As they walked to the office, Spike eyed the other man with suspicion. His brain had started to function again and it seemed more than weird that, of all people, he should turn up now, in this role. And the air he affected of cool nonchalance was as irritating as hell. Spike gazed at him searchingly as he perched on a corner of the desk.
“So what’s the story? What are you doing here, Ghan?”
“Would you believe that I came to see you?”
“Fair enough.” For the first time there was a hint of uncertainty in his handsome features. “It’s partly true though. I always did care more than you knew.”
Spike’s eyes narrowed.
“Are you still upset with me?”
“Upset? Why should I be upset?” The human replied blandly.
Ok, so that was the way he wanted to play it. Spike was more than happy to avoid the subject. He hadn’t behaved well… but hey, soulless vamp, what the hell had the man expected?
Instead he asked, “Why now? It’s been years.”
“I heard you’d died and you’ll be surprised to hear that I mourned your worthless carcass. Then rumours began surfacing and eddying. I was thinking about the past and here I am….”
“No point dwelling on it, Pet. Times change. People change.”
“Not that much… you still want me, Vampire.”
The man reached out a hand, grazing it lightly against Spike’s cheek. His eyes questioning.
“Ghan…” Spike started.
He was abruptly silenced as a sweet tasting mouth closed over his. It seemed so long since someone had openly wanted him, without regret or doubt, that for a moment he gave in to the kiss and returned it.
But whatever he needed, he knew that he wasn’t going to get it from this butterfly creature and Spike gently extricated himself
“Sorry, not interested in going there again. Don’t trust you, Ghan.”
“You? Don’t trust me?” He asked with over-exaggerated, wide-eyed incredulity.
“Whaddya expect? I mean bloody hell. You’re here to investigate my Sire and his humans. I know what you’re doing, Ghan. Softening me up to pump me for info, so at least be honest about it. I ain’t being used by anyone.”
“Softening you up?” Lips twitched in amusement. “So wrong on so many counts…. But unfortunately, I do have a job to do.”
“Uh huh. Judge and executioner for Wolfram & Hart? Step down for you, ain’t it, Pet?”
“Don’t be like that, Will. Sure, I find out all those hidden secrets and then I pass the information on. But, I don’t judge and I don’t kill.”
“You construe the facts to support your judgement. Don’t know much about the corporate world but don’t treat me like a complete frigging idiot.”
Mede regarded him thoughtfully.
“You worry for him - your Sire? You still care for him, don’t you?”
Dishonesty was pointless; the other man could read him.
“No, I bloody well don’t.” He lied anyway.
But Mede didn’t even hear his denial, the roar of truth drowned out the words.
“But why? Why him? He’s such a little person in the scheme of things.”
“Ain’t you listening, Mate? Anyway, if he’s so insignificant then why’s he caught the interest of the Powers, both dark and light? For a small man he casts a bloody big shadow.”
“You’re biased when you speak of him, I suppose it’s natural. He might be a small, but he’s your world. To answer you, there is a saying; at a flea circus the dog will steal the show.”
Spike gave s snort and began to vehemently count his points off on his fingers.
“Firstly, there is nothing small about Angel. Secondly. He’s is not my world! Thirdly. Frigging big flea circus! Fourthly. Are you so sure that you’re beyond this miniature circus, Mate?”
“Of course not. I play a part like everyone. Would I be kneeling at your feet if I were beyond it all?”
Spike raised an eyebrow.
“Figuratively speaking.” A dark intense gaze. “Literally? Maybe later.”
“Told you. Not interested. And still not trusting you, Ghan.”
“Why should you? Everyone always let you down, don’t they, Will?”
Spike had enough self-awareness to know that this was a vulnerable spot, an easy point of attack. He retreated a step.
“I know how you work, Human. Don’t start playing me…”
“Who’s playing?” Dark eyes grew darker still.
“You play everyone. Why would you be any different with me?”
Ghan eyed him speculatively.
