CHAPTER FIVE

I slept like a rock until I woke up with Peaches shaking me.

"Get up," he demanded, nearly shoving me out of bed.

"She won't be there for hours yet," I muttered, getting up, my bandages loose. I pulled them off, taking sheets of dead flesh with them. The burns no longer smelled as rank as they had yesterday.

His beady eyes narrowed. "Don't give a damn."

"Fair enough." I handed him the silvadene and the gauze. Angel was no where near as gentle as Fred had been in fixing me up.

Angel smoked most of my cigarettes as we waited on campus for Eve to show. Punk Boy and his friends were out and about this time, messing around on their skateboards, trying to jump stuff and otherwise be stupid and annoying. Why I was expecting Angel's son to have brains when his parents didn't, I had no idea. He had made a change since the last night, a fresh eyebrow piercing. Maybe I'd like the kid after all. Punk Boy's eye was bruised looking and Angel kept muttering about the damn eyebrow ring. I just kept adding fuel by reminding him about the time I had pierced my eyebrow back in the 70's. Angel was on such a burn I could have used him to beat back the slight winter chill in the night air.

Over the course of the evening several young birds came up to Angel, alone or in packs, all flirty and sweet then they caught sight of my bandaged face or his giant scowl and usually backed off. I thought Eve had somehow caught on that I had seen them last night since she still wasn't here and the moon was high in the sky. By now, Angel's brat had gone back into his dorm and got cleaned up and was waiting by the fountain. I thought Angel was gonna shit a brick when the kid came out in punk pants that were nothing but black cotton with straps with bat buckles that ran from thigh to where they disappeared into romper stomper boots that were a match to mine. Fuck knew what fetish club the kid thought he was going to but he wore the purple velvet poet's shirt, a waistcoat and lace cravat. A crystal- topped walking stick completed the shout-out to centuries past. What was the appeal of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to these Goth kids? I lived in the Victorian era and there was no way I'd trade it for today's luxuries. The kid even had blue lipstick on this time and his fingernails were painted black. In the lights on the fountain we could see he was wearing contacts that made his almond-shaped eyes look like they contained flames.

"Didn't you have a jacket like that when you were his age?" I asked, snickering.

"Shut up, Spike," he hissed.

"Oh, come on, tell me you don't think this is funny. I like the look," I said and I did. I could see me wearing this sort of stuff if I was out to play a part. There are plenty of vampire wannabe's ready to give it up to me just like those morons back in Sunnydale but I didn't do that kind of thing any more. "I swear he's your kid," he muttered to me. "Even has your build."

"Like I would have shagged Darla."

"In a heart beat, if you had one." He snorted. "She always said you were cutest when you were begging for sex."

"Bitch," I said lightheartedly, taking a cigarette before grandsire smoked them all. "It doesn't look like they're actually hurting him when they take him to that lab. Darla's spied on him the morning after and I think he thinks he just doesn't have a head for alcohol, which is why he always wakes up with no memories."

Angel ratcheted up the internal fire. I could be warm in an Alaskan snowstorm at this point. "I want to know what tests they're running."

"You'll have to ask Fred's help." I held up my hands to ward off protests of bringing someone closer to the inner circle. Fred was smart enough to figure things out if he sent her on this trail. "Computers and me, don't mix. That's why I had Red."

He snorted again then stiffened. I followed his gaze to wear Eve was walking toward the fountain looking like she was ready to head out to fetish night at the Inferno. I had to hold Angel back when the snogging started.

"Do you want to see what happens?" I asked. "She's not going to kill him...too valuable and you know it."

I didn't think Angel was going to make it. I'm not sure I would have in his place and it was Dawnie being taken advantage of. After Eve drugged the kid again, I directed Angel to the secret lab. I expected him to bust in, go through the window, something. Instead, he just watched calmly and we went home.

"I know what I have to do," he whispered and disappeared.

Fred was waiting for me at my door when I got there. She seemed nervous. "Spike, can we talk?"

I nodded, opening the door. "What's on your mind?"

"Maybe I was too quick to side with Angel. He didn't exactly tell us what had happened." Fred tangled some of her long hair around a fist. "Wes kinda thought fights between you two were common."

I rolled my eyes. "They are."

"I should have gotten your side of it and I'm sorry." She lightly put her hand on my arm.

I waved her off. "Don't worry about it."

"It's just that we're really protective of Angel," she said, quickly.

"He inspires that sort of thing." I shrugged, jealous of that talent. I just couldn't inspire that in people.

