the Fire in Which we Burn
Episode 4- Chapter 3
As soon as the last harmful rays left the sky, Spike grabbed the bags and slammed the door shut on the room. He made his way to the car and climbed silently into the drivers' seat, waiting for the derision. He turned, surprised when his passenger stayed silent.
Lilah was looking out of her window, her head turned from Spike. 'Drive. We'll be there just before dawn.'
Spike frowned slightly. He hadn't expected this, and it threw him a little, leaving him unsure how to respond. He tried attack, one of his favoured forms of defence. Sliding the car into drive, he said nonchalantly, 'Wesley sends his love.'
'No, he doesn't.'
'Well, he's keeping busy.'
'Shut up and drive.'
'What time's this meeting thing then?'
'Duh! The meeting I'm here to protect you….'
'I said drive. It'll start when we get there.'
'Uh huh. Time for a shower first maybe?'
At that, she turned and smiled very briefly but immediately seemed to regret it. 'Please, just drive.'
The soft plea unsettled Spike far more than her caustic scorn would have done.
After a long drive carried out in complete silence, they entered the suburbs of the town they sought. Lilah directed them unhesitatingly to a private estate, and they wound up through secretive, dark lanes to the top of a hill. Stopping at a gatehouse, Lilah climbed out and went in. Spike was ushered out of the car by a uniformed man and searched. Lilah watched him through hooded eyes, her expression concealed. The car was searched, and they were waved through. Spike glanced over at her. 'Friendly.'
Spike parked up and leant back. 'No other cars.'
'Odd place. No cars.'
'He's a vampire; he's reclusive. Let's go. Get the bags.'
Spike was distracted and didn't demure at the carrying, feeling the first pricking rays of the dawn. They were ushered to some rooms, adjoined by a bathroom. Spike was half expecting Lilah to make a suggestive comment about sharing a shower, but she turned to her own room and shut the door. Spike flung his bag down and sank onto the edge of the bed. He debated calling Angel again but didn't want to admit he was that anxious. Instead, he wandered over to the window and leant on the wall to one side of the glass, looking out over the immaculate lawns at the back of the house, which were glinting with dew in the early morning light.
There was nothing more interesting to see, and his stomach began to betray him, distracting him. He reasoned in a vampire's house there would be some suitable food and, without checking in with Lilah, went on a stealthy walk-about.
He had just located a large refrigerator and was laughing in complete self-disgust at forgetting that only defective, impaired vampires like him and Angel actually kept blood in the fridge, when something caught his eye.
A small child was watching him from the shadows by an open door to the basement. Feeling slightly guilty about raiding a stranger's food, Spike straightened with his best disarming smile, but the expression froze on his face as he looked more carefully at the small figure. Something twisted in his belly, and a shiver trickled unpleasantly down his spine.
The child laughed lightly and stepped onto the first step leading down into the dark. Spike came forward so he did not lose sight of him but stopped some way away, just staring. The child laughed. 'Come to me, Spike.'
Spike felt something shudder in his body, and he had the insane desire to laugh. He resisted the impulse, though, and walked nonchalantly forward, avoiding the bright morning light streaking in through the window, lighting a cigarette in a small show of bravado. 'You're a spooky one, Mate.'
'So I've been called before.'
'What's this all about then? I'm guessing there's no meeting.'
The child did not reply, but began to descend the steps. Spike looked around and calculated how easily he could escape if he needed to, then shrugged and followed the small figure.
He watched as it negotiated the steep steps in front of them. It exuded evil, and the contrast between what his heart and his head told him about the figure was disconcerting. He wondered idly how such a small child-vampire had managed to survive as long as this one appeared to have done. He had no doubt he could take it - possibly when he was asleep - but, nevertheless, all his senses were alert for some danger he could not define.
When they got to the bottom, the child-demon gestured for Spike to precede him. Once more, Spike narrowed his eyes, gauged the strength of this very ancient vampire and the ease of egress from the building, and let his curiosity lead him on. They'd clearly taken a great deal of trouble to get him there; it seemed a pity to ruin the small party now.
He flicked his cigarette away and stepped in front of the gesturing figure.
