That must mean it's time to post.
Thanks as always goes to my betas calove, hesadevil and gamiila for their help and comments. Any views on punk contained within are the views of broody, expression-free vampires and are not the author's own. I would also like to point out that I made a bit of a gaffe on the first chapter and that it is Post-Hellbound.
Chapter Two – A Spectral Disturbance
Monday morning at Wolfram and Hart was always a particular kind of hectic, but productive, chaos; divorces filed after wild weekends, lawsuits from drunken brawls on Saturday night or diabolical plans gone awry, kept the phones in a constant buzz. At this early hour, Lawyers, assistants and other staff hurried to their desks to start the week, or mingled in the vast lobby, brokering last minute plea-bargains before another day in court. Angel, new CEO of the LA branch of Wolfram and Hart, couldn’t feel more out of place here amongst these legal barracudas. They might have had a cheery greeting for him as he strode in through the bustle, but he knew that underneath the façade of acquiescence to the new regime, each and every one of them was plotting his downfall. They had no interest in helping the helpless in return for a ticket to his destiny. None of them were committed to the side of Good, even if it was the new company policy, and there would be people here who would fight the new management all the way. These people were employed here because they had done deals with evil for an easy ride to power, position and wealth, and they weren’t going to ditch their most lucrative clients that easily. Evil paid well for the privilege of the best legal representation.
Uneasy as he felt here, the constant rounds of betrayals were the only things that felt familiar to Angel in this cutthroat corporate world of chic offices and sharp cut business suits. There were days when he still felt like the eighteenth century man Darla had bitten and turned, who had been dumped, bemused and clueless, into the middle of a twenty-first century legal culture of which he could barely conceive. He was responsible now for hundreds of employees, not the handful at Angel Investigations who he counted as his friends. He’d never really been a collector of minions during the bad old days of Angelus, but he knew how to manage them, and controlling these two-faced back stabbers wasn’t so different. Treachery amongst the lower ranks of vampires was endemic, as they crawled over each other like rats to get to the top of the heap, but Angelus had never bothered with that game at all. He had found other means by which to measure his worth as a vampire. Despicable acts, each more depraved than the last; in kills, messy and brutal, where dying took days even after the begging and screaming had stopped; in torture, horrors limited only by the black, Marianas Trench of his own imagination. It was skill set that fitted well with the firm's seamier underbelly and it might not be too long before Angel would need to tap into some of Angelus’ expertise.
Angel would never have accepted the deal to take control of Wolfram and Hart if he hadn’t been caught between a rock and the hard place of his son’s future. But although he had been the one to agree to the main body of the contract, he hadn’t been the only one to agree to its terms. Whatever the circumstances of Angel Investigations’ move had been, Wesley, Fred, Lorne and Gunn had all reached a unanimous decision amongst themselves, even before Angel had told them that he had made the choice for them. They had all agreed that the offer on the table was a fantastic opportunity to use the resources available to maximise the good they could do for people, while removing their major opposition. If they were going to be corrupted, then it had already happened, the moment that they’d agreed to take the tour that Lilah had offered during her brief visit from Below. They would all have to learn to live with whatever the consequences there would prove to be. Personally, Angel knew he would never be happy here; the Law Firm would need to change radically before he could ever feel comfortable as its Head, but that was the price he’d accepted for saving his son. Connor was alive and had a new life; one where he might actually find the happiness that Angel was otherwise powerless to give him. It had broken his heart to say goodbye, to sever the ties to the only life he had created, to pretend that Connor had never existed. It was just another of his many burdens, but it was his duty now to honour the contract and carry on. He had a new set of challenges. Adjusting the outlook of a bastion of evil was never going to be easy task, but he was committed to try and he stood by his decision to do that every day, even when he doubted himself. Angel Investigations could only help so many; here they could help so many more.
Today was going to be a busy day. Angel had a Demonic Law conference coming up in a few days and he had an important spot as a Guest Speaker. Consequently, he needed all the time he could find in his schedule to perfect his speech. The thought of his public-speaking debut made him anxious and irritable; this was not what he thought a Champion should be doing with his time. He preferred the directness of protecting the street, battling at the front of the fight. Now he could help people from the point of his pen, it didn’t feel like fighting for them anymore. But all that was in the past now, his signature saved thousands and he would have to be satisfied with the odd bit of groundwork he had time for. Right now, he had to go to work.