“I read the hearts of people and as you pointed out, I’m a judge. So I know how rare you are, Will.”
“Well, yeah. Vampire with a soul…only two in the world. Hey, guess that makes me valuable, like an antique or something?”
“You were always precious to me…. “
Spike rolled his eyes.
“You never used to be this corny.”
The man gave a sad shrug.
“You don’t know what it’s like. So many people, all hiding behind the lies they tell themselves, until they hardly know themselves anymore. You don’t do that. For someone like me it’s soothing. Your untruths are as obvious as a candy-stealing child’s with the evidence of his crime smeared around his mouth.”
“Oy! Whaddya mean? I’m a bloody brilliant liar!”
Mede gave a condescending smile.
“You think? Anyway, what I meant is, you have self-honesty and it makes you whole where other people are divided… take your Sire for instance.”
“Leave him out of this.”
A warning flash of asperity in blue eyes and an answering stab of jealousy that pierced the man’s air of amused superiority.
“No, I won’t! It’s still about your Sire even after all these years, isn’t it? Always leaping to his defence, making stupid plans to get his attention and following him around the world like a lost puppy.”
And here was the pouting, self-centred young man that Spike knew. He bit back a smile at finally seeing him once more. The other man appeared to see the smile anyway and reluctantly let his truculence melt away.
“Be with me for a while? I’m not lonely when I’m with you.”
“Lonely? You? Pull the other one! Everyone frigging wants you.”
“So? What has ‘want’ to do with loneliness?”
He pulled a face.
“Desire makes people desperate. They hide their nature, twisting themselves into an appealing image. It’s all just masks. How can anyone connect with a mask? It gets lonely Will. Surely you must find the same?”
Spike thought of Angel. Was it their defensive masks that kept them apart? Kept them lonely? Well it certainly didn’t help. But he needed the protection, afraid of how badly Angel could hurt him if he became exposed. Why Angel pulled his mask into place everyday he wasn’t so sure.
His thoughts skittered nervously away from the unanswerable and strayed instead to Sunnydale and the people he’d known there. Had they put on masks for him? He didn’t think so.
“I guess you’re right. Different for me though… evil demon and all. I was beneath them. They were attracted to me and despised me in the same heartbeat.”
This was more honesty than he meant to reveal but this was Ghani’s gift, to extract the truth, root and all.
Mede shook his head as if a disturbing image had entered it. And if he saw a battered and beaten vampire, left in an alley to face the rising sun, crying out in confusion as he protested undying love, then he held his tongue, merely saying, “Humanity can be a filthy word.”
This brought Spike’s mind skipping back to the boy, who had initiated the recent changes in their lives, the one who had shot him and left him and Angel to die at the hands of the demon. He could never see totally eye to eye with Angel’s view of the world, humanity good, demons bad. He gave a nod of agreement.
A slight tightening of expression, but if he read Spike’s thoughts, again he said nothing.
“Yet you think it’s different for me? I get pretty lies and thoughts of lust as they reflect every fantasy and every depravity on me. I catch glimpses of the things they think and the things they would do. Beauty incites them to new heights of cruelty, they would own and take and smash. I know the ruthlessness of their desperation. As do you. Then there are others who fawn and hang on to every word….”
“The cult of beauty, eh, Pet?” He remembered that Ghan had views on this and sought to distract him.
“That’s it exactly! Like the cult of celebrity in the modern world. People pore over every word as though each syllable has meaning, laugh at the poorest jokes. Being beautiful doesn’t make me wise. It doesn’t make me amusing and it doesn’t make me a saint. It’s nothing but a pretty façade.”
A look of bemusement passed over the vampire’s face.
“They take you for a saint?”
“Not the point, Will. Ah, it’s alright. I’m just saying that I don’t get that from you, there’s something…clean about your attitude.”
“Clean? You are kidding? I’m just the shit others roll in occasionally.”
The sneer on the sharp face was directed only at himself.
