Warning: Strong language

 

 

Part 3

 

“Everyday you save me… “

 

Bloody amusing really. A sardonic smile bloomed but wilted quickly, as though it took too much effort to sustain.

 

Drugged up on painkillers and floating in and out of consciousness as shifting, growing bones reformed themselves to some demonic blueprint of his body; the sensation was all too familiar. It was painful, made his very marrow itch and channelled all his vast reserves of energy towards this restoration, leaving him drifting, lifeless and listless.

 

Spike reflected that it was no wonder that he’d been having some truly messed up hallucinations. He knew what his stupid brain was doing; projecting his inability to save Buffy into his fear of not being strong enough to help his sire. He might not be old in demon terms but even he had heard of the Wolf, Ram and Hart. It was shocking that someone as astute as Angel had been naïve enough to become ensnared in their toils, but what was done was done. Everyday his sire became more immersed in this stinking pit of malevolence and no-win compromises, and there was nothing anyone could do. It was insidious and the older vampire would eventually be swallowed whole, leaving Spike truly alone.

 

He guessed he’d first noticed after the fight for the Cup of Eternal Torment. Winning had given him an inner surety and confidence, putting to bed old insecurities, laying to rest long held resentment and allowing him to focus beyond himself. He finally saw Angel as something other than the creator of all his woes. 

 

Sometimes he looked at the bowed, dark head and the broad shoulders which grew more stooped each passing day and felt as though his beautiful, strong sire was dying away before his eyes. He was surprised how it grieved him; turning away to prevent the dark mourning from seeping out, until he had it contained and locked down, then he’d turn to bully the spark and strength back into the fading man. Of course, Angel didn’t realise his motives, which suited Spike.

 

He frowned.

 

At least he hoped this was still true and that the hallucinations and pseudo-memories of the previous night were the product of his twisting imagination. Afraid, otherwise, of what he might have given away and that the image he projected and protected had splintered, reflecting a hundred facets of himself. But a tiny part of him wished that Angel would use his razor-sharp vision to cut through the white noise and actually see the Spike he’d become and not the Spike held in unchanging stasis within Angelus’ memory. He looked for clues in Angel’s attitude, searching for the line between reality and illusion in his solid presence. But he found it hard to judge. Angel was naturally taciturn and his attitude could be interpreted as no more than casual care for an injured childe, which Spike supposed was a step up in their relationship.  He sighed loudly. Perhaps it didn’t matter.

 

He looked around the room, hating this feeling of being trapped. He was a demon whirlwind of movement and violence and didn’t *do* peace or quiet. Having it enforced, even by his own injures and fatigue, was galling and endlessly frustrating. He began flicking clumsily through his CD’s pulling out discs and carelessly tossing cases to one side, but even his favourite tracks were nothing but an irritating background drone.

 

The new TV screen hanging on the wall drew his eye and a small surge of pleasure pulsed through him. It was the size of a freaking football pitch and Peaches had bought it for him… he thought it might be the first gift that his sire had ever given him. Well, the first that didn’t have a heartbeat. Although he’d asked, he never actually imagined such treasure would be his and couldn’t begin to fathom the symbolism of such a gift.

 

His concentration was as shot as his legs, and staring at incomprehensible creatures with tellies in their tummies wasn’t helping… it was confusing the hell out of him. His imagination was painting a picture of strung out TV execs and writers throwing out their trippy dreams through the blow of aromatic smog that might pass as a creative atmosphere when viewed through dark shades on a black, moonless night. It was the only way he could account for the weirdness that assaulted his eyes. He gave a mental shrug; such was the fodder humans fed their offspring.

 

Picking up the remote control, he flicked again and again. The blur of images made as much sense to him as anything else currently showing. Eventually he became bored of even that slight amusement, clicking off and letting the screen fade to blankness.

 

Convalescence had reached the unsettled and fidgety stage. Angel had told the others to stay away and let him sleep but his very skin was crawling with the tedium. Too tired to concentrate on films or games or even music, but well enough to want distraction, he lay there feeling crushed by the weight of silence. In all his one hundred and twenty-five years he’d never voluntarily experienced tranquillity. The lack of noise left an emptiness, which was filled by the rush of disturbing thoughts. He didn’t want to think. Hell was being left alone with his own thoughts.

 

The boredom was killing him.

