A Day in the Life of PuppetAngel
by Michael Weaver
Summary: What happened between the time Spike came by and Angel went to see Nina in "Smile Time"?
Disclaimer: No ownership of characters, puppet (though that would be great!), settings, yada yada, anything but plot.
Distribution: Here and at Buffy Fiction Archive
Feedback: Ya think? Please. redsrule1 at yahoo.com Contact for archiving.
Completed: August 6, 2004
Author’s Note: During the AtS episode “Smile Time”, there is a gap of almost an entire day between the early morning fight between Spike and PuppetAngel, and the next time we see PuppetAngel when he is confessing his condition to Nina as she turns into a werewolf at sundown. This story begins immedately after the early morning fight, when PuppetAngel has just instructed Harmony to get Spike a new car.
As he walked away from Harmony’s desk, PuppetAngel sighed. He had mixed emotions. As if being a tortured soul doomed to walk the earth seeking redemption for all eternity weren’t enough, now he had to do it as a puppet. Added to that was the fact that, as Wesley had pointed out, his new condition would result in heightened emotions which he would have to work extra-hard to keep in check. And probably most of all, he felt bad for having been so rude to Nina.
On the plus side, however, he had just knocked the stuffing out of Spike, and that made him feel quite good about himself. That almost made it all worthwhile.
He thought about going back to his apartment to wait for the workmen to repair his damaged office doors, but decided instead to go to the lunch room. Word of his condition would no doubt spread quickly through the building, and if he were hiding out in his apartment, the tales would surely get more and more out of hand. Better to let everyone see him like this than to have them think something worse.
“ ‘Self esteem is for everybody’,” he sang to himself as he entered the lunch room.
Conversation in the room stopped abruptly as all eyes turned to look at him. PuppetAngel rolled his eyes and sighed. “Yes, it’s really me. I’m really a puppet. We’re not sure how it happened, but we’re working on it. Now get back to your breakfasts -- or lunches -- or whatever.”
Several of the women looked at him with the arched eyebrows and pursed lips which threatened sentiments better bestowed upon puppy dogs and stuffed pink bunnies. PuppetAngel pointed a finger in their direction. “And the first person who uses the word ‘cute’ will help Lorne with the Streisand negotiations!”
He found an unoccupied table and, with some difficulty, climbed into a chair. Although everyone was watching, no one dared to offer help. Slowly, and amidst stifled chuckles and coos, they all returned their attention to their food and, eventually, their conversations. Just as the room returned to normal, however, Spike burst noisily in, followed by Harmony.
“Look, Harm,” Spike was saying. “He didn’t beat me up.”
“Those bruises on your face say differently,” Harmony sang, walking toward the refrigerator.
“It wasn’t even a fair fight,” Spike protested. “I was laughing so hard I couldn’t get a punch in edgewise!”
Harmony ignored him, opening the refrigerator door and looking inside.
“Listen,” Spike pleaded. “I terrorized entire continents! I’ve killed slayers! I gave my life savin’ the bloody world. I’m not likely to get beaten up by some stuffed animal, am I?”
PuppetAngel’s scowl deepened, if that was possible. “I am NOT a stuffed animal,” he growled from across the room.”
Spike turned to see PuppetAngel sitting at a table. “Well, there’s the little plush toy now!”
PuppetAngel leapt off his chair and grabbed the first throwable thing he could lay his hands on, which happened to be the frozen dinner tray of someone seated at a neighboring table. He threw the tray at Spike, who coolly side-stepped the missile. It splattered harmlessly against the wall behind him.
“Careful there, Kermit,” Spike said condescendingly, as if admonishing a naughty child. “Watch the coat.”
A container of milk hit Spike squarely in the chest, splattering its contents all over him and Harmony, who ran shrieking from the room.
“Right! I’ll do you for that!” Spike growled, vamping into his game face.
PuppetAngel did the same, then hesitated. He felt his vampire face. It was good to know that he could still do that.
Wham! Spike tackled the distracted puppet, sending them both hurtling into a nearby table. Food and drink spilled everywhere: on Spike, on PuppetAngel, and on the occupants of the table, who fled the room, followed closely by everyone else.
The vampires grappled on the floor for a bit, knocking over other tables and chairs, until PuppetAngel’s fangs ripped a hole in the leg of Spike’s jeans.
“Oh, now you REALLY did it, you--” Spike wrapped an arm around PuppetAngel’s neck, squeezing him into a head lock. Holding the trapped puppet in one arm, Spike felt around with his free hand and found a squeeze bottle of mustard. “Take this, you little wanker,” he said as he emptied half the bottle into the puppet’s hair.
“You -- bastard!” PuppetAngel gasped as he struggled to free himself.
Spike dropped the bottle and used his free hand to mash the smelly condiment into the puppet’s hair until it was a yellow mess. “S’what you get for rippin’ my jeans, you git.”
PuppetAngel thrashed about wildly, and hissed. It was the hiss more than anything which startled Spike into loosening his grip just enough for his adversary to break free. PuppetAngel took a few steps back, just out of Spike’s reach, and felt his matted hair. A low growl in the back of his throat grew into a roar and he hurled himself at Spike, who had scrambled to his feet in preparation for the attack. As PuppetAngel lunged, Spike kicked the leg with the ripped jeans at him, but PuppetAngel anticipated the move, grabbed on, and sank his fangs into the inside of Spike’s thigh.
“OW! Stop it!” Spike shook his leg, trying to get PuppetAngel to release him. “Get off, you little wanker!” Spike shook his leg more violently, but PuppetAngel hung on. “Stop it! Don’t do that, that tickles!” Spike couldn’t help but laugh as PuppetAngel’s felt tickled his leg through the hole in his jeans. “Let go! Bugger! Stop!” He half shouted, half chortled as he danced and twirled about the lunch room, bouncing off of walls and knocking over tables while PuppetAngel hung on by his teeth, looking not unlike a large bass at the end of a fishing line.
Finally Spike tripped over a chair and toppled to the floor. “Stop! Cut it Out! Don’t! Stop!” Spike’s shouting had become little more than a panting whine. He rolled onto his side and caught PuppetAngel between his legs, trying to cause whatever pain he could to get the puppet to let go, whether by squeezing hard or by banging the puppet’s head against the floor.
As Harmony returned from the restroom, trying to wipe the milk from her sun dress with paper towels, she was stopped by the crowd of people outside the lunch room door. Since the door had no windows, they were all trying to hear what was going on inside. A man put up a hand and grabbed her arm to stop her from entering the room. “They’re still at it,” he warned.
“I don’t care.” Harmony shook his hand off her arm and opened the door. “They’re gonna pay for my dry cleaning bill.”
“Don’t...Stop...Don’t...Stop...” Spike, with his back to the door, was writhing on the floor, unable to get out a complete sentence, gasping as he was from the biting and tickling. All that Harmony could see of PuppetAngel was his bottom half sticking out from between Spike’s legs.
“Oh!” Harmony stopped in her tracks, only halfway through the door. She backed out and closed the door quietly, so as not to disturb them. “I guess you win the pool, Jenkins,” she said to the man who had tried to stop her. She shook her head as she turned to walk away. “I was sure it would be Angel and Wesley!”
