Part 13

 

“Surprised to see me then, William?” he asked silkily.

 

A million memories blossomed to that seductive voice. Spike suppressed butterflies inside, which nervously fluttered their bright wings to vermillion-scented recollections.

 

Angelus. His Sire. Emanating raw power that had the ability to make him feel like a newly risen fledgling, dirt of the grave still fresh under his fingernails. He almost took a breath, but thankfully managed to suppress such weakness. Christ, there was enough riding on the next few days, who could blame his uneasiness? This unpredictable vampire had full knowledge of all their plans, knew secrets that could destroy him with a word. Although, if Angelus still acknowledged him as family then there was nothing to fear, however, Spike knew that his soul threw the matter into doubt. He walked a knife-edge, and all bets were off. 

 

Yet it was with a profound sense of disquiet that he realised, simmering beneath his reasonable apprehension was an altogether different source to his anxiety.  Even after all these years, some part of him yearned for approval from this darkly seductive figure. The thought that his tough as nails veneer had all the depth of eggshell, dismayed him.

 

Sod it. He blamed the soul for making him soft. In the past one hundred years he’d faced down far more powerful beings than Angelus, and nothing was going to make him regress to needy little fledge. He raised his eyes challengingly. Show no weakness; show no fear. That was the trick to dealing with Angelus. He swallowed his edginess, and kept his reactions reassuringly predictable and Spike-like, intent on swaying Angelus with the sense of familiarity. Blue eyes narrowed to slits, but the string of smoke gave the impression of unaffected nonchalance.

 

“Surprised? Should I be? After all, me who brought you back, innit?”

 

Partially illuminated by the smouldering cigarette tip, his face fell into unreadable shadows.

 

“And why would be you be doing a thing like that, eh?” Disbelief eddied through the darkness, hanging between them as tangible as the cigarette smoke.  “I’m thinking you’re a little more surprised than you’re letting on.”

 

The hint of American accent softened to a faintly Irish burr, as though the demon dwelt somewhere in the past, an anachronism not belonging to this modern world. In some strange way, this echo from their early days was almost comforting, and buoyed Spike’s confidence.  No weakness, no fear became a mantra running through his head; the repetitive words were oil on water, calming the roiling turbulence beneath.

 

“What would you know about anything?  You ain’t been here for the past hundred years.”

 

Misplaced blame and accusations; always a good start. But Angelus heard more in those words, detecting an undercurrent of hurt, which made his heart lurch with delight.

 

“Aw, you missed me? Seriously, I’m touched. But you know? Always here, despite sometimes wishing I wasn’t… made me sick to the stomach listening to the crap he spouted. ‘Shall I tell you all the ways I love you? How beautiful you are?’”

 

The spiteful mockery was clearly intended to wound, but instead of rising to the bait, the corners of Spike’s mouth twitched into an answering smile.

 

“Yeah. Kinda pathetic wasn’t it?”

 

The apparent indifference momentarily floored Angelus. He recovered quickly; giving a small smile of appreciation as he lazily studied his childe. “Bullshit. You expect me to believe that you want me here?”

 

“Well you’re here.”

 

Spike presented undeniable evidence, but Angelus remained unconvinced.

 

“Another monumental cock-up or just one of your infamous, crackpot plans?” he asked scathingly.

 

“My plans are works of bleedin’ art,” Spike protested, but without real ire, it was just another facet of their age-old routine.

 

“Art? Come on, they don’t even look good on paper.” Unwavering dark eyes caused Spike to shift uncomfortably. “What’s your game, Childe? If you’re looking to take me on, I’ll show you tortures that creatures from your worst nightmares shrink from. I guess even Hell has an up side… I got to learn from masters of their craft. You really don’t want to experience the things I’ve learnt”

 

His voice was tar and gravel, a road that could lead nowhere good, but the threat left Spike clearly unmoved.

