a short quiz on vehicular safety and the proper operation of a stick shift, Angel allowed Wesley to take the wheel of his beloved classic car.  He had no choice, not unless he wanted to wait until the sun went down to go home. 

Wesley drove the car up through the convent gates, parking it as close as possible to the convent itself.  After dismantling the barricade at the front door, Angel and Spike ran out and scurried into the automobile’s back seat where Wesley and Gunn had made a tent out of blankets to keep out the sun’s deadly rays.

“It’s hot as Hell in here,” Spike complained.  He wriggled out of his filthy t-shirt and jeans but left on his underpants.

Angel hesitated.  He wanted to maintain his dignity, but it was sweltering under the blanket tent.  Dignity fought comfort for almost a full minute before Angel stripped down to his skivvies as well.  

“Home, James,” Spike called out, leaning back and shutting his eyes.   

 

Chapter Text

Angel leaned against Spike’s bare shoulder.  Angel was sleeping fitfully, but his eyes opened when the car stopped. 

“Getting petrol,” Wesley called out, and they heard the sound of the car’s door slamming.

Wesley had turned up the car’s air conditioning full blast, but it was still stiflingly hot in the blanket tent that Spike and Angel were using to keep out the sun.

Spike yawned, and sat up straight.  He had been fighting off sleep, certain that if he slept, he’d have one of his nightmares.  It was bad enough that Angel had seen him shaking and soaking wet with sweat; he didn’t want Wesley to witness him in such a state.  

“This reminds me of when we used to travel across Europe in a coach with the curtains drawn, wreaking havoc wherever we went,” Spike said.

“I don’t want to remember those days,” Angel said. 

“It wasn’t all about doing evil,” Spike protested.  “Well, yeah, it pretty well was…We had fun together, though. You must remember the birthday party we threw for Dru when we were in Romania?  That awful pink dress I got for her to match Miss Edith’s…”

 “What I remember best are the faces of the people Angelus killed,” Angel interrupted. “I think of the blood we spilled, and the pleasure we took in hurting innocent people.  I hate what I was then – what we all were.”

What I still am, Spike thought, although he didn’t say the words aloud.  

In the dim light that penetrated the blanket, Spike could see that Angel was brooding.  He was probably thinking about the nature of good and evil, the possibility of atonement and similar weighty philosophical questions.  Spike knew from experience that Angel could ponder such subjects for days or even weeks on end.  After he had regained his soul, Angel had spent entire decades brooding, before he’d found his calling as a champion.

Spike had started him on this gloomy train of thought; it was up to him to derail it. Spike kissed him lightly on the shoulder.  Angel lifted his head slightly, allowing Spike to bury his face in his neck.

“But you’re on the right side now. You help the helpless.  Or is it the hopeless?   You are brave and strong,” Spike murmured a litany of praise into his grand-sire’s ear, punctuated with kisses on his neck and shoulder.  “How many vamps did you dust today?  You were like Jack the Giant Killer – seven with one blow.”

“You, my sweet William, are a shameless flatterer,” Angel said, smiling at last. 

Angel kissed his grand-childe on the lips, a light, flirtatious kiss at first, but one which slowly deepened and became more passionate and intense.  He pulled Spike close, until the blond vampire was sitting on his lap.  Spike swung his leg around so that he was straddling his grand-sire and leaned forward to kiss him. 

Then Spike sank down on to his knees on the floor of the vehicle. He began to kiss and lick Angel’s inner thighs.

“What are you doing?”

“I think you can guess,” Spike said.

“Wesley will be back in a minute!”

 “Then I’ll have to be quick, won’t I? Lift up your arse so I can get your pants off, you lazy bugger,” he said.  “I can’t do everything meself!”

 

“I feel like a limo driver on prom night. I can’t believe you two!” Wesley said.  “I was only gone five minutes!’

“More like half an hour,” Spike muttered.

“I’m sorry.  My behaviour was completely unprofessional,” Angel said, for at least the tenth time. 

“And you Spike…” Wesley said.

“I’m not sorry,” said Spike. “What happens in the back seat is none of the front seat’s business. Got to keep me man happy, don’t I?”

Angel sighed, knowing that he’d be listening to them bicker all the way back to Los Angeles.