Inside the break room, Spike continued to struggle to extricate PuppetAngel from his thigh. He pulled the puppet’s hair, but his hands kept sliding off due to the mustard. He clawed at PuppetAngel’s head and face, and finally caught the puppet’s nose. Spike pulled hard, hoping that the pain of having his nose pulled would force him to let go. Instead, the nose pulled right off his face.
Immediately the two combatants stopped struggling, and the sudden surprise caused them both to lose their vamp faces. PuppetAngel released Spike’s leg and leapt to his feet with a yelp not of pain, but of shock. His eyes widened and his jaw slowly dropped as he stared at the piece of stuffed felt in Spike’s hand. He stood there for several moments, unmoving. Spike sat staring incredulously at the thing in his hand, then slowly looked up at PuppetAngel. When he saw that the puppet was not in pain but merely stunned, he smiled.
“It’s detachable!” Spike shouted with the glee of a child who’s just caught his sibling stealing cookies from the jar. “It comes off! Look, there’s velcro on the back!”
The sound of Spike’s voice snapped PuppetAngel out of his initial shock. His eyes narrowed, his brow re-furrowed, and he managed to close his jaw. “Gib me back my node.”
Spike shrugged and stood, then walked up to PuppetAngel and put the nose back on the puppet’s face. On his forehead, to be precise.
“Sbike...” PuppetAngel growled threateningly, and reached up with his hands to get the nose. Spike was just a little bit quicker, however, and he grabbed the nose off the puppet’s forehead with a velcro rip. Emitting noises which could almost be described as giggles, Spike replaced the nose to PuppetAngel’s forehead, upside down this time. Again PuppetAngel tried to grab the nose, and again Spike was too fast for him. Spike’s almost-giggle gave way to actual giggling, as he next put the nose on PuppetAngel’s right cheek.
Although he wouldn’t have admitted it, PuppetAngel began to see the humor in the situation, and hearing Spike giggle for the first time this century was disarming. So he folded his arms across his chest and stood there pretending to fume, while Spike amused himself by seeing what the nose looked like on the puppet’s right ear, left cheek, chin, left ear, and then where it belonged, but sideways. Spike pulled the nose off again and looked as if he were about to have a go at the back of PuppetAngel’s neck, but suddenly stopped. The giggling stopped as well. He looked at the nose in his hand for a moment, then at the puppet. The younger vampire’s brow furrowed in contemplative curiosity.
“Anything else detachable?”
PuppetAngel’s eyes widened in horror and he crossed his hands in front of himself like a soccer player defending against a free kick.
“You even, what’s the term, ‘anatomically correct’?”
PuppetAngel took a step or two backwards.
“No, s’alright, mate.” Spike waved a hand in a “never mind” gesture. “That’s none o’ my business. Does raise some interesting possibilities, though.”
They both stood silent for a moment, considering this. Smiles tugged at both their mouths.
“Hey!” Spike broke the silence with a new idea, and held the nose at arm’s length in front of him. “Can you blow your nose from there?”
PuppetAngel looked ready to try it, but for some reason an image flashed in his mind of Buffy rolling her eyes and saying something about testosterone and twelve-year-olds. He walked up to Spike and snatched the nose from him. He returned it to its proper place and alignment. “We need to get cleaned up,” he said.
PuppetAngel led the way out of the lunch room toward his office and the private elevator within, which would take him to his penthouse. They passed Harmony’s desk on the way.
“You guys are lucky that this dress is hand washable,” Harmony remarked as they passed by. “But if this milk doesn’t come out or stains it, you’re buying me a new one!”
PuppetAngel ignored her and continued to his office, but Spike paused, taking the bait. “Can’t hold me responsible for your being in the wrong place at the wrong time, luv.”
“Oh, I so can,” Harmony retorted. “This is all your fault!”
Spike placed an innocent hand to his chest. “MY fault? There’s no way that--”
“You know he’s had this obviously traumatic experience. And even though this has led to his finding a new romance, he’s got to be--”
“New romance? What new--”
“--very upset about the whole puppet thing which would be even more tragic if he’s not anatomically-- Oh my god! To find true love and not be-- well, is he?”
“Inquiring minds want to know,” Spike chuckled.
Harmony looked pointedly at Spike. “Well, IS he?”
“What?” Spike puffed out his chest and adopted the most masculine pose he could think of. “How the hell would I know?” he snarled.
Harmony’s eyes widened and she covered her mouth with her hands. “Oh, no, it didn’t work, did it?” She put a sympathetic hand on Spike’s shoulder. “Was it not compatible?” she whispered.
Spike shook her hand off. “What the hell are you talking about, you silly bint?” He started to walk toward Angel’s office. “Just get me that car like Angel told you, a’right?”
Harmony followed him into the office. Spike stopped at the elevator door. “Great. He went on up and I don’t have the code for this elevator. Sometimes I wish I were still a ghost.”
Harmony punched a code into the keypad beside the elevator door, covering the keypad with her other hand so that Spike couldn’t see. “When you’re the personal assistant you have to know such things,” she said with self-importance. The elevator arrived almost immediately and its doors slid open.
Spike stepped onto the elevator and pushed the button for the floor where Angel’s penthouse was. Just as the doors closed, he heard Harmony call out “Hey, Jenkins! You didn’t win after all!”
“What was she on about?” Spike muttered to himself as the elevator ascended. “What new relationship? Was she talking about that Nina chick, tartin’ herself up for her stays at the Werewolf Hilton? Not bloody likely to happen now.” Spike chuckled. “His only chance for a love interest now is Miss Piggy!” Spike laughed out loud. “Only thing’ll come from THAT relationship would be a bunch o’ moody little stuffed piglets...with poofy hair...and deep scowls.” Spike screwed his face into a mock Piggy/Angel scowl.
The elevator doors opened to reveal an impatient, scowling PuppetAngel.
“Just like that!” Spike laughed.
“’Bout time you got here,” PuppetAngel growled. “Just like what?”
“Nothin’, mate. But thank you for going on up and leaving me stuck down there,” Spike chided.
“You got here, didn’t you?”
“Wull, yeah, but--”
“Harmony let you in the elevator, right?”
“Wull, yeah, but--”
“So what’s the problem?” PuppetAngel removed his leather jacket and began unbuttoning his shirt.
Spike looked around. “So where’s your laundry room?”
“Right in there,” PuppetAngel said, pointing to a closet door.
Spike laid his own leather coat on a chair and began stripping down as he opened the door of the washing machine and looked inside. “Hey, there’s already clothes in here.”
“What? Oh, those are dirty. They need to be washed, too. Might as well do ’em all at once,” PuppetAngel said, distracted by his failing attempts to budge his pants zipper with puppet-shaped hands.
Spike started the water running and added detergent. He tossed his and PuppetAngel’s clothes in.
“My zipper’s stuck,” PuppetAngel said, frustrated.
Spike walked over to PuppetAngel, grabbed him by the shoulders, and hoisted him up, looking closely at the back of his neck. “Do you have a tag? No? Ah, well, in ya’ go!” He tossed PuppetAngel into the washing machine.
“Hey!” PuppetAngel protested, standing up inside the machine.
“You’re cloth. You don’t need to breathe. In you go.” Spike slammed the door closed, making PuppetAngel duck. As the machine started to agitate, Spike chuckled. “That was fun.”
