Never Send A Psychotic
To Do A Lunatic's Job


by Saber ShadowKitten




Part Eleven



Angel was staring at him funny.

Spike glanced at the taller vampire from the corner of his eye. Angel's expression was one that Spike had never seen before and couldn't put a name to. Even Buffy thought it was odd.

"I wonder what power his microscope is set at," Buffy whispered, walking on the other side of him. The blond vampire shrugged and pulled his duster tighter around him. He hated being stared at. It made him uncomfortable and he closed up, not speaking unless asked a direct question.

They had finished what they'd been sent to do at the Council headquarters. Oz had hooked up wire taps to the multiple telephone lines in the building. The phone tapping equipment, along with other 'toys,' had been liberated from the laboratory before it had been stripped clean by the unknown corporation that'd funded it. After the taps had been set, they had split up and "bugged" -- set up tiny recording microphones -- as many rooms as they could without getting caught. Then they sneaked out a side door and started for The Bear Inn, where they were to meet the others.

Spike quickened his step and pulled away from Angel. His sire's stare was burning a hole into him, and he didn't like it. He didn't understand why Angel was doing it, either. He hadn't done anything stupid in the past few hours that he knew of, and neither Buffy nor Oz had told him the same.

"Slow up, Spike, before Oz yells at you," Buffy chided. "You don't want him to do it in front of Angel, do you?"

"No," Spike mumbled, cutting his pace. It was bad enough that Angel was staring at him for unknown reasons, he didn't want to have his sire staring at him because he'd been scolded like a child, too. Sometimes being a sodding imbecile who got lost even in his own backyard bloody well sucked.

He wanted to go back to the inn. He was hungry, dirty, and sick of being stared at. To top it all off, his hand was spasming like mad. It was hidden from sight in his duster pocket so Angel wouldn't see it. He felt enough like a sideshow freak as it was.

"Spike?"

Spike closed his eyes for a moment and silently cursed. He didn't want to talk to Angel almost as much as he didn't want the pillock staring at him. "What?" he grunted, as the dark-haired vampire fell into step beside him.

"Be nice," Buffy said. "Maybe he'll tell you why he's acting all weird."

"Back in the water sewer," Angel began. "How did you punch a hole in solid rock?"

"With my fist," Spike said sarcastically.

"Oh, yeah, that's being real nice," Buffy commented.

"Your hand should be broken, at the very least," Angel pointed out. "And look at it..." He took hold of Spike's arm and pulled the blond's hand from his pocket before Spike could prevent him. "...It's... twitching?"

Spike stopped walking and jerked away from Angel, pulling his hand close to his body. "Leave me alone, Angel."

"Spike?" Oz forced himself between the two vampires, shot a glare at Angel, then looked to Spike. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," Spike grumped, turning towards the storefront they'd been walking past.

"Hey, numbskull, do you want your hand to keep doing that?" Buffy said.

"No," he replied sullenly.

"Then show Oz so he can fix it," Buffy told him.

"Don't want to."

"Spike," Oz laid a hand on Spike's shoulder, and the vampire shrugged him off.

"Why not?" Buffy asked.

"Because the poof's gonna stare even more," Spike said unhappily. "Then he's gonna think I'm a frickin' mutant and avoid me, and we're not gonna be able to find out if what Dru said was true."

Buffy giggled. "You rhymed."

"Sod off, Slayer."

"Spike," Angel ventured, as if he were speaking to a child. "How about if I promise not to stare? Will you show your hand to Oz?"

"Damn it!" Spike exclaimed, spinning around to glare angrily at Angel. "Will you people stop treating me like I'm a bloody child! I'm sick of it!"

The blond vampire spun to face the storefront again, bent his knees, and jumped straight into the air. He landed lightly on the building rooftop's ledge, forty feet above, and hopped down onto the flat surface.

"Now that wasn't childish," Buffy said sardonically from her perch on the ledge.

