Hand to Hand

By: dharmamonkey & Lesera128

Rated: M

Disclaimer: Here we posit our normal rigmarole. No, we don't own anything from Bones or Angel... or anything else. Yes, we're wreaking what havoc we can with these characters that we don't own to create an awesome story. But, since it's only for the purposes of creative enjoyment and amusing distraction, we think we're okay. Are there any other questions? No? ::blinks:: Good. Then, moving on―

Summary: Ten weeks after the birth of their daughter, tensions are running high. Booth, worried about his past catching up with his family, ends up sparring with Brennan when she challenges him to face the past and their future head-on. Bones/Angel crossover. Very, very AU and definitely M. Final story in the nine-part story arc that includes: "Toe to Toe," "Barging In," "Making Him Beg," "Comfort on the Edge of Reason," "The After Party," "The Price to Be Paid," "Echoes True and False," and "A Would-be Reunion."

Logistical Notes: For those who are wondering, this story would be set roughly sometime during the second half of season 4 of Bones. And, yes, still, for those who know of Whedon-verse, this story still assumes the events through the end of Angel's series finale ("Not Fade Away") and the comic-book "Angel: After the Fall" are canon. It ignores all other stories in the Angel chronology, including the BTVS Season 8 in comics.

A/N: A year and over one million words later (seriously—check the math yourself!) we didn't think we'd finally get here, but here we are. The final part, part #9, in our Angel/Bones crossover. Are you excited? Because as nervous as we are to be wrapping things up, we're pretty damn excited about this new story...and hope you are too. So, without further ado, off we go.

UNF Alert:Nope. Not this part. But, come on, folks. This is a Dharmasera piece, so you know it's coming...eventually. And, when it does, you *know* it'll be good...

Part I: A Staring Contest

An intense pair of blue eyes stared, unblinking, at a curious pair of lighter blue eyes that also refused to blink. After a moment, it turned out to be a wonderfully enigmatic smile that caused the bigger and more intense pair of blue eyes to finally blink as their owner looked away first with a grunt. Said grunt of displeasure and annoyance was followed by a very loud squeal of unadulterated pleasure. The squeal seemed to the loser in the impromptu staring contest to be added for only one reason: maliciousness. Possibly, he conceded, it was a way for her to gloat at him over her victory. In either case, the sound that had emanated from the infant car seat that sat in the middle of the front hood of a blue Ford Mustang convertible made the vampire known as Spike shiver.

"I don't like her," he grumbled, tilting his head over to look at the other man who stood leaning next to the front of the car as watching the exchange with mild amusement and some small measure of interest. Spike's face hardened as he pointed at the car seat. "I don't give a fiver if everyone's s'posed to love little cute and cuddly sprogs like her or not. I've made my decision, and that's it. Decision's made. No changes, do-overs, or take-backs. I don't like her, not one bloody bit."

Seeley Booth quirked an amused brow, watching his daughter wave her tiny, chubby arms as she warbled and babbled at the fair-eyed man with the sharp features who stood in front of the car and glowered at the infant with a distinctive curl to his lip. Booth couldn't help but smile at the infant and the way a little swirl of her silky baby hair curled in the middle of her forehead. He reclined against the fender, one hand stuffed in the pocket of his dark blue jeans as he reached up and threaded his other hand through his hair, which stuck up in several different directions since his hair gel had long since evaporated and rubbed away. He glanced once more at his cooing child, then turned and leveled his gaze at Spike, his grandchilde, who was made a vampire by Drusilla, who he himself had turned in 1860, the same fateful year he met Brennan.

"What do you mean you don't like her?" he asked with a grin, his voice edged with barely-suppressed laughter. "Why not?"

"Because," Spike replied instantly, his voice quick as he rattled off his answer. "First," he said with a sharp jab of his thumb in the general direction of the car seat. "From the first minute you took the squealing offspring out of the car, and she set those beady little eyes of hers on me, I could tell she was gonna get off on tryin' to wind me up just like you've always have when you want to toss your rocks off, Liam—"

Distracted as he was with Spike's description of his daughter, Booth chuckled, recalling how minutes earlier, he'd thrown the Mustang into park and stepped out of the car. He'd wondered as he was getting ready back at the loft what his old sometimes friend and almost-always rival would say about his new look. Some things hadn't changed—he still wore chunky-soled leather oxfords with his dark jeans—but he dressed more casually, wearing a button-down dress shirt over a slightly-rumpled T-shirt. Even more than that, though, he carried himself with more levity and a bit less of the brooding gravity that he used to, and he'd seen the subtle flash of Spike's eyebrows when he climbed out of car and walked around to the other side to retrieve his daughter from the back seat.

But it was only when he'd lifted the car seat out that Spike's pale blue eyes had suddenly widened with surprise. "Whatcha doin' there, Peaches?" he'd asked. "Don't tell me you've been reduced to babysittin' for your beer money now?"

The demon scrunched his nose when he finally confirmed that the scent, like brown sugar with a vaguely floral undertonewhich had initially taken him so completely by surprise that its very existence puzzled him as the car had pulled upwas in fact, coming from the presence of a human child...and a very young one at that. Setting aside the fact he had no reason to understand what his grandsire would be doing with a child at such an hour, he was further perplexed by the uniqueness of the scent. While he'd instantly recognized the smell, there was something about it that struck him as odd, a hint of something almost like sage, which made it seem even more strange since he seemed to remember that sage was used to ward off evil. Even more so, behind the scent of sage, Spike could've sworn that he smelled the dark musk of an ancient evil. Those two things together gave the child an odor that was familiar to him, even as he struggled to figure out where he'd smelled this curious mixture before—the swirl of sage with a hint of dark musk, untainted by the citrusy note of human fear—although the more he struggled, the more he found himself unable to place it. The scents brought to mind another place and another time, another world where the nights were illuminated by gaslights and the evenings still bustled with the sound of carriage wheels and the clomping hooves of horses, although he couldn't figure out why his mind would take him back to the days when he'd been a human.

After a minute, he suddenly remembered where he'd last smelled the scent of sage—and he was simultaneously rather proud of himself and amazed he'd remembered such a random fact. But as he sniffed the air again, he knew there could be no mistaking that particular scent. It had clung to him for three weeks, filling his nostrils every day that he'd suffered the indignity of a witch's hex after unwisely mouthing off about her generous breasts and the mouth that seemed continually latched onto them. He grumbled under his breath at the memory of it, and then remembered how that same sage-like note had clung to his grandsire's body whenever he came in from a night (or two or three or four or more) spent in the company of said witch, still discernable even amid the thick, dark, earthy scent of malice and depravity that always signaled his grandsire's return. He couldn't shake the idea that the dark, musky odor that rolled off the man he now watched was perhaps a lingering residue left behind by the centuries of mayhem that a century of ensoulment and reform couldn't quite wash away.

Shrugging off the thought, Spike narrowed his eyes and watched as Booth reached into the backseat and unlatched the car seat from its anchors. Once he saw the car seat pulled out of the back of the convertible, he couldn't wipe away the twisted grimace of disgust that spread across his lips at seeing his once ferociously vicious grandsire toting around a mewling baby in a car seat. He'd snickered with a shake of his blond head, "How far the mighty have fallen, ehh?"

He watched as Booth reached into the car seat and readjusted the tiny occupant's blanket, tucking it under her little arms as she woke up, murmured and started to wave her arms. "So, wait," Spike snorted. "Is that what this is all about, Angel? Are we back to this old song and dance? Savin' babies like ya did back when we was back in China? Because don't think I've forgotten, mate, that even back then ya had a thing for babies, huh?"

Spike's dark eyebrows arched as he looked back at Booth, his blue eyes alight with laughter as he pursed his lips the way he always did when he was teeing up a sarcastic quip. Booth hated that look, the same way he'd always hated the look. Booth's shoulders tensed at the sight of it, reminding him how that look alone made his blood boil, the same way it had since the earliest days after Drusilla had brought her wavy-locked, bespectacled creation into their home in 1880. Yup, he thought. He hated it then, and he still hated it now even as he found himself ticking another check mark in a long column of reasons as to why the blond vampire had always pissed him off by continually running off at the mouth.

"As I recall," Spike continued, "it was 'specially grand when you could play the knight in shinin' armor for the missionary kind, yeah? Pure as the driven snow. All cooin' and innocent and so bloody sweet. Don't tell me that after all this time, ya still want to pick 'em up and hold 'em in your arms and save 'em from all the mean 'n' nasties like me, huh?"

Booth rolled his eyes. I should've figured he'd be a schmuck about this, he grumbled under his breath. I don't know why I figured he'd be a fucking grown-up and be reasonable about this after all this time. He set the car seat on the hood of the car, gently so as to not send its mellowly-murmuring occupant into a fit of bawling. He closed his eyes and shook his head, wondering if it was possible for his grandchilde to refrain from being an asshole, even if only for a couple of minutes. Booth chided himself for naively thinking, or at least hoping, that Spike would pass on an opportunity not to bust his balls—somehow foolishly letting himself think that, even while he had changed and wasn't the same kind of guy he used to be, for some reason the same might be true of Spike. Nope, not Spike, he thought. He's never been the responsible type and never will be.

His thoughts turning back to what was presently going on in front of him, it took Booth a minute to catch on to the name Spike had just called him. The small smile on his face disappeared and was quickly replaced with an annoyed frown. It was no surprise to hear Spike toss out a tired, timeworn insult as if nothing had changed, leading Booth to privately wonder if, at least as far as Spike was concerned, anything really had.

Booth stared at him for a moment, then shook his head and thought, No, probably not. He then let out a puff of breath, more of a grunt than a sigh as he formulated his reply.

"Liam?" he huffed. "Aww, what? Don't tell mepoor wee Willy's got his knickers in a twist simply because he got stared down by a baby and blinked first?" He shook his head again and snickered. "Man...that's pretty pathetic, even for you, Spike."

Spike narrowed his eyes, his mouth twisted into a scowl as he shrugged off the interruption. "But, assuming that she's actually yours—which I doubted when I first saw her since we all know the scrawny bints with big foreheads and bigger overbites that you normally spawn, and she's actually not too bad lookin' as far as babies go—but now that I've spent five minutes with her, I'm starting to see the resemblance..."

"Not too bad?" Booth snapped, his heavy brow furrowing as he turned and looked at the baby, who sat in her car seat and appeared to watch the two men banter with a murmur of amusement. Turning back to the vampire, he frowned as Spike's implied insult finally worked its way into his tired brain. "Wait," he said defensively. "What'd'ya mean 'assuming she's yours,' you prick? Of course she's mine, you jagoff. I mean, what? You aren't accusing Bren of fooling around behind my back, are ya? Because if you are, I don't think I have to remind you about the—" Booth stopped and made a gesture that looked lewd as he did so from his forehead.

Spike seemed to lose a touch of his bravado when he saw the gesture that Booth had made. He narrowed his eyes and grunted as he watched Booth's jaw tick with a tension that belied his teasing tone.

"Well," he mused, a sly grin spreading across his face. "No, not that it's any of your business, you pillock, but I don't need any remindin' about that because Brennan and I came to an understanding between us a long time ago, boyo." He made a low humming sound in his throat as he looked down at his feet, his forehead creasing as he raised his brows, waiting for Booth to react as he knew he would. "A very mutually beneficial understanding, mind ya, so I don't think I need to be worryin' about anything that she'll be doin' to me or not unless I want it to happen, ya know?"

"An understanding?" Booth hissed, his heavy brow sloping low over his dark eyes. "What the fuck, Spike?" He spat out his grandchilde's name, his voice dripping with venom as he felt his arms and shoulders tighten with rising anger. "What kind of understanding?"

Spike grinned crookedly, unable to resist the temptation to crank his grandsire up like a life-sized jack-in-the-box, knowing as he did exactly how to rouse his anger. "No worries, mate," the vampire said with a laugh. "Really, Angel, you know better than anyone that Brennan doesn't like it when people tell tales out of school about her comings...and goings." Spike only added the last two words when he saw Booth's nostrils begin to flare. "But, just to make a liar of your poncy self, I'll say this," Spike said. He narrowed one eye as the other one twinkled beneath a sharply quirked eyebrow that seemed to leap from his face, so stark was the contrast between its dark color and the bright platinum blonde of his frosted, spiked hair. The corner of his lip twitched with a faint smirk as his gaze flickered with barely-restrained laughter. "Just think of things this way," he continued. "We're even, you know, after all that bollocks you put me through with you an' Dru all them years ago." He nodded as his smirk grew. "Yeah, what was it you said to me, when I came in and found you with my Dru? Hmm?"

