Warning: Strong language
Anticipation had them all on edge.
“Did you see him?” Gunn asked.
“A glimpse.” Fred answered. “Suit, dark glasses, briefcase. Looked human. Harmony showed him straight into Angel’s office. He buzzed through and asked her to set up an office for his use over the next few days. I’m scheduled for 10 o’clock.”
“We’d better be getting back.” Wesley said with a quick glance at his watch.
“Yeah. Let us know how it goes, I’m booked in for his 2 o’ clock.”
“And good luck, girl.”
“Thanks…d’ya think I need it?”
“No, no. Of course not.” Wesley reassured. “I’m sure everything will be fine. Just routine.”
Fred returned a weak, uncertain smile, a mere ghost of her normal wide grin.
On cue, her phone rang.
“Hey Fred. Angel will see you now.”
She smoothed down her skirt and wished her nerves could be smoothed away as easily.
She was met by Harmony, who gave her a friendly smile.
“I’d tear your throat out to take your place for the next two hours.” She whispered before opening the door and announcing her to the occupants.
Feeling a little flustered by this casual remark but determined to be business-like. She strode forward and thrust her hand out towards the first person she saw. As she raised her eyes she understood what Harmony had meant, she found herself looking at the most absurdly beautiful man she had seen, either inside or outside the pages of the glossies.
“Ah, Ms Burkle. I’m charmed to meet you.”
His voice was smooth velvet with the depth and resonance that sent vibrations through her. She managed a smile, attempting to keep a firm grasp of her last sense by looking anywhere except him. The only thing that could possibly add to her confusion was the sudden crashing thought that this man could maybe read her mind.
“Winifred this is Mr Mede, he is heading the inspection. He’s anxious to get down to work, so if you’d like to take him across to the Science Department? Mr Mede, I’ll leave you in Ms Burkle’s capable hands.”
Fred hadn’t moved. She’d weakened and looked back at the man and now had the humiliating experience of seeing her last sense scamper away. Angel noticed her ensnared rabbit appearance.
“Ms Burkle?” He prompted, giving a helpless grin to his visitor, whilst still managing to hiss out of the corner of his mouth “Fred!”
“Uh? Oh! Of Course. If you’d care to follow me?”
“I’d be delighted, Fred. May I call you Fred?”
Angel caught a glimpse of her blush and her wide smile.
“Please, I insist.”
His hackles were rising, he could no longer bear to listen to Fred’s puppy-like eagerness and shut the door firmly.
He’d disliked the man on sight, with his tawny skin and dark hair, so sure of his own attractions and so willing to use them. At least, he’d had the grace to smile in acknowledgement when he realised that Angel was unmoved and unfazed by his charms.
The whole encounter had been odd, although Angel found it hard to say why. He’d clearly been remarkably informed about their cases, which was only to be expected, but Angel couldn’t help feeling he had been probing for something in particular.
He’d wanted to know about the huge outgoings near the beginning of their tenure.
Angel cross-referenced the dates and pinpointed it as the Pavayne episode. However, this then turned into one of his main avenues of interest. How they had first become aware of the matter, why hadn’t it been noticed previously, what had been the options, had cost been considered, had best value standards been adhered to?
Angel could feel a headache coming on as question followed question.
He’d explained that Pavayne had been killing people and sending them to hell in his stead and that this had come to light when one of the ghost’s began to manifest, fought back and asked for their help. Spike had been the ghost. Angel was reluctant to bring him into it, but inevitably a direct question from the inspector revealed his name, which had brought on another whole line of interrogation that Angel had desperately tried to avoid. The interview ended when Mr Mede was finally satisfied that he’d learnt all he could.
And now he was with Fred. Poor, innocent, gullible Fred.
At least she too had an instinct for protecting Spike. Suddenly Angel realised what it was that had struck him as odd – the man’s reaction when Spike had been mentioned and the distinct feeling that Spike needed protecting from this man. For the first time he felt genuinely grateful that his boy had left.
Fred eventually emerged from her interview and joined Gunn, Wesley and Lorne for lunch.
“So how did it go? You’re still in one piece, which has to be good.”