 

The four wall, the ceiling, the floor, it might just as well be a coffin. This was ennui to the nth degree and every Sunday he had ever known: sitting in his nursery without lessons or playmates, distracting himself with inanimate coloured bricks, when all he wanted to do was run and laugh and play; sitting next to Mother on an uncomfortable wooden pew in a draughty old church, whilst the parson droned out his tiresome homilies in his monotone style; a new vampire thrown from the room by Darla, trapped by the sunlight, kicking around the house, whilst the other played their games. Those were the times when the beat of eternity was suspended between each tick of the clock. And they were nothing compared to the current deadly tedium.

 

Angel was as good as his word and visited at lunchtime, taking in the pale slack face and deadened eyes, noting how detrimental confinement was to his hyperactive childe. He then swept his gaze over the detritus of his bedroom and silently mourned his ruined sanctuary. It was enough to threaten the mental stability of anyone who loved order as much as he did. He shook his head and found a solution that might deal with both these problems.

 

“This is no good. I can’t walk in here without landing on some disc or other. There’s large room across the way that’s just being used for storage, I’ll annex it and you can shift your things in there.”

 

“You’re chucking me out?” That roused him from his semi-comatose state; a spark of life in those grey-day eyes and even Spike was surprised at the disappointment that suffused him.

 

It wasn’t what Angel meant at all, but he was intrigued by the perturbed expression that flitted across Spike’s face.

 

“You want to stay?”

 

“Not particularly…but supposing I need my painkillers during the night? How will you know if I’m hurting if you’re not there?”  As soon as he uttered the words Spike sensed that he had slipped up.

 

Blue eyes refused to meet his own: as though afraid of what they would reveal.  But the words had been spoken aloud and Angel didn’t need to read what was written in his eyes. Spike, wanted to stay with him! The words formed a tune and danced a reel in his head. Goddammit, now the boy was pouting and how frigging cute was that? Angel managed to keep a straight face and nodded his head seriously.

 

“Hmmm, I should have thought of that. How about we make the other room into a day room? Give you a change of scenery and you can have your things strewn around without ruining the bedroom.”  He graciously made his offer without revealing that it had been his original intention.

 

Spike managed to contain a sigh of relief that his words had been taken at face value. He felt as though they were both dancing around each other, waiting for the misstep, mistiming or collision to push them in some new direction that neither could yet determine.

 

“Uh huh. S’pose that would be okay. Be more convenient when people want to visit, kinda awkward hanging out in a bedroom.”

 

“Yeah. We could always work there occasionally. You can do some of the computer work or research if you feel up to it.”

 

Angel’s offer was a tentative stretch towards his childe, attempting to entice Spike towards him. But instead of following his lead, Spike was sent whirling away.

 

“Work? I’m not a member of your staff. Also, mortally injured vampire here!”

 

The vehement reply was over-quick and raised eyebrows greeted this remark.

 

“Mortally? Anyway, you don’t want your brain to atrophy.”

 

“First time you’ve admitted that I’ve got one. And, can I just point out; you bloody hate me being involved in your business. You ain’t fallen on your head recently have you?” This was uttered with a mock look of concern.

 

There was something about Spike’s attitude… like a fawn tentatively reaching out a slender neck towards a hand to investigate what was being offered. So Angel spoke calmly and soothingly, in a normal fashion, so as not to startle him or frighten him away.

 

“Not that I’ve noticed. I guess I’ve been working too hard and sleeping too little, well-known cause of delusions.”

 

“You do look a little tired. Well, guess I could help out occasionally…”

 

Spike gave in with feigned reluctance. Angel could hardly contain his glee; he could almost feel the soft warmth of the little fawn tongue licking salt from his hand.

 

“Yeah? I would appreciate it. We’ll arrange a contract to recompense you for your work.”

 

A shake of the head. “Nah. Don’t mind doing you a favour occasionally, but I don’t wanna work for you.”

 

“Don’t turn your nose up at money, Childe. Look at all the stuff it buys.”

 

“Yeah, but I don’t need it. I got you.”

 

Angel didn’t disagree but wondered how much of the previous evening his childe actually remembered. The words were kind of flippant. Perhaps Spike had been too spaced out to trust his memories or maybe after one hundred years, he couldn’t trust such a change on the basis of one late night conversation. It was about actions and Angel was grateful that he’d remembered to buy Spike’s entertainment, some small proof that shouted louder than a thousand words. He made his reply non-committal, determined from now on that his actions would do the talking.

