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Counting The Ways - 9

They met that evening in the lobby like shy, secret lovers that had accidentally brushed hands earlier in the day. As he proudly patted Connor down and gave him some money to spend, Angel could not look at Spike. As Spike received instructions from Cordelia on what to see and not to see, Spike could not look at Angel... but their minds were seized by the presence of the other, and they longed to be able to look and speak and ...

Suddenly the doors clashed back and Wesley staggered in, carrying Gunn in his arms. Fred, crying and patting uselessly at both of them, stammered out an explanation. Spike moved to intercept; Angel was quicker, and he tried to take Gunn from Wesley. They could not do the transfer without causing Gunn more pain, so they carried him together into the office and laid him on the couch.

Angel shouted for the first aid box; Wesley handed it to him before the last words had formed on his lips. Angel needed water; Wesley had Cordelia and Fred organised and bringing fresh when required. Angel needed an explanation he could understand; Wesley was the only one who could provide it, and they knelt side-by-side over the prone figure, quiet suppressed questions being answered by quiet repressed replies.

Gunn was more stunned than dying and when this fact was established, began to make a relieved recovery. Wesley began to quietly pack up the supplies and was surprised when a mug of tea was pressed into his hands. Spike grinned at him and winked, and Wesley looked anxiously at Angel. 'I won't stay, Spike, but thank you for the offer.'

Angel, his head lowered, did not look up, but he said intently, 'You can drink your tea, but then get out.'

Wesley nodded, but put the untouched drink down on the desk. 'Yes, of course; I wouldn't have come at all, but Fred could not carry him and she insisted on coming here, not the hospital.'

Angel nodded briefly, still not looking up. Wesley turned to go. He looked at Spike, was about to speak when Cordelia caught his arm and said, glaring at Angel, that she would walk him back. He smiled at her, pleased, and he left without another glance at Spike. Before the couple reached the door of the office, Angel said quietly. 'You did the right thing bringing him here. It must have been difficult for you.'

Wesley nodded, his back still to Angel, and left.

The trip to the cinema now postponed, Spike offered to do some training with Connor, and this offer was leapt at by the teenager. Spike was pleased; it gave him something mindless and easy to do - something that would enable him to… think.

He had just seen Wesley, and there had been… nothing. That Wesley did not want him anymore had been obvious the moment he had woken in the hotel room and had watched the human enjoying the sunshine… but he had been happy to use his puppy and enjoy his warm body. Until now… now things had changed… the kiss had changed everything. Unlife had divided into what had been before the kiss and what was now to come. His mind and body were full of Angel, and that left him with a fairly major problem: how did he get Wesley back into Angel's life if the 'fuck-him-back' option - which was what he was currently working on - was off the agenda?

Connor went ahead of Spike into the basement, and they left Angel and Fred fussing over Gunn. Spike, mulling over tactics, strategy and plans in general, was annoyed when his concentration was disturbed by a hesitant question from Connor.

'That was the man that took me?'

Spike nodded.

'He does not look as I thought he would.'

'No, he's not the child-catcher, is he?'


'Never mind, pet. So, what do you want to do? Boxing? Martial arts? Or just a good scrap?' He grinned at the boy and began to take off his shirt and boots. Connor followed suit and went to the weapons cabinet.

'These.' He held up two swords. 'I need to be faster.'

Spike nodded and caught the one Connor threw at him. 'Swords it is then.'

They circled each other, testing the weight and balance of their weapons, made a few feints, and then got down to the serious business of showing off to the other how clever they were with the weapons. After a while Connor began to sweat, and even Spike was beginning to feel he was having a good workout. Neither of them noticed the quiet, dark figure perched on the stairs watching them, nor saw his smile of pleasure.

Angel stood up as quietly as he had arrived and went back up to Gunn.

Spike was concentrating on the figure circling him when he was suddenly assailed by a question the boy had clearly been preparing and rehearsing. 'Why did he take me?'

