Spike walked through the lobby acting inconspicuous without trying to seem like he was acting inconspicuous. Making sure he wasn’t being followed; he glanced down at his wrist while pulling up the sleeve of his duster to check the time on his new acquisition: a Rolex watch. Smiling to himself, he thought, ‘with all of the suits, jewelry and cars that the evil empire threw the poufs way, it’s not likely that he’ll miss one itty-bitty little watch.’
Noting the time and realizing he was late, Spike scrutinized his surroundings again, because lately, you just couldn’t be too careful when you were in ‘HIS’ domain. Satisfied that he’d escaped detection, Spike quickly rapped out two knocks, paused and then gave three slow knocks on the door that had a sign reading, storage closet. The door whooshed open as two strong, dark hands grabbed the lapels of his duster and with a mighty yank, pulled him inside.
“You’re late!” Fred hissed at him in a fierce whisper.
“Couldn’t help it, could I? I had to make an appearance to annoy the git, or he definitely would’a known somethin’ was in the wind. You can’t be harassed daily by yours truly and then skip a day, its just not done!”
“Were you able to shake your tail, Goldilocks, or should we expect Angel Cakes to burst through the door any minute?” Lorne asked as he let his red eyes roam over the perfect ass . . .pect of his friend, causing a very becoming and definitely non-vampirish blush to form over those perfect cheekbones.
“I know how to lose the pouf when I want to; been doin’ it for over a hundred years, ain’t I? And stop ogle’in the goods, Green Jeans, or I’ll give you somethin’ up against your lips besides a drink with a cute little umbrella in it, if you catch my meanin’.”
“Caught, Sweet Cheeks, but you can’t blame a demon for an appreciation of the finer things.” The green Pylean dipped his finger into his ubiquitous drink to stir the ice cubes around as he bestowed another of his best red eyed leers on the again blushing vampire before him.
Gunn sighed as he rubbed his hand over his shaved head. “Lorne, can you stop teasing Spike so we can get back to the reason for this little tête-à-tête?” Glancing at his other co-conspirators he said, “We’re running out of time and I think Angel’s getting suspicious.”
“What do you mean getting suspicious?How could he get suspicious?I mean, we’ve all been really careful and we’ve kept Angel really busy and . . . and . . .he can’t really suspect anything unless someone’s let something slip . . . you know loose lips sink ships, and all . . .” Fred stopped her babbling to let her baleful brown eyed gaze wander around the huddled group of people.
Wesley reached out to squeeze her arm reassuringly, “I think that we’re all reacting to the stress and becoming a little paranoid. After my conversations with Angel, I don’t feel that he suspects a thing. We will carry out our assignments, with our efforts coming to a conclusion tonight. Is everyone ready?”
Feeling like he should dig out his trench coat, fedora and dark sunglasses, but then he thought wryly, ‘why cover up my Hugo Boss original,’ as he caressed his blue sequined lapel, careful not to slosh any of his Seabreeze on the material. “Should we synchronize our watches, mon Capitan?”
“I don’t think that will be necessary, Lorne. We are all adults here . . .” Wesley said with a meaningful glance in Spike’s direction, “and I’m sure, will be able to carry out our assignments without resorting to James Bondish like behavior. Alright everyone, carry on.” Channeling a bit of Field Marshal Montgomery post El Alamein, he nodded to his troops as he dismissed them.
The group nodded as one and then went to the door, waiting for their turn to go. Wesley pulled Spike aside and whispered, “Are you sure that you want to carry out this particular assignment, Spike? No one will think less of you if you choose another task.”
Wrapping his duster tightly around him, with his arms cinched stiffly around his waist, Spike asked with a not quite sneer and a pout to his lips, “You don’t think I can handle it, Wes?”
The lack of a nickname giving away the underlying insecurity, Wesley realized what a dichotomy the vampire before him was. On the outside, he was confident to the point of arrogance, but occasionally he allowed a glimmer of the sensitive poet that was the bedrock of his personality to shine through, along with all of his human frailties and uncertainties. Wesley wondered not for the first time while thinking of one of his vampire friends, what the man had been like before the demon. “Not at all Spike, considering your acrimonious relationship with Angel, I simply wondered if you wouldn’t prefer an assignment that was less . . . arduous.”
As relief flickered over the pale features, they immediately formed into the habitual aloof expression that Wesley had come to know so well. “Well alright then, better get to it, eh Watcher? And, you remember . . . keep his royal arse-wipe busy and outta my hair while I get my job done!”
