Finally, well, there was Spike. The idea of chatting up a vampire would have been an alien one two years ago, something he once wouldn't have dreamed of doing. He had to wonder, now, how many things he'd once never questioned were holding him back. Besides, he needed to talk to a kindred soul. He couldn't discuss lost love with Angel, seeing as how Angel regarded himself as the touchstone for the subject. Angel had never loved someone without reciprocation; how could he talk about it? Truth was, the friendship there had undergone some troubling sea change not helped by the last several months. Much as he hated to drag his friends down with his feelings, he also couldn't help but think that they might have displayed some tact in the way they acted around him. Young love was difficult enough to take when one had loved and been rejected; when the object of one's affections then joyously took up with someone else beneath one's nose and on one's payroll, well, there was something to make a sober man contemplate alcohol.
Talking to Spike had been a curious experience, something he wanted to see if he could recreate sans alcohol. He wanted to talk about how much he loved Fred, how lonely he felt when he saw her with Gunn. He'd not only lost his love, but his best friend, hell, his only friend; maybe only another soul who loved heedlessly could understand that.
And then, too, how ironic to think of Spike in those terms.
All in all, it had been a pleasant plan, sort of like a mental process of packing, and he had found it immensely soothing.
Unfortunately, things had worked out rather different.
Instead of driving Angel's convertible, top down and wind in his hair, he was driving, well, Angel's convertible with the top up and blankets across the windows. Instead of the wind in his hair, he had air conditioning in his face, and he suspected it would give him a cold. Finally, there was the matter of two hours of thoughtful contemplation of life. It was just a tad difficult to think about life when one had a hungover vampire in the back seat, alternately moaning, and groaning, "Pull over," so he could throw up by the side of the road. He'd pulled over so many times that they had probably left a quite clear trail of, well, clues, behind them, and if he lost his roadmap, unlike Hansel and Gretel, he'd be able to find his way back, thanks to Angel.
He just wasn't sure of his feelings toward Angel right now, and the fact that Angel was sicker than a dog -- well, a dead dog -- didn't make that easy to admit. In fact, he wanted to be able to resent Angel tremendously, and it somehow seemed desperately unfair to do so while his putative employee curled up in the backseat and moaned in heartrending tones.
He was rather pleased that he remembered the way to Buffy's house; rather startled at the destruction of the high school. That was worth a second look, so he pulled up in front of the corpse of the building, and looked at it with a shiver. He got out of the car, crossing around the front, and leaning against the passenger side door to cross his arms and stare up at what was left of the building he'd once thought of as Hellmouth High. The class that had given Buffy her Class Protector Award. The library where he'd kissed Cordelia -- or tried to. Faith, all bravado and torment, now long jailed. He felt the familiar twinge at the thought of her, the loss of potential, the waste. Looking up at the building, he thought perhaps it was a good thing they'd let the burned-out hull remain. It was a good thing to remember one's mistakes, to remember the consequences... and the rewards. He was no longer a Watcher, and he was troubled by what was going on with his friends, but at least he had friends. No posing as something he wasn't. He ran one hand over his chin, feeling the beard he'd not bothered to shave, and wondered where the old Wesley had gone.
There was a groan from the car. He winced at the sound, as much as at the reminder as the actual noise itself, then squared his shoulders and headed back to his duties.
Warren zipped down the sidewalk at a faster clip than he'd ever attained in Phys Ed. The keys in his pockets jingled annoyingly, the change bounced out of his pockets, and his hair looked about ready to jump ship on its own power. Dignity be damned. Who knew those fucking demons could look so human they'd fool you? Sure, vampires and all, but a drunken woman being a vampire...! It just wasn't fair. It altered the natural order of the fucking universe. Damn. He dwindled down into a limping trot, then fell into an unsteady stagger, and doubled over, breathing like a two pack a day man suddenly embracing fitness. He coughed, hands braced on knees, and wondered how he could blame this on the Slayer. Not that he really needed a reason. That blonde bitch had it coming, just for the smug way she wouldn't fucking get out of the way. Her continued evasion of his revenge was almost enough to make him turn around and figure out how to use the demon against her. Fucking women, he thought, with all the bitterness of a college geek who'd had a grand total of two girlfriends, one of which had required recharging. It never occurred to him that while he'd sneer at a girl with a vibrator, constructing a girlfriend who had her own voltage adaptor might indicate certain frailties in his own logic.
