Part 8

 

The swollen, rolling wave of emotion crashed and broke upon the granite of reality and then retreated in a surging backrush, leaving them stranded in confusion. Slowly, eyes refocused on a world where other people existed. They parted gradually, first lips, followed by bodies, until only hands lingered, reluctant to lose this last connection, as though it would stretch and break with distance, never to reform.

 

Angel was the first to recover.

 

“Ok. Here’s what we’ll do.”

 

He snapped to his feet and walked over to the intercom, leaving Spike blinking in bewilderment at the sudden shift in mood.

 

“Harmony, tell the driver that Spike won’t be going with him after all.”

 

There was no way that he was going to let Spike go anywhere tonight. He began to pace restlessly, with his head down, deep in thought.

 

“We’ll trace that Mede guy. I’ll get a team working on it. We’ll confront him and force the information out of him.”

 

Spike looked doubtful, desperate for this to be the plan that would keep him here with Angel, but innate cynicism was bubbling to the surface, and his raised brows suggested a deeper scepticism than his mild words implied.

 

“He’s employed by the Senior Partners. You really don’t wanna start battling them.”

 

“It won’t come to that. I’m sure they’re going to be overjoyed to find that their inspector is playing his own game.”

 

“I dunno… I imagine a certain amount of corruption is probably obligatory. What makes you think you can make Ghan talk?”

 

Angel returned a steady gaze.

 

“You doubt me? It might take time but in the end…”

 

So this was it. Torture the human. Spike shook his head, unwilling to believe that Angel would compromise such a fundamental part of his character and felt forced to protest on behalf of those overruled principles.

 

“You don’t hurt humans.”

 

“I don’t kill humans,” Angel corrected. “Besides, is he even human anymore?”

 

Spike recognised sophistry when it hit him in the face.

 

“That’s bollocks and you know it. His heart beats, he breathes and he has a human soul. Think that qualifies him.”

 

“He’s immortal and he works for Wolfram & Hart.”

 

“Yeah? Bit like us then, ain’t he?”

 

“You really think that he could be on our side?”

 

Spike released a small snort.

 

“The only side he’s ever on is his own.”

 

“Well, selfish can be evil, it depends what he wants.”

 

This statement brought to Angel’s mind exactly what the man wanted.

 

“And there is no way you’re going with him, even if I have to hogtie you,” he growled. “I’ll call in the others and we’ll think of something.”

 

Spike nodded absently, as he wandered around the office.  A cat statue caught his eye, standing sentinel-like beside the door, probably represented some god or other. His hand trailed over the carven features of the heavy stone. He wasn’t a complete philistine, this cat was perfect.

 

Angel turned towards the phone, making good on his intention of calling everyone in and then got no further, as the statuette came crashing down on the back of his head; he collapsed to the floor.

 

Spike looked down with genuine regret in his eyes.

 

“Sorry, Pet. Really crap plan and I ain’t gonna risk losing you now.”

 

He pressed a button on the intercom.

 

“Harm? Tell the driver, I’ll be right with him.”

 

Minutes later Angel was blinking and wondering what had happened.  It didn’t take long to piece together the clues... throbbing head, a broken statue and no Spike. Fucking Sekhmet Bast, guardian of the home? The hell she was. He’d always hated the thing and she looked no better broken. The supercilious eyes of the decapitated cat goddess watched him mockingly.

 

Angrily, Angel cursed his childe. Why did he have to fall for a vicious little bastard, whose first reaction was always bloody violence? His hand moved to the back of his head and he flinched at finding a tender lump, his hand came away, sticky with blood.  Violence solves nothing, and when this was all over, he was going to beat that thought into the stupid, bleach blond and teach him the value of discussion.

 

Meanwhile, he was on his feet and moving fast.

 

Except the elevator appeared to be on a go-slow…. The goddamned thing was taking forever; he should have just broken a window and jumped. His mood was vicious and he flung a punch into the unsuspecting doors of the elevator, creating a slight dent in the reinforced steel, but it wasn’t as satisfying as he’d hoped and the pain in his hand did nothing to dull the hurt thudding in his heart. He could destroy the whole fucking building and he still wouldn’t be satisfied.

 

The doors creaked in protest at their treatment but finally slid open into his office. 

 

Harmony looked up, startled by the crash as the doors to Angel’s office were flung wide and bounced on their hinges, briefly framing the dark, looming figure of her boss. He strode furiously through reception, whilst she watched, wide-eyed with apprehension. Words of denial were prepared and honed. No way was it her fault, whatever it was… She was interrupted before the first ‘it wasn’t me’ could be dropped into the explosive atmosphere.

 

“Where the fuck is he?”

 

“Boss?”

 

Harmony had been packing up to go home, and the way Angel was glaring at her she knew she should have been quicker. He spun on his heel, as though expecting to find his childe hiding amongst the potted plants.

