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Authors: Josey & Liz.
Summary: Set after Damage, AtS Season 5, this story goes AU and presumes Spike never escaped from Dana. The rest of the series played out without him.
Pairing: Angel/Spike
Rating: Hard R for language, graphic descriptions of mutilation.
Warning: Not for the faint of heart. Liz & Josey do love the pain.

Fuck! If it gets any darker, I won’t be able to see my feet, let alone the walls.

Keeping one hand braced on the slimy brick, Angel inched his way along the ledge, each step threatening to tumble him into the abyss below. And okay, the fall wouldn’t dust him, but it would damn well hurt and he’d had enough hurt lately to last the rest of his eternity.

A stone slipped under his foot and he came close to following it, his nails digging painfully into rotten mortar as the cavern resounded to the rattle of the small rock slide he’d inadvertently started. He stood, pressed against the wall, shivering slightly as he waited for everything to subside, for silence to return so he could tell if he was still being pursued. Slowly the echoes faded but, just as he was about to set out, another noise penetrated the gloom. Low and painful, it called to him like no other sound could.

Angel hesitated. It was impossible. The one making that sound was gone. Finally put down by a slayer he couldn’t kill or fuck. Or so they’d presumed. Of course, no one had seen it happen and Angel knew to his own cost just how resilient vampires were. But surely, after months at Dana’s hands…

Cautiously, but faster than before as he hope blossomed in the pit of his belly, Angel started out again, this time in the direction of the sound. If anyone could survive, it would be him.

There was no scent of anything other than decay and damp and Angel couldn’t decide whether that was good or bad. Starving hungry and expecting any second to hear the baying of the hounds who’d been chasing him these past few months, he couldn’t take it any longer, couldn’t carry on edging his way cautiously through this life which was far more ‘un’ than it ever had been before. Taking a breath to steady his nerves he stared down into the blackness below. This might well be insane but at least if he broke his back all decisions would be taken away from him.

Listening for that sound, he swung himself over the edge and scrambled down, clawing into the wall and scraping away most of the skin from his fingertips in the process. This was the kind of dumb plan that Spike would come up with and Angel took heart from that as his nails broke off one by one and the clamber turned into a slither and then into a full on free fall.

Yeah, definitely a Spike plan.

As it turned out the fall wasn’t that bad, kinda relaxing after shuffling along that ledge for hours. Unfortunately the landing was less fun, involving something squishy, foul smelling and with more than its fair share of spines, all of which ended up in Angel’s ass.

Cursing volubly, Angel picked himself up, gave the now flattened porcu-demon a kick, and looked around. Correction, he attempted to look around.

“Christ! And I thought it was dark upstairs,” he said. And yeah, it was supposed to be a sign of insanity talking to yourself but Angel guessed it was only when you began to hear replies that the situation was getting totally out of control.

“Who art as black as hell, as dark as night?”

And that just may constitute a problem.

“Hello?” Angel called, slipping into game face. Nope, still to dark to see.

The voice came again, broken and edged with insanity, “Hail, fellow, well met, all dirty and wet: Find out if you can, who’s master and who’s man,” then disintegrated into a cackle. “Deny yourself! You must deny yourself! That is the song that never ends.”

Of course six months could do a lot of damage even to a resilient vampire.

“Spike?” Angel called out. He was pretty certain that Spike was the owner of that voice, though both scent – thanks to demon guts – and sight were both useless. He’d heard William reduced to hoarse cries enough times to be familiar with that particular tone.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose-”

“Okay! I get it.” The hairs on the back of Angel’s neck rose to the occasion and now he had a fix on Spike’s position, he really didn’t need to hear any more. “Just stay still and I’ll come to you.”

The darkness swallowed his words, and he almost missed that mad chatter as he crept forwards, one hand extended and hunting out in front. Something touched him, something cool and damp like the air, something that raised goose flesh on his skin mainly because he wasn’t entirely certain that what he touched had any of its own.

