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Chapter Ten: Angel
Fan Fiction: Never Look Back
Chapter Ten: Movers and Shakers
SATURDAY, JUNE 8, 2002, 6:49 AM PST (2:49 PM GMT)
"...get this straight. You misplaced m'nephew, you haven't found his Slayer yet, the Chaos Git is lurkin' about, and now Demon Girl's vanished. Bloody good job, Rupert. Congratulations. I thought you were meant to be finding people, not losin' 'em."
Angel blinked his way back to consciousness, staring up at the underside of the kitchen floor and trying to make sense of the half-heard conversation. Rupert? Spike was talking to Giles? Now there was a recipe for civility. Normally they got along about as well as Spike and Angel did-- in other words, they didn't.
There was a sudden crash from above, followed by the tinkle of broken glass, and a few sharp British swearwords polluted the air.
"...'S nothing vital. Don't worry about it. Now, why don't you tell me... No. No, Rupes, don't pass the... Slayer! Good morning, luv. No, I don't know why he passed the... Sod it. So I dropped a box of dishes. It's not like you'll be usin' 'em in the Poof's hotel anyway... Now don't get your knickers in a twist..."
Angel rolled his eyes at the familiar nickname, then smirked as he listened to Buffy's rejoinder. When she really got going, she could wield words as well as any other weapon, and there was nothing quite like a Slayer in full snit. Since the dishes in question had been her mother's, she had a lot to say about it, too.
Dishes. His smile faded as he considered that, and he swung his legs off the makeshift bed and eyed the muffled line of light in the basement windows. It was very early-- or late-- for a vampire to be moving around up there. What was Spike up to, anyway? It wasn't like him to be that industrious.
"...ream me out yourself next time, she doesn't know when to pull her punches. So what were you callin' us about, then? Considerin' the hour, I don't buy you wanting to check up on our progress, and there's not much we can do about the lost ones from here."
Spike's voice had gone quiet and rough with the last few sentences, a tone Angel recognized from past episodes of 'William's Worried About Dru'. He still held firm to the belief that Spike was more evil than not, but he had to admit that the blond vampire did care for the ones that he called family. Dawn had fallen into that category early on, as did Buffy for reasons best left untouched, and since last month's revelations he'd apparently added Wesley to the list. Now, whether he'd turn them if he ever got the chip out, then kill and drain the ones he didn't care for... that was the question that needed asking, and part of what they'd fought over the night before.
Angel felt almost responsible for the younger vampire's choices, since he'd acted more as sire to him than Dru ever had-- and that was exactly why he was so suspicious of him. Angelus hadn't exactly been known for his goodness, and Spike didn't have a soul to counteract that training or his inherent bloodthirsty instincts. What possible incentive could Spike have to truly switch sides?
Giles sighed on the other end of the phone, and Angel could hear the faint familiar sound of cloth moving over glass. "I was wondering if Angel had heard from the Las Vegas contingent yet? I have a number of contacts left to try, but anything Lorne could add would be helpful, and we thought that perhaps Jonathan might have better luck tracking his father than we have. Given that Ethan apparently left the hotel at the same time as Wesley this morning, we suspect that they may have ended up at the same location."
Spike's footsteps moved across the kitchen again as he listened, and a few heavy thuds suggested more boxes being shifted into the living room. "I don't know. I haven't seen Peaches in a few hours, I went out patrolling and he was asleep when I got back. And before you ask, I didn't see a sodding thing, but that's pretty much what you expected, innit...? Wait a mo', there's a note here on the counter. Looks like they called about three hours ago to tell Angel they were on their way. I don't remember how far Vegas is, though. Why didn't you try callin' 'em direct?"
"I've tried Lorne's mobile, and Jonathan's, but they both appear to have been turned off," Giles replied. "And it's about four and a half hours by the posted limits. If they ignored the signs, and I don't see why they wouldn't, they could be there at any time. You must have them call me as soon as they arrive."
Angel sighed at Giles' estimate, then stood and brushed the creases out of his clothes and ran his fingers through his hair to check for flat spots. He'd intended to sleep through most of the day and get up to help the movers in the late afternoon, but there wasn't any way he was going back to sleep now. Not with Spike marching around upstairs and more of his crew arriving any minute.
Upstairs, Spike snorted. "Four and a half hours, he says. Done a bit of gambling, have we?"
Giles sighed. "You could just say, 'Yes, Rupert. No problem, Rupert.' And if you must know, I learnt the distance when Buffy left Sunnydale after the debacle with Acathla. I canvassed quite a bit of the country that summer."
"Yes, Rupert," Spike grumbled. "No problem, Rupert. Bend over so I can kiss your bloody arse, Rupert."
"All right, all right. I'll make sure they call. Tell Nibblet hello for me, would you? I'd better get back to the packing, unless there's something else you want."
Giles sighed. "Do try not to break any more of Joyce's china."
There was a final snort from Spike, followed by a faint beep as he ended the call and then a click as the phone went back on the hook. "I didn't exactly mean to break it to begin with," he muttered, and then stomped across the floor with another heavy load.
Angel frowned and headed for the stairs, Giles' mention of Acathla stirring up more of his worries from the night before. Spike on an electronic leash was problem child enough. He had the nagging feeling that wasn't going to last much longer, and he didn't know what they'd do when it failed; he'd always had a problem staking family, and it was still iffy whether they'd try the curse. But for now-- well.
Might as well get as much use out of Spike as he could, and shelve the worry until it was unavoidable. Fighting with him about it wasn't getting them anywhere.
"So what exactly were you trying to do?" he asked, slouching against the jamb of the open basement door.
