Fatherhell


By Saber ShadowKitten









Part Three





Days turned into weeks turned into months of research, and no spell had been found to return Spike to normal. Wesley, with help from Willow, tried every general reversal spell they could find, to no avail. Eventually, real work intruded and other research took precedence, and finding Spike's cure was relegated to non-pressing status. The vampire was still a baby... and Angel didn't mind at all.

Angel doted on Spike, he knew. But who wouldn't? They tiny vampire was precious. Each bubbling laugh and happy smile filled Angel with a sense of wonder and purpose. It was for innocents like Spike that he continued to fight the good fight. And when Spike reached for him when he returned after every battle, Angel fought that much harder.

On the baby side of the scale, Spike crawled like a speedster and was constantly pulling himself up on everything. His attempts at walking usually ended with him falling on his cloth diaper-clad rear. The diaper was strictly for padding and modesty's sake. Angel and Fred, who acted as babysitter, were lucky to keep the diaper on the little nudist. Spike insisted on taking off whatever Cordelia-approved outfit Angel had dressed the child in.

Spike only cried if he was hungry or hurt himself. Normally, he was a giggling, mostly bald bundle of smiles, and he had the entire Angel Investigations crew wrapped around his tiny finger. They loved him, coddled him, comforted him, and played with him. And, to Angel, he was the son the vampire never thought he'd have.

Angel knocked on Fred's door and waited for her to answer. She lived in another suite on the same floor as Angel in the Hyperion. It was not only safer for her to reside on the same floor, it was convenient if Angel had to leave suddenly because of a vision.

Fred was an excellent babysitter. It was obvious she adored Spike and his appearance in no way bothered her While the others adored the baby, too, his facial ridges and bright yellow eyes were instinctively off-putting to them. Humans were taught what was beautiful and what was freakish, and Spike fit on the non-pretty side things. Angel, however, thought Spike was perfect, and the older vampire wore his demon face whenever they were together.

"Angel, hi," Fred greeted with a warm smile after opening her door. "I see your limbs are attached still. That's good."

"Easy assignment, for once," Angel said. He looked past her into the toy-scattered suite and a wide smile stretched his lips when he saw Spike.

The baby saw Angel, too, and he squeaked in happy recognition around the pacifier in his mouth. He immediately crawled to Angel, sat by the brunette's feet and lifted his arms.

"Hey, big guy." Angel picked up the child and kissed his cheek. Spike tucked his head under Angel's chin, his small fingers closing around the V-collar of the brunette's shirt, and sucked loudly on his pacifier. The soft scent of baby powder filled Angel's senses as he held the baby close.

"I haven't fed him yet," Fred told Angel, lightly rubbing Spike's bare back. "So he's probably hungry."

"Thanks," Angel said sincerely. He leaned down and brushed a kiss on her forehead. "Goodnight."

"'Night."

Angel traversed the short distance between the suites, the doorknob to room 217 turning easily under his hand. Spike kicked his bare feet and bounced slightly as Angel switched on the lamp.

"Hungry, sport?" Angel asked, stepping over the toys on the living area floor, heading for the small kitchenette. He selected one of the pre-made bottles from the refrigerator, twisted off the cap, and put it in the microwave. A few seconds later, the microwave-safe bottle of blood was warmed to body temperature.

Angel attached a nipple cap to the bottle and returned to the living room. He sat down on the burgundy leather reading chair and resettled Spike in his arms. The pacifier was spat out by Spike and, babbling nonsense sounds, he reached for the bottle.

"Here you go, pal." Angel tilted the bottle and held it as the baby fed. Spike's little hands tried to help hold the blood-filled bottle as usual. Angel smiled tenderly before slipping into gameface.

Spike gurgled around the bottle's nipple, bounced, and pointed a finger at Angel's face. "That's right," the brunette said. "Dada's a vampire, too."

As Spike fed, Angel told him about the latest case that was solved, mocking his co-workers' voices in their roles in the tale. When the bottle was empty, he set the baby on the floor in front of the BusyBox and, keeping one eye on the child, fed himself and changed into a white tank and black track pants.

