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Angel found the promised toothbrush and paste, and lingered, watching the man brushing his teeth. 'Don't suppose you've got a razor I could….'
'I don't use them.'
'Don't talk to Wesley about Lilah Morgan.'
Billy had just taken a mouthful of water, so just watched Angel while he theatrically swilled it around. He spat and then said in a puzzled tone, 'Why not? I thought he was your associate.'
'He's my friend, but I still don't want you to tell him.'
'What else do you need?'
'Jeez. I dunno. I don't feel much like sleeping really. Look….' He came closer, running his fingers through his hair, and Angel took a few paces back.
Billy pouted then said softly, 'We kissed.'
Angel lifted his eyebrow. 'No. You tried to negotiate a contract, but I didn't like your terms.'
'No. We kissed. I've had your tongue in my mouth….'
'My tongue's been in lots of mouths.'
Billy jerked his head back and laughed, and Angel suddenly smiled fractionally. 'Do you want a drink or something?'
Billy nodded, still smiling. 'I love being an adult- you can brush your teeth and then go do bad things with them again.'
'Did you have a happy childhood, Billy?'
'You are so weird!'
'Will you just…?'
'Answer the question… yeah, I know. Yes, I think so.'
'Well, hell, who remembers their childhood?'
'Oh. Well, I don't much. Flashes sometimes. I remember me mum most of all.'
'What was she like?'
'She really loved me. She….'
'Comes into your nightmares, too?'
'You could say that. So, what was your childhood like?'
'What? Do I sound American?'
'I was born in Ireland.'
'Huh, we're both foreigners.'
Angel handed Billy a drink, and the man sat comfortably in one of the armchairs. Angel perched on the edge of the bar and said deceptively casually, 'Have you ever lived anywhere else in the States but L.A?'
'No. Not really.'
Angel frowned. It seemed impossible to make any cracks in the walls someone had put around Billy's memory- if indeed this was how it had been done. Perhaps it had been a mind wipe… just a patchy one… one that let his subconscious mind during sleep pick up on the stray pieces left of Spike's memory. For some reason this depressed him profoundly, and he sighed.
'Why did you call them memories and not dreams?'
Angel pursed his lips then looked up through lowered lids. 'You ask the pertinent question. Do you still read my mind, Will?'
Billy put his drink down slowly and rose, coming toward Angel. He looked down shyly then lifted his eyes. Angel shifted slightly and clenched his drink tighter. 'Sit down.'
'You're thinking it, too.'
'No, I'm not.'
'You said I could read your mind.'
'I was being cryptic and ironic.'
Billy stopped when they were toe to toe- eye to eye, given that Angel was perched
on the bar. 'Look me in the eye, and tell me you aren't remembering that kiss.'
'I remember it. I remember you asking for your payment, too.'
'I'm here anyway- you said you'd be there for me anyway, so this has nothing to do with that.'
'We can't do this, Will. Billy. I was wrong to let it happen the first time. There are more things at stake here than you can comprehend.'
'Why don't you help me understand…?' Billy took hold of Angel's glass and eased it out of his hand.
'Stop flirting with me.'
'I was kinda going for seducing, not flirting.'
Angel chuckled. 'You're trying to seduce me?'
Billy gritted his teeth. 'And not finding it all that easy, considering how quickly your bloody dick rose to me earlier.'
Angel folded his arms, his posture still relaxed. 'As you said, that was someone else, not you.'
Billy grinned, flicked up an eyebrow, then grazed his eyes down Angel's body and said cheekily, 'Not that one, though. That one's all mine.'
Angel stood to move away; Billy caught at his arm, and once more they fell into a furious, needy kiss. This time though, they weren't so lost in it not to watch the other's expression, not to test out the taste and feel of the other's mouth and respond to the reaction they saw there. This time, Billy pushed Angel against the bar, and as he kissed him, he cupped the front of Angel's pants. Angel took his hand from Billy's back and slid his zipper down, pushing the human's hand into the opening, grinding it around as his mouth ground on the man's lips.
