How to Treat Your
Chapter 38-A: Step 3 – Estrangement (Part
Los Angeles, Hyperion Hotel
“You wouldn’t dare! You were just going to toss in a Prothgarian broadsword with a third-century Sancteus dagger?” Wesley accused.
Cordelia turned the sword in her hands and gave it a second look. “Hmm. Let’s see: long, metal, sharp . . . yep.”
“Cordy! The purpose of an inventory . . .” Wesley started to lecture again.
“Yes, give us that,” Gunn broke into an upper crust English accent, “purpose of an inventory speech again.”
“This wasn’t my idea!” Wesley said defensively.
“No, but Angel keeps complaining that the weapons cabinet is all different. Who’s the boss around here, Wesley?” She pointed the dagger at him again. “You, or the guy with the pancreas dagger?”
“What time is it?” Fred asked for the hundredth time.
Wesley sighed and held up his wrist for Cordelia to read his watch.
“Six twenty-four, and for those of you who are playing the home game: that’s exactly three minutes from the last time you asked.”
Fred played with a strange contraption she built while waiting for Angel and Spike to return. She couldn’t wait to show Spike. He’d be impressed with her achievement. It was a cross between a miniature catapult and a suitcase . . . or it made toast. The team members weren’t sure what it was for.
“I’m sorry,” Fred apologized. “I just . . . I have this theory that the more you are aware of time the more slowly it moves, which could make light speed travel possible, but only if you were to concentrate really . . .”
“They’ll be back when they get back,” Cordelia broke in, exasperated.
“So . . .” Fred hedged. “Now that she’s alive again, are they going to get back together? Angel and that girl with the goofy name?”
“Well, Fred,” Wesley stressed the ‘goofiness’ of her own name. “That’s a difficult question. I think it’s fair to say . . . no. Not a chance, never, no way, not in a million years and also ‘nuh huh’. He has Spike now. They’re mated and inseparable, he wouldn’t give up what he has with Spike for anything.”
“But you said he loved her. And of course she’s going to love him back, because he’s so strong and handsome and he really listens when you talk. I-I mean, if you go for that sort of thing, why wouldn’t it work?”
“Let me break it down for you, Fred,” Cordelia said. She stepped away from the reception desk and falls into her role as Buffy. “Oh, Angel! I know that I’m a Slayer and you’re a vampire . . . and it would be impossible for us to be together, but --”
Gunn cracked up at Cordelia’s act as Wesley stood up and tried his hand at Angel’s role. Cordelia turned to look at him. Wesley removed his glasses and lay them aside.
“But, my Gypsy curse sometimes prevents me from seeing the truth. Oh, Buffy!”
“Yes, Angel?” Cordelia asked in her Buffy voice.
“Oh, I love you so much I almost forgot to brood!” Wesley said in his Angel voice.
Gunn laughed harder at Wesley interpretation of Angel as a wide-eyed Fred watched the spectacle.
“And just because I sent you to Hell that one time doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends,” Cordelia overacted as Buffy. “Oh!”
Wesley grabbed Cordelia’s wrist and yanked her to him overdramatically.
“Or possibly more,” Wesley added.
Cordelia gave an exaggerated gasp. “No! We mustn’t!”
Wesley pressed closer to Cordelia demanding, “Kiss me.”
“Bite me!” Cordelia insisted.
Wesley twirled her around, dipped her back over his arm and pretended to sink his teeth into her neck. Gunn laughed and shook his head. He and Fred were so riveted on the reenactment that they didn’t see or hear Angel come in.
“How about you both bite me?” he said sadly.
Fred jumped up at the sound of his voice. “You’re back!”
Wesley and Cordelia saw Angel watching them and hurried to break apart as Gunn asked, “How’d it go?”
Angel gestured towards Wesley and Cordelia trying to look occupied. “I think those two pretty much summed it up. To be honest – I really don’t want to talk about it.”
Cordelia tugged her miniskirt back into place. “But . . . ah, Angel, we’re your friends.” She gave him a big, friendly smile. “And, and it—it’s not healthy to repress stuff like this. You—you need to share your pain, express those feelings of grief and longing or . . . the curiosity is going to kill me!”
“Oh. No. We wouldn’t want that,” Angel said with quiet cynicism.