He stepped out of the private lift from his penthouse apartment and as he strode into the lobby he was subjected to an aural assault of what sounded like sheer white noise. A Lawyer rushed past him with his hands clamped over his ears to block out the uncomfortable sound.
“What the hell is that?" Angel growled at Harmony, who was handing a package to Fred at the Front Desk.
"… … …" Harmony mouthed back at him with a carefree shrug, her words were lost forever in the din.
Angel may not have heard what she’d said, but he managed to catch her meaning well enough. After a few moments, when his ears adjusted themselves to the noise, it organised itself in his mind until it became recognisable as music - but just barely, a rough guitar riff played through powerful, but damaged speakers. What was more disturbing to him, though, was that the cacophony of punk music disrupting his lobby appeared to be coming from inside his own office. Resigned to the inevitable morning confrontation with Wolfram and Hart's resident annoying ghost, Angel took a deep, unnecessary breath to steel his nerves. He’d been hoping that one day Spike would at least give him time to settle into his daily routine before he started to bother him, but it seemed that today wasn’t going to be that day.
Spike was sprawled out on Angel's chair, ethereal booted feet propped upon his expensive desk, although no one quite knew why they didn’t sink through the wood. When Spike had first appeared, Fred had attempted to come up with a theory to explain how some objects seemed to support him and how he still seemed subject to gravity, but didn’t just sink through the floors. Though it had been Wesley who’d come up with the most plausible answer – that although ghosts weren’t subject to the same physical laws, they still unconsciously expected them to apply. So while they expected an object to bear their non-weight, they couldn’t pick it up. However, the theory didn’t always seem to work and the real reason remained arcane. Spike thought the whole idea was bollocks, but he didn’t have a better explanation. Angel just wished he would go and haunt somewhere else, like the moon.
Angel couldn't stand the sight of Spike. Hated, detested, loathed – all these words weren't strong enough for the dislike he felt for the former vampire. He had spent the last few years happy in the knowledge that Spike was somewhere else and the last thing he wanted was the irritating idiot haunting him now. Their personalities clashed; Spike had to be one of the most infuriating beings that Angel had ever met. Spike was reckless, juvenile, impulsive and thoughtless. He was a master in the art of being annoying. He'd always taken a malicious pleasure in making Angel’s existence hell, undermining him at every opportunity that arose, like a younger brother jealous of his older sibling. Spike’s appearance, popping out of an amulet, like a sarcastic gothic genie that granted no wishes, couldn’t have come at a worse time for Angel, so soon after Angel Investigations had taken control of the evil Law firm, and just when he was questioning his own worth as a Champion of the People. Adjusting to corporate life had been difficult enough, without a petty voice sniggering in his ear every time something went wrong. It was as if the Spike-shaped devil on his shoulder had switched sides on some whim and was now sporting slightly tarnished heavenly wings.
If pushed, Angel would admit that Spike’s presence made him uncomfortable. The reasons were numerous; some were shallow, some cut more deeply into a past that was difficult to put behind them. The two vampires shared a long and chequered history and at no point had they ever been tolerant of each other for more than a few minutes. They'd been rivals within their own twisted family, brothers in bloodshed; and after a century they were still in competition. It hadn’t taken long for William to start to push against Angelus’ dominance; he’d been testing the boundaries almost from the night he’d risen. He’d been weaker, fresh from the six-feet of earth under which Drusilla had buried him, and eager to experience everything that his new unlife offered, but he’d been no serious challenge to his grand-sire back then. Still, his wilful rebelliousness defied Angelus’ authority at every turn and before long it began to cause their family group serious problems, despite Angelus’ attempts to keep him firmly in check.