Spike occupied himself with cleaning both his and PuppetAngel’s leather coats. He hung his own over the back of a chair when he finished, and hung PuppetAngel’s in a nearby closet. “It’s such a wee little coat now,” he mused. Then his eyes fell on some of Angel’s other clothes. “These are WAY too big for ‘Puppet Man’ now, aren’t they?”
Spike pulled a black silk dress shirt out of the closet and tried it on. “Nice overshirt,” he decided as he rolled up the cuffs. Looking back into the closet, he scoffed as he flipped through Angel’s clothes. “He used to have better taste than this.” He pulled a pair of black leather pants out. “’ello, what’s this then?” He was interrupted by the realization that the washing machine had stopped.
He opened the door of the machine, looked inside, and saw some little bits of stuffing on top of the clothes.
“You all right, mate?” He asked, moving a wet shirt aside so that he could see PuppetAngel. “You spring a leak? Better get my sewing kit,” he said mockingly.
“I threw up,” PuppetAngel groaned weakly. “That last spin cycle...”
“Yeah, you don’t look so good,” Spike observed. “Your color looks strange... kinda pinkish.”
“Huh?” PuppetAngel said as he put his hands on the edges of the washer door and pulled himself to his feet.
“Streaky pink.” Spike reached in and grabbed PuppetAngel under the arms and held him up out of the washer. He looked like a cat whose owner had just given him an unwanted bath. “You look kinda--” Spike’s eyes widened in shocked realization.
“What did you say? Why do you sound like you’re underwater?” PuppetAngel’s eyes narrowed menacingly. “And why are you wearing my clothes?”
Spike didn’t answer, and PuppetAngel’s eyes narrowed further as Spike’s eyes opened wider.
“What’s going on?” PuppetAngel growled. Then he looked at his hands and arms. “Spike? Why am I pink?”
Spike set PuppetAngel back into the machine and reached behind him to pull out a faded red shirt. “Why do I get the feeling that shirt wasn’t faded when we started?”
PuppetAngel growled. “What are you saying?”
“Hey, it wasn’t MY shirt!” Spike pointed out, tossing the offending piece of clothing onto the top of the neighboring dryer. “I didn’t put it in there!”
“What are you gonna do about--”
Spike dumped some bleach over PuppetAngel’s head.
“Hey! No bleach!” the puppet protested. “I’ll fade!”
Spike added detergent and slammed the lid back down, then started the machine again. “You’re a vampire,” he shouted toward the machine. “You’re supposed to be pale.”
When the machine stopped this time, PuppetAngel didn’t wait for Spike and shoved the door open himself. He stood and looked at his non-pink hands and arms. “You are so lucky,” he muttered.
“Wasn’t worried,” Spike shrugged, walking up to the machine and removing the clothes. “Wee lit’le puppet man didn’t scare me.”
“What did you say? Talk louder.”
SMACK! Spike slapped PuppetAngel on the left side of his head.
“What the hell was that for-- hey, I think that helped.” PuppetAngel cocked his head to the right. “My right ear has cleared up a bit.”
SMACK! Spike slapped the right side of PuppetAngel’s head.
PuppetAngel cocked his head to the left. “Yeah, that’s help--”
“Okay, that’s done the trick there--”
“Yeah, both ears are good now, thanks--”
PuppetAngel went vampface. “That’s enough,” he growled.
Spike looked quite pleased with himself as he lifted PuppetAngel out of the washer and held him up for inspection. “There you are, now,” he said as he turned the puppet over to inspect him from all angles.
“Do you mind?”
“You’re back to your pale, broody, vampire-puppet self -- ‘tho’ your jeans are a little faded and you’re a bleach blonde now. But hey! It looks good on you.”
PuppetAngel felt his hair with his hands. “What? I don’t want bleached-blonde hair!”
Spike clucked his tongue. “No, I suppose not. It looks much better on me. You can’t really pull it off, know what I mean?” He held PuppetAngel with one hand and opened the glass door on the front of the dryer with the other.
“Oh, no, you don’t,” PuppetAngel protested.
Spike feigned innocence. “Well, I could hang you up on a clothesline outside the building if you want.” He grinned mischievously. “Or I could just wring you out real good.”
PuppetAngel scowled at Spike like a child whose parents have insisted that it’s bedtime. “Fine.”
Spike smiled victoriously and tossed PuppetAngel unceremoniously into the dryer with an echoing “thunk”. Spike’s jeans also went into the dryer, as did several pairs of socks, but the rest of the clothes were either “dry flat” or “low heat”, so he set them aside and started the dryer.
KA-BOMP! KA-BOMP! Spike sat down on the floor in front of the dryer to watch PuppetAngel tumble round and round. KA-BOMP! KA-BOMP! KA-BOMP! PuppetAngel merely crossed his arms in front of himself and scowled ever deeper, refusing to let Spike see him get flustered by the dryer.
Spike looked around the room at all the tiny PuppetAngels, then pulled a racquet out of his pocket. He picked up the PuppetAngel closest to him, bounced it on the floor a couple of times, then smacked it with the racquet. PuppetAngels were bouncing everywhere, and Spike gleefully volleyed each one until --
The buzz signalling the end of the dryer cycle roused Spike. “Musta dozed off,” he muttered. Then he smiled mischievously. “Nice dream, though.”
Spike opened the dryer door, and PuppetAngel tumbled out. He got clumsily to his feet, then staggered around a bit like a drunken sailor in rough seas. He was covered in socks.
Spike couldn’t help but chuckle to himself. He grabbed PuppetAngel by the arm to steady him, then pulled one of the socks off of the puppet’s back.
“OW!” PuppetAngel exclaimed.
“Ha!” Spike laughed. “You got static cling, mate.” He pulled another sock off, and the static crackle was visible as well as audible this time.
“OW!” PuppetAngel exclaimed again. “I have dryer sheets! Why didn’t you use one?”
“Aww, did you want to smell all April fresh? Hold still and take it like a ma-- uh, puppet.” Spike pulled off a sock which had been covering the top of PuppetAngel’s head, then burst out laughing.
“OWWWW! What are you laughing at?”
“You look like Don King,” Spike chuckled, then stopped. “ ‘Course, come to think of it, you kind of did anyway.”
“Where’s my hair gel?” PuppetAngel muttered, pulling the rest of the socks off himself, and walking to the bathroom. A few moments later both he and Spike were sufficiently dressed, gelled, and de-static-clinged.
“Damn!” PuppetAngel exclaimed as he looked at his clock. “I’m late for my noon meeting.”
He scampered out of the penthouse and to the elevator, pressing the “down arrow” button for the elevator car.
“Must be nice havin’ your own private elevator,” Spike observed, walking up behind PuppetAngel. “Guess that’s one o’ the perks of bein’ CEO. The rest of us have to wait for an elevator. I s’pose you can get on yours as soon as you press the button.”
“Usually. Unless Harmony’s using it again, which she is not supposed to do.” He pressed the button again. “Spike, are you going to follow me around all day?”
“Don’t you have something to do on your own? Someplace to go on your own?”
“Can’t go anywhere. Need a new car.”
“Yes, what did happen to your car, anyway?”
“Oh, mate, you should have seen it.” Spike began, and PuppetAngel began to get a frightening glimpse of what Spike would be like as a teenager . “I was just sittin’ at a stop light, right? Mindin’ my own business. Thinking ‘hmm, what can I do to help Angel and the firm today’, right?”
