A dark figure was propped against the airport arrivals' lounge wall, a leg bent up, apparently examining a ring on one hand.
As soon as Spike stepped into the lounge, Angel looked up. He watched the blond figure fetch his small holdall then pushed off the wall and came over to him.
Spike squared his shoulders and waited. Angel stopped in front of him and pursed his lips slightly. Spike swallowed deeply.
'It was okay.'
'Good place for it.'
Angel blinked slowly and nodded, then spun on his heel and swept out into the dark. Spike followed more slowly and climbed in alongside him.
They drove slowly, the traffic heavy. Spike stretched out and tipped his head up to the still warm night.
Angel watched him out of a corner of his eye. 'You look sick.'
'So do you.'
That silenced Angel for a while, until he said quietly, 'Buffy was here.'
'Huh. 'Nough to make anyone sick then.' He cupped his face into his hands and lit a cigarette, offered it to Angel, but smoked it himself when it was refused.
'Why did you call me, Spike? Why are you here?'
'Let's get in first, hey? I need a drink.'
Angel let it drop, until they pulled into the underground garage. They both sat looking at the place where they tried to kill each other, until Angel said, 'Buffy told me about the chip.'
Spike turned and faced him. 'What did she say?'
Angel swung round, too, and hooked an arm over the back of his seat. 'Just the bare facts, I guess. You can't kill or feed; you can't hurt anything living. That it was given to you by a military organization called The Initiative. Nothing more.'
'That 'bout covers it then. Shoudn't 'ave bothered to come.'
'That's why you came? You came to tell me that?'
'No, I came to tell you that I forgive you. She left that out I guess: that I've become a fucking wuss, and that I think 'bout things too much, and that I just wanted to tell you that I forgive you….'
He slammed out of the car and, once more, felt the desperate need to flee from something. Angel caught his arm. Spike growled. 'It only works on the living, mate. I can hurt you right good.'
Angel let him go but said neutrally. 'Drink?'
Spike toed the ground for a moment, then nodded, and followed him up.
He wandered around the apartment for a while, picking things up and looking at them, noting with a smile all the things that showed signs of being mended. 'I did a good job 'ere.'
'There was a lot of fixing to do when you left.'
Spike glanced at Angel.
'You heal okay?'
They sat opposite each other at the small table and drank for a while. Angel stretched behind for another bottle and said causally, 'Forgive me for what?'
Spike looked up carefully, 'Take your pick.'
'For turning you?'
'Maybe. Yeah, why not? You were a proper demon then; you 'ad to.'
'For making you… more evil than you would have been?'
'What, for making me butcher me family? Yeah, okay, I forgive you that too. I'm a bit off families at the moment; so that's an easy one.'
Angel toyed with his drink, tipping it slowly from one side of the small tumbler to the other. 'For leaving you?'
Spike pouted a little then laughed. 'Yeah. Can't believe I'm saying it, but yeah; I kinda understand it now, I think.'
'Understand my soul? How I felt? I don't get….'
'No, that you left me, cus it was the best thing for me.'
Spike looked him in the eye. 'We'd become… incompatible, and I needed to see that for meself.'
'It's taken you a long time.'
'It's taken a small piece of technology, that's what.'
'And being in love?'
Spike's head snapped up. He saw Angel's face and suddenly grinned, shaking his head. 'Tosser.'
'I can hear it, Spike, sense it, smell it. I'm your sire.'
'She's left you pretty screwed too, ain't she. I'm your childe. I sense you even stronger.'
They poured another drink and drank gratefully.
'Who is it?'
Spike pouted. 'You don't wanna know.'
'Ah, someone who would make me jealous.' He mentally reviewed the cast of characters and grinned. 'I tortured him for it, but he didn't learn his lesson, I see.'
Spike laughed. 'You're wrong, Angelus. He didn't want me then… hell, he don't want me now.'
'You're wrong. About then, anyway. I told you, Spike, nothing escapes me where you're concerned.'
'You kinda missed the crowbar coming.'
'Oh, yeah. Well I had end-of-the-world issues, ya know?'
Spike leant back and looked at Angel through lowered lids. 'So, you jealous?'
