Part 14

 

Spike observed his expression from the shadows.

 

“What do you mean? Umm, are you holding…? Oh no! The answer’s no, ok?” Ghan protested.

 

Spike emerged into the light, and allowed the penetrating gaze to sweep over him, seemingly able to pierce through to his soul. Finally, Ghan sighed unhappily.

 

“You’re going to talk at me, tell me I’m the only one who can help, seduce me a little, but in the end you’re not going to give me a choice, are you?”

 

“You read my mind.”

 

A rueful smile tugged at Ghan’s mouth.

 

“Sorry Pet, but…”

 

“Look, let’s cut all the crappy explanations and move straight to the part where you seduce me.”

 

Spike moved forward and stroked a fingertip across the pouting bottom lip.

 

“I need you, Ghan. Look after the kid for me, hey? Just for a while?”

 

And the man, so lonely for connection, crumbled to the gentle words and soft touch.

 

“Yeah, I will. Be careful, Spike.”

 

Spike sighed with relief, and then quickly went to unpack his car of cots, toys, blankets, clothes and bottles. He was conscious of his four hours ticking away. Even so, he spent some time catching up with Ghan - time moved slower here, he could afford an hour or so respite.

 

In the end, he had to be on his way, but this time Mede was uneasy, he fingered his vampire skin bracelet and wondered it he’d ever see its true owner again.

 

oooo

 

Once he was back in his own world, time, indifferent to the petty dramas that unfolded beneath its wings, flew swiftly. Except in Wesley’s apartment, where a sombre group gathered, and here it dragged its heels petulantly.

 

“Where is he, man?” Gunn asked for around the hundredth time.

 

There was a time when Wesley would have reassured him, but had little time for Gunn these days. Instead, Lorne attempted to offer comfort.

 

“He’ll be here once he’s finished...”

 

“Getting steaming drunk in some bar?” Gunn asked.

 

Fearing Gunn was correct made Wesley irritable.

 

“Really, if you have nothing positive….”

 

“Only saying what you’re all thinking.”

 

“Hey. Team Angel, remember? All for one and one for….” Lorne attempted to heal the breach.

 

“Himself,” Wesley finished.

 

Gunn was getting well and truly sick of the guy’s snarky attitude.

 

“Listen, English….”

 

“Yes? Please tell. I’m all ears.” Wesley replied with simulated politeness. Gunn realised in the face of such frostiness that he had nothing to say, he deserved whatever anyone threw at him.

 

Impotent with loss, frustration had been bubbling to the surface all day, fuelled by their helplessness in the face of recent events. First Fred and then Angel; it left them with a feeling of unreality. Wesley was particularly closed off. He despised himself for baiting Gunn, using it to hide his own culpability. He took full responsibility for Angel’s loss. Although Spike had insisted that it was an accident, he knew it could not just be coincidence. He had given Spike the idea, said he didn’t care anymore, and now Angelus was back. Even if it was technically an accident, he still blamed himself; such words would have tempted the most stoic of Fates.

 

Attempting to redeem himself, he’d handled the situation as best he could, carrying out a complete shutdown of the Wolfram & Hart building, and ensuring that no human employees went to work. Harmony had pointed out that this was discriminatory against demons and once he thought about it, he had extended the embargo to demons. Angelus was so manipulative Wesley didn’t trust anyone who came into contact with him.

 

The one good thing to come out of the whole disaster was that the situation cut through his nihilism, and the fire stirred once more in Wesley’s loins as he realised that he had lied. He still cared, about his friends, about the world, about living. So, like everyone else, he awaited Spike with agitation.

 

Everyone, except Illyria, who merely stood in the corner. Watching.

 

Quite what she observed was anyone’s guess.

 

But her critical eyes saw all. Despised all.

 

It rocked her foundations, shocked her to the core. These were the new rulers of her kingdom? That her inheritance should be squandered on primordial pond scum, and parasitic growth, was surely some terrible cosmic joke?

 

They were nothing, less than nothing. Specks spiralling in a sunbeam, glimmering briefly and gone.  A hideous infestation that deformed her world.  Billions of them with their clunking technologies and small magicks, walking this world like petty gods. As though they knew power!  That these bags of flesh could be so arrogant was almost amusing. 

 

Her eyes scarcely registered their presence, flicking them from her thoughts as dust on her apparel.  Yet still they invaded her head.  Why?  She caught herself.  They were not even worthy of a moment’s consideration.

 

Yet this was now their world.  They circled the skies in their metal tubes.  Disturbed ancient earth to tunnel their way through the crust of the world.  Like worms. 