“Riiight...” PuppetAngel pressed the down button again. Several times. The elevator finally arrived and the doors opened. “Thank goodness,” he muttered, as he stepped into the car and pushed the appropriate button for his office.
Spike followed him into the elevator, barely pausing in his story. “So here come these two wankers in their souped-up hot rod, right? They pull up next to me at the light and start gunnin’ their engine like they’re all hot stuff,” Spike continued as PuppetAngel’s eyes narrowed. “So I ignore ‘em all nonchalant, right?”
“Uh huh,” PuppetAngel said suspiciously.
“But then they rev it again and I can’t ignore ‘em now.”
“They’ve challenged my manhood!”
“Of all the stupid, immature -- your car -- which is acutally my car -- is at the bottom of--”
“Challenged your manhood, too. Well, puppethood. I was just defendin’ your honor,” Spike snorted self-righteously.
“How did they challenge my--”
“Well, it was your car, wa’n’t it?”
“Oh yeah. Did you win? -- No, wait, you mean my car is in the drink because a couple of teenagers goaded you into--”
“Well if you’re gonna be like this about it then next time I’ll just let them think you’re a Nancy-boy!”
“I oughta deck you. Again.”
“I’d like to see you try. Uh, again.”
“ARRRGH!” PuppetAngel’s vampire face returned and he hurled himself at Spike, knocking him backwards. Spike, caught a bit by surprise, threw his hands back to catch himself, and his left hand fell upon the “Emergency Stop” button. Spike’s face vamped as well, and, after steadying himself, he thrust his hands around PuppetAngel’s neck, trying to hold him away.
Harmony sat at the conference table in Angel’s office, along with Lorne, Gunn, and three Grumpalfar demons. The Grumpalfar were skinny, but no shorter than anyone else in the room. They wore hooded robes which concealed everything but their faintly glowing eyes, and their bony three-fingered hands. Although relatively peaceful as demons go, the Grumpalfar had a nasty little habit of stealing cable TV.
“I’m sure Angel will be here soon,” Harmony smiled cheerfully at the visitors. “I checked his elevator a minute ago, and he wasn’t on it, but I’m sure he’s on his way.”
“It’s okay, pumpkin, the Grumpalfar--” Lorne began.
A “ping” sound interrupted Lorne and the light above the elevator doors in Angel’s office lit up to signal the arrival of the car.
“There we go,” Harmony chimed. “That must be him now.”
“Harmony,” Lorne began again, “they don’t--”
Lorne was interrupted this time by a loud crash from the elevator shaft. Gunn sprang to his feet. “What was that?”
“This is the thanks I get?” came Spike’s voice from the elevator shaft.
WHAM! The crash repeated.
“I’m a team player!” Spike’s voice was as much pleading as angry. “I risk my life killing a whole gang of Grox’lar demons for you last night and this is the thanks I get!”
“Heh,” Harmony chuckled nervously and smiled at the Grumpalfar. “Are those Grox’lars eating baby heads again? Heh heh.”
“They must be stuck between floors,” Gunn said, walking over to the elevator doors.
“You get all huffy ‘cause...” Spike’s voice was becoming more throaty and more halting. “I...lose...ungh!...one car... ooh!...when I spent... all night... oh!... fighting demons and... ungh!... defending your honour...AAAUUUGHH!”
WHAM! There was the sound of machinery whirring and the light “pinged” again, this time signalling the actual arrival of the elevator. The doors opened and there stood Spike, slumped against one wall of the car, his hands still around PuppetAngel’s throat, holding him as far away as he could. PuppetAngel had swung his legs up and wrapped them around Spike’s neck, making it difficult for him to speak.
Gunn and Lorne looked shocked at the sight. Harmony’s eyes lit up and she smiled broadly as she clasped her hands excitedly in front of her. The Grumpalfar’s eyes widened, and they began pointing and chattering amongst themselves in a demon language.
Spike and PuppetAngel slowly turned their vamped faces to look at their audience. Spike shook his head, returning his face to normal, and frowned painfully. “Grllkghk,” he choked. Releasing PuppetAngel from his grip, he caught the other vampire by surprise so that PuppetAngel didn’t have time to let go himself. Rather than dropping to the floor on his head, the puppet hung limply from Spike’s neck.
The Grumpalfar all stood, hurried over to Spike, and took turns shaking his hand. They chattered at him in their language, pausing occasionally to study PuppetAngel.
Lorne hurried up behind them. “They say that they are honored to meet Angel’s firm head--? No, sorry, that’s ‘Angel, the head of the firm’,” Lorne translated. “As I was trying to tell Harmony earlier, the Grumpalfar here don’t speak English.”
“I take it you speak Grumpalfar?” PuppetAngel asked grumpily from his dangling position.
The Grumpalfar squealed in shock and began to run about aimlessly, their hands waving in excitement.
“Did I say something wrong?” PuppetAngel asked as Gunn helped him down from Spike.
“Uh, no,” Lorne said, “I think they’re surprised-- the toy can vomit? -- Oh, make words come out. They’re surprised the puppet can talk.”
“I take it you don’t speak Grumpalfar well,” Spike observed, rubbing his throat.
“Apparently better than anyone else here at Wolfram & Hart,” Lorne scoffed. “It’s similar, although not the same, as a couple of other demon languages I know.”
Gunn looked quizzically at PuppetAngel. “What happened to your hair?”
One of the Grumpalfar, apparently the leader, returned to Spike and shook his hand vigorously, chattering something. Spike looked at Lorne.
“--He’s calling you a ‘bumphead’--?” Lorne furrowed his brow, trying to understand what the other demon was saying.
“You take that back,” Spike frowned at the Grumpalfar.
“Oh!” Lorne chuckled. “They saw your vamp face and think you’re Angel.”
“You take that back,” Spike growled.
Lorne said something back to the hooded demon, who cocked his head as if confused. “They’re still not getting it,” he said to PuppetAngel. “I’m not sure how to translate ‘My boss is the puppet’. Not a phrase usually taught in language classes. Now, if we need to ask them where the library is...”
PuppetAngel’s face de-vamped. “Well, I guess they wouldn’t expect the CEO of Wolfram & Hart to be a puppet.”
“S’alright, I’ll get through to ‘em,” Spike said, turning to address the Grumpalfar. He puffed himself up in a formal manner, as if he were about to address the Queen. “Me Spike,” he said louder than necessary, jabbing an index finger into his chest. “That Angel.” Spike pointed to the puppet.
“He’s Angel,” PuppetAngel corrected impatiently.
“Right. He’s Angel.” Spike pointed more emphatically at PuppetAngel, who nodded emphatically at the demons.
The visitors chattered some more. Lorne shook his head. “I don’t think they’re getting it.”
“Look. ME SPIKE!” Spike jabbed a finger harder into his own chest. “THIS--”
“HE ANGEL!” Spike jabbed a finger into the top of PuppetAngel’s head.
“Stop touching me!”
More chattering. Lorne shook his head. “Sorry, Spike, no good--”
“LOOK, ME SPIKE!” Spike gestured furiously with his hands, trying to pantomime a railroad spike.
