The Clockwork Vampire

by Spirit


Wesley watched as Dr Sussman reached for a syringe.

He and Cordelia had rushed Doyle to the doctor's surgery, pushing past creatures from
nightmares. He'd heard faint mentions of 'seer' behind him, and Doyle had convulsed on the
examining table. It had taken all three of them to hold him down, his face flicking between its
human and more obviously demon state. As the tranquilliser took effect, Doyle calmed slightly,
but his eyes still flickered and Wesley knew they postponed, rather than cured him.

'That's all I can do for the moment,' said Dr Sussman, 'until we know what's doing this, all I can
do is keep him sedated.'

She looked up at Cordelia and Wesley.

'I take it this isn't something that happens a lot?'

'He's not usually grooky like this for long,' agreed Cordelia.

Wesley glared at her and the girl rolled her eyes at him.

'Don't worry about it. I told you, Dr Sussman deals with all kinds of weirdos.'

Wesley's eyes widened and Cordelia threw her hands up and walked to the door.

'Doyle, did you say?'

Turning back from the girl, Wesley focussed back on Dr Sussman.

'Yes, yes, Doyle...Francis.'

Doyle flinched again and Wesley stroked his hand along his forehead, feeling as the blunt spikes
slid back into his head. He wasn't panicking, he wasn't. And Spike and Angel would be here
soon, and they'd all figure out what to do, and Doyle would stop...

The half-demon shrieked and Wesley had never felt quite so helpless.

Dr Sussman was already trying to scan through for a background on Doyle.

'Brachen demon, am I right?'

Wesley nodded.

'Half...he's human...his mother...'

'Hmm, a half-demon. Perhaps there's some kind of cell conflict...or perhaps there's something
he's prone to. Your companion mentioned that this type of problem has happened before?'

'He's a seer,' murmured Wesley, 'he has migraine-like moments.'

'Like this?'

'Yes, but they're usually over in less than a minute.'

'I see.'

She shone a light against his eyes, but the pupils didn't react. Whatever he was looking at, it
wasn't something anyone else could see.

'Well,' she said, rubbing her lips, 'If he is having a vision, I don't know how to bring him out of it.'

'There's nothing you can do?'

She shook her head.

'I'll keep him sedated as best I can, but unless he comes out of it by himself...'

She trailed off, as Wesley's heart sank.

Doyle was strong - stronger than most humans, but the pain was in must be unbearable. And
according to Dr Sussman, it could kill him. And that wouldn't do, that was not going to happen,
and if Spike and Angel couldn't help him, then he'd...he'd...

With a long strangled sigh, Wesley tried to fight down the panic.

He turned back to the doctor.

'Nothing is going to happen to him. You are going to take care of him. And I'm going to find out
what's going on, and fix it.'

She raised her eyebrows at him.

'Well you'd better move fast, because I don't know how long his body can take this.'

But Wesley had already bent down, laid a kiss on Doyle's head and gripped his hand.

'I'll make this right, I promise,' he whispered, hoping that the Irishman could hear him.

Fingers tightened round his own, but he couldn't be sure that it meant anything. Doyle was so
deeply inside himself that it seemed nothing could touch him. Wesley issued a silent prayer to
give him strength, straightened and tried to bring his hand away. As he unclasped Doyle's fingers,
he noticed the black mark.

He'd seen that somewhere before, he was sure of it.

'Mr Price?'

He shook himself and looked at Dr Sussman again.


The door opened as Angel and Spike spilled into the room, the receptionist crying out in
disapproval behind them. Angel came straight over to the bed, looking over Doyle's still
convulsing body with a mixture of fear and anger.

'What happened?'

Wesley shook his head.

'I don't know. There's a mark...he went to the door...and I found him like this.'

'He looks crap,' said Spike helpfully, 'someone hexed him?'

'Possibly, agreed Wesley.

He glared at them both.

'We have to find out now, before he gets any worse.'

