Angel Investigations was not where Spike had left it because nothing in this sodding world could be easy. He stared at the space that had once been home to Angel’s stupid detective agency as though willing it to rematerialize. The entire drive from Sunnyhell, he’d banked on being able to show up and get started. Dig right into the Slayer saving business.
But with the sun due up soon and no roof overhead, Spike’s priorities were forced to change into a hunt for shelter. By looks alone, he figured Angel’s base of operations had been blown to smithereens. Seemed a bad habit where Angel was concerned. Maybe he had an arson fetish.
Inconveniences aside, LA was not without its resources for the modern vamp. Spike moved to the city’s underground to navigate throughout the day. His connections here weren’t extensive, but he knew enough folks to get around decently.
Still, it took way too much bloody time to find a demon with enough stones to namedrop the Hyperion Hotel.
Which sounded about right. The last time he’d been in LA, the Hyperion’s lobby had been a rat haven. And the rumors Spike had heard about malevolent spooks had convinced him to take Dru there in the pre-Prague days. They’d christened as many rooms as they could before the ghostie had tossed them out.
Good times, those.
Spike snickered and shook his head, wedging a cigarette between his lips. If someone had told him then his feelings for Dru would turn on their bloody head in the span of a few years, he would’ve…well, yanked out their spleen and made merry with their entrails.
But that had been before.
Before Angelus returned the first time. Before he saw just how little Dru cared for him. Before she’d snogged a sodding Chaos Demon because he, Spike, had had a certain little birdie stuck in his head.
At the time, Spike had thought she’d been jealous that any woman could infiltrate the palace of his mind. After all, while she’d shagged half of bloody Europe, he’d been a devoted one woman vamp. Lusting after Buffy had certainly not been in the cards.
Except Spike now reckoned that had little to do with it. Dru got jealous, but she also got even. If she thought he fancied someone else, she’d punish him for it, sure, but in a fun way. Buffy was a different story.
Buffy was the Slayer, and Dru couldn’t forgive that, so she’d chucked him.
And the rest, as they say, was history.
Spike inhaled appreciatively on his fag and turned his attention back to the Hyperion. Place didn’t look nearly as run down as it had a few years back. Seemed Angel had well for himself. It was most definitely an improvement from the two-bit offices from before.
Hopefully Angel Investigations also had turndown service.
Granted, Spike had some concerns. A hotel wasn’t exactly vamp-proof, and being that Angelus made a point of attacking anyone who reminded him of his soulful side, this could prove problematic.
Or a waste of time. Maybe the crew had already snuffed it. Maybe was too late.
As he neared, though, he dismissed this thought. He couldn’t smell so much as a hint of human blood anywhere nearby. The place was clean—clean as a very large hotel could be.
And Angelus’s scent was all over the bloody place. Perhaps he was working up to a mass slaughter as he had last time. Killed a bunch of fish and offed a teacher before he’d grown bored with regular slaughter and decided to end the world. Go big or go bloody home.
There were other scents too. Cordelia was definitely on the premises, even if she wasn’t in sight, and at least one other bloke, maybe two. Spike peeked through the windows best he could, but couldn’t see anything beyond some cushy furniture.
Better to go in and get the awkward part over with.
He sighed heavily, tossed his cig to the ground, then stormed over to the front and threw the door open.
And was promptly chucked a good ten feet back by a force he couldn’t see.
“Bloody fuck!” he roared, more out of surprise than pain. When he raised his head to gauge the invisible barrier, he was honestly surprised to see nothing but an open doorway. This wasn’t right. The mojo that kept vamps from popping into homes willy nilly wasn’t supposed to apply to public accommodations, and it sure as fuck weren’t supposed to shove back that hard.
It took Spike a few seconds to suss out that Angel might have worked some additional magic of his own to keep out all the nasty vamps who didn’t take kindly to soulful types. Hell, maybe Spike himself was responsible for the new security.
That thought made him grin.