 

“You’ll feel trapped if you’re dependent on me for anything.”

 

“Huh. That’s true.”

 

He felt surprised. Did the Poof really know him that well? When had that happened?

 

“Ok, I’ll consider your offer.”

 

So Angel acted, called into work, rearranged his schedule and spent the day happily de-cluttering the bedroom in preparation for the new room, with Spike providing a running commentary. Watching Peaches was a damned sight more amusing than the Teletubbies.

 

“The House Doctor would be proud of you, Pet.”

 

“I haven’t a clue who he is, but a tidy room is a tidy mind.”

 

Spike grimaced at the cliché.

 

“Please, spare me the soporifics. The saying should be; a tidy mind means an anally retentive man.”

 

Angel was finding intense satisfaction in regaining some sense of order in his life and the insult flew well beneath his radar.

 

“You might be able to sleep on a bed of hard edged plastic,” He picked up another CD case that had worked its way between the sheets and placed it next to the bedside, “but I can’t. I need my sleep. I’m trying to run a multi-dimensional company and I kinda have to stay at the top of my game.”

 

“Yeah, yeah. Big company bossman I get it.”

 

“I’m just saying I can’t be tired or dozy. I can’t afford an off day when I’m dealing with Wolfram & Hart clients. Fifty percent of this game is ninety percent mental.” Angel informed him, his tone slightly sententious.

 

Spike’s face screwed up as he contemplated this.

 

“I’m no mathematician but I’d say there’s definitely something off in that equation, Pet.”

 

“It’s a quote, braintrust. Yogi Berra.”

 

Spike shot him a look of disbelief and shook his head. Luckily Wesley and Gunn arrived at that moment bearing gifts, so Angel left them to it and went to explore the storage room, sighing in contentment as he looked around the large, dusty room and set loose his inner interior designer.

 

“I never thought I’d be pleased to see you two.” He greeted them

 

“Well, thank you Spike. I’m uncertain if I’ve just received a compliment or an insult…”

 

“Me give compliments? Bollocks! Course it was a bloody insult!”

 

“Ah quite.”

 

“Yo. Good to see you too, Bloodsucker. Wassup?”

 

“Mind numbing boredom.” He grouched.

 

“Man, how can you be bored? The boss forced me to endure a day with Airhead, just to provide you with mega entertainment.”

 

“Yeah?” Spike looked suitably impressed. “You really did suffer, didn’t you? I ‘preciate it, Mate. Take no notice of me. I hate it when I can’t move.”

 

Wesley nodded in sympathy as he attempted a subtle probe.

 

“And, of course, being dependent on Angel must be extremely frustrating for you.”

 

Spike had never thought of it like that. He’d actually rather enjoyed having his Sire’s attention.

 

“Yeah. Obviously… frustrating. And also, Angel is getting seriously weird. You must have noticed?”

 

They both shook their heads and wondered if their manoeuvring and machinations had really paid off, if ‘weird’ was all that had come out of it.

 

“He’s concerned about you, which, admittedly, seems a little odd. He also seems happier today, but apart from that… In precisely what sense is he being weird?”

 

“The old Sire is really losing it. Talking bloody nonsense and quoting Yogi Bear.”

 

“That is… well, disturbing, actually. Quite unlike Angel. I can’t really imagine him walking around the office saying yabbadabbadoo.” Wesley agreed with a frown.

 

Spike rolled his eyes.

 

“That’s Fred.” Gunn explained.

 

“She’s been quoting Yogi Bear too?”

 

Gunn and Spike exchanged incredulous looks.

 

“Flintstone.” Spike ground out.

 

“Nothing wrong with quoting Yogi. I mean he’s pretty cool.” Gunn finally said. “And I guess Angel is a lot smarter than the average bear.”

 

“You think?” Spike queried and only a raised eyebrow indicated his level of doubt.

 

Wesley’s brow was a furrow of confusion. Fred and Angel walking around quoting cartoon characters was so beyond him that he pushed the matter to one side to mull over later. Instead he turned to the reason for his visit.

 

“Anyway, we bring the invalid presents.”

