Title: Solid State
Author: babies stole my dingo (agilebrit)
Rating: PG-13 for language, violence, and very slight bloodsucking. But if bloodsucking squicks you, why are you reading vampire fiction?
Length: Short story (about 12,000 words)
Disclaimer: Joss is the genius behind these characters; I am but a lowly follower. I make no money from any of this, so please don't sue me. Also, any mention of a demon division of the ACLU is purely coincidental, and any resemblance to an actual legal organization is completely unintentional. Really. Many thanks to Aeneas, Illmantrim, and the Hubby for their thoughts and suggestions.
Notes: Spike/Fred and Wes/Lilah. Starts after Angel 5:08 "Destiny;" AU after that. The effects of the Box of Flashy that made Spike corporeal again were only temporary. Wes is still trying to get Lilah out of her contract. And Buffy's back. Good times...
Chapter 1: Oh, Bugger All...
"Oh, bollocks," I said to myself. I prowled the hallways of Wolfram and Hart the night of the Cup of Torment debacle - and there she was. "What's Fred still doing here, then?" I'd have thought she'd have gone home a long time ago, but apparently she hadn't. And after my night of drinking at the bar down the street, I was in no shape for a confrontation. Appeared I was going to get one anyway.
Or maybe not. She shot me a look and then just walked past without saying anything. A look that spoke volumes. Yeah, she was pissed at me all right. Crap. I followed her. "Fred, wait."
She stopped but didn't turn around. As I caught up with her, she said, "Did you enjoy your nooner with Harmony?"
If I could have blushed I would have. "Not very much, actually. Look, Fred..."
"I thought that what I was trying to do for you meant something," she burst out. "But no! The first thing you do when you become corporeal again is grab that airheaded cow - "
"I'm sorry, pet. Really I am." I gave her my roguish grin. "If it makes you feel any better, her eyes started bleeding and she said some pretty nasty things to me. Bit me, too. Kinda ruined the moment." And truth to tell, I'd considered grabbing Fred instead, but I hadn't thought she'd go for it. That, however, was information she didn't need.
I could tell she wasn't buying, as she crossed her arms over her chest. "Good."
I started to get defensive and spread my hands. "I don't know what else you want from me. I said I was sorry, and I meant it." I tried a head tilt and a little smile. "Let me buy you a cuppa tea, then. I'll tell you all about it."
She thawed a little. "All right. But don't leave anything out. Flight of stairs, my ass," she muttered indelicately, surprising me.
Sitting across from her in the employee cafeteria, with iced tea for her and pig and otter blood for me, I told her everything. How Harm cut open the tape on the box for me, the flash of light, the tingly sensation - the first sensation I'd felt since That Day. Crashing into Angel's door instead of walking through it like I'd expected. I glossed over what had happened with Harmony, then told her about the big fight that the Poofter and I had in the opera house. And the Cup of Eternal Mountain Dew.
Her big science-y brain didn't miss a word, and her eyes were lit up with interest. When was the last time a bird had listened to me like this one? Cecily hadn't cared, Dru had been too lost in her madness, Harm was just too dumb, and Buffy...well, Buffy was Buffy. I would always have a place in my heart for her, a large one, but if her bloody cookie dough didn't finish baking soon, maybe I'd have a brownie instead. A delicate, delicious brownie, with chocolate frosting and a Texas accent...
Fred waved her hand in front of my face. "Earth to Spike?"
I shook my head. "Huh? Sorry, pet. Zoned out for a minute there." Then I frowned. There shouldn't be...two of her? I wasn't that drunk, was I? A ringing sound got louder and louder in my ears, until it drowned out everything else, and my vision went black.
