A Compendium of Lost Moments

By: dharmamonkey & Lesera128
Story Rating: M
Chapter Rating: T
Disclaimer: We still have yet to receive any emails or registered letters from Hart Hanson or Joss Whedon informing us that we've been hired as creative consultants on new official canon universe doings for either Bones or Angel. However, we're not going to let a little technicality like that keep us from spinning our creative yarns. So, yeah, we're still not receiving any official profit from this (read: $), but we want to make it official with an appropriate 'cover-our-butts statement,' so there it is.

A/N: So, this little piece was supposed to be a oneshot. But in classic (and very anticipated) Dharmasera fashion, it exploded into a two-chapter, 22,000+ word monster. It had to be thus, we think, because what follows covers an extremely important moment in the history of the 150-year relationship between Temperance Brennan and her Irish (and sometimes) vampire lover, Angel/Booth….even if he's not really present in this particular piece as an active participant. We hope, therefore, that you won't mind its lack of brevity. Enjoy!

UNF Alert: Nope, doesn't apply. This piece is rated T for strong language and innuendo, but no fluids will be exchanged this go-around.

Logistical Note: For those who are familiar with the Whedonverse, this story takes place just after the events at the end of the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but before the beginning of the third season's premiere.

Chapter 10 : Sorry To Have To Tell You This, But… (Part I)

Chicago, Illinois ~ September 21, 1998

She had almost finished her second club soda with a twist of lime when she finally saw his familiar form weave through the crowd towards where she was seated at the corner of the bar. Looking down at her watch, the frown that had been on her face all evening deepened as the lines that creased her usually smooth forehead became more pronounced. She let out a nearly silent curse when she saw that the hands on her wristwatch indicated that it was already half past one in the morning.

Although she'd long ago made her peace with the fact that she was a metaphorical night owl—and not just because the sorts of people she tended to associate with over the centuries were more of the supernatural variety than one's average human being—as she'd gotten older, she realized she didn't keep quite the same hours that she used to when she'd first met him in London more than a century earlier.

Lifting her almost empty glass to her lips, she heard the faint tinkle of the mostly melted ice cubes that remained in her glass as she drained what was left of her drink. The pale wedge of lime that had settled into the bottom of the glass accidentally brushed her lips, touching a bit of its stinging tartness to her lips before Brennan set the glass down on the bar. She shook her head and watched as the man threaded his way through the crowd. He walked with a natural grace that she'd always admired as he passed through the crowd of twenty-something college students who filled the bar. His body seemed to move with the rhythm of the music that blared over the bar's speakers.

All last summer in case you don't recall
I was yours and you were mine forget it all
Is there a line that I could write
Sad enough to make you cry

Theoretically, since it was a Monday night, it shouldn't have been that busy. However, the place where they'd chosen to meet was located in downtown Chicago. Combined with the fact that many of the largest universities had opened their fall semesters only two or three weeks earlier, it seemed that the majority of the undergraduate and graduate students in the metropolitan area had decided to celebrate the fresh start to the new academic year with a round of socializing at one of the Windy City's most famous drinking establishments.

She hadn't been all that surprised when he suggested that they meet at the Berghoff. Truth be told, she'd been caught rather off-guard when she received his call telling her that he was in Chicago and needed to see her immediately. His offer that they meet at the Berghoff merely seemed appropriate given who he was. Then again, he'd always had a certain sense of style, a certain flair or panache that had increased over the years and one that she'd always appreciated.

The Berghoff was located in the Loop, only a few miles from the apartment that she'd owned for almost eighty years. Located on West Adams Street, it had originally opened in 1898 when a German immigrant named Herman Joseph Berghoff decided to open an establishment where he could sell beers after he was inspired to do so by sales he had made at the World's Fair that had been held in Chicago five years earlier. Originally, he sold beer for a nickel and gave away free sandwiches to build a clientele base. As the rough and tumble days of Chicago's industrial boom of the late 1800s gave way to the gangster era of Al Capone and the Mafia in the 1920s and 1930s, Prohibition made the Berghoff even more famous. It remained an incredibly popular place that Brennan had frequented when she liked to go for a drink in a legal establishment where she need not fear having her evening's entertainments ruined by law enforcement making a Prohibition raid. The Berghoff wasn't a speakeasy: it made its money during the halcyon days of the Chicago wiseguy by selling 'near beer' and Bergo soda pop. After Prohibition ended, however, its owner wisely wasted no time in applying for a liquor license—he was the first individual in Chicago to make such an application in 1933 and possibly the first in the Midwest. Brennan had spent the evening staring at the liquor license that had been granted—which still hung proudly in a frame behind the bar—along with other historic black and white photos that lined the bar's brick walls.

As he continued to make his way towards her, she noticed he was taking long drags on the cigarette he held alternatively gripped between his teeth and waved casually in his left hand. The white smoke encircled his head like a halo, and the image made Brennan chuckle even as she swallowed back yet another yawn.

It had been a long day, and given the fact she'd already spent over an hour waiting for him, Brennan's patience was running short. They were at that point in the new semester where the more diligent graduate students like her had started to feel the effects of burning the proverbial candle at both ends. Trying to keep up with her own graduate work while making certain she was adequately prepared to teach her own classes required somewhat of a delicate balancing act. In fact, the evening's jaunt to the Berghoff had been the first time that Brennan had been anywhere besides her apartment, various buildings on the urban campus of Northwestern University, and the grocery store since before the semester had started. Still, she knew she was already sleep-deprived and had to be up early in the morning to make the 8am survey of Introduction to Anthropology class that she was teaching this semester, so she very much wanted to wrap up their business as quickly as possible.

Now was not a time to shoot the metaphorical breeze by taking a trip down memory lane. He'd said he'd had an important reason he needed to speak with her. So, since it was he who'd made the request, she'd agreed. But, she only wanted to hear what he had to say, pay her small bar tab, and then be on her way home so she could get three or four hours' worth of sleep and be able to at least somewhat function come dawn.

The music continued playing in the background—a rather muted alternative mix, Brennan had noted, more than she had expected for an establishment like the Berghoff. The playlist seemed to consist of a who's who of Seattle grunge, indie rock and alternative music that had become dated in the last two or three years by the standards of most popular radio stations. The P.A. throbbed with song after song by bands like R.E.M., the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day, Better than Ezra, Stone Temple Pilots, Bush, Weezer, Oasis, the Smashing Pumpkins and the Goo Goo Dolls, as well as one-off hits by bands like Deep Blue Something, The Wallflowers, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, 311, and Toad the Wet Sprocket.

The mournful voice of the Gin Blossom's lead singer, Robin Wilson, warbled over the sound system as Brennan set her glass down on the dark polished wood of the bar in front of her.

All the lines you wrote to me were lies
The months roll past the love that you struck dead
Did you love me only in my head?

When he finally got to the bar, he sidled up to her with his usual smirk plainly visible upon his pale face. He took one last drag on his cigarette and then winked at her as he greeted her. "Heya, Elphie."

For her part, Brennan wanted him to know how displeased she was at being kept waiting. She inclined her her slightly by way of greeting before she grumbled, "Well, that certainly took you long enough."

"Sorry," he said with a smirk, "but Scotty rang me up at the last minute to say the effin' transporter's in the shop, so I had to take the El instead."

Crossing her arms, clearly unimpressed by his wit, Brennan arched an eyebrow at him and merely said his name. "William."

The vampire once known as William Pratt—who for almost a century or more had been known more commonly as Spike—smacked his lips together with a clucking sound.

"You know, I had an awful bleeding time getting here," he said with a frown. "You have no idea how much I hate taking long flights and the flight from Galeão to O'Hare is no small thing, love. TAM's a fucking shite airline, too." He paused and snorted as he recalled the flight. "Service is total bollocks. So before we begin with the metaphorical pound of flesh I know you always used to get your jollies from taking from me, maybe you could invite me to sit down and offer to buy me a drink or something before you hex me however the bloody hell you are going to curse me, right?"