 

“Yeah? I’m shitting myself here. Not.  Spare me the macho posturing, Mate; had to listen to it a million times before, and it didn’t impress the first time around. Anyway, done playing games. You wanna know why you’re here?” Spike paused until Angelus nodded him to continue. “The Circle wanted an act of evil. You’re it. Well, betraying the Poof was actually it. Whaddya think?” Spike cocked an eyebrow in query.

 

Memories of Izzy also demanding an act of betrayal shot elements of doubt through his head. Angel had been about to bluff and play the Fred card in this game of betrayal. Too late though, Spike had met him and raised him, and then laid a winning card… if he could be believed.

 

“I think that you’re lying.” His voice, the silken glove disguising the iron knuckle-duster. “You managed to figure out a way to bring me back? I think I’d have remembered if we’d….  Huh. There again maybe not….”

 

He flexed his hand distractedly, seemingly in wonder that it once more obeyed the commands of his demon. He formed it into a fist.

 

Like a million people before him, Spike attempted to divert the threat of bloodshed by keeping the bully off-balance.

 

“Yeah well, I always was the brains of the outfit.”

 

Angelus gave a disbelieving snort of laughter and the air of impending violence diffused slightly.

 

“Right. And I was always the Virgin Mary.”

 

“Whatever.  Your soul was tethered by the Witch’s vision of happiness, and I’m one of the few people who knew the bint through those years. She learnt the hard way what perfection was. See, I knew what she wanted. Called insight, ain’t it?”

 

“No, it’s called bollocks. So her idea of happiness is babbling nonsense…” Then he remembered whom they were talking of. “Actually, I see your point.”

 

“The light dawns,” Spike mocked.

 

Dark eyes reflected back whatever illumination there was, transforming them into gleaming black chips of obsidian.

 

“Still not convincing me, Spikey, you wouldn’t do that to loverboy. I can smell your soul from here, and the stench of it is choking me.”

 

 “Stop breathing then, wanker,” he muttered beneath his breath.

 

“What?”

 

Spike thought better of repeating his incendiary words. The atmosphere still beat with an underlying pulse of dark violence, which he was unwilling to spark into life.

 

“Just saying, Peaches never really got it and you‘re making the same mistake.”

 

“Mistake? You think? So, little William, what mistake is this?” His words glittered like shards of glass, traps on which the unwary could cut themselves to ribbons.

 

The glowing tip of the cigarette carelessly rose and fell, the sharp features thrown into orange relief before fading into darkness as another curl of smoke clouded the air.

 

“You don’t get the difference between being cursed with a soul and earning one. Mine ain’t there to punish me. My demon’s still as powerful as ever. I ain’t some plaything of the Powers. I choose my destiny.”

 

“Maybe, but you didn’t arrange for your own assassination… did you?”

 

Spike briefly wondered whether to lay claim to that feat, but he’d learnt long ago that the secret of a good lie was to hide it amongst truths.

 

“Course not - just realised what was happening and took advantage of the situation. Flexibility and improvisation, the soul of good planning, ain’t that what you used to say? Yeah, I could have stopped him, could have walked away, instead I allowed Angel to have his say, and watched as he disappeared.”

 

Angelus hesitated; he remembered Spike’s cool observation as Angel fought tenaciously for his soul. Fought and lost.

 

“You expect me to believe this happened by choice? You chose me over your f**kbuddy?”

 

Spike was beginning to feel flayed, his skin too thin to hold him together for this charade he’d been forced to play, and his shrug was sad, almost imperceptible.

 

“Ain’t asking you to believe nothing. You know the fight I’ve taken on? Angel blew it big time, so, new plan. You.”

 

Angelus began to laugh, faltered and trailed off.

 

“Me? I get that. Because I love to take on demons against insurmountable odds…. Not! It’s another one of your half-baked, shit, little plans.”

 

“Sodding well bake it then!”

 

A low growl rose in Angelus’ throat and Spike realised he was pushing too hard.

 

“Uh, okay. No need to be so bloody touchy. Just saying, Angel dropped a bollock. So, you gonna help or what?”

 

Angelus shifted as though merely getting comfortable, that the cover fell away, revealing his sleekly naked body, was pure chance.