Booth's jaw hardened to stone as he shot Spike a chilling, almost expressionless glare. He, too, remembered the conversation as if it were yesterday.

"Why did you...?" William had asked him, his voice edged with frustration as his eyes glimmered with unhidden hurt. "You knew," he insisted. "You knew she was mine."

Angelus smirked back at the younger vampire as he shrugged his shoulders in a clearly dismissive way. "Did I?"

"You knew bloody well!" William barked, wrenching himself free of his grandsire's grasp before rearing his arm back and slugging him.

With a roll of his eyes, Angelus easily deflected William's clumsy blow, then shoved his smaller, younger rival to the floor. "Just don't get it now, do ya?" he asked the starry-eyed new vampire. Jerking William up by his lapels, he threw him on the couch, then shoved the two corpses that lay there off, watching indifferently as the empty husks of their humanity dropped to the floor before cheerfully taking his seat next to his grandchilde.

"Aye," Angelus began. "Well, you're new... and a little dim. So let me explain to you how things are now." He looked directly into the other vampire's eyes before he nodded. "There's no belongin' or deservin' anymore," he said as if he was reciting his A-B-C's. "Ya can take what ya want, have what ya want..." he said simply. "But nothing is yours." He paused at the exact moment that Drusilla appeared in the doorway almost as if they'd perfectly choreographed her arrival. He then looked back at Spike, a small smirk playing on his lips as he grunted quietly and said, "Not even her."

"Not even her," Spike snorted a laugh, and in that moment Booth wasn't clear if he was speaking about Drusilla...or someone else. "Yeah, boyo," Spike snickered. "You sure did think you read me the ol' riot act that there night, huh?" He looked at the floor as he shook his head slowly, continuing on more for himself then for Booth's benefit. "No ownership, no possessions, right?" he repeated, the words coming off his Cockney tongue so easily that Booth instantly knew this was a rant that the vampire had practiced, both in his mind and verbally, many times over the years. "'No belongin' or deservin' anymore.' Right, yeah?" He suddenly looked up from the ground and gave Booth a nod with a sharp upward jerk of his chin before his eyes narrowed as did his tone. "But that was all a bunch of bollocks, too, wasn't it? Just like all the other tripe you've tried to feed me over the years, yeah? 'Cause you thought what you had did belong to you even if it wasn't. An' even more then that, I had the balls to follow yer own teachin's on that point, huh? But you were a day late and five quid short on that one even by then, don't ya know it, 'cause me and the fine Miss Brennan had already gotten well-acquainted by that point," he said as he nodded at Booth. "She's a very fine woman, that one," he said, the mock tone that had disappeared from his voice infuriating Booth more than anything he'd said to that point. "Smart and pretty, well-heeled and fashionable," he added. "But above all else..." His voice trailed off as he smirked at his grandsire. "Well, how shall I say..." He paused for what was clearly dramatic emphasis before he smirked. "Aww, come on, Angel. You know what I mean," he said. As he continued to what his now human grandsire continue to fume, Spike was unable to avoid temptation as he continued to rub it in as he gave Booth another look. "I mean, come on, Captain," he nodded, a muted reference to the insult he'd often sling at Angel over the years when he'd referred to him as Captain Forehead. "I know you've always been slow on the uptake when it comes to these things, but don't tell me that I need to spell it out for you now, do I?

Trying to keep his calm, Booth cracked his knuckles as he growled through gritted teeth, "What are you talking about, Spike?"

Spike's eyes narrowed again and he smiled, running his tongue along the edge of his teeth in an almost suggestive gesture before speaking again. "You can just consider us—you an' me—even-steven ya know, after your mix-up with Dru and all." He paused for a moment, pursing his lips for a second before letting a wry grin spread across his lips. "Oh, and by the by, in case you're wonderin', boyo..." He let his voice trail off for a bit before he added, "I don't mean Buffy." He nodded before some of the viciousness left his gaze and he took on a slightly more familiar if cavalier attitude. "So, anyways, I say, let bygones be bygones, mate, but given all of that, you really can't blame me for havin' questions as to who might've spawned this wee tyke—and that has nothing to do with her mam's choice in men—but more like it's 'cause she seems to be a decent-enough looking thing, so that's really too much so for me to believe she's the fruit of your slimy loins."

"Screw you," Booth muttered, feeling his anger crackle barely checked through his limbs. He opened his mouth to say something, but then caught himself as he realized that he was playing right into Spike's hand by letting the vampire's taunts and insinuations get under his skin. Booth rolled his shoulders back and stood up straighter as he pushed himself off the fender of the car and said, "My kid's gorgeous, not that you'd even know a good-lookin' baby if she spit up on you, which she won't, because I don't intend to let you and your grubby, bloodsucking mitts get a step closer to her—or anything else that belongs to me, for that matter—than you are right now."

"You and your possessions," the vampire snorted. "The rules were always different for you, huh?" Spike shook his head with a growl of indignant disgust as he still vividly remembered the confrontation the two men had a century ago about boundaries and ownership.

Angelus stood nose to nose with his grandchilde, his nostrils flaring as they filled with the smell of her, a smell that clung to William and swirled with the scent of the nervous young vampire's sweat.

"You made a big fuckin' mistake, boy," Angelus growled as he glared down at the shorter, slighter man from beneath heavy brows twisted with demonic rage.

"Did I now?" William replied, his straight white teeth flashing back in a sneer. "Tell me, my Fenian friend. Yeah?"

"She's mine," Angelus grunted, "and you knew it. I'd ha' thought that a lettered lad like you'd ha' figured it out after spending more 'n' a fortnight walkin' around town like some sort of trick unicorn 'cause you got caught flappin' your lips about her the last time, but still you went out trollin', hopin' to get under her skirts, aye? I know you did because you haven't had that cock off your forehead for more than a week or two. Now listen, you little pissant. She's mine, aye? Mine and mine alone. You donna get to touch her, got it? You stay away from her."

William laughed, gleeful that he was eliciting such a response from the elder vampire. "Bollocks, Angelus. I thought we could take what we wanted, who we wanted," he said sardonically. "No possession, no ownership. Remember? That's what you told me when I saw you shagging Dru senseless. Right? Isn't that how it is? Or do the rules not apply to you, Angelus? Is it just do as I say and not as I do?"

Angelus reached out and grabbed a fistful of William's shirt as he opened his mouth with a metallic snarl. "When it comes to you and me, boy," he said. "These are the rules. Mistress Brennan is mine. You touch her again, mmm? I'll fuckin' kill you. I made the one who made you. I can unmake you just like that." He punctuated his point with a sharp snap of his fingers using his free hand. "Now, if you're as smart as you claim to be, Wee Willie, I suggest you listen good." He hauled the poet-turned-vampire to tips of his feet until their eyes met one another, pure hatred staring back at each man. "You touch her again, huh, and you can take that to the fuckin' bank, William. I'll end you. Don't touch her. Don't visit her. Don't e'en think about her. Stay away from her. Stay outta my affairs. Go near her again, and you'll be dust before the next dawn. There won't be any other warnin's, lad, so do we understand each other or not? She's mine."

Spike blinked away the memory and watched Booth standing there, glancing at his baby girl out of the corner of his eye before he brought his angry gaze up to meet Spike's.

Booth's dark brows sloped low over his eyes as he scowled, wanting nothing more than to serve Spike a knuckle sandwich for insulting him, his woman, and his children. He clenched both his fists by his side as he stilled his hands as he looked over at his infant daughter who seemed to be watching him with her mother's same critical stare. The baby's presence diluted some of the anger he felt just a bit, and he almost completely sobered when a father's affection combined with the thought of how Brennan would know that he'd done more than just taken a fussy baby for a calming late night ride if he came home with a bloody nose and a black eye. However, still feeling the need to let Spike's latest taunt go unanswered, Booth decided that tossing a few more verbal insults at the blond vampire wasn't going too far afield.

Shaking his head, Booth said, "You're still pissy about little kids because they remind you of what a worthless pussy you were, traipsing around Spitalfields with Drusilla having to have her help you find a decent supper because you were incapable of catching yourself anything but schoolboys out past light's out and fourteen year-old runaways trolling the streets for a well-dressed john." A crooked smirk cracked his lips as he saw anger flicker in Spike's pale eyes and congratulated himself for winding up his irritating grandchilde to the point that he'd gotten Spike that worked up. Nodding at Spike, he decided one final warning was in order to let the vampire know that he was done joking around. "Point is, Wee Willie, this is my kid, and you're not touching her or anything else that belongs to me, ever, so back off."

This time, it was Spike's turn to snarl and stare. His nostrils flared once, and his brow thickened, and his now-yellowed eyes glared back at his grandsire as his lips curled back, revealing two rows of jagged teeth framed by a pair of ivory fangs. For a long moment, he watched Booth, the smell of him reminding Spike that his old rival was a human, more or less like any other mortal man, but yet there was something about him—the distinct absence of the citrusy smell of fear, and even more than that, a murmur that the vampire could hear in the pause between heartbeats—that made Spike wonder whether his grandsire was, despite appearances, entirely human. He gazed bitterly into Booth's dark brown eyes and remembered the nearly twenty years they'd rampaged together through Europe, leaving a bloody trail in their wake, and he remembered the possessive anger that flashed in those eyes when his grandsire felt that Spike had trod too close to the one thing which Angelus claimed as his and his alone. The vampire's broad nostrils flared as he once more detected the peppery, spicy smell of anger tinged with the familiar hint of dark musk, and remembered the many times he ran through the streets, cloaked in night, fueled by hunger and inspired by the way Angelus brought viciousness to the level of performance art.

He wondered whether he was merely experiencing a twisted sort of sensory nostalgia, or if the dark streak of viciousness still raged somewhere deep inside the man who stood before him. He blinked away the thought as his eyes darted over to the baby, and he mentally chided himself. Naaw. No mere human shell could keep him caged up if he were in there somewhere. Angelus is gone, he told himself. No more. Not comin' back. Done. Thank the bloody stars.

"Don't forget, Gramps, that you're the one who asked me here, not the other way around," Spike growled as his yellow eyes flashed brightly for a split second and then slowly faded as his forehead melted back to its normal human state. "I've got better things to do than waste the balance of an otherwise good night listening to your useless prattle, though it's true that the main reason I came was 'cause even the Big Apple can get a bit tiresome after a while and, well, because it got me to thinkin' how long it had been since I heard from my good old friend, Elphie."

Spike's teeth flashed as he used the pet name he'd come up with in recent years for Brennan even if Booth didn't quite understand what it meant or why it was appropriate. Still, Booth knew exactly who he was talking about.

"It's been too long, really," Spike added with a curl of his lips, "and if you don't hurry up and get to the point, I'm outta here, and I'll be quite happy to knock off without lookin' like I've been put through the ringer just in case you got off a very lucky shot." He paused, rolling his once-again pale blue eyes as he shook his head with a disdainful snort. "So, just in case you're wondering, I'm not really here to kick your ass up and down the District." He paused and lifted his right hand to his face as he looked like he'd suddenly took an interest in his nails as he flicked his fingers even as his tone shifted and his body language relaxed a bit. "You know, Angel, you may think you're all that and a proverbial bag of crisps, but you're not not as smart, suave or charming as that super-sized effin' ego of yours has always made you think you are," the blond vampire said. "You weren't then, and you sure as hell aren't now. You're still not worth it. So just stuff it, okay?"

Spike then jabbed his finger in the air in Booth's general direction to emphasize his point before he added, "Besides, don't go gettin' yourfrilly knickers in a twist. All I meant to say was—that one there? Well, I don't like her because even a dead guy like me can see that one there's an old soul. And, I don't trust old souls since they always think they can get one over on you just because they're so effin' sure of themselves."