'You'd better ask Angel 'bout that.'

'He won't speak of it.'

Bloody hell. 'It's all to do with a prophesy 'bout you.'

'Tell me.'

Spike paused in his defensive movements, was about to try and frame an answer, when he stopped. He looked at Connor, and a slow grin spread over his face. 'Later, pet, let's finish this, hey? You'll never get faster if you don't concentrate.'

Connor seemed to accept this happily enough and went back to circling Spike. Spike could barely keep the grin off his face, as they continued to train.

When the two combatants finally emerged, Connor came up to Angel with glowing, excited eyes, wiping his face with a towel, eager to tell him about the training. Angel hesitated briefly, but then put an arm on his son's shoulders. When it was not resented or shaken off, he turned it into a hug, pulling his son tightly into his embrace. The vampire found this intimate contact surprisingly easy. His body, usually so stiff and awkward around the boy, melted into this wholesome flesh of his unnatural flesh. He wondered briefly if hugs earlier that day were still affecting him, for he did not tense, even when the hug was returned.

Eventually, Angel pulled away and teased Connor back up to his room, pretending to swipe at him with easy hits that the boy was fast enough to dodge.

He watched Connor go into his own room and then stretched his hand out behind him, knowing that cool fingers would take it. They went into Angel's bedroom together.

Spike slowly unbuttoned Angel's shirt. 'Gunn?'

'He's all right. Fred took him home.'

Spike nodded and began to undo Angel's pants. 'You owe me one shower.'

Angel chuckled. 'You need one shower.'

Spike twitched up his eyebrow. 'I need washing, do I?'

'Hmm. There are places I'd like to clean, yes.'

The water was hot and powerful and flattened their hair, filled their mouths, ran off their bodies, warming them. Spike loved the feel of his skin with this borrowed warmth and pressed his hands to Angel's belly to see if he felt as good. He felt better; so he left his hands there for a moment, pressing into the dense muscle, and then flaring them up and over the prominent, erect nipples.

Angel groaned and stretched up at the caress. Spike slid his hands under Angel's arms, into the soft dark hair there, running it between his fingers, untangling the silky strands.

They ignored their erections, even though these bounced against each other, the tips touching then twitching and jerking away. Angel put his hands to Spike's face and pressed his thumbs into Spike's eyes gently. This simple act seemed to confirm to Spike that something fundamental had shifted in their relationship since the intense kiss in the attic. Able to give so much pain, Angel now only gave him pleasure and gentle touches designed to flare the desire between them. This was not familiar at all. This was all foreplay and anticipation. This made them ache and moan and run shy hands over hesitant bodies. This was just the two of them without vampire defences - and he ached to the human need in both of them.

Spike took his hands from Angel's soft armpits and moved them lower to other soft hair. Angel groaned as Spike's long fingers tangled and untangled his wiry curls. Spike rubbed them with soap and scrubbed them with his nails, scratching teasingly all around Angel's root, washing his balls and then up his shaft.

Angel smiled, took the soap from him and began to mirror Spike's soft ministrations. As he washed his childe, he lifted one of Spike's legs over his own, so his hands could slide right up between the slim thighs, soaping and massaging Spike's hard cheeks. Spike moaned softly as Angel began to wash around the puckered skin of his hole, dipping just the tip of his finger in repetitively, stretching and stimulating the sensitive nerve endings.

Spike groaned when Angel stopped, but the sound caught in his throat when Angel handed him the soap once more. That he was supposed to mirror the erotic washing was evident when Angel, with only a slight hesitation, lifted his own leg.

Disbelievingly, Spike began to investigate Angel with his finger. He could not press it in. Two hundred years of ingrained behaviours kept his finger outside, swirling around the puckered flesh. That was overwhelming enough.

Not for Angel apparently. He turned around and spread his arms out on the wall of the shower and pushed his backside towards Spike. His hole was visible from that position without Spike having to do anything, and the sight of his sire, spread like a minion and begging to be taken, entranced Spike.

