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     Spike awoke the next morning to discover that the chest he had fallen asleep on had turned into a pillow. In fact, he was carefully draped over a series of pillows intended, no doubt, to keep him from rolling over onto his back. He flexed his shoulders experimentally and was rewarded with a pleasant medley of aches and twinges but no stabbing pains, nor telltale dampness from reopened wounds. He was still unused to the benefits of a steady diet of human blood and had, in the back of his mind, expected to wake up in a more grievous state.

On one level, he was still uncomfortable about what had happened yesterday; his pride made him feel uneasy at the subordinate position in which he had placed himself, and making no mistake about it, he knew that Angel would never have demanded it, if he had never brought it up. Still, on another level he had to admit that he felt more grounded than he had in longer than he could remember, and the fact that his Sire could make him acquiesce, even ensouled, made him proud to be of the line of Aurelius once again. He knew that it had always been thus; a part of him had always rebelled against his Sire's authority. He had thought, across the years apart from Angelus, that it was a thing of his youth, but now he had to concede that perhaps it was not wild youth as much as simply wildness. Perhaps his instinctive revolt was not so much childish as it was brash.

Deciding he could live with being brash, he resolved to stop thinking about it before he got any closer to brooding. For an instant, he had a flash of insecurity over the thought that Angel's absence might mean the older vampire was off regretfully brooding his almost Angelus-like actions, but he flung it away, determined not to be any more of a pouf than he already was, simply for thinking it. Stretching silently, Spike sat up and started at the sight of Angel, wearing a dressing gown, sitting across the room in a chair, silent and unmoving, with a look of contented delight, as if Spike were a work of art that spoke to his soul as no other. A lazy, smug grin grew on Spike's face until it lit his eyes with a radiant self-satisfaction. Angel smiled indulgently in return. His fondness evident despite Spike's cocky demeanor.

Angel stood and, as he came towards the bed, gestured for Spike to lie back down. Spike stuck out his lower lip in a mock pout but complied, humming in anticipation as Angel's hands lightly touched his shoulders and glided down his back examining him tenderly.

"So?" Spike asked as Angel's hands began to repeat their circuit.

"It's like a rainbow, Spike." Angel replied teasingly.

Spike made a noise that scoffed without words. "Nice to know you admire your work."

Angel, in an instant, grabbed Spike's shoulder, flipped the disconcerted vampire over onto his back, and leaned in close, their faces inches apart.
Spike watched nervously as Angel slowly, lasciviously licked his lips.

"Oh, Spike," Angel said avidly, "Ever since you first arose, I've admired my work."

Spike's mouth parted in astonishment at the immediate blaze of carnality that kindled, as Angel turned a casual phrase into a declaration of devoted appreciation.
Angel raised both eyebrows, shrugged in a gesture of absurdity, and joined Spike's resultant laughter, easing the tension of the moment without destroying the passion.
Spike reached up, only slightly hesitant, and pulled Angel to his lips. Angel followed willingly and opened to welcome Spike's tongue into his mouth, reveling in the still unaccustomed feeling of his childe taking the assertive role.

Angel let his body down on top of Spike and rolled them so that they were on their sides, while Spike impatiently tugged his robe open to feel their bare chests touching.
Spike tried to intertwine their legs but only succeeded in tangling his in the sheet that still covered his lower extremities. He let out a groan of utter frustration, which caused Angel to break their kiss with an amused chuckle.

"You're so impatient, Little One." Angel taunted him.

"Oi, none o' that." Spike complained. "That's one name we can leave in the past, Peaches."

Angel got up so Spike could free himself from the sheet and disrobed before laying back down.

"Oh, so you can call me Peaches and, let's see, Pet, Pouf, Luv, Ducks, and what else? But I'm not supposed to call you 'Little One,'" Angel challenged.

"'S right," Spike defended, "I'm English: 's my God given right to use derogatory nicknames in an affectionate manner."

"Really." Angel drawled mockingly.

"That's my story, and I'm bloody well sticking to it." Spike concluded with a decisive nod of his head.

"Well, since we've reserved those names to have special meaning," Angel inferred without invoking them, "and I won't call you Bill or Billy. . . ."

"Damn right, you won't." Spike muttered.

"Then what can I call you, besides Spike, that won't dent your shiny, bright ego?" Angel smiled condescendingly, ruffled Spike already messy hair and began speaking in Gaelic. "Mac? Cara? Flannrua? A ghrá? A chuisle mo chroí?"

Spike shook his head, resignedly. "Do I want to know what any of that rot means, Mate?"