'You want me to be?'
They opened another bottle and time seemed to pass more… slowly after that. Angel put some music on; Spike shed his duster. Some time during the next bottle, Spike said carefully, 'So, you gonna tell me 'bout the slayer's visit?'
'I hit her.'
'Uh huh. Rather you than me. You still in one piece?'
'You should know that now.'
'What you gonna do?'
'You gotta square it with 'er.'
'What about you? Why are you here and not with him?'
Spike sat up and swung his legs off the bed, reaching for his T-shirt.
Angel watched his naked back. 'This going to change anything?'
Spike turned back. 'Is it with you?'
'There ya go then.'
'But… it was good?'
'Yeah. Ain't gonna solve nothin' though.'
'It's made me feel less like killing her.'
Spike chuckled and lay back down, his T-shirt discarded once more on the floor. He lit a cigarette. 'Worked out some angst on me, hey?'
'I felt some bones break there, yes.'
'Come back to Sunnydale with me and see 'er.'
'World of no, Spike.'
'Sounding like 'er ain't 'elping your cause none, peaches.'
'Why are you so concerned about my relationship with Buffy?'
'I'm not. I wanna work with 'er.'
'Did you just use the 'w' word, Will?'
'Fuck off. So, you coming?'
'You want a free ride, you mean.'
'He'll come back eventually; you know that. When he's done what he needs to do in England. What will you do then?' Angel turned on his side and propped himself up on his elbow.
Spike pouted at the ceiling for a moment. 'I don't think he is coming back. I think he's gonna find what he needs there. He don't need me; that's for sure. 'S what I left 'im for - so he could find what he really needs. Just like you did me. I hope he does find it.'
'No you don't; you are a pathetic liar, Spike. Did he actually fall for that crap?'
Spike chuckled. 'I didn't tell 'im; he's not me sire.'
'Just the man you love.'
Spike turned to him. 'I'll get over it. I've done it before.'
'And that's why you're lying here naked with me now. Because you got over me.'
'I told you. He don't need me. He needs all that over there. He needs to fill that space on the wall. If he don't, he'll resent me so much, we'll be over anyway.'
'And he told you all this, did he?'
Spike hesitated. 'You've no idea what it was like, pet, over there.'
'You're confused, Spike. You've all these new emotions churning around inside you. That repressed Englishman was not the best person to work them out with.'
'Huh. Think that's the Irish in you talkin' there, pet. You always did hate the English.'
'I didn't hate you.'
'I'm a one off.'
Angel paused. 'You didn't used to be.'
Some time later, and now on their fifth bottle, Spike lay on the other side of the bed, sucking gently on a deep wound on his wrist. Angel lay with his arms folded under his head, staring at the ceiling. 'If he has any sense - and I remember him as being very sensible - he'll be on the first flight home.'
Spike chuckled. 'You sayin' I'm good.'
'Yes. I am.'
'Yes. I am.'
'You gonna invite me to stay then?'
'No. I'm not.'
They both laughed and Spike folded his arms under his head in a mirror image of Angel. After a while, he said sadly, 'I was the worst possible thing for 'im to pick on to find all his new emotions, I think.'
'I agree with you. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall for some of your conversations.'
'Tosser. An' funny that, I used to imagine you there sometimes.'
Angel turned to look at him. 'What was I doing?'
'What do you think?'
He turned back. 'If he had any sense, he'd be with you now.'
'Yeah, well.' Spike sat up and swung his legs onto the floor in his second attempt to leave the bed. Angel stretched out a hand and pulled him back.
When dawn came, they were out of alcohol. Angel had some stuff that was stronger, and they began on that. Smoking happily, Spike eyed Angel through narrowed lids. 'This gonna make you more fun like?'
Angel, on his belly, idly stubbing his roll-up onto Spike's thigh in a trail of small burns, shook his head. 'If you mean is Angelus coming out to play, no. I don't let him.'
'You don't mean that. You know what he'd do to you for having him.'
'Huh. You more jealous than you let on then?'
'Enough to kill you - if I were Angelus.'
'You gonna ask me to stay?'