As the receptionist hurried in and tried to get them all out, Wesley squeezed Doyle's hand briefly,
before setting his mind to the task. He found the others in the waiting room, Cordelia passing
round coffee that she might as well have made herself. Wesley took a brief sip, unable to digest
anything properly - his stomach was clenched tight, panic a bare moment away.

He grabbed a scrap of paper and started drawing the mark.

'This is on the back of his hand. It wasn't there before.'

Angel took the paper and examined it carefully.

'I've never seen this, but I'm guessing that it's some kind of mark.'

'Yeah, nice one Sherlock,' said Spike, looking over his shoulder. 'You take all day to figure that
one out?'

'I meant,' said Angel, strained patience testing his voice, 'that this is a specific curse. Maybe you
can look it up.'

Wesley shook his head.

'I don't have time, I need something quickly.'

'I can try the net?'

He looked at Cordelia and gave her a faint smile.

'That might be worth looking at, but I'm going to go straight to the source.'

Xander held his hands up.

'Doyle's brain's frying and you're talking about drinking?'

Cordelia glared at him.

'He said source, percepto boy, not sauce.'

Xander shook his head.

'Still not seeing the difference.'

'Duh! He means the source, which is obviously...'

'I'm going to the Oracles.'

'Exactly! Huh?'

Wesley took a deep breath.

'I know it's strictly warriors only, but I'm need to find the answer.'

Angel considered.

'They're not exactly heavy on giving, you might end up worse off than you were before.'

'I've got to try something!'

'Well maybe you can find out who took the scrolls, as well,' said Xander, reaching for his Pepsi.

They turned to look at him.


Angel groaned

'Wolfram and Hart - Lindsay's back with them, and definitely out for revenge.'

'Revenge on who?'

Spike slugged back his coffee and winced at the taste.

'Let's just say, me, the poof...all of us.'

'I'm in a revenge situation?'

Xander slapped the can back on the table.

'Well I say let's go show those lawyer types just who they're messing with.'

'Dweeb boy from Sunnydale?'

Ignoring Cordelia, Angel pressed on.

'Wesley, you go the Oracles, find out what you can. We'll go to Wolfram and Hart, Cordelia, see
what you can come up with on the net. Xander...'

He paused, trying to think of something for the boy to do.

'...try and stay out of trouble.'


Spike nodded to Wesley.

'I'll go with Weasly.'

Angel swallowed.

'To the Oracles?'

'May as well kill two birds with one stone.'

There was an audible pause, and Wesley waited for Angel to tell Spike no, to state that some
things shouldn't be tampered with, but the vampire slowly nodded. He'd been expecting one of
them to go to the Oracles, to ask why Angel's reward was so badly envisaged, but at no point had
he imagined accompanying them. Desperate times, desperate thoughts, and Doyle's time was
running out. Wesley spoke quietly.

'Doyle first. One thing at a time.'

Angel assented, then winced.

'Okay then...Xander, you're with me.'

'Thank you,' said the boy vehemently.

A puzzled look covered his face.

'When did I reach the stage that going with dead boy was the bonus round?'

'A rare moment of taste,' suggested Cordelia.

As they exited the building, going in their different directions, Wesley heard Doyle scream and
turned back. Spike's hand retrained him, and he turned to look into those annoyingly perceptive

'We'll get him back, mate.'

Wesley felt that well of panic churning in his belly.

'I'm not losing him.'

'We're not losing anyone,' said Spike grimly. 'Or I'll rip the balls off these Oracles.'

He walked into the night, Wesley following closely behind.

'I thought one of them was a woman?'

'You disagreeing with me?'

Wesley thought about it for a second, then shook his head.

'No. Ball ripping, right.'


