"Angel Investigations, we help the helpless, how may I help you?"
The sunny Southern drawl echoed around the tiled atrium, soaking into vintage antiques and bouncing off gleaming railings; a moment later, the same path was travelled by the crash of a handset angrily meeting the base unit.
Illyria, God-King, turned to the vampire, human voice abandoned. "Customers are vile."
"Least you didn't smash the bleedin' phone this time," Spike grinned, reaching across the desk for the container of baby powder.
"I wish you would not change it on my desk," Illyria complained. "The smell is repugnant."
"Aw, c'mon, Blue Streak," Faith chuckled, sauntering down the stairs. "That's no way to talk about your boss. And Spike, we're out of formula again."
"Miss the old days when the blighter drank blood... helluva lot cheaper," Spike sighed, carefully applying the sticky tape to hold Angel's diaper on. "You'd think the soddin' prophecy could have mentioned this little detail."
"Hey, he's human, right?" Faith reached down, wiping a spot of spit-up off Angel's chin with her thumb. "Shanshu fulfilled. And don't tell me you didn't get sick satisfaction out of dressing him in that outfit."
"Don't know what you're talkin' about," Spike protested, adjusting Angel's lacy pink bonnet with a mostly-hidden smirk.
The hotel doors crashed open, and a man stumbled inside... reeking of whiskey, Armani suit wrinkled and askew, several days of straggly beard growth creeping up his cheeks.
"Help me," he gasped, leaning back against the doors.
Illyria's lip wrinkled in distaste. "He reeks of desperation and self-loathing. I wish to destroy him."
"We're behind on the light bill," Spike reminded her.
"Very well. I will go play Crash Bandicoot."
"Hey, man," Faith said, advancing toward the stranger as Illyria climbed the stairs. "Sorry about our receptionist, she's got this honesty problem. You, uh... I'm guessin' from general hygiene status that you're on the run, right? What's the damage - demon, vamp, hellgod...?"
"Slayer," the man moaned.
"Oh, right!" Faith stuck out her hand. "You can just call me 'Faith', it's cool."
"William," the stranger gasped, looking past Faith to the reception desk. "William, you must help me."
"Er..." Spike raised an eyebrow, clutching Angel to him protectively. "If we're on a first-name basis here, mate, I'd feel better if I had yours."
"It is Marius," the man gasped, trying to pull his jacket back onto his shoulder. "I believe you know me as 'The Immortal'."
Spike's eyebrows soared; he motioned Faith over. "Put 'im in his crib, would you, love? Get Charlie-boy an' Bluebell down here, too."
"I must speak with Angelus as well... where is he?"
Spike held Angel up. "Say hello to your ol' arch-nemesis, Peaches."
Spike waved Angel's tiny, chubby fist for him.
"Goo," said Angel.
"Right," Spike grinned. "You've had your chat. An' now, I think he needs his bottle. Faith?"
"On it," Faith said cheerfully, taking Angel from Spike's arms and bouncing him on her hip. "How armed am I comin' back?"
Spike put his arm around the Immortal's shoulders, leading him into the office. "Very."
"I looked for you in Los Angeles," Marius sighed, dunking his teabag into his cup despondently. "It took me months to find you."
"Yeah, well." Spike crossed his boots on the blotter, leaning back in the chair. "We decided it'd be best if we left California. Had a bit of a disagreement with management. 'Sides, Cleveland's on a Hellmouth; good for business."
"I heard of your great battle. I was aware that Angelus had fulfilled the Shanshu Prophecy, but not that... not that he was an infant."
"Newborn, actually, when it happened," Spike shrugged, reaching across the desk to snag a pretzel. "Big flash of white light, wham-bam, Angel's gotten a helluva lot shorter. Wouldn't believe the war Charlie n' I got into about circumcisin' the kid. Hated the bastard, but not that much."
"Buffy is unaware..."