 

Wherever her piercing gaze fell, under the ocean or to the skies, they were there, creatures of dirt, mired in there own excrement.

 

“It makes me sick.”  Icy words drenched in contempt.

 

They glanced nervously in her direction. The green one spoke.

 

“Did you speak some words of wisdom, my little blueberry muffin?” 

 

His words droned meaninglessly, nothing more than an irritating buzz of noise. Yet she found her thoughts drifting back to this insignificant group.

 

The one whose arrival they anticipated, the half-breed, was a foolish, but almost amusing distraction.  Everyday he had thrown down challenges, she had easily thwarted his attacks, shown him the true meaning of invulnerability. He had thought he was testing her limits.  It was laughable. She had no limits.

 

She had allowed his assaults, moving gracefully and leaving him grasping at empty air. He had learnt though, his movements becoming faster, more fluid and to her surprise, he had laid hands on her more than once. If the one who watched with haunted eyes was correct, then the ability to be surprised was one of the few pleasures to be found in this world. She had decided then to keep the half-breed as a personal pet. Picturing him sitting at her feet, her fingers tangling in his unnaturally bright hair, presented an attractive image, and so she sanctioned his attacks and everyday continued to train her would-be assailant.

 

She became conscious of a penetrating gaze. The troubled eyes of the lost one were drawn to her once more. She ignored him.

 

Suddenly her attention became caught by an anomaly. She could sense events layering on top of each other as time folded back. Distracted, she followed threads back to their source….

 

“They trifle with petty magicks,” she informed them.

 

“Who does?” Wesley asked in puzzlement.

 

“The half-breeds and the sorcerer.”

 

Before he could respond, she had withdrawn again.

 

The constant hum of their ‘progress’ caught her curiosity. 

 

She delved into the memories of the shell she now inhabited, and the beauty of mathematics revealed itself, fractals flowering delicately before her in infinite variations.  Her head cocked to one side as she absorbed this information.  She understood the nature of mathematics. It was indifferent to the use made of it.  It was the root of their power.  The tool they used to carve up a world that she could manipulate with a look.  Her lips twitched at the stupidity of it.  They attempted to reduce all wonders to a simple equation.  This world once roared with the power of the gods now hummed a never-ending theme of electrons, neutrons and flavoured quarks.

 

He was staring at her once more. It mattered not. Except… it was not Illyria he worshipped, his adoration was for this weak and puny form.

 

To be en-clothed in this aspect, forced into the shape of these apes, was demeaning. It constrained and held her.  She could feel bonds where once she’d been free.  Once she’d flowed through the air, pure energy and light and power, now she was bound to the earth by the weight of this putrid corporeal form. 

 

That Illyria should be brought so low.  It burnt like bile rising from her gullet.

 

It disgusted her.

 

Yet still he worshipped it.

 

Unblinkingly she swivelled penetrating laser eyes to his.  Acknowledged his existence.

 

When she frowned, he straightened and gave a smile, as though to reassure her that he was well.  She needed not any reassurance from these creatures.  Besides which, he lied. His smile was fractured and he was broken.  And if she turned to consider him for a second, it was not because she cared, but merely innate curiosity.

 

She dissected him with a disinterested gaze, even under such scrutiny, his hungry eyes refused to drop. She was almost curious. He ate, he slept and breathed what more did one such as him require?

 

Then she remembered loss.  Despair like dust in her mouth, when discovering dust was all that was left of her loyal armies. 

 

She was not weak.  She would continue and build again.  Alter the world to suit her own design. But he was forever lost in the same moment, where all he wished to do was gaze upon this form and suffer.   She felt something and if she’d deigned to explain this feeling to him, he might have called it pity.

 

It was something she had no wish to feel.

 

Their emotions polluted her.

 

Still he stared.

 

“Why?” she asked coldly.

 

He instinctively understood her query.

 

“You could never comprehend.”

 

Never comprehend….

 

“I am Illyria.”

 

Her words were lost as she suddenly twisted in agony.

 

She felt the familiar shifting of time… but it had taken place without her consent.  .

 

This could not be happening, she would not permit it! Infuriated she opened her eyes on a time that had not yet transpired.  She had slipped forward? How? How could this be?

 

She surveyed the scene in amazement.

 

The Wolf, Ram and Hart believed these creatures merited such an army? Her curiosity was roused once more, together with an inkling of respect. It almost moved her to realise she was observing the last seconds of their tiny panflash lives.

