Setting: AtS early Season 5
Summary: A tiny adventure of GhostSpike. (Written for a Live Journal challenge at darkerspike.)
Disclaimer: Angel original characters belong to Mutant Enemy
If you couldn't distance yourself from it physically, you could damn well distance it with atmosphere.
This, now; this spot was about as far away from Wolfram & Hart atmosphere-wise as one could get.
It was a little block of red and brown buildings a century old. Square-roofed, sturdy, its original front doors and windows and awnings were still largely intact, with concrete flower boxes and neat, tidy signs announcing its shops' current businesses. Up and down its east and west walls were rectangular outlines of tall, Palladian-topped shapes in a darker red; the bricked-in ghosts of windows no longer wanted in this air-conditioned day and age.
One of the shops was a cafe, and if its sign was to be believed, had been a cafe for some time: "Bryson's Lunch Counter. Established 1913." It was closed for the night now, but inside a waiter was visible, tidying the place up.
Spike stood across the street from the shops and watched the cafe idly. He'd discovered it several blocks away from Angel's shiny new law palace (God, what a joke THAT is), near the end of his invisible tether, when he'd had a gutful of the ponce and his white-collar minions and decided to seek some fresh air. He'd been tempted to ask the few bearable people there if they'd like to come along with him -- Lorne, perhaps, or sweet little Fred -- but in the end he'd come alone.
The waiter didn't seem to relish being alone, either. He kept looking around nervously as he worked, stacking the chairs upside-down on the tables, running a pushbroom over the floor, aligning the menu holders face-outward along the countertop.
What's he up to, then? Thinking of pinching something? Spike studied him for a moment longer, then crossed the street and stepped into the wall of the cafe.
Standing inside a solid object took some getting used to -- it was like being underwater with your eyes closed. He leaned forward a bit, until his face emerged through the plaster, safely camouflaged by a fern in a hanging basket. The waiter was still scurrying about. He didn't take anything, though; in fact he practically threw the broom into the utility closet, snatched his coat, switched off the lights, and then bolted for the front door in almost a panic. Once outside he seemed to relax, and carefully tested the lock before walking away.
The cafe sat in silence and darkness.
...No, wait, not total silence. Spike suddenly heard footsteps moving in front of the counter.
A man was there, short and balding and middle-aged. He wore round, wire-rimmed glasses, and what was left of his hair was parted in the middle and combed down with oil on either side. An apron covered the front of his suit and little pot belly. He looked soft and pink and fretful.
Casper Milquetoast, Spike thought to himself. Literally.
The little man wrung his hands together and looked at the chairs. Then one by one he took them down from the table nearest him and set them back on the floor. He went to the counter and turned all the menu holders neatly sideways, and rearranged the salt and pepper shakers on either side of them.
"The day shift's not going to agree with that, you know," Spike said quietly. He stepped out of the wall and stood in the darkened room. The little man froze and regarded him with wide, startled eyes, and said nothing.
"Better to leave everything the way you found it. They won't be able to keep a staff here otherwise, and they might have to sell off the place and turn it into a women's clothing outlet, and then where'll you be?"
The little man continued to stare. Then he turned back to the counter without a word and began repositioning the ketchup bottles. Spike shrugged and walked toward the door.
"Suit yourself, Mate. ...Oh, if you see a light, go to it. I'm told that's the proper thing to do. For some of us, anyway."