Also Comes in Strange
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Series Title: Two Out of Four
Part: 1 - New Beginnings
Author: Tania
Summary: Picking up where the Still Ensouled Series ended. Angel Inc. adjusts to their new life.
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Joss is god, the grrr argh monster could stomp me, yada yada.
Notes: Thanks to Josey for the beta, she kicks my arse daily and I love her for it.

Angel awoke with a jolt, sweat plastering his hair to his brow. Tremors like the aftershocks of an earthquake raged through him and he groped for the body that lay next to him. It was a selfish relief to discover that Spike, in turn, was shuddering through his own nightmares; their combined reactions making the bed vibrate in tandem. Tempted to wake his lover with a nudge he thought better of it as he reached out a trembling hand. Instead of shaking him, Angel stroked glistening locks of hair from Spikeís quivering forehead and whispered a quieting prayer over him.

The dreams were getting worse. Every time he closed his eyes he saw the two of them burning. He could smell the acrid scorching flesh and boiling blood that had permeated the warehouse as they fled the pool of gasoline at their feet, hear the screams of "no" and "why?" as they tried in vain to douse the flames. He sat up in the bed for a moment and felt blindly for the window latch, trapping the warm metal clasp in his hand he slid the small frame open and gasped as the chill night air rushed into the room.  Angel lay back against his pillows and tried to calm his nerves, taking in long slow streams of air he counted the rosary in his mind, begging for forgiveness.

"But I wasn't there." Spike frantically mumbled in his sleep. "I wasn't even there. Why won't you leave me alone?" he cried, unable to escape the images clouding his dreams. Angel, pulled back from the horrors flashing in his own mind, placed a hand on Spike's shoulder and urged his lover awake.

"Spike." He said just forcibly enough to get Spike to open his eyes.

"I had it again, Angel." Spike whispered as he rolled over and buried his face in his sire's chest. "Think we're being punished."

"No. I'm being punished. They hurt me with the dreams, but they hurt me more by giving them to you." He stroked Spike's hair and placed soft kisses on his forehead.

"They're not dead." Spike said, still in a whisper.

"Yes they are."

"Don't think so. You didn't watch them turn to dust, you just assumed. I know I sensed Dru in Sunnydale. I could feel her eyes on me. She was there Angel. After the fire, I know it. I felt her."

"Spike, I felt Darla die. I didn't see it, but I know." He closed his eyes and in his mind he saw a picture  of his sire, a walking tower of flames. He could still taste the smoke in his mouth, feel it roiling over his tongue as he threw the cigarette onto the gas and ignited the pyre that engulfed them.

"Angel, it's a possibility. They could be alive. We have to accept that, one of us has our spider senses malfunctioning, probably both of us. The dreams have to be happening for a reason or we wouldn't both be having them."

"You're right. There has to be a reason and I'm thinking it started the day we went to work for the firm."

"So Wolfram and Hart are planting dreams in our minds? Can they do that?"

"Yeah, they can. Lilah had visions planted in Cordelia's head once, they're capable of it."

"This just feels..." Spike paused and sat up. "Angel, it feels fake, like something is off. It's like knowing the plot to a play and seeing it acted out differently."

"I can't explain it." Angel said with another kiss to Spike's brow.

"I know. Must be time for research."

"How do we research dead vampires? Not a lot to go on."

"I guess you start with the brains of the operation and move on from there."

"Guess so, I'll call Gunn and get him started." Angel said as he rolled out of bed and grabbed a pair of trousers from the floor.

*****

Angel paced the expanse of his large penthouse, silently exploring the space which was still so new to him. Cradling a cordless phone to his ear, he tried to stay focused on what Gunn was saying, but it became more and more difficult each time he crossed the room. He paused in the kitchen to glare at the nearly empty refrigerator, then returned to the living room, his bare feet soundlessly tracing patterns on the polished rosewood floor. Gunnís legalese wasnít exactly helping to calm his nerves.