Spike jumped, nearly dropping the load he carried, and gave his grandsire a narrow-eyed glare. "Didn't see you looming there, Peaches. Thought you were going to get a bit of sleep."
He looked almost human, standing there with his arms full of cardboard boxes and smudges of dust on the dark fabric of his tee shirt and jeans. The windows were still covered, but there was enough ambient light to give his hair a faint glow and lighten up the blue of his eyes. Shansu, Angel thought suddenly, then had to suppress a sudden pang of jealousy. Spike the ambiguous, with the stink of humanity, with half the body count and the viciousness of Angelus; if they did find another Orb of Thesulah and try the curse on him, who was to say who'd reach the redemption line first?
Best not to think on it; that way led to madness and beige auras, as Lorne would say. "It's kinda hard to sleep with you tossing breakables around up here," he replied, crossing his arms and casting his eyes toward the discarded box with a disapproving frown.
Spike twisted his mouth into a half-embarrassed scowl. "Yeah, well. Big boots, slippy stuff on the tiles, bound to happen sometime. Expect you heard me talkin' to Rupert, then?"
"Yeah. Something about company coming? I thought I might as well be up." He shrugged and pushed off of the doorframe, edging further into the room and eyeing the stacks of boxes Spike had lined up to move. "You know, that reminds me, I've been meaning to ask you, why do you get to call him Rupert? You irritate him worse than I do, and I've always called him Giles."
Spike blinked at him, and seemed to take the change of topic as the mood-lightener Angel had meant it to be. "It's a respect thing, I think. You met 'im back when Buffy was new here and he was all Mr. Responsible Librarian, and none of the kiddies dared to use his Christian name." He paused there and raised a dramatic eyebrow, as if to say, and how does this differ from my acquaintance with the man?
Angel chuckled. "Point taken. Okay. So what have you got done? I thought we were going to wait until tonight to finish, but we might as well hurry it up if there's trouble in England. I'd like to join them there as soon as possible."
"'Specially if we're going to have loaders on this end. They can pack it up before lunchtime, and the lot of us can caravan down before nightfall and take an evening flight over." Spike nodded, then adjusted the stack of boxes in his arms and headed for the front room with them. "I've got most everything from this floor stacked up in the living room, where the couch used to be. I'm not sure the blinds are down upstairs, but I was going to try up there next. At least half the rooms will still be in shadow, at any rate."
"Won't we need to leave someone in L.A. to unload?" That was the whole point of packing today, after all; to get the truck there and back again before Monday morning, when late fees would begin to accrue. "Not that I think it's a bad plan." He rolled up the cuffs of his shirt and got a grip on the next stack of boxes. One perk of having vampire movers: you could pack the boxes as big and heavy as you wanted, as long as you were sure the cardboard would hold up.
Spike grunted, rearranging something in the front room, then passed him in the hall with empty arms and rummaged in the kitchen for something else to carry. "Fred and Gunn, maybe," he said. "And we could call Amy back from visitin' her dad. She can play float-the-boxes, and Whiz Girl can organize to her heart's content, and her boyfriend can be all man-of-the-hotel."
Angel winced at the assessment of his friends. "Why do you do that?" he asked, genuinely curious for once about the inner workings of his grandchilde's byzantine brain.
"Do what?" Spike stopped and blinked at him again, all furrowed brow and sharp cheekbones.
"Give people ridiculous nicknames. Sum up their characters in joking little statements. I know Gunn has had problems with everyone else gaining enhancements, but I've been trying..."
Spike waved him off with a frown. "You've been too apologetic with him, is what it is. Of course he's fed up with the kid-glove treatment. And you wonder why I insist on calling you Poof. You're really making a mistake with this not-Angelus attitude. He's still part of you, you know, and there's a lot of what he did that you could learn from without staining your precious White Hat too much."
There were times, Angel thought, when Spike made entirely too much sense. He spent a lot of his time making sure that Angelus stayed in his subconscious where the curse had trapped him, not out on the surface where words could slip and careless actions could hurt his friends. If his darker side could be tamed...
But of course, it couldn't. He had only to remember what he'd been like four years ago during their little revival of the Scourge, or when Rebecca slipped him the Doximal, or last year when Darla came back for him, and it all collapsed back into impossibility. How could he chance that happening again? In some other reality he might have learned balance, but as things were, it would never work.
"That's a slippery slope, William," he said, and winced again at the stress-induced brogue creeping into his voice. "And I'm not going to set foot on it."
"Your loss, mate," Spike shrugged, then gave him an unsettling, entirely too knowing smile.
The tableau held a few more moments, two alpha vampires eyeing each other and remembering exactly why they'd avoided spending any more time together than necessary over the last month. Then, mercifully, the tension was broken by the sound of a car pulling up out front.
"Hey guys. Fred, Gunn? Wake up, we're here."
Jonathan's voice was weary, and none of the others sounded much better as human throats yawned and car doors opened.
"Oh, stop the world, I want to get off," Lorne's plaintive voice drifted into the house. "It's been such a long day already. Think they've got any beds still set up?"
"Wouldn't bet on it," Gunn sighed. "Man, they better have coffee and a shower ready, or I'm going to go on strike."
"Charles," Fred rebuked him, softly.
Angel shook his head, breaking away from Spike's gaze with a rueful smile to head for the front door. He unlocked it, then opened it a crack and took a few steps backward, waiting for his friends to come trooping up the stairs. It felt good to know that some part of his little family was safe, even if others were still in danger. Maybe it was an illusory kind of peace, but it would have to hold him for the next few hours.
They had a lot of work to do.
© 2004 Jedi Buttercup.