Angel looked up at the building. In some ways, it seemed strange to him that man had torn down their castles, only to rebuild them. The Wolfram and Hart offices might look like any other building in LA, but they were a fortress all the same. He'd seen castles back in Ireland, seen many strewn over Europe, but here in the New country, they made their keeps out of mirror and cement. 'Okay, so...' He turned, remembering Xander was with him. The boy looked puzzled and a little bit scared. Of what, he wasn't sure - Xander had never entered the offices before, and he had no idea of the things they could do to a person. Of course, he could just be going with the 'they have guns, they can shoot me' scenario. He saw Xander touch the skin at his waist, and wondered how well that wound had healed. Angel hated getting shot, mainly because he was sure people did it to annoy him. They couldn't kill him, but they left him with a good few hours of Spike's teasing, pretending that the bullets were too deep to get out quickly. And now he was relying on Spike to talk to the Oracles. God, but that seemed like a bad idea. Spike, persuasive as he was, was not a warrior of virtue and that as far as Angel knew, was the only key to the Oracles. At best, Spike's motives could be pronounced selfish, even if his selfishness extended to those around him. He wasn't trying to get Angel's curse changed for the greater good, but so that they could spend the rest of eternity playing, laughing, fucking...unchanged, and thoroughly content. And what's so wrong with that, he smiled vaguely to himself. It's my reward, it's...he sighed hard. It's unnecessary. What I want can't be delivered in a package, or a promise of a new life. I'm not doing this for some great prize - I'm not a contestant looking behind door number one. What I want is to set things right. I can't bring anyone back, but I can stop others being taken. And the balance is so far from swinging in my favour, I don't want to think about it. I don't want to hear that after having saved X amount of people, I get a beating heart...I don't want to be alone. And without him, the world might as well be empty. 'Angel?' He turned back to see Xander focussing ahead of them. 'What?' The boy cocked his head to one side and nodded at the mirrored glass. 'Someone's sending out a welcome committee. And I can't remember calling ahead.' Angel looked around, but the doors stayed closed. He couldn't see anything. 'I don't...where?' Xander's gaze didn't waver. 'Side of the building...big guns, guys with one brain cell less than the national requirement.' He shrugged. 'Maybe less.' The vampire shifted slightly, finding the group. 'I don't think they're here for us.' 'No, but aren't we here for them?' Angel squinted, noticing Lindsay, wheeled out by the elegant Lilah, long legs stretching out, still very aware of her attractions. They were edging towards a limo, evidently in a hurry. When he turned back to tell Xander to get back in the car, the boy had already slid into the front seat, his focus still on Wolfram and Hart. Silently, the vampire climbed in beside him and started up the engine. Unused to Xander's hush, he felt the need to fill the space. 'So, we follow them, take the scroll back.' 'If they've got it.' 'Yeah...' There was another person climbing into the car ahead, heavily hooded and almost too tall to be human. Instinctively, Angel knew he was looking at the thief, the cause of Doyle's unending visions. 'Am I getting perceptive or something? Cause I'm ready to swear that that's our Robin.' Angel pulled away, following the limo at a distance. 'Our what?' Xander raised an eyebrow. 'You don't know your Hollywood heroes and you live in LA?' Angel frowned. 'Enlighten me.' 'Oh come on! He robbed the rich to feed the...poor old lawyer types. But he was a thief, you're going to have to give me that.' Angel winced. 'Robin Hood?' Xander gave him a 'yeah-so' look and Angel left it alone. Let him believe Hollywood had made the legend up - they'd certainly bent it to their own will. If his instincts were right, they weren't going to have the time to argue about it. Wolfram and Hart didn't go out for moonlight picnics. * 'So this is it, right?' Wesley nodded and pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket. 