I had a huge crisis of confidence with it, but fingers crossed it's back on track now.
Chapter Four – Solid Through
After a few weeks, some intrusion by Spike during Angel’s morning meeting with his department heads had become such a normal feature of the everyday office routine at Wolfram and Hart, that it was almost expected. Spike’s incessant presence throughout the day may have grated on Angel’s nerves, but no one else was very surprised when Spike appeared through the wall and into the meeting room like he was actually welcome.
“Is this a private meeting or can anyone stroll in?” Spike quipped, a little disappointed that he was barely spared a glance beyond Angel’s almost imperceptible scowl.
Despite the casual entrances he’d affected, the timing of Spike’s interruptions was part of a quite deliberate plan. The daily Department Head meeting was Angel’s main opportunity to gather his friends together to go over their progress converting Wolfram and Hart into a paragon of virtue, without the pressure of an impending crisis or – hopefully - the presence of Eve, their liaison to the Senior Partners. The slow progress of the transition was making Angel twitchy and Spike saw the meeting as a prime opportunity to bother him some more, taking full advantage of Angel’s discomfort to make the old sod do something about his spectral predicament. So far though it wasn’t working, Angel hadn’t changed his mind and despite Fred’s efforts to solve his problems in her spare time – what there was of it - Spike remained distinctly ghostly.
As the weeks had passed, Spike had had plenty of opportunity to watch as Angel’s people tried to apply their noble principles to their new vision of what Wolfram and Hart should be. They’d had mixed results; angering old clients and staff who were deeply set in their ways, but they had managed to attract new business and retain most of their client list. A stony silence from the Senior Partners was only to be seen as a good thing, as they seemingly stayed on the right side of their enigmatic bosses. Spike though; saw more of the underhand dealings that their new colleagues got up to when they thought the new management wasn’t looking. It seemed that it didn’t matter who ran the place, the bedrock philosophy of the firm would forever remain the same. The rag-tag bunch from Angel Investigations might be all togged up in Executive clothing, but they were fooling themselves if they thought they could fight for the Greater Good from behind a desk, waiting for the supposedly helpless to come to them with a lawsuit, instead of getting out there and finding the people who needed them most.
Spike looked at them all. What a bunch of Losers. Angel sat grimly at the head of the large wood and glass table, his stony expression chiselled in annoyance by shadows cast by the sunlight that warmed him through the necro-tinted glass. Playing human. To the vampire’s right, Charles Gunn lent forward on the polished hardwood, keen and eager to continue with the day’s agenda. The new set up suited him. What he’d gained when he’d had his brain upgraded to Lawyer Plus had been more than just an encyclopaedic knowledge of demon and human Law - with some Gilbert and Sullivan thrown in for some evil whimsy – he’d found a purpose. He felt like he could achieve more with a single signature than with a hundred fights with his fists. He loved it and it showed in his renewed enthusiasm. Wesley next to him looked more relaxed, if more troubled; his face contained mix of contradictory thoughts and emotions. He was scruffier than the others, who all looked like they’d all visited the best tailor recently, but Wesley’s comfortable jumper and three-day stubble - a small academic rebellion against the smart business suits – make him look like a librarian going through a mid-life crisis, rather than a man who’d been through a harrowing time in the past couple of years. Wesley might have come to the point where he was prepared to take all that Wolfram and Hart had to offer, but he wasn’t going to change for them.
On the other side of the table, Fred was scribbling maniacally on a notepad, sketching out mathematical theorems and calculations like Stephen Hawking on crack. Lorne lounged beside her, happy but hungover from one Seabreeze too many the night before, like her green protector. Then lastly, beyond Lorne, Harmony sat primly in pink, taking the meeting’s minutes, jotting notes on her pad in large loopy handwriting.
“How’s the Good fight going then? Pencils all sharpened? Paperwork all sorted?” Spike asked, hastily turning his back on Harmony’s small, flirty wave to him.
Angel put his head in his hands; he couldn’t take much more of this. “Get out, Spike.”
