This was not helpful.
Wes kept glancing into his rear view mirror as if he expected Angel to revive suddenly in the back seat. Spike saw that and grinned at him. "Uh, Watcher? You, ah, do realize that if he suddenly wakes up, you won't be able to see him in that mirror, right?"
Wes flushed suddenly, then recovered enough to give him a haughty look. "I'm well aware of that. But I could see some things shifting if he wakes up."
"Why is it so important?"
"There was an incident—was it last year? Or so, I forget precisely when. Angel was drugged, and it induced a false... euphoria. He became Angelus for a while. I'd like to get him home before that happens-- if-- if-- that happens -- so he can be restrained."
Hm. Interesting, Spike thought. "Was this when he set Dru and Darla on fire?" He asked pointedly.
Wes pretended to be preoccupied with passing another vehicle and ignored the question. Hm again, Spike thought. So he went all Angelus and that wasn't how Dru and Darla almost got toasted. What an interesting little tidbit that was. What was he when he decided to go all Firestarter?
They screeched to a stop in front of the Hyperion, and again Spike watched as they maneuvered the larger vampire up the steps. Dead weight indeed. And how disappointing; if it had been him, he would have at least dropkicked him a few times. Lorne must have picked up on some of that, because he insisted on taking Angel to his room, and presumably tucking him in. Spike was amused by an image of the demon attempting to put Angel into his pyjamas. For a moment, he entertained himself by speculating on Angel's choice of nightwear. After all, he certainly couldn't wear the coat to bed.
Wes poked his head out of the office, and beckoned at him. Spike, remembering that he was about to be given a fair amount of money, suddenly tried to remember what gratitude was. Certainly, there was that feeling he got when Buffy touched him anywhere, but he didn't think Wes would appreciate that particular expression if confronted with it. He peered around the doorjamb, hand scratching uncomfortably at the back of his neck, right about where Buffy usually put her hand when she kissed him. With a practically audible snap, he wrenched himself back to whatever it was that Wes was saying.
"How much do you need?"
"Well, house payments, for a few months at least..." Spike thought. In truth, he hadn't planned for this, and now, confronted with his success, he had no idea what to ask for.
"What are you going to do?" Wes asked curiously.
"Thought I'd, you know, get some information from Dawn, make a few payments, take a bit of the heat off..." Spike trailed off uncomfortably as he felt Wes' eyes on him. "Dawn will do that for me."
Wes shook his head, his eyes blank and amazed. "You know, she won't even think it's you when she finds out someone's paid some of her bills."
Spike just shrugged. Big deal. Just as long as he could crawl into her bed, and this time not have to leave while she tried to persuade him to stay.
"What if she thinks it's Angel?" Wes said gently.
"What if she doesn't?" Spike countered. "They met after... she came back, you know. She won't talk about it. And he set Dru on fire, and you already told me he wasn't Angelus at the time." He stared away with some bitterness. "What did he do after she died?"
Wes looked away.
Spike scowled at him, even though he wasn't the problem. "What'd he do, go party? Sounds like him." He refrained from pointing out the misery of those 147 days. "Guess it wasn't a timeless thing for him, like he told her, was it?"
"Spike... I would like to ask something."
Spike nodded his assent, expecting something technical, but that wasn't what he got. "She doesn't love you at all?"
"No, it's not like that." He answered. "There's something there." He scrubbed his hand through his hair. "Not sure I can handle it, if it does happen, you know? I know it, know she doesn't love me, but sometimes I think I see it, in her eyes, it's just that she hates saying stuff like that." He glanced down at the floor, unable to meet the Watcher's eyes. A Watcher and a vampire, talking about love. He wasn't sure if it was a good thing, but he did know one thing; it was extraordinary, and Buffy was the catalyst for it. "Putting it into words -- not her strong suit."
"You were a poet."
"When I was a human." Spike thought about it, then added, "That's what I feel like... when..." He had to look away. "You?"
Wes shrugged uncomfortably, leaning forward on his elbows on the desk, unwilling to answer, but unwilling not to; how could he not, when the vampire had been nothing but honest? He was momentarily silenced by the idea of it all; sharing confidences about love with a vampire. He sighed, swallowing a lump in a dry throat. "She... uh.... she loves someone else."
