All About Spike
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Shelter
By Colleen

Chapter 2

"And you are ..."

"Ranna." The tall girl pushed a strand of her variegated green and black hair from her eyes. "Do we have to do this?"

"I don't know. You want to eat?" He picked up a dirty cushion from the floor and handed it to her. "Put this by the stairs. We'll give it a good thumping outside and see if it bears keeping."

With distaste, she took the object from his hands and turned around. "Yuck."

They cleaned their way towards the far basement wall. Slowly the room took on a semblance of order. They moved aside some boxes to reveal a battered old cot. "Richie? You okay?"

"Hm?" He stared at the cot without moving.

"Richie?" Glen placed a hand on his shoulder. "Something wrong?"

"What?" He shook his head, quickly, shaking out the cobwebs. "No, nothing. It was just ... for a moment ... Nothing. Help me move this out of the way and fold it up." The two men pushed it aside. "Shit."

"What is it?" Little Penny strained to look over Glen's shoulder.

"It's a nest."

"Nest?" Glen looked down at the pile of used hypodermics.

"No. Not nest. Stash. Whatever." He looked towards Ranna, and gestured towards the corner. "Hand me that broom and dustpan. None of you lot touch these things." He took the broom from Ranna and carefully brushed the needles onto the pan.

*****

"Tell Angel I'm not interested." She looked out the window of her office, into the back yard. Wind brushed the patch of grass into little waves. She wondered if the air were as cool as it looked. As cool as her voice.

"Hey, babycakes. Don't shoot me; I'm only the messenger."

She spun around to face the green-skinned demon. "I know, Lorne. I'm sorry." She lay a hand on his sapphire-clad arm. "You've been a good friend. You both have."

"I sense a but."

She smiled, just a bit. "But ... you've all made your choice. And I will not have anything to do with Wolfram and Hart. End of story."

"Trust me. Things have changed."

"I know." Her lips tightened as her hand pulled away. "That's what I'm afraid of."

Her shoulders tensed at the rap at her office door. "I'm busy," she called.

"Need to talk to you, luv."

She sighed and opened the door. He stood with the dustpan in his hand. "Found these in the basement. Thought you should know."

"Damn." She looked towards Lorne. "I need to deal with this. Tell Angel I'm sorry, but I can't see him. And I certainly can't accept his help."

Lorne nodded. "Understood. I think you're making a mistake, but you're a big girl and it's your mistake." He kissed her on the cheek. "Later, sweetness."

He smiled at the other man. "Hey."

"Richie, Lorne. Lorne, Richie."

"Sorry. I'd shake hands, but ..." He looked down at the pan in his hand.

"No prob. Nice to meet you." Lorne mouthed towards Anne, "Cute."

With slightly reddened cheeks she answered, "Goodbye, Lorne."

When he was gone, she held out the wastebasket. "Dump them in here."

He did as asked. "I reckon they've been there a while. Found them under the cot, behind a lot of clutter."

"Still ..." Her breath hitched in her throat. "I try so hard. I really want to help these kids."

He was surprised to see the tears welling in her eyes. "You do help. You know you do." He held out his arms. "Come ‘ere." She leaned into him, and he embraced her.

She cried into his shoulder. "I feel stupid. I try to be strong."

"You are strong." He stroked her back. "Takes a strong woman to know when to share the burden."

She pulled back, and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "Thanks."

He smiled. "Anytime."

*****

There was a pile of work on his massive desk, but his chair faced the opposite direction. He leaned back, hands folded behind his head, smiling peacefully as the sun beamed down onto his skin. He sometimes thought he could sit here forever.

"Angel?"

He spun around at the sound of his friend's voice. "Lorne. How did it go?" Folding his hands in front of the computer he never used, he gazed up at the demon.

"No go." Lorne perched on the edge of the desk. "Says she doesn't want any help from Wolfram and Hart. By which she now means you."

He pressed his thumbs together, pursing his lips. "She'll have trouble. The community association wants her out of there."

"She knows that."

"She needs a lawyer."

"She knows that too." Lorne leaned in closer. "But face it, sugarlump. She doesn't want you." He swung off the desk. "Besides. She's got other things on her mind. Our Anne has a new fellow in her life."

"Really?" Angel kept his voice even. "Who?"

"Some fellow she's got working at the shelter. Cute as a button. And my, oh my, but I believe she has a thing for him."

"You always think that. Anyone ever tell you you're a bit of a romantic?" He picked up his letter opener and started working on his fingernails. "Tell me more about him."

"Not much to tell. But, she was humming when I got there. And you know me ... It's all in the music." He raised his eyebrows. "Our Annie girl's in wuv."

"I want to meet him." He flipped the opener back onto the desk and stood up. "She's got enough trouble without getting involved with some loser."

"Yep." Lorne headed out the door. "Mr. Overprotective Detective strikes again."

"That's Mr. Lawyer now," Angel called to him.

Lorne threw back over his shoulder, "Doesn't rhyme."