"Charles, listen." Angel said, interrupting Gunn mid-sentence. "Spike and I can hardly sleep because the dreams are so vivid. We have over four hundred people working for us, right?"

"Four hundred thirty-two." Came the quick reply.

"So, letís see if we canít put them to task figuring out where Drusilla is. We find Dru, Darla wonít be far off." Angel hoped at least, although he decided not to add that part. "Just get everyone working on it, okay?"

"You got it. If theyíre still animated weíll find them." Gunn hung up and Angel tossed the silent phone onto the couch that sat in the middle of the room. He ran his now free hands through his hair and closed his eyes briefly.

"Team all go, go, go?" Spike asked from the hallway.

"Yeah, theyíre on it."

"Whyís it so cold in here?"

"I opened the door to the terrace. I was feeling a little claustrophobic." Angel sat on the couch with a sigh, moving to one side to dislodge the phone from his ass while the other hand pinched the bridge of his nose. "Do you ever get the feeling weíre going crazy?"

"We are kind of the authorities on crazy, I mean Dru, Fred, we tend to surround ourselves with insanity."

"Or make it." Angel grabbed Spikeís hand and pulled him onto the couch, needing to touch something real. "I hate it here."

Spike slid closer to Angel and toyed with his hair. "Me too. Whole place is too shiny for me. Mean who decorated in here anyway? Needs some velvet or tile or...I donĎt know, something."

"Yeah." Angel pulled his feet up off the cold floor and tucked them under his body. "I miss the hotel."

"Right. All that standing around with nothing to do. Waiting for vision girl to do her thing." Spike smiled, but they both knew he was only half kidding.

"No, youíre right. Itís better this way. We can make a difference working from within Wolfram and Hart. More than we ever could have the other way at least."

"Uh huh. I just wish that the whole working from within thing didnít have to involve leaving the apartment, with its abundance of chrome lamps and wood. Thereís a lot of wood here." Spike lifted his head and placed a swift kiss on Angelís cheek before jumping off the couch. "Right then, letís go fight some evil. Which may or may not be sharing the office next to yours."

****

"I think Iíve just had a brilliant idea." Angel said brightly as he popped his head into Wesleyís office. Wesley held up a hand to indicate that he was on the phone.

"Alright, send a team to Montreal, do a sweep and report back to me when youíre done. Yes to me, have you talked to anyone else? Okay then." Wesley clicked off the phone and slid the envelope he had been holding in his other hand under the mat on the desktop.

 "Iím even going to call it inspired." Angel continued, paying little attention to the other manís prior task.

"Really?" Wes asked as he turned his chair around to face the door. "What about?"

"Well, you know we have all of this space, all of these operatives just itching to get out and do some real good."

"Yes." Wesley said, motioning to the chair in front of him. Angel took a seat  and continued.

"So I thought to myself, how do we train all of these do-gooders and get rid of Wolfram and Hartís extra staff?"

"What?" Wesley asked, sitting up now with his full attention on Angel.

"Well you know," Angel said, leaning back in his chair casually, "there were so many of these people hired just to make me crazy. I mean thereís the Land and Properties Division, which had such an interest in the hotelís building violations. Thereís the Antiquities Department which so cleverly found the amulet and trapped Spike in the Hellmouth for two weeks. Thereís Mergers and Acquisitions, which since we will be neither merging nor acquiring any other companies, you know, just sitting around."

"Angel, Iím not sure where youíre going with this." Wesley said cautiously.

"Well, come on Wes." Angel said as he stood up and began to stalk around the office. "Weíre in this huge building with all of these *extra* people just walking around." Angel waved his arms to the open door indicating the many bodies passing by. "How is it fair that the vampires that work here, who get no joy from the staff lunchroom I might add, have to dine on pigís blood while all these freaking lawyers are just walking around. There are mercenaries to train, Wesley. Slayers just *dying* to kick a little ass, they really need to be drilled." A curl formed around his lips as he continued. "This is a pretty full time operation on itís own, and hey, Iím getting really hungry being around them all the time." Angel said, turning to face Wesley, his eyes flashing gold for the tiniest of seconds.

