Nothing less than a pulse of life giving rhythm. Something affected by emotional disposition, stopped and started by a clock over which we have no control. It is both the symbol of our life and its absence is literally our death.
Nothing less than a phenomenon.
He can hear it.
He can hear her pulse beat harder and faster as he chases her, groping down an alley in the hope, the vain hope that she will be able to escape the creature which stalks her.
It is vain of course, because he has her now, he knows her every movement.
He can hear it.
Beating with less than a minute left, she moves quicker than she has done in years, seeking something, anything - a solace from the darkness.
But it will not end.
Her only choice now is how quickly she will succumb. She must face the dark, see the succubus and answer the questions of her own mortality. He comes, this unnatural thing to take everything away. Even to take that final belief.
His hand clasps around her throat and she cries out, knowing that the end is so close and still so very frightening. The flash of silver and a cold pain touches her cheek - a lesser fear than that she has yet to face.
For she turns, her body in one brief gasp of shock, and sees him for the first and only time.
As her death comes so completely, ebbing away at this insistent mouth, her last thought passes.
Such things do exist.
Cold sweat is an odd thing to see on a dead person, even if the dead person in question is usually mobile. But it poured off Angel, his dreamlike activities driving the scream from his throat. He was not used to being afraid, at least, not afraid of the dark. By nature it was his cloak, something he could hide in and find solace. But that dream, that filthy violation of everything he has struggled to create, has shattered something inside.
It is too familiar.
Angel panted, a habit he was never quite able to discard and looked down at his lover, lying there next to him so still and calm. Spike was usually active - moving around with a sleek grace. But now, he was just lying peacefully in bed next to him, as if he never got up in the middle of the night and put on those Sex Pistols tracks that made Angel's head spin. Angel wanted him to wake up, just so he could reassure himself that madness was still a long track away from where they were.
It was more than just that even - over the past few weeks, when Angel got what Cordelia had affectionately called his woe-is-me head on, Spike had got him out of it. It usually took some insults, some good sex and on one occasion when the English vampire couldn't take Angel's drunken tirade, a gag and some handcuffs. Although that last had been almost worth the former soul spanking.
But now he was just lying there with one arm casually dropped over his eyes and the other resting somewhere in the region of Angel's upper thigh. Totally relaxed. He was pretending patience and Angel not only didn't buy it, but wanted Spike to get up and argue with him. He'd prefer to make love to the sleek blond, but he'd do anything except rethink that nightmare which hadn't been as scary as it ought. But Spike was just lying there whilst Angel was suffering from his own personalized night terrors and the bastard hadn't even opened his eyes.
It just wasn't on.
Spike groaned and moved to roll over.
'Bugger off Angel.'
Angel lay one hand on his shoulder and stopped the smaller vampire from turning away from him. Spike growled softly, without too much malice and normally, if Angel had just been after some escape from his sexual needs, he would have left him alone. But the nightmare had been so very real. He saw himself there. He knew what he had done and he had very much enjoyed it. The demon within had been freed and had done exactly what it was made to. It was both as frightening and deadly as anything he had faced before.
Except a sleep deprived Spike.
Spike opened his eyes and looked up at his lover, determined that Soul Boy would pay for disturbing the dream he'd been enjoying. Sex with Angel was good, but even vampires like to take a break and catch some Z's. He cast a harsh glare at the shadowed face, but when he saw that Angel looked really worried he stopped - Angel usually saved his flagellation until the others had shown up.
Angel shook his head.
'I don't know.'
'Something capable of muffling Cordelia?'
'I don't know.'
'Right Love. You want to start this conversation again where you actually tell me what the problem is?'
Angel sighed. He released Spike's shoulder and sat back against the head board. Spike shifted and sat up, the sheet pooling in his lap and his eyes, usually perceptive and sparkly, looked more dead than Angel had seen in a long while. It was slightly reassuring when Spike stretched out and grabbed his cig packet, leaving one long leg across his own. But that dream.
If he'd been alone, Angel was sure that he would have believed it real, it was that vivid. But Spike, despite his supernaturalness, was uncannily corporal. His sarcasm was as tangible as Cordelia's and Angel needed that - the knowledge that he wasn't losing his mind along with his precious soul. Spike lit the cigarette and leaned back on one arm, watching his lover's face with a careful and unemotional scrutiny. Whatever it was, it had spooked him and that came under 'Things that stop Angel having Sex' - to be dealt with as soon as possible and then forgotten.
