Never Send A Psychotic
To Do A Lunatic's Job


by Saber ShadowKitten




Part Sixteen





Angel had taken charge once everyone was back at the Moat House. He had been pissed as hell that the rooms had been bugged and his private moments with Spike spied upon. He'd ordered Willow to obtain new rooms for them and had her perform an electro-magnet spell before they took possession. He'd allowed Giles to doctor Xander, then told the Watcher to get to work on deciphering the staff. He'd had Oz set up their own listening equipment again and told the wolf to keep an ear out. Oz hadn't been too happy about Angel taking control, but Angel hadn't given a shit. He'd wanted to put an end to the problem, go home, and fuck Spike for a month straight.

While the others were working on the staff, Cordelia and Spike had taken up watch over Xander. Cordelia had growled when Angel tried to get her to leave and help the others. The only reason he hadn't physically thrown her out was because of Spike.

The blond vampire wouldn't sit still. He paced the room, stopping every few minutes to take Xander's hand and alternately beg and order the younger vampire to wake up. Angel finally pulled Spike down into his lap to try and calm his mate.

"You have to be patient, love," Angel said softly, nuzzling the younger vampire's hair. "Xander will be all right. He just needs time to heal."

"But I want him to wake up now," Spike whined into Angel's neck. "Why can't he wake up now?"

"Because he's hurt, Spike," Angel said. "It's better that he's unconscious, anyway. He'll have one hell of a headache when he wakes up as it is."

"Hmmph," Spike pouted. Angel bent his head and nipped at the blond's lower lip. Spike giggled, smiled at Angel, then sighed. "Okay, I can wait. But he'd bloody well get better soon, so I can punish him for making me worry."

Angel chuckled and pressed a kiss to Spike's forehead. "C'mon. Let's go help the others."

After sharing a long, tongue-heavy kiss in the hallway that left both vampires panting, Angel cursed his sense of duty and sent Spike to help Giles and Willow while he checked on Oz. The blond pouted prettily, and Angel had no choice but to kiss Spike again. Finally, Angel groaned, reluctantly broke the kiss, and sent Spike on his way with a swat on his behind.

"Oz," Angel pushed open the shoe-propped door and entered the hotel room being used to house the listening equipment. "Anything?"

"The Council's in an uproar," Oz replied, not looking up from the notepad he was writing on. The multi-channel receivers hummed quietly on the table beside him. "That staff is important, whatever it does. They keep yammering on about everything but that. There was a third merc, too, but he's been disposed of. Shapeshifters."

"Any word on us?"

"Only on Giles, though they suspect he wasn't working alone," Oz said.

"Call if you hear anything about retaliation or about the staff," Angel said, turning to leave.

"Angel," Oz stopped his writing, stood, and faced the vampire. "The cur is now your mate, and I entrust him to your care. I release him from my pack, and relinquish any and all control over him." He held out his hand, and Angel crossed the room to shake it. "Take care of him," Oz continued gruffly. "If the wrong people find out about his enhancements, they won't hesitate to capture and study him, and it will be like the laboratory all over again. Spike won't be able to survive that a second time."

"I'll protect him with my very existence," Angel promised.

"Good." Oz dropped Angel's hand and returned to his note-taking without another word.

Angel bet that was the most Oz had ever said at once. At least, to him. The vampire left the room with a faint smile on his face, wondering how many times he was going to receive 'the lecture' about taking care of Spike. It was amazing to see how much Spike meant to the group from Sunnydale. He doubted his coworkers would go through as much trouble to protect him as Spike's friends did. Hell, Angel's coworkers would rather stake him than admit being associated with him.

"Hello, my Angel," Drusilla danced around a corner with an ice bucket in her hands. "A little bird told me that you've taken a mate. Darla will not be happy."