 

“Why? Why would I want to help? What’s in it for me? How are you going to persuade me?” His eyes were bright as one hand trailed suggestively over his chest and stomach.

 

Spike looked quickly away, pointedly ignoring the heavy-handed attempt at blackmail.

 

“Cus these demons think they can play you and you’ve always hated that.”

 

Angelus merely looked amused. Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he reached for a pair of pants and pulled them on.

 

“Hey, it’s safe, you can look again now. I don’t remember you being so coy. This shy boy act is really kinda cute.”

 

Spike, still desperately attracted to him, refused to resort to sex, realising it would alter the precarious balance between them. Remembering Angel saying that the demon had always cared for his wayward offspring, Spike took a gamble.

 

“Maybe this will persuade you; they thought they could assassinate your Childe. They don’t have the right, Sire. Might have a soul, but still yours.”

 

It seemed he’d said something that struck a chord because suddenly Angelus was towering above him. He almost dropped his cigarette in astonishment. Surely, his sire had never moved that fast?

 

Stooping down and plucking the burning cylinder from Spike’s lifeless fingers, Angelus puckered his lips around it, pulling in a long drag and blowing the smoke to one side of Spike’s face.

 

Licking his lips and staring at the handsome face above him, Spike considered how much younger and more beautiful his sire looked without the weight of sorrow that customarily clouded those coffee-coloured eyes and marred the smooth brow.  

 

The cigarette was ground to a stub on the arm of the chair, then Angelus grasped his shoulders, leant in towards him, as though about to re-enact the kiss to the forehead, but instead shifted at the last second, catching him full on the mouth. Almost immediately, he pulled back, a gap of millimetres between them.

 

“Yes, still mine. It’s good you remember, but don’t even think of betraying me, William. I swear, whatever it takes, I’ll crush you.”

 

The icy breath of the threat wended its way between Spike’s parted lips. He was speechless and Angelus nodded his approval.

 

“So, let’s pretend I’m buying it. You brought me back, and you’re expecting what in return?”

 

“Dunno. Thought we could work together, like the old days.”

 

“Uh huh. Which old days are these? The ones where you plot against me with the Slayer , sneak up behind me and bash in my brains with an iron bar?”

 

“Well, uh, no. Not those old days, obviously.”

 

“So… the days when I destroy anything that threatens us, eh?”

 

“Yeah….” Spike realised he was expecting a helluva lot from this demon who probably didn’t give a damn, and he had no arguments left to persuade.

 

Angelus studied the down-turned face of his beleaguered childe, thinking that never had he appeared so defeated.

 

“Maybe I will kill the evil demons for you,” he continued softly. “But if you think I’m going to live like a goddamned monk and give up the blood and mayhem and killing, then newsflash. Never gonna happen. I’m evil, and I do whatever the hell I feel like, and you’d better start obeying me and showing a bit of respect.”

 

His vice-like hold began to crush Spike, who tensed in anger, and raised eyes that sparked in fury. Angelus almost grinned in relief at the reaction he’d provoked. He did laugh when Spike brought his arms up to his chest and then flung them solidly outwards, violently knocking away the bruising grip.

 

Rising to his feet in a fluid motion, Spike’s whole body challenged the other’s assumed dominance. Still grinning, Angelus held his hands up in mock gesture of submission, and flopped back into a chair. Only an alertness around his eyes betrayed his lounging casualness.

 

“Fair enough,” Spike replied quietly, “guess the trouble is, you’re sealed in this building, everyone has been evacuated, and there ain’t actually anyone here to eat.”

 

He desperately hoped that Wesley had managed to get all employees out, and their emergency procedures activated since his first frantic telephone call.

 

“You’ve imprisoned me?” Angelus contained his surge of anger. “So exactly how am I supposed to help when I’m trapped here, you moron?”

 

“Hey, demon central here, they come to us, believe me.”

 

“And what?” Dark eyes flared, and he was back on his feet, pacing and gesturing his frustration. “Meanwhile, you fucking starve me?”

