Swell! I thought he’d be holed up in his room by now. Instead, he’s standing outside, on the balcony, surrounded by a diffuse halo of cigarette smoke, facing away from me.
“Still here?” I snap. “Shouldn’t you be huddling in some dark corner, atoning and feeling sorry for yourself?” Obviously I’m not handling this very well.
More smoke billows up, then comes his toneless reply: “Careful. Starting to sound like your old man.”
That shuts me up.
I drag myself to the sofa, plonk down, and lean back. I try closing my eyes. Nope, not good. I settle for blindly staring at the ceiling. I’m still drunk as a skunk, the whole world is rocking and spinning and my jaw feels like it got hit by a wrecking ball. Add to that the fact that my whole life just blew up in my face and passing out definitely sounds like a plan.
Should I just camp on the sofa? Maybe I should make a big manly effort and go to bed – maybe even drink a gallon of water first - when I hear Spike coming back inside. I keep my eyes trained on the ceiling because--. Because. I mean what’s the point? I know he’s standing before me, waiting for me to acknowledge his presence. Cigarette smoke – dead giveaway. “Go away, Spike,” I groan. Get out. Out of my sight, out of my mind and out of my life. Alaska maybe? At least until I feel more like myself again?
“You should put some ice on that bruise,” Spike’s voice carries a tinge of cold anger, but an exasperated, non-threatening kind.
He’s right. I should. But this carpenter is going nowhere. I try on ‘What do you care?’ for size, toy with another lame ‘Go away’ but then I settle for a grumpy “Later.”
Spike walks away. I hear rummaging and banging from the kitchenette and a muttered curse. Shortly afterwards, something cold lands in my lap. “Here. Lazy sod.”
I snap out of my ceiling gazing and look at the bundle, then at Spike. “Shall I take that as a sign that the ripping out of my entrails and the strangling have been re-scheduled?” I ask, smiling nervously.
Spike thrusts his hands into his jeans pockets, and shrugs. “If I tried that now, my noggin’ would prolly ooze out through my ears - long before we get to wrapping your guts ‘round your neck.”
Ew. My stomach lurches. Violently. I fend off the urge to rush back to the bathroom.
Spike sees my sick face and smirks fleetingly. “You can breathe again. You’re safe from me.” He chuckles self-depreciatingly. “Seem to have lost my appetite for guts somewhere along the line.”
“Could we maybe stop talking about viscera? Cause otherwise I can’t guarantee for your shoes,” I choke out.
He does that thing with his eyebrow, looking almost like old Spike, then he turns away and heads for his closet.
“Spike.” I call after him. When he pauses, I gesture with the ice pack: “Thanks, pal.”
He nods and disappears in his room and I can hear him moving around in there.
I press the coolness against my aching jaw. Better. Now all I have to do is de-fuzzy my brain. I know all there is to know about hangovers. A few aspirins. Lots of water. And then: Sleep. Maybe a quick hand job to take the edge off, first. I still feel horny, not so much in my pants but in my head: my mind keeps finding itself in places it shouldn’t wander, replaying that moment where I thought—Okay not going there! God, do I really have to go to work tomorrow? Crap! The car’s parked at Mike’s.
I finally convince myself to get up and stagger to the kitchenette. That’s when Spike comes out of his room, carrying a bundle of clothing under his arm. The sounds I’ve been hearing of drawers being opened and shut suddenly make sense: he’s been packing. Intercept course! Before he can reach the front door I step into his path.
“Oh now wait, Spike, not so fast! What do you think you’re doing?”
“Leaving,” he states, waiting patiently for me to step aside.
Which I’m so not doing. “Oh yeah, I forgot, you have that lovely hellmouthy place waiting for you. Like the presidential suite of basements. Big creepy maze, dark and dank, and have I mentioned the creepiness? If you’re thinking of going back there, then you really are certifiable!”