But he dismissed this the next second—Angel the great git would have seen anything like that as a form of weakness, and soul or not, he couldn’t stand weakness. Story went he’d nearly greeted a sunrise a few years back because he’d been too weak to stay away from the Slayer.
If the sodding Powers hadn’t mucked that up, Buffy would still be tucked away back in Sunnyhell.
Spike shook himself off and neared the entrance again, cautiously this time. All right, so he’d need an invite. That should be a breeze considering he and Cordy were best of mates.
Spike edged as close as he dared to the now open doorway and peered inside. The lobby was still vacant. The upper hallways, best to his line of visibility, were empty as well.
Back to the sodding basics.
“Hello!” he shouted, the acoustics making him sound like he was on stage somewhere. “Come out, come out, wherever you are!”
A few seconds ticked by. No response.
“Oh sod it, I know damn well that everyone’s home. Now come out and greet your guest right and proper.”
It was time to resort to dirty warfare.
“Cordelia! I have one of your frilly little shirts and I’m gonna rip it apart yarn by yarn ‘till you come down and bloody well let me in!”
At that, someone appeared at the veranda. Someone with much shorter hair than he remembered, but eyes that he would know anywhere. A grin rose to his lips and he offered a wave. “Knew you couldn’t resist.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Cordelia Chase replied, rolling her eyes. “I’m just coming down to tell you that one, you are so not invited in and two, you couldn’t possibly have any of my clothing because of the aforementioned number one. Besides, you don’t even know where I live.”
He cocked an eyebrow and looked around. “Hate to tell you, love, but this big hotel doesn’t leave much to the imagination.”
“Yuck! You think I live at work? Puhlease. Hasn’t Angel told you anything? Or are you just trying to wheedle an invitation over at my digs, ‘cause I gotta tell you, that won’t do you any good, either.” Even at a distance, he saw she her proud smirk. “Dennis would so kick your ass.”
“Whatever. Listen, Cordy, be a dear and—”
“It’s not gonna happen, Bleach Boy. Deal with it.”
“Oh for cryin’… I’m here to help you!”
Someone else came into view. Someone who wasn’t the little Irish bugger. “I find that rather unlikely,” a said twenty-year-younger-sounding-Giles as a bloke sidled next to Cordy on the veranda. “As we explained to Angelus earlier, we are well aware of what has happened and we are—”
“So Angelus did drop by here earlier?” It wasn’t so much a question as an observation. Spike raised a hand to the invisible barrier and lightly skimmed the surface—just enough so that it tickled. “Nice mojo. Your handiwork, Cor?”
“I had some help.”
“From the halfling I take it.” He rolled onto his toes to see further up the corridor, but it was no use. “Guess he’s coming down next, eh?”
At that, Cordelia’s face fell in a way that left very little to the imagination.
Fuck. The little git had kicked it. Best to change the subject.
“But I like it. Very posh.” Spike dropped his hands. “But highly unneeded. I’m on your side, here.”
“You’re a member of the Order of Aurelius,” not-Giles observed.
Spike bugged out his eyes and started patting his chest. “Doesn’t that beat all. You learn somethin’ new every day. Yeah, Dru already gave me the run through. I should say, Darla gave me the run through, then Dru decided to put on an encore. Guess Angelus didn’t share that I turned down that offer.”
Not-Giles arched an eyebrow. “Out of the goodness of your heart, I suppose?”
“No, actually, for a girl. This just happens to be a side-effect.” He tapped his cranium. “And even if I did have evil intentions, I have a cute little government chip that gives me a bloody shock if I so much as lift a finger against one of you humanly types. You happy? Now lemme in!”
Cordelia snickered. “Yes, because we make a habit of trusting evil vampires.”
“Wanna come down here so I can give you a demo?”
“Don’t think so.”
“Listen, you daft bint, your fearless leader and his tarty little sire have Buf—the Slayer and they’re doing god-knows-what to her. You want a slayer death on your conscience? That’s the only reason I’m here.”
“Oh, to save Buffy?” Cordelia snorted. “Yeah, I’m buying that.”