He straightened up gradually, taking a deep breath that hurt his lungs. What in hell was he supposed to do now? There had to be a better way to get girls. First there had been the unfortunate malfunction with Katrina, now this, but the device was the best way they had of getting some. Maybe there was something to be said for those drugs, after all. Maybe once they took control of Sunnydale, they could lay in a supply of those pills and just bag the babes that way.
Hell, at this point, it had been so long for him that he...He turned thoughtfully, to look back at the way he'd come, and in doing so glanced across the front porch of the house he was stopped in front of. He stiffened.
Jonathon, sitting in a glider, sipping a shake, was looking at him calmly, no doubt filing the sight of him gasping for breath after his hundred-yard dash away for future blackmail purposes. "Hey, Warren." Jonathon said uncomfortably.
"Jonathon." They eyed each other carefully, Jonathon trying to look unsuspicious, and Warren trying to avoid letting his contempt show. Then he realized that if he looked scornful, it would be normal, and Jonathon wouldn't have any reason to think he'd been fleeing in terror from a feminist demon who no doubt wanted his balls. And not in the good way, either.
They sized each other up. Why did I say something first? Jonathon thought. Why? I should've waited, made him squirm, made him wonder what I was thinking. What would Obi-Wan do? Which he promptly forgot, because he was so wigged out by Warren's frazzled appearance. Frazzled on Warren meant only one thing, and that was bad. Frazzled meant Warren was pissed, therefore Jonathon would soon be the butt of something.
"So, Warren," Jonathon asked softly, "Whatcha doin'?"
"I'm out for a jog, you dwarf." With a visible effort, Warren shook it off and glanced away, trying not to show too much contempt. After all, the demon had been pissed off at him. Who knew if it would be pissed off at Jonathon? Did anyone ever really get pissed off at him? How could they maintain their ire in the face of the soft voice, the boyish mop of hair, the virginal brown eyes? Even if they did, did it last long? How long could a demon hold a grudge? She had been really drunk, maybe she'd have passed out again by now. That could be kind of fun if she had. Maybe he could find stronger rope. He'd never had a demon. Well, actually, except for Katrina, he'd never had a human, but it could be time to branch out to other species.
They stared at each other, Warren calculating, Jonathon puzzled. "I've got a new thing to try out." Warren said finally. He actually hadn't planned on sharing with Jonathon, useless little twerp that he was, but hey, he could adapt now.
"What sort of thing?" Jonathon asked warily.
"A new thing for getting girls."
Jonathon felt his stomach drop several stories. Great. Just great. What would Obi-Wan do? He thought. Well, for sure, Obi-Wan wouldn't be pandering to this budding Ted Bundy. This was definitely Darth territory. His stomach dropped several more stories. A new thing. Who now? He carefully brushed aside thoughts of the twins he himself had bewitched, and focused on Warren's beady eyes. Warren definitely had beady eyes, therefore he was in no way shape or form a good villain. Jonathon knew from long contemplation of his mirror that he had big brown puppy dog eyes, and was therefore not a bad guy, but maybe a Tortured Anti-Hero, like Heathcliff from the sort of chick flick he secretly watched when the other two weren't in the lair.
"What sort of thing?"
"Oh, I still need to get some ingredients." Warren said casually. "Figured I'd go see what I could find. It's really rough."
Too casual, Jonathon thought. Something here he wasn't talking about. Knowing Warren, that meant there was something he had that he didn't want him to know about. The bad stuff, like disposing of bodies, he'd dump on Jonathon just fine. But the fun stuff? That was definitely for Warren and Warren alone.
"Oh, what kind of ingredients does it need?"
"Oh, just the usual stuff..." Warren looked off into the distance. "I gotta go get some, you know, stuff. Why don't you come by later?"
"How much later?"
