First there was the Loom. This was what Angel was doing now, looming over the table, and the detritus of their drinks. The waitress hadn't cleared the glasses yet because Angel had given her Tactic of Doom #2; a deeply annoyed Angel look, which almost but not quite verged on Angelus. Angelus never looked so patient when he was irritated. Soon to come would be the Thoughtful Look, where Angel considered what to do, and how to make himself look sensitive while doing it. Then there would the Rhetorical Question, which was Angel asking something unnecessary, something so superfluous he knew it wouldn't get answered, but he tried anyway. Then, let's see what came after that?
Wes was looking at Spike with a certain disappointment. "You're Spike? Hm."
"What does that mean?" Spike demanded.
"Well, I did think you'd be taller. Hm. How interesting. I'll have to call Rupert."
"Yeah, you can do that tomorrow. After Spike leaves. Which will be now." Ah! Another one! The Empty Threat! He'd forgotten about that one.
"Now, now, Grandpa, is that any way to greet—URK!" Angel's hand slashed across the table and grabbed the front of Spike's duster, shirt, and tee shirt, and yanked him to his feet just like Darth Vader. "Let me go." Okay, not so empty threat...
"Why should I, Spike? So you can actually kill me this time?"
"I didn't come down here to kill you, Peaches. I've got other business here."
"Why did you make up that story about being in love with a human?" Wes asked. Angel dropped him, then, startled, and Spike, huffily straightening his clothes, at first didn't notice anything. Then he took a closer look. Angel was eyeing him with wary, curious eyes. Spike looked at the others. Lorne was watching the interplay the way he might watch a football game, his head swiveling back and forth, and Wes had reverted to staring at the ketchup bottle diffidently. Angel had backed up a step, and jammed his hands in his pockets, gazing at Spike's throat. Hm. Not his eyes. Interesting, that. Helpful, too. It gave Spike a moment to think.
They wouldn't believe him, and why should they? Him? Make up a story? Well, maybe. But not about love. Never about that.
They wouldn't believe him about Buffy, though. About the two of them. Interesting question, though. Suppose he did tell them, and the inevitable phone call ensued. What would she say? Spike shuddered at the thought. But he seriously doubted they'd even give a moment's thought to dismissing whatever he had to say as being lies. He glanced all around. The humiliation of it, not being believed. Of course the Slayer would never have anything to do with him, they'd say. For a brief and vivid moment, he pictured the laughter. Like he was an infection, afflicting her with his disease.
Then he pictured the lies he'd have to tell them. They must know about the chip; he wasn't the Big Bad any more. But he was worse, he realized. in their eyes; not scary, just a reminder of things past. Maybe a little pathetic. No, they'd not believe for a minute anything he had to say about Buffy. They'd resent it, too, if he tried to explain it. He wondered if he even could. She makes me feel alive, and I never knew I missed it. It occurred to him, abruptly, that they were all now looking at him, and he'd been silent the whole time, thinking about Buffy, and how her reputation amongst them would suffer if he so much as suggested...
"It wasn't a lie, was it," Wes said quietly. Angel sighed, a very good Angel sigh -- Spike gave it a 5.8 for execution, and 5.6 for creativity, plus another 6.0 thrown in for the hell of it because the bastard irritated him like no one else. "Was it?"
"No. None of it." He was almost embarrassed to be telling the truth. Hell, he was embarrassed, but when it came to Buffy, the truth was difficult enough. "'s true. She doesn't love me."
"And she's human." Wes said.
"Well, it was great catching up," Angel said suddenly. "So sorry to hear you're going." He reached out, but Lorne batted his arm out of the way.
"Sing, Sweet William."
"What the...? You're not going to set me on fire, mate, did that once already. Enough's enough, you frustrated... tutu groupie!"
At this outburst, pretty much everyone rolled their eyes in tandem. It looked positively synchronized. Spike wondered if they practiced.
Angel looked at Lorne thoughtfully, then glared at Spike. "You heard him, William." Bastard knew how much he hated that name. "Sing."
