Actions

Work Header

Repayment

Work Text:

"Cupcake," Lorne ran the rag across the bar. "Let me tell you. Angel pretends to be over the little Buffinator, but every time he sees her - it's love at first sight."

"Yeah," the blond man sighed; this was the second time he'd been here in a week.

"Don't tell me that you're Jonesen for her too?"

"Is it that obvious," he took a swig of the beer in his hand: his third or maybe fourth tonight.

"Why don't you just go after her? Find her. Play kissyface and makeup."

"It's complicated."

"She didn't send you to hell for 100 years did she? Because she already pulled that one with me," Angel interrupted the conversation. "Nice to see you, Spike. Lorne." He nodded at the green demon.

"Keeping Los Angeles safe from all those creatures that go bump in the night, Angelpie?" Lorne changed the subject.

"Always," Angel took the glass of pig's blood from his hand. "She is alive?" he glared at Spike. He had been avoiding the vampire turned human since Spike showed up at Lorne's a week ago.

"Last time I saw her."

"What do you mean last time you saw her," Angel brooded.

"Well, she gave me your discarded Elizabeth Taylor knock-off to wear into battle. It started to shoot out sunlight and burn the uber-vamps. The whole place was caving in and all the little Slayers were running out. Buffy was the last one out besides me. The last time I saw her, she pledged her undying love to me and ran out. Didn't I already tell all of this to your nancy boy Wesley?"

Angel brooded some more. He had needed to hear of her survival from the source, but as typical Spike managed to piss him off. Suddenly he burst, "Well, she told me that I could eat her when she was done baking."

Spike stared at the souled vampire wondering if he had accidentally walked into a mental hospital.

"Please Angel," Lorne re-filled Spike's mug. "I don't need to hear about all your sexual fantasies. Plus you're forgetting - can't have sex with Buffy else you turn evil. And think of poor Cordy, in the coma."

"Well I started the whole falling in love with Buffy and getting my soul routine. Spike, you're nothing but a copycat!" And with that, Angel left.

"Wow. Someone's anal, and not in the good way." The green demon turned back to Spike. "Did you tell him the truth when you said that she told you that she loved you?"

"Yeah. But I left out that I told her that she didn't. I know that's the truth. Sure we had plenty of sex and stuff, but she wasn't about to go writing ‘Spike & Buffy Forever' in her journal." He lifted his glass and drained the rest of the hazy fluid. "Her basement flooded once, I helped the bird clean the thing out. One of the boxes I carried up was full of her old schoolwork. You know how mums are, they save everything from your kindergarten macaroni art to your love sick poetry...but anyway, on top was one of her old notebooks. The cover and the entire backside was covered with ‘A&B = Love' and sappy crap like that. Personally, I preferred her using me for my body over that bloody awful stuff. At least anything she did with that great poof."

"Maybe what you need is a real relationship. Have you had one before?"

"Well," Spike thought for a while over the 100+ years that he'd been around. "No," he finally sighed. "Harmony was all about shagging too. Dru was the closest, but she was insane - literally. And everything before that was un-requited love. I mean, sure, there were a few shags here and there that weren't Buffy, Harm, or Dru. I could tell you things that Angel probably wants to keep secret. But there has never been a ‘real' relationship."

"That's too bad." They looked at each other for an awkward moment.

"I thought Wes said you'd shut down the bar?" Spike asked.

"I did. Angel and the gang kept breaking the place and scaring the customers. I got a little fed up, of course, there was the whole Connor going from being a harmless ball of fluff to teen angst, and I left. By the way, never talk to Fred about her pretend pup. My Vegas gig went down the drain thanks to a gigantic fortune-stealing wheel. Go figure, only in the city of sin or maybe a hellmouth. Let's just say that I sent for all the evil construction minions of W&H, and they rebuilt it in one of the bars they owned per my specifications. Closer to Team Angel's new HQ and a bit swankier."

Attention customers, it is reaching the three o'clock hour, and Lorne's will be closing in five minutes.

"Got anymore, Barkeep?" Spike held his glass out.

"You know, crumpet, I have better alcohol upstairs in my pad."

"Actually, I think Wesley and Fred want to play Spike the Pin Cushion some more. God, I look like a bleeding heroin addict." He rolled up his sleeves and showed off his needle marks.

"Flaking out on me."

"I'm not a flake," Spike slammed the empty glass in irritation.

"No, but you are plastered. And I don't think that you can manage your way through the jungles of L.A. by yourself and I'm not going back to W&H tonight. Plus, I doubt Wesley and Fred want to measure the alcohol in your bloodstream. So it's decided; you have to stay here with me," he put one arm around the drunken ex-vampire and led him upstairs.

****

Lorne's flat was decked out in the latest styles - but flashy enough that Angel declined Lorne's offer to call his designer to makeover the big office.

"How ‘bout another drink," his drunkenness mumbled as Lorne dumped him on the plum couch. Spike watched the bottle in Lorne's hand as he had his victims in his pre-chipped vampire days. The top wasn't coming off as easily as Lorne had expected. "Bring it...bring it over here," Spike motioned. "Super Slayer strength should do it."

