If The Moon Should Crumble


by Saber ShadowKitten




Prologue



"It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine."

The lyrics were sung in an off-key, deep tenor, a British accent slightly highlighting the words. The peroxide-blond who sang them laughed suddenly -- a high-pitched giggle that ended in a harsh, choked-off sob. The man stopped in front of a set of stairs, leaning heavily against the stone wall for a moment, as he took a purposeful breath and blew it out quickly. Then he danced lightly down the steps, his singing much more quiet, as if he were afraid of waking someone.

"It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine."

He stopped in front of a worn, weathered door and grasped at the doorknob. It turned under his hand after several failed attempts, then he stumbled inside, shutting and locking the door behind him. He glanced around at the interior of the studio apartment, his eyes flitting over knick-knacks, hand-drawn pictures and other personal belongings of the previous owner.

Slowly, he walked over to a framed photograph sitting on the back corner of the night-stand and picked it up. One long, pale finger traced over the glass over the picture, the chipped-black nail polish contrasting with the bright colors within the photo. The human who smiled at him from behind the glass caused his lips to press together and his eyes to fill.

"It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine."

He set the frame down in its rightful place, then opened the night-stand drawer. Inside sat several tubes, magazines and other male things, as well as two stakes and a sharp dagger. He took one of the stakes out and closed the drawer again before sitting down on the edge of the bed. His eyes roved around the studio apartment again, then returned to the picture he had brought to his secret place years ago.

"It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine."

He closed his eyes, took a shaky breath, and pressed the pointed end of the stake to his chest. Tears ran slowly down his chiseled face from beneath his closed lids. A soft sob caused him to hic, then he grit his teeth together and pushed on the blunt end of the stake.

"It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel-"

The stake hit the comforter on the bed with a soft thump, then rolled off the edge. It clattered onto the hard floor, the sound echoing in the silent room.



Part One



Three years later

Angel looked up from the papers spread on his desk, as Cordelia entered the office, waving a newspaper in her hands.

"Angel, you are not going to believe this," the brunette, twenty-five year old announced. She spread the newspaper in front of him on the desk. "Carson's is going out of business!"

He hid his chuckle and looked at the page she was pointing at with feigned interest. "That's terrible, Cordy," he said sympathetically.

Looking at the blue jeans-clad woman beside him, with her hair up in a ponytail, dirt streaks on her cheeks, he briefly wondered where the time had gone. The not-so-affectionately-dubbed Queen C was no longer in evidence. Where once Cordelia wouldn't be caught dead in jeans, now it was the main article of clothing that she wore, along with tank tops and T-shirts that had all seen many fights.

Seven years had passed since he, Cordelia and Doyle had started their "lost souls" detective agency. Kate had been with them in an unofficial capacity for just as long. The four of them had formed a tight team based on friendship, trust and loyalty that was unwavering in both the face of danger and everyday life. They had learned from each other, strengthened each other, and were there for one another when things got tough.

Cordelia was probably the best friend he'd ever had since regaining his soul. She refused to let him brood, brought out his dry humor, and allowed him to realize that, although he wasn't the demon, the demon was a part of him, and he should embrace it and use it to his advantage. Angelus was once again a named to be feared for his ruthlessness and cruelty -- to other demons. Plus, he really liked the leather pants.

Since money was sparse, all four of them lived in the same building as the detective agency's office. He lived in the basement, naturally, and had furnished the large, open studio-type dwelling in the dark, somber colors he favored. Doyle lived on the first floor, behind the offices, in a pig-sty that Angel refused to enter; and Cordelia and Kate split the second floor in half, both having light, airy, feminine apartments, neither of which were a good place for him to visit during the day.

It seemed like he'd left Sunnydale a life-time ago, rather than seven years. Buffy had died a few years back, tearing a gaping hole in his heart that was still raw around the edges. He knew, logically, that her time in this world would be shorter than most because of her Chosen status, but emotionally, he'd thought she'd live indefinitely. At times, the tears would come when he thought about her, but as the days went on, the pain had dulled and the memories he had were full of happiness and laughter.

