The Clockwork Vampire


by Spirit


*


'Why would we interfere in this?'

Angel, one leather coat less, stood before the Oracles with an old expression on his face, one he'd
perfected back when hiding his emotions was paramount. The body lay at his feet, and he
couldn't shake the feeling that it was waiting for something, anything to happen. 

It bothered him a little.

'Because if you don't bring him back, there's going to be one less warrior in your fight.'

The Oracles looked at one another and then back to Angel.

'You dare make threats? To us?'

Angel swallowed and tried hard to keep his calm. Think about anything but why you're actually
here. 

'It's not a threat. If you don't bring him back, I'm.........'

God, what am I going to do?

'.........I'm going to walk into the sunlight.'

The male raised an eyebrow.

'You would commit suicide? You would forgo your prophesy?'

She leaned over and stroked Angel's cheek.

'It's a lesser sin. Without his mate, he is nothing.'

Nodding in amusement, he regarded Angel clinically.

'You should check your facts, vampire, before calling us. We are not here to obey your whims.'

'This is not a whim,' snarled Angel.

'No? But you ask us to do something which is not necessary.'

Angel hung his head a moment, before meeting their gaze.

'It matters to me.'

'Matter or not,' said the female, 'William the Bloody yet lives.........in his manner. The corpse you
guard so possessively does not belong to him.'

'I know,' said Angel, 'There was.........a spell.........'

'Which was reversed, as we have told you.'

'What?'

Angel moved to pull the turning Oracles round to see him, blinded by light within the chamber.
The male gestured and he was flung backwards, Megan's corpse landing on his legs as he left the
walls. Spike was alive.........living.........dammit, he still existed and he'd hurt for nothing.

Shifting the body from his legs, Angel paused a second.

No, not for nothing. There had been loss, and he was the only one to know, yet. The price of
Spike's salvation had been his grand child's life. And yet, he couldn't bring himself to grieve.
Megan was dead, but somewhere out there, hopefully at home, Spike thrived in his vampire
form. Creature of death with the lust of life.

And he was his.

Gathering the body in his arms, Angel ran towards his apartment.

He'd waited too long.

He wouldn't linger any more.


*


'Is she dead?'

Spike turned and glared at Xander.

'I don't know yet.'

Xander frowned and gestured toward the twisted wreckage of the Slayer on the ground. They'd
arrived in her apartment less than ten minutes earlier and, finding it both empty and completely
trashed, they'd looked around outside. Wesley had looked through the broken window and seen
the body which had apparently passed through it. When he'd seen it was Faith, his heart sank
briefly, remnants of his Watcher's oath brushing across his memory. Doyle had winked at him
and moved forward, offering to take Spike and Xander down to check it out. Cordelia had opted
out of the up close ick factor, and picked up several articles in the apartment, commenting on
how cheap and tacky they were.

Her prattle was slowly driving Wesley to consider sending her through Faith's method of
departure.

Looking out of the window, he saw them slowly approach the girl, wary of her strength, each
worrying that this might all be a trap. He wondered if any of them felt his sorrow in failing her. he
had thought he'd known everything, and had learned the hard way that he was wrong. The lesson
had cost them both far too much, but whilst he was rebuilding his beliefs with Doyle, she had
sunk lower intothe abyss.

If he could change the past.........

Doyle looked up and smiled at him, and Wesley wondered if telepathy was a part of his Brachen
heritage. He always seemed to know when the Englishman needed him, even if he couldn't offer
much more than a well placed grin. Or maybe it was just that he was perceptive.........or maybe, it
was because they were simply *that* close. He nodded and walked back into the room, leaving
others with the task of identifying the Slayer's body.

On the ground, Xander couldn't understand why Spike was unable to tell whether the Slayer was
alive or not.

'Come on, you were King of the smellies back in the office. What changed between then and
now?'

Spike growled and stepped up to Faith's body.

'Bloody give you smellies, mate. I can smell the blood, and believe me, there's enough here,' he
grinned, his vampire features washing out his face. 'Doesn't mean I can hear a pulse from fifty
feet away.'

'It wasn't fifty feet,' said Doyle, cheerfully, 'thirty at most.'

Xander nodded and walked closer.

'It's okay Spike, you're getting on. Can't expect you to have that killer sense of smell forever.'

The vampire pointedly ignored him and slipped his hand to Faith's neck.

'She's alive.'

Xander paused a minute.

'You know, I'm not sure what to say. Is it a yay, Angel didn't kill anybody, or a Boo, Faith,
psycho Slayer is still alive?'

Spike prodded her ribs and felt the cracks, smelling the bleeding within the Slayer's body.

'I'm not saying she's going to live long, not with all these nasty injuri.........hey, look, I did that
one!'

Xander looked at the gash in Faith's stomach and then back up at Spike.

'You're proud of your work aren't you?'

Spike grinned and sat back.

'If you've got a talent.........'

Doyle pulled out a hitherto unseen mobile and started dialing.

'And just who are you phoning?'

Doyle shrugged.

'Look Spike, she may be bad girl, but I'm not leaving her dying in the street.'

