Angel escorted Dr. Dhaliwal and his Gaurog bodyguard to the door of the hotel. He was mentally rehearsing the procedure for inserting an IV drip. Angel had been too embarrassed to admit that he was a bit squeamish about needles. In Spike’s fraught state, he figured that he only had one chance to do it right before Spike went into full vampire mode.
Gunn and Cordelia had gone home, but Wesley had lingered, waiting for a chance to speak to Angel.
“So what did the doctor say?”
“The Initiative poured bleach down his throat. What sort of valuable scientific data do you think they get from that? Riley Finn better stay out of my sight,” he said. “Buffy’s corn-fed, all-American boyfriend has a lot to answer for.”
“I won’t attempt to justify the Initiative’s methods. They may have been over-zealous, but they are our allies in the fight to protect the innocent from demonkind “
“I’m not sure that fighting demons is all that they were up to,” Angel said. “That facility was too elaborate to just be a prison for demons. It must have been hugely expensive to construct and operate. I think that there was something else going on there.”
He pulled out the address that Dr. Dhaliwal had given him, and then took out his wallet, removing all the cash he had with him. He handed the money and the address to Wesley.
“The place at this address sells human blood for magical rituals. I’d like you to go there tomorrow morning and get some blood. Take Cordy with you. She’s good at haggling; maybe she can get us a discount.”
“You’re feeding Spike human blood?”
“It’s what the doctor says he needs,” Angel said. “He said to feed him intravenously. Have you ever set up an IV drip?”
“My Watcher’s training did include some basic medical training,” Wesley said.
“Good. The doctor left me the equipment and gave me some instructions, but I’ve never done it myself. You can do it first, and I’ll watch you. Do you think you can stick around for a while? I’m going to get Spike cleaned up a bit first.”
Wesley nodded. Angel was halfway up the stairs when Wesley found the courage to say what was on his mind.
“I understand that you may feel you have an obligation to protect Spike, but having him here does present certain difficulties.”
“What difficulties? Spike’s chipped, so he can’t hurt anyone.”
“It has not escaped my notice that you have a certain....understandable....fondness for him.”
“Get to the point, Wesley. Are you worried that being around Spike is going to be a bad influence on me? You should know me better than that.”
“That is not what I’m worried about. What concerns me is that since you’ve been around Spike, your mood has lightened. You don’t seem to be as brooding and morose. One moment of perfect happiness is all that it takes for Angelus to return.”
“I’ve just been too busy looking after him to put in my regular brooding hours. I guess a moment of perfect happiness with Spike could seem plausible to you, since you don’t know him. I promise you that once Spike gets his voice back, you’ll see what a ridiculous idea that is.”
Angel returned to Room 212 carrying a large towel, washcloth, soap, shampoo and conditioner. He placed the supplies on the bed next to Spike. HIs examination had exhausted the vampire. He was sleeping and Angel had to shake him to get him to open his eyes.
“We’ll just get you cleaned up and then we’ll move you to another room,” Angel said in a falsely cheery tone.
Spike gave him a sharp glance; he didn’t appreciate being spoken to as if he were a child. Just because he was physically weak didn’t mean he’d regressed to infancy.
The liquid that came out of the hotel room’s tap was more rust than water, and Angel let it run for a while until it cleared. While the tub filled, he took off his coat and shirt, to prevent them from getting wet.
Spike was incapable of doing much to assist as Angel undressed him. Angel removed his ill-fitting sweatpants (noting that Xander had been too cheap to spring for a pair of underpants) and struggled to get him out of his t-shirt. Then he carried Spike into the other room and put him in the bath tub.
The marks of months of torture were clearly visible on Spike’s milk-white skin. There were scars, and old wounds that had almost healed, and newer wounds on top of them. Then there were the wounds that must had been inflected on him when Spike had been left alone to die in the dark, when all of his energy had gone to staying alive, and those wounds hadn’t healed at all. They were still fresh and painful.
Angel’s touch was delicate. Spike’s skin was stretched paper-thin, tight over his bones. He didn’t want to open any wounds or cause Spike pain. However, Spike hadn’t bathed in months and grime was embedded under his skin and caked beneath his nails. It would take more than one good, hot bath to get him clean.
Spike seemed to enjoy having his hair washed, so Angel lingered a bit on this task, massaging his scalp and running his fingers though his grand-childe’s hair. He was rewarded with the hint of a smile on Spike’s face.
Then Angel scooped Spike up, getting a fair amount of water down the front of his pants, and wrapped him up in the towel.
“Feels good to be clean,” he said, earning himself another sharp look from Spike.
He didn’t bother dressing him in Xander’s thrift store finds: the sweatpants were the wrong size and the t-shirt was too much bother. Instead, he dressed Spike in his own shirt, which had buttons and was a lot easier to manage. It was almost long enough to serve as a nightshirt.
Angel didn’t use the rickety elevator. He carried Spike down the flight of stairs to the lobby. To Wesley’s horrified eyes they looked like the cover of a romance paperback. Angel was, of course, the shirtless hero, while Spike, with his long curly hair and (slightly blood-stained) white nightshirt, played the part of his swooning bride-to-be.
Angel took Spike to his apartment, which was in the basement of the hotel. He laid him down on the couch while he went into the bedroom to change the sheets on his bed. Wesley followed him in.
“He’ll be sleeping in your bed, then?”
“More room for the IV pole here than by the couch.”
“So you’ll be taking the couch then.”
Angel looked at his employee.
“My sleeping arrangements are none of your business.”
“Unfortunately, the prospect of Angelus returning makes your sleeping arrangements my business, as awkward and uncomfortable as that is.”
Angel glowered, but Wesley stood his ground, certain of where his duty lay.
“Aside from the fact that Spike and I have never been interested in each other, he can hardly stay awake for more than thirty seconds at a time. What exactly do you think is going to happen?
Have you ever heard of dormancy, Wesley? Did you run across that term in one of your Watcher texts?”
Wesley shook his head.
“Dormancy is the living death. It happens when a vampire shuts down, closes in on himself and withdraws from the world entirely. William’s so close, Wesley. I can see how oblivion tempts him. He could go down so deep that I won’t be able to pull him back up again. Feeling someone’s arms around him while he sleeps could make all the difference. Just knowing that someone cares. So, yes, Wesley, Spike and I will be sharing a bed. Any objections?”
“I’m sorry that raising this matter appears to have upset you,” Wesley said. “That was never my intention.”
Angel took a deep (and unnecessary) breath, forcing himself to calm down. Getting into an argument with Wesley was the last thing he needed or wanted.
“No harm done,” he said. “Now, I’ll get Spike and you can show me how to set up an IV.”
Wesley had been stiff and formal. He’d set up the IV quickly and efficiently, explaining each step to Angel with admirable clarity. Then he'd left. Angel knew that the ex-Watcher was hiding his hurt feelings beneath all that formality, and that it would be up to him to bridge the awkwardness that now separated them. He’d have to take him out for a pub crawl, get him a houseplant, or bake him a batch of cookies. Something like that. Bridge-building would have to wait for another day, however.
Angel turned on the television at the foot of his bed,. Then he put in a videotape of the latest episode of CSI:Miami, turning the sound off and the sub-titles on. Angel took off his shoes, and slipped under the covers next to Spike. Careful not to jar the arm attached to the IV, he put his arms around the sleeping vampire’s shoulders and pulled him close, until Spike’s head was resting on his shoulders.
“A leanbh,” he whispered.
Then he settled back to watch Horatio Crane solve one of Miami’s most puzzling crimes.