The other members of the Slayerettes had moved on with their lives, as well. Willow had quite a reputation in the Wiccan community and owned a small shop in Los Angeles with Amy, who she finally de-ratted. She and Oz had split up during college, but still remained close friends. The werewolf currently toured with the Dingos, who had gone platinum with their first single.

Xander had married Anya, and the two of them stayed on the Hellmouth with Giles. They continued to help the new Slayers that came to the small California town, much to the Watcher Council's dismay, and kept the forces of evil from wreaking too much havoc on the unsuspecting populace. Joyce had moved shortly after her daughter had died to New York.

Spike had disappeared the same night Buffy died. No one knew if he had been killed or was still alive somewhere in the world. The house that he had lived in still contained all of his things, including the black DeSoto in the garage, so everyone suspected it was the former. When they had buried Buffy, they had set up a small memorial beside her headstone for him.

Although he never admitted it, Angel's heart had a second tear in it over the death of his childe. The blond vampire had been slowly becoming close with him again during the years Spike had been on the "good guys" team. He had been the one to come to Los Angeles most often when help was requested and had spent the days in Angel's apartment with him.

Angel missed Spike more than ever since he'd allowed the demon part of himself mesh with the rest of himself. There was only so much that could be done with mortals and he could only get so-close with other non-humans. Plus, despite their differences, they'd had a tightly-interwoven past together that could never just be ignored.

"Oh hey, check this out," Cordelia said, pointing to a headline on the connecting page. "Something on Sunnydale."

Angel turned his attention to the article and his brows shot up in surprise. "This is where I used to live," he commented, more to himself than to her.

"I thought you lived in the mansion," she said, her eyes skimming the article, while she read over his shoulder. "And the factory."

"Before that," he said. "Up until I lost my soul."

"Ah, the place where you boffed Buffy," Cordelia said with understanding -- and no tact.

"Yes," Angel said dryly. He shook his head and read the demolition date. "I guess I'd better see if I've left anything that I don't want to have destroyed."

"If it hasn't been stolen or destroyed already," she pointed out.

"True," he said. "But it won't hurt for me to check it out anyway." He stood and glanced at the clock on the wall above the door. "If I leave now, I'll have plenty of time to do whatever before sunrise."

"Do you want me to come?" Cordelia asked, folding up the newspaper.

"That's ok," Angel told her. He gave her a half-smile. "I want to be able to have a good brood without you hanging over my shoulder while I'm there."

She rolled her eyes, picked up the paper, and headed out of the office. "Have fun. Try not to get into too much trouble on the Hellmouth and watch out for the new Slayer. I heard she's a real bitch."

Angel saluted her back, then turned and went down the back stairwell from his office to the basement to pack. He'd probably stay overnight at the motel and stop in to see Giles the following night before returning to LA. In any case, it never hurt to have a change of clothes and several weapons with him. It was Sunnydale, after all. The home of the unpredictable.

*****

The stench was so horrid, it made Angel's eyes water. He had grown used to using all his senses at all times, which gave the illusion that he was breathing, and it was hard to stop when the wretched and rotting smell hit his nose.

"Oh god," he gasped, putting his hand up over his mouth and nose. He blinked rapidly to clear his vision, as he walked down the stairs to his former apartment. No wonder they were tearing it down, he thought. No human apparatus could filter out that stench.

Reaching the door, he tried the doorknob first and found it locked. Flies flitted around the small hallway, buzzing in and out of the crack under the door. Angel wasn't too sure he wanted to see what was inside. Any of his possessions would have been ruined by the horrific smell.

He pulled out his keys and unlocked the door, his other hand still over his nose and mouth. Depositing them back into his pocket, he turned the doorknob, but found that he couldn't swing it open because something was blocking it from the other side. Using his shoulder, he shoved the weathered door until it slid open, whatever was behind it being pushed away.

He should have kept the door closed. The stench hit him like a wall, making him stagger back. He pulled his shirt up over his face and tried not to vomit, as he peered into the room. The open window shade let the streetlight enter and allowed him to see something he never wanted to see again.

