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They woke to an entirely new day; they both felt the change. Spike lay knowing that Angel was awake - that he had probably not slept at all - and all he wanted to do was pull him into his arms and hold him.
He turned his head, looked at the strained profile and said, 'Fuck this,' under his breath, rolling over to cover Angel with his strong protection. When Angel cried out, Spike held him firmer and said in a voice that would take no contradiction, 'We're still asleep; shut up; you're just dreaming.'
Angel turned his face into Spike's chest and made no further protest.
Spike ran his fingers through Angel's hair and kissed into the silky locks. He wasn't even hard; he had no desire to be hard, or to think of Angel in that way. Angel's body seemed wracked with pain, and however hard he held it, Spike could not take the pain into his own body and make it his. Eventually, he tried soothing words - promises of what they could do together - but all he got back was a desperate whisper, 'Don't, I'm damaged goods.'
He held Angel at arms' length and stared at him for a moment then pulled him back into the more comforting shelter of his arms. 'Hell don't count, Pet. Don't you see? We beat it back every day, and we always win. It's what I got my soul back for. So, now I'll beat it back for you.' He hesitated for a moment, and then whispered just as softly as Angel had, 'I'll be your first. Like you were mine.'
Then he held Angel away for a moment and gave him a small shake before letting him go and climbing out of the bed, pulling on the discarded sweatpants. Holding a T-shirt in his hand, he turned and said distinctly, 'But I need for you to want me before that, so we'll do this thing for another week, Angel, and we'll make it right. We'll make it work.' With that, he turned, slid on his shirt, and began the domestic routines of the day, humming a tune he remembered from the Bronze.
Angel lay in the bed for some time longer, watching him. He felt bereft without his presence in the bed and wanted nothing more than to curl up again in his arms. No one ever gave him comfort-no one else ever thought he needed it. He'd always thought that if he let go of even a fraction of his pain, it would all flood out, like the lancing of a great boil, drowning him in poison. Last night though, he had pricked his wound, and some of the pain and pressure was gone, but he was still here, intact.
He watched Spike, seeing him once more as the childe he had picked for his eternity and thought, for the first time, that he'd chosen better than he had known at the time.
Spike brought two mugs of blood to the bed and handed one over. 'You'll be late for work.'
Angel nodded. 'I think I'm firing some people today. That's always fun.'
'I'll come in later. I want to see Gunn about the money thing.'
Angel smiled a genuine smile of pleasure. 'When?'
Spike huffed, stood up and stretched. 'I wish you'd looked at me like that when I popped out of that bloody crystal.'
'Why have we wasted all this time?'
Spike shrugged. 'We take time for granted, I guess.'
Angel laughed suddenly, an unusual sound. 'I never thought two damn weeks could seem so long!'
Angel didn't find the day as tedious as he usually did. The anticipation of seeing Spike at any moment kept him on a pleasant edge of suspense, so much so, that when he turned from his view of the city to find Spike grinning, only inches from him, he jumped, annoyed he'd missed the moment when Spike actually arrived.
Pleased with his joke, Spike went to sit in Angel's chair and put his feet up on the desk. He lit a cigarette and then peered at Angel through the smoke. 'So, what's up? 'Sides us….'
Angel flung himself onto the couch and rubbed his face. 'The usual. Have you seen Gunn?'
Spike chuckled. 'I'm going to have a bank account- like a real person. Cheques and a little bitty card an' all.'
'Welcome to the adult world, Spike.'
'Thank you, Daddy.' Spike took his feet off the desk. 'Sorry. My big bloody mouth.'
Angel stared at him for a moment then said, 'You are so different to him. I used to think there were similarities, but I don't see them now.'
Spike took a long drag on his cigarette. 'And is that good, or bad?'
Angel smiled softly and didn't reply, but he got up and said gruffly, 'Get your arse out of my chair and go do something useful maybe?'
Spike chuckled; he had the reply he wanted. He swung the chair and pushed out, making way for Angel to sit down. Angel pulled some papers over to read and then glanced up. 'Well? Are you going to fuck off and leave me in peace?'
Spike twitched up an eyebrow then, with exaggerated care, lowered onto the couch. 'Nah. Think I'll stay here and bug the hell out of you all day.'
It was only later in the morning, after he'd suffered and enjoyed Spike's presence in equal measure, that Angel got the significance of Spike's words.
When he did, he looked up, watched him blowing smoke rings for a while, and felt another trickle of hell's poison draining from his body.
Spike didn't waste his favours entirely on Angel. He went and amused Wesley for a while, too. The human was in an intense conversation with Fred when he arrived, and he immediately tried to backtrack stealthily, but she heard him and turned, smiling. 'Spike!' He gave Wesley an apologetic look and came in.
