In under the wire! I, er, forgot. *blush* But it's still my day for another half hour here in EST!
This is the first part of a two-parter. I'll post the second part on my second posting day. :)
Set in an alternate Buffy Season 7/ Angel Season 5 (Alternate enough to change how they line up, yes. :P) Warnings for some questionable consent.
Angel had heard a vague rumor about vampire dancers at the smokey little dive. It wasn’t something worth exploring, really, not a real sign of wrong-doing, but the truth was, a lame lead at a strip club was far more appealing than the lame leads he had elsewhere in the city. He didn’t know if crime had dropped sharply since he took over as CEO of Wolfram and Hart, or if they were cleverly hiding it from him. Either way, he had to make his decisions quickly, since his patrols were limited to his ‘free time.’
Angel had never had a steady job in all is long life. Not one where he was responsible to someone other than himself. He had underestimated how draining it was, just going somewhere every day for set hours, whether you wanted to or not.
So, okay, he was trumping up a rumor as an excuse to go to a gay strip club in the hopes that there were sexy vampires there he could ogle and then stake. It had been a hard week and he was allowing himself this one.
The club was just a hole in the wall, one of those old two-story shop buildings, an empty storefront next door and a convenience grocer on the other side. Second floor windows were mostly dark and shuttered. The steel door opened into what looked like a rough biker bar, narrow and dark. Scary, bearded men in lots of leather on barstools looked up at him like he was wearing a pink frilly dress. Compared to them, he almost was. Angel suddenly felt this was a bad idea. But he heard more lively music and saw colorful lights through a doorway in the back.
“Two drink minimum in the back room,” the grizzled bartender said, following his gaze. Angel nodded and headed toward the music.
A bead curtain separated the two rooms, and stepping through it was like slipping between dimensions – he had experience with that, it wasn’t an empty simile. Whereas the front room had been every shade of black and chrome and unpolished wood, the back room was painted a lush purple, a disco ball flooding every surface with rainbow sprinkles. The bartender was younger and wearing suspenders over his bare chest. On a tiny stage, a young man in a speedo was making love to a steel pole. His ass was small and tight and nicely shaped, but Angel thought he was a bit pale and skinny for his tastes. He sat at the bar and ordered whiskey. At this point, he should start asking questions, but it was loud in the back room, and guys at strip clubs don’t, as a rule, socialize with each other. Not if they hadn’t come in together. He sipped his drink and scanned the crowd. It was a mixed group. Grizzled and sleek, blue and white collar. A man in a business suit with day-old grey stubble ran his hand up the dancer’s leg, and the dancer obligingly swayed his tight little ass back and forth, lowering to where the guy could slip his dollar into the g-string.
That’s when Angel saw the dancer’s face for the first time, just a glimpse, from the side, something familiar in the jut of the cheekbone had Angel sitting up. Then the dancer turned to face forward and there was no doubt. Platinum hair worked into a froth of spikes, dark eyebrows, one pierced by a scar, and those crystal blue eyes, staring sightlessly out against the bright stage lights. Spike. The little shit was in LA again!
A stranger would have been fun, a little tussle, a little justice. Spike? Was family, responsibility and emotional baggage. Also hard to kill. Angel felt a sour taste in his mouth and covered it with whisky.
The song was coming to an end. Spike slunk around the edges of the tiny stage, lowering to a knee-crawl and bending back in a move that might have been considered a bit of a finale, or just lewd gyrating closer to the hands with dollars in them. Angel got up and approached the stage as the music cut out and Spike hopped down into the crowd. There was a vestigial smattering of applause. Most men had money or something else in their hands and it wasn’t a big production. Spike worked around the front of the stage, collecting his tips. His glance happened to fall on Angel, and stopped. Spike cleared his throat, thanked the fellow currently groping him, and beat a hasty retreat toward the bar. Angel followed.
At the end of the bar, a bouncer stepped between him and Spike. “Staff only beyond this point.”
“I know him.”