“Personally, I don’t care at all what happened,” Fred said perkily.
“Shut up, Fred,” Cordelia said as she walked past the girl.
“So, where’s Spike?” Gunn asked as he looked hopefully at the entrance doors.
Angel’s expression turned grim. “That’s the part I didn’t want to discuss.”
Cordelia’s eyes narrowed on him. “What did you do with Spike?”
Angel looked down at his feet when he confessed, “I sent him back with Buffy.”
He felt like a naughty child being punished. Daring to glance up, he was met with four pairs of eyes boring into him. The shock and surprised poured off the humans in waves. Angel looked around the expanse of the lobby while he waited for them to comment. When there was only silence, he chanced another look at them. “What? She needs help. It is a Hellmouth after all. We can look after ourselves, we’re a strong team.”
Wesley looked at him intently. “I seem to remember how strong the Scoobies are as a team and what I understand and know to be true from what has happened is that Willow has gotten stronger. She’s become so powerful that she’s able to raise the dead. Spike was a very good ally. He was a friend and strong asset to the team. Not only in the field but research as well. He was needed here, Angel.”
Angel was prepared for Cordelia’s anger and Wesley’s speechifying. They’d been around since the start of Angel Investigations. Cordelia was the one that turned what he did on a regular basis into a paying gig, dragging Angel with her kicking and screaming about asking people for money to save them. If he thought about it, Spike was there as well, even if it was only in spirit most of the time. His childe’s travels between cities should have been commonplace by now.
“You sent Spike away,” Fred accused. “How could you!? He loves you. He wanted to be with you.”
And now, the ground could open up and swallow him. Fred – who usually thought the sun rose and set on him – was now glaring at him. And why shouldn’t she be? If she saw the devastated look on Spike’s face when he left, she’d know that Angel hated himself enough for the both of them.
“Hey man, that is so not cool!” Gunn said, putting his two cents in. “We were a tight unit, a crew. You don’t break up something like that. I know she’s the Slayer and all, but I didn’t know she was strong enough to break up a sure thing.”
“Then, you don’t know our Angel with his Buffy,” Cordelia replied. “If she or her name are in the same vicinity then brood boy over here starts to angst. Losing her may not have killed him, but he lost a backbone when she returned.” She went up and slapped Angel on the arm. “We had all those ‘team building’ exercises which ended up with you as the proud owner of a luxury shower and Fred with a super bath and you sent Spike away?”
Angel looked helplessly at the team. “I know what I’m doing. Do you think I want this? I wanted to be with Spike, but Buffy needs help. She’s in so much danger from being on the Hellmouth and being a Slayer.”
“Well, while she’s up there in all that danger, we’re down here with one man down, making it twice as dangerous for us,” Gunn commented.
Angel walked back up the stairs to the entrance as he said. “Trust me, this is for the best. Spike will help Buffy, our relationship will continue, and everything will be back to normal. Now, just drop it. I know what I’m doing. I know Spike.”
“If you know Spike so well, then you would know he was quite happy here and didn’t have a thought of leaving. You’d know he wanted to stay here with us . . . with you,” Wesley said.
“Sometimes we don’t get what we want, Wes. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices for the greater good. Buffy needed him more.”
“How dare you say that?” Fred yelled at him. Everyone looked at her with stunned expressions. The last time she was mad at Angel was the day after never. Her outburst was startling. “When you love someone, you don’t give them up to your ex for the greater good. What sort of insane logic is that? We needed him more. You needed him more!” Fred turned around and angrily went up to her room.
“So that’s a no on getting ice cream?” Angel asked her as she walked away.
“No, I want Spike back. I’m not talking to you until you go up there and apologize to him for being an idiot,” Fred said as she stomped up the stairs and disappeared.
Angel looked up at the balcony, willing Fred to return and take back what she said. When that didn’t happen, he sighed sorrowfully and headed for the door. “I’m going out. Need to find something to kill.”
The remaining trio watched Angel walk out the door. They looked at each other as silence descended on the lobby. There was no chattering talk from Fred, no Angel discussing Spike’s various, wonderful amenities or the next case, no Spike snarking with them.
Cordelia shrugged and collected her purse along with her coat. “Well, if he’s not going to work then I’m going home. Bye all.”
