Catching up

Years ago, after stumbling through the magic portal and into L.A. – with nothing but leather & fur cave troll couture on his back – he was greeted by a cocktail of alien scents that tasted like a promise. Unarmed but with a song in his heart, Krevlornswath of the Deathwok Clan gladly cut all ties to friends and kin and set out to make this brave new world his home.

These days, the world smells like gun smoke. Even water and soap and vigorous scrubbing can't erase the acrid stench of cordite, betrayal, and death. These days, Lorne always has a gun in his coat pocket, and his heart is sore and silent. Home is a tiny apartment in Pittsburgh, and his only friend is a mean looking tom-cat who sometimes craps on his doormat.

He told Angel to be a stranger, and he still believes he's through with the caped avenger and his Destiny with a capital D. Yet the feeling of having walked out of the theatre mere minutes before the big blockbuster ending is like an itch he can't scratch. Maybe that's why he doesn't slink out through the back door, when one night Spike limps into the seedy demon bar where Lorne works as a bartender.

"Bourbon or O Neg?" he asks, putting down a napkin in front of the vampire.

"Lorne?" The surprise in Spike's features is a hundred percent authentic. Blondie's not that good an actor. So he's not here because Angel is checking up on him. Lorne is not entirely sure if he should be glad or disappointed that Angel honoured his demand to be left alone.

"Actually, I don't go by that name anymore," Lorne tells him.

Spike tilts his head and regards him for a moment, eyes narrowing at the sight of Lorne's sombre clothes. Then he nods. "I'll take both," he says, answering Lorne's previous question. He counts a few dollar bills on the counter, briefly scans the place, taking in the battered furniture, the low-life crowd, and the tired looking hookers, then focuses on Lorne again.

"Thought you'd be in Vegas, sipping Seabreazes by the dozen, piping your heart out like a merry green canary."

"Been there, done that, but the t-shirts didn't go with my complexion." Lorne sets Spike's drink down in front of him and counts the money into the till. It's a crap job, but it pays the rent. The few times he tried to read auras for money his gift failed him. The only images that surfaced were memories: Blood spewing from Fred's mouth; Lindsey clutching his bullet riddled chest; death-o-rama. Lorne doesn't know whether the world has lost all options or whether he simply lost all empathy.

Frowning, Spike picks up his glass. "Aren't you gonna ask me how—"

"No!" Lorne interrupts him. "Excuse me, but I don't want to know." That ought to do it, ought to send Spike back where he came from.

Only it doesn't. Spike lingers, slowly sips his drink. He's twitchy, but clearly in no hurry to leave. His gaze settles into a kind of triangular search pattern, travelling from front door, to back door, to Lorne, to front door. Keeping his baby blues open for a possible posse.

Lorne has to serve a bunch of other customers, lousy tippers too, so he's legitimately too busy to carry on talking to Spike, but every now and then he steals a glance in Spike's direction. Blondievamp is still wearing his coat, but the leather is dull and scratched, as though the coat aged twenty years instead of two. Spike lookes aged as well, his eyes are bloodshot and his skin is pallid. The hair is slightly longer than usual, showing a hint of dark roots. No longer gel-caked to the skull it gives him a dishevelled, almost chivvied appearance. He looks like he hasn't slept in weeks.

Hours pass. Several times the other bartender tops up Spike's drink. Spike shows no signs of wanting to leave. He smokes cigarette after cigarette, drums his fingers on the counter, toys with the napkin, watches the entrances, but he doesn't leave.

"Dunno if you heard, but Wesley's dead," Spike says matter-of-factly, when the other bartender is busy and it's Lorne's turn to take his order.

"What part of 'I don't want to know' is it that you don't understand?" Lorne bursts out, setting down the glass with enough force that some of the blood-and-Bourbon mix sloshes on the counter. "I'm out. Tell Angel—"

"So's Gunn," Spike continues, ignoring Lorne's outburst. "Went down fighting. Bet his afterlife is more Walhalla than fat li'l cupids in Birkenstocks playin' the lute."

"Why are you telling me this? I already told Angel and now I'm telling you, so listen up: I'm through. I'm out. O. U. T. Out."

"Least you could do is raise a glass in their names," Spike snaps, but even his anger seems to be running on auxiliary power. "Seeing that we're the only ones left."

Lorne isn't surprised. Not really, not deep down where it counts. But just because he's not confounded doesn't mean he has words – any words – to say.

"It's possible Angel made it out alive," Spike says, sounding less than hopeful, "but I haven't seen him or heard of him ever since we turned that dragon into lizard kabob."

That's when Lorne understands why Spike is still here. They're all that's left. Not friends, no – there was never time for that, because when Wolfram & Hart ate up their time and energy, they ate up that chance as well – but comrades-in-arms. Lorne doesn't need to read Spike's aura to know the man feels lonely and lost. That he needs something only Lorne can give.

"Do you have a place to stay, sugar?" Lorne asks.

"Was just passin' through." If Spike is confused by the sudden change of tone, he doesn't show it. But a hopeful note creeps into his voice: "Why? You offerin'?"

Lorne scribbles down an address. "It's not much," he says, pushing the note and his spare key in Spike's direction, "but it's home sweet home. Go get some sleep, you look like death – well, frankly Compadre, 'warmed-up' would be an exaggeration."

Spike picks up the key and weighs it in his hand, then shakes his head. "There's no time for that. Don't no how long I've got. Wouldn't want to dump my boatload of troubles in your lap." Spike tries to hand the key back.

"The place is warded," Lorne tells him and adds. "I don't have a couch. Just take the bed. Mi casa – you get the drift."

Spike opens his mouth, but Lorne cuts him off, more cheerful than he's felt in a long time. "Now be a good vampire and do as you're told. And there's no need to shower me with your undying gratitude." Lorne smiles, when Spike slides off his stool. "After all, that's what friends are for."