Rats. Everywhere there were rats. Piles of dead ones, half-eaten ones, headless ones, live ones scurrying around between knee-high mountains of carcases. The air was thick with flies, their buzzing filling the room. Blood stained the floor that he could see, mixed with animal entrails and feces.

His stomach churned, as he stepped over the bodies piled by the doorway and onto a surprisingly clear path that led from one end of the room to the other, as well as towards the bathroom. He saw more live rats running in and out of the bathroom and he suspected they were coming up through the vent in the wall. Slowly looking around, he saw that all of this things were untouched, save for rat scratches and chew holes.

Everything, that was, except for his bed. Or what was left of his bed. It looked as though the mattress and box springs had been shredded, then piled into the far corner of the alcove. The cleared path led directly to the piled materials, which caused his investigative instincts to kick in. His eyes ran around the room again, taking in the different clues, and he came to the hypotheses that an animal of some sorts had gotten into his old apartment and made itself at home.

Might as well roust it from its nest, he thought. The animal would be unsuspecting of a demolition crew and, if it were a Hellmouth creature of sorts, they could be endangered. If it wasn't, he would save another life -- even if it was a fuzzy one.

On alert for an attack, Angel walked over towards the shredded mattress, being sure to make noise. He saw the material rustle slightly and he had the strange thought that he was looking inside a hamster cage and the rodent was buried within its bedding.

When he was in front of the pile, he kicked lightly at it, trying to rouse its inhabitant. The stench was starting to make him green around the gills, so he gave up the pretense of caution and started knocking the shredded mattress off the top of the pile.

"Rise and shine, animal. Time to leave," he said, keeping his voice pitched low and calm. "I highly doubt you want to be-"

Angel's words cut off and he sucked in a sharp breath of rancid air through his mouth. His eyes were wide with shock when he saw the emaciated figure curled up in a ball on the pile of bedding. Tattered fragments of clothing covered his body and his feet were encased in what remained of his boots, the leather almost chewed completely off by the rats. The rodents crawled over and around him within the bedding, but he did not move. His eyes were closed in sleep, his face was gaunt and a sickly shade of grey. However, there was no mistaking who it was laying there.

"Spike," Angel gasped, the shirt falling from over his mouth and nose. He dropped to his knees, uncaring of what he knelt in. His hand shook as he reached out to touch his childe's shoulder. It hovered briefly over the bare skin, afraid that he was seeing an apparition, then he gently laid his hand down.

Spike's eyes shot open and he growled loudly, lashing out with long, clawed fingernails. Angel reared back, his hand quickly leaving the younger vampire's shoulder. Spike scrambled to his feet, his back to the corner. His lips were curled back, his blue eyes wild and Angel could see blood in the center of his chest where the shirt had worn away.

"Spike," Angel said, trying to keep his voice calm and soothing, despite the upheaval of emotions churning inside of him. "It's me, Angel."

Spike stopped growling when Angel spoke, and he cocked his head to one side, listening. His hair was shaggy and hung around his face, dark brown blending into peroxide-blond ends. His nostrils twitched as he sniffed the air, then he began growling again.

Angel was unsure of what to do. If he stood, it was possible Spike would attack him, just like a threatened animal. However, he couldn't kneel there forever and stare at the man he thought had been dead for three years. He'd heard stories about vampires who had retreated into themselves, leaving them in an animalistic state. Buffy had told him how he'd been when he'd first returned from Hell, and from what he could see, Spike was acting in a similar fashion. He was so very tempted to grab Spike up in his arms and hold him tightly, but he knew that would have seriously dangerous effects.

He decided to treat Spike like he would any other wild animal for the time being. Slowly, he extended his hand forward, palm down, his wrist limp, towards the vampire. Spike stopped growling and his nostrils twitched again, as he sniffed in the direction of Angel. The dark-haired vampire watched as Spike leaned forward slightly on his knuckles and put his nose right up to Angel's hand. He made sure not to look Spike directly in the eyes, so as not to make a challenge.

