How to Treat Your
Chapter 50-A: Step 3 – Estrangement (Part 17)
Los Angeles, Hyperion Hotel, Angel’s Suite
It had taken nearly two weeks for his body to heal. Two weeks in which he never saw Angel. After his mate all but physically threw him out of the hotel, Angel hadn’t come anywhere around him. Apparently, the elder vampire found somewhere else to sleep that was all the hell away from Spike. Fred was the one who showed up with a new supply of blood bags. She never said anything. But then, knowing her as Spike did, she probably didn’t think it was her place to.
Oh well, being away from Angel gave him time to think about his life. With his anger towards Angel’s behavior, he knew his own demeanor wasn’t something to write home about. His actions had gone and mucked it all to hell. But, what did Angel expect him to do? The bloody ponce kept tossing him at Buffy. A bloke could only take so much before he cracked.
He honestly did want to be Angel. He didn’t care for Sunnydale or the Scooby gang. He only slept with Buffy to get back at Angel. There was no love lost between him and the Slayer. The team here was his family more than Buffy and her merry band of rugrats ever were. Cordelia and Fred were like sisters to him. Gunn was a comrade in arms. He’d reserve his decision over how to feel about Wesley when the gnawing pain in his healing chest subsided.
He was mated to Angel. He had to find a way to show Angel that he wanted to stay with him and not be shipped off to Sunnydale every time he turned around, some way to demonstrate that he was a vital part of the L.A. team as any of the other members.
Spike climbed out of bed and dressed in his normal black attire. He packed a duffel bag and penned a note before he left the room and snuck out the back way, watching for Gunn or Fred until he made it safely to the basement and down the sewer tunnels.
Fred watched through the window as Angel sipped from a mug of blood, seated at the desk in what used to be Wesley’s office, now reclaimed. He was essentially doing busy-work, looking through old case files.
“It’s funny. Well, sad, actually . . .” Fred commented. Gunn stood next to her, leaning on a mop. “I keep expecting to find . . . what I mean is: it’s weird seeing Angel sitting at that desk.”
Gunn shrugged. “It was his when I got here. It seems right that it’s his again.”
“Yeah, but things have cooled down a little since . . .” Fred started to say. “I’m just saying that maybe it’s time to . . . Look, he doesn’t have to forgive Wesley.”
Gunn snorted at that idea. “Glad you think so, ’cause that ain’t happening.”
“No,” Fred agreed. “You’re right. He shouldn’t. But . . . isn’t there some way to, I don’t know . . . come back from this?”
“Not unless Wesley can go back in time and tell Spike he was walking into a trap, or further back when he started meeting Holtz behind Angel’s back, or even further back before Slutty the Vampire Layer put her moves on Spike. And even then, Angel would probably kill him on principle.” Gunn and Fred had gotten the summary version of what happened between Angel and Spike and Angel’s reluctance to sleep in his own suite.
“Y—you don’t really think that,” Fred said, “Do you?”
“He set Spike up to be killed,” Gunn replied. “It’s probably best we never mention Wesley or Spike’s name again.” With that he walked away, mopping the floor in the opposite direction.
Fred looked at Gunn’s retreating back then back at the office where Angel was thumbing through files from the ‘cases pending’ pile. Gunn may be able to dismiss Angel’s feelings towards Spike and Wesley, but she couldn’t let it go so easily. Squaring her small shoulders, she marched into the office and shut the door.
“Angel?” she asked tentatively.
“Half of this scrawl I can’t even read,” Angel mused aloud. “What is this? Frizzana? Frizzle-cat?”
Fred walked around the desk and read the name over his shoulder. “I think it’s Frzylcka. Oh, right. They’re that demon couple who called last week about a squatter in their lair. Wesley was supposed to –” Angel’s low growl made her stop. She had said the forbidden word Gunn warned her never to say around Angel. Chastised, she added softly, “It was supposed to be taken care of.”
“Maybe you and Gunn could get on that then and stop hovering over me wondering if I’m going to snap at any moment and accrue a body count,” Angel suggested.
“But Angel, can’t you just talk to Wesley and tell him that he can come back to work?” Fred hedged carefully around the question.
Without looking up from the file, Angel stated succinctly, “If Wesley so much as steps foot through that door I will put a bolt between his eyes without the aid of the crossbow.”
“But, Angel . . .” Fred beseeched.
“Drop it, Fred.”
“Well, you can at least check on Spike. You haven’t seen him in two weeks!” Fred insisted.
“Don’t dare act like you’re the wounded party! If you hadn’t been pushing him to watch after Buffy and telling him to go back to Sunnydale, none of this would have happened. Spike only slept with your ex when you gave him no other alternative. What was he supposed to do, Angel?”
“He was supposed to make sure she didn’t die on the Hellmouth and help her battle evil. He was not supposed to make sure she was well fucked while he was up there!”
“You don’t think he feels bad about that?” Fred asked plaintively.
