Angel appeared through the office doors, looking less dishevelled than he felt. There was a demon there, or so it seemed. He looked non human anyway. Angel held his hand out to shake and felt the exuberance and fear coming off this thing in droves.
'Great, I've got a problem, someone's after me. You have to help me.'
'Okay,' said Angel warily, sitting down briefly and then standing back up and cursing Spike and loving him in the same thought, 'What's the deal?'
'Oh great, you'll help,' said the demon, 'My name's Barney.'
'Okay,' said Angel, wondering quite where this conversation was going. Barney continued, oblivious.
'Okay, so, First off you should know right away before there is any misunderstanding: I'm a demon.'
Angel took in the four horns poking out of his forehead and wondered what on Earth else he could be.
'Preciate your candor,' was what came out.
'Secondly, I just realized its 3:45 in the afternoon. If you're a vampire, why aren't you in your coffin?'
Angel cast his eyes to the ceiling briefly and thought about the delicious naked vampire lying on a table and how this annoying creature had come and spoiled what had promised to be a night of lust and food exploration. It wasn't fair. He fought the good fight, he did, and he rarely asked anything in return. All he wanted now was to go back downstairs and see how Spike felt about trying raspberry sauce and ice cream and this, this bizarre demon wanted to know how come he wasn't in a coffin. It wasn't putting him in a good mood.
Neither was the fact that chocolate syrup was continuing its merry way down and onto his boxers, gluing them to his leg.
He took in Barney's self occupied expression and suppressed a growl.
'Coffin. I hate that stereotype. You're a demon and you don't know anything about vampires?'
Barney shrugged, 'Only what I've learned from TV.'
'Vampires don't sleep in coffins. It's a misconception made popular by hack writers and ignorant media. In fact you know, we can and do move around during the day, as long as we avoid direct sunlight. Got it?'
Barney held up his hands.
'Got it. Sorry. I didn't want to push any sore spots.'
'Who's this asshole?'
Spike was standing in the doorway, wearing unbuttoned jeans and nothing else. Angel tried not to let his gaze follow the line of fine hairs down his belly and stared deliberately at Barney.
'Spike, this is Barney - a client.'
'Oh,' Spike said and sat down easily on Angel's chair. 'What's his problem?'
'Someone's chasing him,' said Angel, ignoring the puzzled look on Barney's face.
'Who's he?' the little demon asked.
'Spike,' answered the vampire before turning to Angel, 'Here love, why don't you have a seat?'
Angel shot him a glance and saw the big grin that still bore the tell-tale signs of chocolate above his lip. I'm not telling him, he thought, he can find out later, when Cordelia tells him about it.
'Right,' said Barney, 'You work for Angel?'
'Not bloody likely,' began Spike, before catching Angel's pleading glance, ' Er, I'm more what you'd call, er...'
'Spike's the muscle,' said Angel quickly, before Spike could say anything incriminating. Cordelia would kill him if they lost a client because of his lover's sanguine nature.
'Right,' said Spike, 'The muscle, I'm it and all that.'
Barney took in the comparative size of the two vampires.
'Well, you'll forgive me for saying so, but you look a little, how can I say this? Short.'
'Why you little...' began Spike, rising from the chair.
'Who's following you?' asked Angel, surreptitiously leaning one hand down on Spike's shoulder.
'I don't know,' gestured Barney, 'But he's been after me since Phoenix. He's unstoppable, like a machine. Pull out all the stops to shake him but he keeps on coming.'
'Must be your irresistible charm,' said Spike, toying with the urge to bite down on Angel's hand.
'Hey, am I paying for this hostility?' asked Barney.
'It comes with the service,' said Angel. 'What makes you think he means you harm?'
'Oh come on Peaches, no one chases someone to tell them they'd like a big snuggle. He wants to kill him.'
'Is he a demon?'
Barney shrugged his shoulders.
'I don't know, he could be. He knows all the hangouts. It seems wherever I go he's just a step or two behind. It's a miracle I've avoided him this long.'
'Not what I'd call it,' muttered Spike, 'What did you do to piss him off?'
'That's it, I don't know!' said Barney, 'I'm nobody.'
'Got that right.'
'Well come on, he's chasing after him and he says he's done nothing? Not buying that, even if I did care, which I don't.'