Angel joined Spike on the floor, stretching out on his stomach. Spike abandoned the BusyBox and crawled over to sit in front of Angel. "Dadadadada," Spike said in between blowing raspberries and patting and poking at Angel's facial ridges.

"So, my little nudist," Angel addressed the diaper-clad boy. "What do you want to play with tonight?" He captured and kissed the tiny hands to peals of Spike's laughter.

Wesley had been correct in his assessment of Spike's mental development, from what they were able to tell. The vampire baby recognized faces, voices, and his own name, but other than calling Angel "Dada" he could not form words. Angel had been lucky -- if Spike's predicament could be labeled as such. Spike had been transformed to an age where he was interactive with his environment. Infants younger than six months rarely did anything other than sleep, eat, and cry.

With practice, one day Spike could walk. He could make it a few steps already and, since he did have the capability to learn, although it was limited, it was only a matter of time. Now, if he could only learn to keep his clothes on...

They played with colorful plastic blocks for awhile. Spike would hand a block to Angel, who would add it to the tower he was building. Spike would give him another and another until there were no blocks left. Then the little vampire would knock over the tower, his infectious laughter resounding in the hotel suite, and they would start again.

Angel cherished the times when it was just him and the baby. He knew he shouldn't get so attached -- Spike would return to normal eventuaally -- and he knew that with each gap-fanged smile he was a step closer to losing his soul, if his soul was able to be lost. He was iffy on that case, but it was better not to chance it. He had to damper the pure contentment he felt when he held Spike as the little one slept. Like now.

Angel lay on his back with Spike sleeping soundly on his chest. Angel's large hand almost covered the baby's bottom. His other hand cupped Spike's head as he lightly held the child in place.

Someone once told him there was nothing that could compare to the love between a parent and a child. They were right.

*****

"He's what?!"

"Gone." Cordelia wrung her hands together, her dirty and disheveled appearance testifying to the seriousness of the situation. "He was right there, playing with the ring stacker. The phone rang, I turned to answer it, and when I looked back he was gone."

The world dropped from beneath Angel's feet.

"Could he just have hidden himself away?" Wesley asked as Angel stood petrified. The Englishman took the fighting axe from the vampire and set it on the counter.

"I've looked everywhere," Cordelia replied, a desperate note in her voice. "I couldn't find him. Oh God, I couldn't find him."

Groosalugg took Cordelia into his arms, holding her close. "We are here now. We will find the child."

"I'm so sorry, Angel," Cordelia said brokenly. "I swear I wasn't neglecting him. All I did was answer the phone."

Angel snapped out of his shock with a sudden surge of adrenaline. He looked at Cordelia, Groosalugg, and Wesley in turn, snapping instructions that had his co-workers scurrying from the Hyperion lobby. "Cordelia, go see if Fred is home and she just happens to have him, then check around the second floor. Groo, I want you to look around outside the hotel, in case he managed to crawl out the door. Wesley, you look in all the offices. I'll check the kitchen and the basement."

Thank God it was nighttime, Angel thought, hurrying into the kitchen. Having Spike missing was terrifying enough, but if it had been day...

The brunette refused to complete the thought. Cordelia did not say that she heard someone enter the hotel, so Spike had to have just crawled off. By Cordelia's appearance, the baby's hiding place was a dozy. It was obvious she'd looked long and hard for him. Spike was small, though, even for a baby, which meant he could be anywhere.

Angel wished he'd left Spike with Fred, then immediately felt guilty. Cordelia was an excellent sitter. It wasn't her fault Spike was a speedy crawler. She may think Spike was freaky, but she'd never do anything to put him in danger. Besides which, Fred had gone out for the evening and Angel didn't press for a return time. When Cordelia's vision had struck, he'd simply left Spike in her care like he always did when Fred was busy.

Only now Spike had disappeared and Angel was trying very hard not to fall into a full-fledged panic attack. That would do nothing to help find the missing child, even though it felt like someone had run a pole through his chest.

