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The last day was the worst. The tension got to them both to extent that they could not be together. Angel said he was staying late at the office; Spike said he was going into the tunnels to kill things and would not be home either.
All day, Angel felt the universe conspiring against him. He passed a man smoking the same brand of cigarettes as Spike, and he hardened at the scent. His first meeting was with two representatives from the London branch of the firm, and as he listened to their voices, he was there with Spike once more. He wanted the time over now; it was long enough. They had proved something to each other, but now it time to admit what they were: creatures of blood. Blood poured into his cock at the slightest stimulation all day, pumping him up so hard that he could find no relief. Eventually, he too went into the tunnels and spent the day working off the tension in the best way he knew, after the obvious, which he was denied until the next day.
Spike did not come back to the apartment until just before dawn. He slid into the bed, knew that Angel was still awake and, restless, glanced out of the window at the slowly approaching light.
Very slowly, he stretched out his hand and placed it on Angel's belly.
Angel arched to his touch as if it burned him, and he let out a small cry of desire that frizzled in the air.
The kiss was so intense that Angel actually heard bells ringing in his ears, as if his whole body were under so much pressure that his blood was singing. It was only as Spike tried to separate them, that he realised Spike was hearing it, too.
Angel frowned and peered over the side of the bed, realising that his cellphone was ringing. He turned back to Spike, clearly intending to ignore it, and Spike murmured, 'Oh, yeah,' and took him back to the kiss. They began to roll, flesh on flesh, so intimate and hot for each other that they almost managed to ignore the ringing. Almost. Angel swore and reached down to rummage in his clothes.
'I'm going to stick this somewhere I can't hear it.'
Spike chuckled and ran one finger through Angel's cleft. 'Won't be room in there soon, Luv.'
Angel pulled it out of his pocket and switched it off.
They went back to the kiss until Spike's phone began to ring.
At that, they gave each other a slightly concerned look, and Spike climbed out and padded over to his coat, fishing the phone out of the pocket. He climbed back on the bed and held it between them as he punched it on.
'Bloody hell, Wesley, do you know what time…?' Angel caught Spike's fingers and twisted them up in his, bringing them to his mouth and sucking languorously.
'I gather Angel's there?'
Angel was engrossed in the feel of Spike's fingers, his tongue flicking and teasing them. 'Yeah. I'm here. What do you…?'
'You need to get here. Now.'
'This is NOT a good time, Wes.' Angel bit a finger, and Spike repressed a gasp at the delicious pain.
'No. I'm busy, Wes.' He bent and bit Spike's nipple in punishment for being so pretty.
'Angel. I'm sorry. You need to come.'
'Yes, Wesley, I know I do. I'll be there when I'm there.' He leant over and bit the other one, just for good measure.
'No. Angel. You come here, now. I'm not dealing with this alone.'
Angel took the phone from Spike and switched it off, but the mood was broken. They both had Wesley's urgency on their minds instead of their own, and eventually, Spike said, furious, 'Let's go in, see what the fuck he wants then come back and fuck!'
Angel nodded. He didn't even bother with a shower but pulled on some clothes. Spike did the same. 'Car?'
Angel shook his head. 'Sewers. Let's hope something tries it on, yeah?' Grimly he pulled on some boots and headed out, Spike not far behind.
Angel was in such a foul mood, that Spike didn't attempt to speak to him for the first mile or so. He let him simmer and work it out of his system. When Angel finally slowed his pace, he said softly, 'We've got the rest of eternity, Angel, a couple of hours ain't gonna kill us.'
'I know that! I'm not fucking stupid!'
'Don't bloody take it out on me, Mate!'
'I'm not! All right, I am… but fucking hell! I was lying there all night, thinking about you. About your… you know what….' He turned and suddenly smiled ruefully, ducking his head. 'Sorry.'