"Darla can suck my--"

"Sh-sh-sh," Drusilla put her finger to Angel's lips. "Bad boy. You don't talk about your mummy like that." She went up on her toes and replaced her finger with her lips, giving him a quick peck. "I'm glad Spike has returned to you. We'll be one big happy family again. And what's that?" She cupped her ear, as if someone were whispering to her. "A new baby? Oh, Angel, may I?"

"May you what?" Angel asked warily.

"Lilah won't tell secrets if she's one of us," Drusilla said. "She is already most suspicious that our sweet Spike is not all that he seems." She leaned closer to him. "The weasels will tear your precious mate to itty-bitty bits and slurp his insides like soup...," her voice took on a faraway quality, "...Then an army of tin soldiers shall rise, and the world will become dark and cold...," she shivered and rubbed her arms, "...so very cold."

Angel studied her for a moment, then pressed his thumb and forefinger against his eyes. Why him? Why did he have to make these sorts of decisions? Why did he have to chose between condemning himself and condemning himself even more? When was it his turn to be mollycoddled? It was a nice word, mollycoddled. A fine, four-syllable word describing something he wanted to be. No more headaches dealing with humans and demons and their annoying problems. No more demon-of-the-week/end-of-the-world crises to stop. No more loony childer asking his permission to create a new vampire. He hated Lilah as it was, and she had a definitive lifespan. Now Dru wanted to make it so Lilah was around forever?

Would it be unbecoming if he started to cry?

Angel sighed instead. "I don't want to see you or her for a least twenty-five years, unless it's an emergency." He peered over his fingers, which were pinching the bridge of his nose where a lovely headache had developed. "And losing one of your dolls does not constitute an emergency."

Drusilla squealed, and Angel winced. She tucked the ice bucket under her arm and threw the other one around his neck. "Thank you, thank you, thank you, Angel-Daddy," she said excitedly. "I promise we'll be very good and eat all our vegetables."

"That's..." Angel didn't know what it was, so he left the sentence incomplete and half-hugged her back. She bussed him enthusiastically on his cheek and released him. Her eyes were sparkling and her smile blinding. How could he ever really say no to her? "Goodbye, Drusilla."

"Bye-bye, my wicked Angel," Drusilla cooed. She kissed her fingertips and pressed them to his lips. "I love all your thick, steely parts."

Angel stared after Drusilla as the vampiress flitted down the hall, humming an old minuet. When she disappeared into her room, he dropped his head and rubbed his temples. His headache had become all-encompassing. She loved all his thick, steely parts? Gods, did he need a drink.

Dropping his hands with another sigh, Angel entered the hotel room where Willow and Giles had holed up to decipher the staff. "How's it going?" he asked, making sure the shoe remained to keep the door ajar.

"Nowhere fast and everywhere at once," Willow replied. She sat at the table by the curtain-covered windows, typing away at her laptop. Giles was across from her, his nose in a book, the rest of texts he brought scattered across the table and on the bed. The staff was on the floor beside his chair. "We know the symbols on the staff are words and sentences. You can tell that by the few repeating symbols, " she went on. "But we don't know what language it is, which makes it hard for us to decipher. And there are, like, a zillion languages in the world, if you count both the human and demon tongues."

"If the staff is to be used to rid the world of demons, I doubt it would be in a demon language," Angel said, passing Spike who lounged in a chair near the bed, to join in the research. Research. Whoopie.

"Too right, Angel," Giles said with a frustrated sigh. He tossed the book he was reading onto the table, pushed up his glasses, and rubbed his eyes. "We're going about this all wrong. Between the three of us, we know a vast majority of the ancient languages. Let's eliminate those first, then go on from there."

"I know German," Spike piped up, then frowned. "I think."

"Don't worry, Spike," Angel picked up a book and sighed. "I know German."

Giles picked up the staff and studied it. "It's not German, nor any of the human languages that I recognize."

"Maybe it's not an ancient language," Willow said. "We're just assuming the staff is old. Maybe it's not. Maybe it was just created by the Watcher's Council."