'And you do all that hocus pocus shit and we go in?' Wesley nodded, staring at the words as if wondering which inflection to put on each vowel. The vampire had felt the raw edge of panic in the man, lingering just below the surface, Wesley's will power and fear for Doyle keeping it in check. Spike strolled over to the doorway and ran his hands up the sides. Smooth rock, unbent by time and far too clean to be found underground. It was the only thing that had differentiated this passage from the others. He looked back at Wesley, seeing the tremble in his hands. 'Wes?' The ex-watcher looked up, surprised and nodded quickly. 'I have it, I know...I'm just' Spike walked over and took the paper from him, called out the words and tossed the few salts into the font. As the doorway burned and revealed it's entrance, Spike walked toward it before Wesley had a chance to protest. And suddenly, the world shifted, and they were both somewhere which had a time and place of its own. Bright whites and hard floors, unreal in their actuality. Spike blinked, and registered the figures approaching. Rejects from Space 1999...with attitude. The male raised an eyebrow at him, and he felt Wesley near him, breathing hard. 'You are not welcome here.' The male raised his hand to cast Spike out, when Wesley stepped in front of him, head bowed. 'Please, we have to talk to you.' 'Have to?' The Oracle stepped closer. ''You are born with free will, are you not?' Wesley nodded. 'Then you do not "have to" do anything. Be gone. Your matter is unimportant.' Spike growled. 'Wankers, the lot of you.' Wesley winced and kept his voice to a whisper. 'Oh very good, that's going to bend them to our cause in an instant.' The vampire shrugged and stepped forward. 'If you two know so bloody much, how come the connection to your Oh-So-Great warrior is lying in some quack's office, dying?' The Oracles exchanged a glance. 'Where is our offering, vampire?' Spike frowned and felt Wesley stand next to him, palm open. There was a small pocket watch in his hand. 'Angel said you liked time.' 'Nice,' said Spike, sneering, 'you must be a whiz at Christmas shopping.' 'Will you just shut up!' 'Oh I would, but I can't deny you the pleasure of my voice.' 'Enough!' They turned back to the Oracles, Wesley immediately compliant. 'I do apologise, I was...' 'We know why you are here, mortal.' Wesley looked quite stunned. 'You do? Then how...?' The female waved her hand as if dismissing the matter. 'You and your ilk have returned time after time with such trivial matters. If the Brachen dies, we shall send you another. If he lives, then you have no business here.' She looked at him curiously. 'Such short lives. And yet you waste them wishing for things to be other than they are.' As Wesley paled, Spike laid a hand on the man's shoulder. 'Go with me on this, pet.' 'What?' The vampire winked, then turned his attention to the Oracles. 'You know everything, right?' 'More than you, demon.' Spike nodded. 'Thought as much. So you know why I'm here too?' Looking vaguely bored, the male stroked his hand across his forehead. 'Pleading for your immortal lover to remain that way - entirely selfish and unworthy of consideration.' 'Hmm,' said Spike, nodding at the floor, 'so you're going to rid him of that pesky vampire thing and turn him into meat again?' 'It is his reward.' 'Oh is it? And that he'd rather be fucking his way through eternity with me, that's by the bloody by, then?' 'It is written...' 'Well it can be buggering well rubbed out then, can't it?' 'What the vampire wants and what he deserves are not the same thing.' Spike rubbed his chin, recognising the line, deciding how far across it he was going to jump. 'What he deserves? As if either of you two fuckers could work that out.' He looked at Wesley briefly, waiting for the disapproval, but there was none. Whatever else he might be, the man was loyal...almost to a fault. And there hadn't been a time when the Englishman had let him down. He only hoped it would hold for a little longer. 'You're beginning to bore me, demon.' 'Don't sweat it love, I'm just getting started.' The Oracles exchanged another glance, before turning back to the vampire and gesturing imperially. 'Show us.' Spike felt his chest heave - he was breathing, he was bloody breathing just when he needed to concentrate. Another habit he'd picked up from his sire...only he wasn't excited, he was trembling this side of bloody furious, and no two bit characters from a dated series were going to dictate his future. Only they were and he had to bring everything back under control before he blew it entirely. He had Wesley's faith, he had his own pride...and he had an inkling of an idea how to do this. He swallowed. * Fingers brushed against his stomach, reaching upwards to touch his chin. *Did I ever tell you* And his face seemed to hover so close, dark eyes searching for something, needing to find what was once lost. Pressure against his leg, bucking up towards it, aching for the nearness, for everything it brought. *That you are the most annoying creature I've ever met?