When she'd left, Spike glanced at Wesley and murmured, 'Oops.'
Wesley nodded. 'Yes. A most unfortunate interruption. The romance of a conversation about mucus excreting slime-bugs can never be over-estimated. Anyway, how are things? Angel seems oddly normal.' He frowned slightly. 'Yes, that is the word I want. Normal- for him. Is that good?'
Spike grinned. 'Oh yeah. That's good. What are you doing tonight?'
Wesley groaned. 'The torture continues.'
'Nah. Things are different now. I want you to see what I'm doing to the place- get your opinion, like.'
Wesley pursed his lips. 'What does…?'
'I think you should come over as well.' Demonstrating more stealth than Spike, Angel was leaning in the doorway, watching them. Wesley still looked uncertain, and Angel added nonchalantly, 'I'll cook. It would be nice to do that for someone who can pronounce the ingredients.'
Spike gave him the finger but turned to Wesley and poked him in the ribs. 'So?'
Wesley nodded, bemused. 'All right. Thank you.'
Spike smiled happily and wandered out with Angel. Wesley watched the vampires leave and tried to suppress the clench of fear in his gut at the thought of the coming night.
He needn't have worried. Although he walked into a scene of confusion - a large hole in the ceiling, builders' equipment scattered everywhere, and all the furniture pushed to one end of the room and covered - it was also a scene of complete harmony. Angel was cooking and nodded at him to come in. Spike was reading by the pond and poured him a drink, bringing it in to him with a cheeky grin.
He listened to the vampires chatting and arguing. He'd never heard Angel so talkative before and realised for the first time, that Angel let himself be someone else when he was here with Spike. He supposed after over a hundred years of knowing someone and sharing their blood there was little point in continuing any pretence.
Spike showed him the improvements, taking him upstairs to inspect the plans for the new room, and he'd never found Spike so… normal. Again, he wondered if Spike was able to drop some of the masks he habitually wore when he was with Angel. He felt privileged, as if the vampires had made a conscious decision to extend their little bubble to include him. He felt he ought to reciprocate, but his masks were too newly constructed to relinquish, and he wasn't sure what lay beneath them anymore.
They ate around the pond in the soft light of dozens of candles. Wesley stared up at the huge house looming over them. 'What about the rest of it? It'll need an awful lot of maintenance.'
Angel stretched and said casually, 'Give us another hundred years, and we'll probably have taken it all over.'
There was a pause, and Wesley said softly, 'I don't find that at all hard to believe.'
Spike smiled inwardly. He knew Wesley wasn't referring to the creeping occupation of the house.
Angel smiled as well and collected the plates, taking them in for washing.
Wesley relinquished his and turned to Spike with a raised eyebrow at this domesticity. Spike allowed a small smirk to escape and went back to his wine.
Wesley felt incredibly mellow and stretched out his long legs. Suddenly, Spike said, 'Why don't you just tell 'er, Wes? What you got to lose? Grab her and tell her. She might surprise you.'
Wesley was silent for a moment then he replied sadly, 'I think maybe I'm not built for great passion… that a love life is rather like a system of government: we get the one we deserve. I just don't feel that spark of….'
Spike's mouth met his, open, gentle, seeking. When entry had been gained through shock, it became hot and wild, sucking Wesley's false words and eating them whole. With a sudden, irresistible urge, Wesley kissed back, his hands in Spike's hair, his stubble grazing and reddening Spike's skin.
Spike separated their mouths and stared, amused, into Wesley's eyes. 'So, not one for the passion then…?'
'Oh God.' Wesley licked lips, which didn't feel like his anymore. 'Oh God.'
He turned his gaze to the French doors and repeated the words again, but in a tone of deep and genuine fear. 'Oh. God.'
Angel came over and handed Spike a beer. Spike kept his eyes quizzically on Angel's face. Wesley looked down at his feet and repeated, 'Oh, God.'
Angel tapped him on the head and handed him a drink. 'You can't take him from me, Wes. He's not an infant. He'll go or he'll stay, just as he pleases. Now, as I was too distracted to beat you last time, let's go play poker.'
He turned and went back into the kitchen. Spike rose without a word to Wesley and followed him in. Angel was leaning casually on the counter and seemed engrossed in the study of his shoes.
Spike stood so close that his breath broke the rules. Angel looked up. Spike reached out a hand for something - anything - and it connected with a carving knife. He put it gently to Angel's lips. 'My finger.' Angel closed his eyes and flicked his tongue out as if to taste the substitute flesh. Spike drew the knife's tip down Angel's chin to his throat and dragged it softly over the pale skin. 'My tongue.' He touched the tip to the back of Angel's hand, their trigger point, and Angel's eyes flew open. Feeling Angel's self-control like a taut wire between them, he drew the knife over the hardness at the front of Angel's pants, tracing a line down the whole, thick length. 'My cock.' Angel grabbed the counter for support, and his eyes dilated with suppressed need. Spike put a finger to his cheek, not quite touching his skin. Angel let his breath fall on Spike, the words, 'I love you,' caressing him instead of flesh they could not join.