Angel leaned over, nuzzled into Spike's neck and nibbled on his ear. "Can I call you Son or Friend? Blood-red? How about 'My love' or 'pulse of my heart'? Although I admit, even more than usual, that last one is a bit of poetic license where we're concerned."

Spike was making guttural purring sounds and ignoring Angel's questions as entirely rhetorical, but that didn't stop him from wrapping his arms around Angel and pulling him further on top. Angel relaxed, trapping Spike's lean legs between his more muscular ones. Their mouths met in an incendiary kiss that was insistent without being aggressive; a give-and-take skirmish of tongues and lips that held a world of compromise in each pass. Angel had been unintentionally moving on top of Spike in slow strokes when suddenly Spike began thrusting his hips upwards into Angel's. A low groan of satisfaction escaped them in unison, as their bodies instinctively aligned to bring their cocks into maximum contact.

Spike's arms held Angel firmly against him, caressing his shoulder blades and trying his best to urge the rhythm developing between them to accelerate. Angel let his fingers slip out of Spike's hair and grab the vampire's delineated shoulders. Allowing his thumbs to tease at the veins in Spike's neck, Angel's fingers held Spike's body from scooting up the bed as his pelvic thrusts gained intensity and focus. The simple feel of the friction between them, along with the increasingly passionate and sloppy kiss, seemed almost too good to stand.

"Angel," Spike pleaded, "please, want you inside me."

Angel looked down at Spike's face --eyes closed, lost in the eroticism of the moment-- and lowly stated, "No."

Spike's eyes snapped open in astonishment, tinged with a layer of fear: they were golden, and the pupils were wide, despite the rest of his face remaining human.

Angel let his eyes change to match, smiling wickedly.
"Sorry, Fuil. This just feels too good to stop now."

Angel nearly bruised Spike's hipbones with his next thrust. Spike sighed in a breath of pain and pleasure and returned both the wicked smile and thrust. Hampered somewhat by his position trapped beneath Angel's weight, he pulled his Sire's body closer, and with carefully applied blunt teeth, bit up Angel's neck to latch onto his earlobe marking him without breaking the skin. A slow motion shudder worked its way down Angel's spine. When the rolling motion reached their groins, Spike cried out in response, losing his grip on Angel's ear. Angel's motion became faster and more contained, accentuating the part of the thrust that had become naturally lubricated and was perforce most pleasurable.

Spike gazed up at Angel, seeing in his face a mirror of the desire and urgency Spike felt coursing through his demonic veins. He tilted his head invitingly, and the absolute carnality that the subtle gesture evoked in Angel warmed him like no romantic token or emotional vow could have done. Angel bent to accept the offer and simultaneously drew Spike into the crook of his neck on the opposite side. As one, they seductively pierced each other in a mocking simulacrum of the very act of love they were too busy rutting to attempt. The timing of the frottage set the pace for sucking down the red, viscous liquid that was their true bond: hot, quick and hard. In a matter of moments, Angel reached orgasm, and shortly after that addition of slick ejaculate between them, Spike followed him over the edge.

It took a few moments for their motions to slow and halt, each of them absurdly aware of panting to catch an unneeded breath. Spike absently licked the bite marks on Angel's neck then turned his head towards Angel's, nuzzling him. Angel slowly lifted his head from Spike's chest and turned to look at him. Blue eyes met brown ones, dancing with mischief. Angel shifted slightly, making them aware of the sticky mass of cum oozing between them. Angel grinned goofily. Spike tried to look disapproving but burst into laughter when it became obvious from Angel's sardonic expression that he was failing miserably. Angel laughed, low and sexy, making the hairs on Spike's arms stand up and delicious shivers run down his back. He brushed the back of one hand over Spike's cheekbone, as light as if it were fragile instead of nearly imperishable. In a voice full of lingering amusement and heat, he repeated as he stroked, "Mo dhuine."

Spike's eyes met his almost shyly. "So what's that, then?" He asked dazedly.

Angel's eyes crinkled as his smile deepened.

"If you'd paid attention when I taught you, you'd know."

Spike stuck his tongue out in reply, and Angel captured it, sucking it gently into his mouth.

When their lips parted, Angel smirked, "Don't look at me like that. If you stick it out there, you can't blame me for taking advantage of it."

Spike lifted one brow expressively, "Is that the way of it? I'll remember that logic, Luv."

"Only works for Sires." Angel countered as he stood up.

Spike paused to admire the view for a moment then emphatically gave Angel a hand gesture involving two fingers.