They walked some way down a tunnel and came out at a large chamber. An enclosure dominated the area, glass on three sides, solid wall to the rear with a door in it. To his disgust, his stomach rumbled when he saw a blood bag lying on the floor of the room. Spike shivered slightly at the memories that this cage jolted forth, but he swallowed down his fear. The Initiative had been a very long time ago - a time before Angel, and Spike tried hard never to remember a time before Angel.
'I'm getting very bored now. How's about you tell me what this is all about?'
The child turned, and Spike took an instinctive step back at the nauseating smell of evil that emanated from the tiny figure. It laughed at his small movement. 'Your soul smells just as offensive, believe me.'
'Did I mention I was bored?'
'Have you ever heard of Russell Winters?'
Spike narrowed his eyes at the child but shook his head slightly.
The vampire seemed annoyed at this reply, but began to fiddle with some switches on a small panel to one side of the glass room. 'Have you ever sired a Childe, Spike?'
Spike pursed his lips and decided to stay non-committal on this. 'Maybe, maybe not.'
'Have you any idea of the intense pride a sire feels for his childe? That love - that pure evil you sense in them… your evil, given back to you… your mirror for eternity. No. I don't think you have. But then, maybe I'm mistaken, maybe you have? As a childe yourself… you have a sire, don't you Spike?'
Spike was very sure he wanted to stay non-committal on that one.
'Hmm. I sired a childe once - a very long time ago. Do you think it's easy being trapped in a body like this? No, I read your thoughts, Spike. I revolt you. I disturb the order of things. I was five when I was turned. I'm a lot older than that now, but I would never have survived without Russell - my childe.'
'Sorry, I nodded off there for a moment. Are we gonna get to go out an' play soon, cus story time is sooo boring.'
The child smiled faintly. 'I'd hoped that Angel would have told you about Russell. I'm disappointed. Never mind, I can show you this anyway. Come closer, I want you to see clearly.'
Spike stayed where he was, one eye on the tunnel behind him. The child smiled openly and flicked one of the switches.
A noise grated on Spike's ears, and he looked up in wonder and some considerable alarm when the roof over the glass enclosure slid back. Sunlight flooded down through the opening, not hampered at all by a thin layer of glass. Spike dived to the side and rolled into a crouch. To his utter amazement, the demon stood still, basking in the light that reached him through the glass roof. Spike stood up and eyed the scene.
'You've found another ring.'
The child looked puzzled and shook his head. 'Come closer.'
'Just try it, Spike.' Spike stuck out his hand and came a little closer. The light made his pale skin glow in a way he had not seen since he had possessed a ring. He came further forward until the light shone on his face. He laughed and twirled around.
'Clever, Mate. What's doing it?'
'I've been working on a special project for the firm. As so many of us are UVA challenged, so to speak, we needed to find a glass that blocks the harmful rays but allows light through. Wouldn't you love to live in a house where you could bask in light?'
Spike did not reply; it was like being seduced by the devil and offered the one thing he knew was impossible.
The child shrugged. 'But this is what I really want to demonstrate. My modifications. Stop looking at your skin and concentrate, Spike. I want you to see this.'
Spike laughed again, entranced, off his guard. He wanted to strip naked; he wanted to strip Angel naked under this sunlight and see his body.
He heard another sound and looked up to see the door in the wall at the back of the glass cage open. A vampire stood in a small room at the back. He darted forward when he saw the blood but reared back, snarling when he realised it was bathed in sunlight.
The child nodded amiably to Spike. 'He'll come forward for it eventually. They always do.'
'What the fuck is this?'
Spike had the absurd notion to shout a warning to the vampire but didn't know where the danger lay for him.
Just as Spike had done, the vampire tested one hand to the light. When it did not burn, he darted into the room to snatch up the bag. The door shut behind him, trapping him in the light. He seemed too far-gone to care, ripping at the food, spilling it on his face.
The child turned to Spike. 'Now, this is the interesting part. Watch the glass roof, Spike. Oh, and stand back a little, I would. Here, nearer me.'
Spike stood his ground mutinously until the glass seemed to change colour slightly, and he felt it's dangerous power pricking at his skin. He stepped back into the shadows and watched, horrified as the young vampire tried to cower from light against the walls.
'You're going to burn him up? Here, in front of me? What the fuck is this all for?'
'You're missing the point, Spike. Watch. I can control the power of the rays. I can balance them so finely that… ah, there we are, optimum position.'