'So, come on then Love, what's giving you the doe eyes?'
'I had a dream,' said Angel simply, wishing the next part would be as easy to explain. 'I wasa killer again, stalking my victim.'
'Being a vampire, in other words,' observed Spike, blowing the smoke away.
'So what's the problem? You dreamt of stuff you used to do and it bothered you? Nothing new'
'There was something new,' interrupted Angel, 'This was new, it was almostreal.'
Spike inhaled a bit, wondering quite how to handle Angel's obvious discomfort.
'Think this was a premonition?'
'What do you mean?'
Spike looked down at his hand, noticing the polish was chipped. He'd have to redo that, he liked the black - it suited him.
'What I mean,' he began slowly, 'Is, whether you think that tonight's nightmare could be tomorrow's reality?'
Angel stared at him, reading the concern his childe tried so hard to hide. Spike may have been a cold blooded killer and would probably have that mentality till the day that someone introduced him to the great ash stake of all time. But he cared about Angel, a fact painfully obvious to everyone, much to Spike's embarrassment. It was one thing for the love of your unlife to know that you belonged to him, quite another to have everyone else treat you with cutsie gloves and think your love was 'sweet'. Hence Spike's almost constant bickering with Miss Chase.
Angel inclined his head.
'I don't know. It felt real. Too real. Like it was actually happening.'
'But we know it wasn't, because, look, you're still in bed and still naked next to the finest bit of vampire flesh in the known world,' smirked Spike. It didn't have the entire effect that he intended, but the faint smile that touched Angel's lips gave him hope.
'I liked it Spike,' he said dolefully, 'I wanted to kill.'
Spike groaned silently. It was a twist of the same bloody coin that whilst he remembered with a great deal of affection the vampire his sire had once been, the besouled creature that lived in torment was by far the better deal. Whereas Angelus had been selfish and far too enamoured by vampire lore, Angel struggled against it and any decisions he had made as to his relationship with Spike were his own. So he had made the choice to forgo the passionate killer and take on Angel as he was, even if it had meant his own struggle with the demon within.
Spike had no qualms about killing humans. His present hampering by the scientists back in Sunnydale had caused him to adapt his aggressiveness, but not his thoughts. The three mortals they associated with on a regular basis were a constant puzzle to Spike. He knew that he would have killed any one of them before his current status change and the killer was still very evident within him. But this thing with Angel was affecting him. He knew that if he was unexpectedly turned back, he would have to make a decision and every day it seemed to the tempered vampire that his choice grew narrower.
It came down to this - go back to his former life and lose Angel, or deny his demon and stay with his lover. To Spike, it was a decision he never wanted to make and with the same passion that he had wanted to regain his virility as a hunter, he now wanted the moment to never come. But change itself was inevitable, Spike understood that and he knew that one day the choice would have to be made.
Better make the most of things as they are now.
'Peaches, just because you got the horn for a nice bit of neck does not turn you into Attila the Hun.'
'I wanted to kill,' repeated Angel quietly.
'Yeah? Well in my dream I wanted to open a fruit stall in Covent Garden, but we both know that I'm not going to turn into Mr Carrot the happy grocer.'
Angel looked at him, some of the worry passing from his head.
'I guess you're right.'
'Of course I'm right,' snorted Spike, 'That's why you always used me as the ideas man back then.'
'I was different then.'
'So was I,' said Spike, 'I hadn't heard of peroxide in those days.'
'I mean it's just totally ridiculous!'
Doyle perched on the table whilst Cordelia glared at the empty chair. It wasn't such a bad chair he'd conceded, it was just its lack of customer that was causing his would-be girlfriend to abuse it. She turned to him, expecting sympathy and understanding.
'I mean, he's a hero, right?'
'Right,' nodded Doyle, wondering if she was ever going to change the topic today.
'And this city needs people like him, right?'
'So where is he?'
Doyle looked around, slightly confused.
'Angel?' he hazarded.
'No! The guy who'll land us the huge high profile case that pays the bills!'
'Ah,' said Doyle, 'That Him.'
'It's just so unfair. There's these limited edition pumps on sale now and,' Cordelia threw her arms up, 'I can't even afford those!'
She slumped in her chair and glared at the door, daring it not to produce a client.