 

Another blink and she was back in the little room, subjected to concerned looks.

 

“What are you doing to me?” She clutched at her body as though it were only the arms wrapped around it preventing it from flying apart.

 

They merely looked confused, and she realised that they didn’t have the power to affect a god in such a way.

 

She frowned; it felt as though she were too big for this meagre body, her power was pulling at the seams and exposing its weakness. A flash of something cold ran through her veins, another emotion she could not name. Of course not. How could a god recognise intimations of mortality? She knew only a momentary bleakness that absorbed her, made her oblivious to all around, including the resounding thud of a fist banging on the door.

 

Wesley sighed in relief and opened up.

 

Spike was looking tired, and had clearly not slept since the nighttime phone call.

 

“Ok, everyone here?” Spike did a quick head count. “Harmony?” He turned in askance.

 

“Hey, I can be part of the team, just because I’m evil, doesn’t mean I don’t care!”

 

Spike was about to say; yeah, it does actually, but suddenly stopped as he remembered someone else helping people he purported to hate because it was better than spending another night alone. He bit down on his first reply and instead said, “Ok, good.”

 

She looked at the others in triumph.

 

“You all know Angelus is back.”

 

Small nods and affirmations answered him.

 

“What you don’t know is that normally our every word is monitored, we’ve got three hours of freedom and then we’ll be under surveillance again.” He cut through their confused response. “Shut up and listen!”

 

He finally told them of the Circle of the Blackthorn and his and Angel’s plan to both bid for a place within the Circle and subtly set them one against the other.

 

They listened in stunned silence and then all started talking at once.

 

“My God, that is so dangerous!”

 

“Is that why Izzy…?”

 

“Why didn’’t you…?”

 

“So is Bubba…?”

 

“It’s all in hand. Look, just shut your bloody cakeholes, will you? Wesley, you first.”

 

“I think what you are attempting is extremely dangerous, but my immediate concern is Angelus.”

 

“I’m working on getting him back to his soulful broody self. Until then we just have to hang in there and take precautions. Remember, what happens here will affect Angel; we need to protect him, keep him safe. It’s important we don’t give Angelus the chance to slaughter the population.”

 

“Well, obviously. Although for some reason I find myself considering it from the perspective of the slaughtered rather than the suffering of the slaughterer.”

 

“Don’t matter as long as we’ve got the same goal in mind.”

 

In the privacy of his thoughts, Spike imagined himself as a guardian, protecting Angel’s integrity whilst his judgement was incapacitated, the silent warrior, sword in hand, guarding the moral core of his lover.

 

 “He will stand with you when you die,” Illyria informed them.

 

Lorne turned. “Run that one by me again, Little Blue.”

 

“He will? Angelus?” Spike asked in surprise.

 

“Uh, guys? I think the ‘when we die’ part is more to the point.” Gunn turned to Illyria. “We’re going to die?”

 

She shrugged her slight shoulders, replying dispassionately, “I do not see how you could survive the legions of hell.”

 

“Right. What do you know?”

 

She blinked. “Are you commanding me?”

 

“Damn right,” Spike replied shortly.

 

“No,” Wesley overrode him hastily. “We are respectfully requesting that you bless us with your foresight.”

 

“My foresight!” Her lips twisted bitterly, but she refused to admit to these motes of dust that her power was breaking free, and fragmenting.

 

“You all stand on the edge of battle. The portal opens and the armies of hell spread before you.”

 

The explanation was simple enough even for their trammelled little minds.

 

Shocked silence greeted her words.

 

“Well… guess I always wanted to go out with a bang,” Gunn finally said.

 

“You know what? Evil thing here, and really, I’m not big with the warm fuzzies, so I’ll just….” She turned to Illyria with a puckered brow. “I wasn’t part of this battle thing?” Illyria shook her head.  “I knew it.”

 

She gave a little wave and, with a sunny smile, headed for the door.

 

“Good luck with that dying thing. I’ll miss y’all,” she called back; just to make it clear that she was entirely on their side.

 

“I don’t get it, Sweetcheeks. You said it was all in hand. Maybe you can explain why we’re about to be crushed into oblivion by the armies of hell?”

 

Spike shook his head.

 

“I dunno. I thought the situation was under control. What the hell have I missed?”

 

oooo

 

Christ didn’t the guy know vampires have sensitive ears? One canine cut delicately through the vocal chords whilst avoiding the main arteries, and the last echo of screams faded from the building.