“You know.” She shrugged slightly. “It seemed to go ok. He was very interested in the science we used on Pavayne and was impressed at the way we worked closely with your department.” She said with a look to Wesley.
“So he’s just a normal guy? Not a man-eating ogre at all?”
Wesley observed a slight blush.
“Well…I wouldn’t call him normal. He looks…”
“Go on, girl! Don’t keep us in suspense. Surely it’s nothing we haven’t seen before? Tails, horns, scales, we’ve seen them all.”
“Let’s just say his real name is Ganymede and it’s no coincidence.”
Wesley understood. Gunn searched his upgraded knowledge and found the reference. Only Lorne looked a little confused.
“A good looking young man?” Wesley asked.
“Good looking?” Fred shook her head. “He’s drop dead, knock your eyeballs out, spin ya head around, stunning!”
“Women!” Gunn rolled his eyes.
“I’m telling you! He knocked me absolutely speechless.” She told them earnestly.
“Really?” Lorne looked mightily impressed. “That takes some doing, Fredikins.”
“Is it real?” Wesley wondered. “Perhaps that’s part of his magic, maybe he uses it to get to us, soften us up?”
“It’ll take more than a pretty man to soften me up.” Gunn declared, thought about the statement, considered rephrasing it but decided best to leave well alone.
“He asked a ton of questions about Spike. What sort of work he does, is he on the payroll, is he a contractor, what is his relationship to everyone here.”
“I guess he’s looking for irregularities and Spike is a little irregular.” Wesley replied after some consideration.
“Uh huh. There was definite dog on a scent feeling.”
“The boss won’t be too happy about that.”
No one replied because that was a certainty and as lunch ended it was Gunn’s turn.
Again a call came through and this time Gunn was shown into Angel’s office. He was curious to meet the man who had stunned Fred into silence. The man turned and Gunn’s jaw fell open. Angel rolled his eyes in annoyance.
“Charles, this is Mr Mede, Mr Mede allow me to introduce you to Charles Gunn.”
“Your reputation precedes you Mr Gunn, it’s a pleasure to meet you at last.”
“Uh huh. I mean thanks. It’s a real pleasure to meet you, too. And Gunn will do just fine.” He replied with a wide smile.
They retreated from the office and Angel was aware of a deep disappointment in Gunn. He’d hoped that he, at least, would have managed not to succumb to that too perfect, totally unmanly beauty. He wished Spike was here to give some perspective. He was never taken in by surface appearance. Maybe when all this was over he’d invite Spike back.
Then it occurred to him that Spike had left of his own free will and maybe wouldn’t want to come back. It would be too humiliating to ask and be refused. Again. He buried himself back into work, anything to keep him from the roiling thoughts that came surfacing.
At 4 o’ clock Mr Mede was shown back in.
He gave his pleasant, easy smile.
“So far, I’ve been impressed with the efficiency and dedication of your staff. Tomorrow I will meet with Mr Wyndham Price and Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan. But I would like my first meeting of the day to be with William the Bloody, currently known as Spike.”
“I’m sorry that would be impossible.”
The pleasant smile never faltered.
“I would be most disappointed and I must say he is crucial to my inspection.”
Angel tried to match the man’s agreeable demeanour, which was kind of difficult when he wanted to rip the heart painfully from the guy’s body.
“My apologies, I would, of course, do anything to avoid disappointing you but he is not a member of Wolfram & Hart staff.”
“And yet he frequently works for you?”
“Occasionally he joins us, but there’s no formal contract and I cannot insist on his attendance.”
“Yet he has been involved in some key decisions and I put it to you that it is therefore of vital importance that I speak to him. If you would request his attendance, I would be most grateful and will naturally reflect your co-operation in my report. If you refuse then that too will be fully reflected in my report. Do you understand me?”
Angel’s lips tightened in annoyance, he wasn’t used to being bullied in such an obvious manner.
“I understand completely.”
“Then I will schedule Spike for 9 o’ clock.”
“I can only request his attendance, I can’t guarantee…”
“Nine o’ clock, Mr Angel.”
With that he left and Angel was left seething with rage. When he finally felt that he could say something other than a curse he called a meeting.