"Angel, thatís not funny." Wesley rose to meet the vampireís stance. "You canít just start eating the staff."

"I wasnít just going to knock on someoneís door and yell Ďsoupís oní or anything." Angel said, adding a smile that Wesley could no longer discern. "I was thinking weíd round them up a few at a time and you know, bring in a few vampires, possibly Harmony." Angel raised his eyebrows looking for a reaction. "Itíll be like survival of the fittest. If you can keep breathing till lunch time you get to keep training. I figure by the end weíll only have the best of the best, and we can eat the rest."

"That is quite possibly the most disgusting thing Iíve ever heard."

"Oh Wes, come on, you know itíll be fun, all that squealing and the blood. I mean, donít forget about the blood. We could even do it in the White Room, yeah, that would be just..." He rolled his tongue over his teeth searching for the right word, "breathtaking."

Wesley stared at Angel for a moment trying to quell his stomach, there was an unsettling gleam in Angelís eyes and for a moment he wondered if he could get a stake across the room fast enough to at least wound him, and then a thought occurred to him. "Angel, where is Spike?"

"Who?" Angel asked, toying with a curved sword that hung on the wall.

"Oh you know, Spike, blond fellow, fond of black t-shirts, is more skilled at betting on golf tournaments than a certain vampire standing in my office who shall remain nameless."

"I knew it!" Angel said, whipping around to face Wesley. "You let him come over and watch the early feed on satellite yesterday while I was out fighting a hive of Nester demons. Didnít you?"

"How many times have I told you to stop betting with him, you know he cheats."

"Because you helped him." Angel said in a voice that reminded Wesley of more than a few teenagers he had known in his life.

"I did no such thing. If you canít keep your boyfriend from coming over to my flat thatís not my fault. Get a satellite in your penthouse in the sky and keep him at home. Then he wouldnít keep coming over eating my Weetabix and..."

"Oh. My. God."

"What?"

"You bet him too." Angel accused.

"No I didnít." Wesley said, a little too quickly.

"Oh, yes you did. You lost and had to try and get me to put in a satellite." Angel laughed.

"Itís completely stupid to be betting on golf in the first place, I should know better. And how, exactly, is this worse that you trying to convince me that we should use the staff here as a never ending supply of blood? And donít think for a moment that I blame Spike for all of that. That bit about the White Room was completely you, I could see it in your eyes." He stared at Angel for a moment before looking away and giving a small laugh of his own. "You really are quite sick."

Angel started to argue and then realized it was kind of fun imagining a red-colored end to several Wolfram and Hart employees who seemed to be evil to their cores. "Youíre right. You can take your time to think about it. Iíll send you a memo with a few more details."

"If you do Iíll be sure to send Spike some less than flattering pictures from 1952 that I have in my possession."

"You wouldnít."

"Oh, wouldnít I?"

"We really need to get out of this business." Angel chuckled.

"Belly of the beast, Angel. You said it yourself."

"Yeah. Night Wes." Angel said as he exited the office.

"Good night." Wesley said to an empty room before turning his attention back to the papers on his desk. He pulled the envelope from its hiding place and carefully unwound the thread from the tiny metal brad that held it shut. Sliding the contents onto the desk he picked up a sheet of glossy photo paper which held the unmistakable image of Drusilla, and then quickly dug around in a drawer for a magnifying glass. Holding it up to examine the photograph he focused in on the black and white image walking a few paces behind Drusilla. He closed his eyes, briefly conjuring an image of Angelís sire in his mind, before tossing the picture and glass onto the desk.

He pulled his cell phone from his pocket and sat down at his desk before hitting the redial button. The line buzzed three times before an anxious voice answered. "Sheís alive." Wesley said before hanging up the phone and turning back to the vision of the Los Angeles nightline. "Sheís definitely alive." He said again with a smile.

Chapter Two




People cursed my evil fingers .

Copyright 2003 Tania

Violators will be beaten to death with a shovel.
(A vague disclaimer is nobody's friend)