Delighted to see his Grand-Sire was cracking, Spike settled in a spare chair, causally sprawling himself across it and playing up to the assembled group. “Don’t mind me, I’m just here for a good laugh.”
Angel recognised defeat when he saw it. He gritted his teeth and carried on. “Wes, anything to report?”
Wesley leaned forward. “Yes, I had a meeting yesterday with a client of ours, a Mr. Morrow. He runs a small shipping company out near the docks. He’s been having some problems with his neighbours who occupy the basement of his building,” Wesley paused for dramatic effect. “He thinks they’re eating his employees.”
“Right,” Angel nodded. “What does that have to do with us?”
“Mr. Morrow is a Dark Arts practitioner of some repute. His company is one of the largest importers of magical supplies and paraphernalia on the West Coast.”
“Okay, I’ll speak to him. Harmony, check my diary…”
Angel glared at him. “What is it now?”
“‘Check my diary’? You’re right losing the plot, aren’t you? These things are eating people, Angel! I thought you protected them? ‘Champion of the People’ and all that…”
Gunn smiled at him, “Spike, we’re doing a lot of good work here…”
Spike snorted, “Yeah. So you people keep telling me. Do any of you actually leave this building anymore?”
“Right, that’s it,” Angel snapped. “I’ve had it up to here. Fred, I want Spike solid again now. I need to kill him.”
Fred looked up from where she’d been doodling her equations, “But we haven’t…”
“Now. What have you got?”
“Okay. Wesley has been looking into the spell we need. I’ve been working on how to obtain the matter the Disc will require and how to contain it once it’s been activated. You see, I have this theory…”
“Will it work?” Angel stopped her; desperate to get this matter decided before she launched into a heady mix of technical babble, advanced maths and girly enthusiasm.
Wesley nodded. “I believe I have found a spell that will suffice. Fred?”
Spike went to protest, but caught Fred’s glance at him. “I hope you know what you’re doing, sweets.”
She looked pained and turned back to Angel, “If I had a couple of days, I could…”
Angel stood up, the decision was made, “Okay, we’ll try it. You have a day. Go set up. Wes, get what you need for this spell. We’ll do this tomorrow.”
Spike had to admit he was impressed.
With the proper motivation – the wrath of their vampire boss – Wolfram and Hart’s science department were able to mobilize themselves into action on turbocharge. It had been less than twenty-four hours since Fred’s orders had been given, all other pending work had been put aside and everything was place. A large space in the lab had been cleared while the equipment Fred required was being obtained, assembled and calibrated to her plans by a chaotic scurry of staff. Amid the bustle tough, Fred looked exhausted. The tired shadows under her eyes and a slight droop to her fatigued shoulders were evident as she perfected the last of her calculations and made minute adjustments to the equipment. Spike knew that she hadn’t been home since yesterday, working all night to figure out a solution that didn’t require a massive power source or a large lump of the Conduit. But she’d done it. By all accounts, including the fawning opinion of her assistant Knox, Fred was about to pull off yet another minor feat of physics, combining cutting edge science with dark, primal demonic magic. Bloody miracle worker she was.
Intelligent, but also sweet and dotty, Fred charmed him. If it wasn’t for Buffy, he thought he could have easily lost his heart to this girl instead. She was no fighter like the Slayer, but there was a thread of steel under the kooky sexiness and the daffy way she’d bamboozle him with technical details all the same. And she liked him. That was a novelty. She didn’t care that he had some nebulous dark past or anything like that – that was hardly unusual around here – it was his recent actions that were the ones that mattered to her. She’d seen the person he was now and had recognised something of value there, that he really was someone worth saving. She believed in him and he couldn’t help but like her for that. At least she still had a determined faith in doing what she thought was right.
“All finished, luv?” he asked, hovering a short distance away from where she was connecting some of the last cable connections.
She looked at him and gave him a thin smile. “I think it won’t be long now.”
“Is it going to work? Don’t much fancy coming out all mushy, you know.”
“It’ll be fine, don’t you worry,” Fred reassured him.
