Chapter 06

The stench coming from Room 326 was so powerful even Spike couldn’t handle it, and he’d been in his fair share of frat houses. It was obvious from the smells exuding from the room that Gunn hadn’t showered in at least a week and, from what Spike could see when he opened the unlocked door, pretty much everything in the room was covered in vomit. Maybe even some other bodily fluids, but Spike wasn’t interested in finding out more.

He felt a twinge of guilt as he stepped over the threshold uninvited. The supposed law that prevented him from entering someone’s residence without an invitation was a hoax, something vampires had made up in order to make humans feel safer. Somehow it had gone from being a joke to something they actually tried to abide by—yet another way to hide their true weaknesses from the humans that would hunt them. Spike didn’t think Gunn would mind, or even notice, since the slow thush-thush heartbeat he could hear was a good indication the man was drunk. How Angel expected him to do anything with a man so drunk was beyond him. If Gunn was sober, or only on his first beer of the night, Spike was sure he could have thought of something. But this…he scrunched up his nose as he looked around the room, careful not to step in the piles of vomit scattered across the floor…this was something even he couldn’t fix.

At least, not like this. An idea began to form in his head, but he’d need Angel’s approval before going ahead with it. What he was considering was in no way polite, but it would do the job. Sighing, he backed out of the room without even bothering to check on the hunter. There was nothing he could do for a man so far gone. Seeing Gunn in such a horrible state made him quiet and reflective as he went downstairs to the desk where Cordelia and Wesley were talking. Spike couldn’t even find it in him to muster a greeting.

Cordelia and Wesley didn’t notice Spike enter the main hallway, but Angel, who had just come from Fred’s room on the first floor, certainly did. The blonde seemed withdrawn and upset. Maybe he can’t do it, after all. Angel frowned. That certainly shouldn’t have been the case. Spike had an uncanny ability to pull people back from the brink, to make them confront their problems even when all they wanted to do was run away from them. If his Childe was having a problem with that, he’d never actually tell anyone. It would be too embarrassing.

Spike caught sight of Angel about the same time the elder vampire caught sight of him. The blonde breathed a sigh of relief. He wasn’t going to have to hunt his Sire down in order to explain his plan. The plan he had in mind required permission to orchestrate, because it could potentially harm a member of Angel’s human family. If anything, his Sire might want to put the plan in action himself, since he was less likely to go off the handle if he was the one inflicting the damage.

“Peaches,” Spike said, motioning for Angel to follow him down the hallway away from Wesley and Cordelia. He didn’t need the two of them to overhear what it was he had planned.

Angel followed, his curiosity piqued. He stopped when Spike did, leaning comfortably against the wall. “What is it, Spike?”

The blonde shifted uncomfortably. “When you said he was pissed, I didn’t realize you meant he was living in his own filth and completely oblivious to anything but the beer in his hand.” His tone was slightly accusatory, like he thought Angel had given him a task beyond his skills.

“I told you he’d been drinking himself under the table for the last couple of months.”

“Aye, but you didn’t mention you meant it in a literal sense, Peaches,” Spike said, his normal wry humor back, all the accusation gone form his voice. He’d realized that accusing his Sire of being dishonest was a little like rubbing a cat’s fur the wrong way, and would also give Angel a reason to punish him. Considering what those punishments used to entail, Spike wasn’t quite sure he was ready to face one so soon.

“And?” Angel was growing impatient. Had Spike pulled him over here just to complain? If he had, well…a certain blonde vampire would be in for a world of trouble.

“And there’s no way I can do anything with him the way he is right now.”

“Spike, I swear, if you pulled me over here just to tell me you can’t do something, I will-

“I have an idea,” Spike interrupted, not liking the tone Angel was taking. That was his ‘get to the point before I get the whip’ tone, and he hated that tone more than anything else. “But I’m not sure you’ll like it.”

Angel’s face tightened as he stared down at his Childe, secretly relishing how the look made Spike nervous, and dreading what the man might have dreamed up. “What is this plan?”