Spike pushed him against a wall. 'Do you think Wesley's small apocalypse will wait while I…?' He pushed his mouth to Angel's, nuzzling his lips, seeking permission, seeking entry, seeking the sense of coming home. Angel welcomed him in, and they shared each other's taste for too long, until the need to do other things was almost irresistible. With a groan of frustration, Angel pushed him off.
'I'm not being taken in a sewer.'
Spike wiped his hand thoughtlessly over his lips, his eyes wide. 'I'm not sure I can wait.'
Angel nodded. 'Come on. Let's get this thing over.'
They went faster, side-by-side, keeping to their own thoughts, which were the same anyway and didn't need to be articulated.
They came up through the tunnels below Wolfram and Hart then rode up in the elevator together. Spike leant on the wall and lit a cigarette. 'I don't think Wesley's apocalypse is small, thinking about it. He's a repressed Englishman; it's bound to be huge.'
Angel laughed and cuffed him. Spike grinned and mock punched him back. The doors slid open, and they were still play-fighting as they pushed open the doors to Angel's office.
Buffy rose from the couch at their entry, and all laugher from the vampires ceased.
She came toward him, and her jaw wobbled. With no hesitation, she embraced him, and Spike buried his face in her hair.
'Andrew was right. You're alive.'
'As I'm ever gonna be, yeah. Hey!' He lifted her face. 'What's with the waterworks, Slayer? All those bleedin' years I tried to make you cry, and here you go and blub on me now!'
She laughed through her tears. 'I'm so sorry. I couldn't save you.'
Spike embraced her again.
She pushed him away, her eyes suddenly angry. 'Why did I have to hear this from Andrew?'
Spike looked shifty. 'Well, yeah, there is that.'
There was a small half-shuffle, half-cough from alongside them, and Buffy turned. 'Angel.'
'So, this is… impressive. I've gotta give it to you: when you sell out to evil, you do it big time.'
'That's not entirely fair, Buffy. You don't understand the situation.'
'I understand the huge office and the- what is that? Magical glass?'
'Why are you here?' Angel went over to the window, his back to the room, and Spike frowned, looking from one to the other.
'Am I welcome?'
Angel turned, softening his look. 'You know you're always welcome. Always.'
She smiled coyly. 'So, do I get the tour from the bossman?'
Angel nodded. 'If you want.'
'Wanty girl here.'
'Go say hi to Harmony, maybe. I need to talk with Spike first.'
Buffy frowned. 'Harmony?'
Angel nodded toward the lobby, and Buffy looked over to see Harmony sliding in behind her desk, taking off her jacket.
'Harmony?' She went out, and Angel closed the door behind her.
He turned and leant on it, looking at Spike. 'Come here.'
Despite his obvious hesitation, Spike did as he was asked, their closeness hidden somewhat from the occupants of the lobby by the doors.
Angel bent his face and rested it on Spike's hair. Spike rubbed against him. 'What happens now?'
Angel snorted softly. 'Don't ask me.'
Spike heard the underlying tension in his voice. 'Let's go with the flow, Pet. She's here, and we'll deal.'
Angel nodded. 'Guess I do the tour then.'
'I'm going to see Wesley. The bastard- he could have told us.'
They both had an immediate vision of them fleeing, like fugitives, from the one who only a few months before they would have both proclaimed undying love for.
Angel straightened and opened the doors.
Angel walked her slowly through the enormous complex of offices. They were silent for a long time until Buffy shook her head and said softly, 'I'm sorry, Angel; I just don't get you.'
'I'm not sure I get myself most days.'
This was the not the defensive reply she'd expected, and it mollified her somewhat. Angel hadn't meant being CEO of the evil law firm, but let her miscomprehension slide.
'Why don't you leave, Angel?' She stopped outside an office and watched as demons, sitting around a large conference table, shared something indescribable from a platter. Angel walked on, silently fuming, but unwilling to get into his feelings on any subject at the moment.
'Why are you here, Buffy?'
'Can't I have come to see you?'
'I came for Spike.'
'Huhuh?' She gave him a look, and he said more carefully, 'Spike.'