 

“Yeah?” Spike sounded pleased and then a little wary. “It’s not bleedin’ grapes is it?”

 

“No. It’s bleedin’ blood.” Gunn replied with a grin. He loved these weird English expletives.

 

Spike was looking less than thrilled.

 

“Hmm. Great. Uh…hate to sound ungrateful, Mate, but ain’t that a bit like me bringing you a potato?”

 

“Ah! This is different. Harmony keeps a supply of different sorts of blood and we thought it might be the vampire equivalent of wine tasting.”

 

Gunn pulled a face.

 

“Icky. I’m surprised Fred came up with the idea, it’s just damned icky.”

 

But Spike was grinning cheerfully as Wesley produced various bottles.

 

“Hey, is there any otter?”

 

Wesley undertook a quick investigation and then nodded,

 

“Good girl that Fred. Knew there was a reason I liked her. Where is she anyway?”

 

“She said she’d see you later but thought you might like some ‘guy time’ with us.”

 

“Oh. Yeah.”

 

They eyed each other… yep, definitely guys. What did guys talk about again…?

 

“So those Lakers, damned disappointing on Wednesday. Four points short.”

 

Wesley and Spike looked at each other and Gunn sighed.

 

“So Man U v Arsenal…” Spike began hopefully. 

 

The other two shook their heads.

 

“County cricket?” Wes asked. No real hope in his voice.

 

They had never previously noticed how quietness could shout so loudly. The room echoed with the lack of noise. Spike contemplated his legs whilst the other two shifted, caught each others eyes, exchanged small, awkward smiles and tried to look as though they were enjoying a companionable silence.

 

“So anyway how’s work going?” Spike finally asked.

 

They all breathed again with relief.

 

“Well actually, I’m glad you asked. It’s rather interesting…”

 

oooo

 

The upside of working for a powerful Company was the speed with which things could happen when it was the CEO doing the requesting. Whether it was the complete redecoration of a room or the delivery of a particularly large and comfortable couch.

 

That afternoon Angel managed to get everything organised and had people jumping through hoops for the privilege of working all night to make the room ready. They offered from the reservoir of goodness in their hearts and in the hope that the new psychopathic boss would hold them in favour or at least not actively disfavour them with a swipe of the lethal sword that he kept far too handy. Angel stayed up most the night to oversee the activity and ensure each item was perfectly placed for practicality and aesthetic appeal.

 

The following day Spike was stronger, his fingers were almost healed and the pain from his knees was almost tolerable… so he rolled out of bed, literally. He hated the damned wheelchair and the memories associated with it, but it served its purpose, enabling him to manoeuvre wherever he wanted.

 

Angel helped him for a while, observing with quiet delight Spike’s pleasure in the new room, which was fully equipped with every gadget he’d asked for and then some. At the moment he was delving into bags and tearing open boxes, looking for all the world like some manic, hyper child, celebrating every Christmas he’d never had. Whilst he was distracted Angel surreptitiously snapped some shots of the happy vampire. He’d made his childe happy… something caught in his throat, must have been some drifting dust because it seemed to be in his eyes as well.

 

Much as he would like to stay, work was beckoning and he couldn’t steal anymore time. There was something looming large, it hung in the air and set his nose twitching.

 

“Will you be alright for a while?”

 

Spike didn’t hear, so engrossed was he in some electrical gizmo that Angel couldn’t even name. Nor did he notice as the door shut quietly behind his Sire.

 

He spent a pleasant day fiddling with his new toys, downloading music, playing a game, watching a film, dozing for a while and then, before he had time to get bored, fractious or lonely, the others appeared, discussing current work problems, which quickly turned to more pleasing topics of office rumour and gossip. They were all relishing the company so much that to continue the evening Angel ordered takeout and opened some wine.

 

“Ok, enough about work. Time for some fun.”

 

“Well it just so happens that I’ve brought Scrabble along with me…”

 

“Nah. Boring.”

 

“No, that’s fine, Wes. At least Spike can’t cheat at that….”

 

Blue eyes glimmered. He took that statement as personal challenge.

 

 Lorne agreed to watch and keep score.

 

Everyone was taking forever pondering over their letters. Gunn was attempting legal jargon, which he was forced to withdraw because the words weren’t in the little dictionary. Fred was putting down scientific words, which raised eyebrows but she was far too sweet to challenge… this caused Gunn to comment on favouritism. Spike was obviously getting bored. Luckily the game didn’t last long.