The chattering became more animated and excited. Lorne’s eyes widened and he grabbed Spike’s hands to stop him. “Uh, you’re kinda making it worse, my little Pina Colada,” he said. “I don’t think they’re gonna get the message. Look, this contract signing is mainly a formality anyway, so maybe we should just let them think that Spike is Angel. Any legal problems with that, Gunn?”
“Nah,” Gunn replied, walking back to the table. “There’s a couple of points we still have to negotiate but as long as Angel’s the one who actually signs the documents, it doesn’t really matter.”
“You okay with that, Muppet?” Lorne asked PuppetAngel.
“Let’s just get this over with,” the puppet muttered, and began walking toward the table, which brought more excited chattering from the demons, who followed.
“So I’m gonna be Angel,” Spike muttered to himself. He bent his head down and tousled his hair with his fingers, then stood up extra straight, taking a deep breath and puffing out his chest a bit. He strode up to the table where the others were sitting and addressed the head Grumpalfar. “I’m Angel,” he announced. “I help the helpless.” He bent down to look the hooded demon in the eyes, took the bony hand in his, and asked, with all the sincerity he could muster, “are you helpless?”
PuppetAngel rolled his eyes. “Well, if you’re Angel, then I guess I’m Spike! ‘Least I’ll look the part.” He leaned back in his chair, crossed his hands behind his head, and propped both feet up on the table. “This is a bit of aw roight then!” he said in an overdone accent.
Spike shot a look at PuppetAngel, took his seat and sat very straight, balling his hands into fists and setting them firmly on the table in front of him. “Harrmony,” he barked, “bring us some coffee!”
“Uh, sure, boss -- er, Spi-- um, yeah.” Harmony turned to leave the room. “That’s so sweet, Angel dyed his hair to match Spike’s. I guess they must be compatible!” she said to herself as the door closed behind her.
“Gunn!” Spike turned his gaze toward the law expert. “Let’s have it! Talk to me!”
“Uh, sure,” Gunn replied, rifling through some papers. “Basically, the Grumpalfar have an illegal cable hookup at their -- I guess you could call it a commune, since they all live together as a group. The cable company, in part owned by Wolfram & Hart, were suing for damages, but are willing to drop the suit in exchange for a reasonable payment plan, which is outlined here in the agreement.”
Spike nodded. “So the Seniorr Parrtnerrs will drrop theirr lawsuit if the Grumpalfarr rrepay them.”
“I believe I just said that,” Gunn agreed.
“And in a better accent,” Lorne muttered.
Harmony returned with a pot of coffee and a tray full of cups. As she bent down to set them on the table, PuppetAngel reached out and pinched her rear end. “Hey!” she squealed.
The Grumpalfar whispered excitedly amongst themselves.
“C’mon, luv,” PuppetAngel grinned mischeviously. “Just ‘avin’ a bit o’ fun. ‘Ow about a nice shag, pet?”
Harmony looked at PuppetAngel, then at Spike. Then she smiled. “See me after the meeting,” she whispered, then left the room. PuppetAngel rolled his eyes and shook his head.
Spike scowled at the puppet. “So what parrt of the agrrement still needs to be worrked out?” He asked Gunn.
“Well,” Gunn began, not entirely sure whether to address Spike or PuppetAngel, “like I said, the Grumpalfar all live together in one building but they each have separate -- um, domiciles within that building and they each have separate cable hookups. But they all live communally, sharing all their expenses in common.”
“Bloody hell,” PuppetAngel said, for no apparent reason.
Gunn looked quizzically at the puppet, then continued. “The Grumpalfar would prefer to be charged all together as a whole, like a hotel with hookups in many rooms. The cable company’s position is that we should charge each hookup separately like an apartment building.” Gunn looked at Spike. “So there you have it, ‘Angel’.”
Spike didn’t respond.
“Angel?” Gunn repeated.
Still no responce.
“Guess our poofy leader’s gone deaf,” PuppetAngel sniped. “Or else ‘e’s thinkin’ o’ new ways to style his hair.”
“Spike?” Gunn tried.
Lorne reached over and waved a hand in front of Spike’s face. “Spike!”
Spike shook his head as he returned from whatever dark recess of the mind he’d been visiting. “What? Sorrry. I was brrooding.” He turned his head and leaned forward to gaze into the head Grumpalfar’s eyes. “I’m a verry dark, torrtured soul, did you know that? It’s a grreat burrden.” He leaned forward a little further. “Anyone ever tell you that you look like a Jawa, mate?”
“SPIKE!” PuppetAngel shouted.
“That’s ‘Angel’ to you, ‘Spikey’,” Spike mocked. “So what’s ourr position on this, Gunn? We willing to let them call it a hotel?”
“Uh, yes, in exchange for an accelerated, um, repayment plan.”
PuppetAngel leaned forward toward the hooded demons. “Why you stealin’ cable anyway, mate? Why not steal satellite? Sure, you can’t get the broadcast networks but there’s no good programs on the networks anymore -- ‘specially now that they cancelled my favourite show, those Wanking Bastards.”
The Grumpalfar all began speaking agitatedly at once. Lorne struggled to keep up with their conversation. “They seem very excited about the talking -- something. They keep using an adjective I’m not familiar with along with the word ‘toy’ to refer to our puppet friend here. But it doesn’t matter. This has nothing to do with the cable problem.”
“So explain the bloody proposal to them so we can all get out of here,” PuppetAngel growled. “I’ve got to go find more adolescent boys to drag race so I can prove my manhood and try to convince myself that I measure up to my grandsire.”
Spike shot an Angelic scowl at the puppet.
“Right. Um, here goes.” Lorne began speaking with the other demons, who nodded and responded. After a couple of minutes of conversing, Lorne turned to look at Gunn. “They want a few minutes to discuss it amongst themselves.”
“Fine,” Spike barked. “But tell them to hurry. I’m surre therre’s someone else’s girrl I haven’t shagged yet.”
Lorne gave Spike a tentative smile, like someone who has just walked in on a married couple’s argument. “Heh. Uh, yeah.”
Lorne said something to them, and the Grumpalfar withdrew into a corner of the room to confer amongst themselves. Spike got up and went to sit behind Angel’s desk to brood some more.
PuppetAngel rolled his eyes and shook his head, then looked at Gunn and Lorne and began to say something. He stopped when he saw their curious expressions. “What?”
“So what’s up with the hair, man?” Gunn asked. Lorne nodded.
PuppetAngel frowned and shook his head. “There was a bleach incident when I was getting cleaned up.”
“Why were you dirty?” Gunn pressed.
“There was a fight. Food was involved. I don’t really wanna talk about it, all right?” he said, voice growing louder with each sentence. Gunn stifled a chuckle. Lorne swallowed his own laugh and said “Okay, my little... Heatmizer.”
Gunn and Lorne burst out laughing until PuppetAngel snapped a threatening finger to point at them, glaring menacingly.
“Okay, okay,” Gunn choked.
PuppetAngel took a deep breath to calm down. “So how did you guys make out at the Smile Time studios?”
Lorne shook his head. “Ah, I’m afraid we got nowhere, Muffin. We got nothin’ on ‘em, and Framkin knows it.”
“Yeah,” Gunn agreed. “I tried scaring him with the TV -- uh -- broadcast code, but it didn’t faze him.”