Some time later, Angel left a slightly incoherent message for Cordelia and locked the door. They had nothing left now, the floor littered with bottles, matches, and other debris. Angel looked down at the pale, naked body, sighed deeply, and turned to his weapons cabinet.
The blood was more of an aphrodisiac than the rest, and they played in their own blood for hours until Spike, still exhausted from his week's abstinence, fell asleep mid-thrust.
Surprised and amused, Angel eased off him, swept the bed clear of instruments, and pulled the blankets over them both. He was the first to wake late into the night, hesitated for a moment, then moved so his body touched the pale one in sleep.
They both woke when the sun came up. Sometime during the night, Spike had moved into Angel's arms.
They disentangled themselves, and Spike sat up, looking in wonder at the mess. 'Huh.'
'You gonna ask me to stay?'
'Okay then, but drive me to Sunnydale?'
'Yes. That I will do. And yes, I'll see Buffy.'
'Good. Kill that fucker she's shagging, hey?'
Casually said, Spike watched Angel's reaction carefully. Angel smiled. 'Don't try and provoke me, Spike. I know about him.'
'Bummer. He's the git who did this to me. Kinda thought my sire might wade in an' revenge me like.'
'Your sire doesn't care, remember?'
Spike laughed. 'Oh yeah. An' just for the record, pet, when you gonna stop pretending that and ask me to stay?'
Angel pouted, calculating, 'Another twenty years?'
'Hold you to it. What we gonna do 'til dark then?'
By the time they drove out of LA, neither could move very well. Angel drove slowly and dropped Spike off at the city limits. Spike leant into the car window. 'I'll be at the Bronze. See me 'fore you go?'
Angel nodded but, before Spike could pull away, said casually, 'You've changed. Don't undersell yourself, Spike, and stay safe for… oh, at least twenty years?'
Spike laughed and, as he walked away, gave a small wave over his shoulder. He waited until Angel's lights were out of sight then lit a cigarette. He tipped his head back at the night sky. It was warm; it was alive; and he'd forgiven Angel. He felt entirely different to the person he had been when he left England. Whatever he was doing - and he wasn't too sure exactly what that was - he felt he was making decisions for himself: what he wanted. |t seemed important, this small assertion of his independence. Whatever happened now - and he wasn't too sure exactly what that was going to be - it would be because he had made a conscious decision to remain what he was, and free the human. Some cages had been opened, and now he'd let Giles fly free.
He wandered slowly through the cemetery and pushed open the door to the crypt. He froze when he spotted some additional furniture and cursed softly at the loss of his new home. He was about to leave when someone bumped him hard from behind and swore. Spike tipped into the crypt, followed by a disgruntled Xander Harris carrying a television.
'Yeah. What ya doing?'
'Bringing you some junk.'
'You're living here, aren't you?'
'When was what?'
'I've been 'way, ain't I?'
'Yeah! You not even noticed?'
'We thought you'd been doing things. Evil things.'
'Well, I have. Yeah, that's right. But what you doing givin' me things? Don't get it.'
'Well it's junk; I had it spare, and Anya told me to.'
Spike laughed. 'You can put it down now; does it work, and can I kiss you?'
Xander backed out, alarmed, and Spike shouted after him, 'Missed ya.' He chuckled and said quietly to the television. 'I bleedin' did. Welcome home, Spike.'
He went to the Bronze as promised, and Angel arrived after a few hours looking less strung out. He grinned shyly at Spike, made to buy them both a drink then shuddered, and bought two cokes instead. Spike chuckled, and they made their way to a quiet corner.
Angel downed his drink in one then said smugly, 'She loves me best.'
Spike laughed, 'Could'a told you that, mate. 'S like I said; it's blood.'
'He was a wanker. A fat, wooden, wanker.'
'Fat's a bit unfair, pet. Think it's all that padding - for bullets like.'
'Nah. He was fat.'
'That make you happier?'
Spike stuck his legs out onto the couch next to Angel, and Angel laid a hand on his boots absentmindedly. Spike looked down and wondered why he found the hand so unnaturally pale.
Sometime before dawn, Angel walked back with Spike to the crypt. He wandered around it, eying it distastefully. 'I prefer my place.'