He risked the tip of one finger and felt his knees go weak at Angel's deep groan of desire.

He moved his finger around, gently probing and stimulating the tight walls. He had to hold on to the shower with his other hand to prevent his legs giving away completely, for Angel had begun to pant, his head tipped back and his face held in the stream of water. The hot stream did not cover the scent of tears; Spike knew they were there and smelt the surrender and passion they heralded. It was so easy to take him after that - after this silent acknowledgement of their new relationship - for Spike realised with an ache of desire that he was not taking his sire after all: he was taking Angel, the man, and that thought was so erotic he almost shuddered as he placed his cockhead to the soft entrance.

Inside Angel: Spike could not make his mind accept that he was actually inside Angel's tight ass. He let his conscious mind go for a while; he could think about this later; now there was only the pushing and the pulling out, holding the cheeks apart so he could watch his purple-red shaft glisten in and out of the pale, smooth flesh. There was only listening to the moaning and the panting... and finding that place that would make his pleasure, Angel's. He found it, and Angel gasped. He found it again and again and again, his hard cockhead rasping over it, making it swell and throb… and then the gush of release for them both - Angel's against the tiles, Spike's against the swollen gland, into the unyielding channel, over his jerking cock and out into the stream of hot water.

Spike felt tears on his cheeks, too, but unwilling to let conscious thought back so rapidly, tipped his head in a mirror image of Angel's into the stream of water. He did not want to pull out. Angel didn't want him to either and clamped the muscles of his anus tight to Spike's penis, holding him in possessively. Spike leant against him, wrapped his arms around the powerful body, and tried to crush him into his body to make them one again. Angel's arms came around him and pulled him even closer.

Spike's penis began to stiffen again. Angel felt it twitch inside him, and he chuckled at the delightful sensation. He wriggled a little, back into Spike, grinding his cheeks into Spike's groin. Spike laughed as his erection began to demand that he thrust, as if this organ alone drove him. This time he wanted it harder, faster, and Angel seemed to want this, too, for he suddenly bent right over and grabbed his ankles. Spike gasped his delight, as he gained an unexpected two more inches of Angel's ass. He dug his nails into Angel's hips and began an urgent, rapid humping into the slick channel. Riding on his own spent cum, he thumped into the hole deliciously. Every time he thwacked against Angel's rump, his balls were pummelled and pounded; they began to protest and swell and ache so delightfully that Spike couldn't help soft cries of pleasure at the swelling. Angel opened his legs a little wider to improve his balance and, with one hand braced on the wall for support, he used his other hand as a matching channel around his own cock.

Angel came first this time, his orgasm making him rear up with its intensity; the powerful muscles in his backside spasmed as he came, and Spike found himself pounding into an ass so hard and tight around him that when his own orgasm hit him he cried out incoherent, meaningless nothings... that meant everything to Angel as Spike pumped uncontrollably into him.

Spike was almost too tired to notice the soft vastness of Angel's towels or the soft warmth of his bed. He willed himself to notice the entanglement and the entwining and fell asleep with a grin on his face that still seemed to be there on waking early the next morning.

Angel was awake; he was propped up on one elbow, watching him sleep. Spike stretched and turned to face him. 'What? Poof.'

Angel grinned, too, but then shook his head, questioningly. 'Who are you?'

Spike laughed. 'You allowing strangers to fuck you, Angel?'

Angel flopped onto his back. 'I think I'm almost dizzy. Things happen to me too fast these days.'

'Old fart.'

Angel smiled up at the ceiling. 'I've been thinking.'

'Oh, bloody hell, am I going to like this?'

Angel opened his arm, and Spike accepted the offer of his embrace willingly. 'We can't do this...'

Spike pulled away but, before he could open his mouth, a powerful hand clamped over it. 'Shut up, Spike. Don't say a word until I've finished.' Angel glared at Spike who just nodded, his eyes wide with suppressed anger.

