Set right after 'Hellbound'. First Angel fic. Be kind, review?

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Winifred Burkle had decided she was crazy.

She had come to this conclusion by a series of logical thinking steps, in which she examined the recent events of her life in chronological order. First of all had been her rescue from cowdom in Pylea by her knight in shining armour, Angel. (Said knight was currently in his new office, yelling into the telephone in a language that seemed to be a mix of curses and threats in different demon dialects.) She had classified the return to her real world as a particularly significant step forward in her life.

Her second step in her new situation had been befriending Lorne. The cheerful, chatty empath demon had taken her under his green, horned wing, and taught her everything from the art of subtle conversation to Barry Manilow. If she needed cheering up, Lorne had always been the person to go to. He was her first real friend, and that had started her off onto a path of different, newer relationships.

The third important event had been her involvement with Charles. She had liked Charles, with his easy smile and the way he could quietly intimidate just by being in the room. (Right now he was intimidating in a more abrupt fashion, out hunting a cult of vampires with his brand-new security task force, which he had renamed 'one giant shiny toy'.) He had treated her as a princess, and she still felt grateful towards him. Unfortunately, due to an apparent bad month or so in the lives of The Powers That Be, things had fallen apart between them.

A factor in that scenario would undeniably be Wesley. The former Watcher's intelligence had always appealed to her, and she had taken comfort in knowing that he would always be there to go to. And she had, with everything from a frustrating prophecy translation to requests for a much-needed reference book. But over the months their relationship had become a lot more awkward, and Fred now delegated interaction between their departments to Knox or his interns, when she could.

And that particular conflict brought her current dilemma to the surface. The last member of the remaining Angel Investigations - if she could even think of him as part of the team. Part of their team, anyways. He had certainly proven himself to her, at least, after the recent... hijinks. He seemed to be everything - fascinating from a mystical sciences point of view, even more so from a personal one. Yet Lorne was cautious with him. Wesley distrusted him. Charles ignored him. And Angel just outright disliked him.

"FINE!"

The sound of a phone slamming onto the receiver startled Fred out of her wandering thoughts. She craned her neck to see the door of Angel's office burst open and the stormy-faced vampire stride out. Stifling her giggles with clenched teeth, she hurried out of her office to intercept him.

"What's going on, Angel?" she asked, keeping up with his quick pace.

"Oh, what ISN'T going on around here?" he growled. "The Grox'lar clan are pissed because I killed their intermediary. They want payment for the dead demon as well as a whole re-negotation of negotiations."

"Grox'lar? The baby eaters?" Fred asked, wincing.

"Yeah. Apparently lunch is back on the agenda for these negotiations."

Fred made a face. "Anything I can do?"

"No. Thanks." Angel entered the elevator and pushed the button hurriedly. Fred frowned. "Angel, are you trying to avoid somebody?"

"God, don't even ask - "

"Peaches! Where are we off to in such a hurry, eh?"

A smirking blond man in a leather duster had materialized behind her, cocking an eyebrow at Angel, who was now wearing a look of utter pain. Disheveled platinum curls stood out oddly against his pale skin, offset again by his black attire. Ice-blue eyes held a look of superiority, the constant challenge that Fred was almost certain was the cause of Angel's current suffering.

"Hi, Spike," she said, giving a little wave.

"Hello, pet. Are you off with the great ape here, then?" he asked, managing to throw a smirk at Angel and look her in the eye at the same time.

Fred controlled her giggles again. "No, just stretching my legs."

"Well then, I will be off to keep this lug company. Fancy a picnic, Angel?"

"No, I really don't." Angel jabbed the 'close doors' button and the elevator doors closed swiftly.

"Oh no you don't, mate." Spike strode forward and through the closed doors of the elevator like they didn't exist. Fred sighed and turned around, facing the main lobby of Wolfram & Hart, L.A. branch.

"And despite all this..." she muttered under her breath, glaring at the huge lobby. Humans and demons created a steady flow of traffic, keeping the law firm well-occupied. Unfortunately, all this occupation meant nobody had as of yet found a way to recorporealize Spike.

"Damn ghosts." Fred rubbed her tired eyes and went back to her office, where printouts and scans of all kinds told her absolutely nothing about Spike's current situation.

It was all very illogical, she thought to herself.

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"Hey princess, need a favour."

