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     Spike came silently down the stairs into the Hyperion lobby. He could feel his Sire in the kitchen, but the sight of Cordelia, obviously eavesdropping, captured his attention. Intrigued, he crept up behind her making just enough noise so that she wouldn't be unaware of his approach.

She turned to look over her shoulder and beamed proudly at him, all in black except for the charcoal gray shirt. He had left his duster in Angel's room and had his pack of cigarettes in his front pocket. Cordelia raised a finger in the universal sign of silence, and they turned their attention back to the kitchen in time to hear Wesley say,
". . . that doesn't mean that I think Spike is, by any stretch of the imagination, harmless."
Spike felt an evil glee rise in his undead heart at the thought that "Weasely" didn't think he was harmless; maybe he wasn't such a prat after all. Besides, any one who annoyed the Scoobies couldn't be all bad.

Cordelia rolled her eyes expressively at Spike's pleasure. She clearly didn't want Spike to believe she concurred with Wesley's opinion. Spike stuck his tongue out at her, but couldn't help noticing the words "fiendishly inventive and resourceful" floating out of the kitchen. He was beginning to like this Wesley more and more. Angel's reply though, first had Spike feeling proud enough to burst --his Sire thought he should never be under estimated-- and then both Spike and Cordelia were struggling to hold their surprise in at the unexpected sound of Angel being hesitantly critical of the Slayer.

Cordelia immediately adopted Buffy's mannerisms, tossing her hair in annoyance and scowling in a devastating parody of an angry and offended Slayer, then she shifted to the mooning expression that everyone had come to know and dread as Buffy's tragic-and-ill-fated-love look; a look that Spike privately thought reminded him more of indigestion than emotional anguish. In retaliation, Spike assumed his best imitation of Angel in a classic brooding-and-tragic pose. The pantomimes were something that only someone who had survived Buffy and Angel's mutual obsession could appreciate, but they were beginning to amuse themselves, and each other, a bit too much for secrecy's sake.

In an effort to remain silent and not spoil their unsuspected surveillance, they both looked away from each other, having long since lost track of what Angel and Wesley were saying. By the time they had gotten themselves back in hand, they had missed much of the remaining conversation, but they heard Angel say, "I'll clean up my messes where Spike is concerned. . . . And you can take that in every sense of the expression."

Once again, Spike found himself feeling unaccustomed warmth in his chest. Angel had just implied he was in the wrong and to a human, at that. The soul had some good points apparently; Angelus had never admitted being in the wrong, not even to Darla or the Master. It was one thing to know that Angel had a soul and was all angst-ridden about the killing in his past, but it was quite another for Spike to hear evidence that some of his Sire's guilt revolved around him.

Cordelia retreated to her desk as it became obvious that the heart-to-heart between Wesley and Angel had come to a conclusion; her work had clearly been accomplished. She made little shooing motions at Spike in the general direction of the kitchen, and after leering and amiably flashing his fangs at her, he went to find some breakfast.

Spike swept into the kitchen and unconcernedly settled into his chair from the previous night. He noticed Angel noticing his clothes and thought, with more amusement than heat, "Bloody pouf." With a self-satisfied smile, he nodded somewhat formally at Wesley.

"You must be Wesley. How's tricks, mate?"

Wesley, taken aback by Spike's casual, unthreatening address, sat silent for a moment then slightly stammered,
"Spike . . . I am . . . quite well, thank you." Casting about for something innocuous to add, he seized on the politeness that had been bred into him. "You slept well, I hope."

Spike favored Wesley with a smile that was only slightly predatory.
"Your concern moves me, Wes. I did, indeed, sleep well. Thought a lot about me in bed, have you?"

Spike licked his lips, slower than absolutely necessary, as if savoring the remnants of some flavor and inhaled to taste Wesley's reaction. He could scent the rising blood as the human's blush began to build, mixed with a heady combination of wariness, embarrassment and a hint of arousal. Spike played with the idea that perhaps Wesley had actually thought about him in bed, and his grin widened at the possibilities for a bit of harmless torment where the ex-Watcher's possibly-subliminal desires were concerned.

Angel fought against the temptation to intervene on Wesley's behalf. Likely neither participant would appreciate his interference nor (since Angel too could scent Wesley's reaction) would this be something that Wes could avoid dealing with if Spike became any sort of regular fixture in Angel's unlife. Angel made busywork by warming blood for his and Spike's breakfast.