 

“Spike! You can’t put ‘testicu’ in front of ‘late’ There’s no such freaking word as testiculate…”

 

Spike threw up his arms in disgust.

 

“Course there is! It means waving your arms around whilst talking bollocks.”

 

“Like you’re doing at the moment?”

 

Angel shot back, momentarily throwing Spike off balance.

 

“Yeah. No…!”

 

“Lorne. Look it up. I’m challenging it.”

 

“This game is gonna take all night if you lot of ignoramuses are gonna challenge every word I make. Anyway, it probably won’t be in that poxy little dictionary. We need the proper 13 volume edition…”

 

Gunn nodded his agreement. Wesley was about to side with Angel, but Spike’s testiculating managed to knock the side of the board and they all watched in silent relief as the tiles went spinning through the air.

 

Fred finally broke the silence.

 

“You know, back home we used to call it Squabble.”

 

“Now you tell us… Dude, here’s me thinking people took Poker too seriously…”

 

“Poker. Now there’s a game…” Spike eyes held a sharp glint of avarice.

 

“That would hardly be fair. You two have enhanced senses, you would read us humans like open books.”

 

Spike and Angel both looked disappointed.

 

“How about Monopoly?” Fred asked.

 

“Spike would just steal from the bank when no one was looking.”

 

“Hey! Well, yeah. That’s half the fun.”

 

Various games were suggested and vetoed, with excuses careening between too intellectual and too childish.

 

“I’ve been sent a Predictor, why don’t we have a go? It’s supposed to tell you your vocation.”

 

“Yeah? Have you tried it yet?”

 

“No, it’s not really serious, just a bit of fun.” She shrugged, slightly embarrassed at suggesting something so frivolous.

 

Spike wheeled himself to the pc and Fred came to help.

 

“There we go there’s the link for it. You just type in the name…”

 

“Uh huh.”

 

He fingers were still stiff and clumsy as he slowly tapped in ‘Spike’.

 

“Well this is a pile of shite. It’s at least three years behind the times.”

 

“Evil boss.” Fred read over his shoulder. “That’s a coincidence, it’s probably what you were meant to be before you threw the Powers a curveball and went and won yourself a soul. Try my name. What does it say?”

 

“Wait a second.” He typed in ‘Fred’.

 

“Fluffer. Uh, not quite you, Luv.”

 

“I think it’s cute. I had a friend who used to do it, back home. They’re so soothing to pet. Well, the big growly ones, not so much.” She gave a laugh. “And kitties… I mean, sure they’re cute, but they can be vicious and spiteful and all.”

 

“What does she think she’s talking about?” Angel mouthed silently.

 

“Pet grooming, at a guess.” Wesley replied in hushed tones.

 

“Thank God for that.”

 

“Quite.”

 

“Let’s try your full name shall we, Pet?”

 

“There we go; Winifred Burkle. Umm…”

 

“A computer nerd?”

 

“Nerd is just a derogatory term used by the ignorant to describe someone who is incredibly gifted.” Wesley soothed.

 

“Thanks. But I do know what a nerd is.” Fred replied with a slight tartness. “I’m not stupid, just…nerdy. Oh well, I guess it’s right. Full marks again,” But under her breath she muttered crossly, “Zero marks for tact though.”

 

“Oops, sorry Pet. Bloody fingers, I put two u’s into Burkle. There you go, you’re a…”

 

“Oh. A god?” Her face scrunched up as she considered this.

 

“Well you’re a science god.” Gunn grinned.

 

Spike looked slyly at Wesley.

 

“And you’ve got a couple of worshippers already.”

 

“Really?  Who?” 

 

A grin spread slowly across her face. Wesley’s eyes bore pleadingly into Spike.

 

“Well there’s that Knoxy bloke for a start…”

 

“Oh him.”

 

She waved her hands dismissively and some of the anxiety left Wesley’s face. He glowed with warmth and she seemed to feel the heat of it, turning towards him with a shy smile.

 

“Let’s do Chuck next.” Spike was beginning to enjoy this.

 

“Charles…your ideal job would be…pole dancer.”

 

“Let me see that! Right, now put my surname in properly. Gunn. No, with two ‘n’s. Hah! Big game hunter!”