Barney looked at Angel.
'Are all your employees so welcoming?'
'He's right,' said Angel, 'What did you do?'
'I'm an empath demon, I can read emotions. It gives me a slight advantage at cards.'
'He's a cheat,' chortled Spike.
'Look, I never said I was a boy scout,' said Barney, 'I'm a demon, you know, I'm evil, but I'm not,' he hooked his fingers, 'Evil.'
'Too bad,' muttered Spike and Angel squeezed his shoulder hard.
'So you can't think of anyone in particular who could be after you?'
'No. So you'll help me?'
Spike rolled his eyes as Angel nodded.
'I'll see what we can do.'
There was the sound of approaching voices from outside and they turned to the noise.
'I've said I was sorry.'
'Yeah, well they'll probably never call me back again.'
'I mean, do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to be in front of a board for a National and someone comes in and tells you that your so called moral support is having a fit?'
'It's not like I meant to do that.'
'No? Well couldn't you just have your little vision thingies on your own time?'
'Look, it's not I like I try and have brain splitting headaches you know! They just come. Now let's just find Angel and tell him what I saw.'
'More employees?' asked Barney.
The door opened and the couple entered, Cordelia still decked in her best, nice little wife costume. Doyle looked bad, as he usually did when he'd just suffered the mind numbingly painful messages from the Powers that Be. He glanced up at Angel and smiled grimly in acknowledgement. Cordelia flung her clothes down on the chair and glared at Doyle.
'Go on then, tell him!'
'No please, tell him why I won't be the Stain be Gone girl on my way up, hmmm?'
She noticed Barney for the first time.
'Are all our clients demons now?'
Barney blinked and then was back.
'Hi, I'm Barney and you're,' he held his hand out and then acknowledged her annoyed stance, 'wayyy pissed off. So I think I'll just go wash my... something whilst you talk to the Boss.'
He walked past her to the bathroom, trying to keep a certain distance between them.
Angel waited until the door closed and gestured to Doyle.
'What did you see?'
'I'm not sure, it was some really big... ugly grey blobby thing.
'That's it?' yelled Cordelia, 'I take time to bring you here for "some ugly grey blobby thing"?' she glared at Doyle who gaped and nodded slightly. 'Okay, this is officially the depths to which I've stooped. My life cannot suck more.'
'Can be arranged you know!' said Spike as she walked into the back to get changed.
'What kind of thing?' asked Angel.
'I don't know, man, it was grey and blobby.' He shrugged, 'I'll give drawing it a go, see if that brings up any clues.'
'Who are these Powers that be,' asked Spike, 'Cryptic crosswords R us?'
'Not helping here, Spike,' said Angel, 'Maybe this vision's to do with whoever's after Barney.'
'Someone's chasing him?' asked Doyle.
'Yeah,' Angel looked at the restless Spike and made a decision, 'Look, maybe Spike and I should go check out his apartment - if someone's after him, they may be there. You and Cordelia can baby sit Barney.'
'I'm not sure I can take madam down there when she's in this kind of mood.'
'Stop talking about me!'
They looked down to the office where obvious clothes changing was going on and even Spike winced.
'Better you than me mate,' he said and got up. 'I'll be downstairs getting some clothes on. Get you some too Peaches?'
Angel rolled his eyes, 'I'll be there in a minute.'
The blond vampire walked out. Doyle noticed Angel following his lover's ass longingly and shook his head. That led to thoughts the little half demon didn't want to think about. Especially not when he was going to spend the best part of the day looking after a pissed off beauty Queen and a somewhat irritating demon. Angel turned back to him.
'Look, whoever's after this guy, he seems very persistent. Just be careful, okay?'
Doyle laughed dryly.
'With those two for company, I'll be lucky if my brain doesn't collapse from the all the nagging before any assassin even gets close.'
Angel half smiled.
'You'll be fine Doyle,'
'I have to get out of these pants.
'So you charge him for breaking into his room?'
Angel nodded and moved on silently.
'This is a little too Hardy Boys to be any fun, Why don't we just say "Come out, come out wherever you are"?'
'Spike, just be quiet, I'm trying to listen for something.'
'What? Rats?' he shook his head, 'There's none here, would've smelt them.'