Billy found his way through the opening of Angel's shorts, and when his hand contacted with short, wiry hair, he jerked his mouth away and looked down in wonder. Angel leant back on his hands and regarded the man. 'Wishing you'd not started this?'
Billy looked up. 'Will you kick me out afterwards?'
'You may want to leave afterwards.'
Billy pursed his lips then slowly withdrew his hand. With a small, bitter smile, Angel made to rise. Billy put one hand to either side of his waistband and ripped the front of Angel's pants open. 'I don't think that's going to happen.'
He fell to his knees, and as he rediscovered the curly hair with his lips, Angel leant back once more, urging his hips forward, looking down with disbelief at the familiar head in this position once more. When the tongue explored the new territory of his cock, in Angel's mind it was a far more experienced tongue on him: one he had taught. When the lips parted and took him in, they were yet another one's: Spike's- the lips that had preferred to sneer and mock him with the knowledge of what he wanted. He enjoyed imagining Spike capitulating and kneeling to him, admitting that he'd wanted this, too. Angel lifted and humped his hips into the man's face, hardening and lengthening in the warm mouth. He put his hands into the blond hair and tugged the silky strands, wanting to tell Spike how good it was to better him like this.
Suddenly, with no warning at all, the man rose and walked out of the room.
Angel swallowed and looked down incredulously at his stiff member. He couldn't get it back in and refasten his pants, so with a curse, he pulled his sweater low and hobbled to the door. 'Billy!'
He heard a door somewhere downstairs slam and, uncharacteristically, kicked viciously at his own door, sending it slamming back into the wall, cracking the plaster.
Billy sat all night in a bar. He couldn't dream if he didn't sleep, and if he drank enough, he wouldn't be back there: kneeling to a man who'd been pretending he was someone else.
When the sun came up, he staggered to a cab and rode home, vomiting as soon as he drank some orange juice. Calling in sick, he then lay on the bed and let it sway around him.
He'd never tried sleeping during the day to avoid the dreams and felt a sense of strange familiarity at stretching out on the bed, the sun muted behind the drapes, the whole room spinning to a bad case of alcohol poisoning.
He fell asleep only to dream as usual, only this time, there was another monster in the dream with him, another one like him, who tortured and laughed and fucked his victims in their own blood as he drank them, and the monster was Angel.
Angel, too, felt the familiarity as he stood over the sleeping figure later that day. Drunk, sprawled fully dressed on the bed, a faint smell of vomit on his body, the sleeper was more Spike than Spike himself had been at the end. Angel laid the keys he still possessed on the nightstand and silently climbed onto the bed next to his childe, waiting for the bad time to come again.
Angel had not fully appreciated the violence of the man's dreams. He'd fallen into a light doze, silent, still, not breathing, and making no presence at all on the bed. He'd woken when a strange smell assailed his nose, and then a huge scream tore through the air. Snapping his eyes open, Angel had cursed and rolled off the bed, the man writhing and crying in his own shit and piss. Then he began to tear at his flesh under his clothes, dragging his nails over his thin T-shirt, as if trying to rip something out of his body.
Angel put a hand out to waken him, then hesitated, genuinely unsure whether the man could survive the shock. The writhing became so violent, however, that eventually, he was forced to take one of the hands and rub the fingers, until consciousness returned.
Billy kept his eyes closed, his heart pounding so fast he thought it would trip itself up and die in a tangle of beating. He opened his mouth to tell him to leave, to spit out his hatred and fear, but he spat out a mouthful of vomit instead and then retched copiously, adding that to the mixture on the bed. Angel backed off then came forward once more. It was so much easier doing all this in an alleyway surrounded by rats.
Without looking at Angel, Billy picked a kicked-off sheet up from the floor and tried in vain to wrap it around himself, and cover some of the mess.
Angel went into the living room to give him some privacy, and he heard the shower running, the bed being laboriously stripped, and then someone slowly and methodically brushing his teeth.