“Spike is soulless, he doesn’t feel anything,” Angel snapped. He could have bitten his tongue clean off for that lie. Spike felt more than any vampire Angel knew. Spike never lost his humanity when he was turned. Inwardly, he chalked a point up in Spike’s column for possibly feeling remorse after the fact. But, Spike went into his affair with Buffy knowing exactly what he was doing and was cognizant of the consequences to his actions.
“That’s a lie and you know it! Spike has been up there by himself for weeks wallowing in shame for what he did to you. The least you could do is go up there and acknowledge him after all the crap you put him through!” Fred said angrily. When Angel didn’t move, Fred shouted, “NOW MISTER!”
Angel looked up from his file. “Can I at least finish this paperwork first?”
“No. You are going up there and you’re going to talk to Spike,” Fred said as she snatched the folder from him. “Gunn and I will take care of the Frzylckas.”
Fred had that look in her eyes. The one that said her mind was made up. Apparently being around the AI team gave her some much needed confidence. But did she have to order him to talk to Spike? He would have talked to him eventually, in the next two decades or so. Maybe it was Cordelia’s influence that ruined the cute, mousy demeanor Fred once had.
“Okay fine,” Angel sighed. He left the room and trudged up the stairs. He did not look forward to this discussion. He tried to avoid it for the past two weeks. What could he and Spike possibly say to each other that could reconcile what Spike had done? Sure, he sent Spike to Sunnydale to babysit the Slayer and dropped Darla, Cordelia and Fred on his doorstep to look after, but did that entitle the other vampire to fuck Buffy? Where in the Mating Rule Book did it say: ‘Babysitting a Slayer really means take her to bed when you have a falling-out with your significant other’?
Angel rapped his knuckles on the door as he opened it. The room was dark and there was no sign of Spike anywhere. He walked into the bedroom only to find the rumpled sheets on the bed, but no Spike. Panicked, Angel checked the adjoining bathroom. No one was there. He checked the closet and found only the barest minimum of clothing hanging on Spike’s side as well as his precious duster in the back. A duffel bag and Spike’s dagger – the one he used the most and liked to keep within reach – was gone, which meant that Spike left on his own and wasn’t kidnapped by Wolfram & Hart’s goons.
Where the hell could he have gone?
Angel was set to rip the bed apart in frustration when a slip of paper fell out of the pile of sheets. He plucked the page off the floor. ‘ANGEL’ was written in Spike’s Victorian scrawl across the outside of the thrice-folded paper. Angel opened it and read the brief note inside.
I can’t live like this anymore. Something has to change for the better. I remember telling you once that demons don’t change. But you have since proven that they can. Now it’s my turn to do the same for you.
Time seemed to slow to a stop with each line he read and he sank heavily to the bed. Spike had really left him, to prove what exactly? What was he supposed to do now that Spike was gone – possibly for good? What did Spike’s absence mean to their Mate-Claim? How long had Spike been gone? When did he leave? He couldn’t have left more than a couple of days ago at most because Angel had seen Fred take his blood up to him then. Where could he have gone?
Lorne put a book in a box of Wesley’s items that sat on Cordelia’s desk. “How’s it coming? Are you making any headway on that pending file pile?”
“Some, sort of,” Gunn replied noncommittally.
“There’s just so much to keep track of,” Fred added.
“Still, it’s times like these, it’s good to keep busy. Throw yourself into work. Stay active,” Lorne was beginning to sound like a motivational speaker.
Fred saw him glance up the stairs. “He and Spike are supposed to be working things out.”
“Well, I hope they resolve things soon, we’re going to need all the help we can get with two people gone,” Lorne said.
“Might be safer just to leave them alone for a while,” Gunn suggested. “I’m pretty sure the rage has passed, but do you really want to find out firsthand?”
“I’m sure he’s not planning to kill Spike . . .,” Fred swallowed fearfully, “Or finish what he started at the hospital.”
“Only ’cause Wesley’s too smart to show his face around here again,” Gunn said.
Suddenly, the front door burst open. They all turned to see Cordelia and the Groosalugg walk in. They both were dressed in tropical attire, tanned and rested. Cordelia had a sombrero in one hand and a shopping bag in the other.
“We’re back!” she said cheerily, “And we’re bearing gif—” she trailed off upon seeing the grim expressions on Gunn, Fred and Lorne. “What happened?”
Angel stood at the open French doors that led out to the balcony. The room was empty, as was the bed he had once shared with Spike. Angel leaned his head against the wall staring numbly at Spike’s note that lay on the bed seeming to mock him, reminding him of how empty his life was now that Spike was gone. There were cracks in the walls left from the earthquake, but Angel had been too bent on revenge the last few weeks and ignoring his mate that he didn’t bother to fix them.
He didn’t acknowledge the door to the hall opening. He didn’t look to see Cordelia walk into the room, unafraid. Instead he continued to stare at the note. He barely registered when she walked over and gave him a hug. She stepped back when he didn’t return the gesture.
“I’m so sorry,” she said softly. “The guys told me about everything downstairs.”
Angel was sure they didn’t tell her everything. He hadn’t been downstairs since he found the note that told him Spike was gone indefinitely.
