Angel growled low under his breath. You'd think that when the CEO of Wolfram & Hart was turned into a puppet there'd be some kind of priority attached to getting him back to human... well, vampire form. But no. Rules and regulations and the Vice President of Magic and Artifacts was apologetic but firm when he said that nothing could be done until form RTR-59B was filled out – Requisition for Transformation and Reversals. Damn Wes. Angel was pretty sure this was just some sort of petty revenge for increasing Fred’s annual budget at the expense of Wes’s department. But didn’t Wesley realize how much a Collider Detector cost? The money had to come from somewhere. And he’d done the research – Magic and Artifacts went way over budget last year. Probably from restoring the offices after the Beast’s attack, but a budget was a budget. This year, they were just going to have to cut back.
He swore under his breath, carefully trying to hit the backspace key again. “Why the hell don’t we have large-keyed keyboards anywhere in this office? Fifty different kinds of demons working here and none of them need to compensate for claws?” He was pretty sure there was some sort of disability rule that should apply to this situation. He reminded himself to have a severe word with InHuman Resources in the morning. After he finished filling out this form.
“What the bloody hell are you doing?”
Angel closed his eyes briefly. Don’t look up. Don’t look up. If you don’t look up, maybe he’s not really there…
He looked up. Damn it. “What do you want, Spike?”
Spike shrugged. “I’m bored.” He walked – no, swaggered – into the room, gazing down at Angel.
Angel glared at him. Spike was enjoying being taller than Angel far too much. It was driving Angel insane. Just a few more days he thought to himself. Just a few more days and this will be reversed. One way or another..
Spike leaned against the desk, peering at the computer screen. “And since apparently your ears are as full of cotton as the rest of you, I ask again – what the bloody hell are you doing?”
Angel glared harder. Unfortunately, he'd discovered, his glare wasn't particularly piercing in this form. “Not,” he said icily, “That it’s any of your business – but I’m filling out paperwork so that Wes can have this damn transformation reversed.”
Spike snickered. “Bit of mutiny in the ranks, eh?” He shrugged. “Why the hell are you doing it, though?”
“Because,” Angel said through clenched teeth, “Until the paperwork is filled out, they’re not able to requisition the supplies they need, nor assign a sorcerer to the task.”
“No, I mean why the hell are you doing it? Isn’t that what you’ve got Harm for?”
Angel blinked. He’d forgotten about Harmony. Cordelia would have laughed in his face at the suggestion that she fill out a form. But Harmony…
Spike was eyeing him with a smirk.
Don’t rip his throat out, Angel reminded himself. You’re not sure if your teeth detach or not.
“She was busy…earlier.” He offered weakly. He could hear her talking on the phone, a mile a minute. Something about a special luncheon she wanted to go to, some working women’s expo.
He pressed the intercom button on his phone. A high-pitched squeal emerged from it. He glanced down. His fingers were covering half the buttons. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Spike holding on to his sides, weak with laughter. He tried again, wincing as the sound pierced the air again, sounding even louder. He gave up on the phone.
“Harmony!” He called out. “Could you fill out a RTR-59B for me?”
“Sure thing, boss!” Harmony chirped from the front office. “Do you need that with an Amendment P attached?”
Angel steadfastly refused to look at Spike. “Ummm…” He frantically searched his mind. What good was a photographic memory if you were pretty sure you’d never read through the guidelines in the first place?
“That’s a P for Priority!” Harmony called back helpfully.
Of course it was. He wasn’t positive but he bet that if he looked a little deeper he would find that the head of the Policies and Procedures Division was a product of years of edutainment. He suppressed the urge to burst into song. He needed to get this damn spell reversed soon.
“Yes. Thanks, Harmony. And send it straight to Wes.” He searched his mind for something positive to say. Something reinforcing. “And, and – the company will pay for that conference you wanted to go to.”
He could hear Harmony letting out a squeal of excitement. “Thanks, Boss! You’re the best!” He cringed, rubbing his ears. Unfortunately the cotton ones worked just as well as his old ones, no matter what Spike tried to claim. Speaking of Spike … Angel looked up. Damn it. Spike was still there.