 

“Spike! Where’s he gone?”

 

Ah, Spike. Not her. Harmony relaxed again.

 

“He went that way” She waved vaguely towards the front door and then licked her lips as Angel turned to follow her gesture. “Uh… Did you know you have blood running down your neck? I guess I couldn’t…”

 

She was no longer a year-old fledgling, but the powerful blood called to her. Her face flickered towards ridges and fangs, but settled back to human under the weight of his glare.

 

“No, I guess not.”

 

She didn’t even try to keep the disappointment and longing from her voice as she watched it go to waste, trickling down the back of his neck and staining the collar of his shirt a bright, vivid red. She pouted. Honestly, sometimes the boss could be so selfish. She was convinced that if it had been Fred who had been asking then he’d have let her lick him clean. She gave a small huff of annoyance at constantly being overlooked and mistreated.

 

Angel ignored her and raced to the external doors, peering through the darkness, past the shiny W&H logo and expansive forecourt, to where he could make out a large black sedan. He pounded after it but it was already screeching away, leaving him to stare in disbelief as it disappeared into the distance. With his face unreadable and head hung low, Angel walked back to the building.

 

Harmony switched off her computer and pulled on her jacket. The silence seemed a little intense and she had the urge to lighten it somehow.

 

“So did you and Spikey have another fight? Is that why you’re bleeding… cus I can’t help noticing that he’s kinda winning most of your fights these days.” She saw his face and decided she may have been tactless. “I mean, not that you couldn’t beat him to a bloody pulp if you really wanted to.”

 

“Harmony?”

 

He couldn’t even look at her. There was viciousness rising inside that made the need to kill seem like an act of a mercy from a gentle soul.

 

“Yes, Boss?” she replied perkily.

 

“Go home. Now.”

 

oooo

 

The car purred through the night with Spike seated in the back, the only hint of uncertainty he displayed was the incessant chewing of his bottom lip as he tried to pull together a plan from nothing, before deciding that the best plan was too play it by ear. After all, when it came down to it, he was stronger than Ghani. Also, part of him wanted to trust the man he used to know, give him the benefit of the doubt.

 

He’d go in take command and be the vamp he used to be. He began to add details. Start off in game-face…except that was exactly what the man wanted. Oh crap. Ok go in, be human and reasonable, appeal to Ghan’s better nature…. He sighed, not even able to convince himself that this was a good plan. Maybe he should’ve just let Angel handle it his way.

 

He’d been trying to avoid all thought of his Sire, distracting himself by concentrating on his plan, instead of thinking of Angel lying prone on the floor of his apartment or awakening with a roar of disappointment and fury. He unconsciously began to worry at his nails.

 

Damn. Too late, that image of Angel was now lodged firmly in his head.

 

Spike was sure Angel would be reasonable once they’d sat down and calmly discussed the situation. Certain he would realise that Spike’s only option was to cold clock him. The nails made it to his mouth and he began nibble at the edges.

 

Anyone would be able to see that it was perfectly reasonable that you tell someone you love him and then knock him unconscious. Especially when it was entirely for his own good, Hell, it was even possible that Peaches would be grateful…. Although Spike recalled the dark figure charging towards the car and had to admit that grateful wasn’t the word that sprang to mind as he had focused on the irate face of his Sire. For a dead body, his insides were doing remarkably strange things as he recalled the look of distress and panic. Spike had had to fight the urge to leap out of the car, cradle him and tell him everything would be alright…

 

The car was slowing and turning. It hit a ramp and entered an underground garage. Spike pulled his fingers away from his mouth and affected a casual lounge as he splayed across the seat. These places were monitored and there was no way he was going to display weakness of any sort.

 

The door was opened for him and he emerged, uncurling his limbs with a lazy arrogance. Let the little bugger know what was what, right from the start. He looked around and then turned his gazed to the rather large uniformed driver. He raised his eyebrows in query.

 

“Well? Not here to admire the fucking garage am I?”

 

The man merely closed the door with a resounding thud, but made no other response. There was no need, a soft hiss as elevator doors opened, indicated his next move.

 

“Right. That my cue then?”

 

Again no response.

 

“Talkative bugger, ain’t you?”

 

Not really expecting a reply at this stage, he squared his shoulders and stepped into the marble clad elevator, looking around with mild curiosity until the doors slid opened.

 

His mouth dropped, before he swallowed convulsively and took control of his hurtling stomach. The room was sparsely decorated, which admittedly, fashionable and all that, but the way it was themed made Spike fervently hope it was the product of a demented interior designer and not a statement of intent.

 

Ghan was standing to one side watching him carefully.

 

Spike stood his ground as though completely unfazed, the tilt of his head merely hinting at a touch of indifferent curiosity.

 

“So I was right first time, eh? Guess you’re still kind of upset with me?”

 

“What makes you think that?”