"Shut up," Spike snapped.

"Hello, Mr. Rude," she said. "What's your damage? They don't treat you that differently at home."

"Yeah, but at home, Angel isn't there," he grumbled.

Buffy's delicate brow arched. "You want to have sex with him that much?"

"No." He paused. "Well, yes, but that's not what I meant."

"I'm waiting," Buffy said, resting her chin on her cupped palm.

Spike slumped, walked over to the ledge, and dropped to the ground by her feet. He leaned back against the ledge and watched his hand spasm where it rested on his thigh. "I don't want Angel to be disappointed, that's all, luv."

"Disappointed? How?"

"For failing to be a good childe," Spike said. "For getting you hurt and myself royally buggered."

"Spike," Buffy slid down to sit beside him, "it wasn't your fault."

Spike shrugged and picked at an exposed piece of tar paper. Buffy sighed. "We've had this talk before, Spike. There was nothing either of us could've done--"

"I could've protected you better," Spike interrupted. "I should have."

"Spike, you were chipped," Buffy said, "and you still fought like a banshie when they took me away that final time. You hurt yourself more than they hurt you by doing that, and yet you still tried to save me."

"But I didn't," Spike said morosely.

"You have the most important part of me," Buffy told him gently. "You have my heart... and I don't mean just literally."

Spike snorted softly and rubbed the back of his hand across his wet cheeks. "I'm sure TDAH would simply love to hear that."

"Ha, ha," Buffy said dryly.

Spike sighed. "I suppose I am acting a bit nancyish, hiding out on the roof like this."

"So jump back down, have Oz fix your hand, then steal Angel and go on that kicking thing you wanted to do," Buffy suggested.

"Kicking thing?"

"You know, the boats."

"Punting," Spike correct. "Punting on the Isis. But I doubt he'd want to go."

"Why not?"

"Because I'm an effin' freak."

"Yeah, but a cute freak," Buffy countered with a grin.

Spike rolled his eyes. "Luv, I don't think he cares if I'm cute or not."

"Wanna bet?"

He shook his head. "The tosser's prolly gone by now, and thinking of ways to avoid me for the rest of the holiday."

"Why would he want to avoid you?" Buffy asked.

"Because everything about him reminds me of what Angelus had been like before the soul -- minus the bodies," Spike replied. "He's got the same way of carrying himself, the same look in his eyes, the same way of treating Drusilla. He acts like he doesn't care about anything other than what directly effects him."

Spike looked up at the night sky. "Angelus was always one for perfection: Darla was his perfect woman; Drusilla he'd made perfectly insane; he'd made me into his perfect second." The blond vampire knocked his head lightly against the ledge wall. "Angelus hates flaws. And now, I'm a bloody giant one."

"Giles, Xander, Oz, Willow, and Tara don't think you're flawed," Buffy said.

Spike gave Buffy a look. "Right. They think I'm special," the word dripped with derision.

"You know what?" Buffy stood. "I'm getting off this pity train before I get motion sickness. If you're too chicken to go back down there and show Angel that you're still perfect, even with your supposed flaws, then I don't blame him if he avoids you the rest of this trip."

"Hey, now!" Spike climbed to his feet and frowned at her. "You're supposed to be on my side."

"Says who?"

He scowled at her. "Fine. Just to prove I'm right, I'm going back down there, let Angel watch Oz fix my hand, then invite my sire to go punting. We'll see how fast he says: 'not a bleedin' chance in hell.'"

Spike looked over the ledge. Angel and Oz seemed to be engaged in a staring contest, both with their arms crossed over their chests. The height variance didn't seem to make a difference with them. The blond vampire glanced at Buffy, smiled mirthlessly, and hopped over the ledge.

He landed in a comfortable crouch on the pavement below, next to where the other two stood. Straightening, he held out his spasming hand. "Fix this. It's starting to drive me up a bloody wall."

"Here?" Oz questioned. "You don't want to wait for Giles?"