* And his face burned under the finger-tips, molding to every breath that didn't come, feeling every detail filed away for later consideration. Toes stretching, bumping against calves, sliding aside, allowing heavy thighs to fall between his own. *Yes. You tell me every time.* His hips...bones rubbing against the ones above him, aching for a closeness he could barely describe, but was vivid in every shade, from the feeling of skin on skin, to the smell of sweat, heated in movement. *Did I say that I dreamt about you in Hell?* And there was pressure at his neck now, fangs grazing the skin, the tiniest amount of blood under the flat tongue which lapped at him. Pain, sharp pain and the feeling of being close to the first memory, so close to that one moment in which he knew it was all real, it wasn't a fairytale and the dark revealed her monsters. *You did. You said it was annoying.* And those hands again, touching his chest, finding the pinched nipples that hardened in the cold, lingering over the tips, barely there, tickling, teasing, and inescapable. * are annoying.* Knees bending, bulky form pressing down on him now, more urgent, blood slipping from his throat, draining him. Fangs coming away, licking at the last drops before that supple mouth presses against his lips. *You just don't get my humour, pet.* Insistent hands drawing down his skin, slick with sweat, slipping over his hips, down the curve of his ass, reaching, touching, edging nearer as the hard length presses into his belly. Finding it, fingers pressing forward, and the gasp, an echo, not knowing who was first, or able to distinguish between them. *I get it, I understand. I just don't know how...* And that length is gone from his belly, pressing downwards, his legs further apart, sliding upwards, the discomfort unimportant, and he is so close now, so near. *Don't know how to do what?* The fingers come away, balancing on his hip, and the pressure is back under his legs, easing forward. His chest is crushed under the weight, but it doesn't matter, he'd rather feel this than nothing. And there is so much more than the emptiness of a century. *I don't know how to let the past...go.* And there is more pushing now, a feeling of warmth, barely felt pain and then...connection, and the fangs are back at his throat, seeking out the already healing wound. Bound in the blood, in the dark, and if there is any night to walk, they go together. Because this is all there is, this is the price of immortality and no human could ever reach these heights, or understand the pleasure of its depths. *Here and now, it's all that counts, pet. Tomorrow you could be human.* There is a surge and his hips are pressed upward, thighs banging against his own. His fangs find the bared neck, arching to reach round, to feel blood, sire's blood flow back into his body. The pounding grows stronger, and if his blood still flowed, he could hear it - all in a heartbeat. But they have none, and the only sound that breaks the silence is flesh on flesh... *I might as well be dead, then. All I'd have are memories.* ...and whilst the drinking is silent, it echoes in his head, surging him to thoughts he wishes not to have, burning through his system with the cold knowledge that this could be the last time. This connection is only possible between vampires, between this sire and this childe...and it is ending, slipping away, and may never come again. *Not up for being human, then? Not happy with this big reward?* But before it all goes, he has brushed the edge of sanity and the pleasure that flushes through his body comes in shocks, battering his form until he almost begs for it to end. Almost, but never fully bidding it to leave, because this is here and it is with him, and in all his long life, nothing has ever driven him so hard, or given him worth. *I thought you were my reward.* The face falls from his neck, he can feel the warmth inside him, the screwed up expression against his skin. And as this last fades from his consciousness, 'I love you' rests just behind his lips, never spilling forth. Because to lose this now will end him. Something will go on beyond this lover's tryst, but without the promise of more to come, William the Bloody rests, unquiet without a grave. *Forgive me father, for I have sinned.