"Only if you tap dance, Peaches." Angel made another grab for him, then, but Spike was on his feet, and dodged out of the way easily. At that point, however, the waitress popped up, holding a glass of what smelled like very good cognac. Spike was tempted to take it himself, because fun was against Angel's religion. And, indeed, Angel waved it off. Spike grinned at him defiantly, and grabbed at it. Which, of course, irritated Angel even more, and he again slashed out that lightning fast hand, and plucked the glass off the tray and downed it. He downed it all in one swallow, licked his lips, and nodded to the waitress in dismissal. Spike's smile spread slowly over his face in response. "Well, that was fast, Grandpa. Talk about efficient. Seems I'd heard someone else say that about you, too. Who was it?"
"Sing, or scream, you decide." Angel growled.
"What is it with the musical comedy?" Spike demanded in bewilderment. "Already did that. Don't want to burst into flame, thanks. It's been real. Oh, wouldja look at the time?"
Lorne suddenly snapped his fingers. "That damned Sweet, was he...? Oh, of course." He looked immensely amused. "That guy is such a kidder, you have no idea. I remember this one time..."
Spike glared at him. "Guy set people on fire, mate." He winced at the memory of singing to an exasperated Buffy, but that led to thinking about her falling on top of him in the coffin, kissing him... "Oh, what, sorry? Were you done?"
"Not that sort of demon, my friend. so relax." Spike eyed the green demon's ensemble with visible skepticism. "What? Well, you obviously are not a spring, you have no idea what your true color scheme is." He adjusted his artfully-loosened tie just a tad. "I'm not one of those demons. I just need you to sing."
"Not gonna set me on fire?"
"No, sweetness, not unless you put more peroxide on that head than even I speculated."
"So..." Spike examined his nail polish. "What's it gonna do?"
"It will reveal the truth." Lorne said quietly.
"Bloody hell." Spike backed away, forgot they were in a booth, and sat down abruptly when his legs hit the edge of the bench. "You'll just tell Angel, won't you?"
"Only if you have something dishonorable in mind." An acerbic glance at the other vampire. "God knows, that'll happen some time soon."
"Shut up, Lorne."
"So nice to know PMS affects vampires, too."
"Would you like me to leave you two alone?" Spike enquired solicitously. "Because I could always get a room."
"All we need," Lorne said," is for you to sing."
"Yeah, and then what?"
"No fire, no destruction." Lorne assured him.
"What if I don't believe you?" Spike eyed Angel as he said this.
"Believe me." Lorne ordered him. "Oh, him? Just ignore that. He does that at breakfast, too." Angel groaned, rolled his eyes, and sank to the bench beside Wes. Great dismount, Spike thought. Definitely 5.9 material there. "Just sing something. Anything."
"Why don't I make recommendations, and you get the CD?"
"I need you to sing. You. Any song. Just a syllable. That's all. Nothing's going to happen to you, but I have to hear you. C'mon. Aren't you the scourge of Europe?"
Spike, happily remembering an evening spent torturing a rich double-dipping doctor, nodded agreement. Ah, the good old days. Then he remembered his present location and looked around. He licked his lips. "I died, many years ago, and..."
Lorne's face changed the way sand changes on a beach at high tide, the waves washing formation away, and smoothing all the variations. His face crumpled, grimaced, smoothed over, and started all over again. He looked at Spike with wonder. "I thought it was just Angel."
"I thought it was just Angel." Lorne mused. "A vampire in love, who'd have guessed? These things just don't happen."
"Well, I wish..." Spike stopped himself, but it was too late. There was a violent flash of light, a loud crunch, and a demon appeared before them. It was, undeniably, Halfrek. She looked around expectantly, then blinked. "Oh. Gee. Sorry. You're all... men. I just hate this on-call system. Sorry." She popped out of existence, but on the breeze of her passing, they heard a whisper: 'Hey! That was.... William?!' Spike looked around suspiciously, expecting another appearance, but the smoke was already clearing.
Lorne was looking at him curiously." C'mon, mi amigo. We have some talking to do."