'I need him. We're starting again, Angel. We're reforming the council- well, Giles is. In London. There are young slayers all over the world discovering themselves and discovering that kicking the shit out of people can make you unpopular with your parents and school. I should know. We're bringing them all together, and I need Spike.'
'As target practice.'
'I'm sorry, Angel. I know you don't like hearing about Spike. I know you don't like him, but he saved the world. I thought he died. Andrew told me he was here pissing you off as usual. So, it's a win/win situation for all of us.'
'What if he doesn't want to go?'
'Why wouldn't he? He's got nothing here.'
'He's… settled in. He seems to like it.'
'Spike would never work here. I don't believe you.'
'I didn't mean… here. I meant….' Angel pressed the button for an elevator and finished lamely, 'L.A. I think he likes living in L.A.'
She dismissed this with a wave of her hand. 'Nah. He hates L.A. He told me. It didn't agree with him.'
They emerged back in the lobby, and she turned to him. 'Do you still live at the Hyperion?'
Angel shook his head.
'I need somewhere to stay tonight.'
'There's an apartment here. You can use that.'
'What's wrong, Angel?'
'Frankly?' He took her arm and led her out of hearing of the few employees milling around. 'I don't like the way you make assumptions: about me, about…. We're doing something important here. Something unique: destroying evil from the inside. And I saved the world, too, Buffy; only, no one remembers it. I saved you from being a mindless slave in a world of fluffy holiness, but do you know what? I'm beginning to regret making the effort.'
He left her staring after him and went back to his office alone.
Buffy found Spike sitting on a desk close to a dark-haired man who rose when she came in with a smile of welcome on his face. She hesitated and did a slightly theatrical double take. 'Wesley!'
Wesley nodded ruefully. 'In the flesh.'
'My God, Spike and Angel aren't the only ones around here to have changed!'
Wesley cast a glance back at Spike, surprised. 'Oh, they've told you then? I'm glad….' He turned to express this pleasure to Spike when he saw the vampire's expression. 'Ah. I see. Yes. Changed in another way. Well, this is nice. How are Willow and Xander?'
Frowning slightly at something she thought she'd heard, Buffy went through some brief updates then turned to Spike. 'Can we talk?'
Spike was studying a nail and shrugged.
Spike looked up. 'You want us to go… what… out together?'
'It's not a date, Spike! I need to talk with you.'
Spike closed his eyes. It was there again - in her look and tone - that undefined more that he had followed for so many years. 'Sure, Pet. I'll go fetch Angel.'
She jerked her head back slightly. 'Angel.'
Spike smiled innocently and, looking straight at Wesley, said, 'Yeah. He's my… advisor.'
He chuckled at her tone, and as he brushed past her, he murmured, 'Like you said, Luv. Things change.'
He found Angel in his office, in his favourite position, looking out over the city that he had made so many compromises for. Spike went and joined him, standing far enough away not to arouse suspicion, but close enough to touch him if he wanted.
'Slayer wants to go out- talk.'
Angel didn't reply.
'You know what she wants to talk to me about, don't you?'
'Can we rewind this day, Angel? Can you find a spell somewhere in this evil empire of yours that will allow us to start this day again? I want to wake up in your arms and make love to you. Is that too much to ask after a hundred years of treading around that simple desire?'
'I don't think it was meant to be, Spike.' Before he could elaborate more, Buffy appeared in the doorway, and they both turned. With the feeling of being a condemned man, Spike went toward her, but he paused and waited. Only when he sensed that Angel was closing the gap between them, did he carry on. Clapping Buffy on the shoulder, he swaggered out toward the elevator, piece by piece replacing the armour he had begun to shed under Angel's all-embracing passion.
They chose a non-descript bar well away from their home and sat silently around a table for a while. Spike felt awkward knowing that Buffy would be thinking of her individual relationships with them and assuming that they were still thinking of that, too. Nothing could have been further from his mind, but the only indication of this was that his foot rested on the top of Angel's shoe, a small, private recognition of how things really lay between them now.