His fear was so real and childlike now that it rose up inside him and made him want to hide under the blankets waiting for whatever it was out there in the pitch black to go away. Suppressing a sob he reached forward a little further until his hands slid over something icy and ossified and came away wet. He would have ripped the bone clean away and snapped the creature’s neck if it wasn’t for the fact that beneath the stench of carrion was the vague scent of bourbon and smoke. The creature skittered back and the shuffling sound made Angel’s stomach roll in disgust. What had Dana done to Spike? What had Spike done to himself?

“Deny thy father and refuse thy name, or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love.”

“Very funny Juliet, now if you’ll just stay still, I’ll help you. Believe me you won’t hear that offer repeated soon.”

Spike hadn’t gone far; Angel could hear the rasp of breath catching in his throat and could place him from this. Kneeling, he ran his fingers over the Spike’s features and was not surprised to find that the vampire was in demon face. Normally he could tell from the speaking voice but his senses were messed up, he was disorientated and Spike was wrong. Angel just didn’t know how wrong yet.

“Blood doubly unites us, for we share the same blood and we have spilled blood.”

“Yeah I’m hungry too, Spike. Now let me try figure what’s happened to you and then I’ll work on getting us fed.”

The sudden crunching made him jump and the suckling noise was even worse.

“What the hell?”

Having not eaten properly in weeks the smell of the putrid blood was enough to make Angel salivate and he slipped into game face, lurching towards Spike to share whatever corpse the other vampire had been hording. The smell was vile and Spike felt wet and sticky but Angel didn’t care. Snatching at the food he gripped the cold limb by its bony protrusions and bit down.

“Oh. My. Fucking. God!”

Angel threw himself backwards, pawing at his mouth and spitting frantically to get rid of the taste of Spike’s rancid blood. His stomach lurched, rebelling at what he’d touched. The bone had to be in Spike’s limb, which meant… Angel lost the unequal struggle and heaved dryly when his brain presented him with severed arms left unbound and untreated for months, a body so desperate for sustenance that it would consume itself, and a mind so shattered that it was incapable of rational thought.

The guilt alone was crippling. Dana’s words, “Keep cutting till you see dust,” filled his head. They’d assumed, presumed, that she’d killed him, so they hadn’t bothered to look any further than the factory basement. Hadn’t bothered to search for levels below the obvious. And now, because of that omission, Spike would have to be staked. Resilient or not, there was no way in hell, he was coming back from this.

Something brushed over Angel’s face and he froze, disorientated. “How art thou fallen from heaven,” Spike’s voice whispered in his ear, “O Lucifer, son of the morning.”

Lucifer, the devil. Was that how Spike remembered him? They’d reached something like a détente just before Spike disappeared, or at least Angel had thought so. Though what else had Spike said? Fallen from heaven. Lucifer, the fallen angel. Was he trying to say he’d seen Angel falling? Could he reason? Was there a seed of sanity lurking in there somewhere?

It wasn’t much, but it was enough to stay Angel’s hand.

With a sigh, he reached out and wrapped an arm round Spike’s shoulders, pulling him into a hug. “We need to get you out of here, William,” he muttered. “And see if there’s anything left worth saving.”

Porcu-demon, when Angel finally found it again, furnished some very useful, if totally foul, lengths of tendon and gut. Angel knotted it together to make a rope of sorts, all the while chatting to Spike and explaining what he was doing. There was no answer, but when he held out the loop, Spike crawled through it without much hesitation, so Angel guessed he’d understood.

“From the world of darkness I did loose demons and devils in the power of scorpions to torment.”

Even through the madness Spike sounded terrified and Angel wondered how long he’d been lost here in this place that was so dark you could feel it pressing against your skin. The fear was much more real now. Knowing that for his own sanity’s sake he had to rescue Spike didn’t erase the urge to just stake him and run.

Tightening the makeshift rope around the vampire, Angel tried to block out the thought that Spike was nothing more than a bag of festering bones.

“Don’t move an inch, William,” he warned and clamped the slippery end of the line between clenched teeth. “If I have to climb this wall once more… well, let’s just say it won’t be happening, okay?”

“Man’s loneliness is but his fear of life.”

The small voice was raspy and inhuman but full of pathos and it niggled at Angel’s guilt receptors and made him want to brood.

