By Cynthia Martin
Spike threw his arms wide on the theshold. Bottles clanked in his pockets.
"Thank you for having me. Oh thanks. What fucking soldiers you are, to have me over for a thing like this. God bless the cousins. God bless the goddamn Yanks. I most appreciate, apres - ap -- I love -- more on that later. I have notes. I'm in a great mood. Call me Willy, if you like."
"Who invited him?" breathed Angel ominously.
Spike drew a handful of bar napkins from his jeans. "I am most thankful, really fucking ass-rippingly glad, to be back in the flesh. What a rush. And there are many here who have contributed to this happy state of affairs. Ahem.
"Eve: dear Eve. How keenly you watched my blundering progress toward a rentry to the physical plane, independent of your plots and machinations." Spike chuckled. "How you seethed, you evil skank! Yes, I saw you, don't blush! Doubtless you felt your hapless puppet was busting loose. That swift action was necessary. God love you, you skinny rotten viper! If you think I will ever do anything you want, say, like, throwing you a rope if you are drowning and I have nothing better to do, well, you're wrong. But thanks anyway."
Eve's eyes narrowed to slits.
Spike turned. "And Charlie. What a pal you are. You're solid, mate, and a gentleman to boot. Like how you don't sneer. Like how you made me feel accepted, like, and noticed when I -- well, that's not in the notes. Not to worry. One of these days we will go on a true bender, won't we?"
"Sure," replied Gunn genially.
Spike gestured emphatically. "See? It's like that with Charlie. Salt of the goddamn earth, he is, no stuck up human class distinctions, no fol de rols. Charlie, lad," Spike said, "if you hadn't been in my corner, sorta, I wouldn't have had the starch to go on. Thank you, man."
"No problem," grinned Gunn.
"Oh, Fred," crooned Spike. "Fred, the matchless. We now come to Fred. Hullo, Fred."
"Hi, Spike. Want some coffee?"
"And that's Fred down to the ground. Always thinking of others. Always giving of her gigantic brain, to the good and betterment of all. Do you know what a treasure you have in Fred?" Spike rounded accusingly on Wesley. "Do you?"
"I think we do," replied Wesley stiffly.
"I don't think you do," said Spike.
"I assure you we cherish Fred."
"I don't think so. Not such as she deserves. If you did you'd -- "
"We love Fred, you drunken ass," hissed Wesley.
Fred glanced imploringly at Angel and Gunn, but Spike only held Wesley's gaze for a moment. Then he pursed his lips, shrugged dubiously and returned to his notes.
"Wesley," he muttered. "Oh, right. Thanks for heads-up about the Shanshu. That was a prod to the billowy parts in season -- I was ready to pack it in, almost, til you spilled your Watcherly guts about the prophecy and all. Ta."
Wesley's lips became a thin line. "Don't mention it."
"Angel!" sang Spike. "And what shall I say to thee, Lord Angelus, thou cruel, savage, ungrateful and inhuman creature? That kept the key to all my councils, that knewest the very bottom of my soul -- Hah! I kid. All in fun, Angel, old spud. Because we are so close, hermano, mio fratello, mon ancien cher et cousin. Pappy. Thanks for the frigid welcome, the familiar lack of any encouragement or notice, and thanks..."
Spike broke off, pinching his nose.
"Are you done?" asked Angel evenly.
Spike waved him off and turned away, shoulders heaving. Fred hurried to his side.
"Jesus Christ," sighed Angel.
"Thank you for a fine evening, Angel," said Wesley.
"Goodnight," replied Angel, offering his hand.
"I love you, man," cried Spike, twisting out of Fred's grip. "You're my Yoda, don't you get it? Every time I think he's lost his shite for good, there's sodding Angelus, breaking trail and showin' the way. Fuck, I worship you, you cold heartless fuck. You're it, Angelus. Because you know." Spike stumbled forward and tapped his temple. "You just know. I hate you for it, you insufferable bin of trife, and that's so wrong. I'm still wrong."
"Hey, Spike, come over here and have a shot," offered Gunn.
Spike shook his head furiously. "Don't wanna drink. God! Always a step ahead. Always the big dog. Wrong of me to resent that, wrong and bad. Supposed to be good and wise. So hard to get this right..."
Fred made a soothing noise and Spike collapsed against her, fingers twisting in her sleeves.
"Spike, it's okay."
"I'm sorry I kicked your ass, Angel," wept Spike.
Wesley lifted his coat from the rack. "Happy thankgiving, everyone."
"Don't go," implored Spike, pausing to throw back the shot Gunn pressed into his hand. "Don't go, Watcher, I'm only trying to tell you. When Angelus got his soul and went all meek and feeble, I thought he was the sorriest catamite that ever crawled. Ass-sucking quitter, I said, miserable kneebiting ponce."
"I've heard your opinon," grated Angel.
"But see, there's the rub of it! That's the genius of the fucking thing. The meek shall inherit the earth! I was all meek, too, no shame in it at all, for oh, a month and a half."
"Good for you, Spike," said Fred.
"Loved it. Gloried in my debasement. Kissed the sole of the Slayer's tiny precious shoe, ran at her call. Bit my tounge, bowed the neck to her friends, rejoiced in my slavery. Stretched myself beneath her like an odalisque of the East, while she rode me and used me and took all that I could shoo --"
Wesley leapt forward and intercepted Angel, wrestling him back. "He's drunk, Angel."
"He's dead if he doesn't get out of my apartment."
Fred was scarlet, but she held onto Spike's arm. "I think that's good," she told Spike firmly. "I understand. Wouldn't you like to sleep now?"
"Aw, Fred. You sweet love. When care and anguish wring the brow, you ministering angel, thou. The sun inserts itself into your smile, like wheat and birdsong. Fred!"
"I'm right here, Spike."
"I think I'm rather intoxicated, Fred."
"We got your back, Blondie Bear," said Gunn.
"Oh. That's all right, then."
Fred snagged her purse on the way to the door. "We'll be back."
Spike thrust his hands against the doorframe. "You can have the Shanshu," he shouted, writhing against Gunn and Fred. "I'll die for you, too! I'll do the dying, Yoda! Angelus! Angelus! Just name the sprog William, and give me a home in your happy fucking hearts, oi! It's a far, far better thing, you clueless p --"
"Come on, Spike," said Gunn. "Let's go, man."
Spike became instantly docile, blinking. "Of course. Had as much, haven't I? Well. So.Goodnight, Liam."
The door closed. Wesley folded his coat over his arm. Angel reached for his cup.
Eve stuck out a hand.
"Thanks for a great Thanksgiving, kids."
"Next year," replied Angel unenthusiastically.
"Bet on it," intoned Wesley without inflection.
"Do you honestly think you are in competition with that?" asked Wesley on the balcony, swirling the snifter calmly. "Don't be ridiculous."
Angel kept his eyes on the street, on the yellow interminable haze of the lights below.
"I'm glad you're my friend," he said.