 

“Ummm. Might be my mistake but the display of manacles, chains and… - bloody hell is that a scourge? – uh, kind of suggested you ain’t entirely happy with me.”

 

Somehow Ghan didn’t look so boyish, there was something ancient and weary in his youthful face.

 

“Does it frighten you, Vampire?”

 

“Frighten? Yeah, right.”

 

His expression gave this remark the contempt it deserved. He was a champion, who had chosen death and chosen torture, what else was left in this world that could frighten him?

 

“Losing Angel?”

 

His unspoken bravado garnered a soft reply and a stab of fear flashed through Spike like a skewer in his guts.

 

The quiet voice continued its velvety attack. “Or maybe a scorned lover?”

 

There was some kind of magic in those words. The word ‘lover’ drifted lazily through his head, coiling like smoke through his thoughts, but the fire for the emotion smouldering in a W&H penthouse, and he shook away the odd sensation like a dog flicking away flies from around its ears. He looked down and fought the feeling with memories of Angel, wishing he were back in the apartment, tasting honeyed words as they fell from the lips of his Sire.

 

Ghan’s face distorted in annoyance and Spike felt as though he were wading out of his depths, the man he remembered wouldn’t have used magic on him.

 

Sod it. A light of challenge sharpened blue eyes to full alertness and he finally stepped out from the doubtful protection of the elevator. A sneer curled his lips and twisted his features.

 

“Bring it on then.”

 

The doors swished quietly close behind him and Spike suddenly felt dizzy as the world seemed to fade away.

 

oooo

 

Where the hell was Wesley? In his irritation it occurred to Angel that the man was deliberately ignoring the phone, maybe pretending he actually had a life. Deep breath, here he was…

 

“Hello. Wynd…”

 

“Wes? It’s me. Need you back here. Now.”

 

“Angel. I had a feeling I might be hearing from you…”

 

Then why the hell didn’t you pick up?

 

“Oh? Anyway, I’m calling about….”

 

“Spike and Mede.”

 

“Yeah. I need….”

 

“Us back there to trace where Spike has gone.”

 

This was getting ridiculous!

 

“Yeah,” Angel replied, distractedly running a hand through his already tousled hair, frowning as it occurred to him that Spike had been the one to muss his hair only moments earlier.

 

“Ok. One sec.”

 

Now what?

 

“Fred’s here with me now. We’ve been working on something that should help us trace him.”

 

“Wes?”

 

“Yes, Angel?”

 

“You were prepared for this?”

 

“Well, yes.”

 

“Why? I mean…. Why?”

 

“Really, Angel, do you need to ask? Well, obviously, you feel you do…. He’s one of the team and we don’t abandon each other.”

 

Angel found himself swelling with affection for his people. Despite this emotion, he’d never felt more like a vampire in his life. A feral possessiveness coursed through his veins. His humans. His childe. And Mede a threat to them all. The heat of his anger dissipated and left behind cold calculation.

 

“Ok. How are you tracing him?”

 

“Actually, it was Fred’s idea. You remember she carried out extensive tests on Spike when he was a ghost? What she actually found was his individual signature. Everyone emits there own combination of electromagnetic waves and subatomic particles, thanks to Fred’s work, we have recorded Spike’s own personal signature.”

 

Angel may not have understood the science but his mind had caught the implication.

 

“So we just have to scan the city and home in on his signature?”

 

“Exactly.”

 

“Will it take long?”

 

“We’ve already arranged everything we need. Fred is completing the initial scan now…. Oh my! This is good news. Turn on the computer, Angel and go to the shared drive.”

 

“The shared…?”

 

“You remember? Fred networked us and gave us a shared drive? Go to the e: drive and open Spikesig.exe.  We’ve managed to set the signal to display against a large scale map of L.A.

 

“Uh. I think this is it…”

 

Angel sat at his desk and watched in fascination as a small flashing light moved down the main arterial route in an unfamiliar part of the city.

 

“That flashing red light is him?”

 

“That’s right. We have him.” Wesley sounded triumphant.

 

They had come through for him. Angel could hardly believe it. He had an overwhelming compulsion to babble and thank them profusely, shower them in the warmth of his affection.

 

“Thanks Wes. Tell Fred, good work.”

 

It was almost as if Wesley heard the more emotional response. He cleared his throat uncertainly.

 

“Oh well. Tell us that again when we’ve found him safe and well.” His tone was one of carefully restrained pleasure.

 

Their attention was caught by the screen.

 

“They’ve turned off… into an apartment block.”

 

“Underground parking?”

 

“I’d say so… Fred’s looking up the name of the block.”

 

They continued their avid surveillance.

 

“Why’s he stopped moving, Wes?”

 

“The car has parked. There we go… he’s on the move again.”

 

“He’s at a standstill again. That’s weird, he’s never still….”

 

“We think he’s in an elevator. Ok. We’re timing how long he’s motionless and with any luck that should indicate which floor he’s on.”