“I won’t leave you.” Unless I die. Not the happiest of thoughts with which to begin his ascent up the sheer face. The first few feet weren’t too difficult but then, as he lost skin from his fingers and footholds were becoming more and more impossible to find, it seemed dusting was the most likely way out of here. Only the thought of Spike gnawing at his own mutilated arm gave Angel the strength to go on.

One final Herculean effort left Angel dangling, his fingers gripping the ledge and his feet swinging out, scrabbling to find purchase. Panting with fear and barely suppressed panic the safety line almost slithered from between his teeth and he bit down, catching the end of it as it was about to slip away into the inky darkness. A viscous brackish substance filled his mouth and he gagged, swallowing down the combination of bile and ooze and in desperation managed to pull himself up onto the ledge, spitting out the length of tendon, and then wrapping it tight around his fingers.

Now he was right back where he’d started, listening for sounds of his pursuers and pressing his back into the dampness of the wall. How long had he been down in that blackness? Probably no more than an hour although it seemed like a lifetime or two.

All was quiet, thank fuck, and now he could only hope that Spike was together enough to understand his signals, there was no way he was going to risk calling out instructions and alerting the cellar dweller demons to their presence. Trying to get himself into the sort of position and angle where this manoeuvre would stand some chance of success, Angel tugged twice on the rope and gulped with relief when he felt it twitch in reply. He could feel Spike bracing himself ready and leant back against the brickwork, wedging the heel of his boot into a crevice and heaving on the rope. It was all going well until the line caught on a jagged piece of metal and tore. Angel could feel it begin to give and dived, grabbing for it and once again hanging onto that ledge for grim death.

The sob of fear from below made his stomach twist. “It’s okay, Will, I’ve got you,” he said in a hushed voice. I’ve got you. I’ll get you out of here. What’s left of you.

There was no reply and Angel was relieved. It meant at least that Spike was thinking straight even if he didn’t much sound like it. Hauling himself up, Angel wondered if vampires had adrenalin. Having not fed or rested in such a long time, he should have been far too weak to carry out this rescue attempt but every moment of panic made his strength and determination that bit stronger. He wasn’t just fighting to save Spike. He was fighting back.

It was too risky to try and raise Spike where he was standing, so Angel returned to edging his way along the ledge. Scarily there was hardly any weight on the rope, and he was easily able to counterbalance by leaning back a couple of inches. The occasional strangled groan followed thumps from below and Angel winced at each one, imagining what extra damage Spike was accruing each time he hit the wall and wishing there was any choice, or any sign of a way out.

The journey seemed to last for hours, but was probably only minutes, and when he saw the tunnel, Angel thought he was imagining things for a second. But no, there it was. A deeper black in the darkness, not large, but more than big enough to give him the space he needed. Hurriedly, he clambered towards it, ignoring the mutters from the other end of the rope, and peered up into what looked like an angled ventilation shaft. There was an alcove where it began its route up, and Angel braced himself against the depression in the wall.

“We’ll have you up in sec, Will,” he called out quietly, hoping Spike was the only one to hear him. Then he started to pull, hand over hand over hand, like sheeting a sail or towing a drowning man to shore.

Spike appeared at the edge, head bowed and facing back down into the chasm, and although it was still pitch black, Angel could see more than he wanted. It was the hair which struck him first. Despite his perpetual teasing about Angel’s vanity, Spike was no better, but that was hard to believe right now. Tufts of hairs sprouted up from his scalp, punctuating skin that glistened wetly. Then Spike flailed and Angel was treated to his first glimpse of the severed arms. Luckily he had tight hold of the rope, or Spike would have been back where he started.

Taking a deep breath, and regretting it immediately, Angel grabbed Spike under the shoulders and eased him back over the edge. Getting that close was revolting but he was going to have to get used to it if they were going to make it to the surface.

“Nearly there,” Angel said as he shuffled back, towing Spike with him. When his back hit the wall, Angel rested for a moment, letting his body recover what little strength he had. After a second, Spike turned round and grinned, showing fangs twice their normal length thanks to receding gums.

“Take me to you, imprison me, for I except you enthrall me, never shall be free, nor ever chaste, except you ravish me,” he announced.

“You’re welcome,” Angel replied, starting to get the hang of this twisted version of speech. “But I think we’d better save the ravishing until we’re both feeling stronger.”