Ghan reached out in comfort, but was shaken off.
“I’m as depraved as they get.”
“You see. That’s what I’m talking about, you don’t hide from yourself and you don’t feed me lies. I can relax and breathe when I’m with you. You envelop me and the absence of lies makes it feels like innocence.”
Spike stared at him open-mouthed, entranced at the idea of being innocent.
Ghan noticed the look and whispered softly, “Let me be what you need, just for a while. You need so much.”
Spike snapped himself out of it.
“Uh huh. So you’ll pretend to be what I need? Thought you hated that kind of deceit?”
“Only when it’s used on me.”
Spike gave his first genuine smile.
“I see what you mean, Pet. Straightforward honesty. Kind of refreshing.” He saw the other man’s look and hastily said, “But the answer’s still no. I don’t want to h….”
“Hurt Angel.” Ghan finished off for him.
Those were the words he’d nearly said and Spike found himself confused.
Not because he cared for Angel. Hell, he’d known that since their first meeting. No, it was the fact that somewhere in his subconscious he believed he had the power to hurt his invulnerable Sire….
His mind drifted back to that terrible night when Angel had told him he was a disease… those words had stormed straight into his top three chart of most hurtful remarks, where he joined Cecily and Buffy in the coveted top spots. He managed to wend his way pass this thought, that normally pinned him painfully in the moment and held him there.
What Angel had actually said, was that he was trying to inoculate himself with intimacy, and Spike had missed the point.
Stupid sodding prat! And for once he didn’t mean Angel. Although it went without saying that he was a stupid bloody prat too…
It was the comments about the unconscious lies that people tell themselves that set the wheels in Spike’s head grinding and everything that his Sire had done and said was grist to the mill. He finally churned out an answer and he almost took a breath, shocked by his conclusions. Angel was lying. So many decisions are made on instinct with the explanation dreamt up later, by those who would follow their desires and then twist their reasoning to suit.
Spike could have punched the air in delight! Who the sodding hell fights attraction by giving into it? Angel had given into it simply because he’d wanted to give in. Sod inoculation! Only the twisted mind of his Sire could have come up with that one.
Mede knew he’d lost a lot of ground in those few seconds of silence and he answered as though Spike’s private thoughts were part of the conversation.
“Yet Angel doesn’t have a wide array of choice. Because he didn’t lose his soul in Darla, he believes that demon passion won’t trigger the curse. He couldn’t stomach having an evil, demon lover. That leaves you. There is only you. Do you think he would choose you if he had a choice? Whereas I have all the choice in the world…”
Spike’s elation dissipated. Angel had said the same words himself. There was no other choice available to him.
Ghan leant back; satisfied he’d averted a near disaster.
“We’re alike, you and I.”
His eyes dulled and greyed, as he lost interest in this conversation.
Lost interest, full stop.
“You call yourself depraved? I’ve been twisted too, and I came by it the same way as you. When you’re young you’re more flexible and eventually you can find enjoyment in almost any act, however bizarre. Even ownership is a perverted form of love. You understand that, of course.”
That sparked Spike back to life.
“He never bloody owned me.”
Ghan regarded him thoughtfully.
“And you still regret it don’t you?”
He noticed the anger building as the vampire’s stance became more aggressive, and swiftly changed the subject.
“Do you want to know how I became as I am? The Eternal Judge of Truth?”
Spike slowly relaxed and gave a nod, relieved to find they were on more impersonal ground. Besides which, anything he found out could be useful to Angel and his crew.
Ghan finally went to the chair, the desk a telling barrier as he settled back
“My first owner…”
Ghan merely looked and Spike nodded his unspoken agreement to let him speak without interruption.
“…was a powerful man of magic. A sorcerer, I guess you’d call him now. I was barely out of boyhood when he bought me and gave me the name Ganymede.”