Spike could not believe what he was seeing. The vampire burnt. All over. Flames leapt from his hair and his face, skeletal form showing underneath. His hands, which beat wildly at his body, carried flame with them - yet he did not burn up.
Spike stepped forward but snatched back when his skin flared hot. 'Stop it.'
'Some of them have lasted months before they just seemed to… give up. It's so beautiful to watch, isn't it? I would stop the sun from setting each night if I could just go on watching. OH! We're missing the best part; the sound is off. There we go.'
Spike's hands flew to his ears, and he moaned slightly. 'Stop it.'
'Oh, that soul is really, really stinking now, Vampire! You should enjoy this!'
Spike shoved past the child and began to twist randomly at the switches. Suddenly the vampire in the room combusted fully, and Spike realised he'd reduced the protection from the glass even further.
The child sighed and moved Spike's hand, which seemed to have frozen on the switch. He turned it fully the other way and stepped out into the light before saying ironically, 'Pity. He screamed so prettily.' He turned back to Spike. 'Now, then. Your turn.'
Spike backed toward the tunnel entrance, incredulous. 'You've gotta be fucking joking! What is this shit? Nothing you could do is gonna get me in there!'
'I'm not going to do anything. She is.'
Spike whirled around and found Lilah leaning on the wall of the tunnel. He went toward her, but she stood across the way, barring his exit. He tried to get past gently, but inevitably, when she resisted, he hurt her.
Falling to the ground in agony, he heard the child's voice say, 'How long does this incapacitate him?'
'When I tested it yesterday, about a minute.'
'Drag him in. Quickly.'
He tried to resist but couldn't, and Lilah dragged him the few feet into the room and shut the door on him. He staggered to his feet and ran at the glass. She wasn't looking at him but flinched nevertheless. The child patted her on the arm. 'Don't worry. I've done over two hundred experiments in here and not one has ever escaped - however hard they've tried.'
She gave him a look, and Spike had the feeling that fear of his escape had not been what she'd winced at. He tried to capitalize on this. 'Come on, Luv, what's this all about? You really don't want to do this.'
She turned away and went to stand by the switches.
The child was staring thoughtfully at his feet. 'Hundreds of years together, Spike. He was my protector, my lover, my childe. A symbiosis of evil. He lived in the world for us and enabled us to have all… this: power, wealth and houses all over the world, influence. I stayed hidden, his brain, his power, his sire. But he was taken from me.'
'Clever, Spike. Yes. Angel murdered him.'
'This is a bit bloody elaborate, isn't it? Just to murder me in exchange.'
The child looked surprised. 'This isn't for you, Spike. Did you think I care anything about you? This is for Angel. Look.'
Spike didn't want to, but he glanced where the child gestured and saw a camera pointed down into the enclosure. 'Do you think he'll be able to resist playing the tapes? Every month I'll send him one - they'll all the same, of course, just you burning up. But he'll wait for them, won't he? He'll burn up inside knowing that this is happening to you, and there is nothing he can do to find you or save you. I couldn't save Russell, but he burnt as he fell, and I feel that burning in my sleep. Well, childe of Angelus, burn. Burn!'
He put his small hand to the switch; Lilah laid hers over it. 'How long will he last?'
The demon look pleased by the question and turned to face Spike as he replied. 'That's the real beauty of this. He'll fight to stay alive because he genuinely believes that he is alive - that he has value. That soul of his makes him think he is special. He thinks like a human.' He paused and leant on the glass, wistfully. 'Angel has a soul too, and it's only going to make him suffer more. You want so to go to him, don't you Spike? I can hear your silent screams of terror. Do you see? Your need to go to him will keep you burning for eternity.'
He turned and, without further comment, flicked the switch.
Spike felt the first rays itching on his skin. He watched small blisters appearing then bursting into flames. He took a huge intake of breath - an automatic demon response to the burning, to the knowledge that this was the inevitable end - but it came out as a scream of agony as the sunlight found its optimum level: the flames feasting on his flesh, but not consuming his body. He fell to the floor and tried to beat them out, but the light only brought them back. He flung himself to the glass but made no more impact than a smear of burnt skin on its clear, cold surface. As he fell once more to the floor, his last rational thought that day was that Angel would not survive this - that his weakness in trusting a human and his stupidity had effectively killed them both.
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