As equally as slow, he let his hand return to his side, then backed up as far as he could before rising to his feet. Spike backed further into the corner, making his body as small as possible, a low rumbling emanating from him. Not turning away, Angel walked carefully backwards on the cleared path towards the bathroom. He wanted to see two things, how the rats were getting in and if Spike would follow him.

Glancing into the bathroom, he noticed that the vent had been knocked out, as he had suspected. He waited in front of the door, silently and patiently, yet on edge. He couldn't believe that his childe was still alive and wondered what had happened to create the state he was in. It shouldn't have been Buffy's death, because, from what he remembered, they didn't really even like each other much. Unless he was wrong...

Angel's thoughts were interrupted when Spike peered around the corner. He slowly moved into view, walking like a four-legged animal on his knuckles and feet. One side of his lip was still curled up, but he was no longer growling. Angel did not move and Spike cautiously walked right up to him. The wild-looking vampire sniffed at his leg, then continued upward to sniff at his crotch for several moments. Still, Angel did not move.

He didn't know if it was a good sign or a bad sign when Spike turned his back on him and headed back along the cleared path. He watched as the younger vampire paused a moment, his muscles tensing up under his tightly-stretched skin, then jumped himself when Spike pounced on a live rat. His eyes widened when he saw Spike rip the rodent's head off with his blunt teeth and let it drop to the ground. Then he sucked on the headless corpse, blood staining his mouth and chin, until he tossed it and the head into one of the many piles of carcasses.

Angel was still frozen when Spike attacked another rat, catching it between his clawed fingers with a squeal from the animal. He put the head in his mouth and tore it halfway off, killing the animal, then dropped it to the ground. He then bent forward and picked it up with his teeth along the back of the rodent's body, then turned and made his way back over to Angel on his knuckles and feet. Spike dropped the rat's dead body on top of Angel's shoe, then looked up expectantly.

"Uh, thanks," Angel said, looking down at both Spike and the mutilated rat. Cordelia would have a field day with how he got that stain on his shoe, he thought absently, as he tried to figure out what to do next.

His words, however, must have been the correct thing to say, or else Spike recognized his scent and knew he wasn't a threat, because the younger vampire rose up on his feet slightly and bumped Angel's hand with his nose. Like he would a dog or cat, he carefully moved his hand around to the side of Spike's head and lightly stroked his hair. Several unidentifiable animals jumped out of Spike's hair on contact and Angel shuddered in revulsion. It had been a very long time since he'd been in a similar state of uncleanliness. In fact, he'd wager he'd never been this bad.

Spike dropped back down to his knuckles and headed back around the corner, out of sight. Angel followed slowly, his mind stumbling over everything and his body rebelling at the rancid stench of the apartment. When he looked around the corner, he saw that Spike was clawing at the ripped mattresses, re-piling the material in the corner. He watched as the younger vampire crawled up underneath it, his entire body disappearing into the shredded bedding, which shifted around as he settled. Then everything was still and silent, save for the buzzing of the flies, once again.





Part Two





Angel waited for Cordelia to pick up the phone, a towel around his waist, the clothing he had worn in a tightly-closed plastic bag in the corner of the motel room he had gotten for the night. He had left Spike locked in the apartment, not worried that his childe would disappear between that night and the next. He'd been there for three years already, one more day wouldn't make a difference. Plus, the demolition crews weren't starting for another three days, so he had enough time to plan his next move.

Of course, he really had no clue what to do. Somehow, he needed to get Spike out of the apartment, clean him very thoroughly, and get him somewhere safer. After that, however...

"This had better be good," Cordelia said, when she picked up the phone.

"Sorry, Cord," Angel said in lieu of greeting. He heard voices in the background and suspected it was the television.

"Angel, is everything ok?" Cordelia asked immediately. "Wait, hold on." Angel heard her hand cover the phone. "Doyle, turn down the volume a minute."

Angel cocked a brow. Doyle? At Cordelia's at three in the morning?

"Ok, what's up?" Cordelia said.

"Doyle?" Angel said.

"We're watching a bad movie," Cordelia said. "Really bad. Kate's here, too. Do you want me to put you on speaker?"

"Yeah," Angel told her.