He nodded, he trusted her. He didn’t want to come out the other end in some tangle of body parts like a Star Trek transporter accident, but there was no point being apprehensive when the best alternative was remaining a spook.
“So what are you going to do once you’re whole again?” she asked a little more brightly.
He shrugged. “Dunno, get out of this dump for a start. Get myself over to Europe, see the old green and pleasant again…”
He caught her sly smile and grinned, not minding her blatant fishing. “Yeah. If she’ll have me.”
“I’m sure she will.”
Spike wasn’t so sure about that, their relationship to date hadn’t left him sure of anything. All he knew was that he missed Buffy with all the passion he’d ever put into loving her, but that wasn’t the same as expecting her to welcome him in after all that had happened. He knew better than to rely on an admission of love only declared as he’d died. Still, that had never stopped him before. He’d have to just take the risk.
By the time Wesley and Angel arrived with the ingredients for the spell, all the preparations for powering and containing the Disc of Dangar during the invocation were complete. The lab was cleared of unnecessary personnel and the Disc was fitted gently into the cradle Fred had constructed to contain it. Both Spike and Angel had little to do but watch, as Wesley set to work organising the magical part of the procedure, laying out the protective circle in white chalk and marking the cardinal points with thick black candles. In a small crucible, he burnt a complicated combination of aromatic herbs whose pungent scent soon dominated the room, causing sensitive noses to crinkle and eyes to water.
Fred coughed, “I think we’re ready. I’ll just attach the power source to the Disc...”
“What does this Disc do?” Angel asked.
“No one is really sure,” Wesley replied. “It’s widely believed to have originally belonged to a clan of trans-dimensional demons, which used the Disc to focus the matter around them into bodies adapted to the local environment. That way they could anchor their ethereal bodies to the physical plane.”
“Sounds ideal,” Spike muttered. “Not much liking this all doubt though.”
“I believe we should be able to funnel matter from the universe through this machine here,” she patted the equipment beside her, “ and into the Disc. We don’t want the Disc to suck us in. It should then knit your new body tightly to your incorporeal substance, but it might have some strange effects…” Fred told him.
“Strange effects how?”
As much as Spike liked the girl, he didn’t fancy being experimented on. He’d had enough of that with the Initiative. He'd never told Buffy or anyone, but he still dreamt of the Initiative sometimes. She’d thought he'd been caught, chipped up and escaped, end of story apart from that annoying chip in his head. And that was all he was sure he remembered, but he knew he'd been there weeks upon weeks, with waking dreams of unknown faces, his body strapped down or his head held still and forward for hours, his eyes looking at his feet as they rested on his cheeks. He'd been drained of blood then moments later felt bursting full. His head open, he’d felt the sawing, the prodding and limbs that had involuntary reactions. Probes rammed in his brain, chest, heart and arse. He didn't find alien abduction stories as funny the way he’d used to.
“You won’t be parted from this body easily,” Fred replied.
“Your essence will be bound to this plane and the new body you’ll inhabit,” Wesley agreed. “The Disc may well be the only way the process can be undone again.”
Warily, Spike asked, “Will I still dust?”
Angel snorted. “God, I hope so.”
Wesley ignored him. “I don’t know, Spike. It’s in your hands. Do you want to go ahead with this?”
Spike paused before he answered, possible indestructible body or eternity as the ghost of Wolfram and Hart? It wasn’t difficult to choose.
The lights were dimmed. Sitting crossed legged on the floor, Wesley started the ritual, muttering the words to the complicated spell as he lit the candles in the proper order and called on the powers of darkness. His face, lit by the fuzzy candlelight diffused in the smoke from the stinky herbs, furrowed deeply in concentration. A glance at the Disc showed that it remained inert and Wesley’s voice wavered slightly with his confidence, but as he incanted the invocation for the second time, chanting louder and this time with more force, something started to happen.
