Angel was rocking a sleeping Connor in his arms and wondering just how far away from ‘perfect happiness’ he was – and if that constant worry was, in fact, enough to keep him from perfect happiness - when a motorcycle engine echoed under the portico of the Hyperion.
The aggressive sound had him immediately holding the baby tighter. Connor squirmed, waking, and Angel hurried to settle him in his crib. Well, perfect happiness avoided once again. Just. Great. “Shh… sh. It’s okay. That’s a good boy.” He tucked the blanket carefully and found Connor’s favorite bear.
“Angel?” Fred leaned in the door to the office. “There’s a very strange man out here asking about you.”
“Is he a client?”
“I don’t think so. Maybe? He doesn’t look helpless. Anyway, Cordelia’s holding a crossbow on him but he hasn’t done anything, really; he keeps saying he wants to ‘just talk with the bloody poof’. What’s a poof?”
Angel winced and covered his face with his hand. “Spike.” He walked into the lobby, and sure enough, there was the blonde menace himself, in full migration plumage: duster, red shirt, silver chain around his neck and silver rings on his fingers, hands up and out in surrender.
“… and the only reason you’re still standing there, mister,” Cordelia was saying from her perch on the steps, “is that Angel would kill me if he didn’t get to kill you.”
“Finally,” Spike said, turning to Angel. He tilted his head Cordelia-wards. “Lovely receptionist you have here, Peaches.”
Angel folded his arms across his chest. “What do you want, Spike?”
Spike had a sad smile. “Help?” He shrugged, hands still in the air.
There was a pause, all the players frozen in their places, even Spike, who nevertheless kept lifting his eyebrows and adjusting his pleading expression until Angel sighed and jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “In the office,” he said.
“Ta,” Spike said, and smiled smugly at Cordelia. Cordelia pouted a little as she lowered the crossbow.
Spike sauntered after Angel with his hands in his pockets. As he walked into the office his nose wrinkled. “What’s that smell? Shit and talcum… you’ve got a baby in here?”
“Yes, and be quiet, you’ll wake him!” Angel assumed a protective stance between Spike and the bassinet.
This earned him a double eyebrow raise. “Some chit leave you with that? One of your ‘hopeless’?”
“What. Do. You. Want? I’m giving you one minute to make your case, then I’m calling Buffy.”
“Great idea, that. Call Buffy.” Spike made himself at home on the corner of Angel’s desk and peeked at a few of the papers on top of it. “She might not be keen on taking me back. That’s why I’m here. Ran out of welcome, mate. Can’t hunt. Can’t bite. And now I’ve gone and bollixed up the one thing I had going for me. Slayer and me, we were getting on all right. But I went and screwed her friend – incidentally no one could have the luck I have, only tumble I’d had in weeks and there’s a bleedin’ camera in the room – but… yeah. Barely got out of there without a dusty end. Brassed off ex. Exes. And, you know,” he waved a hand at his temple. “Chip. Had nowhere else to go. Considering I’m standing in YOUR august presence I really mean that ‘nowhere’.” He sighed, taking in Angel’s blank expression. “Well, say something, pouf. You look like a wax post.”
Angel tilted his head to the side. “You’re asking to stay here?”
“Just temporary.” Spike shrugged. “’Til I get my chip out or my feet under me or Sunnydale falls into a chasm or something.”
“Last I heard you were actually helping people in Sunnydale. Taking care of Dawn, killing vampires. Willow said everything was kind of calm out there.”
“Yeah, well, don’t believe everything you hear. Can I stay or not?”
Angel was ready to say “Hell no”, but then he noticed Spike was chewing on his lower lip and trying not to meet his gaze. Maybe it was newly becoming a parent, but he felt his heart melt at the hint of vulnerability. “Well… I don’t know. Um… I have a kid now.”
“So I noticed. You’re keeping the tyke, then?”