Spike blinked and then smiled. 'Yeah, I think now that you do. Enough to trust me, Luv. Come on, let's go play.'
They played together for hours, stupid bets being made for vast sums of money, and Angel won every hand. Neither of the other two could see how he did it, but he ended up winning Spike's entire fortune, the house, and Wesley's soul. Slyly, on the last hand, Angel suggested they bet their hearts, and he won both those, too.
Eventually, Wesley called a cab and left while he still had his intellect. When Spike returned from walking him out, Angel was already in bed. He shed his clothes and slid in next to him. Angel turned his head. 'What was he like to kiss?'
Spike hesitated then said, 'We're kinda not allowed to talk about….'
'About us kissing- not other people.'
Spike folded his arms behind his head, staring at the ceiling. 'Hot. Rough. It flicked something on in my brain. But not my….'
Spike chuckled. 'Balls.'
Angel groaned and turned his back. 'I can't do another four days, Spike. I'm gonna pass out or something.'
Spike slid closer. 'Watching me with Wesley get you all riled up, did it? Oh… or do you want to kiss him, too…?'
'Jesus, Spike. No fair!''
Spike slid so close his sweat cooled Angel's skin. 'Tell me what you want to do to him, Angel. You said talking about other people was allowed….'
Angel rolled further away onto his belly.
'No humping that mattress. Your rules, remember?'
'I'm going to explode if I don't.'
Angel thumped the pillow until it broke, feathers drifting up into the air.
Spike chuckled and delicately placed some in a line down Angel's back. 'I'm not sure I helped him with his dilemma about Fred. I'm fairly sure, having tasted him, that he won't be thinking about her when he slowly pumps that hot dick tonight….'
'Four days!' Angel's wail from under the pummelled pillow almost made Spike laugh, but he kept his voice low and deliberately provocative. Very carefully, he took up the largest feather and trailed it across the back of Angel's neck. When Angel shivered, causing the little line of feathers to jump, Spike slid off the bed and fetched something from the drainer.
Very slowly, breaking the rules, he eased the sheet off Angel's naked body. It appeared like marble, but he knew the sculptured cheeks could spasm with potent life when they humped into him. It made him so hard to remember the feel of Angel's cock deep inside him rubbing his tender walls, that he released a stream of cool pre-ejaculate.
With infinite care, he took the knife that he'd retrieved and dragged the sharp tip over the sole of Angel's foot. A spasm ran up the long, lean leg, and Spike chased it with the knife. Angel gasped sharply and bowed down into the mattress.
When he reached Angel's thigh, Spike paused.
The perfect body moved; with one fluid lift of the thigh, it all lay stretched and exposed to Spike's gaze.
He reversed the knife and dragged the cold, blunt end through the shallow cleft.
It was too much. His balls, so heavy and painful, ached for relief, and he turned away, hanging his head, wishing he'd not begun this game.
Angel's voice caressed the hairs at the back of his neck, husky with suppressed need.
He did as he was asked. Angel's face loomed over him then lowered as if to kiss him, but only kissed the air that was cooling on his skin. Spike felt the kiss though; it seared his flesh like a whiplash of longing.
He cried out, and Angel kissed him again- into his hair, never quite touching the blond strands.
Again and again, Angel air-kissed Spike's body until Spike felt flayed alive: his flesh so hot and sensitive he lay in a fever. With a last kiss to the space around Spike's toes, Angel slid back up the bed and pulled the covers over them both.
They were so in tune, they could hear echoes of each other's thoughts, and fell asleep to the incongruously new realisation that love had very little to do with penetration and taking.
When Spike woke, Angel was gone. There was a note on the pillow, and he read it lazily, not fearing what it would say.
'Decided to go explode somewhere. A.'
Spike grinned and lay on his back, picturing Angel exploding. He didn't even get time to touch himself but shot load after load of thick sperm onto his belly at the image of Angel's face as he found his relief.
Angel sensed that something was wrong as soon as he walked into the apartment that evening. He took in the advancement of the work then went outside to Spike, who was sitting dangling a finger in the pond.
Spike glanced up then away. Angel noticed a number of empties scattered around and realised Spike had been drinking again. Thinking he'd help the situation, Angel said softly, 'Only three more days now.'
Spike got up and hedged around him, saying cheerfully, 'Yeah. 'S good then.'
Angel frowned but decided not to pursue it.
He kept up a light chatter all evening: his day, who killed whom, general gossip about the people they both knew.
