Angel knocked on the Summersí kitchen door for the second time that week. It had been one of the more interesting weeks since he had returned from Hell. First, Buffy and Spike had a huge fight that resulted in him finding out they were engaged to be married. Then he went to help the Slayer with an incident happening at Sunnydale High School only to make out with Spike for the first time in over a century, and liked it. Next, he ended up lying on a wooden beam in the ceiling of the school for hours, then saved Buffyís life in order to listen to her and his childe have passionate sex on the classroom floor. And now, he was here at Buffyís house to accompany them to Willow and Gilesí house for Willowís twenty-first birthday party. All in all, this was going to be a week he remembered.
"Angel," Joyce greeted warmly, letting the vampire enter the crate filled kitchen. During the weeks following final exams, Buffy, Angel and her mom had all sat down together and had a heart to heart, after which she had grown to like the ensouled being. "Buffy said youíd be coming by."
"Hello, Joyce," he said, shutting the kitchen door behind him so as not to let the air conditioning out. "Is she ready to go?"
"Buffy and Spike had to go get some last minute stuff for Willowís party," she replied. "They told me to keep you here until they returned." Joyce picked up the pry bar she was using and went to open another crate.
"Here, let me," Angel said, ever the gentleman. He took the bar from her, set it on the island counter, and pulled off the top with a flick of his wrist. He sent her a sheepish smile, reaching into the packing straw and pulling out a large, ornate vase. "Lo San," he said, examining it. "Seventeenth century. One from his Chi Pek collection."
"You know who Lo San is?" Joyce asked, impressed.
He set the vase down and pulled out another object. "Yes. His work is fascinating, The usage of pastel watercolors as opposed to oilsÖ"
Joyce chuckled, interrupting him. "Iím sorry. Itís just been so long since I met someone who knew about art, let alone obscure artists."
He gave her his first genuine smile since heíd returned from Hell. "Iím a collector, or at least, I was. I havenít made any recent acquisitions, Iím afraid."
"Whoís your favorite artist?"
"This may seem funny, but itís actually M.C. Escher. That manís eye for detail amazes me," he replied. "The never ending geometrical patterns, the repetition, the optical illusions, they are allÖastonishing."
"Have you seen the one with the giant eyeball that had a skull in the pupil?"
"Yes, I have. In fact, I was lucky enough to see his originals. Of course, at the time I was more interested inÖthings other than art."
Joyce nodded, understanding his reference. The conversation continued, moving from originals Angel had seen, to debating the Ďgreatsí, from contemporary art to Classicism, as they waited for Buffy to return.
Spike laughed as Buffy danced in circles. "What are you so jolly about, pet?"
"Noting. Everything," She said, falling into step with her fiancť. "Itís Willowís twenty-first birthday, itís summertime, Angelís being friendly, and Xander stopped trying to dust himÖ"
"He would have succeeded if you wouldnít have stopped him," he pointed out.
"Speaking of Angel, I wanted to ask you something," she said, ignoring his comment. "When you two wereÖsucking face the other night, did you enjoy it?"
"What kind of bloody question is that!?" Spike said, defensively.
"Youíve told me time and time again that sex is different for vampires, that youíd screw pretty much anything, dead or alive."
"Hey now! I would not do that!" Spike exclaimed.
"I didnít mean that you did that sort of thing any more," Buffy clarified. "But what about in the past? I know from Angel that you guys ran together. Did you Ďrun togetherí in an entirely different way, too?"
"Slayer, Iím not about to tell you my whole bloody sexual history," he replied.
"Why not? You know all about my torrid affairs," she said.
"One vampire does not a torrid affair make, ducks," he pointed out.
"Fine. If you donít want to tell me, Iíll just ask Angel."
"Like bloody hell you will!"
"Then you do it."
Spike glared at her for a moment, then shook his head and sighed. *Iím a wuss,* he thought. *A bloody whipped nancyboy.* "Oh, all right. But this goes no further than the two of us, deal?"