Spike shrugged. Angel came toward him. 'I have to go.' He pressed some money into Spike's hand. 'I've worked out the interest payments, and you're going to make me a very rich vampire in twenty years' time.'
'I'll make you something else too, luv.'
'Good. Take care of yourself, Spike. It's not easy living in a world ruled by another species' emotions.'
'Pillock. Give us a kiss then?'
'Hell would freeze over before I did that to you, Spike.'
'Tosser. Thanks for the dosh.'
'Spend it well.'
'Oh yeah, you know me.'
Unexpectedly, Angel grinned, pulled Spike to him, and swiftly kissed him on the forehead. He shivered as if feeling that small freezing then swirled out.
Spike threw a loud 'Wanker' after him and threw himself into his armchair to think.
He glanced over at the wall where he had blown the human in the early days of this bizarre relationship. He looked at the space next to it where he had stood and first discovered the pain of tears. He flicked the money Angel had given him idly through his fingers as he thought.
Before he could make a decision, he heard voices and, ripping open the door, discovered the gang outside, arguing whether they should knock before entering or just go in. Willow beamed at him and tucked her arm into Tara's. 'Hi ya.'
'What you all bloody want?'
Spike tried not to smile but failed, and lit a cigarette to cover. Xander looked askance at him. 'If we invite you to sort out a big nasty we've been chasing, you're not going to… kiss me or anything, are you?'
Spike made as if to do just that, but winked at the girls, and said, 'Take me to it. You 'ave no idea 'ow much I need to kill something.'
He stuffed the money into his pocket and followed happily behind the gang, swaggering slightly in the warm night air and the bright chatter.
'Why we goin' to the Slayer's? Big nasty ain't there is 'e?'
Xander appeared about to launch into some transparent lie, so the girls covered by more bright chatter until they had Spike inside. Buffy, standing by the telephone, held out the receiver. 'Giles wants to talk to you. He's been calling me for days, so talk. Now.'
Trapped, Spike took the handset, but he was about to put it down when Buffy caught at his wrist. 'I said talk.'
He grimaced and held it still, but stood there looking pointedly at the gang. She nodded and ushered them all out.
Annoyed, he put the handset to his ear. 'What?'
'I didn't think you'd actually talk to me.'
'Ah. I'm thinking of coming home this week.'
There was a very long silence, so long, that Giles was about to ask Spike if he was still there, when a small voice said, 'Thinkin' of it, or gonna do it?'
'Does it matter to you which?'
There was another painfully long pause. 'Yeah. It does.'
This time Giles hesitated, but they both sensed the difference between these silences. 'Then I'll be back Wednesday.'
Once more silence descended until, with a nonchalant wave of his hand that he forgot the human could not actually see, Spike added, 'I was wrong, by the way. Thought I'd just say that.'
Giles laughed. 'Can you repeat that; the line is very fuzzy my end; I thought you just admitted you were wrong about something.'
'Wanker. It's just, I got to thinking 'bout being a vampire, and that kinda focused me mind on what you need t' be.'
'Uh huh. Do I want to hear what you think I might need?'
'You're a human. You can't cast off the bloody past; you can't be what you ain't. You need what you've already got. What binds you.'
Desperately hoping that Giles would immediately contradict him on this, Spike was thrown by the human's silence.
He stood staring at his nails as he assimilated the fact that Giles was apparently coming back only to sort out his life before leaving for good. Exactly - as he had told Angel - what Spike wanted for him. 'Well, I gotta go cus… got things to do.'
The associations of that small exchange were not lost on either of them. Giles said quietly, cursing the distance between them, 'Maybe we should have stayed with the games, Spike. Do you sometimes think that?'
'I don't think we ever dropped 'em.'
'No. I don't think we did.'
Clenching his jaw, Spike said, 'I'll come meet you, yeah?'
The reply was choked off and the handset replaced. Spike listened to the tone, staring at the wall thoughtfully then replaced the receiver.
As he went toward the door, Buffy intercepted him. 'When's he coming back?'
Spike pouted for a moment then said, 'Thursday.'
She smiled. 'Great. I'll meet him.'
'Yeah, slayer, you do that.'