Now there was an excellent question.
Angel’s only response was to point at the note lying on the bed. Cordelia went over, picked it up and read the few lines. Angel hung his head and stared at his feet crossed at the ankle. His hands were stuffed in his pockets, looking every bit the image of a chastised boy.
“He left without a word as to where or why?” Cordelia inquired.
“It’s complicated. I don’t want to talk about it,” Angel mumbled.
A Demon Bar in Los Angeles
Spike sat at the bar with a glass of human blood in one hand and a bottle of liquor in the other. He poured the liquor into the blood, put the bottle down and took a slow sip.
“Does it help the taste of the blood or the alcohol?” a voice asked behind him.
Spike set the glass down as he looked over his shoulder and saw Lilah Morgan behind him, impeccably dressed as usual. He turned back to his glass, not bothering to acknowledge her presence.
“Doesn’t hurt.” He looked over to see her sit on the barstool beside him. “I suppose this is an equal opportunity bar for all soulless creatures, or just evil-bitch lawyers out to fuck with my Sire?” Spike asked before taking a drink.
Lilah cringed at that. “Ouch. Harsh words from someone who was just kicked out of the team.”
“You’re barking up the wrong tree, Miss Morgan. Being banned from the team is more Wesley’s thing,” Spike replied. “I left on my own. Besides, I don’t have the stomach for solicitors. I just came here for the drink and then I’m off.”
“I saw Wesley’s motorcycle out back,” Lilah said conversationally as if she hadn’t heard the brush off.
Spike scoffed. “He’s lucky I only nicked the motorcycle for what he did to me. What is it you think you can get out of me? Angel Investigations secrets? Angel’s deep, dark past?”
“We have all that,” Lilah with a smile that failed to reach her eyes. “I just thought you looked like you needed a friend. No one should ever drink alone.”
“You may think you do,” Spike said dismissively. “When I have sunk so low that I need an enemy for a drinking companion, I’ll call Wesley. At least, I understand why he wants to stab me in the back. You, on the other hand, have an ulterior motive. And as pissed as I may be at my Sire right now, I don’t feel the need to twist the knife in his back anymore than necessary.”
“Why, Spike, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think you have a heart,” Lilah taunted.
“Surprising, considering your lack of one,” Spike shot back, taking another drink.
“So, what was it that drove you out of the circle of the Good ’n Plenty’s?” Lilah asked.
Spike gulped down the last of his drink and slapped a couple of bills down on the bar to pay it as he spun around on the barstool. “I’m not going to be of any use to you. Try Wesley. Goodnight, Lilah.”
He managed to make it several feet when she called out, “Where are you going to go now?”
Spike slowly turned around and looked at her over his shoulder. “You’re the one with the law firm full of connections, you tell me.” With that he disappeared into the throng of people.
Los Angeles, Hyperion Hotel, Day
“It is my deepest wish to aid my princess in her time of need. I’ve brought her clothing and food for her shiv-roth with Angel,” Groo said as followed Lorne around the reception desk.
“Ah, the Vigil of the Bereaved,” Lorne remembered. “Almost forgot there was a word for it.”
“This house is thick with sadness,” Groo said sadly and gestured to the box Lorne was carrying with him. “Is that why you are leaving?”
“Me?” Lorne asked in surprise. “No. No, these are . . . they aren’t mine.”
“They are Wesley’s then?”
Lorne quickly glanced around to be sure no one heard the slip. “Groo, you might want to try to avoid saying that name around here.”
In Angel’s reclaimed office, Fred and Gunn sat behind the desk facing Syd and Monica Frzylcka, a demon couple.
“Wesley. That was it,” Monica was saying.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Monica – it wasn’t Wesley, it was Sherman,” her husband, Syd, corrected.
“Sherman?” Monica asked in disbelief. “You don’t even know any Shermans.” Addressing Gunn and Fred, she said, “It was Wesley, Irish fellow, right?”
“He was English, you old bat,” Syd scoffed. “Whoever heard of an Irishman named Wesley?”
“Do you see what I put up with?” Monica asked the couple in front of her. “Anyway, that’s who we talked to. Is he here?”
Fred and Gunn shared an uncomfortable look before Gunn replied, “He’s . . . on sabbatical.”
“We’re really sorry for the mix-up – We’ll take over from here,” Fred added. “Now, it says in your file that you have a squatter in your lair?”
“Damn no-good Skench demons. They’re all alike,” Syd shook his head in despair.
“Here we go again,” Monica shook her head at having to hear her husband complain again.
“A person spends his entire half-life --” Syd started to explain.
“—Building a lair to relax in --” Monica recited the same argument she’s heard since the Skench moved in.
“—and what happens? A Skench demon squats --” Syd continued.
“—right down on your coffee table,” Monica finished. Giving Fred and Gunn and world-weary look, she said, “Ask me how many times I’ve had to listen to this.”
“Like you ever listen,” Syd grumbled.
“And you have so many interesting things to say,” Monica jibed.