Angel turned round, looking into the mischievous face of his lover.
'This,' he said, indicating the sneaking, 'Is how we pay the rent and get dinner, now are you going to shut up until we find this demon or do I have to gag you?'
Spike grinned and traced a finger down Angel's chest.
'I knew you'd get to bondage sooner or later.'
Angel let out a defeated sigh and turned round. He was pretty sure he'd heard something, but in this squalid apartment building, it was hard to tell a threatening sound from the humdrum. A maid backed out into the corridor and smiled at him. He smiled back and almost throttled Spike when he gave an amused little wave in return.
'If you won't behave, I won't bring you again.'
'What? Won't bring me to fight for the force of Good? Saints preserve us, anything but that!'
He was still laughing when someone pushed them both from behind and they fell forward into Barney's apartment. Spike fell on top of his lover and was mildly pleased to find that Angel had braced his arm to protect him. It would be nice to stay here and see what kind of bondage his sire liked these days, but someone had after all, pushed them and they ought to find out who it was.
They got to their feet and turned to see the silhouette framed in the doorway, as tall as Angel, but a little less broad. And apparently wearing black leather.
The stranger stepped forward into the light and smiled.
'He knows you?' asked Spike, watching as the crossbow was raised to Angel's face. 'Who is this wanker?'
'He's a Watcher,' said Angel, his hands suddenly in his pockets, facing down the bespectacled Englishman.
Spike groaned, 'Oh great! They're sending them on reconnaissance now!'
Wesley ignored him, his gaze never wavering from Angel.
'I'm no longer with the council.'
'They fired you?' asked Angel.
'On the contrary,' said Wesley, 'I... anyway, I ask the questions here. I'm not afraid to fire...'
Angel batted the crossbow away harmlessly. Wesley stumbled and pushed his glasses back up his nose.
'Right, you had a question?'
Spike snorted, 'Nice image Pet, the leather really works for you. Everyone fired from the Council should have a set.'
'I was not fired, I simply decided that since there were no Slayers willing to take guidance, I would be of more use working autonomously.'
'He was fired,' confirmed Spike to Angel.
'I was not!' struggled Wesley, 'I just decided that I'd be of more use as a rogue demon hunter.'
'A demon hunter?'
'Rogue demon hunter,' corrected Wesley.
'Oh yeah Love, don't forget the Rogue part. Spoils his day if you do that.'
Wesley frowned and looked at Spike.
'Who *is* this?'
'Why are you here Wesley,' asked Angel, ignoring the question, knowing that telling him William the Bloody was in the same room might just disturb the ex-watcher a tad. He wondered how he'd react if he knew that not only was Angel keeping company with such a psychopath, but was even now thinking seriously about flinging him down on the bed and shagging him blind. How would the straight laced Englishman cope then?
Wesley looked back to Angel.
'Oh, I'm er...,' he paused a second and seemed to gather himself together, a hard task considering Spike's unwavering grin. 'I'm on the trail of particularly nasty demon right now, so I suggest you stay out of my way.'
Angel chuckled and Spike snorted.
'What? Not that little tit back in the office?'
Angel smiled and held his hand out to indicate Barney's size.
'Someone about this big? Ruddy complexion?'
'Oh no, this bugger was huge, powerful looking and more of a yellowy green. And whatever it is, it's left a bloody trail in its wake.'
'Bloody? Cool. Tell all, Pet.'
Wesley gave a confused glance to Spike and then turned back to Angel.
'He's left a trail of corpses, human and demon, all mutilated. Each of the victims possessed some unique power - telepathy, poison tongues, healing hands. Whatever the physical source of their power it was ripped, gouged, torn from their corpses.'
'All right!' said Spike, 'Sounds like my kind of demon!'
Wesley looked at Spike again, a disgusted expression on his confused face.
'Who *is* he?'
'He's collecting powers' said Angel to himself, 'But why?'
'I don't know,' said Wesley, 'But I've tracked it into this building, it secretes a yellowish sticky substance.'
He and Angel watched as said blob dripped on Spike's hair.
'Something like that?' asked Angel.
They all looked up to where the demon was waiting. It growled and launched itself down at them, flattening Wesley instantly. Angel sung easily at the creature, catching it quickly and ducked as it scratched back. Spike roared and went into gameface, snarling and fighting as only a vampire could. And this particular demon was messing with his mate.