Buffy didn't waste time; she seemed cornered and harassed by time: constantly checking and re-checking her watch. 'We're regrouping, Spike- in England. Giles is putting together a new council, and I'm gathering all the new slayers.'
'Uh huh. Why the old country?'
'Giles wants to be there, and I need him.'
This simple admittance of her need made Spike glance at Angel, but Angel was giving nothing away, playing with a small spill of beer on the table.
'So why are you here now?'
'I've come for you.'
Spike lit a cigarette and squinted at her through the smoke. 'Few years back I'd have been spoiling for the fight if you'd have said that to me. Few years less, I'd have been lying down and offering you my undying love. Why do I have the feeling it's neither of those you want now?'
She gave one tiny glance over to Angel then said softly, 'I need you, Spike. It's… there's so much to do.'
Spike said quietly, 'You're very quiet.'
Buffy frowned for a moment, thinking the comment was addressed to her, so low and intimate was the tone. Then she saw Spike's eyes were fixed unwaveringly on Angel.
Angel pulled his foot away.
Spike tipped his head back slightly. 'Oh.' With a small laugh, he stubbed his cigarette out in the spill that so fascinated Angel and turned back to Buffy. 'I think you're the only one who does need me, Luv. Come on, let's walk and talk, and you can tell me all the ways you're gonna be grateful.'
She was getting to her feet when Spike suddenly picked up his glass and smashed it against the wall. He pushed out of the bar, shouldering people out of his way and disappeared into the night.
Angel took a slow breath and said flatly, 'I'll walk you back.'
The lighting was low as usual. The only sounds were the faint whirring of machines in cubicles, keeping precious, loved ones alive. Angel pulled the green curtain aside and jerked his head back. 'Wesley?'
Wesley looked up from Cordelia's side. 'Angel.'
Angel seemed floored by Wesley's presence but the human only returned to holding the smaller hand in his and rubbing the back thoughtfully. 'I usually come during the day.'
'To avoid me?'
Wesley gave him a withering look. 'To spread out her visitors, Angel- so she'll not be so alone.'
Angel sat heavily in the plastic chair the other side of her bed. 'Sorry.'
'In my bed, I should think.'
'Ah.' Wesley frowned. 'The one in your old apartment…? Sorry, I'm a little confused where you all stand in this.'
Angel took Cordelia's other hand and seemed to be trying to bring her back to life with the force of his powerful stare.
'How do things stand between you?'
'She wants Spike to go back to England with her- help with all the new slayers.'
Wesley laughed. When Angel was still silent, he looked over. After a moment of studying the closed-off expression, he said, incredulous, 'I'm sorry. Am I the only one of us who seems to find that ludicrous? You want him to go?'
A small tic flared in Angel's cheek, but other than that, there was no sign of any emotion. 'I want what's best for him, Wesley.'
Wesley let Cordelia's hand drop, and he leant back in the chair. 'I don't believe you are sitting there saying that! How can you, Angel! You're what's best for Spike!'
Angel turned the smaller hand over in his and stroked his finger over the palm. 'He's been looking for himself.' He gave a small, painful laugh that made him blink rapidly. 'He's been planning to look in some really weird places.'
'And you think he's going to find himself back in England?'
Angel rose, anger now darkening his face. 'He's not made to play second fiddle, Wesley. It's the main problem with this damn… thing… we're doing…. It's not… natural. I mean… there's supposed to be a strong one and a weak one: man and woman. He came back incorporeal, and I'm not sure he ever really became solid. This way, he can. This way, he can be again the champion who saved the world.'
Wesley got to his feet, too, facing Angel off across the end of Cordelia's bed. 'His whole life is….'
'No! My life is here! He can't be my supporting character!'
'I think he'd think….' Wesley trailed off, a conversation with Spike suddenly recalled. 'When are they leaving?'
Angel's face suddenly crumpled, but he pulled it back into his habitual shut-off expression and said clearly enough, 'Tomorrow.'
'What about the house?'