"Oh, much later." Warren said with a smirk. "Wouldn't want you to get intimidated by my expertise or anything. So I gotta go now, John-boy. See ya later, right?" He turned to walk away. "Much later, okay? Don't screw up this time. I don't want any interruptions. I'm going to make this special. You know how chicks like that. Even sex slaves. Especially sex slaves." He gave Jonathon a wave, sighed like a man who's done a job very well indeed, and ambled off as if he didn't have a pissed-off demon plus an unconscious minion in his lair.
Jonathon stared at his back. It didn't occur to him that Warren turned at the wrong corner to go downtown; it didn't occur to him that Warren had turned in exactly the wrong direction to go downtown, and it didn't occur to him that Warren might be pulling Jedi mind games on him while he was wondering what Obi-Wan would do. There's a girl there. The bastard already got a girl. The bastard's going to...He stared at the corner Warren had taken, unaware that his erstwhile buddy was peering at him through the hedge. Bastard, he thought. Of course, once again, the whole twin affair was overlooked. Somehow it just seemed so different when he had done it.
That's it, this is really it, he thought. I'll rescue her. And it will really piss Warren off. All of a sudden, he felt all Jedi-like. Actually, it was the first time he'd felt all Jedi-like since the whole super villain thing had begun. Maybe she'll be grateful, he thought. Maybe we can watch Star Wars together, on that pirated DVD I downloaded off the Internet. Oh, boy, maybe he kidnapped a cheerleader.
Warren watched as Jonathon whirled around like a startled cat and dashed back into the house. Delegate, delegate, delegate, he thought. The secret to good management and successful world domination.
Xander knew it was serious when Anya rang up a hundred dollar sale and didn't step into the back room to do the Dance of Capitalist Superiority. He knew it was worse when someone tried to break a twenty for a cup of tea, and she didn't even snap at the luckless fool for depleting the precious change that was meant for better customers. And when Dawn came in with Willow and Tara, Anya did not bodily separate her from the merchandise. But when Willow came in and Anya didn't do the subconscious Willow face, he realized how very bad it was.
"An," he sidled up behind her and whispered in her ear."Wanna talk?"
She was sadly fondling the money, stroking the big bills with a gentle finger. Only big bills for my girl, he thought fondly, then saw it for what it was; she was trying to console herself. Willow and Dawn were giggling over something in the corner, and Anya didn't so much as even glance up. Ever since the whole, "Willow's a demon" thing, there had been a certain tension between the two, because Willow had not liked being called a demon, and Anya had not liked that Willow had not liked it. Women, he thought. It used to be simple to insult a woman. Tell her she wears combat boots, and it's all over. Now accuse her of belonging to a different species, and not only might it be true, but the recipient of the remark might very well regard it as a compliment. Who knew?
"I haven't heard from Hallie." Anya said softly. "She didn't call."
"Maybe, she, ah, forgot."
"She could only do that for a bit." Anya said softly. "It becomes a part of you after a while. You feel naked without it. She should have noticed by now."
They looked at each other, and when Willow giggled in the background, Anya didn't even so much as flinch. "We'll call Buffy." Xander said cheerfully. "Look! Problem solved."
Wes didn't feel nervous till he pulled over in front of the house, and turned off the engine. Angel snored in the backseat, something that once would have made him flee, but compared with the nausea-o-rama the trip had been, was a delight in comparison. He did get out of the car rather fast, though.
Buffy had to be home; there was an old DeSoto parked in front of the house, but as he looked closer at the car, he realized it only meant that perhaps Spike was home. The vehicle looked like the one he'd seen parked in front of the hotel; and it had blacked-out windows. Either it was a vampire's car, and they weren't really known for possessing them, or it belonged to an albino with a Sid Vicious fixation, if the bumper stickers were any indication. He stepped close to the car cautiously, as if the rust would infect him. Definitely Spike's car. He glanced up at the house. Had Spike come directly here after returning? Hm. All of a sudden, he wondered if he should really go knock on the door. Maybe he'd be interrupting something. Shoving his hands in his pockets so they wouldn't wave around like they always did when he was nervous, he tried the passenger door, and pulled it open.