Concluding that the worst reaction (other than blushing as he already had) would be to protest too much, Wesley smiled and nodded his head towards Spike as if ceding him a hit. Rising to his feet, he replied in a calm, even voice,
"Welcome to the Hyperion, Spike. If nothing else this should prove to be . . . interesting. Should you feel up to it, and have the time, I have some questions about your chip and how its behavior modification algorithms seem to work. I have a few theories we could explore that might be mutually advantageous."

Spike internally bristled at the mention of his chip but suppressed it long enough to remember the obvious distaste the human had expressed about it earlier. Completely nonchalantly, Spike answered. "Ta, mate. I suppose I could answer a few questions, since you're all scholarly. Sometime."
Wesley nodded at this tentative acceptance, smiled briefly at Angel and left the kitchen.

     Angel sat across from Spike and handed him a mug of warmed blood. Opting to ignore the somewhat amazing interaction he had just observed, he took a good look at his childe. It was not just the new, clean clothes. Spike looked better than he had on his arrival: less drawn, less bruised.

"So, what now, Spike? Where to?" Angel had meant to make meaningless conversation but instead had said aloud what he most wanted to know. Spike took in how his Sire seemed to flinch back from the words after they were spoken, as if they had escaped on their own accord. It made him perversely glad that he was not the only one in this conversation who was in less than perfect control.

"Told you, Angel, not sure what I want . . . but at least I'm here. How 'bout you tellin' me what you want?" Spike purposely phrased his request so that Angel would have to consider just what Spike risked by coming to his Sire in this manner. He was glad on some level that Angel had a conscience, but that would not keep him from exploiting that fact to his own advantage. A guilty Angel might well be a more forthcoming Angel.

Angel knew Spike was manipulating him, but he also knew that coming to his ensouled Sire was probably the hardest thing Spike had, had to do since adjusting to spending large quantities of time in the Scoobies' company and not trying to kill them. He took and released a deep breath then took a risk.

"I want you to stay here, at least until you're healthy. I want you to talk to me. I want you to let Wesley see what he can discover about that chip. I want. . . ." Angel paused to see how Spike was reacting, but Spike's face was giving nothing away. "I know you don't see me as your Sire; I'm not exactly --then again you're not exactly William the Bloody either-- but I remember, Spike . . . and sometimes I ache for someone who remembers, too."

Angel let his eyes fall to where his hands took turns rubbing one another; suddenly glad, in the resultant silence that he no longer needed to breathe. Spike cleared his throat then fell silent again. Angel tried to take the absence of immediate violence as a positive sign but was reluctant to look up in case meeting Spike's eyes caused the predator in him to attack.

On Spike's side of the silence, there was furious rebuilding of emotional dams until he reached a point where he felt he could speak in an unbroken fashion. He tried, marginally successfully, to go for a droll delivery,
"Well. I did ask, dinn' I, Peaches? Full of surprises, you are." He pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, sighed as if a great weight had been removed from him and returned his attention to the cooling blood in the mug before him. Once it had been drained, he sat up decisively.
"Look at me." When Angel met his eyes he spoke slowly and clearly. "I'm angry. I'm tired. I'm damn well scared, but most of all, I'm . . ." The pause seemed to go on forever, leaving Angel with the sensation that he was holding his breath when he simply wanted, more than anything, for Spike to continue.

"I'm disconnected, Angel. You're the closest thing to a connection I've got. Now maybe it doesn't matter whether you're my enemy or . . . something else, but we need --I need-- to suss it out. 'S like you say, 'someone who remembers'."

Angel let out the breath he hadn't known he was actually holding and prepared for Spike's defenses to slam back into place. To his bafflement --would he never understand this childe?-- Spike started to tense but then let go as if the effort were just too much trouble.

"We've over half a millennium between us, Will. I'm sure we can work it out."

Spike rose sharply at Angel's use of his given name, but Angel seemed puzzled at his sudden movement, unaware the old name had slipped out.

"Fix yourself some more to eat. You still need to put on some more weight, get stronger, heal." Spike circled around Angel, still seated at the table, and proceeded to warm more blood in his now-favorite mug: smiling as he watched the words rotate past the window in the microwave door.
"I'm strong enough, Ducks. Feel like breakin' summat, right now."

Angel tilted his head, considering. "How about if you try to break me, then? Kill or be killed doesn't leave much room for experiments on style improvement, and humans . . ." Angel trailed off significantly.