"The Council's not that smart," Angel muttered, heading for the table and the last chair. Arms suddenly snaked around his waist, and he found himself blinking in surprise at Spike's smiling face.

"Hi," Spike said quietly, adjusting Angel sideways on his lap. "I missed you."

Angel's headache abruptly disappeared.

"Oi, Rupert, hand us the staff, eh?" Spike said. He accepted the staff from Giles and held it so both he and Angel could examine it. "You recognize the language, old son?"

"No," Angel said, then took another look. "Wait a second." He turned the staff and rubbed his finger over one of the symbols. "This one. It looks... Hebrew."

"Hebrew?" Willow's face scrunched. "It can't be Hebrew. I know Hebrew. I had that whole Jewish upbringing, you know."

"Perhaps another Aramaic language," Giles said, digging through the books in front of him.

"Give the staff here, Spike," Willow instructed, catching the object at the vampire's light toss. She studied it more closely. "Hmm. Maybe a language from along the Mediterranean coast."

"You did good, pet," Spike whispered, brushing his lips across Angel's temple. "If the complaints were anything to go by, those two have been chasing their arses since we got back. I think you just gave them their first real bite."

Angel smiled. Truly smiled. No one had ever given him praise for deducing a possible answer before. No one ever praised him for anything, or thanked him for saving their lives, either. It felt really nice.

"Pretty smile," Spike lightly touched Angel's lower lip. "Makes me want to shag you silly."

Angel's smile grew. "I wouldn't mind that."

Spike dipped his head and rubbed noses with the brunette. "Jus vait 'til I git you a-lone, mein cross-eyed snickerdoodle," he purred in a ridiculous German accent. Angel laughed, low and deep.

"We're both still here, you know," Giles said blandly.

"Oh! Oh!" Willow bounced excitedly. "And we're finding a match! I found a match!"

"She found a match," Angel said, grinning at Spike.

"Sounds like it," Spike said. "By the way, are you still ticklish right...," he danced his fingers along the inside of Angel's elbow, "...here?"

Angel... giggled. He actually giggled. He was being stared at by both Giles and Willow as if he'd sprouted horns. He felt ridiculous and idiotic and completely unmanly... and he didn't give a flying rat's ass. Less than five minutes ago, he was ready to commit harikari; now he was cuddled on Spike's lap and being... well, mollycoddled. What was it that he'd said earlier? Oh, right: wheeee!

"Okay, okay, okay," Angel cleared his throat. "Let's get serious." He smacked Spike lightly on the side of the head. "And stop doing that to my ear, or I'll never pay attention." Spike snickered in response, and it sent chills down Angel's spine.

"If the two vampires are through acting like hormonal teenagers," Giles scolded, looking over the rims of his glasses at them. "Willow, if you'd please."

"Right. Angel's Hebrew guess was on the track to Correctville," Willow began. "I can't believe that neither of us saw it before, especially me, being an old Jew and all, but hindsight is 20/20... and I'll get to the information now." She paused to take a breath, then continued. "It looks like it's an Aramaic sub-sub-dialect spoken in and around Jordan. Have I mentioned that I love technology? It would've taken forever to find out if we only had books. Not that books are bad! Books are good. Very good. They're helpful and full of words and... stuff."

"Willow, how long until we have at least a partial translation?" Giles interjected.

"Um...," she hit a couple keys on the laptop, "...give me a few minutes to download an Arabic alphabet and then it should be a snap." She tucked her hair behind her ears and sighed. "Boy, do I feel like a dummy for not recognizing the language sooner."

"Not to worry, Willow," Giles said. "I did not recognize it either. We were concentrating on ancient sources, instead of- of the possibility that it is of modern origin."

"While you're doing that," Angel squirmed out of Spike's lap -- a first, Angel had never before squirmed in his unlife -- and pulled the blond to his feet, "Spike and I are going to go somewhere that's not here."

"Try and stay on the grounds," Giles said with an amused smile. "We might need you again."