 

Angelus pulled at his guts, the miles of tubing always fascinated him. An idea occurred that appealed to his sense of whimsy - decorating the upper level balcony with its glistening lengths, artistically arranging twisted intestines. A welcome back present for William. Except William preferred romance and poetry.  Dru would have liked it though. He could imagine her now, hands clapping, eyes glowing with excitement, “Oh Daddy, it looks just like Christmas! Will there be presents?” Ah but those days were long gone. How he missed them.

 

He blinked in surprise, as a blue figure tumbled out of nowhere. She looked at him, her confusion fed her anger.

 

“You will not hurt my human.”

 

Angelus frowned. “This wretched piece of stinking human filth is yours?”

 

“Not him! What is this? I am not here… I am there…” She seemed to stumble, and then she was gone again.

 

Illyria was always unfathomable, but that was just… weird. Turning back to his current entertainment, he placed her visit to one side and considered the human thoughtfully. Laying on the floor, directly in the man’s line of sight, he was pleased to note that the human was still conscious, and smiled his approval. He couldn’t have asked for a better victim.

 

“Still with me? Good fellow.” 

 

But it seemed that the fiery thread of fear and pain had been stretched too thin, and he was passing into shock, which rather spoilt the moment.

 

Angelus decided he might as well end it.

 

It would be sweet to once again listen to that delightful crunch as bone and cartilage crushed between his maws. To feel the metallic power of hot blood spurting down his throat. But he wanted something more fitting for this paltry remnant of fierce warriors. He quickly made his decision, the man would have a death his forefathers would appreciate.

 

He shattered the breastbone that joined the ribs, and widening the tear in his abdomen, hooked his hand inside the man’s body, pulling the ribs apart, opening them up like a book.

 

The bloody eagle. Ribs spread like wings either side of the torso, the heart still pulsing as an offering to long gone gods.

 

“You might not live like a Viking but at least you die like one,” he whispered. It was probably more kindness than the guy deserved, but Angelus was in an exceptionally good humour.

 

Unable to resist any longer, he sank fangs through the muscles of the throbbing heart and drank directly from the font. The warmth covered his face, filled his mouth, filled his empty stomach.

 

 The man slowly passed away in silent agony, whilst Angelus nuzzled in, slurping and gnawing in contentment.

 

“Angelus! What the fuck are you doing?”

 

Spike’s day had left him strung out and deathly tired. Time in Ghan’s world passed differently, so he had no idea how long he had been awake.  He had done what he had to, and all the way back, had been mentally preparing himself for this meeting. The scene that greeted him threw him completely. The scent and the sight…. He blamed his bone weary tiredness for what happened next.

 

Angelus had been so lost in the pleasure of feeding that he’d heard no sound of Spike’s approach, until those words.

 

“What?”

 

His face changed back and he stared up from dark, serious eyes, raggedly feathered by blood-coated lashes, attempting to capture the innocent look of a child. It was difficult to pull off with viscera pooled around him and the blood that coated a sheen on his face. So he changed tactics.

 

“But he was evil. This guy tried to assassinate you. Shit Spike, even Angel was going to kill him.”

 

Spike was torn. It was wrong to kill humans, except, maybe if they tried to kill you first? Besides, Angelus was a demon, what the hell did anyone expect. He was completely unswayed by the rich scent of blood and pain that assailed his senses. Completely. Or Angelus’ face covered with….

 

“I did it for you, Spike. It’s poetry.”

 

“Poetry?” His brow creased, not understanding where this was going.

 

“Look at him Spike. What do you see?”

 

“A dead body. Blood. Heart, guts, lungs… not very poetic.”

 

“Ah, it can be though…” Angelus looked up slyly. “What rhymes with lungs?” 

 

Spike’s eyes flickered in recognition of the words though the context escaped him.

 

Angelus licked his tongue over his bloodied fingers, and Spike moved without conscious volition, hypnotised by the gleaming redness, almost tasting it on his tongue. Angelus saw the look and recognised the lust. He drew a finger down the side of his face and held it enticingly in front of Spike.

 

“Taste it.”

 

Blue eyes wavered uncertainly towards brown, and then back to the finger.

 

“Where’s the harm? He’s already dead. Taste.”

 

Spike slowly leant forward and then at the last minute seemed to resist. The movement slipped him slightly to one side of the tempting finger. He was close to Angelus’ face, staring into his eyes. And now Spike was leaning forwards, closer, his mouth slightly open, until his lips brushed his sire’s bloody cheek.