As he continued to speak, building up a certain momentum, Spike almost seemed to forget Booth was there as he ticked off his other reasons using his fingers.

"Second, she's a watcher, and while I don't necessarily mean Watcher like future-mentor of slayers-in-training Watcher, she's still a watcher. And that makes me bloody nervous because—" He stopped and turned his head so that he could speak to the occupant of the car seat. "I don't like being watched!" The only response he received was another bubbly laugh.

Shaking his head, Spike continued, "Third, what kind of kid gets off on gettin' carted around at three o'clock in the middle of the night in an friggin' Ford Mustang convertible just to muck about?" He hesitated a moment, then smirked and said, "Well, guess this isn't the first time you've spawned a runtling that likes takin' a midnight ride, huh—'cept the last time, the chariot of choice was that piece o' shite 1967 Plymouth GTX you used to have." As he kept talking, and his Cockney voice got louder and louder, his gestures became wider and more dramatic until he stood there with his arms waving wide, the open flaps of his black leather duster wagging as he flung his arms to and fro. "Holy hell, that thing was a rusty bucket o' bollocks. I don't know how many damn times my fangs almost got rattled out of my mouth because you were too much of a cheap numpty to get the suspension looked at when the shock absorbers needed fixin' and so you kept skivin' the tune-up."

Spike took a step towards the car and drew his forefingers in a gentle caress along the long, gentle curve of the hood, pausing for the briefest of seconds to note the shiny horse insignia in the center of the grille, admiring the car's lines and smooth paint with an appreciative flash of his brows. Touching the car almost as if it were a lover, he let out what sounded like a pleasurable sigh before his attention was diverted, his ice blue eyes snapping up to meet with an angry, possessive scowl as Booth stepped forward, pushing Spike to the side and positioning his tall, broad-shouldered form between the vampire and both the car and the infant as he batted Spike's hand away. Taking a step back, Spike rolled his eyes at the classically possessive gesture he'd seen his grandsire use a hundred times—whether in regard to his clothes, his son Connor, or most often, the one woman he claimed as his and his alone—but like he most often did in the end, Spike didn't challenge him on his possessive claim, but rather smirked and cast a knowing look at Booth with a chuckle.

"Gotta admit," he said with a nod. "This is a much better set of wheels. I guess it shows that the Viper wasn't a fluke when it came to if your taste was actually gettin' any better or not, huh, knobhead?"

"Hey," Booth frowned as he looked into the dense black of night and remembered the old car that Spike had teasingly referred to as the 'Angelmobile.' East Potomac Park was vacant, the air around them still with the quiet that lingers on the edge of twilight, and Washington D.C. was silent in slumber in the hours before Saturday dawned. "Though I guess I have to give you credit for having some sense seeing as how you did always have eyes for that Viper of mine..."

Letting the comment hang in the air between them, Booth thought about how Spike had more or less stolen the car once to race off into the night with the hopes of getting his hands on the purportedly magic Cup of Perpetual Torment which proved to be a hoax intended to induce Spike to kill his grandsire.

Booth set aside that memory with a quiet grunt and let his mind wander a bit, remembering how Brennan had taken a liking to the Viper back in his days at Wolfram and Hart. A faintly wicked grin spread across his face as he recalled the night she surprised him in the garage, and how hot it had been when he took her right up against the side of the black sports car in the middle of the garage. He felt a raw shiver run down his spine at the memory, recalling how he'd watched her reach under her short skirt and pull off her panties, and the way they'd laid there in a damp crumple on the concrete floor of the garage as he'd stroked his cool fingers between her warm folds to feel how soaking wet she was. He remembered nudging her legs open with a gentle shove of his forearm that he'd barely needed to make before sinking into her seconds later, and the way he'd stroked into her, one hand resting on the roof of the car and the other on the low-slung hood as he tried not to pound her too roughly into the fiberglass body of the sports car.

Fuck that was hot, he told himself, his jaw tensing as he tried to ignore the sharp tug of arousal that coiled deep in his belly and made his blue jeans begin to feel uncomfortably snug. So completely and utterly fuckin' hot.

No sooner had he blinked away that memory than he recalled how Brennan had suggested a few months back that they reprise the moment.

"If it's just a preference—and since color is just a preference, but not that big a deal—then if I told you that a black Viper was parked in the garage downstairs, you should have no problem if we went down there right now, and I wanted you to fuck me against the car, correct?"

At the time, the notion of taking her against the side of a car in their condo's garage while she was six months pregnant made him a bit queasy. But after ten weeks without anything to ease his own substantially increasing libido but for his own hand whenever he could steal a few moments in the shower, the thought of a do-over made his balls tighten. He wondered how late at night they'd have to creep down into the garage to be assured that they could pull it off without being seen or interrupted.

I wonder what the range is on that baby monitor with all that concrete and brick, he thought with a smirk. I mean, we could be quick, right? Five, six minutes, would be all we'd need...tops.

He looked up at Spike and said, "By the way, I actually have another Viper now, but rest assured, Spike, that hell itself will freeze over before I let you have the keys to that one." He cocked an eyebrow and watched to see if Spike would react, but instead found the vampire temporarily distracted by the warbling sounds that the infant was making as she watched the pair banter.

"Fact is, though, your like of my Viper aside, that GTX was a freakin' classic," he said with a smile, a nostalgic dreaminess he'd felt for more than one reason crept into his voice. "She didn't hold a wax as long as I'd wished she would, seeing as how the paint long ago oxidized to hell and back, but still, that car was a beaut. Not as great as the Chevelle SS I used to have. That one had a huge Chevy big-block engine and these great bench seats in the front and back, which came in awfully handy when I had a date on a Saturday night, and my Pops wasn't around to enforce my curfew."

He thought about the bench seats in the back of his old GTX. The leather upholstery had long ago begun to split and crack even before he'd picked the car up for $1,500, but that hadn't mattered much to him. He'd never rode in the backseat of his own car, and the only time he ever did use that back seat, the creases in the leather were the last thing on his mind.

He'd worked three months as a bartender at a seedy bar in Wicker Park—pouring beers and whiskeys for demons of all shapes and sizes six nights a week from shortly after dusk until an hour before dawn—to save up the money to buy the car, which Brennan had offered to buy for him, but which he'd stubbornly refused on the basis of pride. The car had seen its better days by then, but it had a certain character about it that appealed to him, never mind the car's 440 cubic inch, 378 horsepower V8, the throaty sound of which invigorated and excited Angel from the very first time he heard it.

He remembered the first time he took Brennan out for a midnight drive in the car, roaring down Lakeshore Drive on a breezy summer night as Lou Gramm crooned "I've Been Waiting for a Girl Like You" and scrambling to find a nice quiet park to dive into before her hands dove any farther into his pants. No sooner had he thrown the car into park and cut the engine then he quickly followed Brennan into the back seat, tucking himself between her legs as soon as he could slide her panties off. Whether it was the purring vibration of the car's monster engine, or the decadence of racing up the boulevard in the middle of the night with the wind in her hair, she was more than ready for him by the time he sank into her, so warm and wet and snug. The dry cracks and creases in the old leather of the seat registered vaguely in the back of his mind as his knees dug into the seat and he drove into her with firm, grunting strokes.

Clearing his throat as he shrugged away the memory and the arousing, albeit frustrating sensations it summoned to the forefront, he gave Spike a sly grin as he began to speak again.

"Those big bench seats in those classic American cars are wide enough you and your girl can get nice 'n' comfy and manage some good leverage if you know what I mean..." He saw Spike's brow furrow at his ramble as the blond vampire gave him a weird look.

"Ah," the vampire mused, as a look of comprehension suddenly dawned on his face "So is that how you got lucky this time?" Spike's brow arched expectantly as a sly smirk curved his lips, watching to see if Booth would take the bait. "Lemme guess. Somehow, you ran off at the mouth like you've always been so good at, and actually managed to coax ol' Ms. Hocus-Pocus into the backseat where you got to take her for a ride, huh, and then, bam, nine months later this wee tyke came tumbling along?" His crooked-mouthed smirk widened to a toothy smile of unabashed satisfaction as he saw Booth's cheeks and ears redden at the remark. "Well, I guess gotta give credit where credit is due. I didn't think you still had it in ya to get it up and knock someone up, but seems I was wrong. Obviously, the poor bird took pity on your sorry self and saw fit to give you a round o' rumpy pumpy and, what do ya know? Ol' Muffy McBroody managed to go twelve rounds and serve up the sauce, and this wee tyke is the result. I guess I owe you an apology—you're not as much of a pouf as I thought you were." Spike paused again, then gave the bright blue convertible a long, bumper-to-bumper glance, then snorted and said, "Though I gotta say, the Mustang still strikes me as a chick's car—especially the drop-top. Seems to me that only lucious birds with nice, big, juicy knockers, happy-go-lucky poufs, and nancy-boy wankers in the throes of a mid-life crisis run out and buy a brand-new convertible." He punctuated his final words with a look that clearly insinuated at least the last two applied to Booth in some manner and that he didn't deserve Brennan if it was the first one.

His grandchilde's thinly-veiled message received, Booth shook his head and snorted before he finally replied, "For fuck's sake, Spike." He paused for a beat before he snickered with a taunting gleam in his eyes. "I mean, I know it's hard, but come on, huh? Enough already about Bren's tits..." A mischievous glint brightened Booth's dark eyes for a moment as he shrugged a little and reached up to scratch the day and a half's-worth of stubble on his jaw before he gestured with his hand. "I mean, that's not to say that they're not fucking amazing, because, hey I'm the first one to admit they are. But it's high time you get a grip and stop obsessing about them, mmm'kay?" he nodded at the vampire before he continued on. "And as for poufs, I'm not gay, but even if I was and you were the last swinging dick left on earth, I wouldn't ask you out no matter how much you're dying for me to give you a go. So best just get that one out of your sick, twisted, warped head—okay, fuckwad?—because that ain't happening. Nada. No way. Got it?"

Spike smirked and made a pffft sound. "You've got the wrong idea entirely, mate," he scoffed. "I've seen enough of your knob to last me a hundred lifetimes, alright, Peaches?" He then grunted, more under his breath so that it was low enough that the FBI agent may or may not have heard him add, "Not that I ever even wanted to see it, or that it was all that much to look at, mate. Talk about effin' overpromised and underdelivered. Ugghh. Thanks so much for that lastin', lingerin', horrible image..."

"Fuck you, Spike," Booth growled, his nostrils flaring as he felt the twitch of anger crackle through his limbs. "Enough. I don't want to hear it, okay? Holy hell."

The vampire shook his head and rolled a shoulder back in a feigned shudder. For fuck's sake, he thought with a faint wince. I was just makin' the rounds after that tosser of a Halloween party Lorne talked his poncey self into holding and decided to pop into his office to check on the snoozing green pouf because I had nothin' better to do before shogging off to get me some shuteye myself. Try as he might, he couldn't rid his mind of the memory of what he'd stumbled onto that fateful night. In fact, the harder he tried not to think about it, the more persistent the image seemed to become. I'd ha' figured he'd had enough of getting his end that night with that skank Eve, he mused. But no. I should've known better. The poofster never was one for moderation. So maybe I should've known better, but didn't. Because the last effin' thing I'd have expected to see was him standin' there gettin' a gobble from ol' Elphie. Spike shuddered again as the familiar image danced before his eyes.

Shaking his head, he smirked back at Booth. "Aye, mate. Well, I daresay I'd consider it an effin' blessing if I never have to see your nasty little knob ever again." He smiled in satisfaction as he saw Booth's cheeks flush and ears redden at the insult. After a beat, he decided to lob one last zinger and added, "Emphasis still bein' on little, by the by."

"Shut the fuck up, Spike," Booth grunted. "Right the fuck now, alright?" An angry growl rumbled low in his throat. After a few seconds, the anger faded and was replaced by embarrassment and a touch of indignation at being reminded that his grandchilde and rival had seen him with Dru and Darla, and—though it sickened him to think of it—countless other women he'd preyed on in the years the four of them rampaged through Europe. "You sick fucker," he huffed. "Why do you have to go and bring that up now?"

