Oh, God, this is bad.
He was lying in the most twisted position possible. Not that it mattered or anything, because he was dead; it just felt like he wasn't dead enough. It's not as if this position was a surprise, either; he'd been doing this for quite some time now, falling over onto the seat, wanting to die, realizing he was already dead and that there wasn't much more he could do about it. After several minutes' recuperation, he'd be perking up in the most inexplicable way and setting off again.
He couldn't remember the last time he'd been this drunk; it was very possible he'd still been human at the time. Funny how this hangover felt worse. No tolerance any more, he thought, with the pride of the ex addict. No tolerance left at all.
Strangely enough, this had once been fun. So many things had been fun. Stay up all night in some club in Montmartre, watch the silly men and their sillier girls, getting drunk on fizzy champagne chosen solely on its ability to match their clothes. Hell, it had been too much fun to kill them, when you could just sip their blood a bit, sample the vintage so to speak, then stagger back home, tipsy with the excitement of it all. No hangovers then, hadn't even been necessary to kill, not with all the pretty girls agog over his size and his build. He twisted over on his back and stared at the roof of the car. Those were the days, indeed, even better than his human days. Humanity meant hangovers and consequences.
Like sex, for example. Nothing more fun than sex. Nothing. But back in his human era, it had been actively dangerous, not to mention, well, shortcomings in the protection department. He was fairly certain he'd not have outlived his father, not with the pox. He knew for a fact Darla would have died of syphilis if the Master hadn't have turned her. Yes, definitely an upside in getting turned.
All the drinking he'd done as a human had never done more than provide a temporary escape from his father, and all that ridiculous guilt he had felt at being such a wastrel. All the beatings from the old man, all the disapproval, and he had been the one to feel the guilt, not his father. The old bastard had never once shown him anything more than contempt, and he had had every right to try and escape with the only methods available to him. The girls he'd deflowered, the ones he'd given the diseases to, the ones he'd impregnated, those had long been forgotten. So now, two hundred years later, why did he suddenly remember?
He'd been running from guilt as a man and a vampire, and all it seemed at this moment, was as a vampire he had more strength to resist it. It wasn't supposed to have worked out like that.
Like the whole deal with sex, for example. No consequences, no pregnancies, no diseases...but Darla had neglected to mention the bluntness of it, the numbing of the body. Something was lacking in it, and in all the centuries he'd been a vampire, he'd never gotten close to what it had been like, close to the worst sex he'd ever had, as a drunk and a man. Until Buffy. One brief moment in an innocent girl's arms, and he'd been a man again, ever fiber of him alive, and then it had not only been gone, it had been shattered.
He swallowed, staring up at the ceiling. Should drink more often. Even with Spike as the impetus. Spike. It just wasn't fair. Spike was his grandchild, and the bastard managed to dance circles around him when he felt like it. The fact that he seldom felt like it was another careless slap in the face, because it obviously wasn't a challenge for the bastard. Becoming a vampire had been the latest in a long series of disappointments for him; for Spike, it had been a coup. Drunk or sober, he managed to say things Angel knew he himself could have a hope of managing only after study, cramming, and an exam. The worst of it was, he saw flashes of the dolts they had both been as human, but on Spike it became something suspiciously close to humanity, and on him, it became righteousness. He'd been a vampire more than two hundred years, and even that wasn't enough to keep him from turning into his father.
He patted his head gingerly. More than anything, he needed a clear head to figure out what was going on, and he was still so sick he feared that wasn't possible. He wanted to look Spike in his beady little eyes when he asked him a few questions. The questions were so absurd, though, that that shock might almost make Spike honest. He snorted at his own paranoia. Spike in love with Buffy!
He rolled over on his side, and a bolt of lightning scorched through his head. Ah, not yet, then. He chuckled at the thought of Spike in love with Buffy; it was almost as much fun as picturing him in love with one of the lesbians. Buffy could never love him. He didn't often allow himself to remember the other night The Powers That Be had granted him with Buffy, but he kept that memory safe, like a relic. For two hundred years, even the feel of sex had been somehow muffled, and but that one night...He had never had, nor ever would again, he knew, have a night like that with any one else, and the fact that Buffy could never know it had happened made him all the more determined to protect its memory.
Grimly, he pulled himself into an upright position. Time to do something.
Unfortunately, this turned out to be getting sick.
He shoved open the passenger side door, noted that at least the car was parked in the shade of some commercial building, and miserably endured the nausea. Wondeful, just wonderful. Finished, he lay limply across the seat, and tried to figure out what building he was in front of. "THE MAG -- "
Reading made his sodden brain cells hurt even worse than just thinking. He weakly shut the door and passed out.
Wes sat at the table and checked his watch while Lorne checked his nails. Both of them swore softly under their breaths. In a way, the delay was a good thing, because Spike had not yet found out the fate of his car, but in another way, it was bad, because Wes didn't much care for frogs, and didn't want anybody else to find that out. There was also the whole Angel dilemma, but he had been so hungover that Wes had stopped being concerned once he'd seen how sick Angel really had been. It was the Angel that lurked between intoxication and hangover that worried him, and he hoped feverently that wherever Angel was with the car, he was still terribly sick.