 

“Pig’s blood has been good enough for the last hundred years. Your choice though.”

 

“Sheesh, Will, are you really so tamed! Have you actually forgotten what it’s like? The taste of blood warmed by the chase, rushing around the body, fast as the speed of fear, clammy skin against your lips….” He’d circled around, and now his arms were loosely draped around Spike’s shoulders, the breath of his seductive words grazing Spike’s cheeks. “And you offer anaemic, bottled pig’s blood? I’d rather starve. I’m beginning to wonder why I should help you.”

 

He pushed away violently.

 

“Because when the time comes, you want to stake me yourself?” Spike replied dispassionately, attempting to cool the situation.

 

Angelus was behind him again, his heated gaze trailing across Spike’s body like a physical touch.

 

“Good point. And you know? That time is getting ever closer.”

 

But it wasn’t a stake that Spike felt pressed against him. He pulled away and faced his Sire, refusing to be intimidated, and then realised even that was a mistake. The rebelliousness, the challenge, clearly excited Angelus.

 

He needed to get out. The small touches, the bickering, the air of simmering violence and passion… it was almost like the early days with Angel. To look on that familiar face, hear that voice, was slowly stripping away his defences. 

 

Angelus watched the bemused expression from hooded eyes. He was beginning to see his way out of this situation. Spike was the key.  Act like Angel, make him forget, win him. Maybe even take him… he was liking this plan more and more. He slung an arm companionably around Spike’s shoulders.

 

“So what next?” he asked mildly.

 

Spike looked suspicious at this change in tactic, but was grateful for small mercies. Except, why was he being… nice? There was one thing he knew for sure; if Angelus was doing nice then it was probably time to put some distance between them. He had things to do today, anyway. Mountains to move, oceans to drain….

 

“Gotta go see someone. You'll be okay here, yeah? You know where to find the blood.”

 

“Uh huh. It’s out there.” He nodded to the window and the streets below with a slight glimmer of humour.

 

Spike gave an answering smile, surprised how well the old sire was taking this. Maybe Angelus wasn’t quite the demon that William the fledgling had built him up to be.

 

“No, it’s in the fridge.”

 

Angelus pursed his lips, and then shook his head and smiled. “It’s getting near morning; pretty soon breakfast will be turning up for work.”

 

He looked so smug that Spike almost hated to burst his bubble.

 

“Nah, actually. I’ve arranged for them to have the day off.”

 

“The edifice of Wolfram & Hart grinding to a halt just for little old me? Hey, I’m flattered and everything, but there was no need.”

 

“You’re not killing anyone, Angelus.”

 

“Not killing anyone today, you’ve taken care of that, but what about tomorrow and the next day?”

 

 “How would I know? You know me and my half-baked, shit little plans. Don’t know how long I’ll be gone. Maybe you can spend the day working out our next move.”

 

“Work out how to pull you out of the shit, you mean?”

 

“Everything’s going fine, ain’t it?” Yet supernatural senses were quivering to the scent of impending doom. “Anyway, we’re kind of in this together. Sorry.”

 

“Just like the old days, eh? You get us into trouble, and I charge to the rescue and save the day.”

 

“Think you’re putting your own unique slant on the old days. Unless ‘charge to the rescue’ means beating me senseless.”

 

Angelus’ gaze was inscruatable.

 

“Have you ever had a childe, Will?”

 

Spike blinked at this rapid change in topic.

 

“Ummm, no.”

 

“If you had, and if you cared at all, wouldn’t you do your best to teach him?” Angelus asked cocking his head to one side, and radiating an intense honesty. “But a vampire childe is headstrong and arrogant. The demon, newly sprung, glories in its power, refuses to listen to those older and wiser, refuses their guidance. So how would you deal with such a creature? To survive in this world, I needed to make you powerful and knowledgeable enough to endure. It was difficult, Will, you were stomping around, thinking you already knew it all, like some eternal, pain-in-the-ass teenager, whilst I protected us all, and waited for you to grow up.