The bouncer kept a firm hand on Angel’s chest. “Not while he’s working, you don’t.”
Angel hated that he could probably overpower the bouncer, but shouldn’t. He felt his heart beating in his palm. “Spike!” Angel shouted.
And Spike turned, just for a moment, and at the closer distance, Angel got the second shock of the night - something deep and painful in Spike’s eyes that pulled at Angel’s heart.
Spike had a soul.
Stilled by shock, Angel offered no resistance as the bouncer pushed him back into the main area of the club and Spike disappeared through a door behind the bar.
Angel stared at his desk blotter. Eve was prattling on about some sadist or monster they had to get off the hook. Angel was imagining the conversation that would occur if he asked Wolfram and Hart to bend their resources to finding out what was going on with Spike.
“Oh, there’s another soulled vampire? We don’t have to put up with you? Sweet. He’s probably emotionally vulnerable, being all freshly soulled and confused, and we can easily trick him into becoming our puppet of evil! Clear your desk out by the end of the week, okay?”
He looked up to see Eve frowning. “You aren’t listening at all, are you?”
“Take it to Gunn,” Angel said. “I have a call to make.”
Eve smiled tightly. “Fine.” And stalked out on her tiny little heels. Ever the professional.
Angel picked up the phone and drew his rolodex close. Who could he call? Giles? Willow? He stared at the special “Sunnydale” tag. He sighed and dialed.
There was a crackle on the line, but she picked up after the first ring. “Hello?”
Angel cleared his throat. “Hi, Buffy. It’s me. Uh… I mean it’s…”
“Angel. Yeah, I think I know your stammer. Hold on a second.” He heard the sound of a door closing. “What is it? Apocalypse?”
“Can’t I just call you for no reason?”
“Recent history says no.”
Angel grimaced. “It’s not that I don’t mean to call. We’re just busy here. And I know you’re busy, too.”
“No, you don’t know that. You’d have to call to know that. It’s apoca-light around here.” Buffy sounded playful as much as chiding.
Angel felt guilty that he did, in fact, know things were quiet in Sunnydale. Having secret agents stalk your ex for you was probably not healthy. He cleared his throat again. “I wanted to ask you about something. It’s kind of personal and I understand if you don’t want to talk about it.”
There was a pause. “Is this a relationship thing? Are you drunk?”
Angel smiled. “No. That’s not it. It’s, well, I wanted to ask about Spike, actually.”
There was a longer pause. Angel started to worry they’d become disconnected. “Buffy?”
“Spike?” Buffy’s voice was quiet.
“Yeah. The last I had heard, he was living in Sunnydale. Kind of helping you out. The reluctant ally. The, uh, microchip thing?”
“Spike isn’t here anymore,” Buffy said, flatly.
“Did he say anything when he left? I mean, about where he was going? What he was going to do?”
“He disappeared in the middle of the night over a year ago. No note, no message. He left me to handle a near world-ending on my own and I’m really not happy about that. Wait…why are you asking? What did he do?”
“I’m not sure yet. I was hoping you’d know.”
“Way with the cryptic, Angel.”
“I’m sorry. I do that. Look, I’ll call you again soon, I promise.”
“LA isn’t that far from Sunnydale. You could come by and slay something now and then. You could use the PR. Giles is super pissed about this law firm thingy. He says you’ve gone to the dark side and are too naïve to see it.”
“Tell him I’m older than he is.”
“I’m thinking age doesn’t make maturity happen on its own,” Buffy said, sounding more mature than Angel realized she could. “Good-bye, Angel.”
“Bye,” he said, and listened to her hang up.
Something had happened in Sunnydale. Something made Buffy so hesitant and quiet when Spike’s name came up. Angel’s detective instincts told him that plainly. But he also could tell, by the way she spoke, by what she didn’t say, that Buffy didn’t know about Spike’s soul.
He had no choice but to ask Spike himself.
It wasn’t hard to assign a few security personnel to case out the strip club and report on Spike’s schedule.
