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     Angel sat at his desk shuffling papers without even looking at them, waiting for Wesley and Cordelia to arrive. He had suspicions that the news of Spike's presence was not going to sit well with either of them. Angel heaved a great sigh, and then turned somber at the remembrance of beating a fledgling Spike out of the habit of breathing.

Angelus had felt that it was one thing to be able to pose as a human but another altogether to act like one unconsciously. It was a lesson that had taken Spike a long time to learn. Once he demonstrated control in the matter, Angelus showed no more interest in whether Spike chose to breathe or not; a fact that had infuriated the fledge more than the beatings had done.

Angel shook his head ruefully. It was good to remember that a keen love of control was something that bound him to, as well as protected him from, his demon. It was fine for everyone else to believe that Angel and Angelus were two separate entities that shared only memories, but Angel couldn't afford to forget that it wasn't so. He anthropomorphized his demon to make it more manageable in his own mind, too, but they were now effectively one being: merely separated by decisions.

Cordelia arrived first, as usual: her morning energy bruising Angel's late night frame of reference.

"Morning, Cordy. Coffee?"

"Sure, Boss." She replied as she sat at her desk. "What's up?"

Angel handed her a cup of coffee prepared the way she liked it. It was part of his attempt to notice and interact with the living world around him. She always drank it regardless, but he could tell by her pleased expression that he had gotten it right this time.

"Why does something have to be up?" Angel stalled.

Cordelia scoffed, "It's an expression, tall, dark and brooding . . . which you would have known except something is up. Spill." She smiled at Angel with her head tilted to one side: body language that Angel had learned meant she was fondly amused at him. Angel didn't mind that she felt that way; he just tried to avoid remembering that she inevitably used almost the same combination of movements right before she called Xander a goofus.

"I have company, Cordelia. Spike is here to visit." Angel figured the best way to deal with Cordy was to let her vent and then find out how much it was going to cost him to placate her.

"Visit?" Cordelia asked skeptically. "Like, not to maim or torture or get all 'Grrr'?" She clarified. Angel nodded while carefully meeting her eyes. Her next question was prime Cordelia and made Angel perversely glad that the awareness forced on her by her visions had not entirely wiped out the Queen of Sunnydale High.

"This affects me how, exactly?"

Perhaps, Angel thought, this was not going to be as bad as he had feared.

"Other than having to listen to him teasing you without staking him and refraining from making too many jokes about his chip. Not much, really."

Her face fell into mock disappointment. "No chip jokes? Angel, come on."

He maintained a straight face until she made her lower lip quiver --a talent she assured him had caused her father to buy her almost anything-- and then relented, chuckling.
"I said, not 'too many,' Cordelia. I'm not asking for miracles."

She rolled her eyes expressively. "So, don't tease the handicapped. Duh! What else? Why is he here?"

This was the question that Angel had tried to avoid ever since he looked up to see his boy framed in his doorway. Angel ran his hand up his forehead and over his hair. "I don't really know yet, but between you and me . . . I think he's lonely."

Cordelia thought about that for a moment then nodded, "OK, Angel. If I had no one to talk to but Giles and the Scoobies, I'd want to run away to L.A., too. Oh, wait a minute. I already did!" She mugged exaggerated astonishment.

Angel gave an oh-so-proper, golf-clap at her performance. "See, you and Spike have something in common."

"Please, we already had something in common." At Angel's look of incomprehension, she continued, "We both have you." Their maximum limit of emotional truthfulness for one day having been reached and passed, Cordy changed gears, "So, what can I help with?"

Angel considered for a moment how blessed he had been for Cordelia to have been there to take the visions when they lost Doyle: she blithely cut right through the pathos that had driven Doyle to drink.

"Help me with Wesley? He's bound to have read about Spike --about William the Bloody-- in his watcher studies. I suspect he is going to be less than thrilled about him staying here, chip or no."

Cordelia waved her hand in a gesture that said, no problem. "Let me talk to him. If he still needs to hash it out with you afterwards then fine, but I'm betting I can get him to see it as an opportunity."

Angel raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Opportunity? For what? Being the brunt of Spike's humiliation tactics? A near death experience"?

"Very funny . . . not," Cordelia dismissed his concern. "He can be all manly or do that historical-study-thing he's always on about or whatever. . . . Is the Bleached Wonder sleeping?"

"Yes, in my room, and I need for everyone to stay out of there, unless you have my explicit permission."