Angel took a fortifying breath once he entered the kitchen and he made a surface recon of the industrial-sized area. Not seeing Spike right off, Angel dropped to his hands and knees, putting himself at the baby's level. He probably looked absolutely ridiculous, crawling around the kitchen. Once upon a time, it would have annoyed him; now he'd crawl over hot coals if it meant finding his son.

His son.

Angel didn't know when the vampire baby had gone from being a miniature Spike to his son, but the label felt right in his mind and on his tongue. He already referred to himself as "Dada" to the child, as did Fred. Spike had become an integral part of Angel's life in the months he'd been in the brunette's care. Angel didn't know what he was going to do once Spike returned to normal, but he knew the loss would hurt tremendously, possibly more than having to give up Buffy. But he'd cross that bridge when he came to it, because he'd spotted a little diaper-clad fanny sticking up in the air amongst the cooking pots in one of the doorless cabinets.

"Spike," Angel breathed, moving the pots to reach the sleeping boy. He sank back on his heels, cradling Spike close and laughing when the baby began to cry from being disturbed. A feeling of profound relief and joy that Spike was all right swept through Angel, and he could feel tears on his cheeks.

He held the baby tighter, soothing his hand along the child's bare back. He knew he should tell the others immediately, but he didn't move. He just wanted to hold Spike and reassure himself that his son was safe and unharmed.

"You gave us a scare, Spike," Angel said in a tear-roughened voice. "You shouldn't go crawling off like that. People love you and worry when we don't know where you are."

Spike's fussy crying tapered off and he sighed as he fell back to sleep. Angel pressed a soft kiss to the child's head and rose on shaky legs. He needed to tell the others not to worry about Spike any longer, they had something bigger to be concerned about... Angel's soul.



Part Four





Angel had spent one of the most miserable nights of his unlife -- hell not included -- chained in the basement, when all he wanted to do was hold Spike and reassure himself the baby was fine. Twenty-four hours had passed before Wesley released him, once it was ascertained his soul had stayed in place. Twice the dark-haired vampire had flirted with true happiness and he'd kept his soul. Angel hoped it was a trend.

Spike, though, wasn't assured by Angel's not losing his soul. The baby had started to cry an hour after Angel had been freed, and he had yet to stop. The only time he was quiet was when he'd cried himself into an exhausted sleep. He barely ate, wouldn't play, wouldn't move from wherever he was put down: he just cried.

Angel and the others were at wit's end. The brunette vampire tried everything he'd read off the Internet about continuously crying babies. He carried Spike around, put soothing music on the radio and Baby Mozart on the television; he'd even tried changing the child's diaper. Nothing worked.

Spike couldn't be sick -- vampires didn't get ill. He hadn't hurt himself in any way Angel could see. Fred tried feeding Spike something other than blood, and the baby simply spit it out and continued to cry. It was getting so that Angel was forced to say in his suite with Spike unless his help was needed on a case, and Fred couldn't wait to give the boy back when Angel returned. Angel caught naps whenever Spike finally exhausted himself enough to sleep for a few hours.

It turned out that Spike was teething. And growing.

Gunn was first to notice. He'd been away for a couple weeks, helping his crew set up a new residence. He'd walked into the Hyperion and was greeted by Angel pushing a bawling Spike back and forth across the lobby in a stroller. Angel was on phone duty while the others were out working, not that he could hear the phone over Spike's constant cries.

"Someone don't sound happy," Gunn commented. He backed up a step at the icy glare he received from Angel. "Woah, man. Tough night?"

Angel snorted. "Understatement."

"What's wrong with Little Fang?" Gunn stepped in front of the stroller and bent to look at the baby.

"Don't know," Angel sighed, dragging a weary hand over his face. "He won't stop crying."

"That's probably because his teeth are coming in," Gunn said, sliding his finger into Spike's mouth and rubbing the pad along the baby's gums, being careful not to get bit. "He's got a whole mouthful pushing through."

Angel's brow furrowed and he rounded the stroller. "His teeth are coming in?"

"Yeah," Gunn said. He shot Angel a puzzled glance. "I thought you said vampires didn't grow."