'Fine.'

'Fine?'

'Yeah, we can drag her in the building whilst she croaks.'

Xander shook his head and wagged his finger at the vampire.

'Compassion isn't high on your list of must haves, is it?'

Spike shook his head.

'Good sex, senseless violence and Dangermouse. Anything else is a plus.'

Doyle turned away as he got through to the emergency services. He could feel Wesley above
him, tensing in the apartment as he rued his past mistakes. He wanted to tell the Englishman that
it no longer mattered, that they could only change what they did from now on in, but Doyle was
all too aware that Wesley knew that already - he was just struggling to put it into action.

Would it have been better for all of them if Faith had died? 

It would certainly have been simpler. In all this ruin, he knew they all felt the need to find Angel
and Megan. Whilst they were missing, anything might have happened, and in the light of
Wolfram and Hart's harsh tactics, nothing would be settled until all their family was in one place.

As he closed the phone off before the operator could ask who he was, Doyle felt a deep urge to
go home, sink into his bed and wrap himself round Wesley - keeping everything safe for the
night. Soon, the ex-watcher had promised, and for Doyle, it couldn't be soon enough. He wanted
to make love to Wesley, wanted to find solace with his arms.

But until then, he'd settle for finding the others, alive and safe.

'Come on, let's leave here, see if Angel's home.'

Spike grinned and started to walk away. Xander looked after him, amazed that the vampire was
moving so quickly.

'He either really wants to see him, or a stickler for obeying you.' 

Doyle shrugged and started to follow Spike.

'Why d'you think I didn't mention that Angel's probably naked in bed, waiting for him?'

Xander bit his lip.

'I don't really want to see that, do I?'

'Probably not.'

'Good, cause I'd hate to think that I was reacting irrationally.'

Doyle grinned and walked on.

'Cause you never do that.'

'Right.'


*


Angel turned off the lights, then turned them back on, and finally looked for the dimmer switch.
Annoyed that he hadn't actually installed one, he turned to the kitchen and wondered if the hot
chocolate fudge cake would be best served with cream or ice cream. Or merely just a spoon.

He grinned and thought about eating it.

Okay, forget the spoon. 

He'd stripped the sheets from his bed and wrapped Megan's body, sacrificing his wardrobe for an
impromptu coffin. Packing her in there, he'd felt a twinge of regret that he'd never known her well
enough to get over her annoying tendencies, but nothing could suppress the knowledge that
Spike was still alive. And if Megan had to die to achieve that, then so be it.

He frowned at his mercenary attitude and wondered what had happened to his brooding skills.
Somewhere along the line they'd dimmed a little, and he wasn't all that keen to have them back.
Now all he had to do was wait for Spike to come through the door, and he'd promise him
anything he wanted. He paused, looking toward the bed once more and softly smiled to himself.

Anything he wanted.

Love was weird, irrational and harsh, but it was the truest thing he had, the one thing he could
believe in. Now all he had to do.........

'He'll be here, right, Pet?'

There was a scuffle on the stairs and Angel looked around for somewhere to sit, to look cool and
calm and generally sexy as hell. But for once in his long and eventful life, he was too excited to
stay still, so he hovered by the living area, waiting for the man he loved to come back.

'Sure, Spike. Angel'll just be waiting here for you, standing in the middle of the room wearing
nothing but a big grin.'

As Cordelia's voice trailed off, they all took in the smiling, but, (sadly) fully dressed vampire
qualifying her description.

'Okay, so he's dressed. That's kind of a bummer from my point of view.'

'Not alone there, Pet.'

The tall vampire smiled softly and murmured, 'It could be arranged'.

With a grin, Spike stepped forward and gestured casually towards his lover.

'Thought I was dead, Love?'

Angel inclined his head and tried to give off a didn't-give-it-much-thought air, knowing he was
failing miserably and not quite giving a damn.

'Had a look round, tried to see if I could save your sorry ass, and by the time I'd caught up with
you.........you were back being you.'

His smile deepened.

'And I like you being you.'

Spike snorted and stepped a little closer.

'Don't give me that. I'm betting that within minutes of you thinking I was dead, you had out all
that bloody Auden poetry and were reciting He was my North, my South, my bloody everything,
bloody everywhere, and getting all weepy and emotional.'

Angel drew himself up to his full height and raised an eyebrow.

'Would I do that?'

He moved towards the younger vampire and raised his hand, hovering millimetres away from
Spike's own.

The four on the stairs hadn't moved since Spike had spoken, and Xander leaned forward to prod
Doyle. As the half-demon turned, the boy gestured towards the vampires.

'Just checking, but.........isn't this a big smooch moment?'

Doyle blinked.

'Me and you?'

'Huh? No! No.........I meant.........oh, okay, yeah, so it was a smooch.........oh God, now, yeah, I
really didn't want to.........'

He started moving backwards up the stairs and away from the passionate embrace. Cordelia
groaned and followed him up, complaining that she never got to see the good stuff. Doyle
remained, moving towards an increasingly nervous Wesley.