Gunn and Wesley watched her walk out the door and then looked at each other. “I’m hungry, think I’ll go get something to eat,” Gunn said.
Wesley weighed his options when it looked like Gunn was going to leave him seemingly alone in the hotel. “There’s no research to be done. I think I will join you.”
Los Angeles, Sewer System
Angel walked along one of the tunnels. After he left the hotel, he kept on walking deciding that the exercise and fresh air would help clear his head. He never thought he’d have to give Spike up so soon. Sometimes the idea of having all the time in the world really goes to your head when you’re a vampire. He couldn’t blame Fred for being upset with him. He took away her best friend. Spike was her safety line. Her reason for the risk she took by coming out of her room.
He was doing a fine job of brooding until he walked past the ice cream shop he was going to take Fred to, had she agreed. He stopped when he saw a Durslar beast terrorizing the patrons. He ran in and distracted the demon until it took off. Now, he was down in the sewers looking for the thing so that he could either reason with it or kill it, whichever came first. Reasoning with it couldn’t be any harder than trying to talk to Spike when they were both upset at the current path their lives had taken.
Now that he thought about it: after the scene with Spike and Buffy, maybe he would just kill it. Who needed the hassle?
Los Angeles, Hyperion Hotel
Back at the hotel, Cordelia had returned after Wesley called her back to finish inventory of the weapons cabinet. Fred still hadn’t come done from her self-imposed exile after the argument with Angel and Angel hadn’t yet returned from his excursion. That left Wesley, Cordelia and Gunn to do the busy work.
“Three-pronged Scythian death spear, category six,” Wesley recited. “Weapons Cabinet, third shelf.”
Cordelia put the tagged spear in the allotted space of the weapons cabinet.
“You know back in my days as a rogue demon hunter I once used that very spear to pin down what I thought was a small Rodentius demon,” Wesley boasted. “Of course, the poodle’s owners weren’t very happy.”
Gunn was fed up with the ‘when I was a rogue demon hunter . . .’ stories. One more story and he was going to use a tagged weapon to kill the former watcher. If Spike was here, they could banter over fighting techniques, but Angel sent him away. He turned a pleading look towards Cordelia. “Would you hurry up and get a vision already?”
Cordelia stood straight and backed away from the weapons cabinet. “Ah gee, Gunn, as much as I would love to endure another soul-splittingly agonizing psychic invasion for your benef – OW! Ow! Ow!” Wesley and Gunn raced over to where she was hunched over in pain.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” Gunn whooped triumphantly, thinking she had a vision.
His expression went south when Cordelia said, “No! Ow, Fred! Ouch.” She hopped around on one foot, favoring her bruising shin. “I really wish she wouldn’t leave her toys lying around!” She hobbled over to the round settee and sat down, rubbing her shin after bumping into Fred’s contraption.
Gunn looked down at the thing that looked like a convoluted tire jack. “Ooh! A pretty wicked looking toy!”
“I’ll say,” Wesley agreed. “It’s almost looks like a spring-loaded decapitation device.”
Cordelia waved at it as she rubbed her shin with the other hand. “Or it makes toast. With her you never know.”
“Ah. Excuse me! Is this Angel Investigations?” a male voice asked behind them.
The trio looked up to see a middle-aged couple standing in the doorway of the hotel.
“Yes, can we help you?” Wesley offered.
The man walked down the steps to the lobby floor with his wife behind him. “I sure hope so. I’m Roger and this is my wife, Trish. We’re sorry to barge in on your . . .” he glanced at the assorted weaponry lying around, “arsenal here, but we really need to talk to you.”
Wesley set his weapon down. “Of course, step into my office.”
Roger craned his neck to get another look at the cache of weapons on display as he ushered his wife towards the office that Wesley indicated. Cordelia and Gunn set their weapons aside and followed them into the small room.
“I’m Wesley Wyndham-Pryce. These are my colleagues, Cordelia Chase and Charles Gunn. After they all exchanged handshakes, Wesley asked, “What can we do for you?”
The couple sat down opposite the trio. “It’s our daughter. She’s missing,” Trish said.
“Oh, no,” Cordelia gasped. “Kidnapped by evil fiends?”
“We’re not sure,” Trish said.