It remained unhappily client free.
It did however open to reveal a whistling Wesley, enamoured by the morning sun and far more cheerful than either of the room's occupants.
'Morning everyone!' he trilled, 'I was in the neighbourhood and I thought I'd drop by to see how things were with you.'
'Slow,' said Cordelia, 'What's that you brought?'
'Hmmm? Oh, I picked up your post on the way up.'
He glanced at Doyle, and saw the Irishman damping down a frown as Wesley's hand brushed against Cordelia's. It was gone so quickly that the ex-Watcher wasn't sure he had seen it at all - the frown being so inconsistent with what he already knew of Doyle. He grinned pleasantly and turned back to Cordelia.
'I thought we might compare battle plans from our respective fronts.'
Doyle looked at him.
'Didn't I hear that you worked alone? Being a rogue demon hunter and all?'
Wesley gaped a moment before regaining his balance.
'Well yes, normally, but after the last time when we took down that empathy demon, I thought we made quite an effective team.'
'You mean the demon that Spike beat up, right?'
Wesley looked back at Cordelia.
'Yes, I mean, well,' he smiled pleasantly, allowing his boyish charm to do its work, 'All round I thought we had everything covered.'
'Was this before or after you found out you'd been chasing the wrong demon for months?'
The Englishman looked quite dismayed at this and Doyle's pleasant nature couldn't let him go out looking like a puppy who'd had his nose rapped. He reached for the newspaper and nodded a thank you to Wesley.
'So what's your news then?'
'On the evil front. Which demon are you after this week?'
'Oh, well,' said Wesley, pushing his glasses back up his nose, 'Everything seems quiet. How about you?'
Cordelia shot the empty chair one last glare.
'Like the grave.'
Wesley inclined his head.
'Quiet all round then.'
He smiled once more and started to back out slowly.
'Ah well, I shall keep myself available. I really do think we could work together again most effectively. What with your visions, Angel and Spike's brawn, my highly developed powers of deduction and Cordelia's..'
They both looked at him whilst Wesley searched desperately for something nice to say.
'wonderful way with.handling Tak horns?'
Doyle stifled a smile and Cordelia glared. Wesley shot one last smile and headed out of the door.
'Hey deductive guy! You brought the wrong mail!'
'What?' asked Wesley, coming forward.
Cordelia handed him back the letters and snatched the paper off Doyle.
'The mail, it belongs to the dentist's next door.'
He took them back and looked at them disbelievingly. He saw the article on the front page and Doyle noticed the sinking look of recognition on the Watcher's face.
'Right,' murmured Wesley, 'I'll just return these to their proper owners.'
He walked out abruptly and Cordelia, promptly involved with her own worries again, forgot all about him. Doyle wasn't so easily swayed. He pulled on his coat and followed Wesley out.
'So tell me why, after half a night's sleep with you tossing all over the place, you want to go chasing a plate number?'
'It's what I do Spike.'
'What you do, is go around saving they who should be dinner. Hi Cordelia,' grinned Spike as they both came into view. She frowned at him and smiled pleasantly at Angel.
'About that license plate.'
'What about it?' asked Angel in a far grumpier tone than normal.
'Well excuse me, Mr I-spend-all-night-having-sex-with-a-psychoblond! Some of us don't have twisted sex lives to worry about.'
'Doyle not getting any, huh?' grinned Spike.
'Not that it's any of your business, but, it's NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS!'
'Cordelia, the plate?' asked Angel again, rubbing his sore eyes.
She looked at her boss, noticing the worryingly dead complexion.
'You look half dead.'
They stared at her.
'Which for someone, who's completely dead, would be - kind of neat?'
Spike snorted and Cordelia picked up the paper she'd written the details down on.
'The BMV is a no go, totally stalker-phobic. I was thinking that maybe you could get police-woman to run it for us on the Q.T.?
'Kate,' murmured Angel.
'You're friends with the police now?' sniggered Spike.
'Oh he's more than "friends" with Kate,' grinned Cordelia, 'They've been all open and emotional for months now.'
Would he ever be able to forget that night?
'I'll go do this now.'
'Hey wait up,' said Spike suspiciously, 'Who is Kate then?'
'A friend,' shrugged Angel.
Spike stared at him, but Angel had perfected his blank stare long ago and the English vampire couldn't read the emotions buried there. He shrugged and gestured toward the tunnels.