"Hey, Angel," Kate greeted.

"Angel, greetings," Doyle said. "If you're callin' to get us ta help you move stuff, it's gonna cost."

Angel decided not to beat around the bush. "I found Spike."

"Spike?" Cordelia said in amazement. "Bleached hair, annoying, disappeared three years ago Spike?"

"One in the same," Angel replied. "But he's not..."

"Not what?" Kate asked after Angel didn't continue.

Angel sighed. "He's like an animal." He ran his hand through his damp hair. "I really could use some help. I don't know what to do."

"Have you called Giles?" Cordelia asked.

"No," Angel replied. "I doubt he'd appreciate me calling this early in the morning."

"And it doesn't matter if you wake us or not," Cordelia said dryly.

"You weren't sleeping," he said.

"Excuses, excuses," she said loftily.

After talking together for close to an hour, they figured out a course of action. Cordelia would rent a van and enlist Willow's assistance in creating a sedative of sorts for Spike. Kate would compile soaps, shampoos and other things to get Spike clean and deloused. Doyle would run the office while the ladies were busy. Angel was to get in touch with Giles at a later hour to inform him of Spike's being alive and start the research as to how the vampire got in the state he was in, as well as what to do for him to bring him back to normal.

After confirming that Cordelia would meet him at the motel later that day, he said goodnight and hung up the phone. He felt better now that he had a direction to go in. After a few moments, tears started running down his cheeks as what he discovered finally caught up to him. Spike was alive!

It was a good thing that they'd found a way to anchor his soul to him, because at that moment, he would have lost it.

*****

"We're going to hose him down right here," Angel stated, standing with Cordelia, Kate, and Giles, who had insisted on helping, outside of his old apartment building. Parked under the streetlight, the back of the van was open and the bags of cleaning things sat at the ready. Angel had hooked up a water hose to an outdoor faucet at the hardware store across the street and the nozzle sat in a large, metal washtub.

Angel glanced at the capped syringe in his hand. "Willow's sedative should make this relatively easy. The only thing you guys will have to worry about is not vomiting."

"Now that's a comforting statement," Kate said.

"Are you going to need assistance in bringing him out?" Giles asked.

"Rupert, I wouldn't tell my worst enemy to go into that apartment," Angel told him. He gave them a wane smile. "I'll be back."

He headed inside and he tried not to gag when the stench hit him at the top of the stairs. He thought that it would be less-powerful since he expected the horrid smell. He'd been wrong. Even refraining from inhaling did not prevent the rancid and rotting odor of dead flesh from affecting him.

Slipping the syringe in his shirt pocket, he used his keys to unlock the door and slowly entered the rat-infested apartment. He was on guard in case of an attack, despite his being there the previous night. Animals were not predictable.

"Spike," he called quietly, his voice in the similar calm and low tone as before. "Spike, it's Angel. I've come to take you home."

The bedding in the alcove shifted and a familiar face appeared. It would have been comical sight if it was an act. However, the fact that Spike's actions were real made Angel's heart ache. Bits of shredded mattress clung to his matted and tangled hair, and he had a small smear of dried blood on his chin. The blue eyes observed Angel warily and his nostrils twitched as he sniffed the air.

Angel waited on the cleared path for Spike to act first. The younger vampire slowly emerged from the pile of bedding, pausing with each forward 'step' in caution, and walked on his knuckles and feet up to Angel. Staying out of reach, he leaned forward on his knuckles, his neck stretching as he sniffed at Angel. Again, Angel figured his scent was recognized as being non-threatening, because Spike moved the last few feet to his side and rubbed his face against the dark-haired vampire's pant leg.

Carefully, so as not to startle him, Angel removed the syringe and uncapped it. He bent forward and said a quick prayer before he stuck Spike in the arm and depressed the plunger. Spike yipped and turned, swiping at Angel's hand and knocking the syringe from it. Before he could claw Angel again, the special sedative took effect and he slumped to the floor, unconscious.