He debated leaving, but that was not why he'd come: to betray the man again when he needed him.
Eventually, Billy came out of the bedroom and went into the kitchen. He was dressed in just an old pair of denims, the kind so worn and familiar that they would keep any demons at bay. Angel marvelled at the effort someone had gone to to make this strange, created life real, and then wondered if, in fact, they were actually Spike's own jeans. They had found nothing of his… afterwards… but had all assumed that he just hadn't owned anything.
That Billy was now wearing Spike's clothes disturbed Angel profoundly, but not as profoundly as the small tear that was now visible just below the right buttock. It was natural looking, but perfect, as if placed there by a genius designer. It drew the eye to the hard, tight perfection of his backside, drew it into the flawless skin beneath. Just a tear in some faded denim, but it felt more like a tear in reality to Angel. Totally distracted by the small glimpse of skin, when the man spoke, Angel had to ask with an embarrassed wave of his hand, 'Sorry, what?'
'I asked you to leave.'
'I left you earlier, and you kinda objected.'
Billy stopped drinking from a carton of milk and stared at Angel. Finally, he nodded. 'Okay, you can admit when you're wrong. That's good.'
Angel nodded, too. 'I get lots of practice. You've met Wesley?'
Billy smiled ruefully then glanced at the bedroom. 'Well, I'm thinking my appeal has worn off a tad now anyway.'
Angel watched as he lifted the milk to his mouth once more - as the hard abs shifted slightly at the movement, as a glimpse of the hair under his arm became visible, as his bicep swelled - and disagreed with this assessment.
'I'm sorry. It was your first time, and I should have been more… attentive.'
With the carton still obscuring his mouth, Billy said softy, 'But not yours….'
'No. Not mine. Will and I were lovers for some years.'
'OH!' The carton was snatched away. 'So, you are…?'
'I keep telling you, Billy; it's complex.'
'Well, okay, bi. I'm cool with that.'
Angel smiled. 'As you wish- a label you would understand.'
Billy perched on the arm of a chair and, playing with the lip of the milk, said curiously, 'And then you met… Spike?'
'Spike was Will. Or rather, Will was Spike. Spike was a nickname he adopted later, again, to annoy me.'
Angel could see the connections rapidly forming in the man's mind, and he added, 'I told you: he changed. He called himself Spike, and he stopped loving me.'
Angel chuckled and looked down. 'I kinda got the impression you'd sympathise with that assessment rather than question it.'
'I'm warming to you again. Believe me, you've never seen a Bot leave quicker than when I pull the old shat-on-'er trick. And don't think I didn't notice another Angel-avoids-question-he-didn't-like tactic.'
Angel's mouth quirked up slightly at the thought of this man tackling him like this but said sadly, 'It wasn't an avoid; it was an I don't know. I don't know why he stopped wanting me. Maybe, sometimes, ya know…? I'd catch him watching me when I was fucking someone else, and I'd see a glimmer of something in his eyes. Maybe he wanted something I couldn't give him- some kind of exclusivity.' He looked up, saw Billy's expression and added slowly, 'And I'm thinking that sounded really… weird?'
Billy nodded. 'You've packed a lot into your short life, haven't you? Jeez… you let him watch you with other people?'
Angel shrugged. 'Maybe I've just made that reason up in my head to make the rejection easier… he rejected me because he wanted me….'
'God, and then he died, and you had no chance to tell him all this! I'm getting the complex thing you were talking about now…. What?'
Angel shook his head, repressing the smile that had crept around his defences. 'I was just picturing the scene: me telling him all this… and I'm REALLY not seeing it, ya know? The last time we saw each other, he pushed the tip of a hot poker into my arse. I don't think he even got the irony…. Hey! Damn!' Angel got up quickly and went to the man, who had paled noticeably. 'I forgot my audience. Too much detail.'