'Let's go see your little friend then.'
He moved to the gate but Angel caught his arm.
'I think I should go alone,' he said quietly.
Spike pulled out of his reach.
'She *is* more than a friend isn't she?'
'It's not that,' said Angel quickly, 'I justI don't think she'd be as open with a stranger there.'
'Or his minor flirting skills wouldn't work as well with you to hamper them,' added Cordelia gleefully.
Spike glared at her.
'Fine, go on your own then, see if *she'll* give you a blow job to take your mind of your nightmares!'
Angel looked down a moment and then sighed.
'I'll be back later.'
Spike didn't answer, but picked up yesterday's paper and started flicking through the pages. Will this ever get easier between us, wondered Angel. Why am I so convinced that it's worth it anyway?
'Bye.' He said and when Spike didn't answer, he headed towards the tunnels, shoulders slumped, wondering what Kate would think if she knew that he was involved with someone who'd drain her dry in a second given the opportunity.
Cordelia looked at Spike, watching as he flinched when the elevator went down.
He looked up at her.
'He gets in a bad mood and we all suffer. And I have no intention of being today's beating stick. Just,' she gestured vaguely, 'Go after him and do whatever it is that you two do to make up.'
'You giving me love advice, Pet?'
'No,' said Cordelia firmly, 'I'm safe guarding my job. I don't like the idea of Angel stomping round the office all day. And whilst you two are off playing your little vampire sex games all I have to worry about is the noise.'
'He does groan well doesn't he?' smirked Spike.
Cordelia pushed back from the desk.
'I am so not having this conversation.'
'And when he lets out that deep throated sigh,' continued Spike, 'gets me right..'
'NOT having this conversation,' repeated Cordelia and walked off to the bathroom.
'And he yells so provocatively when he comes!'
'I know!' came the strangulated cry from the bathroom, 'Now go make him do
Spike walked slowly along the tunnels, aware that most of the creatures who stalked it were fair game. He'd grown quite familiar with the resident demons who walked these walls, had fought some on a regular basis and was aware that they knew just who was the Big Bad in these parts. They also knew that he was with Angel and that had proved to be a surprising advantage. Angel was gaining quite a reputation in these parts for beating the crap out of invading demons. To be known as his ally was a sure way of off putting your opponent before you started.
He was guessing his way down to the police station, making lefts and rights at random as he followed Angel's scent. It was an intoxicating aroma, causing Spike to adjust his pants as he tracked him down. There hadn't been a day over the past fortnight when they hadn't taken advantage of passion. Angel had proved far more passionate than his stoic exterior would suggest and Spike had spent many an hour watching as his sire explored his body, taking the time to linger over his most sensitive areas.
He guessed he was a good ten minutes behind Angel and hoped that his business with this 'Kate' would be over by then. They hadn't really talked much about Angel's life in LA before Spike had arrived and he found himself increasingly curious about the people he'd associated with during that time. Cordelia had suggested that Kate was more than a friend to Angel, and the vampire himself had seemed wary of revealing too much about her. He guessed that she was attracted to Angel, after all, the vampire was appealing to anyone with eyes, but he had no idea if it was reciprocated. And unless Angel decided to tell him all about it, he had no way of knowing.
He turned and Angel stood in front of him, hang dog expression back to the fore.
'Were you following me?'
'Helping out Cordelia.'
'Right, cause doing good is your raison d'etre?'
'Something like that,' smirked Spike, 'I was told to stop you stomping around the office and since it happily included me playing with that body of yours, I thought doing this bit of good might be worth a go.'
He stepped forward and saw that Angel wasn't upset about their little tiff.
'So what did *Kate* say that got you all angst boy?'
Angel sighed and leaned back against the cool wall.
'There was a case on her desk, photos and all.'
'It was the girl I hunted in my dream. She's really dead, Spike and I saw how it happened.'
Spike read the pain that dwelled in Angel's face. He stepped closer and when Angel closed his arms tightly around him, he didn't pull away. Instead he slid his own arms up and held the vampire, wondering if it was the beginning of the end for them. Angel blinked single tears into Spike's collar and whispered softly, unable to raise his voice more than a whisper.
'I marked her cheek, signed the cross, signed my name, my' he closed his eyes tightly, 'I don't remember doing this, but the dream was so close. I smelt her fear.'