"Yes, here, and no, I don't want to wait," Spike replied. He glared challengingly at his sire. "I want Angel to see this."

Oz gave Spike a long look. "You sure?"

"Positive."

"Only fools are positive," Oz said.

"You sure?" Spike said with a hint of a grin playing at his lips.

Oz's black eyes twinkled. "Positive."

"You two are pathetic," Buffy commented from behind Oz.

"So are you, but I don't complain," Spike told her. He shook his twitching hand at Oz. "Well, mate?"

"Come over by the light," Oz directed, leading him over to a street light. The half-wolf removed a pocket knife and opened the sharply pointed blade. He took out a dirty bandana, folded it into thirds, and held it between his and Spike's hand to catch the blood.

Spike looked up at Angel, who had come to stand beside them. "Remember you asked how I was able to punch through solid rock?" Angel nodded. The blond half-smiled. "This is how."

Spike continued to watch Angel as Angel watched Oz cut into Spike's palm. He saw the older man's eyes widen slightly, his nostrils flare, and his lips press firmly together. Angel's cheek ticked as he ground his teeth. His eyes met Spike's, and Spike saw not pity, disgust, or disappointment, but anger alighting their depths. Anger that caused the dark orbs to glow with golden fire without the older vampire changing into game-face.

Angel's focus returned to what Oz was doing, and Spike let out a shaky breath that he didn't even need. Oz finished tightening the connection, folded the skin back into place, then wrapped a bandage around Spike's hand. Spike checked the bandage's tie, nodded to the half-wolf, then looked back up at Angel. "Fancy a boat ride?"

Angel's brow furrowed. "Pardon?"

"I'm gonna steal Angel here for a bit. We'll meet you back at the Moat House, all right?" Spike said to Oz.

Oz slowly nodded. "As long as Angel promises to pay attention to the time."

"I will," Angel said. A long look passed between the vampire and the wolf until Oz conceded and started up the block.

"I'll go with Oz," Buffy said. "You two have fun. If there's smoochies, I want to know about it!"

"Later, pet," Spike said and watched her catch up to Oz before turning to his sire. "So, Peaches, do you know how to get to the Thames from here?"

*****

Angel was on a stolen flat riverboat -- a punt -- in the middle of the night, poling down the River Thames, and listening to Spike sing with a bad Italian accent. Angel didn't know what was worse: the fact that Spike was singing something from Disney's Lady & The Tramp, or the fact that Angel knew Spike was singing something from Disney's Lady & The Tramp.

Angel winced when Spike's voice cracked on a high note. Although they weren't in a gondola, and, as Spike had pointed out, Angel wasn't wearing the "tight stripey outfit and the hat with the little dangly balls on it," the blond insisted on pretending they were in Italy, rather than punting the Isis. At least he wasn't singing Largo Al Factotum, by Rossini, the dark-haired vampire told himself. The aria from The Barber of Seville was one of the most popular Italian songs that people massacred when they wanted to mimic Italian opera. Figaro, bah.

"This really is a bella notte," Spike commented when he finished singing. He folded his hands behind his head and leaned back against the side of the boat. "I wonder what the stars are chattering on about tonight."

"You can hear the stars?" Angel asked, although he silently groaned at the thought of another childe who communicated with the stars.

"Nah, that's Dru's specialty, ducks," Spike said. He looked over at Angel and smiled knowingly. "I was simply curious."

"Ah," Angel said, adjusting his grip on the twelve-foot pole. He kept poling steadily, the rhythmic movements bringing him a sense of peace he hadn't felt in years... and damn, his unlife sucked.

"Angel, why don't you believe in redemption anymore?"

The question was so far out of left field, it was from another state. Angel lost his rhythm and the pole splashed into the water. He quickly retrieved it before it floated away, while Spike laughed in the background.

"What do you mean?" Angel said when he regained his composure.

"Dru said you're not plugging for the end result any longer," Spike replied. "The Slayer and I wanted to know why that is."

