Cross posted to sickchicks and my regular journal.
Hell Is In the Details – Chapter 20 – Shame the Devil
These proceedings are at an end. We have heard enough to make a decision. The trial for Justice wished for William the Bloody has been granted. The trial against Angelus of Aurelius has begun!
But the sweetest words were yet to come:
You may stand down, vampire. We shall recall you as it becomes necessary.
Spike closed his eyes and dropped his head into his hands in relief. Buffy grabbed him around the waist and hugged him for all she was worth. They had done it - made it to the actual trial.
We require he who was as a human called Liam, as a vampire first Angelus, and now known as Angel to stand trial for his egregious behavior and treatment of his erstwhile childe, William the Bloody, now known as Spike. Approach the bench.
All eyes turned to the steed carrying the knight and Angel. Unceremoniously, the knight shoved the still handcuffed vampire off the horse, in the direction of the Tribunal.
Angel, you stand accused of discharging your claim of Sire’s Rights to Spike in a willful and malicious manner. We are curious as to why you evoked the ancient and inexorable penalty against your childe.
Angel stood, his lips thin and tightly pressed together in defiance. He didn’t think ’because’ was going to go over very well in answer to their question. In fact, it no longer seemed like a really good answer to his own ears.
Need we remind you, vampire, that you are facing judgment, and must answer all questions directed towards you? We shall rephrase the query, inasmuch as why might have been too difficult for you. Please tell the court what heinous crime the youngest Master Vampire the Aurelian Order had ever spawned committed to warrant removal from his Family and the Order like an incompetent fledgling.
“I don’t feel the need to defend myself. What I did was totally within the rights of vampiric law and custom. The monster called Spike – that I created over a century ago when I was Angelus – he was responsible for the death of many thousands of innocents – a burden I carried on my soul. His death in the Hellmouth freed me. To find him suddenly standing in my office again, mouth running and attitude unrepentant made me livid.
“It wasn’t planned. We had been fighting for two days straight over his demands that I support him and coddle him and tell him where to find…” Okay, best skip that tack. “He was hounding me and baiting me with his ‘holier than thou’ attitude – telling me he was the superior vampire. No respect towards me as his Sire. ~“I thought we might be able to work things out between us, being family and all. No amount of your bitching can change that.”~ Nothing was going to change between us, and it had to end.
“I figured that his reputation alone would do him in, so I just made access to him easier. I wasn’t looking to make a profit, just to get rid of the problem. Pret and Dante’s were supposed to take care of that for me. All legal and above board.”
The issue before the court, Angelus, is not the legality of your actions, but the morality. You are an ensouled vampire, as is your spawn. There were less severe options open to you at the time – you could have had Security bar him from your presence and premises. Simple solution to a simple problem.
“Spike’s like a vicious little rat. Once he sinks his teeth into you, he won’t let go.” Gods, Angel knew the hole he was digging for himself was getting deeper and deeper, but there was no where else to go. Bluster was all he had on his side. “It had to be done.”
This seems to be your modus operendi regarding family problems, vampire. I recall an incident regarding your own Sire, punishable by dusting if we follow vampiric Lore to the letter. You dusted Darla. However, it was in defense of the Slayer, so you were never called to task for the offence.
However, this was not the last of your treasonable acts committed with your soul in place. There was the incident of allowing your newly resurrected Sire/grandchilde and childe to kill off a roomful of lawyers, then attempting to burn both family members. These offences will weigh heavily in your judgment, along with your betrayal of the childe you removed from your order.
Angel was incensed. “I thought this was a fair trial. I hear nothing but accusations and prejudgment. If you’ve already judged me guilty, why the pretence for the trial?”
This is not a trial to judge your guilt or innocence. This is a trial to decide your punishment. This is a vengeance court. The Slayer wished for it, and it has been granted. Justice will be served and meted out in whatever form William the Bloody decides upon. He has earned that right.
“No!” Angel protested, fear for his unlife becoming his overwhelming thought. Surely Spike would demand his final death. “It’s not right! I’ve devoted my souled existence to helping humanity – atonement for the evils I’d done as a murderous demon. The Powers That Be won’t allow their Champion to be put down by the likes of him.”