Angel removed his hand but spoke in a rush, trying to get the words out before Spike could interrupt. 'We can't do this in my room anymore; it's too close to Connor's, and you haven't really got a room yet; so what if I had that old attic space converted into a suite for you, and you could sort of...'

He didn't get to finish after all. He found it impossible to speak with Spike clamped to his lips like a blond limpet-mine. He liked it when the mine exploded, giving them powerful, matching orgasms merely from the feel of Spike's writhing body.

They pulled their mouths apart, impressed with themselves, watching their cocks sending the last few drops of cum between their bodies.

Angel looked at the space alongside him in the bed that Spike had so recently been occupying, and rolled, tipping him back into it. 'There. That's where I've wanted you since you started this dumb plan of yours, Spike.'

Spike nodded and propped himself up on his elbow. 'Yeah, been kind of wanting to be here myself.'

Angel stroked Spike's face thoughtfully. 'Why didn't you just come in then?'

Spike shrugged. 'You had Connor an' all… an' I didn't want to be… you know, in the way.'

Angel suddenly sat up. 'Spike! Are you jealous of Connor?'

Spike looked at the expression of slowly dawning comprehension on Angel's face. Looked back just to check that he really was only just getting this fact now and began to laugh. He couldn't control it… he tried to shout out 'Duh!' but it got choked off in the threatening hysteria. Eventually, Angel clamped a frustrated hand over Spike's mouth and shook his head ruefully.

Spike calmed enough to push him away, and he hiccupped slightly as he said with a tiny slither of bitterness, 'What do you bloody expect, Angel?'

Angel realised that Spike was serious and said incredulously, 'That's what Wesley was all about, wasn't it? You were trying to make me jealous, too?'

Spike pouted a little. 'Did it work?'

Angel laughed. ''Of course not. I don't care about Wesley anymore and… you're just... I mean...'

Spike sat up. 'Good, cus I've gotta be going. He'll be wondering where I've got to.'

Angel stopped laughing. 'You're going to Wesley's now?'

'Well, duh! I need a bit of warm ass during the day, luv.'

Angel watched Spike getting dressed.

He watched Spike moving towards the door with a jaunty, nonchalant stride.

He watched Spike open the door.

He slammed the door shut just as Spike was about to go through.

Spike took a deep, unnecessary breath and let it out slowly, his knees shaking slightly. 'I actually thought you were going to let me go then.'

Angel flattened him against the wall, his mouth just working lightly against Spike's ear. 'I did too… for one minute… for one second.'

'So, jealous then?'

'Enough to kill you, yes.'

Spike tipped his head back, closed his eyes, and said intently. 'Say that again.'

Angel smiled and obliged. 'Jealous enough to kill, Spike - you, him, anyone, everyone.'

Spike nodded as if he were giving affirmation to some silent interrogative, then opened his eyes and kissed Angel. It wasn't as passionate as some of their earlier kisses. It didn't make either of them cum, or either of them particularly hard. They didn't lose themselves - they were both just there, both aware of themselves and the other… but the kiss sealed something between them that confirmed the strange newness of their relationship. It was possessive, but not the childe seeking the sire or the sire responding.

Spike kissed Angel, and the kiss sent shivers down both men's spines.

Eventually, Spike stood back and held Angel's face still. 'I do have to go, and I am going to Wesley's. Be here when I get back and trust me, hey?'

Spike could see that this was pushing Angel's faith in him almost to the limit, but Angel nodded and turned back towards the bed without another word.

Wesley opened the door, recognising Spike's distinct knock. The smile of unwilling anticipation slid off his face when he saw Connor standing a little way behind the grinning vampire. 'Morning, pet. Put the kettle on; we've come for brekkies.'

'Hello. Err… what…?'

Spike came in breezily, pulling the reluctant boy behind him. 'Lad's got some questions, watcher. Best you answer them, hey? Way beyond me... prophesies and shit.'