That brought a sparkle to Spike’s eyes and Angel laughed out loud. That was the vampire he remembered. Spike may be well buried but he was in there somewhere.

Now that he had had become accustomed to Spike’s new and pretty unique aroma, Angel was reassured. There was no trace of any other creatures in the vicinity and this lightened his spirits even more.

“See there’s a way out up there,” said Angel pointing at the circle of grayish light at the top of the vent shaft. “I’ll climb up and then pull your skinny ass out of here.”

He wasn’t expecting words, not ones that made sense anyhow but neither was he expecting the animal howl of desperation and that strange shuffling sound as Spike tried to escape.

“William, stop it, you’ll fall.” And then I’ll be alone. I don’t want to be alone down here again.

Angel grabbed for Spike and dragged the skeletal body against his chest, keeping a tight grip of the tendon leash and wrapping his arms around the vampire who was quivering with fear.

“Heart...and head. Stab the heart, cut off the head. Only way to be sure.”

“No one’s dusting you, Will.” Angel was embarrassed of the low rumbling emanating from his chest. It had been a long time since he’d felt an automatic need to soothe another vampire. They needed to get out of here however and this cuddle-fest wasn’t helping. Angel wasn’t sure how much longer either of them could hold out and at least up there they stood a better chance than wandering in the pitch black down here.

“I’m gonna let you go now and you’re not going to run. If you fuck this up I will rip your head clean off, do you understand me?” The word ‘boy’ was on the tip of his tongue.

“Don't cry. They can't hear you,” muttered Spike then fell silent, the rasp of breath gone, his body now as still as a cadaver.

Hauling himself up the shaft Angel tried to make sense of Spike’s words, mainly to take his mind off the claustrophobic hole. He was too bulky for this, needed to be more agile. With the tendon rope gripped between his teeth, Angel inched his way up the shaft, the circle of light growing larger and giving him hope with every passing second. Finally he was free and with just a cursory glance around to make sure everything was safe, wasted no time in hauling his light-weight burden up the stack.

The basement they found themselves in wasn’t brightly lit, thank God, but there was enough light for Angel to see the thing that had once been Spike all too clearly. He resisted the urge to vomit as he pulled the bag of bones out of the vent. Unused to even the dimmest of lights, Spike’s demon receded and he dropped to a crouching position huddling into a corner of the room and crooning to himself as he pawed at Angel’s leg with the severed radius of his right arm.

“Can't hurt me. Not weak anymore. Head and heart. Keep cutting ‘til you see dust.”

Angel stared down at the flayed broken creature on the floor, then looked around him as Spike’s words sank in and it all became horrifyingly clear. He knelt and took a gentle hold of Spike’s mutilated arm, stilling it and stroking in between the broken flesh trying to ignore the deep suppurating bite marks.

He’d inadvertently brought Spike back through his original escape route into the cellar where he’d been repeatedly tortured by Dana.

“She’s gone, Spike. We helped her. She’s not here any more.” Angel told Spike the story of how Dana was captured and abused by the man who had killed her family. How she had become confused with the slayer dreams and how none of it was Spike’s fault. And all the while he was talking, he was busy examining Spike to see how bad his injuries were.

There were deep bite marks all over the vampire’s body. It shocked Angel to see them so infected and yellow with pus. He had thought that to be impossible for a vampire, even one in a poor state of health. Many of the wounds were maggot-ridden which was possibly beneficial, although seeing as they lived on dead flesh Angel wasn’t entirely sure if they would ever stop eating. Spike was barefoot, the skin on his left ripped to pieces and bruised to hell but the right foot and lower leg were much more of a problem. It looked as if Dana had broken the bones and deliberately set them wrong to hobble her captive.

All this done by a girl without any evil intent.

“You killed them both.”

“Will, this wasn’t you, wasn’t your fault.” Angel resisted the temptation to add ‘for once’ to the end of that sentence.

“Doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter…”

“Yes, it does.” There was a limit to how much Angel was prepared to put up with; listening to Spike babbling was eerily akin to spending time with Dru. Actually that wasn’t a bad place to start. “Sounding a bit like Drusilla, there, Willy my boy,” he said, affecting a more Angelus-like tone.