 

Angel watched with rising hope. This was actually going to work….

 

Then the flashing light disappeared.

 

“Wes.” His voice sounded remarkably calm. “What’s happened? Has the program malfunctioned?”

 

“Just one minute…”

 

“No! Talk to me. What the hell is happening?”

 

It was too late. He heard the click of Wesley’s receiver being laid to rest, leaving him twiddling with his pen as he waited impatiently.

 

“Angel there’s no malfunction.”

 

“No mal… Then what’s happened?”

 

“We’re not sure…. All we know is that he’s simply not there any more.”

 

oooo

 

Spike regained his balance, physically, if not mentally.

 

“What is this?” He looked around.  “Uh…where is this?”

 

“Welcome to my home.”

 

Ghan grinned at his confusion, making him feel as though he were the butt of a practical joke.  Equilibrium quickly returned. He hated being laughed at.

 

“Ok. I’m guessing some kind of portal thingy when I stepped through the elevator doors. Clever.”

 

“Very quick, Will.”

 

Spike slowly spun around, taking in his surroundings. It was spartan but not in the same macabre way as the apartment. In fact it was surprisingly comfortable, maybe a little rough and homespun around the edges.

 

“So… home?”

 

“Yeah.” Ghan glanced up with almost a shy look. “You’re the first demon I’ve brought here.”

 

“Uh huh. Nice. But I think its time we had our little chat. Like what the fuck am I doing here?”

 

Ghan’s features tightened slightly. They eyed each other warily, resentment riding high in both their minds. Spike finished his reccy, his demon senses passed the place as harmless and he relaxed a little, turning back to face the man.

 

“So? And you’d better make it damned good, cus I’m telling you. You’re playing with fire, Mate.”

 

“I’d be a bit more polite if I were you, William. You’re here and dependent on my goodwill, are you sure you want to threaten me?”

 

“I’ll tell you what I’d really like to do to you, eh?”

 

A low sub-vocal growl accompanied his words.

 

“Maybe it’s time you remembered that I’m here to help you.”

 

“Help? Not ‘xactly what I’d call it. You’ve kidnapped me!”

 

“Vamp-napped.”

 

“What?” Spike voice rose into the realms of incredulity. “You want to play word-games? Sorry, Mate, forgotten my Travel Scrabble.”

 

“Don’t be facetious. Isn’t it odd?” Ghan raised his eyebrows. “I’ve planned for this moment and now that you’re here I’m uncertain how to play this….”

 

“Not in the mood for playing. So… how about you tell me what’s up and send me on my way?” Spike suggested, hope springing eternal in his demon heart.

 

“More or less what I had in mind.”

 

“Right.”

 

“So you wanna take your coat off?”

 

“Why?”

 

The edgy words were snapped out without thought, betraying his underlying anxiety.

 

“Just trying to make you comfortable in my home. Take off your coat. Sit on the couch, glass of whiskey, maybe a few snacks. Does that sound like torture?”

 

Every second away from Angel was torture and there was another train of thought he couldn’t afford to buy into.

 

“Dunno…. What sort of snacks?”

 

Spike remembered the multicoloured piles of sugar and additives that the Whelp used to swear were full of nummy goodness and couldn’t suppress a full body shudder.

 

“I was thinking buffalo wings and flowering onions….”

 

Blue eyes lit up.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Yep.”

 

Didn’t sound like torture was particularly imminent, may as well play along with this house guest thing. He’d known that aggressive posturing wasn’t Ghan’s style. The duster was shrugged from his shoulders and Spike failed to notice how even this small reveal was watched with avid eyes.

 

They eventually settled down with glasses and plates, and slowly relaxed.

 

“Well, let’s start with what the fuck am I doing here?”

 

Ghan was watching in fascination as Spike licked his fingers clean of grease.

 

“Ghan?”

 

“What? Oh…. That’s an easy one.  Back in our world we’re constantly monitored. No one has any idea that I have a retreat here, they believe I have sophisticated magic protecting my apartment. You realise that the Senior Partners have us all under constant surveillance?”

 

Spike considered this for a second. He hadn’t realised.

 

“Well… I suppose it’s no great surprise.”

 

All the plans that he’d nearly spouted in the heart of W&H…. for once he was inordinately glad that Angel had pissed him off. At least he hadn’t revealed the depths of his proposed machinations.

 

“I needed to talk where we couldn’t be overheard and without raising suspicion. The apartment has basic surveillance barriers, but it’s not foolproof.”

 

“That sorcerer bloke of yours taught you a few tricks then?

 

“One or two.”

 

“So what were all those threats about?”

 

“I had to make it believable that I wanted to see you and needed privacy, so I was mainly playing to the audience, not to you.”

 

“Oh. Gotta admit I thought you were acting a bit odd.”