A new voice permeated into the corridor, and another new face appeared on the veranda. A Black fella who looked tougher than Cordelia and the British bloke combined. He caught sight of Spike and started with a small laugh. “No wonder I couldn’t concentrate. We’re under attack by Billy Idol.”
Spike rolled his eyes. “For the last bloody time, that git stole my look and …forget it. Listen, Cordy, I know we’ve had our differences in the past. There was that entire ‘me trying to kill you’ thing and you being cross about it. Bygones, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve seen the error of my ways and all that rot. If you don’t trust me—which honestly, I wouldn’t either—phone up Rupert. He’ll set you straight.”
At that, Cordelia’s gaze softened.
The man next to her tapped the British gent’s shoulder. “Who is this guy?”
“William the Bloody,” not-Giles replied. “Better known as Spike. From the Order of Angelus. He was sired by Drusilla.”
“You mean there’s more to this family tree? Man, just when I thought I’d caught up.”
Spike was impressed. While he suspected that the Order was being studied, the substitute Rupert seemed to have his facts fairly straight.
He jutted his chin at him showily and grinned. “Hey mate, you seem familiar.” It was a lie, but a good icebreaker, nonetheless. “Have I threatened you before?”
“I am Wesley Wyndam-Pryce,” he introduced. “Former Watcher. In fact, I was Buffy—”
“Oh right,” Spike said, nodding. “You’re the wanker who turned that other Chosen bint all rogue. Right. Buffy’s told me about you.” He chuckled and presented him with a thumbs-up. “Nice going.”
“Hey, we don’t talk about that around here,” Cordelia snapped, waving at him in a universal shut up motion.
Spike had to smother a chuckle. The bird did have stones.
“Anyway,” she continued, “what was that you were saying about calling Giles?”
“I owe the bloke a call anyway. Told him I’d keep in contact.” Spike rolled on his heels impatiently. “So are you gonna lemme in or not? Get something wooden and pointy if it’ll make you feel better. But I’m here to help, okay? Even if I wasn’t, this chip means I got no bloody bite where the lot of you are concerned.”
Cordelia gnawed at her lip, then turned to Wesley. “I suppose we could have him sing for the Host.”
“Or you could have a vision,” the other bloke said. There was a dry note in his voice, like he didn’t care one way or another. Spike decided this guy might be all right, that Billy Idol comment notwithstanding. “Come on. What do we have to lose?”
“That’s what I’ve been saying since I got here!”
There was a second’s hesitation. Cordelia evidently reached a decision and leaned toward Wesley, though she kept her eyes trained on the doorway as though the barrier was going to magically come down of its own accord. “Go get the crossbow.”
Ten minutes later, Spike was hovering over the front desk, nodding as he reassured Rupert once more of his good intentions before turning the receiver to Wesley. There was a series of contended ‘ohhs’ and ‘I see’s’ before he nodded to Cordelia and the other man—who had kept the crossbow trained on him throughout the entire introduction process—that Spike’s story checked.
“Okay,” Cordelia said once everything was in the clear. “You’ve officially snagged my attention. Why are you here to help? Last time I saw you, you all but tortured Angel to death.”
“Good times.” Spike grinned even if he knew it was dangerous. He was, after all, surrounded by a lot of ponces who were loyal to his wanker of a grandsire, but that particular memory was a happy one, and he would never pretend otherwise. “And if we wanna be fair, it was more that git Marcus who did the torturing…and got the better end of the deal, if you don’ count being a pile of dust at the end of the day. Let’s just say I’m a changed man. Seen the light and all that.”
Wesley cocked his head. “Because of the chip? Vampires do not change, Spike. Without the guidance of—”
“Listen, do you want help or not?”
“I believe what Wes is trying to say is…” Cordelia drawled once more. “Shouldn’t you be crawling over a football field of hot ash for your wackaloon of a girlfriend?”
