Angel was never quite sure what use he'd have made of this unbelievable announcement from Spike if he'd been the only one to hear it, for he wasn't. They'd not realised they'd been shouting. The shouts had drawn the humans anxiously to the door. They'd all heard the words and now crowded into the room, everyone talking at once.
'It's perfect, Angel.' 'It won't work, man, no way.' 'I can't believe any technology would be good enough to fool them; they aren't simpletons. Not that I'm saying Mr Giles is a….' 'We have to try it.' 'Where is it, Vampire? I'll fetch it here.'
Both vampires looked at Gunn at this last statement. It seemed too practical somehow in this time of fear and portals and unknown danger. Fetch it - practical, doable and simple. Spike rose to his feet and did not look at Angel. He had no reason to look at Angel now, for they'd had their time. This was the future, and he'd not had a heading for it.
Fred glanced at Spike's re-opened wound. 'You can't.'
Wesley concurred and said he'd go with Gunn. They all looked at Spike, except Angel who was studying one immaculate nail. Spike looked back at the humans, mystified, until he realised they needed some instructions. He told them where his car was parked and handed over the keys. Without looking at Angel still, he went slowly and painfully up the stairs and fetched his duster. He came back down even more slowly and lowered himself onto a couch. Wesley and Gunn came over and watched as Spike took out a couple of small plastic boxes from deep within one pocket. He read the titles with a small shrug. 'They're all mixed up. Don't matter which you take.' He handed a chip over then gave them one more. 'One of 'em'll be okay, I guess.'
'Are you saying this thing works when you put these in?'
'Under its right arm, yeah.'
Gunn looked down at the tiny chip. 'I'm tellin' ya, now. No WAY is this gonna work.'
Spike ignored him and looked at Wesley. 'There's a button on the back of its neck - in the hairline. Like a bump. Turns it off.' He paused. 'You might need it.'
Wesley looked closely at him then nodded at Gunn. 'Come on.'
Spike watched them go without complete disinterest. He hadn't wanted to do it, and now he'd lost Angel anyway. Fred decided to go back to Gunn's to shower and collect some fresh clothes, so the hotel was suddenly very quiet. Exhausted now far beyond his strength, Spike could not rise from the couch. He clamped his hand over his still bleeding belly and just tipped his head back, staring blankly at the ceiling. He'd come so close to having what he'd wanted his entire unlife. So close. Angel had wanted him first. Angel had thought about him first. Angel had almost been his but… no future.
He felt tears prick behind his eyes and closed them so they would not fall.
'Have this.' Angel sat on the couch and handed him a blood bag. Spike took it and bit into it, draining it swiftly.
'Why did you do it?'
Spike folded his arms on his legs and hung his head. 'She was so incredibly perfect, Angel, that I actually smelt her blood. I wanted you; I got the chance to have you, so I took it.'
'What the fuck did you think you'd do with it? Were you going to fuck it?'
His head still lowered, Spike tried calmly to answer questions he had no real answers for. 'I don't know that I'd thought it through that far. I think I thought about hunting together. I thought about playing chess.'
Angel jerked his head around. 'Chess? Fuck you, Spike.'
'I did. I remember us playing for hours to pass the day.' He lifted his head a little and glanced sideward at Angel. 'You've forgotten.'
Angel studied a nail. 'No. I remember it all, Spike.' Suddenly he sprung up. 'I was only two freaking hours away. Why didn't you come here?'
Spike wanted to jump up and shout too, but he couldn't, so leant back instead and said icily, 'Yeah. Two hours, SIRE. And I got chipped. Thought you might have enquired, ya know?'
'What if it had… attacked Buffy? Shit, Spike, did you think about that?' Angel saw Spike's furtive expression and exploded once more. 'Fucking hell! That's why you did it! You wanted her to take it for me and fight it….' He trailed off, studying Spike intently. Suddenly, despite Spike's wounds, he dragged him up by his shirtfront and head butted him painfully in the face. 'You wanted it to fuck her too. You disgust me.'
