Author's Note: Shorter than usual, but I haven't had much time to write it and a short chapter is better than no chapter, I guess. Drop a line if it didn't hurt your eyes to read it.

2. Advice Over A Sea Breeze

He finished reading his latest piece to a standing ovation. He had become something of a star among the members of the demonic poetry club that held thrice-weekly meetings in one of the hottest bars for non-humans in all of downtown LA, and they all loved his work. His newest poem was about her, of course. They were always about her.

Writing poetry was one of the very few reasons he had left for existing at all, and he clung to it like a drowning man clings to a raft. He poured his grief, his loneliness, his frustration out in words on paper and he read them to strangers who always seemed to recognize something of themselves in his poetry.

And why wouldn't they? Which one of them didn't have a dark side (most of them only had dark sides, what with the being evil and soulless), which one of them hadn't once loved and then lost someone? Spike couldn't say he had any friends among the demons who assembled at the bar to hear his poetry, but there was a vague sense of camaraderie there that appealed to him.

On this particular night, he only read one poem before walking off-stage and heading straight for the bar counter. Once in a while someone would give him a congratulatory pat on the back as they passed, but mostly they left him alone with his drink. And that was exactly what he wanted.

So he was less than pleased when a female vampire slid onto the stool next to him and offered, in a voice that was pitched to sound as sultry as possible, to buy him a glass of blood. He gave her the briefest of glances and asked her in no uncertain terms to sod off. She left, clearly insulted, and once again he found himself alone.

For a little while, anyway. Then someone else slid onto the stool that the she-vamp had just vacated.

"Now that, my friend, was just pathetic. I wouldn't want to bring you down any further than you've obviously already sunk, but did you actually take a look at that package deal before sending it back to Lovely Lady Land? Because I've got to tell you: no straight man, undead or otherwise, would turn that down."

Spike turned, ready to tell the owner of the annoyingly cheerful voice to mind his own business, and was confronted by a surprisingly familiar face. "Lorne? What the hell are you doing here?"

"Nice to see you too, sunshine," Lorne said dryly, adjusting the feathered 20's-style hat that kept his face mostly obscured. It was both a fashion statement and a means to anonymity. "And I could ask you the same thing. The ex-boss man said you took off after the big fight. Figured you'd be halfway to the Motherland by now."

Spike was momentarily confused. "You thought I'd be halfway to Hell?"

Lorne sighed patiently. "I meant England, sugarplum."

Spike shrugged. "Same thing. Either way, I'm not goin' anywhere."

"So I see." Lorne stirred his Sea Breeze thoughtfully and took an experimental sip. "Ugh. Someone obviously forgot to follow the recipe on this one." He tapped the counter to get the bartender's attention. "Listen – Jamie, is it? – it's four ounces of grapefruit juice, not four grapefruits. Do me a favor and get it right next time, okay?"

"Next time? You planning on staying in town, then?" Spike gave him a searching glance. "If anyone did any taking off, it was you. Thought you'd stay well clear of LA after everything that happened."

"So did I. But what can I say? This town needs me. And I don't have a reason to jaunt off anywhere else, unlike a certain peroxide-loving vampire I happen to be acquainted with."

"What are you on about?" Spike asked, unable to hide his irritation. He had a feeling he knew where this was going, and he didn't like it.

"Oh, come on. We've spent too many hours fighting things of the bad together to do the 'do you know what I know' dance." Lorne's tone was still light, but more serious than it had been before. "I'm talking about the girl, Sparky. The one you've been scribbling ditties about for the past few months."

"Hey," Spike protested, "I do not scribble ditties. I write poetry – and how would you know anything about what I've been doing?"

Lorne rolled his eyes. "Well, color me corrected. Point is, you've spent more time thinking about her than Patti LaBelle spends fantasizing about her next hot meal. It's a whole new level of pathetic, and you need to pull it together already."

Although part of him was fighting the urge to punch the green demon as hard as he could, Spike knew that Lorne wasn't saying anything that wasn't true. "Yeah, well," he groused, "it's not like she's dying to see me, is it?"

"Honey, from what I can recollect of the whole you-her-Angel supernatural love triangle saga, she's not even aware of the fact that you're still alive." He realized what he'd just said and added, "I mean 'corporeally undead'."

This did not succeed in cheering Spike up at all. "Nah, she would've heard by now."

"Says who?" Lorne drained the rest of his drink and set the glass down on the counter firmly. "Listen, I can see you're enjoying this whole depressed loser scenario you've got going for you – it's certainly the kind of thing any champion who's recently saved the world would be doing." The sarcasm wasn't exactly subtle, but it got his point across.

Now Spike was thoroughly offended. "Hey, you've got no bleedin' right to just barge up like this and tell me what to do."

"Maybe I don't. But if you really love this girl as much as your painfully long and maudlin poems imply that you do, then you'd be on the next ship to Rome."

"Don't you mean the next flight?"

"Uh, no. I mean ship. Like, say for example, the ship that's heading to Italy off the Georgia coast on Tuesday night. The same ship that's captained by a close personal friend of mine, who might be convinced to let you stay in the hull where there's absolutely no sunlight and take you all the way to Rome for free, if he's handed this letter of explanation written by yours truly."

Lorne pulled a folded sheet of paper out of the breast pocket of his bright purple suit and put it on the bar counter in front of Spike. "Think about it."