The first sign that something was really wrong with Cariss was the sprint she made for the bathroom at the scent of fresh blood. Methos silently watched her retch into the toilet, the newborn holding her hair out of the way, before he ordered the blood back to the kitchen. If she couldn't drink it, it would keep for the other. He wasn't going to waste his blood, even if he could replenish it easily.
The fact that she'd had such a reaction worried him. Not once in the years since she'd been turned into this strange hybrid had she been unable to stomach his blood. She had to have blood to survive. If she couldn't drink…
He couldn't shake the worry he felt. He remembered the state he'd found the two of them in; entirely naked and exhausted, in a room that smelled heavily of sex. She'd been missing for weeks, and he had no doubt that most, if not all, of that time had been spent locked in a room with a man. She could very well already be pregnant, if that prophecy meant she could in fact conceive a child with another like her. This Lindsey was doing his best to keep the other males away, so Methos hadn't yet had a chance to check for physical changes, but he had a feeling that if he did manage to get close enough to see he would find a slightly rounded stomach hiding underneath his pajama top.
He watched Lindsey help her back to the bed, and he was simply thankful that the vampire had gone to bed for the day. If Angel knew what was going on in this bedroom, he would no doubt be hovering on the other side. Methos thought he might just stake the man and be done with it, if Cariss wouldn't take his head for the action. Gods but the fanger was annoying.
"Somethin's wrong," he heard Lindsey muttering softly as he tried to soothe the agitated woman. "Maybe we should get you to a doctor."
"A doctor wouldn't help, kid."
The glare Methos received for that interjection was harder than previous efforts. Lindsey at least was quickly regaining his strength. Given a few more days, he might just be able to take a swing at someone and cause an injury. Now if only Cariss was recovering as well. Instead she seemed to be getting weaker.
"They would have her in a science lab after the first blood test."
More importantly, if the problem was what Methos thought it was, Cariss wouldn't need a doctor, she'd need a midwife.
"I wasn't talkin' about that kind of doctor. There are plenty of other options."
He was curious to know just how this lawyer had become aware of those "other options". Shamans and witch doctors weren't exactly common knowledge among humans. What had he been mixed up in before he was turned?
"We have to do something," Lindsey returned his attention to the woman in bed with him, stroking her hair, "you have to be able to feed."
"I'm fine, Lindsey."
"You're not fine. You can barely move on your own right now."
The glare was weak, but he returned it with a hard stare of his own. For a moment, Methos wondered if maybe this lawyer wouldn't turn out to be the best match for Cariss. She needed someone who could go toe to toe with her, and this Lindsey was proving feisty. She pushed at him ineffectually, and that decided Methos. He had some favors to cash in, and he knew precisely who he could call that would be discreet and not give a damn about any prophecy. He left the pair alone and went to retrieve his cell phone.
He was met in the hallway by McLeod, who looked as if he'd just finished a workout. The tank top he wore was soaked through with sweat in several places, and he smelled like he was in desperate need of a shower. It was nice to have someone else in the house for a change. As Adam, he had fellow doctoral students over for research parties, and as part of the Watchers he occasionally had fellow colleagues over for the same purpose, but it was rare that he had anyone come by simply for company. Duncan was a welcome addition.
"Is she any better?"
"I think she's worse, actually. I'm calling someone in to check her over."
"Do you think they managed to succeed, then?"
"I'm very much afraid that they did."
The look on the Scot's face suggested that he feared the same thing. Methos would bet money that was why McLeod had decided to work himself to exhaustion.
"Does the boy have any idea?"
"I don't think the boy knows anything."
Methos shared Duncan's concern over Lindsey. Cariss had centuries to come to terms with the stupid prophecy, and the fact that this possibility existed, even if she preferred to bury her head in the sand and pretend it didn't. This MacDonald, on the other hand, knew nothing. According to Cariss, up until quite recently the boy had believed himself completely human. He was an utter newborn. What could he possibly know about the fact that those damned fools were using him to try to father a child?
"Do you think anyone will come after them?"
"I doubt it. This little mission wasn't sanctioned. I recognized those men that we killed. They were kicked out of the Watchers."
It was Watcher policy to observe only, not to interfere in the lives of the Immortals. Their branch, at least, would never sanction actively trying to bring a prophecy to fruition, and the men he'd killed had been former members of their branch. If this attack had been an active mission, he would have heard of it long before it got to the point that Cariss was abducted.