 

Gunn walked away with a grin on his face.

 

“Damn cool, man. Is that thing magic or something?”

 

“No. It’s like fortune telling. Either consciously or subconsciously, people try to make the predictions fit themselves.” Fred explained.

“Well it seems pretty accurate to me. I’ve been hunting demons all my life and the game don’t get much bigger than that. Come on, let’s test it again. Do Lorne.”

 

Lorne waved an elegant hand of permission and took another sip of his excellent Rioja.

 

“What’s your real name again? Krevlornswath? Give me a sec. Your ideal job would be ‘…in a land far, far away’.”

 

“Hey, Metal Mickey strikes gold again.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Well, clearly I wasn’t suited to my own world and here I am in my perfect job.”

 

“It didn’t say that. How do we know it’s your perfect job?” Gunn asked.

 

“Tell ya what; try the name he uses here. Whaddya get then?”

 

“L-o-r-n.” Spike spelt. “A garden gnome.”

 

Lorne ignored their laughter.

 

“Try putting an ‘e’ on the end, twinkle fingers.” He suggested.

 

“Your ideal job is… the job you have now.”

 

“What can I say?" His lips curling into a smug smile. "Don’t get to be anagogic without knowing these things, Sweetcheeks.”

 

They could say nothing but accept the obvious truth of it.

 

“Wes you’re up.” 

 

“Do you have to have such a long name? Wyndham Price.” Spike drawled out slowly in time with his typing of the name.

 

“Suicide bomber? Are you sure you’ve spelt it right…maybe you should hyphenate? Oh, no difference. Why a suicide bomber?” Fred worried.

 

“I suppose it could fit.” Gunn offered, without thinking through the implications of what he was saying. “I mean, we have a cause and that’s what suicide bombers do, right? Give up their life for the cause.”

 

He noticed their faces and frantically began back-pedalling.

 

“Hey, man. Not that I’m saying you’re going to…you know…”

 

“It’s like Fred said, you can twist it to mean whatever you want.” Angel said. “It makes this thing dangerous, guiding gullible people in a direction they were never meant to go.”

 

Spike moved swiftly in support.

 

“Yeah, like a gypsy telling a girl that the love of their life is gonna be tall, dark and handsome, so all the perfectly decent, slightly shorter, blonder, handsome blokes never get a second glance.”

 

“I know how these things work, but thank you for that Spike. If ever I feel like I’m about to undertake some foolhardy suicide mission, I will certainly mention it first and give you all a chance to talk me out of it.”

 

“Or push you into it, depending how facetious you’re being at the time.”

 

Wesley gave a slight smile as Spike raised his eyebrows at him.

 

“I really think we’ve had enough of this now. You’re acting like kids around the Ouija board.” Angel frowned at them.

 

Professional hierarchies dropped away as the wine worked its magic and they became more relaxed.

 

“Come on, Angel, us kids need our playtime.” Gunn pouted childishly.

 

“Is Angel Mr Grumpy-Pants because we’ve left him out?” Fred asked brightly, the alcohol giving her face a healthy pink glow.

 

“No these things are dangerous and you’re…”

 

“See what I had to put up with for twenty years? Never any fun.”

 

“So guess what Angel should be…”

 

“The lovely Titania, queen of the fairies.” Lorne closed his eyes dreamily, vermilion lips twitching at the thought of Angelcakes stomping angrily around the stage dressed in a fairy costume.

 

“Irish heavyweight broodboy champion?” Gunn chipped in.

 

“Heavyweight?” Angel took exception to that.

 

“An accountant? Well he has that permanent frown that accountants get…”

 

“Perhaps he’ll join ‘Gun’ in the pole dancing.” Fred suggested with a wicked glint.

 

They all got a sudden startling picture that stunned them to silence.

 

“We’ve really gotta get some more females here, they’d get it.” She complained.

 

“Hey, Hunbun. Little black shorts and a large pole, I’m with you all the way.”

 

“Man, did you have to? I’ve got that image stuck in my head and, damn, it’s scary.” Gunn shifted uncomfortably.

 

Spike broke the silence.

 

“Like your style, Pet. But, nah, the destinies love him. He’ll end up as emperor or a poncey king of the underworld.”

