O limed soul, that struggling to be free art more engag'd
(Hamlet, III, iii)
'It terrifies me.'
His words haunt her all day.
He's come to the right girl, for fear is something Fred is intimately familiar with.
It's why the following night, after hours, Fred finds herself in Records and Files, pulling his file. It's labeled: Spike, aka William the Bloody. A startlingly thick file; she has to use both hands to lift it out of the drawer.
She takes it to a deserted desk, unties the strings, and begins to turn the pages, starting not methodically at the beginning, but at the top, where the most recent entries are, working her way down to the bottom of the stack, sometimes turning to the next page, sometimes skipping a decade or two. It's like reading a horror novel, only backwards. And she already knows the fiery ending….
Photographs. Drawings. Itineraries. Prophecies – some marked with a red stamp saying 'void', others marked 'case reopened.' A folder peppered with military and medical terms, schematics of a so-called 'behavioral modification chip.'
She picks up a candy-colored photograph showing a smiling young black woman and an earnest little boy. The girl wears a shiny, familiar looking black leather coat. A newspaper clipping, several black and white crime scene photos, and a coroner's report are tacked to the picture. The clip reads 'subway gang-war killing.' The photos show the black girl, dead. Her coat is gone.
Fred returns the photos to the file. Flips more pages.
Details. Bloody. Lurid. A chronicle of bloodshed, murder, and gore spanning more than a century. It makes her skin crawl. It also makes her want to wipe her hands on something, because she feels contaminated just from touching the pages.
Two slayers. Countless innocents. Murder upon murder. It's all so cold and clinical on paper.
At the bottom of the file there's a picture of a thin, dark-haired woman with dark eyes. She's smiling coquettishly. It's a recent picture, less than three years old, according to a scribbled comment on the back by one of Wolfram & Hart's staff.
'Drusilla, sired by Angelus,' the caption says. Spike's sire. Wesley mentioned her once, a long time ago, when the topic of Angel's vampire 'family' came up, spoke of her madness and her psychic abilities. Something about the woman in that picture feels familiar, but Fred can't put her finger on it.
"More than a hundred years, that's how long we were together." His voice makes her jump, literally. The chair clatters to the ground.
"Don't ever do that again!" she gasps, heart still racing from the shock. She picks up the chair, but remains standing, fighting the instinct to back away from him. He's a ghost, he can't hurt her, right?
"She made me, Dru did," Spike continues without apology, jaw clenched, a determined set to his shoulders. "I'm not saying it was her fault. It wasn't. Never did anything I didn't' want, well, not often. Dru asked me if I wanted it. Told her 'yes.' Had no clue, did I? Still, even if I'd guessed, my answer would've been the same." Spike's voice is bland, snark-less.
He's perching on a neighboring desk, and she'll have to research later how that is possible, because by rights he should be sinking through the furniture and then through the ceiling, being non-corporeal and all. What would happen if Spike took off his equally non-corporeal coat? Would it float down? Dissolve?
Fred realizes she's still holding Drusilla's photograph. She shoves it back into place and closes the file, dog-earing the picture in her hurry to disassociate herself from the gruesome contents.
"Why would anyone choose to become a killer?" the words slip out before her brain can catch up - with the fact that part of her knows very well how a person may end up crossing the line; with the fact that in the face of this documented carnage she actually forgot – at least for an hour or so - the blood that stains her own hands. It frightens her.
She picks up the folder and resolutely stuffs it into the filing cabinet, then slams the drawer shut. The sound makes her flinch.
"You shouldn't have looked at all that." Spike mutters with a shake of his head.
"Why not?" Fred bristles. Does he think she can't handle blood? She's helped Angel for two years now, seen some pretty icky and nightmarish things….
Spike slides off his desk. "'Cause of the way you're lookin' at me now?" He makes it sound like a question.
"I'm sorry. I—"
A pained expression flickers over his face, so fast, Fred wonders if maybe she imagined it. "Listen, I had no right to ask for your help, I see that now," Spike interrupts her. "You probably have more important stuff to do, like building Dr. Brown's flux compensator and whatnot. All I'm asking is—" He stops. Takes a deep breath, then tries again: "Look, if by chance you come across something, anything—to get a handle on this—" he spreads his arms wide but his gaze is directed downwards, "--this whole spook thing, I'd 'preciate a heads up."
Spike doesn't wait for her reply but strides off, non-corporeal coat swishing.
Fred watches him step through a solid wall, then he's gone.
The fears Spike confessed to this morning? They seem awfully well-founded, now that she's seen evidence of the things he's done, if 'well-founded' is even the right term in this context because there's nothing 'well' in that file, just horror and blood; too much to get over at the drop of a hat, too much to be fully obscured by the fact that he died saving the world.
She silently resolves, there and then, never to pull Angel's file. That might just be too much to handle.
And Spike's problem? She won't get to work on it right away. There's still a painful knot of disgust and loathing in her stomach, a feeling that seems to have every intention of settling there for good. Apparently that comes with the whole den of evil package. Maybe tomorrow her appetite will be back. And then she'll banish Spike's past to the back of her mind and focus on the present, because Fred Burkle enjoys a good scientific puzzle, but mostly because even murderers deserve a second chance.