What am I doing?, Spike asked himself several times as he wandered aimlessly through the halls of Wolfram & Hart. There really wasn’t a good answer to that question. He sighed and ran his fingers absently through his hair. He hadn’t been able to sleep since they had returned from Rome. So he’d turned to ‘investigating’ the halls of the law firm.
So he hadn’t been welcomed back with open arms… By Buffy, at least. Andrew didn’t count. He’d barely even gotten to SEE her… Dancing, in the distance… So far out of reach that it felt as if someone had gripped him by the heart and started tugging. The closest thing to her he’d gotten was when Andrew had informed them that Buffy loved them both. That had been… well, a tiny bit soothing. But nothing he did could get over the destruction of his only real dream.
God, it hurt. It hurt almost as bad as when Fred died. Only Buffy wasn’t dead. And she apparently was having a very good time.
Somehow, that just didn’t help.
It wasn’t about him. It didn’t tell him if Buffy even appreciated what he went through for her. And, when it came down to it, it HAD been for her that he’d died. Not for the world. Saving the world had just been a coincidence. He’d done it to save HER. To give her a chance to live. She’d had her chance to save the world. To jump, and to die. And she’d taken it. How could he do any different? He’d lived in a world without the Slayer’s light… He didn’t ever want to live in that world again. So he’d died.
Did Buffy even know he was back? Andrew wasn’t exactly clear on whether or not he’d TOLD her what he saw when he was in LA the last time. But Spike suspected that she did know. After all, Andrew wouldn’t have simply asked them in if there was a chance of Buffy dying of shock when she saw him. Would he? Spike sighed, realizing that he really STILL didn’t know how to deal with Andrew. Maybe he would just ask them in… And maybe he was hinting at something. Spike had to admit… the boy had gotten a lot subtler lately.
The vampire sighed and leaned against a wall. Briefly considered going to find Harmony, but that substitute just wasn’t going to work anymore. He felt as if he’d been staked. There was a hole in his heart, painful and fresh as if put there by a real weapon.
“Not even a bloody hello. Nothin’. Bloody hell, I don’t know what I was even thinkin’.” He sighed again, mentally noting that he seemed to be doing a lot of that today. But that didn’t matter.
The law firm was mostly empty, as it was almost every night after midnight. Yet he was careful in his wanderings, lest he run into Iliria. It wasn’t that he was afraid of her… He actually wasn’t. But he didn’t want to deal with her tonight. Weakened or not, she’d want to ‘play’… And he wasn’t in the mood to be a punching bag tonight. His emotions were beat up enough without adding his body into it.
He sighed quietly and blinked slowly at the elevator he kept winding up next to. The elevator that lead to Angel’s private suite. Sure, Angel locked it at night, but… Well, if there was one thing he’d learned in nearly two centuries of life, it was that there was always a way to get around a lock. The real question was whether or not he wanted to risk bothering Angel, who was undoubtedly brooding… He knew Angel would be brooding, because HE was coming dangerously close to it himself. And when something happened that threw SPIKE into a near-brooding spell, then Angel was almost certain to actually slip into his old habit.
Spike sighed. Again. Then lightly poked at the elevator, experimenting with the security keypad next to it. If he knew Angel, the combination was likely to be a year. The only question was WHAT year. 1727, the year Angel had been born, was one he’d used before. 1753, the year he’d been Sired, was also a good choice. 1900, the year Angel had received his soul was another. The older vampire had a thing for memorable dates. But after trying everything he could think of (including 1997, the year Angel met Buffy, just in case), the elevator still refused to respond.
“Buggerin’ hell, Peaches… What year ARE you usin’ this time?” Poking at the keypad again, he tried 1864, the year he’d Sired Drusilla. Nada. Now Spike was getting a bit angry. It had never been this hard to figure out one of Angel’s codes before. So what… What other year was there? 1998… No. 1952… Nothing. He even tried the current year, 2004, but the elevator still refused to respond.
Spike stared at the keypad, as if the combination would pop out at him if he only looked at the damned thing long enough. Sighing, he tried 1900 AGAIN, even though he knew he’d already tried it. The year of the Boxer Rebellion in China, when he’d killed his first Slayer. Smirking, Spike began punching in dates from his own life, just to have something to do. 1957, the last time HE had been in Rome. 1881, his first full year as a vampire… And he stopped himself there. The keypad sounded differently for part of that one. Interested, now, Spike punched in the year again. Then a completely different, random date. The LAST number in 1881 sounded the same as all the other wrong numbers… But the first three made a soft chiming sound.
He tilted his head curiously, and tapped in 188 again… Then started racking his brain for what could’ve happened in a year in the 1880’s that Angel would use for a combination. He pulled NOTHING… Except one little chance. With his hand almost shaking… because, when it came down to it, there was really only one number that could complete that sequence… And Spike was almost afraid, while also being incredibly eager… that it would be right. With one finger, he gently tapped the number 0.
The elevator doors slid open, while the keypad made another soft chime.