I woke up on a gurney in Fred's lab. I had a hell of a headache, and my fingertips were tingling unpleasantly. Fred was pointing that same Star Trek gizmo at me as before, and she looked disturbed. In fact, she looked more than disturbed. I raised myself up on my elbows before falling back with a groan. That tingle in my fingertips was crawling up my arms, and it was a bloody awful sensation. "Fred? What's happening to me?" I clutched the thin mattress, and my hand went through it, but slowly and mushily, like grabbing ice cream. "Oh, balls. That can't be good."
"Looks like the effects of your 'box of flashy' were only temporary," she said, frowning prettily. "Do you know what happened to it? The box?"
"I left it on Harm's desk. I don't know what she did with it." The tingle had moved into my chest and spread up my throat into my head, and it was working its way through my middle and down my legs. I felt more vulnerable than I had when Pavayne had taken my clothes and tried to drag me into Hell. "Freddi? I don't feel so good."
"According to my instruments, you won't be feeling anything in a few minutes. Oh, Spike. I'm so sorry..."
My back arched as the tingle turned into a jolt of agonizing electricity that shot throughout my entire body. And then...nothing. Bloody hell.
"Spike? Are you...?" Fred put her hand on my shoulder - or tried to. It went right through, and she jumped back as if she'd been the one electrocuted, not me. I wanted to bang my head on the wall, but of course that wouldn't have worked, so I settled for standing up and staring peevishly around the room.
"Well. Guess I'm back to being a bloody ghost again. Isn't that just perfect?"
Fred looked like she wanted to cry. "I'll start working on the formulas again. There must be something I can do."
"Fred, luv, it's not your fault. No one tried harder than you did."
"Well, I guess I'll just have to try harder then." She had a determined expression on her face, and I knew better than anyone that a determined Fred was a fearsome force of nature. She grabbed a marker and started scribbling equations on her white board, which was already filled to nearly overflowing.
"I'll leave you to it, pet. Suppose I should go talk to Peaches and let him know that I'm back in the land of the ghostly, and it looks like he's the one who gets to be a real boy."
She stopped with her formulas for a second. "Spike. Don't give up hope."
I gave her a shaky grin. "S'long as you're on the job, luv, I won't."
"I thought I locked that door." Angel's irritation was palpable, even in the dark.
"You probably did," I answered.
He sighed. "What do you want now, Spike? Come to gloat?"
"No," I said quietly, sitting on the bed.
"What, then? I'm tired and sore, and I really don't want to talk to you right now."
"Well, Peaches, I thought it might do you good to know that your bloody Shanshu is all yours. Box of flashy just had a temporary effect, and I'm all see-through again. Now that I've made your night, I'll be lettin' myself out."
"Wait, what?" He sat up and turned his bedside light on. The sheet pooled around his waist, and I saw, with a tinge of sorrow, the bruises and wounds I'd left on his torso and face during our battle. Gah. Bloody soul. Making me sorry for stuff I shouldn't even feel bad about. Not like it hadn't been a fair fight.
"I said, I'm a bleedin' ghost again. Do I need to use smaller words?" I snapped, and immediately regretted it.
"Dunno. Passed out while talking with our Fred, woke up with a headache and the tinglies, then nothing." He opened his mouth to say something, and I growled, "Don't even say you're sorry. Platitudes don't become the likes of us."
"I wasn't - " Angel's eyes shifted away from me. "Okay, maybe I was."
"Oh, bugger off, you sentimental pillock. You haven't liked me since Dru brought me home; don't start pretending now." My words had no real heat to them. This jousting was what we did, Angel and me. If not with weapons, then with sarcasm. "Just admit you're happy that there's no one to threaten your status as vampire-Champion-with-a-soul, and I'll be on my merry way."
He huffed out an exasperated breath. "You are really annoying, you know that?"
I smirked at him. "Thanks for the compliment, mate. Be seeing you around."
We all sat uncomfortably in Angel's office the next morning. Freddi had her resolve face on. Peaches looked like he didn't know how he was supposed to feel. Charlie was sympathetic, and Lorne's expression was that of someone who'd just been forced to eat something that tasted very, very bad. Wesley was still on his leave of absence, and the Eve bint hadn't been invited to our little confab. I was perched on the corner of Angel's desk. He started. "What've you got for us, Fred?"