The bench demons conferred amongst themselves for a few moments, before the middle one spoke.
How can you consider yourself to be a Champion of the people, when you cannot champion your own family? Unsouled, your spawn fought alongside the humans you abandoned on the Hellmouth. Of his own accord, William the Bloody regained his soul and continued to fight alongside those same humans to push back the First. He sacrificed his existence for the fate of all humanity.
And yet, when he resurrects in your presence, your first impulse is to have him murdered, knowing of his sacrifice from the Slayer, herself, who had mourned and honored his passing. You no longer hold sway with The Powers That Be. Your fate will be in our hands.
Angel paled. This court held influence over the demon world. Hell, the Tribunal held influence over multiple dimensions. If he survived Spike’s ‘vengeance’ wish, Angel would find his unlife severely altered.
We recall William the Bloody to the bench.
The call for Spike to return to the Tribunal startled everyone. It seemed as if the blond vampire had just been excused; now they wanted him back again, and this time, he’d be standing up there with Angel.
William, hereafter known as Spike, you stand before us as an Orderless vampire. Is there someone who will take up your claim?
Spike stood , head bowed and silent. He might have won his ‘justice’ but he’d never again have a familial place.
Hearing no response, the Tribunal judge looked out at the assemblage. Is there none here willing to take ownership of this vampire? To bring him into their family? To be responsible for his actions and his safety? Who will stand up for this Orderless creature?
Buffy walked slowly and surely to Spike’s side. Taking a deep breath and praying she wasn’t screwing this up for the long run, the Slayer looked up at the Tribunal and began: “I stand for Spike, your Honor. I request the right to speak freely before agreeing to anything, however.”
Your request is granted, Slayer. You may speak your piece.
“Thank you. I have a question about the whole ownership thingy. I understand the Order. I’ve been overly familiar with its… vampires over the years. But my whole issue in seeking justice was for Spike’s freedom. I don’t believe anyone should own anyone. I think Spike’s more than earned the right to be his own vamp.”
Angel snorted, toeing the ground. Buffy’s mortal naiveté amused him.
Spike silently appealed to the Tribunal, who granted his unspoken request. He turned to Buffy, to try and explain just what was at stake for him.
“Pet, it’s a lovely thought. Freedom an’ such. It’s just not the way vampire society works. Order is important to the demon. It marks specific demons from the days of the Old Ones, when pure bloods roamed the world. An’ Family is as you can imagine – same’s human. A place where they have to take you in. Where there’s fuck all you can do that they won’t eventually forgive you for. Usually.
“I’ve been around for a long time, Buffy. Might have had no civil words with my Sire in over a century, but I never thought he’d cast me out at this point in our history. Angel, Spike, same room – fight. A given, and something I could hold onto.
“It’s not that I won’t survive being Orderless and without Family, just that it’s something both man and demon crave. To belong.” His expression was even more heartbreakingly eloquent than his words. “I’ll miss him… it, the connection… even now.”
And Buffy got it. She hadn’t the first time he’d tried to explain it to her – the other day at Lorne’s, when she wanted to go after Angel on his behalf – but she got it now. She made up her mind.
Facing the Tribunal once more, she said, “Your Honors, I’ve made my decision. I am willing to claim Spike as mine, Family.”
Spike grabbed her by the shoulders, spinning her around to face him. “You dozy girl! Do you have any idea of what you’re doing? The responsibility you’re taking on? The risk you’re putting yourself and Dawn in?”
Buffy raised her hand, gently stroking the vampire’s cheek, something she’d grown very fond of doing. The look in his eye – the gentleness, warmed her spirit. “I’ve asked you this before, Spike… do you trust me?”
“You know I do, luv,” he murmured.
“Then shut up and let me get on with this. Do you think they’re gonna…”
We need your decision now, Slayer, to further the proceedings.
“Sorry, your Honor,” she said. “As I said before, I am willing to claim Spike as my Family.”
You are mortal, and unfamiliar with the demon hierarchy. We need to ascertain what level claim you are committing to. As the Slayer, you are known more for killing vampires than championing them. Is this to be a surrogate Sire/Alpha claim, a mating claim, or both?”