So that was how he came by the name. Spike had sometimes wondered if he’d been the original…
“Lover to Zeus. You’re aware of his story, of course? You might not be aware that he served a practical purpose in Greek religion, validating homosexuality, and as all Greek ideas did, informing the opinions of the educated and cultured people of the Western of the world. But he wasn’t just a lover. He had the role of cup bearer to the gods. I sometimes wonder how much my master saw when he first took me… Anyway, at the time I knew nothing of this. I hated him and he tried to break me, much as your Sire did with you.”
“You see, I know you, William. I know you, because I know myself and know how desperation can make brutal attention seem like a form of affection and a gentle touch a sign of love.”
Spike examined a speck on his boots and said nothing to this.
“He gave me this life, just as your Sire gave you yours. He was owed a favour and granted the gift of eternal life, but he turned it down. He’d lived too long already. Instead he passed it to me, told me beauty such as mine should endure. When he knew that he was dying, he finally set me free and introduced me to the most powerful beings of that time. He gave them a prophecy, saying to them;
‘Behold this youth and if you see only innocence in beauty then you are fools. You see his beauty and his youth and that answers all questions for you. Yet I tell you truth is beauty, beauty is truth. He is the razor that cuts both ways. He is beauty, he is truth and he will judge you all.’
“It was kindly done. When he died, these powerful people were feared me and the role I might eventually play. I finally had freedom, eternal life and this gift for judging truth.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“You wanted to know why I would choose you? It’s because we’re kindred, brothers under the skin. You understand me.”
“I have a soul.”
“So do I, it must be shrivelled like a slug in salt but I’m human, so I must have one.”
“Mine is new and it owns me.”
Again, not something he meant to reveal to this indecipherable man.
“Other than Angel, I’ve not heard of anything like this before. How did you come by it?”
“I fought for it.”
“Your humanity always was tenacious.”
There was a hint of admiration in his voice.
“The rumour is you died and returned? How did that happen?”
“I ain’t got a clue. Anyway, surely Fred and Gunn have told you everything?”
“They’ve told me their version of the truth. But we know truth itself is moveable, there’s my view, your view and somewhere in between we may find something resembling it.”
Spike realised that this was the formal beginning of his interview.
“I was a ghost and then I wasn’t.”
“S’all I know for sure.”
“You came back and you’ve been helping the team ever since?”
“Not so much. Angel has been reluctant to give me information.”
“Why do you think this is?”
“Cus he’s an overcautious poofter?”
The questioning continued but as it drew to an end the dark man began to use little, discreet touches to emphasise his points.
“Why are you doing that?” Spike finally asked.
“You know we’re on security cameras? He’ll be watching us later.”
“Don’t like him.”
“I imagine he’s not overly fond of you at the moment.”
“Still want you. I’ve had to placate some powerful and ugly beings and I need you. I’m tired of being dirty. I want to cleanse myself in your integrity, bathe myself in you and wipe the filth away. You’ll come to me tonight.”
Spike looked astonished at the assumptions his old lover was making.
“I will? You know it’s considered polite to ask first.”
“I did. You said no. So now we play it a different way.”
“Uh, yeah, right. As in, not a chance. Why does everyone always think they have the power to order me around?” He asked irritably.
“I don’t know about others, but I assume it because I have it…. I have your friends in the palm of my hand.”
There was no mistaking the hint of a threat in his friendly face. Spike couldn’t have looked more surprised if the placid family dog had turned on him. Yet, he shouldn’t have been. All Ghan really cared about was himself and what he wanted, with everyone else mere pieces to be used.
Spike eyed him anxiously.
“You won’t hurt them?”
Mede laughed and Spike’s anxiety soared into anger as his face distorted and he surged at the man’s throat, teeth resting against warm human skin, with the pulsing of warm blood vibrating against his fangs. Threatening words fell from his mouth, causing razor sharp canines to graze dangerously against the smooth column of the man’s neck.
“You won’t hurt them.”
The emphasis was entirely different and despite being eternal, a frisson of human fear ran up his spine.