Spike squeezed him, hoping that the comfort he offered was enough. The passionate kill Angel described had made his mouth water. The need for a hunt was a constant torment to him and whilst he played out his hunger with the demons that crept these depths, his longing for human blood grew larger with each passing day. He couldn't kill, knew he couldn't and his life with Angel was a more than acceptable alternative, but it was hard to give solace when Angel was afraid of the very action Spike wanted to take.
There was something they hadn't thought about.
'If it isn't you doing this, Love and someone actually *is*, then who is having a liquid lunch?'
Angel shook his head and pulled back so he could see his lover's face.
'I don't know.'
Spike chewed his lip a moment.
'Someone who knows you, knows what you used to do.'
'A sire? One of your childer?'
Angel cast his mind back to Kate's photographs.
'There was..someone. The cross, he used the cross, same as me.'
Spike let out a low growl.
William knew what he was being called for. He had known from the way this particular vampire operated that he would be called. With Angelus missing, he had become Drusilla's favourite toy and her insane adoration was by far preferable than aligning himself with this miserable creature. He walked tall, knowing that to show any sign of humility before this creature was to admit inferiority. He had walked this path for several years now, and was already a well known demon, marking his territory with an ingenious use of rail road spikes.
It was his destruction of a Slayer within this country that had earned him an audience with Angelus' childe. It was his arrogance at his own achievements that caused Penn to believe him an impudent whelp. It was his nature that forced him to face the vampire down instead of following Drusilla to Prague.
He stepped slowly down the stairs, hearing the movements below him in the dark cellar, wondering how anyone who had known Angelus' decadence could scrounge out a living in such dwellings. But vampire lore was specific and when an older vampire demanded your presence, choice was minimal. He could have run, but to become an outcast because of his own cowardice was not William's idea of fun.
He was sick of these cat and mouse games, especially when he didn't get to be the cat.
'I'm here,' he said loudly.
He turned as if to leave and heard Penn's lecherous tones.
'Come down, let me see you.'
William stepped down into the cellar and blinked, allowing his demonic features to shift, giving him better vision. He still couldn't see the other vampire and he turned slowly, trying to smell out his fellow undead.
'Angelus' plaything,' snickered Penn as he walked up behind him. 'Sunk to the arms of that insane creature in his absence.'
'Leave Dru out of this,' said William slowly, 'She's not why you called me here.'
'True,' smiled Penn, before lashing out suddenly and knocking William to his knees. He groaned silently as his shins hit the shallow dirt of the cellar.
'You should remember your role whelp, you should be humble before your elders.'
'I don't do humble,' was the muttered response.
'Really? By all I've heard about your relationship with Angelus, you were used to humility with him.'
William cast his eyes skyward and saw the well-dressed vampire step forward. A warning signal went off in his head, but he couldn't place what it was. He stared out the vampire and waited until Penn had moved round a little. The puritan started to talk again.
'I have done a little research since our beloved sire has disappeared, it would seem that I may act as his stand in, if you would, in your tuition.'
He bent down so that his mouth was level with William's ear.
'Show you all the ropes, as it were.'
'I know the ropes,' William said quickly, feeling his long dead heart flicker as he felt fear steal over him. It's only Penn, he told himself, but it did little to reassure him.
Penn stood up and laughed.
'Ah, your Slayer killing. Nicely done, I thought,' said Penn walking toward a door William had not noticed earlier. 'But it appears that Angelus was very gentle with you, allowing you far too much freedom in your formative years.'
'He recognized a natural talent,' said Spike, his eyes fixed to the handle and the way Penn caressed it.
'You're a beautiful creature - your lust for the kill is so passionate. No wonder Angelus never wanted to share you.'
William rolled his eyes.
'You're not fucking me, if that's what you're after.'
Penn turned the handle slightly, before fiddling with his elegant cuffs.
'You really don't have style, do you William?'
'More than you mate,' said Spike, rising to leave. It was then that the warning signal revealed itself. He's well dressed - he doesn't live here. But it has vampire traces all over it.
There are others.
He half turned and saw them coming down the stairs, fledglings, strong in first blood and loyal to their creator. They looked at him with hunger, wanting something that they had not quantified, even to themselves. He couldn't see a way out and Penn was removing.dear God! Penn was undressing and these things, these creatures, not yet vampires, not yet capable of their own thought, coming toward him, strong and persistent.