The vampire grimaced slightly at the memory of the last time his grandsire's witch lover hexed him and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Six hours is a long effin' time to go without a proper drink while strapped into a bloody tin-can—one that's no better than a bus with wings," he grumbled. "Stuck between two stupid snoring Panamanian knobhead footballers in coach."

"The only booze they had on bloody Copa Airlines was shite and don't even get me started on the nasty canned swill they had the fuckin' temerity to call bloody beer." Spike shuddered and shook his head. "You know, Elphie, I'm not one o' those that's always harpin' on about the good ol' days and auld lang syne an' all that bollocks but, for fuck's sake, trains an' steamships were a bloody sight better than effin' Copa, which I assure you sure ain't named for the Copacabana because I was just there. And you know what? The only fun to be had on a Copa flight aside from the halle-friggin'-luyah of getting off the fuckin' thing would be wanking off in the lavatory since a man can't even take the edge off by smokin' a bloody fag on a plane anymore."

Spike punctuated his breathless rant with a scowl then rolled his pale eyes and leaned over the bar. "So please don't hex me at least until I've had a proper pint to wash the aftertaste of that nasty bit o' business out of my mouth, yeah?"

Brennan bit back an amused snort as the vampire's rant finally sputtered out. She stared at him for a minute and then gave a slight smile.

"You know, William," she began, "I don't curse every vampire that calls me up out of the blue, and on less than two hours' notice tells me he needs to meet me 'ASAP.' I just—" Brennan suddenly cut herself off as she tilted her head and scanned the dark hall behind Spike. Her brow creased when she suddenly realized something was off. It took her only a few seconds to realize what it was as she turned her head back to face Spike.

"Where are they?" she asked.

Spike arched a light brown eyebrow at her. "Who?"

Rolling her eyes, Brennan said, "Don't play dumb with me, William. It's never a tactic that I thought suited you much."

"Unlike some people, I'm no good at playin' dumb," he said, his features lazy as he effected a feigned look of disinterest and snuffed his cigarette into the ashtray on the bar. After a moment, he cocked his head to the side and studied Brennan with a narrow-eyed gaze, then reached into the interior pocket of his black leather duster and pulled out a fresh cigarette and his lighter. He lit the cigarette so quickly and deftly that the entire process seemed but a single smooth, arcing movement.

"I think you've got me confused with the brooding Fenian ponce, love," he said, the lit cigarette bobbing between his lips as he spoke. "Now that lad's taken playing dumb to the level of an art form, though I'm not sure that the pouf isn't using the method acting bit as a put-on to disguise the fact that he really is a knuckle-draggin' numpty." He rolled his eyes with disdain, then added, "So what's it you think I'm playing hard to get about now?"

Shaking her head and dismissing his double entendre, Brennan asked, "Where are Darla and Drusilla?"

At the mention of the two female vampires' names, Spike's jaw tensed and the witch saw a hardness flash in his dull grey eyes in the moments before he finally spoke.

"Best I know, Dru's where I left her last in Rio," he said, his voice oddly strained. "Not that I much care," he added with a touch of petulance.

He stopped, shifting his weight as he bounced a bit on the balls of his feet, his fidgeting and the odd, seemingly abrupt furrowing of his brow betraying his discomfort at the topic of conversation.

After nearly 120 years of acquaintance with the fair-eyed, sharp-featured vampire, Brennan had learned to recognize the crack in William Pratt's bravado, but she was puzzled since that sort of awkward shift normally signaled that something was amiss between him and his beloved sire, Drusilla. However, rather than veer away from the subject of his lady love, he waded straight into it, which suggested that he was evading another subject altogether. As he continued, that point wasn't lost on Brennan.

"You know," he said. "I always thought I'd like South America: beautiful women, cool breezes, tropical drinks to get shitfaced on when I wasn't draining said beautiful chippies dry. But you know what? All the time I was there taking care of Dru, an' all she wanted me to do was read to her. I have no effin' idea why, but somehow she managed to get ahold of this book by some dumb Yank twat named Maguire, and she kept making me read it to her over and over and over again because it had this part that tickled her about flying pet monkeys. And you know what? I hate that bloody book, but I do think I can say one thing for it. I think I've finally got a good nickname for you, love."

Brennan quirked her eyebrow at him again as she asked, "Oh really?"

Nodding, Spike said, "Yup. Now are you going to invite me to join you for a drink and hear what I came hear to tell you or not, huh...Elphie?"

She cocked her head to the side and rolled her eyes. "Elphie?" she repeated. "That's the second time you've called me that. Really? Is that the best you can do, William?" Her gaze narrowed as she glared at him with a look of disapproval so sharp that it cut through him like broken glass as her pale eyes drilled into him. "I'd have expected better from you all of all people. You being the fine lyric poet you are."

Spike shook his head and looked away in frustration. "Look," he said, swiveling his gaze back to meet hers. "I know you've spent a lotta time with the Fenian prat over the years, so maybe you're out of practice and such when it comes to the social graces and all since you didn't have to do this sort of thing since I know it would be completely lost on that blinkered dimwit, but—"

Brennan's expression immediately darkened at reference to her longtime lover who had been more or less incommunicado since their last meeting eighteen months prior. "I don't have any interest in discussing the details of what I do or don't do with Angel with you, William..."

"Come on, love," the Englishman said, his fair brows furrowing in irritation. "I know you're brassed off at ol' Brown Eyes McBroody, but that's no reason to be faffin' around when ya know the easy, decent thing to do given how long we've been knockin' about would be to extend me a wee bit of courtesy, right?" He gave her a long appraising look before he waggled his eyebrows suggestively. Smirking at her, he then said, "Don't tell me I need to draw you a bleedin' picture here, love."

Brennan's square jaw hardened as she raised her chin, then, after a moment of silent consideration, she pulled her purse off the bar stool that she'd rested it on next to her. Gesturing towards the seat, she nodded at him. "Fine," she said curtly. "Have a seat, William." Tilting her head, she asked in an uncharacteristically colloquially way, "What's your poison?"

Pouting his lips in thought as he scanned the shelves of bottled liquors and rows of tap handles behind the bar, he gave the question a moment of consideration then, once he saw what he wanted, quickly made his decision. "A Fullers," he said with a twinkle in his eye before he turned to sit next to her at the bar.

The witch heard his heavy, boot-clad footfalls behind her as he walked around to claim the stool next to her, narrowing her pale blue eyes as she watched his head swing from one side to the other as he gave the bar one last studious, surveying glance and hopped up onto the leather seat with a bit of a grunt.

"Nice, huh?" he said, gesturing with his hand as he turned around. "I've always loved this place. One of the best places to get a pint of bitters in the Windy City and has been for the better part of a century."

Brennan rolled her eyes as she raised a hand to get the attention of the bartender that had been making eyes at her all night. "I suppose so," she said nonchalantly.

As she caught the bartender's eyes and saw him walk over, she stood up and leaned over the bar so he could hear her as she ordered a new club soda for herself and Spike's pale ale.

Spike watched as she finished ordering and carefully sat down again. There was something different about her, it seemed, from the way she had carried herself a hundred-odd years before when he first met her acquaintance back in London. After being turned by Drusilla in 1880, he'd found himself in the position of being yet (in his grandsire's words) 'another rooster in the henhouse,' and when his Angelus decided to make a statement by taking Dru in her own bed knowing full well that William would likely walk in on them, William decided that what was good for the goose was good for the gander, and set his sights on having a taste of Brennan for himself.

In many ways, she was still the sharp-witted, sharp-tongued, ravishingly gorgeous vixen she was a century before, but there was something decidedly different about her, Spike mused. She carried herself with a certain (for lack of a better word) detachment which seemed to give her a sort of aloofness that was even more acute than it used to be back then, but there was something else. He noted she'd taken to a more casual look, forsaking the dresses and snappy pant suits in favor of a pair of snug-fitting blue jeans—which Spike couldn't help but notice perfectly hugged the curves of her shapely hips and ass—and a white cotton blouse the top three buttons of which she'd left unbuttoned to show off her bosom which was beautifully accentuated by the burgundy-colored spaghetti strap camisole she wore underneath. She'd taken to wearing her hair more simply, having cut her long auburn locks to shoulder-length and pulling them back into a loose, messy ponytail, letting a few careless wisps fall in front of her ears from which dangled a pair of tribal-looking silver earrings. While the change wasn't unflattering—Spike still considered Brennan one of the most beautiful and captivating women he had ever met—the shift was somewhat unsettling to him as he considered the purpose of the night's errand.

