Fred's eyes flicked over to the blond vampire in her office, staring out of the window at the L.A. scenery before him. He'd developed a routine of haunting everyone on the team, but he seemed to spend most of his time with her. She supposed it was because she tolerated him more than the others, and out of the whole group, she seemed to be the only one attempting to help him. She was sure the others would be more involved if Spike told them what was happening to him every time he vanished, but he'd asked her to keep it a secret, so she would.
It was hard to believe the famous Spike was currently a spirit wandering the corridors of Wolfram and Hart. He seemed so out of place, huddled in that black leather duster with nothing to do but follow people around and annoy Angel. They really didn't like each other, and yet they'd spent years together ravaging Europe as a family. Surely now that Spike had a soul and become a champion they could get along? They had a lot in common, but Angel didn't seem too keen on having Spike around. Heck, he didn't even tell them he had soul or saved the world. Wes had been the only one even aware that the vamp had been an ally of Buffy's at all. And that explained it, didn't it? Who knew the Slayer would end up dating another vampire? And Spike of all people. That had to be why Angel hated him so much.
"Say, Spike?" Fred asked, wanting to make conversation with the unusually quiet vamp.
"How did it happen? I mean, who cursed you?"
He turned around to face her, his head tilted and a frown on his face.
"Come again?" He asked.
"Your soul. Who cursed you with it? And why? Did they—did the Scoobies—?"
He snorted, cutting her off, and turned back to the window.
"Yeah right. That lot were gonna give me a soul. Please. Lucky they didn't stake me. I got it myself."
There was silence in the room for a moment and he turned to look at her. Fred was frowning, staring at him.
"You? You got your soul back yourself? You cursed yourself with—?"
"I didn't bloody curse myself you nit. Went and saw a demon 'bout it. Wanted to give her what...she deserved. Did a bad thing and I just—" He turned back to the window, shaking his head.
"You found a demon to put your soul back? You were never cursed with it?"
"Just forget it, all right? Doesn't bloody matter how I got it, doesn't seem to matter much at all since I don't have a body. How's that going by the way? Any—" He turned around, but the room was empty, the door swinging shut behind Fred's swift exit. "Progress?" He finished, sighing.
Angel took a large gulp of his blood and leaned back in his chair. He'd been in meetings all day, and this was the first opportunity he'd had to relax. He'd only just closed his eyes, savouring the flavour of the blood when the door opened and closed loudly, and footsteps approached his desk. He knew who it was even before he opened his eyes.
"Something you wanted, Fred?" He asked tiredly.
"Spike wasn't cursed," she said, sounding miffed.
He looked up at her, brow furrowing. Okay, she was mad at him for some reason. Apparently because Spike wasn't cursed? Was he supposed to have cursed Spike in some way?
"What?" he asked.
"Spike wasn't cursed," she repeated.
Gunn and Wes walked into the room just then, arguing about something, but stopped when they saw Fred staring Angel down.
"Is something the matter?" Wesley asked.
Fred turned around to face them.
"Spike was never cursed." She looked accusingly at Angel.
He looked back at the two men, pleading for help with his eyes. They looked just as confused as he felt.
"So, Angel was supposed to curse Spike? Or is it this whole non-corporeal thing? Did you think it was a curse? Cause I gotta say, I think it was the burning up in the Hellmouth and dying that did that." Gunn offered, raising an eyebrow.
Fred frowned at him.
"What? No. He wasn't cursed with a soul." She turned back to Angel, pointing a dainty finger at him. "You never told us he wasn't cursed with a soul."
"Didn't we clear this up in the Lab? He has a soul Fred. Unfortunately. Without one, he probably wouldn't be a ghost right now." Angel said.
"I know he has a soul, but he wasn't cursed with it. He found a demon and got his soul back. You never told us."
Angel blinked. He looked at Gunn and Wesley who's eyes widened, and then turned to him, puzzled. He raised his hands in a defensive gesture.
"Hey, I didn't know anything about how he got a soul. I just went to Sunnydale, gave Buffy the amulet, sensed Spike around, and she told me he was helping her, that he had a soul now. That's all, I swear. No details."
"Really? Because you weren't very forthcoming with the info that he even had a soul or that he helped save the world when he first showed up either." Fred pointed out, crossing her arms.