As the first two managed to grab him, he felt his own clothes torn away. He yelled and tried to kick out, but there were so many and he couldn't get away, couldn't move. He screamed as they closed in, holding his limbs down, stretching him, rending him defenseless. When he felt Penn's flesh against his back he almost screamed Angelus' name. Penn moved closer, pressing his mouth against his throat, whispering in his ear.
'I think you will learn to beg William. I think I will teach you.'
He struggled to get away, but he was pinned.
'Bastard!' he screamed.
'You know, William, I think claiming Angelus' favourite plaything has been my most enjoyable experience as a vampire yet. Imagine that, a hundred years and only when I get to do this.' He pushed forward, eliciting a yell from the pinned vampire, 'That I feel pleasure.'
As William cried out again and again, he turned his mind to thoughts of Angelus. He didn't know if it was hate or love that caused it, but at that moment, he would rather have ceased existing than allow anyone else this pleasure. And when Penn had finished, they left him there, naked and bruised, moving on to their next act as vampires. Penn dressed quickly and stood up, grinning at himself and watching with pleasure as William tried to get to his own feet.
'Angelus never should have helped you,' he said as he fastened his shirt, 'He should have left you to the same fate as the rest of Drusilla's mistakes.'
'I am.not a mistake,' growled Spike. 'I am more of a vampire than you ever will be.'
'Maybe,' murmured Penn as he finished dressing, 'Maybe not.'
He grinned as he walked out.
'See you soon William, I can't wait to find out what other lush pleasures I can discover with you.'
William got to his feet and pulled the rags of his clothes back on. He walked out into the cold streets and began to make his way to the station, waiting for the next train that left the country. He could feel Penn leaving the town, wondering where he was going and realizing that the cold rage that covered his body had decimated his earlier fear.
'I'll see you dust, Penn. I'll use you as snuff before you touch me again.'
He left Italy.
Doyle walked into the office following Wesley. He looked at Cordelia dolefully before allowing Wesley to take centre stage. Wesley took the stake in one hand and glanced about, before realizing they were alone. He smiled anxiously at Cordelia and brandished a newspaper article at her.
'Wesley? What's with the instant Boss destruction tactic?'
Wesley moved to sit her down, leaving her holding the paper.
'Oh My God! You cut up Dr. Folger's newspaper? You're going to get us kicked out of this building.'
'Cordelia! Look at the clipping.'
She looked at Doyle, but the Irishman remained quiet, an uncanny calm across his face. Seeing no help she read the offending article.
'Third body found in alley. So? Not exactly front-page news.'
'Well that is the front page news but look at the modus operandi.'
Doyle sighed and moved next to Cordelia.
'What Wesley here means is that all these corpses turned up with a cross hacked into their cheeks, something Angel had a yen for back when he was feeding on humans.'
Cordelia stood up and flung the paper back at Wesley.
'Angel wouldn't do this.'
'And I'm not saying he did,' said Doyle, moving to put his arm round her, 'But those people died and they had all the hallmarks that our boy used back when he was the big bad.'
'No,' said Cordelia, shaking her head and trying to push them both out of the door, 'Angel's my friend. I'm not buying that he became grrr again without telling me.'
'Cordelia.' Wesley began, 'It's his signature.'
'I don't care!' she yelled. 'You're wrong, he's not like that now.'
'I hate to say it Princess,' said Doyle, 'But Wesley could be right. We have to at least check it out.'
'No! I don't care how many files you have on all the horrible things he did back in the powdered wig days! - He is good now. And he's my friend. And nothing you or anyone else can say will make me turn on a friend!'
'Cordelia, I did it,' said Angel as he and Spike walked into the office.
Cordelia turned grabbed Wesley's stake.
'Calm it, Peaches, he's just being a drama Queen.'
Spike walked into the office and winked at Wesley, admiring the pretty crucifix the ex-Watcher was brandishing.
'What Big and Broody means is that it's his childe that's doing all the killing.'
'Childe?' asked Cordelia.
Wesley turned to her as Spike picked up the Watcher's folder.
'It means someone a vampire has turned.'
Cordelia looked up at Angel.
'He's a Daddy?'
'Something like that,' admitted Angel, 'I wasn't exactly unkeen on bringing mortals over back then. But Penn was something else, a puritan with a big family fixation. The people he's killing now are replacements for each member.'