"You were the one who started us coming 'round the mountain when she comes, mate, when you brought up Elphie's tits," Spike countered sharply. "How is that my fault?" He paused and then shook his head again. "Besides, what the bloody hell was I supposed to do? Look away when walked in and saw that thing of yours?" the vampire asked, throwing his hands up in the air in clear annoyance. "It wasn't until I was already in the room that I heard all that moanin' and groanin' and dirty talk you can't seem to get off without, huh?"

Spike rolled his eyes and smirked. Hell, he told himself. Not that it was all bad. The one thing that kept me from chundering right then and there was seein' Elphie on her knees wearin' only her gunties, with those fantastic knockers of hers pushed up all nice and pretty in that nice black ooh-la-la she had on...hmmm, yeah...

He shook his head, trying again to jettison the thought, as much because he knew that no good could come of thinking about Brennan that way, especially with her overprotective and hypersensitive lover frothing at the mouth with every word that Spike uttered on the subject. But everything else aside, it's just so damn easy to amp him up, he told himself. Just like it's always been. A century plus later, and he's still such a mark. It's like shootin' fish in a goddamn barrel. So he deserves it. Spike flashed another look at his grandsire as he shook his head. What a ponce.

"I mean, hell, mate," Spike said, his mouth hanging open with an almost-predatory smile as he took one last shot. "I'm the one who was left forever fuckin' scarred by the whole thing, not you. You know?"

"Don't," Booth warned. "Just...don't, okay?"

The blonde vampire shook his head with a snort. "So damn sensitive, you always have been there, Captain," Spike chided him. "I'd have figured that, with you turning over a new leaf and all, you might've got yourself a grip on things, but obviously I was wrong."

Booth's lip curled slightly in disgust though he gave no reply, his jaw stiffening as the fact that he was standing in a Washington park with his grandchilde led him to think of the latter of the two women they had both shared between them. He knew from his brief, albeit mostly unpleasant, visit from the Slayer that she'd returned from Europe since he'd left L.A. and that she was, more or less, living in New York with Spike, and while he wasn't exactly sure the nature of her current relationship with the ensouled vampire, he was fairly certain that the two were more than just a couple of roommates sharing a simple, fourth-floor walk-up studio apartment on the Upper West Side. Although he'd long known that Spike and the Slayer were, at least for a time—as much as he hated to use the word—lovers, he knew he couldn't deny that fact and even thinking about the mere notion of it still gave him the creeps years afterwards. The fact that the thought of her came up while the phrase 'midlife crisis' was still echoing in his head—he swore he could hear Brennan's voice saying those words even though they had actually been uttered in Spike's clipped Cockney accent—only added to Booth's agitation. He grunted and shrugged away the memory of the several arguments he'd had with Brennan about the Slayer.

"As for the last bit," Booth grumbled, "I'm not having a damn midlife crisis, alright?" He punctuated his brief rant with a roll of his eyes, then shrugged and, after glancing over his shoulder at his daughter, a smile again softened his face. "But I will admit that taking the convertible's tonight is kinda my doing," he said. "Bones doesn't like letting me take it out by myself since it's technically her car. But, because this baby of mine is brilliant like her mom and clever like her dad, she doesn't fall asleep as fast when she's cranky at night with this touch of colic she's had if I put her in one of the other cars. I dunno how, but it's like...somehow she just knows the difference. Maybe it's the purr of the Mustang's engine or something since it's distinctive. I dunno, but I don't care since it means I can take the Mustang out since Bones doesn't want to get out of bed in the middle of the night if the baby's being fussy and—"

Holding up his hand, Spike closed his eyes and shook his head as he growled in a tone of voice that clearly indicated he'd reached his limits as he said, "Enough."

"Huh?" Booth asked, making a face, slightly taken aback by Spike's tone and simple statement. "What?"

"Listen, Angel...I'm gonna yack if you regale me with any more tales of your domestic bliss," Spike said. "So, please—don't be the normal wanker I know you usually get off on being and have a little mercy, huh? Just...stop."

Shaking his head, Booth moved towards the car seat and checked on his infant daughter. At the moment, she seemed to be anything but colicky or fussy as she blinked at her father, a smile lighting up her round, cherubic face when she saw him looking at her. Her light, almost luminous blue eyes were by far her most striking feature and were clearly inherited from her mother, although Brennan did frequently point out that the almond-like shape of the little one's occipital cavities were obviously more similar to Booth's than hers. But, the baby's creamy skin and the tufts of soft auburn hair left no doubt as to who had given birth to her. Sometimes, Booth struggled to see himself in the baby, except when she laughed. While Brennan argued that scientifically it was unlikely that laughs—or the smiles that accompanied them to her father's delight—could be inherited genetically, she did see some connection, sentimental perhaps, between their daughter's laughter and smile and his own.

Fussing over the green receiving blanket that was tucked around her body, Booth then turned back to Spike.

"You know how pitiful it is that you've been laid low by a ten-week old?" he said. "You've got, what? A hundred and fifty years on her, and you're getting the heebie jeebies because of a little baby?"

"Yeah," Spike nodded emphatically. "You bet your sorry arse that I am. And, I'm bloody smart to do it, too, since I know who her mum and da are." He stopped and then added with a wry grin and an almost sardonic tone of voice, "That is, I'm assuming the little Bluebell's dame here is the luscious bird with the hocus pocus doo-das that you've taken to shacking up with every now and again that's rattled Goldilocks as badly as she was when she found out that every now and then is actually just about all the time, right?"

Booth refrained from rolling his eyes at Spike's accurate if annoying description of Brennan, more than well aware by this point that his old rival was needling him just to get a rise out of him. He didn't want to give Spike the satisfaction of seeing him finally come unglued at what was rather a minor insult compared with the major ones he'd already slung that night.

"Yeah," he nodded, his voice measured and even. "But you already know she is." He was about to tell Spike to put a sock in it because he shouldn't be talking about Brennan that way—more for the vampire's sake if Brennan ever heard what Spike was saying about her than Booth's own well-being, but then he held back, silently reminding himself that he needed to immunize himself against Spike's agitations and had already wasted enough breath trying to warn the vampire. So, instead, he just grunted softly and shut his mouth.

Spike stared at him for a long moment, and when no verbal retort was forthcoming, he smirked. "Figured as much," the vampire replied with snort. "I was pretty sure that if you bounced her and traded her in for a newer model, you'd be lucky to be alive." He stopped and then made a face as he shook his head in what appeared to be sad resignation. "That's too bad, in a way, 'cause I know how Brennan's always been a bit of a night owl, and since she keeps nocturnal hours, I was thinking I might drop in and pay her a bit of a social call after we finish up here." Spike shrugged and let go of a dramatic sigh. "But I guess since you two are still shackin' up and playin' at keepin' house, guess I'll be going out clubbin' tonight after all."

A knowing smirk curved Spike's lips as he narrowed his gaze and stared off in the distance. A memory flickered briefly before his eyes as he recalled pulling Brennan's hip snug against his as the string quartet began to play first bars of the next song, glancing over at Angelus standing near the fireplace in the corner with a glass of whiskey dangling from his hand while the elder vampire watched with a scowl on his face. Spike had been delighted when he garnered the very reaction he'd sought. Angelus was visibly miffed to see his lover dancing with his rival, in no small part because even though proper Victorian manners precluded her from refusing William's request to dance, she'd seemed genuinely pleased to accept his invitation. They'd had quite the time, although Spike hadn't been certain what Brennan's reasons had been in tweaking Angelus' nose. That was the first instance where Spike had come to respect the auburn-haired witch, although it was far from the last. Looking back at Booth, Spike couldn't help but snicker.

"You know, I never really understood why the hell she thought you were the dog's bollocks anyway," Spike said, turning back to study the man standing before him, whose broad shoulders, confident swagger, strong jaw and penetrating brown eyes were familiar, even though the short hair with the buzzcut along the back and sides together with the blue button-down Oxford he wore over a gray T-shirt lent him a casual, easy-going if somewhat preppy look that Spike found odd. "You can't have been that good a shag," he said. "Though I wouldn't say the same for her," he said with a slight lick of his lips. "Yeah," he nodded. "I bet she's effin electric in the sack," Spike said. "Yeah, I know I'm right. She probably lights up your world like the freakin' Fourth of July, huh?" He waited with a smirk still on his lips as he waited for an answer. When one wasn't forthcoming, he laughed. "No need, man," he waved a hand in mock dismissal. "I know already. I mean, one look in her eyes, and I can just tell."

Booth's nostrils suddenly flared and his jaw tensed hard as he stood up and pushed away again from the car's fender and stood nose to nose with the fair-eyed vampire. "What the fuck are you talking about, Spike?" he spat, cocking his head to the side as a low growl rattled in his throat, his cheeks flushing and his ears reddening as he suddenly wondered if Spike had somehow seen something prowling around beneath the terrace of her Cheapside home one night while he was with her—perhaps a faint blue glow peeking out from between the thick drapes that hung over her bedroom window.

"Easy there, boyo," Spike grunted with a look of ridicule on his face as he pointed at Booth. "If I'd wanted to make a run at her, I'd have done that a long effin' time ago." A crooked grin twisted his mouth as he watched his now-human grandsire scowl and take a step backward as the infant behind him murmured in the car seat. "Besides," he added with a conspiratorial edge to his voice, "maybe I did, but since Elphie decided not to tell your sorry sack of a self, who am I to snog and tell?"

Giving the baby a sideways glance out of the corner of his eye as he watched with satisfaction as her father fumed, Spike pursed his lips together and flashed his eyebrows as a smile softened the look of his angular features. "Little tyke's gonna be a looker just like her mum, I bet," he said. "Though it's a good thing for the lucky little sprog here that she takes after her mum's looks and not your apish caveman features, huh?" Shoving his hands into his snug black jeans, he shrugged and said musingly, "I always wondered what it'd have been like, ya know. Fine lookin' bird like her, educated and smart, keeping everything in life all planned and fit and tidy. Because you and me both know that those are the ones who are always the most naughty and the most fun when it comes to sex, right?"

Spike made a throaty humming sound as he looked off into the distance, his eyes glazing over a bit as he bit back a smile. Booth followed his eyes and watched Spike's face, and felt the simmer in his blood begin to boil as he guessed his grandchilde's filthy gutter-borne mind was already fantasizing about Brennan's naked, sweaty form laying in bed..and not for the first, nor, he suspected, the last time.

With a blink, Spike grunted away his thoughts, then turned to Booth with a leer. "So come on, mate, just from one ex-vamp to a current one. Come on. You can tell me." He tried again to get Booth to spill the beans about Brennan, even though more than a century of such conspiratorial prompting had always failed. "I bet she's a tigress in the sack, huh?" he cracked, continuing to rub his grandsire raw a bit more even as he continued on, genuinely curious. "Wears your normal soddin' tosser like yourself out, doesn't she?" he asked. "I mean, you could barely keep up with her when you weren't such a poor shadow of your former undead self. Now that you've gone all respectable, gotten yourself a regular heartbeat, and become pro-oxygen, the poor thing probably really needs a good shag, seeing as how it's been awhile since she's been fucked long and hard—properly, ya know?"

"Yeah, what that woman needs to a good, long proper fuck by a being such as myself," Spike said with a smirk and a deliberately cocky nod. "And, I think I'm just the set of fangs that can help her out with that. Because we both remember there's nothing quite getting drained on one end and getting filled up on the other, right, Angel? I mean, it's not like I could turn Elphie, but maybe she'd let me have just a sweet little taste...from both ends, especially if she's as desperate as I think she is." He paused for a beat and then he tilted his head as he nodded. "I'm a touch surprised she hasn't wandered off to top herself up seeing as how you're not quite the specimen of all-night-shaggin' you used to be—just between you and me, Angel." Spike smiled with satisfaction at seeing Booth's ire rise, the agent's eyes narrowed as he stared back angrily and his hardened jaw ticked with tension, a response that merely caused Spike to push further. The lowered his tone of voice and gave Booth an encouraging jerk of his chin. "So, tell me, mate..." He paused dramatically and gave Booth a leer before he continued. "Is she as tight as she used to be? Or, is what the old fish wives say true and whelping this wee one finally loosened her up a bit, mmm?" Spike's inner smutdemon prodded him on as he added, "Come on. You can tell me, mmm?"