"Not anytime soon," Angel called over his shoulder as he dragged a laughing Spike out the door.



*****



"Uhnngg," Xander groaned, licking his dry lips. "Spike, remind me not to drink ever again."

"Spike's not here," said someone that sounded exactly like an annoyed Cordelia. "It's just me, you braindead idiot."

Xander cracked open an eye and saw the brunette seated beside him, scowl on her beautiful face. "Cordy, hello, you're looking quite angry today."

"Well, you'd be angry too if your Not Boyfriend got shot in the head like a moron," she snipped.

"Yeah, I can see that," he agreed. He pushed himself into a sitting position, immediately wishing he hadn't moved. It felt as though he'd been shot in the head. Hey, wonder why? "So, what'd I miss? I take it by my non-dustiness, we won."

"Yes, we won," Cordelia said. "Giles and Willow are working on the staff. Oz is listening in on the Council. Angel and Spike are who-knows-where doing newlywed things. And I've been here waiting for you to wake up so that I can smack some sense back into that empty cranium of yours."

"You're welcome for saving you from getting shot," Xander said sarcastically.

Cordelia stuck her nose in the air. "Thank you," she sniffed disdainfully.

Xander smirked. "Aw, c'mon, you can do better than that."

She did do better than that. And Xander wondered if it was wrong of him to want to get shot in the head more often.

*****

"Do you think we should find the others?" Willow asked, shutting down her laptop.

"No, I don't think that is necessary. The news can wait," Giles replied, picking up the staff and the translation. "I shall go relieve Oz, so that you and he may have some quiet time. Remember to stay on the grounds, though."

"I know. In case the Council goes wonky and we need to act fast," Willow said.

"Right." Giles nodded to her. "Have a good night, Willow. Thank you for all your hard work."

She smiled. "Just another day for a member of the Slayerettes."

Giles smiled softly and left the room to go next door. Oz looked up from his notepad and raised a fuzzy brow. "We have succeeded in translating the staff," the Watcher told him. "Until we can destroy it, as long as the staff remains in our possession, the Council's plans shall fail."

"Cool," Oz said. He gestured towards the listening equipment. "There's a manhunt out for you, so take precautions. They really want the staff back. They mentioned us and Buffy, but they don't know for a fact that we're here."

"Very well. I shall take over for now," Giles said. "Willow awaits you next door. Unless you otherwise hear from me, we shall all meet for breakfast in this room at eight o'clock. Tell the others if you see them.""

"Will do." Oz stood, said his goodbyes, and left Giles alone in the room. The elder man fixed the shoe in the door, then set about making himself a cup of tea, keeping one ear on the listening equipment. It looked as though their trip to England was almost at a satisfactory end.





Part Seventeen





Eight A.M. breakfast was a boisterous affair. Everyone had checked in with Giles at one point or another during the night, thus learning of the meeting, and Angel had taken over keeping an ear on the Council so the Watcher could get some shut-eye. The entire group had gathered in the room with the listening equipment, minus Lilah and Drusilla, both of whom Angel said had left and wouldn't be returning, then mumbled: "hopefully forever, but my money's on a year, tops." Even the still-healing Xander had dragged himself next door, to immediately be pounced on by an ecstatic Spike and smothered in reassuring touches and kisses. Angel had growled a little at that, so Spike smothered him in reassuring touches and kisses, too.

"So," Cordelia began after room service had been devoured and conversation waned. "What's the deal? I take it by our non-panicking that the staff was what we came for?"

"Yes," Giles answered, sipping his tea. "All that is left for us to do is, destroy it."

"What are we waiting for, then?" Xander said tiredly from his seat on the floor, his head resting on Spike's thigh. Spike gently combed his fingers through his precious childe's hair, and leaned fully against his own sire and mate, smiling when he felt the arm around his shoulders tighten.

"Giles and I talked about this last night," Willow said, relaxing back against Oz. "We decided the Council will need proof that the staff was destroyed."