He began by passing on the compliments to Fred and Gunn regarding their efficiency and dedication before getting to the grist of it, explaining that somehow this had become about Spike.
“I guess they’ve met before.” Angel concluded.
“Spike does have the habit of making some bad enemies.” Wesley commented and Angel nodded. Spike had been at the back of the queue when they’d been handing out tact.
“He’s also got some good friends.” Fred said with some determination. “There’s no getting him out of this meeting is there?”
“Not if we want a favourable report.”
“Well, at least we can do all in our power to ensure their meeting place is secure.”
“I could get a no violence spell put around a room here.” Lorne suggested.
“I’ll see about setting up a magic dampening area so that he can’t be affected by enchantments.”
“That sounds good. You two get it organised and meanwhile, I’ll call Spike and let him know the situation.”
Well he tried to call. Unfortunately there was no reply.
Cursing Spike for never been there when needed, he ended up visiting his apartment. As he approached the door he noticed that his stomach had crazy butterflies trapped inside… and every single one was anticipating the sight of that sharp face. He took a breath to see if it calmed the inhabitants of his stomach but it seemed they thrived on oxygen. He ignored them and knocked on the solid, scruffy door…. No answer. He banged harder, causing a neighbour to poke out her head.
“If you’re looking for the young man who lives there, he’s not in, Deary. He left as soon as it got dark.”
“Oh. Do you know where he went?”
“No, but if it’s a repeat of last night, he won’t be in until late and won’t be in a fit state to see anyone then anyway. He was singing!” She sounded outraged.
Uh huh. That was the Spike he knew and lov…. He quickly turned to the neighbour and smiled engagingly.
“Oh, I see. Thanks.”
So, Spike had gone out to get pissed. And wasn’t that typical? Just when he was needed sober…though to be fair he had been told that he wouldn’t be needed and wouldn’t be welcome. Angel felt a surge of customary guilt and went off to search the nearby bars.
He hated walking into bars by himself. As a private investigator he’d accepted the necessity, but never really got used to the way he was hit upon whenever he walked in. The annoyance, the hint of desperation when he told them he wasn’t interested. He felt sorry for them, like him, they just wanted connection and for some reason they thought they’d find it in their local bar, pouncing eagerly on any stranger that came in. Maybe not any stranger, after all looks counted for something in this game.
A thought occurred to him, spurring him quickly on to the next bar. How would they react to Spike’s entrance? So beautiful and so lonely, would anyone be able to resist his sadness and vulnerability? More to the point would he be able to resist the call of companionship? He began to wonder who had held Spike last night. Who had been warding off loneliness whilst he slept? He cursed himself for a fool and hurried on to the next place.
He finally spotted a bleached head. His dramatic looks stood out like a beacon in the crowd. He was standing at the bar talking to a girl.
“Oh, it’s you. Piss off, Peaches.” He turned back to his conversation.
“I really need to speak to you.”
Spike was swaying slightly and Angel realised he was more drunk than he’d initially thought.
“Come on, Spike. I’ll take you home.”
“Leave me alone. Can’t you see that I’m talking to a lady?”
The lady in question had clasped his hand and was staring deep into his eyes, making the sort of offers that he knew Spike couldn’t refuse.
“I’m sorry, Miss, but he’s already taken.”
“Really?” She looked around with coolly amused eyes, saying, “Because I don’t see her, so I think that kinda makes him mine.”
“What are you talking about, wanker? I ain’t got no-one.”
“Whose bed were you in two nights ago, Spike?”
“Yours, of course.” He realised what he’d said and turned to the girl. “But…”
“See.” Angel explained apologetically. “Already taken.”
The girl’s eyes narrowed in annoyance.
“Come on, sweetheart. Let’s get you home.” He said, smiling tenderly at Spike.
The girl left with a huff of annoyance, she might have guessed with that accent. It was so not fair.
“What the fuck?”
“I need you and I need you sober.”
“Oh Christ, we’re not back to that again. I told you two nights ago...”
“Hush childe. This is important. Will you remember what I’m saying in the morning?”
“Of course I will. There are three stages to drunkenness and I haven’t even reached the first one.”
