The two-hour drive to LA was uneventful. Angel drove, Spike didn't. He felt he ought to be annoying Angel in some way, playing out his assigned role in life, but he didn't have the heart for it. He asked if he could smoke, and when Angel agreed - with the proviso he roll down the window - occupied himself by chain smoking silently for the entire two-hour trip. Angel made calls, cursed the traffic, and watched Spike, so they were both glad when they finally pulled up in front of the hotel.
Before he could climb out, Angel said distinctly, 'Remember, I meant what I said. You are here to relax. This is a holiday. I'm not going to… investigate you, interrogate you. If you want to tell me anything, you can. You know that.'
Spike turned with a frown on his face. 'Since when?' There was no acrimony in his voice, just genuine puzzlement.
Angel pursed his lips and fidgeted with the key fob. 'What do you mean?'
'Since when could I ever tell you anything about my life?'
'Well….' Angel stopped fiddling and looked directly at Spike. 'Has all this freaking arguing we do been entirely my fault? Do we hate each other because of me?'
Spike tilted his head a little and heard no challenge or threat in the question. For the first time in his experience of Angel, he let his guard drop a little. 'No.'
Angel nodded. 'There doesn't seem much point to all this hatred now, does there?'
'Well, it's kinda fun.'
Angel laughed lightly. 'Yeah, that it is. Friends are more fun, I've discovered.' Suddenly his brow creased over. 'Shit.'
Spike actually whipped his head around. 'Where?'
'No.' Angel gritted his teeth. 'She was here, a few months ago. She… upset the delicate balance I have with my friends….'
Spike began to chuckle. 'You mean you were a bad boy and pissed everyone off…?'
Angel looked shifty. 'Yeah. And now you're here. There're going to see it all happening again. It's exactly the same.'
Spike looked puzzled. 'You invited her for a holiday?'
'Well… no. She seduced me and we… okay, not seeing the similarity so much now. Good point.'
'So, maybe you just point out to your friends that I'm not a blond bitch here for a shafting….' It was just a perfectly normal Spike-jibe but it backfired badly on him. Once more, Angel saw the shift in Spike's mood. He saw the brightness of the eyes, which had returned temporarily during their conversation, fade to the dull grey they'd been on his arrival in Sunnydale. He saw Spike withdraw into some place where he felt safer, the barriers going up to all further intimacy. Angel acknowledged Spike's right to his privacy and only said quietly, 'I'm tired. You must be. It's just us for the rest of tonight, and I'll explain you in the morning. How's that? Sleep sound good?' Spike nodded, and once more, Angel carried Spike's bag, and they made their way into the silent, dark hotel.
'I don't like this place. It's haunted.'
'It was. I think it reflects mood sometimes, Spike.' It was the only comment Angel made that night on Spike's depression. He showed him to a room and brought him some towels, wanting to ensure that Spike would be comfortable. Spike just sat on the edge of the bed, twisting his rings around and not commenting on anything Angel did. Finally, he looked around at the room, nodded his thanks and began to undress. He hesitated when he'd removed his coat and turned.
'Do you mind?'
Angel shook himself slightly. 'Don't get up until you want to, Spike. We all keep our own hours here.'
'Goodnight then. I hope you sleep well.'
Spike just waited, and finally Angel ran out of excuses to stay. He turned to leave, but just before he actually left the room, he said quietly, 'I meant what I said, Spike. You can tell me anything you need to. Nothing will shock me. Nothing will… turn me against you.'
Spike frowned at the solid, reassuring back and murmured, 'Yeah, sure.'
Angel turned and looked at him. 'I mean it, Spike. I've changed. I'm not Angelus; remember that. Anything. Remember.'
Spike felt a desperate need to confess - to blurt out what he had done - but he hesitated, and the moment was lost. Angel went out, closing the door softly behind him. Spike then slowly and painfully removed his T-shirt and morosely inspected the bruises on his thin body. He pulled off his jeans and, for once, was glad he could not inspect certain damage in a mirror. He climbed into the clean, cool sheets, and for the first time, felt a sense of peace descend over his troubled mind. There were no decisions to make here, nothing that needed to be covered up, nothing he needed to sort or fix. This was just simple unlife. It was a holiday, and for the first time ever, Spike felt a sense of deep gratitude at what Angel had offered him. If the dark presence of the robot nagged at his newfound peace, Spike refused to admit it. If the contents of the pocket of his duster drew his thoughts, he dragged those wayward thoughts away severely. He was here. Angel was here. He felt safe.
He heard the door click open, but all he could see was a dark shape in the doorway.
Spike frowned at Angel's voice but nodded. Angel came over to the bed. He was dressed in a pair of leather pants with no shirt, and the sight unnerved Spike a little. Angel chuckled. 'Sorry, only I wanted to show you my spare pair.'
