Spike didn’t need to turn around from his contemplation of the city coated in a syrup of sunshine to know who’d come bursting into Wesley’s office. Illyria never knocked. She acted as if any door that wanted to remain a door, and not become a pile of kindling, had better get out of her way, and they seemed to spring open as she stormed towards them.
“Wes isn’t here, love. Try the lab.”
He glanced over his shoulder. She was doing that trembling with suppressed emotion thing; lips tight, eyes blazing. Never seen a girl throw a paddy so often. Even Dawn had needed more of a run up to it than Blue did.
“Wesley is...he is angry with me.”
And just like that the rage vanished, popped like a balloon, leaving her looking smaller, lost. Spike rolled his eyes. “What did you do this time?” he asked, not unkindly. “And sit down. You never sit. Drives me bonkers sometimes.”
Illyria stared at him, head tilted, and sat, all precise angles and rigid spine, but still managing to look slumped over with dejection.
“I did nothing. I merely requested that he leave his futile, meaningless experiments to perform his task as the one who guides me in this world.”
Spike leaned against Wesley’s desk, folded his arms and waited.
“I...may have knocked over some fripperies of glass and destroyed something he had been working on since last Tuesday that was now ruined because I did not have the patience of a three year old and if I didn’t get out of his sight –”
“Whoa! Slow down there, pet.” Spike held up his hand. Illyria’s mimicry of Wesley’s curt, clipped voice was spot-on, but she’d put enough bitterness into it to make him uneasy. “Look, you did a bull in a china shop on his stuff, he’s bound to get pissed, but he’ll get over it. And what do you care, anyway? He’s just a human, right? Mayflies waiting for the fish to scoff ‘em, or however you put it last time.”
“Insignificant morsels of flesh to be consumed utterly as their eye-blink of a time in this frame of existence ends in bloody ruin,” Illyria said dully.
“Yeah, that was it.” Spike shifted his feet and gave her a cautious look. “We could go and do a bit of hand-to hand,” he offered. “You, me, cozy training room with a view? Making me bleed would improve your mood, wouldn’t it?”
“Usually, yes,” Illyria said. “Not today.”
A silence fell. Spike wasn’t sure what else he had to offer. Not like he could take her to the pub – and she wasn’t the type you hugged. He stared at her. No. No hugs. He was contemplating a gentle pat on the shoulder when Angel came in.
“Oh. No Wes?”
“Everyone wants Wes,” Spike said. He considered that for a moment. “Well, when I say ‘wants’ I don’t mean –” He took another moment and shrugged, “Well, I’d -”
“Spike.” Angel had that dangerous voice down pat after all these years, Spike reflected. Shame it’d stopped working on him after the first six months. “I need to know where Wesley is, so I can run these reports past him. And why are you in here anyway? And why is she?”
“I go where I will, vampire!” Illyria said, perking up nicely, Spike noticed.
Angel gave her an exasperated look and raised his eyebrows at Spike.
“Me n’ Wes were –” He decided to make this more interesting and changed it smoothly to, “We’ve got a date. Was waiting for him to show, when Illyria here arrived first. Wes isn’t in the best of moods, seemingly.”
“He told me to get out of his sight,” Illyria said.
“You told me that already,” Spike said patiently. “Don’t brood about it. God knows I see enough of that from this big lunk. I don’t need it in stereo.”
“’Date’? What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“We’re playing darts at the pub,” Wesley said, walking into his office with a face still tight with irritation. He’d looked better, Spike thought, taking in the shadows under his eyes. Lad wasn’t sleeping. Hadn’t been since...ah, well.
“Too right we are.”
Angel swung around to glare at Spike. “You implied –”
“Stop it,” Wesley said. “Spike, your ill-timed humor is precisely that, Angel if I want to fuck Spike over the desk he’s leaning on, I will do, and it’s none of your business, and Illyria, when I tell you to get out of my sight, coming to my office isn’t the best way of achieving that. I’d like you all to leave now.” His gaze swept around three stunned faces. “Please.”
The final word was so implacably courteous that it did more to get them moving than a threat...though the way Wesley said it, it could’ve qualified as one.
“Well that was bracing,” Spike muttered as they emerged into the corridor. “Looking forward to a pint or two as well.” He fixed Angel with a look of reproach. “This is all your fault,” he said accusingly. “Getting him all wound up like that because you wouldn’t recognize a joke if it bit you on your arse.”
“His arse is behind him,” Illyria pointed out. “He would not be able to see it without turning very rapidly. That makes no sense.”
“Spike rarely does,” Angel said tightly.
“Fine; be like that,” Spike exploded. “I try and make friends with someone and you get jealous. Wouldn’t be the first time, won’t be the last.”
“What the hell? You don’t have any friends, Spike, and if you did, I couldn’t care less.”