Not a good idea.
As Angel was batted away, Spike ripped and tore at the demon, causing as much damage from willpower as from the blows themselves. He growled happily as it fought back, a worthy and powerful opponent, already game for a fight. As he battled, he didn't notice Wesley sitting up and seeing him, truly seeing him for the first time.
'Good Lord he's a vampire!'
He picked up the crossbow only to have it snatched out of his hand by a very feral Angel.
'Don't even try it.'
Spike grunted in pleasure as the demon hit him hard, giving him the momentum to kick back and floor it. It screamed in his face and he could see the sticky liquid seeping over its face, wondering why it was weakened when he pinned it. The thing roared again and attempted to push him off, but its strength was gone and Spike noticed the hole on its forehead where the goo was coming from.
'Oh fuck!' he yelled and held it down.
'What is it?' asked a slightly more calm Angel.
'He's dying!' said Spike, 'And I didn't kill him!'
The demon struggled weakly beneath Spike's grip and began making sounds.
'He's making a noise,' said Wesley.
'Nice one from the Public School Boy. Anything more helpful.'
'No,' said Wesley, 'I think he's actually speaking, I think I might even know the dialect.'
He knelt down next to the demon and listened. Spike looked up at Angel and gestured to the hole.
'Someone broke something off his head and it can't live wihout it,' he said, 'it must be after its killer.'
'Fair guess,' said Angel. 'What's it saying Wesley?'
'I'm not sure, but, yes, stick, no,' he shook his head, 'Not stick. Horn. Someone broke his horn off.'
Spike glared at him, human face presiding and Wesley decided that it might be better to come up with something more helpful. He turned back to the demon.
'Ah, the horn was,' he paused as the demon tried to say more, 'taken, yes, the horn was definitely taken for something. The... no, I don't know that word.'
The demon grasped him tighter.
'Fish will die. Right, yes, fish will die. Not fish. Ah! More, ummm, more will die.'
Spike glanced at Angel.
'Is he making this up?'
Angel shook his head, 'I don't think so. Who's doing this Wesley?'
'Look, don't get snappy, he's dying and I'm hardly fluent.'
'Well yes, that's hmmm, good point.'
The demon gasped again and fell still.
'Slam the cherry, no, stop. Stop the cherry? No, the demon. Stop the demon red heart. Reader.'
'He's dead,' said Spike.
Wesley shook his head and stood up.
'I think he was trying to describe his killer. Demon. Heart. Reader.'
'It is the little tit back at the office!'
Angel growled and stood up.
'He's there with Doyle and Cordelia.'
Wesley looked at him.
Spike dropped the demon and inclined his head to Wesley.
'Picks up on things quickly doesn't he?'
Wesley looked at him indignantly.
'At least I'm not a fiend from Hell.'
'I'm not French,' snapped Spike.
'Hmmm? I meant I'm not a vampire.'
As if remembering something he reached in his pocket for a crucifix, pulling it out and held it out at Spike who raised an eyebrow.
'Back foul beast!'
Angel lay a hand over Wesley's arm and lowered it.
'Relax Wesley, he's not going to hurt you.'
Spike cried out.
'Are you going to tell everyone about this?'
'What do you mean?' asked Wesley of Angel, discomfiture very evident on his face.
Angel sighed and ignored the angry look on his lover's face.
'He can't hurt humans anymore. Somebody did something to him and he's... safe.'
Spike threw his hands up and walked out. Wesley just stood there a moment, completely confused at the situation. As a Watcher he'd been trained to think of vampires as the ultimate curse from Hell. But here he was, listening to two of them bicker, one with a soul and the other with some kind of safety device. For some strange reason the situation didn't scare him at all.
Just mildly reminiscent of his school days.
The apartment was empty - vague signs of a fight visible on the furniture, but otherwise, completely free of life.
'This isn't good,' said Angel flatly.
'No?' asked Wesley, 'It isn't normally like this?'
'What he means,' said Spike, edging past the Watcher, 'Is that we're short one annoying girl and a half pissed Irishman.'
'Cordelia and Doyle,' said Angel, looking around for a sign of where they'd gone.
