Spoilers: ATS S5 as far as Destiny.
Summary: Jonathan has a brand-new career.
Notes: For aphedas, who wanted unrequited, humour, and no heavy angst.
Report of my second night on the job, he thought. Told Spike about the demon. Spike killed the demon. Demon corpse turned into goo-volcano. Spike yelled at me. Spike went for shower. I floated around like a big idiot. The end.
Okay, not so much floated as stood around awkwardly, because he hadn’t worked out what kind of ghost stuff he could do yet. But either way, being a hero’s sidekick was less glamorous than it looked on TV.
Kind of the story of his life.
He didn’t get enough information, that was the trouble. One minute he was a being of infinite peace and light, the next he was standing in a bar in LA, feeling stupid and trying to tell a drunken vampire that he was on a mission from the Powers That Be. Were. Are. He just wasn’t the kind of guy that could pull that off. A mystical messenger, he felt, should have the stature of Alec Guinness. Or John Belushi in The Blues Brothers. Someone cool, who would know what to say when Spike looked sidelong at them and said, “thought the little boy killed you. And did you star in The Matrix?”
Jonathan looked around the sterile locker room, wondering if he should try to sit somewhere while he waited for Spike. That was another thing; if he’d ever thought about it (he hadn’t) he’d have expected a vampire to live in a… a graveyard. Or a gothic abandoned mansion. Not sleeping on a couch in the science lab of a law firm. And why did a law firm even need a science lab?
He’d pieced together some bits of information, but not nearly enough to be useful. Spike and that guy Buffy was with at the senior prom were fighting over something called a shanshu, but for all he knew that meant they couldn’t agree on what to call their new dog.
He was still debating what to do with himself when Spike slouched back into the room.
“You still here? God, I hate this city,” Spike sighed. “Fella can’t turn around without spooks and spectres coming to poke a stick through the bars.” He snagged a towel from the pegs and roughly ran it over his hair.
Jonathan gulped, and took a step backwards from the very wet, very naked vampire.
“Saved the girl, didn’t I?” he went on, completely unselfconscious in a way that made Jonathan jealous and confused all at once. “Go on, float on back to wherever you sprung from and tell your bosses this vamp’s done being haunted.”
A drop of water rolled slowly down his chest, past an impressive set of stomach muscles, and curved onto a hipbone. Jonathan blinked rapidly and tried to remind himself whatever the sleeping arrangements had been in Mexico, it was Andrew, not him, who had the Big Gay Love going on. Straight undead guys weren’t supposed to think about other straight undead guys that way, even if one of them was un-undead. Or something.
Spike turned to find his clothes. Jonathan thought that firstly, straight undead guys probably weren’t supposed to notice that their hypothetical straight undead friend had a really nice ass, and secondly, Andrew would kill – again – to be this close to a Spike who was this naked.
Andrew. Funny he didn’t feel angrier about dying, but he guessed Terry Pratchett had it right and ghosts couldn’t get angry. Didn’t have the adrenaline, or something, because emotions were all about hormones and biochemistry and stuff, so once you didn’t have a body any more you could be cool detached guy.
Yep, that was him. So when Spike tossed the towel down and tugged on the black jeans and t-shirt that seemed to be the only clothes he owned, Jonathan didn’t feel disappointed. At all.
Spike picked up his boots in one hand and strode off barefoot through the maze of rooms. Every so often he would stop and try a door. They were all locked. Jonathan trailed behind, feeling like an abandoned dog. Shanshu the puppy, he thought.
Finally, one of the doors swung open to a darkened office. Spike threw himself onto the couch. It was just barely long enough for his frame. It surprised Jonathan how little Spike was when you saw him up close, without the badass coat and the motorcycle boots. Taller than him, sure, but practically everyone was.
He hovered in the doorway, uncertain what to do next. Maybe there was a magic word he could say that would take him back to wherever he’d been until he was needed again, but the Powers must’ve forgotten to give him the handbook. Or figured he didn’t deserve one.