Angel wondered if any of the men he was paying slipped dollars in Spike’s thong, and if they enjoyed it, or were just doing it to blend in. He wasn’t sure which scenario annoyed him more.
The club operated six days a week, and Spike danced on all of them, at 5 and 9 o’clock on Tuesdays and Thursdays and at 6 and 8 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Saturdays the show went from noon to midnight and he danced at 1, 5, 8 and 11. He never left the building. Registered blueprints showed a staircase connecting the bar to an office on the second floor. There were three offices on the second floor. The other two had been converted to apartments and had required fire-escape entrances on the outside of the building. Spike was either sleeping in the office, or one of the apartments had an undisclosed-by-blueprints door to it. The building was flanked by others, making the alleyway entrances vampire-safe most of the day. The apartment on the north end of the building was occupied by a young mother and her two children. The apartment on the south end had a single man living there, who was also seen coming and going from the bar. He was muscular with a clean-shaven head and a penchant for wearing leather – someone who would not be out of place in the front half of the club. Angel decided to talk to him, first.
He drew a sketch of Spike. He hadn’t meant to, but he drew him smiling, eyes twinkling. A Spike fresh from the kill. He wondered what prompted his subconscious to call Spike forward like that. He supposed it was just the way he was most used to thinking of him.
Angel loitered around the stairs up to the apartment at a time when his sources said the bald man – a David Stone, by coincidence also owner of the strip club – would habitually return home.
Angel was not disappointed. The man came around the corner of the building precisely on time, a paper grocery bag tucked under his arm. He saw Angel right away and stopped his steps, looking suspicious.
“Hi,” said Angel, trying for non-threatening. “I was wondering if you’ve seen this man.” He held out the picture of Spike.
David Stone looked down at the picture briefly, not making any move to take it. “You a cop?”
“No. Private detective.”
“What’s he charged with?”
“It’s not a criminal investigation. His family wants to find him.”
David’s mouth moved back and forth, like he was sawing his teeth. “Let me put this down,” he said, hoisting the grocery bag.
“Sure,” Angel said. He followed David up the narrow metal stairs and waited patiently while the man unlocked his apartment and stepped through the door. Angel looked through the open door, watching him set his grocery bag down on a dinette table.
David turned to face him. “You’re a liar,” he said.
“Spike doesn’t have a family to be looking for him, and if you were a detective, you wouldn’t have gotten this close without finding him where he is right now – waggling his ass on my stage next door.”
Angel rested his arm against the doorframe. “Do you now what Spike is?”
“Intimately. And if you’re the same as he is, you can’t walk through that open door.”
Crap. Angel bit his lip, trying to think fast. “I’m not – did Spike tell you he has a soul?”
David gave Angel a slightly amused smirk. “You some kind of vampire missionary? I know Spike’s got some thing in his head that won’t let him hurt people.”
“The chip. Right. I’m… I’m like Spike. I don’t hurt people.”
David leaned back against his kitchen counter, arms folded. “He told me there weren’t any other vampires like him and if I ever find myself near another vampire, to run inside, don’t invite him in, and wait for dear Spike to come stake the bastard for me. So that’s what we’re going to do.”
“Spike isn’t going to be finished dancing for almost an hour.”
David smirked. “Knew you were lying.”
Angel sighed. “Look… I just want to talk to Spike. If I leave my number with you, will you give it to him?”
David looked up briefly, as if considering. “No,” he said.
They locked gazes, neither one wavering. Angel settled himself against the fire escape railing. “Then I guess we wait.”
“I guess we do,” David said, and went back to unpacking his groceries, which consisted of a quart of milk, butter, and a tub the exact color milky-white plastic gets when it holds fresh pig’s blood.
Angel approached the door, inhaling deeply. What he smelled stopped him dead. “You’re fucking him!” Angel hadn’t meant it to come out at all, much less the way it sounded – jealous and petty – and he didn’t like the way David looked at him. Like his lover’s stalking ex. Not that Angel got that a lot. (Stupid Riley.)