Somehow, Spike looks less than thrilled at the prospect, but he shrugs. “It’ll do. Just let Buffy know, right? Don’t really have the inside scoop anymore, but if she needs a hand hunting down some beastie--”
“I’m not letting you go back to that place.” I know, a few minutes ago I was ready to exile him to Alaska. That doesn’t mean I wanted him to leave for real!
Spike snorts. “Right. Cause you enjoy my company so much.”
“Enjoy? Not so much. But that’s not the point. Like it or not, you’re better off here. Okay, there’s the catch that you’re still hallucinating and acting funny but, hey, at least you haven’t hugged any crosses lately. Or did I miss something? And with the basement chipping away at your marbles you’re no good to Buffy - or anyone else. Also, I have to admit, you’re a much better roomie than three years ago. You haven’t even stolen anything. Or borrowed my stuff.”
He looks at me searchingly, pursing his – ever so tempting - lips. “You’re serious,” he says, looking surprised.
“Mi casa es su casa,” I say emphatically, and as the words leave my mouth I realize I probably overdid it. I also realize I actually mean it. Kind of.
Suddenly he’s wary. “You know, you’d sound a lot more convincing if I hadn’t caught you in my room going through my things.” Crap! I’d forgotten about that. “Care to enlighten me?”
“I was sniff— snooping around for clues. Dunno. Maybe drugs.” I rub my temples, trying to ignore the dull pounding in my head. “You know pills, not ‘drugs’ drugs, although you’d take those too, wouldn’t you? Say, if a vampire eats a junkie, does he get high, too? And when you smoke—”
“What kind of pills?” Spike cuts me off in mid-ramble.
“Prozac or something. Anything that might explain… this morning. Worst case of personality transplant I’ve ever seen. Actually no, that’s not true. Angel turning into Angelus, that definitely takes the cake, but you came a close second.”
“Eh?” Spike looks utterly bewildered.
“You. Going all weird on me. Running out in mid-talk. Remember?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Spike scoffs, but there’s a worried edge to his voice.
We head back to the sofa. Spike drops his bundle on the recliner chair and we both sit down, as far away from each other as the furniture allows.
“You were asking me about Cassie--” I start.
“What, the girl with the purple hair?”
“The same. And then you started talking to your evil self, at least that’s what you told me. And singing. We mustn’t forget the singing. Oh and then you sorta changed, sounding – I dunno – not like yourself, cheerful, but in a dangerous kind of way. Like you were drugged up to your eyeballs. Then you walked out of the apartment and that’s it.”
“I don’t-- why don’t I remember any of that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe your soul’s broken? Or there’s a loose connection, like when wires aren’t soldered together properly.” Now Spike looks wigged. “Whatever it was, it really freaked me out. I was going to tell Buffy, but then Dawn mentioned Deadboy. And after what happened today I’m glad I didn’t. Cause she’d be standing here waving a stake around. Crap, I have to drive them to school tomorrow.”
“Well, the state you’re in, you’re not driving anyone anywhere.”
I vaguely recall telling him that I’m perfectly able to drive and that I’m totally in control, and Spike telling me to go and sleep it off and that’s the last thing I actually remember.
When I wake up it’s hot and sunny in the bedroom, meaning it must be at least noon. I’m sweaty and smelly and my hangover defies description. How did I get into bed last night? My pants, shirt and shoes are strewn across the bedroom floor but I honestly can’t remember taking them off. The last thing I remember is talking to Spike about driving Buffy and Dawn to school. Buffy! Crap! I leap out of bed.
Leaping is bad. Very bad. My head feels like it’s gonna fall off any minute and burst like a ripe melon. I pick up my pants. It takes me three tries to put them on, meaning I’ve still got a staggering amount of alcohol in my blood stream, literally. Man, did I get tanked last night.
Piece by piece the memories fall back into place. “Oh god!”
I rush out of the bedroom. The door to Spike’s closet is closed.
Continued in Part Twelve