Trapped by the Truth
Any casual bystander walking into the Sunnydale High School library an hour or so later would have been surprised by the unusual assembly of individuals gathered there, as well as by the late hour in which they had chosen to gather. Buffy and Willow had contacted Xander, Oz, and Cordelia, as well as Giles and Miss Calendar, and now they were all sitting around the table, discussing the situation, and what to do about it.
After the initial telling of the story, they were tactfully avoiding discussing Willow‘s ordeal specifically, and rather opting to stick with finding a way of dealing with the problem.
“When was the last time that you saw Angel with his soul intact?”
Buffy could not have possibly imagined a worse question for her Watcher to ask her. She felt her face flush with shame, opening her mouth as her mind raced to try and compose some answer that would *not* involve telling Giles just exactly what they had been doing the last time she had seen Angel -- not Angelus.
Before she could answer, Jenny saved her momentarily by pointing out, “That might be harder to say than it sounds. I mean -- if we’re dealing with Angelus now, he’s known to be kind of deceptive, isn’t he? Couldn’t he have been *pretending* he still had his soul after he’d already lost it?”
“Possible,” Giles conceded with a slight sideways nod. “But not likely. A soulless demon such as Angelus would not be able to maintain the charade of human emotions, concerns, for any considerable length of time. It’s most likely that the event that caused his soul to be lost happened quite recently.”
He looked back to Buffy, but she was silent, her wide eyes focused on the table in front of her. She had been worried about confessing the details of her personal life to her Watcher -- but suddenly, she was worried about so much more. His words made her think about the timing of the whole thing -- Angel’s strange shift in behavior the day after their single intimate encounter -- and she found herself wondering with a sense of dread if the two might be connected in some way.
Was it possible that *she* was the one responsible for unleashing Angelus again?
She looked up at her Watcher, a startled, trapped expression in her eyes. “What?” she replied quickly, defensively.
“Do you -- do you remember the last time it was that you saw Angel still in possession of his soul?” Giles repeated his question more softly.
Buffy could not hold his gaze as she shook her head. “I -- I’m not sure…”
“If we could pinpoint the approximate time when his soul was lost,” Giles pressed her gently, “then we might have a better chance of understanding what caused it to be lost -- and possibly restoring it, before any further damage is done.” When Buffy was still silent, Giles continued, quietly relentless, “How did he seem the last time you saw him? Before the -- the incident at Willow’s home?”
Buffy shrugged, not looking up at any of them. “I -- I don’t know. He -- he *was* acting a little -- strange.”
“And that was…?”
“Is no one else thinking that it might have something to do with that stupid ritual that Spike performed at the church?” Xander suddenly spoke up, looking uncertainly between the Slayer and the Watcher. “I mean -- one day Angel’s tied to an altar in some kind of weird blood-letting ritual -- and the next day he’s all evil Angelus again? Doesn’t exactly sound like a coincidence, does it?”
When both looked at him with suddenly surprised interest, as if the thought had just occurred to them, he shrugged self-consciously, muttering, “I guess that’s a no…so… score one for the C-average student.” He suppressed a smile of almost shy pride at his deduction, a smile that would have been highly inappropriate, given the circumstances under which they had met.
Buffy’s shoulders sagged slightly with relief, as she nodded slowly. “Yeah,” she agreed quietly. “Why didn’t we think of that? That makes so much sense…”
“Well, it *does* bear consideration,” Giles nodded cautiously. “But it’s by no means a definite answer. We need to research the ritual that was performed and find out if it could have caused such a disastrous result. But in the mean time, our first priority is to ensure the safety of all those Angelus might target.”
“Meaning basically -- everyone in this room,” Cordelia stated flatly. “I always knew hanging out with you freaks was suicide. I just sort of thought it was more -- social -- than, well -- literal.”
“There’s a spell,” Jenny spoke up suddenly. “A sort of a reversal of the invitation a vampire needs to get into a home. It’ll take back his invitation, so he can’t get into any of our homes that he’s already been in.”
“Do you know how to perform this spell?” Giles asked, his expression curious -- and more than a little impressed.
“I do,” Jenny nodded, giving him a warm smile before turning to the little redhead huddled morosely in the chair next to hers. “Would you like to help me, Willow?”
Willow nodded firmly, her eyes distant and troubled as they met those of her teacher. “I want to be sure he can’t get in to my house -- can‘t get to me -- or my family -- again,” she agreed softly. “Let’s do it right away.”
“Yes,” Giles showed his approval with an emphatic nod, looking over the assembled group again. “And in the mean time, we all must stick close together so as to avoid…Buffy, where are you going?”