*****

"Drugs and stuff? Really?" Natalie lay right on the edge of her bed, whispering to Ranna in the one beside her.

"Needles, anyway. Couldn't see much." Ranna stretched out, putting her hands under her head. "Boy, I'd love a hit."

"Shh. Don't let Anne hear that. She's trying to keep the place clean." Nat propped up on one elbow. "Wonder whose it was."

"Get to sleep," Karen said irritably. "So I can."

"We would," Nat shot back, "but your snoring would only keep us up anyway."

"I don't snore."

A shriek from the corner silenced them. Karen jumped up and went to Mary's bed. She wasn't in it. At the sound of a second cry she found her, crouched beside the bed next to the wall.

"What's with the freak?" Ranna asked.

"Mary? Honey?" Karen tried to touch her shoulder, but that only caused a further keening. "Nat, get Anne."

"I'm here." Anne stood in the doorway of the girls' room, wearing only a thin nightgown. She knocked on the door across the hall, and Glen opened. "Get Richie for me."

He was there in a moment, into the room, kneeling beside the young girl. "Mary? Wake up, luv. Only friends here. Bad dream?"

The young girl nodded, then threw herself against his chest, trembling. "All gonna die. All gonna die ..."

Gently, he patted her back. "Nobody here dying tonight, pet. All's well. Shhhh."

"M ... monsters. Teeth."

He looked up and caught Anne's eyes. Her expression was troubled, but she stepped beside him. "Mary, honey? You want to talk?"

The girl shook her head and climbed back on her bed. "Go."

"You call me if you need me." Anne leaned over and whispered in Karen's ear, "Get me if there's any trouble."

Karen nodded. "Okay, guys. Show's over. Let's get back to sleep." She gave a pointed look to Ranna. "Even you."

He gave Mary's hand a squeeze, and she grabbed it. "Thank you." For a moment he thought she wasn't going to let go, but with a sigh she dropped his hand and curled under the covers.

Anne met him in the hall. "Thanks again. There's something about you."

But his eyes were on her forearm. "I'm thinking this Richie of yours was more than an acquaintance."

She looked down at the tattoo and covered it with her other hand. "Yeah, he was." Realizing the gesture was pointless, she showed him the name engraved in the half heart. "Well, I'm awake. How would you like to talk over a coffee?"

"Make it a cup of tea, and you're on."

*****

He gazed intently at her as she handed him the cup. "So. Richie. The original, I mean."

"Yeah." She sat on the chair beside him, curling one leg under her body. She picked up her coffee, warming her hands on the hot china. "He was my boyfriend. He died."

"I see." His voice was soft, his eyes never leaving her face. "And to make a short story long?"

"We lived together on the streets. I was a runaway. We both were." She bit her lower lip, trying to consider what to tell him. "I'd been through some pretty weird shit in Sunnydale, that's where I'm from, and it freaked me out more than I thought. I came here to LA, met Richie, hung out with him. We got close." She lifted her arm and flashed the tattoo. "Really close. He died, and this girl I'd sort of known from home helped me out. Gave me her job when she went back. But waitressing wasn't going to cut it for me. I saw a lot of pain on the streets. So I started this place."

"Must have been hard on a waitress' tips."

"Yeah. But I came into some money. Call it a mysterious benefactor, whether they knew it or not. And I had a friend who was helping me." She took a sip of the coffee. "He's not an option anymore."

"That green bloke who was here earlier?" he asked.

"Nope. Friend of his."

"Boyfriend?"

She choked on her coffee, laughing as it dribbled down her chin. He picked up a napkin from the table and dabbed at the liquid. Her eyes met his and held them, as her face grew warm. "Definitely not my boyfriend," she whispered.

His lips joined to hers in a gentle, tender kiss. After a moment, she pulled away. "Wait a minute."

He drew back. "Sorry. I shouldn't have."

"No, you really should've. That's not it." Her expression was puzzled. "You didn't think it was strange, that Lorne was green? That he had horns?"

"Not really. Ugly suit, but no." He tried to share in her revelation. "Should it bother me?"

"Mary's dream, nightmare, whatever. Monsters and teeth. Does that you remind you of anything?"

He thought for a moment. "Vampires?"

"Would it seem odd if I told you that Richie died from old age after being a slave in a hell dimension?" Her heart was racing.

He took her hand in his. "Sounds horrible. Poor pet."

She was up off her chair, pacing around the kitchen. "Don't you see? Most people don't believe in those things, or see them but just ignore them. Make excuses. You have no memory of anything, but these bizarro things don't wig you out at all."

"Wig?"

She threw her arms around him, almost spilling his tea. "Richie, maybe you don't have memories, but something happened to you that you haven't forgotten, either. This stuff must have been a part of your life before."

He shrugged under her grasp. "Maybe. But I don't see how it helps."

"I'm not sure either. But it's the first clue we've had." She let go of him and picked up her coffee, carrying it to the sink. "I'll never sleep if I finish this. I'm heading up to bed."

He raised an eyebrow.

"See you in the morning."


Continued in Chapter 3

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