When Lorne handed him the bottle, their hands touched for a moment. Lorne thought for a second that there was something more under the surface; that Spike might... Well, Lorne was just kidding himself. Spike was only very drunk.

The top flew off in a flash once under Spike's control. "See," he took a gulp straight from the bottle. "Guess I'm the butch one."

Lorne blushed.

A grin of triumph washed from Spike's face as he sat the bottle down on the coffee table. "Oh bollocks," a look of sickness passed over his face. "Bathroom?"

"Over there," Lorne pointed to an open door and Spike rushed towards it. Lorne started picking up the place - half to ignore a loudly puking Spike and half because he wasn't expecting a visitor tonight. He started humming Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" to himself: stuck in his head ever since that vocally talented Vingarb bared his soul to the Host.

Stopping, he looked up from straightening his pile of magazines and the research that Wesley had left behind. He hadn't heard Spike now for several minutes. "You need anything in there?"

"I...I feel...so icky."

"You forgot that humans don't take the alcohol as well as demons."

"Yeah. Next time I go and get completely fucked, don't let me. Do you mind if I take a shower? I'd feel a nip better."

"Me casa es su casa," he responded and took a sip of his Sea Breeze.

*****

When the Slayer stepped out of Lorne's bathroom only in a lime green towel, Lorne tried desperately not to stare at his finely shaped abs. "Got any clothes?" he asked. "Mine smell like sweat and beer. Forgot about being human. Been so many years. And some Advil that'd be real good about now."

Lorne rummaged through his closet for something that the small boned man could wear without looking like he was about to attend a Cher concert. He found a black long sleeved button down the front shirt that Angel managed to shrink and a pair of trousers. "Hope these fit," he handed them to Spike. "I'll go get those pills now." And he turned as Spike put on the shirt and dropped his towel.

"Thanks," Spike managed to smile as he tossed back the Advil with a glass of water. "I owe you. Need any more bottles opened?" he teased the demon.

"You seem rather chipper for someone that was just puking more times than there are bad episodes of Enterprise."

"It's wearing off..." he stumbled. "Can I sleep here?"

"That was the plan."

Spike fell asleep almost the minute Lorne helped him into bed.

Lorne rolled over on his other side; the couch was really uncomfortable. And every once in a while, he could hear Spike thrashing about between the satin sheets. He remembered how his mother used to tell him that the Pylean equivalent of ice cream would give him nightmares if he ate it before bed. Obviously, alcohol had that effect on Spike.

"Lorne," he heard Spike moan. "I'm really fucking cold can I get more blankets."

Lorne walked into the bedroom. "That's all I have. Sorry. Pyleans don't get as cold as humans, my little invalid. You probably have the chills from indulging in the nectar of the hellions."

Spike began to shake very badly. "I know this sounds awkward..., but could you hold me for extra warmth. It's really the only thing I could think of besides drinking. And I bloody well don't need that."

The demon's face went blank. He was worried that he'd get a hard on, and Spike would feel it. Hopefully, he would be too drunk or sick to notice. For an instant, he felt the need to pinch himself to make sure that he wasn't dreaming. "Ummm...whatever you need sugarplum." And he climbed into bed and put his arms around the shaking ex-vampire.

****

"Just stake me," Spike grabbed his bleached head of hair. Lorne couldn't help but think how cute his hair looked in the morning - all messed up. He bet that it was extra adorable after a romp between the sheets.

"Not a vampire anymore Alkie," Lorne reminded him.

"Hit me in the right spot and it'll still work."

"Here," he handed Spike more Advil and water. "Being staked sounds much more painful than a hangover."

"Possibly not."

Lorne sat on the opposite side of the bed.

"Lorne, thank you for taking care of me last night. I completely owe you. Whatever you need."

Lorne's mind plunged into the gutter. Thinking of all the wonderful things Spike and he could share. Those things that he needed; and he knew Spike needed something besides slaying to get his rocks off. He knew vampires, well ex-vampires or those with souls, better than that. Smirking, he remembered the time when Angel had come on to him after they slaughtered a nest of vamps. But Angel didn't get that he liked men who wouldn't turn evil after shagging. Plus, though he enjoyed men who had a certain darkness to their personality, Angel's brooding was too much of a ‘tude.

"Lorne," Spike looked at the demon still wearing his crumpled purple shirt and matching pants from last night, "are you okay?"

"Yeah," he shrugged. "It's nothing." He put a false smile on his face. "We better get you to W&H before the bosses come looking for you. I don't suppose explaining your presence here to Angel would be a very pleasant conversation."

"You know, he'll smell me or more likely you on me."

"What is it with vampires and their creepy sense of smell." Lorne paused for a second. "No offense of course."

****

Angel glared at Spike as he left the room. "Lorne," he growled, "why does Spike smell like you?"