Spike closed his eyes, taking a moment to compose himself. “I reckon’ since Gunn’s so bloody pissed, he won’t notice much if a demon kidnaps him. And if he sobers up to a bad situation, maybe it’ll get him to pull his head out of his ass.”

The elder vampire frowned, thinking hard. Spike had a point. If Gunn was forced to confront a bad situation, then he’d have to confront his problems with drinking once and for all. The idea had merit. But the human was a demon hunter with more tricks up his sleeve than Angel cared to know about. For a fleeting second, he was worried for Spike, but it passed when he reminded himself that Spike was a Master, and did know how to take care of himself in a fight. Almost too well, he thought ruefully, rubbing his side as he remembered his run-in with the hot poker. “All right.”

“I’m surprised you’re giving me the go ahead, Peaches.” Spike searched Angel’s face for a long time, looking for something he couldn’t name, and since he didn’t know quite what he was looking for, couldn’t find it. All he knew was that he’d expected the elder vampire to put up more resistance.

“Why?”

“Just thought you’d be concerned I’d hurt your human, that’s all.”

“Spike.”

“Aye?”

“Why would I be concerned about that?”

Spike blinked. “Wha-

“You’re my Childe, William. You can’t hurt anyone without my permission. Or had you forgotten that?”

Spike scowled, hating the reminder. “Oy! Why’d you have to go and put it like that?” he said, his voice coming out in a whine.

Angel shook his head in amusement. Trust Spike to act offended and childish at the same time. “You can hurt him a little, just enough to scare him. And by a little, I mean by human standards, not ours.”

“I figured that, mate. Since I can’t leave the hotel, where should I take the hunter?”

“You can use the basement, Spike. I trust you can find your own way?”

Spike rolled his eyes as his Sire walked away and paused a moment before he followed the man back out to the main office. He walked past the humans and on down the hall until he found the service elevator. It was far enough away from Cordelia and Wesley that the two of them wouldn’t hear anything. Now he just had to fix up the basement into a lair. No sense in putting a plan into action without a setting that would induce fear. He hummed to himself as he rode the elevator down to the basement. Tonight was going to be fun. And tomorrow night was going to be even better; he could feel it in his bones.

Gunn came to with a groan. He tried to reach a hand up to rub his temple, hangover kicking in full force, but found that he couldn’t. He tugged hard a few times with his wrist until the realization that he was firmly bound completely sank in. The chair he was tied to was made of a cold metal and when he tried to rock it backwards, he found that the legs were bolted firmly into the floor. Whoever had taken the time to kidnap him had taken the time to do the job right. There was no way he could escape the prison that’d been set up for him. The rope digging into his wrists that prevented him from freeing himself was also digging into his ankles—his captor or captors obviously weren’t leaving anything to chance.

The past couple of months were a blur to Gunn. If he’d manage to piss someone off, human or otherwise, he didn’t remember it. With any luck, his captor was human. Remembering the lawyers of Wolfram & Hart, Gunn winced and conceded that some humans were worse than any demons. The situation, in any case, was not a good one to be in, especially considering how badly his head was pounding.

He’d known ever since he’d started drinking that it was foolish to continue, but he was never able to talk himself out of drinking that first beer. And once that first beer was gone, so were the other eleven. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he’d realized that going through a twelve pack of beer a night wasn’t healthy. It even bordered on the edge of addiction, if he was being honest with himself. Gunn groaned, wishing he could think more clearly, but the pounding in his head wasn’t likely to let up any time soon. Hangovers were stubborn that way.

Still, he hadn’t thought his drinking problem—and it was a problem, he could at least admit that much—would lead to something like this. Nothing he’d done…or at least, nothing that he could remember…had been so bad as to warrant a need for retribution. And seeing that whoever he’d pissed off thought he deserved retribution on such a grand scale was a bit unnerving.