“I see,” Wesley said distractedly as he took notes. “Was your daughter involved in any kind of demon worship?”
“Of course not!” Roger said incredulously.
“Could be a vampire,” Gunn said thoughtfully. “Hard luck tracking one of those down in a city this big, but don’t worry. We’re detectives. We can find anyone.”
“We already hired a detective,” Roger said.
“And he couldn’t locate her?” Wesley asked.
“He said she was staying here in your hotel,” Roger said in irritation.
“Her name is Winifred Burkle. We call her Fred,” Trish said.
Wesley exchanged looks with Gunn and Cordelia.
At that moment, Fred walked down the stairs to go to the kitchen for something to eat. She heard voices and glanced at the open door to Wesley’s office. Her eyes widened when she saw her parents and ran back up the stairs to her room.
In the office, Gunn asked, “Fred’s your daughter?”
“Yes. You know her?” Trish asked.
“Is she here? Is she all right?” Roger asked.
“She’s fine,” Wesley assured them. He quickly thought up a lie. Until he could ascertain that this couple was indeed Fred’s parents, he wasn’t going to tell them anything. “And out at the moment with one of our associates.”
“Who is not an evil fiend,” Cordelia stressed, “or a vampire, because they don’t exist. In case . . . you aren’t familiar with our L.A. gumshoe detective slang.”
“But, what happened to her? It’s been five years – has she been with y’all this whole time?” Roger asked worriedly.
“No,” Wesley replied. “Ah, we’ve only known Fred for a few months, really. You see we found her in . . .” He was unsure of how to proceed and looked at Cordelia and Gunn for help.
“Ah, a fit of depression,” Cordelia said quickly.
“Fred was depressed?” Trish asked. “Over what?”
Cordelia looked at Wesley, waiting for him to fill in the blanks. “She had recently
relocated and was having trouble adjusting,” he lied, partially. “So, how did you come to find her again?”
“Oh, about a month ago we got a letter from her in the mail,” Trish replied.
“But she didn’t leave her return address,” Roger added. “In fact she said she was fine and we shouldn’t bother looking for her, but . . .”
“Five years of not knowing whether your daughter’s alive or . . .” Trish cut in. “Well, how could we just let it go?”
“So, we hired a private eye,” Roger said.
“And he tracked her down through an unaddressed envelope?” Gunn asked smugly. “We could do that.”
“Wait ’til you guys hear what happened at Häagen-Dazs! Ordinarily, these things don’t put up such a fight, but this one?” Angel’s voice sounded ecstatic in the lobby. “Hoo! I think I’m going to have it . . .” He walked in carrying the Durslar’s severed head and saw Fred’s parents. “. . . Mounted. Uh, hello?”
“Angel!” Cordelia said. “You’re . . . alone. And, and you brought . . . a prop! From your movie!” She turned to Roger and Trish. “This is Angel. Angel makes monster movies. Angel, these are Fred’s very normal parents.”
Angel hurriedly put the head behind his back and stared at the couple. “Ah, Fred has parents?”
Fred was in her room trying – unsuccessfully – to wipe off the writing on the wall using a wet towel. She looked around the room and grabbed pieces of clothing lying on the nightstand and bed.
Angel smiled genuinely. “Well, it sure is nice to meet you both.”
Roger stared at the Durslar’s head. “Ah. Son, you – your prop is dripping.”
Angel looked down at the green blood dripping from the severed demon’s neck. He laughed nervously. “Oh, yeah. This,” he swung the demon’s head up by the hair, causing Roger and Trish to step back. “Fake. You know, a little glue, papier -mâché . . .” He blindly tossed the head behind him into the lobby. Not realizing his strength, the power behind throw broke something made of glass when the head landed. Cringing at the sound he added, “. . . possibly some lead. So, Fred’s parents. We’ve heard so much . . . well, um, sure is nice to meet you folks.”
“No address anywhere on the envelope?” Gunn asked, bringing the topic back on the reason the couple was there.
“No. None,” Roger replied, turning to Angel. “Do you know when Fred will be back?”
Angel gave Cordelia and Gunn an oblivious look. They looked expectantly at him in return. He cleared his throat. “Oh, me. Well, yeah, ah, I sent her right back here. Right before I . . . picked up that . . . prop. So, I’m sure she’s up in her room . . . right now.”