“He’s mine.” Angel swallowed, surprised at how much fear and vulnerability escaped with those two words.
Spike blinked. “You do realize you’re a vampire?”
“It’s complicated and I don’t think anyone fully understands how it happened, but yes, he is my son – a vampire’s son.”
Angel expected further demands for explanation– which he wasn’t looking forward to, since there wasn’t a good explanation and ‘it’s prophesized’ wasn’t the sort of thing Spike would accept. Other than that, he expected more argument, or a change of subject.
What he did not expect was for Spike to walk right past him and hoist Connor up. “Well, hullo, Brat! I’m your uncle Spike!”
Angel cringed. “You aren’t his uncle.”
Spike grinned into the sleepy baby’s face while Connor rubbed a fist into one eye. “Well, since you’re my sire I guess that makes me his big brother!”
“NO IT DOESN’T.”
Spike pulled the little fist back. “Right, right, technically you’re my grand-sire, so that makes me his nephew!”
“You are not Connor’s nephew!”
Spike raised a brow. “Strange, not-quite-definable relation?”
“You’re a vampire. You don’t get to be his ‘anything’!”
Spike pulled Connor away from Angel’s reaching grasp. “C’mon that’s not fair. You’re a vampire and you get to be his Dad!” He gently bounced around the room, ‘flying’ the baby in his arms. “What do you think, Uncle Connor? Am I your nephew?” Connor, for his part, laughed and squealed.
“SPIKE!!” Angel ground his fists helplessly together, wanting to rend the younger vampire limb from limb, but terrified lest he jostle the baby.
Cordelia and Fred ran into the room. “Put the baby down!” Cordelia demanded, one manicured hand outstretched.
At the same time, Fred said, “Aw! He’s so cute with the baby!”
Spike chose to ignore Cordelia and press his cheek to Connor’s, camping it up for Fred’s benefit. “Just getting acquainted with my Uncle Connor!” he jibed. Then lifted a brow to Angel, who looked as close as a man without circulation could be to an aneurism. “And by the way, could you have picked a more Mick name? Thought you hated your 'da'.”
To which Cordelia said, “Oh, ‘Connor’ was your father’s name?” and Fred said, “Uncle? Okay. I’m officially confused.”
Angel, feeling his skull on the verge of bursting, pushed his way past the ladies and gently snatched Connor from Spike’s hands. (With a not-so-gentle shoulder-bump to the younger vampire.) Connor immediately started to wail.
“Aw. He likes his nephew Spikey!”
Angel threw baby blankets and bears left and right as he searched the bassinet for Connor’s pacifier. “Damn it, Spike. You’re his BROTHER. Okay?”
Spike could feel his cheeks strain with the smile he was holding. “So you do still care. Now I’m going to have to be insufferably pleased with myself for the next hour at least.”
Fred, confused, tilted her head, “Brother? Does that mean Angel…”
“Oh god,” Cordelia said, “It’s a creepy vampire ‘sire’ thing. Like that Penn guy.”
Spike tilted his head at Cordelia. “Penn’s been around?”
Angel finally had the pacifier in the baby’s mouth and the baby not trying to spit it back out as he bounced him gently against his shoulder, knowing that his own tension wasn’t helping calm Connor down any. Glaring at each of the people in his office in turn, he said, “Yes, it’s my father’s name. Yes I hated him but that doesn’t mean I can’t follow a tradition. And yes, it’s a ‘sire’ thing and no, Penn’s not here and I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Angel killed him,” Cordelia said, matter-of-factly.
Spike’s eyebrows rose then fell into a scowl. “Your darling boy? I don’t believe it. Not even a heartless prick like you…”
“Spike, I’m not Angelus, okay? You and I barely know each other. And for the record, I didn’t kill him. It was this policewoman.”
They looked at each other while Connor made soft baby-noises against Angel’s shoulder.
Fred leaned closer to Cordelia. “This is one of those ‘awkward moments’ when people who knew each other for years get back together and don’t really know each other any more.”