“Dru’s already spoken her piece to me, like I said. I turned her down.” He held up a hand. “Don’t ask me why. It’s nothing I can explain. Believe me, I’ve tried. The lot of you are nothing compared to a bunch of righteous Scoobies. I’m here for the Slayer and only the Slayer. If she wants to go after your precious boss after I have her back, fine. Bloody fun times all around.” Spike shrugged and dug his hands into his duster pockets. “I don’t rightly care much, either way.”
“You’re sure going out of your way for some chick you claim to not care too much about,” said the man he didn’t know.
“I didn’t—” Spike began shortly. “By the way, who are you?”
“Call me Gunn.”
Cordelia shook her head. “Sorry. Didn’t realize we were keeping you in the dark. Charles Gunn, this is Spike. Spike, Charles Gunn. Spike’s the vampire that’s tried to kill us more times than we can count.”
“In all fairness, love, I never really had a yen for your head on a stick. It was just the Slayer I wanted to do in.”
“And now you’re here to rescue her.” Wesley was now looking at him the way a scientist might look at a lab rat. “My, my. How intriguing. I don’t suppose this marks as a study that a creature whose prime directive is to be evil can alter his nature once the laws of science intervene and force him to—”
Cordelia and Gunn exchanged a look, then chorused together, “No.”
Wesley frowned. “I was merely saying—”
“Believe me,” Spike said, grinning in spite of himself. “Rupert already tried that road. It’s not worth repeating.” He turned, remembering something, casting an interested eye at the entrance. “I wasn’t lying before. I do fancy the new system. Very handy. Though I’ve been under the impression that invitation blocks don’t work in public places, and the last time I saw you, you weren’t exactly a witch. Well, in the formal sense of the world.”
She delivered a look that could freeze hell, thaw it, and freeze it again. “We could always disinvite you.”
“But I’m cavalry, and you’re the goody-good guys. You wouldn’t leave a poor, defenseless slayer with only yours truly as the bleeding brigade.”
“You could chop off all Buffy’s limbs and I still don’t think you’d be able to call her helpless.”
“Agreed,” Wesley stated with a nod. “Though she would be in the running for the Black Knight.”
There was a second’s pause as Spike and Wesley made contact, then promptly burst out laughing.
Cordelia glanced helplessly to Gunn, who shrugged. “Monty Python,” he explained. “It’s funny the first time around.”
“Oh no, mate,” Spike objected, grinning madly. It felt good to have something to grin at. Though not much time had passed, two days’ worth of worrying had his stomach tied in knots that seemed unworkable. Humor was undoubtedly the best medicine. “It’s funny every time around. It’s especially funny if you mention that part about the rabbit around Anya. Sends her running in circles.”
“Anya as in the girl he went to prom with? They’re still together?”
Gunn was staring at Cordelia. “You remember who went to your prom with who?”
She shrugged. “I went with Wesley…well, sorta.”
He blinked at turned to Wesley. “You cradle robbing smoothie. I never woulda guessed that.”
Color crept into Wesley’s cheeks. He cleared his throat loudly and focused again on Spike, clearly desperate for a change of subject. “The invitation spell was enhanced by an independent contractor,” he explained. “After Angel went bad, we were called by an…informant at Wolfram and Hart. He was generous enough to warn us about what had transpired, as well as Angel’s plans for us.”
Spike’s brows shot up. “Oh, is that right? Just a good friend who happens to work for the biggest evil this side of the Western hemisphere?”
“Someone who’s not as evil as he’d like to think he is.” Cordelia smirked. “But still a big pain in the ass. Does that sound better, or just really familiar?”
“Oi! Take that back!”
She batted her eyes innocently. “What?”
“I’m still bad!”
“Please. That’s so twenty minutes ago.”
“You’re this close to—”
“Spike, if you were halfway as bad as you’d like to be, I never would’ve let you in.” She shook her head, snickering. “Hello! We’ve only been talking for the better part of ten minutes, and I can so tell that you’re over the entire evil thing. The being-here-to-rescue-Buffy ring any bells?”
