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Balancing Act

Chapter 5

Lorne seemed to find it as easy to break up a party as to create one, and Spike's apartment emptied rapidly when he sensed that the vampire was weary of making the effort.

Leaving the doors open, stoking the fire, Spike flung himself into the deep couch and stretched luxuriously. He sensed the ghosts returning, seeking the quiet corners, and he welcomed them, old friends already.

The intense fragrance of exotic flowers, which grew around the windows, filled the room, and the heat of the fire trapped it there, making the air swim with perfume. Underlying its sweetness, a salty, earthy, male smell of a Spanish chestnut made Spike breathe deeply, his body already heavy with need. He knew what he would be doing soon, and the thought depressed him.

He spread his arms along the back of the couch and pictured a hand on his body instead. It was loving and familiar and took its time, knowing how his body worked: where to touch; and where to leave, teasing and drawing out the pleasure.

With a hiss of anger, he rose and stripped off his T-shirt, flinging it to the floor. He strode toward his small shower, stepping out of his jeans as he did.

When he felt the water cascading over his body, he took himself in one hand, running his palm gently over the tight, hard flesh. It made him shiver, and his balls twitched, a small clench of pleasure that made him groan softly.

Suddenly he tipped his head to one side, concentrating. With almost magical clarity, he knew that across the city, in another shower, another souled vampire was touching himself, too.

Angel flicked his head around, water spraying off his hair. He felt… observed, and it unnerved him to the extent that he slid open the door and glanced around the bathroom, but all he saw was the soulless white and chrome, mocking him.

Spike slid his hand hard down to the root, lower, over his balls, dragging them painfully down. They clenched with pleasure once more, and his shaft jumped a little, hardening enough to swing horizontal.

Crouching, Angel groaned as he thrust into his fist. Although he had not come yet, he could smell sperm already, mixed with a subtle scent of exotic flowers.

Braced against the wall, forehead to the old, cracked tile, Spike pushed into something he had not entirely defined in his mind. It was tight and hot and pushed back to meet him.

Angel's body began to spasm, the moment he enjoyed most, almost more than the shooting, which sent rivers of intense feeling through his body. Then the release began, but he aimed it to the drain, crying out with a sense of loss and waste and desolation.

Spike caught his ejaculate in his hand and rubbed it over his body, where it glistened thicker than the water for a fleeting moment before being washed away, leaving him clean and empty. When he stepped out of the stall, the smell of the Spanish chestnut was almost overwhelming as if the old tree itself had come. He walked naked and wet out into the still softly illuminated courtyard and tipped his face up to the night, his body still quivering from the orgasm.

Angel stood trapped in the air-conditioned apartment, leaning his forehead on the window, looking out over the city. He was naked, too, and he shivered slightly from the contrast with the hot shower.

When the light of candles began to fade to that of the rising sun, muted and green as it was through the leaves, Spike went back into his apartment and, still naked, slid in between the smooth linen sheets of his vast bed. They were cold to his flesh, like cool liquid around him, and he spread-eagled, washing them over every inch of his body.

Sated, every sense satisfied, he let his thoughts wander unhindered over the events of the night. As he did, his fist curled and uncurled on his new treasure, reassuring himself that it was still there, still his. He held it to his face once more. It was magic; he was magic, but together they had overcome this and become real, normal. Was it a coincidence that Angel had chosen to bring him this? A random choice of gift because he had been ordered to, and he was bored and didn't want it himself. Or had it meant more?

It seemed to Spike as he lay in his cool bed, that it had meant a lot more.

Angel sank onto the edge of his bed and pushed his fingers through his hair in despair. He was scared, and the fear clutched at his belly, but nothing ever frightened him, and this contradiction only added confusion to the fear. He had stepped out into that small, fragrant courtyard and had allowed himself to be someone else- the person he had been under the spell. There had been no spell, though, unless it was one cast by candlelight and wine.

Spike lay through the long morning, watching the effect of green shadows filtered through gauzy drapes that shifted in the breeze. By the time sleep overtook him, he had worked it all out. The only trouble was, he didn't know whether he was pleased with his discovery or not- he valued his sanity too much. He had thought that the Angel he wanted had been brought forth by a spell. He had told Angel as much in angry words spat out in hasty defence: That's not you

It wasn't true though. That Angel had been there all the time, under the less pleasant one, silent and still. He'd been the one he'd sat with all night in the warm darkness. He'd been the one who had obliquely asked him to stay. That Angel was the one he wanted now: in his bed, in his body, in his life.