Angel looked around the apartment to make sure he didn't want to take anything. His eyes landed on a framed photograph on the night-stand and he frowned, not remembering that object being there. Stepping over Spike, he went over and picked it up. Buffy's happy face smiled back at him and he felt another pang in his heart. He recognized the picture as one taken during her twenty-first birthday party.

Reaching behind him, he tucked the frame into the back of his pants to take with, then moved back to Spike. Gently, he scooped the emaciated vampire up into his arms and made his way out of the apartment.

He couldn't help but laugh at the reactions of his friends. All three backed up quickly when he emerged from the doorway with Spike, their hands quickly clamping over their mouths and noses. Their eyes, however, reflected with sadness and slight horror over the vampire's condition.

As gently as he picked him up, Angel set Spike down on the old blanket spread out on the sidewalk. He took the picture nestled against his lower back and handed it to Cordelia, who was the first to dare to come close. She smiled sadly at the photo, then set it carefully in the back of the van, before she took out a pair of scissors and returned to Angel's side.

"Cordelia, you don't have to be so close," Angel told her, accepting the scissors.

"I know," Cordelia replied simply, as she wrinkled her nose before unlacing what was left of Spike's boots.

Kate began filling up the washtub while Giles put on rubber gloves in order to use the harsh delousing chemicals. Angel and Cordelia removed all of Spike's threadbare clothing, then the two of them cut the vampire's hair, fingernails and toenails. Carefully, Angel picked Spike back up and deposited him in the washtub, kneeling behind it in order to support him.

They worked together in silence, broken only when Angel told them he would use the chemicals to clean his childe's pubic hair. It wasn't until Angel was drying the vampire off that anyone spoke.

"Angel, I think he's injured," Kate said, pointing at Spike's chest. "He's bleeding."

Angel looked to where Kate pointed and saw a small bead of blood slowly forming in the center of his chest. Frowning, he wiped his finger over the blood and felt something stick him. "Can I have the tweezers?" he requested.

Cordelia handed them to him and he bent close as he wiped his finger over the spot again. He saw a small sliver sticking up and grasped it with the tweezers. He immediately found that he couldn't pull it out without cutting the skin. After having a small knife handed to him, he carefully slit Spike's skin, then pulled.

A splinter of wood about a half-inch in length and a centimeter wide came out of Spike's chest. Angel held it up with a horrified expression on his face, which was mimicked by the others. "Spike tried to kill himself," he said in a choked voice. Tears filled his eyes as he gazed down at his unconscious childe. "Oh Spike, what happened?"

Uncaring of the blood or the others, he dropped the tweezers and pulled Spike up into his arms. He hugged his childe tightly, kissing the top of his clean head, the tears falling silently down his cheeks. Cordelia, Kate and Giles began to clean up the supplies.

No one really knew what happened the night Buffy had died and Spike disappeared. Someone had found Buffy's body in front of a building off of the main thoroughfare in "downtown" Sunnydale, and had called the police. There had been an investigation, but the case had been left unsolved. The cause of death was listed as a broken neck, and other signs indicated she had fallen from a great height.

The group of friends had formed the hypothesis that she had been killed and tossed off the roof of the nearby building while fighting, and that Spike had been staked at the same time. According to Willow, they had left for patrol together, bickering as normal. It wasn't until Joyce received the call from the police that they received the news of Buffy's death and, shortly thereafter, discovered Spike was missing.

And now, Spike had been found, animalistic and with a hunk of wood in him, indicating a failed suicide attempt. All sorts of questions were raised in everyone's minds, but they were not to be answered that night.

Cordelia laid her hand on Angel's shoulder. "We're ready," she said quietly.

"Thank you," Angel said, meeting everyone's eyes. Giles nodded, then said his goodbyes and left.

Angel shifted so that he could pick Spike up. He walked over to the van and climbed into the back, then sat down with his back against the padded wall. Once they got to the motel, Angel was to clean himself up, dress Spike and then he, Cordelia and Kate would head back to LA, with the Cordelia driving the van and Kate taking his car.

Until then, however, Angel was going to hold Spike in his arms and thank whomever would listen that he was alive.



