Disclaimer: All I own is the shirt on my back and some other possessions which are not BtVS characters.
Wordcount: 2116 for this part
The sound began quietly. It could have been no more than the creak of a board, if anyone had been moving in the house. Burns pressed his ear to the wall: nothing. Maddox was certainly still asleep. Maybe the sound had been a squeaking rat. Maybe he had imagined it altogether.
No, it was back now, and louder. Soon it resolved into a prolonged whimper, followed by a few ragged breaths—-unmistakably a crying woman. Burns’ eyes moved unwillingly to the box holding the captive vampire. He couldn’t see anything anyway, that side of the room being eaten by shadows, but once he had attached the sound to its source, it was impossible to ignore. All his limited experience with vampires had taught him that they were anything but human, but there was nothing inhuman in the thin wail that Drusilla was making now. In any other situation it would have been heartbreaking. Here it bordered on frightening.
“Quiet, you,” he said. He meant it to sound stern, but his voice cracked like an adolescent and he had to clear his throat to cover it up.
The crying didn’t stop. She was sobbing now, not loudly but persistently, trailing off every few seconds only to begin again with a fresh moan. Burns could hear her Cockney accent, and hitherto he hadn’t know that she was British. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could stand it.
Then she started talking. A madwoman’s ravings, he told himself, but he couldn’t discern enough of it to confirm that. “Please,” seemed to be repeated a few times, and then a string of words that contained the phrase “he’ll come, you’ll see, you’ll see.” It wasn’t the meaning that bothered him, though, as much as the tone. Vampires were supposed to be full of wrath and greed; she just sounded plaintive. Timid, even. Was she really all the Council said?
“Hush,” he commanded, standing up to make himself feel more confident.
“Can’t hush,” she said clearly. “Never again. The stars say it’s so. Oh, but he’ll come, little one, you mustn’t be afraid...”
Burns’ throat tightened, and he picked up his lantern from the floor and crossed the room. This was just too unnerving without being able to see her face. “Listen, now,” he said as he thrust the light out in front of him. “Pipe down or I’ll send you back to sleep the hard way.”
Her face was suddenly pale and distinct before him, her eyes closed against the brightness of the lantern and the wet trails of tears on her cheeks glistening with it. “Please,” she whispered.
He paused, frozen, unsure of what he had even meant to do. Gag her? It seemed vicious and unnecessary; she was so helpless, chained up like this. “What is it?” he asked stoically. “What do you need?”
She wouldn’t answer, or even keep sobbing, or open her eyes. After a long wait, Burns grew tired of holding up the lantern, and he asked again and got the same lack of response. So, he thought, that was that. But something kept him standing there.
“Vampire?” Nothing. “...Drusilla?” She didn’t move a muscle. If she was human, he would have guessed her dead. And she was, he supposed, dead indeed. Cold-blooded. Internally static. He reached out his hand, ever so cautiously, to touch the tear-stained cheek of the lovely prisoner...
After that it was an impossibly strong hand at his throat, drawing him in with an unchained arm, and then it was stabbing fangs and the dizziness of blood loss and the lantern falling to the floor, and for a few sharp seconds he thought about how he was the greatest fool to ever have had a beautiful woman in his vision.
“I’m going to have a party,” she said. “Perhaps I’ll let you come along.”
When he woke up, he was granted the privilege of releasing her from her remaining bondage, and bringing her Maddox for their first meal together. Burns was very excited. Touching her cheek had been the best decision he ever made.
Getting into the factory was the easy part. Angel had quickly discovered an entrance with no guards, but he couldn’t see at first how it connected to the rest of the building. He could hear voices through the wall—-Spike sounded angry-—so he tried to follow them until he came to a place where he could see without being seen. Before long he found himself on an upper-level walkway, looking down on the lair that Spike and Drusilla had made out the warehouse.
Drusilla was nowhere in sight. Spike was clearly visible, and, Angel was relieved to see, confined to a wheelchair. Buffy’s last battle with them must have done some damage after all.
“Then get back out there and keep looking!” Spike was shouting at one of his henchmen. “I don’t need a bloody check-in every time you manage to accomplish nothing!”
The bespectacled vampire in his line of fire stammered something in response, and Angel let his eyes roam away from them, searching for parts to the Judge or boxes that might hold them. His angle wasn’t helping, and he wondered how far down the walkway he could get without tripping anyone’s alertness. There were six vampires positioned near the doors, and though nobody was currently looking up, it would only take a second.
His best plan might have been to keep to his spot and wait to overhear some clue about their progress with the Judge, but he didn’t know how long that would take and he had promised Buffy that he would be back quickly. He took a few experimental steps forward. So far, so good. The Judge’s pieces had to be stacked against the wall below him, and he could soon attain a vantage point from which he could count them.
Only after a vampire stepped out from the door at the end of the walkway did Angel realize that not everybody was downstairs. Only after he turned to run and was cut off by another, emerging from the door he had come through himself, did he realize that he was cornered.
