Previous chapters can be found Here.
Cross posted to spuffyness and my regular journal.
Innocence Found – Chapter 6 – Power Play
Giles walked into the livingroom carrying an old leather-bound volume. “Angel, would you stop acting like a craven coward, and join me? I do believe I’ve found the demon in question in the Mordock Grimoire. I think that they encountered a Fram’hir demon.”
“A Fram’hir?” Angel was incredulous. “They’re almost never found this far south. They’re built like abominable snowmen – thick, shaggy pelts and razor sharp claws. They’re also the biggest chickens the demon world has ever seen.” The vampire shook his head. “No way. If a Fram’hir came across the Slayer or a vampire, much less the two together, it would have turned tail and run in the opposite direction.”
Giles’ spine stiffened at the thought of his Slayer being called a liar. “Now see here, Angel. This is almost word for word what Buffy described. Also, in addition to the itching and burning – the side effects of the blood.” He shoved the book under Angel’s nose, pointing at the text. “It says that excessive exposure to Fram’hir blood regresses it’s opponents to an earlier stage of life… so that they can be disposed of more easily. Transformation rates would vary… dependant on species.”
Angel held up his hands in mock surrender. “I’m not calling Buffy a liar, Giles. I’m just saying it would be unusual for Fram’hirs to be spotted in this state. They must have taken a sentry by surprise, or there was a pregnant female nearby. Fram’hirs tend to roam in packs, to avoid one on one confrontations.”
“The problem is,” Giles continued, “there is no known cure for the children’s condition except for time. It does eventually wear off, and the victims return to their normal age, if they haven’t been eaten or killed.”
The elder vampire sighed. “If only we knew how long Buffy’ll be out of action. I worry about Sunnydale’s demon population getting a hint that the town is unprotected. It’ll be next to impossible for you to keep up patrol with just the Scoobies.”
“I’ll have you know, Angel, that we are quite aware of what it takes to defend Sunnydale in the absence of the Slayer. We did survive for months after Buffy… well, when she…”
“Died. Yes, I’ve heard stories. I’ve also found out that Spike fought at your side for those same months, and he’s not available this time. In fact, you have them as an added distraction to protect. Maybe I should take them back to Los Angeles with me. I’ve got enough staff to…”
“Absolutely not! I will not let those children out of my sight. I’m still Buffy’s Watcher, and will follow her condition from beginning to end.”
Angel threw his hands in the air.. “Damn, Giles! Just a couple of hours and we’ve both turned into Papa Bears.” He gave an amused snort. “Can you imagine bottling Fram’hir blood? We’d be able to wipe out demons, wholesale.”
Spike and Buffy ran into the livingroom and hopped onto the couch, one on each side of Angel.
“Sorry, Giles,” Tara called out. “We just couldn’t keep them in the kitchen any longer.”
Anya picked up the rest of the conversation. “Besides, Tara has classes and I need to get to the Magic Box. Xander and Willow will be here soon to relieve you.” She smiled, waving in their general direction. “Bye for now, you little monkeys. Be good… or don’t get caught.”
“She’s something, isn’t she?” Angel mused.
“You seem to have quite a talent for understatement,” Giles said, rubbing his hands together. “So, what do you children wish to do now?”
“We’re tired,” they chorused. “Tell us a story?”
“Giles, that’s a great idea. I’d like to try and get Spike to feed, and since we’re all together, would you be able to read them to sleep?”
The elder man didn’t know whether to take offence or be amused. “I beg your pardon. I’ll have you know I can read a rousing story with the best of them.”
“Oh c’mon, Rupert. Look at ‘em. They’re falling asleep as they sit. You could read The Charge of the Light Brigade in full regalia and they’d pass out.”
Angel picked up Spike, settling him into his broad lap. “Listen to me, little man. I’ve got to go back to my home soon, but I want to do something for you before I leave. When you were hurt, I shared some of my blood with you. Family blood – Sire’s or elder’s blood – makes you very strong. You remember how it smelled upstairs when I pricked my finger for you?”
The little boy nodded.
“Well, I want you to take it directly from my wrist this time. Get comfortable, lie back, and change to your true face.”
Spike had no trouble bringing out his gameface this time, but he looked upset. “Do I look ugly like this?”