"We don't, except for our hair and nails," Angel replied.

"Well, then this little dude didn't get the memo because he's definitely bigger than when I last saw him," Gunn said.

Angel's frown deepened and he lifted Spike from the stroller. The squalling baby didn't seem any larger to him. However, Gunn was right about the teeth. Now that Angel was looking more closely, he could see peaks of ivory cutting through Spike's lower gumline.

"One of my crew had a kid, cried forever it seemed," Gunn said. "Once her teeth were in, she was the golden child. But man, while those choppers were coming through, it was a nightmare."

Angel tucked the vampire baby against him and began to gently bounce. "What can I do?"

"Nothing," Gunn replied with a shrug. "You can try giving him something cold to gnaw on, but mostly you just gotta wait it out."

"Wait it out." Angel looked panicked as Spike upped his wailing. "I don't know if I can."

Gunn laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. "Ah, the joys of fatherhood. I don't envy you."

"Fatherhell's more like it," Angel joked, switching the squalling child to his other shoulder. Now that he was aware of it, Spike did seem a bit heavier. "Will you help me check if Spike has really grown?"

"Sure," Gunn agreed. "But you only got ten minutes. After that, hasta."

"That long?" Angel smiled dryly. "The others could only last four and a half."

Gunn thumped his chest. "I'm from tough stock. I've survived hellbeasts and shopping with Cordelia. I can handle a crying child."

He managed to stay for an entire nine minutes.

Angel laughed after Gunn escaped wearing an expression of great relief. On the counter, Spike kicked and continued to cry his little eyes out.

"Oh, yes, I know," Angel said to the child. "It's so horrible."

He bent and pressed his mouth against Spike's bare tummy and blew a raspberry. For a brief moment, the crying stopped. Then the small hiccoughs started up again. Angel tried repeating his action, but it didn't work. Spike was off and crying again.

Angel scooped up the baby and danced around the lobby like a fool, singing Barry Manilow off-key. Gunn had been right; Spike had grown. Not greatly, but enough to be a measured difference. Angel wondered if that meant his boy would continue to grow like a normal child. There wasn't a precedent for a hellgod spell cast on a vampire, turning him into a baby. Angel would have to play it by ear. But whatever happened, he would still love Spike like a son.

*****

Angel awoke to the sound of crying as usual. He moaned and pressed his palms to his golden eyes. When was the teething going to end? He was going out of his mind, listening to Spike cry seemingly day in and day out. Now he knew why some species ate their young.

Angel let his arms drop to his sides with a sigh. He wanted to sleep. Or at least five minutes of silence. But the crying continued and he had no choice but to get up and face another night.

The brunette opened his golden eyes and was about to sit up when he realized there was a difference in the crying. The tone was deeper and the hiccoughs a bit louder.

Angel sat up quickly and looked across the room to where the baby's crib stood. "Holy mother..."

Inside the crib sat a full-grown Spike, gamefaced and crying. His hair was its natural blond shade, a tangled mop on his head. From what Angel could see, all of Spike's teeth were in, a realization which made Angel giggle.

Spike stopped crying and looked at Angel over the side of the crib. He lifted his arms like he did when he wanted to be picked up.

Angel scrambled from the bed and over to the crib. "Spike?" he said anxiously, visually check over the blond. "Are you okay?"

Spike opened and closed his hands, still reaching for Angel. Yellow teary eyes focused on the older vampire and Spike whined childishly.

Angel lowered the side of the crib and leaned closer to Spike. "Spike, do you understand me?" he asked. Spike's response was to put his arms on Angel's shoulders, nuzzle his face in the crook of the brunette's neck and make hungry fussing sounds.

The cloth diaper that was draped over Spike's lap fell away as Angel lifted him from the crib. The younger vampire helped in no way, fully relying on Angel to carry him. Luckily, Spike had always been on the light side, or else Angel would've dropped him. As it was, the brunette only caried him a few feet before gently settling him on the living room floor.