"Well our former vampire got into a little bit of trouble last night," he attempted to explain calmly. "Apparently humans don't hold their drinks as well as we demons. Despite what you may think, gumdrop, Spike spent most of the night praying to the porcelain god - I believe that's the term Gunn used last time Cordelia threw a party. As a kind gesture, I let him sleep at my place. But I don't think that I need to explain myself to you, Mr. Nosey."

"Fine. I don't want to argue over this."

There was a knock on the door.

"Come in," Angel looked annoyed.

"Am I interrupting anything?" Wesley asked.

"No, Wes," Lorne smiled, seeing his escape from Angel. "I was just leaving. Gotta go call Liza. See you." And he walked out the open door.

"Is it just me or have Lorne's clothes gotten even flasher on his Wolfram & Hart salary?" the ex-Watcher pontificated.

"I don't know. But Lorne is probably the only one of us who could pull of wearing an electric pink shirt." Angel grumbled as he shifted through a large stack of papers on his desk.

"I brought you the latest results from Spike's health screenings." Wesley handed Angel a manila folder. "From what I can tell, he's healthy. Well at least in body."

Angel continued rummaging around on his desk.

"However, I think that perhaps he should be seeing a counselor considering all that's gone on. Or perhaps, he needs a trusted friend."

"That's why he has you, Wes."

"I was thinking more along the lines of you."

Angel paused.

"After all, you did spend a great deal of your lives together and have an awful lot in common."

"But you're the Watcher."

"Ex-Watcher."

"I'm sure Giles would hire you back if you gave him a call."

"I don't think that Spike needs a Watcher. He's already a trained fighter and old enough to have taken care of himself for the past 120+ years."

"Really Wes," Angel finally looked up at him. "Have you ever seen Spike and I in a room together and not tossing insults and punches."

*****

Spike threw a punch at Gunn, who quickly dodged the attack. He then grabbed Spike's arm and tossed him down on the floor.

"Fuck," Spike shook his head from the floor. "You're a pretty amazing fighter for someone without superpowers." And he leaped to his feet.

"Been fighting vamps most of my life." Gunn sent a punch Spike's way. "So what's your deal? Before you turned human, were you like Angel?"

"Not." He thrusted out a kick. "Like Angel." The Slayer made sharp contact with Gunn's rib."

"Fuck!" the man cried, bending over in pain.

"Let's go sit over there, and I'll tell you the whole tale."

The two men sat down on some benches in the corner of the training room. Gunn grunted in pain, but seemed to have settled into a comfortable position.

"First," Spike started. "There was Dru - the crazy bint who made me. God, I loved her. We were together for over 100 years: making the world ours, drinking, fighting, shagging. She's psychic and quite insane. Always telling me what her Tarot cards were reading and dollies were saying. Good advice tended to come a little bit late. Usually, my face was busted up before she finished her yapping," he laughed.

"Yeah," Gunn interrupted, "I remember her - dark hair, running around with Darla, and saying confusing things."

"That'd be Dru." He started again, "When we were in Prague, a nasty mob came after us and she was rather badly injured. So we headed to Sunny-hell for her cure - a spell involving her sire, Angel. Of course, we ran into Buffy and her little gang of nosies. I managed to get Dru healthy again and things were looking up until a bleeding organ fell on us: breaking my back. Then Angelus came back after a little romp in the hay with Buffy. He was all hellbent on ending the world - sending it to some hell dimension.

"So," he inhaled loudly, "made a deal with the Slayer to leave town with Dru. Ended up breaking us up. Come back looking for the Gem of Amarra and to kill Buffy. Then the government put a sodding chip in my head making it so I couldn't bite people."

"Like a soul?" Gunn inquired.

"No," Spike chuckled. "Not like a soul at all. I was still evil. I wanted to kill people, but every time I tried *zap* in my noggin. But found out that I could still hurt demons and got my stones back. Started helping the Slayer and fell in love with her; guess that's a common theme with we, neutered vampires. Of course, she could never love me - not the way she loved Angel.

"Then Buffy died saving reality as we know it," Spike lowered his voice in remembrance of the pain.

"Angel went on a little soul searching trip then," Gunn recollected. "And came back all the broodier."

"Sounds ‘bout right. I can't say I was a ball of sunshine then either," Spike continued. "Willow and the others ripped her out of heaven, and she was sad and lonely. Started sleeping with me to quell her other demons. Then dumped me." He paused and sighed heavily, skipping over his attack on Buffy. "I went to Africa to get my chip out and kill her. But instead got a soul and went all schizotypal. Fought against the First and ubervamps with this." He pulled the gaudy necklace out from under his plain black t-shirt. "Burnt to a crisp and woke up in Sunnydale, which more resembled a gigantic hole in the ground, under a pile of shoes. Found I could walk in the sun and came to L.A. I figured that at least Wes could track down her."

"A pile of shoes? Oh, man," Gunn started to chuckle, but grabbed his side in pain.

Fred walked in the room just in time to see Gunn in pain. "Oh my god! Charles, are you all right?" She came rushing towards them.

"I'm fine, Fred," the well-muscled man blushed. "Spike and I were training, and I got a nick."

"I'll get you some bandages." She pushed her glasses up on her nose and ran off into the attached supply room.