“Yeah, luv, we got that,” Spike said. “Look, Peach…er… Angel. You got your hands full. I’ll go with the ladies and find a corner to hole up in, yeah?”
Angel gaped, unsure how to respond to… a nice Spike? But Spike was already looping an arm around Fred and drawing her out into the lobby with a cavalier, “So, what’s a fine bird like you doing in a dump like this?”
Cordelia raised her crossbow (which was unloaded, Angel was relieved to see. He didn’t care for weapons around the baby.) “Is he still evil?”
“Yes, Cordy, he’s still evil. I think.” Angel squinted after Spike and Fred, who were chatting pleasantly and walking up the stairs to the second floor.
Fred showed Spike all the nicer rooms on the second floor that weren’t already in use and let him pick one out, then even helped him hang blankets on the windows for extra sun-proofing.
“There’s blood,” she said. “I mean, my folks would never have a house guest over and not offer something to drink, and we have blood, you know, for Angel.”
Spike smiled. “Sure, luv. Lead the way.”
She stepped into the hallway, then stopped, wringing her hands. “Do you eat people? Because you seem nice and all, but eating people would put a damper on our friendship.”
“Not presently,” Spike said, and lowered his chin to leer at her, “Not in the traditional vampire sense, anyway.”
“Oh you!” She slapped his arm lightly. “I can tell you’re not a thing like Angel.”
“Ah, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
“No, silly, I mean Angel wouldn’t ever hit on a woman like that. He’s shy.”
Spike snorted. “Shy? Angelus?” He peered over the railing at the lobby as they started down the steps. “Hardly. He’s just scared of that soul of his going away. One perfect happy and he’s an Acathla-raising maniac. Believe me, if you’d seen what THAT was like…”
A tweedy man stepped out from behind the registration counter carrying a cup of tea. “Wes!” Fred called, raising one arm to wave. “We have a visitor. A friend of Angel’s.”
“Family,” Spike quickly amended.
Wes, for his part, did a classic double-take. “Spike?”
“Oh. You’ve met?”
“No,” Wes said with quiet emphasis. He set his tea down and wiped his fingers where a bit had spilled. “No, but I’ve seen pictures and read… he was in Sunnydale shortly before I was. The slayer of slayers isn’t someone you forget.”
“You a watcher, then?”
“Former,” Wes said, looking guardedly under drawn brows.
Spike pulled back the hand he’d extended to shake. “Ah. Well, those tossers only eject the best sort.”
A glare. “I didn’t say I was kicked out.”
“Where’s that blood again, Fred?” Spike looked around the watcher.
“I didn’t know you were famous,” she said, hitting him playfully again.
“Infamous,” Wesley corrected, following her into the kitchenette.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” Spike mused, leaning against the counter and taking in the faded art-deco splendor. He ignored Wesley's whispered litany of his sins. Fred, for her part, responded with "Really? Neat. Oh, I mean, awful, but still, it's kind of cool..." Yup. That Fred was a keeper.
Angel stepped backwards out of his office, closing the door with exaggerated care. He turned and almost flinched at the sight of Spike, lounging across from him. He closed the distance. “You’re still here.”
“Said I would be. Got a pub?”
Scowl. “A what?”
“Pub.” Spike leaned forward as though addressing a child. “Place they sell beer. Near here. I don’t know any way two men can catch up on lost time without beer involved, do you?”
Angel blinked, opened and closed his mouth a few times and pointed back at his office.
“They haven’t invented babysitters in LA?”
“Yeah! You two should go catch up,” Fred said, cheerily popping up with a cup of blood. “I’m sure you just have oodles to talk about. I can watch little Connor!”
Angel blinked again. “Well, I suppose. I mean… I don’t really know…”
“Leave it to Captain Forehead here not to know where to find his own local,” Spike sighed dramatically as if not having a regular pub was a sin on par with not knowing what state one was in. (Which it was.)
