Spike waited until he heard the front door close and Xander's car engine come to life before picking up the telephone by his bed. He retrieved the business card from his wallet and dialed the number embossed on the card. God but this was a hard telephone call to make, but he had to do it if he wanted to retain his sanity.
"Angel Investigations," he heard a much too cheery female voice say.
"Listen you little git, just put him on the phone or tell me he's not there."
"Hey, back off, Mister. You called us, remember?"
"Yeah I do. I just want to talk to Angel." He heard the distinct sound of a second extension joining the call and waited, hoping it was on Angel's end not his. He wanted to be alone when he made this call. Had Dawn stayed home? No, she would have come up to pester Spike about something. Not that he minded, but she would not have left him up here alone for this long if they were in the house together. "I know there's someone else on the line. Could one of you just put Angel on?"
"Spike," Angel's voice came through the line.
"Yes, Angelus. Tell the bint to hang up the telephone." Spike heard the click and breathed a little easier. "Thanks."
"What's this about, Spike?"
"You get right to the point, don't you? Maybe I was just calling to reminisce," Spike said, wondering if his grandsire knew of the events since Buffy's resurrection and those surrounding Spike's departure.
"Right. Given our last meeting was not exactly a happy reunion you'll forgive my suspicious nature."
"Are you alone?"
"If you called to talk dirty, I don't do that anymore."
"Oh, sod off. I need your help you bloody fool. But before I spill my heart to you I want to make sure you're alone."
Spike heard a sound like that of a door being closed through the phone. "I am now," Angel said with less impatience in his tone. "Is this about Buffy?"
"Why would I call you about Buffy?"
"Well, I don't know. Why else would you call me? Is she all right?"
"Yeah, she's fine," Spike replied cautiously. "Why wouldn't she be?"
"Well, Dawn has called here a couple times worried."
"Oh," Spike said simply, dully waiting for the chastisement of his grandsire though it never came. Surely Angel would rip Spike's unbeating heart out of his chest if he knew what he had done that night. "Well, she's fine."
"Good," he said and Spike could almost sense the tension ease out of Angel's body with that. The Poof still loved her, Spike realized. "So, Spike, to what do I owe the honor then if it's not about Buffy? I don't see how we have anything else in common."
"Well, hello? Our family."
"We haven't been a family since the turn of the century, Spike and you know that. The last century," he added for clarification, as if Spike did not realize when Angelus had left them for good. Darla had left them soon after and returned to The Master, the vampire who had sired her. That left Spike with Drusilla, not that he minded but Spike had been left holding the shell of the woman that had been Angelus' biggest challenge.
"I need help," he admitted somberly, hating that he had no one to go to but Angel. He waited for the ridicule and the sarcasm but encountered only silence on Angel's part.
"Okay," Angel said, clearly waiting for Spike to embellish.
"Well, I'm not sure how much you know about what went on since Buffy came back."
"I know enough," Angel said and Spike could hear the low rumbling in Angel's throat. Okay, so he knew more than Spike wanted him to know.
"Li'l Bit had a busy summer it seems."
"She wanted me to know in case Buffy came to me for help."
"No," Angel said and Spike could swear he heard disappointment in the older vampire's voice. "Get on with it, Spike. I do have work to do."
Spike related to Angel the events that had led up to that night in Buffy's bathroom and the quest Spike embarked upon because of that night. "So to make a long story short, it would seem there are two vampires with souls now."
"You got your soul?"
"Let me get this straight. You left Sunnydale after trying and failing to rape Buffy, went to Africa and went through horrible trials to get your soul back?"
"That about sums it up, yeah," Spike said and then heard the phone on the other end drop and Angel's laughter.
"What is it," he heard a female voice say on the other end. Sounded like the same nosey bitch that prodded him with the twenty questions a few minutes ago.
"Nothing," Angel said, retrieving the phone. "Close the door, Fred. Okay, now."
"Fred? You have a woman named Fred working for you?"
"Winifred, she goes by Fred."
"So what is it you want me to do for you, Spike? I'm shocked, so you'll forgive me if I'm a little on the slow side right now."
"Why should now be any different?"
"Play nice, Spikey or I'll hang up."