'Why? I mean, it's late, Angel. Can we leave this until the morning?'
'You came here to see this, Spike. Look.' Angel cupped himself gently and directed Spike's eyes to his growing bulge.
Spike slid quickly to the far side of the bed and pulled the sheets higher around his neck. 'What the fuck are you doing, you tosser? Some holiday this is proving to be.'
'It's what you want, Spike - what you came here for. You want to seduce me and have me slide into your wet body.'
'Angel!' Undeterred by the outrage in Spike's voice, Angel climbed onto the bed and knelt beside him. He began to pull insistently at the sheet.
'Fuck off. How much clearer can I make this?'
'You've wanted me from the first moment I bumped into you in a stinking alley, Spike. You've wanted to have me all to yourself, have me turn to you first, think of you first, need you the most, want you the most. You've fantasised about my body every time you've come into someone else's softness. Your whole existence revolves around me. Now you've come here to me again. You are alive again, and you want to make my soul yours.'
'Am I alive? I feel kinda dead.'
'Look, Spike, look.' Angel pulled slowly on the coverings, and Spike stayed calm as the sheet lowered; he stayed calm, despite watching Angel take out his erection; he stayed calm until the sheet revealed where his should be. Instead, there was spread of feminine wetness and folds. He opened his mouth to scream, but a hand clamped over it, and he was entered once more. He thrashed and fought, but he seemed to have the strength of a woman as well. He felt something inside him stirring, and his eyes widened and filled with tears at the thought that he was going to cum. He didn't want that, but it was not an orgasm. It was something else, a birth, and Angel suddenly pulled out with a grimace of distaste. They both looked down as rivers of blood gushed out of Spike, and flowing in the blood were tiny creatures that cried out their pain and writhed in fury at being brought forth. Angel began to shout in anger at having his orgasm taken from him, but Spike began to shout back at him, 'It's just a dream. It's not real; it's just a dream.' He suddenly felt himself jerk awake, and a dark body was lying on him, 'It's just a dream, Spike; wake up; it's just a dream.'
Spike lay under Angel's greater weight and looked up into the green-flecked eyes. He should have felt panic; he should have felt overwhelming fear at waking to exactly the thing that was causing the nightmare, but strangely the very opposite was true.
How could he have mistaken that nighttime phantasm for this? That had been cold, metallic; it had had no smell, no warmth, and no perfect flaws. This was so real. Angel's hair stood straight up as if he'd come running in from a deep sleep. He smelt of warm sleep; his body was soft and heavy, his skin sleek and uniquely shaded and stretched over hard, perfectly formed muscles. He was real, and his very reality only put Spike's dream into perspective and made it seem as unreal to him and as unable to hurt him as it really was.
He shuddered and relaxed fractionally in Angel's hold, not attempting to break free, not exactly holding on tighter. Angel seemed to decide for Spike which of these he wanted and shifted slightly so he could hold him more firmly and more comfortably. After what seemed like an age just lying together, Spike suddenly murmured, with a slightly embarrassed smile, 'Did I scream?'
Angel chuckled and sat up next to him, running his hand through his spiky dark hair. 'It was a very manly scream.'
He saw Spike's expression and after a moment said, 'What? Can you tell me?'
Spike sat up and fumbled for his pants, then lit a cigarette and closed his eyes for a moment, letting the nicotine do its soothing work.
Angel shook his head. 'Ever thought that that might have caused the nightmare?'
Spike opened his eyes. 'What? A cigarette?'
'Forty of them from Sunnydale to here.'
'Oh. Huh. Never thought about it. Could be.'
Spike shook his head. 'No. I can't tell you.'
'It was that real?' Angel looked worried and sad in equal measure. Spike turned to him and, for the first time, realised that they were sitting in his bed together, one pair of pyjama bottoms between the pair of them. Just as in the dream, he hitched the sheet higher then added, 'Some of it seemed to be.'
'Huh. Not all though.'
Incredibly casually, as if just smoothing the sheet, Spike brushed his hand over the covering and said, somewhat relieved, 'No, not all.'
'Well, okay then. If you need….'
'I'm okay, Angel. I'm not a baby. It was just a bad dream, and I'm a friggin' demon, remember? I thrive on fear.'
'It scared you?'
'Oh, stop with the psychoanalysing; you've been in LA too long.' It was said with a chuckle, and Angel took it for the peace offering it was meant to be. He swung his legs off the bed and went toward the door.
'Mind if I leave it open? So I can… hear you?'
'What if I want a wank? Don't want you hearing that.'
Angel's relief at Spike's returning humour was palpable, and he grinned. 'I do it silently; I suggest you make that your aim for the holiday. Lots of time to practice.'