“Shit, William…! Come to me tonight. Come like that.”
Spike shook off the demon in frustration.
“That turned you on? Christ, it’s the danger, isn’t it? You’re attracted by danger.”
“I’m attracted to you.”
“And I can terrify you. You nearly had me feeling sorry for you. Brothers under the skin! You’re a bleedin’ adrenalin junkie.”
All boyishness fled as he once again pulled on his garb of authority.
“I believe that concludes our interview. There are things you need to know that I might be willing to divulge, for a price. I’m sure you’ll have further questions and I’ll be available tonight. I’ll send a car for you.”
“And sod you too.” Spike muttered to his departing back.
He sat there trying to make sense of all that had happened. It was blackmail, sexploitation of the most basic kind, using the others as leverage. He chewed on a virtually non existent nail.
“Well? Whaddya want?”
He could sense the other vampire.
“I want you to tell me what’s going on.”
“If I knew I’d tell you.”
“You know that man.”
“We met shortly after you went off.”
“And you were lovers? All these years you’ve called me a poofter.”
“Yeah, well. You act like one. I don’t.”
“And you fucking that…”
“Ok, enough. Get to the bleedin’ point of this before we both say stuff we’ll regret.”
“Gunn said that he’s planning to destroy me.”
“Oh. Has he got the ammunition for it?”
“Why’s he doing it?”
“I don’t know.” Angel looked genuinely puzzled. “I’ve been racking brains. Sure, I’ve heard of him but I’ve never met him before, I would have remembered. So…. Does he still want you?”
Spike felt uncomfortable with this conversation and shifted uneasily.
“He says so.”
“Do you want him?”
“That’s a bit personal ain’t it, Mate?”
“Don’t let him use you, Spike. Not for me.”
“Ok, not for you. How about for Wesley or Gunn. How about for Fred?”
“They’re not in any danger.”
“How the fuck do you know that? Last time I looked your sodding balls weren’t made of crystal, Mate! Uh… not that I’ve ever looked…oh bollocks…”
Luckily his stumbling words didn’t even register with Angel.
“You’re just looking for an excuse to be with him.”
Spike’s cold tone should have been warning enough.
“And I’m telling you now. I won’t stand for you whoring around anymore.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, that is so.” He replied, bringing his face aggressively in front of Spike’s and glowering at him angrily.
“I’m your Sire and all you do reflects on me. I won’t let you bring more…”
“Please continue. This is most enlightening. More what? Shame? Embarrassment?”
Angel didn’t answer because, if he did, the word would be pain. Spike would find it amusing that his whoring brought him pain. He wouldn’t expose himself to that scathing tongue.
“Just get lost, Spike. Go play with the sunbeams or something.”
Spike nodded, as if those words confirmed everything. Getting up he deliberately knocked Angel as he pushed past.
Angel cursed angrily under his breath. He wished he could take back his petty words. He hadn’t come here to fight.
Spike made his way to Fred’s; she was always a calming influence and would put up with his ranting without getting annoyed.
“Christ. I sodding well hate that bastard. Thinking he frigging owns me.”
“Although you’re right, I bloody hate him too.”
“You must have liked him at one time?”
Spike pouted slightly at the euphemism.
“Like ain’t exactly the word, Pet. Anyway, what I found acceptable then ain’t so easy to stomach with a soul.”
“Tell me about him. The way he looks, it dazzles me, I don’t see him objectively. Is he evil?”
He considered this and then shook his head.
“Well, not exactly. Amoral rather than evil.”
“He doesn’t know right from wrong?”
“He doesn’t think in those terms, Luv. There’s what he wants and what he has to do to get it.”
“Oh…and he… ya know… wants you?”
Spike shrugged his shoulders and Fred understood that this was not a topic for conversation.
“How did his working for Wolfram & Hart come about?”