 

“They can accept honest corruption, blackmail and self interest. As for torture?  The Senior Partners believe a man should have a healthy hobby, so I perpetuate the idea of revenge and let them have their voyeuristic amusement as they imagine what I’m up to. I believe there are odds on whether you get out of here alive. They think I want the isolation in order to carry out some dirty little vengeance. Idiot demons.”

 

“Oy! Demon here…”

 

“I hadn’t forgotten, and like I said. Idiots. I mean, who the hell would ever leave me.”

 

Spike thought he’d neatly avoided this conversation, obviously not.

 

“Look. About that…”

 

“No. I don’t want ‘sorry,’ ok?”

 

“I wasn’t going to… Well, yeah, I was. What did you expect? Evil right? Vampire. Human. Ain’t gonna work, is it?”

 

“Will, I mean it. No need, ok? I knew how it was with your Sire and Dru. And I knew you were leaving.”

 

“You did? I knew it! I told Peaches….”

 

“You discussed me with him?”

 

“Well, you were kinda threatening us, Pet.”

 

“Ah well. Like I said, I needed my own cover. Besides which, I really don’t like Angel.”

 

Spike put down his empty whiskey glass and reached for his fags.

 

“Why not? He’s one of the good guys.” In the spirit of honesty Spike felt forced to qualify this. “Most of the time.”

 

“Many reasons. Sure, he tries to be good but the thoughts he has inside are vicious and bloody…”

 

“Might just cus he’s with you… dunno how to break it to you, but you’re not exactly flavour of the month.  Anyway, don’t that just make the Ponce all the more remarkable, battling his own personal demon and fighting the good fight?”

 

The whiskey must have loosened his tongue, had he just called Angel remarkable…?

 

“I guess…. You know how it is Will, sometime two people just don’t like each other and that’s all there is to tell.”

 

“Ok. I can accept that.” He tactfully changed the subject. “So tell me about this place, is this where you stay?”

 

“Yeah. My master introduced it to me. It’s a quiet backwater of a dimension. No one knows of it and there’s no human or demon life here. It’s what I need. The world drove me a little insane.”

 

“Really?” Spike’s ears pricked up at finding someone else who’d done insanity. “I’d have thought that mental stability would have to go with the job, else a bit of a dodgy choice for a judge, I’d imagine.”

 

“Generally I’m solid, but you don’t understand what it’s like.”

 

Spike’s eyes narrowed and he blew out stream of cool, blue smoke.

 

“To go insane? See things that ain’t there. Kill people and have no memory of it?” he queried.

 

“Ok, stop! You’re making me nervous, Will. No I meant being able to read people’s hearts.”

 

Spike didn’t even need to think, but grasped the point straight away.

 

“Oh yeah, I get that. What goes on in most people’s head - bloody scary!”

 

Ghan smiled at his understanding.

 

“Most people think I have power because I know their most secret desires and all desire converges on me, but it doesn’t make me powerful. It makes me the ultimate slave. A slave to blind and thoughtless need, with hardly a corner of my mind left to call my own.

 

“I can’t turn it off, Will. Everyday people are crying out to me. When this ‘gift’ was first given to me, I wanted to help everyone. I became all things to all people, but it was impossible to live up to all those expectations. It never stopped and I could never stop. Where people had a need I had to fulfil it. I’m tough, I’m kind, I’m a lover and I’m the enemy, user and abuser, confider and confidante, as I fulfil their fractured need. That need tugged at me. I tried to pass them by. Lower my eyes and hunch into myself, but I was dragged back, forced to turn towards them. Chameleon-like I became the answer to their unspoken questions.

 

“Do you understand? I was torn into a thousand pieces of myself every single day, by selfish, needful people. I thought very soon I would be crazy, my identity lost, swallowed up whole and regurgitated into splintered images that wore my face.

 

“Luckily, my master noticed and brought me here. Now I only return when I need to. I realise you think me selfish, but it’s a necessity. I need this wall that I surround myself with or they’ll rip me to pieces again.”

 

Spike found this a horrific way to live a life.

 

“Christ, Ghan! How could you bear spending two months with me?”

 

Brown eyes softened.

 

“You’re different. You don’t need me and desire nothing from me. Well, true, you did think I looked like a tasty meal….” he smiled in amusement, “but you let me be myself, taking me as I am and not as you’d like me to be. I’d almost forgotten such a thing could be.”

 

Spike regarded him through the haze of tobacco smoke and recalled the time he’d first seen this beautiful man.

 

“Actually, I took you for a victim. Course, realised pretty sharpish that you weren’t, then you became a mystery, I only knew victims, threats and family and you fitted none of them. I had to take a step backwards and watch you unfold….”

 

The whiskey set Spike’s mind running at odd tangents.

 

“You know, you were the first human I accepted…. It’s got me wondering if you paved the way for all the others, maybe without you I’d never have developed the potential.”