The naked blond continued to make babyish sounds. He stuck three fingers in his mouth and gnawed on them, rocking back and forth as he made more hungry noises. Angel pushed the hair off of Spike's ridged forehead and briefly caught his gaze. The yellow eyes were wide and held an innocence that could not be faked. Somehow, Spike's body had returned to normal, but it looked like his mind was still that of a seven-month old.

While pondering the ramifications of the sudden change, Angel went into the kitchen and fixed a bottle. If Spike's body had returned to normal, how far behind could his mind actually be? Would it come back as suddenly as his physical self? Although Spike had been growing, Angel hadn't expected such an abrupt change, especially since no spells had been cast that he knew of.

Angel returned to the living room, warmed bottle in hand. He couldn't help but laugh when he saw Spike. Spike was on his back, babbling nonsense and trying to get his toes in his mouth, a favorite activity of his before he'd started teething. It was pretty funny to see a grown man doing it. But it did help prove that Spike wasn't pulling a fast one.

Angel sat on the floor beside the prone blond and pressed the nipple on the bottle into his mouth. Spike bit down higher on the latex, but he sucked on the bottle like he'd done for the past three-quarters of a year, barely helping to hold it as he fed.

There was a knock on the suite door and Wesley poked his head in. "Angel, are you-- oh."

"Wesley, come in," Angel bade the other man. Spike turned his head to look at Wesley as he entered the room, but continued to feed.

"Has he returned to normal?" Wesley walked over and frowned at the naked blond on the floor. "Why is he unclothed?"

"Because he's still seven-months old,"Angel replied. "Only he now has an adult body."

"I see...," Wesley smiled dryly, "...probably more than I should be seeing."

Angel chuckled. "I couldn't get him to stay dressed before. The only thing keeping his diaper on was the pin. How much luck do you think I'll have now?"

"You'll just have to acquire a larger diaper," Wesley said with amusement. He crouched beside the two vampires and studied Spike with interest. "I gather you did not witness his growth change?"

"No." Angel shook his head. "He was a baby when I went to sleep and like this when I woke."

"Hmm." Wesley tapped his lips. "I did not perform any recent magicks. Perhaps I should contact Ms. Rosenberg and see what she's been up to."

"Good idea," Angel said. "Make sure you warn the others of Spike's size adjustment."

"I will," Wesley said as he straightened.

Angel looked up at the other man questioningly. "Why did you come up here, anyway?"

"I came to see if you needed a break," Wesley replied. "However, I believe Spike's teething will no longer be a problem."

"No. I don't think it will," Angel said with a half-grin.

Wesley left as Spike finished off his bottle. Angel exchanged it for Mr. Buttons, a button-snap-belt-zip-and-tie doll, and left Spike entertaining himself while Angel fed.

A few minutes later, Spike crawled into the kitchen, bare behind wiggling. It was an extremely silly sight and Angel laughed hard. The tow-headed vampire stopped at Angel's feet and raised his arms, babbling, "Dadadadadada..."

Angel's heart melted. He deposited the empty blood container in the sink, bent and picked up Spike. "Ugh, you're heavy," the brunette grunted, shifting Spike into a comfortable hold.

Spike laughed childishly and kicked his legs, almost causing Angel to drop him. "Woah, Nelly," Angel admonished, putting one hand on Spike's back, the other under his bottom. "No kicking. I don't want to drop you."

"Nabesssfewda," Spike said nonsensically, patting the ridges on Angel's brow. The younger vampire gurgled and continued to babytalk as Angel carried him into the bedroom to get dressed.

The little nudist hadn't vanished when Spike changed sizes, and Angel finally double safety-pinned a towel on Spike like a navy blue diaper. Spike attempted to take if off, too, but the tightly pinned waist prevented him from doing so, like it had when he was still baby-sized.

The best part, though, was that Spike had stopped crying. Cheerful, talkative, baby Spike had returned, only bigger, and Angel thanked the Powers That Be for the reprieve. Whoever said parenting was easy was lying through their pearly whites.

