The Downside of Elemental Dieseling

Author: Nickeltaffy

Disclaimer: Blah, blah, blah…These characters are Joss's. I don't own them, never did and never will. Thanks for the loan, Joss.

Chapter 8

Spike slowly raised his head from where his body lay sprawled in the base of the large ventilation shaft located in the basement. He hazily opened his eyes and blinked a few times before becoming fully awake. What? Where was he, he wondered. The last thing he remembered was losing his balance in the duct and then he was falling. He looked up at the unending dark void that hovered over him. Reaching up, he brought his hand to the back of his head as he slowly shook it and thought. "Hmm. That was a bit of a nasty fall. Thank goodness, I landed on my head. Now where exactly am I?" He was in no hurry to move as he inspected his surroundings. To his right, he could see a large metal box containing the mechanics of the HVAC system. There was a large motor hovering next to and slightly over his body with a large fan that turning ominously. He realized his luck of landing where he did, an inch or so over and it would have not been pretty. Carefully, turning his head he could see dim light filtering in through the vents on the far side of the unit. As he pondered the best way to extricate himself from the situation, he realized he could hear the murmur of adult male voices filtering into the unit.

"Did you see what he was wearing?" Angel said with a slight chuckle. "Spike would have had to have had mental issues to agree to wear that."

"Now Angel, I don't think he had any choice in the matter. He is just a child." Wes primly responded and then joined in the merriment. "Oh, it really was awful, wasn't it?"

"He looked like he was opening for a Vegas act. You didn't happen to notice any white tigers while you were there?" Angel joked as his laughter began to bring tears to his eyes.

"No, I didn't. But, I think I did hear the announcement that he would be appearing in the main lounge tonight." Wes snorted.

"That outfit would make Lorne's wardrobe seem sedate." Angel speculated jokingly. "I think Lorne would be happy to have someone else that shares his Technicolor fashion sense."

"It did seem a bit extreme, even for Lorne." Wes said, taking large breaths and trying to calm down.

"Makes me wish I had a camera. That would have been the firm's Christmas card this year." Angel postulated.

Both men broke out in new waves of uncontrollable laughter at the thought.

Outrage coursed through Spike's small body while he clenched his fists as he listened to the bloody poofter making fun of him. "Where did the Ponce get off critiquing my appearance? Shouldn't Peaches be more concerned in making sure his hair stood up correctly? What if the stock market crashed on the national hair gel reserves?" He thought as he listened to Wes and Angel carry on about his current ensemble. Spike looked down at his clothes which had gained a layer of dust from his adventure in the ductwork. Although, he did not really care for the clothes, he knew that Shirley had purchased them for him as an expression of her affection for him. He was not going to let these boneheads cheapen her heartfelt endeavors. "Okay, they are hideous; but that's not a crime. There are worst things in the world other fashion offenses, you know!" he thought. Spike's face flushed with righteous anger as he got to his hands and knees.

Dodging the motor and crawling over to what looked like a panel, he pushed on it with his feet to find it suddenly spring open thanks to hinges lining one side. He cringed as he heard the door bash against the metal framework of the AC unit. It wasn't the smoothest action he had ever done; he peered out of the access panel of the building's large HVAC unit. He was glad to see that no one had noticed his slightly less than smooth maneuver with the vent panel. He glanced around the basement from his perch and then at the floor below. From where he sat, he saw that he was suspended just less than five feet from the ground. From his perspective, it might have as well been twenty. Spike was aware that he was not going to exit the AC unit gracefully, but he didn't have any other option. He rolled over on his stomach and lowered himself over the edge, the toes of his feet dangling six inches above the floor as he fully extended himself from the opening. Looking over his shoulder, he let go of the frame of the vent and dropped to the floor. His feet hit hard on the basement floor, making his stumble and he fell ungainly onto his rear. When his momentum finally stopped, Spike ended up sitting with his legs sticking straight out in front of him staring at the AC unit. His rear end smarting, Spike's face crumbled into a grimace as his hand went back to rub his offended dignity. This smaller body could be a real pain, he decided.

He looked to see that the men were tied up back to back in a pair of chairs under a bright light on the far side of the basement. Luckily, the air exchanger was in a darkened corner of the basement. He saw that neither man had noticed his less than ten point landing. He was especially surprised to see that Angel had not noticed his less than spectacular exit from the ventilation unit, what, with vampire hearing and all. The Poof was having too good a time making fun of my clothes, Spike grumbled inwardly. He thought "Let's let everyone have a good time, boys!"

Shaking his head and laughing, Angel suddenly froze when he noticed the little figure standing next to him. The merriment instantly evaporated from his face and his eyes widened in shock at Spike's sudden presence.

"Uh. Hello." Angel said slowly at the small face solemnly peering at him.

"Hi." Spike answered, just staring unwaveringly at the brunette vampire.

"What? Oh! Spike! What are you doing here?" Wes stated with surprise in his voice as he turned to see to whom Angel addressed.

"Who's Spike?" Spike asked, making sure his eyes were huge and apparently completely innocent.

"You are. Don't you remember?" Wes asked, turning his head to look back over his shoulder at the child.

"Uh uh." Spike answered and looked down at his feet. "Spike's my name?"

"It sure is." Angel interjected with an almost enthusiastic parental tone. "Do you remember us?"

"Uh uh." Spike responded as he looked around. Jerking his head around to Angel, he asked. "Spike's a tough guy name, isn't it?"

"Yes, you're a very tough guy. You're a hero, too." Angel responded, encouragingly.