Angel headed towards the bathroom slowly, knowing Spike was watching his retreating body. He threw one last remark over his shoulder just before entering, "I'm not promising to save you any hot water, mo dhuine."

Spike repeated the sounds of his latest appellation several times --muh gwin-a, muh gwin-a-- until he was sure he had the rhythm and accent of it, as well as the sounds. He was in no hurry. He had been unable to drain the hot water tank in the Hyperion: the thought of Angel managing to do it, particularly when no shower sex was involved, was laughable. He simply didn't have the streak of hedonism required to luxuriate for that amount of time. Still, the thought of shower sex and the acknowledgement that Angel seemed to be gaining a real penchant for being shagged up against the wet, steamy wall was enough to motivate Spike to follow.

It seemed, despite his Sire taking him in hand, that the more pleasurable benefits of equality were still a viable part of their relationship. "Sometimes," Spike noted reflectively whilst closing the bathroom door, "unlife is good."

Spike smoked and watched Angel finish dressing. It was a sight that he felt was worth savoring. He teased Angel about his monochromatic wardrobe but couldn't deny, secretly, that it suited the dark vampire. His own look was more about effect than fashion: it spoke of someone who was dangerous and didn't mind showing it. Angel's image, just like Angelus', was all about quiet elegance: lulling the observer into under-estimating him.

"One does what one can," Spike thought as he snubbed out his cigarette, smiling at the posh turn of phrase.

"Pouf, you done primping yet?" Spike managed to sound bored and impatient.

Angel hardly even smiled, just walked past Spike's seat, cuffed him lightly on the side of his head without even marring the white-blonde hair, and headed for the door, clearly expecting Spike to follow.
Spike ploughed into the back of Angel, as Angel unexpectedly stopped just inside the hallway. Spike took a deep breath, preparatory to launching into a genial harangue and was struck dumb by the overwhelming scent of misery, guilt and lust that radiated from a spot just beside their door. Angel and Spike's eyes met warily. It was obvious that Wesley had crouched outside the room for quite some time the night before, and from the echo of emotional debris left behind, he must have heard a great deal of what went on. Spike had the grace to look slightly guilty.

"I swear, Sire. I never thought he'd take it so serious."

Angel shook his head. "You don't understand, Spike. He wasn't here because he felt jealous or left out; he was here because he felt responsible for what was happening to you."

A look of astonishment passed over Spike's normally controlled features. "What, you mean he thinks he's to blame for that whipping?"

Angel nodded. "He knew better than to try to stop it, so he forced himself to listen to the whole thing."

Spike took another slower breath, carefully tasting the misery left behind. "And he quite liked it apparently. Smell, under that last layer of self-loathing . . . he was turned on, too turned on to leave before the encore on the bed. Cheeky lad."

Angel sighed heavily.
"We haven't done him any favors, Spike, by dragging this out in the open."

Spike collected his thoughts as he lit a cigarette.

"Don't rush in, Angel. What exactly do you think is in the open here?"

"I think the fools have already tread, don't you, Spike? His attraction to me and now you. . . ."

Seeing that Angel was starting a gigantic wind up, Spike broke in before he could get too far afield.

"I kissed him, and he liked it. You saw it and didn't like it. I was the whipping boy and liked it quite a lot. Thank you very much. That's all he knows, Angel, and that's all he knows, we know. You can't go telling him that you know he sat here and listened. It's Wesley; he'll melt into the floor in embarrassment. English, remember?"

Angel nodded in rueful agreement.
"You're English," he observed dryly. "What happened?"

Spike puffed up like a rooster about to crow. "Well, I'm the Big Bad, ain't I? And Wesley's a glorified librarian with a bit of a leather fetish, yeah?"

Angel relaxed a little. "We just have to see where he takes it."

"Knew you used that head of yours occasionally. If he acts like nothing happened, then you have to respect that. If he refuses to show his face then we'll have to go after him, but I'm betting sure as sunrise he'll be at work as usual and repressing his little heart out."

"I suppose you're right, but you have to respect it, too." Angel concluded firmly.

Spike broke into a delighted grin. "Noticed that, did you? Au contraire, my illustrious Sire. I have to talk to him, whether he mentions it or not." Angel frowned, and Spike spoke more rapidly.
"I licked his tonsils, ya ponce. Can't pretend it didn't happen even if he does. You sent me off last night; as far as I know, he's still in the dark. I have to talk to him about it."

"I may have told him that I couldn't exactly blame you for pursuing him." Angel added hesitantly.