Angel was silent for a long while, poling the flat boat on the calm river. He finally shrugged. "It's no big shakes, actually," he began. "I saved a soul once upon a time... made a real difference in someone's life...," his voice became bitter, "...and she was killed less than a minute later by a vampire, who turned her back into the creature she was."

He jammed the pole down into the water. "So, no, I don't believe in redemption anymore. The Powers That Be sure as hell could care less, so why should I?"

Spike shrugged. "Never cared much for them higher mucky-mucks myself. They're the ones that didn't stop what happened to Buffy and Oz... or me."

"Then why do you fight?" Angel asked, seriously. "You don't have a soul or a guilty conscience, and the others can't force you to fight on the 'good' side."

"Same reason you started fighting, I'd bet," Spike said. He looked back up at the sky, a tender smile dancing on his pale lips. "I fell in love with this blond slip of a girl, who had a heart of gold and hair just as pretty."

The blond began humming Bella Notte again, and Angel stared down river as dark clouds temporarily blotted out the bright moon. Spike was right: Angel had started trying to make a difference in the world, instead of just surviving in it, because of Buffy. At first glance, Angel had fallen for her -- hard, fast, and completely. If he could have, he would've spent his unlife following her around like a lovesick puppy. But it hadn't been in the cards. He and Buffy had not been allowed to be "He and Buffy," and he'd been forced to move on by himself... while she moved on to Spike.

Angel glanced down at the younger vampire. Why Spike?, he wondered. The bleached blond was as different from Angel as night from day... and maybe that was the reason why. Angel couldn't claim to know how Spike had acted while Buffy was still alive, but if he'd been anything like the vampire Angel remembered from over a century ago -- passionate, honest, caring, knowledgeable, blunt, ballsy, and a great fighter -- Spike would've been the perfect match for her. Just like he'd been the perfect match for Angel.

"Why'd you let your hair grow out like that?" Angel asked suddenly. "I thought you liked the punk bad boy look."

"Erm..." Spike sat up and fidgeted, before giving the dark-haired man a sheepish look. "I gave myself a haircut once, and now I'm not allowed to use the scissors anymore. Xander's orders. You'd think that a boy who once dressed like a rodeo clown wouldn't be so image-conscience."

Angel chuckled, his own hand automatically going up to run through his dark, spiked locks. He was very glad he had gel in his hair again. He didn't like brushed-down, cap-like look, no matter what Clarice, his stylist, said.

Mother Nature, however, seemed to be in agreement with Clarice.

Suddenly, the skies opened. The downpour was fast, furious, and over in a minute, leaving an inch of water and two drowned rats sitting in the boat. Spike threw his head back and laughed, clutching his stomach and rocking on the seat.

"What's so funny?" Angel asked in a deadly tone.

"You should see your face," Spike laughed. "You'd think that your dog just died."

Angel glared at him, and tentatively touched his no-longer spiked locks. Grr.

"It's only water, Angel," Spike said, splashing some from the bottom of the punt onto the older vampire. "It won't hurt you."

Angel's glare became murderous. Spike swallowed nervously, and tried to scoot backwards as Angel stalked towards him, his balance eerily perfect on the craft. "Now, Angel...," the blond said, holding up his hands.

"It's only water, huh?" Angel swooped down and hoisted Spike up by the lapels of his duster. "Well, so's this." And with that, Angel tossed his childe off the boat into the River Thames.

Spike sputtered to the surface and Angel grinned maliciously at him. "Don't worry, it won't hurt you," the dark-haired vampire said.

"Yeah, but you might," Spike latched onto the side of the punt, "after I do this!"

Angel flailed as Spike shoved down on the boat, but he was no match for gravity. The older vampire fell into the water with a loud splash.

Spike was partway to shore, dog-paddling and laughing like a maniac, by the time Angel had surfaced. Angel took after him immediately at a fast crawl. No childe of his was going to get away with dunking his sire!