Billy shook his head. 'No, it's not that. It wasn't enough… let me add some…. Bach. I did that to Bach, and yeah, Angel, I totally got the irony!'
Angel swallowed deeply and took his hand off Billy's arm. Billy's face crumpled, and he put a hand up to cover the pain. 'You were in my dreams today, Angel, and I tortured you this time. To Bach. What's happening to me?'
He took the hand away, and Angel winced as he looked on the face of a man who had just met the monster in his dreams.
He hesitated, but not so long that the human was aware of it. He cupped one hand
around the back of Billy's neck and pulled him close, hugging him tightly. When
Billy lifted a tear-streaked face, Angel brushed a lock of hair off his forehead
and said gently, 'I need to consult with Wesley. There are things happening here
that you can't possibly understand- hell, I don't understand them.
But if Lilah Morgan is involved, then it can't be good. I don't want to leave
you here; you're too vulnerable. And I don't think you should continue with your
Billy frowned. 'Resign my job! Give up my apartment!' He grinned. 'Okay.'
Angel held up his hand to curb the enthusiasm. 'Let me talk with Wesley.'
'Are you coming back tonight?'
'You come over- later.'
Billy nodded, his shoulders hunched.
'Are you going to be okay?'
Angel sighed, glanced out at the gradually darkening evening and said resignedly, 'Okay, collect some clothes, and come back with me now.'
Trying not to look too pleased, Billy repressed a slight smirk and went into his bedroom to pack. Angel hung his head and, despite the all too familiar smirk, tried to remember that this was not Spike.
They emerged from the apartment block, and Angel began to walk slowly toward the hotel.
'You like walking, don't you? It's very un-American.'
'It gives me time to think.'
'What do you think about so deeply all the time? I don't think much about anything.'
Angel gave him a small, sideward glance. 'I think about silence and the not asking of dumb questions.'
'Uh huh. And that's irony again then, is it?'
'Stay out of sight when we get back until I've had an opportunity to speak with Wesley.'
'Because I don't want him jumping to….'
'No, I meant why do you need to talk this through with him?'
'He has areas of expertise that apply here.'
'Oh. Weird dream expert…?'
Wesley was leaning on the counter, writing in a notebook when they arrived. He slowly and deliberately cast his eyes from Angel to Billy's hair and then down to the bag Billy was carrying.
Angel nodded upstairs. 'Go up. I'll come up later.'
'Why can't I stay and hear the conversation about weird dreams?'
Angel gave him a look, and Billy returned another small, intimate smirk then jogged happily enough up the stairs.
Angel went over to the counter and, not looking at the human, busied himself tidying something.
'I'm impressed, Angel. I'm actually impressed.'
'Hmm. Without any help or guidance from anyone - on either side - you've managed to do probably the very worst thing you could do.'
'It's complicated, Wesley; you don't know….'
'Oh, I know that it's complicated- and I don't mean from the point of view of the Powers or Wolfram and Hart. I'm not stupid, Angel.'
Angel pouted and ran his fingers through his hair. 'Yeah.'
'So… tell me?'
Angel nodded to his office, and they went in together, Wesley sitting comfortably in an armchair, and Angel perching slightly stiffly on the edge of his desk.
'I told you: he's been dreaming, Wes. Spike's memories are leaking through into his subconscious when he's asleep, and I think it's getting worse.'
'Does he know that he actually was…?'
'No, of course not. But he's not stupid. He knows he's English like Spike; he knows he looks like Spike- hell, he's even seen pictures of him. I think he's going work this out for himself soon.'
'And if he does?'
Angel looked down at his feet for a moment then directly up at his friend. 'I think he's going to feel cheated. I think the rest of his life will seem like shades of grey.'
'You used to want this for yourself, Angel. I genuinely thought that when you first started stalking….'
'Following then. When you started following him, I thought you resented him because he'd taken something from you. Are you telling me that you're re-thinking the becoming human?'
'He's not been rewarded, Wes. He's been short-changed.'