 

“I wanted an equal, a companion, but in those days the demon was riding you, and sometimes beating you senseless was the only language you could comprehend and physical strength was the only thing you respected.”

 

Spike stilled. That was some speech. He couldn’t remember his Sire ever confiding these things to him before before. To be honest, he’d never really thought about it from the Poof’s perspective, and he had to admit there was a kernel of truth at its core; new vampires are born in thrall to the demon’s potency. He also admitted that if he ever had a childe who behaved the way he had, he’d stake the bastard.

 

Angelus continued, as though he’d read Spike’s thoughts, “Vampire childer aren’t generally worth the trouble, I could have let you diminish into nothing more than a minion. However, I persevered. And yes, sometimes I hurt you, but think about this - how many fledges would survive one hundred years looking after themselves and a vampire as mad as Dru? Makes you realise that perhaps I did something right, huh? Makes me think that I finally found my companion, under the surface of my beautiful, fuck-up childe.”

 

The words fell on him like caresses, and he stepped back in bewilderment. The affection shining from his evil Sire shocked him. Afraid that Angelus was playing him and at the same time afraid that he wasn’t, Spike just wanted Angel back, and the honest love that had become the foundation for his future. The loss was sharp and raw; he didn’t feel up to dealing with Angel’s devious counterpart or attempting to figure out the truth from lies.

 

Yet part of him was falling for Angelus all over again.

 

He couldn’t afford to love him, it would compromise Angel, and that he could never do. Gathering up the tattered remnants of his plan, he tried to embroider into it the re-ensouling of Angelus.  He’d hardly had time to mourn the loss of Fred and now there was Angel too…. He felt angry, miserable, lost, alone and so bloody pissed off. Not at Angelus, poor sod, wasn’t his fault he’d been dragged into this.

 

Right. First, salvage the plan, and then deal with his sire. Spike sighed and wished he could actually trust… his brain skittered away from the unknown quantity of Angelus (Angelus who had called him a companion, called him beautiful), and instead concentrated on his immediate problems…. Still, it was oddly touching that whatever doubts Angelus might harbour, it had seemed never to enter his head to abandon or betray his childe.

 

He left without a backward glance, but Angelus didn’t need to see his eyes to know there was a tiny wedge of doubt hammered deep in the vampire’s soul.

 

Slipping back out of his pants, he entered the shower, picking up the loofah and attempted to remove all traces of the soul, which seemed to leave a lingering odour no matter how he scrubbed. He suspected that he could exfoliate down to the bone and still smell the damned thing, sickly and sweet, reminding him of vanilla and innocence, strawberries and blue-sky days. The thought made him queasy and he lathered up and rinsed one more time.

 

Contemplating his situation, his first reaction was to tear the building apart in frustration. How dare William imprison him! But another part of him gloried in the boy’s cunning, and he was surprised to discover that he actually believed his own words - Spike had evolved into the companion he’d always envisaged.

 

Unfortunately, he didn’t trust this souled-up version of his childe.

 

Still, it was fun to be sparring with Spike again; it would be more fun to be outside, prowling the dark streets hunting with him, and the thrill of the chase heating their rising blood, but with only one soul between them, how the hell was it going to work? If they were going to be together, one of them needed to change…. They also needed to survive this current debacle. Yes, it was still going according to Spike’s plan, but it was difficult to see where it would all end, and like Spike, he could sense something big heading their way.

 

He cursed beneath his breath, his thinking was slow and woolly, synapses needed the charge of human blood to begin sparking. He gazed longingly through the window. He wasn’t greedy, just one would do….

 

Helping himself to pig’s blood did nothing to calm the demon’s rage at being trapped., but there was no point wasting energy on destruction, however soothing he might find it.

 

He spent the next couple of hours testing the security of his prison. Even if he could crash through a window or jump from a rooftop, he reflected that his old enemy, sunlight, still effectively held him trapped. Instead, he began to explore the labyrinth of basement tunnels, testing the limits of his confinement.

 

There appeared to be a barrier that followed the outer perimeter of the W&H building.

 

Maybe he could go down.