The dark-haired vampire tackled Spike just as he climbed ashore, and they went crashing to the muddy ground. They rolled around, fighting playfully for king. Angel tried to pin the squirming blond, but ended up with a face full of mud and a earful of giggles. He spat gook out of his mouth that probably was hazardous even to a vampire's health. Before he knew it, he was on his back with a wildly grinning childe looming over him, his wrists pinned to the ground.

"Give up?" Spike asked.

Angel struggled a minute, realized there was no way he'd be able to get free, and sighed. "Yeah, I give up."

The instant Spike let go, wearing a victorious expression, Angel scooped a handful of mud and mashed it into the younger man's face. Another glop of it was rubbed into Spike's wet hair before he pinned Angel's wrists to the ground again. Angel grinned like a loon. Hell, he felt like a loon. He was wrestling in the mud like an overgrown ten-year-old... and enjoying himself.

Adjusting his grip so both of Angel's wrists were held in one hand, Spike wiped the mud from his eyes and mouth, and returned the smile. "You sly dog, you. I'd never have guessed you to be a liar and a cheat."

The rain started to fall again, gently this time, creating light plops in the river and soft slaps against the leather of Spike's duster. A few drops slid along Spike's cheek to his jaw before dropping onto Angel's upturned face. The blond's smile was still bright and happy, as if he had no place else in the world he'd rather be than pinning his sire down in the mud in the rain.

Angel had no place he'd rather be, either.

Their smiles met and softened, their lips brushing against each other with gentle sweeps. Light and a little muddy, their mouths met, parted, and met again in tentative inquiry. The rain never increased in intensity and neither did the kiss until it broke as slowly as it began.

"C'mon, Angel," Spike said quietly, releasing Angel's wrists. "We'd better get back before the rain gets worse." He gave his sire a lopsided grin. "You wouldn't want me to rust."

"Can you?" Angel asked curiously as they both got to their feet.

"Rust?" Spike shook his mud-streaked head. "Nah. Not unless you peeled my skin off."

"Good," Angel said as he began to lead the way towards town. "Because I left my oil can at home."

*****

"'Look at the skies, they have stars in their eyes, on this lovely bella notte,'" Angel sang as he dumped the melted ice from the ice bucket into the sink. It had been a beautiful night. He'd been confused, confounded, confronted, angered, briefly embittered, saddened, soaked, almost drowned, muddied, and kissed. Oh, was he kissed. His knees had gone wobbly, and he'd been lying down!

Angel was still wearing the mud from the river bank, and he was reluctant to shower off the reminder of his bella notte. What luck would he have in repeating such a great kiss... er, night? Angel grinned. Okay, the rest of the night could vanish into the dregs of his mind, as long as he could keep remembering the kiss. Who knew how long it would be before he could get his lips on Spike again?

Humming the next verse, Angel tossed the ice bucket in the air, caught it, and headed for the door. A little ice, a little drink, a little jagging off, and he'd be sleeping like a baby. He checked the pocket of his too-tight trousers for the room's passkey, then opened the door... and froze.

There was a naked Spike in the hallway.

"Oi! Giles! I want to take a bath!" Spike was pounding on the door across from Angel's, totally bare-assed except for his muddy boots. "C'mon, I know you're still awake!"

Giles opened the door, dressed in his street clothes and looking, as Spike had said, quite awake. The Watcher slipped on his glasses and surveyed the blond from head to toe. He sighed. "How many times do I have to tell you, Spike," he pointed towards Spike's feet, "you can't wear your boots in the bath."

"But they're muddy, too," Spike said logically.

"I'll shine them up tomorrow," Giles said with another sigh. "Now, go take them off and I'll be with you in a moment."

"Fine," Spike grumbled and stomped back to his room without even a glance at Angel.

Giles cleared his throat. "You can put your eyeballs back into your head now, Angel. It's rather unbecoming."