 

An involuntary intake of breath escaped Angelus, he closed his eyes to the sensuality of the soft tongue sweeping across his face, a delicate lick across his eyelids, the open mouth suckling on his lower lip, a lick to his chin.

 

“See poetic. Lungs and tongues.” he whispered.

 

Spike didn’t hear, the taste of warm human blood filled his body like the roar of cataract, blotting out all else with its power.

 

“The man’s dead, but his blood still has heat….”

 

Spike drew back slightly and allowed strong hands to guide his head towards the torn flesh. Angelus grinned in triumph as Spike submerged himself in the gaping bloody morass. His features had changed and Angelus crooned softly to him, stroking his hair in encouragement.

 

As the internal organs were sucked and licked and wrung dry, Spike gradually returned to realisation of what he was doing. He looked up in distress. All images of the proud guardian of Angel’s soul dispersed with the reality of his actions.

 

“Now what’s wrong? He was already dead. You killed no one.”

 

Spike shook his head.

 

“I’m a monster,” he whispered.

 

Angelus regarded him and although it wasn’t quite sympathy, there was a certain understanding as he remembered the confused suffering of having a soul.

 

“No, you’re a vampire. Damaged and broken, but still a vampire. There’s no point in pretending you’re anything else.”

 

Angelus suddenly realised this was all the soul was, an encumbrance, a disability. It didn’t fundamentally change Spike’s nature. His role became clear; he needed to heal his childe.

 

“I know what I am!” Spike stared down at the blood on his hands.

 

Angelus curbed his impatience at this melodramatic display.

 

“You’re thinking you’re a bad man. You’re thinking you don’t know where you fit in anymore. You trusted Angel, his beliefs kept you strong. Now he’s gone, maybe you can believe in me instead. I’m not good, you know that, but I don’t want to see you suffer like this, Will.”

 

He lifted Spike’s chin, gazed at his distressed face and sucked at his bloodstained lips. Spike blinked and broke away, endeavouring to rebuild his image of himself as someone good. But that image had never been anything more than paper thin. He supposed that in the end it didn’t matter, what was important was the attempt, and if you fall at a hurdle, you pick yourself up and try again. For Spike this meant seeing the damned plan through.

 

He wiped a hand tiredly across his eyes. Blood smeared his face like tribal warpaint.

 

“I’m ok. There’s stuff we need to talk about though. I’ve bought us some time. We have maybe,” he glanced at his watch, “two hours.”

 

Angelus sensed that the moment had passed, but overall he was delighted with the progress made.

 

“Until what?”

 

Spike realised he wasn’t explaining himself very well.

 

“They’re creating some false memories for today, but pretty soon we’re going to be under surveillance again.”

 

“How’s that?” He nodded towards the camera. “I’d say we’ve been watched.”

 

“Recreating the day, kind of a mini version of what they did for Connor.”

 

“Uh huh. Cyvus?”

 

Spike nodded.

 

“So what have we been doing all day according to the old guy?”

 

“Uh. Dunno.”

 

Angelus looked at the bloody representation of an eagle, disappointed that his artistry would not be appreciated by a watching world. Spike followed his gaze, taking in the injuries.

 

“Does it shock you?”

 

Spike shook his head. This was the man that tried to kill him? At best, he felt indifferent to his fate. Part of him understood the glee in Angelus’ actions. It was the joy of unfettered freedom, the ability to follow his instincts. Part of him envied the demon his freedom.

 

“My soul would have suffered in the presence of such obscenity.” Angelus said, unable to contain his curiosity.

 

“Keep telling you that I’m different, the soul works differently with me.”

 

Angelus nodded, but still didn’t understand.

 

“So, two hours. What’s the news?”

 

Spike shook his head.

 

“You need to shower. Talking to you like that is… distracting.”

 

Angelus didn’t argue. There was something odd going on. When he looked at Spike, he found himself remembering touches that had never been exchanged and kisses that had never happened. The experience reminded him of his layered memories of Connor…. It suddenly clicked.

 

“What memories did you say the old man is building today?”

 

Spike flushed slightly.

 

“Told you, I dunno. Anyway, need to tell you what the Blue Bint has seen.”

 

As Spike updated him, Angelus had the glimmering of an idea and began to smile, because, damn, he was good!

 

Spike was still talking.

 

“The Fell will be out of the picture. Cyvus is still clinging to the original plan of getting me into the Circle. Izzy and his powerhouse are gone. Bubba is still around but has lost his allies. He’s weak without them and there for the picking. Brucker…”

 

“Angel spoke with Brucker. She’s my type of chick. Thick as pig shit, lapping up every promise that the souled one made. Got an idea how to knock her out of the game.”