Feeling uncomfortable as if they were intruding on an intimate moment, Gunn hurried to interject, “So Skenches. I’ve heard about them. Sort of an impish kind of demon – like a leprechaun?”
Syd scoffed. “Leprechauns don’t exist, son.”
Monica reached over and patted her husband’s hand. “Now, Syd, don’t embarrass the lad.”
“Sorry, kid,” he said gruffly.
“Skenches take over a house, right? Drive out the people who live there?” Gunn asked.
“Well, God knows you can’t stay, what with the shrieking all night and the projectile phlegm,” Monica replied.
“Only thing worse is putting up with her for the last three hundred years,” Syd commented.
Fred was amazed. “You’ve been married for three centuries?”
“Ever since the mitosis,” Monica replied.
“Not that I’d mind being a single-celled organism again, if you get my drift,” Syd said pointedly to Fred.
“Oh, shut up, Syd. You never --” Monica grumbled.
“—had it so good,” Syd finished, “as if I needed to be reminded.”
“I thought getting rid of a Skench was pretty easy though? Don’t you just lop off its head?”
“Well, sure, if you can avoid the phlegm,” Syd cringed at the idea.
“Syd has a phobia about phlegm,” Monica filled in.
“I do not,” Syd said disgusted. “I have a phobia about sputum.”
“Okay ,” Gunn emphasized. “I think we got everything we need. I’ll get right over there and clean out your Skench problem today.”
The Frzylckas got to their feet and Fred walked them to the door. “Thank you so much for coming. We’ll call you as soon as it’s done.”
“Oh, for crying out loud, Syd – that girl’s not a sixteenth of your age,” Monica berated her husband. “Put your eyes back in your head. I meant it, you doddering old coot! Put them back in!”
As their bickering trailed off, Fred turned to Gunn with a grin.
“Man, do you hear those two?” Gunn chuckled.
“It’s beautiful,” Fred said wistfully. Gunn did a double take and saw the dreamy look on her face as she continued, “All that time and they’re still in love. The way they finish each other’s insults, it’s so . . .”
Gunn couldn’t help but smile. He loved the way she saw things. He found himself agreeing, “Beautiful.”
The doors between the office and reception area opened and Groo popped his head in. “Is there evil to vanquish?”
“Gunn walked past him and headed for the entrance doors. “Thanks, bro, but I got it. There’s just a little mucus demon under Alvarado and Clark. I’ll be back soon.”
“Don’t forget your machete!” Fred reminded him.
Gunn turned and smiled at her. “Yes, dear.”
Groo watched Gunn collect the aforementioned weapon and leave. “He is very fortunate to have such a woman looking after his weapon.”
“I’m not touching that one,” Lorne said as he carried the box of Wesley’s things into the office and put it behind the desk. “There we go. Probably best to keep this stuff out of sight, just in case . . .” He checked his watch. “Anyway, I got to run. I have a reading in Topanga Canyon – figured it’d be a good time for house calls, considering the vibe around here.” With that, Lorne moved to leave, but then turned to Fred with a gesture towards the stairs. “You know if he needs anything --”
“I’ll call,” she promised.
He nodded and left. Fred looked back at the desk and the box under it.
Los Angeles, St. Patricia’s Hospital
Wesley lay in bed with a bandage on his throat, staring into the distance. He ignored the soft knock at the door thinking it was a nurse or orderly. Fred walked in with his box of items.
“Hi, Wesley,” she said. At the sound of her voice, Wesley looked over. She set the box down in a chair. “How are you feeling?”
Wesley reached for his throat and shook his head. He still couldn’t talk.
“Oh,” Fred said. “But it’s not permanent, right?” She came closer and gestured towards the box. “I brought some of your stuff from the office. Things there are . . . well, things.” She took a deep breath to steady herself. “Gunn and I found your notes about . . .” She couldn’t bring herself to say Spike’s name. “The prophecy. You sent him out without warning and he was nearly killed. All because you thought he was a danger to Angel. You were trying to protect Angel. I understand that. What Angel tried to do to you was wrong, and I’m sorry. But he was right to blame you, Wesley. You should’ve come to us. You should have trusted us. Instead you went to Holtz behind our backs. You were supposed to be Spike’s friend and you put him in danger. Holtz could have killed him. If Angel sees you again, he’ll kill you, Wesley. This time for real. Don’t come back to the Hotel. Ever.” She turned to leave but then stopped as she reached the door. “The prophecy was a fake. Spike was never going to hurt Angel. The only thing it did was make matters worse between them.”
Fred hurried out of the room, the door closing with a click of finality behind her.
Los Angeles, Hyperion Hotel, Angel’s Suite
Cordelia lounged on her chair, one leg slung over its arm, reading half-way through her book. Angel sat on the floor against the wall that separated the bedroom and sitting room, staring at the bed.
He’d been in the same position for the longest time, gazing at the bed. In his mind’s eye, his time in that same bed with Spike played out like a movie reel. All the times they were together. The sex, the laughing, the time Spike was doing first-aid on him after Boone beat the hell out of him and he tossed Spike into bed, rolled over and went to sleep, leaving Spike hard. Or the time they lazed in bed discussing which shower to install while teasing each other. The laptop still lay on the nightstand on Spike’s side of the bed.