“Really? What… Never mind.” He slung one of Spike’s arms over his shoulder and began to walk him home.
“I need you in the office at 9 o’ clock tomorrow.”
“Why? What do you want with me, Angel? Gonna invite me to drink blood and tell me I’m diseased?”
“I didn’t say you were diseased, I said…”
He had to admit that what he actually said sounded no better and if he wanted Spike to attend the meeting it was probably best left well alone.
“It’s work, Spike, and it’s very important that you turn up.”
“Huh. Now birdie’s singing a different tune. What about all that ‘just stay out of the way crap’?”
“The Inspector has noticed how closely you’re involved with the Company and he’d like to talk to you.”
“Did you explain that I couldn’t possibly? That Daddy has forbidden me to meet or talk or…”
“I’m sorry, ok Spike. I was wrong and I’m sorry. Now please, will you meet him?”
“It’s a bit early in the morning, mate.”
“Yeah, I know. That’s why I’m dragging you away from the alcohol.”
“That was your only reason?”
Spike suddenly began to laugh.
“What’s so funny?”
“Sweetheart! Manly endearments don’t exactly roll smoothly from your tongue, luv.”
“No, I guess they don’t.”
They finally reached his apartment.
“Christ I’m tired. What were yer saying again? Something about a meeting?”
“You said you’d remember.” Angel said reproachfully.
“I will. I do. A meeting. See I remember it all.” He yawned again.
Angel started picking up his clothes and grabbed a handful of cds putting them all back into the half unpacked bag.
“Oy. What yer doing?”
“You’re coming back to stay with me.”
“No, I’m bloody not.” His denial was vehement.
“Spike. Please will you come back and stay with me? At least for tonight? This meeting is important, you mustn’t miss it.”
Spike considered him for a second and then shrugged.
“Ok. But remember, you owe me a big time favour for this. And be damned sure, I will collect.”
Angel nodded and hustled him out the door before Spike could renege on their agreement.
He drove back to the penthouse, smiling at Spike who was lightly dozing next to him. That night he slept deeply, dreaming pleasant dreams and awoke to find they were true. He had his arms wrapped around Spike once more. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the feeling of peace and contentment.
He’d fallen back to sleep and awoke with a jolt. Damnation!
“Spike, get up! Shower! We’ve got fifteen minutes.”
He flew in and out of the water. Spike hadn’t moved and all feeling of peace and contentment had evaporated. He pulled the covers away, lifted Spike up and dumped him underneath the cascade of water.
Spike began spluttering and swearing.
“Please, Spike. We don’t have time.”
He briskly washed him down and held open a towel for him.
“Ok. I’m awake. I can pissing well dry myself you know. What’s the hurry?”
“You’re meeting with the inspector in about five minutes.”
“Damn you. I knew you wouldn’t remember.”
“Just teasing. Heat me some blood will you.”
“Done, just don’t slop it.”
“Why do I feel like a school kid on the first day of the semester?”
“Here are your pants. A shirt. A tie.”
“I’m not wearing a stupid tie, I hate them. What sort of idiot starts the day by putting a noose around their neck?”
“Ok. Fair point. Come one, we have to go. Now.”
“My hair’s wet.”
“Your hair looks great.”
As usual, he itched to touch and stroke, but he didn’t want to annoy Spike by combing his fingers through the damp strands. Instead he guided his childe firmly towards the elevator. At nine o’ clock they walked in and found Mr Mede waiting for them. Spike got his view of the inspector as Angel moved around to sit behind his desk.
He stopped dead.
The other man rose and walked towards him. And stopped about a foot away. He removed his dark glasses to reveal deep brown eyes.
“William?” He took another step.
They were within an inch of each other.
Angel stared in shock. It looked like two aggressors eying each other up, entering each other’s personal space, challenging each other. Except the scent he was getting had nothing to with aggression.
“How have you been?” The dark haired man’s breath whispered over his face.
“Good years, bad years. You?”
Their lips, their chests, their hips, were mere millimetres away, the slightest sway and…
“You’ve changed. Leaner. More beautiful than I remember, William.”
“It’s been a long time.”