"And you're not worried there might be more of them out there? Or some from that other group that deals in things like this?"
"I would have known."
He chose to leave McLeod to his own devices rather than get into an argument over events. He had to believe that if this exercise had been planned with the other Watchers, everyone would have been notified, as they had when the two councils decided to work together because of the Hellmouth. But he couldn't dismiss Duncan's point; if this was some sort of off the books operation by the other council, it was very unlikely they would share that information, if they even knew of it in the first place.
Finding out how much the Watchers knew about this scheme was a problem for another day. His priority for the moment had to be getting Cariss checked over. After that, based on what he'd overheard Angel saying the night before, he needed to get ready to receive more bloody vampires into his house. Perhaps he'd find a way to simply stake them all.
Once he was alone in his study, he pulled out the rolodex. When he'd added this business card a year ago, he'd never dreamed that he might one day need to use it.
"Yeah, it's me. I'm cashing in that favor you owe me..."
Angel found his way downstairs when he picked up an extra heartbeat in the house that shouldn't have been there. With the state that Cariss and Lindsey were in, Methos should know better than to have visitors in his house. At least the boy was starting to recover. If Cariss wasn't any better he was taking her out to hunt, and not bringing her back until she'd drained at least three vampires. She wasn't going to be any help to Lindsey if she stayed so weak herself.
It wasn't good for the baby, either. He didn't know if the Immortals had any clue that she was pregnant, but he'd smelled the changes the moment he found her. He knew his childe right down to the scent, and hers was changed; this sickly-sweet hormonal smell that indicated pregnancy in females of nearly every species clung to her like a second skin. Those fools who'd abducted her had succeeded in their goal. Those who'd escaped the building when they'd retrieved Cariss and Lindsey would pay for it with their lives.
He blamed himself. If he'd not let her go off alone for months after killing that no-good ex-husband of hers, those damned Watchers wouldn't have been able to grab her. She'd been deep in grief over the loss, but he should have recognized that the threat was still out there. He should have hunted down the rest of the Watchers, but he'd let his conscience talk him out of it. He'd let the situation with Spike and Willow preoccupy his mind, and push the threat to Cariss to the bare edge of conscious thought. He was too used to seeing her as nearly invincible, and more than able to take care of herself. He'd ignored how fragile she was after killing the red bastard.
Voices spoke softly as Angel took the stairs to see a woman he didn't know talking to Methos and McLeod. She didn't smell completely human, and when she turned so that he could see her profile she didn't look completely human either. She was part demon, though what particular demon he couldn't tell. The violet spots on her face that marked her as Other were light, and could easily be covered in makeup. Unlike others he knew, she could easily pass among the humans.
"What's going on?"
His question interrupted their conversation, and he didn't feel a bit sorry.
"Of course, you couldn't still be asleep. This is Hanna. She's here to examine Cariss."
"That's not necessary."
"She's gotten worse."
Did they honestly think he didn't know that? He'd been watching her steady decline since they rescued her. The glare he sent the Scot told should be enough to tell them that this wasn't news.
"She couldn't feed today."
It was Methos who said the words that made Angel go still. She had to have blood, and if she couldn't feed…..they hadn't tried vampire blood yet. The immortals had been sharing their own blood since arriving. She might just need more blood from her other half at the moment.
"We'll try mine before we get too worried about it. She doesn't need an exam. Your friend can go."
"We have to find out what's wrong with her."
"We already know what's wrong with her, and it's nothing that a witch doctor is going to help."
He wasn't letting this demon woman anywhere near Cariss. He didn't like the feeling he was getting from her presence. Maybe it was just something that her particular demon blood gave off, and her intentions were perfectly benign, but he wasn't willing to risk Cariss' safety, or the baby's. Angelus was much more in charge than Angel, at the moment, and Angelus wasn't about to risk any threat to his mate, even if she carried another man's child.
The look the woman gave him was amused, and he itched to wipe it off her face. Still, she wasn't stupid enough to try to step foot in the house while he was blocking the entryway, fully vamped out. He would let her walk away, provided she left immediately.
"All the more reason for her to see a doctor then, unless you have a medical degree no one knew about. None of us are equipped to deal with this."
"Are you telling me you've really never been around a pregnant woman?"
"If you're quite done trying to make my decisions for me?"