Spike just stood there dumbly for a moment, staring into the open elevator doors. That date. That year… Why would Angel have picked THAT year? That didn’t make any sense. He’d… They hadn’t… The elevator doors were starting to close again, and Spike made a soft sound, hopping into the elevator quickly as the doors slid shut. Now, standing in the elevator, Spike found himself staring at the button that would take him to Angel’s suite.
When he’d started playing with the keypad, his intention had been to get to Angel, and spend a few hours annoying his Sire, just to have something to do. But that was before he’d discovered Angel’s combination. 1880. The year HE had been Sired and brought into the Order. He knew there was nothing else of point from that year… Nothing that would encourage Angel to immortalize it as his pass-code. He had to punch that in every time he wanted to go home. The year Spike had been Sired… The year he and Angel became family. He had to think of it, right? It wasn’t just a random number. That was HIS number. And knowing his Sire’s affinity for using dates as codes, there was really no other meaning he could read into this.
The elevator doors slid open again, revealing the interior of Angel’s suite. The older vampire was nowhere to be seen, however, so Spike just carefully stepped in. Curiously, he sniffed a few times, trying to locate his Sire in the rooms, but Angel’s scent was everywhere in there. It was like trying to find a specific orange in a bag of oranges, by scent alone.
Suddenly feeling as if he was intruding, Spike found himself shuffling nervously in front of the now closed elevator doors. Clearing his throat, he called out. “Pea- Angel? Angel, are you in here?”
Angel came out of the kitchen, wearing that old bathrobe of his, and raised an eyebrow at Spike. His hair was tousled, and he held a mug of either coffee or blood in his hands. To his credit, however, he didn’t seem exceedingly surprised to see his Childe. “You couldn’t sleep, either?”
Spike shook his head, making his way over to a chair and sitting on the arm so he was facing Angel. “No… Didn’t even really try. I’ve just been… Wanderin’ around aimlessly for the last three hours or so.”
Angel sighed and nodded. “I know the feeling. I’ve been wandering around in HERE for awhile, now… Finally decided to get something to eat.” Stretching absently, the older vampire walked over to a couch near the chair Spike was using, and sat down, relaxing and leaning back. “If you want something, there’s plenty of blood in the fridge.”
Spike considered it for a moment, then nodded and headed into the kitchen. It had been a long time since he’d shared a meal with his Sire. “Funny,” he said from the kitchen a few moments later, as he watched the mug of blood spin around in the microwave. “I half expected to be tossed out on my ass, as soon as I got here.”
A quiet laugh came from the other room. “Normally, you would’ve been… But…” Spike could almost hear his Sire shrug. “I think tonight is different. For both of us.”
Spike nodded as he removed the mug from the microwave and headed back into the other room, sitting at the opposite end of the couch from Angel. “Yeah. No bloody kiddin’.”
The two sat in silence for a moment, both lost in their own thoughts. Even though both of their thoughts tended to be turning in the same direction. After awhile, Spike spoke quietly. “’Nother funny thing, though.”
Angel raised an eyebrow at his Childe. “And what’s that?”
The younger vampire shrugged, then shot Angel a semi-playful smirk. “Figured your first night as a FULLY free man, that you’d be out walkin’ your dog-girl.”
Angel made a face at him. “For the tenth time, she is a WEREWOLF, not a ‘dog-girl’, and she’s NOT my girlfriend.”
Spike smirked again. “I didn’t say she was… Actually, mate, the last time the word ‘girlfriend’ was used regardin’ Nina, YOU were the one who said it. What was that again? ‘At least I HAVE a girlfriend’?”
Angel blinked, then furrowed his brow. Honestly didn’t remember SAYING that… But… Wait. Okay. He had. Now why the hell HAD he said that? He shook his head. “I don’t know where that came from.”
Spike shrugged, leaning forward to put his cup down, then grinned at Angel. “So… what do you two do on dates? Eat Scooby Snacks?” His grin got a bit bigger at the angry look Angel gave him… because he could tell that his Sire’s anger was forced. “Go for long walks on short leashes? Maybe you give her a tummy rub and scratch behind her ears?” He grinned bigger and almost bounced in his seat. “Ooh! I bet you play fetch. Does she bring back stakes?”
Angel tried to growl at Spike, but the sound that came out was more of a snorted half-laugh. The mental images Spike was creating SHOULD have made him angry, but in reality they were just striking him as hilarious. And he couldn’t really help what he said next. “No. We’re still working on ‘sit’ and ‘stay’. Almost got ‘roll over’ a couple of days ago, but I ran out of treats.”
Spike blinked at him, blue eyes wide, then started laughing. He laughed so hard that, after a few moments, he had tears streaming down his face and his arms around his stomach because it had started hurting. He didn’t know what he’d expected from provoking Angel like that, but he definitely HADN’T expected Angel to play along. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d laughed this hard. And, even better, he noticed out of the corner of a still tear-streaming eye, ANGEL was laughing along with him.
Angel, for his part, had no clue where the laughter had come from. It did feel good, though. Especially to be sharing the joke with Spike. And when his Childe started choking from laughing too hard, too long, Angel reached over and patted him on the back to try and calm him down. Despite the fact that HE was still laughing as well. Just not as hard as Spike was… His poor Childe looked like he was about to pop a rib from the inside out.