 

“Ok. That leaves the Prince. He’s been quiet in all this.”

 

“He thinks he’s too powerful to be affected by this conflict, but he’s the one with legions to command, which means he’s the one we’ll be facing at the portal.”

 

“I don’t understand why we’re facing it! Everything has been going to plan, why do the Senior Partners turn on us? They don’t seem bothered about Izzy, haven’t tried to rescue him at any rate…. Sod it! What am I missing? I wish I could think where I’m about to trip up. Perhaps I could change the future. It can’t be set in stone can it?”

 

Angelus said nothing. He knew precisely why the armies of hell would be ranged against them.

 

“Maybe I can win the Prince around?” he offered, trying to deflect Spike’s train of thought.

 

“Well, you’ll have more of a chance than me. Doubt if Sebassis was impressed with my party debut. Hell at least you got some action, I just wandered around behaving like a complete fucking moron.”

 

“Little change there then.”

 

Spike scowled and Angelus laughed.

 

“You ain’t exactly helping, Mate.”

 

“You want help? Ok. Whatever you do, you have to keep up the momentum. I’ll deal with Brucker, you do the business with the Fell, as for Sebassis, he’s merely a head, cut it off and a new one grows immediately.”

 

“Yeah. Not good. Any ideas?”

 

A furtive expression crossed Angelus’ face. Spike caught it but let it drop, he had enough on his plate.

 

“We up the ante,” Angelus replied.

 

“What you got in mind?”

 

“Thinking of the megalomaniac.”

 

“You?” Spike asked in confusion.

 

“I’d volunteer, but hey, you know what? I don’t want to. No, Dead Fred. Whatever her name is now. Illyria.”

 

“Yeah, great idea,” Spike mocked. “Except she’s not part of the team. She thinks that we’re less then dog shit. Despising us would be a rung up in her estimation.”

 

“True… if it weren’t for Wesley. She feels something for him.”

 

“Yeah….”

 

“So, put him in danger and then step back and watch her blast away his enemies.”

 

“Bit dangerous. Angel would never have….”

 

“Isn’t that why you brought me back, Spiky? Because Angel would never have?”  Brown eyes glimmered with intelligence and Spike realised he had slipped up.

 

“Yeah. That’s why I brought you back, but still I don’t want harm to come to our humans.”

 

“Just admit it, Spike. I was a mistake and you cocked up.”

 

Spike automatically began to protest, “I told you….” He realised Angelus wasn’t listening. “Uh, what are you doing?”

 

The dark vampire delved into the safe, removing an envelope and emptying the contents, whilst Spike watched curiously.

 

“Brucker.” Angelus replied, picking up the phone and placing a call.

 

Shaking his head, Spike was none the wiser following this less than expansive explanation.

 

“Listen,” Angelus said to him, before turning his attention to the recipient of his call.

 

“Hello. New York Times? Yes. I’d like to speak to your political editor please. Yes, it is important. Uh huh, and suggest that he might like to record this conversation.”

 

With the phone tucked under his chin, he picked up the small tape and slotted it into the player. They both listened as Brucker’s incriminating conversation with Angel played out. She chatted pleasantly about her options for destroying her opponent: blackmail, libel, slander, murder….

 

“So,” Angelus said as it clicked off, “what do you think? Front page tomorrow? Uh huh. Not at all. I’m just a concerned citizen, trying to do what’s right for our great country. Quote me on that? Sure, knock yourself out.”

 

Angelus hung up and then slapped Spike on the back. “Don’t you just love a feeding frenzy? Although I wish this was England, now there’s a country where the journalists really know how to stick the knife in. They could teach vampires a lesson or two about scenting blood and moving in for the kill before ripping the beating hearts from yesterday’s heroes. Gotta love them.”

 

“Will it be enough?” Spike wondered.

 

“She’ll be arrested if she’s lucky….”

 

“If she’s unlucky?”

 

“I’m guessing this sort of mistake isn’t tolerated by members of the Circle. Whatever happens, she’s out. I’ve dealt with her, now it’s your move. The Fell Brothers.”

 

“I guess.”

 

“So you have the baby?”

 

“I have him. And no, I’m not telling you.”

 

“Never asked.”

 

“Ok.”

 

“You’ve got less than an hour, if you want to keep this secret.”

 

Spike seemed reluctant to leave.

 

“Yeah, I’ll see the Fell. Uh… the others are coming here. They will have crosses and holy water….”