"Deal," she replied, grinning widely.
He grumbled for another minute, then started speaking. "Angelus and I wereÖlovers would be the polite word for your young, sensitive ears," he smirked at her. "He was bloody good at it, if you wanted a nice, hard fuck. No gentleness with that wanker."
"Whatís it like?" She asked, intensely curious. "Doing it with another man?"
"Angelus wasnít a man, luv," he teased.
"Another male vampire then," she clarified sardonically.
"Rougher, harder," he told her. "The smell and taste is different, of course. Itís also easier to shag with another man because you have the same body, you know what feels good and what doesnít. And with vampires thereís a lot of biting and blood letting involved. Makes buggering a lot moreÖinteresting."
"Do you miss it?"
"Now thatís a loaded question if Iíve ever heard one," Spike said. "Honestly? No. Sex between vampires is also a form of power play - whose is bigger and all that rot. If Iím going to fuck somebody, itís because Iím horny, not because I want to show them whoís boss."
"What if Angel were toÖ"
"Proposition me?" he finished her sentence. "Not while I have a hellion like you."
"But if you didnít?" Buffy asked.
"Maybe. Iíve never had a vampire who had a soul before."
"Iím surprised, what with all of them running around," she said, laughing at her own joke.
"You are just too hilarious, pet," he said. "I donít know how I put up with you."
"Would you be willing to answer a question for me?" Joyce asked Angel. They were still in the kitchen, crates long forgotten in favor of good conversation, warm coffee and companionship. "How old are you?"
"Iíll be 248 in September," Angel answered.
Joyce blinked. "Wow. I knew you were older than Buffy, but not by that much."
"Does it bother you?" he asked.
"No," she replied. "Itís onlyÖyou look so young and handsome."
"One of the few benefits of being a vampire," he said, then turned melancholy. "Iíd give it all up for a chance to grow old with someone, see the sun, have children."
"You canít have children?"
"No. A vampireís body temperature is too low forÖwell, you get the idea," he told her.
"I guess this means I wonít be a grandma," she said, sadly.
"Normally Slayerís donít live long enough toÖ" Angel started to say, before trailing off with a horrified expression. "Iím so sorry. I didnít mean to bring that up."
Joyce laid a comforting hand on his arm. "Itís ok, Angel. Iíve come to terms with the fact that my baby has a walking death sentence and that she is the oldest Slayer ever, which increases her chances of being killed soon." She looked into his eyes to convey her feelings with her next sentence. "Iím very glad that she has two men looking out for her, keeping her alive."
"I would happily die for her, Joyce," Angel replied. "For years she had been my entire purpose in life and the woman I loved. While I may have begun to move on with my heart, she is still one of the most important things in this world to me."
"Thank you," she said. She took a deep breath and let it out quickly. "Ok, new subject. Tell me some stories about my future son-in-law."
Angel smiled mischievously. "Are you sure you want to hear them? Spike has been getting into trouble for a long time now."
"How old is he?" Joyce asked. "I keep forgetting to ask either him or Buffy."
"Letís see, I turned him when he was in his early twenties," Angel said, wheels turning in his head. "That would make him over 200, but not by much."
"You turned him? What does that mean?" she said.
"Iím his sire," he replied, somewhat sadly. "Iím the one who turned him into a vampire."
"Oh," she responded. "I guess then I have you to thank for allowing him to be in Buffyís life."
Angel looked at her with surprise. "No one has ever thanked me for creating a demon before."
Joyce shrugged. "I have to look at the glass half full if I want to keep what little sanity I have left."
Angel laughed. "Understandable, considering Buffy is your daughter."
"Are you guys talking about me behind my back?" Buffy said, entering the kitchen with Spike in tow. They were carrying several paper bags.
"Now that youíre here, we can talk about you in front of your back," Joyce said with a teasing smile.
"Very funny, mom," she replied. She looked at Angel. "Are you ready to go?"
He nodded, standing. "Itís been fun, Joyce. Weíll have to do this again."