Nevertheless, Angelus had set out to teach the fledgling William all he knew about the horrors his kind could perpetrate, and the younger vampire had certainly been a quick pupil. But he’d soon had his own ideas about the way he wanted to conduct his unlife. ‘Spike’ was created, as William forged his own identity through the point of a railway spike, risking everything in all out fights with angry mobs and rejecting the methods of his grand-sire. Angelus would orchestrate understated campaigns of horror that would pick entire families apart, one by one, over weeks of torment. Angelus would take the terror to a delicious pitch that brought his victims to their knees, and he’d savour their fear like the finest wine, as he drained them dry in one final night of hell. He was cold, calculating, ruthless and thorough. Spike didn’t have the patience to be that elaborate. He’d take an outrageous target like a boarding school or a convent, whatever his lady Drusilla desired, and they would tear the inhabitants to bits for the fun of it, revelling in every bloody moment. He didn’t care that he was part of a rich heritage of wickedness, he just wanted a little fun; to live his unlife with a passion he’d been afraid of expressing in life. Spike embraced his afterlife wholeheartedly. Evil was an amusement, depravity a lark, not a revered art. Spike had never taken evil seriously enough for Angelus.
It was this very history, of murder and mayhem that they shared, that made Spike a walking reminder of all the bad things Angel had done, of all the things he didn’t want to remember. When he looked at his grand-childe, he saw a killer like him, a monster he was responsible for creating. The century worth of blood that Spike had spilt was on Angel’s hands too. To Angel, Spike was a gestalt of all of his own insecurities and fears, and that made him look more closely at what he really was. Angel was still a demon, one that carried the weight of the soul as a curse, but he would never be free of the darkness or the lust for blood and his black demon heart still didn’t beat. As the only other souled vampire the world had ever known, only Spike could ever know just how close Angelus still seethed beneath the surface, and how difficult it was to keep the demon down. The demon trashed and strained against the shackles of the soul, locked away from the world it longed to destroy. As much as possible, Angel kept his demon out of sight from the people around him, but there was little use trying to hide from Spike the fact that Angel was not so different from Angelus underneath. How did Spike manage to handle his demon so easily and so quickly, when it was a constant struggle for Angel even after a century? Spike had somehow transcended his vampiric nature and had chosen to have his soul returned. How was it fair that Spike had taken a meta-physical short cut to his Champion-hood, somehow sidestepping all the years of suffering that Angel had been through, with a few weeks of madness? Angel had been unique, groomed for years to be this Champion of the People, fighting to keep the darkness from lives of the ordinary. If Spike were to be solid again, would he usurp Angel’s destiny? Would Angel no longer be rewarded for his hard work fighting as that Champion or for the suffering and the hopelessness of his crawl through the last century? In the end, would he prove to be just a vampire with a curse? He hadn’t chosen his soul or fought for it like Spike had done. Would Spike then prove to be better than him, when Angel’s own struggle towards redemption was found lacking? Angel worried that perhaps he wasn’t special at all. Maybe Spike was right all along, and that being a part of Wolfram and Hart would destroy him. What if the Powers had got it wrong and Spike was the People’s Champion, after all?
It was hard for Angel to believe Spike was a hero. The last time they’d met Spike had been poking holes in him by proxy – mostly. He hadn’t trusted the younger vampire then, and he was having trouble now. It was inconceivable to Angel that the Spike he’d known could have really chosen to become good, even for superficial reasons. But he’d made his sacrifice to close the Hellmouth, laid down his unlife to save the world – and Buffy - and that counted where it mattered. Buffy believed in him.
Angel guessed it was pretty obvious that he was jealous of Spike’s affair with Buffy. He had no idea what had gone on between them in Sunnydale, but when asked Buffy had been less than forthcoming on the nature of the relationship, leaving Angel to fill in the blanks himself. That had lead to all sorts of fanciful scenarios mapped out in his head; things he’d rather not contemplate but dwelt on anyway. Spike had been able to be there for her, intimate with her in ways that Angel no longer could. He had loved her and he’d walked away so she could have a normal life, with a normal lover, have babies and jobs and vacations and pretty houses full of sunlight, away from all the angst he’d brought her. He hadn’t left her, at great pain to himself, so she could hook up with Spike.
For all her words of possibilities in the future, the same problems still stood in their way. Angel knew she’d moved on, had known it since that last night in Sunnydale when she’d basked in him; a last-gasp flare of their doomed love that seemed to mean very little now. Buffy hadn’t turned to him for comfort, before or after the battle. In fact, her contact with him in the aftermath of the destruction of Sunnydale had been minimal; just a postcard from Europe and a brief call asking him to stand down now the Hellmouth was closed for good. When he’d asked after Spike - were they together now? She’d cut him off briskly.