"And we need to stop the Council from coming after Giles," Oz added.

"So we send them a box of splinters," Cordelia suggested.

"They might not believe it's the staff," Angel said. He smirked. "If there's one thing I've learned over the years, it's that Watchers are deeply stupid. Present company excluded, of course."

"Of course," Giles said dryly, then smiled maliciously over the rim of his teacup. "And I am in complete agreement with you, sir." He took of sip of the tea.

"Ooh, snarky Giles," Willow teased.

"What are we going to do then?" Spike asked. He was getting tired of Oxford. He wanted to go home, pack his things, and move into that neat hotel with Angel. Then he wanted to find Darla and rub her nose into the fact that Angel had always wanted him for a mate and not her, nyah-nyah.

"We shall send a missive for them to come to us," Giles replied. "Then, we shall destroy the staff in front of their eyes."

"Have them come after dark," Xander said. "Just in case things go kerplewie and we need to make a quick escape."

"I'll contact Lindsey and tell him to call off the dogs," Angel said. "We don't need a repeat of yesterday."

"Yeah, I already have enough holes in my head," Xander said, lightly touching the back of his skull.

"Including that empty space where you brain should be," Cordelia said sweetly. Xander made a face at her.

"I shall write an invitation to be delivered later this afternoon," Giles said. "We don't want to give them too much time to prepare."

"Are we going to leave, then, tonight?" Willow asked. She smiled sheepishly. "I really miss Tara."

"I wouldn't mind seeing what damage has been done to the hotel, either," Angel said. "Especially since I left Gunn in charge."

"He did say something about having a rave..." Cordelia laughed at the horror on the eldest vampire's face.

As the group meeting came to an end, Giles pulled Angel and Spike over to the side. He had Spike face away and lower his head, and the blond winced when he felt Giles's box cutter pierce the skin at the nape of his neck. He trusted Giles with his unlife, so he kept silent as the Watcher cut him.

"Last night, Willow and I also had a brief discussion on you two mating and the future," Giles said. "This information was written into both of our Last Will and Testaments, but we both feel that now is the correct time to do this, in case the Council does manage to retaliate."

"A covered switch?" Angel questioned.

"The skematics Willow was able to download from the laboratory indicate that this switch controls Spike's behavioral modification chip," Giles said.

"Are you sure you want to do that?" Angel asked in a lowered voice. Spike rolled his eyes. The poof was standing right beside him, so whispering wasn't going to stop him from hearing. Not that he had any idea what was going on.

"Yes," Giles affirmed. "I am showing you where it is in case you wish to reactivate it, but as of this moment," Spike heard a loud click, "it is deactivated." There was a moment of silence, then Giles murmured, "Heaven help us if you lose your soul."

"Oi, can I straighten up now?" Spike asked. "I'm getting a head-rush."

"Here, press this to your neck," Giles instructed. "Angel, will you excuse us for a moment?"

"I'll go call Lindsey," Angel said. He left the room, closing the door behind him, and Spike turned to Giles with a confused frown.

"What's going on, Rupert?" the blond said, holding a handkerchief against his neck.

"Did you hear me when I said I deactivated your chip, Spike?" Giles said, moving to a suitcase on the dresser.

"What chip?" Spike asked. His eyes widened suddenly. "Wait, you turned me off?"

Giles nodded, taking out a box of band-aids. "That I did."

"But how come I can still move then?"

The greying Watcher paused mid-action and studied Spike. He blinked in amazement. "My word, you truly have no idea what I'm speaking about," Giles said.

"Why did you turn me off? What's going to happen to me?" Spike took a step towards the man, his lower lip trembling and blue eyes filling with tears. Had he been bad? Or was it because Buffy went away, and now they didn't want him around anymore? Oh hell, that was it, Spike thought. They didn't want to take care of a mental vampire, who wasn't really a vampire anymore. He was a twisted bunch of metal with Spike-flesh stretched over the top. They only kept him around because he could talk to Buffy, and now Buffy was gone...