 

He tried. Repeatedly he tried, but the building appeared to turn in on itself. It always ended the same. He would take a flight of steps down and then somehow find himself at one of the previous level. The frustration of spending hours wending his way downward only to discover he’d gained nothing was killing him. Way to spend a shit awful day, caught like a rat in a maze.

 

This was so irritating, no way was bloody William going to get the better of him. Jesus, he really needed to kill something to assuage his nasty, peevish mood, besides, he was hungry, and the bagged swine shit that passed for sustenance really wasn’t going to cut it. He glanced at his watch, realising how much time had passed, and wondered exactly what Spike was up to, out in the world, amongst the heaving, pulsing mass of human flesh. He was salivating at the thought.

 

A distracted frown passed over his features, was he so desperate that he was now hallucinating?

 

He caught the aroma again, something too overwhelming to belong to the rats and vermin. It was hot and throbbed with life.

 

He had searched everywhere. Security and surveillance, which was always manned, had been his final hope, but even that had turned up zilch. Seemed the building had been effectively marked as a no go area.

 

Nevertheless, as he made his way back up the steps and through the levels to the main building there was no mistaking the familiar scent. Someone had been left behind. His mood lifted immediately and he began to hum a light little melody as he followed the trail. It finally ended at a locked door.

 

His tummy rumbled with good-natured anticipation. Behind the door lay dinner.

 

oooo

 

“You are devious, what game are you playing, child? You and Angel were working together?”

 

“Well, he thought so,” Spike said, a cruel sneer curling his lips.

 

Cyvus’ gaze was evaluating, and then slowly he began to laugh, his eyes sharp with pitiless humour.

 

“Delightful! You are delightful. Betrayal! A truly, perfect act of evil, and simultaneously you’ve removed your competitor. I see I shall have to watch you, my boy.”

 

“Thought you already were,” Spike replied, “which reminds me. Today is the day that I take care of our other little problem.”

 

“The Chosen One?” Old eyes sparked with malice.

 

“Uh huh.  You’ll keep your bargain, yeah? No witnesses?”

 

“Of course.” Cyvus had actually given the idea some considerable thought. “I understand you’ve been doing your own research but I can give you a spell to ensure a quick, easy birth.”

 

That part of the process had been niggling Spike, hell these things could take days.

 

“Ok. Once the mother has given birth, I’ll negotiate with her. You have a phone?  I’ll call you to let you know it’s all agreed, and then you heal the father.”

 

Cyvus nodded. “So you’ll call me, I’ll see to the miraculous recovery, how much longer will you need to dispose of the baby?”

 

Spike thought for a second.

 

“Give me four hours.”

 

“That long?” he asked suspiciously.

 

“I have a plan, but probably best if you don’t know. You need to face the rest of the Circle with innocence.”

 

“Innocence?” Cyvus’ mouth twisted into a grin at the inappropriate description.

 

Spike caught his meaning. “Well, innocent of involvement in this, at least.”

 

It made sense.

 

“Four hours then,” he agreed.

 

“How will you account for the missing time?”

 

“I forget how young you are, a mere whippersnapper. I was creating false memories and changing events when your great grandsire still walked this earth as a human.”

 

“So, if anyone asks you’ll have new events to cover the time gap? Huh. What will I be doing? Guess I ought to know in case I ever need to cover myself.”

 

“It’s already started. Can’t you feel it? Close your eyes.”

 

Wondering if he was joking, Spike reluctantly closed his eyes and felt nothing. Except... it was like the barely audible strains of a half-remembered melody drifting towards him.

 

“Relax,” Cyvus advised.

 

Then he felt it, the warmth flooding through him. His eyes opened wide. Cyvus’ face displayed amusement at his theatrical reaction.

 

“The fewer people involved in the new memories, the easier they are to create.”

 

Angelus’ words and his own response echoed like memory…

 

“Why? Why would I want to help? What’s in it for me? How are you gonna persuade me?” His eyes were bright as one hand trailed suggestively over his chest and stomach.