"Absolutely," Joyce said. She gestured to the multiple crates. "I have a lot more where these came fromÖand I want to hear more about a certain vampire we know and love."
Angel smiled at her. "It would be my pleasure."
"Now how come Iím getting worried?" Spike said, looking at his sire.
"I donít know, Spike," he said, clapping him on the back. "Why would you be?"
Spike closed his eyes, his face a combination of pain and exasperation. The other three in the room laughed at him, then with quick good-byes, left the house.
"So, what were you and my mom talking about?" Buffy asked as the three supernatural beings walked to Willow and Gilesí house. Willow had been the first, and only, one of the friends to move away from her parents. After high school graduation, she had opted to live in a dorm at Sunnydale College, talking accelerated courses in both computers and mythology. She stayed heavily involved as a Slayerette, working nightly with Giles in the library. It was only a matter of time before the two found themselves growing closer and closer, until one day after a particularly gruesome battle with the demon of the hour, they had professed their love for each other, realizing life was too unpredictable to hesitate. Soon after, they were a steady couple, and when the Rosenbergís moved to Baltimore, Willow stayed behind and bought a house with the Watcher.
"Art mostly," Angel answered the Slayer. "Nothing that would interest you in the slightest."
"I like art!" Buffy protested.
"You like creating art, not talking about it, pet," Spike said, taking her hand. "Especially not the boring stuff Angel would be discussing. He always had bloody awful taste."
Angel refrained from smacking his childe upside the head. "Very funny coming from a vampire who doesnít know a Renoir from a Renault."
"Whoís Renault?" Spike asked. Both Angel and Buffy laughed. He glared at them and was about to retort when he heard a loud, female voice call his real name.
"William! Is that you?" Two women he recognized from earlier in the week descended upon him, enveloping the vampire with their enthusiastic hugs. "I told you it was him, Linda. Iíd recognize the blond hair and sharp features anywhere."
"Hello, Linda, Jennifer," Spike greeted the two elderly women. He ignored Buffy and Angelís puzzled glances. "How is Jimmy?"
"Wonderful, thanks to you," Jennifer, the younger of the two said. She turned to his companions. "If it wasnít for William, our little Jimmy would have died."
"It was nothingÖ" Spike said, uncomfortably.
"Nothing! The way you ripped the car door off and pulled Jimmy from the flames was purely Arthurian! And then to run him to the hospital, not caring that he was bleeding all over you in order to save his life. You deserve a medal!" Linda said.
"Or maybe a plaque," Jennifer said. "It would read ĎTo our Blond Knight, Hero.í"
Spike was not feeling very heroic at that moment. He wanted the Hellmouth to open up and swallow him before he got any more embarrassed. His face felt like it was flaming and was probably red as a beet. It would be a milestone in vampire history - William the Bloody, scourge of Europe, killer of two Slayers blushes.
"If you get a chance, I know Barbara and George want to thank you themselves for saving their sonís life," Linda continued. "Theyíll be at the hospital for a few more days, room 257."
He smiled politely. "Iíll see if I can stop by."
"Thank you, William," Jennifer said, hugging him again. "You are a prince."
"Iím sure your mother is very proud of you," Linda said, hugging him as well. "I know I am." The two ladies walked off, chatting about his heroic efforts. Angel and Buffy pounced immediately.
"What was that about?" Buffy asked.
"If I said nothing, would you believe me?" he said.
"Not," she replied.
"This is all your fault, Floppy," he muttered before addressing them. "Earlier in the week I was out and there was a car accident. I rescued the boy, Jimmy, and took him to the infirmary."
"Thatís why your clothes were all bloody!" Angel exclaimed. "You hadnít been hunting humans, but saving one."
"Say it a little louder, you bloody pillock. I donít think they heard you in LA," Spike snapped, grabbing the sack of party supplies from him and stalking away.
"You thought he was hunting and you didnít tell me?" Buffy said angrily to Angel, following behind the blond vampire at a slower pace.