"Spike, I didn't turn you off, I deactivated your chip," Giles corrected gently. "You don't have to worry about avoiding fights with humans any longer."

"Please, turn me on again," Spike pleaded. What did he care about humans if he was going to be left to rust? "I can bring her back. I promise. Just, please, turn me on again."

"Spike," Giles sighed and looked heavenward. "I can't believe I'm trying to convince a vampire that he can harm humans again." The Watcher shook his head. "I think I'll let Angel explain."

"Rupert?"

"Here," Giles reached behind Spike's neck, and the vampire heard a snap. Spike slumped in relief.

"Thank you," he said. "I promise you won't regret it. I'll be extra bloody good--"

"It's all right, Spike," Giles interrupted. "Why don't you go find Angel. I'm sure he's waiting for you."

Spike dropped his chin and looked at Giles from under his lashes. "Don't I get a band-aid anymore?"

The blond had never seen the expression that appeared on Giles's face. Giles sighed again, opened the box in his hand, and pulled out a band-aid. "Turn around," he prompted.

"Wait, what kind is it?" Spike questioned.

"Kind? Er..." Giles looked at the strip in his hand. "Pinocchio."

"Can I have a Peter Pan one instead?"

*****

"Hey."

"Hey."

"Do you think maybe, when we get home, we can, you know, like... date?"

"If we didn't, I'd be pissed."

"Cool."

*****

The Watchers were doody-heads.

Willow scowled fiercely at the three who'd answered Giles's request for an audience. One of them was that meanie, Quentin Travers, that she remembered from years ago. The second, Fred Ambers, had introduced himself as "Head of Acquisitions and Antiquities." Snort, right. The third guy, Georg, was obviously the muscle. Not only did he have a bunch of them, she could see a gun holster outlined under his ill-fitting suit jacket.

She, Giles, and Spike had been elected by the Save The World Committee to meet with the Council representatives. They didn't seem surprised that Giles wasn't alone. The others were patrolling around the Moat House, looking for bad Watchers hiding in the bushes. She wasn't worried that there'd be a big fight, not with Oz, Xander, and Angel on the job. Even if the hiding Watchers were prepared for an attack, they wouldn't be expecting two vampires and a half-morphed werewolf.

The three Watcher-people in front of her needed a good walloping, too. They refused to listen to Giles's reasoning as to why the Council was made up of a bunch of moronic idiots.

"Did you honestly not think of the consequences with using the Gnorican Staff?" Giles was remarkably calm, in Willow's opinion, as he argued with Travers. Must be because of the practice he'd had dealing with Spike, she thought.

"A world without demons. A world where the fate of billions did not rest on one young girl's shoulders. A world where there is no need to take that girl from her youth and make her into a killing machine," Quentin said. "I think those consequences are rather positive."

"What of the active Slayer...s?" Giles corrected himself quickly. "You know that the Chosen Ones' powers are rooted in the supernatural. Your actions would have ended their lives."

Quentin sighed sadly. Willow didn't doubt that his sadness was an act. "A tragic side-effect," the man said. "But the good of the many, as you well know."

"A side-effect." The look Giles gave Quentin could've melted glass. "I've never heard murder described as such."

"Do you wish to tell me that your Miss Summers wouldn't make the sacrifice if it meant an end to the evil that plagues humanity?" Quentin said.

"You're not removing the evil from the world, Travers, you're removing anything with demon blood," Giles stated.

"It is the same thing."

"It bloody well is not!" Giles exclaimed. "There are dozens of species of demons and half-demons that would rather slit their throats than harm another living being."

"And there are thousands of species of demons and half-demons that would slit others' throats for the heck of it," Quentin stated.



Giles was now practically vibrating with repressed anger. "Mass genocide is not the answer. It is never the answer."

"Your judgement is clouded by your... affection... for your Slayer," Quentin said.