"I promise you, I didn't know. I never heard of a demon handing out souls anyway. Are you sure he was telling you the truth? He's a natural born liar you know, and a bragger."
"I believe him. He did it for—He got his soul back himself. This doesn't sound like the Spike I've heard about. He's changed. We should be helping him become corporeal again. I'm doing everything I can, and it seems like you guys aren't even trying."
Angel was staring down at his desk. He knew what Fred had been about to say. Spike did it for her. He got his soul back for Buffy. Buffy loved Angel who had a soul, but she didn't love Spike, so he went and got himself that missing piece, so he could be what she wanted. "He is in my heart." Now, Angel had an idea why.
Wesley must have noticed that Angel had gone into brooding mode, as he turned Fred's attention towards him instead.
"Fred, did he mention anything about this demon? If it has the power to grant souls, it could be worth looking into. I'd like to see if it's different to being cursed with one or if there are similar effects." Wes asked.
"He didn't want to talk about it. He's more concerned with getting his body back like we all should be."
"I don't see why getting Bleach Boy's body back should be top priority just because he wasn't cursed with a soul. Stare me down all you want Fred, it doesn't change the fact that if, and it's a pretty big if, we manage to re-corporealize Spike, he's probably just gonna run off on us anyway. So I'm not thinking it'll help us either way." Gunn put in.
It matters because he's changed. He got his soul back himself which makes him one of the good guys. Even if he does leave, he's not evil anymore. Spike saved the world. He has to be here for a reason, and not just so he can die again." Fred argued.
"Yeah, had enough of that. Dying ain't exactly fun." Spike walked through the wall into the office, and all eyes turned to him. "So this is where you're all hiding then. Trying to rally the troops, luv? Not doing a real good job from the looks of it."
Angel stared at the constant thorn in his side. As usual, the recurring emotions of hate, disappointment, and disgust ran through him, mixed with familiarity, a reluctant sense of kinship, and regret. He needed Spike gone. Having him around was a constant reminder of his past, and lately, of Buffy. He still couldn't comprehend how the irritating idiot had managed to worm his way into Buffy's inner circle, soul-getting aside.
"You want to explain how exactly a demon gave you your soul back? Last I heard they weren't exactly in the soul having business." Angel said, tilting his chair to face Spike.
Spike eyed the older vamp sitting in his big-boy chair and narrowed his eyes. He was willing to bet his ghosty un-life Angel wasn't asking for his benefit. More like the great poof wanted to know for his own purposes.
"Yes, Spike. I've never heard of a demon like that. Could you, perhaps, elaborate?" Wes asked eagerly.
Spike sighed and shoved his hands further into his duster pockets.
"You sodding watchers are all the same. There isn't any such thing as a demon who grants souls."
"But you said—" Fred's voice started, while Angel rolled his eyes, barely hiding a smug smile.
"I told you he likes to brag."
"I'm not bragging, Gramps. I know what I said, an' if you let me finish I'll explain. The demon doesn't grant souls, more like wishes, or your heart's desire, or whatever." Spike waved a hand as though he couldn't really care about the details.
"A demon who grants wishes? He come popping out of a magic lamp?" Gunn asked skeptically.
Spike gave him a withering stare. God he wanted out of this place. Hell, he wanted out of L.A. all together.
"A cave in Africa, actually. The big guy here should have heard about him." Spike gestured to Angel. "Rumored to give you anything you want, if you complete the demon trials of course."
Comprehension dawned on Angel at the mention of Africa. He had heard about that demon, an extremely powerful demon. He'd thought it was just another rumor, a myth. Then again, Spike had a nasty habit of searching for rumors and finding out they were true, like the Gem of Amarra for example.
"So why the soul? Why not just get the chip removed? I'd imagine that's what you would've wanted most." Angel asked, leaning further back in his chair.
Gunn and Fred shared puzzled looks, and glanced at Wes who just shook his head.