"Some lady you got there," Spike commented.

"She's the best," Gunn smiled then frowned a bit. "But I don't think she's my lady anymore."

Winfred Burkle sighed when she reached the supply closet. She wondered what Gunn thought he was doing taking on the male Slayer without pads. Sure, Gunn needed to be prepared for battle, but he could at least take precautions when he was training. Things were still wonky between them, and Fred wasn't sure whether it was time to move on. There were a few lookers in the science department, not to mention if Willow came back. There were so many things that her and Gunn needed to talk about; it made Fred dizzy.

She walked back with the long white bandages in hand. With Spike's help, Gunn took off his shirt. Fred attempted not to look longingly at Gunn's nicely muscled chest as she pulled his shirt back on.

"Well," she uncomfortably grinned, "it's time to head back to work. All those microscopes seem to be calling to me."

"And I should find Wes," Spike stood up to leave. "He mentioned something earlier about reading a musty book, and that every Slayer needs to study. Now I understand why Buffy would grumble, a lot, every time Giles came a'calling." And with that he left the injured man in Fred's care.

"Charles, are you sure you'll be alright?" Fred quizzed him again.

"Of course," Gunn smiled at her as she looked at the ground.

"Well, I'm not," she collapsed on the bench with hair and hands hiding her face as she began to cry. "I...can't. I have this huge place...and you're not there." Gunn slid his arms around her. "And when you," she pushed part of her hair back and wiped a few tears. "When you get hurt, I think of how I could loose you. And I can't loose you when we're like this. What happened?" She looked at him in sadness and frustration.

"We killed the professor."

"Yes we did," Fred suddenly stood up. "But it's more than that?"

"Gwen." He slumped even further down on the bench.

"And Willow." She sat down next to him.

"Willow?" he stared at her with the biggest eyes; she nodded her head. "Jesus girl. The things you do."

"You too," she smiled at him. And they both started to laugh. "Think about it, I use to live in a cave in Pylea."

"And I used to live in abandon warehouses and fight vampires." Suddenly, their misfortunes became their laughter. He stopped. "And we found each other."

"Oh, Charles."

"I just can't seem to stay away from you." And he kissed her.

Both their beepers interrupted their kiss. Fred pulled back, grabbing her beeper. "It's Angel. There's a situation."

*****

"Apparently," Angel began when they were all seated in his office, "Wolfram & Hart has a habit of being the guardians of its clients. Something about the firm taking over the state's supervision of an individual." He grabbed a gigantic remote off his desk and pointed it at a wall. A projection screen came down. "This is so cool. I feel like James Bond," he commented.

"Dork," Spike muttered, making Fred laugh.

"What'd you say Spike?" Angel inquired. He didn't respond. Angel pointed to his ear, "Remember, vampire hearing."

"This, lady and gents, is under our keep," Angel continued as the projector turned on. "Ethan Rayne - notorious criminal and powerful mage. Worshipper of Chaos and highly dangerous. He is known to summon demons in attempts to harness their power and causing general, well, chaos. Not the apocalyptic kind, but none the less dangerous."

"He was kicked out of the Watcher's Academy for practicing the black arts and considers them one of his greatest foes," Wesley added. "We've attempted to contact the Head of the Council, Mr. Giles, but have had no luck."

"No doubt, they're running all over the world trying to find every Britney Spears listening girl who can drive a stake through a vamp," Lorne injected.

"Or those old grannies knocking out their nurses who insist that they eat instead of watch Passions," Gunn laughed.

"Hey," Spike shouted, "not only grannies watch Passions."

"You watch Passions?" Wesley started laughing loudly along with Angel, Gunn, and Lorne. "And I thought Cordy was bad with those marry-a-millionaire shows."

"Sorry to interrupt your fun-fest, but don't we have a criminal to discuss," Fred stopped them.

"Right," Spike supported her. "Fight evil. Get those villains; keep our children and puppies safe."

"Mr. Rayne is a former associate of Giles'. Several years ago, Rayne came to Sunnydale and made everyone turn into their Halloween costumes," Angel informed the group. "Then he came back when running from a demon he and his friends summoned when they were younger - one of these friends happened to be Giles."

"Yeah, bloody funny when he turned everyone into their costumes. Seventeenth century princess Buffy almost peed in her knickers when she saw me all vamped out," Spike chuckled. "And he turned Giles into a Fyarl demon. I, of course, got him out of that tangle with a little monetary gratitude."

"After that Buffy allowed Rayne to be taken away by the U.S. government under the Initiative Project," Angel finished. "Today, he is being released into the custody of Wolfram & Hart - into our custody. Fred, I need whatever sort of magic containment field the science department has. Gunn, Spike, if you two have to knock him out do it. Wesley, keep trying to contact Giles, and Lorne, I want you to get a reading from him. Dismissed."