As Spike watched Brennan, the music got his attention, and he let out a bit of a groan as he listened.

Things you said and did to me
Seemed to come so easily
The love I thought I'd won you give for free
Whispers at the bus stop
I heard about nights out in the schoolyard
I found out about you

More to himself than to Brennan, Spike shook his head and then said absentmindedly, "Not much accounting for tonight's taste in music, though. Bollocks, this playlist is..."

Brennan contemplated his stereotypical musical diatribe and then shrugged her shoulders slightly in resignation. "I don't know," she told him. "I don't mind it so much."

"Are you kidding me?" he coughed, leaning over the bar and burying his head in his hands in a melodramatic expression of exasperated cultural disdain. "First off," he snorted as he finally looked up from his hands, rolling his eyes first before again meeting Brennan's puzzled gaze. "This effin' song is four-odd years old, so it's hardly 'Top of the Pops' by any stretch of the imagination. I think it peaked on the Billboard charts in December 1993 or roundabouts, though I sure don't know why everybody thought it was the dog's bollocks when Nirvana, Lemonheads, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins and Kate Bush—among a fuckton of other bloody awesome acts I'm pretty sure you've never heard of—all had hit songs out at the same time. But the bloody Gin Blossoms?" His lip curled and his brow knit in clearly disgust reminding Brennan of an English musician, Billy Idol, who Angel had followed in the early 1980s.

Now, seeing the blonde vampire's current look, Brennan wondered if he was some sort of icon for Spike, whose appearance was uncannily similar to the punk rocker's or if it was just a random happenstance. The random thoughts were pushed away from the witch's mind as he continued his musically inspired rant.

"Those wankers sound like some high-school garage band that got the call-up to fill in at the local pub when the usual act had to cancel after the singer caught mono," Spike grunted. "I mean, for fuck's sake, an establishment like this has a sacred duty to its bloody patrons to play music that doesn't make us all want to gouge our eyeballs out with bloody cocktail straws."

"Hmm," Brennan murmured, her brow furrowing a little as she let her mind wander for a moment as Spike ranted once more, and she listened to the singer's bright tenor voice. "I've been sitting here for a little while now," she said, shooting him a brief but pointed look as she blinked away the thought of the work that was piled on her desk at home waiting for her. "And I found the musical accompaniment to be pleasant but unobtrusive. And, I've actually heard a couple of songs by artists whose CDs I hadn't listened to in awhile—like Lisa Loeb and the Cranberries—which started me thinking that I needed to refresh my own music rotation at home." A strange expression washed over the vampire's face, one that seemed to sweep from skeptical to nonplussed and back again before vanishing as quickly as it appeared, she made a puffingsound with her lips and rolled her eyes. "William, I do listen to popular music," she said, her voice edge with a hint of protest.

Spike rolled his eyes in an exaggerated manner as he said, "Since when? This is music to slaughter a pig by, and you should know that I would know that because I've helped slaughter my fair share of the squealing little buggers, both literally and figuratively." He waggled his eyebrows at her with his trademark smirk alight on his face. "I have to think that in mere principle, even if you aren't quite the music aficionado that I am that you've gotta have better taste than liking this tripe—" He gave her an inquisitive look, his brow furrowing again as he then asked, "Unless you're wallowing in your cups for some reason…." His piercing blue eyes narrowed as he tried to decide if her glass contained just club soda or something stronger cut with the bubbling mixer, then he gave her a look that boarded on accusing as he said, "You know, doll, if I didn't know better, I'd recognize that hangdog look on your face since I myself have had my soul twisted through a wringer when Dru up and left me with nothing but my broken heart—"

Suddenly, Brennan stiffened as she interrupted him. "Hearts are muscles," she told him sharply. "As such, they can't be broken. They can only be crushed."

Waving her off with a pffft sound rumbling from his lips, Spike said, "Whatever. Point is, if I didn't know better I'd say you were wallowing and the only ninny that I've ever known could make you moody like this is, well…

He turned and looked at her for a moment, faintly aware of an unsprung tension in his muscles as he paused and waited for her to leap to the defense of her longtime lover—his grandsire and seemingly eternal rival—but as the moments of her silence stretched into seconds, his brow arched in curiosity until his lip slowly curled back in disgust as he realized that he was, in fact, right. His nostrils quivered as he sniffed the air a couple of times, shrugging as he discerned only the faintest hint of his grandsire's scent.

"Let me guess," he said, his syllables falling just a bit slower than usual as a darkness took up residence in the silent undertone between them. "It's been a while since ol' nancy-boy Billy-no-mates has decided to stop his endless wanking, get up off his brooding arse and drop in for a visit, hasn't it?"

Brennan blinked several times as she listened to the somewhat familiar rant that she knew all too well.

"Ya know," Spike began, the angular features of his face taking on an even harder mien as his lower jaw shifted forward. "I know you're all about how people change and all that happy bollocks, but you know what?" He blinked at her several times for emphasis before he continued. "Just for the record, I don't give a piss whether he's all Mr. Nice Guy now, because he's racked up more than enough shite-karma that every lake of fire in Gehenna itself will freeze over before I'm going to shed an effin' tear over that wankstain, and I don't think I'll ever understand why you think that tosser is the dog's effin' bollocks because all he ever was to me for the nigh twenty years we knocked about together was the biggest raging bastard ever to plague the Northern Hemisphere."

When he at last fell silent, much sooner than Brennan had expected given the fact that he didn't need to pause to take a breath, she asked, "Are you finished?"

"For fuck's sake," the vampire grunted. "You know, you can deny it all you want, all fine and doo-da dandy, Brennan, but Angelus doesn't have a speck of decency or loyalty in him, not then and not now, and love, that hasn't changed one bloody bit in the last hundred years, no matter what nice poncy chit-chat the Fenian git sends your way. The only thing he cares about is where he's getting his next good fuck and he'd sell his own mother down the river to get it." He fell silent for a moment, then looked her hard in the eye with a flare of his nostrils and added, "You can take that to the bloody bank, love."

Brennan blinked at him several times before she finally responded. "Well," she told him. "That didn't take long," she snorted at his words as she glanced at her watch briefly before bringing her eyes to meet Spike's in a firmly-leveled stare. "You've been here, what, sixty seconds, and you're already giving me a hard time about Angel?"

"Well," Spike replied with a crooked grin and a sardonic twinkle in his pale blue eyes. "It was a long couple of flights from Rio and a nasty layover in Panama, so I might be a little off my game. But I'll try to be more prompt next time." He nodded to emphasize his point. "Word of honor and all that, Elphie."

Shaking her head, she quickly retorted, "You know, it's a wonder you've lasted as long as you have, William, because with your utter inability to learn from your past mistakes and your irrepressibly big mouth, it boggles my mind that you haven't been staked by someone less patient with your blathering on than me." With a dramatic roll of her eyes, she grunted out a laugh and said, "In fact, I've said it before, and I'm sure I'll say it again, but I'm genuinely and truly surprised that Angelus didn't put you out of your misery and save the rest of us the future hardship when he had the chance all those years ago in London." Her eyes flashed a brilliant blue as she gave him a serious nod. "I mean, the comic relief furnished by that relatively minor bit of mystical execration on my part probably kept your grandsire from being physically capable of taking action on account of the paralyzing laughter he suffered at the sight of you."

Somewhat cowed by her words, Spike swallowed once and then backed down a bit as he shook his head. "Well it's a fine lovely thing to see you again, too, love," he growled back, grunting and wincing as he settled into the hard, sparsely-cushioned, wooden-backed chair. The seat itself was hard enough that the lean vampire silently cursed his lack of built-in cushion as he squirmed in a futile attempt to get comfortable in the seat. He wondered whether barkeepers filled their establishments with uncomfortable seats on the ill-conceived theory that patrons would drink faster so the seats no longer felt as painfully hard as they actually were. Grumbling silently to himself, he glanced over at the taps and scowled, wondering how long it really took to pour a proper pint of Fullers.