“Well, there’s the Harp over on Detroit,” Wesley offered, blinking himself and wondering why he was suggesting pubs. “Irish theme, you’ll like it.”
“Great. Sounds like Percy’s driving.” Spike started toward the door.
“You aren’t going anywhere, mister!” Cordelia came down the stairs, dragging a confused, bed-headed green-skinned demon, who she pushed at Spike like he was some sort of weapon. “Not until you sing!”
Spike raised one eyebrow.
Lorne yawned. “Angel-cakes, what’s going on? I had a long consult last night, and,” he yawned again, “alcohol may have been involved.”
“Read him,” Cordelia said, waving a manicured finger at Spike. “Tell Angel he’s evil!”
Lorne looked over his shoulder. “Cordy, honey? I’m not a Geiger counter here. You don’t just point me at people and say ‘evil or not’!”
“If the Pylean wants to drink, he can come too,” Spike said.
To Spike’s surprise, the Pylean actually winced at mention of his heritage. So much for impressing him that way. Operation: Make Angels Crew Like Me More was off to a slow start.
They were at a standoff, Cordelia and an unwilling Lorne blocking the exit, Angel just looking confused, and Fred and Wes still at the counter, not in the least helping get the show on the road. Spike looked pleadingly at Angel. “Sire? C’mon mate. Help us out here or we’ll spend all night just staring at each other.”
“Sing something,” Angel said. When Spike raised an eyebrow at him, he added, “Lorne is an empath. He can read your aura, your destiny, but only if you sing.”
Spike nodded, slowly. He turned to Lorne. “I sing better with beer.”
And so they all ended up at The Harp, where two tables had to be pushed together for them and Spike gleefully ordered for everyone.
Lorne was looking a fresher shade of green with a drink in his hand. Angel sat next to him and watched Spike plying charm and darts with Fred and Wes. Even Cordy seemed to have warmed up to the blonde menace. He was complimenting her tits, and she was doing a bad job of acting offended.
“What is it with him? He hasn’t even sung; they know he’s evil; they don’t know his intentions. And they’re just playing darts with him. Joking. No one joked with me when I was new here.”
“Yes, sweetcakes,” Lorne said, “but there are secret service agents less standoffish than you. Besides, he sang.”
Angel frowned at the empath. “What do you mean, he sang? I’ve been here all night.”
“Well, it wasn’t Puccini,” Lorne gestured toward the dart board with his seabreeze. “He did a little victory song-and-dance after the first dart game. The inspired lyrics were ‘Nyah nyah, I owned you; pay up, pay up, Percy.’ Destined to be a hit on the club circuit.” Lorne rolled his eyes and took another long sip from his drink.
Angel waited. Lorne licked his lips and watched the party. Angel clenched his fists. “AND?”
“Hm? Oh. Kid has a destiny, all right. Wew. Electric. Wouldn’t want to be around when he’s singing something serious. That little ditty felt like a disco ball exploding. A disco ball full of gin.” Lorne smiled as if at some fond memory.
“’And’ what, you big silly? You know I don’t share my client’s destinies.”
“Lorne, he isn’t your client. He’s a dangerous vampire. I want to know if we can trust him. If I… if I’m not making the biggest mistake of my life, letting him stay.”
Lorne rolled his eyes and took another sip. “You can trust him, Angelcakes. With your soul. And I do mean that literally. Now shoo. Go attempt to be social. I want to commune with my drink.”
“I’ll just go,” Angel said, getting up. “I don’t like leaving Connor this long. Even with Gunn watching him.”
“Bubbuleh, what are you going to be like when the kid can actually move on his own?” Lorne chided, but Angel was already heading to the door. Lorne sighed. “Ah, seabreeze. Alone at last.”
