Summary: Angel and Spike have a hard time adjusting to their new living arrangements in Texas. Can they put their troubles aside long enough to save a missing girl?
Rating: PG-13 (for language)
Author's Note: This is the third episode in my Angel: Afterlife virtual season six series. For series background and prior episodes, see this post.
All my fics are also archived at AO3. Read it there instead.
Spike sucked in a breath and felt the nicotine-laced air sink deep into his dead lungs. He didn’t know why it felt so good—there wasn’t enough nicotine in a cigarette to affect his vampire metabolism—but it did. Maybe it was something about the physical act of smoking that appealed to him: holding the cigarette, flicking the ash, sucking in and then blowing out a gray cloud of smoke. Plus—and this was maybe the most important bit—it looked dead cool.
The late afternoon sun had begun to sink into the west, coating the world in a syrupy, otherworldly glow. On the east side of the veranda where Spike stood there was plenty of shade to protect him from the last of the killing rays. He leaned against the wisteria-draped railing, enjoying his brief respite from the claustrophobic atmosphere inside Aggie’s house, and flicked cigarette ash into the bushes.
It was decent of the witch to let them stay at her place, and Spike was appropriately grateful. But it wasn’t exactly five-star accommodations. He and Angel and Aggie had been working on the house all afternoon and it was still only barely livable. The dust and cobwebs and various insect infestations were enough to make even a hardened vamp like Spike squeamish. Especially the bloody cockroaches. The cockroaches they grew down here in Texas were as big as the armadillos he’d seen splattered up and down the shoulders of the highways. They reminded him of the roaches down in South America—which was not what you’d call a fond memory.
And then there were the crosses. The crosses that were all over the bleeding house. Aggie had gone round first thing and removed as many as she could find, which was right nice of her. But it seemed like every time Spike opened a drawer or a cabinet he found another one. His finger still throbbed from the one he’d come across in the toolbox, hidden amongst the screwdrivers. What kind of person keeps a cross in a toolbox, anyway? Besides a slayer, of course. Aggie’s gran hadn’t been a slayer, though. Just some batty old Catholic voodoo something or other. Go figure.
To make things worse, Aggie had been acting like a proper bitch all day. When she wasn’t taking their heads off she was withdrawn and sullen enough to give Angel a run for his money. There was something weird going on with her, something to do with the house itself, or with that dead grandmother of hers, maybe.
Whatever. It wasn’t Spike’s business or his problem. He had his own troubles. Like the fact that once again, he’d found himself stuck with Angel.
Somehow he always seemed to end up stumbling along in Angel’s wake. He tried to tell himself that in this case Angel had actually followed his lead—or been made to follow, anyway, with the assistance of some heavy duty veterinary tranquilizers—but he knew it wasn’t really true. Angel was the star attraction in this dog-and-pony show, and Spike was just the supporting player. The amusing sidekick.
It was nothing new, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t fucking well sick of it.
Things hadn’t exactly been easy for old Spike, either, but no one seemed to care much about that. Take that whole reincarnation business, for example. That hadn’t exactly been a stroll in the bloody park for him. And losing Fred—the only person who’d been genuinely nice to him since he’d come back—had hit him harder than he’d care to admit. Then Wes and Gunn had fallen, one right after the other, and that had been another couple of punches to the gut. Maybe he’d never exactly gotten on with them, but they’d been stand-up blokes, the both of them, and they’d had his back on more than one occasion. Things shouldn’t have fallen out like that.
He dropped his cigarette butt on the porch and ground it out with the heel of his boot. On further consideration he bent down and picked it up again. He didn’t relish another lecture from the Wicked Witch of the South about leaving his fag ends lying around the place.
What he needed to do was come up with some kind of plan. He’d had his soul for a while now, it was probably time he figured out what he wanted to do it. Angel had always strutted around like he had some sort of higher calling, but Spike had never felt anything like that. Maybe he never would. He liked helping people well enough, but how was he supposed to go about it? Patrol like Buffy? Open up some kind of shop like Angel? Neither idea was overly appealing.
He watched as a twenty-year-old Lincoln Continental in near-mint condition pulled into the driveway of the house next door. A grandmotherly-looking Hispanic woman dressed in her Sunday best got out of the car. She started in alarm when she noticed Spike watching her from the shadows.
He smiled and gave her a friendly wave. Wouldn’t do to go alienating Aggie’s neighbors, after all. And he wasn’t in the habit of being rude to little old ladies. Not anymore, anyway.