“Dunno. Guess the way he looks gives him an advantage in this line of work. Takes people a little off guard. He’s known as the Eternal Judge of Truth and Wolfram & Hart seem to be easily impressed by titles.”
“I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be, well…beautiful. To never be overlooked. It must be kinda nice.” She trailed off and turned to her work, hiding whatever was in her mind with petty and mundane tasks.
“Are you kidding me?”
“It’s ok. I wasn’t dangling for a compliment. Cordelia was beautiful, nobody could ever overlook her. I’m... Fred.” She gave a small smile.
“Yeah, you’re just Fred.” Spike agreed.
Despite protestations of not wanting compliments she was disappointed at having her inadequacies confirmed.
“So you thought Cordelia beautiful. What do you think of Gunn?”
Fred smiled. She could still appreciate attractiveness even if she didn’t share it.
“Physically? He’s very good looking, very masculine.”
“Wesley is…” This almost stumped her. She was going to say cute but there was occasionally something stern and hard about him, which defied his sweet boyish air. She thought of all the words she privately thought when she gazed at Wesley - handsome, sexy, breathtaking - but decided they said more about her than Wesley.
“Wesley is a very striking man.”
“So you had these two incomparable hunks fighting over you. You. Not Cordelia. And despite being noble warrior types, they’re still men and they’re attracted to beauty. Doesn’t that tell you something about yourself?”
“You heard about that? Well, I, you know, not really…” She stumbled, pleasure at his words turning her pink and making her less coherent than usual.
“Yes, really. And don’t you forget it.”
“Well you have the most gorgeous man in the world chasing you. What does that tell you?”
“Dunno. His motives have me at a loss. Could do with some help, but the Poof is being his normal reasonable self.”
“I’ll always be here for you, Spike.”
“Yeah, I know.” He cast her a tender look. “I ’preciate it, luv.”
Angel, Gunn and Wesley were covering all the points of Spike’s involvement with the Company.
“It would really help to have Spike here. You’re being incredibly shortsighted, Angel. You’ve proved to us all that he’s not stupid.”
Angel wasn’t sure he could bear to face his hostile childe. And even though he was sorry for his angry words, the kiss between Spike and that man gnawed at him like a wolf chewing through the guts of a deer. Also…
“I’d have to apologise to him, Wes.” He said miserably. “He’d gloat over it for… well, forever.”
“If you don’t get his help you won’t have forever.”
He pouted but it was wasted on Wesley, so he gave in gracelessly and pressed the buzzer.
“Harmony? Please tell…ask Spike to come to my office, immediately.”
He turned to Wesley as though it was entirely his fault.
“If he smirks…”
“As the more senior of the two, you’ll take the moral high ground and allow him his little victory.”
He made Angel feel like a schoolboy; he wanted to hang his head and say, yes sir.
“You called, oh Master.”
Angel took a breath and blurted out his apology.
“I’m sorry for earlier, Spike, having a bad day, took it out on you, could do with your help.”
Spike managed to keep his eyebrows from zooming up to his hairline and kept his face blank. He was impressed at the speed of the words… all in one breath as well. Angel had clearly hated every millisecond of that. He guessed Wesley had forced him to it. Huh, good old Wes. All credit to Percy, Angel looked really uncomfortable. And so he sodding should.
“Uh huh. Fair enough. What do you want me to do?”
“We need to know the details of cases you’ve managed to get embroiled… helped with, since you’ve been here.”
“Not been that much really. You never particularly wanted my help, if you remember.”
Angel was relieved to finally get a snarky comment out of Spike. He’d been far too mature and reasonable. It was off-putting and made him feel permanently wrong footed.
“Whatever you can remember would be helpful, Spike.” Wesley said placatingly.
“Don’t have to remember.”
“No you don’t have to, but I’d be very grateful…” Angel could do mature and reasonable, especially when it highlighted Spike’s deficiencies in this area.
“I mean, I have no need to remember. I’ve kept a diary since I came back.”
“Really? That is excellent news.”