While the team, accompanied by Fred’s parents, examined Fred’s very empty room, wondering what happened to her, she was scared and hurrying down a darkened street wearing a backpack.
Sunnydale, Crawford Street Mansion
Buffy had shown up out of the blue fifteen minutes ago demanding to talk to Spike and she still hadn’t said why. He decided that if he was going to be forced to deal with her, he was doing so while inebriated.
So, here they were sitting at opposite ends of the couch, knocking back shots from the bottle of Jack Daniels sitting on the coffee table. Spike watched her pour another shot with a small smile.
Buffy sat back against the cushions with her glass raised. “This is going to be great.” She threw to the back of her throat and swallowed it. She shook her head and made a horrible face at the aftertaste. “Blaaah!”
Spike smirked at her reaction to drinking hard liquor, and then slammed his own shot back.
“Life is stupid,” Buffy said out of the blue.
“I have a dim memory of that, yeah,” Spike acknowledged as he set his glass down on the coffee table. “And I didn’t figure you were here cadging my whiskey ’cause life’s all full of blood and peaches.” He winced as the last word brought his Sire to mind and shook his head to remove the unwanted image.
“No. There’s this thing . . . someone’s doing stuff to me, messing up my life,” she admitted. “Except that it was kind of pre-messed already. You know, with school and jobs . . . pretty bad even without the evil.”
“So you, uh, just what? Gonna let this whoever play you ’til it figure out what kills you?” Spike asked. Yep, he was definitely soused if he’s asking a concerned question like that.
Buffy shrugged and put down her glass. “Giles is working on it.”
Spike laughed derisively. “Oh, good, ’cause Giles wields the mighty force of library books.”
She looked at him skeptically. “You’d do better?”
“Damn right!” Spike exclaimed. “I’d hit the demon world.” He watched Buffy grab the bottle of whiskey and refilled their glasses. “Ask questions, Slayer, throw punches. Find out what’s in the air. It’s fun too.”
“It’s not my kind of fun,” Buffy slurred as she screwed the cap back onto the bottle.
“Yeah, it is,” Spike emphasized. “Your life will get a lot less confusing when you figure that out.”
“You have had so too much to drink at this point, I am cutting you off,” she slurred. After they both threw a shot of whiskey back, she cringed and shook her head at the aftertaste. “Blaaah!”
Spike couldn’t keep the smirk off his face at her reaction. “You’re not a schoolgirl or a shop girl.” He watched her pour another shot for herself. “You’re a creature of the darkness, like me.” He nodded when she looked up at him. “Try in my world. See how good it feels.”
“Are there drinks in your world?” Buffy asked.
Spike only response was an evil grin.
Los Angeles, Caritas
The banging on the door had Lorne swearing a blue streak as he walked through the club wearing a bathrobe and smoking a cigarette.
“Oh figures,” Lorne grumbled, “Right when Judge Judy is about to lay the smack down.” The banging continued, more insistent. “I’m coming! I’m not deaf, you know?”
Lorne put his cigarette in an ashtray on one of the tables in the deserted club. A second later, the table collapsed, the bottles on top crashed to the floor. He didn’t bother to react. The place was a disaster anyway, what was one more mess? He continued to shuffle towards the bar where he pushed a button that unlocked the door.
“Can’t you read the sign on the door? Se habla ‘closed’, Lorne yelled. But, it seemed Fred found her way inside and rushed down the stairs, almost running the empath down. “Oh, Fred, it’s you. The bar is closed.” He turned away and headed back to said bar. “Good seeing you. It’s been fun. Bye-bye!”
Fred sucked in a deep breath and launched into a verse of Row, Row, Row Your Boat as she hurried after him.
Lorne cringed at the tone of panic in her voice. It was a loud screech in the terrified girl. “Ouch! Turn the sirens down a notch, would you? All that fear and panic’s blowing out my fuses.”
“I’m sorry,” Fred said apologetically. “It’s just . . . something awful has happened.”
“Oh really?” Lorne asked with an inquisitive brow. He swept a hand out to encompass his club, still destroyed from Gunn’s former gang’s little soiree of guns and ammo. “I wonder what that’s like.”
Fred surveyed the mess in surprise. “Oh, no, was there another massacre?”