Booth's eyes widened as he found himself staring back at Spike, surprised that the cheeky bastard had big enough balls to talk about Brennan that way, especially knowing that if the witch found out the vampire had said such things about her, there would be some very serious hell to pay.

"Shut the fuck up, Spike," Booth snarled, his jaw shifting forward as he rolled his eyes and tried not to think about how long it had actually been since he and Brennan had last made love, even though the gurgling sounds he heard emanating from the car seat quickly reminded him.

It had been more than three months since he'd had sex with his wife. In the first days and weeks after he and Brennan took their cooing bundle home from the hospital, he hadn't had the time or energy to think about it, particularly after Brennan became sick with the flu less than two weeks after they'd brought the baby home. By the time he finally remembered his unsatisfied libido, Booth was too tired to do anything about it. However, as the weeks passed, and as their infant daughter settled into a schedule—and their altered life as parents of a newborn took a more definite shape—he had more time and energy that resulted in him not being able to do anything about his sexual frustrations since he didn't want to pressure Bren before she was ready.

However, that didn't mean he couldn't take out his frustration, sexual and otherwise, out on Spike. And, again, not for the last time, Booth cracked his knuckles as he contemplated how bad it would be if he started to pummel his grandchilde. Again, Brennan's look of displeasure flashed in his mind, and again, it was only for her that he stayed his hand, although he doubted how much longer even the lingering spectre of Brennan's anger would be able to let him keep control of himself.

"Oooh," Spike snickered, holding his hands up in mock surrender. "Better watch out, 'cause Peaches is gettin' a little testy there," he snorted as he then nodded in what was a laughable attempt to calm and reassure Booth. "It's okay, love," he laughed. "Nothing lasts forever, right? Especially a stiffy when you're working with mere mortal meat, huh?"

"Spike," Booth warned him, his brow knit low and hard over his eyes. "Knock it the fuck off, alright? Just shut the hell up about Bren and sex because I don't want to hear it. You shouldn't be talking about her that way, anyway, like I've said a thousand times—and that's just tonight. But keep pushing me, and I'll be happy to tell you about what it's like watching Bren pump her breast milk so we could give it to the baby when we were first getting her used to feeding from a bottle instead of nursing the old-fashioned way."

He took a perverse sense of pleasure when he saw Spike cringe and that single look spurred him on to continue as he gave the vampire a mocking nod and a snicker. "Yep, that's right," he said with a toothy, crooked grin. "Picture it, Willy. Those tits you've been obsessing about for the better part of a hundred and twenty years? Well, they don't look quite so luscious when they're tucked into a little suction cup thing as the machine grinds away next to her and creates the necessary vacuum to suck the milk out of 'em."

If the vampire had color in his cheeks, Booth's description would have made him pale, but instead, he just grimaced.

"You know, Bren had to do that before her milk dried up." Booth lifted his brown eyes a little, then met Spike's wincing eyes briefly and had to bite back a smile before he continued. "A couple times a day. But she got sick and her body stopped making breast milk, so now the baby's on formula that we buy at the supermarket. Bren likes the organic, all-natural, earthy-crunchy kind that you can only get at Fresh Market in Rockville. But sometimes my little boo has to suffer with the Enfamil we get at Safeway since the Fresh Market is kinda out of the way if I'm coming up the freeway on the way home from Quantico or the Virginia State Police division headquarters in Fairfax, and we've run out of the fancy-schmancy organicky stuff and Bren doesn't have time to leave the lab to get it herself because when we're working a tough case catching douchebag evil-doers like yourself."

Spike made one more face that looked like he might start hacking before he arched an eyebrow at Booth's insult. But then something caused him to stop and pause, cocking his head to the side as he gave his grandsire a long, appraising, narrow-eyed look. Something in those familiar brown eyes seemed softer, warmer, more shimmery than the flickering points of dark umber he was used to seeing blink back at him after so many years. The sight surprised him. Taken aback slightly, Spike then shook his head after a long minute of silence lingered between the pair before he broke it with a chuckle and said, "Who would've thunk it, huh?"

"What?" Booth asked, a bit of his irritation fading as he realized that this time, Spike wasn't actually trying to deliberately agitate for the sole purpose of getting a rise out of him. His comment, Booth somehow knew, wasn't meant just to provoke. His curiosity piqued, Booth shook his head and asked, "What do you mean?"

Spike saw Booth's expression shift and smirked as the agent turned around to watch the baby wave her arms around, smacking her lips as she caught her father's eye and made a noisy bid for his attention.

"It just tickles me, Peaches, that's all," he nodded simply. Some of the mocking that always pervaded his tone when he spoke to his grandsire had faded away as he watched the little scene play out before him. "You finally get the Wizard to make you human, and I would've lost fifty quid if I'd have bet that the first thing you'd do when that happened would be to take off after Goldilocks as fast as your two poncy little feet could carry you. But, instead, you disappear for five years, and when Buffy does finally catch up with you, it's by pure accident—and to boot, she finds out that not only did you not want to be found, but you've exchanged bands of gold and then gone and knocked up the Wicked Witch of the West." Spike slapped his thigh and laughed, then wagged his finger at Booth with a twinkle in his eye. "That's just too good," he snickered. "I mean, bloody hell, I don't even think I could write something that good."

"Yeah?" Booth snapped, his defensive tone being a matter of reflex when it came to his grandchilde. After a moment, he thought better of it and softened his tone, then shrugged simply and said, "Well, surprise or not, it's what I want."

"Ya know," Spike began as he studied a smudge on the edge of his black leather duster. "I tried to tell the pet that, but she didn't want to listen."

He fell silent, lost for a moment in his own thoughts, then looked up and met Booth's gaze as the latter raised his brows sympathetically and shrugged. Reading the recognition and understanding in his grandsire's dark brown eyes, the vampire sighed and shrugged himself, then nodded and continued.

"But, then again," Spike said. "You know how she gets when she thinks she right about something." He nodded to emphasize his point before he shook his head at the thought of how the Slayer could get when she got it into her thick skull that she was right. "Like a dog with a bone in her teeth, that one," he sighed. "She just doesn't know when to let go. And she'll growl and snap at you if you try to take it from her." He paused before he looked back at Booth. "You know, she was so convinced she needed to ride in to save you from some Big Ol' Bad and Scary that she jumped on a flight out of the Big Apple as soon as she saw that bloody newspaper article about you and Elphie," he told Booth. "Between you and me, I've gotta admit that I was damn well surprised at how quickly she up and turned around and landed back on my doorstep."

Spike remembered the crestfallen expression of disbelief on Buffy's face when she walked back into the apartment, letting her overnight bag fall loudly and carelessly to the floor as she looked at him, her eyes hollow and her features slack, as if everything she thought was true had suddenly proved to be a lie. In a way, Spike mused, that's exactly what had happened, except he wondered if the larger lie was actually the one she'd been telling herself for so long.

"It was a bit of a shock when she got back and told me that I was right and that she shouldn't have come given how emphatic she'd been when she left," he explained. "I mean, when have you ever known Buffy to back down from anything and let it go just like that?" He snapped his fingers to illustrate his point.

After the memories of Booth's past had come back to him the past October—a space of time that was less than a year ago, but seemed many lifetimes distant in so very many other ways—and had inundated him on Halloween night with a wild, disorganized gush of thoughts, feelings, and recollections that stretched back more than two hundred and fifty years, he'd found himself struggling, in particular, with the images and remembrances of the women he'd shared himself with over the years. Of them, two stood out from all the others: Brennan, whom he had met a hundred years after he'd been turned—and who had since then been the sole constant in his life—and the young Slayer who he'd fallen in with, and in love with, in the years he'd spent in Sunnydale.

Booth sighed and shook his head. "No," he muttered, Spike's words ringing particularly true in light of the last conversation he'd had with Buffy. Booth looked up, nodded soberly and leveled a knowing stare at Spike. "You're right," he conceded. "She doesn't really do that thing. Letting go? That's just not Buffy's style...especially not when she thinks she's right."

The thought of Buffy's fiercely stubborn pursuit of what she thought was right brought him back to the stairwell of a Los Angeles police precinct in the middle of the night, where he'd stood with Buffy after another Slayer, Faith Lehane, confessed to committing homicide and had been taken into custody.

"Do you have any idea what it was like for me to see you with her?" she asked him, breathless with anger as they stood in the hallway at the police station and argued about Angel's intervention in the destructive spiral that Faith had descended into. "That you went behind my back?"

"Buffy," he growled, his irritation at her lack of apparently understanding and empathy for the rogue Slayer darkening his voice. "This wasn't about you! This was about saving somebody's soul. That's what I do here, and you're not a part of it." His brows knit low and hard over his eyes, a touch of bitterness of a different sort coming into his voice as he added,"That was your idea, remember? We stay away from each other."

Buffy's eyes flashed with a glimmer of regret which vanished almost as quickly as it had appeared, her eyes instead hardening with clear resentment and the obvious disdain she felt for him. "I came here because you were in danger," she said.

"I'm in danger every day," Angel snapped, suddenly feeling a need to not let her get away one more time with rationalizing the situation so that she came out smelling like roses. "You came because of Faith." He paused for a brief moment that hung heavy between them. "You were looking for vengeance," he said grimly, his words ragged with anger.

The Slayer met his accusation with a challenging glare of her own before she at last conceded his point. "I have a right to it," she said, her voice peaking as she shrugged indignantly.

Angel's eyes blackened as he quickly replied in a low, stony tone, "Not in my city..."

She flashed him one more look of disbelief before she began to turn away. Suddenly, she stopped and looked at him, something softening in her expression even as her green eyes remained hard. "I have someone in my life now," she said quietly. Angel looked away, leaning back against the banister of the staircase behind him. After a moment, he brought his eyes back to meet hers, daring her to continue speaking. "That I love." Watching her, he swallowed, rolling his jaw to one side as he listened, biting his tongue as he felt the anger well up inside him again. "It's not what you and I had. It's very new." She took a step closer to him, then asked, her tone once more a bit vitriolic, "You know what makes it new?" She didn't pause to give him a chance to respond as she answered her own question. "I trust him. I know him."

Angel grunted out a dark laugh. "That's great," he sneered. "It's nice. You moved on. I can't. You found someone new. Well, good for you." He pushed himself off the banister and stood to his full height, looking down at her as he thought about the woman he really, truly loved—the woman whose soul was forever bound to his—and the excruciating ache he felt in his chest at the thought that what he'd had with that woman was gone, squandered in a thicket of misunderstanding and jealousy that had all but torn the two apart the year before he came to Sunnydale.

"I see you again," he said, "and it cuts me up inside. And the person I share that with is me." Indeed, every time he saw the Slayer's face, or heard her name, it was a bitter reminder of not only what he no longer had with her, but even more so what he'd used her to replace...that void that had been filled by what he'd once had with Brennan, and how far away he seemed from ever having it again with the witch. His voice grew louder with every word, each syllable raw with anger—an anger that was so strong he felt it in his sinews, but yet which seemed too diffuse to even pin down. He was angry at Buffy for her arrogance and her presumptuousness, and yet also so very pissed at himself for his failure to fight harder to keep things from unraveling with Brennan as badly as they had in the year before he left New York for California. The anger rolled off of him in waves and burned dark in his eyes as he glared at the Slayer. "You don't know me anymore," he yelled at her. "So don't come down here with your great new life and expect me to do things your way. Go home."

Booth's brows furrowed and a long sigh rattled in his throat at the memory of the moment when it all crystallized for him—the moment he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that what he and the Slayer had was over. He felt a murmur vibrate inside of him, the part of Brennan that was forever cleaved to him reminding him that there was always only one woman for him. He shook his head and shrugged.

"She's stubborn, that one," Spike observed, his pale eyes narrowing ever so slightly as he watched Booth's expression shift and soften again.

"Giving up and giving in isn't her thing," Booth observed soberly. "Never has been and probably never will be."