 

So that was the problem.

 

“I’m not going to touch them.” Yet, he added mentally. “I swear.”

 

Spike stared at him closely and then nodded. After all, Illyria had seen them all standing together on the edge of battle.

 

Once he had left, Angelus twirled around.

 

“Oh Eve,” he sang out. “Don’t be coy, Sweetheart. Angel wants you.”

 

He peered into a camera.

 

“Come to Daddy.”

 

Then stopped. Of course, no one could fucking hear him. He gave a small self-deprecating laugh . However, nothing could dent his good humour.  He was back, and could almost hear the click as pieces slotted neatly into place around him.

 

It was back to the office for a more mundane method of communication. He picked up the telephone that had just destroyed Brucker. Now it was Spike’s turn to be the focus of that intensity.

 

“Angel?”

 

“Not quite, Sweetheart.”

 

“Angelus.” Her voice tightened noticeably.

 

“Ding! Give the lady a prize.”

 

“Is there something you want?”

 

“Thanks for the offer, Baby. But no thanks.”

 

“Why did you call, Angelus?” Eve sounded resigned.

 

“I need a direct line to the Senior Partners. You’re it. I have a question.”

 

“Go on.”

 

“What’s the going price for an innocent soul these days? A vampire soul.”

 

She laughed.

 

“Uh huh. You do know yours is missing in action.”

 

“I’m not talking about mine.”

 

Silence greeted him.

 

“Eve?”

 

“You can’t deal on behalf of someone else’s soul.”

 

“He’ll give it up willingly if the price is right.”

 

There were a few minutes of silence. He guessed she was communing directly with the Partners, he wondered exactly how they kept in communication. There must be some kind of conduit in place.

 

“I’ll be there in ten,” she finally said.

 

Angelus hung the phone up quietly and savoured the moment. This had to be one of his best days in a hundred years. Human blood straight from the heart and a foolproof plan that would solve all his problems in one fell swoop, he was deeply impressed with his own brilliance. So when Eve arrived, she was treated to the sight of a jovial Angelus.

 

“Eve, me darling. You’re here.”

 

“Angelus.”

 

“Couldn’t resist taking up the old trade again?”

 

“Trade?”

 

“Cruising the night, whoring for souls.”

 

She was unfazed.

 

“But we go back a long way, Lover, with you I don’t think of it as whoring.”

 

Her fingers trailed deliberately along his arm.

 

“You really want this don’t you, Sweetheart?”

 

“Of course! Every soul is important to us.” She sounded like the perky voice that fronts slick advertising campaigns. “Where is he, anyway? My sources told me Spike and you were f… busy.”

 

“He said he was knackered. The young these days, no stamina.”

 

“Right. And here you are still raring to go, aren’t you Stud?”

 

She let her jacket slip sensually from her shoulders and stepped out of her shoes. Angelus watched with neutral eyes. There was something bothering him… he moved closer, trying to place the scent that covered her. It was familiar; he let the images ride the scent. Closing his eyes he had the impression of glimmering blue eyes, light blue denim jeans and a dark blue velvet voice.

 

“So you’ve taken up with the Cowboy, huh? How’s our little songbird doing?”

 

Eve froze and then smiled, moving closer she wrapped arms her around his waist.

 

“He had big plans for you. You know, I think he was almost disappointed when Angel destroyed himself, he’d been looking forward to doing it himself.”

 

“Some guys are weird like that. I, on the other hand, believe that if you can get someone else to do it for you, then all the better. Guess I’m just kinda lazy.”

 

“Well, I’m not lazy. You know me, I love nothing better than being busy, busy.”

 

As though demonstrating her naturally active nature, her hands became extremely busy.

 

It amused Angelus how far she’d go for Spike’s soul, but he didn’t really have time for this, and anyway, when it came down to it he found the hell-bitch did nothing for him, he preferred more involvement than just being part of someone’s day’s work. He moved his mouth towards her and caught her lips. Taken by surprise, she responded and then let out a squeal when he bit into her tongue. She liked a little pain as much as the next gal, but she wasn’t food and she wasn’t prey!

 

Angelus hardly knew what had hit him. His senses obliterated by the pure dark power of her blood, a conduit, directly connected to hell-given energy he had never even suspected existed. Suddenly, he was also overwhelmed physically. Small, perfectly manicured hands threatened to rip his head off. Now that was such a turn on! Even more so, when he scooped into the dark well of power that her blood had opened the gates to. Trying to hold on to it was like cupping water in his hand, still he tried and for a moment matched her strength, turning the tables and lifting her up by her scrawny little neck.