The Slayer was already standing in the doorway to the library, and when she turned to face her Watcher, her jaw was set with determination, her eyes flashing with anger. “I’m going back to that church,” she replied. “To see if there are any clues left behind about that ritual. We have to undo this, before someone really gets hurt.”
Buffy’s scanned the room as she spoke, but dropped her gaze when Willow looked up at her sharply at her last words. “Worse,” she added softly.
“Very good,” Giles agreed, clearing his throat as he swiftly moved past the obvious tension between the two girls, who hadn’t exchanged a word during the entire meeting.
“But, Buffy -- if you should happen to run into Angelus -- I must warn you…”
Buffy stared at him challengingly, as if daring him to say what she knew he wanted to say, the words she dreaded hearing from his lips.
“You may not be able to -- to wait until we can find a way to restore his soul, Buffy. Angelus cannot be allowed to run free. In his day, he was an expert in manipulation and torture -- a pure sadist of unlimited evil. Every day he is allowed to live without his soul is another day in which everyone he comes in contact with is at risk…”
“I get it, Giles,” Buffy interrupted, her voice quiet but hard and stubborn as stone. “I -- I’ll do what I have to do, if the time comes. Okay?”
Giles studied her expression for a long moment, nodding slowly, though he did not seem quite satisfied by what he saw there. The Slayer disappeared out the door without another word, off on her mission.
“Be careful,” Giles whispered, though his sinking heart told him that she was already too far gone to hear him.
As Spike’s body began to recover from the torment he had been put through, his rest was filled with strange, troubling dreams.
He was lying on his back, restrained to that horrible medical table, while fresh torments were being visited on his unwilling body. Dru was there, but unlike in reality, she simply stood by, laughing and clapping as if enjoying a show.
In his dream, Spike broke under the torture as he would never have allowed himself to do in life, begging and sobbing, even as the humiliation of his own weakness overwhelmed him with shame for doing so. He didn’t want to, his mind screaming at him to shut up, not to give his tormentor what she wanted -- but he couldn’t seem to stop.
Then, his Dark Princess was leaning over him, an expression of sorrow and regret in her dark eyes, and he could feel her intense disappointment with him. He had failed her, proven himself to be less than the vampire she had thought him to be -- and he sensed with a feeling of panic that she intended to move on.
“Dru,” he rasped out somehow, though in his vivid dream, he could still feel the coarse, suffocating cotton bandages filling his mouth. “Wait, love…I have to talk to you…”
She just sadly shook her head, backing away from him, moving out of his line of vision.
And then the human woman, Maggie Walsh, was leaning over him again, a smile of sadistic amusement on her face, as she shook her head slowly and said, “No…not yet…I’m not finished with you yet…“
But as she spoke, the cold, menacing voice of his tormentor of the past few hours, her wickedly glittering eyes and tight, cruel smile, warped to become those of a tormentor long gone from his unlife -- though a part of him realized that he had already returned. And then, the unsettling shifting of features stopped, leaving only Angelus standing over him, smiling down at him in satisfaction.
“You’re not enough for her, Spike,” he whispered in a soft, deadly voice that still had the power to chill his blood. “Not anymore.”
As Angelus beckoned with his hand, Dru came back into Spike’s sight, moving in close to her sire’s side and allowing him to put a possessive arm around her waist.
“My poor Spike,” she murmured, her full lips forming a pretty pout, as her huge dark eyes stared sadly down at him. “They’ve taken him from me -- given him to the sun…”
“Shush, now,” she reprimanded him, her voice suddenly sharp as she laid a finger against his lips -- and then soft again, as she added quietly, “It’s too late. You’re already gone.”
“Dru! Dru, wait…wait, love…!”
Her cool, gentle hands shook him out of the panic of his nightmare, and he found himself suddenly staring up into her calm, smiling face, hovering over him at the side of the bed in which she had laid him.
Overwhelmed with relief, he tried to sit up -- and immediately realized that that was a terrible idea. The wounds on his stomach had begun to knit closed already, but he had not fed since he had been captured by Walsh and her men, and would need more blood before he could make much more progress in his healing.
“Just rest, my Spike,” Dru crooned softly to him, her long, deadly nails tracing gently through his disheveled blond hair, her other hand gently pushing his shoulder back until he relented and laid his head back down on the pillow. “You need your rest.”
As the fog of sleep lifted from Spike’s mind, he became unhappily aware of one part of the dream that had not faded -- the heavy, familiar scent of his grand-sire.
He turned his head to the side, and saw him standing there in the doorway, an indulgent smirk on his face as he watched his childe playing at tending to her own.
Because they both knew that Dru was only playing.
Acting as nursemaid to her injured childe was simply a game to Dru -- and one that Spike feared she might tire of quickly, especially since Angelus was back in the picture -- somehow.