“Well, hopefully Wes and Fred will come up with something,” PuppetAngel sighed. “I haven’t heard from them all day. Maybe I should give them a buzz.” He got up from his chair and started toward his desk. He stopped short when he saw Spike reach for the intercom. “He must have heard me,” PuppetAngel muttered.
“Wesley!” Spike barked, after pressing the button to connect to the lab. “This is Angel. Any worrd yet? What have you found?”
“Spike?” came Wesley’s voice from the intercom.
“No, this is Angel,” Spike corrected.
“It’s okay, Spike, they don’t speak English,” Lorne reminded him, as he and Gunn joined PuppetAngel and Spike at Angel’s desk.
“What?” Wesley asked. “Who doesn’t speak English?”
“Angel,” Spike repeated, looking up and smiling nervously at the Grumpalfar, who weren’t paying attention to him anyway. “It’s Angel.”
“Angel doesn’t speak English?” Wesley asked, alarmed. “Why, what’s happened to him? Is his condition getting worse?”
“Well, no,” Spike mused, “just his accent.”
PuppetAngel frowned at Spike. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Oh, come on, mate,” Spike laughed. “You’d think tha’ a son o’ Ireland could do a better English accent than that.”
PuppetAngel scoffed. “Hello, pot? This is kettle!”
“Oh, my accent is so better than yours,” Spike retorted. “You don’t even sound Irish any more.”
“GUYS!” Lorne shouted. “It doesn’t matter! The Grumpalfar don’t speak English so you don’t have to pretend you’re Angel when you talk to Wes anyway!”
“Oh. Right,” Spike nodded.
PuppetAngel spoke into the intercom. “Wes, it’s me. Tell me what you’ve got.”
“A nasty headache, thanks to this conversation,” Wesley muttered. “I’m afraid we haven’t come up with anything yet. But we’ve ordered some food and are quite prepared to stay here as long as it takes. I’ll let you know as soon as we find anything.”
“Right,” PuppetAngel said. “Thanks, Wes.” He considered what Wesley had said as they all returned to the table. “ ‘You can be anything you want but self esteem is how you get it done’,” he sang quietly as he sat down. “Can’t get that damn song out of my head,” he muttered. “Wes mentioned food. I haven’t eaten since yesterday. I’m getting kinda hungry.”
“What do puppet vampires eat, anyway?” Gunn asked.
“I dunno,” PuppetAngel mused.
“I think Fred keeps her stuffed rabbit in the lab nowadays,” Gunn chuckled. “You could try that.”
PuppetAngel started to glare at Gunn but was interrupted by the return of the Grumpalfar to the table.
“Looks like it’s showtime,” Lorne remarked, then turned and said something to the Grumpalfar.
Spike listened to the demons for a few moments, tapping the fingertips of both hands together like many CEO’s he’d seen on TV. Then he cleared his throat loudly and spoke. “So what’s the worrd, Lorrne? Have they decided to accept our prroposal?”
Lorne glanced at Spike, then looked back at the Grumpalfar. “For the most part, yes,” he said, with a look of concentration on his face. “But they’re asking for one more concession from us. I’m not quite catching their meaning. Seems they’ll accept our proposal if we... something -- transfer -- bumpface -- their toys --? Oh, no, wait, the toy. I think they mean you, Chief. They want us to... transfer... to them... bumpface... the something toy -- oh, insertion! That’s the word I couldn’t figure-- OH!” Lorne froze. “They want us to give them the vampire sex toy!”
PuppetAngel’s jaw dropped. Lorne and Gunn pointedly did not look at him.
“HA!” Spike chortled. He turned to speak directly to the head Grumpalfar. “Well, speaking as Angel, I should warrn you that I’m prretty useless as a sex toy. You see, thanks to this currse with which I am sooo burrdened, I can only manage to have sex once in each decade, and I’m afrraid I alrready did it on Halloween this yearr.”
PuppetAngel stood up in his chair and glowered at Spike. “ ‘Course that means that I’m pretty well buggered ‘cause I can only get women that Angel is done with!”
Spike jumped to his feet and shouted at PuppetAngel. “Well, I’m just bitterr because I don’t get to be Special-Boy-With-A-Soul any morre and I’m jealous of Spike because he was a betterr perrson even without a soul than I’ve everr been with one!”
PuppetAngel climbed onto the table to shout at Spike. “Well, I can’t even--”
He was interrupted by a piercing whistle emitted by the head Grumpalfar. There was silence as everyone stared, startled, at the demon. Once the demon was certain he had everyone’s attention, he spoke.
“They, um, although they like the sex toy very much,” Lorne translated as the Grumpalfar spoke, “they feel that... it would be best... to continue the negotiations... without its distractions.”
“Um,” Gunn said. “Yeah. Okay. Uh, Angel, I can sign the agreement now on behalf of Wolfram & Hart, and you can okay it with your signature later.”
Lorne said something to the Grumpalfar, then stood and picked PuppetAngel up off the table. “I told them we needed a couple of minutes. Pretend you’re discussing their counteroffer. I’ll be back ... in a couple of minutes.”
“I could have walked out myself,” PuppetAngel told Lorne in an annoyed tone as Lorne carried him out of the office.
Lorne sat PuppetAngel down on a couch in a secluded part of the lobby. “I heard you singing to yourself earlier. We need to talk.”
“Why? What did you see?”
“Nothing. --And everything. Look, you’ve never been comfortable with who you are, have you? You weren’t comfortable being the dutiful son, you’re not comfortable being the Vampire-With-A-Soul, you’re not comfortable being the CEO of Wolfram & Hart -- hell, you weren’t even comfortable being Angelus, striking out to destroy those who had the most of what you didn’t: family, love, comfort, faith. You destroyed Drusilla and her family, Holtz and his, even nuns. You didn’t need a Gypsy curse to prevent you from getting what you want, you took care of that yourself.”
PuppetAngel stared at the floor. “What’s your point?”
Lorne put an arm around the puppet. “Regardless of what your father may have told you, or Darla, or Holtz, or gypsies, or whoever, you are a worthwhile person. Cordy spent three years trying to hammer that into your head. And now that you’ve got another chance to have some of what you’ve always wanted, you’re hiding under desks and using your -- puppetness -- as an excuse to deny yourself again.”
“Oh.” PuppetAngel sighed. “That.”
“Yeah. Now she’s going to be here again tonight. Somehow, I think that a person who has come to accept and be comfortable with suddenly becoming a werewolf might just be okay with someone becoming a puppet. Especially since you know as well as I do that Wesley and Fred are gonna figure this out and get you turned back to your old brooding self, ya’ big lummox. So maybe, for once in your life, you should stop fighting what you are on the outside and face up to the fact that she might actually like you for what you are on the inside, hmm?”
PuppetAngel was silent.
“Look, I have to get back in there before Spike starts trying to mime things again.” Lorne got to his feet. “You know, you should take advantage of the fact that you have an empathic demon tellling you when a girl likes you. What teenaged boy wouldn’t love to have that? Have I ever steered you wrong?”
PuppetAngel looked up. “Just the last time you tried to give me advice about my love life.”
“Hey, I had no way of knowing that Groo was gonna show up, did I? Besides, I was right in the end, wasn’t I?”
PuppetAngel watched as Lorne returned to the office. He sat on the couch for a bit, thinking about what Lorne had said. Then he felt his stomach rumble.
“I gotta find something to eat,” he muttered.