Spike snorted in amusement. "So, he also knows that you fancy him a bit. That's good to know but hardly complicates the plot. Good on you for admitting it. Didn't think you had the bollocks, Peaches."

Spike took a long, considering look at Angel who squirmed slightly under his regard.
"Here's what it comes down to then: Do you trust me, Angel?"

Angel opened his mouth in an automatic reassurance but stopped and thought it through.

"I trust you to act in your own best self-interests, Spike."

"Fair enough." Spike acknowledged. "Do you trust me, Sire?"

Angel's face grew grave. "I trust you to remember who you belong to, Childe."

Spike ducked his head reflexively but came up smiling smugly. "Do you trust me, Luv?"

Angel shook his head indulgently. "I trust you, mo dhuine."

Spike reached up and cupped Angel's cheek in his hand tenderly.
"I won't hurt your pet; I'll just find out what, if anything, we can undo. Right?" Angel pulled Spike in close and hugged him tightly. As they turned and headed for the lobby, one arm still draped over Spike's shoulders, Angel objected, "They're not my pets."

Spike only laughed.

     Cordelia was glad to hear Angel and Spike laughing as they came down the stairs; they were obviously over whatever had caused the yelling yesterday, which in turn had caused Wesley to disappear. Perhaps seeing it was all OK now would snap Wesley out of the mood he was in. He had holed up in his office as soon as he walked in the door that morning and had only favored Cordelia with monosyllabic answers and silence ever since. Besides, he looked like hell warmed over. Spike and Angel, she was pleased to note looked almost giddy in contrast.

"Hey guys. How's tricks?" She greeted them flippantly.

Spike shot Angel an amused grin but didn't even get his mouth open before Angel shook his head negatively. Spike stuck his tongue out but remained silent.

"We're fine, Cordelia, and you?" Angel returned pleasantly, his good mood making his trite words sound suffused with loving interest.

"Wow," Cordelia commented, "whatever you were doing yesterday, you need to do it more often."

Angel froze momentarily and gamely tried to continue the banal pleasantries, but Spike burst out laughing, and Angel followed soon after. Cordelia looked at the pair of them, puzzled, but when it dawned on her that any time either of them tried to meet her eyes, they succumbed to a renewed attack, she realized that there was some sort of icky vampire sex thing at the bottom of all their mirth.

"Eww. Too much information." She exclaimed.

"But, Cheerleader," Spike managed to gasp out, "haven't said aught yet."

Cordelia nodded her head vigorously. "That's right, buster, and that's the way it's going to stay. As a matter of fact, I'm taking the rest of the day off, since you all decided to desert me yesterday." She huffed.

Angel was starting to wind down and asked reasonably, "Was it busy?"

"That's not the point." Cordelia said as she got her purse out of her desk drawer. She raised her eyebrow challengingly.

Angel waived his hands in surrender. "Go. Have a nice day. See you tomorrow."

Cordelia smiled triumphantly and made an elegant but hurried exit, as if she thought Angel might change his mind. Pausing by the door, she gestured with her head towards Wesley's office and mouthed the words, "Check up on him."

Angel nodded his agreement, and Cordelia walked out into the sunny California afternoon.

Angel and Spike exchanged significant looks, and Angel made an abortive movement towards Wesley's office, but Spike frowned at him, and he gave way gracefully, letting his childe have first contact.

Spike entered Wesley's office slowly, settling down into the chair across the desk from the former Watcher and letting the silence fill the room. Usually, Spike had found, all it took to get Wesley to say something was a few moments of staring; something in the Englishman just couldn't stay silent under prolonged scrutiny. Wesley looked better than Spike would have thought given the circumstances: rough around the edges and drawn but clean and shaven. There was, however, still an air of fragility around him, as if just the right tone would make him shatter into thousands of glimmering pieces. Finally, Spike came to the incredulous conclusion that no amount of silence was going to force Wesley to breech the gap. It was not a good sign. Shock tactics were clearly in order.

"It wasn't your fault." Spike put forth bluntly. "I think condemning yourself to listen was punishment enough, Luv."

Wesley flinched at the sound of Spike's low, gentle voice and the knowledge that, somehow, Spike knew.

"I knew better than to drag you into the middle of it," Spike continued, " but you were just too tempting to resist. Never too good at the whole resisting thing." He added ruefully.

Wesley raised his eyes to meet Spike's. "That's hardly the point from my side of it, vampire," he said bitterly.

Spike smiled in recognition. "I know, Luv. He's like that, innhe?"