Noticing that he was unusually silent for an unusually lingering amount of time, Brennan glanced at her watch again.

For his part, Spike noticed the gesture and quirked an eyebrow at her.

"Come on, love," he said with a smirk. "Am I such a tit-boring trog that you can't bear to stand an hour of my company?" He chuckled, then narrowed his eyes skeptically and said, "Or is it you've got another date lined up tonight, mmm? Maybe some handsome topper you met upon at some fancy academic party?" He wagged his eyebrows before he continued. "Or maybe even one of your fine young strappin' male bucks that you picked up off the quad?" Brennan rolled her eyes and shook her head, looking down at the floor in exasperation. Noting her response, Spike grinned and then shrugged. "I mean, maybe I was wrong and you're not brooding about the Fenian ponce after all. Never figured he was all that and 'a bag of chips,' as you Americans are apt to say. You have been gone long enough from our old haunts that you're a certified Yank now, I think. In any case, I'm surprised you kept him around as long as you did. You deserve far better than him. Never understood that, really."

Sighing wearily at his question, Brennan answered honestly. "My personal affairs are not and never have been any of your concern, William, as you well know." She narrowed her gaze at him to give her final point appropriate emphasis before she continued on. "However, if you must know, time may have no meaning for types such as yourself who float through life paying no attention to the calendar, but for me, it's Monday night and I just started a new semester. So if you'll excuse me, I'm more than just a tad worn out, and if I don't get home in fairly short order to get some sleep, you won't be the only individual who will find me to be less than particularly charming company."

Spike licked his lips and laughed, giving her a shaded, lazy-lidded look as he raised his chin and squirmed a bit against the stool's seat. "To be honest, I'd have expected you to come up with a better excuse than that," he quipped. "I mean, hell, you might as well have told me you had a headache or had to get home to shampoo your hair or let the cat out. Tell me you haven't become that domesticated over the years." He gave her a wink as if to assure himself that she knew he was jesting. "In any case, I always find you to be charming company, love," he said, his voice dropping a little as he watched her shift her legs from where they were propped on the chair's bottom-most stretcher as a footrest and he admired the black leather boots with a stiletto heel that she wore.

Brennan ignored the comment, the vampire's husky tone, and the look he shot her. She didn't like being played or manipulated, whether someone was trying to induce her to do something they wanted or, as she wondered might be the case here, simply for the other person's amusement. In either case, she refused to play into Spike's hands, and so she chose not to engage at all on the subject of her estranged lover. She thought about the young woman with the piercing eyes and the second sight who had entranced him so many years ago, and how he had spent twenty years doting on her before the four vampires left London for an ill-fated walkabout in Romania. She had always found the young woman strange, but curiously interesting, and wondered how she was—and why Angel's grandchilde wasn't with her.

"So, Drusilla's still down in Brazil?" Brennan asked, trying to steer the conversation back to where they'd left off before Spike had distracted her with his chatter about inviting him in.

"Yes," he groused. "Ya know, for all the things I've done for her?" A pained look crossed his face as his jaw tightened, and he took a moment before he was able to continue, his voice tight with emotion when he resumed speaking. "All of it, Elphie, all of it. Over one hundred some odd years later, and it meant nothing."

Spike shook his head and frowned as a quiet growl rattled in the base of his throat.

"From the very beginning," he grumbled, some of the hard edge in his voice softening a little as he spoke of his beloved sire. "From the very effin' beginning, she was the center of everything for me. I looked after her, doted on her, saw to it that she was taken care of, you know? I even tried to protect her from that nasty prick of a Fenian son of a whore—even though he always had to have a piece of her, just knowing that she was mine and the way I cared for her." His temple pulsed with tension as his lower jaw jutted forward. "But ya know what really hurts, love?" He paused for a moment before answering his own question. "It was one thing for Angelus to shag her, you know, and for her to let him. Though it makes me sick to think of it, he's her sire, and there's always a certain thing between a vamp and her sire, so while it made me want to rip his head off and stuff his balls down his throat, I understand why she did it." His hard jaw shifted from one side to the other as his eyes flickered with the wounded anger of betrayal. "But to just run off with another bloke and leave me standin' there at the Copa-effin-cabana like a bloody tagnut. It's just—"

When Brennan saw the pain writ on Spike's face, she let the silence that hung between them for a moment before she spoke. She tried to choose her words carefully, but was at a loss of what might serve to soothe or inflame the vampire. At last, she merely shrugged and said, "You've had your ups and downs with Drusilla over the years, William. I'm sure it can't be as bad as all that."

A blond eyebrow shot up as Spike answered, "When we got caught up with that effin' mob in Prague last year and they bloody well near did her in, I took care of her, played her nursemaid and tended to her wounds. But she still wasn't up to specs, if you will, so we got it in our heads somehow that maybe if we went out to that bloody awful place, Sunnydale, we might be able to see if the Hellmouth would be like Ponce de León's Fountain of Youth, and maybe the energy of the place would be enough to fix her up once and for all."

When he again paused, Brennan prompted him, "And?" She asked him. "Did it?"

Spike's mouth twisted into a scowl and he scoffed. "Well, it took a while and a lot of work, but yeah, I'd say it did. We finally got her restored to her normal if somewhat absent-minded self." He fell silent for a moment, remembering how it was only by attacking his grandsire, Angel, and letting his lover feed on the blood of her own sire, that he was finally able to heal her. She didn't need to bat her long, lovely eyelashes to persuade him to let her 'play' with Angel as they waited for the full moon to rise that night. He found it rather amusing and more than a little arousing to watch her douse her now-ensouled sire with holy water while he filled his nostrils with the scent of Angel's burning flesh as the old abandoned factory's walls echoed with the sizzling sound of torture. Spike had watched with relish as his grandsire writhed in agony, glad to finally see Angel suffer at Dru's hands after he himself suffered seeing Angelus enjoy Drusilla before his very eyes.

Still, uncertain as he was about exactly how Brennan felt about Angel, and thus how she might react when he regaled her with the full version of what happened when he went to Sunnydale to restore Dru to full health (including the news that Angel's dalliance with the Slayer had resulted in him losing his soul and being himself restored to his former glory—in his case, Angelus), Spike decided to leave well enough alone and move on with the punchline of his tale. After all, he saw no reason to potentially queer his own pursuit of the witch just in case the idea of an evil Angelus on the loose appealed to her once again. Nodding once, he continued his explanation.

"But after that, there really wasn't any reason to stay there. So we up and headed down to Brazil, where I'd always wanted to go—the 'Girl from Ipanema' and the Copacabana and all that, right?—and then, that's when it all went to shite."

Again, the wincing look, which had graced Spike's face since the conversation had taken to the topic of Drusilla, flared and caused Brennan to feel an unusual pang of empathy for Spike. A bit of the earlier impatience that she'd felt flaring at Spike dissipated as she spoke. "Okay," she told him. "Then what happened?"

Spike pursed his lips for a minute, his voice still pained as he gave an anguished answer. "It's not that exciting or creative a story, love."

With a shrug of her shoulders, Brennan said, "You might be surprised. Try me."

He blinked at her several times before he finally said, "Well, like I said, it's pretty simple, Elphie. Dru...well, she goes and basically treats me like rubbish. I wasn't evil enough for her anymore, I guess, so then she goes and I find her sucking face with a bloody Chaos Demon, which if you've never had the pleasure is 'bout the most disgusting thing you've ever come upon, all slime and antlers with the charm and intellect of a tree slug." His voice cracked a bit and he added, "I suppose I wasn't demon enough for her anymore, despite all everything I did for her. I'm not askin' for much, I think—just not to be thrown over for some empty-headed git with the head of a bloody stag." He shook his head at the memory, before he said under his breath, more for his benefit than for hers, "For fuck's sake, you know?"