Although he did feel rather badly for Spike if that were the case.
Next time, go to a temp agency, he counseled himself.
Buffy had grabbed a bag and packed it full of stakes and weapons five minutes ago, then disappeared upstairs for a mysterious phone call, evidently to Willow, before vanishing into the bathroom. This had left Spike, Wes, and Lorne exchanging bewildered glances over the kitchen table, until Spike felt guilty and scrounged up two additional beers. He finished his first, then sighed manfully, and with every appearance of great reluctance, had headed up the stairs to pry Buffy out of her realm. There had been the sort of suspicious silence since then that indicted whispered conversation, and if Wes hadn't figured out the situation before hand, the bathroom issue would have done it for him. The bathroom was the inner sanctum, and no woman allowed a man in it during any part of her toilette unless they were very intimate indeed.
He got up and tiptoed out into the hall, hoping for sounds of progress. All he heard was that suspicious silence instead. He sighed. Lorne raised one eyebrow at him. "Can't you just go knock on the door?"
"Have you gone through puberty?"
Wesley just gave him a very adult sigh that indicated, entirely by accident, that yes, in fact, he had gone through puberty, had gone through it very fast indeed, and had come out barely noticing. Hm. Lorne ran down a mental list of the prettiest demons he knew and wondered what he could do. Phone numbers? Accidental meetings? Lock them in a room? There was no way an adult man should be that squeamish. He pushed around Wes and cocked his ear at the stairs. "Slayer!"
There was a pause, then, that really put the nail in the coffin on the whole bathroom theory. "Yes?"
"Are you ready yet? Because evil's afoot in Sunnydale, and I don't need any more warts. Or to be declared Queen of the Frog Festival or something gauche like that, so could you get a move on?"
There was the sound of Buffy clearing her throat, then Spike clearing his throat, then the bathroom door opening. Both Lorne and Wes looked rather startled at the visible lack of ripped buttons and disarranged clothes. After all, Lorne thought, how are we supposed to live vicariously?
"Brushing teeth." Buffy said sheepishly.
"Flossing." Spike added.
"Yes." Wes said briskly. "I'll go get the car." He looked from Buffy to Spike and back again. "And Lorne will come with me."
"I will?" Lorne looked around for confirmation. "Oh. Then, I will. Here goes."
Buffy and Spike watched the front door close, and then she smacked his stomach. "Flossing?!"
"Well, sort of." He grinned at her. "Don't know why you wear those things, although they are sort of cute."
"Well, I'm not wearing one now, am I?"
He slid his arms around her waist and pulled her against him, not kissing her, just giving her one of his wicked looks, chin down, blinking up at her through his eyelashes. "Just think, Slayer," he whispered. "Never know when, never know how.... He slid his hands down till he was cupping her bottom, lifting her against him. She wriggled to get away, but the wriggling made the seam of her jeans move around, and she finally jerked out of his grip with a gasp. He grinned at her and she summoned up her Look of Pissed-Offedness Number 17, which Spike recognized. His smirk softened all at once. This was not the pissed-off look she directed at Dawn; that was different. She had a whole repertoire of them, and this was the one reserved for male-type people who pissed her off in such a way that she had to bat her eyelashes at them furiously while sticking out her lower lip. He hooked a finger in her waistband and pulled her in for a kiss. The sound of the door opening made them both jump back. Wes shook his head for a moment and wondered why they even bothered. Buffy was clutching at the newel post with tense casualness and Spike had his hands jammed so far in his pockets he could probably pull his socks up. They both looked like they'd each just received a massive unexpected electrical shock.
"We're ready,now. Car's out front in the shade."
"No offense, Watcher," Spike said, 'but I'll take my own." He pulled on his coat, and found himself facing two statues. Wes looked away at Buffy; Buffy looked at the floor. "What's wrong with you two? Let's go."
"Uh, we're going with Wesley." Buffy said.
"No, we're not, I'm driving my own car."
"You didn't tell him?"
Buffy looked from one to the other and spread her hands out. "Spike, there's kind of a problem with your car..."
With that, he stepped to the door, and yanked it open furiously, so annoyed he forget to check the time. He had to flinch out of the way of the setting sun's rays, and mentally blamed that momentary loss of cool on Angel, as well. Bastard. Street. Angel's convertible parked right in front of the house, Lorne smoking a cigarette while leaning casually against the front. He maneuvered around the softening sunlight to get a look in the other direction. What was missing from this picture?
Oh, no, he thought. I did not get turned, become a vampire, suffer Angel's yapping for a century, and endure disco in order to find out that vampires are subject to towing laws. No, absolutely not. I am a supernatural being, not some bloody frat boy with expired tags. Absolutely bloody not.