“And you want to talk to him,” David said. “You know, for twenty dollars next door you can do a whole lot more than talk.”
“We’re family,” Angel said, summoning his dignity. He tossed a business card into the crappy little apartment. “Tell him Angel stopped by.”
He turned his back and unhurriedly walked down the steps. In the ally behind the building, he could faintly hear the pumping bass of the strip club.
He should have gone back to the office. It was his intention to go back to the office. He had spent enough time, already, trying to figure Spike out. Was he Spike’s keeper? No. He wasn’t even his friend. Never had been, really. So Spike was living in a ratty apartment with a strip-club owner and dancing for him. So? Maybe they were happy together, and as long as Spike wasn’t killing, what did he care?
But Angel found his feet carrying him back to the club, through the bar to the back room, where he ordered two shots of Jamieson and asked the bartender if the dancers offered private sessions.
“Twenty bucks for a lap dance,” the bartender said, not pausing in pouring out the whisky.
“Can I request a specific dancer?”
The bartender regarded him as one would a fresh-faced blushing teen. “Benny’s doing them right now. If you want Spike, you’ll have to wait for him to come off stage.”
“I can wait,” Angel said, handing over the money for his two drinks and an extra twenty.
The bartender looked down at the money for a moment before gathering it up. “Just twenty?”
“That’s the price you just quoted.”
“You asked for Spike.”
“So, Spike’s got special rules. For a little extra, you can have an extra good time,” The bartender said, talking slowly like Angel was an idiot.
“Just twenty,” Angel ground out between clenched teeth and picked up his two glasses of whisky.
The wait, of course, gave him ample time to question the motivations for his new course of investigation and find them lacking. From the tiny stage, Spike’s eyes honed in on him like lasers. No more would the lights and a hundred men soaked in testosterone hide him from Spike’s alerted senses.
Though for his part, Spike did not falter in his seductive dance. This wasn’t a Chippendale review; there were no fancy outfits or routines. He wore a pair of low-slung leather pants, a t-shirt lay on the floor behind him, and he was deep-throating a cherry popsicle with sloppy enthusiasm, letting the candy-colored syrup drip aesthetically down his torso.
Angel found it hard to remember why he was there with Spike staring straight at him and pumping that red cylinder in and out of his pouting lips. His other hand smeared cherry drips over his nipples and snaked down his undulating belly to graze the taut line of leather below his hip-bones. It was a relief when he twirled around the pole to lavish his attention on the other side of the room, but then Angel found himself watching the light sliding over his tight round ass-cheeks. The leather coated them like none-too-thick paint. Those cheeks circled, clenched, and thrust forward, and with a rapid-fire sound of snaps tearing free, the leather pants joined the shirt on the floor and Angel was looking at milky white flesh toped by two tiny cherry-red straps that disappeared into the cleft, making Angel wonder, not for the first time, just how structurally cohesive such a garment could be. Maybe it was actually painted on?
The popsicle made a slow progression down Spike’s body, painting a sticky trail over his hip. Angel followed it on its path back up and caught Spike looking right at him with open contempt. As quick as the expression appeared, it vanished into a smooth, vaguely sultry mask as Spike’s eyes traveled the rest of the crowd and he gave the popsicle long, languid licks and worked his hips lower and more into the reaching distance of paying customers.
Angel’s mouth was dry, his two drinks were consumed, and he was so painfully hard there was no chance he could will his cock down before it was time for his private audience. He retreated to the bar for another whisky and knocked it back thinking of board meetings and filling out forms. It almost worked. He ordered another. The music came to an end and he turned to see Spike slithering his way off stage into the eager hands of his public, the popsicle nowhere to be seen.
Angel’s mind immediately flashed a variety of scenarios for it final demise, all of which made him glad he hadn’t been watching.
Spike smiled and made small-talk with the customers while they groped and stroked him like he was public property. Angel wanted to smack them away. One guy in particular was taking far more time than necessary inserting a dollar… and did he need both hands to do it?