She felt another uncharacteristic bit of empathy for Spike's explanation given the tumultuous ups and downs her own relationship with Angel had taken over the years, particularly painful being the ones where Darla's treatment of him had complicated the situation. Pursing her lips a bit, Brennan suddenly realized that it had been quite a while since she'd heard anything of (or from) her former friend.

When Brennan learned that Darla had abandoned Angel in China after his ensoulment, she'd became livid and indignant on his behalf, and while she and Darla had mended some of the fissures in their relationship as that feeling of indignation waned a bit over time, they had never really recovered the close friendship they'd once shared. Still, it was odd that so many years had passed without a single wisp of gossip coming to Brennan's ears through the supernatural grapevine (to which she still paid attention to every now and then just so that she stayed well informed) about what had become of Darla. Intensely disliking the feeling of being caught off-guard, Brennan was unnerved by the lack of news on Darla's travels. Realizing that if anyone would have knowledge of his blonde great-grandsire, it would be Spike, she knew she simply had to ask.

"What about Darla?"

The question hung between them as Spike lifted his blue eyes to meet Brennan's questioning gaze. As the witch tried to discern the emotions that swirled together and resulted in what could only be described as a look loaded with meaning, Spike finally gave her a look that she did recognize—a suspiciously guilty one.

Brennan felt a surge of impatience return and prompted him again. "Well?"

Spike licked his lips at Brennan's words, not quite certain what to say. Although he'd been expecting this topic to come up, he was a bit surprised Brennan had broached it as quickly as she had, although if he had paid proper attention, he should've known better since the witch had always been anything if not very, very direct. Needing a minute to gather his thoughts, Spike then did the only thing he could:

He stalled for time.

"Ahh," the vampire replied vaguely. "Well, see, ummm, that's a, uhh...well, a bit of a different story altogether, Elphie."

His stammer betrayed his mild surprise to find that the old witch did, in fact, want to know the goings-on with her old friend and the sire of her estranged Irish lover. He was even more suprised that she'd openly ask him about it when she'd always been so guarded about her personal business where he was concerned. During the two long flights, first from Rio to Panama and then from Panama to Chicago, he had spent quite a bit of time thinking about Brennan and her old friend, and had wondered if Brennan really was through with Darla after almost four hundred years. He specifically recalled the last conversation that he'd had with Darla on the matter and thought about the difference in how Darla perceived the state of her relationship with Brennan and how it compared to how Brennan viewed her relationship with Darla.

"Oh, William," Darla said, her gaze narrowing slightly as she surveyed her great-grandchilde's lean, chiseled features. He'd taken to wearing his hair in a more severe style that, as far as Darla was concerned, didn't suit him at all. While she had never been attracted to the youngest member of her little vampire family, she found him not entirely unappealing, objectively speaking, but she felt he was a more handsome man when he wore his wavy light brown locks more naturally.

Spike quirked an eyebrow at her gentle chiding. "Oh yeah—and how can you be so sure?" he asked.

Darla's shiny red lips curved into a sly, knowing smile and dismissed his concern with an easy wave.

"I've known Tempe a very, very long time, William," she said with a twinkle in her emerald eyes. "If you know anything about her, you must know that she is patient. She's older than I am, and if living for centuries on end teaches you anything, it's that there's time enough for everything. She never forgets a slight, it's true, and she can be slow to forgive, but in the end, she will come around. She always has, she always will. It's as simple as that. It just might take...well…" Darla's voice trailed off as she made a face. "It just might take awhile," she finally conceded to him. "But the one thing I know is that while, over the years, we've had our various ups and downs, our odds and outs, she and I, but we always find our way to the other side of whatever it was that came between us." She nodded at him to emphasize her point. "I have no doubt that this time, like all the times before, is no different, William. Not once in all these years and all the things we've shared between us—Angelus among them—has anyone come between us. And I don't see how anyone or anything ever will. It's just how we are. So worry not, William—Tempe will come around. That I know as sure as my own name. It's just a question of when it will happen, but I most certainly know it definitely will since she always does."

Spike's attention was drawn back to the present as he studied the woman before him. He knew the two didn't speak for quite some time after Angelus had parted ways with Darla in China's Shandong province, and he suspected that the original reason for the prolonged falling out between the two old friends had to do with the man that they'd shared between them for forty years. Still, he knew that he'd never get out of the bar without answering the question in some way, so he prepared himself as best he could and decided that Brennan had as much right to know what had happened to Darla as anyone, if not more so. A part of him also believed it was better that she hear the news from a friend (of sorts) then from a stranger. Nodding privately to himself, he looked up and met her eyes with a narrow, cautious gaze and a nervous swallow.

"See, here's the thing—"

Spike was about to cobble together some type of coherent explanation about Darla's fate when the bartender suddenly arrived with Spike's drink. The vampire gave the barman a nod of thanks and grabbed the pint glass with a pleased grin. As he wrapped his lips around rim of the pint glass, grateful for the excuse to have even a brief moment's reprieve, he had a second or two when he was left to the silence of his own thoughts as he thought for the hundredth time about how to best explain to her what had happened between Angel and Darla in Sunnydale.

"Tempe is a very down-to-earth person," Darla told him once as the pair sat in the parlor of the three-bedroom terraced house on the edge of the Belgravia district of central London that they shared with Angelus and Drusilla. The well-appointed home was located in one of London's swankiest, most stylish areas and sat literally on the doorstep of Buckingham Palace, which lay just a few blocks to the northeast. "And, besides, she's one of my oldest friends."

"She's no spring chicken, that's for sure," Spike snickered.

Darla laughed. "Well, that's true," she agreed with a flash of her perfectly-plucked brows. "She's older than all of us, born as she was in the time of Henry VIII, back when he was married to Anne Boleyn, in whose service her mother worked for a time." She shrugged. "But what I meant was, she's been my friend longer than any other person. In a way, I think she knows me better than anyone."

"Better than Angelus?" he'd asked, his grandsire's name dripping off his tongue with a distinct venom.

The well-heeled Anglo-American vampiress looked away for a moment, giving the question serious consideration before turning back to him and nodding with a smile. "Yes," she said. "Even better than Angelus. Mainly, I suppose, because my charming boy is a lot of things, but he's not a good listener. Tempe, on the other hand, is an excellent listener. She has a unique talent for listening, actually, particularly when people don't think she is."

"Ain't that the bleedin' truth?" Spike coughed, reaching up and rubbing his forehead, remembering the three weeks he'd spent with a horn sticking out of his head after making a snide, under his breath remark about Angelus following her around as closely as a piglet hanging onto its sow's teat. "I'm still havin' nightmares thinking that I got that bloody piece of business in the middle of my brow and having to listen to all the stupid buggers making fun of me on account of it. For fuck's sake..."

"Yes," Darla smiled. "And you learned your lesson, didn't you? Ah, yesTempe's not one to be trifled with, but she's a good one to have as an ally when the time comes." She allowed her comment to hang in the air between them for a few beats, then added, "Besides, she is a very charming, lovely woman who can keep a secret like the best lockbox ever forged. Just don't cross her or betray her or, for that matter, anyone who she considers hers. Do that and you're done for. And you can take that to the bank."

Spike pursed his lips and thought about the auburn-haired beauty with the bright, mesmerizing blue eyes and rapier wit who commanded the unwavering loyalty of his grandsire and great-grandsire, albeit in different capacities—one as a longtime friend and the other as a lover—and for, at least in part, completely different reasons. Spike desired her, there was no denying that. The plain fact of the matter was, as far as he was concerned, no man, whether human or demon, in his right mind could possibly look at her and not want to spend a night making her scream and screaming her name in return. But he knew that, no matter what, this woman was not his for the taking, and never, ever would be.

He sat quietly for a minute and thought about that, one of the few occasions he'd heard Darla speak so openly about Brennan and Angelus, and he felt a certain strangeness wash over him as he considered how best to broach the subject of Darla and Angelus with Brennan. Blinking away the memory, he looked back over at Brennan and noticed that she was glaring at him impatiently.

