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Balancing Act

Chapter 7

Angel wasn't sure whether to be furious or relieved when Spike slid back into the apartment a couple of minutes later. He was sitting on the edge of the bed, eyeing his clothes with increasing fury when he just appeared.

Spike looked startled and glanced to the shower, as if he'd thought he wouldn't have been missed.

'What the fuck!'

'Well, yeah. Sorry.'

'Where have you been?' Angel frowned at his bare feet and torso.

'Nowhere….' This was such a blatant lie that Spike flushed, but he said with a hint of defiance, 'Upstairs, okay?'

'Up…? Huh?'

'To see Innocence….'

Angel was silent absorbing this. 'Is there something I should know?'


The second lie was pretty obvious, too. Spike swore and tore off his jeans, climbing into the bed. 'It's just a thing, Angel. It doesn't concern you.'

'I think it damn well does. You weren't here!' He climbed in alongside Spike and sat staring at him angrily.

Spike made a small dismissive wave of his hand.

Angel caught it. 'Tell me. It's midnight, Spike, and you decide to go visit some spooky….'

'She's not spoo….'

'And you decide to go on a little naked up to Innocence adventure?'

Spike tore his wrist away. 'Okay! Okay! Bloody hell, Angel! You are so soddin' suspicious. I go check on her, okay! I go up and make sure she's locked up… turned things off…that she's… okay. Happy now?'


'Yeah. Oh.'

Spike stretched his legs out and studied them for a moment. 'She's nearly the same age as me, Pet. But look at me.'

Angel did. He reached a hand over and stroked the illusion of youth. 'I know. I'm sorry. I took away your chance to grow old.'

Spike tipped his head on one side.

'Why did you turn me, Angel? I've never asked you- never seemed the right moment, you know? But I wonder sometimes. Least loveable? Least likely to be a freakin' demon, too.'

Angel hung his head and murmured something that was too soft even for Spike's exceptional hearing. Spike put a finger to Angel's chin and lifted it. Angel repeated, 'Exactly for that reason. It would torture you more.'

Spike nodded as if he'd always known this anyway. He slid his hand onto Angel's face, caressing the smooth, ageless skin. Angel turned and nuzzled into Spike's palm, and they then came together in a kiss that was incredibly easy, unrehearsed, and loving. Still kissing they lay down, exploring mouths gently, smiling at what they found, at the taste and the feel of the other. Hands began to roam, and the kiss deepened. Suddenly, Angel stiffened and tried to turn Spike over. Spike pulled away and looked at him for a moment with an odd expression, then he chuckled and whispered, 'It's not compulsory, Angel.' He put on a pompous voice. 'Staying the night… gotta do the fucking thing….'

Angel let out a long, slow breath of relief and sank into the large, soft bed. 'It's not that I don't want to….'

Spike turned onto his back, too, and caught Angel's hand, playing with his fingers, twisting his rings around and lining them up. 'I know. It's… not really something I've ever thought about, either.'

'Or wanted…?'


'But you do now?' Panic.

'Calm, Angel. Calm, deep breaths. Yes, I want to.'

'Okay. I do too.'

'But not tonight….'

Angel slid his arm under Spike's head and pulled him closer. 'No. This is weird enough.'

Spike sighed. 'I don't know…. Seems like you've always been here sometimes.' He put his head on Angel's chest and let Angel stroke slowly up and down his back.

'How's the throat?'

'Missing something in it.'

Angel chuckled and dragged his nails up Spike's spine, hard enough to leave a faint red mark. 'Why did you come here- leave your other place?'

Spike hesitated then said, 'I couldn't afford the rent anymore- killing the wrong people kinda began to cost too much. I was given it so I could be this new champion. Hell, it was such a good opportunity to piss you off some more I thought yeah, be a sodding champion again. But I wasn't. I was fucking around and getting it all wrong- sent to the wrong place, kill the wrong the person. So I quit. Found this. Did I mention I love this place?'

Angel chuckled and kissed into his hair. 'Once or twice, I seem to recall.'

'I never really wanted to be a champion. Not really. Only took that damn necklace thingy cus I knew it'd piss you off so much. If I'd have known I was gonna bloody burn me knackers off….'

'I had mine burnt off regularly in hell. I came to look forward to it… in a weird kind of way- it relieved the monotony. Oh, here we go… balls in the pan time again.'