Spike left them to it and sat on the kitchen counter thinking about Angel and wishing he were back at the hotel. He doubted Angel meant it about the attic room - he'd known Angelus too long to have faith in Angel's largess. After an hour or so and no commotion, he went back into the living room. Wesley had his books spread around the floor, and he and Connor were sitting cross-legged together in the middle, studying some ancient texts that the watcher was translating slowly. Spike grinned.

'Come on, we've gotta go.'

'No! We've just started, and there is so much here I want to learn. Look, Wesley has texts in Greek and Latin. I wanted to learn these, but we had no books, and father was too… it was hard there…' he faltered, aware - even though still so young - that he was giving pain to his new companion.

Wesley bowed his head. 'I am so sorry, Connor. I never meant to…'

Connor looked at him steadily. 'I have no reason to hate you for taking me. I know no other life and father was… Holtz was good to me and loved me, and now I have my real father back.'

Wesley looked up and nodded, unconvinced. 'I would like to help you to understand a little why I did it though… these…' he indicated his beloved texts '… will help you, I think.'

Spike could hardly suppress his glee. 'Yes, that's all very well, kid, but I have to get you back now. I have to go, and I can't leave you to get back on your own. Angel'd kill me… hah! Again.'

He grinned happily at them, waiting for the characters in his new drama to do what they were supposed to.

'I could bring him back, Spike… when we are finished. I won't stay of course, or come in, but I'll bring him to the door.'

'I'm not a child; I can get back on my own.'

'Of course you can, but your father would be angry that you had to, and why make him angry when you don't need to?'

Oh, good little characters. Spike was pleased with them and nodded his approval of the plan as if that solution had not occurred to him. 'All right. See ya, sprog.'

He enjoyed the walk back through the sewers. There was a sense of anticipation that seemed to infect him even down there. He found himself humming slightly and laughed as he climbed up into the training room.

The hotel was deserted.

He felt a shiver of fear.

He checked Angel's room - empty. He checked the kid's room - empty. His room - empty. Loss - that familiar ghost - nagged at him. Every time… every bloody time he let his heart go, every time he let someone in...

He made towards the stairs to check the lobby and offices once more when he heard a crash from above. He looked up. He grinned. He took the stairs two at a time - they were clear now, the detritus of neglect having been recently cleared away.

Angel was almost lost in the gloom, but his preternatural body reflected the dim light from the windows. He was naked to the waist and… filthy. The attic, however, was clean and empty. He turned as Spike flew in, skidding to a halt in amazement. Angel only shrugged at the interruption and turned back to the last box he was shifting out into the hallway.

'I've got an architect coming over later today; I wanted to make it clearer before he took a look.'

Angel was impressed and horrified in equal measure how easily and how quickly Spike managed to commit his money to the conversion. At the end of the long consultation, Spike wanted it left as one large room. He liked the rafters, so they stayed, too - Spike giving Angel amused, seductive impressions of wrists being bound together and suspended, as the architect innocently examined them. Spike wanted the windows replaced with newer ones and a spiral staircase put under one to give him access to the roof. He said he needed a wooden floor, so that was planned in at vast expense. Almost as expensive was the emperor-sized bed he ordered later that day with an assortment of quilts and blankets that would have kept him warm through even an English summer.

Most expensive though was the bath and shower that they had built at one end. Again, Spike didn't want walls confining him anymore and had these fixtures placed in the open space - just a tiled area of floor with small drains, indicating where one part of the room ended and another began. Angel perched alongside him on the empty boxes watching the fittings being plumbed in, convinced he would never be able to relax, showering with no walls around him.