As he felt her bright blue gaze drill into him, he wondered how his grandsire withstood what he imagined were, especially back in the Irish vampire's wilder, unsouled days when Angelus frequently ran afoul of the witch's expectations and the subsequent searing looks of disapproval. Loathe as he was to admit it, after spending the better part of twenty years rampaging through Europe with Angelus, he knew that his grandsire was a charming man and that surely his affable manner, sharp wit, and lazy grin that signaled an exceptionally cocky brand of masculinity, and clearly Brennan, at some level, responded to that for reasons that he suspected she didn't entirely understand. Yet, he also suspected that when Angelus drew her ire and had managed to live to tell the tale, that signalled some type of talent. Thus, Spike found himself in begrudging admiration of his grandsire's ability to sweet-talk, frantically fuck, or otherwise unscrupulously wiggle his way out of the doghouse and back into her good graces each time it had happened.

As much as he despised Angel, he knew he had to give credit where credit was due.

Gotta give due props to the old bugger, he thought to himself. If I knew I'd be able to shag my way back into her good graces, then I'd light her up like a Roman candle myself, and it'd be effin'epic.

Again shrugging away his wandering thoughts, he looked up from his pint glass and snapped his eyes back up to meet hers, his forehead creasing over arched brows as he realized he'd been caught in a daze. "What?" he said distractedly. "You say something, love?"

Brennan rolled her eyes at him. "Your beer," she said impatiently, pointing at his glass. "Is it okay?"

Spike raised his eyebrows apologetically and ran his fingertips up and down the edge of the frosted pint glass before he set it on his thigh and watched her swivel in her chair a bit. "Yeah, it's fine," he told her.

Brennan's features softened and she prodded him, "Good. Then, you were saying…?"

"Oh, right," he coughed, the corner of his lip curling in a faint smirk as he brought his pint glass in front of his mouth again, holding it there for a moment as if to hide his grin behind the curve of the glass. "Sorry, love —what was I saying?"

"Darla," she reminded him. "Where's Darla?" She hesitated about how much to reveal to him of how well she stayed informed (or didn't) about the coming and goings of some of her past compatriots. Deciding that perhaps he'd be more apt to speak freely with her if he sensed she was doing the same with him, Brennan confessed, "I'd be lying if I said it hasn't been some time since I heard what hell she's been wreaking where and how. So, I assume you know why there's been a news blackout on what she's been up to?"

"Come on, Elphie," he said with a melodramatic roll of his eyes. "You know I'm no more Darla's keeper than she or Dru ever was mine." He lifted his gaze back to hers as he added pointedly, "Keepin' tabs on Dru always kept my hands more than full."

Rumors follow everywhere you go
Like when you left and I was last to know
You're famous now and there's no doubt
In all the places you hang out
They know your name and know what you're about
Whispers at the bus stop
I heard about nights out in the schoolyard
I found out about you

Spike grimaced a little as the song's lyrics caught his ear, then shook his head as he waited for Brennan's response.

She considered his points, then sighed and finally conceded, "Well, true enough, I suppose. It's just that the three of you used to travel around together like the Three Kings, and so I assumed that if something had happened to her then you'd be the one person that might know something about it."

Spike's tawny-colored brows sloped low over his pale eyes as he jerked his head back, unsure if he had heard her correctly. A quiet grunt sounded in the back of his throat as he searched her blue eyes for a sign that she knew more than she let on—which he long ago learned was often the case with her, whether because of her magicks or perhaps a hidden psychic ability or, more likely, her penetrating intellect—but in her querying gaze he saw nothing but open and honest curiosity. He sighed a little, then took a sip of his beer, wincing as the cold liquid hit the taste buds on the his tongue. "Yeah, about that," he mumbled. "Ummm…"

"William," she said chastisingly. "This is the first time you've darkened my metaphorical doorstep in over a hundred years." She pointed at him with her index finger. "You've come to my city and you've dragged me out downtown when I should be in bed. So, obviously you came here to tell me something."

Spike arched an amused brow. "My city?" he thought, remembering his grandsire sneering some sort of threat under his breath to that effect when the younger vampire had rolled into Sunnydale with an ailing Drusilla in tow. Wonder if he got that narcissistic bollocks from her or vice versa? he wondered. Nobody owns anyplace.

Brennan paused, narrowing her eyes as she scanned the expression on his angular face. His high cheekbones and slightly hollowed cheeks gave him a hard-lived look made even more severe by the bright platinum color he'd taken to bleaching his light brown hair in the last twenty-odd years. "In case you missed it," she snapped, "I am exhausted. If you have something to say, William, I recommend you quit dallying around and just say it. Otherwise, I really do need to finish drawing up my lesson plan for tomorrow since I've got not one but two lectures, and I frankly don't have the energy to linger on the Chicago collegiate night-scene any longer than necessary. Understand?"

Spike saw the nostrils of her fine-hewn, slightly turned-up nose flare as her square jaw seemed to harden even before her bright blue eyes did, and he knew her patience—which he had long ago learned was a finite albeit generally abundant resource—was nearing its end. He knew from offhand comments he'd heard over the years from his sire, grandsire and great-grandsire, as well as his own experience, that once Brennan's frustration peaked, the speed with which her wrath unfurled was not to be underestimated. Despite his hesitation and the gravity that he felt hanging over him, he knew he had to tell her. He smacked his lips together once and then plunged on head-first.

"She's gone, Brennan," he said flatly. "She's gone."

His words hung heavy in the air between them for a long moment as a look of confusion crossed Brennan's face. She reached for her glass of club soda, but didn't drink it. Instead, coming to the conclusion that Spike must have his own reasons for being unusually obtuse, she felt what little patience she had quickly disappearing. "What?" she growled, the last thread of her patience quickly unraveling. "What do you mean 'she's gone'?"

Her eyes narrowed and her bright blue eyes darkened as she stared at him, her gaze cool and rigid as she studied him. Spike felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up as a faint shiver traveled down his spine and he again wondered what it was about his grandsire that made the Irishman able to withstand her withering gaze. She blinked and cocked her head to the side, then took a short, soft breath.

"Who's gone?" she finally asked.

Spike looked down into his pint glass, then up again and sighed, "I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but..." His voice trailed off as he watched Brennan's jaw harden as she waited for him to finish his thought. "Darla's dead."

For a few seconds, Brennan was so stunned by the revelation, she couldn't even even breathe. After nearly four hundred years, the thought that her immortal friend no longer walked the earth was unimaginable and she found herself unable to do much more than blink.

"Dead?" she asked, her voice vaguely distant as she drew a breath and felt a wave of dark, sickening strangeness wash over her. Her muscles slackened, her hands trembled and she leaned forward in her seat, grateful in that moment that she wasn't standing lest she wobble unstably on her feet. It just seemed so...unreal. Like her, Darla had not aged a day in four centuries, and the ravages of time, sickness and even injury had never in all those hundreds of years left their permanent mark on her.

"No…" Brennan muttered with a shake of her head, more to herself than to Spike. "That's just not...no..."

It just didn't seem possible. Lifting her shocked gaze to meet Spike's eyes, she searched them for some sign that he was, in fact, trying to get her to buy into some perverse joke of his. When she saw nothing but sincerity on his face, she couldn't help but feel the knot that had fallen into the pit of her stomach tighten. Still, needing to ask, she looked at him with one last gleam of quickly fading hope burning in her blue eyes.

"Are you sure?" she croaked, her breath catching in her throat as her blue eyes widened.

He shot her a grave look and nodded. "Yeah," he said. "Dead. Gone." He snapped his fingers for emphasis. "Turned into a pile of ash."

A dark wave of regret suddenly washed over her. She hadn't always agreed with everything Darla did, especially when it came to the way Darla had treated her childe after he was cursed by the Gypsies, but the two women had shared a lot of thingsAngel being just one of themover the course of the centuries they had been friends.

"What...what happened?" she asked, her voice cracking a bit as the question fell from her lips. "Who...who that is, who did this?" She began to recover a bit as she felt a wave of indignation at the insult that someone had finally managed to kill Darla. The indignation fueled her repeated question as she more demanded then asked, "Who killed her?"