Angel’s gaze dropped to his lap. He still considered which side of the bed was Spike’s. He’d been ignoring his mate for two weeks and yet still considering this their room and that bed theirs. It had been three days now and Spike still hadn’t returned to the hotel. He still hadn’t called. He must really believe his Sire wanted him gone. Angel had spent all that time healing Spike from what Holtz had done that it was shock when he saw the memories of Buffy.
There were so many times since then that he wanted to call Buffy for an explanation, to yell at her and ask her what she thought she was doing fucking his mate. Spike was his. She fucked him to feel again. That’s what Spike said. She was using him as a convenience. He didn’t know how to feel about Buffy anymore. Their relationship was dead and over. The situation left him feeling betrayed. There was a lot of that going around. Wesley was another one that betrayed him. But to know that Spike . . .
“He was a mousy young man when I first saw him.”
Cordelia looked up, amazed that he even spoke. He didn’t look at her as he continued. He jut stared at the bed, speaking his mind.
“I had told Drusilla to find herself a playmate and she chose him. She called him a brave knight. She saw something different in him. I found her in the barn with him. She had just drained him. I had to show her how to turn him. He wasn’t quite dead yet. He opened his eyes. They were the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. Drusilla has exotic, dark blue eyes. But Spike’s were just the purest blue color. I was lost then and there.”
Cordelia quietly closed her book, not wanting to break the spell. She sat up and listened to him.
“After he woke up, Drusilla brought him to me. He was haughty and had a stiff upper lip. Victorian upbringing was still there. It took him years before he lost the upper-crust accent and adopted the British cockney. We were going to be the best of friends. That’s what I told him. When I realized Drusilla couldn’t raise him, I took him as my own in a Sire-Claim. And then I was cursed and Darla kicked me out. She wouldn’t have anything to do with me and wouldn’t let me stay long enough to tell them goodbye. After a while it just seemed easier to let them think I had abandoned them. It took us a century to find each other again. I don’t just mean physically. You can go through life knowing someone and never be with them. But we became a part of each other’s lives again when he showed up looking for the Gem and I reclaimed him. He became a necessary part of me. It’s more than just the telepathic connection that developed. I could close my eyes and feel him inside me. It made me feel whole. He knew all my faults. I knew his, or at least I thought I did. My existence began and ended with him. And I guess it’s my fault that it happened, right? I kept pushing them together. All I wanted to do was keep him safe from Wolfram & Hart and Holtz. I wasn’t paying attention to what he was doing with Buffy.”
“All he ever wanted was to be with you, Angel. He willingly said yes to being mated to you. For someone like Spike to agree to something like that, to give themselves over to another person entirely the way he did. That says a lot in how he felt about you,” Cordelia said quietly.
“You live as long as I do and eventually you start to think that you’ll never find anyone. Then I was cursed and I knew I would never find love. Who would care that much after all the evil things I’ve done. William even with all his emotions and wearing his heart on his sleeve, he followed me. He tried to mimic everything I did, trying to keep up with as many evil deeds, though he barely had the stomach for a majority of it. He never had the stomach to torture someone like Angelus did. Spike was more about fighting to the victim’s death, fists and fangs. He loved the brawl before the end. That’s what got us kicked out of nearly every city we went to. He would have mobs chasing us. And then years passed by, and you think you know something about living, ’cause you have this really long past. And that’s really all you have, in my case anyway. Then you wake up one day and you realize that you’re mated to this other being that looks like the Statue of David – all angles and planes and sculpted body. Perfect. He was perfect and I made him. I taught him how to be a vampire. I taught him how to fight and survive. He’s mine for an eternity. And now he’s gone, because I ignored him and pushed him away into the arms of another woman. I’m at a loss as to how to get him back.”
Cordelia nodded as she listened to him. She didn’t know what to say anymore. Spike would come back on his own, maybe. If there was one thing she knew from watching the two vampires, it was that they couldn’t stay away from each other for long. There was too much between them.
Los Angeles, Outdoor Café in Marathon Park
Fred and Gunn sat at a table. Fred was surrounded by the spoils from her day: Department store shopping bags, a big stuffed bunny with a banner around its neck, a cardboard crown on top of her head and a Dodger Pennant, among other things. She was a little overwhelmed by it all.
“Now, for our next item of pleasure,” Gunn said, snapping a newspaper open, “We got movies galore. You pick – hey, do you want to go to the twelve plex, hit the previews in every theater? It’ll be like seeing a year’s worth of movie all at once.” He looked at her and saw her queasy expression. “Is there something wrong with the shake? It’s your favorite, double mocha, double whip.”
“I’m . . . kinda full,” Fred said uneasily.
“Oh my God, this is serious,” Gunn mocked teasingly.
“It’s just . . . Sixth Street tacos, fish sticks at the Pier, Dodger dogs . . .” Fred’s stomach was churning just from the thought of what she’d eaten today.