"Still," the vampire continued, "if it wasn't for me, you'd both be pretending, wouldn't cha? And happier for that, too."

Wesley heaved a deep sigh. "Perhaps so, Spike, but nevertheless, lines have been crossed." Wesley paused and stared significantly into Spike's eyes. "He said he couldn't blame you."

"Ah," Spike replied. "That makes quite a difference to you, does it?"

Wesley shook his head sorrowfully. " You know it does, Spike. Can you say that it wouldn't make a difference were our positions reversed?"

Spike laughed shortly, sharp and acerbic. "Been in your place, Wes . . . wanting him and not knowing, so you know I can't say it doesn't. Still, you have to know that wanting someone is different from needing them. Angel and I need each other. Nothing less could have driven me here; believe you that. You're curious, Mate, but you need a human, not one of us. Do you get that?"

Wesley shuddered as the sounds of the whip echoed through his memory, arousing him nonetheless. He smiled grimly. "I understand, Spike, but that doesn't make it any easier . . . it doesn't make me want him, or you for that matter, any less. Only now it's not subtext, is it? Now we all know . . . and where am I supposed to take that?"

Wesley's voice had risen almost to shouting, so Spike let the silence fill the void between them and soothe the rough edges.

"Watcher," Spike said seriously, " gonna tell you summat . . . between you and me, right?"
He waited until Wesley nodded in agreement, his attention captured by the gravity of Spike's delivery.
"When I came here, I didn't know . . . or didn't want to know . . . what I was looking for. Thought the whole Sire/Childe thing was a load of bollocks, but turns out that, whether it's tradition or just the two of us, I need him. 'S why I see it in you, innit?" Spike searched for an analogy to explain what for him had always been unexplainable. "Ya see, the Blood . . ." His face took on an abstracted, frustrated look. "'S like chiaroscuro, when the color underlies the shadow same as it reflects the light, yeah?" He halted once more at the puzzled look on Wesley's face. Deciding that this was no time for an art appreciation class, he tried another tack.

"You know maths, Wes? Well, fractions can look like they're not related at all, at first glance: nothing in common. That's him and me. It's like no matter what you divide into either of us, in the end we are each other's lowest common denominator. The one thing we have in common that no one else can touch. No matter what I think, or want, or struggle against, I always have him inside me. Always. And he has me." Spike paused and swallowed hard, as if his throat hurt. "I can't rightly say I like that, but there it is. I. . . ." Spike hesitated and looked Wesley deep in the eyes as if searching for his soul, ". . . I belong to him. Just like, in a different way, he belongs to me. I'll be honest; there's no room for you in that, Mate."

Spike watched the pain seep into Wesley's soul and reflect in his all too expressive eyes. It made him want to reach out to the human and hold him tightly, but he knew now was not the time for that. The bottom line was that Wesley could never have what he thought he wanted, and Spike's job was to convince him of that so Angel wouldn't lacerate himself trying to glue together the shattered human. Spike was intrigued by Wesley but didn't cherish him in the way Angel did. He was Angel's pet, and as such important, but in an oblique way.

Wesley gathered his resolve in a typically English way and fenced the pain away inside.
"I understand, Spike. Truly, I do." He paused for an instant, then ventured hesitantly, "What did it mean to you?"

Spike smiled saucily. "You taste good, Wes: all warm and spicy. If my Sire gave me permission . . . I'd have you in a heartbeat and revel in it. You might even let me take a sip, I'd warrant, and these days that would be prize enough, but Angel has made it crystal. No wandering. I know you heard it; I know you enjoyed it same as I did."

Wesley blushed in recognition.

"Still," Spike continued, "not something that I'd want every day. Just like I'm sure you know, listening is different from experiencing, yeah?"

Spike weighed a heavy look at Wesley, demanding a response.

"It would kill me, to go through what I heard." Wesley admitted. "I know that. I am appalled that I reacted . . . that it affected me. . . ." Wesley stuttered into silence, his face flushed in remembrance and self-loathing.