The argument neither man realized had carried was ended by the appearance of the very woman they'd been discussing at the top of the staircase. A single look was enough to tell Angel that Methos had under-exaggerated Cariss' state. She was much paler than she should have been, and her face was beginning to look gaunt, as though the child she carried was consuming her from the inside. Even sick and exhausted, she looked pissed, and both vampire and immortal wisely chose to shut up. The doctor's expression was first curious, then delighted, as Cariss slowly made her way down the stairs, Lindsey at her side.
"So it really has happened," she said in wonder. "I was beginning to think the vision was wrong, and the day would never come."
"You know who I am?"
"My people are Vessels, madam. We receive, and keep safe, untold numbers of prophecies and visions from the Powers That Be. You were foretold eons before your birth, as was the offspring you carry."
It was petty, and he knew it, but Angel couldn't quite bring himself to feel bad for enjoying Lindsey's sucker-punched expressions just a little too much. The cocky lawyer had always been so sure of himself, and what he was doing, that it was a genuine pleasure to watch him stumble. Let him find out that he was nothing more than a pawn in a cosmic game for power, and see how sure of himself he felt then.
"You didn't keep this one safe enough then. Far too many people knew of it, including the dead men who decided to force it into fruition. Tell me why I should not track down your people and wipe them out for their failure."
"We keep them safe, madam, not secret. Just because a vision or prophecy is sent to my people, it doesn't mean that it may not also have been sent to others. We simply ensure that it does not disappear and become only rumor. Besides, you'll be far too busy soon to worry about wiping out my people."
"I have several months before I need to worry about being too busy."
Hanna looked from Cariss' face down to her stomach, and back up again.
"I think it will not be months."
Arriving in London midday meant spending the rest of the day in the plane, parked in the hangar. With sunset approaching, Spike was ready to get off the plane and get moving. Spending the day trapped on a private jet was only slightly better than spending it trapped in a crypt. The bed was sinfully comfortable, he would give it that, but that was about the only good thing he could say for being trapped on the plane for so long.
Spike kept a close eye on Willow as they descended the steps and climbed into the waiting car. She'd gone silent once she stopped crying, which in his experience didn't bode well. She hadn't even tried to drain the pilots, which was both useful and worrying. She needed to feed, and she needed to do it soon. Nothing about her turning had gone right, and he was concerned. The good news was that Angel had found Cariss, so she would be able to remove Willow's soul and let the girl embrace the demon within. He gave the driver the address the Poof had given him, and settled Willow in beside him as the car pulled out of the hangar. The heavily tinted windows were enough to protect them from what remained of the daylight.
"You ever been to London before, Pet?"
The shake of her head wasn't exactly a surprise. Damn shameful parents the girl had, taking off all over the world and leaving her behind on her own. That would be one of the easiest things to fix. Between his own money and Angel's, which he could always tap into, he had more than enough to show her the world in style. He would take her wherever she wanted to go.
"We'll have to stay awhile then; make sure you get to see everything."
He would take her to the nicer places too, not just the tourist spots that everyone saw, and not just his old stomping grounds. Once he got rid of that pesky soul of hers, they would hunt in the upper echelon of London society. Maybe they'd even pick off a minor royal, or at the very least an aristocrat. There were plenty of them just lying around, being utterly useless and living off their trust funds.
They were headed away from the city, and when after an hour in the car they were in the country and driving past estates, Spike had to wonder if Angel had managed to house them with one of those useless trust fund babies. He'd never heard of this Methos they were supposed to be staying with, but he just sounded like a ponce. What kind of a name was Methos? Did his parents not like him?
Being so far out of the city might be a problem. There would be three vampires to feed under the same roof, and in the smaller towns they passed that number of disappearances would be noticed. There wasn't a Hellmouth in England, where people were as willfully oblivious as the people in Sunnydale. It would be much easier to hunt in a larger city like London. At least they weren't too far from Oxford, which had a much large enough population that they should be alright as long they weren't greedy. They would have to spread out.
The car finally pulled up in front of a large house, and Spike decided this Methos was definitely some sort of damned aristocrat. It was the sort of place the Poof would buy if he ever decided to relocate to England permanently. Scratch that, it looked like something the Watchers would own.
"We're here, luv. Wherever 'here' is."
He made sure he was easy when he tugged Willow out of the car to join him. She might not be physically fragile anymore, but he definitely didn't want to start a fight with her on a stranger's doorstep. She moved woodenly, almost as if her body was moving without her permission. Maybe the demon was finally winning.
"We'll get you sorted out in no time, luv."