He moved into the office and sat on the floor. No point trying to get in a good position, because he was never uncomfortable, exactly. No muscles meant no muscle cramp. No circulation? No pins and needles. He figured he’d get used to it.
“Know you’re still here. Hear you breathing. Don’t have to do that, you know. Ghost. No lungs.”
“I’m not exactly a ghost,” he said. Then, “hey, what’s a shanshu?”
There was a squeak of leather. He pictured Spike rolling onto his back, looking up at the ceiling. Could vampires see in the dark?
“Pot of gold at the end of the rainbow’s what it is. Shiny prize for a champion.” Softer, with an edge to it Jonathan couldn’t place: “Angel reckons it’s his.”
“But you want it.”
Feeling like some Yodaish wisdom, or at least some Oprahish wisdom, was required Jonathan said, “maybe you’re supposed to work together instead of fighting each other. I mean, you saved the world and all, and Angel…” he racked his brains for anything he knew about Angel, “he helped at graduation. You’re both champions. Plus you’ve got the sire/childe thing going on. Do you really want to fight him over this?”
There was a long silence.
“Did you just put an ‘e’ on the end of ‘child’?” Spike asked suspiciously.
“No,” he quickly denied.
“Right, take a memo, Ghost Friday: first order of business tomorrow. Brutal death of Anne Rice.”
“It’s not even from Vampire Chronicles, it’s from Vampire: the Masquerade, and…” He shut up. Even in the dark, he could sense Spike rolling his eyes. “Okay. Death to Anne Rice.”
“Bloody right. I knew there was a reason I wanted that chip out of my head.”
His mind went to chip -> British slang -> bad perverted thoughts, and if non-ghosts could blush, he would have lit up the darkness like a flaming red beacon.
Spike was quiet after that.
Jonathan wasn’t sure if he could sleep, and didn’t think he wanted to. When he’d slept in Mexico there were those dreams, the ones that sent him and Andrew back to Sunnydale. No, sleep was bad. Instead, he sat in the dark thinking about prizes for champions, and he wanted to be back at the senior prom handing that umbrella to Buffy.
“Spike?” he whispered. “Are you awake?”
“Yeah. Funny thing. Some ghost keeps chatting away.”
He ignored the sarcasm. “I was thinking,” he said, “about the shanshu thing. The prize. And – Spike, I don’t think there is one.” He waited. “Spike?”
“It’s like…” he couldn’t find the right words. Alec Guinness would know the words. Even Ewan McGregor in that stupid beard. “It’s like when we gave Buffy the class protector award. It was this prize for saving us all the time and it showed her how much we appreciated her, but it didn’t change anything. It wasn’t like that was the end and she could stop being the Slayer.”
“You’re saying it’s not about the medal at the end of the race.”
He shrugged, then remembered Spike probably couldn’t see him. “Not one that means you can stop running.”
He thought Spike had fallen asleep, when he finally said, “why you? Why didn’t they send Tara?”
He’d given it a lot of thought himself. “I think… I think it’s because I did a lot of bad stuff and I’m trying to make up for it. Tara says hi, though,” he said, suddenly feeling sleepy. He lay back, pillowing his head on his arm.
“And how come nobody else can see you?”
He kept his eyes closed. “‘Cuz they don’t need to?”
Soft sound that he realised was a chuckle. “Well. Looks like you’re either my Harvey or my Hopkirk Deceased.”
Harvey? Jonathan thought sleepily. Did that make Spike John Crichton? That would explain the chip in his head.
Just as he was about to fall asleep, he had a vision. Like the last one, it dropped right into his brain with a weird buzz that he guessed was an interdimensional You’ve Got Mail. He had his mouth open ready to wake Spike when he realised that the demon wouldn’t rise for another week. Early heads-up, that could be useful.
It wasn’t how he’d pictured his afterlife. Less clouds, less harps, more sleeping in office and being invisible. But high school had trained him for that last, and if he had to play Al to anyone’s Sam then it was neato that it was someone who was cool and a champion, and who he might maybe possibly have a tiny crush on.
And he got to help save people. He got a second chance.
Jonathan dreamed of ghosts and pink umbrellas.