Gunn grinned. “Don’t fold on me now, girl, we still got a lot of fun to go today.”
“Oh . . . I’m for the fun . . . it’s just we have too much more of it I might explode,” Fred was feeling squeamish.
“Right, sorry,” Gunn said as he pulled her shake and hot wings away. “No more food – but movie, club, shopping fun still to be had – want to the roller rink?”
“Charles, I think I’m kind of wiped,” Fred protested.
“Oh,” Gunn said, finally understanding.
“It’s just we’ve been having so much . . . fun today. Don’t you think we should save some, before we use it up and all the other people get sad . . . ’cause we took all the happy?” Fred asked uncertainly.
Gunn’s expression fell listening to her ramble. “Oh God, I blew it. I tried too hard.”
“No,” Fred shook her head. “It’s been the most beautiful, wonderful day ever – aside from the hurly-burly and the knot in my tummy. Being with you is always special. It’s just . . . it’s not like we have to cram the rest of our lives into one single day.” She put her hand on his, asking, “Right?” After a moment Gunn looked down at the table. That gave her cause for concern. “Oh my God.” He looked up at her tone. “You did try to hard. You haven’t been yourself all day. You’re doin’ all this because . . . because something’s wrong. Something is terribly wrong.”
“Fred, no . . .” Gunn started to say.
“Charles,” Fred said, taking a deep breath for the courage to ask, “Do you have leukemia?”
He looked bewildered for a moment, stunned that she’d even think such a thing. Then, he actually burst out laughing.
“Don’t laugh at me, Charles! I see it on the news all the time. They’re young and in love, their whole lives ahead of them when tragedy strikes --”
“I’m not sick,” Gunn cut in.
“Oh thank God,” Fred said breathing a sigh of relief. “I feel better. Except for the terrible knot I’ve had inside all day – which is not the food – it’s . . . us. What’s wrong with us?”
His tone worried her even more. “That helped.”
“Maybe we should just go back to the hotel and call it a--” he started to say.
“And maybe we should stay right here and you should stop lying to me,” she demanded. She tried to calm herself before continuing, “I know something’s wrong. Just be honest and tell me. Whatever it is, we’ll get through it together.”
“No, we won’t,” he said coldly.
Fred was taken aback. “What?”
“This isn’t something we’re going to talk through, you share your feelings, I share mine, and then we’ll hug,” Gunn stated.
“I don’t think I like the way you’re talking to me,” Fred shrank away from him.
“Too bad,” he said harshly.
“Why are you . . .” Fred tried her best not to break down and cry. She’d never known Gunn to be so cruel. “Why are you being so mean?”
“I’m being honest. Isn’t that what you wanted?”
Fred summoned her strength and said as flat and cold as Gunn sounded, “Yeah, be honest. Is it me?”
“Wow, you finally figured that one out,” Gunn said sarcastically.
Fred swallowed the lump in her throat and willed herself not to cry. “What – what’s wrong with me?”
“Now I got to make a list?” Gunn sneered. “I really don’t have that much time.”
“Are you joking?” Fred dared to ask even though the look on his face told her he was being completely honest with her like she asked. “Charles, what’s happening?”
“What’s happening, girl, is that you and me are over. Done!”
“No --” Fred was starting to feel the dam burst as her world crumbled before her eyes.
“Am I asking? I’m telling. I’ve had enough,” Gunn bit out.
“I don’t believe you.”
“Then it’s best you start,” Gunn said as he got up to leave.
“But . . . wait . . . is there someone else?” Fred asked tentatively. His only response was to give her look that turned her blood to ice. “What . . . what’s her name?”
Towering over her, Gunn said, “Her name is ‘I’m a real woman, not a stick figure.’ Get the picture?” Fred looked up at him, tears that she couldn’t hold back any longer streamed down her cheeks. When it didn’t seem like she would answer, he barked, “Speak up!”
“Yeah,” she replied in a small voice.
“Good! See you around,” Gunn said and walked away.
Los Angeles, Hyperion Hotel, Angel’s Suite
Cordelia had left Angel alone to go find some dinner and spend quality time with Groo. Angel had finally gotten up off the floor and was sitting on the bed. It was big, cold and empty without Spike there. He didn’t know if he could sleep here again. Maybe he could find another room. There were sixty-six of them left. Surely he could find one that didn’t have haunting memories of Spike in them.
Suddenly, he heard a soft sobbing coming from outside his door. His brows furrowed in confusion as he got up and went to the door. Opening the door, he thought it sounded like –
Fred stood there, trying to stifle her sobs without much success. When she saw him, she burst into hysterical crying. “I’m sorry. I was going to knock but I knew it wasn’t a good time so I didn’t but I don’t know what else to do.” She began to sob harder.
“Fred, what is it? What’s wrong?” Angel tried to sound concerned. He wasn’t exactly coherent since he was still dealing with his own despair over the past week.
All Fred could do was hiccup through the crying. She couldn’t put a voice to what had transpired between her and Gunn. Angel reached out and shut the door behind her. He led her over to the bed and sat down with her as she hugged him. He held her shaking body and let her cry into his silk shirt.