“Oh, no. No. Just the one,” he assured her. “But it turns out massacres are a lot like sitting through Godfather III: once is enough.”
“I’m not . . . I mean, I don’t want to sound . . .” Fred stammered, at a loss for what to say exactly. “Why is it still like this?”
Lorne didn’t want to think of the destruction to his club while she was here and running scared. “Ah, Fred, honey, I don’t think you’re here to discuss interior decorating. Am I wrong?” He pulled a chair out at an intact table, righted the overturned lamp on it and motioned for her to sit across from him. “Now, what can I do for you?”
Fred looked down at her hands resting her lap. “I – I need cash. I don’t want to talk about it, because I think my head might go a little twang and I’ll sing if I have to. She broke into Row, Row, Row Your Boat again.
Lorne held up his hand as if to ward her off. “Easy! Easy! Forget the singing, sweetheart. Your aura’s practically screaming!” He leaned on the table and looked intently at her. “Yeah, you are in a bad place, aren’t you doll? You thought you could outrun them – that maybe you were free. But, those old monsters hunted you down. I know why you’re running away, Fred. You know what your problem is?”
“I’m not strong enough to stay and face my fear,” Fred replied sadly.
Lorne shook his head. “No. You haven’t run far enough.” Fred just stared at him with a blank look. He sighed and went on. “Listen Fredikins, you are afraid of what is happening here. Do you have somewhere else, someone else you can be with, outside L.A.?”
Fred looked thoughtful for a moment. “Well, Angel sent Spike back to Sunnydale. I guess I could go there.”
“Do you feel safe with him?” Lorne asked.
Fred nodded. “As safe as I do with Angel . . . maybe more so, right now.”
“So, go to Sunnydale. Let Spike protect you,” he suggested.
“But, what if Angel shows up?”
“Trust me honey, right now for Spike, you come first.”
A rat ran along a pipe running along the ceiling of a sewer tunnel above Angel’s head.
“Fred?” he called out. “Fred, it’s just me! I’m alone. Listen, whatever that thing is with your parents? You know, we can help you. Fred?”
A pair of glowing blue eyes peered around the corner behind Angel as he walked on.
Los Angeles Public Library
“Does Fred come to the library often?” Trish asked.
“Uh, well, this was the first place I ever saw her,” Cordelia stammered.
“She used to love our little community library back home. Every afternoon, I’d pick her up there after my rounds,” Trish said wistfully.
“Oh, a doctor!” Cordelia exclaimed. “No wonder Fred’s so smart!”
“I drive a school bus,” Trish corrected.
Cordelia gave her a false smile. “Oh. Well, I-I’ve actually never – ridden in one of those, but I hear they’re very nice.”
Roger gave Cordelia an accusatory look. “What exactly does Fred do for you people? It strikes me a little odd, a physicist working for a detective agency.”
“Uh, well. Fred’s ah . . . gone through some changes,” Cordelia said. She was trying to think of a better excuse when Wesley and Gunn walked in.
“We’ve swept all the floors. Nothing,” Wesley reported.
“So, what’s next?” Roger challenged.
“Give me one second to confer with my colleagues,” Wesley said as he pulled Cordelia to the side with him and Gunn.
“I could have told you she wasn’t going to be at the library,” Gunn said.
“If you know so much about her, Gunn, why don’t you just tell us where she is?” Wesley suggested angrily.
Gunn thought about it, but couldn’t come up with anything but a lame, “Bet that taco stand’s not looking so bad now, is it?”
“Hey! Mr. and Mrs. Bickerson, a little focus, please,” Cordelia cut in as she stepped between them. “There is definitely something going on with them.”
Three sets of suspicious eyes look at the conspiratorial stance of the Burkles talking quietly to each other.
“So, where do we go next?” Wesley posed to Cordelia. “Where would Fred go for help, for guidance?”
Sunnydale, Hell’s Ride Bar
Spike and Buffy were sitting at a table in a dark corner. Spike was just gaining a second buzz on the alcohol while Buffy was three sheets to the wind and nearly crying in her drink.
“Spike, I really need to talk to someone and you’re it!” Buffy slurred, one hand clutching the whiskey bottle and her glass in the other. “Do you know what they did to me?”