"Where," he hissed, "is my bloody car?"
"We don't know." Buffy said quietly.
"Did it get towed?"
No? She knew? "Well, then, what did happen?"
"Uh, we're not sure."
Abruptly something clicked in Spike's head. "Where's Angel?" He took another look at Angel's car, trying to find out if from his elevated vantage point on the porch if he could see the miserable lump somewhere inside. Nothing. He rounded on them triumphantly. "He took it, didn't he?"
Wes and Buffy exchanged looks. "Uh, we don't know for sure."
He turned and looked at them both almost pityingly. "Please, people. If you know someone who would kidnap Angel, let me know, because I've been trying to find someone to get that poofter off my hands for ages. He took my bloody car." He shook his head, lighting a cigarette with an expert snap of his wrist. "Right, then." He grinned sharkishly at both of them. "Then I guess I'll have to take his, then, won't I?"
The only thing worse than stepping unexpectedly on a frog was stepping on one unexpectedly in the dark. Willow shrieked and jumped up mid stride without ever actually touching the ground, thereby violating the laws of God and man, but at least saving another little froggie's life. Behind her back, Tara and Dawn both rolled their eyes. Sure, the little buggers were sort of cute. Sure, they were helpless and didn't deserve their fate. On the other hand, that had been blocks ago, and the whole, 'frogs are cute, we can't hurt them,' thing in combination with the mysterious 'I must meet my source'charade was starting to wear thin. Dawn wanted to get to Janice's, and Tara suspected she needed to get back to the store before there were any uncomfortable silences. There'd been too much unexpected goodness today to not expect the arrival of the proverbial other shoe.
Willow stopped abruptly and held up one hand for silence. She was looking intently down an alleyway, and must've seen something neither of them did, because she made whirling motions with her hand, and took off stealthily down the alley.
"Ew," Dawn said. "What's this?"
"My source." Willow hesitated before a recessed doorway where a shadow lurked in the darkness. "I'm here. Come on out."
There was the sound of a throat clearing, then a muffled voice answered. "I can't reveal my identity."
Willow reached into the shadows and yanked out...Jonathon. He was wearing a black fedora that hung down over his ears, and a black trenchcoat that hung past his ankles and probably went around him twice. With the waist bunched up by the belt, it almost looked like some sort of bulky dress. He blinked at the three of them. "Hey!" He looked at Tara and Dawn, both of whom were wearing identical disapproving expressions, over seriously pissed-off crossed-arm body language. "You were supposed to come alone!"
"Oh, please, Deep Throat." Willow scoffed. She eyed his outfit skeptically, but kept her comments to herself. "So what's with all the phone calls? How come you know about this before anybody else does?"
"Well, it could be me, you know." Jonathon said defensively. "I know a lot of these guys that got turned into frogs."
"Uh, yeah, I'm sure you're doing this out of the goodness of your heart. Did Warren do this?"
"Not exactly." Willow leaned over him menacingly. "Well, it's true."
"It's a demon." Jonathon said. "We, uh, found a demon."
The three girls looked at each other. "And where did you put this demon?" Willow asked softly.
Jonathon snorted at her. "I'm not going to tell you where our lair is! We have all sorts of Sta -- secret stuff there."
Willow stepped forward and grabbed him by the oversized lapels. "Where is this demon, Jonathon?"
"Oh, please." He wriggled free and Willow tried to make it look like she'd let him. "Besides, she's not even there any more. She escaped."
She escaped, Willow thought. Sort of made it sound like there'd been something to escape from. These three geeks capturing a demon? "She?" She said suddenly. "She? What kind of demon was it?"
"I don't know!" He shrank back against the wall. "One minute she just looked like a girl -- a woman—"He added hastily as all three glared at him, "And the next minute, she had this awful face on." He cringed at the look all three girls gave him. "I—I have to go."
"Yeah, tell your mom 'hi,' " Willow called absently. Jonathon, coat flapping, thudded off to the sound of trenchcoat flopping around on his body.
"Do you think it could be Hallie?" Tara asked.
"Yeah, I bet it is. And she must be really pissed." Willow thought about it for a minute. "You know, we could kill two birds with one stone here. Hallie's really pissed at the Trio, the trio have been doing all kinds of stuff, and...."
"And," Tara sighed. "That means we have to go back and tell Buffy."
And Janice, Dawn thought happily.
Wearily, they turned back and headed back toward the store. "Hey, great." Willow said. "There's Spike's car. Buffy's here already." She looked down at Dawn. "We can get to Janice's on time after all."
Very much relieved, they poked their heads inside the door. "Buffy?"
"She's not here." Anya said.
"Well, Spike's car is here..." Tara started to explain, then watched Xander's face tighten as the implication hit him. "So we thought they were here."
"They're supposed to be finding Hallie." Anya said sullenly.
"I'm sure they're looking." Willow said cheerfully. "But now we have a very big clue."
Continued in Chapter 37