****

Ethan Rayne hadn't seen the sun for something like four years. They kept him under sedatives and magical lock and key so he didn't pull a Houdini on them. The Initiative Project failed several months after Ethan was incarcerated. Because of his previous criminal record, the government was determined that he serve his time, even if that meant regular jail time. In his cell, Ethan discovered that the U.S. government was far more tyrannical than any demon. At least demons killed you right away, or if they kept you as slaves, one action of disobedience would surely get you dismembered. That was honorable, unlike the government, who after their experiments kept him alive for more. Not to mention, the lack of real medical treatment they'd given him after the project collapsed.

The stillness of the halls disturbed Ethan as he was wheeled out in handcuffs, surrounded by two large guards. He thought the guards were overkill for a man who couldn't even stand without assistance. Usually, all the inmates would rattle around in their cells like a bunch of trained monkeys whenever a prisoner was released.

They entered a small, private waiting room where one of the guards took the cuffs off. Three men joined them in the room, and the guards left.

"My name is Wesley Wyndam-Pryce," one of the men stuck out his hand. "I'm with Wolfram & Hart. These are my associates, Charles Gunn and Spike, whom I believe that you've met before. There have been some changes to the firm since you were last in contact with them."

"What kind of changes?" Ethan asked suspiciously.

"Their entire L.A. branch turned into a bunch of flesh eating zombies; not a pretty sight," Gunn offered. "And now we're the new management."

"Currently, the L.A. branch of Wolfram & Hart is run by Angel Investigations," Wesley continued. "You have the option of staying with us or going back to the cell if you are uncomfortable with these changes?"

"You mean that git of a souled vampires is running the whole operation?" Ethan looked at them in disbelief. "I hired Wolfram & Hart because I knew they were...flexible for a man of my endeavors. But I still believe that you will be far better then a prison cell."

"Angel is a fair and decent boss. I assure you that once we get to Wolfram & Hart, you will have the best medical care and fine accommodations. But as a precaution for our own safety, we ask that you wear this." Wesley pulled out a small metallic bracelet from his pocket. "It will inhibit you from practicing magic while it's on. And the firm deems you well enough to return to the general public, the magic blocker will be removed. And I'm afraid that we weren't warned about your health condition earlier, else we would have brought a wheelchair."

"I can walk with the help of others. And stick that damn thing on my wrist," Ethan grumbled and stuck out his left hand.

"Can we get on with this show?" Spike spoke for the first time since arriving.

As Gunn and Spike helped him walked out of the building with Wesley trailing them, Ethan couldn't help but stare at the sky. To see the birds and clouds floating above his head offered him a sign of peace - that perhaps things were going to be better.

"Come on," Spike tugged at his sleeve. "I'll feel better once we're out of here. And you can look at the clouds later."

****

Angel stared at those same clouds from his office windows. Vampire friendly glass was the best thing ever invented.

He had just gotten off the phone with Rupert Giles. Unfortunately, Wesley was retrieving Ethan from prison when Giles called. The two British men could have chatted about something like cricket or old books without the awkward pauses that seemed to scream, "Angelus, you killed the woman I loved." It too much for the both of them. But Angel had to tell Giles about Spike and Ethan and had to make sure that Buffy had gotten out safely after Spike's last glimpse of her. Giles mentioned that several of the new Slayers perished in battle as well as Anya, Xander's ex-fiancée who was a former vengeance demon. Giles had a million nitpicky questions about Spike's transformation and newfound powers making Angel wish even more for Wesley's presence.

"Mr. Angel," his secretary's voice on the intercom startled him out of his thoughts, "they are ready to bring Mr. Rayne into your office."

"Send him in," Angel replied.

"Hello Mr. Rayne, my name's Angel. I don't think we've ever officially met," he extended his hand to Ethan.

"So you're the one who's in charge of me."

"On paper, yes. But the truth is that we'd like to be able to trust you. Though your history clearly show that you haven't been trustworthy and I've already received major warning from former members of the Watcher's Council. Thankfully, I'm a big fan of redemption. Working on a little of that myself."

"It doesn't seem like you trust me when you put this bracelet on me."

"See, I want to trust you, but that's going to have to be earned. If you're good for a while, I'll make sure that's taken off. Wolfram & Hart has strict policies on who it lets in its doors, and what they are allowed to do. You know, I had an interesting conversation about you today."

"Really," Ethan tensed up in his chair. "With whom?"

"You're old buddy, Rupert Giles. In fact, he has offered to take over Wolfram & Hart's guardianship of you. I, of course, told him that it would be up to you. So that's something that you can ponder while you're here."

"Good to know even an old mage has options."

"I believe that it's time for your appointment with Fred. She'll be taking care of all your medical needs as head of the science department since you are an important client to us. Her primary training is in physics, but I know she's surrounded herself with the best medical staff we have. And, Ethan, if you do anything to harm her - physically or mentally - I'll be sure to take it out on your hide. Understood?"

"Quite."

"Oh, and tell Spike that I need to talk with him."

*****

He couldn't believe that Anya's death hit him this hard. Sure, their friendship had been easy, trading observations and insults, and they often stuck it out together through the worst of times - mostly in the area of relationships. Plus, Anya always had that wonderful quality of bluntly telling the truth, which made the Scoobies pissed off and him laugh. But in the end, even Giles grew to care about the ex-demon. The last thing Spike wanted to do right now was escort Ethan Rayne to his room at Wolfram & Hart.