Angel could almost see them making-out in front of his eyes, they were oblivious to all else.
“I understand you know each other?” His voice sounded loud and unnaturally harsh.
“A long time…”
They shared a smiled as they both tried to reply at once.
“Ok, enough! Mr Mede I suggest that you get on with your job and Spike…”
“But you forget, this is my job and I have booked the next two hours with Spike.” He turned back with a smile. “To thoroughly investigate Spike.”
Spike looked at his sire in concern. “It’s ok, this is Ghani.”
“Just get on with it.” Angel ground out. “I expect you both back here in two hours.”
They walked out to the office set aside for their visitor’s use. They were so close their arms were brushing as they moved.
Angel raced to the security office the hub of the Company’s camera network, where the whole building was under observation. The uniformed man who attended it flicked through the cameras until the room appeared on the monitor.
Angel could only watch in horror as Mede moved towards Spike and then pressed warm lips to cool.
The security man carefully avoided looking at his unpredictable boss, choosing to take the calm expression at face value and pointedly ignoring the desk cracking beneath the vampire’s grip.
Angel looked bleak as he turned away
He sat down at his desk and rested his head in his hands, only moving when he heard the team gathering as arranged.
“So how did it go?” Lorne asked. “No violent fireworks I trust. The non-violence, non-magicky spells held?”
“They weren’t needed.” Angel replied curtly.
“Well, that’s good. Isn’t it?” Fred asked.
The room was silent and then they were all speaking at once.
“Personally, I see it.” Lorne nodded sagely. “Beauty calls to beauty.”
“But Spike isn’t ga…” Gunn began, but a sharp nudge halted his comment.
“I mean Ghan is remarkably… and it would be difficult for anyone…” Fred realised that she wasn’t particularly helping and tailed off uncertainly.
“Well, I don’t see it!” Angel said angrily. “Spike is a moron and that Mede guy is…short.”
“Well, maybe, but he is incredibly, I mean… Wes, back me up here.”
“I would, Charles, but bear in mind I haven’t actually met him yet. Angel, does this inspection depend on Spike being…nice to Mr Mede?”
The deep menacing growl pinned them all to their seats. Each of them had heard so there was no denying it. Angel had growled and something primal in them found it deeply disturbing to the point of terrifying.
“Uh quite. I suggest that we really can’t do anything until we talk to Spike and find out what’s happening. Anyway, we mustn’t take up any more of your time.”
They shifted uneasily, Lorne rose and the others made to follow suit.
They immediately dropped back to their chairs like well trained dogs, obedient to their owner’s whim.
“We need to approach this professionally. Fred, report on your interview with him yesterday.”
She nervously twined her fingers together.
“Uh. Ok. Well, he began with the Pavayne incident. What happened, how it came to our attention, where it occurred, why we took that particular action and what other responses were considered.”
“He was interested in the science we used and how we meshed it with magic. Then he asked about Spike specifically, which I thought was kinda weird, as we were supposed to be talking about the work of the department. He was asking what happened when he reappeared and what his involvement with the Company is. He also wanted to know about a large outgoing on our medical budget. It turned out it was the time Spike’s hands were reattached after the slayer…”
She pulled a face and made a chopping motion over her wrists.
Angel nodded and turned to Gunn.
“Gunn, your professional assessment.”
“From what Fred says and from the questions he was asking me, I would evaluate our situation as precarious at best. In my interview, he was interested in employee contracts and adherence to security protocols, randomly checking employees to ensure that paperwork was in order and the Statement of Compliance to our security procedures had been signed.”
“Taking this information, together with his interest in Spike, I would suggest he is going to pursue a corruption and gross negligence angle.”
Stunned silence greeted this evaluation. Gunn’s serious gaze caught each of them in turn before continuing with an explanation.
“He’ll have proof that Spike has never signed a contract with the Company, neither has he signed up to our security protocols. If Spike were to leak confidential information, the Company would have no legal redress. This would be direct proof of gross negligence on out part.”
“On top of that there’s Spike’s relationship to you and the fact that half the medical budget was spent on someone not directly connected to the Company. It may smack of nepotism and corruption. You wanted my professional opinion?” He asked, looking directly at Angel. “He’s gunning for you personally.”