As the last of the co-conspirators to leave the safety of the storage room, Wesley mentally reviewed their tasks and taking comfort in an ultra British façade, said to his companion, “Indubitably, Spike, now off you go, and I shall endeavor to keep Angel occupied. Come to think of it, I’m not quite sure which of us will have the more difficult challenge.”
* * *
Exhausted, Spike checked the time on his purloined watch and sighed as his weary fingers wiped a patch of red goo from the crystal to make out the numbers. Relieved to find that he was ahead of schedule, he looked around the room to see the walls equally spattered in the crimson glop. Knowing by the sticky feel of his skin that he was also covered in gunk, he decided a shower would suit him right down to the ground.
Sauntering into the bathroom, his reddened fingers opened the cabinet and pulled out a towel. Then, adjusting the taps to the optimum temperature, he stepped into the shower and let the warm water sluice away the sweat and grime. Running the soap over his body, Spike leaned against the tile enjoying the luxuriant foam and his hand as his favorite sexual fantasy ran through his head. Drawing in unneeded breaths as the heat of the water added to the sensual feel of the bubbles, Spike was nearing his completion when his preternatural hearing picked up the alarm from his watch.
“Bugger,” he muttered as his fantasy was cut short by the picture of an irate Fred’s face if he failed to rendezvous with the group. “Wankis interuptis! My sacrifice better be appreciated.” He growled as he shut off the water and began to towel dry with a promise to ‘little Spike’ that he’d be rewarded for his patience. After finding the set of clean clothes that he’d brought with him, Spike dressed and gathered his stuff, leaving to meet the others and find out if they’d accomplished their own tasks.
* * *
Angel had finally given Wesley the slip. If he didn’t know better, he would’ve thought that the ex-watcher had been fabricating situations all day to keep him busy. Maybe the pressure of being second in command of Wolfram and Hart had begun to get to his friend. And other than Spike being his usually annoying self this morning, he hadn’t seen any one else all day.
Feeling a little dejected that no one seemed to remember the date and its significance, the dark vampire headed to his office to finish going over some contracts that Eve had been pushing him to sign for the past week. As his hand reached for the door knob, his preternatural hearing caught the strains of a female giggle. Afraid that Nina was laying in wait to ‘ambush’ him again, Angel was just about to turn around and make a hasty retreat when his acute hearing brought to him the harsh whisper of his grandchilde. “Oi, Percy, watch where you’re glompin’ those meat platters you call feet!”
Bursting through the door, Angel’s eyes were dazzled as the lights blazed on and shouts of ‘Surprise’ and ‘Happy Un-Birthday’ filled the air. Balloons and crepe paper festooned the office and everyone was tossing streamers and bits of confetti at him, except for Spike, who was pelting him with handfuls of the stuff. Angel felt the muscles in his face as they stretched into an uncustomary smile. “Thanks everyone, it was awfully nice of you to remember me today.” Then he rested a menacing eye on his grandchilde and said under his breath so that the blond vampire was the only one to hear as he growled, “You’re going to pick every bit of that up later, my Boyo!”
Nervously, Spike edged around until he was closer to the door as he stopped lobbing the cut up bits of paper at Angel. Not noticing the exchange between the vampires, Fred gushed, “You really have Spike to thank for everything, Angel. I’m sorry to say, with us being so busy and all, that without his reminder, we would’a forgotten all about your un-birthday.”
Angel stared unblinkingly at Spike as he assured, “Oh I’ll be thanking him alright, don’t you worry about that, Fred.”
Lorne, who’d been in charge of the beverages, passed out everyone’s favorite ‘poison’; Saving the demons for last, he handed Angel a glass of aged Irish whiskey and Spike a bottle of Stout before mixing up a fresh pitcher of Seabreezes for himself. Then they all sat down at the conference table to enjoy the appetizers that Gunn had picked up from the deli around the corner.
Unlike Spike, Angel didn’t often indulge in human food. He had a little tonight just to be sociable, but to him, it had no taste at all unless it was drenched in blood. Speaking of the little annoyance, he looked up to find Spike at ease amongst his friends with a plate full of spicy wings and those onion thingy’s that he was so fond of. It amazed him that after the way he’d treated Spike since his sudden appearance here that his grandchilde would go out of his way to do something nice for him, like helping to set up this celebration.
He felt guilty about the mistreatment of his grandchilde. Except for that one time in Sunnydale when Spike had aided Buffy in sending him to hell to save the world, Spike had always had his back. In repayment, he’d neglected his obligations as a sire and the head (by default) of the clan Aurelius, to take care of his own. Steeling himself for the ridicule that he was sure to get from the object of his scrutiny, he decided that starting now, things were going to change.