* In the arms of an Angel, everything is possible, and redemption waits outside the door. * Xander stumbled along after Angel, wondering why he'd been so geared up to follow the vampire into the jaws of death...or Hell...or anything that Wolfram and Hart managed to come up with. Back in Sunnydale people tried to kill him on a nightly basis, but he hadn't minded that so much. It was indiscriminate killing - he could have been anyone and whilst he was more than happy to deliver a death blow, (or at least, squirm out of the way whilst Buffy did the honours) it wasn't personal. They didn't give a damn about him. Here in LA, the lawyers were happy to send come-hither assassins after Angel and whoever else got in their way. Which had left him with a handy new scar on his waist. That and an irrational fear of Cordelia in care-for-you mode. And what about that boys and girls? What about the hints of forgiveness he'd felt from his one-time girlfriend? She'd mellowed slightly, Wesley had told him, and Xander had grinned, nodded and ducked under fire from paper projectiles. Oh yeah, she'd mellowed - at certain times of the month he'd even seen Spike creep round the office, and that was something he'd sworn he'd never see. She was a bitch, always had been and whilst time and misfortune had only tempered her personality minutely, Xander knew that somewhere lurked a decent, likeable human being. It lurked pretty damn deep, though. 'Xander,' murmured Angel, 'over there.' He looked over to a small temple-like building, the limo parked nearby. An eerie chanting came from inside, and Xander wracked his brain, wondering where in hell he'd heard the words before. Angel was already on the move, edging towards its interior, keeping low to the ground. There was something in that stealth thing the vampire had going on, thought Xander, as his feet threatened to find every tree route in a mile wide radius. I could use some of whatever he's using. At the unguarded entrance, the chanting had become very loud, it's repetition dull and intense. He slapped Angel's arm as the memory came back to him. 'It's the scroll...the thing, the one that Wesley had earlier.' Angel frowned. 'The Aberjhan texts?' The ones that make you human - Xander read the thought in the vampire's expression. There was a mixture of fear and sadness in his face, but when wasn't there? Angel could have turned misery into an Olympic sport, and the few times he'd seen him smile had been in Spike's lusty presence. Unwilling to think down those lines, Xander pressed on. 'Yeah - the dead living again, the five thing - whatever they're doing, they're reading from the same Janet and John.' Angel's face darkened further. 'Then we'll have to tell them the library's closed.' Xander winced. 'The pun thing...' 'What?' The vampire was uncertain and, if he looked hard, nervous. Xander shook his head. 'Nothing, it's just...' 'What?' Turning round the corner to enter the building, Xander shrugged. 'I guess it must be a human thing.' Angel glared at him and walked past. 'Right. A human thing - like not telling Cordelia how you feel about her.' 'Oh right, like I'm taking that from laconic guy. I didn't take a hundred years to work out who I'm in love with.' Angel paused. 'I had...issues.' 'Yeah? Well I have issues too.' 'Like what?' Xander stopped, listening as the chanting turned to Latin. 'Like knowing the woman of my dreams also features in my nightmares.' Angel withdrew his sword from beneath his duster. 'That's normal.' 'It is?' They hovered outside the interior chamber, voices dropped to a whisper. 'Yeah,' said Angel, 'you've heard Spike when he's annoyed?' Xander shuddered. 'All too often, my friend.' Angel raised the sword and stood against the wall. 'Imagine having that in your head for a century.' Xander shuddered again. Some things were worse than Cordelia's PMS...but not by much. He gestured to the room ahead. 'Okay, you win. Now lets go deal with my other nightmare.' Angel raised his eyebrows. 'Lawyers?' 'No. Knowing Wesley was right.' * 'Wake up, wake up, you bloody vampire!' Spike blinked, aware that he was being cradled, and that the person doing the cradling was entirely uncomfortable with it. He sniffed and grinned widely. 'Nice cologne, Wes.' The ex-watcher sagged in relief and gestured to the font. 'You have to do it again - they threw us out before I could find out anything.' The vampire shifted slightly - despite his thin appearance, Wesley had surprisingly comfortable thighs, and using them as a pillow wasn't at all unpleasant. Lucky old Doyle. He could sense the panic rising again and waved a hand, dismissing it. 