He threw Spike back onto the couch and stormed into his office, slamming the door behind him.
His nose broken and bleeding, wounds reopened and agony searing throughout his body, Spike lay down on the couch where he'd been thrown and pulled his duster over his head, so he at least had an illusion of being safe in the dark. He could feel his blood dripping out onto the floor and wondered briefly, before he tipped over the edge of unconsciousness once more, whether it would open any portals, for he was more than willing to throw himself into one, if anyone could be bothered to help him up.
He woke at a sudden noise in the lobby. He just had time to register that he was still alive and that his bandages were oddly clean and tight once more before he saw it. He sat up, and then suddenly dragged himself urgently away toward the stairs. He sat heavily on the bottom step and just stared.
Bound and gagged it did not look as fearful as he'd remembered it.
Angel came out of his office. He stopped, and his jaw dropped. He clamped it shut and came forward. Wesley and Gunn, both limping slightly, pushed the robot further into the lobby. Everyone just watched Angel watching the robot. Finally, he shook himself slightly and said icily, 'Why is it gagged and handcuffed?'
Gunn looked at Wesley, and Wesley looked slightly furtively back at him. He began to speak but Gunn, rather shockingly, blushed deeply. Wesley saw the blush, and a red flare shot across his face in response. They both looked oddly at Spike, and then Wesley said, 'It was rather… aggressive. We had to. Until we swapped to the second chip that is. Then it… wasn't aggressive. But we gagged it anyway.'
Angel came closer, and then glanced away as Fred came panting though the doors. She skidded to a halt. 'Fucking hell!'
Gunn barked a laugh at the uncharacteristic swearing, but they felt her reaction had sort of summed it up for all of them.
Angel suddenly said, 'It doesn't look anything like me.'
They all turned to him, and Wesley raised one eyebrow. Angel waved vaguely at the leather pants. 'Look how tight they are on it. I'm not as fat as that, and look at the hair! And, hey! It's way shorter than me! It's absolutely nothing like me.'
Without commenting, Wesley merely leant over and ripped the tape off the robot's mouth. 'Ow! I've sensitive skin, you know! That really hurt.' It shook its manacled wrists. 'Can I just say chafing to someone? And hey… you look like me….' It stopped, staring at Angel curiously. 'Am I as fat as that? Someone tell me I'm not. And jeez, do I need to say hair here?'
Angel didn't say anything. He didn't look at anyone. He turned carefully and walked slowly toward the stairs. It was only as he reached Spike that he stopped. He stood still for a moment, his head lowered with a thoughtful expression on his face. Then he leant down and put his mouth to Spike's ear. 'All these years, Spike, and I thought you hated me. It kinda gave me hope, ya know? Hate? Love? Same thing for us, and I always hoped the love would win. But this? I never knew it was just contempt. There's nowhere to go from contempt, Spike. It's hollow and empty. Like you. Soon as you're well, you go.'
He straightened and continued up the stairs as if he'd not spoken at all.
Spike nodded and closed his eyes, but this time he could not stop the tears falling.
Half an hour after his slow departure, Angel emerged once more, apparently calmer. He walked straight past Spike, who was still sitting in the same place he'd last seen him, and went up to the group surrounding the robot. 'It won't work. It won't fool them.'
They ignored him and continued to play with their new toy. A line of chips lay glistening faintly, and one by one, they were trying them out. Angel noted they had not released the manacles, and when Gunn saw the direction of his look he said, 'Precaution.'
Angel sat on one the couches and appeared interested only in a small hitch in his sweater. Fred pushed a chip in, and Gunn pressed the robot's neck. It stretched and wrenched at the manacles for moment. 'Well, well. And here we all are, and I smell dinner. Volunteer anyone?'
Angel looked up and pursed his lips. The humans stepped back, and the robot suddenly saw Spike. It laughed and went over. 'Will! How ya been? You think these are going to stop me?' It laughed and shook its wrists in Spike's face. 'I'll have you again and soon. I'm missing that pretty arse already.' Wesley hastily came over and, after a slightly one-sided struggle, got behind the robot and turned it off.