'If he wasn't having these dreams, he would have a perfectly normal life.'
'He's got no friends, no… anything. They must have altered people's memories for him to be accepted this far, but I'm guessing you couldn't do that indefinitely. He says his parents are dead. He has almost no memory of his childhood. His apartment looks like a motel room- jeez, Wes, he has less things than me!'
'Possibly better grammar. Well, whatever. You've exploded into his life - and I'm really regretting that analogy - he is here, and we need to decide what to do.'
'Exactly. I told him you would help- dream expert.'
Wesley smiled bitterly. 'He wouldn't want my dreams. I think there's only one thing we can do for the minute.'
'Hmm. I was thinking more along the lines of a full-frontal attack on the enemy forces.'
'Attack Wolfram and…. Oh, talk to Lilah.'
'Billy needs to stay here for a few days, and I've told him not to go into work.'
'All right. I'll watch out for him. You need to tackle Lilah.'
'Oh. Deep joy.'
Angel flushed as deeply as his preternatural flesh would allow.
'I'd be very pleased to listen, if you feel you'd like to tell me the real reason why the one person you should not have upstairs, is upstairs.'
Angel studied his nails for a moment then said softly, 'You all thought I resented Spike. You said it yourself: he was a better demon than me; he had Buffy; he stole my reward…. But it wasn't like that. We were close- once. Before we weren't, I guess. I turned him to be my companion, to have a male companion- someone who thought like me, wanted what I wanted. And for a while it was… good. I don't know. Perhaps it was inevitable - being demons - we couldn't… sustain what we had. I couldn't. He changed. He became sublime- as a demon. He changed his name and changed his mind about me. But it was never resentment, Wesley. It was a sense of bewilderment really- almost like a parent who looks on a beloved three-year old only to find they've become fifteen and hideous. He was my childe, my lover- the friend I'd created for my eternity, and then he was the obnoxious irritant that, at best, I was ignoring. And after all this time, I still don't know where it all went so wrong.'
'I am so very sorry, Angel. I had some idea- I mean, I knew you'd spent many years together when you'd first turned him. But I didn't know…. All right. This changes things. I wish you'd felt you could have told me this earlier; my reaction to him might have been different. Did you not ever think that his soul might have made a difference once more? I'd think that might make him more like the childe you… wanted.'
'There was something fairly major between his soul and me: Buffy. I couldn't get past the fact that he'd had her. Or she'd had him. Jeez. Can you picture it?'
'I try never to picture two people I know in bed together. I am English, after all. So, now we have him back, but not back, but gradually becoming… back. Lilah. You need to grip Lilah about this. Bad dreams, I'm afraid, make me think of her.'
Angel pushed off the desk. 'I'll pay her a surprise visit tomorrow. See what I can learn.'
Wesley stood up and glanced toward the lobby. 'You said he'll feel short-changed if he discovers the life - the person - he's lost. I wonder what he'll do to rectify that omission.'
Angel followed his gaze, brushed his hand lightly over Wesley's shoulder, and then went out to the lobby, jogging lightly up the stairs.
He hesitated when he reached the top hallway, looking at the light spilling from his bedroom.
He tried to repress the surge of pleasure he felt at the thought that Will was waiting for him in that light.
He tried to repress a surge of something even more intense when he saw Billy, sprawled on his bed, flicking idly through a book.
The man turned to him with a definitely pleased-with-life look and said nonchalantly, 'You didn't say which room….'
'Any one but this.'
'Don't do that.'
The man sighed insincerely and rolled off the bed. 'What did the dream-catcher say?'
'We've come up with a plan- of sorts. It's all we've got now.'
Angel cursed inwardly and wished he'd not spoken. 'It's….'
'Let me guess: complicated?'
Nodding, Angel held the door and looked pointedly toward the hallway.
Billy slouched past him but paused before leaving. 'What if I dream again tonight?'
'I'll hear you.'
Hunching his shoulders slightly, he went into the hallway.
To Chapter 5
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