"Then she's not for you." Spike said quietly. He thought of Dru, always willing to drop him at the crook of Angelus' little finger. "Know what it's like, I do. Won't make that mistake again. It's like you're not there, when there's someone else. She's -- she's -- aware -- of me. I come up behind her, and she... senses me. Feels me. I know what that's like, don't I? That's how I felt with... this..." His voice got very soft. "...this woman I loved. I felt her, when she was around me, like the air had a tide and she shifted through it like a current." He shrugged with embarrassment. "Never felt that way about anyone till Buffy." Not even Dru, he thought regretfully, but he wasn't sure that was a bad thing. Dru had been so dependant on him, but Buffy could get along quite well without him, he knew. Nevertheless... She was still there, wasn't she? Not like she was going with the first human who came along.
"Can't help what I feel." Wes said ruefully.
"No, you can't." Spike said thoughtfully. "All you do is ride it out. Like an undertow, mate, that's what it is. You fight it, it will drag you under. Just have to go with it, because you'll use up all your strength against it, and it won't matter. It'll kill you."
Wes nodded silently, looking at his desk. Spike looked at him soberly. "Who?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Who is it? You used to be sweet on Cordelia, didn't you?"
"Oh, that..." Wes brushed that infatuation away. "Things were so different then." He considered it for a minute, the pleasant certainty of that crush, crumbled in a heap on a library floor. It was almost sweet, compared to the twist he felt in his gut every time he looked at Fred. He knew he should try and feel glad for her sake, but he just couldn't. The fact that Gunn obviously treated her like fine china only made him feel guiltier. "No, it's not her. Not that she's not a wonderful woman."
Aha! Spike thought. She's still in love with the father of the kid. Isn't that the same old story? "You have to give it time, Wes." He said. "'Course, what do I know, I'm a vampire."
Wes blinked at him. "Spike, I'm beginning to think you might be as unique as Angel himself."
"Uh, yeah." Spike brushed that away. "Well, that I am, but not for the sort of thing I'd like. William the Bloody has reverted to his true roots. Next thing you know, I let the hair go, start listening to harpsichord music, 'f you can call it that music. Please stake me if I do, would you? I don't mind being a—a—house pet -- quite so much as I mind the idea of being... a.... tacky house pet."
Wes blinked at this, having no idea how to cope with a vampire suffering an identity crisis. He'd figured he'd reached the limit of his adaptability with the whole vampire-in-love thing now, but now here was something else. Really, he needed to write this stuff up to truly cope with it.
"Ah -- I'm sorry. Spike, how much was it that you wanted?"
Lorne flipped the blankets over Angel's prone form and considered that maybe being a vampire wasn't a bad thing. No snoring, for example. Definitely a plus. On the other hand, to adequately nurture a grudge and a desire for retribution, it appeared there was nothing like a centuries-long life span to truly give one an attitude. He'd of course been around for the whole half Angelus thing the previous year, but unlike the others, well, he hadn't found it depressing. At first. Killing lawyers? Well, darn. Now, he hadn't had anything personally against Dru or Darla, but nevertheless, vampires, that whole thing, why couldn't they go vegetarian or something? Or pick off obnoxious people? So, again, there, not exactly feeling the dismay. It had taken him a while, he admitted it, but maybe it had been the cumulative effect, but finally it had gotten to him. Still, wasn't it unreasonable of well, some people, to expect Angel to be...so...well...angelic...all the time? There was some poetic justice there somewhere, and he really didn't know quite where.
He was good at dealing with..stuff; had to, with his abilities. Nevertheless, he found tonight to have left a rather unpleasant taste in his mouth. He'd read Spike, and never before had Angel doubted him. It was as if Angel had changed the rules just for this one night, this one case, this one vampire. It wasn't like him, although it was perilously close to last year's Angel for his taste.
He'd heard all about Spike; he'd heard about Buffy. He knew about the chip as well. What he just couldn't figure out was how the one affected the other. He had no doubt about Spike, but he didn't know nearly enough about Buffy to make up his mind.
Why do you care? His subconscious asked.
Because one lovesick vampire was more than enough.