Spike stopped muttering and lifted his head, staring quizzically at Angel.

“Remember her?” Angel asked.

Frowning thoughtfully, Spike was silent for a moment, and then brightened perceptibly. “A rosebud set with little wilful thorns, and sweet as English air could make her, she,” he said.

“That’s right. Our thorny little rose who could drive both of us round the twist.” They both needed to feed, urgently, but Angel was willing to bet that Spike wouldn’t take kindly to being left alone down here. That meant getting him outside and running the gauntlet of the demons that were bound to be stalking the streets. Lacking any other choice though, they had to take it.

He gave Spike a once over. “Think you can walk?” he asked.

Spike rose proudly to his feet and nodded. “Walk with stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go.”

“And a beautiful daughter of Zion, you’d make,” Angel teased. Offering his arm, he added, “Shall I escort you to dinner, my lady?”

That elicited a huff and, pointedly ignoring the arm, Spike limped towards the exit, commenting back over his shoulder, “You ignominious idiot, those wings are made to fly!”

It was dark, thankfully, and Angel paused in the doorway tasting the air for any sign of other demons. Next to him, Spike did the same, notching up another point in his favour as far as Angel was concerned. He didn’t fancy trying to nurse an entirely insane vampire through an apocalypse, but a partially insane one? That was easy.

The nearest demon was at least a block away, its scent almost hidden beneath smoke and chemical stench, so Angel took the chance and ventured outside. Silence, of the new kind, reigned outside, something Angel still couldn’t get used to. “I keep expecting hear sirens, y’know,” he said conversationally, “even though the last of the police were driven out over a month ago.”

“Babylon the great is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit.”

Those words, whispered, did more to bring the situation home to Angel than a month of bearing witness to chaos. When they finally reached the end of the alley and could see the fire ridden city, Angel stopped, reached out for Spike and added his own direction.

“And the kings of the earth shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.”

Spike nodded and they stood together a while and watched Babylon burn.

Acrid smoke from the constant fires had caused a heavy layer of smog to hang thick over the city and Angel wondered whether any humans were still hiding out or if LA had become a demon only zone. Undoubtedly some of the nastier businessmen would soon be emerging from the sewers trying to find a way to make this a win big, money making situation.

“Come on, gimpy, we need to find us some food and get you cleaned up. Any ideas?” Heading south and keeping as much off the beaten track as possible, Angel checked back over his shoulder to see whether Spike was following him. The younger vampire was making heavy weather of the rubble strewn ground and wincing with pain but Angel admired the gritty look on that face.

“I said, have you got any ideas where we can eat out tonight, honey?”

“Fleas the size of rats sucked on rats the size of cats,” said Spike with a parody of his trademark grin.

There was something about this resilience that saddened Angel and made him grimly determined to get them the hell out of Babylon and away to safety. Problem was, he had no idea what state the rest of the world was in.

“I’ve done the rat thing, Spike, they’re not juicy enough for both of us - and Bowie? I thought you were more into punk than glam?” he said trying to keep up the inane chatter. “What do you think about a department store? I guess it’s kinda clichéd zombie movie but at least we can get you cleaned up. Yeah, you’re right, they won’t have any blood…”

Angel hadn’t been concentrating. Too wrapped up in trying to figure a way out of this mess, the blow to his temple caught him unawares and knocked him to the ground. The pain was extreme as an enormous set of jaws locked around his shoulder and then just as suddenly released. He sprang to his feet to find Spike battling with a Sapothrot demon. With its triple layer of teeth and large pincers, the creature was a tough adversary for anyone and a sick dismembered vampire hadn’t a chance in hell. Apparently though, Spike didn’t agree with this and was clinging to the Sapothrot’s back like a terrier with his incisors embedded in its neck.

These demons were impossible to kill unless you knew their Achilles heel, which luckily Angel did. Launching himself at the Sapothrot, he ripped off its right pincer and severed the tumour like protrusion on the lower back. Feeling the creature wilt beneath him, Angel sank his teeth into its upper arm and offered the wound immediately to Spike, who fell on the dying demon with rabid hunger. Allowing the younger vampire a slight head start, Angel then began to feed from the open wound in the Sapothrot’s neck, knowing that he also needed to get strong if he was to find a way out of this city.