Spike smiled at Wesley’s relieved appreciation.
“I’ll go get them. Lend me a car, Peaches and I’ll be back in twenty.”
“Yeah. Uh, thanks Spike. Choose whichever one you want.”
A two fingered salute and he was off.
“You see how painless that was, Angel? And you misjudged him, he didn’t smirk.”
“You might not have been able to see it, but he was smirking on the inside.” The vampire muttered.
Wesley gave him a look of disbelief but refrained from commenting
They spent the next twenty minutes building their defence for the money spent on Pavayne.
“I think we have that sufficiently covered. Obviously we couldn’t allow Pavayne to continue preying on our employees. We may have planned to help Spike, but ultimately there was no benefit to him.”
“Okay, what next?”
“We have the mentally disturbed slayer. “
“His information didn’t come through us though. The leak came from Eve and now everyone knows that she was playing her own game.”
“He’s a freaking vampire, Wesley. He heals. Of course we’d reattach his hands!”
Maybe it should have struck him as weird at the time, how upsetting he’d found the whole incident. After all, he’d staked his own Sire and Penn, and burnt Dru and Darla, but his guts had clenched in horror when he’d seen William so injured and distressed.
“He was too valuable to lose, too valuable an ally to lose.” Angel corrected himself with hardly a pause.
Wesley nodded at him thoughtfully.
“I thought things had been changing between you two recently, but I’m wrong aren’t I? It’s always been there between you.”
Angel could feel himself getting hot, which was a pretty neat trick for a vampire.
“Me and Spike… I don’t know what you’re implying…”
“Merely that you and Spike were better friends than I originally realised.”
Wesley met Angel’s glare with his own steady gaze, until brown eyes lowered. Why did Wesley always make him feel as though he was being childish?
“Wouldn’t say we were friends, exactly. I was…am his Sire. But these days…” There was nothing more to say. In the old days their relationship had been strictly Sire and Childe, teacher and pupil. These days? Christ knows.
Wesley seemed to make up his own ending to the sentence.
“You know, I wouldn’t dream of interfering, but don’t you think it would be a good idea to tell him how you feel? If you two would just work together you could be a formidable team.”
“No.” Angel replied shortly and without explanation.
Wesley realised he’d overstepped some boundary and quickly retreated back to his side of the invisible line.
“Ah. So what else have we got?”
They returned to work, their desultory conversation remaining entirely professional.
“Here we go.” Spike finally returned with a couple of spiral bound notebooks in his hand.
Angel looked at them and wondered if Spike ever wrote about him… maybe a poem. Maybe not. He could imagine how that would go…
“So starting from the beginning. I was burning and suddenly I wasn’t and you were standing in front of me. Naturally I assumed everything was your fault, Peaches, and overtaken by righteous anger, I attacked you. Only to fall right through you and that’s when I found out I was a buggering ghost.”
“Ok. Skip that part, it’s not important.”
“Not important! Well cheers. I get spat out of hell and it’s not important. Bloody typical…”
“Angel simply meant that it’s not relevant to what we’re working on.”
The words, not relevant, struck another nerve and he was just about to unleash a new torrent of words, but Angel caught at his hand.
Spike stilled, seemingly spellbound by the large hand that caught him, only moving again when Angel let it fall. He cleared his throat and turned back to his tatty notebook.
“Uh. Where was I…? Yeah, I backed you up against that sorcerer.”
Angel, in turn, was fascinated by Spike’s response to his touch, filing away his reaction for later analysis.
Reluctantly he forced his attention back to the task in hand. Hainsley… he could recall it perfectly.
“You were a ghost and you hatched that plan to get rid of Hainsley.”
“Exactly,” Wesley interjected, “he was a ghost. We had no control over what he did or what information he had access to.”
“We used his plan.”
“And it worked. It backs up your claims that he would be a valuable asset to the firm.”
Wesley glanced from one to the other.
“Angel, you have told Spike what we’re doing here?”