Angel jerked and blinked several times. Giles's brows were up near his receding hairline. The vampire gave the other man a bland smile, stepped back, and closed the hotel room door. Then, Angel pivoted on his heel and returned to the bathroom.

It looked as though he'd be taking a shower, after all.



Part Twelve



The Heads of State gathered after sundown in the solarium once again: Angel, from the Los Angeles contingency; Lilah, representing Wolfram and Hart; and Giles, leader of the Free Sunnydale. Oz scratched his chin. He'd been hanging around with Xander for too long. Leader of the Free Sunnydale?

Willow was back in the room, speaking with Tara on the phone. Oz had done his duty by checking to make sure his mate's bitch was behaving, then left Willow alone. After a quick chat with a nervous Xander, who was preparing to ask Cordelia on a date, Oz had ventured downstairs to find the others and see what was up.

"Hey," the half-wolf greeted stoically as he joined the other three at the table. Out of the corner of his eye, he noted Spike sitting near the window of the solarium, having an animated conversation with a rose bush. The blond was wearing the dress clothes Giles had packed for him -- a deep burgundy pullover and black chinos... tucked into his battered and dirty Doc Martens. Oz silently chuckled. At least Spike had tried, and by the way Angel kept glancing over at him, the effort was appreciated.

Angel, on the other hand, Oz had to force himself not to growl at. Having another Alpha present normally raised Oz's hackles, but Angel went a step beyond and set his canines on edge. The dark vampire was a real threat to a member of Oz's pack. Worse, the threat was to the weakest member, and Oz's protective instincts were on full alert.

The danger was to Spike's heart.

It was obvious by the covert looks Spike was shooting back at Angel that the blond had taken more than a passing interest of his sire. The human half of Oz was glad that Spike was taking an interest in someone that wasn't dead. Or rather, who wasn't completely dead. As Jefferson Airplane had once said: everyone needed somebody to love -- even a touched-in-the-head vampire named Spike.

"Lilah, if I might ask," Giles was saying as he nodded in greeting at Oz. "Does your firm have plans to intercede? From what Angel has inferred, Wolfram and Hart does not wish the Council to succeed, either."

It was interesting, to Oz anyway, that everyone seemed to defer to Giles when it came to gathering and dispersing information. Even though both Angel and Lilah were leaders in their own right, they yielded to Giles's direction.

"I don't know," Lilah answered. Angel scowled at her and she glared right back. "I don't. Once you decided to kidnap me, Lindsey cut off all communication." She turned to Giles again. "But, if I were to hazzard a guess, I'd say the plan is along similar lines as the one you've presented: find where the event will be taking place and remove the threat."

"And by 'remove' you mean...," Giles prompted.

"Kill the Watchers," Angel supplied with a bite to his tone. "Not that I care much. The world needs Watchers about as much as it needs lawyers. No offense, Rupert."

"Well, why don't you just lock the doors to the Council's headquarters, Angel, with a live bomb inside?" Lilah said wryly.

"Maybe I will," Angel returned, his features set in a cold mask. "I haven't led a flock of sheep to slaughter in a good ten years."

Oz smelled a story there, and not one that had ended with Happily Ever After. He made note to ask about it.

"Let's try to do this with a minimum of bloodshed, all right?" Giles interjected. "We have three days until whatever it is will take place. Now, based on the information Lilah provided, we shall assume Carfax Tower is the location unless we hear otherwise from the taps and bugs."

He tapped the blueprints of the Council of Watcher's headquarters that Cordelia and Xander had obtained. "I think that we should hold off on searching the headquarters, unless we hear a piece of pertinent information from the taps or bugs. If anyone is going to let something slip, it will be between now and the 28th, which means around the clock surveillance is necessary," he said. "Xander is currently keeping an ear out, and I shall have Willow create a timetable so each of us has an equal turn... if that is all right with you, Lilah?"