 

“What is this? Open season on Angel?” Angel asked with some real irritation. “Oh, jeez, just tell them, and put us out of our misery.”

 

“Ok…. An astronaut.”

 

“Well that’s…”

 

“Crap.” Gunn finished off.

 

“Disappointing.” Wesley agreed.

 

“Pretty meaningless.” Angel replied softly, turning away to pour another drink.

 

“An astronaut is sort of up in the sky like an angel?” Fred offered weakly.

 

“Don’t be a load of plonkers. Course it’s Angel.”

 

“Spike. Don’t.”

 

Spike looked at Angel’s pleading eyes and slowly nodded his agreement.

 

“Only teasing. It’s all a load of bollocks.”

 

Somehow that seemed to break up the playful atmosphere. They began to yawn and stretch, before making their excuses and leaving the vampires to themselves.

 

“What was that about? Being an astronaut would be a great thing, wouldn’t it?” Fred asked, as they made their way down in the elevator.

 

“Maybe if you chose it and knew one day you’d come back.” Wesley answered.

 

“So you’re saying…what are you saying?” Gunn sounded as confused as Fred felt.

 

“I’m saying would you really like to be trapped in darkness, surrounded by a void that prevented you from reaching out. Hearing people but never being able to touch or participate? Because that’s what the curse has done to him, it’s deprived him of any chance of physical connection. He’ll never be part of the world the way we are. He’ll strive towards heaven and all he’ll find is more emptiness and loneliness. Being an astronaut is probably the most solitary job in the world.”

 

“When you put it like that, I guess you got off lightly being a suicide bomber.”

 

“Yes, quite. Thank you for that comforting thought. However, there’s always the hope that if he reaches high enough, one day he’ll get his wish and touch heaven.”

 

oooo

 

Spike levered himself out of his chair and plonked himself onto the couch. They sat in companionable silence and Angel wondered what the other vampire was thinking about so intensely.

 

“I think maybe I should change my name, I’m not an evil boss anymore. You have Angel and Angelus.” He finally said.

 

“Spikelus?”

 

“I tried that, it told me I’d be a prostitute! Yeah you can laugh – Liam was the rear of a pantomime cow.”

 

“Huh. Sounds about right. What was William?”

 

“Librarian.”

 

“Bit too cute. Where the hell did that Predictor come from?”

 

“I dunno, but it gives me the willies.”

 

“So a new name. What else did you try?”

 

“Well I thought of Flame, seeing I died in a fire but that just gave some stupid answer. Whaddya think of Ghost?”

 

“You’re not keen on the more traditional names, are you?”

 

“I’m drawn to Ghost. I mean, I was one. And then I feel like I’ve come back less substantial.”

 

Angel raised his eyebrows, he couldn’t see it personally.

 

“You want me to call you Ghost?”

 

“No…I mean still call me…well call me what the hell you like, you normally do.”

 

“I guess you could have a pseudonym.”

 

“I suppose.”

 

“What did the job predictor say about Ghost?”

 

“Hunter gatherer.”

 

“That’s a bit… nondescript. I mean, isn’t this your opportunity to choose a destiny?”

 

“I know, but this one called to me. I mean hunter, obvious yeah? Gatherer…well maybe that’s the saving people bit, going out, gathering up the weak and helpless?”

 

“Woolly.”

 

“Maybe it’s something that will reveal itself in time.”

 

“You look like a Ghost with your pale skin and white hair.”

 

“Blonde.”

 

“I like Spike.”

 

“Hey. Don’t start getting all...” His alcohol-blurred mind searched the corners of his brain for the appropriate word that was hovering tantalising on the boundary of thought. He grasped towards it...sensible… sensitive… “… sentimental.”

 

“Jeez. I meant the name ‘Spike’.”

 

“Oh. You used to hate it.”

 

“It grew on me.”

 

“Ok. I’ll stay as Spike, the evil boss.”

 

Angel reflected later that it must have been the wine speaking. There was no other way to account for what came next. A chance collision of the wrong idea at the wrong time was about to change the tempo of the dance altogether.

 

“Perhaps we’re looking at this wrong. We’re not in this alone anymore, are we? We’ve been thrown together so many times, maybe its time we took the hint and began to work together. I’ll stop being an astronaut and you’ll stop being an evil boss. Where did the ‘boss’ bit come from, by the way?”

