Angel spent a few hours downstairs with the humans then went up to stand in the doorway to Spike's room. Spike was lying on his back and turned when he sensed him. 'All better. Almost.'
Angel nodded. 'Can I come in?'
Spike looked surprised. 'Guess.'
Angel came forward and handed him a blood bag, which Spike tore into with some relish.
'Can I see the burns?'
Once more, Spike looked surprised but shrugged, and turned his face for Angel to inspect. Angel bent closer and laid a light finger on Spike's cheekbone then, without any hesitation, put his wrist to his mouth and bit open the artery. Spike's eyes widened with surprise, and then pleasure, when the rare, healing blood was gently wiped over his blistered skin. Angel chuckled at his expression. Spike, looked at him, annoyed by the amusement. 'Bit beyond the bounds of friendship, ain't it?'
'Don't forget - I'm your sire as well.'
Spike didn't reply to this out loud, but Angel heard the response nevertheless. With a small sigh, unable to make this gesture make up for decades of neglect, he just concentrated on the slow passing of his blood to his childe.
After a few minutes, he sat back and nodded. 'You'll heal.'
Spike stretched his arms above his head and nodded too.
'Stay in bed. I'll come up and see you this evening.'
A small look passed between them that confused Angel, so he rose and went out before he betrayed the more devious intent behind his offer of friendship.
Spike slept most of the day, troubled by dreams, but when they woke him, he kept rigidly to his plan of not thinking, not analysing and not debating - just doing what he was doing with no distraction.
He heard Angel come back and climbed out of bed, pulling on his jeans. He couldn't feel any burns or blisters and, although he couldn't confirm this with a mirror, felt he looked pretty much as normal.
Once again, Angel paused in the doorway and asked if he could come in. Spike looked over and said, almost before thinking, 'What the fuck got you?'
Angel tried to smile, but it cracked the dried blood on his face, and he grimaced and wiped at it with an equally bloodied hand. 'It's not all mine.'
Spike chuckled. ''S good then. Big nasty?'
'Lots of big nasties. I'm going to shower. You look… healed.' They both heard the slight hesitation as if Angel had been going to say good. 'I need to crash.'
Spike nodded. 'I'm gonna feed and maybe do something….'
Angel gritted his teeth. 'Why not stay in?'
He got a 'yeah' look in return. 'And do what? Watch the wallpaper?'
'Sorry. There's not much here. You could read that damn book.'
'I'm only gonna hunt for a while, Angel. I won't do anything you wouldn't.'
Knowing there was very little he hadn't done in his long, infamous life, this did not reassure Angel very much. There was little else he could say or do to prevent Spike leaving, so he had to watch him saunter down to the lobby and greet a very relieved Wesley.
Spike went straight to the fridge to feed, but as he drank the blood, he wandered back to the outer office and perched on the desk. 'How's about you come out hunting with me then, Watcher. I'll go slow, promise.'
Wesley looked up from his desk. 'It has been a rather sedentary sort of day. How's Angel? He looked done in.'
'Do you think he'll mind us going out without him? He's been rather odd about this whole situation.'
Spike held back his grin and only said, 'Dunno. Let's go out and see.'
They collected favourite weapons and began to head to the door just as Fred and Gunn came in. 'Hey! Where you two goin'?'
Spike waved his axe with a 'duh' look.
'Wait up then. We'll tag along. You up for it, Babe?'
Fred grinned. 'Sure am.'
Together they headed into the tunnels under the hotel, and then turned toward the heart of the city. They met nothing that needed killing at all except rats that Gunn and Wesley couldn't catch; that Fred refused to - saying they were kind of cute in a non-cute way; and that Spike said, as a Master Vampire, it was beneath his dignity to notice.
Eventually, Spike stopped and held his hand up to slow the others, wrinkling his nose. 'Blood.'
Spike shook his head. 'Human, and it's fresh.'
They began to run, following Spike as he tracked the strong smell. They crashed into a large chamber and came to a halt. Spike, for all that he was a demon, seemed as shocked as the humans were. He looked slowly around the room, taking in the body parts.
Wesley was the first to speak, and then it was only a strange, strangulated, 'My God!'
They went from body to body, checking for signs of life, but there were so few intact anyway, it was obvious they were wasting their time.
Gunn looked at Spike. 'Can you tell what did it?'
Spike pursed his lips. 'Something big and strong?'
'Oh, useful, man, useful. Demons or humans?'
Spike looked at the clear evidence of torture and rape and said in an offhand way, 'Sometimes hard to tell these days.'