Angel had had plenty of time to watch the renovations with Spike and became increasingly morose as he watched his son disappear every day. Connor had decided to learn not only Greek and Latin, but other more archaic languages. He studied avidly, almost as hard as he worked on his fighting skills with whichever vampire felt like giving him a lesson… but for the academic study, he only wanted Wesley. Spike watched them together at Wesley's apartment. The boy seemed to hang on the Englishman's every word, listening with rapt attention to the formal tones. A wistful expression sometimes crossed his face, and Spike knew that Wesley's accent had touched a nerve in the boy. It was time to turn his plan up a notch.

Spike let Angel's foul mood overtake him just enough to leave him pliable then casually said one morning, when Angel was half asleep and wrapped in his arms, 'My old room won't be needed soon, pet. You could let the sprog 'ave it to study in.'

Angel mumbled something in reply and settled back closer to Spike. 'You could pop in then every so often, and see how 'e's getting along like. You speak all that shit, too, don't you?'

Angel smiled despite his better intensions and twisted around in the bed, looking at Spike intently. Spike squirmed under the gaze. 'What?'

Angel continued to look; Spike began to get genuinely annoyed. 'Angel! What?'

Angel laughed quietly and shook himself slightly. 'Nothing. I just thought for a minute… no.' He looked again. 'Spike… has this all been part of some long and devious plan of yours? I mean… I'm here in bed with you… Connor and I are good together now… And Wesley… Is Wesley the final piece of some complex jigsaw in your head? Are you seriously trying to get him back into my life under the pretext of tutoring my son?'

Spike looked utterly scornful. 'Bloody hell, Angel, if I could plan like that, I wouldn't be the total fuck-up I am… but thanks, mate… for the vote of confidence. Yeah… go on thinking that; that's real nice to hear.'

Spike tipped onto his back, and reached for his cigarettes, smoking quietly and exclaiming his innocence of such Machiavellian ability every so often with a small shake of his head and the occasional tut.

Angel watched him for a while then put his head into Spike's shoulder and said quietly. 'All right. They can use your old room.'

'Oh. 'K, pet. But it's of no matter, like. Do what you want though. I mean, if you want that, then I think it's probably a good idea. Yeah, good idea Angel; I'll tell 'em you want them to study here then, shall I?'

'Shut up, Spike. Don't push it.'

Spike grinned to the easy invitation and licked Angel's ear. 'Don't push what, luv? This?' He slipped the tip of one finger into Angel and allowed it to play enticingly with the tight muscle, stretching it and ticking around it. Angel hissed in response and turned onto his belly, his face turned to one side, watching Spike.

'I'm going to write to Riley Finn and thank him for this.'

Spike chuckled. 'Include the Slayer in the note, too, will you… and be sure to say that William sends his regards.'

The next day Angel tried to avoid Wesley. When the human emerged every so often from the new study to make himself some tea, or chat to his friends, Angel made sure he was elsewhere.

The following day Angel awoke alone. He tracked Spike down to the study. Spike was not only up and out of bed before lunchtime, but was sitting next to the watcher as he tutored Connor. Spike saw Angel and gave him a slight, distracted nod but, not noticing Angel, Wesley said something to him, and Spike leaned in closer, a hand resting lightly on Wesley's thigh.

Angel watched Wesley's face as he looked down at Spike's hand.

Angel stepped in.

Spike did not look up, but his hand began small circles on Wesley's thigh.

Angel leant casually in the doorway, not saying anything.

Spike needed to look more closely at the book, the light seemed bad in the room. He leant closer to Wesley and slid his hand a little higher.

Angel came closer and stood at the end of the desk, watching them.

He saw Spike put his face against Wesley's and open his mouth to speak; his lips would have almost touched Wesley's cheek if Wesley had leant fractionally closer. If the human had replied to the soft question he might have turned and their lips might even have...

... for the first time since he had tried to kill Wesley, Angel spoke to him calmly, preventing his reply to Spike. 'How is Connor getting along?'

Finally aware of Angel's presence, Wesley moved his thigh; he kept his face averted and his eyes cast down, but replied with a quiet sense of authority in his voice. 'He is like his father, Angel, smart and keen to learn.'