'He's reliving his first kill?' asked Wesley.
'Now that's a guy you don't want to come to a reunion,' said Doyle, looking over Spike's shoulder for a picture. There was a sketch of someone Spike put his finger on and he slammed the book down on the desk, scaring Wesley into dropping his cross.
'That's him,' murmured Spike. 'He was an arsehole back then. Doesn't seem to have improved with age.'
'Ewww,' said Cordelia, 'Doesn't have much in the way of cheekbones.'
'Or anything in the way of decent behaviour,' added Wesley.
They all looked surreptitiously at Spike, expecting him to defend the vampire, but the blond remained strangely quiet, reading each page with a concentration that was unlike him. When he finally noticed them all watching him expectantly, he gave a grin and gestured out the door.
'I say we kill the little fucker now.'
'Don't know where he is,' said Angel, his head down.
'I can find him,' said Spike, 'Sniff him out. Give the little tit a right going over.'
'You'll never find him before he completes his little family re enactment,' reasoned Doyle, 'And then he'll be off.'
'Kate,' said Angel.
'Oh, not her again!' exclaimed Spike, 'Can't we do anything without Little Miss Plod coming in on the act?'
'She's a good cop. She has resources we don't. Eventually she *will* find him.'
'She doesn't know what he is, Man,' warned Doyle, 'He'll kill her before she gets a chance and you know that.'
'Then we'll have to make sure we get to him first.'
He swept out, heading for his car in the basement and they all stood there, waiting for inspiration to hit. Spike huffed and walked over to the stairs, jogging down as he realised that payback was finally here. Wesley picked up his folder and trotted after him, hoping that he'd prove useful enough to stay with the team.
Which left Doyle and Cordelia.
He looked at her and she sat down again in the chair, assuming her position by the phone and waiting for him to say it first.
But he didn't.
'We've got to phone her. Let her know what she's dealing with.'
'Who, Kate? What're you gonna tell her? That a 200 hundred year old Puritan's responsible?'
'Please! Like I'd say that a dead guy is up and walking in LA. I was thinking more of a description and the next family member he's going to be after,' she said pulling Penn's description in the Watcher's diary.
'She's going to be suspicious. I mean, who says she'll even believe you?'
'Nobody,' admitted Cordelia, then she smiled.
'Which is why you're phoning her.'
Doyle groaned and held the phone she passed to him, inwardly cursing the luck
of the Irish.
Angel heard Kate's authoritative tones warning Penn not to move. When he'd scaled the building, Spike had moved off somewhere in the darkness, moving in stalk mode. He hadn't said much since they'd left the apartment and Angel wondered what had passed between the two once his soul had been restored. He knew that Penn had never liked Spike, viewing Angel's affections for the young vampire as frivolous and unworthy.
At the time he had laughed off the suspicions as envy, knowing that Penn was keen to be top priority in Angel's affections. Spike had obviously supplanted him without knowing and as a childe, Penn was unable to enact any revenge. But once Angel was out of the picture, what had happened then? He didn't know, and somehow he wasn't convinced that Spike would give him a heart to heart with the details.
He heard gunfire and looked through the cracked roof to see Kate approaching the downed vampire. He was about to jump down, knowing how much danger she was in when Spike's sharp English tones came echoing through.
'Leave it out Penn, this meal isn't yours.'
Penn knocked Kate out of the way and stood up, a wide grin etched across his face.
'Well the plaything's back Tell, me, how's life with the Loony?'
Spike stepped dangerously toward him.
'Better than anything you could have offered me.'
Penn shook his head and laughed.
'Always with a snappy comeback, William. How do you manage that?'
'Style, Pet,' growled Spike, 'Remember? That thing you don't have.'
'Oh I don't know, I always thought my killings had a certain panache.'
Kate struggled to the corner, trying to pull her radio out. She spoke into it quietly, her gun arm cocked, watching as the vampires faced off.
'What did you come here for, Spike? To steal my food? That's about your level isn't it?'
Spike shook his head.
'No, Pet, I came here to kill you.'
'Tut tut, against the lore to kill one's elders.'
Spike grinned and morphed.
'What can I say, I'm a criminal.'