Angel stepped out of the noise and smoke of the bar and heaved a sigh of relief. It was a hot, cloudy night, the light pollution painting the sky orange overhead, but he could see just a corner of the Hyperion building up ahead, behind the gas station and the Xerox corporation warehouse. He started walking. Alone, in the dark. This is how he was used to being. How had his life gotten so crowded?
A whistle broke the meditative silence and Angel turned to see Spike striding after him, hands in pockets, coat billowing.
“Go back to the bar, Spike,” Angel said. “I’m just going to check on Connor.”
“Nah. Want to talk to you.” He caught up and stuck his hand out. “Hi. Name’s Spike.”
Angel rolled his eyes and turned his back on the annoying blonde. “You’re still evil, Spike.”
“Pft. I get enough of that back in Sunnydale. Anyway, you’re a VAMPIRE, or have you forgotten? I’d expect a little more understanding from you. Evil isn’t a team jersey you pull on or cast off. Evil’s just something you do.”
“And you do evil,” Angel said.
“Chip.” Spike shrugged. “You want me to admit I’m basically harmless and helpless? That watcher of yours could wipe the walls with me and I’d not be able to lift a finger to stop him. It’s like being stuck in someone else’s perverted fantasy.”
“But if that chip came out, Spike, you’d be back to your old ways before you could blink. You’re evil. In intent if not in action. And I’m letting you stay in the same building as my son. I must be out of my mind.”
Spike shrugged, not pausing in his steps, though Angel had stopped to make his point and gesture emphatically. “Like I said. You don’t know me anymore. If you ever did.”
“Oh, I know you.”
“No.” Spike glanced over his shoulder. “You pegged me. Within two days of meeting me, you decided exactly what I was. You never knew me. You never had to. Not like I had to know you.”
Angel quirked an eyebrow. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Yes you do. Or you wouldn’t still care if I called you ‘sire’ or not.”
Spike smiled. “Tell that to my little brother, yeah?” Angel glowered, keeping his eyes steadfastly on the sidewalk before him. Spike chuckled. “Admit it. You get brassed off when I remind you Dru’s my real sire.”
“I do not. You should have respect for an older vampire in your line. Period.”
“Oh yeah. Like the oodles of respect you threw at old bat-face.”
“Heinrich was a pompous ass with an over-inflated sense of his own importance.”
“Sounds like a grandsire to me.”
They’d reached a crosswalk. The Hyperion loomed ahead, mostly dark. Angel took a quick glance either way and strode into the intersection.
“Hey – mind the blinking red hand there,” Spike jogged to catch up. “You’re jaywalking!”
Angel glared at him.
“Well, isn’t that against the boyscout handbook?” Spike winked.
Angel set his jaw firmly and, with a resolution not to pay any more attention to his vampiric offspring, jogged the rest of the way to the hotel.
Spike sighed. He kept his regular walking pace and caught up with Angel in the hotel lobby, where Angel had already met Gunn – who must be the black chap in the orange t-shirt - and was asking anxious parenting questions about the last two hours.
“I want to be a better man,” Spike said, his voice cutting loud across the lobby.
Gunn squinted up at him in confusion.
“Hi. I’m Spike,” Spike waved at the man. “Just in the middle of a thing with Angel here. ‘Scuse the heart-to-heart.” He stepped down into the lobby proper. “I want to be worthy, see. I work at it. Used to be about being strong, protecting Dru. Fighting the biggest bad I could find. Lately it’s been about trying to be the sort of man Buffy could… the sort of man Buffy likes. Yeah? Thinking of others. All that. So here I am, spilling all this like a right ponce in front of some guy I don’t know. (Sorry about this again, mate, but couldn’t be put off.) So are you going to keep saying that you know all there is to me? That I’m just some cookie-cutter evil thing? Because I’ll just leave and take my chances if that’s how you feel. I got my pride. Barely, but I got it. And I’m no danger to your friends. Or the little nipper. You know that, if you’d think about it. I don’t kill people I like.”