He watched the slow file coming through the arrivals' gate. Giles was toward the end of the line. Spike surprised himself by how nervous he suddenly felt. Everything had seemed so clear when he'd gone though it earlier in the crypt. He pushed off the wall. Giles saw him, but waited for his bags, his head lowered in thought.
He came over and put the bags down on the floor. 'Hello.'
Spike desperately wished he had a cigarette in his hand but nodded. 'Yeah.'
'I think we need to talk. Perhaps we could go for a drink?'
They drove in silence to the Bronze, and Giles made to buy some drinks, but Spike put a hand on his arm. 'I'll get 'em.'
Giles didn't want to ask where he got the money, so sat down in a dark corner and waited. Spike slid in opposite him.
Giles took the drink and, before either of them had a chance to even taste it, he said determinedly, 'LA. I need to know what happened. Before we talk, before we argue, before we make up, break up… I just need to know.'
'An' it's gonna change what you've 'ready decided to do, is it?'
'Ah. I think you've just told me then.'
'I went to see Angel. I wanted to tell 'im that I forgive him for the things 'e did to me. He's no more an abomination than I am, an' I just wanted to tell 'im.'
'An' he 'elped me see things clear - things I knew but was confused 'bout.'
'Like being a vampire.'
'Yeah. Like bein' a vampire.'
'And…. ' Giles played with beer mats absentmindedly. 'I need to know how he did that.'
'In vampire ways. Are you sayin' that I shouldn't be a vampire?'
'No. I'm not. What you do with Angel is your business. Just as the relationship I have with my parents in my business.'
Giles pouted for a while as he made a small house then jumped when a hard fist flattened it. 'Giles. Angel is in LA. I am here. An' you slept with that bint you're gonna marry, so we both don't want to ask questions, I'm thinking.'
Giles reared back. He blushed. He got up and made for the bar, changed his mind and went to the bathroom, came back and went to the bar, ordered some more drinks, then sat down.
Spike shrugged. 'Was it good?'
Giles looked frankly at him. 'Not as good as I think Angel would be.'
He heard what he'd said slightly before Spike did. He tried to amend it, felt a laugh bubbling out and, at Spike's incredulous face, began to chuckle helplessly. Spike shook his head and leant back in his seat. 'I've missed you, you wussock.'
Giles looked up. 'That was almost worth coming home for. Oh, yes, and did you say marry?'
Spike shrugged. 'Whatever, 'though I'm thinking yer old mum won't let you live in bloody sin, will she?'
'Err… what exactly are you babbling about?'
'The 'orse shagger! You're gonna marry 'er! It's what I came away for… so you could and… ya know… have that next little Giles on the bleedin' wall.'
'Ah. I thought you went because you didn't want me any more - given I as good as called you an abomination. Sorry. My mistake.'
'You think I don't want you?'
'I think you went to LA.'
'I think I'm a vampire.'
Giles leant back in his seat, slightly into the shadows, and looked intently at Spike. 'You left me without an explanation. You went to LA and fucked Angel, and you want me to marry some hideous woman in England. Have I missed anything out?'
Spike scratched his head, 'No. Well, yeah. Kinda. I mean…. You went off me, and I didn't need no explanation of that - I got the "I ain't goin' to heaven cus I'm fucking a vampire up the bum" subtle hints, mate. I went to LA to get some 'elp from me sire - what form that 'elp takes is our business, and I think if you do marry the 'orse shagger, I'll fucking stake meself, but given those slight amendments, then yeah, I think you 'bout got it right.'
Giles put his forehead down very slowly onto the table. He began to shake it from side to side equally slowly.
Spike lit up again, watching this odd behaviour and, after a slight pause, tapped Giles on the shoulder and offered him the cigarette. With no hesitation, Giles put out a hand, took it, and sucked in deeply. He sat up, looked at Spike and said softly, 'Some addictions are so hard to break.'
Suddenly, he reached out and grabbed Spike's face. 'Just fucking tell me….'
'Hey! Giles! What'ya'doin' here? Early? And with… Spike?'
Spike swiped Giles' hand away and made to rise, but he was pinned in the booth when Xander pushed in next to him.