Keeping focused on their surroundings this time and knowing full well that there was no one nearby, the last thing he was expecting was to be attacked by a small, yet fiercely angry, vampire.

“Alone he rides, alone. The fair and fatal king. Dark night is all his own, that strange and solemn thing,” cried Spike hitting out at Angel with the putrid stumps of his arms

Worried that Spike would do himself more damage, Angel held on to him tightly and let the tantrum pass. “Talk to me for Christ’s sake, Spike. I can’t deal with riddling out everything that you’re trying to tell me.”

“Father, whom I murdered every night but one. That one, when your death murdered me,” Spike rasped, his voice hoarser than ever.

Pushing him gently away, Angel stood. “We need to get out of here, it’ll be dawn soon and although I don’t think much sunlight’ll get through the smog I don’t wanna take any chances.”

“The Family is the Country of the heart. There is an angel in the Family who, by the mysterious influence of grace, of sweetness, and of love, renders the fulfilment of duties less wearisome, sorrows less bitter,” muttered Spike, remaining still, his legs spread in defiant pose.

“Come on, William. If I could just think straight and get my bearings. I’m sure there’s a hospital around here somewhere.”

“When the time comes, put him down easy” Spike growled and hit out at Angel once again. “Leave. Me. Kill. Me.”

For a second, Angel could neither speak nor move. Halting it may have been, but those were real words, not some half remembered verse or lyric. And if Spike could recover that much in the few hours he’d been out of the pit, then Angel’s decision to save him was, without a shadow of a doubt, the correct one.

“Kill. Me,” Spike reiterated, sticking out his jaw in a manner that customarily would make Angel scream with the desire to hit it. Now though, it simply brought words where there had been none before.

“No. And you asking me makes it even less likely,” Angel said. “Plus,” he added as he turned away, “you’re the only one left.”

As he’d hoped, that statement played to Spike’s weak suite, curiosity. If Spike had been a cat, he’d have been dead ten times over by now. “What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?”

“If you want to know, try asking properly.” Angel kept walking, ears tuned to the scuff-hop-step behind him.

It took a while but eventually Spike managed, “All. Dead?”

Immediately Angel was back in the alley, watching helplessly as, one by one, Gunn and Illyria were dragged down and ripped apart. Even that was not enough to make him run, but seeing Connor on the roof of the Hyperion was. Shouting insults in as many languages as he could remember, Angel had taken to his heels, drawing the demons away from his son and further into the city. That had been the beginning. Since then he’d been running almost non-stop. By the time he found Spike, Angel was about ready to give up.

“Yeah,” he said. “Wes, Gunn, Ill- Fred.” Of course Spike knew nothing of Fred’s soul death.


“I guess, yeah. He didn’t come back from his task. See, all this,” Angel indicated the chaos around him, “is my fault. The Senior Partners kept screwing with me and screwing with me, so I did a bit of screwing of my own. Shut up. Not that type of screwing. Anyway, there used to be this cabal – the Circle of the Black Thorn – the Senior Partners’ representatives on earth.”

“Into the jaws of death, into the mouth of hell?”

“Something like that. Needless to say, the Senior Partners weren’t impressed.” Across the street, Angel spotted a car that looked capable of being driven. “Come on, I’ll tell you the rest on the way.”

It was eerily quiet at the Good Samaritan Hospital on Wilshire. Set back slightly from the road, it appeared deserted as Angel parked the car in the bay typically reserved for emergency vehicles. He peered up at the towering building and wondered how many demons were laired up on its many floors.

“She set a table forth, and furnish'd it with meat, such as the Gods taste; and serv'd in with it vermilion nectar,” Spike announced, clambering awkwardly out of the passenger seat.

“Damn well hope so,” Angel muttered, “Or this has been a wasted trip.”

Feeding from the Sapothrot had rejuvenated Spike’s long dead appetite and Angel had to hurry to keep up with the younger vampire as he limped into the hospital. The building was running on emergency generators and Angel wondered how long the power had been off in the city. The loss of electricity was the end of the world as they knew it. The modern age was not built on philosophy and literature, instead its foundations lay rooted in TV and computers.