Angel finally lay down, tense and anxious. He cursed the sunlight that streamed into his room, unfiltered, unnatural- for him. Whoever he had been in that courtyard, he could not be here.

He finally fell asleep to the disturbing thought that he what he had wanted in that courtyard, he could not have here either. His dreams were filled, as they always were, with Connor. This time, however, the dreams were different: compromises and bargains made for his child not leaving him satisfied. He woke once in the middle of the day with a cry, coming messily into his sheets. An overwhelming feeling of loss echoed in his mind- loss of certainty. When he had made the bargain to save Connor, it had been all he wanted, and all his decisions had flowed from that one certainty.

Now he wanted something else.

When Angel woke after a restless sleep, his first thought was to wonder if Spike would appear that evening. A roll of guilt churned in his guts when he realised this was the first time he had not woken thinking of Connor since Wesley had taken him.

Anger then flared, painful, rising from his heart to his brain. If Spike did come, he would probably come to see Wesley, not him, and this turned Angel's anger into a hot need for cruelty.

He climbed out of the bed and showered, practicing all his calming techniques - picturing flowers - and was back to his habitual state of repressed fury when he pulled some blood out of the refrigerator.

Why did the bags have to look like obscene, bloated organs?

The bag tore as he fumbled to open it, and blood ran over his hands. He glanced at the bed, dangerously tempted to climb back in and stay there for a year or two, but the weight permanently on his shoulders sank a little heavier at the thought, and like an automaton, he dressed and rode down to his office.

It was only as he sat at his desk, wondering where everyone was, that he realised it was Sunday evening.

He sat in the totally empty building, by himself, with the terrifying thought that the great weight he carried was not responsibility, duty, or even guilt; it was loneliness, and that now, this burden crushed him more than the others ever had.

He rose from his imposing CEO chair and strode out into the hallway. He passed offices, still incredulous that alarms did not go off, still seeing Lilah's sneering expression as he was caught entering the great evil that was Wolfram and Hart.

Wolfram and Hart and he… merged. Empty of human life now, it was as if he were the new heart of all this evil: a dead, demonic force at its core. Then the image shifted, and he saw himself as the victim, trapped in these sterile confines, his soul fluttering desperately to be free.

The building was not entirely empty. He went down to visit Pavayne. He did this every once in a while, staring silently at the eyes that were going increasingly mad; it cheered him up to know someone in the world was lonelier than he was.

He sometimes wondered what the other holding cells contained and thought that, one day, if things ever got too bad, he'd open them all and party in the trail of evil they would leave behind.

Suddenly chilled, he thought of flowers for a while as he paced lower, into the vaults, but the flowers were oddly fragrant and didn't calm him at all. The previous thoughts of evil now trickled into thoughts of sex, and he played some pleasant memories back in his mind as he paced. He'd been ingenuous back in the day. He'd not been lonely then.

By the time he heard the faint noise from one of the vaults, he was in just the right mood for an intruder, hoping it was large, evil and wanting some serious pain.

He kicked open a door and crashed in.

Spike jerked his head up from a file, clearly very startled. His chair fell over as he jumped to his feet, but then the moment calmed as they recognised each other. Spike picked up the chair, shaking out his shoulders. 'Bloody hell! Is that how you were taught to enter rooms, Mate?'

Angel stared at him- the source of all his confusion. The intensely interesting thought came to him that this was the weight over his shoulders; not Wolfram and Hart; not guilt; not loneliness- this damn blond vampire and the fog of confusion he habitually caused.

He came closer, picking at this thought. 'What the hell is happening here, Spike? Sunday evening, and you're in the bowels of Wolfram and Hart.' He picked up the papers on the desk. 'Reading ancient texts?'

Spike shrugged and shoved his hands deep into pockets, clearly embarrassed. 'Yeah. So? I'm just doing some research.'

'Research. You?'

'Don't play the high-and-mighty with me, Mate. Remember which one of us taught the other to read more than an ale list.'

Angel quickly changed the subject slightly, holding up the file. 'What is this?'

At Spike's furtive look, Angel suddenly felt connections forming in his mind: rapid click clicking until it all made sense. 'You're trying to find the demon who put the spell on me! You want him to do it again! NO! You already have! Last night! It was the spell making me feel….'

'Angel! Calm down! Whoa….' Spike backed off rapidly as Angel stepped closer. He knew he was trapped in a very small space, and he'd smelt Angel's ugly mood when he'd first crashed through the door. He held up his hands in a conciliatory gesture and added softly, 'The file is about Connor.'