"It was after that big fight you to had and I didnít want to say anything unless I was positive," Angel told her. "Plus, this has been such a full, hectic week I didnít get the chance to confront him about it. And why are you mad at me? Spike is 100 percent vampire. He has no qualms about killing."
Buffyís face changed to one of sadness. "I know. I try not to think about it too much. Besides, he hasnít killed in so long now, I was hoping he had changed."
"He has changed, no questions about that," he replied. "How many vampires do you know who would save a childís life, let alone one that was bleeding profusely all over him."
"Besides you?" she joked. "None."
"Would you two hurry up," Spike called back to them. "The drinks are getting warm and I bloody hate that. Iím guessing the others do, too."
Buffy rolled her eyes at Angel, causing him to laugh. "Heís your childe," she said.
"Yeah, but youíre marrying him."
"Sure, rub it in."
They arrived at the single story ranch home where an impatient Spike was waiting on the porch. Angel took the bag from him again and went inside, leaving the engaged couple. Buffy stood on her toes and quickly kissed the peroxide blondeís cheek. "Iím proud of you," she told him softly.
"Yeah, well, donít let it get around that Iíve gone soft. I like being feared," he said.
She laughed. "Youíre secret is safe with me."
"Happy Birthday, Wills!" Buffy said, hugging her friend. "How does it feel to be legal?"
"The same as it felt yesterday," Willow replied, returning the hug. "Only with presents. Hi, Spike."
"Hello, ducks," he replied, giving her a kiss on the forehead. "Whereíd the grand poobah go with the liquor?"
"Kitchen," Willow said. Spike nodded and went off to get plastered.
"Heís in a snit because he pulled a Tom Cruise," Buffy said, shrugging at Willowís look.
"He danced around the house in his boxers?"
Buffy giggled at the picture in her mind. "No, but that would be something Iíd like to see. Actually, he saved some kidís life earlier this week."
"Yup. My honeyís a bonafied hero. He absolutely hates it."
"Giles is going to have a field day with this bit of news," Willow said. "As it is, his Watcher diaries read like a bad soap opera."
"Gee, thanks," Buffy replied sarcastically. She knew she had a colorful run as the Slayer, as well as the longest one. "Hey, now that youíre twenty-one, are you going to call Giles ĎRupertí?"
"I like ĎGiles.í Or ĎRipperí when weíre being naughty," she said with a devilish smile.
"And how often is that young lady?" Buffy asked.
"Not enough," she said with a giggle. Xander and Cordelia arrived at that moment, preventing Buffy from pressing for details.
"And howís my two bestest buds?" Xander said, embracing them. "Will, are you prepared for a birthday spanking?"
"You do it and Iíll cut your hands off and use them as gloves," Cordelia said to Xander before hugging Willow as well. "Happy Birthday, Willow."
"Thanks," the birthday girl replied, giving Buffy a look that said Ďstill the same Cordelia.í "How are you guys? We havenít seen you at the library in awhile."
"Cordyís been keeping my busy," Xander said. "First the Country Club Benefit Dinner, then the Country Club Benefit Lunch, the Country Club Benefit Brunch, the Country Club Benefit BreakfastÖ"
"We get the idea, Xander," Buffy interrupted. "You didnít miss out on all that much. The only excitement we had happened this week at the high school."
"What happened?" Cordelia asked. "Pretend I care."
"Just some dudes in robes trying to control a demon," the Slayer answered. "The usual."
"Is the school still standing?" Xander said.
"Mostly," she said, smiling. "We only destroyed one classroom and a few ceiling panels where Spike dropped down after the demon exploded."
"Junior was there?" Xander said, incredulously. "Since when did he decide to get a soul?"
"He hasnít," Buffy replied. "He went along because Angel was there."
"Jealous much?" Cordelia said.
"In a cute way," she answered. "Speaking of cuties, is Oz coming with Amy?"
"They said theyíd be here around ten," Willow told her. "Oz had a last minute gig for a friendís party."