'You do realise what this means, don't you Pet?' said Spike, looking at Wesley, 'Your Rogue demon skills have sent you in a merry dance after the wrong demon. You're so busy looking at outward appearances, it never occurred to you that something less lethal looking could be doing the damage.'
'Spike, that's a little harsh.'
'No,' said Wesley, sitting down on the step. 'It's not. I came all the way after the wrong bloody demon! The council was right to sack me.'
'Told you,' said Spike, picking up a piece of paper.
'I mean I had two, two Slayers in my care and what did my guidance do? One of them turned evil and now vegetates in a coma and the other is a renegade. Fire me? I'm surprised they didn't cut my head off.'
'Does everyone you know brood?' asked Spike, 'Cause I'm getting some earmuffs if all I get is whine all day and night.'
Angel raised an eyebrow and received a blown kiss in return. Wesley meanwhile was finishing his tirade.
'I'm a fool.'
'Yep,' said Spike, glancing at the piece of paper and handing it to Angel.
'I'm a great snivelling...'
'Ugly grey blobby thing,' said Angel looking at the drawing.
'Ugly grey blobby...what?'
'It's called a clue,' said Spike helpfully, 'Thelma here tends to use them to figure out how to keep everyone alive.'
'I know this. It's a sculpture by Van Gieson, Maiden with Urn. Doyle saw this in a vision. It could be telling us where Barney took them,' said Angel, heading upstairs to the computer.
'So we ascertain its whereabouts, your friend's whereabouts and you two an go and rescue them.'
'Hey!' said Spike, 'I'm not rescuing anybody. That wasn't the deal at all.'
'Barney's got them, Spike.'
'Oh right, yeah,' said Spike, recovering his grin, 'Ass kickings a plenty to that interruptive tit.'
'And I shall stay here and try and figure out what that word was,' said Wesley sitting down. He looked so defeated and even Spike couldn't bear anyone looking that down. The idea had been to keep Angel on a happy, not add to the misery with this British git!
'Look mate, come along, we'll... I don't know, let you give the final blow to this thing. Take its head off, however you want it.'
'I'd be in the way,' brushed off the Englishman.
'Wesley, they needed that horn for something, and you have the key to that.'
'Well yeah, and you're the only one here who can translate it.'
Spike watched as his lover managed to get some juice going in the ex-watcher. Wesley practically rippled as he realised he could still have a use. He stood up and followed Angel to his book collection, intellectual mind at the ready.
Spike snorted and sat back, relaxing in the chair until Angel came back in and urged him up.
'You want to kick Barney's ass?'
'Then you help me find where they are.'
'Not on the net.'
Angel shrugged, 'You type and I'll...'
The dark vampire grinned.
'Massage your shoulders.'
Spike got up slowly and headed for the office.
'I was looking more for "suck my cock".'
'That's what you get if you're a good boy.'
'Huh. Sexual favours went out with the Victorians, Pet.'
'What if I do?'
Angel smirked and slapped his ass.
'Then I'm going to have to fill that dirty mouth with something.'
'Promises Pet, give me more of those.'
'It means Caller sale.'
'Oh right, what's that then?'
'Hmmm, I don't know... oh Yes, yes I do!'
'Well? Don't make me wait!'
'Hold your horses, I think I have it.'
'Can't you just kill him?'
'No Spike. What is it Wesley.'
'It means auction.'
'Where's the auction?' asked Angel of a doorman.
'We have no auction.'
Angel morphed and grasped the hapless man by his lapels.
'Where is it?'
'The tulip room!' shrieked the terrified employee.
Spike and Wesley exchanged glances as Angel stormed off in the direction of his friends. He was striding with a firm determined pace.
'He's quite impressive isn't he?'
Spike grinned, allowing his own vampiric feature to come forward.
'Even more than you guess, Peaches.'
'Well, shall we get on?'
'After you,' said Spike, casually glancing at Wesley's clean neck.
'Oh no,' said the cautious demon chaser, 'After you, I insist.'
'Afraid even though I can't bite?'
'No, I...' stammered Wesley, 'I just don't like taking unnecessary risks.'
'I'm not, I just don't see that letting a vampire and especially one with as bloody a history as yours, stand behind me is anything other than...'
