Spike was starting to hate this place. No, scratch that. Spike had passed hate a long time ago, and now he was well on his way to loathing. Every walnut-panelled hallway, every strip of monotonous grey carpet, every flunky’s office with identical desk and chair and sofa, he despised them all. He stalked through corridors and walls and, when they got in his way, startled employees, and fantasized about some good old-fashioned carnage. Couple of cans of petrol sloshed around the place, a good pile of smashed desks in the foyer, this building would go up a treat.
It wasn’t that he regretted saving Fred. Getting his body back and her dying as a result, or staying a ghost and stopping Pavayne – a choice like that wasn’t even a choice. She’d been all right to him, had Fred, better than most that he could think of, and he didn’t have so many friends that he could go throwing them away.
Didn’t mean he wasn’t going to have a go at levitating some matches, just to make himself feel better.
He was heading to Wesley’s office, because Percy would be long gone at this hour and rearranging his paperwork would be good for the telekinesis muscles, when the lights above his head flickered and went out.
Oh, God. No, no, this wasn’t happening again, Pavayne was locked away in whatever passed for a dungeon here and even as he told himself that he was bunching his hands into fists, crouching a little, ready to unleash bloody vengeful hell on whatever appeared –
The lights came back up, and the ‘whatever’ turned out to be a woman. Somewhere around the age he’d been when Drusilla had turned him, from the looks of her; beautiful, brown hair to her shoulders, and legs that went on for a long way before they disappeared below the burgundy skirt. The clothes weren’t obviously from another decade. If she was one of Pavayne’s spooks, then, she was a recent one. And she was a ghost, that much he was sure of – took one to know one, and she looked different to the solid types around the office. More real around the edges.
“Well, the hair fits. You must be Spike,” she said, and he slowly relaxed his stance.
“Might be. What’s it to you?”
She put out her hand. He shook it, marvelling and aching all at once at the ability to touch someone without having to sweat for it. “Lilah Morgan. The Senior Partners have an offer I think you’ll be interested in.”
The bird had class, he’d give her that.
She took him up to the roof, past the greenhouses with their artificial gardens and the helicopter launch pads, and led him right to the edge. Spike looked down over the wall at the tiny moving car-lights, careful not to lean too far, and wondered what would happen if he slipped. Would he vanish as soon as he hit the ground and reappear back in the offices, like he had when he’d tried to skip town? Or would he keep falling, down through the earth’s crust and the mantle and all the parts beneath that, right to the other side?
Lilah stood beside him at the ledge. She smelled of expensive French perfume, a scent he still associated with Darla, and it had been months since he’d had use of his senses and it hadn’t really come home to him until right now how blind he’d felt without being able to smell and taste and touch. He closed his eyes and breathed her in, and when he collected himself she was giving him a wry smirk and holding out a lit cigarette.
He sucked the nicotine down into his lungs. He’d been the cause of enough last breaths to know he was drawing in the smoke with the same desperation. Fuck, good didn’t begin to cover how it tasted.
He smoked it down to a burning stub against his fingers, and when he dropped it to the concrete it vanished.
“Another?” she offered. “Since we’re both dead I’m not really worried about cancer.”
“Wondered about that,” he said, nodding at the ugly scar bisecting her throat. “Decapitation?”
“Post-mortem. But enough about me.” She smiled, cool and confident. Spike had assumed she was a liaison, like Eve – seemed to have the same type of attitude, though she had the presence to carry it off – but now he changed his mind. Lilah Morgan, whatever else she was, was a lawyer.
Normally, that would be reason enough to drain her dry and toss her off the roof, but his soul and his ghostly state and his pleasant nicotine buzz made him more inclined to hear her out.
“So you’re, what, offering me a deal? I put my name on the dotted line and you’ll turn me back solid, give me a lifetime supply of Marlboros? Fancy penthouse like Angel’s? Fleet of roadsters?”
“If I thought we could buy you that cheaply I’d have the contract signed by now,” she said. She was turned around to face him, casually leaning back against the low wall. He’d copy her, if he was absolutely sure he wouldn’t fall straight through. “The Senior Partners want you on board, Spike. They’re prepared to give you whatever you want to make that happen.”
Whatever he wanted… he tried not to think of Buffy, and that made her the pink elephants that he had to think about, and he scowled deeply. “Not interested.”
“Of course, you don’t have to decide right away,” she said, as if he hadn’t spoken. “Watch the presentation before you choose the brooding, heroic, basically sterile life as a ghost over what we’re offering.”
“Hey! I am not…” But he didn’t get a chance to say he wasn’t brooding, because the world disappeared.
The rooftop beneath him stayed where it was. It was the space beyond the roof, the dark, sprawling cityscape, that vanished. In its place was a cavern, sunlight pouring down through the roof – and himself, head thrown back and caught in a beam of bright light as girls streamed, panicked, around him and up the stairs. Faith called for Buffy, and then ran.
He was going to see himself die.
“When I say the Partners will do anything to get you on the team,” Lilah said, “I mean anything. Changing reality takes more power and resources than most warlocks ever see in a lifetime, but Wolfram & Hart can arrange it. For the most valuable employees.”
He watched, mesmerized, as Buffy took his hand, again, and the flames leapt up where they touched, again, and she said she loved him, except that this was the part where it deviated from what he remembered.
“I know,” the other him said, eyes shining, and the real Spike could only think that Andrew would be pissed off with him for copying Star Wars, and then he was watching himself and Buffy run out of the cave and up through the school.
He couldn’t watch any more. When he turned angrily away he expected the picture to follow him, clockwork bloody orange images chasing him even when he closed my eyes, but his surroundings faded back to night-time Los Angeles. He’d never been happier to see it.
“That didn’t happen.”