Oh brother, the kid could pout with a mouth full of fangs.
Buffy spoke up. “You don’t look ugly, Spike. You just look like you.” She reached over, stroking her fingers gently over his ridges, as she had the first time. “I like your blue eyes better, but the yellow is nice, too. I think you’re a pretty bampire.”
“M’not pretty. M’a boy.” He was, however, smiling – belaying his petulant tone.
Angel patted his other leg, making room for Buffy climb on and get comfortable, too. He realized the picture he was making, and was sure Giles would take full advantage with a camera sitting on the nearby table. Somehow, he couldn’t bring himself to care.
“Angel, I think you have your company’s Christmas card photo… if we were able to share this with your clientele. I believe it’ll be something to be treasured. Personally, I don’t care if you mind… I’m finishing off this roll of film.”
Once Giles was done, with the vampires both in and out of gameface, Angel resettled Spike and presented his wrist to the boy. With very little prompting, Spike sank his fangs into the proffered wrist and began to suckle, slowly… obviously deriving comfort as well as sustenance.
In a soft voice, Giles began to read: “Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice “without pictures or conversation?”
Before long, everyone seemed to have nodded off. Giles’ glasses had slipped down to the edge of his nose, the book held laxly in his hands while his head rested against the back of his chair; Spike’s fangs were still embedded in his grandsire’s wrist, as he occasionally drew small swallows of blood, and Buffy’s head was resting on Angel’s chest, a thin line of drool dribbling from the corner of her open mouth.
As they lay there peacefully, Xander swept into the room, followed by Willow. They stopped dead in their tracks, mesmerized by the scene that unfolded before them.
“Well, looks like little Willie Wanna Bite’s still with us. Nobody bothered to call and let us know.”
Angel blinked as he woke up, then, irritated, hissed. “Keep it down, you moron. Everyone’s exhausted and I don’t need you waking them.”
Willow was charmed by the sight of the children seated on Angel’s lap. “It’s a shame there isn’t a camera around when you need one. They’re adorable!”
“Oh, good Godfrey Cambridge!” Xander was positively grossed out by the sight of Angel feeding Spike. “It’s the undead Madonna and Children. Couldn’t you put a blanket over yourself like any respectful nursing mother? He looks like a giant leech!”
“At least blood is a natural food for vampires. And familial blood has the best healing properties. I’ve seen you devour an entire box of Twinkies,” Angel scoffed. “There’s no good reason you can give me for eating something that unnatural.” The vampire eased Buffy off of his lap and onto the couch, unnerved at the tone the conversation was taking.
“Since when do you care about what happens to Spike?” Xander angrily countered. “Every time you’ve met you’re all ‘He’s evil and needs to be dusted.’ You should be happy to be able to take him out while you’ve got all the advantages instead of nursing him like a first time mother.”
That was the last straw. Something inside Angel snapped at the younger man’s tone of voice and attitude. Gently disengaging Spike’s fangs from his wrist without waking the little vampire, Angel pulled a stake out of his pocket and placed it on the boy’s chest – over his heart.
“Xander!” Willow squeaked. “Stop him!”
“No, Willow. I’m not going to do a damned thing. This is Xander’s call.” Angel turned to face the younger man. “You’re so keen on killing Spike? He’s about one-fifth your body weight and sleeping – and I’m holding the stake in the perfect position. I guarantee you it will never be easier for you to kill him. C’mon, boy… show your balls and put your money where your mouth is. Dust him.”
With glazed eyes and a sneer on his lips, the man stood in front of Angel and raised his arms – preparing to strike.
This time, Willow screamed. “Oh God, Xander. Don’t hurt him. He’s just a little boy!” and pushed her friend away from the vampires.
Giles was awake by then, ready to restrain the younger man if it became necessary, or gather Buffy out of harm’s way should she awaken.
Xander sat down heavily on the floor, not really sure why he was prepared to cold bloodedly dust the sleeping vampire child he’d worried over the day before.
Angel settled the boy next to Buffy on the couch; both children were awake – wide-eyed and afraid – sensing the tension in the adults around them.
“Just so you know, Xander – I would have stopped you from staking Spike. I’d have broken your wrists before you got anywhere near my boy’s chest. Nobody, and I mean nobody, takes out my family, but me.”