“Left a few people in Sunnydale who shed a tear or two when I died!”
“Oh, I can name plenty!” Spike snapped, unable to think of anyone and knowing it showed. He took a moment to calm himself and gave Angel a measuring look. “Tell you what; you can take Wes’ place. Come on; do you good to get out of this bloody hole.”
The offer took Angel by surprise. “Drink? With you?”
“I will come,” Illyria said. “I too wish to leave this place.” She gazed at the closed door. “Let us go now.”
The door to Wesley’s office opened “You’re still here?” Wesley said in an icy voice.
“Yeah, but we’re all going to the pub now, mate, and you’re coming too, you miserable, bad-tempered bugger. Angel, grab his arm.”
Two vampires and a determined god made resistance futile.
Once in the pub, with a pint at his elbow, Wesley’s mood improved enough for the atmosphere around the small table to relax slightly, though it couldn’t be said to be festive.
Angel broke the silence by giving Spike a challenging look. “So, Spike. You were going to tell us about all the friends you had back in Sunnydale that’re crying now they think you’re dead. The ones that aren’t figments of your imagination that is.”
“No, I really wasn’t.”
“Thought as much.”
Angel’s air of satisfied superiority made Spike’s fist clench but he kept his reaction limited to that. This wasn’t the place for a fight.
Rescue came from an unexpected quarter.
“I can tell you who is thinking about you,” Illyria offered.
“You can do that?” Wesley asked dubiously, but with a note of interest in his voice. If he reached for his notebook and started to scribble, Spike promised himself he’d dump his pint of Boddington’s down Wesley’s starched collar.
She shrugged sharp shoulders and gazed at him calmly. “You doubt my word? In days gone by, such a lack of faith would be expunged only by the slow dripping of your blood on the sacrificial stone, as your screams rose –”
“You’re putting me off my pork scratchings, pet,” Spike said. He smiled. “So how does it work?”
“Simple enough,” Wes answered in a drawl. “Thought is composed of electrical waves; if she can tap into them and identify–”
“I can do it because I am a God,” Illyria interrupted. “It is not for such as you to poke and pry into how I do what I do.”
“Not Buffy,” Angel said suddenly. “You stay the hell out of her mind, you hear?”
The smirk Spike gave him was enough to make him flush, but he didn’t back down. “So, it’s fine to rummage around in other brains, but not the one that belongs to the girl I kept screaming my name for five hours straight?” Spike asked.
“You tortured her?” Illyria said with a faint smile.
Spike shot her an irritated glance. “No! I was –”
“We can guess,” Wesley said, with a pained look. “Please, let me second Angel’s request. I’d really rather not listen to anything along those lines.”
“Miss Prissy,” Spike muttered. “Just because you’ve never –”
“I’m quite capable of making a woman – five hours?” Wes took a long drink of his beer and shook his head. “Well, perhaps not for that long...though there was this time Lilah slipped some Brengis root in the wine and – no, we had to stop when the neighbors below complained about the ceiling cracking. Three hours at most.”
“You’re only human,” Spike said kindly.
Angel slammed an empty glass on the table. “Stop sidetracking, Spike. Illyria, if you can do it, put up or shut up. Wesley, I don’t ever want to hear about you and Lilah doing - that. Ever.”
“I do,” Spike protested. “Never pegged Wes here for a ladies man somehow.”
“What does that mean?” Wesley said, bristling.
Spike opened his mouth to tell Wesley exactly what that meant, when Illyria said casually, “I will need your blood, vampire. A few drops to scry with, in a liquid.” She tapped a finger against his glass of beer. “This will do.”
“’Scry’?” Wesley said, sounding put out for some reason. “That’s magical, not scientific.”
“Comes to much the same thing in the end,” Spike said. “Blood? I can do that – and it might even improve the taste of this. They just don’t know how to store ale over here.” He reached out and cupped Angel’s face with one hand. “Fangs out, Angel, but don’t bite down.”
Angel went into game face and knocked Spike’s hand away with a growl, but parted his lips to allow Spike to slide his finger across one sharp fang.
“Thanks, mate,” Spike said, a little surprised that Angel had been so co-operative, and wondering if he’d imagined that swift lap of tongue against his flesh. He held his dripping finger over the glass and let four or five drops splash down into the brown liquid.
Illyria peered into the depths as he pushed it over to her and then said, “There are too many thoughts. You leave a trail behind you that lingers.”
“So does a skunk,” Angel murmured.
“Shut it,” Spike said without heat. “So how you going to narrow it down to the Sunnydale crew? People we all know.”
“I can gift us all with a glimpse of one memory, one thought,” Illyria said slowly, “It will take but a moment to experience. You must drink of the liquid–”
“Beer mixed with his blood? Absolutely not!” Wesley said with a grimace.