Startled, Angel felt a slap on the back and heard Gunn’s booming laugh from beside him as he regained awareness of the revelry going on around him. “Boss Man, I was sure that you’d figured it out when good ole’ Wes led you around the building on all of those wild goose chases.”
Angel watched as the mask of responsibility and premature age dropped away from his friend as Wesley laughed, “Yes, Angel, I must say that next to Spike, I had the hardest task to contend with . . . keeping you out from under foot so that the preparations could be made.”
“I was in charge of the liquid refreshments . . . does anyone need a refill?” Lorne quickly glanced around the table. The anagogic demon got up, refilling his own glass and at their nods, passed out a few more bottles of Stout to Wesley and Spike.
Gulping her mouthful, Fred volunteered, “I got to decorate your office and let me tell you that it took a lot of air to blow up all of these balloons . . .” she waved her bottle around tipsily, almost smacking Wesley in the back of the head. Having excellent peripheral vision was always an aid as a watcher; it also didn’t hurt when the beautiful mad scientist from Texas, that you’ve been in love with forever and who happens to be sitting right next to you starts swinging her bottle of beer around, to duck when you see said beer coming at you with said peripheral vision. Clearing her throat, Fred went on, “As I was sayin’, I almost passed out from blowing up all of those balloons and don’t even get me started on the streamers.”
Angel glanced at Wesley and mouthed, ‘How many has she had?’
Wesley snickered and held up one finger at Angel’s silent inquiry. Fred noticed the exchange and said indignantly, “Hey no fair making fun of the lightweight! If I had a higher ratio of body fat to alcohol or . . .” she glared at the two vampires, “I was a demon, maybe I’d be able to handle alcohol a little bit better.”
“Not to worry Fredikins, I wouldn’t change a hair on your pretty head.” Lorne said.
“Nor I!” Wesley avowed.
“Oh, Wes, that’s so sweet!” Fred pulled the Britt’s head down to kiss him on the cheek.
Before the pert lips made it, Lorne reached up and turned Wesley’s head so that the kiss landed on his lips. “Just call me Cupid’s helper.” He said with a wink as he picked up his glass to take a sip of his drink.
To cover the discomposure of his blushing friends, and to start on his un-birthday resolution, Angel asked, “Lorne was in charge of the drinks; Gunn the food; Fred the decorations and Wesley had me to deal with all day . . . what job were you given, Spike?”
Uncomfortable to find all eyes on him, Spike mumbled, “I made the cake.”
“You baked the cake?” Angel asked flabbergasted.
Meeting his grandsires eyes, Spike said defiantly, “Yeah, I baked the bloody cake!”
Determined to set things right between them, Angel decided that no matter what the cake looked or tasted like, he would accept it with the spirit that the gift was given. “Well, Will, let’s see it.” He tried to say as friendly as possible.
Getting up from the table, Spike walked over to Angel’s desk to retrieve a dome covered platter. Sitting it in front of the elder vampire, Spike removed the lid. Sitting on a silver tray was a perfectly shaped Bundt cake, covered in rivulets of white frosting with candles interspersed on the top. Spike pulled his silver lighter from his duster pocket and lit the tiny wicks, joining the group as they sang:
Happy un-birthday to you!
Happy un-birthday to you!
Happy un-birthday dear Angel!
Happy un-birthday to you!
“Make a wish, Angel!”
“Make a wish and blow out the candles!’
“Come on, Boss Man, you can do it!”
Lorne watched the two vampires watching each other and said, “Make a wish, Angel Pie, it’s time that all good little vampires got a reward for all of their hard work and sacrifice.”
Spike stared as Angel pursed his lips in preparation of blowing out his candles and mesmerized, licked his own lips, saying, “Yeah, Ang’, make a wish and blow out the ruddy candles.”
Never taking his eyes off of the blond vampire standing before him, Angel blew out all of the candles. When he was finished, Fred sing-songed, “Don’t tell, don’t tell, it won’t come true if ya’ tell.”
“Look at that gorgeous cake; it looks good enough to eat! Who’d a thunk that Goldilocks here could bake, huh?”
“Yes, Angel, do stop dawdling and cut the bloody thing, I must confess that I too am shocked to learn that Spike seems to know his way around a kitchen and I find myself curious to see how it tastes.”
Spike handed Angel the cake slicer and everyone held their collective breaths as he lifted the wedge and laid it carefully on the plate. Not a word was spoken as everyone stared at the blood red dessert. Angel quickly cut enough servings for everyone at the table and waited as they were passed around. Once everyone had a piece, Spike said, expectantly, “Well, dig in.”