The young man shook his head, unable to wrap his brain around the act he had been fully prepared to carry out just moments before. It was Angel – it had to be. Something about being in the same room as Deadboy always set him off. He rose without a look or word to anyone and headed for the door.
“Xander, please don’t go.” Willow reached out for her friend, not wanting him to leave in such a state of turmoil. “I’m sure once…”
“I’ve gotta get out of here, Will. I can’t think straight. I can’t…” He slammed out of the room without a backwards glance.
Giles sank to his knees in front of the children, who had begun to cry. “There, there. It’s all right now,” he soothed, as he hugged them tightly to his chest. “Angel and Xander have had their differences, but things will settle between them. No worries. No need to cry. Let’s sit back on the sofa and I’ll continue reading Alice in Wonderland for you.”
When Angel was satisfied that both Spike and Buffy would remain calm, he walked the shaken witch into the kitchen.
“I don’t know what happens when you two are in the same room, Angel… he’s not usually like this with anyone else… well, except for Spike, when he’s grownup, that is… and they fight all the time but it never seems to be serious anymore. I mean, nobody pays it any attention because, well, Spike can’t hurt anyone, and…”
“Willow, please… get a grip on yourself.” The last thing Angel felt like dealing with was an hysterical witch. “You had better keep an eye on that boy. Who knows how badly he’s going to react once he finds out that Spike’s chip is gone?”
The redhead’s eyes opened wide with shock. “What do you mean Spike’s chip is gone?”
“What did you think was keeping Spike unconscious? Child or not, he’s still a vampire. A fall like he took wasn’t enough to keep him comatose. It was the damned chip. Between his turning into a small child and the fall, the chip was damaged and emitted a constant stream of electricity into his brain. I could feel it vibrating through his skull.” Angel shuddered at the memory. “Eventually, it would have fried his brain and he would have dusted.”
“But how could you… why did you… without even…?” Willow was almost beside herself with indignation.
“What did you expect me to do, Willow? Ask a couple of twenty-something kids for permission to save the unlife of my own grandchilde? Someone I’ve known for over a hundred and twenty years?”
Willow backed away slightly. The sneer on the vampire’s face was too reminiscent of Angelus for comfort. “It’s just that he’s unrestrained. He hates us all,” she blustered. “and… and… he’s not going to have any self-control as a little kid. He’ll be able to hurt Buffy, at least. And oh boy, when he gets back to normal, he’ll…”
“Tell me something, Willow. When you walked into the house, what did you see? Body parts littering the house? Blood all over the place?”
“N-no,” she stuttered. “Nothing like that and you know it.”
“I removed that chip last night. He woke up this morning, had breakfast with Buffy at the table – same as yesterday. The worst thing that happened today was Buffy sneaking into his bubble bath and the two of them freaked me out by playing a game of ‘Who Has the Willy?’ It wasn’t pretty, let me tell you.”
“But… but… what happens when he’s back to being big and scary again?”
The vampire grinned, knowing how his grandchilde would crow and preen over that description. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. I know you’re worried, and yes, you probably have some reason to,” Angel mused, a wicked smile playing across his lips. “Though I suppose it’s a little late to think about how well you’ve all treated Spike over the past few years.”
“If that was meant to be reassuring, Angel… you’re doing a lousy job of things.” Willow gulped, images of Spike being chained in Giles’ bathtub and being kept hungry mixing with everyone with their throats ripped open and Spike with a blood mustache running through her head.
Willow shuddered, realizing there was no way she could stay and watch over the kids with what she just learned. Giles would just have to forgive her. “Well, I’ve gotta go now, Angel. I-I just realized I have some studying I need to do, and won’t be able to babysit right now. I’m sorry. I’ll call later. Bye.”
Waving a hasty goodbye to everyone in the livingroom, Willow left as quickly as possible, leaving Angel to explain her absence.
In spite of Angel’s reassurances, or perhaps because of them, Willow worried. No way could she keep the de-chipping from Xander, or the rest of the gang. It was up to her to try and protect them as best she could. Maybe just a little spell… something to restrain the boy if he got violent.
Tara would have to understand it was for everyone’s own good.