Angel moved to follow Spike as he passed behind the bar, but the same bouncer as before held him off until, an age later, the bartender gave him a signal. “Go through that curtain,” the bouncer said, pointing to his left, where a curtained doorway stood. “And wait.”
Given the general seediness of the place, Angel hadn’t expected a plush boudoir, but he’d still expected better than a closet with faux wood paneling, a folding chair, and a boom box on the floor. The overlaying smells of desperation and spunk, old and recent, added to the charm.
Angel took a seat and waited, thinking annoyed thoughts and no longer quite as worried he’d great Spike with a noticeable hard-on.
At last the curtain parted and Spike slouched in, glaring at him like an adversary, wearing nothing but the cherry-red thong and a leather dog collar. He smelled of faintly of soap and sugar over the pervasive, intermingled spendings of many men, which was the default smell of the whole place. Angel stood. “I just want to talk.”
Spike’s lip curled. He dropped neatly to hit the ‘play’ button on the boom box. The room filled with sultry beats and he took his time unfolding from his crouch, stretching. “Song’s four minutes, Peaches. That’s the time you’ve paid for.” He folded his arms and leaned against the wall. “So let’s have it. Come to judge? Or just warn me off snacking on the sad lonely old poufs?”
“You have a soul,” Angel said.
Spike’s eyes widened a bit – had he thought he could hide it? He quickly looked away to better hide his expression. “Doesn’t mean I’m going to rush into your arms and ask your sage advice.”
Angel approached Spike, reaching out, but stopped himself from touching him. “What the hell are you doing here?”
Spike smirked at him.
“Yes. I can see you’re a stripper. Why? It’s not like you. Why aren’t you still helping Buffy? Why do you have a soul?”
Something shuttered in Spike’s face. He leaned his head back, long throat exposed. “Buffy didn’t tell you why I left?”
Angel just shook his head, not about to get into a conversation about Buffy with Spike, much less admit that Spike had probably shared more confidences with her more recently.
“Well then,” Spike said. “It’s her tale to tell, not mine. Let’s just say I fucked up. I thought getting a soul was the solution. Feel free to laugh.”
Angel gripped Spike’s biceps. To his utter surprise, Spike let him. “You can’t throw this away. You need to get out of this dump and go find redemption. It doesn’t just come to you. I wasted nearly a century before someone set me right. Don’t do the same.” He shook Spike, just a little, and Spike’s head hit the wall.
Spike hardly reacted. There was something frighteningly empty in his eyes. “This is where I live now. This is my job. Your approval isn’t required. You paid your twenty bucks, so you have me until the song ends, but that’s it. I’ll even dance, if you ask.” His lids lowered and he licked his lower lip. “Know you’re trying your masochistic best to deny you want it.”
Angel realized at this point that he was leaning into Spike, pressing him into the wall, their faces barely inches apart. He backed off. “I didn’t come here to fondle you.”
“No, you usually have some other goal in mind at first.”
Angel let go of him and moved as far from Spike as the little room would let him. He needed the space to think. “Something’s not right here. Why didn’t you just refuse to see me?”
Spike affected a bored expression and looked down at the boom-box as if gauging how much time was left.
“That’s it,” Angel said. “You couldn’t, could you?” Spike’s jaw tightened. “Don’t try to deny it. You’ve looked at the door every five seconds since you got here. You can’t wait for the time to be up. So why come in at all? What happens, Spike, when you say no?”
The contempt was back. “Piss off. I’m not one of your bleeding ‘helpless’. It’s a job. One I want to keep.”
“That’s all that’s keeping you here? Smelling like a thousand sweaty palms? A job. And if I did want that lap dance?”
Spike was on him in a blink, crowding him to the back corner of the cubicle. His hands snaked into Angel’s hair and he brushed their cheeks together as he ground his groin against Angel’s in a slow, practiced move. Angel hardened so fast he was surprised there wasn’t a springing sound.
And then Spike let go, stepping back, just as the music stopped. “Do us both a favor, Peaches, and don’t come back.”