 

Spike looked at him with new eyes. This wasn’t just a two month shag, but someone who may have been pivotal to his current life.

 

“Did you know this, when you asked me to take you home? Did you know what you were doing to me?”

 

“No. I swear, Will. I just liked the way you stood back and let me be myself. It felt like freedom, after months of being chained and bound to images of myself.  Most people are so anxious to categorise, to have you pinned out, neatly labelled and boxed, clipping your wings and caging your soaring flight. It’s sad. Why do they do that? All those people struggling to be free of the ill-fitting mould they’ve been poured into, screaming, ‘you have it wrong, this is not me at all!’

 

“Look at you, all leather and attitude, every pore screaming evil demon, which you are… except when you’re not. So how do you convince someone that you have three dimensions, when they only see the two dimensional image that they have etched into their minds?”

 

“You go out and get a soul for them.” Spike muttered.

 

Ghan cocked his head.

 

“Now I remember why I like you so much. You’re an extraordinary demon…. I want to help you, Will. Can you trust me?”

 

Spike looked into intently honest eyes.

 

“I want to….”

 

Ghan nodded.

 

“Good enough. So let’s talk about secrets and power.”

 

“Can we get one thing straight first? All the torture paraphernalia is just for show, innit?”

 

“Uh. Not exactly. My cover depends on you turning up bloodied and injured in the morning. I mean, it’s not the sort of thing you can really fake.”

 

Ghan looked sheepish as Spike stared at him blankly.

 

“That’s your plan? Have I mentioned that I hate it?”

 

“Nit-picking, Will. You said yourself that you’ve chosen torture before, when the stakes were high enough.”

 

“I never said that! Ok, it crossed my mind, but sod nit picking, it’s my ass on the line and this is a really crap plan. I got a better one. I kill you and manage to escape your evil clutches. That’ll keep your frigging cover intact.”

 

“I’m immortal, not sure if I can be killed. And hey, crap plans? Learnt at the knees of a master. If you can come up with anything better….”

 

“A blinkin’ five year old could come up with better!”

 

Ghan flinched as the smouldering cigarette was waved dangerously in front of his face and pushed the arm away.

 

“Don’t be such a baby. I won’t hurt you much… Anyway, the information I have is worth your hide.”

 

Spike squinted at him in suspicion.

 

“My hide? You ain’t planning on flaying me too… are yer?”

 

“I don’t know. I’ve never done torture before.”

 

“Oh crap. Well stick to knives, lots of blood, cleaner and less painful than scourges and such like.”

 

“I have some holy water…”

 

“Yeah, that’s good too, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, it’s just… wrong. Anyway just don’t pour the bloody stuff into any wounds, it can scar. That’s how I got this…” He tapped his left eyebrow with its pronounced jagged cut. “The bint had dipped her sword in holy water. Yeah and you need to do something dramatic if you want to convince everyone it’s for real.”

 

Spike sighed and knew he was going to go through with the idiot plan. Providing the information was worth it. He gave up and stubbed out the smouldering fag end in his glass.

 

“Right. So you’re saying that this goes further than you simply giving the gang a bad school report?”

 

“Further than you can imagine. I’m trying to stop the fat lummox killing you all.”

 

“He’s not fat, Pet. I guess you need to see him without his clothes to really appreciate him.”

 

 “Dammit, Will. You’ve put me right of my buffalo wings, and for the record? No more naked Angel images, ok? So, you admit he’s a lummox then?”

 

“No! Well I dunno, what the hell is a lummox? I do know that he ain’t gonna kill us. I don’t believe it, you see, I trust him.”

 

Mede sighed and took his hand.

 

“Ah, Will. There is so much happening and the gods know how it’ll all fall out. But if they kill you….”

 

“Or Angel…”

 

“Told you before. I don’t give a fig for him. It’s his fault that you’re in this situation.”

 

“Ok Ghan, you’ve dropped enough hints. It’s about time you started talking the talk.”

 

Ghan eyed him speculatively, watching him bring a flame to flickering life as he lit up another cigarette.

 

“The Senior Partners are making advances to Angel. They don’t actually trust him but the kudos of having him onboard is tempting them.”

 

Spike had been pulling in his first gulping breath of nicotine and almost choked on it.

 

“What…! Angel would never accept anything they offered!”

 

“He’s accepted their advances so far. Obviously they will test his loyalty on the way….”

 

“You can’t know this… pure speculation… innit?”

 

“Who do you think I am, Will? I mean truly. There are no secrets in my world. Surely you know that by now.”

 

“Angel’s playing them,” Spike said with certainty.

 

“For now, but how much longer do you think that will continue? Pretty soon they’ll be looking for commitment. I came here curious to know what he was thinking.”

 

“Huh, me and you both.”