Angel's whole body lurched. He felt a hand on his arm, and Spike kicked out another chair and sat him down. 'Jesus, Angel.'


'Yeah. I wanted to find out more about… everything, I guess.'

Angel looked back at the papers on the desk and saw that what he had taken to be arcane language was a page of coding rubbish that printers occasionally spew out before they decide to play nice. He scanned past it and saw document after document detailing Wolfram and Hart and their knowledge of Connor. The last one was his contract, but he hardly looked at it, for at the back of the file were the photographs… the first ones he had ever seen of Connor grown: Connor with his new family; Connor smiling into the camera, fingers held up, unseen, behind the heads of his new, loving parents.

Angel's jaw wobbled, and he bit his lower lip so hard it bled.

Spike swore and put a hand on his shoulder. 'Let's get out of here, Luv.'

Angel didn't respond, so Spike pulled him to his feet, stuffing the file into his waistband, out of sight under his coat.

He led Angel down to the garages and pushed him into one of the cars. Angel sat almost catatonic, staring unseeing out of the window.

Spike swore once more and turned the heater up full, despite the natural warmth of the night.

He drove them to a bar he knew and left the car illegally parked outside, easing Angel into a secluded booth and buying a couple of bottles of JD.

He almost forced the first drink on Angel but the second went down more easily.

Angel suddenly shuddered and seemed to come back from a long way away. 'Why were you reading it?'

Spike held his gaze. 'Because I want to know things I don't know now… about… people's motivations, what drove them to make the decisions they did, who they are….' He held Angel's gaze, willing for him to read the sub-text of his reply.

Angel did. The small malicious whisper Wesley seeped into his mind.

Spike jerked back his head a little, as if he'd heard this then said distinctly, 'Prat.'

Angel started, and Spike poured them another drink, giving him small, cross glances.

Angel suddenly looked abashed and nodded. 'I'm sorry. He took Connor from me, and it doesn't matter how many times I tell myself that he had the best of motives in his heart, he stole Connor, and I lost my son. It's such a simple equation. So I get a little twitchy now when I see him with anything that's….'

Spike had been following this so intently his lips finished the word mine.

Angel glanced up, and there was a faint smile playing on his lips. Spike topped them up again, and they tossed the drinks back in one. One bottle finished, they started on the second. Spike lit two cigarettes and passed one to Angel, and when the air was suitably thick between them, he said softly, 'So, you felt you were still under the spell last night….'

Angel repressed a smile and replied deceptively evenly, 'Well, I sat and talked to you all night- something must have been wrong.'

At the same time, they had an image of the secluded, green privacy of Spike's new home. Angel saw them once more, sitting in the dark together, hidden from the Wolfram and Hart partygoers.

Spike drained his glass and said hesitantly, as if he'd been rehearsing the words but still felt they were not perfected, 'Wanna come back for a nightcap?'

Angel let his glass fall to the table.

They rose at the same time.

They didn't remember who drove.

They arrived before it was possible, the journey done in total silence.

Angel picked up the file, not wanting to leave it in the car.

Spike shook his head. 'No. Not in there.'

Angel understood, and with a sense of shedding far more than one small file, he let it drop back onto the seat and stepped lightly down the path, behind Spike's flowing coat. He ducked under a branch, stepped into the room then found himself pressed to the wall. For the first time, Spike showed him what he wanted. Angel was overwhelmed by the sensuous power of the kiss, and realised, somewhere in the recesses of his brain that in his imagination, Spike must have kissed him many times before.

He groaned at the pleasure that trickled cold in his balls at this thought, and the small sound brought Spike's hands under his shirt and onto his belly. They snatched mouths apart, eyes widening, and then all they could think about was more skin: seeing it, touching it, tasting it. They tried to undress but hasty, needy, they were inelegant: flinging, tearing, bootlaces knotting, zippers sticking.

Free at last, they clashed together, driven by one need. They tipped over the end of the couch, rubbing, clawing over each other in blood and sweat. Then, like a storm, the heat between them broke, and cool release rained down.

Their bodies now writhed and jerked in a different way: hands milking, squeezing, eyes tightly shut, lost to their individual pleasure.

When they were done, the room hung heavy with the potent smell of the release where it lay glistening on friction-hot skin. Angel was half-lying on Spike. He did not remember getting horizontal and frowned as he lowered himself down, Spike shifting over slightly to accommodate him. 'Freaking hell.'

Spike chuckled. 'Yeah.' He turned his head to look at Angel, and even that small movement threatened his precarious position on the couch. 'You okay?'


