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     Spike looked up and saw the dangerous gleam in Angel's eyes. It looked like Angelus peeking out at him. If he had been more sober, he might have reacted more conservatively, but he was, after all, very drunk and that tended to bring out the worst of the "Big Bad." The weeks of fearing his reaction to Angel's aggression, of denying his craving for his Sire's heavy hand, surged to the forefront. Combined with the frightfully simultaneous apex and nadir he had experienced when the words "favorite childe" had passed the Host's prophetic lips, his battered emotions boiled over into one undeniable statement.
"You left me," he said lowly and with considerable heat.

Angel, taken unawares, replied, "What are you talking about, Spike? You went out with Wesley. I'm the one who's been waiting for you to come home."

Spike shook his head belligerently.
"No, you left me . . . left me with that bitch of a Sire of yours: gone without a word."

Now that Angel knew what they were talking about, he wasn't any more sure what to say. Angelus was roaring within him that it was his right to do anything and his childe's duty to accept it. Angel, resisting for the moment, whispered, "Yes, I did. I left you."

Spike nodded sagely, as if something important had been added to the conversation. He set the mug down with a loud thunk. Staggering a little closer to Angel, he raised his arm and poked him in the chest as he spoke.

"Do you know how long it was? Two sodding years . . . you show up in China . . . and I still didn't know what happened to you. Thought you were punishing me for summat, making me stay wiv her. I killed a Slayer for you, but you left me again. It still took better 'n a year to get the whole story out of her. Meanwhile, I paid my penance --and yours-- to your Sire, and I took care of Dru. I was Angelus' childe; I did what I had to do . . . and for what? You never gave me another thought." Spike's pokes gradually increased in intensity until the final one was more of a shove.

Angel grabbed his wrist with a sudden move, twisted it behind his back, and pinned him face down to the table. Angel was angrier now, and he let a little seep into both his voice and his hold.
"I always thought of you, always. Do you think it was easy to leave you behind? I couldn't bear the disgust that would have grown in your eyes to see your Sire feeding off rats and livestock."

As Angel talked, Spike relaxed into his hold, becoming limp and unresisting under his hands.
"Let me up, Angel. I have to look at you to say this." Spike spoke calmly.

Angel paused for a moment and loosened his grip, fully expecting Spike to try to struggle free. When he remained still, Angel released him and stepped back. Spike stood up, collected his dignity, and turned to face his Sire: considerably more sober but obviously no less angry.

"You say you thought of me. I can accept that, knowing how you brood. You say I would have been disgusted. The childe in me cries, 'No,' but I remember seeing you in that hallway trying to fool me into thinking you were offerin' up the whelp. It might not have been disgust but disdain, certainly. I admit it. Maybe I accuse you of not thinking of me . . . because I wish to bloody hell I could have quit thinking of you."
Spike began to pace restlessly: each traverse taking him closer to the kitchen door.
"How can you explain it, Angel? Can you? I mean, I know you made me, but Darla made you, and the Master, her. No love lost in either of those cases, yeah? So, it's got to be more than just the blood, innit?"

Spike paused in the doorway and ,as Angel made an aborted movement towards him, backed into the lobby. He moved smoothly, slowly: never taking his eyes off of Angel's trailing form. As he glanced over his shoulder to affirm the location of the lobby furniture, Spike laughed bitterly.
"Have you ever done the math, Sire? Eighteen years, that's all it was between drinking your blood and you disappearing into the Romanian night. Hardly even a childhood by human standards, so what did you do to me that left me like this? Hey? Couple of years later, you show up in China all dark and broody then gone again. Meanwhile, I never ever went a night without dreamin' 'bout you . . . 'bout being under you." Spike shook his head as if trying to deny the pain.
"Soon enough I just forgot 'em. They did me no good. Maybe Dru helped me shut them away; don't rightly remember. No matter, t'other mornin' I woke up in your arms, and it all came flooding back: ninety years worth of dreams so full of pleasure they were nightmares. Nightmares because I knew I could never have it again. My Sire was gone." Spike sank onto a couch, elbows on his knees, head in his hands.

Angel crept closer, silently willing Spike to stay in place. When he got close enough to touch him, he whispered, "I'm here, Spike. Your Sire isn't gone any more."
Spike's entire body jerked as if his chip had gone off, and he laughed hysterically.
"You don't even know. 'S what I thought. We're here; things are different. It's good in . . . so many ways . . . but the old ways won't let go of me, Angel. Don't get me wrong; I don't want Angelus, but I need my Sire ,and you, Luv, are not him. I see sparks of it, every once in a while. In the kitchen t'other night, up against the counter licking blood off my face, now that was my Sire, but then he just slipped away. I thought I could cope; having one and not t'other . . . but just makes it worse. I can take a lot --Angelus saw to that-- but I can't have this human parody of the bond. This . . . equality . . . 's good mostly; sometimes it's bleedin' brilliant, but I'm a vampire: solitary, yeah but essentially a pack animal. Ironic really. I was too human for Angelus; you're not vampire enough for me. I'm sorry, Angel. I should never have come."