PuppetAngel managed to slip unnoticed into the lab. Wesley and Fred were hunched over a television and some computer printouts, trying to analyze an episode of “Smile Time”. The other denizens of the lab took no notice of him, either, as they went on about their business and PuppetAngel did his best to remain unobtrusive. He snuck into Fred’s office and shut the door behind him. Because he was too short, he couldn’t see what was on the top of her desk, let alone what was on her filing cabinets. He went around behind her desk and climbed up onto her chair, and from there he was able to climb onto her desk. Nothing here but papers, notebooks, a phone, and the like. He couldn’t quite see what was on the top of all the filing cabinets from this vantage point so he jumped up as high as he could -- which was pretty high for a puppet, considering his retained but proportionally diminished vampire strength. And there it was, on top of the filing cabinet in the corner.
PuppetAngel put on his game face. He was on the hunt now. He backed up to the corner of the desk which was furthest from the filing cabinet, then ran and leaped -- or would have done if he hadn’t slipped on a small stack of papers and gone crashing into the front of the cabinet.
Shaken, he picked himself up off the floor and looked up at the filing cabinet. That was the answer. Using the handles of the cabinet drawers as a ladder, he climbed up. Peering over the top, he spotted his quarry: the stuffed rabbit. He gave a low growl as he hoisted himself up onto the top, ran to the rabbit, and picked it up in his hands all in one quick, smooth movement.
PuppetAngel bared his fangs and was about to sink his teeth into the helpless rabbit’s neck when he was startled by the office door being thrown open.
“What’s going on in here?” Fred demanded. “Whoever you are -- oh, it’s you, Angel. We heard a noise and -- what are you doing with Feigenbaum?”
“Is everything okay?” came Wesley’s voice as he approached the office door.
PuppetAngel growled menacingly. Realizing that more observers would only agitate the puppet further, Fred turned and stopped Wesley from entering the office. “It’s okay. It’s just Angel. I -- I need to talk to him.” She smiled sweetly at Wesley. “I don’t suppose I can get some nice, strong, handsome man to get me some coffee?” she cooed.
Wesley looked at Fred, puzzled. “Um, sure, I’ll go call Jenkins and have him bring some in.” He turned and left.
Fred rolled her eyes and shook her head as she watched him go, then returned her attention to PuppetAngel. “Angel,” she said, taking a couple of steps forward, “you’re not gonna... eat... Feigenbaum?”
“That’s close enough,” PuppetAngel snarled.
“Angel, you don’t wanna do that.”
“Put the bunny down, Angel.”
PuppetAngel panted, more from nervousness than from any need to breathe. He looked back and forth between his victim and his friend. “I’m hungry,” he said quietly.
“Oh. Oh! I guess we never thought about what you would eat, you know, in your current condition.”
“I haven’t eaten since yesterday,” PuppetAngel mumbled.
“Well, no wonder you’re hungry. Um, well, I guess -- if you need to eat something, you -- you can eat Feigenbaum.”
“ ‘Feigenbaum’?” PuppetAngel repeated softly.
“I guess it makes sense, doesn’t it? Besides, I can always re-stuff him. -- Unless -- you end up turning him into a vampire... stuffed... rabbit.”
Fred laughed. “Of course, I guess that’s silly, isn’t it? Feigenbaum’s an inanimate object, and if you could turn inanimate objects into vampires, why, we’d have vampire toothbrushes, vampire pencils, all kinds of stuff! Okay, Angel, go ahead. Just don’t mess him up too bad so I can sew him back together.”
PuppetAngel looked at Feigenbaum, and his face returned to normal. “I can’t. I can’t eat someone you know.” He gingerly put the rabbit back in its place and patted its head, then looked back at Fred. “You don’t have a stuffed rat, do you?”
Fred picked PuppetAngel up and carried him out of her office, cradled in her arms. Ordinarily he would have balked at being treated like a cute stuffed toy, but somehow it seemed appropriate with Fred, especially since she’d just offered her Feigenbaum to him as dinner. It seemed a natural extension of the bonding moment they’d just had.
Back in the main part of the lab they joined Wesley, who had gotten coffee and was back at the computer and video screen where he and Fred had been working before. Fred sat PuppetAngel in a chair next to him, then pulled up a third chair and sat down herself.
“Your coffee is there,” Wesley said without looking up. He indicated two styrofoam cups sitting on the computer desk. “Angel, we’ve run every test we can think of, and we still don’t seem to know any more than we did.”
PuppetAngel watched closely as Fred picked up the cup from which Wesley had not already drunk. “Huh? Oh, um, that’s okay, Wes. I’m sure you and... you and... uh...” PuppetAngel’s whole body followed the movement of Fred’s cup as she sat it back down. “Uh, you and Fred will find the answer.”
“I don’t know, Angel,” Fred drawled as she studied the computer screen. “We’ve done full spectral analysis, light meter readings, audio track analysis. I’m pretty stymied. Angel, if --” she stopped as she looked over at the puppet, who had not taken his eyes off the coffee cup. “Oh, I’m sorry. do you want some coffee?”
PuppetAngel finally tore his eyes from the cup to look at Fred. “No. Um, are you done with that cup?”
“Well, no, not yet, Angel, why --?” Fred stopped, then nodded. “Of course. Styrofoam. Do you want the cup?”
“Only if you’re done with it,” PuppetAngel tried to sound nonchalant.
“I’m not, but Wesley’s almost done with his.” She nudged Wesley with her elbow. “Finish your coffee so Angel can have the cup.”
Wesley looked up from the computer screen, perplexed. “What? Oh, there’s a whole sleeve of them in the little kitchenette over there.”
PuppetAngel hopped down from his chair. “That’s okay. Don’t get up. I can get it myself,” he said calmly and politely. Then he turned and sprinted toward the kitchenette which was located in the back of the lab near Fred’s office.
Fred watched him go, then turned back to Wesley. “So you didn’t need Jenkins to get you that coffee after all, huh?”
“What? No, I uh, found it myself.” Wesley’s attention was still mostly on the computer.
“My hero,” Fred muttered.
They returned their attention to their work, and a few moments later PuppetAngel returned and climbed back into his chair.
“So,” Fred smiled, “did that hit the spot?”
PuppetAngel frowned. “No, not really. I think it just gave me gas.” A short, loud, high-pitched noise issued from his mouth, accompanied by a sudden rigid posture and a look of surprise. Then he relaxed back into his chair and his eyes narrowed. “And the hiccups,” he growled, punctuating his sentence with another chirp.
Fred’s hands went to her mouth, trying vainly to cover her giggles. Wesley grinned. PuppetAngel crossed his arms over his chest and scowled. And hiccuped.
“Great,” PuppetAngel muttered. “Now I’m -HIC!- a plush toy that squeaks.”
It took Fred and Wesley a few moments to regain their composure.
Fred regained control first, mainly because she noticed how nice it was to see Wesley laugh. “Would water help?” she asked.
“I don’t -HIC- think so. Look, I think I’ll just -HIC- lie down for a bit then-- I think I’ll go talk to Nina. HIC!”
“So, ahem,” Wesley said, composing himself, “you’re going to take my advice?”
“Yeah, I think so. HIC! How do I look?”
“Well,” Fred replied, “you look fine. But, what did you do to your hair?”