“What happened?” he asked, his voice hoarse with disuse as he addressed the question to the eldest vampire.
Angelus opened his mouth to respond, but Dru spoke first, misunderstanding the question.
“Little soldier boys, with their little soldier toys -- took my little Spike’s fangs away…” her tone was childishly resentful, her lips pouting again.
“No, Dru,” Spike shook his head, weakly raising a hand to touch her face, turning it back toward him as his own features shifted to show her his now useless fangs. “No, look, love -- they left them, pet, right where they’ve always been…” Though even as he spoke, he felt a sick sensation beginning in the pit of his stomach, as he understood all too well what his Princess meant.
Still, he had to do his best to conceal the truth for as long as he could, especially with Angelus around. Vampires were not a species known for their compassion and charity, and Spike knew enough to know that a vampire who had lost his ability to bite would quickly to relegated to the same status as a human, by other vampires.
But when Dru raised her dark eyes reproachfully to his, there was no mistaking what he saw in her gaze.
“Left them in form,” she amended softly, though not so softly that an increasingly interested Angelus could not hear, and Spike swallowed nervously, forcing himself to keep his eyes focused on Dru, so as not to betray his rising apprehension. “But not in power. Can’t hurt -- can’t hunt -- they’ve broken my Spike…”
“Dru…” he tried again to stop her, shaking his head slightly in dismay.
But before he could go on, Angelus had interrupted, striding casually across the room toward the pair on the bed, his arms crossed over his chest. “Oh, I don’t think it’s as bad as all that, Dru. He still looks all right to me. If a bit, well…” He shrugged as he stopped beside the bed, aiming a light, playful punch to Spike’s side -- a blow that he knew would be agonizing, despite its weakness. “…worse for wear.”
Spike snarled angrily in pain, raising his hand in a fist to strike the older vampire’s hand away -- but Angelus caught it swiftly, enclosing the smaller vampire’s fist in his huge hand. He smiled with controlled amusement, meeting Spike’s eyes boldly as he slowly began to squeeze -- and Spike remembered, too late, the badly burned middle finger on the hand he had been about to use.
He bravely held Angelus’ gaze, his jaw clenched to prevent his own crying out with the pain, as Angelus squeezed his fist harder and harder -- and then finally relented with a laugh.
“Seems the same to me, Dru,” he remarked, stepping back as he released Spike’s hand. “Same old cocky arrogant boy he’s always been.” He paused, his smile becoming sly, still holding Spike’s gaze meaningfully as he added softly, “S’pose he’s probably a bit hungry, though. It’s been a while since he’s fed.”
“Can’t feed,” Dru repeated, shaking her head mournfully. “Mummy will have to feed her little…”
“Bollocks!” Spike blustered nervously, looking between the other two vampires, gauging their reactions. “That’s nonsense, Dru…I’m fine…I mean…family blood would likely speed the process, yeah -- but it’s not like I can’t feed by myself, love…”
Dru’s expression was sad, resigned, her knowing dark eyes piercing into him, and he was aware that he was hiding nothing from her. Angelus’ eyes were narrowed, scrutinous, and his cold smirk made Spike more than a little uneasy, as it became obvious that the older vampire was beginning to wonder about the meaning of Dru’s ramblings.
“Oh, come now, Spike,” Angelus interrupted, a nasty glint in his eyes as he moved closer to the bed again. “You know as well as I do there’s nothing like a hot, fresh kill -- blood fresh from the veins. Dru,” he said with an air of command, still not taking his eyes off Spike’s face, “go in the other room and bring that pretty little morsel we were saving for later. Looks like Spike could use her a bit more than we need her…”
“But Daddy,” Dru objected, looking between her sire and her childe, troubled. “He can’t…”
“Do it, Dru!” Angelus snapped, his tone suddenly hard, his eyes flashing with a cold satisfaction as she scurried away to obey his bidding.
Spike swallowed hard, feeling incredibly self-conscious under the knowing gaze of Angelus, virtually trapped in this bed, in this room, unable to rise on his own or to defend himself -- and about to be faced with the revelation of a painful truth he had been hiding, had not even come to terms with yet himself.
“Perhaps it’d be better if…”
“Perhaps it’d be better if you listen to your elders, William,” Angelus snarled softly, cutting him off as he moved in a step closer. “We know what’s best for ye, after all.” His voice softened, becoming deceptively casual again as he backed off and added with a cruel smile, “Trust me, boy -- you’ll be feeling a lot better once you get a bit of blood in you…”
As the sound of the erratic footsteps of Dru, and the girl she was dragging with her, were heard in the room, Spike felt quite certain that he was not going to be feeling any better at all, any time soon.
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