Part Three



Angel found a cage in his apartment. A five-by-six-by-eight cage used to hold dogs or other animals. It was against the far wall of the large studio, in front of the art work he'd put up. A cot ran along the back of it, and a padlock sat open on the door, the key sitting in the keyhole. He frowned. "What the hell is that?"

"A cage," Doyle answered, dropping Angel's bag inside the door. "What does it look loike?"

"I know it's a cage," Angel said, shifting the yet unconscious vampire in his arms. Willow's sedative certainly worked. "What is it doing here?"

"I got ta thinkin' 'bout your choilde there," Doyle said. "If he's loike an animal, me thought you wouldn't want him tearin' up your belongins."

Angel hadn't thought about that. Then again, he hadn't thought much past getting Spike out of the apartment and clean. Especially the clean part. But did he really want to cage his childe up like an animal, despite the fact that was how he acted?

"Well, matey, I've gone an' cleared the calendar for the next few days," Doyle said, his hand on the doorknob. "You go 'head an' concentrate on your boy there. If there's an emergency, we'll come an' fetch ya."

"Thanks, Doyle," Angel said sincerely. The half-demon nodded and shut the door behind him as he left.

Walking across the room, Angel entered the open cage and laid Spike down on the cot. Exhaustion crept upon him, the two nights and one long day of not sleeping catching up to him. With a sigh, he left the cage door open and stripped off his clothing on the way to his bed. Set into an alcove, the double-bed beckoned to him. He gratefully accepted the call and climbed under the sheets.

There were several light-switches on the wall above the headboard and he flipped them all down. The apartment plunged into darkness and he fell happily to sleep soon after.

It seemed as though he had just closed his eyes when a loud crash and tearing sound woke him. He sat bolt upright and looked around the dark apartment warily, listening more intently than relying on his sight. He pinpointed the noise as coming from the cage and he reached up to turn on the soft-bulbed track lighting over the area, normally used to highlight the artwork on the wall.

From his bed, he saw Spike's head shoot up with the light, mattress stuffing sticking out of his mouth. A few white threads from the outside of the thin cot mattress clung to his short, spiked hair. His blue eyes darted around, his head making sharp jerks, as he searched for potential dangers.

The cot itself was upended within the cage, the metal frame on its side, the mattress partially shredded. Spike's hands were inside the material, posed to rip it apart more. His eyes landed on Angel and he spit the mattress stuffing out of his mouth. Like the previous times, he sniffed the air in Angel's direction, then slowly moved to the links in the cage and pressed his face against them. He sniffed again, then emitted a combination growl and whine.

Angel glanced at the alarm clock on the shelf cut out of the wall beside the bed. He was surprised to find that he'd slept for six hours, rather than the few minutes he thought. Spike growl-whined again and batted at the cage with his hands.

"Are you hungry, Spike?" Angel asked, getting out of bed. Spike watched him as he slid on a pair of running pants, then walked across the room to the countered-off kitchen.

The apartment was set up in an open, studio-like fashion. The door to the stairwell was near the left corner of the north wall of the basement of the building. To the left of the door, he'd built a closet to hold his weapons. To the right of the door, the entire wall was lined with floor to ceiling bookshelves, filled to capacity.

The west portion of the apartment was divided into a kitchen and small dining area. He'd built a thick wall around the furnace, water heater and other things that were housed in the basement to keep the building running, which took up the rest of the west wall and part of the south wall.

A bathroom sat in the southeast corner of the room, which included a Jacuzzi tub he'd splurged on with money he "found" one night. The alcove where the bed was located was created by the hand-built walls of the bathroom and a wardrobe closet, also hand-built by him. A desk piled with papers and miscellaneous other things sat beside the closet. A phone was supposedly on the desk, as well.

The remainder of the space was used as a living room. An overstuffed chair sat perpendicular to a ratty old couch, a low coffee table in front of them. A reading lamp sat on an end table between them. Stereo speakers were set high on the wall above the desk and in the dining area across the room, the small stereo hidden on the shelf in the alcove. He had yet to succumb to purchasing a television, preferring to read instead.