"How'd you manage not to go poof in the sunlight?" Ethan asked him.

"Not a vampire anymore," Spike answered slowly. This was going to be a long elevator ride.

"Figured I'd forgotten about you, didn't you?"

"Giles didn't."

"Did you ever manage to spill his secrets to little Buffy."

"No. By the time I figured out who he was, I was chained to his bathtub and couldn't bit people thanks to a government issue chip in my noggin. Could have dusted me anytime he saw fit."

"He always liked to play."

"Trust me. It wasn't like that," Spike sighed and didn't inform the man that sometimes he had wished it was like that with Giles. "Then I started fighting with the good guys. Blah, blah, blah, and I'm human."

"So, not going to kill me in my sleep then," Ethan gave a nervous chuckle as Spike escorted him to his accommodations to wait for Fred.

******

"Barkeep," the blonde man motioned with his glass. "Another please."

"Don't you think you've had enough, sweet thing?" Lorne reluctantly filled the glass. "Remember last night. And don't think that I'm going to play Alice Kramden to your Ralph every night. Really you should lay off."

"Aren't you a little young to have watched the Honeymooners?" Spike teased him.

"First, my age - none of your business. And secondly, ever heard of Nick at Night, crumbcake?"

"Well," he took another gulp. "You better tell me your age else I'll be accused of corrupting a minor with all the things I'm going to do to you tonight."

Lorne dropped his Sea Breeze on the floor. "Run that by me again, Mr. Not-So-Subtle."

"I thought you might appreciate my...talents. But if not, I'm sure that red head in the mini skirt who's been eyeing me will."

"Quincy, can you get over here with a rag and clean this up? And, Spike, you don't want her, especially after she sang Tiffany tonight. Now, why don't you and I go upstairs and finish this conversation."

As they made their way upstairs, Lorne knew that something was up. The Slayer may on some level be attracted to him, but strong emotional attraction to him would have hit the aura radar. Instead, Lorne felt a dose of pain and confusion and need. Maybe Spike did need this. Lorne vowed to be a kind shoulder to lean on, but not a disposable fuck buddy.

As soon as Lorne closed the door behind him, Spike pushed him against the wall and laid a kiss on his lips. Despite his emotions telling him to continue, Lorne managed to pull back from him. "Slow down, champ," he savored the taste of Spike's lips on his. "Please sit on the couch."

"Okay," he swaggered towards the furniture. "If you want to play like that."

"I can't deny that I wanted that kiss. In fact, it's something worthy of dreams. But," Lorne hesitated for a moment. "You can't exactly get passed the Lorne-dar. Spike, I know you're in pain; you didn't even have to sing for me to see it. You're swimming in an oversized Dixie cup of wallow."

"Let's get on with the shagging," Spike urged him towards the bedroom. "Trust me; I'll feel a lot better after that."

"At least sing for me."

"Twenty-four hours to go," Spike started. "I wanna be sedated. Nothing to do no where to go-oo. I wanna be sedated. Just take me to the airport and put me on the plane. Hurry, hurry, hurry before I go insane. I can't control my fingers. I can't control my brain."

"That's good," Lorne smiled. In a more sober state of being, this boy wouldn't be bad. He definitely kicked Cordelia and Angel's bottoms when it came to belting tunes. "Who was she? The woman who died?"

"One of the Scoobies. Anya was her name. She was an ex-vengeance demon and Xander's ex-fiancée. At times she was better than the rest of those bleeding ninnies. Always saying what was on her mind and not giving a trifle to those who thought she was out of line. Sure, you had to put up with the ‘Xander does this to me in bed' talk. But overall, she was a real fine bird. After the Goldilocks dumped my sorry arse and Xander, the blind ponce, left her at the alter, we had a bit of a romp. Didn't mean anything beyond getting over shit. Still, she was one of the good ones. I guess, after loosing Buffy, I didn't think anything could feel that bad again. Sure this is not stake yourself pain, but it's definitely getting pissed caliber."

"I'm so sorry about your loss, William," and Lorne put his arms around the man.

"Why does everyone call me ‘William' when things face towards hell?"

"Emotional reaction. Listen, gorgeous, as much as I would like to take you to bed, I don't think I can."

"And why the bloody hell not?"

"I'm not going to be your fuck buddy. I need something more than sex. There has to be some connection besides the groin kind if it's going to be with you."

"Fine," Spike muttered and walked out Lorne's door.

*****

No matter how many times Lorne hit repeat on Wham!'s "Jitterbug" in his car on the way to work, his outlook on life wasn't getting much better. When he stopped to let a group of teenage girls cross in front of his car, he mused that his emotional being more closely resembled theirs than anyone at work. Why did being on the verge of love or mayhem always make one feel and act 16 again.

He parked his car in the executive parking level. As he was walking to the elevator, he bumped into Wesley. "Morning Wes," Lorne greeted him.