Angel grabbed his arm as he turned to exit. Spike just stopped in place, not looking at him. “I actually did come here to help you, Spike. And to understand.”
The curtain pulled back, revealing the bouncer. “Problem, Spike?”
“Nah.” Spike pulled from Angel’s grip and gave him one last, cryptic look before ducking under the bouncer’s outstretched arm.
The bouncer then looked at Angel like he was a mess left behind by an evicted roommate. Angel took the subtle hint and indicated he’d be on his way as soon as it wasn’t blocked.
Behind the bar, on the opposite side from the closet converted into a lap-dance booth, was a door to the back room, which itself was just the bottom landing to a staircase. At the top of the stairs was David’s office. At the bottom was a battered old mirror and a bench littered with props and costume pieces. Here Spike retreated, only realizing his fists where clenched when he took a moment to calm himself.
Wait five minutes, he told himself. Give Angel a chance to properly bugger off, and then he would re-take the floor before anyone noticed he’d taken an unscheduled powder-break.
A door opened, overhead. “Spike.”
Spike flinched reflexively, and turned to see David standing at the top of the stairs. “Just on my way back out,” he said, waving.
David’s voice stopped him moments from escape. “There’s another vampire nosing about. Called himself ‘Angel’.”
“So he’s conveniently introduced himself? That’s why I ducked in here. Give the old pouf a chance to miss me.”
David walked unhurriedly down the stairs, fixing Spike with a glare that turned his guts to ice and kept him frozen to the spot. “You never said anything about other vampires coming after you.”
“Honestly didn’t expect it to happen. Angel… we don’t exactly send each other Christmas cards. What were the odds he’d just show up?”
David had reached him at this point and carded his fingers through Spike’s hair. “Baby, you know I hate it when you’re a passive-aggressive bitch.”
“There’s nothing to worry about. Nothing to tell. He came, paid for a lap dance so he could tell me how my current gig sullied the family name, and left.”
David’s hands were hot, rubbing firmly over Spike’s scalp, pulling his head back by the hair-roots. “Did you fuck him?”
Spike risked a few hairs with a quick head-shake. “He didn’t even want the dance. Just talked.”
“Don’t play dumb, darling, though it is a part you do so well. Not just now, but in general. Has Mr. Angel ever had his dick inside your delectably fuckable ass?”
Spike was crap at lying, and David was looking right through him. He’d already paused too long and got a hard shake for his trouble.
David threw him against the wall. “You’re so stupid. This prick wants you for himself.”
“No, it’s not like that. Ang…” Spike was cut off by having his head knocked against the wall.
“Here’s what’s going to happen. If that vampire comes back, you’re going to stake him.”
Spike licked his lips. “Not that I can’t take him, but…”
“But? But nothing.”
Spike inhaled deeply and bit the bullet. “I’ve not had much luck in the Angel-killing department in the past.” He tried to gauge how much shit he was in by the flare of David’s nostrils. “I’ve tried, you see. Me and him have both had a go at trying to kill each other.”
David let him go and stepped back. “Then the next time he shows up, fuck him.”
“I’m not joking. Give him a real good reason to keep you right where you are. Hell, I might even throw him a discount. Now get back to work. Benny’s got to be exhausted waiting for your ass.”
Spike knew when to beat a hasty retreat, and did so, back into the noise and spinning lights of the nightclub.
He hoped Angel would lose whatever bug was up his arse and not come back. It was shaping up to be a humiliating day all around. His eyes immediately landed on one of his least-favorite regulars, a gentleman with a lazy eye, unkempt hair and a perpetual stink of unwashed clothes about him.
Spike lifted his head, pasted on a smile, and sallied forth. Lazy-eye had already spotted him and was eyeing him like a alcoholic seeing a tray of whisky shots coming his way. The slime would take as much as he could get away with in the public area, mauling Spike with his too-soft hands, and inevitably request one of the ‘special’ lap-dances.
And Spike usually enjoyed ‘popsicle night’ so.
- Popsicle Night