Gunn slowly picked up his fork as he stared at his portion.
Wesley and Fred looked at each other as Fred gave a timorous smile and Wesley stammered, “I-It l-looks delicious, Spike.”
“Well, what’s the matter with you lot. A minute ago you were ravin’ about the bloody thing and now . . .” Looking at the color of the cake, the color of his friend’s faces and remembering his choice of words, Spike said knowingly, “Oh, I get it. You think I spiked the bloody cake with real blood.” Blue eyes spitting fire, Spike looked around the table and asked indignantly, “Do you really think I’d feed you blood?” Reaching into a pocket of his duster, Spike pulled out a dark bottle and uncorking it, upended it over his and Angel’s cake. “No need to put the good stuff in the cake and waste it, I made up a batch of blood sauce for the vampires in the group . . .” and with a wink to Angel, “Or anyone else that might want to walk on the wild side.” He held out the bottle to the others and chuckled evilly when he heard a chorus of, ‘no thank yous.’
Gunn eyed the chuckling blond and cautiously forked a piece of cake. Putting it in his mouth, he rolled his eyes and said, “Now that my friend is a little slice of heaven.”
Fred blushed as she maneuvered her own piece into her mouth. “Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting . . . I should’ve known. It’s my daddy’s favorite and mama makes it for him every year on his birthday. I’m sorry, Spike, for doubting you.”
“I too must offer my humblest of apologies. I shall never doubt you again, my friend!”
“What other hidden talents are up your black clad sleeves, Sweet Cheeks?” Lorne leered at Spike.
Angel stared daggers at the green demon as he felt jealousy grip his unbeating heart. Distracted from throwing his fork and impaling Lorne in the forehead, Angel sniffed the air as his nostrils twitched and he recognized a familiar aroma. Taking a bite of the red cake dripping in the bloody sauce, he recognized the flavor of his grandchilde’s blood. It was the most delicious thing he’d had in his mouth in a long time.
Grinning at Angel’s reaction, Spike shook the bottle and said suggestively as his tongue swiped over his lower lip. “There’s more where that came from, Mate!”
Unable to control himself, Angel leaped out of his chair and grabbing Spike, he threw him over his shoulder and ran to his private elevator. In astonishment, Fred giggled and asked, “Angel, what about your presents?”
“I’ve got the only present I need and I plan on opening it upstairs.” Angel bellowed over his shoulder.
As the elevator door closed on the two vampires, Gunn crowed, “Alright, suckers, pay up!”
Wesley pulled out his wallet and handed Gunn a one dollar bill and then remembering that Fred didn’t have her purse, he pulled out another one. “I never counted on Spike coming up with the blood sauce. That will teach me to underestimate a fellow countryman.”
“It was dirty pool if you ask me, but he still made a good cake!” Fred said with a hiccup.
Lorne, who’d refrained from the bet because of unfair psychic advantage, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Alls fair in love and war.” Transferring another piece of cake to his plate, he said, “Love Muffin does seem to know how to shake and bake . . .” taking a bite of the sweet confection, he rolled his eyes and exclaimed, “He makes a damn good cake too! This is absolutely divine!”
Wesley sliced another piece for Fred and him to share. “I wonder what else he put into this cake; it does seem to be quite addictive.”
Sighing as she took another bite from Wesley’s fork, “It is sinfully good. It’s even better than my mama’s.” Then blushing, she looked up at the ceiling and asked, “I wonder what they’re doing up there?”
Gunn closed his eyes as he tried to block out images that still flashed in Technicolor behind his lids, “I don’t want to think about it!” He said in deep denial, “But maybe we’d better clear out before we start hearing things.”
Wesley’s drooping eyelids perked up as he asked, “What kind of things?”
With the knowledge of where Spike had baked the cake and knowing the likely condition that Angel was going to find the penthouse, Lorne finished his cake and was making a hasty retreat when the first roar of “SPIKE, MY KITCHEN!” was heard along with the sound of the pitter patter of not-so-little vampire feet. Then “MY BATHROOM!” was screeched at the top of vampire lungs. And then, “MY WATCH! COME HERE, YOU LITTLE . . .” and more running feet followed by a few seconds of silence. Then the sound of a banging like the headboard of a bed hitting a wall, followed by an unholy yowling like a cat in heat, and an “OH YEAH, BABY, RIGHT THERE, RIGHT THERE blared into sensitive human ears.
As one, Wesley, Fred and Gunn sprinted across the office and in a knot of arms and legs, fought frantically to get out of the door to join Lorne at the elevator and into the blissful heaven of Muzak.