Angel wondered why Spike wasn't making more of a fuss at being in his apartment. If he'd been at the old place for three years, like the dark-haired vampire suspected, the smell -- or rather, the lack of smell should have made Spike uneasy. Angel glanced over his shoulder at the sound of ripping and saw that his childe was shredding the mattress once again.

With a shake of his head, he removed a container of blood from the refrigerator and set it on the counter. He frowned at it. How the heck was he going to get Spike to drink from it? He'd been feeding from rats, and not very well, considering his extremely thin body. The clothing Angel had dressed him in could fit two Spikes. He was thinner than both Cordelia and Kate.

Angel chuckled at his last thought. He doubted either women would want him to mention that fact. He picked up the container and stuck it in the microwave, hitting the correct buttons to warm the blood to body temperature. Leaning back against the counter while he waited, he watched Spike finish decimating the mattress.

What was he going to do?, he wondered, as he took in Spike's animalistic behavior. How was he going to get Spike to return to his normal somewhat annoying self? How was he going to get Spike to talk? Or feed? Or even walk upright?

The microwave beeped, causing Spike to jump and spin on his sock-clad feet, his lips curled back. Angel pulled open the door, cutting the loud sound off and removed the container. When he turned back towards the cage, he saw that Spike had retreated to the far corner and was peering over the side of the fallen cot at him.

Cautiously, Angel carried the container to the cage and stopped in the still-open door. He crouched down and set it on the floor, then pulled off the lid. He raised his eyes and saw that Spike was sniffing the air again, undoubtably smelling the warmed blood. He rose and backed away, taking a seat on the edge of the coffee table, which was far enough away so as not to seem threatening, and waited.

Spike looked at him, down at the container, then back at him. His nostrils twitched continuously, but he stayed behind the knocked-over cot frame near the corner. Several minutes passed with neither vampire moving.

Eventually, Spike whined slightly and ventured forward on his knuckles and feet. He kept darting glances around the room before returning to Angel, as he approached the uncapped container. Eyes locked on his sire, he lowered his head and sniffed at the blood. His tongue came out to taste the dark red liquid.

Angel held his metaphorical breath. He watched as Spike shifted his weight back on his heels and he clasped the container with both hands. Blood splashed everywhere as the sides were squeezed. He made a strange sound -- possibly one of surprise, but Angel wasn't too sure -- then Spike lifted the container to his mouth.

The dark-haired vampire chuckled silently when he heard slurping, as Spike tried to suck the blood out of the container. The blue eyes that had been watching him crossed when the younger vampire looked down inside the container. A puzzled expression appeared on Spike's face just before he tilted the container upside-down and shook it. Whatever blood had been left spilled all over the floor and splashed onto him.

Spike bent his head and peered up into the upside-down container. He shook it again, as if expecting more to come out. After a moment, he dropped it and began batting it around with his hand. It slid across the floor after one particular hard hit and he scampered after it out of the cage on his knuckles and feet.

Angel didn't know whether to be amused or not. The empty container ended up near his feet after a few minutes of play and Spike skid to a halt a few feet from him. He raised his eyes and looked at Angel, then back down at it.

Angel kept still and Spike slowly approached him for the third time on a voluntary basis. The blood-spattered vampire sniffed him, then rubbed his cheek on Angel's pant leg like he did the previous night. Angel reached down and gently ran his hand over Spike's newly-shorn hair before his childe lowered his head and picked up the container with his teeth. He returned to the cage and buried the container in the shredded bedding.

"Well, now what?" Angel said to himself. Spike looked up from what he was doing at his voice and growled lightly. "Hey, growling at me isn't going to get you anywhere, Spike." Angel stood and moved back into the kitchen to retrieve some paper towels. "And you made a mess of my floor. Plus, I have to try and feed you again, which I have no clue as to how to do. Maybe I'll just go out and buy a bunch of live snake food for you. Right, then Cordelia would be shrieking at me at how gross and disgusting I was..."

He trailed off as he turned and looked towards the cage. A sad smile crossed his lips when he saw that Spike had curled up partially under the shredded mattress, his eyes closed in sleep.



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