From what he could tell, he was being held in the cellar or basement of an industrial building. Metal tables that looked suspiciously like autopsy tables stretched from one end of the room to the other, all perfectly aligned in the center. Each table had its own instrument table full of surgical instruments. The only thing that didn’t truly fit into the room was Gunn and the chair he was tied to. There were no other chairs in the room and there were most certainly no other victims. Whoever he’d made angry definitely had no qualms about imparting his anger to the hunter.

Seeing all the surgical implements and tables made Gunn nervous; a feeling he wasn’t very accustomed to having. He also wasn’t accustomed to being out of control of his body, a fact which wasn’t lost on him. Surgical instruments only ever meant one thing, and that one thing was torture. Whoever he’d insulted or angered in his drunken state meant business. That thought caused Gunn to start sweating. He longed to yell, to scream for help, but with his luck it would bring either his captor—a person he was sure he wanted to avoid at all costs, judging by the room’s contents—or no one at all. His desire to scream was also slightly hampered by the gag in his mouth. Judging by the taste, it was a hastily thrown together rag, probably a used sock or bandana. The thought repulsed him, but he could do nothing about the horrible taste invading his mouth. For a fleeting second, he was surprised that his captor hadn’t blindfolded him as well, but that passed when he realized that drinking in the sight of the tables and the tools was an effective psychological trick.

But Gunn was stubborn. He wouldn’t give in easily. His head might throb and he might feel like vomiting, but he’d spent the last two months drinking. It had toughened him; it made him invulnerable. This feeling of invulnerability was the reason he couldn’t stop drinking. Nothing could touch him when he was downing a beer. It was like the whole world just faded away. His hangover would get the better of him before his captor did, Gunn swore. No matter who was on the business end of one of those surgical tools, he wouldn’t talk. He’d go out without surrendering his dignity.

There weren’t many things in his life he regretted. Not being honest about his past with his co-workers was the main one. But he wasn’t going to rehash that. Not now. Not while he still had a chance to get out of this alive. As long as the person responsible for his capture was human, when they undid the ropes to move him from the chair to a table, that’s when he’d have his chance. And he’d take it, too. He wasn’t a weak man—far from it. Hunting demons and vampires for a living was definitely an incentive for staying in shape. Being able to jump a wall or throw a conveniently placed boulder in order to stun, confuse, or kill his quarry was sometimes the only reason he didn’t become the prey. Some lessons, especially the ones about how to stay alive, weren’t ones that were easily forgotten.

Gunn sighed, relaxing into his bonds. Whoever had captured him wasn’t present. With the rope securing him, Gunn certainly wasn’t going anywhere any time soon. All he had left to do was wait for his captor to come to him. And pray to whatever God he believed in that he’d be dealing with a human. If a demon had come to take revenge on him…well, he wasn’t sure he was quite ready to contemplate that.

Spike stood in the shadows of the basement that he’d converted to look like a high-grade hospital morgue, minus the storage units for bodies. There hadn’t been enough time for that, and it’d been hard enough to get the right kind of tables and tools without making Angel suspicious. It meant he’d had to disobey his Sire’s direct order about staying in the hotel without express permission, but if this was going to be effective, it was worth the risk. Or at least, it seemed to be worth the risk. After he’s through with me, I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune. But, for right now, what Angel didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. Or me, Spike thought sardonically.

He watched as Gunn came to; watched as the man tested the limits of his captivity; watched as Gunn took in the room he had been left in. Everything was designed to inflict the highest amount of psychological terror possible. Doing anything to Gunn tonight would be pointless. Spike was going to have to allow time for the alcohol clogging the human’s arteries to clear itself out of Gunn’s system before he proceeded. While Gunn was still under the influence of the alcohol, if only because it hadn’t had time to flush itself out, he wouldn’t respond correctly to any external stimuli. Especially torture.

Spike grinned to himself as he thought the word. Torture. Sure, Angel had said he was only allowed to inflict a little pain on the human, but every human’s endurance level was different. If he got lucky, Gunn would have a very high pain tolerance, and he’d be able to use some of the more interesting techniques Angelus had taught him.