Spike chuckled in agreement. "Slayer never notices that I can spar with her, chipped, and not get zapped. Thinks it's 'cause I don't intend to hurt her or some bollocks. I just know she's the Slayer and that, if I fight below a certain level, can't really hurt her. It's good for a stretch and works on fine control, but if all you've got to spar with are humans, it's a wonder you're not getting your arse kicked on a regular basis."

Angel grinned sheepishly, "Why do you think Wesley dug up the research on healing and human blood? It was taking me too long to recover and he said. . . ."

Spike interrupted. "Right, I get it now. He got you to feed human again 'cause your injuries were going to get one of them killed some night. Yon Wesley knows where your guilt button is, hey? Gotta hand it to those Watcher gits. They may believe in the occasional vampire tale, but the Machiavellian rot, they teach that in spades." Spike finished his blood and rinsed the mug out in the sink. At Angel's amused look, he defended, "Hate the smell of blood gone bad, don't I? 'Sides I like this mug; it fits me. So, where do you work out in this drafty, old pile?"

Spike followed Angel down to his basement training room and threw himself down on one of the mats, lounging on one side, supported on one elbow. Angel sank to his knees and sat back on his heels in a manner common to the martial arts. Spike played with one of the threads that quilted the mat, which Angel knew was more nervously than idly inspired. "We don't have to spar, Spike, unless you really want to. We can do whatever you would like."

Spike's head remained mostly lowered to the floor, but his eyes raised and assessed Angel's expression.

He came to the conclusion that Angel was trying to be as unthreatening as possible, which had the opposite effect from the one, in all likelihood, intended. Spike quashed his instinctive defense and looked back down at the mat but spoke,
"Was a time when being like you --like my Sire-- was the best compliment I could receive. Now I think too much, an' in my head a voice says, 'brooding like the soulful one,' and it rankles. Don't have a soul, do I? Just this sodding bit of wire and ceramic. Doesn't seem to matter though." Spike sat up, agitated and crossed his legs in a half lotus. "I feel like Arthur bloody Dent! They've gone and introduced me to the food, and even if it soddin' well asks me to eat it, me appetite's gone right off."

Angel flinched at the anguish in Spike's cerulean eyes.

"I know. I spent decades hiding from them, alone and wretched, because I couldn't stand to see them, couldn't stand to interact with their world. It's easier to ignore the call of the blood when they're faceless."

Angel laughed mirthlessly at the look of shock on Spike's face.

"Did you think the soul killed the hunger, Boy?" He shook his head at Spike's apparent naiveté. "I thought I taught you better than to see things at face value. Just because it looks like I don't hunger, like I don't rise to the hunt . . . that doesn't necessarily make it so. I'm still a vampire, Spike. No matter what I may or may not do about it. The soul makes it easier to be merciful than cruel: easier to be good than evil if you will, but never think that I am not capable of all the evil that a human soul can contain. I'm just not remorseless any more, and it is amazing how much difference that one little thing makes. I feel the need, after the Scourge's illustrious career, to do something . . . better . . . with my immortality."

Spike was astounded by this revelation. He and Angel had never discussed the effects of the soul before. In fact, Spike was coming to realize that all he really knew about it came from his own assumptions, influenced by the vague theorizing of Watcher and the Scoobies.

"Well, if that's all a soul does, then maybe this gimcrack is closer than I thought." Spike commented reflectively. "Does your ex-Watcher know about this?"

Angel turned his head to one side, as if avoiding something. "I imagine he has a better grasp than Giles does, but they don't ask, and I don't tell them. I think their personal views on the soul and the demon are, of necessity, more comforting than the truth would be, and they have enough trouble trusting me as it is --especially after actually meeting Angelus."

Spike made a scoffing sound.
"Too right that, Ducks. He's barking mad without that soul now, inn' 'e?" Spike shuddered, remembering his time trapped in a wheelchair and in Angelus' company.

Angel watched Spike disappear inside himself, lost to the memories of Angelus' last appearance in his life. A wave of profound sorrow crashed through him, and he reached out to comfort his childe; rubbing his right hand on Spike's left shoulder in a soothing gesture. Angel shifted forward until he was sitting cross-legged, knee-to-knee with Spike, never losing contact or stopping the slow motion of his thumb and fingers. As Spike came back to the present from the brutal memories, he found himself looking directly into Angel's compassionate eyes.

"I'd say I was sorry, Spike, but we both know that, that was neither the Sire that made you, nor me, doing those things to you. Just extra added incentive for me to guard the soul, without it . . . well, as you say, barking mad."

