Previously: Spike, Buffy, and Dawn are traveling to L.A. in hopes of finding out more about the amulet that robbed Spike of his soul. Angel is awaiting their arrival.
A/N: I have no idea how far apart L.A. and "Sunnydale" are supposed to be, so I guesstimated about 4 hours. So if they left at sunset (let's say a little after 8, judging from the time of year), that would put them pulling in about midnight. And yes, I am a dork for actually putting thought into that. ;)
Also, a note about Angel. I like the guy, okay? But this story needs an antagonist, and he qualifies. Don't get upset when you see him being less than pleasant, okay? It's not because I have anything against him as a character. Promise. :)
Glancing up from a handwritten page of directions, Buffy touched Spike's shoulder and pointed towards an upcoming street. "Hyperion Hotel – right there," she said. "Remind me to thank Willow for the easy-to-follow directions."
"Finally," moaned Dawn, squirming uncomfortably in the backseat. "My butt is totally numb."
"TMI, Dawnie," said Buffy. "Though just between you and me, mine is, too."
Spike sniffed as he glared at the hotel. "Always did overcompensate for his short comings." He turned towards Buffy and smiled congenially. "But I guess I don't have to explain that to you."
Buffy gasped dramatically. "He spoke, Dawn! How long has it been?"
Squinting through the dark at her watch, Dawn replied, "2 hours and 23 minutes since his last sentence – a sentence being defined as a noun and a verb, that is. I didn't count one-word responses and growls."
Spike growled at them both as he pulled up in front of the hotel to drop them off. "Looks like I'm going to have to find somewhere else to park," he said. "Sure we have to stay here?"
"Free rooms equal happy Buffy wallet."
"Spike's right," complained Dawn as they got out of the car. "Staying here is a bad idea. Let's just go to Vegas or something."
"Thought you were all numb in the rear," said Spike as he patted his jacket, looking for his smokes.
Dawn shrugged. "Nothing a little gambling wouldn't fix. I've got twenty … I mean ten dollars to blow on the slot machines."
"And quite a few years until you're legal," reminded Buffy as she pulled her bag out of the trunk. "I've got an idea. Why don't we all just agree to be optimistic about this trip? Yay happy, and all that? It'll make this all a lot easier."
"I've got a better idea," said Spike. "Let's break into Granddaddy Forehead's room and sully the sheets."
"Ptttb, gag, barf…" muttered Dawn, rolling her eyes towards the sky. "Can we go in now? The sooner we get this over with, the sooner you can take me to Vegas."
Spike pecked Buffy on the lips. "I'll go park the car. Very slowly, I think. No saying your famous 'hellos-with-tongue' in there, got it?"
The Hyperion was in a state of complete disarray. Boxes overflowing with files littered the lobby floor, mixed in here and there with various artifacts and weapons. It appeared as if everything was in the process of being packed away, though Buffy couldn't imagine why. Was Angel Investigations relocating? If so, why hadn't Angel mentioned it before? Choosing their steps carefully, she and Dawn made their way back towards the office.
"This place is really cool and really disturbing all at the same time," whispered Dawn.
"Why disturbing?" asked Buffy as she sidestepped a large battleaxe sticking out haphazardly from a cardboard box labeled 'Angel's Office'. "You've seen weapons and wonky demonic relics tons of times. You grew up around them."
"Reminds me of a hospital – one of those wards where they've had to scrub unmentionables off of the floors and walls many, many, many times." Dawn paused and thought. "Kinda like Spike's old crypt."
"Hello?" called Buffy as she peeked her head into Angel's office. At least, she thought it was his office. It wasn't as if she'd ever been there before – she was operating by guesswork alone. A desk stood alone in the room, but it was barren of almost everything save a few crumpled pieces of paper and a chewed pen cap. A lamp and a simple wooden chair stacked with more boxes were the only other things in the room. "Where is everyone?" she wondered out loud.
"It looks like they're moving," said Dawn. "Maybe they're out, taking a load of this stuff over to a new place."