The woman stared at him, open-mouthed, then crossed herself and ran into her house as if she were being chased by a pack of wolves.
Terrific, he thought. Another bloody Catholic.
A scream issued from Aggie’s house, startling a flock of doves that had been milling around in the overgrown yard. Spike raced inside and found Aggie in the kitchen, only a fraction of a second before Angel got there. The girl looked perfectly all right, as far as he could tell. “What’s the emergency?” Spike asked.
Wide-eyed, Aggie pointed into the open cabinet under the sink. “A roach,” she said, her voice an octave higher than usual.
Spike and Angel both stared at her blankly.
“It crawled on me!” Aggie looked from one vampire to the other, apparently expecting more of a reaction. “Do something.”
“What?” said Angel.
“Kill it. That’s what vampires do, right? Kill things.”
“I’m not the bloody Orkin man,” grumbled Spike.
Muttering under his breath, Angel snatched a broom out of the pantry and bent down to look under the sink. He jabbed the broom handle at something in the recesses of the cabinet, swore, and jabbed a couple more times. Spike watched in amusement. Apparently it was an extremely crafty roach.
The front doorbell chimed and Aggie waved an impatient hand at Spike. “Go answer that.”
That’s right, Spike thought sourly, order me around like a servant: clean this, kill that, answer the sodding door. Next he’d be hand washing her scanties for her. He sulked his way to the front hall and swung the door open.
The old lady from next door stood on the porch. In her left hand was a cross. In her right she wielded a large wooden knitting needle like a stake. She thrust the cross up into his face.
“Bloody hell!” he shouted, and jumped backwards, knocking over the umbrella stand in his haste to get away.
The woman stepped purposefully into the house, her eyes burning with righteous fury. Her forearms were thick as bread loaves, her knees blocky and toughened from a lifetime of kneeling at Mass. “The devil reclaim you, spawn of hell!” she shouted, advancing on Spike.
Spike backed away, desperately looking for an escape route. Not that he was actually afraid of her, mind, but he wasn’t keen to get into a tussle with an old woman. There was absolutely no way to come out of something like that looking like a hero.
Aggie burst in from the kitchen. “Mrs. Rivera, stop!”
Spike grabbed onto Aggie and thrust her between himself the madwoman with the knitting needle. It wasn’t his proudest moment, using a woman as a human shield, but he didn’t see the point in being a proud pile of dust. Angel had followed Aggie out of the kitchen, broom still in hand, but he hung well back, out of the fray.
The old woman’s eyes widened when she saw Aggie, and she tightened her grip on the cross, whitening the brown skin of her knuckles. “It grieves me to see you this way, mija. The devil may have taken your soul, but I will not let him desecrate your body!”
Aggie reached out and wrapped her fingers around the cross. She didn’t try to take it, just stood there with her skin pressed against the wood. “I’m not a vampire,” she said. “See?”
Mrs. Rivera narrowed her eyes, keeping her weapons leveled. “Ay! Now why don’t you just hand that cross over to your friends, too, eh?”
Aggie shook her head. “I can’t do that.”
“Ah ha!” shouted the woman in triumph. “I knew it! I knew they were vampires!”
“They are,” said Aggie. “But it’s okay.”
“I don’t know what kind of nonsense you’ve been listening to out there in La La Land, loquita, but vampires are not okay!”
“Not usually, no, but these two are different.”
“Different how?” The old lady lowered the knitting needle just a bit.
“They’ve got souls,” said Aggie.
“Hmmph. Vampires don’t have souls.”
“These two do. And I’d be in a position to know, wouldn’t I?”
“I guess you would,” conceded Mrs. Rivera. “Still doesn’t explain why you’re inviting them into your abuela’s house.”
Aggie shrugged. “They needed a place to stay.”
“Hmmph,” repeated Mrs. Rivera. “I never thought I’d live to see the day you’d let vampires into Antoinette’s home, may she rest in peace.”
“Hang on,” said Aggie. “You knew there were vampires in the house and you came over here by yourself? With a knitting needle?”
“I wasn’t going to stand by and let some demon take my friend’s baby girl. I thought you were already dead and that was how they were able to come into the house.”
The old woman had cheek, Spike thought. You had to admire that. Even if she was barking mad.
“How about I hold onto those for now?” suggested Aggie, reaching for the cross and knitting needle.
“I’m not going to kill them,” said Mrs. Rivera indignantly, tucking the weapons into her handbag. “If you say they’re your guests I’ll respect that. I don’t like it, but I’ll respect it.”