Lilah said, “It could have. Nobody will know it was ever different.”
He’d swing for her, if he didn’t think she’d just vanish the second he touched her. Story of his life, women doing that. “You can’t,” he said. “I burned, inside out. Melted to nothing. You can’t take that away, make it some Mills and Boon happy-clappy ending.”
He could feel Lilah very close behind him. It made him twitch inside his skin. “You could ask for something else,” she suggested. “Buffy’s in Rome right now. We could have you corporealized and on a jet within an hour.”
“And all your bosses want is my name on their contract.” He rubbed the heel of his hand absently against his chest, the place where he’d once tried to cut out his heart. “Tell the Partners they can sod off, Lilah. Fought too long for this soul to give it away.”
“Souled vampires,” she sighed. “You’re all such romantics.” She pronounced it to sound like ‘morons’.
A moment later he was alone on the roof, the scent of perfume and cigarette smoke still hanging in the air.
He didn’t see her again till Halloween. It was early in the evening, barely even dark outside the fancy tempered glass, and he was doing his best to avoid anything to do with the party. Demons making a big deal out of October 31st. Bleeding tragedy was what it was.
She was sitting in the dark in Wesley’s office. This time she was in a deep blue dress with a matching scarf covering the gash across her neck, and she looked lost in thought.
“Take it this isn’t a follow-up visit,” Spike said, dropping onto the couch beside her, his feet automatically going to the coffee table. He hardly even had to think, now, about not falling through. “Not gonna change my mind, pet. Tied to this place enough without making it nice and legally binding.”
“I’m not here on business,” she said. “It’s a company-wide holiday. Most dead employees take it as a chance to visit family members.”
“Sounds smart. Scare ‘em to death, get work for the firm with handling the wills and stuff.”
“What can I say? I’m a dedicated employee.”
“Bet you are.”
“You could always take the deal,” she said, perfect lips curving upwards in a challenge. “Find out how – dedicated – I am.”
She sat back, deliberately close, and there must have been a time when a woman just brushing against him didn’t send his head away. He’d been too long without touching anybody, that was all. Months as a ghost, months before that when the soul had been too raw to let him be close to anyone. He hadn’t been lying when he told Buffy that holding her had been the best night of his life. Till then, he’d been halfway to wondering if he was ever going to touch another person again.
Now that he thought on it, he realized with a morbid horror exactly how long it had been. That last night with Buffy, the night before he’d died, all love and tenderness. Long, long before that on the magic shop’s table with Anya, a drunken, painful haze that he barely remembered, except that they’d called each other the wrong names halfway through.
Two times in close to as many years. Christ, he had to get this sorted. He could feel the albatross of William’s thirty-year-old virginity starting to claw its way back around his neck.
And for one night only, there was a gorgeous woman who didn’t pass straight through him and who was trying it on with him, even if she was only offering to whore herself for the firm. He’d always admired company loyalty – no, actually, he’d always thought it was stupid, but in the interests of getting shagged some time in the next century he was prepared to make allowances.
He brushed her hair away from her face, running his thumb across her lower lip. It left a shine of lipgloss on his skin, faint and smelling of watermelon.
“Are we doing this here?” she asked.
“Where do you want to do this?” His voice had dropped down to the suggestive drawl that had rarely failed to melt Harmony, or make Buffy punch him or jump him, often both in quick succession.
She looked appraisingly around the office. “Wesley’s desk?” There was glee in her tone, maybe, underneath it, revenge.
He liked how this woman’s mind worked. “Got a better idea.”
Lilah had suspenders on beneath the dress. It’d been years, since Dru, since he’d had to deal with all the bits and pieces of women’s clothing. He’d forgotten what a turn-on this could be, slowly, teasingly stripping someone piece by piece, seeing if you could make her come before she was even undressed. He managed it for the first time when she was still in her bra and knickers, and a moment later she had them rolled over. Very deliberately, she licked her lips. He was close before she even lowered her mouth onto him, brown hair fanning silkily around his hips.
She scraped the underside of his cock with her teeth, and it was one-all.
“I’ve read Angel’s files. There, lower… You two were fucking each other back in the day, oh, God, there… Did you let him do this to you? Did you like it?”
“One time in Rome,” he murmured into the back of her neck, “me and him had a fight with the girls.” Pushed deeper in, and was gratified when she gasped. “Angelus took me to this little church in the back streets, always had a thing for churches, bent me over one of the pews and…”
She tightened around him. He’d long since lost score.
He’d never seen these windows at dawn before. During the day, yeah, he could see the attraction of all that natural light without being burned to a crisp. For some reason, though, he’d never thought about seeing sunsets, sunrises. Maybe that was a bit too close to poetic wankery for him to admit to.
Lilah gathering together her clothes in the red morning light was a sight worth risking poetry for, he thought. She could just have willed the clothes back on, same as he could, but she tossed him a smile back over her shoulder and he realized she was giving him a show.
“Suppose that’s it for you,” he said. “Back to the fire pits.”
“You could always ask them to let me stay,” she said, smile fading away into regret. “If you signed…”
He rolled onto his back, glaring at the ceiling. She laughed.
“Please, I’m not serious. You couldn’t break my contract even if you wanted to.” Fully dressed now, she leaned over the bed and left a last kiss on his lips, tipping him a wink. “See you around, champ.”
There was more he might have said – at least to ask why she’d ever been here, who she’d been waiting for last night – but he must have blinked, because the sun was up and she was gone.
And he was…
He pressed his hands experimentally on the silk sheets. He didn’t feel a thing, but he didn’t fall through the earth either, and he was sleepy and satiated, and for now he wanted to burrow under the covers and forget about being a ghost for at least a day and a half.
It worked for about four hours, which was the point when Angel turned up demanding to know why Spike was naked in his bed.
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