Oh shit! Mating claim? What in God’s name had she gotten herself into? Not that it didn’t have its appealing facets, but was that what they were to each other? They’d only just found each other again these past few days.
Spike was well and truly gobsmacked that Buffy hadn’t taken a runner at the mere mention of a mating claim. That she would consider him Family was impressive enough, but anything else? Bloody hell how the woman had grown up. He decided to take pity on her wibbling state.
“Buffy, luv… I can’t believe you’d do this for me. To even entertain the thought… you’ve bloody well floored me.” Spike was deadly serious when he spoke. “You realize if some demon clan or Order got it into their thick skulls that I’m trouble, they’d come after you an’ Bit? Don’t make me your pity case, Slayer. I’ll survive. Basically been Sireless all my unlife. Can do this for real. Keep you and yours safe.”
“Is one claim dependent on the other, or is there a time frame involved with a mating claim? I’ve got no problem with the Sire/Alpha claim. I’d prefer to be equal partners, but I’ll do it however it works for vampires, Spike. Whatever you need, I’ll be.” Buffy gulped. “As for the mating claim, can we back burner it for now? I think we need to get to know one another again. I’m not gonna promise it’ll happen at all. I – I can’t. But the other thing? For as long as I live, and as long as Dawn lives, and any other Summers. You belong to us.” She paused. “If they’ll allow it.”
We accept your claim, Slayer. If a being dedicated to the eradication of most demonkind is willing to foster a vampire, we will not stand in your way.
Motioning for Spike to step forward, the middle judge stood once again and proclaimed: We accept the Slayer’s claim of Family for Spike, henceforth to be known as Spike, belonging to the Order of Slayers, member of the Family of Summers. So let it be known throughout all realms.
“Oh, that’s just fucking rich.” Angel sneered; even handcuffed he tried to project an image of authority. “You think you can be a proper Sire, Buff? You don’t have the balls to beat obedience and loyalty into a childe. Especially this one. I give it less than a month before he pisses someone off and they come gunning for your family and friends.”
Hands on hips, Buffy rose to her full height. “You think you’re so damned smart, Angel? You think you have the answers to both demon and human complexities? You don’t have a frickin’ clue what love and loyalty are all about. And as for Family? You wouldn’t know it if it bit you on the ass. If you had an inkling, you never would have left me years ago.”
“You’re not a vampire, Buff. Demon bitch, perhaps, since the Slayer isn’t all human girl after all, right? It would explain your fondness for guys with bumpy foreheads and pointy teeth. Still, what do you know about vampire hierarchy? How will you deal with the first challenges that come your way when the new Big Bad comes to town – to take out the Slayer Sire? You think you’ve been a target before? You’ve all but stuck a neon sign on your ass and declared it open for business.”
“You’re a crude bastard, Angel,” Spike fumed. “Truth is, neither of us has to deal with you anymore, so shut the hell up, you bleedin’ tosser.”
We have settled the issue of Order and Family for you, Spike. There remains the wish your now Sire made for Justice on your behalf. What form do you wish Justice to take?
Spike closed his eyes. This was a perfect moment for him. He could simply choose to stake the bastard with his own two hands. The pleasure he would feel… would last all of two seconds, and destroy any peace between him and Buffy, and probably the soddin’ Powers That Be.
He could beat the bloody tar out of him… and Spike was fairly sure he’d have the blessing of a ringside audience. Amazing all the people who’d come through for him. Problem with beating Angel to a pulp was… what purpose would it serve? It wouldn’t give back the year that had been stolen from him, nor the pride he’d been forced to swallow along with everything else. Nothing would give Spike back what he’d lost.
The only thing he could do was move on. He had a new Sire and a new Family that would be recognized throughout the demon realm. Buffy stood up for him and made him hers. Inextricably tied to her. And as much as a mating claim would have thrilled him, he was more than sated with the gift of belonging. Loved all the more for being chosen.
So the question still remained. What to do about Angel. What could Spike get satisfaction from that wouldn’t go against his soul and his Sire’s wishes?
A thought occurred to him, and he nodded.