"Oh," Cordelia huffed, "like I'd want to see anything he's got." Angel started to argue, but before he could do more than open his mouth, she cut back in. "Joking, joking. No one goes in; no misunderstandings occur. I get it. Is this going to degenerate into a loud visit?"

Angel winced at Cordelia's idea of tact and countered, "You mean, like when your father told your mother they no longer had any money?"

"Exactly." Cordelia replied smugly, refusing to be ruffled. "Is it?"

Angel found himself sighing again. "I wish I knew, Cordy. I suspect that may be a significant element of it but not all of it I hope." Wanting to change the subject, Angel picked one he knew Cordelia would allow herself to be distracted by. "If I get you sizes, can you buy him some clothes? I don't think he has anything other than what he's wearing."

"Has he changed sizes since the last time I saw him?" Cordelia challenged.

"Not a great deal, I imagine. He hasn't been feeding well, but for a vampire, there is only so much fluctuation when you're as lean as he is; unless you're being systematically starved."

"Eww, too much information here." Cordelia's tone belied the discomfort of her words. "I don't think much of 'Her Buffiness' some days, but I'm thinking none of them are that cruel. So, I don't need sizes; I am a shopping goddess. Just tell me what he needs."

Angel pondered his answer. "At least two pair of jeans, half a dozen t-shirts, socks, three or four button up shirts-- that should do it, don't you think? Oh, I'm not sure about. . . ." Angel paused at the thought of briefs or boxers.

"Underwear"? Cordelia said matter-of-factly, "Doesn't wear 'em."

"Cordelia!" Angel objected.

"What?" She countered guilelessly, "Not for as long as I've known him. Not in those jeans."

At that clarification, Angel suddenly had to admit that she was undoubtedly right. Spike's jeans fit like they were painted on, and there were no lines in evidence. For a moment he got lost remembering the feel of Spike's thighs under his hands earlier, and in order to chase that thought away tried to finish his instructions.

"No bright colors, or prints, Cordy, and. . . ."

Cordelia shushed in her best Queen C manner. "I know, I know. Black, black and black, interspersed with fresh-blood red, dried-blood red and organ-damage-blood red. I won't buy him anything he won't wear, Angel. If I were doing a makeover, I'd start with his hair color," she finished with a smirk.

Angel looked at her fondly; she might be an unmitigated bitch some times, but she was his bitch, and the darker side of him took satisfaction in her occasional take-no-prisoners attitude.

She rose from her desk and pushed at his shoulders. "Go. Sleep. Do whatever it is you need to do for him . . . or you . . . whatever. Let me take care of things. That's what you pay me for --sometimes-- it sure as hell isn't my phone manners." She jibbed at herself with one of their longstanding, running jokes.

Angel stopped, put his hands on her shoulders and smiled, "Cordy. . . ."

She smiled in return, "I know, Angel. Now go."

Feeling like he was leaving these problems in more capable hands than his own, Angel mounted the stairs to return to his childe.

Angel had wanted to spend some time watching his childe sleep, but Spike was burrowed so far under the covers that only the very top of his head was visible. He resignedly got ready to go to bed for the day. As he removed each piece of clothing, carefully folded then placed aside, he couldn't help but compare it to the haphazard pile Spike left by the bed. He also noticed that his child no longer breathed while he slept and was amused at the feeling of disappointment that welled up.

Paradoxically, it had been one of Angelus' favorite things about Spike; he found the slow, deep breathing to be relaxing and soothing in a bedmate. It was only Spike's not knowing whether or not he was breathing while awake that had infuriated Angelus.

Putting aside the past, Angel climbed into his bed wearing his customary boxers; the first time Cordelia had had to awaken him suddenly in the middle of the day because of a vision, it had become clear to him that sleeping entirely in the nude was not the best thing he could do. Not that it had flustered Cordelia, but Angel had been strangely embarrassed and unable to look her in the eye for days. It was an experience he decided he could do without repeating.

Spike was turned towards the center of the bed, so Angel settled where he could face him from a small distance away. He noted his childe appeared to be deeply asleep, regrettably admitting that he had lost his earlier, self-made bet. Angel was starting to ease towards sleep himself, when unexpectedly he heard a sound that made him conclude he had conceded the bet too soon. Once Angel had ceased moving and relaxed totally, Spike had begun breathing, deep and slow. Knowing that whatever happened when they arose at that moment his childe had truly come home, Angel drifted off feeling almost warm inside.

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