“A taste will be sufficient,” Illyria snapped. “For one who spills foul-smelling liquids down his throat in an unending stream to dull his pain, I marvel at your scruples.”
“You tell him, love,” Spike said, giving Wesley a stern look. “Affecting your work, I’ll wager. Are you sure it wasn’t your hangover hands that sent the glassware flying earlier on?”
Wesley flushed and lowered his eyes. “Oh, very well, though I’m losing sight of what we’re doing this for.”
“I’m proving to this plonker that I’ve got friends out there. People who prefer me to him. People he turned his back on and I stuck with, fought beside; died for, if it comes to that.”
“My leavings,” Angel said, unforgivably.
“You’re pushing it, Angel,” Spike said quietly.
He picked up the glass, toasted the table, and took a gulp, before pushing it over to Angel who met his eyes and sipped at it. Wesley sighed and reached for the glass, letting the bare minimum trickle into his mouth.
“Now I will drink,” Illyria announced, suiting action to words. “Hold hands and close the circle.”
Cool hands met warm...and Spike felt the quiet corner alcove they’d chosen to sit in quiver and dissolve.
Wesley felt a twisting tug that left him giddy. Forcing open eyes he’d shut, as though his journey had been a real one, still dimly aware of the hands he held; Spike’s cool, strong fingers resting in his; the smooth leather that cloaked Illyria’s slender hand, he let the vision wash over him.
...man, oh man, what sense B. had must’ve got knocked out of her when she fell off that tower. Guy so sweet on her, built...fuck the way those jeans were hanging low down on his hips...and that voice...gives a girl the good tingles, low down and ...yeah, chains give me ideas; so? Stretch his arms up high, make his muscles work and take my own sweet time about getting to know him. Touch him and he’d quiver so nice, and oh fuck, would he vamp out when I took him in deep? Christ, riding him with his fangs out would be a thrill...wonder if Buffy ever let him -?
Faith. The uncomplicated lust, tinged with a little contempt, was as direct as a slap in the face. In some ways he understood her better than Buffy; she was by far the more traditional of the two Slayers and he’d been trained to deal with that type. And, yes, he’d been told of the dangers of a Slayer who turned from her path, but he’d been far too arrogant to imagine that could ever apply to him. His Slayer would be the best.
That delusion hadn’t survived his first encounter with her and it’d mercifully died long before he found himself tied to a chair as she took out every bit of frustration and sorrow she had on his body with a praiseworthy attention to detail and a certain imaginative flair that he was quite incapable of appreciating at the time. Or later.
But she was still his Slayer and he’d felt a flicker of pride when she’d done what she could to make amends, and a genuine enjoyment at fighting beside her later on.
Finding out that she’d spent her time in Sunnydale lusting after Spike was a little disconcerting, but he supposed it was understandable, especially once she’d discovered the nature of Spike’s relationship with Buffy. Faith might, at some point, shed her yearning for Buffy’s possessions, be they human or inanimate, but Wesley doubted she’d reached that place yet.
The vision began to fade and Wesley tried to analyze the fragment of thought for any hint of something more than –
It would be Giles, Angel thought bitterly. Of all the minds he didn’t want to delve into, Giles’ had to top the list. He couldn’t think of anyone he’d left behind in Sunnydale who hated him quite as much. Xander’s dislike was impersonal; any vampire, any lover of Buffy would have triggered it...Giles’ was personal. Oh, he’d toed the line when it came to agreeing that Angel shouldn’t have to pay for Angelus’ misdeeds, but even so...
Feel so guilty...thought it was for the best, and Lord knows, it should’ve been. Vampire. Nothing more. Souled or not, he still – always – stinks of blood. I can’t bear to be close to him now, can’t think of his hands on her, touching her, going where – Christ, he deserves to dust for that alone! And she can’t see why I did it. Thinks I betrayed her. Well, perhaps I did. Saved us all at one point or another...it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t help. And I won’t, no, I won’t think of the times he made me smile, made me feel less lonely. I’d do it again if I had to.
Angel remembered Spike mentioning that Giles had tried to have him killed, joking about it with a coldness in his eyes that wasn’t there when he spoke of the man whose mother he’d killed. When he added in Giles’ refusal to help when Fred had been dying, he found anger stirring and an unexpected flash of pity for Spike.
Illyria frowned as the thoughts of the wolf invaded her brain. This one barely knew the vampire; why would he -? Ah...the white walls of the prison they’d shared rose around her, cold and bare, and she heard –
Don’t get it, saw me there, naked, saw me bare, saw me wolf, don’t understand – not human, more like him than like them. They think he came to get me because he was helping them, but he wasn’t. Came for me, came because he knew...owe him, but I don’t trust him...never trust him. Hurt Willow. My Willow. Vampire.
She ended the vision impatiently as the thought degenerated into a growl.