Spike laughed and turned over in the bed with a dismissive wave of his hand and a quiet, 'Poof.'
Angel stayed in the doorway for a moment longer, looking at Spike's naked back, and then went silently to his own room. He did not sleep for the hour or two that remained of the night; not from thinking about Spike's nightmare and the paralysing fear he felt washing off the slim body as he'd held it still, but from worrying about the fading, but deep and painful bruising he had just seen all over his childe's back: bruising the exact shape and size of hands, large, male hands.
Spike woke very late the next day. He sensed by the dim light in the room that it was sometime in the afternoon. His belly told him possibly later, for it rumbled unpleasantly. But for all that, he felt a deep sense of peace once more at waking in this place. He felt the sense of being above ground acutely. It seemed suddenly safer than being underground. Absurdly, he felt the pleasure of waking in a hotel room - not something he did often enough to lose its charm. This room would not provide room service and did not have cable TV. Nevertheless, it was not his personal space, and he did not have to worry about fighting to protect it. The bed was extremely comfortable. He actually began to feel that he was on holiday. He eyed his small holdall and suddenly wished he had a closet full of cool clothes as Angel did. He didn't want to put on his old jeans or one of his varieties of black T-shirts. He had no choice, however, so dressed as usual and wandered out into the hallway, following the sound of voices.
It was clear to Spike as he emerged into the bright, noisy lobby that Angel had prepped his humans well for this encounter. They looked up; they were curious, but he sensed no outright stake-the-vamp animosity from any of them. Cordelia - the only one he recognised - even gave him a small smile of recognition and nodded at him. The other girl was the first to actually speak. She gave him a small smile. 'Hi ya.'
Spike nodded back. 'Where's Angel?'
A man came toward him. 'He had to go out. He sent his apology in advance. I'm Wesley Wyndham-Price.'
Spike took in the English accent and the intelligent look. 'Watcher?'
Wesley smiled, but it was not a particularly happy look. 'Ex.'
'Huh. Thought you were like generals or something. Never retire.'
Wesley chuckled. 'I got court-martialed.'
The other man came over. Spike looked warily at him. 'Not a watcher, I'm thinking.'
There was no smile in this one's expression, real or not. 'Nah. Right on there. Vampire killer pure and simple.'
Spike jerked his head back a little. 'Welcome to LA, Spike.'
'Just don't think cus you're the boss's….' He looked helplessly at the thin woman. She filled in for him with a nervous, apologetic look at Spike, 'Childe?'
The black man continued aggressively. 'Yeah, don't think cus you're his kid that I'm gonna…. Hey! Where you going?'
'Charles! Now look what you've done.'
'Hey man, I didn't do anything. Jeez, was that a sensitive vampire?'
'You bloody fool, Gunn.'
'What happened?' All heads turned to Angel standing in the doorway. 'Where's Spike?'
Wesley stepped forward. 'We upset him. I'm sorry, Angel…. I must say, he's not what I expected.'
Angel came in and put some grocery bags on the counter. 'What did you expect?'
'A male Drusilla, I think.'
Angel gave a small huff of laughter. 'That I'd like to see. No, actually I wouldn't. Where did he go?'
'Nowhere, I'm still here.' Spike came out of the kitchen carrying a blood bag. 'I didn't get upset. No one said anything, but….' He turned to Gunn and pursed his lips as if thinking deeply. 'I just wanna say, I ain't anyone's kid. I'm nearly two hundred years old.' He ignored Angel's slight rise of one eyebrow and continued, not directly looking at Gunn, but clearly speaking to him, nevertheless. 'I've lived through world wars, revolutions, plague, earthquakes and one or two apocalypses. I've probably killed and eaten over ten thousand humans, killed probably close to a hundred thousand demons, and I've shagged and bagged two slayers. So, I'll keep out of your way, and perhaps you'd like to keep out of mine. I'm here to see Angel and get some sleep. No more, no less. That okay with you?'
Gunn nodded, half an eye on Angel's expression. Spike smiled, and giving Angel a small look that clearly indicated he wanted to say more in private, he went up the stairs two at a time.
Angel pushed the groceries at no one in particular and followed Spike. He came into the bedroom slightly warily; Spike's bravado had not fooled him for a moment, but he took off his coat and cast it casually onto the armchair. 'Two hundred?'
'Yeah, well, who's counting?'
'Shagged and bagged two slayers?'
'Oh, shut up, Angel. It's my life; I'll lie about it as I see fit. 'Sides, maybe I did.'
'Maybe. I think Gunn got the message though.'
'We look younger than them; that's half the trouble.'
'Humans are too shallow, too hung up on appearances. Can't they feel our power?'
Angel began to laugh, and Spike shot him a furious look, but when he saw nothing but self-mockery in Angel's look, he chuckled too and threw himself on the bed, ripping open the blood bag he'd taken from the kitchen.