“What’d they do, luv?” Spike asked, swirling the liquid in his glass.
“That’s not what they did,” Buffy slurred caustically, thinking he’d suggested that her friends loved her. She pointed at him with a finger of the hand clutching the bottle. “I’ll tell you what they did to me. They dragged me out of heaven. I was happy, content, at peace, for the first time since I was called. And, wha’ do they do? My friends dragged me back to this hell hole and expect me to be grateful. Part of me hates them for they did. Part of me feels sorry that they are so insecure they had to bring me back.”
“That seems to be the long and short of it, Slayer,” Spike concurred.
Buffy took a swig and poured another glass. “Angel sent you here to look after me?” It was more of a drunken statement than a question. “How can you? I’m a mess.”
“You’ll hear no denials here,” Spike grumbled, staring into his glass. A small part of him felt bad when she sniffled and a single tear slid down her cheek. “Okay Slayer, so you’re a mess. I was sent here by Angel to watch over you and I’ll do that. I can protect you from demons, vampires and humans. But, how am I supposed to protect you from your friends and yourself?”
“I don’t know Spike,” Buffy slurred. “I know you don’t want to be here. I don’t want you here. But, you’re the only one I can trust with how I feel right now. We’ve both been let down and feeling resentful.
Spike lifted a scarred brow at that. She tried to stand up and level herself before she turned and walked out the door. Her head was held high, but her walk had a developed a slight stagger.
He watched her leave. So, not only was he a babysitter, but the one she was going to confide in. He scoffed, lucky him. He downed the rest of the whiskey. Grabbing the three-quarters empty bottle and the glasses, he took them back to the bar and ordered another drink.
The bartender looked at him as he poured another drink. “Did the girlfriend walk out on you?”
With a mirthless laugh, Spike looked at him. “Something like that.”
Angel slowly walked along the sewer, searching for Fred. “Fred? There’s nothing to be afraid of,” he called out.
He jumped when his cell phone rang. He pulled it out of his coat pocket and opened it. “What? No. You?” He listened to Wesley talk for a few minutes and let out a deep breath. “Oh! You mean the place where she would go for help and guidance!” He turned back the way he came. “And we call ourselves detectives. I’ll meet you there.”
Sunnydale, Crawford Street Mansion
Spike strolled into the mansion with a bottle from the bar in hand. Vampire constitution being what it was he still felt more sober than he wanted to be. He spent the better part of the night with half an ear to the Slayer’s woes while trying to ignore his thoughts of Angel. Why should he waste any time on that tosser when the ponce sent him back here against his will? He was happy in L.A. He felt accepted there and Angel fucked it all up like everything else in Spike’s life and sent him back here.
Spike growled and threw the bottle at the fireplace where it broke against the cement wall, broke and splashed the rest of its contents against the façade. That crashing sound was followed by a small yelp. He straightened his spine and searched the darkness.
“Come on out, pet,” Spike said.
A second later, Fred stepped into view. The soft yellow light of the lamp on an end table colored her features. She looked like an angel from what he could see. As far as he knew, Fred didn’t know where he lived. He didn’t think Fred would come to Sunnydale? Why would anyone want to come here unless they were forced into exile?
“Fred? What are you doing here?” he asked softly. “How did you find me?”
She laughed nervously. “In a town this small, all I had to do ask where you were. After that, it was deduction. It was fairly simple really, with the ratio of houses to citizens.”
Spike looked away from her towards the fireplace, muttering, “Damn this town . . . can never keep a secret here.”
Fred frowned at his words. “Didn’t you want to see me, Spike? ’Cause I missed you something terrible.”
Spike softened when he heard the plaintive tone in her voice. His expression became one of concern. “I missed you too, luv.” He stepped up and wrapped his arms around her too-thin shoulders. “Come here and give me a hug. It’s good to see a friendly face again.”
Los Angeles, Caritas
“Well, isn’t this a lovely surprise,” Lorne commented dryly when Angel and his team – accompanied by Fred’s parents – showed up in his club.
Cordelia scoffed. “He’s surprised? I didn’t think he owned terrycloth.”
Lorne hummed as he perused the small group. “Hmm, such a small entourage tonight. Hey, Gunn, why didn’t you bring your other friends? ’Cause they make a party.”