“If you had a crutch you’d be lethal,” laughed Angel, slowing Spike down with a carefully placed hand on his arm and a word of warning. “We need to be on our guard, Will, I can’t see a place this big being empty. Try using that brain of yours for something other than riddles.”

“A fool, A fool! I met a fool i’ the forest, A motley fool. A miserable world! As I do live by food, I met a fool.”

Angel was sure he heard a low chuckle accompany this, for once, comprehensible speech. “Very funny, Spike. We’ll see who’s laughing when you find out what I have planned for you. Now keep your smart quotations to yourself and let’s find our way to the restaurant.”

Even bagged and frozen, blood was easy to detect when there was that large a supply of it. They made their way down to the basement, Angel keeping his arm around Spike more as a prop than a restraint as the younger vampire was tiring fast. Angel was amazed how someone so wounded had managed to keep up the pace for so long.

“Once we get ourselves fixed up, we need to think about what to do next,” Angel said, pulling away the remains of the filthy shirt from the wounds on his shoulder. Never mind him going on about Spike’s state of cleanliness, he was pretty damn sure that he didn’t smell too fresh himself by now. “Yeah. Food, bath and then we find some new clothes.”

Spike looked down at himself in horror and Angel didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the look on the vampire’s face when he realised his jeans had rotted away to almost nothing.

The basement level of the hospital was deserted. It was all too quiet for Angel’s liking. He’d learnt over the course of a few decades that clichéd phrases were most often complete crap; clouds never had silver linings, no news did not mean good news; but the one that always held true was the calm inevitably came before the storm.

The ominous stillness held out just long enough for them to follow the a la carte aroma of their evening meal along a corridor flickering with emergency lighting and on past the morgue.

Of course the blood store was home to a nest of vampires. Just had to be didn’t it?

“Long for me the rick will wait, and long will wait the fold, and long will stand the empty plate, and dinner will be cold,’ said Spike plaintively.

“Not too long, I hope,” Angel said, “And I thought you’d got past the verse thing.”

Spike shrugged and turned back to the door of the blood bank. “There hath he lain for ages and will lie battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep, until the latter fire shall heat the deep.” He raised a foot, obviously intending to kick down the door.

“Hang on,” yelped Angel. “They’ll be out of there faster than we can deal with them if you-”

“Until the latter fire shall heat the deep,” Spike repeated, waving a stump towards the end of the corridor.

“Okay, yeah, that’ll work.” And since when did Spike have plans, workable plans, Angel thought as he stomped – silently – in the direction of the door labelled ‘boiler room’. He slipped inside, carefully opened the door of the furnace and then stepped back. From out in the corridor came a terrible yell and a thud, followed by a truncated quote from a particularly nasty Fyarl war-poem.

A moment later Spike appeared, immediately located Angel hiding in the shadows, and dived across the room to hide behind him. Hot on his heels came seven vampires who, typically of youngsters, got tangled up in the doorway and fell over. Angel sighed, and set about disposing of them. It was all too easy really. Some vampires just didn’t deserve to survive.

It was hardly a romantic dinner for two but there was mood lighting and a dozen or so bags of blood that had been left out to defrost. It physically hurt Angel when he realised that he’d have to help feed Spike. He’d put the vampire’s disability out of his mind, protecting himself from the sickening truth of how impossible it would be for Spike to get by without his hands.

Holding the bag close enough to rip into he watched as Spike drank noisily. “We’ll get you sorted,” he said throwing the empty bag in the trash and picking up a full one.

“As I do live by food, I met a fool,” grinned Spike.

“Already had that one, smart guy. Running out are we?” Angel replied in between mouthfuls of partially frozen gloop, “Why don’t you try real words? We both know you can do it.”

Spike looked away and it was then that Angel knew this was all just another carefully constructed defence mechanism. Offering the vampire another bag of congealed blood, Angel was overcome by the need to feed Spike himself. Maybe familial blood would help him heal, make him grow new limbs, make the twisted bones reform in the correct position, cure the infected sores that covered eighty percent of the frail body -- perform a miracle. It seemed unlikely that his body was the vampire equivalent of Lourdes and anyway even the idea of this simple act made Angel heat up with embarrassment.