Angel watched Spike collapse against the back of the couch, his head rolling back until he faced the ceiling, his eyes clenched against burgeoning tears as tried to regain his emotional footing. Angelus was roaring inside him, and for once, it seemed that his advice might be the only solution. He had been treating Spike like a human, when Spike was a vampire. This could be like the human blood: maybe some things needed to be for a vampire to be healthy and fit. He had been struggling against the instinct to treat Spike as his childe. Maybe that hierarchy was just part of the way of things, as necessary as breathing wasn't.

He had spent the latter part of the evening reminiscing with Angelus; now was the time to put those memories to use. Angel let the possessiveness flow over him.

"Childe? Make obeisance."

Spike's body tensed, but he opened his eyes lazily and said in an amused but weary tone,
"Cut it out, Angel. Playacting won't do. Nice try, Mate."

Angel reached out and slapped Spike hard enough to make his head rock. "Now, Childe. Don't make me ask again; you'll regret it."

Spike brought his hand up to his mouth, found blood from a split lip, and tasted it warily, his mind spinning furiously. He placed his hands on his knees as if to lever himself back up but instead head butted Angel right in the stomach. Angel rocked back a bit but had recovered by the time Spike regained his feet.

"That works better if your opponent actually has breath to knock out of them, Boy," Angel taunted. An infuriated and still-somewhat-inebriated Spike rained blows on Angel with more enthusiasm than forethought or skill: unsure if he were being mocked and unable to believe that Angel would deign to give him what he finally admitted needing. Angel avoided most of the blows and easily took the ones that landed. As short a time as three months ago, they would have been more evenly matched, but Angel was well fed now and his superior age and condition allowed him to quickly overpower his inebriated childe. Making sure that his childe got equal contact with his fists, boots, the marble pillars and steps, and the occasional small piece of furniture, Angel drew blood and cries of pain from Spike until the lobby was lightly decorated with debris in a kind of subtle illustration of cause and effect. Eventually, the speed with which Spike returned to the attack slowed. Once Angel had thrown him around the lobby a few more times for good measure --knowing how his Boy liked to keep getting up from the proverbial canvas-- he paused with his foot on Spike's back holding him down.

"Through yet, Boy?" Spike nodded weakly. "Good. Make obeisance."

Angel stood with his arms crossed lightly in front of him and his legs spread in a wide stance. Spike peeled himself up off the floor and knelt at Angel's feet. Bending at the hips he pivoted forward until his forehead rested on the floor between Angel's feet and waited. Angel let him stew for long minutes before reacting.

"Arise, Childe," he commanded.

Spike knelt up as Angel reached his hand towards Spike's face. Spike kissed the backs of Angel's extended fingers and murmured, "Sire."

Angel stroked his platinum hair and asked, "Can I trust you to go directly to my room, Childe?"

Spike hesitated, cleared his throat, and replied, "Probably not," before thinking about it. He had time to see a flicker of a smile to register on Angel's face; right before Angel's fist punched him in the temple and the world went black.

Spike came to with the woozy feeling of having achieved a hangover whilst still drunk. His head was pounding, and he felt oddly stiff all over as if he had gotten into a brawl. Brawls made him think of bars, and bars made him remember spending the evening in one with Wesley, but he knew he hadn't gotten into a fight within the charmed boundaries of Caritas. Suddenly, an image of Angel's face with an evil, little smile flickering across it flashed in his mind. Alarmed, he tried to sit up but discovered that Angel's bed didn't just have chains at the head: they were also installed at the foot, obviously, because he was locked in them. They had to be adjustable too, since Angel was a good four inches taller, and Spike was held taut against the sheets, unable to move his inexplicably nude body more than fractions in any direction. Of Angel, however, there was no sign.

Now that his situation was coming back to him, Spike realized that he didn't have a hangover; his head hurt because Angel had clubbed him unconscious with his fist. It occurred to Spike to wonder if somehow the soul had been lost, and Angelus returned, but if that were the case he figured he wouldn't be chained on a bed. He would be somewhere more convenient for inflicting real torment. No, this had to be Angel, and it looked like, once again, Spike would be learning the lesson about being careful what he asked for.

Spike had been laid out on the bed long enough to have given up struggling several times before he heard noises in the hallway. It sounded like someone was dragging something; to entertain himself, and in an attempt to stay somewhat rational, he bet that it was Angel and some sort of trunk. When Angel backed through the door dragging a steamer trunk behind him, Spike congratulated himself for as long as it took to notice that said trunk looked vaguely familiar, and then Spike felt very, very uneasy.