"Well, yeah." Spike scratched his eyebrow. "Couldn't do that to 'im either, could I? Wouldn't want Buffy changin' my nappy if our positions were reversed. Bloody humiliatin'. Vamp's gotta have some pride..."
Spike broke off abruptly, staring at the Immortal. "Bloody hell. You cryin'?"
"I'm sorry," Marius stammered, patting himself down for a hankerchief. "I'm sorry, I... do you perhaps... could I..."
Spike set a box of Kleenex in front of the Immortal, who grabbed a few, blowing his nose loudly.
"Thank you... thank you, I..." Marius dabbed at his eyes. "You... and Angelus... I thought perhaps... perhaps you could understand..."
"Look, mate, I haven't got all day. If you want to hire us, get to the point. An' I'm tellin' you up front... given our close n' personal history? I'm quintuplin' our standard rates."
"I do not wish to employ your agency, William. I merely wish to speak with you about my... problem."
Spike gestured behind him to the wall hung with battleaxes, swords, and daggers. "Do I look like a bleedin' shrink?"
"It's Buffy," the Immortal whispered. "She..."
"Oh," Spike said knowingly.
"I was once a great man, a powerful man," the Immortal sighed. "I had an empire, a place in the world... I knew my purpose in life... and now, I am so confused, the things she says to me, the way she makes me feel... it's like I'm... drowning in her..."
"Yeah," Spike smirked. "Been there, done that. Look, mate, word of advice? Die. Worked for me."
"I... can't... die," the Immortal sobbed.
"Oh," Spike considered. "Well, you are buggered, then."
The Immortal let out a wail, putting his head in his hands.
"You thought about a career with the U.S. Military? Hear the jungle's nice this time of year."
The Immortal shook his head miserably. "I have terrible allergies."
"You have experience in these matters, William. Do you have any suggestions?"
"What you need is to lay off the blondes altogether," Spike decided. "Don't even go rebound blonde, 'cause just when you think you're havin' a good time, she'll start bleedin' from the eyeballs and sink her fangs in. What you want's a nice brunette, yeah? Maybe an ex-cheerleader with visions, right, or some military bint with an androgynous name an' a black kevlar catsuit, or maybe..."
Spike gazed out the office door, where Faith looked up from sharpening a broadsword, smiling at him.
"... maybe a Slayer who's a bit more open-minded," Spike grinned, turning back to the Immortal. "Brunette, at any rate. But try to get one that's not always goin' on about burnin' baby fish, 'cause that's its own set of issues."
"I remember Drusilla," Marius said quietly.
"Right." Spike showed his teeth. "Almost forgot."
"Buffy's younger sister is brunette..." Marius mused, breaking off as a thrown dagger suddenly impaled itself in the wall next to his ear.
"Said I didn't hate Angel enough to chop on his willy," Spike growled. "The feelin's not extended to you."
The Immortal's eyebrows soared. "Dawn is off-limits?"
"You wanna test that immortality theory?" Spike countered, eyeing his favorite K'velkian axe.
The Immortal squirmed anxiously in his chair. "I'll make a note of it."
Spike shut the heavy double doors of the hotel after Marius, leaning his forehead against them with a sigh.
"Hey," Faith said, coming up behind him. "You okay? You get that guy sorted out?"
"That guy," Spike smiled slightly, "Was Buffy's current beau."
"Oh." Faith crossed her arms, tossing her head in faked apathy. "Well. I guess that kinda sucked for you, huh?"
Spike raised an eyebrow. "Beg pardon?"
"C'mon, Spike, I know how you feel about Buffy. That had to burn, man. Seeing that guy... I mean... he's got everything you ever wanted, right?"
Spike turned around, shrugging his duster back into place. "Can't always get what you want."
"Well, yeah, duh, but that doesn't mean..."
"But, y'know..." Spike grinned, tilting his head, "If you try sometimes, you just might find..."
Faith's eyes grew wide with hope. "You, uh... get what you need, right?"
"Yeah." Spike ran his thumb along her cheekbone. "Exactly."