When Spike finally refused anything else to eat and Angel was sluggish with an overdose of blood, he searched through the cupboards and found a carrier bag to fill with rations. They weren’t leaving the hospital yet but Angel had no intention of being caught without supplies. He was still overflowing with purpose even if he wasn’t yet sure what that purpose was.

“Right we’ll go hunt out the locker rooms for clothes and then get cleaned up. I’m getting used to the smell and that can only be a bad thing.”

“Bath twice a day to be really clean, once a day to be passably clean, once a week to avoid being a public menace,” said Spike with a wry smile.

“And you’re way over that,” Angel replied. His stomach churned at the thought of what lay beneath Spike’s tattered clothes. The thought of having to deal with it made him want to vomit. For once he was relieved that vampires had no reflection. At least Spike would never know how bad it was.

The basement level was an ideal lair for them to hole up in. Free from natural light it boasted bathrooms galore for the lab workers to clean up before and after their day’s work. Angel was proud of himself; even Wesley couldn’t have found a safer and more comfortable hideout.

Their initial visit was to a changing room. Spike was moving better but Angel couldn’t bear to see that pronounced limp and stayed in front, his senses on overdrive scenting the air for danger.

The first bank of lockers was useless and it seemed they were going to be stuck wearing hospital scrubs for the next part of their journey when Angel came across a sports bag with a thankfully clean tracksuit and a pair of running shoes. They were bound to be too big for Spike but it was better than what he had on at present.

Angel wasn’t too worried about himself but it would be good to find something fresh to put on. Finally after another half an hour of scavenging and throwing anything that might be useful into a pile on the floor he found a pair of jeans and a sweater. Someone was on their side.

“Video killed the radio star.”

“I hate that song try another.”

The answering growl made Angel look up in surprise. Spike was toeing at an object in the centre of Angel’s horde of treasure. He picked up the pocket radio and, praying for some life to be left in the batteries, switched it on and searched through the different wavebands. There was nothing to be heard but variations on a theme of white noise.

Discarding it, Angel sighed. “Sorry Spike, good thinking though.”

Again the younger vampire growled. “What exists outside is a man's concern.”

This time Angel growled back he was so damn frustrated with this situation. “For fuck’s sake, William. I don’t know what the hell you’re trying to say.”

“No signal. Underground.”

Spike’s voice was gravelly from the effort it took to string these few words together. Angel watched him sink down onto one of the benches, his head on the remains of his arms.

“You’re right. I’m sorry I yelled…” This was all just too hard. “We have clothes now so let’s go get some med supplies and find the bathroom then we can work on a plan.”

Spike got to his feet and limped towards the door, looking over his shoulder at Angel. “We have to get out of the city. It's not just the odds of getting shot. Do you know what it's going to smell like in two weeks? Five million dead people rotting in the July sun?”

“Well I was thinking that too, without the dead people and the sun part. I just haven’t figured out where to go.”

“In the south land by the flat water, drowned am I, yet pulse still with life; the dying serpent given breath by those who have no need of air,” Spike said decisively and vanished into the corridor.

Angel stared after him. After a second or two he shook his head and followed saying, “And that’s supposed to help, how?”

Medical supplies turned out to be the least of their worries, as was finding a bathroom. The worst task was stripping Spike of his clothes and that, mostly, due to Spike’s reaction.

The lack of a reflection, and the fact that they’d been on the move almost constantly since the rescue, had guarded Spike against having to confront his injuries. Having to rely on Angel for this most basic of personal tasks brought their severity crashing home.

As he cut away half rotted cloth and tried to avoid equally putrid flesh, Angel found himself torn between guilt and sorrow; he’d passed horror several stops ago.

Spike sat in the bath, the water at waist height, staring blankly at his knees while Angel worked. He spoke only once. When his clothes were gone and the full extant of the damage was revealed, he turned to Angel with glistening eyes and said, “Poor devil, he’s best gone out of a life where he rides his rocking-horse to find a winner.”

“We’ll find a way to fix it,” Angel answered through tears of his own, “I promise you that.” And if not? Angel balked from the inevitable, and returned to washing maggots from his grandchilde’s wounds.