"That's fine," Lilah agreed. "But I wouldn't rely on Drusilla."

"Spike, either," Oz spoke up.

Giles nodded. "Very well. Everyone is free to do as they wish in the meantime, as long as each party has a way to be reached."

The Meeting of the Minds broke, and as Giles and Lilah went their separate ways, Oz ducked around the corner of the solarium doorway to observe Angel and Spike. The half-wolf didn't wish to intrude, but he wanted to make certain the cur really desired the other vampire's company.

Angel wandered over to Spike and came to a stop between the blond's knees. The smile on Spike's face as he looked up at Angel settled Oz's concern. Spike definitely wanted to be in Angel's company, and by the way the dark-haired vampire ran his fingers along Spike's jaw, the feeling was quite mutual.

The pheromones in the solarium air spiked abruptly, and Oz felt himself growing aroused by the musky scent. He silently watched the two vampires for a minute longer, bearing witness to the questioning brush of lips, the received answer, and the invitation of welcome inside. Then, Oz adjusted himself and headed back to his room. Willow had been on the phone long enough.

*****

Xander raised his hand to knock on Cordelia's door, then let it drop to his side again. He took a completely necessary fortifying breath, raised his hand to knock... and let it drop again. "Damn it," he cursed quietly. He ground his teeth, straightened his shoulders, raised his hand to knock... and let it drop again.

Growling, Xander threw his arms in the air and started to pace the hallway. "What is wrong with you?" he said to himself aggravatedly "You're 29-years-old. You're a vampire. You have no fear. Just knock on the door and ask her if she wants to go for a beer. What's the worse she can do? Say no and laugh in your face? You have the whole suave, sexy, seductive thing going for you now. You dress in clothes that you know Cordelia approves of. You--"

"Xander."

"Aiepp!" Xander jumped, startled, and spun around. Cordelia stood in her open doorway, an amused smirk on her face.

"It's nice to know some things never change," Cordelia commented. "You still scream like a girl."

Way to make a good impression, girly-vamp, Xander thought derisively. He smiled blandly at her and said, in a deep "I am a man, not a mouse" voice, "Thank you, thank you, fuck you."

Cordelia's smirk grew. "What's wrong, Xander? Did you swallow a frog?"

He scowled at her, pulled his passkey out of his pocket, and tried not to look like he was rushing to get into his room. "I'm just passing by, Cordelia," he stated. "You can go back to sharpening your verbal knives."

Cordelia's throaty chuckle sent a shiver down his spine. "I'll be ready in ten minutes."

Xander paused with his hand on the doorknob, his back still to her. "For what?"

"To go get that beer."

"Okay," the mouse squeaked. Xander cleared his throat and tried again. "Okay. I'll, um, heh-heh, knock."

*****

"Lindsey," Lilah said exasperatedly into the phone, trying not to pull her hair out. "For once, Angel has the same goal as us, and it would be to our advantage if we worked together. But that can't happen unless I know what you've chosen to do about the problem."

The brunette's hand tightened on the receiver, wishing it was Lindsey's neck. "Fine," she said coldly after her Co-Vice President finished speaking. "If the Watchers' plans come to fruition, I'll make sure the Senior Partners know it was you who withheld information that might have stopped them." She slammed the receiver into the cradle and growled. "Ooh, I hate that man."

Drusilla tittered, kicking her dark blue jeans-clad legs back and forth in the air. "He's being a bad boy," she agreed. "He'll have to be punished." She snapped her teeth in a pretend bite.

Lilah smiled evilly at the vampiress on the bed. "Do you have any suggestions?" she asked. Before Drusilla could reply, the lawyer's cell phone trilled, and she held up a finger to the raven-haired woman as she answered the call. "Yes?" She listened for a moment, and her evil smile grew. "Fax me the information, right away. Hold on while I get the number."