He wouldn't make her suffer with that soul any longer than necessary. Cariss should be able to remove it easily. He should be able to convince her to do it. She wouldn't want to see Willow suffer either.
The door opened as they climbed the steps, and a pale man stepped out onto the landing. Bloody hell, it was an Immortal. That explained a lot. Man must be a friend of Cariss'. Spike's hold on Willow tightened infinitesimally. Vampires and Immortals tended to be natural enemies, and he didn't know this Immortal. If he tried to attack Willow—
"House rules, Fangers. No one in this house is a snack. Respect that rule and I won't have to kill you. Test me on it, and you're dust. Are we clear?"
"Then get your asses in here. Your sire is expecting you, and I'm getting tired of listening to him. We've got more than enough to deal with already."
With that, Methos—it could only be Methos—turned his back on them and walked back into the house, leaving the two to gape after him. A glance at Willow showed that her jaw had literally dropped at that introduction, which was more emotion than he'd seen since she'd gone silent. He gave a gentle tug to her hand and led her inside.
They encountered another Immortal on the staircase, glaring at them with ill-concealed disgust. He hoped there weren't any more running around. Cariss would account for the third of the four heartbeats he could hear, which left an outlier. Hopefully it was human, or another type of demon he could get along with.
Spike would never admit how relieved he was to see Angel stepping out of what he assumed was a bedroom. The fact he felt that relief at all annoyed him to no end.
No one could ever have anticipated Willow's response. The normally shy girl took a single step forward and landed a vicious punch to Angel's face. The older vampire looked more shocked than pained, until she punched him a second time, and a third.
"You son of a bitch!"
Spike watched, almost impressed, as Willow unleashed her rage at the change on his sire. She'd been too quiet, so it was a relief to see her finally react to something, but he'd never expected that she might attack Angel.
"You left me there! You knew where we were and you left me there!"
Whatever defense Angel might have made never left his mouth as the girl continued to attack him. Having had enough, he caught the girl in his arms and pinned her, restraining her from lashing out. Bewildered, he looked to his childe. This wasn't supposed to be happening. Spike had turned Willow, that much was obvious, and Cariss hadn't done the soul restoration spell, so he should be dealing with a newborn in the throes of initial bloodlust, not a screaming banshee attacking him and blaming him for destroying her life.
"Yeah, so, obviously something went wrong here. We have to get this sorted out. And she needs to feed."
"Don't you dare do anything else to me you sadistic bastard! I'll kill you!"
Well, shit. Willow's soul was still in there. And from her actions, it was still in control. This certainly complicated things. There wasn't a chance that Cariss would be willing to remove Willow's soul, even if she was up to doing the spell, which she wasn't. It would be dangerous for her to attempt any sort of magic while she was pregnant. The blood problem, at least, was one easily fixed. He'd made a supply run to the closest butcher as soon as the sun went down. Animal blood would taste wrong to a newborn, but it would take care of the need to feed.
"Willow, you need to calm down now."
He put all the authority he had in that order, and Willow obeyed, huffing in anger. If Spike sired this girl, then that made him her grand-sire, as well as the head of their bloodline. She really wouldn't have any choice but to obey unless she wanted him to put her in her place, and he hoped it wouldn't come to that. Unlike the Master who'd sired Darla, he had no qualms about doing whatever it took to keep order. He owed it to Willow to make this transition for her as painless as possible, which meant keeping her in line and keeping her from doing something stupid. He took that responsibility seriously.
"Methos, we'll need some of the blood I brought."
The Immortal's amused snort reminded Spike that there was an audience to Willow's meltdown. The desire to kill the man was instinctive; it was dangerous to leave alive an enemy that knew of ones weaknesses. He would eliminate any threat to his Red.
"I'm going to let you go now, Willow, but if you hit me again there will be consequences. Do you understand?"
"Go back to Hell."
His arms tightened, the threat subtle, but real. He didn't want to hurt her, but it would be worse for her if he didn't lay down the law immediately. It was practically inevitable that they would run into a number of European vampires so long as they were on this side of the Atlantic, and they were stubbornly rooted in tradition. If Willow mouthed off to the wrong vampire they would have a fight on their hands that he just didn't have the leisure to indulge in, not while having to protect Cariss and Lindsey.
"Do you understand?"
He released her, and she stumbled away from him. He watched Spike reach for her, and she batted his hand away. Keeping her soul had obviously kept her from falling into his childe the way she would have had she risen normally. A souled Willow might never forgive Spike for turning her the way the soulless version would. He had the feeling that Spike was going to have a hard time winning her over, which didn't bode well. More tension was the last thing that they needed in this house.