 

“He’s playing the biggest game of his life. He wants to find out the real forces for evil in this world and destroy them. When you play big then the stakes are high and you have to prepare for a few losses on the way. He hasn’t thought about who he’s willing to sacrifice in order to win, but pretty soon he’ll be making decisions that will put you all in jeopardy.”

 

“Ok. Supposing I accept what you’re saying, after all, Angelus always liked the big plays. This is the secret, that Angel is playing the Senior Partners?”

 

“I know you have it in your head to do the same thing, but forgive me if I say that I trust you more than I do Angel. I know you have your own ideas, but it’s difficult to make any inroads in such a closed society, so I’m going to give you the heads up and maybe you can muddy the waters a little.”

 

“Closed society? Who exactly are you thinking off?”

 

“The Senior Partner’s representatives in this dimension.”

 

Spike gave a low whistle.

 

“This changes the plan. I’d been thinking along the lines of subversion, but maybe, with Angel’s known involvement he can be the diversion whilst I….”

 

“Or a two pronged attack….”

 

“Divide and conquer, make them each choose Angel or me….”

 

They grinned at each other, but Ghani’s expression gradually changed.

 

“This is all very well, but if you don’t succeed you die and if you do succeed they’ll unleash hell to see you dead.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Yeah. So this plan you come up with is kind of important.”

 

They were silent for a while.

 

“So why are you helping us? I mean you work for Wolfram & Hart.”

 

“They’re fools. My master gave them the prophecy that I would be the razor that cuts both ways, and still they seek to use me against others. Judge not lest you be judged… I do judge them and I find them wanting.”

 

“Right so they’ve been judged. It’s all well and good but shouldn’t they be struck down by lightening or something?” he asked, more in hope than belief. Things ain’t ever that easy.

 

“Told you before that I don’t kill, all I know is that eventually my judgement gets carried out.”

 

“Eventually? Are we talking days or millennia here?”

 

“Somewhere in between? But it gives me faith that you might succeed. I hope the price isn’t more than you can afford to pay.”

 

“Can’t ‘xactly turn away now, can I? So what have you got for me?”

 

“You sure about this.”

 

Spike took a deep breath, this was a turning point. Once the knowledge was shared, it couldn’t be taken away. There would be no going back.

 

“No… but I need to know.”

 

Ghan nodded his agreement.

 

“You remember I told you that before he died my master introduced me to the powers of this world?”

 

“Yeah….”

 

“They’re pretty close to immortal. The names haven’t changed that much in the last few hundred years. So William….”

 

He moved his hand casually to a denim clad thigh.

 

“Exactly what is this information worth to you?”

 

Blue eyes widened at this unexpected betrayal.

 

Ghan started to laugh.

 

“I’m kidding, if you could see your face, Will!”

 

Spike looked pained.

 

“Christ, Ghan if you knew what I had to walk away from to get here…”

 

Dark eyes seemed to stare through the vampire and then realisation hit.

 

“You knocked him out?” The man didn’t try to hide his glee. “Good on you Will! I wish I could have seen it.”

 

“No, I didn’t! Well, yeah, but I had too… Fuck this is all your fault, Ghan.”

 

Spike looked a little sad. “You’ve read him. You think he’ll be upset?”

 

“Yeah, but he’ll get over it, just give him a century or two.”

 

“Huh.”

 

Spike sighed and supposed that he’d just have to cross that bridge when he came to it.

 

“So names.”

 

“Yes, names. Then I guess we’d better return to my apartment.”

 

“The night must be nearly over.”

 

“About that… time moves differently here. Maybe half an hour has passed back in our world.”

 

“Oh. That’s good. I mean if it was the other way around and days had passed back there….” He thought of Angel’s reaction. After all the years of indifference, it seemed incredible that Angel would actually miss him….

 

“Angel would be killing himself with worry.”

 

Spike frowned, unsure how he felt about that. He was veering wildly between pleasure and distress.

 

“So. How’s your memory, Will?”

 

So this was it.

 

“Good enough. Hit me.”

 

“Cyvus Vail, the Grand Arch Duke Sebassis, the Grand Potentate of the Fell Brethren, Senator….” 

 

 

oooo

 

“Judging by the average speed of a lift then we think that Spike went to the top floor.”

 

They walked across the street and approached their destination. Angel eyed the building.

 

“How do we get in?”

 

It was Fred who answered.

 

“I did a bit of research, you know, through local realtors and there’s a private elevator, much like your one, but it can only be operated with a code or internally from inside the apartment. There is also an emergency staircase, but again you need a key or a code.”

 

“In that case, I’ll have to leave you here.”

 

“Why? What you going to do?”

 

Angel looked up at the walls of the building searching for the best route.

 

Fred caught his intense scrutiny and realised his intention.

 

“Oh Lord! Be careful won’t you?”

 

He nodded, was about to move but then suddenly turned. He swallowed loudly and asked the dreaded question.  “Is he still alive?”

 

“I… can’t say. It seemed like he entered the apartment and it was as if a door slammed shut on him.”