“He’s dead,” she’d said, her tone as dead as her heart must have been, and had hung up. Since then, all he’d heard was silence and he’d been left with the Spike problem.
Spike’s eyes were closed and he was singing along to the CD rather tunelessly. Angel wondered what melody had ever done to offend anyone. He switched the stereo off with a snap and turned his wrath on the younger vampire.
"What the hell is going on? – No, don't tell me. Just get out, Spike." Angel loomed, glowering darkly, filling the room with his presence.
"Ooh, tetchy this morning, aren't we?” Spike stretched and placed his hands behind his head, as if he was getting comfortable. He was willing to risk the ultimate indignity of Angel sitting through him if it got his grand-sire nice and wound up.
"Someone made me that way. Out!"
"What's going on?" Fred asked as she came into the office. "What was that terrible noise..?"
Angel gestured to her to halt. "It's okay, Fred. I can handle this." He turned back to Spike, who had made absolutely no effort to move. "I thought I said 'out'!"
Reluctantly, Spike picked his feet off the desk, but he made no further indication that he was going to get up from the chair - there was mileage still to be had from this small annoyance.
Angel picked up some of the CD's that littered his desk; Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedy's, Black Flag – these sure as hell weren't from his own collection. Where on earth did a ghost get them? He looked at Fred, who looked somewhat uncomfortable under his glare.
"I thought it would give him something to do at night,” she said.
"You bought him CD's?"
Fred nodded still squirming.
Spike snorted. "I've looked through your collection. Barry Manilow? You are still scary."
"He's a genius," was all Angel would say, wistfully.
Spike sniggered. “If you say so, mate.”
Exasperated, Angel turned to Fred. “Please, Fred, take him with you and get him out of here.”
Spike bounced to his feet. “Yeah, your Fix-It Girl here can get back to finding a way to make yours truly a solid boy again. Get me back from the spectral back-of-beyond. She said she had a few ideas…”
“No,” Angel told him, forcefully. “Fred, you have enough to do. You’ve spent too much time on him already.”
“I’m sure I could fit it in…” She began.
“No, Spike isn’t Wolfram and Hart business. I’ve told you that before.”
“What?” Spike protested. “You wanker! If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be like this, wouldn’t have been chargrilled over the bloody Hellmouth.”
“Because you’re such a hero. Get out of my sight. And don’t disturb my staff.”
“Make me.” Spike folded his arms and stood his ground. There was nothing Angel could do to move an incorporeal being. “If that Pavayne git couldn’t shift me, you bloody well can’t.”
“Do I need to call an exorcist? I have a Dr Venkman’s number right here.”
"I think I preferred you when you were an evil bastard. No, wait, you still are." Spike was pissed off now. He took a glance at the weapons displayed neatly on the wall behind Angel’s desk. He just wished he could get hold of one properly. “You don’t understand what this is like, not being able to touch or feel. Well, up yours.”
Angel watched Spike turn and leave in a swirl of spectral black leather, ignoring the two fingers he gave him over his shoulder. He sighed with relief. He really didn’t have time for Spike’s histrionics today.
Fred frowned at him. “Don’t you think it would be better just to help him? He’ll be stuck here until you do. I know I can find another way to make him corporeal. I still have some ideas. I got something here,” she indicated the box in her arms, “that should work as a…”
Her words trailed off as Angel sat down and turned his attention to the paperwork that was piled on his desk. He wasn’t listening, or she wasn’t saying anything he wanted to hear. Sometimes his bull-headedness over Spike really irritated her.
Angel pushed aside the small pile of CD’s. The were letters to sign, files to go through, cases to approve, as well his big speech to practice; it was at times like these that he wished he was back fighting evil on the streets. “I’m not responsible for Spike.”
“Well, I think you’re being very unreasonable,” Fred said as a parting shot. Then she left, heading back to her lab. She had a vampire to make whole again. At least someone here should try to do what was right.
Chapter one is here.