'You okay?'

He nodded, then coughed.

'Angel?'

The vampire paused a moment, holding Spike as close as he could, tasting the lips which had
been so close, and so forbidding recently. He wanted to forget everything else and feel Spike's
naked body against his own, pushing where he pulled, tasting.........feeling that all else was
unimportant and it would like this forever. But it had come at a cost, and payment was now due.

'Angel?'

Angel pulled back, the smile slipping from his face, and looked down. He could feel their gaze
upon him and he knew what had to be said, but this moment.........didn't they deserve this
moment?

'Love? Weasly's asking about the girl.'

Angel stared at his feet.

'Love?'

'She's dead.'

'What?'

As Angel met Wesley's expression, he felt more grief in that one second than he had all day.
Everyone matters to someone. And by that someone, they will always be missed. He felt Spike's
arms tightening round him and, whilst he was grateful for the comfort, felt guilty that this death
didn't mean more to him.

'What happened?' 

The dark vampire blinked, unsure whether to tell him everything, wary of the coldness in
Wesley's voice.

'She returned to her body just before Faith..........killed her.'

'How did she die?' insisted the Englishman.

Spike murmured against his neck.

'I did see you, didn't I?'

As Angel nodded, Wesley stepped forward with more aggression that they'd ever witnessed in
him.

'You were there?'

Angel nodded.

'And you didn't save her? You didn't.........?'

'I couldn't. Faith was too quick. It happened in a second.........I thought.........I thought it was
Spike.........'

'You thought it was Spike?'

Wesley snorted.

'And I just bet you were so sorry when you found out it wasn't.'

Doyle lay his hand gently on Wesley's shoulder, but the Englishman shook it off.

'Wesley I'm sorry, but there was nothing I could do.'

'No? We save people every day, but you couldn't manage this one?'

As Wesley turned angrily away to Doyle, Spike sighed and pulled him back round.

'Listen, Pet, you know and I know that broody here doesn't let anyone die if he can help it.'

'Let go of me, Spike.'

The vampire shook his head and gestured to the upturned wardrobe he'd spotted, laying in the
doorway. Wesley followed his direction, eyes lighting on Megan's impromptu coffin.

'Faith's a Slayer, mate. You don't get any stronger, or brutal than that. And you should bloody
know.'

'Angel didn't.........'

'Angel didn't keep her ugly mug alive, right. But if Faith snapped her neck, who the fuck d'you
think sent her flailing out of the window?'

Wesley swallowed hard and met the older vampire's solemn stare.

'You let her die, and I don't know if I can forgive you for that.'

He turned, preparing to leave when something seemed to occur to him, and Angel watched as the
Englishman opened the casket and stripped the sheets from her body.

'Wes? What are you doing, man?'

Through a sudden sob, Wesley reached into Megan's pocket and pulled out three family packs of
condoms.

'She's definitely one of mine,' said Spike, surreptitiously supporting Angel's weight, as he
slumped, ready to accept all the guilt Wesley wanted to pour on him.

'No,' said Wesley, 'Not any more. She's not one of yours.........she was mortal.'

He glared at the vampires a moment before hefting the body into his arms and carrying her up the
stairs. Doyle watched him go and with a second's hesitation, offering silent apology to Angel, he
followed him up.

And the vampires were alone again.

Spike turned to him and lay a cool hand along his cheek.

'He'll come around, Pet.'

Angel closed his eyes and leant forward, forehead touching Spike's own.

'It doesn't matter. He was right. When I thought it was you.........'

Spike kissed him gently, lips barely grazing his skin.

'I know, I think we did that earlier. Auden and stuff.'

He managed a small smile.

'It didn't even come close.'

They stood there for a moment, before Spike took his hand and led him to the kitchen, opening
the fridge to find a beer, (hopefully even two) but he pulled out the chocolate cake instead.

'You really were glad I was home, weren't you?'

Angel shrugged.

'You're a hard habit to lose.'

'You want to try?'

Angel smiled sadly and got to his feet.

'Somehow, I'm just not in the mood anymore. Can we just go to bed?'

Spike pulled out a couple of bottles and closed the fridge, wrapping his arms around Angel's
waist.

'Come on then, Pet. I'll tuck you in.'

'Was hoping you'd stay with me.'

Spike grinned and squeezed him tight.

'You always were a dirty fucker, Angel.'

'Ah shit! Of all the places I get to reappear, it has to be here?'

The vampires whirled to see a faint glimmer against the bedroom door. They couldn't see
features, or a true shape, but the outline was unmistakable. 

'Megan?'

She leaned forward, as though it was hard for to see.

'Spike? Well, yay, I guess.'

The vampire looked up at Angel, who had gone quite rigid in shock. He'd never come across a
ghost that could talk, before.

'So,' said Spike, 'You're a ghost.'

The ghost rippled as though she were laughing.

'Technically I'm an absent spirit, but, yeah. And guess what, boys?'

'What?'

They could sense, rather than see the grin, but it was there all right.

'You two just got yourselves an all inclusive, haunted apartment.'



*

Episode 22
1