 

“There may be wards on the apartment, blocking all surveillance,” Fred added.

 

Angel grasped at this comfort.

 

“So he’ll be there you think?”

 

“I don’t want to get your hopes up, but it’s very possible,” Wesley replied gently.

 

Possible wasn’t the same as certain. His face was a motionless mask as he walked away. He had no sense of Spike in this world and yet he daren’t think the worse, he needed to keep functioning. He kept his thoughts linear. Make the first leap. Climb the building. Break in to the apartment. Find Spike…. He swallowed down the lump in his throat. And made his first leap.

 

The two humans watched as Angel became nothing more than a shadow amongst shadows.

 

“I don’t think we’re really needed,” Fred said with a rueful smile.

 

“We might be… if there’s a pile of dust outside the elevator.”

 

Fred blinked rapidly at the harshness of the image.

 

“Don’t Wes. Don’t even think it.”

 

He reached out and took her hand.

 

Angel scaled the building, using every ounce of speed and skill he possessed, until he was finally standing on the roof.  He quickly spotted the roof access door, broke the lock and went down the steps leading to the top storey.  He was so close now.

 

He breathed deep and the coppery smell of blood hit his sensitive nostrils. He’d recognise this particular scent anywhere, probably caused it to flow more times than enough.

 

Spike.

 

If there was fresh blood then he hadn’t died. Angel sagged slightly, hardly daring to believe it. His thoughts no longer ended with finding Spike, there was life beyond it. He straightened up. There was no time for this unmanly weakness. His childe was alive and hurting.

 

He used all his strength to kick down the door and then heard that despised voice.

 

“Angel? Dramatic as always. The door was unlocked.”

 

He roared, flew towards the doorway… and bounced back again.

 

“The door’s unlocked but I need some protection, obviously.”

 

Angel shook his head back to human, hardly realising that the furious demon had taken over. He prowled towards the doorway with its invisible barrier. Oh fuck! It was a torture chamber. And Spike was hanging there, his T-shirt ripped off and his exposed torso showing signs of deep cuts.

 

“Isn’t he precious? If I’d known you wanted to watch I’d have sent out an invitation.”

 

Angel was silent as he took in the scene.

 

“And hey, I’ve got myself a new bracelet.” He held out a wrist to show off a strip of bloodied white skin tied around it. “Vampire-hide bracelets,” his hand began to caress Spike’s bared skin, “do you think they’ll catch on?”

 

“I’m going to kill you.” Angel told the man calmly.

 

“Not possible.”

 

“I’ll make you wish you were dead.”

 

“No you won’t.”

 

Mede flashed a knife in the air.

 

“He gave me his mark.” The man’s hand went to a faint scar on his neck. “Maybe I’ll do the same for him?”

 

The knife began to cut into Spike’s lower back. Spike convulsed at the touch, but not a sound issued from his mouth.

 

“I’m going to carve my name into his flesh, Angel. How will you feel, each time he turns around, seeing my name scarring his perfection? How can he ever be yours if he carries my mark?”

 

Angel gave a nasty laugh, the human was so stupid.

 

“He’ll be healed by tomorrow.”

 

Ghan smiled in the return.

 

“Not if I pour this over the cuts.” He held out a jug containing clear liquid. “Holy water. Keep still!” This last was directed to Spike who had begun to struggle at the words. This was not part of the deal!

 

“So, we’ll strike a bargain. I’m growing bored with him anyway. He refuses to scream. I’m going to let you enter if you promise this is an end to it all. Spike and I are quits and we don’t want you interfering, so take him and go. By the way there are public swimming baths across the street…. Maybe if you’re real quick….”

 

Mede had finished scribing his name in elegant letters onto bloody, red skin. To better see his work he washed away the blood with his jug of water and then watched in shock as the skin began to bubble and smoke. Oh gods! Had he used too much? Spike screamed in agony and the man hastily undid the chains.

 

“So do you agree?” he managed to keep the shake from reaching his voice.

 

Angel was watching in utter horror.

 

“Jeez! Yes, I agree!  I agree, ok?”

 

The barrier fell and Angel hurtled through the door and swept up his childe, cradling the writhing body against his chest, with no regard for the pain of the holy water as it sizzled against his own skin.  Leading with his right shoulder, he ran to the window and crashed through without pause.

 

Ghan watched the pair of them disappear through the shattered window with a feeling of thankful relief. At least his reading of Wesley had been correct, and the rescue of Spike had been to schedule. He looked down at the blood on his hands and the ribbon of skin that Spike had persuaded him would make a dramatic statement when worn on his wrist. He thought of his clever addition to their plan, using holy water to gain Angel’s compliance…. and began retching uncontrollably as his stomach heaved. He wiped at his mouth.

 

Spike was right. Over all it had been a fucking crap plan and he could only hope the information he’d given was worth it.

 

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