"And your judgement is clouded by your being a pompous arsehole," Giles retorted.

"Really, Rupert," Quentin chided. "Only a less intelligent man resorts to vulgarities when he can't win an argument."

Giles turned to Spike, who was sitting on the stone table top in the solarium idly swinging his legs, the staff on his lap. "Spike, do you recall my instructions from earlier?" Giles inquired.

Spike's brow furrowed. "No shagging Angel in the pool?"

Willow couldn't help but giggle. "I think he means about the staff, Spike," she said.

"Oh, right," Spike picked up the staff, "I'm supposed to destroy it."

"No!" Quentin snapped his fingers at Georg, and the large man pulled his gun and aimed it at Spike. Surprisingly, Fred Anders did the same.

Willow was instantly on edge. According to Xander and Oz, getting shot hurt. She'd rather avoid that experience, if she could.

"We'll take that," Quentin said calmly, but with a threatening edge. Anders walked over to Spike, weapon looking far-too-comfortable in the man's hand. Willow was more nervous of him than she was of the brute, Georg. She shouldn't have worried.

Faster than lightning, Spike's hand shot out and closed over the barrel of the gun. Anger highlighting his chiseled features, he crushed the weapon in his fist, mangling the metal beyond usability and recognition. Anders let out a startled shout of disbelief as the damaged gun was torn from his grip and rapidly chucked across the room. It hit Georg's pistol with unerring accuracy and enough force to send his weapon flying from his hand. The two weapons disappeared into the solarium shrubbery.

Anders moved pretty damn fast, too, it turned out. The tall man whipped a stake from his pocket and slammed it into Spike's chest. The sharp wood cut through the material of the vampire's shirt and pale skin, then splintered into pieces when it hit the titanium protecting his heart.

Anders's grey eyes widened as Spike clamped onto his wrist, but he still tried to take Spike down. The man's other hand shot forward, knuckles pointed, in an attempt to crush Spike's larynx. He let out a strangled scream when he connected with the titanium ring around the altered vampire's neck. The bones in his knuckles popped loudly as they were broken.

"What the hell are you?" Anders gasped, pulling his injured hand close to his body, his other wrist still in Spike's unyielding grip.

"Your worst nightmare," Spike said icily. Without moving from the table, he spun Anders around, twisting the man's arm behind his back, and shoved hard. Anders flew across the room, collided with Georg, and the two disappeared into the shrubbery. The tinkle of breaking glass came from behind the green plants as the men crashed through the solarium window, from the force behind Spike's shove.

Spike turned his steely blue gaze on Quentin. "Buffy never liked the Watcher's Council, and I can see why," he practically spat. He gestured with the staff. "You can't just wave a magic wand and expect the world to be bloody perfect. It wasn't demons that made me and Buffy into one warped being, it was a soddin' bunch of humans."

He jumped off the table and stalked right up to Quentin. "If there's one thing I've learned over the past ten years, it's that even a soulless demon can learn humanity," Spike said. "If you want to stop evil, do it like the rest of us: one effin' bad guy at a time. But you're not going to do it with this," Spike held the staff between them and broke it in half, then half again. Then, in front of Quentin's shocked face, Spike dropped the pieces to the floor and ground them to dust under his boot.

"I think you should leave now, Mr. Travers," Giles said quietly. "Don't forget to collect your thugs on your way out."

Quentin squared his shoulders and shot a hard glare at Giles. "We shall be discussing this incident in great length at a later date," he said, then pivoted on his heel and marched out of the solarium.

"Wow." Willow breathed a sigh of relief. "I was scared for a minute when they took out their guns. I don't like guns. Give me a scaly demon with sharp teeth and claws the size of machetes any day."

Spike turned to Giles. "Can we go home now?"

"Yes, I do believe we can," Giles replied. "I wouldn't mind putting an ocean between myself and Travers before he realizes Spike admitted that Buffy was, essentially, dead."