'What text are you using?'

Wesley held the book up. Angel came even closer. Connor showed him some work he had translated. Angel corrected a word or two for him. Wesley disagreed. They began to discuss the translation. They stopped at a quiet sound and both turned to look at the blond vampire who seemed suddenly to have discovered a hole in the heel of one boot. 'Did you say something, Spike?'

'No, pet, I was just thinking it might be snacktime. I'm starving... hey, sprog, wanna make some popcorn? It's great floating in blood, it soaks it up an' turns red slowly… an'. Bloody hell - get a sense of humour you two. Come on, lad, I'll show ya...' He went out with an arm around Connor and a large, self-satisfied grin on his face.

Wesley knew that Spike had engineered his return to Angel Investigations, but he couldn't be too sure that Angel had not just allowed himself to be manoeuvred. Once they had begun talking, Wesley's presence in the agency began to return to something of normality. For some reason Angel seemed keen to stay in the hotel more and was glad that Wesley took on cases once again. Wesley needed his office to work from, and his move back to his old, familiar desk seemed the final proof of his reinstatement.

He watched the slim vampire sometimes out of the corner of one eye as he worked. Then he would turn and watch his friends. These very separate parts of his life were… incompatible. He knew he could not have them both. His body occasionally ached for Spike's - just ached for relief - but his mind and his heart were satisfied with what he had. Once or twice, Spike caught his eye as he was looking at him, and their gaze locked on each other. Spike would purse his lips, and a thoughtful look would cross his face, but Wesley sensed no desire in the vampire for his warm, human body. This puzzled him slightly, for Spike's desire for him over the last week was the one thing he was sure about. He wondered if Spike had renewed his… relationship with Angel, but did not really see why even that would explain Spike's lack of interest in him. Spike, as the vampire had told him himself, did not see sleeping with Angel as anything other than convenient sexual relief, and something that did not impinge in any way on his other amusing activities.

Wesley was confused, and this confusion made him jittery and unnecessarily cool around everyone. He sometimes thought about leaving LA altogether - even returning to England - but the intense blue eyes always watching him as he thought this made his resolution falter.

One afternoon, he looked up from his desk and saw both vampires sitting on the stairs of the lobby. Spike sat one step behind Angel, and Angel sat between Spike's open legs, his arms dangling loosely over Spike's thighs. Spike had his arms lightly wrapped around Angel's neck and he was smoking a cigarette from that awkward position, his chin resting on Angel's shoulder, blowing smoke into his sire's ear. Angel was protesting, but not too much, and occasionally caught Spike's hand and brought the cigarette to his mouth to take a long, satisfied drag. This seemed to amuse them both intensely and their quiet, suppressed laughter reached Wesley quite distinctly in the office.

Wesley felt a pang of jealousy stab him until a quiet, serious voice behind him said, 'Father is happy these days.'

He turned to find Connor still pouring over his books, his back to the lobby, unaware of Wesley's thoughts or the direction of his look. He nodded thoughtfully at the strange coincidence and turned back to watch the vampires. He was: his beloved vampire was happy. Wesley could feel Angel's happiness and the last vestige of guilt at causing so much pain slipped away.

Spike's other hand had crept into a gap in Angel's shirt where one button had seemingly come undone. Angel had a hand on the wrist as if he were attempting to stop him, but again, he didn't seem to be trying to do this too hard.

The cigarette burnt lower; the hand got lower. Wesley could feel Spike's descent as if that hand lay on him. He jumped when a warm hand was placed on his arm, and Connor put a piece of work in front of him. When he turned back, the stairs were empty. Gunn came in, still limping slightly. Fred pretended to sit on Wesley's lap and laughed when he said she was too heavy. Cordelia tried to make him some tea, but it was undrinkable: a normal day at Angel Investigations.

The stairs remained empty, but he was not, and he smiled quietly to himself as he listened to the warm human chatter around him.

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