The figures around the table stirred to life and Spike blinked at them. “Well, that was fun,” he muttered. Forcing a smile, he cocked his head at them. “Right. Want to share? Tell me who’s missing me? Who did you get, Wes?”
“Faith,” Wesley said slowly.
“God, yes; you would do, I suppose. You and her go back a while. Fancied me, but I let her down gently.” He slanted a glance at Angel. “Only one Slayer for me.”
“Quite,” Wesley murmured. He cleared his throat. “Yes, I – I think it’s safe to say she was regretting your death and certain...missed opportunities. Something about a basement?”
“What? Oh, yeah...we were chatting and Buffy came down and froze the poor girl out. Regrets it, does she? Only natural.” Spike gave Wesley his best smirk and turned to Angel expectantly.
“Giles,” Angel said flatly. “He was wishing he hadn’t tried to have you killed. Feeling really bad about it, what with you saving the world.”
“Prat,” Spike said, feeling his usual anger when he thought about the Watcher fade a little. “Still, suppose he meant it for the best. Just keeping an eye out for Buffy, same as he always does.”
“I was –” Illyria began.
Wesley interrupted her. “Spike; I’m feeling a little shaky after that. Would you get a round in for me? You’ll have to go to the bar though; they don’t have waiters on at this time of the day; not cost effective.”
Spike took a handful of bills and walked away, coming back a few minutes later with a tray of drinks. “Here you go,” he said, passing Illyria a drink that matched her hair, with a shudder. “So, love, you were about to tell me whose head you got to rummage around in?”
“Wesley tells me – why did you kick me?” Wesley got an entrails –melting glare and Illyria continued, “It was a werewolf, an abomination as vile as a vampire.”
“Oz!” Spike exclaimed. “Must have been...well, never would have thought he’d remember me.”
“Oz...” Wesley said. “Yes. Determined chap. Didn’t say much as I recall.”
“Seemed fine to me,” Angel said a little defensively. He gave Spike a grin. “And he helped put you in your place when you tied me up and tortured me that time.”
“You smile at that,” Illyria said, fixing Spike with her cold, blue eyes. “Strange. I had not thought you enjoyed such now.”
“Oh, I can always enjoy a bit of that,” Spike assured her. “Soul or no soul, sticking red hot pokers into this one never gets old.”
“Except you didn’t,” Angel pointed out. “You didn’t even care – I mean, you didn’t have the balls to do it yourself. Squeamish. Always were.”
“Don’t you want to hear what Oz thought?” Wesley asked, sounding impatient. He never did like it when they squabbled, Spike reflected.
“Yeah, ‘course I do,” he said.
“He felt a shared bond with you because you were both held captive,” Illyria informed him. “A certain gratitude that you came to help free him. That is all.”
“And what about you, Spike?” Angel said. “You’ve come out of this better than I’d expected –” He seemed to be grinding his teeth a little and Spike frowned at him. “But I doubt you’ll get a clean sweep of approval.”
Spike grinned. “Can’t lie,” he said. “Xander never was my number one fan. Bloke was stuck for choice when it came to reasons to hate me. Guess I’ll have to join you on his list of ‘vampires I most want to stake’.” He leaned back in his chair and swept them with a satisfied grin. “But guess who spent a fair few nights lusting after me? Funny old world, isn’t it? Never would’ve thought –”
“Oh, for the love of –” Angel pushed back his chair and, ignoring Spike pointedly, addressed Wesley. “Darts, Wes? Board’s free.”
“Love to,” Wesley said, with a reproachful glance at Spike.
“Want to tell me what that was all about?” Spike said as they left.
Illyria studied him with rather more disgust than usual. “You are stupid to lie to them, vampire.”
“Bloody didn’t!” Spike protested. “Xander had all these thoughts about me; proper embarrassing some of them...”
“You do not need to invent people who desire you,” Illyria said, with her gaze flicking to the dartboard. “And you do not need to travel far to find true friends.”
“They made it up, didn’t they?” Spike said slowly. “Put a spin on it for me.”
“Yes,” Illyria said, sounding indifferent. “The Slayer valued your person alone, the Watcher felt no guilt over his plan to kill you, only that he sometimes felt pleasure in your company. The wolf felt gratitude but will never forget that you tried to bite a woman he felt close to.”
She stood up. “I am leaving now. I feel anger and wish to hurt you and I do not think Wesley would like that. He was most concerned that you not be told the truth.”
Left alone, Spike sipped at his beer and sulked. Harris had been bloody well gagging for it...
A dart impaled itself on the table, an inch from his hand and he looked up, startled.
Angel grinned at him, with a hint of fang and his mood lightened. Sod the lot of them. He’d made a new start. “Let me show you where this goes, Angel,” he called out, swaggering over to them. “Here’s a clue; it’s round, yeah, but it’s hanging on the bloody wall...”