“He broke up with me for no reason,” Fred said. Angel couldn’t make any of it out with her racking sobs.
“Fred, shhh, sweetheart,” Angel whispered. “It can’t be that bad.”
She pulled back and looked at him with teary eyes. “It-it-it’s worse! He said-said-said I wasn’t a real woman, that I was a stick figure.”
“Shh.” Angel put a finger to her lips. He stopped and stared at his finger on her lips. They were soft. Her lips parted when he pulled his finger away. One moment he was wallowing in his own pain, and the next Fred was there, her body soft in his arms. A small part of his mind told him not to follow through with what his body was demanding. His body was telling him to ignore that nagging bit of conscience and take the solace she begged for and offered in return. He needed something else other than his own problems to focus on. He needed to forget even for a little while.
Angel leaned closer and pressed his mouth against Fred’s lips. For a moment, they both were stunned. Then, Fred’s arms slowly slid around his neck and she let out a shaky breath against his mouth. He broke the kiss to see if she was retreating. When she didn’t, he sealed his lips over hers again. She pressed herself closer to him. His fingers skimmed along her arm, moving around her back as he lowered her to the bed.
A full moon shown through the trees as the echo of pipes and drums filled the air from a desert village made up of grass huts on sand. A group of African women sat gossiping around a fire. Spike, dressed in black from head to toe, strode between the huts. He passed an African man walking the other way.
Ignoring the man’s warning, Spike continued on his way with a determined expression. Another villager tried to stop him, giving another warning in an African language.
“Not asking for permission, mate,” Spike replied in English as he headed for a cave. The man yelled behind him but didn’t follow him.
Spike entered the dark cave. He slowed down to gain his bearings. It was nearly pitch black in the cave. He dug his lighter out of his pocket and flicked it on. There were paintings on the walls: images of people with their faces in pain, bodies with blood pouring out of them and defleshed skulls. A nervous chill ran down Spike’s spine as he looked at them. One of the paintings depicted a black figure holding out an arm toward another figure which was red and dripping blood. A breeze blew out the lighter. Spike looked at it with a half a thought of flicking it on again, but instead closed the lighter and pocketed it. He moved deeper into the cave.
“You seek me, vampire?” a deep gravelly voice said.
Spike was nervous, but did his best to cover it. “Did you do the finger paintings? Nice work.”
A seven-foot demon moved in the darkness. All Spike could see of him was glowing green eyes.
“Answer me, vampire,” the demon ordered.
“Yeah. I seek you.”
“Something about a souled vampire,” the demon stated. “The demon that made you.”
Spike nodded. “He kept giving me an unwanted duty until I took advantage of the situation and the bastard kicked me out. He has the idea that he’s the only one allowed to make mistakes.”
“And you want to show him what you really are?” the demon asked.
“Yeah,” Spike replied.
The demon let out a horrible, evil laugh.
“What are you laughing at, pillock?” Spike growled.
“Look at what you’ve been reduced to, vampire.”
“It’s my bleedin’ Sire that did this to me,” Spike insisted.
“You were a legendary dark warrior, and you let yourself be claimed and mated to a souled vampire. And now, you have the audacity to crawl in here and demand restoration?”
“I’m still a warrior,” Spike said.
“The demon that made you was right to turn you away. You’re a weak, pathetic excuse for a demon. If you had stayed with him all this time, you would have gotten one or both of you killed.”
“Yeah? I’ll show you weak and pathetic. Give me your best shot,” Spike challenged.
“You’d never endure the trials required to grant your request,” the demon taunted.
“Do your worst, demon. But when I win . . . I want what I came here for,” Spike said.
Los Angeles, Hyperion Hotel, Angel’s Suite
Fred kissed Angel through her tears, her cheeks wet and gritty from crying. Angel trailed kisses to the edge of her mouth and licked the wet tracks off her cheeks. He hovered over her and then settled between her thighs. When he shifted his attention to her neck, she laced her fingers in his hair and arched against him. His hand found her breast and teased the nipples to hard pebbles through her shirt. His hand moved down her back to slip inside the back of her jeans and pulled her up against his erection.
This was different than having sex with Spike. There were the obvious indicators: female anatomy instead of male. It wasn’t just that though. He was erect, but not painfully hard like he was around Spike. This was more about seeking solace and numbing painful memories in someone else’s arms and less about passion and lust. There was no all-consuming need to possess Fred like there was with Spike.
Fred felt desperate. She was trying to rip his shirt off while grinding against his groin. Angel could feel her heat through the layers of clothing. Fred had worked the buttons open and he shrugged out of the shirt before she could tear it. He deftly unfastened her jeans and pulled the zipper down. He reached up and pulled her shirt and bra strap off her shoulder and down far enough to tease her nipple with his mouth. Then, he moved back down to slip his hand inside her pants and tease her clit with his fingers.