Spike's peals of laughter echoed in the hall as Angel left the suite. The brunette was pretending to bite his boy's nose as he carried the man-child to the elevator. They emerged in the lobby of the Hyperion, both gamefaced, smiling, and talking nonsense to each other. Wesley and Cordelia were the only two in the lobby, the former on the telephone.

"Spike's a bit too skinny to be a sumo wrestler, Angel," Cordelia said as Angel put the blond on the floor.

"You would rather see him naked?" Angel said. At Cordelia's grin, he shook his head. "Don't answer that."

Cordelia picked up the basket of toys from beneath the counter and spread some of them around the lobby. Spike crawled to where she'd put the BusyBox and began to play with the buttons and bells, chatting happily to the cartoon character stickers on the toy.

"I like his hair," Cordelia commented. "The peroxide look was so early 80's. I hope he doesn't bleach it again when his mind catches up with his oh-so-fine body."

Angel gave her a look. "That's my seven-month old son you're ogling."

"When you put it that way, eew, eew, eew," Cordelia shuddered and returned to work.

Wesley hung up the phone and turned to Angel. "We're in luck. Willow conveyed that they have apprehended one of Glorificus's followers, who was lurking about the hellgod's former residence."

"And he revealed what happened to Spike?" Angel guessed.

"Partially, yes," Wesley replied. "Spike would have grown as a normal human until after puberty, but the follower knew the two part reversal spell, and he performed one part so they would not kill him. According to Willow, they bargained the second part for his safe passage out of Sunnydale."

Angel looked over at the younger vampire playing on the floor. "How long do we have then?"

"A few hours," Wesley said. "They're holding the follower until the bus is scheduled to depart. Then he'll finish the spell and we will be called to make certain it worked before they send him on his way."

"Why didn't they call earlier, after the first part of the spell was done?"

"They did," Cordelia said. "There was a message on the machine. I retrieved it while Wesley went up to see you."

Angel nodded and crossed to Spike. Spike looked up at Angel, smiled widely, pointed and said, "Dada!"

"That's right, champ." Angel joined the younger vampire on the floor, pulling Spike onto his lap and holding the BusyBox upright in front of them. Angel kissed the back of Spike's blond head, closed his eyes, and listened to his son's innocent laughter for the last time.



*****



Angel managed to dress Spike in a pair of pants when the blond fell asleep. It was his normal naptime and he was sleeping in Angel's bed, bottom in the air as usual. Angel sat in a chair beside the bed, watching him sleep.

Angel brushed his finger along Spike's cheekbone. Wesley had stopped upstairs to tell him the spell had been completed, but Angel refused to disturb his boy. These were the final few moments he was going to have with his son and he wanted them to last.

"I love you," Angel whispered, his heart breaking. "I'm glad whoever's in charge gave me the chance to be a father. I couldn't have asked for a better son than you, even with all the crying."

Angel choked up, tears streaming from his golden eyes. Spike shifted and stretched out, and Angel pulled his hand away. He wiped away the evidence of his own crying, sensing that the blond was awakening.

Yellow eyes fluttered open and were hazy for a moment before they focused on Angel. A frown appeared between Spike's brows, and he grumbled, "What're you doing here, y'poof?"

"Actually, you're in my bed," Angel replied gruffly. "And I was just waiting for you to wake up, which you have, so now I'm leaving."

Angel rose from the chair and headed quickly for the door before he broke down into tears again. There'd be time for that later, after Spike had gone. He had to tell Wesley the spell had worked so he could pass the information on to Willow.

"Dada?"

Angel froze with his hand on the doorknob at Spike's soft call. Slowly, he turned and looked at Spike, who hovered in the bedroom doorway. The rumpled blond shifted on his feet, his borrowed pants threatening to fall down.

"Thanks for...," Spike trailed off, his hands fluttering nervously. He cleared his throat and met Angel's golden gaze unhesitantly. "You're a very good father," he stated, then quickly disappeared back into the bedroom.

Angel was stunned. Unbelievable. Spike had remembered what had happened while he was a baby. A huge smile suddenly broke across Angel's face and he practically skipped out of the suite.

His son said that he was a good father. Shanshu or not, there would never be anything more rewarding than that.



End