Shocked silence followed this stark assessment
“Given the facts, I have to concur with Gunn’s evaluation. I’m sorry, Angel.”
“Ok. Now we know what we’re dealing with. I need you to go through our cases and highlight Spike’s involvement. I want to know what meetings he’s attended and the information he’s had access to. Gunn, a couple of days ago I offered Spike a job here and he said he’d consider it. I want a contract drawn up, the same terms as you’re all on. I want it made clear that the medical expenditure was in the form of a sweetener to entice Spike to take the contract and if there is any other expenditure unaccounted for, include it.”
“Once we’ve got the exact details of his involvement in Company activities we’ll go through them line by line. We can’t afford any nasty surprises.”
Gunn cleared his throat.
“I’ll get the contract drawn up, what will his position be?”
“We’re going to re-open the Special Projects Division with Spike as the Head.”
“Angel, is that wise? I mean… Spike…?”
Dark eyes considered them and reached a decision.
“I want to show you something.”
He went to the safe, stabbed in the code and pulled out a shiny, new briefcase. They noticed that the locks on it had been broken.
“Uh. Isn’t that Spike’s? Are you sure you should be…?” Fred protested.
Angel ignored her, maybe he shouldn’t have, but it was too late now. He delved into the case and withdrew some papers, passing a set to each of them.
“These are the plans that Spike was trying to present that day he got injured.”
Wesley was skimming though, Gunn was carefully digesting the detail, Lorne wasn’t a man cut out for war, the words tactics, diversions, infiltration and defection meant little to him. Fred was frowning slightly.
“You never said he was a strategist.”
“He wasn’t when I knew him. Guess you can learn a lot in a hundred years.”
“Are you sure Spike came up with this?” Gunn asked incredulously.
“Well then.” Wesley pushed up his glasses, he had read enough. “That answers my question then. Spike as Head of Special Projects.”
“So we’re agreed?”
They all nodded their assent.
“Ok. Wesley, I believe you have some knowledge of Spike’s past one hundred years. I want you to help me draw up his résumé dealing with that period and I’ll work on the twenty years previous. We need to clearly prove he was the only suitable candidate for this position. The majority of my actions can be explained as necessary incidentals for the purpose of head hunting Spike.”
“Wesley, Lorne? You need to be particularly careful in your interviews with him. You know where we’re coming from with this. “
He quickly outlined his plan and his assumed position within it.
“Our view is that we know Spike is more than capable of doing the job. We believe him to be the most suitable candidate for the post. That much is true enough.”
Again they nodded their agreement.
“He has never wittingly been given access to confidential or sensitive information but he has been and will be required to sit in on meetings for the purpose of gaining his independent advice and acclimatising him to the Company culture. Understand? Remember this Mede guy is a truth reader. If you doubt the truth of anything I’ve said then I suggest you start your statements with ‘Angel said’. Is there anything I haven’t covered?”
“Just clarification. You’ve been expending money on Spike for the purpose of enticing him to take the job. Is this true?”
“Yes, it is.” Angel lied.
They were all bright people. The boss had said it was true and they could now refer to his words with complete honesty.
“Ok. Gather the data and we’ll reconvene in an hour.”
They breathed again once they were outside.
“Wasn’t that interesting?”
“Shit. Is that all you have to say? This is going to be bad.”
“No, I meant Angel and Spike…”
“Ohhh. Angel is interested in Spike that way?” Gunn asked incredulously.
“I’m not sure if he is.” Wesley replied. “But he certainly doesn’t want anyone else to be. I think the potential is there and he’s just starting to realise it.”
It was Lorne who finally put his finger on it.
“Angelpie is an emotional desert, waiting for the rain to make it come to blooming back to life. Let’s face it. The guy doesn’t understand what he feels. But that wasn’t sire / childe or any sort of vampire possessiveness. It’s jealousy.”
“Angel and Spike…?” Gunn still sounded disbelieving. “Man, we’re in for a rollercoaster ride.”
“Then we’ll just have to hang on for dear life.” Wesley replied phlegmatically.