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One Last Call

by Jedegen

[Story Headers]

One Last Call

      It was quiet, far too quiet in the bar.  Only a few seedy punks and minor demons were drinking as Spike came in.  No apocalypse, not yet; that would be at least seven days or seven trumpets, whichever came first.  Each year, this same thing happened- the reunion, not the apocalypse (those were more frequent).  He stood by the old Wurlitzer jukebox, picking and choosing through the old and eclectic hits of yesteryear until he came upon a cover that suited him.  Joan Osborne's ":Man in the Long Black Coat" played for approximately sixty heartbeats before the man joined him.
      "Still a problem with that ticker, Finn?" the blonde man smirked as an older-looking man sat down.  
      "Hostile 17, ever the caring one.  The metahuman surgeries are going well, if that's what you're asking.  I can see your taste in style hasn't changed- same clothes, same accent.  Same Spike."  The bartender happened to be a large minotaur who served proportionally large mugs of ale- this was yet another reason the two drank this night at this place.  "What's the crisis these days?  You dealing with the krakens off the coast or the mummies in the L.A. sewers?"  They were similar, in some ways: both seemed aged in an unnatural way, and both were scarred.  The blonde who had no reflection was still missing three fingers of his left hand because of the devourer infestation that had nearly claimed a nearby town while the brown-haired and taller male had deep, poison-colored scars on his face and forearms from a manticore run-in near Souda Bay.
      "Nah, those were in the middle of somethin' else. I killed one of the cults what was stirring the krakens up, though I have to admit it was just because they wouldn't stop their blasted chanting."  The beers arrived, giant tankards that looked antique because they were.  
      "You've got the first toast this year.  Doubt you can top mine," and here Riley smirked, "but at least I'm giving you a sporting chance, mate."  Riley Finn lifted his glass, and spoke:
      "To the Initiative: how right we were to collar Spike, how wrong we were to let you live."  The bartender grinned as best he could, and the two patrons drank.  Spike clapped Finn on the back.
      "Not a bad one, not a bad one.  It's time for the stories, however.  You, Horns, will never beat this one."  The minotaur laughed a gravelly laugh, and crossed his arms: a sign of challenge.  "Tuesday night, right?  Quietest night of the bloody week, and then out of the Green Line come this horde of devourers that ha'n't eaten in Lord knows how long.  The first I know of it is the fingers on my left hand are suddenly feeling very wet and some bitch is screaming `Snakes on a plane!'"  The minotaur shrugs, holding back a smile while Finn grins into his beer.  "The short of it is that there is now one dead horde and I've got to switch hands when I'm feeling lonely, unlike Mr. Married Twice to the Same Girl."
      Finn was quiet for a moment.  "Wasn't there someone on your back?  Thought you were working with that shadow mage."  Spike didn't respond, his expression gone blank- grave, one might say, but Finn didn't notice.  "Good guy, if a bit strange in the head."
      "Chris was his name.  Liked the shadow mage bit, gave him the air of mystery that would get him laid in ways his face wouldn't."  Spike looked down into his glass at the rapidly disappearing amount of alcohol.  "They're still putting him together from the parts the devourers left.  What the devourers eat, you see, stays alive for a very long time before being passed into a hell dimension.  Shit dimension, Chris called it.  He got it bad, those buggers love magic users.  Ate him alive, with all of his wee parts wriggling in their bellies as we cracked the dead ones open."  It took a huge swallow of beer to get the edge out of his voice.  "He's a good guy, though, yeah.  He woulda sewn me back together just the same, poor bastard.  But he woulda done it different, and somehow my skin woulda turned black, I just know it."  Spike and Finn both needed a refill before the tale could turn Finn's way.  "So who you with these days, and are they looking for heroes with souls but not pulses?" Spike asked.
      Finn sloshed his beer as he fidgeted on the bar stool.  "The government's been giving out some contracts for vampires lately, to test the water.  Nothing earth-shattering, but certainly a step forward."  Spike nodded, and the minotaur moved to other customers.  "I'm behind a desk most days.  I oversee the most important ops, but no one lets the old eagle fly, you know?  Too important to use and lose the Old Man."
      Spike's eyebrow hitched up.  "How old are you, mate?  Just fifty-two last year, innit?  Yeah, ol' five two, why the hang up?"  Riley looks quizzically at Spike, his expression nearly shouting, "Are you serious?"  
      "Spike, most human fighters aren't in business this long- but I know what you mean.  We need more vampire tech."  He sighs.  "So, you want to let us run some tests?"  They both laughed at that, the shared pain of memories.  Finn cracked a smile after a good amount of alcohol.  "You know who we should invite to these?"
      "If you say Xander, I'd agree only because of Anya.  If you say, however, who I think you'll say-"
      "Buffy."  They drank.  
      "That's it; I'm punching you in the face."  They drank.
      "I should've found a way to get another chip in your head."  They drank.
      "What happens when human terrorists start attacking like they did in the Sudan?  That's one agent neutralized, as your old matrons would say."  They drank.  "My turn to toast," Spike said.  "We're here by a common thread, and I don't mean the girl we both banged.  I've got the toast of this night, last night, and every other night since we found our purposes-
      "Here's to kicking ass, and having our asses handed to us by the ladies we love."  The whole bar drank to that one.  Deep into the night it went, stories told, and retold- memories of times when life seemed more carefree, more free, or just more fun, although at times it was the alcohol talking.
      
      They'd started this simply by chance, meeting in the bar one night after a very, very long fight.  Spike had just killed "something female with tentacles" and refused to expound further, while Riley had just laid waste to a coven of generic evil witches.
      Same shit, different day, Riley had said, and Spike toasted to that.  And so the tradition began.
      Happens.
      
      The next year, a fifty-three year old Finn sat alone, trading one-sided stories with the minotaur.  Spike had been assumed KIA after a fire demon brought an ancient palace down on Spike's group.  This was the first year of the Annual Spike Memorial Barroom Brawl.  It lasted for three days straight, until Spike walked in two nights after it started and asked what the bloody hell was going on.  The room hushed, and everyone stopped in mid-battle.  Glass falling to the floor was the only sound before Spike sneered, laughed, grabbed a stool and joined in.
      Aside from short rests for sleep and food, the first ASMBB lasted for five days, stopped only on account of destruction of property and the sun rising.  
      Each subsequent ASMBB has gone longer- prizes are given for Dirty Fighting, Most Extreme Turnaround, Bringing Down the House, and finally Going Home With Your Worst Enemy.
      Finn made that last one up, but Spike normally won it because of various slayers or demonesses.  Such was his way, Finn supposed.
        Then came fifty-four, and Riley brought friends.  They were his team, at the time, and Spike met them all in turn.  He introduced himself as William the Bloody, which was all that they would know him by- Spike was reserved for friends this decade.  
      The year after that, Spike drank alone- he didn't even talk to the bartender.  It was a heart attack, the government representatives said.  A day later Spike went after Finn's body to find that Soldier Boy was alive and well, only getting more organs replaced.
      
      For some years afterward, those two old enemies ate, they drank, and were merry; and every day after they faced death.  Somewhere along the line, the hatchet had been buried, sins forgiven.  In drinking and storytelling, they had somehow become friends.

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Fandom:  Angel, Buffy
Title:  One Last Call
Author:  Jedegen   [email]
Details:  Standalone  |  G  |  gen  |  8k  |  11/03/06
Characters:  Riley Finn, Spike
Summary:  Two drinking buddies, a bar, and a minotaur: now this is a tradition.
Disclaimer/Other:  This setting is not mine.

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