At that, Angel's whole face rippled as if he was about to turn demon but was only holding onto his humanity with the force of his will. 'I don't know. I wouldn't be welcome there without him.'
'As his supporting character….'
Angel snapped his head up, and Wesley said calmly, 'It's rather a matter of perspective, Angel- who's the star of the show.'
Gritting his teeth, Angel ripped aside the curtain and left.
Wesley didn't know what to expect when he hesitatingly pushed open the door and went into Spike's apartment. The last time he'd come to this place, he'd lost his heart to its occupants, and he didn't particularly want to find that it was irrevocably broken now.
Spike was standing in the courtyard, and for one moment, Wesley was jolted back to finding him like that, drunk and out-of-control, wanting him to take away the pain of wanting Angel. This time he looked sober, and he glanced over as Wesley stepped out, taking a long drag on his cigarette.
'What the hell is happening?'
Spike shrugged. 'You tell me.'
'Just because Angel seems to want you to go doesn't mean you have to!'
'If Angel doesn't want me here, then there's no point to anything.'
Slightly unnerved by the calmness in Spike's voice - he'd have preferred ranting and drunkenness to this ominous politeness - Wesley countered, 'I think he wants you to want yourself- or what you once were….'
'Tell me, did he give you a speech about how I needed to be a champion again, and that I was being stifled here?'
'If this was about me, I'd do something to stop it. I know what I need Wesley. This is entirely about Angel.' He saw Wesley's mystified look and brushed past him, going into the gloom of the apartment. Wesley followed him in. They sat side by side on the couch, on top of the dust covers. Spike rested his elbows on his thighs and leant his chin thoughtfully on his hands. 'Angel's just realised he doesn't love Buffy anymore.'
Wesley leant back, his face illuminated only by the flickering flames, the hollows and ridges thrown into relief.
'They were the romance of the century, Luv. Jeez, you could have made a show about it: blond teenage slayer and her soulful, dark, vampire lover. He played the role so perfectly: moping an' looking like some fucking matinee idol. I think, sometimes, he actually believed it. I think he still believed it until he walked into that office tonight and realised that he doesn't love her anymore- that he loves something else more. And that's thrown him a huge curve. He can't sustain love. He's blaming himself for not still loving her-wanting to love her, wanting to be that steadfast.'
'Because if he isn't, then where does that leave… you.'
'Exactly. He thinks he's fickle. He thinks he's going to tire of me like he's tired of her- grown out of her, I guess.'
'Ah. That's why….'
'He went to see Cordelia tonight. That's where I saw him. I think he was testing some faithfulness there, too.'
'And probably finding it wanting.'
'Well, even you are slightly more loveable than a coma victim, Spike- on your good days.'
'Thanks. So, Angel tries to save himself from commitment once more. It's exactly the same as after that fucking spell. He can't trust himself to love.'
'It's not the same, Spike. You're sitting here perfectly rational and….'
'Appearances can be deceptive with vampires, Luv; you should know that.'
'You have to tell him all this, Spike.'
'No. I told you: if this was about me, I would. But it's not. It's him, and I can't make him see something he doesn't want to see. It's like smoking- you've gotta want to give up yourself.'
'It's nothing like that. You can tell him….'
'What? What can I tell him?' For the first time, Wesley saw that his assessment of Spike's calmness had been quite wrong. He pulled back into the shadows more. 'Shall I tell him that I've been the one constant of his whole damn life? Shall I tell him that he is my life? He doesn't need to hear that. He knows it! It's that that frightens him. Buffy thought like that too, and where is that love now?'
'What are you going to do?'
'I'm going to go to England with Buffy.'
They were both silent for some time until Wesley leant forward into the light and said sadly, 'I really wish you wouldn't do that. I shall miss you.'
'It's not you I want missing me.'
'You know he will. I think this will destroy him.'
'Will it be enough though?'
'Yeah, for him to take the risk and just fucking love me.'