“I’ve been wondering that myself, actually,” Wesley whispered.
PuppetAngel’s eyes widened in shock and he sprang out of his chair, his hands flying up to feel his hair. “Oh, damn! I forgot about that! Spike bleached me -- bastard!”
“Why did he do that?” Wesley asked.
“Because I needed to be washed,” PuppetAngel fumed. “Just -- don’t ask. What am I gonna do? I can’t let Nina see me like this! A puppet and a Spike hairdo?”
“I suppose I could try to cut it or style it for you,” Fred offered.
PuppetAngel took a step backward. “Oh no. No touching. Not the hair. Never the hair.”
“Well, anyway, I guess there’s one good thing,” Fred observed.
“Your hiccups are gone.”
“Don’t worry, Angel,” Wesley soothed. “Come with me. I’m sure the Special Ops department has everything necessary to return you to your natural brunette color.”
Due to the nature of its business, the Wolfram & Hart Special Operations Department had all the necessary materials to camouflage a truck, disguise a human being, or dye a puppet’s hair. Once there, it was a relatively easy process. In the meantime, Wesley regaled PuppetAngel with variations on the theme of the speech he’d given Angel the day before: that few couples ever find perfect happiness and that he should give himself the chance to be at least mildly happy with Nina. Wesley even rehearsed with him a little bit of what PuppetAngel might say to her.
Just as they were finishing up and preparing to leave Special Ops, a secretary called out to PuppetAngel. “You’re wanted on the phone, sir. It’s Mr. Lorne.”
“Thanks,” PuppetAngel said, taking the receiver and promptly dropping it. It was too big for him to hold with one felt hand, so he picked it up and held it to his ear with both hands. “Sorry about that. What’s up, Lorne?”
“We’re finally all done up here with the Grumpalfar negotiations,” Lorne told him. “Would have been done sooner except Spike kept trying to speak to them directly. He was either trying to explain how to do a satellite hookup or mime the ‘Pirates Of Penzance’, I was never sure which --except I don’t remember that play having an ‘X’ rating. And the Grumpalfar decided they didn’t want the sex toy after all because it was too argumentative.”
“Uh huh,” PuppetAngel grumbled as Lorne laughed.
“Anyhow,” the demon continued, “we’re all finished and Harmony has the papers for you to sign.”
“Great. Thanks, Lorne.”
“And, Angel, bubbie...”
“Yes...” PuppetAngel said suspiciously.
“What is it, Lorne?”
“Remember those Streisand negotiations?”
“Yeah, what about ‘em-- oh, crap, that’s today, isn’t it?”
“And she’s on her way. Should be here any minute now.”
“Do I really have to be there?” PuppetAngel sounded like a child who didn’t want to go to school.
“She’s asked to meet you personally.”
PuppetAngel looked at the clock. Nina would be arriving soon to spend the night in her cage. He sighed, defeated, like a child who, despite best efforts, is going to school after all. “All right. I’ll be in my office in about five minutes. Bring her on in when she gets here.” He handed the receiver back to the secretary, and he and Wesley got on the elevator.
“I’m glad you’re going to talk to her,” Wesley said.
“Oh. Yeah. Well, that’s if I get out of that meeting in time. But, uh, thanks for the pep talk.”
“My pleasure. Now, let’s review what you’re going to say.”
“I know what I’d like to say.”
“Oh, right. Do I have to?”
“Yes, now what are we going to tell Nina?”
“We are going to tell Nina that,” PuppetAngel repeated sarcastically, as the elevator doors opened and the two of them began walking toward Harmony’s desk, “I didn’t mean to ignore you in the past and I’m interested in, uh, seeing more of you.”
“And what are we going to do on our first date?” Wesley prompted.
“Have hot, steamy, puppet sex?”
“Perhaps,” Wesley replied, as he and PuppetAngel stopped in front of Harmony’s desk. PuppetAngel put his hand out to take the papers he was to sign.
Harmony’s eyes were wide and her mouth gaped as she stood there, dumbfounded.
“Harmony?” PuppetAngel asked. “The Grumpalfar paperwork?”
Speechless, Harmony reached for some papers and handed them to PuppetAngel, who quickly signed them, then gave them back to her.
“I suppose we’ll have to find out what you can eat so you can have a nice breakfast in the morning,” Wesley remarked. “You know, I like your hair much better this color.”
“That’s ‘cause it’s the same color as yours.”
Wesley chuckled and turned to go back to the lab, and PuppetAngel made his way to his office. Harmony watched them leave, then finally gathered enough of her wits about her to close her mouth, pick up the phone, and dial. “Jenkins!”
PuppetAngel pushed open his office door. “I think,” he muttered to himself, “that was the longest I’ve ever seen Harmony’s mouth open without lots of words coming out. What’s up with her?”
“Harmony’s mouth is at its most useful when no words are coming out.” Spike sat in Angel’s deskchair with his legs crossed at the ankles and feet propped up on the desk.
PuppetAngel scowled. “Spike, what are you still doing here?”
Spike sniffed in that face-wrinkly way of his, recrossing his feet to draw attention to the fact that they were, in fact, propped up on Angel’s desk. “Did so well with the Grumpalfar, I thought I’d help you out and be ‘Angel-For-A-Day’. Or, for however long it takes for your present -- condition -- to clear up.”
“Oh, I don’t think so--”
“Hey, just tryin’ to do my part, mate. Thought I’d help you out. I told you, I’m a team player.”
“Absolutely not! If you think for one second that I’m gonna turn over--” PuppetAngel stopped suddenly and paused.
Spike stared at the puppet, waiting for more invective. “What?” he asked finally.
“Yeah. You know what, Spike m’boy? That’s not a bad idea.”
“Huh?” Spike’s look of surprise quickly gave way to a broad grin. “Really?”
“Yeah,” PuppetAngel nodded. He had a grin on his face as well. “Really. In fact, Lorne is on his way here right now with an important client, and you can really help me out. You can take my place for this meeting, and if everything goes well, maybe I’ll let you take my place for the rest of the day.”
“Evening, actually,” Spike corrected, looking at the clock. “Today’s almost over. ‘Ow about tomorrow?”
“All right,” PuppetAngel chuckled as he pushed the button to call his private elevator. “Maybe tomorrow, too.”
Spike beamed with pride. “Right. Yeah. You can count on me, mate.” His feet moved from the desk to the floor and he began officiously tidying the few papers scattered across the desk. “You won’t regret this.”
“I know I won’t,” PuppetAngel grinned as he stepped onto the elevator.
There was a quick rap at the office door. “Knock, knock,” Lorne said as he pushed the door open and entered, holding it open as Ms. Streisand and her lawyer entered, followed by Gunn.
Spike’s eyes widened when he saw them enter, then he scowled and turned back to the elevator and saw a grinning PuppetAngel waving “bye-bye” as the elevator doors began to close. “You son of a b--” he began, but the doors closed before he could finish. He cursed inaudibly, then took a deep breath and turned to face his guests with a nervous smile not unlike the one Harmony had bestowed on the Grumpalfar. “Hi, I’m Angel,” he said, walking up to Ms. Striesand and shaking her hand. “Arre you helpless?”
PuppetAngel smiled to himself as the elevator descended to the floor where Nina’s cage was. And for the second time today, he felt quite good about himself.
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