For one awful moment, he thought that it was exactly as it had been in the first two weeks, when he'd let it all turn so sour. He faltered, and the one-way flow of information dried up. He stared at the food he was preparing then turned and looked at Spike, silent and thoughtful on the couch. With a small, private smile, he realised it was nothing like those first few weeks, for now he was listening to the silence.
He finished the dinner and brought it over, watching Spike eat it without tasting. After dinner, he suddenly said, 'How still can you sit?'
Spike frowned. 'Why?'
'I want to draw you.'
Spike looked interested for a moment. 'I've not seen you draw since… huh… when you were tryin' to kill Buffy. Good times.'
Angel smiled and collected his sketchpad and some pencils. He sat on the couch at one end and turned to Spike. 'Watch the fire. I want you in profile.'
Spike huffed slightly at something this implied but turned obediently. Angel could hear Spike's need to speak as clearly as he could hear his pencil scratching on the paper. He kept drawing, silent, allowing him the space he needed.
'So… three days….'
Angel smiled inwardly but replied, 'Don't worry. I've told you; I think I'm ready to….'
'No! No! This isn't always about you!' Spike jumped up and began to pace. Angel laid down his pad, not worried about the ruined portrait: the brief sketching session having served its purpose.
Spike glanced at him then, with a deep breath, sat down again. 'It's me, Angel. I'm worried about me!' He jumped up again. 'Four days… three days… it's like a tick tock in my head: a countdown to my bloody command performance. What if I can't? Angel, what if when the time comes there's been so much anticipation that it's… notverygood.' He trailed off miserably and sank on the couch, his head in his hands. 'When it was me… and you in me that first time… it was so… hot! Remember? Jesus, I think you melted my brain. I want it to be like that for you, too. What if it's not?'
Angel leant forward. 'Let's end the contract now. Now, Spike! Let's do it!'
Spike jumped up again. 'Now? Now? No! I'm not ready!'
Angel began to laugh.
Spike stomped his foot. 'Don't laugh at me!'
Angel stood up, too. 'I'm not. I'm laughing at us.' He placed his pencil on Spike's shirt and swirled a perfect circle around one nipple, looking at Spike, amused, through lowered lids. 'You talked to me, Spike. For the first time ever, you talked to me instead of hitting me, or running away, or making up some elaborate lie.'
'There ya go! See? Big fucking nancy-boy here now! No way I'll be hard enough!' Angel caught the flash of equal amusement in Spike's eyes and had never felt more desire for him- desire to lie down and make love on the shared laughter.
He came closer, teasing one button with the pencil. 'You're forgetting someone, Spike. You're forgetting I'll be there as well, and I have no intention of letting you be… soft. Now, sit down, and let me finish. I want to capture a certain… look….'
Angel pushed Spike with the pencil back onto the couch and turned to a fresh piece of paper. This time, Spike sat full on, facing him, and gradually, exactly the look Angel wanted crept onto his face. Quietly, without lifting his eyes from his sketch, Angel told him exactly how he intended to get him hard, and what he wanted him to do with that hardness. Spike's eyes darkened, dilating, forcing Angel to return to them again and again to add to their luminosity in his picture. Strong, masculine scent of need rose from both of them, mingling on the hot, August evening until the air was a heady mix of sexual perfume, and Angel sketched Spike through a veil of desire: soft, wavering lines, broken only by the sharpness of the extraordinary cheekbones.
When he was finished, he knew he'd never done a better portrait. He turned it, propped on the hardness in his lap. Spike hooked his elbow over the back of the couch and leant on his arm, languid and melting into the sensuousness of the moment. 'It's… incredible.'
Angel smiled, pleased. 'I put my heart and soul into it.'
Spike snorted softly, but Angel could see he was secretly pleased.
Very gently, Angel put the blunt end of the pencil to Spike's nose and drew a line down it. Spike blinked and smiled softly at him. Angel came closer and mirrored his lazy position, playing some more with the pencil: over the cheekbone and combing into Spike's hair, lifting the strands until they shone in the faint firelight. 'Come to bed?'
Spike sighed and rubbed his cheek on his arm, as if desperate for touch of any kind. Looking at Angel through lowered lids, he murmured, 'Give me to drink mandragora that I might sleep out this great gap of time….'
Angel laid down the portrait and rose. 'It cannot be thus long; nature will not sustain it.'
Spike looked up sharply; he had not expected Angel to either know the quote or respond to it. He rose, too, and followed Angel to the bed, going to his side so reluctantly that he felt he was pushing through air that had become solid.
As they lay side by side, not touching, Spike turned his head on the pillow, so close their breath broke the rules with its intangible essence. 'If we never touch again, Angel, I'd still want you here- by my side.'
Go to Chapter 7
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