Spike bit the inside of his lip and kneaded it between his teeth as he watched Brennan's bright blue eyes shimmer with a swirl of emotions he had never seen in her, not once in all the years since he first met her acquaintance at one of Darla's dinner parties: righteousness and sadness...and regret.

At some level, he knew he shouldn't take pleasure in seeing her have such a reaction to the news. There was always something about Brennan he liked, aside from her obvious beauty and the sexy confidence that oozed from her every gorgeous ivory pore. She had an intelligence and a cool rationality that appealed to him, especially at those times when Drusilla's ephemeral dreaminess and emotional volatility wore on his last nerve. But on another level, he hated her blind, misguided loyalty to his grandsire, who had turned Spike's sire Drusilla for the sole purpose of making her an eternal monument to his sadism and then, when Drusilla in turn made the frustrated young poet into a vampire, continued to enjoy Drusilla sexually, even more often and more publicly than he had before, for no other reason than to torture Spike, who had fallen hard for the beautiful vampire with the second sight. For all of her intellect, sophistication and insight, Brennan had always been blind to the true extent of Angelus' cruelty. Spike hated him for it, even after that cruelty had sublimated away in the wake of the Gypsy curse.

A hundred years after his grandsire's savage depravity evaporated into a near-century of brooding guilt, Spike still despised him and resented him for fucking Drusilla senseless night after night when she had been...she, Angelus knew, had been his from the very first. Drusilla and Spike...Spike and Drusilla. That's just how it had been...how it was supposed to have been, and Angelus had desecrated their love, tricking Drusilla into believing his barmy explanations, simply because his grandsire could. And that intent on Angelus's part had fueled his ire. He knew he would never be able to get Brennan to see Angelus for the full extent of what he was all those years ago, but he certainly could try to get her to see that her sweet, brooding Angel wasn't the man she thought he was. In fact, he wasn't the vampire that either one of them had once known him to be.

At least, is appeared, not anymore.

It was therefore with a certain smug satisfaction and a slight shrug that he looked up at her with a tentatively quirked brow. "Angel," he said, watching her eyes as the two softly-spoken syllables fell from his lips. "It was Angel."

As he spoke, Brennan shook her head and looked down into her club soda, stabbing at the thin slice of lime with her stirrer. Nibbling her lip between her teeth, she watched the anemic green fruit bob up and down between the half-melted cubes of ice in her highball glass as she struggled to wrap her mind around what the vampire had just told her.

At last, not being able to accept the truth of what Spike had just told her, the venerable witch-turned-forensic-anthropologist chuckled menacingly. "I have to admit, you've got a lot of nerve, William," she snapped, punctuating her words with one last stab at the lime before bringing her eyes up to meet Spike's. "To drag me out on a goddamn school night to pull this kind of nonsense with me."

The vampire's eyes widened as he realized that she genuinely thought he was playing some kind of grim practical joke on her. "Now wait, love," he said, the crease in his brow and the flare of his nostrils betraying the flicker of anxiety he felt as he saw the flash of frustration in her eyes. He threw his hands up in mock surrender. "I'm not pullin' any plonkers here, Elphie," he assured her, his voice softer and less edged than it had been earlier. "I swear."

Brennan's cool blue eyes narrowed skeptically. "Let me make certain I understand you," she said, her voice at once hard and faintly hesitant. "You're telling me that Darla is dead—gone—and that Angel killed her." Her eyebrows lifted as she looked at him questioningly. "You're telling me this isn't some bad joke, not some stupid delaying tactic on your part? This is the honest-to-God truth? Is that correct, William? On pain of you finding out how creative I really can be when I want to make the horn you had on your forehead for a month look like a crude parlor trick?"

Spike blinked and swallowed, suddenly remembering one particular night he and Angelus were out hunting for teenage prostitutes on Catherine Street. The older vampire had regaled the younger with a lurid tale of how his witch lover, Brennan, had sought out another of his erstwhile lovers, the vampire Helen, and let loose a torrent of jealous rage. Angelus had boasted how Brennan had beat and tortured Helen for near on a week, then taunted and dusted the vampire trollop in front of his very eyes, and how the episode reminded him of the very first night he met her and how she had gutted two men in front of him, minutes before demanding that Angelus fuck her on the floor in front of her fireplace. Spike knew the witch had once been prone to shocking cruelty and he had little doubt that she was capable of it now. The very thought of it sent a shiver down his spine, for more than one reason, as he wondered if she really had mellowed over the ensuing years.

He reached for his beer, bringing the pint glass to his lips and holding the rim of the glass in front of his lips as he surveyed her eyes. "Yes," he said, then took a tiny sip of Fullers. "That's exactly what I'm telling you because it's the truth."

At his words, blue eyes met blue eyes. Still, on this particular point, Spike refused to back down because he knew he couldn't.

After a moment or two, it was, ironically, Brennan (perhaps in a sign the news had affected her even more than Spike had thought it might) who first broke their impromptu staring contest. She clucked her tongue as she shook her head. "I don't believe it," she said pointedly, twirling her highball glass in a circle as she watched the ice cubes swirl around amid the bubbles of carbonation. "So, is this how it is, hmmm?" she asked him, her lip curled as she bit out her words. "What is it, William? You and Drusilla have had a falling out of sorts, and so now, lacking anything better to do with your time, you come here to make trouble for your grandsire? Because if that's what you came here, I'm sorry to—"

Spike leaned in and reached across the bar. "Brennan," he said, narrowing his eyes just as he was about to touch her arm when he remembered how the witch didn't like being touched without permission. "Look, Elphie, I—"

Quickly standing, she reached into her pockets and withdrew a few dollar bills to toss onto the bartop to cover her tab. Clearly agitated at Spike's claim, she told him as she prepared to leave, "Well, I hate to ruin your fun, William, but while I haven't spoken to Angel in quite some time, I am certain that you are either sorely mistaken or pulling my leg. I'm going to go with the latter."

"Well, Elphie," he said, "while I always up for a good pisser, this time, I'm dishin' the real dirt, love. I wish I could tell you otherwise." He stood up and slid off his barstool, knowing that he had to try to stop her from leaving somehow, but also knowing that she didn't like to be touched unless she had initiated the physical contact. He used his body in an attempt to try and to position himself between her and the door. "Look, you don't understand. It's—"

"No," Brennan said firmly, nearly shouting as she set her glass down on the bar hard enough to draw the bartender's attention a few feet away. Waving off the young man, she turned her head sharply and glared at the pale-eyed Englishman as she simply walked around him. "You don't understand," she barked. "Angel isn't...well, he isn't who he used to be, all those years ago when you two were traipsing around Spitalfields fucking fourteen year-old streetwalkers before you had them for dinner. He's…" She paused for a moment as she searched for the right word. "Evolved."

Spike rolled his eyes and grunted out a laugh as he reached once more for his Fuller's. "If that's what you want to call it, love, then fine." He closed one eye and held his glass up, admiring the way the warm, dim light over the bar shined through the amber-colored brew. "See," he said as he brought his glass down again. "While, granted, I never really got what you saw in the mouthy Fenian prat even when we was all back in London knocking around between your place in Cheapside, the house Darla was renting in Belgravia, and our favorite hunting grounds in Whitechapel, Stepney and Aldgate, he obviously had a certain charm about him since both you and Darla seemed all too ready to let him warm your beds when it suited you." He fell silent for a moment and frowned. "Dru, too," he added with a grumble.

Brennan's eyes narrowed and she scowled. "What's your point?" she asked him. "And, for the love of God, be concise, William. My patience with you has just about been all used up." Her narrowed eyes widened as their blue topaz color flashed, pulsing with a distinctly brighter, deeper azure hue as an almost imperceptible indigo haze crackled around her for a couple of seconds before fading again, hanging in the air just long enough for the vampire to feel the pricking of an electrical charge on the backs of his hands and the nape of his neck so faintly that, if he didn't know better, he would've been certain he'd imagined it.

"Easy there, Elphie," Spike said with a crooked brow as he realized that she was dangerously close to losing tight control of her anger and her powers and if he wasn't careful, a horn on his forehead would be the best he could hope for. "My point is, the brooding twat who waddled back from Romania isn't the same ponce who you knew all those years ago."