 

“Former master of Sunnydale here, ta very much. Anyway your point being? Always assuming you have one.”

 

“Is that Predictor still on the computer?”

 

“Yeah. Why?”

 

“I’ll put in ‘Angel and Spike’. Maybe we can work out a better destiny working together.”

 

Spike heard the staccato tap of the keyboard and wondered just how inebriated the other vampire was. It was ridiculous; they could hardly stand each other. There was no Angel and Spike. The tapping noise stopped and Spike twisted his head around.

 

“Well?”

 

Silence.

 

“Peaches?”

 

“Come on, it can’t be that bad.”

 

Angel moved away and Spike’s keen vision zoned into the single word, just before it was deleted with a single keystroke.

 

“Just nonsense. Says we’ll be Muppet impersonators.”

 

“Right. Nonsense then. Like Wesley’s suicide bomber and Fred becoming a god.”

 

“Uh huh.”

 

They were silent both mulling over the word they had seen.

 

“So shall we go to…”

 

Spike was tired but suddenly realised the effect the word ‘bed’ would have. It would fall like a pebble into water, rippling through their imaginations. Magnified a hundredfold by the word that had appeared on the screen.

 

The prediction of what Angel and Spike could be.

 

But he’d made it even more suspicious, the word was obviously missing. He may as well have shouted it.

 

“Bed.” God, he was such a wanker. Now with that huge gap it sounded like he was trying to be seductive.

 

“Sure…do you want me to carry you?”

 

“No! Uh, no. I’ll just wheel myself in.”

 

“Yeah, ok. I’ll hold the door. Hey, mind the paintwork. I mean, it's fine. Everything’s just…peachy.”

 

They were both nervous and twitchy, but somehow got back to their bedroom without further mishap. The atmosphere was tense and they were both hyper-aware of the other, waiting for the flashpoint, a touch, a look or a word and wondered what would happen when it occurred. Spike could manage the rest of his clothes but needed help to remove his pants. There was no way he was going to ask Angel to take them off for him, particularly on top of his previous ‘bed’ suggestion. He needed to diffuse the situation. Ok, he had a plan.

 

“Ow! Bugger, jolted my bloody legs. Just help me to bed will you?”

 

Overdo the pain and get Angel all concerned and clinical. It worked as anticipated.

 

“You’ve been up too long, Spike. Jeez you’re such a moron. You have to say when you’re getting tired.”

 

He lifted Spike to the bed, eased off his loose fitting pants and began to examine the wounds. Spike modestly draped a sheet over his hips as Angel ran his hands up and down his legs, checking for blood seepage. Spike then noticed the major flaw in his plan. Sure, Angel was all objective, but he was getting increasingly aroused by the gentle touches. And the word he’d caught on the screen wouldn’t stop bouncing through his head. He needed distraction. He needed…pain. He reached up to the headboard and slumped his weight backwards against it.

 

Oh bloody hell!

 

Angel turned at the sudden yell.

 

“Spike, what the hell did you do?”

 

“Trapped my hand between the bed and the wall and, oh God, it bloody hurts! Think I might have broken a finger.”

 

Angel shook his head in despair, carefully examining the finger, but only said; “I’ll put a dressing and splint on it overnight.”

 

Spike blinked his watery-eyed agreement. This time he hardly noticed cool hands moving over his body. Bloody crap plan, but in fairness it had done its job.

 

Angel finished binding the legs and hand, and smiled as he saw that Spike had fallen fast asleep. He looked so white. Huh, Ghost. He almost laughed, but then the name Angel was pretty weird. He stroked some fallen blonde strands from the high forehead. Spike was an extraordinarily good looking man, not exactly handsome… more of a sharp, delicate beauty.

 

He settled under his own set of covers, the thin barrier all that prevented him from reaching out, watching large hands on toned muscle and fingers gliding over silky skin. Angel was reluctant to allow Spike to nuzzle in, afraid that the suggestion made by the Predictor had tainted something innocent in its purity, but his childe was restless and wouldn’t settle until he was pulled back into his place, surrounded by that familiar scent.

 

Angel was unsettled, his mind running constantly over the prediction for ‘Angel and Spike’.

 

Lovers.

 

He finally fell into a troubled sleep and dreamt of being a lover instead of an astronaut.

 

 

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