Spike laughed and wriggled down in the bed. 'Ahh… poor Angel… let me… see….' He glanced up and then took Angel's sac in his mouth, sucking on the hot, soft skin. He smiled around it at the look on Angel's face indistinguishable from the one he might have worn under far less pleasant ministrations. He rolled it around in his mouth for a little longer then let it drop and slid back up to his comfortable pillow. 'There. I cooled them down for you.'

Angel coughed. 'Appreciated.'

'So, will they be missing you in the great edifice of evil?'

'Probably. At least I don't have a tracer on me anymore.'

'Huh. Join the club.'

'I need to leave early….'

'Yeah, okay, Luv. 'S not a problem.'

'It's quiet here. No street noise.'

'It's quiet in your apartment. Hermetically sealed kinda quiet.'

'Yeah. I hate it.'

'I know you do. Go to sleep, Angel. You're here now.'

'I know.'

The only sounds were the faint trickle from the pond and the quarterly chiming from the clock somewhere above in the big house.

He could not describe the relief he felt at Spike's easy acceptance that they were not ready for the next step. It was unthinkable enough that he was lying, tightly spooned with him…. What his body craved from the slim, blond figure was beyond unthinkable; it was undoable.

He listened to the sounds from the night for a long time before he slid silently out of the bed and went into the dark of the courtyard. He breathed a long sigh, tense anxiety at something he couldn't define making his bellyache.

He heard a noise behind him and turned to find Wesley, leaning nonchalantly on the wall. Angel jerked his head back, not surprised at finding him there, but spooked at not finding this odd. He nodded. 'Good night?'

Wesley shrugged. 'Not particularly. I'm very confused. You're supposed to be a champion, Angel.'

Angel hung his head. 'I know. I just can't do it.' Angel held up the sword that he knew to be in his hands and stared at it sadly. It was long and thick, and decorated with tiny seed pearls. 'I want to give him this, but I can't.'

'You're trying to put it in the wrong place, Angel, that's why.'

'Oh. I'm kinda new to all this. Can you show me?'

Wesley smiled and tried to reply, but his voice had gone. He held his neck as if he couldn't breathe, going increasingly red in the face, but despite this, he walked calmly to the bed where Spike still slept peacefully.

Angel took the sword and drew a bright line of crimson across Spike's belly, just above the hairline. 'I can't push it in further.'

Wesley shook his head sadly then brushed his hand over Spike's heart. 'This is where you need to penetrate.'

Angel drew back sharply. 'No, that can't be right! Something has to be released! I don't trust you!'

Wesley put his hands over his eyes. 'I know you don't, and I'm so sorry, Angel. I stole something from you.'

'NO! I stole your memory from you. You aren't whole, and I can't trust you! I have to do this thing now.'

Angel stared at the blood from the fine sword cut, now smeared across Spike's flat belly.

Suddenly, his sword arm was pushed, and he turned to find Cordelia grinning at him. 'Harder, Angel, harder.'

Angel smiled triumphantly at Wesley. 'See? It's Cordy. I trust Cordy.'

Wesley began to look frantic, and he struggled to find his voice once more. 'No, Angel, look in the mirror.'

Angel frowned and said in a low voice, 'You know I'm damned. You know I don't exist in God's universe. I don't fucking show up!'

Cordy suddenly pushed again, and the sword pierced Spike's belly, exactly where he had drawn the line. Spike rose from sleep, screaming, his eyes wide. He gave Angel a confused, accusing look, as if he'd expected more from him. But before he could speak, a small shape squirmed out of the split in his belly. Angel shouted in horror, dropping the sword; Spike held out his hand, as if he could save his life, but he dissolved slowly to dust in the bed.

Angel closed his eyes in shock and denial. When he opened them, all he could see was a long, empty corridor that he'd now been condemned to stare at for eternity. He couldn't move; he couldn't scream; all he could do was stare. Incipient madness pressed upon him, as if he'd inherited it from the previous occupant of this unholy prison. He'd made his choice though - penetrate Spike - and this was the bargain.

Then there was a flicker of something in his vision. Someone had come to visit him. He felt a surge of relief, straining his eyes to one side to try and see. Then he did; it was the squirming thing. He knew what it was and tried desperately not to watch, but he did, with sick fascination. It grew. The destroyer stood before him. For the first time, Angel understood the name. It was his destroyer.

Connor smiled. 'Hello, Father.'