He pulled the chip out and made to stamp on it with his foot, but Fred suddenly cried, 'No! Integration!'
'Integration.' Wesley looked intrigued.
Angel frowned. 'Inte what?'
'The chips, Angel! There were over twenty of them! We're going to integrate them into one.'
Angel resisted glancing at Spike. 'Twenty?'
'Look… actually, don't look. Wait 'til it's done.'
'If you can integrate it, why didn't… he?'
'Spike said the guy who made this couldn't. I just think he didn't want to. Maybe he thought it would be a small revenge like this. The robot was attempting to assimilate them itself, I think. That's why it went all wrong.'
Both Wesley and Gunn shifted nervously and gave each other embarrassed glances. Angel didn't look at Spike but suddenly said harshly, 'My office. Now.'
Obediently, Spike rose. He went past the others, ignoring their sympathetic looks. 'Shut the door.'
Spike gave it a push with his toe and leant back against it, fishing for his cigarettes. 'Sit down and don't smoke.'
'I'm not your fucking minion, Angel. Few days ago, you were about to fuck me, so you shut the fuck up and treat me with some respect.' It sounded so good in his head that Spike was almost tempted to say it out loud. Instead, he gave Angel a mutinous look that he felt said it just as eloquently, stuffed his lighter back in his pocket, and sat as commanded.
'Are you well enough to leave?'
Spike got up.
'Sit down. I've not finish yet.' Angel began to pace and seemed uncertain suddenly quite why he hadn't finished. 'That's the one that….'
'What did it do?'
'Call it Angel, why don't ya?'
Angel came over swiftly and leant right into Spike's face with his hands on the arms of the chair. 'Don't fucking try to piss me off, Spike. You're in enough shit as it is.'
Spike craned his neck back to get out of the furious anger somewhat but winced at the pain from his partially severed neck. Angel glanced down, and Spike could see that they were both thinking about the care and attention Angel had so recently lavished on those very wounds. Spike lowered his face and looked off to one side slightly. 'I'll leave.'
'Damn right you will.' But Angel continued to lean over the chair, rather belying his words. Finally, he straightened but just backed up a little and perched on the desk. He stared at the lowered blond head. 'Why did you do it?'
Spike looked up. 'I can't tell you any different or make it better, Angel. I told you. I was lonely, and I missed you.'
'That's not what you said the first time.'
Spike frowned then shrugged. 'What does it matter? I did it.'
'That thing is obscene.'
'You didn't have it ramming up your arse for three days. Try that, and then see what obscene feels like.'
Angel flinched and made as if to come to Spike but changed his mind and stayed firmly on the desk. He did say softly, 'I'm sorry. I didn't know.'
Spike could see that Angel was thinking back over the previous week and finding things clicking into place. Angel suddenly rubbed his hands over his face tiredly. 'What a fucking mess.'
'It might save Cordelia's life and stop you getting dusted.'
Angel looked at him. 'And you think that excuses what you've done? You actually think that giving it to me like this makes it all better?'
Spike tipped his head back a little. 'No. But I could have left it in the bleedin' car and never said anything.'
'Why didn't you?'
'I'm beginning to wonder that myself.'
There was no answer to this, and once more Angel rubbed his face. He stood up and poured himself some coffee then sat down in the chair behind the desk. 'Get out. I want to think.'
Spike pouted and looked at his nails. 'I never meant for it to be all separate….'
'Get out, Spike. I'm not interested in your… hell… I'm just not interested in you. Get out.'
Spike debated trying to explain but suddenly couldn't summon up enough interest in himself either.
Instead, he went to his room to pack.
Angel stayed on in his office, his hands tented under his chin, listening to the soft sounds from the lobby: quiet laughter that was quickly stifled, murmurs of surprise or shock, and then once more the laughter.