“If it please the Tribunal, I have made my choice of punishments.” With a nod from the judges, Spike explained: “For a long time, thoughts of dusting him or physical violence kept me going. It was a goal and a reward, if only I escaped. Now, I see it would be totally meaningless. Dust him and he’s gone – no good will come of that. Beat him and the tosser’ll heal.
“But… take ‘im down a few pegs, and maybe he’ll learn something. Dunno how it’s to be done – don’t rightly care, either. I’ll leave it in your hands. As long as he realizes the sun and the moon don’t wax and wane at his desire.”
Staring directly at Angel, the Spike said, “Two days ago, I was devastated by what you done to me. Now, I’m thinkin’ you gave me the greatest gift. And it wouldn’t bother me one whit if it chafed your willy to remember that you gave me Buffy for the rest of her life, an’ I intend to make it as long as possible.”
Your request is intriguing, vampire, and we must tell you we are surprised you did not opt for a more corporeal punishment. The path upon which you are set pleases us. You are officially dismissed from these proceedings. Do your new status proud.
With a parting nod to the Tribunal, Spike and Buffy walked back towards their friends, and gave nary a glance back at Angel who stood rigid with the tension of his impending sentencing.
Before we pronounce our judgment, we call the S’lugith to the bench.
Receiving the same treatment as Angel, Pret was pushed off his horse and herded towards a spot in front of the Tribunal.
Pret, owner and proprietor of Dante’s. Tell us about your acquisition of the vampire previously known as William the Bloody of Aurelius
The S’lugith demon was nervous. Handcuffed, confronted with his business dealings and in a wide open space, Pret’s yellow streak was showing. If the Tribunal was going to take down Angelus, what the hell were they going to do to him?
Bluster not being his strong suit, he stammered and cowered before the judges.
“If it please your honors. I received a phone call from Angel one fine afternoon, tellin’ me he had heard of my establishment, and the entertainment we provided. Demon fights are a staple of Dante’s; get ‘em linin’ up ‘round the block most nights. Best thing we feature are paid gladiator style matches. Pick a demon and let him fight until he’s killed and then the new champion takes his place.
“Anyway, Angel said he needed to sell his Sire’s Rights to William the Bloody. Didn’t want anything for him. Took a single dollar bill to make sure the transaction was bona fide. Said he’d become a liability to the Order of Aurelius and figured I’d be happy to have him as a main attraction in the matches. He was right, too. Had ‘em lined up for almost a year.”
You’re telling this court that for a year’s time, the vampire willingly fought demon after demon and defeated them all?
“No, Sirs. Changed my plans after seeing the boy. Pretty thing like that had far better uses than being killed. I decided to keep him as my pet for awhile. When I got bored, he was whored out in Dante’s other most lucrative venture. We run a quality stable, but the reputation of a souled vampire that fought against his own kind at the beck and call of the Slayer? A guaranteed draw, and money in…”
Enough! Did you not think there was something suspect about selling off not only a childe of your line, but your own childe for the sum of one dollar? Especially one as infamous as William the Bloody, childe of Angelus, the Scourge of Europe? Did you not think to question this transaction?
“No questions. The childe was Angel’s, to dispose of as he pleased.” Pret nervously shifted from foot to foot, sensing the ruling coming down was not going to be pleasant.
The actual transaction was legal, if suspect. The owning of pets is acceptable. Prostitution is not an issue unless it is forced. You kept a Master Vampire as your sex slave against his will and whored him out instead of staking him when you lost interest. Your mistreatment of property shows poor judgment, especially in relation to sentient species.
Our ruling is simple, and our sentence incontrovertible. The three judges rose as one, lifting their arms in the air, chanting a single word: Incendiare!
Lightning flashed across the sky, followed by an enormous crack of thunder that pealed out into the night.
Dante’s has been eliminated. Perhaps, in the future, you will take better care of your possessions, and be more wary of suspicious deals. You are dismissed.
Pret’s handcuffs were released; he fled the scene as quickly as possible, grateful to have escaped with his life, if not his livelihood.
Angel, we are now prepared to pass judgment based on the wishes of Spike, of the Order of Slayers. You have become a liability to the cause you were charged with fighting for.
To redress this issue, we will remove your soul!