The blonde sighed, dismissing that at once. While getting the tables and the tools had been willful disobedience, he’d done it in order to fulfill one of Angel’s requests: to help Gunn. Torturing him wouldn’t help, and it would piss his Sire off. Maybe even enough to send him back to Sunnydale. Or worse, reconsider his refusal of Spike meeting the sun. No, Spike would keep things at an acceptable level. If he couldn’t get through to the hunter with this method, Angel would be on his own with his human.
Shaking his head to clear it, Spike slipped out of the shadows and out of the room entirely. Gunn would have to stew for a day or two before the alcohol completely cleared itself out of his system. And if the man had to stew in his own stench for a bit longer, Spike considered that a bonus. After spending ten hours scrubbing Gunn’s hotel room from top to bottom on Angel’s orders, the blonde felt completely justified and maybe a trifle vindicated about letting the man experience his own filth firsthand. Without the benefit of alcohol to numb him to how disgusting he truly was.

Spike hummed under his breath as he rode the elevator to the top floor, pleased that it was silent. It didn’t even ding to announce each floor, but that suited Spike’s purposes just fine. He didn’t want Gunn realizing he was close to an elevator, because elevators spelled hope. And hope, for a human, spelled a lifeline, a thread to hang onto. He’d been careful to place the human facing away from the elevator and had even taken the care to cover the entire wall the elevator was on with large mobile marker boards. As long as Gunn didn’t think escape or rescue was close by, everything would go smoothly, as planned.

Spike walked towards the reception area of the hotel where the whole gang seemed to hang out with a bit of a spring in his step. It felt good to be doing something bad again, even if it would eventually be something done for the greater good. Carnage, destruction, mayhem—all of them were necessary for a vampire of his caliber. Or his tastes, he wasn’t quite sure which.
Angel was waiting for him, a scowl on his face, which instantly killed the slight spring Spike had going on. If his Sire was scowling, then he must know…

“Spike, where the hell have you been? I thought I told you to clean Gunn’s room, not go gallivanting all over the hotel.” Angel’s anger was palpable.

Spike breathed a sigh of relief. For a moment, he’d thought Angel knew about the basement setup. It wouldn’t surprise him—Angelus always had an uncanny ability to tell when his Childe was doing something to get himself in trouble. “I finished that hours ago, mate. Thought I’d take a walk around to clear my head.”

Angel grunted. “Can’t say I blame you. That place was awful.”

Spike scowled. “Don’t gotta tell me that, mate. I was the one who had to clean it.”

Angel let out a snort of amusement, taking in the sight of the man before him. Spike looked calm, calmer than he had since the night he’d pulled him off the roof of the skyscraper. There was a sort of quiet acceptance that had come over the blonde that hadn’t been there before, but Angel was hard-pressed to place when it had come into being. There was no telling with William. When he felt he fit in, he did so with a quiet grace that few associated with his ill-gotten manner and style. Apparently, getting the watcher out of his books had done Spike as much good as it had done the watcher. “It in motion now?” he asked, keeping his voice at a sub-human decibel.

“Aye, Peaches. Reckon’ I gotta give it a day or two, ‘fore it’s completely flushed outta his system,” Spike returned, just as low.

Neither one of them wanted the other humans to become concerned about Gunn. That would create questions. Questions neither one wanted to answer…questions they weren’t sure they could answer, in all honesty.

“All right. But no more than two. Think it’ll work?”

Spike looked almost affronted. “Course it will, Peaches. Way I got things set up down there, he’ll be grateful to talk.”
Angel scowled. “No torture.”

“Aye, mate. No torture. Just gonna make him think I’mma torture him. That all right?”

“Fine.”

“Ta for that.”

Angel couldn’t help it; he laughed. His Childe was so infuriating it was all he could do not to revert to old ways and pull out the whip he had hidden in his closet. But William was a Master. He couldn’t resort to punishing him the way he’d done as when he’d been a fledgling if he wanted to keep the man’s respect. And he valued Spike’s respect, oddly enough. It’d been a long time since he’d actually cared about the opinion of anyone outside himself, but Spike’s opinion mattered. A lot, if he was being honest.