Gunn chuckled his agreement. “Gotta say, bro, she’s got you there. Riskin’ your hide for the one chick that shouldn’t mean shit to you? Yeah, you sound real bad to me.”
“Movie of the week complex,” Cordelia offered.
“I was thinkin’ a deranged Hallmark card.”
“Forget that. It’s my business, innit?” A pause. Spike reckoned that it was time to get back on subject, now that his pride was on the cutting board. “What’s to be done about Captain Forehead?”
“I thought you didn’t care,” Cordelia replied with an amused smile.
“Bollocks. I don’t care. But if I should run into him on the street or what all, it might be good to know how far I can pummel him till it reaches ‘Spike-be-staked’ territory.”
At that, the group exchanged a series of pointed looks.
“We don’t want Angel dead,” Wesley explained after a moment. “But we understand that getting him back might not be as simple as we’d like. There are forces out there working against us, and not having a champion…well…that’s going to make things all the more difficult.”
Spike snickered and rolled his eyes. “Champion.”
Whatever had lingered from Cordelia’s teasing evaporated. Her eyes flashed, making her look almost scary. “Hey,” she snapped. “I don’t care what issues you have with Angel, but around here, we—”
“Let it go, Cor,” Gunn advised. “You were spokesperson for the ‘We think Angel has lost it’ party for weeks before he went all evil on us.”
“That doesn’t mean I have to take it from Captain Peroxide.”
“Great.” Spike sighed. “Seems no matter where I go, I’m surrounded by hypocritical white-hats.”
“Hey, watch it buddy. You came to us. Remember?”
He pinched the bridge of his nose. There would be plenty of time to sit around and have at it with each other later. Right now, only the Slayer mattered. Which was a pity, because he felt there was a shot that these were people he felt he could like if given the opportunity. Already he felt a lot more acceptance with them than he’d ever had in Sunnyhell.
“Not that this isn’t terribly interesting…well, it’s not at that, but I came here with one purpose.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Cordelia waved dismissively. “We got it. The Slayer and all that. Jeez, Spike. If you had been this dedicated to getting her killed, she wouldn’t be around for you to rescue.”
“And I’m sure some part of that made sense,” Gunn observed with a frown.
Wesley stepped forward. “Our best option right now is Caritas,” he suggested. “The Host can read you. Well, all of us, really, and point us in the right direction.”
“Caritas. It’s a demon karaoke bar.” Wesley nodded to his colleagues, who instantly hurried off. This lot had nonverbal communication down to a science. “The Host there can read you when you sing. It’s most useful, really. I’m sure he can prove to be of some service.”
Spike gave him a hard look. “I have to sing?”
“If you want to help Buffy, it would be beneficial.”
A long pause.
“I have to sing?”
Cordelia reappeared out of thin air, fitting into her jacket and tossing Wesley his. “Angel did.”
Spike snickered and looked at her. “Oh god. He sang? And your ears didn’t bleed till you died?”
She smirked. “I won’t deny that it was a legitimate concern of mine.”
“I’d forgotten how tone deaf the wanker was till three years ago. I caught him on occasion with a song or what all stuck in his head. Think it about killed all the flowers in his garden.” Spike shook his head. “Lemme guess…Barry Manilow?”
The lot of them were grinning now. “The one and only,” Gunn agreed. “It was…oh, I don’t think there are words.”
Cordelia shrugged. “Awful? Horrendous? Kill-me-now?”
“Yeah, those words’ll do.”
She grinned and shifted her attention back to Spike. “So, Spikey, you’re going to dazzle us with a number. For the sake of humankind, of course.”
“Or in his case, pussy-whipped kind,” Gunn corrected.
Spike glared at him.
He kept his gaze on Gunn a moment longer, then finally looked back to Cordelia. “Just wait, love,” he promised softly. “All good things.”
She favored him with a wry glance and a smile to match it. “We’ll see.”
Spike grinned in turn and pivoted to follow his new associates out the door.
This was an exceptionally good start.
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