Throughout this he closed the distance, his eyes intent on his sire except for the asides to Gunn. He stopped barely a foot away and raised his eyebrows expectantly.
Gunn cleared his throat. “I’m gonna go back out that way,” he gestured toward the back corridor, “and pretend I was never here.”
“Probably for the best,” Spike nodded to him.
Angel shook his head and started up the stairs. Gunn had moved Connor up to his crib, he’d said.
Angel didn’t look behind to see if Spike was following, or even think about him until he was standing at the crib, marveling at the tiny sleeping form of his son.
He felt Spike come up beside him and tensed, but didn’t move. The younger vampire set a hand on the crib-rail. “He is a cute little morsel,” he said. “Must take after his mum.”
An unbidden smile came to Angel’s lips and he contemplated informing Spike that he’d just inadvertently complimented Darla. “It’s terrible,” Angel said, instead. “Being a parent. Every day I look at him and all I can think of is how he could be taken away from me. Sickness. Vampires. Even time is his enemy. And he’s so precious. Innocence. Made from me. I wasn’t innocent when I was alive.” He shook his head and laid one hand over Connor’s little chest, feeling the rib cage expand with breath.
He was surprised but not alarmed to feel a hand rest on his shoulder.
He turned to look at Spike. He'd forgotten how Spike could look like an angel. He wasn’t smirking or snarking, just smiling gently down at the baby, and then he turned his face toward Angel and his bright eyes sparkled in the low light. He looked about to say something, probably “What are you lookin’ at, pouf?”
Angel decided to keep him silent. Before he knew what he was doing, his lips were pressed to Spike’s. The smaller vampire shifted to face him fully, and soon his hands were skimming over t-shirt clad muscles, his mouth opening to an increasing assault of tongue and lips and taste.
He moaned softly as those lips pulled away, and blinked, feeling a little drugged. Spike smiled. “C’mon,” he said, “Kid’s gotta sleep.”
And Angel let himself be dragged across the room to the bed. As soon as his shin touched the mattress he started pulling Spike’s clothing off of him. The duster fell easily from shoulders, the tee pulled up over taut, smooth muscle. He pushed his head under the cotton as he pushed it up, not wanting to wait to taste the flesh underneath.
“Bloody hell, Angel. What brought this on?” Spike licked his ear and purred, “You know we can’t exactly make another one.”
“Just want…” he paused to pull the t-shirt finally completely off, and then pulled his own shirt off. “To get to know you.”
“I think you know this part of me, luv.” Spike ran his hands appreciatively over Angel’s large pecs.
“No,” Angel shook his head. “I really don’t.”
And Spike saw his sire looking at him like he was brand-new, and he didn't know he was returning the same look. Clothes fell away and they began a slow exploration of each other.
Hours later, Spike scooted to the edge of the bed and fished around on the floor. Angel enjoyed the view of pert buttocks swaying until he turned around triumphantly with cigarettes and lighter in hand. “So how are we gonna explain this, when Connor gets old enough?” He put two cigarettes in his mouth and lit them, handing one off to Angel before he could say he wanted one or not. Angel took it and took a long drag. “Kinda kinky, this ‘brother’ business? Maybe it’d be better if we stuck with the tried and true ‘Uncle’ appellation. Any adult you can’t define your relationship with is an uncle, eh?”
Angel plucked Spike’s cigarette from his lips. “Not on your life.” He kissed him harshly, mashing lips together. "You're his brother."
Spike rolled his eyes, but his smile was genuine. “Yes, Dad. You kinky son-of-a-bitch.”
Downstairs, the rest of the crew had gotten home, and Lorne glanced up, smiling. Somehow, he could tell – maybe it was just a stressed-out Gunn sitting in the lobby with headphones on, humming along and pretending to read, but Lorne knew. Angel’s soul was in good hands at last. "Come on, kids. Let's get some shut-eye. Fred, hon? Go tell Gunn it's safe to hear again."