Her resolve face got a bit crumbly around the edges. "Not much more than I had before. I keep coming back to the whole 'needing an infinite source of dark energy' conundrum." She looked over at Charlie.
He shook his head. "Even if the White Room wasn't empty now, the big black cat wouldn't give us anything else. We were lucky to get the first sample from it."
"What about..." I started, then clamped my mouth shut. Buffy and the Bit had done enough for me. I wasn't going to ask them to do more. Not when that asking would bring all sorts of awful memories crashing back down around our heads. They all stared at me. "Never mind."
"Hey, Slim, if you have an idea, then let's hear it," Lorne said. "'Cause, none of us really does, at this point."
"It was a stupid idea, and I'm not going to give us any false hope," I said, a little more angrily than maybe I should have.
"Why don't you let us decide if it was a stupid idea or not?" Gunn said.
"Even if it's a good idea, I'm not - I'm not going to ask her to do that for me."
Angel looked pissed. "If you're talking about Buffy, you're right. We're leaving her completely out of this."
"Too bloody right we are," I snarled back at him.
Fred rolled her eyes. "Okay, I can smell the testosterone here. You two wanna solve your Buffy rivalry some other time?"
"Poncy git," I mumbled.
"Idiot childe," he muttered back.
I relented a little. "It's not Buffy anyway. It's her little sis. But it's a foolish, dangerous notion, and I don't want her asked." Remembering the Nibblet's threat to set me on fire, I said, "She'd probably say no anyway."
"But isn't that her decision to make?" Lorne said.
"No!" Angel and I shouted at the same time. Well. At least we agreed on something.
Harmony chose that moment to stick her head in. "Boss, Eve's..." Eve shoved past her and through the door. "Excuse you! Rude, much?"
Eve ignored her and stared at me, while Harm rolled her eyes and left. "I hear you're a ghost again."
I crossed my arms and stared right back. "What's it to you?"
"And I suppose all you geniuses are trying to figure out how to recorporealize him? Have you forgotten what happened when he got solid the first time? Does the fabric of the universe mean anything to you kids?"
"Oh, piss off," I told her. "All we know is what you told us, and, in case you've forgotten, we don't trust you. You could have made that up out of whole cloth, or even had something to do with all the wackiness around here yourself. For that matter - " I looked over at Angel. " - have you had any contact with the Senior Partners to confirm that this bint is who she says she is? You talked with the Conduit thing," I said to Charlie. "Did it say anything about her?"
"Come on," she scoffed. "Do you think the Senior Partners would let me get away with something like misrepresenting myself as your link to them?"
"I don't think anyone here knows bugger all about the bloody Senior Partners, or what they do or don't know. Other than, well, they're evil. Which doesn't speak very well for you if you really work for them."
She opened her mouth to retort, but Wes chose that moment to walk in the door. "I came back as soon as I heard..." he started. I put my hand through Angel's desk, and he stopped. "Oh. Was my information bad, then?"
"No, just old," Charlie said. "It was temporary. He's back to being a ghost again."
While the others brought Wesley up to speed, the Eve bint and I continued our staring contest. Once he was all filled in, she started to say something again, and Angel stopped her. "Eve. Get out. You weren't invited to this meeting for a reason." She acted like she couldn't believe that he was actually throwing her out of his office. He stood up. "Do I need to have you physically removed?"
Her eyes flashed. "The Senior Partners will hear about this."
"I'm sure. Out."
"This isn't over," she said, as she closed the door behind her.
"No, it never is, is it?" Peaches said to the ceiling, as Harmony stuck her head in again. "What now, Harmony?"
"Boss, I know you didn't want to be disturbed - "
"Then why are you disturbing me?"
"Buffy's on line four."