Fred’s body arched when his fingertips brushed her clit. She tried to wriggle out of her jeans without losing contact with him. She pulled her jeans down her hips and moved up the bed until she lay back on the pillow. Realizing her motive, Angel sat up and pulled her shoes and pants off, tossing them over the edge of the bed. Then, he crawled up the mattress and met her in a kiss.
She reached between them and started to work on his pants. Managing to get them open, she shoved them and his boxers down his hips. Angel helped her remove the last of his clothes. Grabbing her around the waist, he rolled over onto his back with her on top of him as he kissed her, tracing his tongue along the shape of her mouth. When she returned the kiss, he rolled her onto her back and eased inside her.
Fred whimpered as she felt him slide in. She’d caught a glimpse of the size of his erection. Seeing it was one thing, feeling it was a different matter. A thought of how Spike could possibly handle it flashed through her mind. However, the notion was fleeting and vanished when Angel started to move rhythmically into her.
She had dreamed of this moment from the time they brought her back from Pylea. Angel was the man she compared all men to. He was her savior. The white knight on a great horse saved her from the monsters. He protected her. Even now as he drowned in his own misery, he was here. The least she could do in return was rescue him from his own despair.
Fred looked up at him when he levered himself above her, taking some of his weight off her as he shifted and suddenly she saw stars. She opened her mouth on a moan of satisfaction when he continued to rub against that spot that made her stomach flutter. Then his mouth was on hers again as he thrust deeper.
Over the years, she had heard Angel and Spike together – not that she was eavesdropping – and, from what she heard, it didn’t sound like they were all that gentle towards each other. But, this experience with Angel was radically different from what she heard. The sensation was overwhelming. Everything around them seemed to fade away. It could have been two minutes or two hours before she shuddered against him in ecstasy. Her cry of release was quickly muffled by a kiss as the orgasm rushed through her body. Her skin became over-sensitive to touch. She was at the crosshairs between needing to feel him and wanting him to stop. Every nerve sparked electricity, vibrating all the way down to her toes.
Spike stood in the dark cave, wearing only his black jeans as he paced. The shadowy demon watched him. Most of the demons that come here never leave, alive anyway. That this one entered on a foolish notion was laughable. The demon would give the vampire points for determination. The vampire in question was now pacing a rut in the cave floor after listening to the primer of what was to be expected of him.
“You understand then?” the demon inquired.
“Yeah, yeah,” Spike said. He was already bored with this. From what he remembered of the Trials that Angel went through to try and save Darla, there wasn’t this much talking involved, at least Angel never said so. “It’s not like you haven’t been clear about it, oh great mysterious one. This is a test. I don’t get what I want unless I pass said test. Is that about the size and shape of it?”
“Yes,” was the simple reply.
“And since your pad is decked out gladiator-style, and no number two pencils have been provided . . . I guess we’re not starting with the written,” Spike surmised. He looked around the cave nervously. What the bloody hell had he gotten himself into? Why couldn’t he have picked something simpler to prove that he wanted to be with Angel, like say saving a damsel from a mugger or a rapist?
Spike heard someone walk up behind him and turned around. The man in front of him appeared to be human, a very large and muscular. “Oh, here we go then. Just me and the walking action figure. I’m venturing this would be the kill-or-be-killed type of situation, then?”
“To the death,” the demon confirmed.
“Right,” Spike muttered to himself. He faced his opponent with a sense of anticipation. “Here we are now. Entertain us.”
The bodybuilder held up his fists and smacked his forearms together. Suddenly, both hands burst into flame.
Spike looked alarmed and then it sank in. This was worse than Angel’s trials. “Son of a bitch.”
The bodybuilder punched Spike in the head and knocked him down. The man punched him again. Spike scrambled backwards in an attempt to get away from his opponent to think of the best way to deal with this new obstacle. He’d never fought a man with flaming fists before. Before he could clamor away, the man picked him up and tossed him against a wall. He slumped down to the ground and wiped the blood from his mouth. He was already sporting a large burn on his chest and various other places from where his opponent had hit him.
“Had enough?” Spike taunted as he pulled himself to his feet.
The bodybuilder punched Spike again. Spike stumbled backwards and ducked behind a large pillar. He came out the other side and took a swing. The bodybuilder ducked and punched Spike again. Spike reeled against a wall and bounced back with some jabs of his own. When the man tried to punch him again, Spike grabbed his opponent’s fist, flames and all. He winced in pain but held on, and then shoved the man back with a strong push.
“Bad move, bad move, bad move,” Spike chastised himself as he nursed his injured hand.
He ducked another punch, grabbed the bodybuilder’s arm and flipped him over onto his back. Spike kicked him in the groin while he was down. Then, flipped him over on his stomach, Spike straddled his shoulders and twisted his head violently, breaking his neck.
Spike stood up and let the body drop. “Looks like local boy loses,” Spike panted.
“So it would appear,” the demon said.
“Good on me, then. I get what I came for. I passed, right?”
“Indeed,” the demon agreed. “You have passed the first stage of the test.”
“Right, I get . . .” Spike paused. “Wait. First stage?” He should have known it wouldn’t have been so easy. The demon just stared at him. “Bugger.”