Spike reached around Aggie and stuck his hand out. “I’m Spike,” he said cheerfully. “Pleased to meet you.”
Mrs. Rivera raised one bushy eyebrow and glared at his hand until he took it away.
“That’s Angel back there lurking in the corner,” said Aggie.
Mrs. Rivera turned her formidable countenance on Angel, who smiled awkwardly. “Hmmph,” she said.
“Would you like some coffee?” offered Aggie. “I could make some coffee.”
“I’m not drinking coffee with any vampires,” snapped Mrs. Rivera. “Now that I know you’re alive and well, I’ll just be going back home.”
Aggie followed her to the door. “Thank you for looking after the house while I was gone,” she said. “I really appreciate it.”
“You’re welcome,” said Mrs. Rivera. “You’re here to stay?”
“For now, anyway.”
Mrs. Rivera nodded approvingly. “Good. You've always had a fierce spirit, but you cannot shut out the voices of your ancestors. You remember that.”
Spike didn’t know what that was supposed to mean, but it seemed to spook Aggie. The color drained from the girl’s face and he was almost certain he saw a flash of fear in her eyes.
Mrs. Rivera aimed one last withering glare at Spike and Angel before she left. Aggie shut the door behind her and went back into the kitchen without a word.
“What was that about, you think?” asked Spike.
“No idea,” said Angel.
They followed her into the kitchen. She was loading the dishwasher, slamming the dishes around a little more roughly than was strictly advisable.
“Take it easy, pet,” warned Spike, dropping into a chair at the old formica table. “You won’t have any left to eat off of if you keep that up.”
“I told you not to call me pet,” she snapped. But she eased up on the dishes a little.
“You okay?” asked Angel.
“I’m fine,” she said brusquely. “Have you picked your rooms yet?” she asked, changing the subject.
“Top of the stairs,” said Spike before Angel could answer. He wanted that one because it had a telly and because the only window was north-facing. Also it was the biggest.
“I was thinking maybe I’d take the attic.” said Angel. “If it’s all right.”
Spike cursed himself for not thinking to check out the attic. There was probably four times as much space up there. Then again, there were probably four times as many spiders, too. “If Angel’s taking the attic then I get both the bedrooms, right?”
“It gets hot up in the attic,” said Aggie.
Angel shrugged. “Heat doesn’t really bother me.”
“You know, there’s a storage shed out back if you want to be even farther away from me.”
“That’s not what I—”
“It’s fine,” she said. “I think there’s an old window air conditioner in the garage you can probably take up there.”
“Thanks,” said Angel. “I’m going to go and start cleaning it up.”
“Great,” said Aggie, snatching up two handfuls of silverware and cramming them into the machine.
When Angel had gone Spike said, “It’s the psychic thing, you know. He doesn’t want you peeking into his brain when he’s having one of his great bloody mope fests. Which is all the time, by the way.”
“I know,” said Aggie, reaching for the dish soap. “It’s just as well, he’s giving me a headache anyway. The whole house is drenched in his angst. I’m surprised you can’t smell it. It smells like feet.”
“Is that what that is?” said Spike. “Thought it was the carpets.”
She slammed the dishwasher shut and turned to look at him. “Why doesn’t it bother you? That I might snoop on all your secret thoughts, I mean?”
He leaned back and shrugged. “Snoop away, luv, I’ve got nothing to hide.”
“Everyone’s got something to hide,” said Aggie, sitting down across from him. “You’re not exactly rainbows and fuzzy bunnies inside.”
“Damn right,” he said. “I’m all about the motorbikes and rock and roll.” He gave her his best punk rocker snarl.
“Dream on, James Dean.” She sighed and rubbed her eyes with the heel of her hands. “Last night, is it possible that I, uh ...” she hesitated, looking embarrassed, “fell asleep in Angel’s lap at some point?”
“’Fraid so,” he said, trying not to enjoy her discomfort too much.
“Ugh.” She slumped forward so that her face was buried in her arms.
“You do that a lot?” asked Spike.
She raised her head enough to peer up at him. “What? Put my head in strange men’s laps?”
“Drinking to dull the pain.”
“Not a lot,” she said. “Sometimes, though, it’s the only thing that blocks out the noise around me.”
Spike nodded. That’s what he’d figured. Hell, if he had to go through life drowning in everyone else’s tragedies all the sodding time he’d never stop drinking.
“It’s not usually that bad,” said Aggie. “I’m not usually that bad. But it’s been a bad week.”
“Yeah,” said Spike, thinking about Gunn and Wes. “It bloody well has.”