Methos returned from the kitchen with large soup bowls filled to the brim with heated animal blood. It looked as though the Immortal decided he wasn't going to take any chances on being attacked by a hungry vampire. A coffee mug really would have been enough for Spike, but better to give Willow as much as she could stand to drink.
"Drink up, Red."
Spike took a drink from his own bowl, in example. Willow followed suit, grimacing at the taste, but draining hers much more quickly than her sire did. Angel was relieved they didn't have to force her to drink. She wasn't trying to starve herself. That was a fight he sincerely hoped they never had to have. He was surprised when Methos returned and handed him his own bowl, but he accepted it with thanks. He'd been able to feed Cariss, but she'd nearly drained him. As long as she couldn't stomach anything else, he would be her sole source of blood, which meant that he had to see he fed himself. It also meant that he was going to have to switch to primarily human blood, to make sure that he was at full strength.
Once Willow was finished, Methos took the empty bowl from her, and glared at the others until they finished their own. Angel hurried to do so, not wanting to start another argument with the man. Much as he'd like to take his chances on ending the annoying Immortal, now that they had Cariss and this baby to worry about, they had to work together. For as long as they were under his roof, that meant good behavior. Forget taking everyone to a hotel, he might have to see about getting his own place, if they were going to be here for the foreseeable future. Cariss' townhouse in London probably wasn't the best idea to house all of them.
"You can take the room next to Angel. It should be light-proof enough for you. I'd advise that during the day you keep to those rooms. The rest of the house isn't exactly vampire friendly."
"That's fine, mate."
"I'm not staying with Spike."
Angel winced at the expression that crossed his childe's face as the woman he'd worked so hard to make his own refused him.
"That's fine," he hurried to intervene before a fight started between them, "Spike can stay with me. We'll be right next door," he added at the growling that came from beside the blonde.
"Give her a chance to calm down, Spike," he mutter softly in Czech, thankful for once that Cariss had insisted they learn it when they decided to spend a few years there. He'd personally never cared whether the locals understood them when they moved somewhere, but Cariss had been adamant, so he'd humored her. It stood him in good stead now, he could be sure that Willow at least couldn't understand them.
"If we leave her alone she'll just try to run off."
"If you insist on staying with her she'll try to stab you with something sharp and pointy."
"We have to fix this. I'm not leaving her in this state."
"We'll talk about that later."
"You won't take her from me, Angel."
"Damn it, William, I'm not trying to take her from you!"
He could already tell that this wasn't going to go well. He didn't want to take Willow from Spike, but the younger man would see any attempt to split them up as exactly that. He wouldn't see that at the moment giving the girl some amount of space was the only way they were going to keep the peace. He wasn't going to sit by and let Spike try to fuck the reluctant girl into submission a door away from him. It hadn't worked yet, and as long as Willow was unwilling it wasn't going to work. Too bad patience was never Spike's strong suit.
"I'm right here, you can stop talking about me and start talking to me!" Willow interrupted their conversation.
"You'll have your own room, Willow, and Spike will stay with me."
Spike could growl and pitch a fit all he wanted, but Angel was decided. If giving Willow her own room calmed her down even a little, it would happen. There was no better place for Willow to be, to learn to deal with having a soul, but if she refused to cooperate then trying to teach her would be pointless. They had to gain her cooperation.
"You try to run off, or hurt yourself, or us Red, and I go back to Sunnydale to take care of everyone you love. You got that?"
Angel rolled his eyes at the threat, but he was privately disturbed that Spike felt the need to make it. Accounting for the soonest Spike could possibly have turned her, and the flight time between Rio and London, Willow would have been on a plane for most of her first night as a vampire. She couldn't have tried to run off. Had Willow already tried to hurt herself, or Spike? It was worse than he'd thought.
"Got it," Willow bit out, her glare matching her sire's.
"Well then," the Immortal interrupted them, "now we've got that settled, there are more important issues to deal with. Do try not to kill each other while you're here. Angel?"
The question was nothing short of an order, and Angel sank his teeth into his lip to keep from saying something until the man was gone.
"I really hate that guy."
Still, he left Spike and Willow to deal with their own issues, though he could feel Spike following him, curiously. It had been hours since he'd fed Cariss, and given how close she'd been to starving beforehand, she was due for more blood.