"Oh all right," he said exasperated into the phone. "How did you do it?"
"How did I do what? You know how I got the soul."
"How did you live with yourself? How did you survive? How did you get the images and voices to stop?"
"That was not the answer I was looking for."
"Are you back in Sunnydale?"
"Yes," Spike replied cautiously.
"Back with Buffy," he continued on.
"Yeah," he said his voice low.
"She took you back?"
"So it would seem."
"Christ, I knew she was crazy, but that's just insane. Though I guess the soul made it easier."
"Actually, she didn't know about the soul right away."
"What the hell was she thinking then?"
Spike told her of Buffy's coma and her alleged out of body experience only to be met with silence when the retelling was finished. "What?"
"This is no time for games, Angel."
"No games, it happened. I wouldn't have remembered it if you hadn't said anything, it was just another night like any other. I never connected the girl from that night with Buffy. She was dressed so differently, obviously given the time. I just always assumed she was the Slayer of that time."
"So you're telling me that she actually did this? She actually went back in time, fought you, saw my little tête-à-tête with Cecily?"
"So it would seem, Spike, so it would seem." There was silence on the phone as Spike took in this information, Angel was probably too. "She said something that startled me."
"She got offended when I called her a girl and claimed that she was woman enough for me to sleep with. I, at the time, had no idea what she was talking about, of course."
"Yeah, she does hate that."
"I know she does," Angel said wryly. "I guess that explains why she seemed to know my every move and why I got so turned on fighting her."
"Uh, Angelus," Spike warned.
"Hey, I did. It was hot as hell to have her match me blow for blow. I expected to die that night, she had me, the stake at my heart but for some reason, I remember it now, the resolve left her."
"She couldn't kill you she said." More silence by both vampires.
"So she woke up from her coma and realized she loves you."
"That's about the whole of it, yeah."
"But she knows about the soul?"
"Yeah, she knows now. No one else but you knows and I would like to keep it that way. I don't need everyone thinking I went out to become like you. She wants me to tell her Watcher."
Angel chuckled lightly. "Are you going to do it?"
"And you called me whipped."
"Yeah," Spike agreed, a corner of his mouth lifting in a half smile. "She seems to have that power over her men."
"Well, Spike, my boy, it seems you're one up on me. Two actually. You went out to get this done. You had to know there would be consequences that you wouldn't get your soul and all would be good."
"I just didn't realize."
"Yeah," Angel cut him off and Spike knew his grandsire understood completely. "But you've got Buffy."
"What does Buffy have to do with this?"
"Let her help you. She will you know. Look at what she went through and risked for me, and I tormented her and killed her friends for months. Yet she stood by me and helped me when I came back. She'll do the same for you. She's strong, Spike, don't ever think she won't be able to handle what you have to unburden yourself with. She's heard pretty bad stuff from me."
"And yet she didn't leave me. Just remember that." Angel probably meant those words to be soothing, but they were not. They only served to piss Spike off. He did not need to be reminded that it was Angel who had left Buffy not the other way around. He did not want to think of the fact that she would have stayed with him, stood by him had Angel chosen to be selfish and keep her as his.
"She's not going to leave you either, Spike. I may not like it, I may have nightmares about it but she won't. There's one thing about Buffy you should know as well as I do, once she's set her heart on something she doesn't quit."
"So I'm supposed to lean on her? I finally get her to admit she loves me and I'm going to depend on her to keep me sane? I don't see how that's going to keep our relationship moving in a positive direction."
"Talk to Giles."
"Talk to Giles. You said you were going to tell him about your soul."
"Only because she wants her council of watchers to know that a vampire can go on such a quest."
"Well, then give him some more fodder for his journal. Talk to him. He's not there anymore, right?"
"No, he's in England."
"Then have at it. From the things Dawn has said, he's got e-mail, so you could communicate with him that way."
"I suppose I could do that."
"But don't leave Buffy out in the cold, Spike. She'll get pissed off if she thinks you're hiding something or trying to protect her. She's not one of Dru's dolls you know."
Spike bristled at Angel's words and replied gruffly. "I'm aware she's not going to shatter and break, Angelus."