Spike sighed. He was going to have to tell Angel sooner or later about the tables. From past experience, the sooner he told him, the less trouble he’d be in and the more lenient the punishment. He didn’t want to test Angel, but he did. He needed to know the man was still going to be responsible for him the way he had been in the past. But he didn’t want to cross any unnecessary boundaries, either. “Sire, I need to speak to you,” he said, hoping his tone came across respectful and sincere and not sullen. He was never really sure how he sounded when he was trying to be respectful, but it seemed to go awry on him quite often.

Angel frowned down at his Childe. Spike seemed incredibly nervous and was shuffling his feet the way he always had in the past when William had done something without getting Angelus’ permission first. “Childe?” he returned.

“I uh…sort of left the hotel.”

Angel closed his eyes hard against the rage that threatened to consume him. He needed to listen to Spike’s explanation, to learn the rationale behind his Childe’s disobedience, without leaping instantly to outrage. “Why?” he asked, voice coming out strangled.

Spike swallowed hard. If Angel was having trouble controlling his anger, then he was really in trouble. He knew staying in the hotel had been a rule, but he hadn’t realized it’d been one of the major ones. “I needed to get some equipment for the basement.”

Angel forced himself to breathe, to count to ten, as he considered his Childe’s reasoning. He knew, logically, that the hotel wouldn’t have supplied the kind of materials Spike needed for the session with Gunn, but that didn’t negate his anger. His Childe had willfully disobeyed him for no real reason. If Spike had come to him, Angel would have given the man permission to acquire the materials in question, but the blonde hadn’t seen fit to inform him. “When?”

“About an hour before you told me I had to clean Gunn’s room. I didn’t know how long it would take for him to wake up, and I needed everything to be ready.”

“Okay.”

Spike’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “Okay? But, Sire-

“That wasn’t a ‘don’t worry about it’ okay, Spike.”

Spike nodded his head once, accepting his Sire’s decision.

“Meet me on the roof in an hour.” Angel took in the sight of his Childe, standing there in one of Angel’s shirts and dirty jeans. Suddenly, he felt inexplicably angry that Spike was wearing any of his clothing. “Give me my shirt.”

Spike locked gazes with Angel for a full minute, weighing his options. The shirt had been a gift. One he’d earned. The only piece of clothing Angel had ever let him near, and probably the last one he’d ever see if he disobeyed his Sire in something so simple. He lowered his eyes, properly submissive, took off the shirt and handed it gently to Angel without a word.

“I’m not taking this away irrevocably, William,” Angel said, his nerves beginning to settle. Spike had disobeyed him, but he was going to be punished, and everything would be fine. The blonde hadn’t done anything to reject his Sire’s right to punish him, and that helped calm Angel more than anything.

At those words, Spike’s eyes met his hopefully. Did that mean he could earn the shirt back? He knew it was stupid, how wrapped he was in a piece of fabric, but he couldn’t help it. This was the man who meant everything him—the man he’d followed halfway around the world just to earn a place by his side. If he failed to do that much, then at least having a piece of Angel’s clothing would serve as a sort of consolation prize.

Angel sighed. “I’m not happy with you right now. If you’d come to me about the materials, I probably would have given you permission to leave and get them. Instead, you took your matters into your own hands. You know how I feel about that kind of thing, Spike. So the only way I can see this is as a deliberate act of disobedience.”

Spike didn’t dignify that with an answer; he didn’t have to.

“An hour. On the roof. And you’ll have the proof you need that I’ll rein you in whenever you step out of bounds.”

“Yes, Sire,” Spike said. Without waiting for a dismissal, he disappeared around the corner. He didn’t want to spend the hour his Sire had given him assessing the man, trying to figure out which punishment Angel would use. Whatever punishment Angel chose to inflict, he’d accept it, the way he’d accepted all the other punishments he’d been given in the past.
No, the hour Angel had given him he would spend with Cordelia and Wesley, playing cards. At least that would take his mind off what was coming. He rounded the corner and found himself face to face with the member of the investigative team he hadn’t met yet.