Angel woke, silently screaming, his whole body rigid and painful.

He looked around wildly, trying to get his bearings, unable to work out where he was and why the prison had suddenly become so less restrictive.

With a shudder, he looked down to what lay beside him: perfect, warm, sleeping, his.

Everything he had ever tried to have, he had lost. His passions condemned him. He'd lost his life, Buffy, Darla, and Connor. It was all lost. Now this, now this sexy, enticing, contrary, confusing person he had circled around for the last century. Condemned by his passions, he would lose Spike, too. It was inevitable. He had made a pact with the devil twice, and the devil did not like to lose a good and faithful friend. He could not go back and refuse Darla and chose life instead. He could not go back and stop Buffy's infatuation with him: taking back that spill of seed that had nearly destroyed them all. He could not go back and retrieve the spill that had destroyed them all: Wesley, Fred, Gunn, Lorne and him, all now disciples of the devil.

But this - this pale, smooth, infuriating, infinitely complex man lying asleep alongside him, who seemed effortlessly to do the good he had once thought he could do - this one, he could save.

Silently, he slid from the bed and dressed. He cast a last look down at what his passion craved almost more than his body had the strength to refuse, but then he refused it. He drew into himself and walked the length of the room. Even the dust motes rising from the ancient furniture seemed like small ghosts calling him back, telling him that he was wrong and that this passion would be different, this passion would be allowed.

It wasn't until he reached the door that he realised how close, on that impossibly long walk, he'd been to turning back and sliding into the warm bed once more. He cast a last look around the place that had been a temporary sanctuary from the devil's bargain. What had he thought? That they could live here together? Waking together in that preposterous bed, sharing their complex, strange lives, talking, laughing…. Sharing passion…? He closed his eyes and felt once more the hot, eager mouth around his cock… sex whenever they wanted it… passion finally matched and assuaged.

The devil's final victory was to show him a tantalising glimpse of what could never be.

Casting aside the entire impossibility that this place represented, Angel went back to where he belonged- what he had bought with his deal.

He went up to his soulless apartment. He showered. He stood in front of the closet and carefully chose what he had now to wear: suits that were his pact manifest.

By the time the sun rose over L.A, by the time he would be waking, Angel was at his desk, signing letters.

He'd made the deal, and the devil would not take kindly to losing.

So much passion. So many lives destroyed.

He would keep safe what he could.

Spike woke on his belly, one arm hanging off the bed. His first thought on waking was anticipation. His body ached with his usual early-morning need for relief. He rocked into the mattress teasing himself with the thought that, for once, he did not have to do this alone. His body ached with something more than the need for relief; it ached for Angel. He had said he'd not been ready either. He lied as usual. Angel had not been ready, and that had held him back from taking what he'd wanted.

He turned leisurely in the bed and blinked sharply awake to find it empty.

Instinctively, he knew the apartment was empty and that Angel had gone.

He hunched his knees up to his chest and put barriers against the bitter, fearful thoughts that sprang unbidden into his mind.

There had been an emergency. Angel had left and not wanted to wake him. Even now he was at his desk, longing for an emergency of another kind: hushed whispers in an empty office, need unrelieved but admitted.

With a grin, he dressed and made his way over to Wolfram and Hart, coming up through the sewers as usual. He nodded at a couple of typists he recognized and punched buttons of the elevator, humming softly to himself. It all seemed disturbingly familiar.

Harmony was only just adjusting her chair, turning on her screen as he exited the elevator. He stopped and gave her a hard time for a while, enjoying the old game of pretending to look anywhere but at Angel.

When he felt he'd earned it, he flicked his eyes over and saw him. A wash of memory - smell, feel of hair, throat swollen - made him flush.

He abused Harmony a while longer than swaggered to the door and shoved it open. He went in and leant on it, barring entry, gazing across the large office. 'Mornin' stranger.'

Angel moved another letter across. 'Good morning.'

Spike grinned and came over, perching on the edge of the desk. Angel pointedly moved the stack of unsigned letters out of his way and continued signing them. 'What do you want, Spike? I'm kinda busy this morning.'

'Uh huh. That so? I'm thinking you look in need of some… refreshment. How's about you and I…?'

'Spike. Busy? Go and play with yourself somewhere else maybe?'

Spike hesitated and replayed the last few moments, taking off the early-morning, sensual bed lustre it had worn for him. He dragged his eyes slowly over Angel: lowered head to stiff, office posture. He got up and went to the window, lighting a cigarette.