The Disc started to rotate in the cradle until it spun like a spinning top, emitting a low, teeth-grating hum that could be felt deep in the bones of all those in the room making fingers tingle and twitch. The images on the disc blurred and merged before bursting into a flare of magnesium-white light that re-lit the room too brightly; then faded, narrowing into a beam, which fanned out and flattened into a wall of energy an arm-span wide. It hissed and spat with living plasma, its surface roiling with angry energy and carnelian sparks.
Fred stepped forward and started to take measurements, adjusting dials on a generator until she was satisfied with the settings, “Everything seems to be holding. Sorry, Spike, but we have no way of testing it.”
“That mean we’re ready then?” Spike circled the wall of light, inspecting it dubiously.
Fred nodded to Wesley.
“Spike, you’re supposed to walk through it,” Wesley urged him.
Spike hesitated, watching as the plasma flared like a solar tempest. They hadn’t done any tests, how did they know this was going to succeed? Fred smiled at him in encouragement. She was asking him to trust her, put the faith in her like she had in him. What the hell, he had nothing to lose. Spike took an unnecessary breath for courage and stepped into the plasma.
Time hung for a moment.
Then it slowed to the consistency of treacle. Each and very step he took in this impossible world out of time was an effort, almost too much, as if dragging the weight of hundreds of himself behind him. Everywhere stretched to an infinity that crowded in on him, pressing on him tightly as if cramming himself into a singularity. Past, future, present, they were all the same. He was the universe or just a part of it - it didn’t matter.
He could feel his body re-moulding; knitting the flesh back together from the matter of the cosmos itself, atom by atom by atom. Weaving him anew from a new cloth of starshine. Then, after a moment that felt like forever, he was complete – whole again - and time balanced on the cusp of the physical, until with a sudden snap, it was all over and he was dumped roughly onto the floor of the lab.
He was solid again!
His fingers, splayed out on the hard tile where they’d broken his fall, met resistance, not the spongy nothingness of before. Ecstatic with the way that the coldness of the ceramic under his palm felt reassuringly normal, he pushed himself to his feet and patted himself down.
His new body felt much like the old one. Satin moonshiny skin moulded itself over hard, tight muscle, tendon and bone. He ran a hand over his head; all was as it should be. Hair just so, a little mussed, but not a problem; his face was still fined boned and sculpted, the scar as prominent as ever on his brow. He stretched out an arm, opening and closing his palm, stretching the muscle and delighting in the response of the new synapses. The rest seemed fine too. Chest, tight stomach, the priceless family jewels – he made doubly sure they were still in the right place - everything was still where it belonged and all properly solid.
Much to his relief, his clothes had survived the process too, even down to the dust from where the Hellmouth had fallen in on him and he shook it loose. The coat felt a bit odd though; it didn’t seem to have come through the resurrection as well as the rest of him. Its personality missing, it felt thicker, heavier. Gone were the familiar set of stains, holes and rips, erasing twenty-five years of his history that had become part of them both. Where the soft, supple leather had once been worn in to his shape and flowed with his movements as a part of him, it now just felt awkward and stiff.
When he noticed that everyone was watching him, Spike grinned at them. “Just checking the old bod out. See if everything’s back as it was.”
Fred walked up to him, touching his shoulder lightly to test his substance. Happy with what she felt, she started to check him over with a scanner. He wanted to hug her, but held himself back, “How does it feel?”
How did it feel? What a question. He was himself again. He felt fucking fantastic. Wonderful. “Smashing, Pet. Owe you one.”
Fred finished the scan and looked at the result. “Everything appears to be normal - for a vampire anyway…”
“Great then. I’m off down the pub,” overwhelmed with the joy of being back in the world again, he wanted to get out and do as many of the things he’d missed as he could. Beer, cigarettes and blood were first on the list.
Angel rolled his eyes, he’d known that as soon as Spike’s feet had hit the ground, he’d be off and running, but it was Fred that caught Spike’s arm to stop him leaving.
“Wait!” she reached into her pocket, pulling out a small green Post-It! Note and offered it to him. “Here.”
He took it gratefully. It was Buffy’s number.
Fred smiled. “You have good luck with that now, you hear?”
Previous parts here.