"Wes, Mate." Spike tutted. "Can't help what turns you on, Luv. Just happens. So you have a kink. Everyone does. 'S not like it's kiddies or summat really evil. I know real evil. Trust me, Mate: you don't have it in you." Spike drifted for a moment, caught by some memory that brought a cruel, warped smile to his face, but he shook out of it and returned to his argument.
"Pain can be good, Wes, so can surrender. Lighten up. What your dear old Papa thinks doesn't matter any more, right? Don't fool yourself. You'll probably die in California; never see home again if Himself doesn't end up dragging you to back to the sodding rain. Judge yourself by different standards. I used to be top of the food chain; now I save them, because he says so. If I can adjust, you can." Spike smiled rakishly, and Wesley found he responded without difficulty.
"Tell you true, Wes. If I can talk Himself into it, I'll gladly teach you the pleasures of pain. Put you in the middle of a great vampire sandwich, I would. We'll work on it, but meantime, you have to be able to look him in the eyes, right? Today's no different from yesterday, except you quit lying to yourself. That should be easier, not harder, as long as you can admit it. What d'ya say, Watcher? You game?"

Wesley sat a moment and contemplated Spike's oversimplified analysis of the situation. He had to admit that whilst he felt exposed by the knowledge the vampires had about him, in reality it was just a private thing between the three of them. Cordelia did not know, and had gone to some lengths not to know, any of the details. It was, in actuality, better than having a secret between he and Spike in addition to the old pretense between he and Angel. It was in the open but in a discrete way. He knew that Spike was correct in his assumptions, and he admitted that the mutual ignorance fostered between he and Angel was just that. So, perhaps what seemed so unimaginable only yesterday, was palatable and in some ways even preferable today.

Wesley smiled sheepishly at Spike, and Spike returned a confident grin.

"So, now that we have all that twaddle settled, what about this sodding chip?" Spike deftly changed the subject. "We gonna get it out? 'Cause I don't exactly see you as a brain surgeon, Luv. No offence."

Wesley smirked in acknowledgement. "More the Mad Scientist, then?"

Spike laughed easily as he lit a cigarette. "I might qualify as the Monster, but I don't think the Cheerleader would fancy being cast as Igor. Robes and chanting, potions and powers-- I've had quite the look into your little library, Mate. Rupert's turns 'round demonology, but yours leans towards casting the circle. . . . Dun'it?"

"I have some success in that area," Wesley stated modestly, "but given that I have acquired some technological schematics on what is probably either the chip in your head or one very like, I think we may do without any spell casting."

Wesley's face lit with the fire of discovery. "I have a few ideas, Spike. Slightly dangerous, perhaps, but given vampiric healing, you might think them better odds than not. Will we need Angel's approval?"

Spike favored Wesley with a look usually reserved for very old people, slow children or fledges about to be cannon fodder.

"Right," Wes concurred, " then perhaps I shall convince you, as practice to convincing him. Here's what I have in mind. . . ."

Angel moved quietly towards the kitchen, deciding to let Wesley practice on Spike in private. He had heard everything, at that moment, which he needed to hear. Wesley had taken a step out from under the shadow of his own self-delusion, and whether that was, in the immediate future, good or bad, in the long run the absence of lies had to be better for his soul than their presence. Spike was behaving as if . . . well, as if he were over one hundred and not barely undead. A smile ghosted over Angel's face, gracefully. He had no doubt that the seduction of Wesley was far from a dead issue as far as Spike was concerned. His obsessive childe had given up too easily on that score. To Spike (much like to a cat) "no" meant either "not while you're looking" or "not right now but maybe later." Angel shook his head in amused resignation. "He's still Spike," he whispered.

Angel toyed with the aborted chiaroscuro analogy: it had been alluring to him. He had often sketched Spike in the old days but never painted him. He sat and traced the wood grain on the table, whilst considering a painting of Spike done in the style of Caravaggio: posed mostly nude, of course and like its subject very, very chiaroscuro, vibrant colors in deep shadow. It seemed a worthwhile project, if only to force Spike to sit still for inordinate amounts of time while Angel studied him. The thought of the corresponding opportunities for misbehavior and resultant punishment sent a little frisson of anticipatory pleasure up Angel's spine.

The fractional analogy worked too, he thought, and if Spike recalled the same song . . . it must have been the late Seventies . . . some sort of eclectic, bump-and-grind, psychedelic blues . . . then it was even more apropos. That kind of bone-melting lust, where your capacity for speech was in directly inverse proportion to your propensity for desperate clutching and stroking . . . that was the possession he and Spike shared: that was what he sought no exorcism from. Shrugging, Angel determined to ask his stubborn childe about the tune; the next time he had him chained down and desperate enough to tell the truth.

"Spike would probably tell the truth any way," Angel ruminated, "but what would be the fun of that?" Smiling wickedly, he licked his lips in anticipation and settled back to daydream.

Ad Finem

In case anyone is interested --not that it has much to do with the story really--
here are the lyrics to Number One Lowest Common Denominator

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