 

Spike rose from his chair and replaced the larger hand with his own. “Perhaps this will persuade you,” he’d breathed as Angelus had smiled in triumph.

 

His throat felt so tight, words wouldn’t emerge. Closing his eyes again, he could feel the ghost of breath on skin, the touch of lips, the grasp of hands, the harsh sounds of sex…. The irony of it caught in his throat and he gave a distorted smile.  If he could choose where to spend the day, in bed with his Sire would be his first choice.

 

“Sounds good to me,” he finally said.

 

“I expect it does, but understand I don’t trust him, if he makes a single move against me, I will kill him.”

 

Spike tried to hide his piqued interest. Here was the opening he needed….

 

“Fair enough. Although, personally, I’m surprised you’d let him off that easily, kind of thought you’d want to make him suffer more.”

 

“Yes, of course. Pain…” Cyvus considered the alternatives.

 

“Hundreds of years in hell, I imagine develops a high tolerance to pain,” Spike prompted gently.

 

“Ah. Perhaps a different type of pain? I realise you went to much trouble to rid him of the burden of his soul but…”

 

Spike contained the urge to punch the air in triumph; instead, he gave a thin smile.

 

“You’ll re-ensoul him? Could you bear the demon’s suffering, screaming through the centuries?”

 

They exchanged small, complicit looks.

 

“Dear child, thinking of me, how kind. However, I believe I would bear up under the weight of it.”

 

Triumph faded to ambivalence and guilt. He understood Angelus like no one else, sympathised even, but he hardened his heart, getting Angel back was his priority.

 

oooo

 

Oh, he recognised this fucker and it was all the sweeter for that! The guy who thought he could kill William with the vampire poison.

 

Whatever he felt for William, as the boy had pointed out, he still belonged to Angelus. The man’s actions showed a lack of respect, which couldn’t be tolerated. Truly, he was famished, but there was always time for a little object lesson.

 

His pass gave him access to every door in the place. He swiped it through the lock and waited until he heard it bleep its permission and click open.

 

“Hey, it’s me.”

 

The man looked a mess, his blonde hair plastered his scalp, and he smelt like a week old corpse. To Angelus, starved of his natural diet for so long, he looked infinitely appetising. Unconsciously he stepped towards the man who cringed from his hungry eyes.

 

Oh, that felt good. That’s what was wrong with today’s world, not enough cringing.

 

“Don’t be frightened. I’m not angry, just needed to put on a show for those upstairs; you know how it is. Sorry,” he said soothingly.

 

Grey eyes stared back uncertainly.

 

“Come on. Trust me?” He smiled reassuringly. If Spike had been there, he would have recognised that sympathetic smile and advised the man to start running now.

 

“You’re here to rescue me?”

 

Jeez, this was the part he loved, seeing the hope in their eyes. Or maybe it was the part when hope was betrayed. Ah, whatever. It was all good.

 

“Why else would I be here? Karlsson, isn’t it? A good Scandinavian name, I’ve always admired Vikings. And I’ve always thought highly of you, Karlsson.”

 

The man slowly came forward, hope smouldered like the promise of dawn hovering on the edge of darkness.

 

“So, will I get my job back? I mean, Special Projects?”

 

“You wanna takes Spike’s place?”

 

“I worked for it, after all. It's only fair that I get what I deserve.”

 

Oh, this was too easy. Hell, the man was practically begging for it.

 

“I agree. It is only fair.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yes, really.”

 

The man smiled gratefully, and followed behind, eyes expressing puppy-like devotion, as he listened to Angelus inconsequential chat.

 

They were back in the reception area, Angelus looked around, satisfied that all surveillance cameras were focused on him. He reached forward to touch the soft, pink and white skin. Anticipation was always good, action was better. His face ridged and changed, his eyes sparked gold and he turned a fangy smile to the man.

 

“What? I don’t…. You said you were rescuing me!” He was almost incoherent in his fear.

 

“Yeah, I lied.” He shrugged his indifference. “I do that.”

 

“But…. You said I would take his place….”

