Although the ghost was banished in the end, the exorcism could not be called an unqualified success.
While Wesley chanted the spell that would end the spectre’s existence, Gunn and Cordy did their best to protect him from a barrage of kitchenware. Angel pressed forward, dodging a flying casserole dish. He carried a cross in front of him, his hand protected from burning by an oven mitt. Wesley ducked as a cleaver embedded itself in the wall behind his head, but his voice did not falter. He only had one more sentence to go.
As Wesley was intoning the final few syllables, the poltergeist chose to leave the mortal realm rather than be destroyed. However, it could not resist one final petulant gesture of defiance. As it departed, it released an explosion of ectoplasm. Angel, who had been closest to the peevish ghost, was the worst hit. He was covered from head to toe. Gunn and Cordy were splattered, while Wesley, furthest back, was almost entirely untouched.
Their client had been furious. Dodging the odd kitchen knife had been an annoyance. A living room knee-deep in ectoplasm was a disaster. The carpet was ruined and so were the drapes. If Angel Investigations had the temerity to send him a bill, he’d sue them.
The investigators, who had bravely faced a rampaging poltergeist, wilted under the force of the homeowner’s righteous fury. Wesley meekly handed him the business card of a cleaning crew that specialized in cleaning up after violent crimes, floods and fires.
“This is why we don’t do exorcisms,” Angel said, as they walked towards Gunn’s truck.
The enraged client hadn’t even let the investigators use his washroom to clean up. Like a snail, Angel left a trail of slime behind him. Gunn was prepared for emergencies. He kept a towel on the front seat of his pick-up He wiped away the spatters of goo from his clothes and skin, and then handed the towel to Cordy.
“Nobody covered in ectoplasm gets into my vehicle,” he said.
He inspected Cordy under the streetlight and pointed out a spot she had missed on the toe of her shoe. After he was sure she was perfectly clean, he unlocked the passenger side door and let her into the cab of the truck. He went around and got in on the driver’s side.
“What about me?” Angel asked.
“Wesley will take you on the back of his motorcycle,” Gunn said.
Wesley shook his head. That was not going to happen.
“How am I supposed to get home then?” Angel asked.
“Through the sewers,” Cordy suggested. “There must be a storm drain around here somewhere.”
“Wait,” Angel pleaded, as Gunn pulled out with Wesley following. He cursed under his breath.
It took more than two hours for Angel to make his way back to the Hyperion Hotel. By the time he arrived, he was in a thoroughly bad mood. Spike’s glee at the sight of his grand-sire dripping in noxious goo did nothing to improve it. Angel walked past him without a word, heading straight for the bathroom, where he stripped off his clothes and stood under the shower until the water ran cold.
Still feeling vaguely sticky, Angel dried himself off and put on a bathrobe. He wasn’t sure what to do with his ectoplasm-soaked clothes, so he just threw them into the shower stall. He could deal with that problem later. His clothes had left a pool of goo on the bathroom floor, so he got sponge from under the sink to clean it up.
When Angel opened the bathroom door, Spike was waiting for him. Angel ignored him, but Spike followed him into the bedroom. Spike stood in the doorway smirking, obviously waiting for Angel to tell him how he had come to be covered in ectoplasm. Angel had almost forgotten how irritating Spike could be. Spike took a few more steps into the room, supported by his IV pole, and then collapsed on to the bed. He looked up at Angel expectantly, like a spoiled child demanding a bedtime story.
“The exorcism didn’t go exactly as planned.”
Spike laughed. Then he winced. Laughing hurt.
“I’m getting dressed. How about giving me some privacy?” Angel said, as he grabbed socks and underwear from his dresser drawer. He went to the closet and pulled out a pair of pants and a white shirt.
Spike, Darla, Dru and Angelus had lived together as a family for decades, and vampires are not modest creatures. Spike had seen Angelus naked more times than he could count, so this request amused him. However, he obediently put his hands over his eyes and turned away.
“I didn’t mean shut your eyes,” Angel said. “I meant get out.”
He pulled Spike to his feet and half-dragged, half-carried him out of the room. He deposited Spike, still holding the IV pole tightly, on the other side of the bedroom door and closed it.
