The call came at eight at night.
“Spike’s in trouble.”
Angel set the bag of blood down before he crushed it in his fist as his body tensed. He pressed the phone tighter against his ear. Buffy’s tone wasn’t one of annoyance, but of worry. “What happened?” Angel said.
“He’s being jumped, like, all the time,” Buffy told Angel over the line. “We get done with patrol, and I head home, and then the bads that should’ve been after me go after him instead. I don’t like it.”
Angel didn’t like the sound of it, either. “How long has this been going on?”
“Dunno. Long enough, I’d bet. The only reason I know about it is because Wills saw it happen when she was out with Oz,” Buffy said. “I grilled Spike about it, but he brushed it off. Said it was just some drunk demons. So I doubled back and followed him three nights ago and he got jumped, and then Giles took a turn and saw Spike get jumped, and then last night Wills saw it again. Spike kicked ass, but still, it’s way weird.”
“Where’s he tonight?”
“Helping Xander move. Did I tell you that Xander’s moving?”
“Cordy did,” Angel said, his mind spinning as he tried to piece together what could possibly be going on with his childe. Spike hadn’t said anything to him about being in trouble, or being jumped. “Are you heading over to help?”
“Yeah. We were waiting ‘til sundown to get the free vampire labor.”
“Okay. Stick with Spike, will you? And have him call me when he gets home.”
Hours later, after Angel wore a hole in the carpet from pacing, Spike finally called Angel in Los Angeles. “’Allo, Peaches. Going through the Slayer to get phone sex now, eh?”
“What? No.” Angel shook the phone sex thoughts from his head before they could take hold. “I want to know what’s going on.”
“Right now, I’m sitting here naked with a fag in one hand and m’cock in the other.”
“Spike—,” the growl in Angel’s voice was partially annoyance, partially lust, “—I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about you getting jumped by demons every night.”
“Oh, that.” Spike’s tone went flat. He tried to brush it off. “It’s nothing.”
“It’s not nothing.”
Spike snorted. “I don’t think a bunch of intoxicated tremarl are much of a threat.”
“Are they drunk every night? Because Buffy tells me this is a regular occurrence.”
Spike paused, and in that brief moment, Angel heard the truth even as the lie tumbled from Spike’s lips and into Angel’s ear across the line. “I might’ve pissed ‘em off by winning all their dosh and one of their first born.”
“It’s that bad?” Angel asked softly, with concern.
Spike was silent for a long time. Eventually, he sighed and admitted, “Yeah.”
“What’s going on? Do you know?”
Angel could practically see Spike picking at the nail polish on his thumb as he debated how to respond. “I do,” Spike said.
“There, uh, might be a contract out on my head.”
“What?” Angel said, reflexively, because he knew what he’d heard but it was hard to comprehend. “Why?”
“You think I’m not good enough for people to want to kill me?” Spike sounded put out. Angel wanted to reach through the phone and throttle him.
“Spike, this is serious. Why is there a contract out on you? How do you know?” Angel searched his memories, and briefly remembered a flippant remark about a bounty but nothing had ever come of it. Now he regretted not following up.
Spike sighed loudly. “Because I’m helping the Slayer. Because I asked before killing one of the twats who was trying to kill me. Happy?”
“Of course I’m not happy!” Angel snapped. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“And you would do what? Come to Sunnydale and babysit me? I don’t need it and you have a job to do in L.A.”
Angel didn’t completely agree with the statement, but went a different route. “Then, why not let Buffy help you?”
”’S’not her fight.”
“Spike, she’s your friend.”
Angel wanted to put a contract on Spike’s head himself, for being such a stubborn ass. Instead, Angel put on his coat. “So, you’re going to be with her any time you go out until I say otherwise.”
“Yeah, right,” Spike scoffed.
“Do not fight me on this, Will.”
Spike went quiet for a moment, and then mumbled, “All right.”
It took way longer than Angel would have liked, but he finally got what he needed and headed to Sunnydale. The day was hot and sunny, and Angel had to dash from the car to Spike’s door with his coat held over his head. He was slightly steamed by the time he got the door unlocked and entered Spike’s apartment.
The bedroom door was cracked open and Spike peered from behind it. He opened the door fully when he saw who had arrived. He was tousled-haired from sleep, wore only black boxers, and held a sword in his hand. “You could knock first.”
Angel responded by sweeping Spike up into a hard kiss. “You’re safe,” Angel said when they broke.
Spike appeared befuddled. Angel hoped it was from the kiss. “Say what?”
“You’re safe,” Angel repeated, but it wasn’t relief he conveyed. It was fact. “The contract’s canceled.”
Spike blinked at him with more confusion. “How…?”
“I know people,” Angel said. He now owed Lindsey McDonald a favor to be named at a later date – one that didn’t include killing, maiming, torturing, or otherwise losing Angel’s soul – but it was worth it. “You should’ve told me sooner.”
“I… it wasn’t your problem,” Spike said, now appearing abashed. He moved away from Angel, setting the sword on the kitchen table.
“Everything about you is my problem, and I don’t want it any other way.”
“Poof,” Spike scoffed, but he wouldn’t look at Angel. He patted his boxers as if searching for a cigarette.
“And now you need to be punished for keeping secrets from me,” Angel said. That got Spike to whip around. Angel grinned a hint sadistically. He drew off his coat, tossed it on the sofa, and began rolling up his sleeves. “Now, what should I do to you…”
By the end of the day, Spike agreed never to keep secrets from Angel again. Angel didn’t believe him.
And Spike planned to keep secrets more often.