And, maybe, just maybe... He sighed heavily, unwilling to bring that thought to its sappy conclusion. He hadn't had nearly enough to drink for that. A vampire in love with a Slayer? He looked at Angel again. So different this time around, wasn't it?
Spike poked his head in. "How's the poofter?"
"And people say you don't care, you crazy kid." Lorne adjusted a pillow, and Spike wondered how he could resist the temptation to press it over that face. Of course, it wouldn't kill him, but it would mean one didn't have to look at him.
"I don't, actually," Spike said. "But there was something." He swung the bag he'd brought with him, and out came a cascade of Playboy magazines, in a satisfying flurry of pages. Angel did not so much as flinch. Spike wondered what it would be like when he woke up; he was sort of sorry he'd miss the fallout, but not if it kept him from Buffy for any longer than necessary.
"It's interesting you stopped by." Lorne pointed out.
"I needed to do some more gloating."
"Sure it wasn't something... more... compassionate?"
"Uh... Yeah." Spike fixed him a perfectly balanced scowl in which scorn, amusement, and disdain were evenly mixed. "I just wanted to make sure he hadn't thrown up all over you."
"Oh, ack." Lorne said, backing away. He brushed off his hands unconsciously, turning Lady MacBeth for an instant. Then he tiptoed gingerly around the bed. "Well, thank you very much, Mr. Smarty Pants. Just for that, I'm coming with you."
"So... I thought we were leaving."
"Just one more thing I have to do."
"Are you going to tell me what that is?"
With that, Spike slowly, patiently, turned his head and glared at him. Lorne was impressed by the deeply annoyed quality of that scowl, but on the other hand, Angel had the patiently-enduring-thing perfected to a more subtle degree. Spike looked as if the next notch up his particular ladder of pique might involve ripping off heads. Angel always looked as if he were going to sigh repeatedly, then get tight-lipped, and finally threaten to rip off heads. He wondered if impulsive head-removal was just something one outgrew, like impulse shopping; after all, Angel had at least a hundred years on Spike in the age category. How did vampires mature, anyway?
Spike yanked the car over to a parking spot in front of a store, and leaped out, duster practically flapping with glee. Lorne shook his head. What on earth was going on in that bleached blonde head? Was it the peroxide?
Spike pegged the clerk's look instantly: Huh, leather good, but attitude sort of scary. Customer or potential robber? Let's walk in front of one of the fitting mirrors, he thought, and really freak this guy out. "I need something that looks like this." He said, gesturing, and watched as the clerk visibly relaxed. "Except," he savored the thought, "in the smallest size you've got."
It didn't take long; the clerk was only too eager to placate him and then see him on his way, his unease in no way alleviated by the way Spike haggled over the price. Oh, for the good old days, when he'd dealt with indecisive twits like this by making them dinner instead of commission. Bastard. Damned if he was going to pay that much for something he'd never use.
Finally, he intimidated the git enough for the purchase to be rung up as a sale item, then snatched the bag and raced out. Just closing time: how fast could he drive, and he still had a final stop to make. He completely ignored Lorne's skeptical expression as he performed a fast and highly illegal U-turn, then went screeching back to the Hyperion.
"Hey, I'm not coming back here just yet, sweetie," Lorne pointed out.
"Relax, leprechaun." Spike muttered, grabbing the bag and dashing back in the building. "Just one last thing..."
Careful now, he tiptoed up the stairs, looking in both directions at the landing, checking for noise. Nothing. He went to Angel's room and was pleased to see his grandsire both unattended and still deeply unconscious. Even better. Once he'd not have hesitated to get revenge for a century of irritation both so extreme and so petty he'd have called it human. Now he had a better plan...
He pulled the new coat out of the bag, ripped off the price and size tags, and threw it over the sleeping form. Bastard wanted a coat? Well, then see if this one fit. At least the size was appropriate... Soul or not, Angel always had been nothing but an extra small.
Light-hearted again, and light-headed with the thought of seeing Buffy again -- how many centuries had it been? -- he sauntered out to the car, duster swaying around him. He slid behind the wheel, sighed with as much contentment as a vampire could muster, and then cranked up the CD player to The Ramones.
"Don't you dare sing." Lorne said.
Continued in Chapter 23