Angel dropped the end of the trunk and stood up, brushing the dust off of his hands. He sat on the edge of the bed, facing Spike, touching him as he was speaking to him, casually.

"Did I ever tell you that I cleared out the Master's lair after the Slayer killed him? I was surprised to find that Darla, at least I assume it was, had kept some of my things. Hauled them half way around the world, only to die at my hand before she could return them to me." He laughed flatly.
"Although I am sure what she had in mind was more along the lines of me returning to them. Still, a nice surprise. You recognize this trunk, don't you, Childe?"

Spike was still scrambling to decide which answer would get him in less trouble when Angel lost his patience and buried his thumb into a pressure point in one armpit. "Yes." Spike cried out in pain. "Yes, Sire, I remember."

Angel ran a soothing hand across Spike's brow and down the side of his face. He smiled sweetly.
"That's fine. I would hate to have to reacquaint you with every single item inside it."
Spike felt a shudder run down his spine. He remembered all too well what some of those objects could do and how adept Angelus had been at wielding them.

"Sire?" He dared a quiet entreaty, aware his voice quavered and for once unconcerned with how that appeared. Angel leaned over until part of his weight was resting on Spike's chest, and their eyes were directly above each other.

"Yes, my Childe?" He silkily gave permission to speak.
Spike looked at the warmth burning deep in Angel's familiar eyes and taking heart from it, spoke bluntly,
"Angel, what kind of game are we playing here?"

A look of contentment blossomed over Angel's face. "No games, Spike, not any more. Right now, we're just a Sire and his Childe, and I'm going to remind you what that is all about. When we're done, I 'm sure we'll both feel better."

Angel closed the remaining distance like a snake striking and kissed Spike forcefully and deeply. His hands held Spike's head still as his mouth possessed every square inch of his face and mouth. He reminded them both that Spike moaned when his eyelids were licked, gasped if you sucked and rolled his earlobes as if they were nipples, and vainly tried to arch off the bed if you sucked on his lower lip until it was swollen. He continued his assault until Spike, drowning in the sensations of it, began to futilely struggle. Angel allowed him to resist until he felt the tiniest weakening of that fire, then immobilized his head entirely and pressed him to a total surrender.

Angel sat up and gazed on Spike's slackened, lust-dazed form.
"Are you starting to remember, Spike?" Angel laid his hand on the middle of Spike's chest, and spoke one word that fell on Spike's ears as if a great weight or pressure were surrounding him.


Spike remembered the first time he had heard that voice, saying that word. He had still been human, albeit not for long; he had still been William and had not understood what this stranger could have possibly meant by it. Still, even that first time, it had moved his soul, made his heart careen, and caused his blood to seethe in a moil of fear and desire. He had known, just as he knew now, that it was true; beyond that even, he had known it was Truth.

From deep inside the place where the remnants of his lost humanity dwelt, a hoarse, almost unrecognizable voice pushed it's way forth, "Yours, messire. Always yours."

Angel ran his hand along Spike's neck, chuckling at the cross language pun in the old French term. "Am I your lord, Will?"

Spike opened his blue eyes and declared earnestly, "From the moment you spoke and before, did you think that I had never seen you in those weeks?"

Angel reached up and unlocked the manacles on his wrists. "You know he intended William to see him: wanted to see what he would do, if he would run. You didn't though, did you, Boy? . . . Never flinched." Angel smiled at the memory. "So eager to embrace your death."

Spike shifted minutely, as if testing whether he would be allowed to move.

Angel stood up and moved to the foot of the bed, crouching down. Spike felt one ankle freed, and then the pressure loosened on the other. He could move his left leg five or six inches now, but the cuff remained locked around his ankle. He rose up on his elbows and cocked an eyebrow at Angel, silently questioning.

"I trust ye to behave, lad. I just like the look of yerself chained to me bed."

Angel deliberately slipped into a light brogue just to watch the wariness sweep over Spike at the sound.
"You disobeyed me in the lobby, but that's no happenin' again, is it?" Spike froze, unsure suddenly of his ground. If this were Angelus, there would be traps within traps here, and all of them impossible for Spike to avoid, so the answer mattered only in degree, but this was Angel, and he didn't know what to expect from a Sire with a soul.
"Never ye mind," Angel said soothingly. "There's time enough later."

Angel stood slowly; looking down on Spike hungrily, and then deliberately, provocatively unbuttoned his shirt. He met Spike's fascinated gaze and saw the flame of desire there burn brighter as more of his skin was exposed. He continued to divest his body of clothing until he stood nude and aroused, towering over his childe like a statue of a god from an ancient temple. Spike slid down until he was once again flat on his back, fighting the urge to curl up protectively, knowing it would do no good.

Then the god moved, and despite his resolve, Spike trembled.

♦ 9 ♦