'Thought you weren't back until tomorrow. What's up?'
'Nothing is up, Xander. Absolutely nothing is up, if you must know.' He saw the puzzled, well-meaning expression and sighed. 'I got an earlier flight, and I bumped into Spike and….'
'Buff's gonna be….'
'Maybe we could not actually tell….'
'Hey! Buff! Over here! Look who I got!'
Giles and Spike both looked up with dismay at the small train of familiar humans coming their way. This small gesture, done at the same time, made them turn to each other, and Spike gave a small, shy grin. Giles took his glasses off and wiped them carefully on a handkerchief. 'Hello, Buffy. Willow. Tara. And Anya, how fortuitous.' He looked up briefly at them, directly at Spike for one piercing moment and then, with the slight distraction of putting back on his glasses, said pointedly, 'I've missed you more than I can actually express.'
Buffy laughed and pushed Xander, so he slid up. 'Cool. D'ya have a good time?'
Still not looking at anyone in particular, he said carefully, 'For the first week I would not have wished myself anywhere else or with anyone else, but the last week was… awful.'
'You should'a come home sooner.'
'Yes. I got a little confused.'
Spike, in the process of lighting a cigarette with utter disinterest, said, 'That's cus you don't listen to people that know better.'
Before any of his young friends could comment on this odd interjection, Giles rejoined swiftly, 'Probably because I don't know any.'
'Don't take a genius to see a line of graves goin' back to beyond time. Don't take one to feel the power of those ties.'
'I don't happen to like Marmite much, either.'
Spike choked slightly on his cigarette and had to look away, trying to stifle his laugh. Giles smiled and shook his head at Buffy's odd look. 'So, what have I missed while I've been away. Military coup?'
She blushed slightly and began to relate slayer business. Spike had almost recovered his cool when he felt a foot pressed on top of his boot. He took a couple of furious drags and, at some comment of Buffy's, suddenly said, 'I don't understand this.'
She frowned. 'Maybe that's because I'm not talking to you.'
Giles looked at Spike for the first time and said casually, 'You haven't understood anything since you sat down, Spike, and you haven't understood anything that happened this week. Nothing. Do you hear me?'
Spike pursed his lips slightly then looked down at his cigarette thoughtfully. Xander, completely sure he didn't understand anything, suddenly grabbed Giles' arm cheerfully, 'Hey! We're having a party for you. Well, it's kinda a Bronze thing anyway, but we all said we'd pretend it was for you. But it's tomorrow, cus we thought…. Well, ya know. But hey! Still a good party.'
'Oh. Good. Thank you for the thought, but I'm not sure I'm really up to a….'
'So, what you going to come as?'
'Oh yeah… gotta be a costume party. No fun otherwise. It's 'Come as you are'.'
'Good, then I shall probably wear a smart suit.'
He heard a faint snort from Spike and pressed harder on the boot. Spike's other foot came to rest lightly on his. He moaned softly and covered by sipping at his drink.
Xander looked at Spike, weighing him up through narrowed eyes. 'You coming?'
Spike looked surprised. 'Me? To a party of yours? No fucking way; I ain't that sad yet. Where is it?'
'Huh. Public bar. I might just be 'ere anyway. Doin' evil stuff, course.'
'Given. So… what ya gonna come as?'
Spike laughed. 'I'll dig out me cloak. 'Ow's that?'
Buffy beamed at them all. 'So, we're okay?'
Giles pouted. 'I don't know yet. I'm hoping we might be. What do you think, Spike?'
Spike looked up from the intent study of his cigarette and said pointedly. 'I think I need to… talk to you. Now. Business.'
Giles nodded with almost overwhelming relief and made to stand. Suddenly, a hand appeared on his shoulder, and he sat, twisting around in his seat. 'Hello, Sir. Nice to see you back.'
Buffy gestured for Giles to move up and, to his compete horror, Riley sat down next to him. He swallowed. 'Thank you. I… err… have to go though. Spi….' He bit back the rest of his sentence so obviously, that all eyes turned to the vampire. Spike looked slightly paler than usual and tried, ineffectually, to blow a disguising cloud of smoke between them. Riley frowned, the cogs turning slowly.