Gunn watched the green demon toast the air towards him. He glanced from Angel to Wesley and back to Lorne. “Maybe I should wait outside.”
“You know, I’m – I’m not entirely uncomfortable with that suggestion,” Lorne said sardonically as Gunn left the bar.
“What kind of a place is this?” Trish asked as she looked around at the mess.
“Oh, do you like it? I was kind of going for a Dresden after the bombing sort of feel,” Lorne said sarcastically.
Roger turned on Angel. “Ah, is this one of your big ‘industry contacts’? Some guy in a bathrobe, wearing make up and fake horns?”
Lorne took offense to that. “They’re not fake, and it’s – only a little eyeliner. If you want to see eyeliner, you should see Spike. That boy just --”
“Lorne,” Wesley cut in. “I’d like you to meet Fred’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Burkle. They’re here visiting – from the country.”
“Yeah, you’ll have to forgive us hicks,” Roger said. “Down in Texas we don’t get a lot of guys who wear eyeliner – not for long anyway.”
“He’s just teasing you,” Cordelia laughed apprehensively. “He probably just got back from a shoot. He and Angel do monster movies together! Right, Lorne?!”
“Ah . . . no,” Lorne replied.
Angel finally had enough. He walked up to Lorne and pulled him aside. “Can I talk to you a second?”
Trish leaned against the bar and said in accusatory tone, “Some detectives. You have no idea where our daughter is, do you?”
Cordelia and Wesley remained quiet and looked guilty.
Roger eyed them suspiciously. “Maybe they do. Maybe they just don’t want us to find her.”
A short distance away, Angel pulled Lorne around to face him. “Look, Lorne, I’m sorry about the bar, but right now Fred is missing and we need your help.”
“Oh really?” Lorne said mockingly. “Yeah, well, I’m not some mystical vending machine here to spit out answers every time you waltz in with a problem. I have a heart. Granted it’s located in my left butt cheek, but it’s still a heart. And that heart is broken! I mean, why is it no one ever cares about my destiny? Everyone who walks through that door is all about me, me, me. Well, what about my me? My me’s important.”
Angel watched as the empath rambled. He was talking entirely too much, more than usual anyway. He could tell Lorne was hiding something. “You know where she is, don’t you?”
In response, Lorne continued to talk, hoping Angel wouldn’t press for answers. “A-and another thing, how . . . how do they get the pimentos in the olives, huh? There’s a mystery for you. You know, do they stuff each one by hand, ’cause that seems a little time consuming, or do you think they have a little pimento-stuffing machine . . .”
Angel just looked at Lorne, waiting for him to shut up and tell him what he needed to know.
Lorne gave up with a long-suffering sigh. “Fred doesn’t want to see her parents. She has reasons for that. I mean, why force a showdown if you don’t have to?”
“Because it won’t be over,” Angel said. “They found her once, they’ll do it again. At least this time we can be there to protect her.” Lorne shook his head and looked away. “Please,” Angel begged. “Tell me where Fred is. I know you’re not a slot machine.”
“Vending machine, you big palooka,” Lorne corrected. He sighed. “All right, but play this one delicately, bro, because it’s going to get messy.”
“Where is she, Lorne?”
“She went up to see Spike,” Lorne admitted.
“Spike? She went to see Spike?” Angel said apprehensively. “He’s in Sunnydale, that’s two hours away, Lorne! Why would she go there? How the hell did she get there?”
“She went there because she feels safe with him.” Lorne gave Angel an once-over, detecting the tense feelings coming off in waves. “And I can see why. She got there by cab probably.”
Angel pulled his phone out and punched in Spike’s number. After a few minutes, Spike answered. “What do you want?”
“Where are you hiding her,” Angel bit out.
“Her who? You had me babysitting so many women, you have to choose one,” Spike said in angry sarcasm.
“You know damn well who,” Angel said.
“I ain’t telling you until you tell me what you lot all did to her,” Spike said.
“So, help me Spike if you did anything to her to get back at me,” Angel threatened.
“Me??? You’re one to talk you big ape. Why does everything have to be about you? Are you that narcissistic?” Spike said indignantly. “I’m not the one that sent the girl skittering to another city to get away from your brooding ass, ponce.”
“When I get my hands on you --” Angel started to say.