The three men stepped gingerly over bodies to where Fred was crouching next to a small, cloaked figure, looking intently at something on the wall. Wesley made a small sound of surprise and distress at the small body. 'A Hasdic Shaman.'
'A what what?'
'A Hasdic Shaman. An ancient demon cult that has links to the Powers. I wonder what he was doing here.'
Fred tugged at his sleeve. 'Look. He's written something on the wall.' She gave them an 'uck' look. 'In blood.'
'He must have written it as he lay dying. How poignant. And you can huff as much as you like, Spike; these demons are utterly harmless, very powerful mystics.'
'Can you speak… Hasdic… or whatever the shit those dribbles are?'
'No, but I have some books back in the office… anyone got a pen and paper?'
Wesley made a careful copy of the writing and then stood up, looking around sadly. 'I think we need to find this monster.'
Their spirits were subdued as they made their way back. No one felt much like talking, and Fred stayed very close to Gunn, holding his hand possessively. Wesley fell back into step with Spike and almost seemed to be trying to find the same kind of comfort. As soon as they got back, he pulled some books off the shelf in Angel's office and poured over the marks he had copied. The others watched for a while then drifted into the kitchen to fetch some much needed drinks.
When they came out, Wesley was standing at the window, his arms folded on the glass, his forehead resting on them, his back tense.
Fred said nervously, 'I don't like that back, Wesley. Did you translate it?' She sat with the book and the small jottings herself, looking intently from one to the other.
Wesley turned with an unreadable look and said conversationally, 'Oh yes. It was quite easy.'
Spike gave him a withering look. 'Come on, Mate, this ain't a penny-mystery, fess up.'
Wesley looked up. 'Oh yes. Sorry. It says the souled vampire.'
Spike actually laughed. He waved a dismissive hand at Wesley. 'Bugger off. It does not. And if it did, it don't mean nothing. Angel did not do that.' He saw Wesley about to reply and put a hand out, silencing him. 'No. Don't argue; don't rationalise; don't say something you'll regret when you find out it wasn't him. Angel did NOT do that. Full stop, fucking period - or any other punctuation mark you want.'
Fred looked up, her face clouded with confusion. 'Actually, I think Spike might be right. This doesn't say the souled vampire.'
Wesley came and peered over her shoulder, clearly as much annoyed as relieved. 'It does. Look… that symbol for the soul… that one for the undead.'
'And this small curlicue, Wesley.'
'That's a drip of blood.'
'No, I don't think so. Look it changes the meaning of the symbol for the undead.'
Wesley bent lower. 'My God. I think you're right. So… not souled vampire but….' He suddenly stopped and glanced at Fred. She gave him an unreadable look back and casually went to stand by Gunn.
Wesley picked up his sword as if thinking about cleaning it.
Once again, Spike laughed, but it was less confident this time. 'What? What's with the looks?'
Wesley looked him straight in the eye. 'It says derived of the souled vampire.'
Spike jerked his head back a little. He looked from one to the other and suddenly began to laugh in earnest. Wesley looked a little put out but kept a firm hold on his sword. Eventually, Spike straightened, gritted his teeth to stop laughing and tapped the side of his head. 'Err… chip?'
Gunn nodded at Wesley. 'Gotta give him that. He can't hurt humans'
Wesley did not look convinced. 'How do we know that? William the Bloody turns up on our doorstep two days ago, all squeaky clean, smelling of roses and wanting to help us? Maybe it's all been a trick.'
Spike took a step toward the desk. He bent as if to look at the book then suddenly punched Wesley. They both fell to their knees, but only Spike was in genuine agony. When he'd recovered from the fairly light punch, Wesley helped Spike to his feet. 'Sorry.'
Spike nodded. 'It wasn't me, and it wasn't Angel.' He could see the others were still not fully convinced. 'Come on! Do what you do when things like this happen! Read some old mouldy books or something!'
Wesley smiled, nodding, and some of the tension between them dissipated. Spike gave him a small grin. 'I'm gonna get some blood. Cus I've NOT FED. Hungry, see?'
He made his way into the kitchen and hopped up onto the counter while his blood heated. He ran the whole incident around in his mind, picturing the small, helpless demon, writing with his own blood on the wall, hoping someone would eventually see it and understand. Derived of the souled vampire. For a brief moment, Spike wondered if his lie to Angel - that he'd heard Dru was in town - had proved to be true after all, but something was wrong with this. He couldn't put his finger on it, but it was just wrong.