In a way, it was her spirited, at times stubborn persistence that first attracted him to the young Slayer. It gave her a maturity beyond her years and—though he wouldn't have admitted it at the time, and would never share with another living soul should his wife ever catch wind of it—reminded him of Brennan. Booth knew from the brief telephone conversation he'd had with Spike a few days earlier that, with the help of Willow and Giles, Buffy gathered an army of Potentials, young women with the capability to become Slayers from all over the world. She taken to caring for them and training them and, with Willow's help, had activated them into a formidable army of Slayers, the ranks of which swelled to nearly two thousand. While he always knew that Buffy was a natural leader, heading up a team of young demon-hunters in Sunnydale while she was still in high school, it was only after he left Sunnydale that the Slayer had really came into her own.

"I wasn't sure you'd ever pick up," Booth said wryly when Spike finally answered the phone. "I know the way girls are with the phone and all, but damn. Does Buffy ever let you answer your own friggin' phone?"

Spike was quiet for a moment, even as the surprise at hearing the familiar voice that he'd thought long gone faded, and he quickly recovered to provide what he thought was an appropriate response. "And 'ello to you, too, you wanker," he said, immediately recognizing his grandsire's deep voice. "Long time no chat, thank the bloody Lord. And, while I think it's a jolly good laugh to hear from you again, Grandpops, to answer your question, no. I don't like playing her Man Friday even if Buffy does think I'm pretty cute when I'm all helpful and the like."

"I'm not so sure you'd make a good Man Friday," Booth snorted. "Because you sure as fuck aren't cute. And 'helpful' would have to be about the last damn word I'd ever use to describe your useless, tagalong self. Unless hell's frozen over since I've been out of the loop on some things, and you have turned over a new leaf, Spike, since I saw you last..." He waited for a beat, and then continued speaking, not really giving Spike a chance to respond. "Yeah," he continued. "Maybe Buffy does have you domesticated. I think I do remember ol' Robinson Crusoe convincing the savage Friday that it was bad to eat people for supper. Seems as though you've more or less given up that habit, too, huh? Or have you fallen off the wagon again?"

"Oh, whatever, Angel," Spike rolled his eyes as he spoke even though he knew that his reaction couldn't be seen through the telephone. When he'd finished, he grasped the cordless black handset to his ear and said, "Now what do you want? Because you have no damn idea how lucky it is for you that she's out right now, 'cause if she knew I was talking to you, it'd be effin' Dr. Jekyll and Mr. effin' Hyde."

"Jekyll and what?" Booth grunted into his BlackBerry, his eyes narrowed and his brow furrowed deeply as he shook his head in confusion. "What the hell are you talking about? The last thing I want is to talk to her."

Booth could've sworn he could hear the vampire roll his eyes through the phone. "I guessed that as much, genius, since you said you've been the one that's been ringin' the phone off the bloody hook and even I know you're not such a sorry poser that you've taken to gettin' your jollies off by crank callin'. What I meant was, if the pet knew I was talkin' to you, it wouldn't do at all because she's only now gettin' back to her ol' settled, head-screwed-on-straight self," Spike clarified vaguely. "No thanks to you," he sputtered into the phone, a bit of bitterness bleeding into his voice as he spoke.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Booth grumbled into the handset, a defensive edge to his voice.

"You wouldn't know it," Spike told him simply. "But she's mellowed a lot over the years. Her goin' down there to drop in on your sorry arse was like a blast from the past—a real shit-swirl in a time machine. All of a sudden she's all back to her manic-depressive high school self, 'cept no amount of friggin' lithium would set her straight again. So I've been the lucky one who's had to deal with herself while Goldilocks had to detox and get you outta her system again."

Spike's unexpected rant was met with a staticky silence.

"I guess her stubbornness is the one thing I can't rightly blame on you," Spike mused.

"No, no," Booth repeated, muttering the syllables indistinctly as he remembered how the Slayer had tried to pull herself together after their angry exchange on the National Mall. "She doesn't really let things go unless she has no other option...and sometimes, not even then..." He sighed as he thought of how they'd parted ways in front of the coffee cart, a painful if somewhat fractured tension hanging in the air between them, and how her farewell was more of an au revoir that seemed to leave open the possibility that they would, indeed, cross paths again since, as Buffy had told him in parting, it was rather a small world.

It was the thought of crossing paths with the Slayer again that compelled Booth to make that phone call to Spike. He remembered how strange it had felt listening to Spike talk about all that had happened to the Slayer—and to the vampire himself, as the two of them grew closer once again—but not in a jealous way, but rather in that it seemed that, the more he heard about Buffy's recent goings-on, the more it seemed that the person she'd evolved into was dramatically different than who she'd been before.

Or maybe it's me who's changed, he thought. Or maybe both. He sighed quietly and shook his head. I guess it doesn't really matter anymore. She was never my destiny, my fate, no matter what I tried to tell myself otherwise. It was always only Bren. And the rest? The rest of it was just a very big, if necessary, mistake. I mean, yeah, sure, getting involved with her made a bigger mess of my fucking life than it already was, and I didn't do her any favors either, I guess. I probably held her back more than anything else. And, maybe, in some ways, she kept me from doing what I was supposed to be doing and being the person I was supposed to be. The years I spent fucking around in Sunnydale, and afterwards when I'd tossed in my lot in L.A. with my rag tag band of Merry Men that read like a list of Who's Who in Sunnydale, 1999 edition...well, worst case scenario, it just about helped me finish of any chance of a future that I had with Bren. And best case? It sure did keep us from figuring out things and getting our shit straight sooner then we did. But, hey, it's like the Good Book says, huh? "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven." So I guess things worked out like they were supposed to...the stuff me and Bren went through, all of it, including all the crap that had to do with Buffy, it made us stronger, right? We had to almost lose it all to realize we had to grab ahold of it and, this time, never ever let it go. And Buffy was part of that. She's part of my past, he told himself. She's a part of what's made me the man I am today. Without her, I wouldn't be who I am, or have what I have. Even if she's a part of my past I'd rather forget...and one of these days, I'm gonna have to accept that. Because if there's one thing a guy like me knows, you can't outrun your past. It always finds you. I just hope to God it's not another round of Buffy finding me with Bren because I'm not sure what either one of them would do in a Celebrity Death re-match like that. All I do know is things would not end well for me, so please, God...just keep Buffy away from D.C.

In the end, though, it didn't matter, because he found himself reminded of his past by a case he'd worked—or, rather, a case he hadn't worked.

A couple of weeks before Brennan's due date, Booth threw out his back moving furniture around the loft to free up space in the room that was to be the baby's nursery, and it galled him to watch his very pregnant wife work a case with Special Agent Peyton Perotta while he had to take four days off of work to lay around the loft, resting his back, the injury itself yet another reminder of how much weaker and more vulnerable he was than he'd been before he regained his humanity. Yet it wasn't the injury and the ensuing reminder of his humanity that made him think about the dangers of his past. It was the murder weapon in the case Brennan worked with Perotta—a broadsword—that reminded him of the many times he'd wielded such a weapon over the years he battled demons and other supernatural threats back in California. The sight of the long-bladed, two-handed weapon triggered a rush of memories and, worse, of worry as he thought about his pregnant partner and the child who grew inside of her.

The broadsword and his sore back had sent him into a three-day funk of dark, inconsolable brooding, but as Brennan's due date approached, he'd tried to focus on her and getting ready for the baby's arrival, pushing his worries to the back of his mind. One night, eight weeks after Kathryn's birth, Booth woke up to change her diaper and feed her a bottle. The moment he'd laid her back in her crib, she'd squeezed her tiny eyes shut and began to howl, her crying piercing the quiet of the loft apartment. So he'd taken her back into the living room and just held her, rocking her back and forth in one arm as he flipped through the cable lineup with his free hand. As his daughter's crying seemed on the verge of fading and with the hope that she would soon settle down, Booth let go of the remote and began to stroke her soft hair with his thumb as he held her close in the other arm. The channel he'd last flipped to was an independent movie station, which was broadcasting a mid-80s B-movie called Night of the Demons. At first, he didn't even realize what was on the screen, so focused was his attention on his infant daughter. But as her cries quieted into soft murmur, he looked up and watched as two teenagers ran from a fanged, snarling demon. The blood drained from Booth's face as he watched the screen, transfixed and horrified by what he saw.

In an inspired gumshoe moment, he'd taken the one piece of information he'd had—that Buffy was living with Spike in New York—and ran her name through the New York DMV index, then took the Manhattan address on her driver's license, then went into another database and did a reverse search for a landline telephone number associated with that address. He'd only had to ring the phone three times from a blocked number before a male rather than female voice eventually picked up. When he finally got ahold of his grandchilde, he first got Spike to promise not to mention to Buffy that it was Booth who'd called. And second, after a promise of a first-class ticket from JFK to Reagan National—Booth winced a bit as he remembered he was still going to have to explain that one to Bren at some point before the Mastercard bill came in—and a night in a decent hotel, he received a text message confirming that Spike had finally arrived in D.C.

Eventually, it was a shrug of Spike's shoulders and a flash of his darkened eyebrows (that were in strange contrast to his straw blond hair) that drew Booth's attention back to what the vampire was saying.

"You know," Spike said, "She was pretty rattled when she came back from D.C." He lifted his blue gaze up to meet Booth's questioning look. "Last summer?" he offered. When Booth still maintained a neutral gaze, Spike rolled his eyes even as he said, "After meeting Elphie in the park, you know?"

Booth finally nodded but said nothing, remembering how furious Brennan had been when she'd charged into the loft after her run-in with Buffy on the National Mall. She was fucking loaded for bear, he recalled soberly. I knew from the second she walked in that whatever it was, it wasn't gonna be good. He stopped and then swallowed the cocky grin that threatened to crack his stoic face to Spike when he recalled how that particular discussion had ended between them. Okay, so it wasn't all bad, but I'm getting too old to keep using sex to talk her down after her getting worked up like that. God help us if she ever runs into Buffy again. 'Cause some serious shit's gonna go down, and it ain't gonna be pretty. With a shrug and a jerk of his chin, Booth turned his attention back to Spike and prompted him to continue when the FBI agent saw the vampire had fallen silent waiting for him.

Satisfied by whatever he saw in Booth's gesture, Spike continued. "I know you wouldn't know this, but she came back from Europe different, mate," he explained. "After the Slayers got activated? She finally felt like she'd found her purpose in life, and it was great. She was...mellower, you know." He struggled to find the right words to describe the change he'd noticed in the Slayer after he'd eventually re-made her acquaintance after L.A. had returned to Earth from Hell. "More...squared away-like. More confident and less—well, the way she used to be, all piss and vinegar, apt to go off half-cocked when she got a bloody bee in her bonnet about somethin', although to be honest, I always sorta liked that about her. She had spunk and bollocks—a lot more fuckin' bollocks than you knew what to do with, apparently." He paused for a beat and looked off, a lazy smile coming onto his face as he recalled some unspoken memory before he nodded to himself, pleased at the recollection. "Always kept me on my toes, that one," he said before going back to his original point. "And so, anyway, as time went on, she's gotten a lot easier to deal with...maybe a bit more laid back, but not nearly so aggravatin' as she used to get after she'd spend any amount of time around a barmpot like you." He stopped and flashed his grandsire a toothy smile. "Not like didn't know that before since the pet de-toxed back to a normal person after you high-tailed it out of Hellmouth Central. Like I always said, it's just that she needed an extended Angel-vacation, huh?" He flicked his thumb confidently in Booth's direction as he chuckled. "Yeah," he said. "The longer she stayed away from you, the better, it seemed." Spike then, in an uncharacteristically enlightened way, looked from her father to the baby and back to Booth again before he added, "Maybe it was better for the both of you, ehh?"

Booth stared at Spike, already annoyed that his grandchilde had almost waxed poetic about the Slayer that it took him a moment to realize he had no reason not to concede Spike's point.