Angel did not like his enemies laughing at him, that his friends did it really pissed him off. He longed to have the sort of personality that would allow him to go out and share the joke with them, laugh at the robot's peculiarities, find humour in the situation instead of acute embarrassment. Spike, he had the distinct feeling, would have done just that. A Spike robot would have amused his childe; he'd have appreciated the caricature, revelled in the attention. Angel closed his eyes and ran over the argument with Spike. He backtracked and went back to the announcement in the kitchen. He backtracked further, but where this led, only confused him and made him uncomfortable, so he returned his thoughts to the present, in time to hear a rare expletive from Wesley, followed by an urgent whisper from Gunn. 'Where'd he go, man?'
Angel rose and went swiftly into the lobby to find only the three humans, looking around, bemused. Fred looked guilty. 'I put the Angelus chip in, sorry. I looked away….' She brightened for a moment. 'He's still manacled - what harm can he do?'
Angel's eyes widened. 'Spike!' He ran up the stairs three at a time and crashed into Spike's room. He hardly registered the small, scruffy holdall that was partially packed on the bed. Spike was face down on the floor, the robot sitting on him, systematically banging his face into the old carpet, singing a light Irish melody. Angel kicked the thing in the head, and it slumped off to one side, an odd metallic scar now visible on its forehead. The humans crashed in, and Gunn held Angel's arm.
'We need its face intact. Don't.'
Angel clenched his jaw and watched, helpless, as Wesley bent to the stunned creature and turned it off. Fred knelt to Spike and looked anxiously at Angel. 'The wound's been split open again, Angel. You'll have to….'
'No. Feed him from a bag.' Angel bent and hefted the robot over his shoulder with some difficulty, and without looking to see if Spike was actually conscious or not, stepped over him and took the robot back downstairs.
Later that evening, Fred declared that Spike was not fit to travel. Angel, trying not to care one way or the other, merely nodded in annoyed agreement. She went back to her work with the now chained robot.
Angel did not go out that night; he did not want to run the risk of falling foul of any Wolfram and Hart activities. He was not at all convinced that the robot plan would work and wanted to prepare for the inevitability that he would have to sacrifice himself for Cordelia. Consequently, he spent the evening getting in everyone's way until he was banished to his room. He could settle on nothing and tried not to think why this might be. Eventually, he reasoned that if he actually saw Spike, he might be able to stop thinking about him, so he steeled himself and went to his childe's door. It was open, and he was able to see Spike lying on the bed. Having seen him, he had no excuse now to go in, but he did anyway and paced to the window, opening it to the night air and leaning on the frame. He thought that Spike was awake, but the blond figure was silent, and Angel could think of nothing to say. After a few minutes, however, he said tersely, 'You well enough to leave?'
The voice was quiet and subdued, but steady. 'Apparently not.'
Angel turned and winced at the amount of blood on Spike's bandages. He covered quickly by kicking angrily at the holdall on the floor. He frowned and kicked at it again. 'You're not taking your new clothes?'
There was silence for a moment at this unexpected question, but Spike finally said flatly, 'They're not mine, so no.'
Angel gritted his teeth. 'I don't want anything of you here to remind me. Take them.'
The neutrality of the other side of this terse conversation vanished. Spike rose painfully off the bed, clutching at the belly wound. He staggered over to the small closet and began to rip the clothes out and hurl them over to the bag. 'Sure. I'll take everything I touched. Want me to take the mug I drank out of? The sheets I bled on? How about the sheets I got cum on, Angel. Want me to take those too?'
Angel reached his side swiftly and shoved him back into against the closet door. 'Yes. I do. I don't want anything that smells of you….' He faltered for the briefest of moments, but continued, 'Take all your shit and get out as soon as you can crawl far enough.'
Spike hit Angel's hand off the front of his shirt, but the effort, on top of the histrionic packing attempt, seemed to drain the reserves of his energy. He lowered his hand, hung his head and gave a small nod. 'I'll go soon as I can.'
Angel ripped away and stormed back to his room. The sound of breaking furniture was audible in the lobby. In the next bedroom, Spike lay and listened to the sound with depression so deep that all he could focus on was the image of the shards of wood that would be flying from the breaking debris.