Lilah perched on the edge of the bed and removed the Guest Directory from the night-stand drawer. Drusilla crawled across the bed and rested her chin in Lilah's shoulder. "What are you doing, my sweet?" The vampires gasped softly in Lilah's ear. "You're learning about my Spike. The stars don't like that."

Lilah rattled off the fax number, thanked Gregory, then disconnected before turning to Drusilla. "Why don't the stars like it, Dru?" she asked seriously. She had learned from experience to pay attention when the clairvoyant recounted what the stars said.

"My black prince has the strength of a thousand lions, but the heart of the icky Slayer," Drusilla wrinkled her nose. "She took my Spike from me, long ago, when my Angel was naughty and made my insides cry in pain." A smile of remembered pleasure caressed the vampiress's face, and she rolled onto her back on the bed and wove her hands in the air. "Spike cannot be swayed, dear heart, even after the electric spider is turned off. The moon weeps blood tears at the loss of her cruel child, and the twin blue suns will bring light back into Angel's dark world."

Lilah frowned. Although she didn't understand all of what Drusilla had said, she knew she didn't like the sound of the last part. The darkness in Angel was what Wolfram and Hart wanted to cultivate, and Drusilla's possibly prophetic words meant that Angel would be losing some of that darkness... and somehow Spike was to be a part of that, which meant the blond vampire was worth keeping tabs on throughout the foreseeable future, whether he could be swayed or not.

*****

"Spike, where are we going?" Angel asked, allowing the younger man to tug him through the solarium doors and into the outdoor garden. It was raining again -- it was England, when did it not rain? -- but it was a very light drizzle that made Angel wonder why the clouds bothered at all. He could already feel his hair flattening, though, and he put a protective hand over his head before realizing that he probably looked like a moron. The hand dropped back to his side, and he whined slightly, "Spike, it's raining."

"You won't melt," Spike pointed out. He led Angel further away from the hotel and the halogen lights that shined near the doors.

"But it's cold and wet, and wouldn't you rather be having a drink in the hotel bar?" Angel said hopefully. "We could relive old memories."

"My idea of fun is not watching you brood for hours, peaches," Spike said.

"And going for a walk in the rain, is?"

Spike shot him an irritated glance. "Look, Miss Clairol, we may be wiped from the planet in three days time, so if I want to take a walk in an English garden, I'll bloody well do so, rain or not."

"I do not dye my hair," was Angel's response.

The younger vampire snorted. "Right, the sun-kissed highlights are natural."

Angel scowled, fighting against the desire to touch his hair. "Leave my hair alone."

Spike laughed, and using strength Angel was still shocked to feel, he pulled Angel up against him and tangled his hands in the older man's Not-Dyed hair. Standing on his toes, Spike was almost nose-to-nose with Angel, and Angel wondered if it was possible to drown in the azure pools of his childe's eyes. Angel's arms automatically encircled Spike's waist, and he hardened beneath his trousers at the feel of Spike's lean body pressed firmly against him.

"Do you still want me to leave your hair alone?" Spike asked in a devilish whisper.

"No, I want you to kiss me," Angel replied bluntly.

Spike's chuckled softly. "I think that can be arranged."

Angel's speaking breath hitched when Spike's mouth covered his, and his eyelids fluttered twice before falling shut. He parted his lips at the soft brush of wetness against his lower one, and Spike's tongue slipped inside to tangle with his like the blond's fingers tangled in Angel's hair. Angel's fingers clenched at the material of Spike's burgundy pullover as the tip of Spike's tongue rubbed along Angel's palate, tickling him sensually and sending bolts of longing straight to his groin.

Angel shivered hard when an icy raindrop slid down the back of his shirt, and he broke the kiss with a laughing moan. "Spike, it's raining," he said with another shiver.

"I know it is, Angel," Spike said, rubbing against the older man as he lowered himself flat on his feet.

"Then why are we still out here?"

Spike simply smiled, took Angel's hand, and led him further into the garden.

Angel shivered again -- this time, from the heat in Spike's eyes.


Continued