Her jaw shifted and her cool blue eyes hardened. "Angel and I have spent a large quantum of time together since he was ensouled a hundred years ago," she said, blinking as it occurred to her that his run-in with the Gypsies had occurred almost exactly a century earlier. "Years, in fact. I don't need you lecturing me about his habits or his moods. I am more familiar with the sine-wave of his mood swings than anyone walking this earth. So, as I tried to suggest to you earlier—what is your point?"

"Look, love," he said, his voice softer and more solicitous. "I don't know what happened between the two of you, and I don't need to know. But my point is that, well, he's 'evolved' a bit, as you say, in the couple of years since you saw him last. He's fallen in with…"

Spike's voice trailed off for a moment and he chewed the inside of his lip as he tried to think of a way to break the news directly but without rousing the old witch's anger the way he knew was possible if he wasn't careful.

"What?" Brennan prompted him. "Tell me."

Spike stared at her for a moment, almost looking as contrite as a soulless vampire could be, when he shook his head and said, "Yeah, well, it's like I said. I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, pet, but Angel staked Darla because the magnificent poof has started thinking with his little vampire head in a way that I haven't seen since the days when my good ol' grandsire was actually a decent vampire worth knowing because he wasn't bogged down with an effin' soul."

Street lights blink on through the car window
I get the time too often on AM radio
You know it's all I think about
I write your name drive past your house
Your boyfriend's over I watch your light go out
Whispers at the bus stop
I heard about nights out in the schoolyard
I found out about you

The song continued to play in the background merely serving to infuriate Brennan even more combined with Spike's claims. Still, realizing that if even a part of what he'd claimed was actually true that she needed to know about it, she realized she needed to maintain control of her emotions and her powers. Licking her suddenly dry lips carefully, Brennan tilted her head and gave Spike a one-worded command that she unintentionally punctuated with a faint spark that briefly illuminated her pale eyes.

"Explain," she demanded.

His mouth twisting into a sour grimace, Spike gestured absently with his hands. "You know he ended up hanging out near the Hellmouth in that hellhole in the middle of the 'burbs outside of L.A. right?" he asked her.

Brennan nodded once as she replied in a still-dangerous tone, "Yes."

"Well," Spike said as he danced on the balls of his feet, some of his nervousness at seeing Brennan give off a vibe that he hadn't experienced in well over a century betraying his mindset despite his best efforts to conceal his anxiety. "It seems as if the bouncin' ninny has shacked up with some delectable if revolting scrubber who just happens to be a bloody Slayer."

Her brow furrowed for the first time as Brennan considered the meaning of his words. "A Slayer?" she asked, her confusion apparent as she arched an eyebrow at him as she awaited clarification.

Spike guffawed and his face screwed with puzzlement. "Don't tell me that you don't know what a Slayer is, Elphie," he said. "A smart bird like you who's been around the block as many times as you've been—"

Brennan immediately shot Spike another warning look. He faltered for a bit as he realized what he'd said, and a hand unintentionally came up to guard his face as he took a couple of steps back from her.

"Not that you've been around the block," he quickly corrected. "I didn't mean it to say you've been to the show more than a few times so that you've logged some heavy mileage, love. I didn't mean it like that at all, so please don't get all pissy and give me any more protruding members, hmmm? I like my forehead exactly as it is, thanks."

"William," Brennan growled. He again started at her clipped tone and probably would've paled had he been physiologically able to do so. "Get to the damn point," she muttered.

Nodding at her, Spike gulped once and then replied, "Yeah, right, love. Anyway, the Slayer...it's just...well, a Slayer sorta has this thing that she likes to spend her time doing. She really only has one hobby, and it's a bloody pain in my arse, if you ask me. Why they've never been able to diversify and take up a useful vocation like sewing or stamp collecting or some other damn pastime is beyond me—"

"William," she warned again.

"It's actually a bloody abomination, if you ask me. Think about it, love—a vampire and a Slayer mucking about together? It's nonsense. It's like that old joke about the frog and the scorpion, except in this case, the frog and the scorpion get to the other side of the ol' river and shack up together. It's effin' unnatural. Slayers kill vampires, and as vampires, our job is to snuff Slayers. Pure and simple. That's the way it's always been. That's the way it needs to always be 'cause it's the natural order of things…" His voice trailed off for a minute before he made a face as if he had sucked on a sour lemon, then sighed and continued. "Or, at least it was until Angelus got tangled up with that pesky human soul bollocks and turned him into a pathetic, knobless ponce who's an embarrassment to his own kind." He shook his head as he clarified. "I've wasted two Slayers in my day—one in China…" Spike smirked at the memory. "She was sorta interesting—kung fu and all that jazz—but I took care of her right and proper. Then there was the one in New York." He plumped the lapels of his leather duster. "Got this off that one," he said with a proud lilt to his voice. "Was playing face-billiards with her in a subway car when the lights went on the blink and the whole bloody city was plunged into darkness. Not that it made a big difference in the end. Broke her bloody neck and snagged this lovely coat as a memento of the occasion."

He searched Brennan's eyes for even the tiniest glimmer of approval or acknowledgement but found none. Instead, she shot Spike a look that told him if he didn't speed things up she was well on her way to hexing him again in a way that he hadn't been hexed since the late 19th century.

"Point is, love, that Angelus nipping around with a bleedin' Slayer is a fuckin' perversion of the way things are supposed to be. Completely and utterly unnatural in every bloody way."

Brennan was quiet for a moment, processing the information. Of course, in the years she'd known many vampires, mention of a hated person referred to bleakly as 'the Slayer' had come up on occasion. Darla had always spoken vaguely of the person with derision. So, too, had Angelus. In all her time with Angel, the talk of a Slayer had never come up. Thus, since it had never been a pressing point of concern for her, Brennan had been content to let well enough lie alone. Considering what Spike had just told her, she wondered if she'd made a mistake. Her brain then jumped to a paradox that made her frown.

"Wait," she said, quickly shaking her head. "If a Slayer's sole purpose in life is to stake vampires, I don't understand. Why would Angel have anything to do with someone like that?"

Puffing out his lips, Spike shrugged his shoulders as a clear look of derision and disgust clouded his eyes and hardened the angular features of his handsome face. "You know, pet, that's a question I'm still asking myself," he told her. "Especially after that namby pamby prig went and dusted good ol' great-grandma there. And, you know what?" He paused for a beat before Brennan tilted her head at him to let him know what she was still paying rapt attention to each and every syllable he spoke. Nodding at her, he continued, "Well, the only thing that I can come up with that even remotely offers a good answer to this bloody little puzzle is that the little vampire brain is in the driver's seat as far as that brooding poofster's concerned because ever since he got one whiff of that blonde slapper's—"

"Spike," Brennan snapped, cutting him off. Looking up at him, her blue eyes flashing in annoyance as she pursed her lips.

Spike swallowed thickly and watched her eyes as he decided to refrain from continuing on his tirade. Shrugging at her, he then said in a very even-toned voice, "Look. You want facts? Here they are. Angel's not the same—even compared to his normal loathsome self since he got reensouled by the Gypsies. And, why ever he's decided to change...well, here's what I know about her, love. She's blonde, petite, very young, and her name is Buffy."

To be continued...

A/N: Ahhh so there you have it. Well, not it, since we still have another chunk of this part of the tale to tell. Part II should be along in the not too distant future, and you'll see how Brennan reacts now that she knows she has a rival for Angel's affections.

In the meantime, we'd love to know what you think so far. This piece falls somewhat outside the overall story arc of our crossover series, but reveals a critical moment in the long history of Brennan, Angel/Booth, and their complicated world. In a way, this begins one of the darkest periods for our couple. Of course, if you've been following the series, you know they overcome these difficulties, but yet you know that the scars of this experience still mark them both.

So, as we ready part II for primetime, we'd be grateful for any constructive comments. *ahem* That is, if you'd take the time to drop us a line or leave us a review, we'd be much obliged. *pleading look* Maybe?

And as always, thanks for reading!