Before Buffy could respond, she heard a noise behind them in the lobby. She thought for a moment that it was Spike, back from parking the car – but a moment later a slender brunette popped her head into the office, wearing an infectious smile and a sloppy ponytail. "Can I help you?" she said in a Southern accent, softened around the edges by the West coast influence.
Offering her hand, Buffy quickly introduced herself and Dawn. They learned that the young woman before them possessed the unlikely name of Fred and was part of Angel Investigations. "Any idea where we might find Angel?" asked Buffy. "He was expecting us sometime tonight, but we didn't give him an exact time."
"He got called out on business," explained Fred, "but he'll probably be back soon. Before dawn, I'm sure…" Her words trailed off as she spotted something by the lobby doors.
Buffy and Dawn followed Fred's gaze. Spike was back from parking the car and was leaning over a box with an infuriated look on his face. He pulled out a beautifully engraved broadsword from the clutter and cried, "This is mine! Gave it to me on my first demon kill. The bloody bastard!"
"Uh, can I help you, sir?" asked Fred, looking distinctly nervous.
"He's with us," said Buffy apologetically. "That's Spike."
"Or William the Bloody," said vaguely familiar voice, "depending on who you're asking."
Buffy turned to see that her old Watcher-for-a-day, Wesley, had also entered the room and was staring at Spike with educated interest. Her eyes just about bugged out of her head. Since when had the squeaky clean Watcher turned into a Harrison Ford-esque hottie? He was all scruff and leather – and the shadows contouring his lined face screamed of an angst-ridden past that would make any sensible female weak in the knees.
"Hoo boy," murmured approvingly Dawn beside her. "I think I'm gonna like this place."
"Don't even think about it," warned Buffy under her breath.
Spike noticed Wesley's scrutiny and asked, "Do I know you? More importantly, do I care if I know you?"
"No, but I've read a considerable bit about you," answered Wesley. "Had Angel not disclosed your associations with Buffy to me this evening, I fear I might not be quite as welcoming."
"Spike's okay," said Buffy reassuringly. "Really."
Wesley turned towards Buffy, his expression a mixture of distaste and intrigue. "Angel mentioned something about an amulet. Do you have it with you, by chance?" Buffy nodded.
"You can't beat Wesley when it comes to ancient relics," said Fred.
"Hold on a tick," protested Spike. "Why give it to him? I don't know him from Adam."
"He's my old Watcher," explained Buffy as she dug in her bag for the amulet. "We can trust him."
"Oh yeah. Because the Council of Watchers had proved itself so trustworthy in the past…"
Wesley smiled tightly. "Would it help you to know that I was dismissed?"
"Know another Watcher who was 'dismissed'. Don't like him, so don't get your hopes up, Percy." Spike crossed his arms over his chest and sulked as he watched Buffy hand over the amulet. "You'll want to be careful with that," he said to Wesley. "Let's just say I'm personally invested in the blasted thing, so don't do anything to it without letting me know, yeah?"
Wesley's brow creased in perplexity. "I assure you I'll take excellent care of it. If you'd like, you can come with me to the back. My books and research materials are there."
Dawn turned to Buffy, a pout forming on her face. "Do I have to come?"
"How about I give you a room upstairs?" suggested Fred. "I think I'm gonna turn in, myself."
"Perfect," said Dawn with a smile. She turned to Buffy and said, "I'm outta here. Happy researching."
"This is ridiculous," said Wesley, his voice thin with frustration. "I can't find any mention of the amulet in these books. Not a single reference. And if I know these books as well as I think I do, it should be here."
Buffy's shoulders slumped. "That's what I was afraid of. We had the same problem in Sunnydale."
Wesley thumbed through some loose pages of text and spotted something after a few moments of silent study. "Ah, look here. I believe I've found the origins of the amulet's markings at least. It's in an ancient demon language dating back to just before the birth of Christ. Judging from this text, the amulet seems to reference the Egyptian god, Ra."