"And how is wolf-boy and our resident witch?" Xander asked.
"Second resident witch, Xander," Willow pointed out.
"I hear good," Buffy responded. "I ran into Amy the other day at work and chatted it up for a few. She finished her LPN and was hired on at the hospital."
"Going to work her mojo on the patients, eh?" Xander said. "I wonder if thatís covered by the insurance."
"Ladies," Angel greeted, coming into the living room from the kitchen, a tray of drinks in hand.
Xander cleared his throat. "Hey, Iím here, too."
"As I said - ladies," Angel teased. Buffy, Willow and Cordelia all held back laughs as they accepted the proffered drinks.
"Youíre a riot, deadboy," Xander said. "You should take your act on the road. In fact, why donít you leave right now?"
"Xander, can it," Buffy said before turning to Angel. "Whereís my worse half?"
"In the kitchen trying to drink Giles under the table," Angel replied. "What the idiot doesnít know is that Giles is drinking water, not vodka."
"Swell," she said, moving away from the group and to the kitchen. She pushed through the swinging door in time to see Spike slam back a shot of vodka, a nearly empty bottle beside him. Giles sat across from him, a well concealed bottle of water in his lap. "Giles, are you provoking my fiancť?"
"No," Giles replied, smiling at his Slayer. "Iím just keeping him company."
"Neither man nor beast should drink alone, luv," Spike told her. "Unless no one is around, that is." Buffy sighed and moved the vodka out of his reach. "Hey, thatís my bottle. Get your own."
"You can have more later," she said. "Right now we have a birthday party to attend. You have to be social."
"I donít want to be bloody social," he protested. "I want to drink. Lots."
"Is there any particular reason why Spike is-is attempting intoxication?" Giles asked.
"Do one lousy good deed aní the whole world thinks youíre a bleediní saint," Spike said to the Watcher, the alcohol hitting his system. He had finished a bottle of Jim Beam before moving onto the vodka. "Iím no wanker like the lap dog."
"No, honey, youíre not," Buffy said, patting him on the shoulder.
"Thatís right, Iím not," he said, standing. "Iím Spike! William the Bloody! Scourge of Europe! Killer of two Slayers! And I donít blush!" He stormed out of the room, red shirt flying behind him.
"Donít ask," Buffy told her Watcher.
"I donít think I will," Giles replied. "How was patrolling?"
"Boring, as usual," she said. "It must be the heat."
"Yes, vampires tend to-to-to shun the warmer temperatures," Giles said, standing. "Shall we join the others?"
"If I gotta," Buffy whined. Giles shook his head and the two exited the kitchen.
Several hours later, Spike had finally stopped telling everyone he wasnít a softie and the party dissipated. After Buffy had escorted her slightly drunk fiancť home with Angel, she struck up a conversation. "Hey, Angel? Iím not suppose to ask you this, but Iím so curious I should have whiskers."
"You know you can ask me anything," Angel replied.
"Did you like kissing Spike?"
"Woah. That was unexpected," he said, startled. "Did I like kissing Spike? You mean, earlier this week?"
"Yeah," she replied.
"Yes, I did," he told her honestly. "It brought backÖinteresting memories. Plus, I havenít kissed anyone in a very long time, male or female, vamp or not."
"Huh," Buffy said.
"Youíre not turning into a voyeur on me, are you?" Angel asked.
"Who me? Nah. It was just so unexpected to see you guys playing tonsil hockey, and it brought up a million questions in my mind," she told him. "I wanted to get your side of it. Form a clear picture, and all that jazz. Not that I want to see it again."
"And I wouldnít want to do it again," Angel said.
"Why? Is Spike too much of a man for you?" she teased. "Think heíd beat you up?"
"Iím more afraid of Willow than him," he scoffed. "He is definitely not the ferocious vampire I used to know and love and then hated."
"Iíll take that as a compliment," Buffy said, smiling brightly.
"You should. Youíve managed to do the impossible."
"And whatís that?"
"Your loved turned a demon into a man."