“Wh-o a-rrr-ee y-oo-uu?” the redhead stuttered.

Spike looked around, hoping to find Cordelia or Wesley, but neither human was around. “I’m Spike,” he said. “Who might you be, then, red?”

The redhead giggled. “I’m F-rr-e-d, b-uu-t y-oo-uu c-aan ca-llll m-eee R-ee-d.”

The blonde vampire smiled, acutely aware that stuttered speech was normally associated with nerves, and hoped that by being
friendly he could calm the girl down. “Aye. Red it is then. Wes and Cordy leave then?”

“No,” Cordelia said, coming into view. “Fred, you’re out of your room!”

Fred nodded nervously, but made no move to speak.

Wesley wasn’t far behind Cordelia and came into the reception area with a mug of coffee in his hand. “Spike, weren’t you cleaning Gunn’s room?”

“Aye, mate. I finished.”

The watcher nodded. “Take long?”

“Too bloody long, mate. Ten hours is a long time for a vamp to have to hold his nose.”

Fred spoke up then. “You’re a vampire?” Her nerves seemed to have vanished, to be replaced with a certain kind of awed curiosity.

“Aye, Red. I’m a vampire. Not like Angel though. No soul.”

Letting out a little ‘eep,’ Fred jumped back. She turned to Cordelia and whispered, rather loudly, “If he doesn’t have a soul, doesn’t that mean he’s a bad guy?”

Cordelia paused. “I’m not really sure, Fred. Angel says he’s a good guy. But you’re right, he doesn’t have a soul. I’d be careful around him. He’s horrible at cards.”

“Oy! Ducks, I’m standing right here!”

Cordelia smiled unrepentantly. “Uh-huh. And?”

Spike planted his hands on his hips in mock anger. “If I’m so bad at cards, then you wouldn’t mind me challenging you to a game, eh, Ducks?”

Cordelia laughed. “Not at all. Wes, mind grabbing the cards?”

The watcher looked up from his coffee. “Huh? Oh. Yeah. One moment.” He placed the mug down on the counter and
disappeared behind it, re-emerging a few seconds later with a pack of cards in hand. “What game are we playing?”

Fred eyed Spike speculatively. “If he’s playing cards, I suppose he must be a good guy.”

Angel walked through the room and back into it as he realized Fred was out of hers. “Hey, Fred. This is new.”

Fred smiled, nervously tucking a strand of hair behind her head. “Yes. I thought it might do me some good to come out of my room. And I have a question that I think we all would like the answer to.”

“And what is that, Fred?”

The redhead pointed at Spike. “Is he a good guy or a bad guy?”

Spike scowled. “Oy! I’m standing right here, Red.”

Angel laughed. “Red? What is it with you and nicknames?”

The blonde shrugged. He didn’t really have a good answer for that.

Fred spoke. “Angel, I’d really like an answer please.”

Angel looked at the blonde thoughtfully, then at Fred. “He’s both.”

“Oy!”

“What?” Angel was unrepentant.

“How am I both?”

Angel grunted in amusement. “You’re a vampire. You have no soul. That makes you a bad guy.”

“Oy!”

“So what makes him good?” Fred asked.

Angel smiled then, a slow, feral smile. “I do.”

Spike shivered at the promise in those words, and the threat. He lowered his eyes submissively, recognizing the claim for what it was.

Cordelia frowned. “You want to explain that to us, Angel?”

Angel sighed. “Sure. He’s my Childe. I’m his Sire. He has to obey me.”

“Is this another one of those weird vampire things I’m not going to understand?” Cordelia asked, her nose wrinkling.

Bemused, Angel nodded his head. Cordelia rolled her eyes in distaste and started dealing cards. No one wanted to have another in-depth conversation about vampire lore, her least of all.

Spike breathed an uneasy sigh of relief, glancing at Angel out of the corner of his eye, and picked up the hand he’d been dealt.

Chapter 5     Chapter Index     Chapter 7

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