“What do you want?”
“C’mon, Angel. I’m bored. And you look like you could use a drink.”
“That's a stupid idea. I don't drink.”
“Oh, please, don't try that soddin' stupid pure and noble champion routine on me. I've known you for over a hundred and twenty-five years. Course you drink. Spend much of your time that way, or at least you used to. Back when you were fun.”
“No. I mean I can't drink.”
Spike raised an eyebrow, just looking at him.
“I don’t think there’s a hole!” Angel burst out in frustration.
Spike’s face twitched. Angel thought about kicking him but decided it wasn't worth the effort. Instead he drew his brows together, growling low under his breath. “I can still bite.”
Spike looked at him critically. “Open up.”
“I want to check your teeth.”
Angel batted away his hands sulkily. “You're not a dentist.”
“Or a toymaker, but I want to see…”
“Stop it!” Maybe, Angel decided, he didn’t care if his teeth detached. He could just rip out Spike’s throat and then try velcro later.
“Fine, then. I just wanna know how real you are.”
“I'm real! Just because I'm a puppet doesn't mean I'm not real!” Angel stopped, horrified to hear the words coming out of his mouth.
“C’mon, Angel…” Spike wheedled, tone beseeching. “I’m bored and you can't do much else as a little puppet. Come get a drink with me.”
Angel sighed. “Fine,” he snapped out. It wasn’t like there was anything better to do.
Angel found himself staring moodily into the bar, peering through the … complete lack of smoke. Health laws took away the ambience of the pubs in California. Still, he was busy not being evil right now. He didn’t need the smell of smoke to encourage him. He could feel Spike behind him, shifting impatiently.
“Look, there’s two spaces at the bar.” Spike’s voice was annoyingly cheerful as he bounced on the balls of his feet.
Angel grumbled. “I can see them.” He hadn’t, they weren’t in his direct line of sight. Puppets, apparently, have zero peripheral vision But that wasn’t the point. The point was to never admit anything to Spike.
He started over to the bar, in the direction Spike had pointed. Stopped when they reached it and hid a wince as he realized how high the stools were.
Spike leaned down, as if to pick him up.
“I can do it!” Angel jerked back from Spike’s hands. Then he pulled his dignity around him and carefully clambered up to the top of the stool.
Spike flashed a grin at the bartender. “Two pints of your best, mate. And a couple shots of tequila.”
Angel groaned. It was going to be a long night.
“Yeah, but you don’t need an axe if you’re fighting a Grappler demon.” Spike poked Angel in the chest, emphasizing his point.
There was a soft squishing noise. They both looked down.
“Huh.” Spike poked him again. squish. He leaned forward, taking a big sniff. Pulled back with a grin on his face as the smell of alcohol wafted up from Angel’s chest.
“Spike.” Angel warned. “Don’t say it.”
Spike started laughing. “You’re sloshed! You’re so sloshed you’re actually sloshing!"
“I told you not to say it!”
Spike waved the bartender over for another round.
One two three four.
Five six seven eight.
He wiggled his fingers experimentally. Squinted.
“Angel?” Spike’s voice was low, deeper now. Angel wondered how much they’d had to drink. And where Spike had gotten the money to pay for it. He made a mental note to check his wallet in the morning. Then he dismissed it. He didn’t think he’d remember, anyway.
“What are you doing?”
Angel wiggled his fingers again. “Counting my fingers. There should be two more” He sighed. “What happened to my other two fingers? Where do you think they went, while I’m in puppet form? And do you think they’ll be back?”
“Angel?” Spike’s voice was very soft now. “I think it’s time we went home now.”
Angel found himself nodding. He stared down at the floor, judging the distance to the ground, then muffled a squeak of surprise as Spike carefully picked him up off the stool. Angel thought about protesting, then gave it up and just wearily laid his head against Spike’s neck. He felt limp and boneless. Hell, he was limp and boneless.
“Spike?” He said in a blurred voice, half asleep.
“Make sure you wring me out so I don’t wake up with a hangover in the morning.”
“Sure thing, Angel.”