'What did you want to say, Childe?' Angel meant the appellation to amuse Spike, given what had just gone before, but he saw it disturbed him in some way. 'What do you want?'
'I want to know why you're doing this and don't give me yesterday's bullshit about a holiday for me or anything else for me. You treat me with some respect, even if those children don't. 'K?'
Appealed to like that, Angel had very little choice but to obey. He sighed and held his hand out for one of the blood bags. Rising to take the surrendered food, it seemed just as easy to sit down on the end of the bed. Once more, therefore, they found themselves sitting relatively comfortably together on Spike's bed.
'That thing with Darla got very nasty.'
Spike was silent, a good listener, and Angel felt encouraged to continue. He shifted back so he too was sitting against the headboard next to Spike. 'It was confusing. I was confused - about family, about being a demon, about wanting to be a human. I'm not sure I've got it all straight now, then there you were, raiding my closet, and it all seemed so familiar. I meant it, Spike. I missed you… all of you, the family, the life, the power….' He smiled, Spike's previous comment hanging between them.
Spike pursed his lips. 'I'm here cus I'm family?'
'Because you are familiar. Restful - or I thought you would be.'
'Oh yeah. Sorry about last night.'
'We all have bad dreams.'
'I don't usually disturb other people though.'
'I never have anyone to disturb.'
Spike paused but then added, 'No, neither do I.'
Angel heard the hesitation and said gently, 'You didn't make those bruises yourself, I'm thinking.'
'You said you wouldn't cross-examine me while I was here.'
Angel laughed. 'Ever thought about taking up the law; you'd be good.'
'I'm not that evil.'
Angel nodded. 'So, does it make you happier to know you're here for me, not for you?'
Spike nodded with a shy grin. 'I like to know my sire hasn't changed, yeah.'
'They won't stop asking me about you, about being my childe, what it all means… they are curious. Wesley especially.'
'Do you want I should tell him?'
'Why not tell him what you told Buffy?'
'Ah. You've heard that?'
'Hmm. I recognised the alley. The rest…?'
Spike patted his arm patronisingly. They both looked down at the pale fingers on Angel's dark shirt, and Spike lifted his hand away, but with noticeable hesitation. He scratched his head instead and said nonchalantly, 'How about doing something tonight?'
'I've already booked the tickets.'
Spike paled even more than his usual pallor. 'Not the friggin' ballet?'
Angel turned to him, amused. 'You love the ballet.'
Spike's eyes widened. He glanced over at the door and then at the sunlight behind the closed blind. 'Is this another fucking nightmare?'
'Did you dream about the ballet?'
'I may as well 'ave. Fucking fairies.'
'Calm down. I'm teasing, Spike. You are still such an easy target.' He put a reassuring hand on Spike's arm.
Looking down at the hand on his arm, which for some strange reason he did not want Angel to remove, Spike said childishly, 'Don't do it then.'
Angel shook Spike's arm slightly, then tented his hands under his chin. 'But I enjoy it.'
Spike felt the loss of the contact acutely but said, 'Tosser. So where?'
'Drink, movie and dinner.'
'Cool, you still feed…? You'll have to chew it for me.'
'The sort of food you order off menus, Spike. Human style.'
'Oh. Bummer. But, yeah, still sounds good.'
'What?' Angel had seen the slight pout.
'How's about a small loan so I can get some new clothes?'
'You don't need to dress up for me.'
'Stop it; you ain't funny now.'
'Yes I am. And, yes, okay - Cordy'll take you, I'm sure.'
'Why not you?'
'Angel! You've got more clothes than a friggin'… thing with lots of clothes…. Oh, shut up! You take me shopping.'
Angel suddenly felt absurdly pleased and almost excited at something. He nodded. 'Okay. Now.'
Spike looked surprised but agreed, so the next time the humans looked up from the constant ringing of telephones and work that needed to be done, they saw a very happy looking Angel and a slightly smug looking Spike coming down stairs together, laughing at some private joke. They watched them cross the lobby; they watched them go down to the basement. Cordelia looked at Wesley, and he gave her an anxious look back. Gunn came over to them. 'It's happening again, ain't it?'
Wesley nodded. 'Different shade of blond, same expression. I'd say so, yes.'
Fred came over and hung on Gunn's arm. 'What's happening again?'
He looked down at her. 'You don't wanna know.'
Wesley pursed his lips. 'We almost lost him to Darla. He has the same look on his face as he did when he was pursuing her.'
Fred looked puzzled. 'But Angel wanted Darla, she was his lover….'
No one interrupted her, and the silence was all the more telling for that. She turned to look at the door through which they'd exited and let out a long, slow, 'Ohhh.'