Hm again. It was surprisingly neat. He didn't know what he'd been expecting, but he hadn't ever devoted a thought to the car-cleaning habits of soulless demons. No beer bottles, for example, no body parts, no smell, except, perhaps, of cigarettes. He glanced in the back seat and froze. Lorne, sacked out and peaceful, a pleasant smile on his lips, lay stretched out on the back seat. His shoes were on the back window shelf, and the windows at his head and feet were slightly cracked. His ankles were peacefully crossed, and he was wearing the most amazingly colorful socks. He looked as composed as Sleeping Beauty herself, except for the green skin and the horns. Wes shook his head in amusement. God, how do you wake up a demon? He cleared his throat in preparation for making a loud remark.
"I wouldn't if I were you."
"Because I could blackmail you with the fact that you have a secret addiction to Patsy Kensit, and the only thing keeping you from plastering her eyebrowless face all over your apartment is the fear you might die suddenly." Lorne grimaced at him. "Oh, my back."
"Buffy didn't let you sleep on the couch?"
"The couch was occupied."
"Ah." Spike, Wes thought. Ah, well. He wasn't sure whether that was good or bad. Vampire, vampire slayer, but still, how boring was it if birds of a feather...? He pulled himself back to reality at the look on Lorne's face. The green demon eyed him patiently.
"You're doing it again."
"What? I am not."
"You're thinking of that Kensit person. Or Emma Thompson. Don't even look at me like that, babycakes. If I said the words, "Much Ado About Nothing" in the lobby in front of a crowd of people, you'd blush like a schoolgirl." Lorne sighed, and pulled himself up. "My mouth feels like the floor of this car." He shook his head a bit, cracked his neck, rubbed his neck. "And I need a shower, so be warned. This wasn't just a social call, was it?"
"No, we came up here for you."
Lorne sighed happily at the prospect of home and shower, then focused abruptly on Wes. "We?"
"Angel and I."
"Where is he?"
"In the car."
"In what car?"
"Angel's car." Wes gestured at the black convertible behind Spike's, and then watched as Lorne's jaw dropped in horror.
"And what sort of mood is he in?"
"He's not in a mood." Wes said dryly. "He's in a condition."
"Well, he'll be in another condition if he gets out of that car." Lorne shoved the door open and jumped out. "Let's go." He glanced down, grimaced, then snatched his shoes and shoved them off his feet.
Lorne jumped to the side door of Angel's car and looked in through the crack on the shady side of the car. Sure enough, there he was, and he was so much paler than he usually was. If he got any whiter, he'd be see-through. "How nice to bring him with. Why did you bring him with?"
"I can hear you, you know." Angel mumbled irritably.
"Great." Lorne said. "Let's whisper." He yanked Wes down the sidewalk. "Just how good are vampire ears?"
"As good as any predator's, I suppose." Wes shrugged.
"What does that mean?"
"Well, I'm sure he can hear quite easily into different rooms if he wants to."
"Even while he's drunk?"
"Actually, I suppose then it would be rather a disadvantage, wouldn't it?" Wes said thoughtfully.
"Well, it's going to be a disadvantage now unless we get moving, Wesley baby, so what do you say we go?"
Behind them, Angel blearily pulled himself up into a seated position in the back seat of the car. There was a fraught moment during which various internal organs tried to rearrange themselves and escape, but he won that battle and managed to focus his eyes. "Hey, that's Buffy's house." He was, Wesley saw, at one of those weird pockets of bonhomie that sometimes interrupted really monumental hangovers. The vampire's eyes peered unsteadily at the vehicle in front of him. "Hey, that's Spike's car." He swiveled back to the house as if to confirm its presence. This was followed by the unsteady return on his gaze to the car. "You'd think he'd trade it in for a decent model." He stared through the windshield and then his eyes slowly, steadily cleared. The fog departed, and the blank expression on his face gradually resolved itself to curiosity, and then bewilderment. "Why is Spike's car here?" He looked at Wes, all goofiness gone. "Something weird is going on." He gestured at them furtively. Cautiously, so as to avoid the alcohol fumes, they edged closer. Angel nodded encouragement, and beckoned them to come nearer.
Glancing nervously at one another, they tiptoed forward. Angel shook his head impatiently and reached out and grabbed. "I have an idea."
That was quite an accomplishment in his condition. "What's that?" Wes asked, dreading the answer.
"Let's steal it."
Continued in Chapter 34