He was silent for a long time, so long that Angel was forced to say tightly, 'Really don't need the company….'

Spike turned and looked at him. 'I need to know if it's me, Angel. Have I done something wrong?'

Angel appeared to flinch, but Spike saw it was just some ink that had spilt from the pen and ruined the letter he'd been signing.

Suddenly, he rose from the desk and joined him at that window, folding his arms and staring out over the city. In a flat voice, he said, 'It was the spell, Spike. I expected it to end when Fred said the incantation, but it didn't. I tore down to see Wesley; he was free of it, but I felt exactly the same. I hid it from you, and I hid it from everyone. I told myself I could go along with things… wait until I was back to normal. And I did. Last night, it just… wore off. The thought of being in the bed with you was… preposterous. Freaking hell, Spike; I don't even like you very much.'

Spike tipped his head to one side, seemed to find this the wrong side, tried the other, but ended up with his head, shaking. 'This isn't true. There's something wrong, but you're not telling me what it is.'

Angel took a while to reply, but he turned, his expression cold. 'Yeah, you're right. There is. You. Jesus, Spike? What is it with you?'

Spike's head continued to shake. 'No. I don't accept this.'

Angel shrugged and went back to his desk, placing his palms onto the surface as if to steady it from some non-existent wobble. 'Not seeing that you've got much choice here.'

Spike blinked and came closer, unwilling to stand separated by its vast smoothness. 'You know how I feel, Angel. I'm not gonna pretend any different. You know where I live now. Are you seriously telling me you've changed your mind?'

Angel shrugged. 'That's probably a better explanation than mine. Yeah. I just changed my mind, Spike.' He looked up. 'Hell, if you want some fun sometime…. We're vampires; that's not gonna change.… No other freaking action around here, and I really enjoyed your mouth… ya know what I mean? But, fuck…. Faggoty crap with you? Not gonna happen.'

Spike stepped back, glanced behind to the couch and sat heavily on the arm, staring at Angel. Angel shrugged and went back to his paperwork. Pointedly he buzzed Harmony and said curtly, 'What time's my first appointment?'

Spike watched his small tableau play out, biting the side of one nail. He was almost sure that Angel was acting, that there was some hidden agenda here that he wasn't getting. Almost. He tried not to look too closely at Angel's face, though, for when he did, he saw an expression he recognized: self-disgust. It was exactly the same expression Buffy had worn when she'd woken up in his arms, penetrated and filled with his sperm. Exactly the same. The almost sure wavered, until it faded completely.

She'd not been acting. Angel wasn't acting. Disgust.

He rose and came closer to the desk. 'What am I supposed to do now, Angel? You have me at something of a disadvantage here. I believed you, and I let you in. I can't… do this now: coming here, working with you…. L.A.'

'I wanted you to leave before all this! The offer still stands: car, relocation, money. Whatever you want, as far away as you want.'

'I have to give up my…? Fucking look at me, Angel! At least have the grace to fucking look at me when I'm talking to you!'

Angel looked up with a weary, bored look.

Spike gritted his teeth and paced to the window, continuing without looking at Angel, now he'd won this small, useless victory. 'Why should I have to give up everything?'

'You can do whatever you like, Spike. This is a huge city.'

Spike was silent for a while, his head low on his chest, his hands plunged deep in his pockets. Eventually, he said softly, 'Why are you doing this? Tell me the truth. Whatever you say, I'll go along with it, only tell the bloody truth. Please.'

Angel sighed. 'Jesus. You said it yourself, Spike. You're just not loveable, yeah? I tried? real hard. Christ, I tried.'

Spike nodded. He turned and shook out his shoulders slightly.

Angel cast him a small look and said, apparently not that interested in the reply, 'What will you do?'

Spike didn't answer. He pouted for a moment then withdrew one hand from his pocket. 'I think you should have this, Angel.' He laid his small fragment of mirror on the desk.

Angel reared back, his chair reeling dangerously, and then crashing to the floor. He paced to the window, then to the couch. 'What the fuck are you giving it back to me for? It was a gift.'

Spike held it up and looked at his reflection one last time then laid it down and walked to the door. 'I don't need to see myself. I know who I am now, Angel. I suggest you study it carefully. You may be surprised.'

With that he left.

Go to Chapter 8


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