"Sun god, right?" asked Spike. "Makes sense, what with the lightshow and all. What else does it say?"
Wesley's expression sobered as he continued to compare the amulet to the text. "Tell me, what did the amulet do exactly?" he asked.
"A good question," said a new voice.
Buffy glanced up and saw Angel hovering in the doorway, arms crossed tightly over his chest. "You're here…" she said, suddenly feeling a knot of nervousness in her stomach.
"That, I am," he said with a tight smile. "Buffy, could I talk to you alone for a minute?"
Beside her, Spike visibly tensed and looked ready to launch into a fistfight, but Buffy placed a steady hand on his shoulder as she rose. "I'll be right back, okay?" she said reassuringly. "Tell Wesley what happened to you. I think it'd be best if he knows the whole truth."
Angel slammed the office door behind them, and the sound echoed through the lobby. "I can smell him on you, Buffy," he snapped. "I know what you've been doing."
Buffy looked uncomfortably around the hotel lobby, trying her best to avoid his furious gaze. So much for saying hello, she thought. She led Angel away from the office door, knowing Spike would probably try to listen in on their conversation. "I really don't see how that's any of your business."
"Is that a fact?" Angel chuckled. "Do the words cookie dough mean anything to you? It was only a few days ago that you told me you were all half-baked and whatnot. And that is still the stupidest metaphor I've ever heard, by the way. Tell me, Buffy – do you like making promises you don't intend to keep? Do you like leading me on?"
"I never promised you anything," she retorted, "but I guess did lead you on a bit. I'm sorry, okay? Things just happened sort of fast."
"Wow. That's great. I'm really glad you're so torn up inside over all of this – but there's still the little matter of it being Spike you're sleeping with. The other day, you said he was in your heart, not your pants. And don't tell me this isn't my business because it damned well is."
"He's a good person."
"He's a thing," Angel corrected.
"Then so are you," Buffy shot back. "I've made my choice, Angel. You're going to have to deal with it if you still want to be a part of my life."
Angel shook his head angrily. "So what is it exactly that he gives you that you can't find somewhere else? That you can't find here, with me?"
"Well, let's see … where do I begin? Consistency. Reliability. Trust. Yeah, trust is a big one. Failure to abandon me when things get rough. Oh, and then there's the fact that he got a soul. Just for me, by the way – did you know that part? No curse involved. Nope, he went completely against his nature to change. And you know, it's nice that he's still the same person every morning. And isn't it funny how even though he's lost his soul, he didn't change his name to Spikelus and try to destroy the world?"
Angel stared. "He lost his what?"
Buffy's mouth fell open when she realized her slip. "Um. Oops? Can you just rewind and forget I said that?"
"What do you think?"
Clamping her hands over her eyes, she sighed in defeat. Spike was going to kill her. "It's why we're really here. He lost it when he used the amulet, and we need to figure out a way to get it back."
"He wants it back?" asked Angel in disbelief. "You're sure he's not lying?"
She shrugged. "He's here, isn't he? And I gotta tell ya, Angel – that's a lot more than Angelus ever did for me. So forgive my choice of lovers, okay? I have my reasons."
"So do you love him, then?" he asked quietly.
The question caught her off guard, and she hesitated for a long time before answering. "Truthfully? I don't know. Sometimes I think I might. And you know what? Those are the only times I've been happy these last few months."
"Happy is something you'll never be with him."
Buffy shook her head. "I think you're wrong about that."
"You know I'm not happy about this, but I'm going to help you out with your problem anyway. But he's not staying here. You and Dawn, fine. I don't care. But Spike? No way in hell. Get him out of my hotel."
"Angel, like it or not, Spike and I are a couple. I want him here with me. And how can we figure out all of this amulet mess without him? It won't kill you two to be under the same roof."
Angel clenched his teeth. "Fine, he can stay. But I want him in a different room than you. Or do you just like rubbing my nose in all of this?"
Buffy softened a bit when she saw the dejected look on Angel's face. "All right. Different rooms, it is. But I can tell you right now, Spike isn't going to be happy about it."