"None of your bloody business, mate. Point is, I got my soul back. Me, no one else. That's the rub isn' it? That's why everyone's so eager to hear the tale of Spike's soul. You think you can get one that won't disappear every time you get a happy." Spike pointed a finger at Angel. "Well, sorry folks. Angel here's already got his soul, an' the only way he's getting a permanent one is by goin' an' facing the demon trials as Angelus to prove his worth. The trials aren't exactly a walk in the park, and I don't know if you remember, but Angelus doesn't strike me as someone who wants his soul back." Spike glared at his grand-sire, who was staring daggers back at him in return.
Lorne walked in right at that moment and stopped in his tracks when he saw the two vampires seething at each other while everyone else stood around looking somber.
"Hey, who forgot to invite the Empath demon to the party? Heh. Um, did I miss something here or what's got you all so glum?"
"Nothing important. It was just about Spike. You have something you wanted to discuss or can I have my office back to myself now?" Angel asked through gritted teeth, staring pointedly at Spike.
"Well, uh—" Lorne began.
He was interrupted by Harmony walking in, oblivious to the tension in the room.
"Angel, phone call for you on line three."
Angel raised an eyebrow at his secretary. What had he done to deserve having such a ditz as an employee? Well, the mass murdering thing might have had a little something to do with it...
"Is there some reason you had to come in here to tell me that? They're called intercoms Harmony, and I'm kinda busy at the moment, in case you hadn't noticed." Angel gestured around the room at the group of people gathered in his office.
"Well yeah, but I figured you'd want to be told in person since it's, you know, urgent, as in list of priority people urgent?" She gave him a look that he could only guess was supposed to mean something to him, but he was drawing a blank.
"Oh for Pete's sake! You know? Urgent, urgent? People who call and should get put through straight away urgent? Remember?"
"Uh—" Angel suddenly realized who she was referring to, straightened up in his chair and took a look at all of the people gathered in his office.
There was no way he could take the call with all of them here, especially in front of one non-person in particular. To make matters worse, his team were now giving him suspicious looks, wondering who was on the phone.
"Can't you take a message?" he tried.
Harmony folded her arms and gave him her best "Are you crazy?" look. There was no way the person on the phone was going to settle for anything less than talking directly to Angel. Make that a double "No" judging from Harmony's facial expression. Seeing no other option, Angel was forced to answer the phone.
"I cannot believe you! Shouldn't your stalking days be over? How could you do that? How long has this been going on? I could stake your undead ass for this you know." The voice at the other end of the phone raged at him.
Everyone was staring at him, the loud noise that was the voice of a very pissed off woman reaching their ears. Spike went completely stiff, frozen in place, his eyes a whirl of emotion. Angel watched his reaction and closed his eyes.
"Answer me damn it! How long have you been having me followed? I swear if that guy was anything less than human he'd be dead by now. As it is he's in the hospital. Don't you even dare think of setting another spy on me again, you or your evil law firm!"
Spike swallowed hard. He wanted to talk to her so badly, but he couldn't. Not like this. He'd just died for her, gone out saving the world, and now he was just a ghost slipping further and further into hell. It was so good just hearing her voice, but he couldn't take it any longer. He wasn't ready for this, not when he might disappear again at any moment. He fought every urge in his transparent body telling him to go for the phone, and fled, straight through the wall and anyone in his way.
"Spike!" Fred called after him.
"Fred!" Angel shouted, but it was too late.
The voice on the other end of the line had gone completely quiet, cut off in the middle of another threat. For a moment all he could hear was silence before a harsh breath was drawn.
"Angel. What...what was that?"
He squeezed his eyes shut and pulled at his hair with one hand.
It wouldn't work and he knew it. Everyone was eyeing him with interest now. They'd been startled when he'd shouted at Fred, but judging by the looks on their faces, they were putting two and two together, and it was dawning on them who must be on the phone. Harmony had a sly grin on her face that clearly said "You're in the dog house now."
"Angel." The voice was lower, the anger gone, replaced by a deadly seriousness. "Is...Is Spike there? With you?"
He sighed and stared at the ceiling as he answered. He really didn't want to have this conversation.
"Angel..." She let her warning trail off, expecting a straight answer before she got really pissed.
"Well—in a way, yes, he is, but Bu—"
The dial tone rang sharply in his ear. He pulled the phone away, and stared at it before gently and carefully placing it back down on the receiver. He looked up at the subdued group gathered in his office.
"Well, that can't be good."