A tender expression touched her face. "Is there anything I can do?"

"Actually I think these dressings need changed. The burns are almost not hurting so you tell me what they looks like. I can't see most of them."

Fred helped me take off the bandages. From her face, I could tell my own face must still need some work. "Your lips are trying to grow back."

I touched my mouth; at least it wasn't bare teeth any more."It'll take a while."

"How did this happen, Spike?" she asked gently, dabbing me with silvadene.

"Can't tell you." I wasn't sure if Angel wanted what Eve had done to be to be known because they'd be wondering why nothing had been done in retaliation. "Can't tell you where Angel and I went tonight. That's his story and I think he'll tell you when he's ready."

Fred sighed. "I'm tired of secrets."

"Sometimes they're necessary." I felt bad, seeing her disappointed look. "Manchester United is on tonight. I have some Merlin's ale. Willow sent it. She thought the name was cute. Want to hang out?" I asked in way of making up.

She shoved her hair back behind her ears which I wished she wouldn't do. It accentuated her pointed face but not in a good way. "What's Manchester United?"

I winced. "Girl, you have a lot to learn. Have a seat. I'll grab the beers."

Fred and I watched some football before she headed off. We had fun. Fred was even more giggly and chatty when she was drunk. Just hanging out like we were old mates made me I feel much better for having had her here. I was busy getting drunk, screaming at the ballplayers on the telecast - things just weren't the same since Beckham was traded- when Darla made a reappearance.

"I see this hasn't changed." She waved a hand at the screen. "You and those infernal games. You truly are a drooling idiot."

I smirked over my shoulder at her. "It's too late, Darla. After last night, I know you care about me." Rolling her eyes, she sat beside me. "What did Angel do?"

"Went to the college, followed them to the lab and then we came back here."

Darla's eyes went wide. "That's it?"

"No."

We both turned. I hadn't heard Angel come into my suite. He came over to the couch. He gazed more tenderly at Darla than I had ever seen him look before. He stroked her hair just lightly enough not to pass through her head and ruin the effect.

"I almost didn't believe Spike had seen you." He sat on the loveseat, helped himself to a beer and a cigarette. Peaches was stressed out totally. "I've already spoken to Giles and Willow. They're working on how to undo the spell, trying to help me figure out a way to keep it from going sour this time." He took a swig of the beer. "I'm still trying to figure out how to tell my friends here."

"You'll think of something," Darla said, soothingly.

"You'll be here?" Angel asked.

"It's hard for me to stay visible," she admitted. "But I can if it helps you. I'll always be here to watch over him."

Angel nodded and took a drag on his cigarette. "Spike, I know I've never really wanted you here. I sure as hell don't want to be in competition with you over the shanshu and I never want to even so much as think about you with Buffy. But that aside, I'm glad you were around. I wouldn't have known...they could still be." He swallowed hard.

"I know. You don't have to actually say it. It's too weird anyhow, you being nice to me." I shuddered. "Are you saying I get to come home?"

"I'm saying I'm going to need help with the youngest member of our family. Think you're up to it?" He actually met my eyes, which he rarely did when he was asking something of me. It always embarrassed him to ask for help.

"Uncle Spike," I said, kicking my feet up on the table. "I like the sound of that."

Angel made a face and Darla shivered all over. "Never ever say that again," Angel said.

"I'll buy him a new eyebrow ring for Christmas," I said. "Wonder if he's pierced anything else. I know this place that sells..."

"I'm warning you, Spike." Angel's teeth were showing and that wasn't no damn smile.

I laughed. It was already feeling like old times, feeling like it should. "And you owe me a pack of silk cuts."

"These are convenient store generics," Angel said, pointing at me with the cigarette.

"Yeah, and you're replacing the pack you smoked with Silk Cuts."

He rolled his eyes. "So long as I never hear the words Uncle Spike again. Besides, he'd be your uncle. You're the unwanted nephew sister Dru should never have had." He levered his big butt up off my couch and paused to give me a pat on the shoulder. This was so weird. He reached out to Darla and their fingers intermixed and moved through one another and then he was gone.

"Thank you, Spike." Darla got up and leaned over to me. Her lips were cool and soft when she pressed them to my forehead. "Feeling better?"

"Like family again," I said and she was gone. I didn't know how Angel was going to work it all out. That was his problem but I would be here to help. Who knows, maybe two vampires can get the same reward in the end. Content, I settled back with my beer, my fags and my boys in Manchester United. I was family again, Angel owed me and things felt right with the world.