"Huh," he grunted dismissively, grinding his jaw from one side to the other. "Maybe, but that's only because I decided it was time to grow up and get on with my life, Spike. So I guess I'll have to take your word for it that she'd decided to finally get her head screwed on straight." He paused for a minute and then shook his head as he muttered, "I guess it had to happen sometime, but she's always been the one to say she's a late bloomer and all. As for me, I just sorta figured she kinda went on some extended post-college Spring Break streak since the Hellmouth was closed, partying her ass off in Italy with her new fuck-buddy, The Immortal. I'm still guessing she was probably too busy getting tanked and stuffed to do any actual slaying and only now wants to make up for lost time."

"Hey!" Spike grunted at Booth, a look of indignation coming over his face as his brows knit low over as they were over his scowling eyes. "Now come on, Angel, that's not fair."

Booth rolled his eyes as Spike glared at him. "Seriously?" he snorted. "You don't remember our lovely little Roman holiday when we showed up ready to save Buffy from The Immortal only to find she was getting her brains screwed out of her by the same fucker who had us strung up like sides of beef the last time we were in Italy together while he was off having a threesome with Darla and Dru?" Booth gestured with his head. "What was that? Extra credit during her semester abroad? Come on, Spike. You can't tell me you don't remember that..."

Finally, Spike conceded the point with a shrug. "Okay, she's not gonna win any prizes for that grotty little detour," he said. "But, the important thing here is that eventually, she did come to her senses." He paused, made a face as he thought back on what he'd just said, and then nodded to himself as he looked up at Booth. "Besides," he added. "In a way, she's done more to 'help the helpless,' using your wee little slogan, boyo, than you have these last few years. She's been out there fighting the good fight against the powers of darkness and their endless legions of nasty, slobberin' foot soldiers, and you're—what?" He pointed back down in the general direction of Booth's holstered gun. "Spending your days doin' what? Pluckin' mere mortal crooks off the streets in onesies and twosies?" He snorted in clear derision at the mere possibility. "You're a complete fuckin' wally if you think that's doin' any good, Angel. I mean, you might as well be sittin' in your bathtub wanking off if you think that's really making the universe any safer for the non-evil types—at least, compared to what Goldilocks is doing."

Booth's arms and shoulders tensed, and for a moment he considered getting into Spike's face to defend himself, but he heard the quiet whisper of the voice of reason somewhere in the back of his mind, and so thought better of it. "I'm not even gonna dignify that with a response," he said, trying to channel his best Brennan in that moment even as he considered what Spike had said. After a beat, his face softened as he grunted, "So? You're telling me she's really changed?"

"Yeah," Spike said. "That's what I been tryin' to tell your tit-head self, but it seems to be takin' an effin' fortnight to penetrate that thick skull of yours."

Booth glanced over at the baby, arching an eyebrow as he noted with surprise that the infant was still sitting there, quietly waggling her arms and blowing raspberries with her tiny drool-moistened lips as they men talked. Shaking his head, he turned back to face the vampire.

"So, what?" he said, a bit of disgust that he'd always felt at the idea of Buffy shacking up with Spike creeping into his voice as he sighed. "You two are a 'thing' again?"

A faint smile danced across the vampire's lips as he detected a hint of something in Booth's tone—not jealousy, exactly, but something that made him take great delight as he rolled his shoulders and answered Booth's questions. "Well, since me an' Dru finally ended up in shambles—I mean, fuck me, what a fine cock-up that was—anyway, well, I figure if I can't have Dru, then Buffy's not too bad a consolation prize, huh?"

As Spike spoke, Booth's brow furrowed as some of Buffy's words from their last conversation echoed in his mind.

"What's the story, Angel? Was I some kind of consolation prize?"

Turning his hard gaze to meet Spike's, he couldn't help but wonder if the wording had been deliberate. "What the fuck are you talkin' about, Spike?" he snapped, a sharply defensive edge in his voice. He looked into Spike's eyes again as he waited for an explanation, but didn't see the glimmer of sarcasm or smirk he would've expected had the choice of words been a deliberate attempt to bait him. Instead, Spike, clearly surprised by Booth's response, remained unusually quiet. For his part, Booth finally let go of the breath he was holding, relaxing a little as he slowly shook his head. "You know what? Nevermind," he said. "But since you never say I'm nice to you, I'm gonna do you a favor and let you in on something that even a blockhead like you should know. Buffy'd put your balls on skewers if she heard you say that."

Rolling his eyes, Spike shook his head. "Oh piss off, Angel," Spike huffed. "You know it was just a crack. For fuck's sake, you bloody ponce. Lighten up a little." He rolled his eyes and sighed, then shook his head before bringing his eyes back up to meet Booth's. "But yeah, me and the pet are spendin' some quality time gettin' to know each other now and then if you really gotta know."

The admission hung in the air between them for the better part of a minute before Spike flashed his brows and broke the silence again.

"That's why, when she said last month how she wanted to come back down here and see you, I actually agreed it was a good idea," Spike told him. The vampire surveyed Booth's face and crossed his arms in front of him, then shrugged a little as if in response to some kind of internal dialogue that was running inside of his own mind. "I figured she just needed to get this daft idea out of her skull that either (a) you needed her, or (b) you wanted her. I'm not really sure why her little dust-up with Elphie didn't settle those in her mind, but be that as it may..."

"You'd'a thought..." Booth agreed instantly, cutting Spike off.

The two men looked at each other, exchanging a knowing glance as they considered the different versions each had heard of the encounter and the one thing both had had in common—despite not yet having a chance to compare the Slayer's rendition with Brennan's—was that it hadn't ended well for either party. After a moment of genial silence, Spike nodded at Booth.

"Right," the vampire retorted. "So, that being said, you want to tell me the real reason why now not three months after Buffy made her second foray into the District, your sorry sad sack self is asking me to come do the same?"

"I needed to talk to you because..." Booth hesitated, almost every fiber of his being screaming against what he'd known from the moment he'd picked up the phone and heard Spike's voice that he'd have to finally admit.

Having spent so long soldiering on his own, and having been betrayed as many times as he had by those close to him, Booth loathed asking others for anything, and the idea of asking Spike for help made him genuinely nauseous. The last time he'd had to ask Spike for anything had been a few months after he'd taken over the L.A. office of Wolfram & Hart, when he'd asked Spike to go to Rome to fetch the dead body of a demon client so it could be returned to his family. Spike told him to bugger off and refused to go, although not two hours later, when the two were en route to Rome on W&H's private jet to keep the Immortal away from Buffy, Angel had asked Spike to set aside their differences and worked together for the good of the mission—and Buffy, who Angel still cared for in a certain way because he felt a certain responsibility for the path she'd ended up on, even if he'd known their paths would take them in disparate directions. Setting aside the fact that Booth hated being indebted to anybody, least of all Spike, he knew he didn't have any choice as circumstances yet again required him to swallow his pride and ask Spike for a favor.

Taking a deep breath, he finally said in a grim tone of voice, "I need your help."

"What?" Spike snorted. "You want my help?"

His eyes narrowed and he stared at Booth, searching for some hint that somewhere behind the suddenly dour expression on his grandsire's face he'd find a bit of the cocky, playful snark that had been Angelus' calling card for the nearly two decades that the two had rampaged together and battled for dominance until the night in 1898 when a bit of Gypsy magic sent Angelus reeling under the weight of conscience and empathy that accompanied his ensoulment. Even with a soul, the old vampire had a certain edgy snark about him that, if anything, became even sharper and edgier with his sullen, broody nature. He's got to be joking, Spike thought. The effin' John Thomas is just windin' me up and doing a fine and dandy good job of it, too.

"You sure you didn't get a wacky batch of blueberries in your scone this morning?" he asked Booth. "Or did you hit your thick noggin' a bit too hard even for you when you slipped on the side of the tub while you were in the shower wankin' off this morning?" The vampire snickered and began to laugh, wiping the tears from his pale blue eyes with the back of his hand. "I mean, seriously, Peaches. Come on. You askin' me for help is right up there with pigs flying and Derby County's bollocks football club actually having a winnin' season. So, I know I must've heard you wrong. Come again?"

Booth's heavy brow sloped low and hard over his dark, brooding eyes as he glared at his grandchilde. "You heard what I said, Spike," he spat, his teeth gritted as he tried to ignore the bile he felt rising in the back of his throat. "I need your help."

"You've gotta be fuckin' kidding me, mate," Spike coughed, squeezing his eyes shut and shook his head, snorting as he struggled to contain a laugh. He cocked his head to the side and raised a sharply arched eyebrow as he scanned Booth's eyes again for some sign that the whole thing was an elaborate practical joke. After a moment, his laughter faded as he saw the dark, almost morose expression cast on Booth's face, and the vampire's crooked grin collapsed into little more than a faint, half-hearted smirk. "I mean that's bloody rich," he muttered. He blinked a few times and raised his eyebrows before he finally put up his hands in mock surrender. "I must be dreaming, mate. You askin' for my help? Some serious bollocks must be goin' down for you to a dial back that super-sized ego of yours enough to ring me up and have me nip down here—all expenses paid, first-class ticket and all—to do you a bleedin' favor." Spike paused for a beat and shook his head, his hands on his hips as he looked down on the ground before he leveled his gaze back at the FBI agent. "For fuck's sake, Angel," he sighed. "I don't believe it, but maybe domesticity did for you what gettin' the bloody stuffing knocked out of you night after night never could. I mean, really, I don't know what else could've taught you humility, but I guess something did if you've finally come 'round to admittin' that you need help and want a hand sorting out the local demon population?"

"Huh?" Booth coughed, quirking an eyebrow, as he quickly shook his head. "What the hell are you talking about, Spike? Local demon population?" With a second and more emphatic shake of his head, he raised his leg and rested his foot on the Mustang's bumper, leaned into his thigh and added with a grumble, "No. Why would you even ask that?"

The vampire laughed as he shrugged his shoulders a bit. "Well, to be honest, I figured I'd be tellin' you this as soon as I showed up since I guessed you'd be busting my balls from here to Sunday 'cause I rolled in late for our little rendezvous," he said. "But I got sidetracked on the way over here because of a balls up with a seriously manky nest of Shi-De-Emo demons hanging out in the tunnels between the Farragut West and McPherson Square stops on the Metro. Managed to dispatch two of the slimy fuckers before I had to catch my train over here to meet your poxy ass." Spike looked Booth up and down with a crooked grin, then said, "I s'pose it's a good thing that we met out here as opposed to over by my hotel since for all your bottle and swagger, I don't think you have a bleedin' chance to hold your own with those kind o' buggers." Pointing at Booth's waist, Spike added, "You do seem to have gone a little soft around the middle since last I saw you." He narrowed his eyes as he made it clear he was studying Booth's physique before he rolled his shoulders lightly. "You might want to think about getting a personal trainer, mate. I mean, I know you were already well on your way to adding to that bulking-up phase you started when you went all respectable at Wolfram & Hart, but even still..you really should take better care of yourself, beefcake." He smirked for a beat, then added, "And maybe they can recommend a good barber, mate. I mean, sure, this..." He jerked his head and brought his eyes to settle on Booth's close-cropped hair. "It's an improvement on the sorry mop you were always sportin' and proppin' up with way more than your ration card's worth of nancy-boy hair gel. But if you ask a sporty gent like myself, now the old pendulum's swung way too damn far in the other direction, and you're wearing the same 'do as every other government wanker in this town."

"Wait a sec, Spike," Booth interjected. "Right. Like I'm gonna take hair-styling advice from a guy who's still rocking the Billy Idol look—what, twenty-five years after Rebel Yell came out?" He made a pfft sound with his lips before he smirked. "Gimme a damn break," he snickered. "Until you get some balls to update your latest get-up, 'cause even toning it down to maybe a Rob Halford look would be a significant improvement, I don't want to hear shit from you about how I look, okay?" He paused, crossing his arms, as he nodded at Spike. "You know, now that I think about it, I think that might be a pretty good idea, especially since you still rock the long leather duster, which is definitely consistent with Rob Halford's look lately. Because we both know that Billy Idol was more the tight, sleeveless T-shirt and studded wristband look, and you gave that up years ago."

Spike's cool blue eyes narrowed sharply and the corner of his lip curled as he felt a flash of anger. He shot his grandsire a withering glare as the remark echoed in his head, the edge to Booth's voice reminding the vampire of a hundred different times he found himself on the receiving end of a humiliating rant spoken in a sneering brogue. He felt the flare of resentment and raised his chin, chastising himself for letting his grandsire get the better of him, even if only for a moment. He shrugged away his annoyance with a disdainful snort.