Spike shook his head minutely. "If I didn't believe that, wouldn't be here, would I? I'm suicidal, not stupid." For a moment, the import of Spike's words escaped both of them, and then as unshed tears of anger at his revelation glistened in Spike's eyes, Angel felt the despair behind Spike's admission pierce him like an icicle through the heart. Without thinking of consequences, he ran his hand up Spike's neck until his fingers cupped the base of his skull, and his thumb tucked into the groove behind Spike's ear then pulled him forward into an impulsive kiss.

Spike, on his part, was thrown suddenly from deepest humiliation to utter shock at Angel's reaction. He didn't even try to resist the overpowering kiss: his lips effortlessly parted under the knowing assault of Angel's lips and tongue. If he had, had any doubt as to whether Angel remembered his life as Angelus, that kiss effectively stilled them. Angel took possession of Spike's mouth as if he owned it (as if it were as familiar as an oft-traveled road, which to Angelus of course it was) but this was Angel.

Yet Angel knew.

Slowly, Spike became aware of subtle differences. The hand held him tight enough to control his movement but caressed him rather than caused him pain. Angel's tongue was knowledgeable but used that knowledge to coax response, rather than rip it from him. Spike felt his hands reach out to cling to Angel's broad shoulders for stability as he instinctively responded, his tongue twining round the one in his mouth, aching to follow it to its root.

Angel moaned as he felt Spike responding to him. Angelus would have punished any such attempt at self-determination. In his view a childe was there to receive, not initiate. Ever. Angel, though, was thrilled at the sensations Spike's eagerness aroused in him. He relaxed his grip, slowed his movements, delved less deeply and was soon rewarded by Spike tentatively following his retreat and daring a quick foray into his Sire's mouth. Angel made a pleased vibration deep in his chest, and Spike, encouraged by the sound of his pleasure, warily took control of the kiss.

If Angel's initial action had shocked Spike then this turn of events left him flabbergasted. For the first time, he was tasting and mapping his Sire's mouth and reactions: after years of being a vessel for this vampire, he was at last exploring as he desired, and he found that he desired this very much.

By the end of the kiss, both men had somehow risen to their knees and were pressed together, thighs and torsos; they had melded into a give-and-take rhythm that was both like and unlike any relationship either had ever had. Stunned by the sheer sensory overload of it, Spike melted down to sit on the floor, and Angel allowed him to retreat then followed him down.

Now that they were no longer intermeshed, neither vampire seemed to know what to say or do. It was beyond any formality established between them. Finally, Angel, used to the dominant role, spoke first.
"Was that alright?" he gently inquired.

Spike, still dazed by the upset of the norms, answered honestly. "More than alright, luv. Bloody brilliant, innit?" He ran his fingers, disbelievingly, over his swollen lips. "What the bleedin' hell was all that?" He looked at Angel expectantly.

Angel was aware that he was grinning like a loon, but Spike's anticipatory gaze, after what he was hoping was a rhetorical question, sobered his outlook immediately. "You mean besides brilliant?" Angel kidded, postponing an answer. "It just seemed like the thing to do." His hand had slid down Spike's chest as they parted and rested on his lean, muscular thigh. Angel became aware that he was gently squeezing and releasing the muscles under his hand when Spike glanced down and then very slowly, carefully backed away until he was just out of Angel's reach.

Spike had thought that nothing could be more awful than the disconnected feeling he'd been floundering in since he found out that he couldn't hurt humans or feed, but the sudden resurgence of emotion caused by Angel's kiss panicked him beyond belief. He had been literally on fire and been less frantic than he felt right now. The only thing that kept him from fleeing into the night was, Angel looked more than a bit shaken by the whole experience himself, though he was also trying to hide it.

"Of course," Spike thought, "at least I've gotten laid in recent memory. Last time Peaches had more than a good snog, Angelus had to come out and ruin it." He admitted --at least when he was being truthful with himself-- that he had come to Angel knowing something like this might happen, maybe even hoping that it would happen. After a century or so, the allure of eternity fades into something hollower and less seductive. Spike had always theorized that it was why vampire society became constructed on such rigid caste and clan lines. The bloodline kept one connected even over miles and generations: if your Sire was dusted then your Grandsire or another older vampire stepped in to take their place. It gave continuity to an otherwise fluid, and theoretically endless, existence.