"I am?" Spike sounded surprised. He rarely got any recognition from Angel when he was adult for his achievements. Despite knowing that Angel was talking to a child, the praise felt wonderful.

"The best I know!" Angel affirmed with a smile.

Clearly thrilled and grinning, Spike asked. "What's your name?

"My name is Angel and this is Wes." Angel stated, as he leaned his head toward the child. "We're very good friends of yours."

"You are?" Spike almost choked on the sentiment as he responded. He didn't want to admit it but this was getting to him.

"Yes. We're very good friends." Angel affirmed with a nod. "We've come to take you home."

"You did?" Spike repeated almost stunned before getting a hold of himself. Taking a step back, he let his eyes wander over the men tied up before him. "You don't look like it."

"Well, that's because…." Angel stalled as he tried to think of a plausible reason for being tied up.

"We're playing a game!" Wes suddenly interjected.

"Yes, that's right. We're playing a game!" Looking over his shoulder in relief, Angel quickly jumped on the bandwagon to portray the current situation as part of a game.

"Watcha ya playin?" Spike asked as he tilted his head in puzzlement.

"Good guys and bad guys." Angel announced

"Oh." Spike made a noise as he processed the information. Then with an interior smile, he asked. "Which ones are you?"

"We're the good guys!" Angel pronounced with some pride.

"Oh! That's too bad." Spike sounded disappointed. "Is that why you're tied up?"

"Yes. You see, the bad guys have us tied up and we're just waiting for a hero to rescue us." Wes stated. "I don't suppose you would care to play? We do need somebody to rescue us."

"Me?" Spike asked, clearly impressed with the offer.

"I think he is just the right person for the job. What do you think, Wes?" Angel commented as he looked Spike up and down to his apparent approval.

"I believe this young man is perfect for the job." Wes confirmed, with a wink.

"I am?" Spike answered as he was wondering how long he could stretch this interchange out.

"Yes, you are!" Angel excitedly affirmed, clearly trying to motivate the child. "All you need to do is untie us. You think you can do that?"

Spike nodded vigorously. Staring at Angel, Spike continued to stand there without moving. Angel raised an eyebrow at the lack of activity from the youngster.

"Uh, Spike. How about now?" Angel asked, slowly.

"Now what?" Spike responded, seemingly distracted.

"Untie us." Angel prompted, indicating the ropes with a nod of his head.

"Oh, okay." Spike nodded as he disappeared between the two men.

A few more seconds went by and Spike reappeared at Angel's side.

"I don't know how to untie." Spike confessed, leaning toward Angel. Of course, Spike knew how to untie the knot, but this opportunity didn't come along everyday. He wanted to see what Angel and Wes would do if he threw them some curveballs.

"Perhaps, he is too young." Wes proffered as he considered the situation.

"Nah, I believe in him." Angel disagreed. He tilted his head toward the child and said encouragingly. "Just pull on the ropes until the knot comes undone. I know you can do it."

"Okay." Spike sighed as he nodded.

Spike again disappeared between the two men. There was a flurry of tugging on the ropes between them but neither man felt the ropes release. As Spike knelt there, he put his chin in his hand to consider the situation before him. Sure, he could untie the lunkheads, but what was the fun in that? While he had these two poofters at his mercy, he might as well mess with them a little, right? Well then, let's carry on, he decided. He stood up and turned to Angel with his head bowed with failure.

"It's too hard." Spike sighed, but looked through his lashes to secretly watch Angel's reaction.

"Hmm. Maybe…you can go find something to cut the ropes with." Angel proffered without really thinking it through.

"Okay!" Spike affirmed as he charged off into the darkness

"Uh, Angel. That might not have been idea." Wes said with a dreading trepidation. "You realized you just sent a child off to find something sharp."

...

Putting down the tiny pliers, Fred was just making the last few adjustments on the handheld energy detector she had customized to detect the specific energy from the Quavolchan stone. If Spike was anywhere in the hemisphere, this device would lead them to him. She closed the casing on the device and turned it on. The screen lit up a bright lime green for a few seconds, before it became a pale blue. Suddenly a graph appeared superimposed over a map of Los Angeles. Fred stared at the screen as she waited for the device to tell her anything. The detector suddenly emitted a series of beeps and noises in her hand. Finally, on the screen a tiny flashing dot of red appeared. Fred made a triumphant fist pump in front of her as she gleefully yelled. "YES!"

Smiling and continuing her small celebration, Fred leaned over to phone and punched in Gunn's extension.

"Hey, Charles. You feel like going for a ride, tonight?" She said with a grin from ear to ear.

...

On the other side of the basement, the sounds of noisy rummaging could be heard from the darkened sections of the basement. Wes and Angel began to look more and more uncomfortable as they sat there listening to the increasing cacophony of sounds issuing out of the darkness.

"Oh, Cool!" A little voice carried over to the two men who looked at each other momentarily. Their eyes drawn to look back with dread to where the voice issued.

Wes cleared his throat nervously as he shifted in his chair, not being able to tear his eyes away from the darkness. The sudden pattern of little footsteps running toward them had them spellbound. A small gold sneaker appeared at the edge of the light and stopped. Whatever Spike had found, it was giving his some trouble carrying it. In the next instant, Spike lurched forward into the light with his prize.

"LOOK WHAT I FOUND!" He crowed to the room as he staggered under the size.

"Angel! Make him stop! Make him stop! Make him STOP!" Wes screamed with real terror in his voice.