'Angel, are you…?'

Angel had been watching Spike's mouth, seeing it for the first time, and now he stopped it with his. He kept his eyes open and fixed on Spike's, kissing his mouth gently, but greedy for tongue and for the taste of him. Spike ran his fingers through the short hairs at the back of Angel's head, caressing him gently to the rhythm of the kiss. Angel rose over Spike once more, and his hand went lower hesitantly. He found slick wetness, then hair, then something that made Spike's kisses deepen when he touched it. Sliding his hand up and down made Spike arch beneath him and then, once more, they were lost to need, no awareness of whether they kissed or bit, but just the irresistible need for release.

Angel came first, spilling once more onto Spike's belly.

With a cry, Spike pulled him closer, bucking against him frantically, and they fell, tangled to the floor. With a groan, Spike levered himself over Angel and milked onto the hard belly, some cum shooting onto Angel's neck and shoulders.

He was about to lie down alongside Angel when strong arms enfolded him, and he lay stretched out, lithe and empty on the broad, muscular body.

'Bloody hell.' Spike folded his arms on Angel's chest and rested his chin on them, watching him. Angel shook his head in disbelief. Spike murmured with a throaty chuckle, 'What?'

'I'm trying to convince myself that this is a spell still.'

'Huh. Good luck with that then.'

Angel suddenly grinned and rolled them, crushing Spike with his weight.

For the first time, it seemed to occur to him that Spike was naked. He glanced at him, then his eyes flicked down. Spike twitched up an eyebrow. Angel swallowed and looked for longer, and then he slid slowly out of sight.

Spike folded his arms under his head and watched the firelight play on the ceiling. He hissed and arched occasionally as Angel's tongue played with him.

Eventually, Angel's long licks led him back up. He nuzzled into Spike's neck for a moment, then they kissed again, a slow, desultory joining of tongue and lips.

Spike could taste semen in Angel's mouth, and he licked at it, causing Angel to moan softly.

They rolled apart for a while, and then Spike sat up, searching for his discarded jeans. He pulled out a cigarette and leant toward the fire to light it. He lay on his belly, enjoying the sweet smoke, tracing patterns in the dust that lay on the hearth. His back was pale and muscular, falling in a broad sweep to perfectly smooth, hard cheeks. Angel felt something catch in his throat, something stir below- a quick shudder of desire. He moved closer and stroked his finger over the flattened globes. Spike twisted his head around with a curious look and blew some smoke in Angel's direction. Suddenly, he stretched out his hand and ruffled Angel's hair. ''S a big step, Luv. Scary. I get that.'

Angel looked relieved and scooted up to lie on his belly next to Spike, staring into the fire. He relieved him of his cigarette, and they shared it between them.

After a while, Angel said, 'Have you ever…?'

'No! Have you?'

Angel shook his head quickly and glanced down at Spike's backside once more.

Spike hesitated, and then leant in and kissed him again. 'Want a drink?'

Angel nodded, clearly relieved.

Spike rose gracefully, flicked the remains of the cigarette into the fire and went to his small kitchen area. Angel watched every move for a while then rose and stretched, saying lazily, 'Shower first, maybe?'

Spike waved in the direction of the small stall. 'Sure, help yourself.'

Angel snagged his arm and murmured, 'You're not getting it….'

Playfully, he pulled Spike toward the shower and turned it on over them.

They kissed again under the running water, trailing light fingers down sensitised flesh, making it shiver despite the heat.

Finally clean, they lay in front of the fire to dry, silent and thoughtful, drinking wine.

Angel finished his drink quickly, but when Spike made to top it up, he laid his hand over it and glanced at his watch. He hunched into himself at whatever he saw on the dial, but said, 'I have to go.'

Spike pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes, hundreds of things he wanted to say spiralling around in his mind.

Instead, he just nodded. 'I know you do.'

Angel scratched his belly and said pointedly, not looking at him, 'I needed this. I'm grateful, but it was a one-off. Nothing has changed.'

Once more, Spike nodded. 'I needed it, too.'

Pleased, Angel rose and sorted his clothes from Spike's. He seemed to want to say more and glanced around the apartment, but then left, shutting the door softly behind him.

Spike flung a log onto the fire and poked viciously at it for a while, muttering obscenities at the uncaring flames.

The next day, Angel had three meetings before lunch, one of which overran, so by one o'clock, his head was spinning, and he was starving. He watched the man from accounts talking to him and pointing to things on a large board, nodding every once in a while as if listening, wondering how loud the man would scream if another use was found for the pointer. They were still only halfway through the agenda.