The ensuing fight was brief, and Angel didn’t make a kill. Three of them were unconscious by the time they had him restrained, but that was cold comfort when he thought about the promises he had made to Buffy before he left her room. And to make matters worse, now he had to talk to Spike. Well, at least Drusilla wasn’t going to be torturing him this time.
The conversation didn’t begin quite as he would have expected. “Where is she?” Spike barked as soon as the minions had brought Angel over to him.
“I’m alone,” Angel replied easily, taking some grim satisfaction in knowing that it was the truth. Buffy was safe at home, so the worst that could happen now—-well, the worst that could happen was still pretty bad, but Buffy was safe for the moment.
Spike had no such optimism flavoring his perspective. “Don’t play idiot, idiot. Tell me where you have Dru or start losing bits.”
Angel blinked. Dru? The vampires holding his arms tightened their grip in response to his silence, and Spike rolled his eyes. “Get him tied up. If this is going to take all night so be it.”
It was far more comfortable to be restrained with ropes rather than held by henchmen, especially since they allowed him to sit on the floor with his arms secured to the beam behind him. It was obvious that Spike had put him there to keep him from towering over his wheelchair, but the tactic didn’t make Angel any more concerned, or, it seemed, Spike any less agitated.
“So you lost Dru, huh?” Angel asked casually. “I always wondered how long it was going to take for her to get bored with you.”
“Lester, kick him,” Spike replied.
One of the thugs, a large, oafish type, obligingly kicked Angel in the stomach, and he cringed. It was going to be a long night. “Nice foot,” he said to the thug when he had regained his posture. “Completely functional. All kinds of uses for a good pair of those.”
Spike didn’t rise to the bait. “Anything that happens to my girl,” he warned, “happens doubly to yours. I promise you that.”
“Well, good luck.”
“Are you hearing me you bloody ponce I’ll kill her someone kick him again now tell me what you did with Drusilla or I swear by every—“
Angel interrupted at a yell as soon as he had shaken off Lester’s second kick. “Shut the hell up, Spike! This wasn’t us! I don’t have any idea where Drusilla is.”
Spike looked taken aback for the briefest of seconds, and then must have chosen to ignore whatever instinct told him that he knew when Angel was telling the truth. “Oh, that’s rich...”
“Listen to me. You’ve been after us all night. Buffy didn’t even have time to kidnap a...vampire...” If the answer hadn’t come to him while he was speaking, he might have been able to hide it, but he knew that now it was all too plain that he had just realized something. Spike was watching him avidly. It was time to improvise a new strategy. “But I think I can find her.”
It was hard to tell how much Spike’s gang had figured out and told him about Buffy’s weakness, so an explanation of why the Watchers’ Council might be capturing Sunnydale’s insane vampires was too risky. Angel erred on the side of vagueness: “I heard something tonight, gives me a good lead. You want her back?”
Spike leaned forward, his condition still preventing him from looking menacing, but his rage undiminished nonetheless. “Tell me everything you know.”
Angel leveled his gaze and held back a smirk. “You know damn well that’s not how it works.”
Without waiting for a cue, Lester kicked him in the stomach again. Angel restricted his own reaction to a glare, but Spike surprised him by ordering the guards away. The space was too big and open for them to really be alone, but he wheeled himself up closer and lowered his voice to a hiss. “How’s it work, then?”
“You have the Judge?”
Spike raised an eyebrow and then pointed over his shoulder without taking his eyes from Angel. The boxes that Angel had been trying to see from the walkway were indeed the large padlocked kind like the one that Buffy had taken from Ford. He nodded slowly. “And that’s all the pieces?”
It had been hours since Spike’s henchmen had recovered the arm; they had certainly had time to assemble him if they had chosen. Drusilla’s absence must have been the reason that Spike had forbidden it. She wouldn’t have wanted him to start without her, after all.
Angel delivered his proposal swiftly, in a voice lowered for Spike alone to hear. “I’m going to give you three different addresses and you’re going to divide the pieces up and leave them on the doorsteps. Any of your people encounter any of mine, they walk away. Once that’s done, you put as many guards as you want to on me and we go find Dru. I get her out, she comes back to you, I go my way.”
Spike took a long look at him before answering. “And if she decides to kill you first?”
“Well,” Angel chuckled, “that would be between me and her, wouldn’t it?”
It might not have been the best move, he realized a moment later, to say something so guaranteed to reignite the jealousy that Spike would doubtless always feel over Drusilla’s preference for her sire. Still, he hadn’t lost his knack for manipulating his former family, and he knew without needing to be told that Spike was seriously considering his offer.
When he turned and wheeled away without another word, Angel checked to see that nobody was watching, and then indulged in a small smile. As furious as he still was at Giles for his lies, he had to admit that the man’s confession earlier that night might have saved them all. He had to assume that Giles hadn’t known that the vampire was Drusilla, or he would have said so, but he had mentioned enough of a location for Angel to find it and make the trade.
If this worked, Angel thought, he was not only going to neutralize the threat of the Judge, but would be provided with an excellent excuse not to force himself to kill Drusilla. He might not even have to get on a ship.
Start at the beginning.