"Then he's not happy," Angel said. "He'll get over it."
The office door opened, and Wesley and Spike filed out. "Get over what?" asked Spike with a dark expression on his face.
Buffy glanced wearily at Spike. "I'll tell you in a minute. What'd you guys find out?"
"Not much," said Spike, his eyes practically burning a hole in Angel's forehead. "Whole lotta nothing actually, but Percy here's got a plan."
"I suggest we take our research to our new offices tomorrow," said Wesley. "They have books and other resources there that no other library could offer. I'm sure we can find something."
"Did you tell Wesley what the amulet did to you?" Buffy asked Spike.
"Yeah. Why do you think he was so keen on leaving the office so soon? I imagine you told Gramps here? His face is shrinking by the second, closing in on itself. That means he's pissed."
"Gee," said Angel. "Whatever could I be upset about?"
"Enough, you two," said Buffy. "I don't want to hear it. Let's figure out what we're doing and get on with it."
Wesley glanced cautiously at the two scowling vampires. "I second that plan. But unfortunately, nothing can be done tonight, I'm afraid."
Angel nodded. "We'll regroup tomorrow and head over to Wolfram and Hart. I'd like to ask a few questions to some people there, anyway. They were the ones who gave me the amulet to begin with. What happened to Spike was supposed to happen to me."
"Wolfram and Hart?" echoed Spike. "The law firm?"
Angel crossed his arms over his chest. "What about it?"
"The evil law firm?" Spike elaborated. "Grrr, nasty?"
"That's all changed now," Angel said quickly, seeing the look that flashed across Buffy's face. "In the meantime, there are some rooms open on the second floor you can sleep in. Need me to see you up?"
"That's okay," Buffy said, holding her hands up.
"Yeah, really. That's okay," repeated Spike scathingly.
Angel shifted his eyes slowly in Spike's direction. He obviously had a few things to say, but whatever was on his mind, he kept it to himself. "Goodnight, Buffy," he said in a short voice. He and Wesley turned and left the lobby without another word.
"Good riddance," muttered Spike. "The fumes from his hair gel were starting to make me dizzy."
Buffy punched him lightly on the shoulder. "Could you have possibly acted less mature?"
Spike considered her question as he stooped to pick up her suitcase. "Yeah. Probably."
"You're funny," she muttered, snatching the luggage away from him, preferring to carry it herself. "Listen, Spike, there's something you need to know about our rooms."
"Rooms? As in plural rooms?"
Buffy sighed as she punched the elevator button. It opened with a strident ding, and they stepped inside. "Angel wants us to stay in separate rooms while we're here."
"He what?" barked Spike.
"It's not that big of a deal," she argued. "We've been sleeping in the same bed for what? Less than a week?"
"It is a big deal. How can you think otherwise?"
"You can deal without sex for a night or two," she snapped.
"This isn't about sex, Buffy. It's about you letting your old flame separate us two minutes after we arrive."
"Oh, please. I had to admit to him down there that you and I were sleeping together. I wouldn't exactly call that letting him separate us."
The elevator door opened, and Spike stormed out, shaking his head angrily. "Call it what you will, but mark my words. Angel's got a plan formulating in that thick skull of his. He's going to try to come between us any way he knows how."
"You're being paranoid."
"No," he retorted, stopping in front of an open door. "I've just known him longer than you have. I know the way he thinks."
Buffy dropped her suitcase on the floor and sighed. "One night, Spike," she said, gripping the lapels of his jacket and tugging him close. "I promise I'll be thinking about you."
Spike stared down at her, looking older than she'd ever seen him. "I love you, Buffy," he said quietly. "Love you with everything in me, but you need to know … it's not impossible to lose me."
Buffy's face softened. "Spike…"
But he'd already pushed her away and retreated into the room. The door closed in her face, leaving her alone in the hallway.
Okay, I'm lying. How about a "To be continued" instead? ;) I've already got a good bit of the next chapter written, so an update shouldn't be too long in coming.