When Angel emerged, fully dressed, Spike was sitting on the couch watching an infomercial. He was wearing one of Angel’s dress shirts, now hopelessly wrinkled, and the novelty socks (red reindeer against a green background) that Cordy had given Angel as a joke Christmas gift. Spike really needed a shave. To Angel, he still looked like a hobbit, but one with disgraceful habits and no work ethic – Bilbo Baggins’s scapegrace nephew come to cadge a pinch of tobacco and a place to sleep for the night.
Spike didn’t look up when Angel entered. He was sulking.
“Cordy gave me the list you made,” Angel said. “Rescuing you from the Initiative does not mean that I’m responsible for feeding and clothing you. If you want those things, you’re going to have to work for them. “
Spike looked at him in astonishment. Angel owned an entire hotel in downtown Los Angeles. It was a dusty and decrepit place crammed to the rafters with ghosts, but it was Los Angeles real estate, and yet he begrudged Spike the cost of shoes, underwear and soap. Vampires are evil creatures, soaked in sin, but the love of money is a human vice. Angel had obviously been hanging around mortals too much.
While Angel talked about the difficulties of making a living as a small businessman and the value of honest toil, Spike couldn’t say a word. He just had to listen to Dru’s sire mouthing platitudes. Not having a voice was extremely frustrating.
“You can work for Angel Investigations for a while, just until you get back on your feet and pay off your debt. That’s if I can get Wesley on board, of course.”
Spike spotted a pad of notepaper and a pen by the telephone. He pulled himself up out of the sofa and headed towards it. He scribbled a message and then held it up for Angel to read: How am I supposed to fight evil barefoot? I’m not a bleeding ninja!!!!
“Do ninjas fight in their bare feet?” Angel asked. “I think they wear slippers.”
Spike growled at him, which really hurt his damaged throat. Angel pretended he hadn’t heard him.
“I’m sure we can scrape up something for you to wear. You and Wesley are about the same size; maybe he has some hand-me-downs you could wear. If not, I’m willing to advance you enough to buy a few things at Wal-Mart. You can pay me back out of your wages.”
Wal-Mart! Spike might have lived in an abandoned crypt and scavenged back alleys for furniture, but he’d always made a point of presenting himself well. He was a scion of the House of Archaeus, and he had an image to maintain. Lord Percy Percy’s cast-offs and cheap Wal-Mart knock-offs were not who he was.
Spike scribbled furiously on the notepad. Angel looked over his shoulder.
“Disparaging my Irish heritage, my character, and my clothes sense is not going to convince me to shell out my hard-earned money on peroxide and hair gel, William.”
Call me SPIKE.
“I’ll call you whatever I want to, A leanbh,” Angel said.
He sat down next to Spike, picked up the remote, and clicked through the channels until he found an episode of Murder, She Wrote. Their brief argument had exhausted Spike’s limited reserve of energy. Half-way through the episode, Spike fell asleep, so Angel picked him up and carried him to bed, dragging the IV pole behind him.
Spike opened his eyes when Angel crawled into bed beside him a few hours later.
“Still angry, Spike?” he asked.
Slightly mollified because Angel had called him Spike, the younger vampire shook his head.
“Good. I’ve got a favour to ask you. Wesley and I would like you to write down everything you remember about the Facility, especially anything to do with someone or something called Adam. If you don’t think you’re up to it yet, just let me know. It can wait a few days until you’re a bit stronger.”
Now or later. Not doing it all was apparently not an option. Seeing Spike’s hesitation, Angel tried to reassure him.
“If there are things that happened to you...things they did to you...that you don’t want Wesley to know about, I can leave those bits out when I show it to him.”
He reached over and gently brushed a stray curl from Spike’s face so that he could look into his eyes. Angel radiated earnestness and sincerity.
Pouring on the old Irish charm, Spike thought cynically. Still he’d promised Angel obedience, and he knew that every act of kindness from his grand-sire always came with a price tag attached. If the cost of being rescued from the Initiative was sharing every detail of his pain and humiliation with Angel and his favorite ex-Watcher, he’d just have to grin and pay up.
Spike nodded his agreement.
“Good boy,” Angel said, as if Spike were his pet poodle.
Then he moved closer. Angel put an arm around Spike’s shoulder and whispered Irish words into his ear. Spike had no idea what he was saying, but it sounded pretty. He fell asleep almost immediately.