Spike hiccupped, which, combined with the shocked look on his face at the sound, sent both vampires into a fresh bout of laughter. The younger vampire was shaking now, and toppled over to lay along the couch, laughing amid several more hiccups, his head a few inches from Angel’s leg.
Angel closed his eyes and drew in a few deep, shaking breaths, trying to stop laughing. He dropped one hand and started absently rubbing circles on Spike’s stomach to try and soothe his Childe’s hiccups, while Spike busied himself with trying to rub the laughter induced tears out of his eyes as they calmed. However, the younger vampire couldn’t seem to get rid of a giggling fit that seemed determined to keep him snickering.
Angel laughed softly, and rubbed his own eye to wipe away a couple of tears of his own. “God… Okay. No more dog jokes, Spike. Honestly. I want you to SWEAR never to do that again. Especially if Nina is AROUND, or if we’re not alone. Okay?”
Spike grinned up at Angel, a soft purr rumbling from the still snickering vampire’s chest. “So if we’re alone, I can play?”
Angel rolled his eyes, but couldn’t stop himself from grinning. “Okay. FINE. But ONLY if we’re alone… And have no chance of being interrupted while we’re laughing like idiots.” He laughed softly again, and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I haven’t laughed like that in…” He shook his head, then sighed. “Not since Wesley gave Connor up to Holtz, actually.” He held up a hand at Spike’s slightly confused look. “Don’t ask. Just don’t. Be glad you weren’t here.”
Spike nodded, then carefully shifted his weight. Angel’s hand was still resting on his stomach, probably because the older vampire hadn’t thought to move it yet, but Spike didn’t want to accidentally dislodge the touch. There was something strangely soothing about his Sire’s hand there. His head tilted and he blinked up at Angel, then reached up and poked a single finger into his Sire’s ribs, gently. “Hey. You’re borderin’ on brooding again, mate. M’not gonna let you do that.”
Angel snorted and raised an eyebrow down at his Childe. “I’m not brooding. I’m thinking. And considering that YOU are the one flat on your back, I wouldn’t poke ME, if I were you.”
Spike blinked innocently up at Angel… and poked him again, drawing another snort from his Sire.
“Quit it!”, Angel said with a growl in his voice that was more to cover up another laugh than to actually convey anger. “Why do you do that? I tell you not to do something, and you do it again.”
Spike nodded, blinking innocently again. “Honestly? I just love aggravatin’ you…” He grinned up at Angel. “Especially when I know that you aren’t REALLY aggravated.” He poked Angel again, this time closer to the older vampire’s stomach. “Besides. Me pokin’ you keeps you from brooding. I’m being a good distraction.”
Angel laughed quietly this time, and grabbed his Childe’s wrist with his free hand. “No, you’re being annoying, and coming VERY close to tickling me. You know I hate that. So quit it.”
Spike laughed, then wriggled and let out a stream of snickering giggles when Angel used his other hand, still resting on Spike’s stomach, to give the younger vampire a taste of his own medicine. “Okay! I’ll stop! I swear. No more pokin’ you.” He laughed. “Return the bloody favor and quit squeezin’ at my stomach, would you?”
Angel laughed quietly, but gently scratched his Childe’s stomach to soothe away the itchy-ness he knew he’d caused. Then raised an eyebrow when Spike’s response to that was to yawn, hugely… and wriggle closer to Angels leg, almost nuzzling against his thigh through the bathrobe. “Tired?”, the older vampire whispered playfully… and kept scratching at Spike’s stomach at the same time.
Spike yawned again, and nodded, tousling his own hair against Angel’s leg in the process. “Don’t stop,” he mumbled, already more than half-asleep. “Feels too good…”
Angel raised an eyebrow again, then smiled and stretched absently, settling down on the couch. It wouldn’t be an entirely bad way to spend a night, really… And he was feeling amazingly better than he had been when Spike had first shown up… He stopped mentally, his hand never stopping on Spike’s tummy, and blinked. He’d locked the elevator… So if Spike was HERE, he’d had to figure out Angel’s combination. Which meant… Which meant he knew what year Angel was using, and he’d probably figured out what that meant. Spike wasn’t an idiot, no matter what he played at some time. “Spike?”, Angel whispered, not wanting to wake his Childe up if the younger vampire was asleep.
“Mm?”, Spike mumbled, blue eyes closed and head nestled comfortably against Angel’s thigh, nuzzling his soft bathrobe.
“How did you guess the pass-code for the elevator?”
“Poked it,” Spike mumbled, entirely unhelpfully. “Tried years that’d be… important to you… S’what you always use… Kept tryin’… Eventually got it. 1880.” One blue eye opened, and he smiled softly up at Angel from his comfortable spot. “Feels like the right combination.”
Angel couldn’t help but smile. Spike knew. And he wasn’t going to rub it in Angel’s face, either. Sometimes his Childe could be startlingly candid. Angel smiled again when Spike’s purr got louder as he snuggled closer again.
“Yeah,” Angel whispered after a moment, as his own eyes drifted closed and his hand stilled on his Childe’s tummy. “It definitely was… the right combination.”