Fred looked up and pursed her lips. "Hello Eve, lovely evening to you too. Why yes, I can take a break from this immense workload to speak to you. I've been fine, and you?"

"Tense, honey buns?" Eve asked, coming into her office and sitting directly across from Fred. "What's this 'immense workload'?"

"The whole Spike thing," Fred sighed. Eve nodded. "Yeah, heard that was a bitch for the sciences department. How's it coming?"

"Well, our last attempt gave me some ideas, so I'm working to recreate the effect of the Conduit's blood, which could then be concentrated through that amulet, which would presumably anchor Spike's spirit, no pun intended, to this plane, and hopefully focuse his interdimensional energy into one spot, and then all we'd have to do is find a way to transform his mystical energy into physical matter, but that's gonna be tough because we don't know much about the amulet, and I'd need to restrict the field of transformation to his distinct presence, and I can tell you're not following me, so I'll stop."

"Yeah, that might be a good idea at this point." Eve leaned forward and looked Fred in the eye. "Have you slept lately?"

"Um..." Fred rubbed her eyes, frowning. "A little. Cat naps sort of thing."

"Well, if you're not planning to sleep for a while, you might as well do me that favour. It actually has to do with your work."

"About recorporealizing Spike?" Fred asked, looking up. Eve nodded. "Yep. I need you to come to the basement later on to try something that might help him."

"What will I be doing? Do I need to bring anything?" Fred asked.

Ever considered. "Well, just your lips, I suppose."

Fred looked at her in disbelief. "Excuse me?"

"We're going to try a sort of Sleeping Beauty thing. In reverse. You kiss Spike, he awakens from his incorporeal nap," Eve explained.

"And that's supposed to accomplish what exactly?" Fred demanded.

Eve held up her hands. "Hold your horses, Silverado, I'm not doing this arbitrarily. Wesley, being mystical guy, had this whole theory about the Shanshu prophecy and the nature of Spike's death. Well, re-death. But you know what I mean." Eve leaned back in her chair. "He theorizes that Spike was probably sired at a bad time in his life. We also know that Spike, er, re-died, alone."

"And that means... what?"

"A part of the Shanshu prophecy Wesley uncovered says that the champion, which we presumed was Angel, would have something different about him.

"I know all this," Fred interrupted, waving her hand. "How does it all connect?"

"I'm getting to that." Eve thought for a moment before continuing. "Wesley thinks that the wording of 'champion', according to some of the other Shanshu texts, might also be translated as 'unparalleled', which can mean all sorts of things, among them 'unique' or 'solitary'."

"So the vampire about whom the prophecy was written should be... solitary?" Fred asked, frowning. "How's Spike going to be solitary if I'm... with him?"

"Well, that's just it, princess. He won't be. Wesley's theory is that if Spike is with someone, it'll either work out or it won't. If Spike is an unhappy bunny about being kissed, then we'll know that he could be the one. On the other hand, if it does work out, then we'll know he's not meant to be solitary, and ergo not 'unparalleled'. Not a champion."

Fred frowned, trying to wrap her mind around it. "It seems awfully complicated. Can we really base our understanding of the prophecy on Spike's mood for company? I mean, he's always chasing women, how accurate is this going to be, exactly?"

Eve picked up one of the dozens of printouts scattered on Fred's desk. "Do *these* seem to be working?" she asked pointedly.

Fred sighed and relented. "No. But I still think it's a bit hazy."

Eve shrugged. "Any port in a storm, sweetie. We'll try it. All right with you?"

"Would you accept 'no' as an answer?"

"Nope." Eve stood up, signaling the end of their discussion.

"Wait, Eve." Fred hesitated. "Why did I get this job? Why not Harmony or something?"

"Wesley said Spike took a liking to you. I got the impression you two were pals." Eve cocked her head. "Was I wrong?"

"I'm not sure," Fred said slowly, frowning vaguely. "Spike's a hard person to... he's just difficult sometimes."

"Mm. Well, come down to the lab later on to try this. Send one of your tech guys up here to clean this up."

Fred stood up and stretched her arms, feeling her muscles loosen. "Yeah, I will. Er... thanks."

"He'll be down later." Eve left without further comment, and Fred stood behind her desk for a minute thinking through the current situation.

Very illogical, she thought.

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Please tell me what you think. I'm gonna make this a short story, so there will be more. Reviews and input are appreciated. Maybe you'll even see your name in the story... :P