At the booth, Angel had started to stand, but Lorne shook his head at him. "Just he and I." He pulled Spike outside in the cool night air, and watched while Spike lit a cigarette, shielding the cigarette behind the lee of the club's open door. "So? The Slayer, no less. How'd that happen?"
"Like I said, except this time just add the title." Spike rubbed his forehead. "You going to tell him?"
"He's not my boss, Blue Eyes, till he gives me a pay check. Sure, he may give me a place to lay my head, but as many diapers as I change, he's the one who's in debt here."
'Diaper?' Spike thought, but kept it to himself. Why in the hell would Angel be helping Cordy with her brat?
"Besides, if I wanted him to know, would we be here?" Spike smiled a bit at that, and looked at him.
"So, tell me, ah, Lorne, what is it that I'm supposed to do?"
"She really doesn't love you?"
"Don't think so. Hope so, though. Every day. We...." He looked away. "It's like we can barely look at each other without... wanting to..." He took a deep, ragged breath.
"You got it bad, my friend. And, I take it, so does she?"
Spike shrugged again. "She wants me. Not the same."
"And the rest?"
The rest being his purpose in coming here. "She's dying." He said. "Her friends pulled her out of heaven, and now she's working for people not good enough to eat, much less serve, and she's doing it for sixteen hours a day, just about every day. Her bloody friends don't help out at all, and her sister is acting up something awful."
"What can we do about it?"
"Well, I figured if Angel's fists could be pried open and some money felt out..."
Lorne just looked at him. "You want money?"
"And you came here to get it from Angel? Who hates you very enthusiastically, I might add."
"Yes, and I realize that. I'm not exactly president of his fan club either."
"And if he found out that you and Buffy were...?"
"I'd be a pile of dust."
"But nevertheless, here you are." Lorne looked at him for several uncomfortable minutes, face fixed and hard, no humor left at all. "For this human, this Slayer, who doesn't love you, but shags you senseless every chance she gets, while you pine for her."
"I don't pine for her," Spike pointed out. "I just... I just..."
"Oh, really? Do you find yourself thinking about her at all hours? Missing her? Worrying about her? Written any bad poetry? Gotten drunk lately? Taken any strange road trips with impossible goals in mind that could at the very least expose you to death or embarrassment?" He leaned forward, poked his long, green finger in Spike's chest. Spike noted that the nail was manicured. "Found yourself suddenly caring about people and places just because they have some connection with her? Oh, yeah, baby, you have it bad."
"Well, so?" Spike blew a long stream of smoke in the demon's face. "I don't have a soul like Angel. What's he done with his? Dru told me some stuff, but I got the feeling she didn't tell me everything. There's some things even Dru feels a bit twitchy about. Why is it so weird for me to love her? Why can't she love me? Bloody Harris and the ex vengeance demon don't get the crap I've put up with, and she was a demon ten times longer than I was."
"Anyanka? Oh, she was very good in her day." Lorne thoughtfully consulted some inner list, while Spike observed with interest. "Very... thorough." Something about the way he said, 'thorough' made Spike give a bit of a shudder, not as a vampire, but as a man. "Very original."
"Good thing Angel can't call down a demon on me." Spike said. "Because if he finds about Buffy and I, he'll kill me and then he'll race off to Sunnydale and be so sensitive and caring it'll cause a whole series of suicides. And he'll make her feel terrible, I can predict that. I can just see it now." He threw his cigarette away with a snap. "If I tell him what it's for, and who, he'd do it. Bastard. But I can't do that because he'd have it out of her hide. Look what a wonderful thing I did, have I mentioned it in the last five seconds? Show me some gratitude so I can wallow in noble sexual frustration for a while. Hey, have I mentioned I did this really nice thing?" He looked at Lorne, suddenly alarmed. "You won't ever tell him, will you?" He drew himself up to his full height, a good six inches shorter than the tall green demon, so why was it that Lorne found himself taking a step back. A muscle twitched in Spike's jaw, and his hands clenched into fists. "Angel never finds out. Never. He'll make her miserable, and—and -- -"
"I won't tell." Lorne said. He punched the vampire's shoulder as if they were drinking buddies or something. "But I'll help."
Continued in Chapter 19