He drank the blood and then went back into the lobby to help with the research.
He saw that Angel had come down.
Wesley looked up from his book and tried to catch Spike's eye to warn him with a glance not to mention anything to Angel about the massacre. His intent died when he looked at Spike. He saw him freeze and, unbelievably, go visibly paler than he usually was. It was just for a moment, and then he came into the outer office and perched on the edge of a desk.
Angel looked up. 'Spike.'
Spike nodded but turned to Fred. 'You look grungey.'
She gave him a look. 'Comes with the job.'
Spike frowned and turned to Gunn. 'Why don't you two call it a day and go home? Nice shower. Together?'
'Spike!' Fred blushed but looked at Gunn speculatively. 'I could do with a wash?'
Gunn smiled. 'Yeah, come on. See y'all.'
Spike looked at his nails and seemed intent on their clean smoothness. Angel watched the couple leave with a frown on his face.
Wesley looked down at his own hands and shuddered slightly. 'God.' He got up and headed toward the bathroom. 'I think I'll wash up and take some of these books home.'
Spike suddenly jumped up, too. 'Good idea. Look at me. All sticky.'
He dashed across the lobby and disappeared into the shadows. Wesley rolled his eyes at Angel. 'I sometimes wonder how you managed to sire that very strange vampire, Angel.'
He went as planned to the bathroom, thinking about his books, thinking about the deaths, thinking about not much at all, until he was suddenly seized, a hand was clamped over his mouth, and he was dragged into the kitchen. Spike forced him against the wall. Wesley, still caught up in the events of the night, suddenly panicked and brought his knee up into Spike's balls. Spike gasped in pain and released his hold, but before Wesley could make a sound, he spat out from between teeth gritted in pain, 'That's the robot.'
Wesley instantly stilled. Spike could see that the human didn't believe him but, nevertheless, the startling comment had given him pause.
Wesley glanced back toward the outer office, and then pulled Spike further into the kitchen. 'You're mistaken. I would know. And besides, it was….'
He trailed off, and Spike seized eagerly on the hesitation. 'What? Destroyed? Did you actually see that? Was it all totally obliterated?' He saw Wesley's confused look and said more gently, 'Did you see it blow up?'
The human shook his head, and at Spike's withering look said quietly, 'Could you bear to watch Angel die?'
Spike found it hard to be angry with him. 'It's the robot, Wesley. I can tell; believe me.'
Wesley suddenly looked up at Spike, his eyes widening in comprehension. Spike nodded grimly. 'Derived of? Guess that old demon didn't have a word for robot or clone or whatever, poor sod. He must have wondered what was killing them….' He trailed off, and Wesley thought he saw a small blush. Spike looked down. 'Okay, we're both idiots. There was no feeding, Wesley. They were raped, tortured, torn apart - but they were all still full of blood. I didn't see it. Bloody hell. Some fucking detective I've turned out to be.'
Wesley laid a hand on his arm. 'Don't be hard on yourself. You got Fred and Gunn away safely. I won't forget that, Spike. Thank you.'
Spike suddenly smiled. 'Yeah. And now I'm going to get you away too.' He screwed up his face a little. 'And that's not in a…. get you away sense, yeah?'
'Yes.' He saw the watcher's grim look. 'You either go voluntarily, or I get a fuckingly awful headache but make you go anyway. Your choice. And remember, I kinda get angsty with people when my head's hurting.' He laid a hand on Wesley's arm. 'Go. I can't take it on worrying about you.' He stopped suddenly and added, 'Course, just cus Angel'd have my arse if I let you get hurt.'
Wesley smiled. 'Okay. I'll say I'm tired. But I'm only going so I can fetch Gunn back.' He turned toward the door then said hesitantly. 'You are the most un-demonic demon I have ever encountered other than Angel. You did not create the thing that killed those people. It's been reprogrammed from what you - or I, come to that - intended. I do not intend to blame myself for those deaths. You should not feel guilty either. Do I make myself clear?'
Spike wanted to rise to the obscene accusation that he was not very demonic, but only smiled ruefully at the truth of it, and together they went back into the lobby. The robot was nowhere to be seen. Spike suddenly looked up the stairs. 'Oh, FUCK! Angel! Go!' He grabbed an axe and tore up the stairs.
He saw the trail of blood leaving Angel's room and didn't bother to check to see if his sire was still in there. The trail led down the hallway toward the back stairs. Spike hefted the axe over his shoulder and followed it.