"Hello Lorne," Wesley reached over and punched the button for the floor their offices occupied. "How have things been going on your end of the business?"

"Smooth as the cream from those pastries that the little café on the corner serves; you know, I should really cut back." He patted his stomach. "Business is great; W&H has every entertainer from Liza to the pintsize Skemish demon that used to come to Caritas to sing every Friday night."

"Angel informed me that the decision to take on Ethan Rayne was yours." Wesley tapped the side of his bag as the elevator ascended.

"Let's just say I owed the man a favor," Lorne answered.

"Care to elaborate."

"Maybe after four Sea Breezes and a stunning rendition of the Weather Girls' ‘It's Raining Men.' But right now, looks like our newly un-jailed client is waiting in my office. See you later, Wes." Lorne turned and walked passed his secretary, into his office.

Sure enough, Ethan Rayne was impatiently waiting for the green demon. Lorne had avoided the mage since he was released mostly because of his pride. No one on Team Angel knew what happened to Lorne; for them, his absence was no more than 10 minutes of their time.

"I've been wondering if you were ever going to repay me," Ethan smirked as Lorne sat down. "Heard you phoned the ex."

"I doubt you two could ever be exes after the reading I took from him. Of course, that was many years ago for you," Lorne finally spoke up.

"And didn't you promise a younger, dare I say, prettier version of myself a reading," Ethan batted his eyelashes in the fashion of a 20s starlet.

"Actually, I've been given orders to do just that." Lorne looked at the red light on his answering machine signaling him that he had messages waiting. He frowned.

"Ah, the vampire with a soul's whipping green boy."

"Sing whatever you'd like." Lorne ignored Ethan's comment. He checked his e-mail while waiting for Ethan to begin singing.

"Well aren't you going to pay attention?" Ethan asked, his hand fiddling with his cane.

"Listen," Lorne said, "I can do a hundred readings in my sleep. If the sheep sing, I know which one is going to end up on the farmer's plate."

Ethan cleared his throat and started to sing. "You've got your mother in a whirl/She's not sure if you're a boy or a girl/Hey babe, your hair's alright/Hey babe, let's go out tonight/You like me, and I like it all/We like dancing and we look divine..."

"That's great," Lorne smiled. "Not bad. Bowie, always a classic choice for middle aged British queens. Granted your cowboy will always beat you in the vocals. It's nice to have true love."

"True love." Ethan laughed. "You really don't believe in all that load of toss."

"I've been telling people their paths since I ended up L.A. And your path is with Rupert Giles." Lorne picked up his ringing cellphone and turned it off. "This is my job, and people who don't do what I tell them are insane."

"Did anyone ever tell you not to piss off a powerful mage?" Ethan adjusted himself in the chair like a rooster asserting his power in the chicken coop.

"Last time I checked, you had that magic stopping bracelet of anti-power on." Lorne pointed to the silver band over Ethan's wrist. "And I'm sorry. I haven't had the greatest of weeks."

"Anything I can help with?" Ethan pried. He wasn't really interested in the comings and goings of the demon, but anything to pass the time. Anything not to go back into that room he'd traded for a cell. Even with 400 plus satellite channels, nothing of value ever played on the television.

Lorne rolled his eyes. "I don't talk about my personal life with those who spent the last years of their lives in jumpsuits." God, I'm grumpsters today. He took a sip of his coffee and put on his best fake smile. "Oh look at the time. I'd better call Liza. You know how divas are if you're not on time." He pushed the speakerphone. "Dan, could you be a peach and show Mr. Rayne back to his quarters."

Dan walked into the office and smiled at his boss. Handing Ethan his cane, he then lent his arm to help. Ethan grimaced at the idea of someone helping him up, but he still needed time to recover from his ordeal.

"Dan," Lorne said, the next to his ear and ringing up Liza, "be sure to be quick. Liza can be quiet the little persnickety... Melon!" He turned his chair around as Dan escorted Ethan from Lorne's office.

Security followed them down the corridor. "I don't understand what all the fuss about a crippled old man is." Ethan smiled at Dan. "You're such a young thing; you probably don't understand." Dan smiled. "You probably have a nice boyfriend to go home and cuddle with a night."

"Well..." Dan blushed. "He works over in accounting and makes the best linguine."

"I miss those days," Ethan sighed. "Having someone warm to snuggle with and have a nice snog. Nothing's more alone than a cell." He paused in his walking and adjusted his ankle. "How I miss young bones."

"You're not fouling anyone, expect assistant boy here, Rayne," Spike said, approaching them. "Don't believe his nice old man routine." He shook his head at Dan. "Wes wants me to ask you about some Chaos ritual one Wolfram and Hart's clients is involved in. Apparently, he was too busy to ask you himself."

"Hope to see you soon, Mr. Rayne," Dan said as they reached Ethan's door. He scuttled off before feeling Spike's eyes on him.

"You shouldn't be so hard on the boy." Ethan waited for security to open the door. "You could probably learn some lessons in being polite."