'No problem, pet.' 'It bloody is a problem! Francis is lying there, possibly dying, and...and...' He huffed and edged Spike off his lap. 'Right, I'll do it myself.' He held his hand out. 'Give me the axe. I'll damn well carve my way through them if they won't listen.' Spike raised an eyebrow and pulled himself to a sitting position. 'Nice as it is to think of you ripping the knackers off them, you don't actually need to.' He patted his pockets, pulling out a crumpled packet of cigarettes. They could at least have left him with a few intact. He had agreed to what they offered. Wesley stared at him. 'You know, don't you.' 'Know what?' Wesley gestured to the door. 'You know how to cure Doyle. They told you whilst you were in that trance.' Spike blinked. 'A trance?' 'Flickering eyes, you dribbling...falling on me. Not a performance I particularly want to see again.' The vampire winked. 'Oh come on pet, you think I don't smell you wanting me?' Wesley pushed his glasses up. 'I really don't care what you smell. All I'm concerned with now is how to cure the man I care a great deal about.' 'That's not what your body says.' Wesley stormed toward him and grabbed the vampire by the collar of his duster. 'Doyle could be dying right now. I don't want to play games. Now. Tell. Me. What. They. Said.' Spike held his hands up. 'We need the scrolls.' 'The Aberjhan texts?' 'Yeah.' Wesley nodded and set Spike down, trying to ignore the amused look the vampire was giving him. He picked up the small scythe he'd brought and put it carefully back inside his jacket. When he turned back to Spike, a crumpled cigarette was lit, and the vampire was attempting casual. To almost anyone else, it would have worked, but Wesley had spent a lifetime judging emotional weather, (mostly to avoid its onslaught) and he recognised fear when he saw it. He'd rarely seen it on this face before. 'What happened in there, Spike?' Spike sniffed and inhaled a lungful. 'Stuff,' he said simply. 'Oh very helpful. Any reason why they chose to talk to an element of evil rather than someone who actually tries to fight the good fight?' 'They didn't want to die of boredom?' Wesley glared at him. 'Your wit is not appreciated.' The vampire shrugged and threw a look of mock sadness at the Englishman. 'It never is, pet. That's why I'm still stuck here for the next...ooh, I don't know, say eternity, with the Big poof.' 'With...they listened to you?' Spike nodded, but his hand still shook. 'They listened, yeah. Didn't give a shit, but they listened.' 'And Angel won't become human?' The vampire paused before shaking his head. 'Then how...what did you say to them to make them change their minds?' Spike took a big drag of his cigarette and let it out in a sigh. He brought the axe out of his duster and pointed to the passageway. 'Come on, loverboy. Let's go get the cure for the mick.' He strode out of the passage and back into the sewers, barely pausing to usher out the still questioning Wesley. The time for questions was later, much bloody later, when he'd have the space to understand what he'd done. He'd shown them everything, he'd shown them why making Angel human was so pointless as reward. He'd let them into areas he kept secret even from his sire, showing everything he had, everything he was to creatures who considered him less than unimportant. He'd heard them discuss him and his selfishness, heard them laugh at the idea of such a creature coming with a request. They'd exposed his pride, his fear, his humiliation, and found it all wanting. Every uncertainty he owned was exposed and ridiculed. For a vampire is hated by the pure and impure alike, halfway between the living and the dead, unable to find a place to stay. And there would come a time when Angel would be released, when his penance was finally over and he could face the night without faces preying on his mind. He deserved peace, he deserved solace, and Spike had made them see a way to give it to him. And the cost, the buggering cost was just about worth it. Because the Oracles weren't interested in what they could do for him, but in how far Spike was willing to go to declare his need. Limits had been called, desire was paramount, and William the Bloody had been asked what he would do for such a prize. And the answer was in his head and in his heart before he could say anything. So they had nodded and thrown him out, an agreement in effect, because instinct had answered for him. *What would you give up, to be given what you want?* *Everything* He had to learn to read the small print. *

Episode 24