He roared and leapt forward, meeting Penn as they swung for each other. Angel crashed through the ceiling as they fought, running for Kate and ushering her out. The stunned cop refused to move and watched as the vampires tore and clawed at one another. Angel wanted her to move, trying to push her out of the room whilst he moved to help his lover.
'Kate, just go.'
'What Angel? What?'
Penn paused a second, grasping Spike under his chin, ignoring the elbowing as the younger vampire tried to free himself.
'Angelus? Well it looks like the whole family's here!'
'Hmmm, well it seems that young William here thinks he can kill his elders and that's just not going to happen. Here, want a sample?'
He pushed the aggressive vampire forward and Spike tore free of his grasp, snarling at him.
Angel stepped forward, his hand reaching out to comfort Spike before he could stop himself. Penn just laughed.
'You just couldn't resist him, could you? Couldn't leave this bit of English flesh alone.'
'It's not about Spike.'
'No? Who is it about then? Me? That two bit mortal over there?'
Angel walked up to him.
'You don't change do you?'
'Oh I change all right Angel, I've done so many things since you threw me over for this whelp.'
'I am not a bloody Whelp!'
'Whatever,' shrugged off Penn. 'You just had to make him your favourite didn't you? Had to throw me out on my ear because I wasn't scum enough to excite you.'
Spike growled and moved to attack, but Angel lay a firm hand over his own.
'You were never my favourite Penn.'
'Why would I choose someone who's idea of a good time is to re enact his first kill for the next couple of centuries?'
He turned to Spike and smiled affectionately at him.
'Now Spike here was always far more inventive than you ever gave him credit for.'
He turned back to Penn.
'There was never any competition.'
Penn frowned, and then his grin reasserted itself.
'You aren't the only one to know how inventive that boy can be.'
'You stupid Fuck!' yelled Spike, but Angel held onto him tighter.
'Doesn't matter,' said Angel. 'Whatever you were going to brag about doesn't matter.'
'And why is that?' asked Penn.
'Because Spike can beat you everyday of the week.'
Penn looked at Spike and then back to Angel.
'But the lore?'
Angel grinned and kissed Spike briefly before turning back to his wayward childe.
'The lore changes now.'
Spike howled appreciatively and darted forward, the stake he'd carried for the first time thrusting forward into Penn's body. His last expression was of incomprehension and he exploded into dust, two centuries worth of living gone in one accurate stroke. Spike let out a growl of rage and sank to his knees, his relief at revenge wiping him out for the moment. He saw the police woman out of the corner of his eye and gestured towards Angel.
'Go on then, you'd better see if your precious Kate is all right.'
Angel turned and saw Kate staring uncomprehendingly at them. He bent to his knees and wrapped an arm round Spike. Nuzzling against the blond hairs on his neck he kissed him softly.
'You never said anything about him.'
'It's hardly something I sodding well advertise is it?'
'I guess not.'
He heard Kate radioing and nudged his lover.
'Come on, we'd better get out of here before she decides that we did do something against the law.'
Spike grinned, 'All you'd have to do is wiggle your arse and we'd be out of here.'
'Well maybe some other day, I think I've got splinters in it from the ceiling.'
They stood up and started to walk out past the bewildered cop.
'Does that mean it's just you, me and the tweezers tonight, Pet?'
'Could be,' admitted Angel, 'You just have to promise to be gentle.'
'Don't be such a wuss. You didn't just go ten rounds with psycho boy back there.'
'Ten rounds? Five at most.'
'You calling me a pansy, mate?'
Angel laughed as they reached Wesley and the car. He leaned down and kissed Spike tenderly.
'I wouldn't dare.'
Wesley leaned over and unlocked the doors.
'Penn dead then?'
'Ah good. So it's, er, back to the apartment?'
'Yeah Love, thought we might celebrate by getting out the sacred leather bondage gear.'
'What? Er, oh, right, Right, well, none of my business,'
Spike leaned over and laid a hand on the now worried demon hunter's shoulder.
'Actually Wes, Angel and I were wondering if you'd like to make this a threesome, seeing as it's a special celebration and all.'
'And we'd be really hurt if you said no.'
Wesley started driving with his head bent close to the steering wheel.
'Actually I believe I have a, er, prior, engagement.'
'Relax Wesley, I was kidding.'
'What? Oh thank goodness,' said the demon hunter, 'For a moment there, I actually thought'
'Sacred leather bondage doesn't come out till Christmas.'