Spike had always hated and loathed the Master, who was the oldest of their bloodline, but he had known, if he had the need and the humility to ask, that he had a sort of home within his court. Buffy had put paid to that; good on her. Angel had staked his Sire; more good on him. As far as Spike was concerned he was better off dead than dependant on either of those two. However, the result of those final deaths was irrefutable: Spike's blood ties now began and ended in Angel's veins. With the exception of Drusilla, estranged from them both and never a candidate for any sort of mentor, they were all the other had in the way of bloodline: they were each other's only vampiric family.

Angel had been silently watching his childe think, trying not to reach out and grab hold of him, trying to come up with an explanation for what had ignited from their kiss. He feared the fragility of their renewed relationship; cognizant that the wrong words could easily destroy the progress that a day had wrought. Suddenly, a memory drifted up from the chasm of their shared past: an evening spent by the fireplace reading aloud to a healing fledgling-William, injured in some ill-judged but heart-felt attempt to please his Sire. Angel stared at the ruminative vampire until Spike felt the weight of his regard and met his eyes, then solemnly quoted:

          "And our veins beat together; and our lips
          With other eloquence than words, eclipse
          The soul that burns between them, and the wells
          Which boil under our being's inmost cells . . .

Spike smiled in recognition, wistful and touched by the sentiment. Angelus was ever in love with the sound of his own voice and read aloud on many occasions in the old days; fortunately for Spike, he, as an enraptured fledge, had loved the sound also and reveled in the beauty of poetry better than he had ever had talent to write. Those quiet times were just the sort of memories that had been haunting his dreams of late: dreams that had driven him to Angel's side. If he were given to believing in signs, this would surely qualify.

"Shelley, luv? That's bringing out the big guns, innit?"

Angel nodded, acknowledging Spike's point.
"I was afraid my words would be too clumsy," he offered.

Spike pursed his lips, considering, and then answered Shelley with Shelley.

"So, you're saying 'the eloquent blood told an ineffable tale,' then mate? I suppose I could make peace with that."
He smiled tentatively.

Angel allowed his smile to become warmer but still made no move towards his childe, expecting qualifications to follow. Spike rose and paced in a small circle, still outside of Angel's immediate reach; Angel remained on the floor, letting Spike have the position of lesser vulnerability. He tried to maintain the appearance of relaxation, but the uncertainty of the moment and his unaccustomed position at his childe's feet made it difficult, if not impossible, to pull off.

"We're far beyond the lore, you and I," Spike observed, while sending a penetrating look at Angel. Seeing him nodding his agreement, Spike continued. "I won't be dominated by you, not after almost one hundred years. You're my Sire, but you're not: I'm your childe . . ." Spike trailed off as if unsure.

Angel completed the sentence firmly. ". . . But you've been on your own for almost a century. You're your own vampire. You may be my childe, but you're not a child."

Spike gratefully nodded his agreement of Angel's assessment. "Tha's it in spades. I want something . . . new. You think we can do that?"

Angel paused, and for a moment Spike feared he had gone too far, but then he saw a gleam of hope enter Angel's eyes and smile.
"I think we can try, Spike. Old habits die hard, but we have the time to get over them." He shrugged eloquently and extended his hand. Spike stepped forward and grasped it, pulling him to his feet. Angel raised his hands to Spike's shoulders then kissed both cheeks in the European fashion and let Spike return the gesture.

Warily he leaned into Spike's lips, stopping millimeters away and letting Spike complete the distance. This kiss was chaste compared to the last one, sealing a bargain rather than stirring the embers of passion, but both felt their blood heat and their cocks harden, nonetheless. They stood, almost touching, and looked into each other's eyes for a long time: not moving, not breathing, just being in each other's presence, then Spike stepped away, shedding the emotions of the moment visibly and donning his cocky attitude like a shield.

"How about a go round? That is, if you're not too old and out of shape for it," he taunted, scarred eyebrow raised in mock challenge.

Knowing that Spike needed some relief from the turmoil they had just won through, Angel laughed derisively.
"You still think you can beat the old man, don't you? Well, you're welcome to try. In fact, take the first swing."

For some time afterwards, the sounds of blows and bodies falling echoed through the Hyperion, interspersed with cries of pain and triumph, and if Spike found that Angel still won when it came to strength and stamina then Angel found that Spike all too often surprised him in speed and adaptability. Bruised and bloodied, they had, by vampiric standards, a smashing good time.

Angel's quote--P.B. Shelley, "Epipsychidion" (566-569)
Spike's quote--P.B. Shelley, "Alastor" (168)

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