"She's not really dead, though." Spike tapped his chest. "There still a part of her, right here." He looked at his bloody fingertips, then down at his chest. "Oi! I've got a hole in me!"

Willow smiled as Giles fussed over Spike's light injury, dashing a tear from her eye. The blond had been speaking literally, but he wasn't the only one who held a piece of Buffy in his heart. And Willow would bet that Buffy was smiling down on them, from wherever she was.





Epilogue





Carfax Tower had really been closed for repairs. Several of the floorboards had rotted and fallen away, and the city had shut down the historical monument for safety purposes. The astronomy students had used several roofs, instead, to view the lunar eclipse of the Blue Moon.

The flight home from England had been a much more relaxed affair than the trip there. Plans for moving Spike to L.A. had been made, and, from Giles, Angel had received a thirteen-hour lecture -- supplemented by detailed lists typed up and printed out by Willow -- on taking care of Spike. At the time, Angel had thought the long-winded talk ridiculous. But then, Spike had moved into the Hyperion.

The blond vampire had only been living with Angel for a week, and Angel had already referred to Willow's lists a few hundred times. Phone calls to Giles had been made daily, if not more often. And Angel's stylist, Clarice, had found a few grey hairs on his head.

Angel loved it.

The old hotel seemed brighter with Spike living there. It was never quiet, not even when Spike was asleep. His body hummed with a child-like energy 24-hours a day, affecting everyone around him. The employees of Angel Investigations enjoyed coming to work, although Angel suspected it was just to see how fast the rest of his hair would turn grey. Only Darla hated that Spike was there, a fact she complained about often and loudly. It didn't help that Spike went "nyah-nyah" each time he saw her. Soon, Angel bet, Darla would dump a jar of spiders on Spike in revenge, and all hell would break loose.

At the moment, however, everyone seemed to be getting along. Darla had invited Lindsey to the impromptu midnight pool party Spike had wanted to have, and the vampiress was happily ravishing the attorney on a chaise-lounger in front of the rest of the crew -- all of whom could care less. Cordelia and Xander, who was visiting for the weekend, were flirting heavily at one end of the pool; Gunn, Spike, David Nabbitt, and a few of Gunn's friends were involved in a vicious game of water volleyball at the other.

Angel was playing host, which seemed mostly to consist of fetching food, refilling drinks, and trying to keep his swim trunks from being pulled to his ankles by Spike. Not that he minded Spike de-pantsing him, but he'd rather it be in the privacy of their bedroom where he could properly reciprocate. He really liked reciprocating.

Angel opened the refrigerator door and removed the fixings for sandwiches. The volleyball players were nearing the end of their game, and the vampire knew they'd be starved. Gunn was practically a bottomless pit, and Angel'd bet the black man's friends were the same way.

It was funny: before England, Angel would have told Gunn to take his sandwiches and shove them up his ass. Now, Angel was worried that there wouldn't be enough mayonnaise for everyone. And it was all because of a certain slightly demented blond vampire who Angel was finally able to call his mate.

"Angel love," Spike clumped into the kitchen, sopping wet and wearing his Doc Martens on the wrong feet, "where's the food? We're bloody starved."

"It's right here," Angel said, handing Spike one of the serving trays. "I take it the game is over?"

"Yeah," Spike replied. "We had to call it on account of David getting smashed in the face."

"Is he okay?" Angel asked, concerned.

"Just a little blood, no big," Spike said, heading out of the kitchen with the tray in his hands. "Gunn's taking care of it, telling David to buck up, that a broken nose'd give him character."

Angel stared at the empty doorway for a moment, then shook his head with a chuckle. He couldn't say things were dull around the hotel anymore. It was... nice.

The dark-haired vampire stared sightlessly at the second serving tray, a smile on his face. Unlife was good. He had all his body parts; he had his soul; and he had Spike. There wasn't a single thing else that he needed...

"Oi, poofter! We're out of mayo!"

...except, apparently, mayonnaise.





End