 

“You will. It should be him I’m doing this to. Do you know how many times he’s betrayed me? Also, you need to learn a lesson – you know what the lesson is?”

 

The man shook his head; Angelus assumed he was admitting his lack of knowledge, rather than complete denial of the entire situation.

 

“Don’t touch what’s mine,” Angel enlightened him.  “Do you think you can remember the lesson?” he asked kindly.

 

The man nodded fervently, eyes alight with hope, believing he had a reprieve.

 

“Sorry, but. I’m just not feeling the sincerity here. You’d do the same again given the chance, wouldn’t you?”

 

“No! I….” It finally penetrated that this was just another game, there would be no reprieve, his bravado disappeared like smoke in a breeze, and his whole body appeared to deflate. “But… you don’t even like him.”

 

“He’s a violent, traitorous, son of a bitch.”  Angelus said with the satisfaction and pride of a proud parent. “What’s not to like? He’s growing just like his sire.”

 

Terror made grey eyes bulbous. “I…”

 

Angelus unbuttoned the man’s shirt, the human shook as a cold finger slipped beneath his vest and trailed across the vulnerable softness of his stomach of this gone to seed Viking. It quivered to his touch like pink blancmange.

 

“What… what are you do…do…?” His stuttering ended as razor-like fingernail cut into his lower abdomen.

 

Angelus sighed in contentment; it had been too long.

 

Teasing fangs across slick skin, as he lowered the man gently to the floor, laid half across him to better feel the pounding rhythm of his heart. Absentmindedly, he pulled and twirled intestines from the surgical-like  incision he’d sliced across the man’s gut. The warmth felt delicious as it gloved his hand, the scent was what haunted his dreams, bringing Angel awake, salivating with desire, and crying in guilt. His eyes glazed and he was lost to the voluptuous pleasure of blood and pain.

 

oooo

 

Amanda laid half across his body, to better feel the reassuring pounding of his heart. Holding tight to her still unconscious husband, she closed her eyes to the slim, blonde man who stood watching from the corner, and closed her ears to the soft whisper of warm breath, sighed from the relaxed body of the newborn baby, lying oblivious to the drama that surrounded it.

 

The birth had been easy, it seemed unfair, she should be suffering for the choice she made, or maybe the screaming emptiness of her vacated body was suffering enough. The Wolfram & Hart man said the baby would be safe…. There was no point dwelling on these things, she’d bargained for his life, and bargained for her husband. She’d understood the consequences and considered it a good deal, given her options, and could hardly now balk at the cost.

 

“Gone, gone…,” she whispered softly.

 

All she’d known was loss, so despite her bargain, it was almost unbelievable when she heard a reply.

 

“Hun? Hey, hey…” Fingers reached for her, brushing comfortingly through her hair, and eyelids flickered opened.

 

“Oh God, Paulie! You’re back? You’re back with me! Don’t leave, don’t leave me again….”

 

She didn’t notice as Spike moved out of earshot. He gazed down critically at the pink, little infant.

 

“You don’t look Chosen.”

 

The baby deigned not to answer.

 

“All this fuss about you, and you wouldn’t even make a decent mouthful.”

 

Spike sighed, he was lingering, putting off the moment when he would need to do some fast-talking.

 

He made his way across town until he came to a familiar apartment block. He thought of unpacking all the baby’s paraphernalia, and then decided that would be too much of a shock all at once. Introduce the baby first…. Oh hell! He’d been so certain this would work; it wasn’t until he thought about the details that it suddenly appeared he was building a plan on very dodgy foundations.

 

Maybe he should just dump the baby and leave?

 

The elevator doors opened. Hoping it was still attuned to him, he stepped out into a different, almost untouched world. More importantly, a world currently undiscovered by demons and humans alike. Apart from….

 

“Will!”

 

Bang went his chance of sneaky anonymity.

 

“Hey there.”

 

“Will?”

 

“Yeah. Uh, you know you said that you like me cus I don’t make demands on you? Don’t think you’re gonna like me much any more….”

 

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