"All I was saying is if you have a problem go to her. Even if you don't admit there's something wrong but merely ask her to sit with you. I don't expect you to fill her head with one hundred twenty years of acts; I don't think you'd do that. But go to her when you need to have someone by you."
"Yeah," he murmured, pinching the bridge of his nose. "I just hate the idea of having to do it particularly when she's got problems of her own."
"What problems," he asked, sounding concerned.
Spike was tempted to tell him it was none of his business, but if Buffy was in danger Angel deserved to know especially if it came to he or the Scoobies calling him for help. He told her about the dreams Buffy had been having.
"Huh," Angel said.
"She seems to think they mean something."
"Well, her dreams typically do, though there are some that haven't."
"Right. So anyway, I've promised her I'd be on watch during the night to make sure she sleeps all right, which means I'm relegated to sleeping during the day. Which is fine, vampire, should be sleeping during the day. But then I'm alone. I can't bother her at work."
"Christ, for someone who knows the bad you sure don't keep in the loop about the good."
"Well, Dawn hasn't emailed me for a while. I assumed she was busy with school and all."
Spike chuckled lightly. "Well, you're not going to believe this."
"She's not still working at that fast food restaurant is she?"
"No, she's getting paid to be the Slayer."
"You heard me, Peaches. She's getting paid to be the Slayer. I don't understand it myself exactly. But the school board has her on their payroll as a liaison to the students, someone their age they can talk to, relate to."
"And how is that getting paid to be the Slayer?"
"Well, that's just a cover to justify her being at the high school every day and on their payroll. The school board president hired her to take care of preternatural problems on the school campuses. They rebuilt the high school over the old one, you know."
"That is rich," he chuckled lightly. "I wonder if there are vampires out there who keep journals like Slayer watchers do. Someone's got to be out there taking notes about Buffy."
"I hope not."
"Me neither, Spike, it was rhetorical."
"Well, I'm not sure you gave me the information I was looking for, but thanks for talking to me."
"If it gets real bad, if talking to Giles over the phone and in e-mail and just knowing that Buffy is there forgiving and accepting you doesn't help, you can always come up for a while."
Spike closed his eyes and nodded his head, appreciative of the invitation. "Thanks, I'll keep that in mind. I'm surprised you didn't come back here while I was gone."
"Why would I?"
Spike scoffed. "Well, it seems rather obvious she does not want a human or the normal life you were trying to enable her to lead by leaving. I figured you'd come back for her once you realized that."
"It's too risky and we're beyond that, Spike. You have nothing to worry about from me if that's your concern. Other than I'll tear your head off if you hurt her again. It's not my place to judge you or Buffy or your relationship, but you've done a good thing, Spike. Don't fuck it up."
"I'm not planning on it. Hey, one more thing," Spike said, feeling like a starving child begging for scraps.
"Any ideas of a job I can get?" Angel laughed again. "Glad I can provide you some comic relief."
"You just have to realize how it sounds. I'm still adjusting to the first revelation and now you're telling me you want to join society."
"Well, yeah. I want to help Buffy with the bills and stuff. She wants to go back to school and I want to help her get there."
"You've got money."
"I know I do, but I want to earn it. What am I supposed to do with all of my time now? I patrol with her, but then what?"
"You're right. Well, there's always my line of work."
"Right, just what I want to be, like you."
"Hey, you called me, remember? Don't insult me. As you so poignantly said, I'm all you've got who can relate to and understand what you're going through. I'm willing to bury the past, Spike, though I have to admit I'm a little envious of you."
"Envious of me?"
"You don't have to do this on your own. You have sources to help you through this. I didn't have that."
"Oh right, hadn't thought of it that way."
"So don't screw it up. Buffy and Giles can help you, but they haven't been through it."
"Right. So aside from going all out to help people in need, any ideas," Spike queried, rolling his eyes. He just could not picture himself fighting the good fight. At least not yet.
"None that I can come up with, but I'll think on it. Where can I get a hold of you?"
"I'm staying at Buffy's."
"You're living there?"
"It was her idea. I'll have you know I'm acting like a gentleman."
"It's about time," he heard Angel mutter.
"Just don't hurt her, all right."
"Right-o, Peaches," he said and after saying their form of good byes hung up the phone.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com