He discovered them, eventually, in the old kitchens: the large, gloomy, metallic space under the hotel. It seemed a fitting place for the robot to die.
The scene that greeted him froze his dead blood. For a brief second, his innate ability to separate the robot from Angel disappeared, and it appeared bizarrely that Angel was trying to cut his own head off.
Spike's senses righted themselves, and he swiftly amended this first impression.
He edged forward cautiously, taking in every detail of the scene: the duct tape over Angel's mouth, the manacles around his wrists, suspending him to one of the steel beams and, bizarrely and shockingly, the huge metal pole that appeared to be protruding from his armpit, rivers of blood coursing down his side at this unnatural penetration. Most importantly, however, he saw the sword that was held to Angel's throat and the thin red line that trickled from the wound it was making.
The robot heard his entry and turned, a pleased look on its face. 'Spike! Where ya been? Wanna help?'
Spike kept his eyes averted from Angel and replied with what he hoped sounded like amusement, 'Thought you were… blown up.'
The robot frowned. 'I was. I'm not sure. I'm back now though.'
Spike came closer but stopped when the flow of blood from Angel's neck increased. 'What do you want with him?'
The creature seemed puzzled. 'I need to destroy the robot.'
'The robot…?' Spike took a small step forward.
'I can't let this thing exist.'
Spike blinked slowly and raised his eyes to the ceiling for a moment. 'No, I agree. The robot needs to be destroyed.' He flicked his eyes to Angel but, in the gloom, could not see his expression. He thought he saw a new tenseness in the agonised body though - stillness, as if Angel were listening intently. 'Let it go now though, hey? I've not seen you for months, and I've missed you.' He took another small step forward.
The robot pouted, but the flow of blood increased once more at that small step. 'You don't want me. I could have been everything to you, but you didn't want me.'
Spike stopped dead, watching the blood flowing from Angel's neck, joining the river of blood from his side like a new tributary of pain. 'You're wrong. I love you. Be assured of one thing, Angel. Are you listening very carefully? I love you.' Once more flick of his eyes to the hanging, silent figure, and one more step forward. 'Let the robot go. It can't get away. I need you now.'
'You've never needed me or what I could give you.'
'Again. You're wrong.' The smallest of steps took him a fraction closer. 'I need total commitment, Angel, and only you can give that to me.' A small half step this time, as if just shifting to another foot for comfort. 'I need someone who is so bloody flawed that he can't see my faults, and if he does, only revels in them.' He kept advancing, step by tiny step, the robot's eyes fastened on him in confusion. 'I need someone who knows what a crap demon I really am and lets me not have to be the Big Bad when I'm with him.'
The robot blinked, and Spike sensed, rather than saw, a relaxing of tension in the arm holding the sword to Angel's throat.
'I want you, Angel. Do you hear me? Just as you are: trying to do good and so close all the time to failing.' He took a much larger step forward, and it did not cause the arm to re-tighten. 'I want your weird sense of humour and how you're like a little kid inside but can't let anyone see it. Except me.' He had almost reached the robot's side. If he turned his eyes he would have been able to see Angel's. He kept them resolutely fixed on his aim. 'I like what you want to do in bed. I like that you don't want to admit what you want to do in bed.' He came up to the robot and put a gentle hand on the arm holding the sword. 'Let the robot go, Angel, and love me. Do you still not get it? It's why I made it: I've loved you for a hundred and fifty years, and I just wanted to have you all mine.'
Confusion clouding the creature's eyes, it laid down the sword and stepped toward Spike.
Spike smiled at it, his long eyelashes brushing delicately over his cheeks, then he stretched up his hand and pressed the small nub on the back of the robot's neck.
The robot spun kicked him across the floor until he crashed into one of the old ovens.
Dazed, confused, Spike stood shakily. The robot laughed. 'Jeez, Spike. Loving that proof of your commitment.'
Spike swallowed deeply. 'What happened to you?'
The robot began to come closer. 'I got improved. What can I say? And I'm thinking I've missed that sweet, tight arse of yours. So, I'm gonna have you, then I'm gonna fuck the robot, and then I'm gonna kill ya both. That sound like a plan? Oh, and then I'm gonna have those warm human arses upstairs.' It paused as if thinking this through then chuckled, a low, dark sound. 'Maybe I'll keep you alive, Childe, so you can watch - as a treat.' It scratched at a small spot of dried blood on its hand and added cheerfully, 'Then I'll fuck you to death. Reach your heart with a three-foot stake through the backdoor, what d'ya reckon to that as a plan, Spike?'