“Well, duh. Obviously.”
Spike stared at them both with a blank expression.
“Maybe not in so many words…”
Wesley shook his head.
“Honestly, I despair.”
“Would one of you care to enlighten me? Peaches has called me many things but not to my knowledge, an asset. Or did you mean ass? Cus I’ve heard that one before, and can I just say: it’s getting kind of old.”
“Angel’s told you that this Mede fellow appears to be hell bent on destroying him?”
“Yeah, I got that bit.” Spike’s lips tightened in anger.
“We believe he’s attempting to prove corruption and gross negligence on our part. Gross negligence for allowing you to have access to sensitive Company information, without formally employing you or obtaining your compliance to our information security procedures. This is the allegation we’re attempting to refute, by going through your actions in minute detail.”
“Okay I get that, but where does corruption come into it. I thought that was the sort of thing you lot of do-gooders fought against.”
“Again, it’s to do with you. Mr Mede has indicated his belief that you have enjoyed certain privileges as a direct result of your relationship to Angel.”
“He don’t know much about our relationship then, does he? I’m occasionally privileged with the back of his hand and the toe of his size thirteens.”
“The Company has actually expended rather a lot of money and effort on you, Spike.”
“There are various ways of accounting for it. Examining the amulet was important for reasons of furthering our knowledge generally and ensuring it didn’t present a danger to the Company or its employees. The money spent trying to bring you back resulted in the banishment of Pavayne, so I doubt if that will even be brought up. However, rather than excuse each individual act, which I am sure we could do, we considered it easier to put them under the umbrella of head hunting.”
“My head?” Spike looked confused and a hand went unconsciously to his neck. “I like my head where it is.”
“No. Head hunting, to lay out benefits and sweeteners to entice to the Company the best candidate for the job.”
Spike was beginning to look a trifle wild around the eyes and he turned to Angel for help, but the taciturn vampire lived up to his nature and remained silent.
“Head of Special Projects.”
“You expect anyone to believe that I would be the most suitable candidate for this…job?” He spat the final word as though it were poisonous. “What makes you think I’d accept a job here? It’s dirty work and dirty money.”
Angel finally spoke.
“You said you’d consider working for me. I forget, what is the remuneration package again, Wes.”
“For a Head of Department? Currently, a little over $250k per annum.”
Spike’s jaw dropped open, he hesitated. They waited silently and let the money do the talking. It argued persuasively, they could see that Spike was being talked around to the idea.
“You’re serious aren’t you? So you think this could work?”
“Yes, I think it could. There’s no doubt in my mind that you’re the best person for the job. You’re accustomed to dealing with unusual and dangerous situations. You’ve helped fight two apocalypses and demonstrated your ability to come up with creative and original plans… and when you stick to them they’re even successful. It’ll be an aggressive pro-active role...
Spike raised his hand for attention.
“Uh. Does that mean I get to go out and fight demons?”
“It means you get to bring the fight to them, yes. We’ve been acting like smoke jumpers, pouncing on flames as they appear, but mostly we’re just finding more smoke. We need to discover the fire. Take my word for it, somewhere it’ll be smouldering away quietly and if we wait for the spire of flames to appear, we’re gonna crash and burn. This is where you come in.”
“To find the fire?” Spike cocked his head in query.
These were his thoughts on his last Deathday, all contained in the plans he’d wanted to present. When no one would listen. Now he was being paid a cool quarter of a million for the privilege. It was a strange world.
“Uh huh.” He looked Spike directly in the eyes. “Frankly, there’s no one else I’d consider for the position.”
Spike had nothing to say to this.
All these years desperately wanting approval and now it was given freely in a couple of short sentences. There should be fanfares and drum rolls for this momentous occasion.
He wanted to be alone, somewhere he could wallow in the feeling of achievement and play Angel’s earth-shattering words through again and again, recall in privacy the expression on his face and the intensity of his eyes, and let William curl up and die of happiness.