Wesley felt himself losing control of his own iron-tight emotions, so he did not reply directly to this, but murmured in an even tone, 'When do you leave?'
'In a few hours. It's going to take three days so we can travel at night.'
'You have the resources now to travel in a lot more comfort than that.'
'I don't want Buffy to know anything about that- this. My life here. She's never wanted anything from me but my body- for varying reasons.'
'I wish to God I'd not called you this morning.'
'Jesus, was it only this morning?'
'Why you, Spike? Why bloody you!'
Spike smiled sadly. 'Because she knows that if the darkness inside her ever rises, I could take her. I've killed two slayers already, and she's knows I could make it three.' He turned and looked directly at the human. 'You were a watcher. You know what a slayer is. You know they were created from evil. I think she wants the reassurance of having me around.'
'Oh, Spike, please, don't go. Make Angel miss you from a place a bit closer?'
'We've been playing that game for two weeks, but that's all it ever was: a game.'
'What can I do? What are you going to do with the house?'
Spike didn't reply. He got up and went swiftly out into the courtyard, and Wesley, feeling his anguish like a stab in his own heart, left him in peace.
They were a small, sad group at the airport, Wesley having driven Spike and Buffy. He hovered at the departure gate, unsure what to do, wanting to take Spike forcibly and drag him home. Spike seemed totally shut down: a slim, blond figure moving through the throng as if nothing affected him, nothing meant anything. Buffy, lost in her own thoughts and concerns, did not seem to find this mood of Spike's strange, and moved with him, equally slim, equally blond. Wesley found himself thinking they were a beautiful couple before his eyes misted up, and he cursed his appalling inability to summon a stiff upper lip when one was so clearly required.
Eyes out of focus, heart aching, he missed the dark figure that peeled off the wall and walked toward them.
Spike did not, and he snapped up his head, his face rippling with emotion as if he were changing into his other appearance.
Buffy stopped, too, and put her bag down. 'Angel?'
Angel pursed his lips but did not speak.
Wesley suddenly said brightly, 'Oh, Buffy, Giles asked me to send some… candy… yes, candy back for… the girls! Maybe we could get some in that shop over there- together….'
She glanced at the departure screen, her obsession with time passing her by distracting her from the vampires' expressions, and nodded. 'Be quick.'
Alone, Spike turned and went to the window, wishing desperately he could smoke. Angel came and stood alongside him.
'You'll see I'm right when you get there.'
Spike made a small noise in the back of his throat, and Angel said, 'What?'
Spike shook his head. 'Nothing. I thought you'd come for something else, that's all.'
'Call me when you get there?'
Spike turned, incredulous, his eyes wet. 'What do you think this is, Angel? This isn't a hiatus in something that we'll pick up sometime down the line, just as it ever was. This is us, ending!'
Angel shoved his hands into his pockets, and Spike saw that he'd said exactly the wrong thing-that he'd only confirmed the very things Angel thought about his inability to commit. Tiredly, he pinched his eyes, willing back the tears before they actually fell. 'No. I won't be calling. Will you do me a favour though?'
Angel only nodded. His face seemed calm enough, but Spike saw with wonder that the strong, pale throat was so constricted holding in some emotion, that he couldn't actually speak in reply.
'Look after Wes for me? He's going to miss….' Angel spun away and walked rapidly back toward the entrance to the concourse.
When the other two rejoined him, Spike's back was to them, and he appeared engrossed in the manoeuvrings of the various planes on the runway. Buffy looked toward Angel's retreating back and said puzzled, 'He didn't say goodbye.'
Spike turned and shouldered his bag. 'No. He did. He said to say goodbye.'
'Oh. Okay. Are you coming? What's wrong?'
Spike forced a smile from somewhere in his memory, a place where he'd once been happy, and said brightly, 'Nothing.'
She went on toward the gate. He looked down at a hand on his arm and kept the smile in place. 'Cheers, Wes. It's been fun.' He followed the smaller blond figure toward the gate as if he'd found his natural role in life.
Go to Chapter 8
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