Suddenly, the door flung open, and he was about to snap that he was in a meeting when Spike tumbled in and said breathlessly, 'Sorry. Emergency. We found…. You'd better just come.'

Angel swore and rose, following him out, shouting orders for Harmony to reschedule. Spike waited impatiently, tapping his foot then led the way down the hallway.

'What's happened?'

Spike waved vaguely to the end of the hallway and began to run.

Angel cursed and ran after him.

Spike suddenly veered to one side and into an empty office.

Bracing for whatever lay ahead, Angel crashed in after him. The door shut behind him.

He spun round.

Spike was grinning, his whole face illuminated with glee. 'Afternoon.'

Even then, Angel took a while to get it. He turned slowly scanning the room.

He turned back.

'There's no emergency.'

Spike shook his head, his whole body quivering with laughter. He began to stalk slowly toward Angel. 'I've been here since ten, and I couldn't get to see you.'

'See me.'

'Boring bloody meetings. So, I… rescheduled you.'

'I see.'

Spike poked him in the chest, pushing him back a step.

'It was a one-off, Spike. We both agreed.'

Spike conceded this with a small nod, but he poked Angel again; again, Angel stepped back.

He glanced behind him and saw a couch, identical to the one in his office. 'This is not going to happen, Spike.'

Spike suddenly stopped and said innocently, 'What? I just wanted to say hi.'

With that he spun around and left.

Spike paced from one end of his apartment to the other: eighty feet. One hundred if he veered in a drunken fashion around the furniture. He was drunk; he knew it, but he needed it.

He glanced outside.

It seemed dark, though it was hard to tell sometimes under the greenery.

If he came, he'd come early surely? Surely his need would bring him with the setting of the sun?

Could he sit alone in that glass edifice of evil and resist? One-off! I said it, and I am the Law!

He drank another glass of wine too quickly, not tasting it.

Perhaps Angel hadn't got the invitation, not seen it his eyes or heard it in his voice. I just wanted to say hi.

He'd meant to do more - kiss him at least - but the bastard had been so… stern, so not getting it.

He'd thought Angel would fall, laughing into the office, wanting him.

Had he got it all wrong? One-off. Was that actually all it had been? He cringed, not at what they'd done last night - that was allowed for a one-off - but at his eagerness today, his assumption that Angel was thinking about him, would welcome the joke.

He tossed back another glassful and glanced despairingly at the night. He couldn't fool himself that it was anything but dark now. A hideous thought struck him: what if Angel rolled up before dawn for a quickie before going into the office- hand job, desultory kiss. Cheers, Mate. He drained the last of the bottle and flung himself on the bed. He hoped he'd have the balls to throw him out. How needy would you have to be?

Angel sat outside in the car; it was dark enough to leave its safe confines now, but he couldn't do it, couldn't take the walk down that secluded path.

There hadn't been a hint in Spike's face this morning that he wanted this. I just wanted to say hi. Yeah. I know where you live now, Angel….

Loneliness had driven him to this. Can't get a woman? Use a man. But not just any man- not one who actually wanted or liked you. Oh, no, just an easy, dead thing like you- equally lonely who wanted someone you'd been in a spell. Not you. Never the real you.

It was just need. And he didn't need Spike to alleviate that. Stick to showers.

He groaned and put his head on the wheel. What if Wesley was there? What if Spike wasn't? Out being a champion… and he came back to find him on the doorstep… needy… pathetic… grovelling… dribbling. I know where you live now, Angel.

What if Spike was asleep and outraged at being woken? Angry. Mocking. Those mocking eyes. That voice!

Anger finally drove him from the car.

Spike threw the empty bottle at the wall.

Angel found the door ajar, heard a crash, ducked.

Hands were then on him and the smell of wine. A hoarse voice. 'I didn't think you'd come. God, I'm so drunk. But I didn't think you'd come!'

They kissed in the doorway; they kissed against the wall. They fell onto the couch again, rolled off onto the floor. They didn't even have time to remove their clothes before they lost heavy loads, sweating, panting, mouth on mouth.

Angel rolled back, stunned.

Spike dragged himself onto his hands and knees, forehead to the floor. 'I'm gonna heave.' He breathed slowly, and didn't.

Angel caught his arm and pulled him over to lie on top of him, stroking his damp, mussed hair. Checking that Spike wasn't going to vomit on him, he said softly, 'I just wanted to say hi.'

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