 

“Ah Evie. Who’d have thought such a little vanilla snack would be stuffed full with nummy goodness.” He licked the last remnants of redness from his fangs and smacked his lips appreciatively.

 

“Don’t even think of it,” she rasped.

 

Once again, he hardly knew what happened, but found himself flat on his back on the floor. Now wasn’t this interesting? A side of little Eve he’d never guessed. She was strong. Stronger than him. And he now knew the provenance of that strength, could taste it rolling around his mouth. He lay back and basked in the knowledge that a fount of raw power and strength lay within arm’s reach, his for the taking.

 

“Don’t sweat it, Baby, what’s a little love-bite between mortal enemies?” he replied soothingly.

 

She slipped back into her Blahniks and gained a few inches of height.  Her mouth was tightly pursed as she dabbed a tissue to blot away the blood.

 

“Neither of us is mortal, and I never sweat. Let’s talk souls, shall we?”

 

Looked like she was off the menu for now, but suddenly Lindsey’s sloppy seconds were a damned sight more interesting. He got to his feet and theatrically brushed himself down,

 

“Ok. It’s simple. I want one spell, and I guarantee he’ll be tempted.”

 

“You think he’ll use it, even once he knows the cost?”

 

“I virtually guarantee it.”

 

“What is it?”

 

He whispered in her ear.

 

“Is that all?”

 

“That’s it. It has to be simple to do, and effective, even if he has all the power in the world working against him.”

 

“Ok, agreed. Seems cheap to me, considering everything he went through to get it.”

 

“Fame and riches, isn’t that the going rate for a soul? You could throw in riches if you want, but fame? He already has that”

 

Her nose scrunched up. “Hey, I’d love to, but the deal’s been struck and we can’t add in extra clauses. My bosses? Kind of sticklers for the details.”

 

“Before you leave, tell me, am I still CEO of Wolfram & Hart?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Then do me a favour and get this fucking barrier lifted.”

 

Eve smiled sweetly. “Done. I’ll do you another favour, a word of advice…”

 

“Go on.”

 

“Keep an eye on your little god. Oh, and you might want to try taking a look at the low-emanation scanner readouts. Just a thought.”

 

“Why? Give me a clue here. What’s the angle?”

 

“Let’s just say that Illyria and the Senior Partners go way back, and they don’t want her… anywhere. However, she’s your problem, and so is the nuclear fallout when she goes boom.”

 

“Ah.” This was new, he tented his hands together. Knowledge for free? They must really want Illyria out of the picture. “Thanks, Darling. Come back in an hour, Spike will have recovered by then and we’ve got things to discuss, considering all these vacancies within the Circle. Also, if I’m staying, I think it’s time to re-negotiate the terms of my contract.”

 

“A virgin a day, huh?”

 

“Something like that….”

 

She gave him a quizzical look, a faint frown line appeared between her eyebrows, but she said nothing more, spun on her $1000, snake skin heels and left.

 

oooo

 

Spike turned warily. It was like watching angry bees buzzing around.

 

“It’s true.” The Grand Potentate declared, eyes wide with shock. “The Chosen One has gone.”

 

He glared at Spike. “This heathen killed him.”

 

The bees were beginning to swarm. Spike wasn’t exactly nature’s child, but he gathered this wasn’t good.

 

“No. I took him, not killed him.” He shouted over the increasing drone.

 

“You lie. Our god has spoken. The child is no longer part of this world.”

 

The noise became a roar, so it was amazing anyone heard when Spike replied quietly, “More than one world ain’t there?”

 

But the Grand Potentate had heard. He held up his hand for silence.

 

“What have you done with him, Vampire?”

 

“Keep me alive, do what I ask, and one day there’s a chance I might tell you. Kill me and he’s lost to you forever.”

 

“We do not give in to the demands of an unbeliever!” A voice shouted out, but everyone noticed that their leader was saying nothing.

 

“What do you want from us?”

 

“For now? Keep out of the coming fight. Resign from the Circle if you have to, but steer well clear.”

 

The Fell looked genuinely puzzled.

 

“Uh. Sure. Which fight is this again?”

 

“You’ll know when it arrives,” Spike replied, his lips curling in a vicious amusement he didn’t really feel.

 

They genuinely knew nothing of a coming battle, and so far everything was still going according to his original plan. He began to wonder if there was something amiss with Illyria’s vision, and they were being panicked by nothing more than phantoms from the mind of a confused god.

 

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