"You gotta be kiddin' me mate," Spike said. He was about to return Booth's serve on the subject of hair and fashion when something shiny caught his eye. Spike looked over at the leg that Booth had propped up on the car's bumper, noting that his jeans had ridden up enough to reveal a hammerless .357 snubnose revolver tucked into an ankle holster. "Hey, uhh, mate," he said, pointing at the pistol. "You do know those things don't do much against most of the critters that go bump in the night, right? I mean, I know you're all Hill Street Blues nowadays, and those peashooters work great for the two-bit derelicts you're used to dealing with these days, but you might as well be throwing spitwads at most of the underworld nasties if you're gonna use one of those." Spike paused for a minute and then snickered as he added, "I mean, it's sayin' something when ol' nancy boy Wesley himself was more intimidating with his freakish Rogue Demon Hunter weapons and those poufy spell books than you are walking around with one of those in your dirty sock there."

Booth's eyes swiveled over to the squirming bundle in the car seat, looking over at the baby to make sure she was okay, and then back to the pale-eyed vampire. "What's your point, Spike?" he asked, gritting his teeth and sucking in his gut as he glanced down at his waist and bit out the question.

"I'm just sayin'," Spike said with a narrow-eyed leer, "If I weren't as smart a bloke as I actually am—" He paused for a beat to see if Booth would interrupt him, shooting him a look that made it clear what the dare was, but when Booth just rolled his eyes at the vampire's weakest attempt yet to bait him, Spike merely continued. "I might've thought when you rang me up and invited me down here it wasn't just for ol' times' sake," he nodded solemnly. He crossed his arms as he stared back at the FBI agent. "So why don't we just skip whatever bollocks pretext you've come up with to drag me outta New York and skip straight to the point where you just come right out and say ya need someone to help mop up the demonic scuzz here in D.C. because your nancy boy self isn't up to the task of taking care o' things the way you used to before you cashed in your Shanshu card, hmmm?"

Booth put his hands on his hips and stood up to his full height, striding up to Spike until the two were standing nose to nose. Tilting his head to the side as his eyes narrowed to fierce, dark slits, he glared at his old companion and rival as a low growl rattled in the back of his throat.

"What are you saying, Spike?" he barked, his brow deeply furrowed in confusion as the conversation seemed to have taken a detour away from the direction Booth had intended when he'd originally asked the vampire to come down to D.C. in the first place.

It was enough that his old rival had honed in on some of Booth's more sensitive vulnerabilities as quickly as he had, and, as the vampire was want to do as soon as he realized he'd found a tender spot, poked and picked at it just to get irritate Booth. That alone would have been enough to annoy the piss out of the agent and make him snippy, but it wasn't Spike himself that made the vampire's barbs cut Booth as deeply as they did. It was the cooing, gurgling little girl in the car seat a few feet away whose good-natured if somewhat impatient murmuring that made what would otherwise be irritating teasing sting Booth deeply. Turning his head to glance over at his infant daughter and saw her arms waggle in the air, he felt Spike's words gnaw at him and his jaw suddenly hardened in indignation.

"Are you saying I can't protect my family?" he snarled.

Throwing his hands up in mock surrender, Spike shook his head and took a step back. "Aww, now hey—keep yer pantalets on, eh? I didn't say bloody word one about your family." His eyes swiveled over to the cooing child in the car seat who reached up and grabbed at a little purple terrycloth fish that dangled from the handle of the car seat. "I mean, not like that anyway, mate. So don't get your knickers all in a twist, okay?"

He grunted and took a long, appraising look at the man he knew for a 120-odd years as the vampire Angelus. Physically, he looked more or less the same—perhaps a touch fleshier around the middle than he'd been when last Spike saw him, recuperating from a three-story fall onto the pavement after being lured into a demonic ambush—except that he was dressed more casually than Spike had seen him before. The dark, brooding eyes and the loping, catlike swagger with which he moved—all this was the same as it had always been, though, and Spike took some comfort in that consistency. Still, he felt a need to point out the obvious when he next spoke.

"You're really gone native in this new life of yours, huh?" Spike asked as he watched Booth's dark eyes swivel again to glance over at his child, a father's proud smile spreading across his face as the infant made gurgling sounds and punched at the dangling purple fish with her tiny little fists. Booth reached over and tucked the green blanket in again after the little girl's squirming loosened it on one side. "Done turned into the doting, protective husband and gurling, idiotically happy father to your missus and the wee runtling there."

Booth scowled at him, but then, seeing no anger or ulterior motive in the vampire's pale blue eyes, took a step back and leaned against the fender of the blue Mustang. The murmuring of the baby sitting in the car seat behind him seemed to punctuate Spike's comment with an undeniable reality that made Booth's belly swirl with an inarticulable anxiety. He stood there, his tight jaw shifting from one side to the other as he sullenly swallowed his pride, before he finally said anything in response.

"Believe it or not," he said with a weary sigh. "And I know you probably won't, but it wasn't as much whatever demons you tangled with on your way over here, but..." He swallowed, then took a deep breath before continuing, his voice low and somewhat grim as he spoke. "Well, the actual reason I wanted you to come here to D.C. and see me in person was because of Bren and the baby." He shrugged, then smiled weakly. "They're actually kinda why I asked you here."

Spike considered the explanation, staring at Booth for a long moment before he finally spoke. "Why me?" Spike inquired, at last asking the question that again, Booth had anticipated the vampire asking him almost immediately, and the second-most burning question Spike had had about the entire situation since he'd first heard his grandsire's voice on Buffy's landline phone in New York. "Why not one of your other besties like Gunn or Faith?"

"Because," Booth said, reaching up and running his hand through his hair with a heavy sigh. "You're the one person who actually likes it when I'm nowhere near Buffy. Everything was nice and mellow for us here before Buffy came and upset the applecart. The last damn thing I need is to have Buffy, Dru, Connor or anybody else from that side of the universe coming in here unannounced to screw up the good thing I've got going with me and Bren and the baby. They're my family, and—"

Spike, in an uncharacteristically serious tone of voice, cut him off as he said, "And the junior bint isn't?"

Booth arched his head back and closed his eyes, letting go of a long sigh and swallowing hard before bringing his gaze back to meet Spike's. "Look," he said, his voice even if faintly edged with a certain wistfulness. "What I did, back then, with Connor, I did because he was better off without me, alright? I wanted him to have a chance at having as normal a life as possible and..." He closed his eyes and shook his head, rolling his lips together as he thought about the son of his supernatural life, the son whose very conception defied the well-understood laws of life and death. He felt a sharp ache in his chest as he remembered cradling his son in his arms after bringing him in from the rain on the night he was born. "I did what I could for him, Spike, and it killed me to do what I did, but it was better for him. That was the one smart thing I ever could or did actually do for him, and what I did, I did out of love for him, so that he would have the future he deserved." He brought his hand up and rubbed his tired eyes, then glanced over at his daughter, still quietly and contentedly playing with her purple fish toy. "A day doesn't go by that I don't wonder if what I did was the only thing I could've done for him, you know—but, in the end, I know I did right by him. And I hope he would think I did. Or, at least understand why I did what I did..."

As Booth's voice trailed off, and Spike found himself momentarily at a loss for words, sober silence fell between them and the quiet was filled with the soft sounds of the infant murmuring nearby. Turning to smile at his daughter as he watched her little hands bat at the purple fish, Booth nodded and then began to speak again.

"Unlike back then?" He gestured at the baby carrier. "Here? Now? Everybody's better off with me here," he said, "and them...well, wherever the fuck they are, it's better for both them and for me as long as they're not here." He paused and then sighed. "I mean, setting aside the fact that the exact type of people I don't want sniffing around the District are gonna pay close attention when a Slayer like Buffy keeps visiting the same place, with her coming down here, not once but twice in less than three months..." His voice trailed off as he became a bit exhausted by the mere memory of how badly Buffy's presence had upset Brennan. "Well, let's just say that's besides the fact that she managed to send Bren into outer freakin' orbit that took me a hell of a lot of time, energy, and effort to get her back down from. And on top of that, it just brought all kinds of stuff up that was best left alone, you know? The craziness of what my life was like in L.A. just a little bit too close to home for my tastes, okay? It was a blast from the past and trip down memory lane I could've really done without. Ergo, me staying here...and away from Buffy, and the entire world she represents..." He again paused for dramatic emphasis as he leveled a critical look at his old rival. "You know I'm not lying when I say it's in both our best interests."

Spike pursed his lips, considered Booth's explanation, and then slowly nodded when he was satisfied with Booth's reasoning. "You're still a tosser, " the blonde vampire said with a smirk before his face turned serious. "But, as much as I hate to bloody admit this, when you've got a point, you've got a point."

"Thank God," Booth sighed, the tension in his shoulders seemingly melting away as relief washed over him.

Still, something gnawed at the vampire, and he couldn't let the point go unanswered as he spoke. "But why me?" Spike blurted out. "I mean, why me and not Gunn, or even Faith? 'Cause I gotta admit, we've not exactly been bosom buddies over the years, mate. Even when we were on the same side, we drove each other bonkers—absolutely off our trollies, you know." The vampire arched an eyebrow and reached up, scratching the back of his head as he surveyed his old rival from head to toe. There was an odd dissonance to it all: so much was the same, or at least vaguely familiar, but yet also different at the same time. "I'm not against helpin'," he said. "It's just...well, I don't understand why you asked me and not someone else, especially as I don't much like the idea of being any feeb's stool pigeon."

Booth shifted his weight from one foot to the other and crossed his arms, then looked away for a few moments as he chewed on the inside of his lip. "We go back a long way," he said, bringing his gaze back to meet Spike's. "Ties that bind, and all that shit, okay, Spike? I've known you for more than a hundred years. And in a way, you know...we're family. I mean...obviously, we haven't always got along—"

Spike cocked his head and arched an amused brow. "Well, mate," he said with a sarcastic grin. "If that ain't the very definition of family, I don't know what is..."

"But...well," Booth conceded. "I know you better than all the others...even the ones that were my friends. And out of everyone in that old world, seeing as how I know that you want to make a go of it with Buffy, and you know your best shot at that is to keep her away from me, I think..." He took a deep breath and shrugged. "That gives you more reason than anybody, I think, to help me out—and to do this thing."

Spike considered his point and then nodded. "Fine, yeah," he said. "Right again, Peaches." He paused, jutted his chin in Booth's direction and then sighed. "Best not make a habit of that bein' right thing, there. I don't think I could get used to it."

"Well," Booth snickered. "Seeing as how I definitely wouldn't want to put your nose all outta joint, ya know, I can shut up on this...'specially seeing as how that ugly-ass mug of yours needs all the help it can get in the aesthetics department, huh?"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Spike guffawed with a dismissive wave of his hand. He then quirked a dark blond eyebrow at Booth as another thought suddenly occurred to him. "So, Angel," he began. "That answers the why-me-and-not-them part of tonight's Twenty Questions. But it still doesn't tell me why we couldn't just do this all over the phone, yeah?" He studied his grandsire for a minute and the pointed his index finger at him. "Why go through all the trouble to have me come down here? Why do this in person?"


A/N2: Well, we had to split it somewhere. As should not be surprising to anyone who is familiar with Dharmasera's wordiness, this chapter actually ballooned to double its original size. However, we wanted to give everyone something to chew on while we finish the final edits on part 2 (which is already written and mostly edited, but is receiving some important final touches). We should have the next part ready to post in the next week or thereabouts (although that posting projection shouldn't be anticipated as any legally binding point to which we can be firmly held.) Coming up next, the rest of Spike's conversation with Booth...and that teeny tiny exchange that some of you have been clamouring for...you know the one? Booth vs. Buffy? Well, it *might* be forthcoming in Part 2 (tentatively entitled "Making Agreements and Settling Debts." Until it's ready to go, we hope you've enjoyed this set up...and in that vein, we would mind knowing what thoughts have crossed your mind in the meantime. As ever, thanks to all our readers (new and old). We hope we haven't disappointed.~