Spike walked off.
Spike hadn't enjoyed beating the crap out of anyone so much since he and the Slayer had faced off the last time. Barney had this empathic ability to read emotions during a fight, but that didn't mean doodly squat when his opponent was a vampire. It was like thoughts and reflections - they existed, but you couldn't see them. So whilst Angel had fought off the annoying side kick, Spike had found Barney rapidly trying to get away from him and the restricted vampire wasn't going to let any little bugger do that to him.
So he'd enjoyed himself, punching and ducking and bouncing against the stupid little twit until Barney had practically begged to be killed. At that point, Spike had grasped him by the hair and flung him at Wesley, who had promptly shoved his fist into the demon's gut, wrenching out sounds that even Spike was impressed with. Barney had attempted to fight back, but he was wasted, his strength having left long ago. Nobody had been prepared for Cordelia to stab the annoying creature with a part of Barney's power stealing collection. They had watched, intrigued and disgusted as Barney shriveled into nothing, the Tak demon the vampires had watched die earlier finally getting his revenge.
Doyle had been badly beaten up, caught unawares by Barney whilst Cordelia ranted on. She was the first to attend to his wounds however and Spike winked at him, commenting that he was on a promise tonight. The blush his comment illicited went unnoticed as Cordelia saw Wesley, dropping the half demon as she hugged the ex-watcher. Spike grinned as he noticed the sickened look on Doyle's face as he realised that he wasn't the only one with the hots for Miss Chase.
They had all gone back to Angel's for breakfast once it was established that Doyle was a little roughed up, but not deeply hurt. For some reason, the vampire had insisted on making them breakfast, inviting Wesley once he'd noticed the man lingering before he left. Wonderful, thought Spike, another distraction for Angel. Someone else who can make a claim on his time and stop me getting my wicked way.
Which was, naturally, very wicked.
Angel noticed Spike's frown and winked, making eggs and toast, along with other popular breakfast food that they all seemed to enjoy. Spike had wolfed down most of the eggs and was currently wondering at the taste of buttery toast. It seemed to lack something. The humans and half humans seemed to be enjoying Angel's cooking and devouring it almost as quickly as the vampire.
'Pass the salt, please?'
Spike tipped back from the table, sickened at the way he was now not only 'helping' humans, but sitting at a table and eating with the damn things!
'You okay Spike?' asked Angel.
'Sure,' said the vampire and got up, heading for the bedroom and hopefully some time away from his companions. He lay down on the bed, staring at the ceiling and wondering why he was cursed to spend what seemed like an eternity in the company of mortals. He could still hear their inane chatter from here.
He groaned and buried his head under the pillow.
Spike could sense rather than feel Angel looming over him and reached out one hand to grab him.
'You know, this is much easier if you come out from behind the pillow.'
'Not for me.'
He could feel Angel lie against him, stroking along his bare arm with that damnably erotic hand.
'What's the problem?'
Spike tossed the pillow off and stared into annoyingly sexy brown eyes.
'The problem is that we're spending quality time with a load of mortals.'
'Well, they're part of what I...'
'Sod it all Angel, I'm a vampire, I'm not supposed to make nice with the meat.'
'I do,' pointed out Angel.
'Yeah, but you're,' he gestured, 'Chosen. Souled up and all that.'
Angel nipped lightly at his neck.
'They'll be gone in an hour.'
Angel nuzzled closer into his neck.
'I promise I'll make it up to you then.'
'What, sexual favours and that?'
Angel started to kiss his neck and Spike squirmed, trying to get closer.
'Yeah, if you like. I was thinking that we could see how ice cream and raspberry sauce felt.'
'Liked that did you?'
Angel stayed silent and moved his mouth over Spike's, kissing him teasingly, dipping his tongue in and out of his soft mouth. Spike started to respond, pressing his body up against Angel's when Cordelia's laugh came shuddering through, breaking his concentration.
'What are they eating in there anyway?'
'Angel? You know what they eat on waffles?'
Spike grinned and smooched him some more. He could hear them taking things out of the cupboards, hear as each one requested something different. He buried his mouth against Angels and tasted his tongue, choking in what might be called a happy manner when he heard Wesley greedily state that this had to be the best chocolate syrup he'd ever tasted.