Spike followed Ethan in. Not having to be invited into home was something that still bothered him about his recent transformation. "You. Polite." Spike laughed. "Since when was turning someone into a Fyarl demon polite?"

"Well, Ripper doesn't quite appreciate my sense of humor." Ethan found the nearest chair and sat down. "Really don't you have something to do besides pester an old man who gave his magics up after they were drained from him. Of course, you're getting old, aren't you? Not the immortal vampire you once were."

"Sod off," Spike growled as he set the book down with a hard thud on the coffee table.

"Why Spike such language." Ethan flipped open the book and started skimming the text. "Beginners. Such foolish." He looked up at Spike. "What you don't think I'm a helpless cripple who's been imprisoned all these years and trying to make nice?"

"I don't think Wesley would have forced you to wear that bracelet if he thought you weren't a threat." Spike stuck his hands in the pockets of his black trousers. "Plus magic is like whiskey; you become accustomed to it."

"Like you?" Ethan asked, his head not moving from the text this time. "Really quite elementary. But I do have a natural talent for Chaos. I could cast a little spell to solve your problem, you know."

Spike laughed. "Sorry, Rayne. Don't want to be a vampire again."

"I wasn't talking about that." His slender hand turned the page. "Love. The kind everyone's always blathering on about." Spike made a snort with his nose. "It's all over you," Ethan said. "Doesn't even take my particular skills to read you. Tell me, who is this lucky person?"

"And why do you care?" Spike shuffled his feet. "You don't give a shit about anyone but yourself."

"Let's just say I owe someone a favor," Ethan responded. "If it's the person, or should I say, demon, I'm thinking of. But first be kind, and get this old mage a glass of water and some pain pills. I seem to have a growing headache."

********

"Thank you for calling me, Angel," Giles said. "I'm glad he's under your care. Or at least someone who isn't going to treat him inhumanly. I can assure you that he'll be completely under our care from now on, and you won't be hearing from him again."

"That's what I've been told." Angel nodded to Lorne.

Lorne smiled. "I gave him a reading when he first arrived. The future looks day glow orange free for him. You know that stuff should be outlawed, looks good on no one." He itched to hear Giles' sing once again. "By the way, you aren't in need of a reading are you?" Giles didn't answer. "Angelcakes, you should hear the pipes on this man."

Angel led him down the corridor to Ethan's room. "The bracelet, as I'm sure Wes has explained, prevents magic from traveling out of him. Blocking it."

"I see." Giles paused before opening the door; he was sure that Ethan could sense, if not hear them. "And the bracelet...does it absorb Ethan's magic?"

Angel opened his cell phone and dialed the science lab. "Fred...Does Ethan Rayne's bracelet absorb his magic...Okay, thanks. Yeah, I'll be sure to look into that." He placed the phone back into his pocket. "No; it blocks the energy from traveling out of his body."

"Oh dear, god." Giles placed his hand to his mouth. "Then we have to hurry. You have the key, yes?"

Angel nodded as the door to Ethan's room opened.

Ethan sat in the middle of the room, a glass and bottle of pills in his hands. "I told Spike to take this bloody thing off. But he said no, that he was under orders for Angel." He shook. "Can't exactly move very well."

Giles yanked the key from Angel's hand and undid the bracelet. "His magic's overloading inside of him. You can't just block a mage's powers and not consider the consequences." Ethan fell forward into Giles' arms. "Even if one is not conducting spells, magic still needs release like sweat. Stupid children, messing with forces that you do not understand."

Angel didn't know what to say. There didn't seem to be anything that he could say. "I'll...I'll get Fred if you like to look to over him."

"That won't be necessary," Ethan said. He attempted to lift himself from the chair. "I need neither of your help." He fell back. Part of him wanted to be in Rupert's arms. No, he couldn't go back. Rupert would only be another prison guard.

Lorne stood at the door as Giles and Ethan left together, Ethan insisting the whole time that he was just fine and could walk on his own. They were already fighting like familiars. Amazing how quickly people fall back into familiar patterns. He informed Angel that he was going to be going home for the rest of the evening.

Drink after drink never drowned anything, not with his demon tolerance of alcohol. How he wished he could get trashed like his patrons that come back every night to drown their sorrows and burst his ear drums by butchering Madonna or the Bangles. No one called him just to say hi. He shouldn't expect anymore for them, but he'd like to. Fred used to call him, but not since they took over Wolfram & Hart, and not since she and Gunn reunited. So wrapped up in themselves.

A loud knock on his door filled the room. A loud impatient knock. Probably Angel wanting to know just who killed Kenny and how to bash their brains into Campbell's soup. Lorne shivered at the thought and vowed never to eat soup from a can again. "What?" he demanded as he opened the door.

Spike stood there. "Hey. I just thought..." He lit another cigarette. "I know, I shouldn't be smoking now that I'm human."

Lorne shrugged. "Come in." His arm gestured Spike toward the couch.

"You were right, earlier. Not something I like to admit" Turning toward Lorne, Spike leaned in and kissed him. "This okay with you?"

Lorne nodded and kissed him again.